Lights Up (Grace S. Richmond, 1927)

Joan, an artsy country girl, and Margaret, a New York socialite, are both in love with Lane, a drama critic. Margaret thought she was making good headway with him, but he withdrew from her when it became obvious just how vapid and devoid of any ambition she is. Joan’s friend has written a new play, the lead character of which suits Margaret to a T. He’s going to premiere it in a barn locally, with Lane in attendance. He insists that Margaret take the part against all her protests. She studies diligently and tries her very best, but she simply can’t do it. She suffers a nervous breakdown and Joan has to fill in for her. Lane, however, is duly impressed by her efforts and his love is rekindled. The two marry.

Inscriptions: on the front flyleaf, “‘Tartie’ — Christmas 1927”

The Valley of Voices (George Marsh, 1924)

Almost the exact same book as Under Frozen Stars. Seems like George only had one story in him, but like Peter Kyne, he was determined to get some mileage out of it.

Inscription: On the flyleaf, “Arlene McCleary, Farmington, Maine”. That’s my home town, but I don’t know any McClearies. I know the Knowlton-McCleary building on Church Street.



I couldn’t get past the fact that I’ve lived in Farmington for 37 years and never encountered a McCleary before. I found Arlene in the 1925 edition of Effesseness, the yearbook published by the Farmington State Normal School (now the University of Maine at Farmington, of which I am also an alumnus):

Arlene “Mineva” McCleary, of Strong.
Strong High School, C.A. Member, Regular.

This charming young lady is our dear classmate. Arlene, who always gets 1’s and is afraid she won’t pass. She lives on a farm in Strong and we have an idea she likes there (sic), too. Try to keep her in Farmington some week-end and see. She is very studious and her favorite studies are Arithmetic and Storytelling??? Ask her about it. Arlene is a very charming girl and we are sure her pupils will like her.

The Mountebank (William J. Locke, 1921)

A retired brigadier-general entrusts the story of his life to a writer. He started life as a foundling in France brought up in the circus, became a performer with a trained dog, then with a trained woman. They’re good friends, but not romantically involved — she’s devoted to the act, but not at all domestic. The war breaks out, he joins up, rises to brigadier-general — how is immaterial, that isn’t what the story is about. The general is in love with an English aristocrat, but feels like he can’t marry since there’s no work to be found and he has to return to the stage. That solves itself when she discovers what his employment is and isn’t bothered by, and when his assistant runs away with his erstwhile partner.

No inscriptions.

Under Frozen Stars (George Marsh, 1928)

Jim Stuart runs a fur trading post in the Northwest Territories that does business with the Ojibwa, but lately they’ve been selling their furs to Louis LeBlond, whose head man — Paradis — seems to have been spreading rumors up north that Stuart is full of demons. Stuart goes north to clear matters up, and with the help of his Ojibwa friend Esau, he does. However, he’s also fallen in love with LeBlond’s daughter, Aurora, and Paradis has kidnapped her. Stuart has to race north again to recover her.

I know nothing of the Ojibwa language, but I’m going to assume the snatches of it included here are authentic and for that, I commend the book. Most books of this sort just hand wave it all away with “speaking in Indian”.

No inscriptions.

The Snowshoe Trail (Edison Marshall, 1921)

A woman travels to Alaska to find her fiance who was lost there six years ago. She hires a guide whose father was a gold prospector killed by his partner, and while the woman searches for the fiance, the man hopes to search for the mine. The fiance is found surprisingly fast, but it turns out that he’s the son of the murderous partner, now himself deceased, who’s spent the last six years searching for the mine himself.

Inscription: On the front flyleaf, “Lottie, from Sister Addie, Xmas 1926”.

The Garden of Allah (Robert Hichens, 1904)

The daughter of an atheist travels to the desert to find her faith, falls in love with and marries a man who it turns out is a renegade monk escaped from the monastery, and convinces him to confess and return to his vows.

It’s funny how I often struggle to summarize a 300 page book but a behemoth like this boils down to one line.

Inscriptions: Mrs. William O’Keefe, on the front endpaper.

Seventeen (Booth Tarkington, 1915)

William Sylvanus Baxter has attained the great age of seventeen and now considers himself quite an adult. He takes it as a major affront when his family, friends, or strangers don’t — never mind how passing or imaginary the slight against his adulthood may be. He is very, very self-conscious and like as not to assume everything anyone says or does is about him.

Baxter, as he would like to be called now that he’s put Silly Bill behind him, has found true and everlasting love. Young Miss Lola Pratt is visiting the Prachers and she is simply the noblest creature on the earth. She carries a tiny perfumed and often barely conscious dog with her called Flopit that she continually speaks in baby talk to. Indeed, she continually speaks in baby talk in general to everybody. Baxter builds castles in the sky for when they marry, which will be right away, of course — why, did you hear of the boy in Iowa who started shaving at 13 and in three years had a full beard and he married and they said it was the best thing that could have happened.

Trouble is, every other boy around Baxter’s age has also fallen head over heals for Miss Pratt. Baxter is only barely cognizant of them, given how true and everlasting his love is compared to their boyish infatuations. Mr. Pracher knows. Mr. Pracher knows and is being driven slowly insane by Miss Pratt’s baby prattle and the gaggle of boys that fill his house from early morning to late at night.

The book is really a series on incidents too numerous to recite in which Baxter continually defeats himself through his own self-consciousness. Cringe humor, which I don’t normally go in for, but I had fun with this one. Worried that the ending was going to turn out trite, but no, it veered hard into creepy territory instead. Hurray?

Inscription: “To George, from his friends in 214” on the front flyleaf. Don’t know what that is. The hand looks male and decidedly adult.

Squire Phin (Holman Day, 1905)

Palermo is a small town in Mid-Coast Maine near to Rockland. Bear in mind, while the real-life Palermo is land-locked, this one isn’t. In fact, had the town been given a fictional name, I’d have guessed it was Camden.

The people there are farmers or they work in shipping, almost to a man. Judge Willard is the local aristocracy. He and his father before him have been the town treasurer for decades. The Willards are assumed to be fabulously rich — he must know how to handle money. The Looks are the black sheep of Palermo, but Phineas Look gets out, goes to law school, and finishes top in his class. He could practice anywhere, but chooses to come back to Palermo. Few of the townspeople have more than a basic education, so Squire Phin is treated as a reference desk and general authority on anything.

Phin and Sylvena, the Judge’s daughter, are in love, but the Judge will not see a Willard married to a Look. He has selected King Bradish for her. The Judge is a financier and he takes Bradish on with him. Phin begins to notice certain irregularities. According to the accounts, the town is only $2,000 in debt this year, yet a client comes in with a note for $7,000 signed by the Judge. More and more comes out, and it becomes clear that the Judge must have embezzled at the very least tens of thousands of dollars from the town.

If this was exposed, it would ruin the Willards, including Sylvena, and would forever tarnish Palermo’s reputation. Instead, Phin campaigns to have the Judge re-elected, allow him time to liquidate everything he owns to mostly pay back the embezzled funds, and then Phin covers for the rest. The books now clean, the Judge resigns. Phin and Sylvena marry.

Inscriptions: stamped a couple times on the front endpaper and flyleaf, “From the office of Jos. C. Holman, Farmington, Me.” Relative, perhaps? Farmington isn’t far from Auburn.