The Landloper (Holman Day, 1915)

A man calling himself Walker Farr walks far and wide. He’s evidently from the west somewhere, but he winds up in Lewiston a large mill town in Maine this state. The town’s public water supply — as is every town’s water supply in the state — is controlled by the Consolidated Water Company. To maximize profits, they draw from the polluted Androscoggin the river rather than run pipes several miles north to the clean water of Lake Auburn the lake. Farr arrives to see one of the Quebecois mill workers pulled out of the canal, where she’s drowned herself. He takes care of her orphaned daughter, but the child soon contracts typhoid and dies. Farr makes it his mission to clean up the water situation.

This will mean a complete political overhaul. It’s not enough to just elect in the other party — the lip service varies, but both parties are ultimately in the pocket of big business. It will mean packing the legislature with those in sympathy to the cause and electing an honest man governor that won’t simply veto any progressive legislation. They find him in Archer Converse. Farr’s grandstanding at the convention gets Converse nominated, much to his surprise, as he had no will or notion of getting into politics. But the tide had turned and even the Consolidated sees the writing on the wall.

Inscriptions: “H.E. Knapf”, on the front flyleaf. In another hand and ink, “Mar. 10, ’25” on the facing endpaper.

(104 books this year? It seems like so many, considering I’ve not even bothered to summarize two thirds of the Perry Mason novellas I’ve read.)

The Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Leroux, 1911)

Christine Daaé, a promising young singer, finds her muse at the Paris Opera House. The Angel of Music, as she believes him to be, comes to her as a voice in her dressing room and coaches her to tremendous success. To others, he is the Opera Ghost — or O.G., as he tends to style himself. His demands for money and concessions have sent the previous managers into retirement, and unfortunately, the new managers don’t believe in ghosts. When box five — his box — is sold and Carlotta — not Christine — is cast in the lead, he cuts  down the great chandelier and sends it crashing into the crowded stalls, killing one and wounding dozens of others.

Vicomte Raoul de Chagny is in love with Christen and intends to marry her no matter their difference in rank. He finds a rival in the O.G., who he suspects is really a human of flesh and blood, no matter how ghastly his appearance. The Persian knows he is. He remembers when Erik was in Persia, torturing dissidents to death for the amusement of the Mazenderan. It was he who helped Erik flee from his own execution on condition that he cease his murderous ways. When Erik abducts Christine, Raoul and the Persian descend into the bowels of the Opera to uncover Erik’s secret lair and rescue Christine.

In the end, it’s Christine who winds up saving Raoul and the Persian when they fall into Erik’s torture chamber. She agrees to marry Erik and voluntarily leans over to kiss his horrible, skull-like head. She doesn’t even flinch. Erik, having never known such kindness, let’s them all go and dies well pleased.

Inscriptions: On the front endpaper, “Mr. Blooderok, Mac. 64”. The name definitely starts with “Mr. Blood” but then he had a blob of ink that obscured a few letters until “ok”. “Mac.” is not the usual abbreviation for March, but I assume that’s what it means.

Caleb Matthews (Robert W. McLaughlin, 1913)

“An Idyl of the Maine Coast” is the subtitle of this slim novella of eighty-some pages. Caleb Mathews is a fisherman on Crewaggen Island. There, he also keeps the general store and post office. He simultaneously hates the summer colony who infest the island when the weather is fine and loves to hear the young people of it as they laugh and enjoy themselves. This paradox extends to the art that hangs on his walls. The Elder is a friends of Caleb’s. He’s a preacher in New York but leads a summer service on the island. The art in question are prints of Millet works, depicting peasants farming. The Elder is surprised that an old mariner would be interested in such things, but Caleb proves himself to be a natural philosopher: Work is work, he says, whether it’s pulling up lobsters or pulling up potatoes. Work is hard, but not working is harder. Your work alone is not enough to guarantee success, as so much depends on others and to forces beyond all control. The Elder, humbled by the wisdom in Caleb’s illiterate speech, decides to write a sermon on it.

I don’t know anything about this Robert W. McLaughlin. I could find reference to another book or two he’d written, but nothing about the man himself. There are things about him, though, that make me doubt his bona fides. There are several minor issues of vocabulary, but two stuck out to me like sore thumbs:

The first is that he calls a seasonal house to which one takes a rustic or semi-rustic vacation “a cottage”. That is a camp. Now, in New Brunswick I have heard camps marketed to wealthy Torontonians termed “cottages” for their benefit while natives get by in their native camps, but I have never heard such pandering done in Maine. It is very, very common for wealthy New Yorkers to have a camp in Maine, but no matter how lavish or well-appointed the camp is, it is and always will be a camp.

I could overlook that, seeing is that it’s the out-of-stater who uses the word (or “the man from away”, if I were to use real Maine nomenclature). Caleb never calls the houses anything. I can’t overlook “lobster pot”, a term both of them use on multiple occasions. Nobody calls them that; they’re lobster traps, or simply traps. Caleb would never refer to his “pots”.

No inscriptions. A very clean, apparently first edition.

Leave Me With a Smile (Elliott White Springs, 1928)

Armistice has just been declared and aviator Henry Winton is among the first to return home. There are those that want to parade him around as a hero — none more so than his father, a mill owner who sees his son as his ticket to important business and political alliances — but the war has made Henry deeply cynical. He wants nothing to do with jingoistic patriots and military fetishism. He has very little desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. He’s in love with Phyllis, a woman who’s not entirely divorced yet.

Repetitive. Henry is torn between loyalty to his father and his love for Phyllis. By the end, I frankly didn’t care what happened to him.

No inscriptions.

The Guest of Quesnay (Booth Tarkington, 1907)

A drunkard and a drug addict drives away his long-suffering wife with his drinking and drugs. After the divorce, he takes up with a Spanish dancer, but a car accident ends her dancing career and nearly ends him altogether. Two years later, a landscape painter a bit aged-out of being fashionable takes his usual room at a French inn to work through the summer. It’s an out of the way place, but two mysterious guests show up: a famous psychologist and an unknown man. Quesnay, the local chateau, has been taken by some old friends of the painter with the ex-wife hired on as a sort of caretaker. It turns out the unknown man was the dissipated ex-husband, who is also turns out wasn’t too ex- to begin with — his wife having never completed the divorce suit. He was left amnesic after the wreck and the psychologist had the grand plan of rebuilding this blank slate into good, upstanding man and reuniting him with his wife.

I don’t know why, but I can’t ever suspend my disbelief for amnesia stories and this was no real exception. I like Tarkington, though, and enjoyed the rest of it.

Inscriptions: “Westford, Mass” on the front endpaper.

Fair Harbor (Joseph C. Lincoln, 1922)

Injured in a train accident, Captain Kendrick is laid up in Bayport, a small town in Cape Cod. While he recovers, he’s appointed “outside manager” of Fair Harbor, a home for the widows of sea captains. It was Lobelia Seymour’s house until she married Egbert Phillips and moved to Italy. She’s dead now and Egbert is back in town flat broke, having quite exhausted her considerable fortune. A big part of Kendrick’s job is to safeguard Elizabeth’s money from him. Elizabeth is the daughter of Fair Harbor’s matron, a southerner who imagines herself an aristocrat far above these yokel Yankees, but she’s really rather dumb and has fallen entirely under Egbert spell. After draining her of $2,000 of her $5,000 capital, Egbert skips town with a richer widow. Elizabeth, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Kendrick, and after he’s healthy enough to ship-out again, she ships-out with him.

Inscriptions: on the front flyleaf, “Everett, from Mother, Xmas 1927”.

The Rider of the King Long (Holman Day, 1919)

A large paper firm is trying to monopolize access to a river dependent on by the local loggers. The X.K. refuses to sell out and won’t be denied their water rights. Since her father’s death, Claire has been the head of the X.K. Donald Kezar is in love with Claire, but with her in power over the firm, he sees himself losing his power over her. He begins secretly sabotaging their operations — at last reaching that point that he’d rather see the X.K. out of business than in Claire’s hands.

Inscriptions: From the Stratton Public Library, in Stratton, Maine. First added to the collection in 1933, last checked out by H.S. Dexter in August 31st, 1953. Not a very fast reader — kept it out for six weeks, altogether.