Truxton King (George Barr McCutcheon, 1909)

Truxton King, son of an American steel tycoon, travels the world in search of adventure. He finds it in the tiny Eastern European principality of Graustark. This is one of many sequels to Graustark. I’ve already read one of them, The Prince of Graustark. That was a very light romance novel and I expected this to be one as well, but no, it’s rather dark and political.

Robin, the prince, is only seven years old, he having ascended the throne after his parents died in a train wreck. He has regents, but his primary guide is John Tullis, an American who was his father’s closest friend. Graustark has embarked on a rail project that would link Russia to Afghanistan. Russia is eager to invest — indeed, they’re eager to take a controlling share of the company, and it’s for that reason that Tullis maintains it would be wise for Graustark to seek more friendly investors in France and England.

Truxton has been smitten by the armorer’s niece, who he’s sure is a noblewoman in disguise. She was, at least, a gentlewoman in former times, but now she’s a member of the Committee of Ten, who aim to start a Bolshevik revolution in Graustark. Taking him for a spy, Truxton is captured and threatened with execution. Meanwhile, the disgraced and exiled Count Marlanx plots to install himself on the throne by kidnapping Tullis’s sister and leading away a large part of Graustark’s army on a wild goose chase in the mountains, leaving the city virtually undefended.

Truxton and Loraine (the sister) find themselves in the same holding cell in the Committee of Ten’s underground bunker — Marlanx is using them for his own aims by claiming to be a revolutionist himself. The two escape, but can they save little Prince Robin from assassination, Marlanx from capturing Graustark, and Russia from buying it out from under them?

Inscriptions: “~Papa~, From Clara May, Dec. 25, 1913”, on the front flyleaf. On page 19, someone who I can only assume is Clara May’s papa has written “E.N. Phinney -1913-” along the right margin.

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Fu Mancho’s Bride (Sax Rohmer, 1933)

Fu Mancho, scourge of the West, is out to take over the world again, using a drug that appears to kill people but allows them to be revived as zombies. So, it’s like every other Fu Mancho book, but now the delivery method of the drug is a hybrid louse/sand fly and Fu Mancho’s base is a hollowed-out mountain in the French Riviera.

Did I even mention the titular bride? She doesn’t feature that heavily in the plot.

No inscriptions.

Gil Blas (Alain-RenĂ© Lesage, 1715, 1724, 1735)

When I started reading this, I was jotting down quick plot notes for this summary, but it didn’t take long before I realized that was a fool’s errand. The book is well over a thousand pages long, and while it generally follows the adventures of our protagonist Gil Blas, it’s really a collection of short stories, each lasting maybe a few chapters. Knowing that does make it somewhat less daunting, though, since you can put it down, take a break, and pick it up a few weeks or a month later with a new story.

Gil Blas, born of humble roots in Santillana, Spain, sets out at seventeen to make his fortune. At one extreme, he’s robbed, he’s imprisoned, he’s enslaved; and at the other point, he’s the favorite of the Prime Minister and almost personally has the King’s ear. He swings continually from high to low. At the story’s close, he’s a nobleman endowed with a handsome income, wed to a beautiful young woman, living in his peaceful country estate, far from the intrigues of court or the dangers of the highway.

Inscription: There’s something written on the flyleaf, but the ink has rusted and it’s very hard to read. “The Halecicir”, maybe? Or “The Helecivir”? Something like that. I’m sure about the capital H, the two Is, and the final R at least.

Daughter of Fu Manchu (Sax Rohmer, 1930)

An English Egyptologist excavating a tomb and his associates are caught up in the machinations of Fah Lo Suee’s plot to take over the world. Fah Lo Suee is the leader of the until-now-dormant order of Si Fan and the daughter of Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu himself was thought to be dead, but was in fact merely retired. The previous enemy of the West now intervenes to rescue the English leads, stop his daughter, and prevent the world war she’s about to launch.

No inscriptions.

The Gun Runner (Arthur Stringer, 1909)

A telegrapher aboard a cargo ship is caught up in an attempted coup in a Central American banana republic and hijacks a train full of smuggled ammunition from the rebels to give to the fruit company’s government because he’s fallen in love with the Minister of War’s sister. If that log line summary makes the story sound exciting, it’s really not. I don’t know how, but the author managed to make this “supertale of modern mystery” one of the dullest books I’ve read in some time.

No inscriptions.

The Fortunes of Captain Blood (Rafael Sabatini, 1936)

This is, I think, the fourth book in the Captain Blood series, but as its the only one I’ve read, I can’t comment on whatever continuing story there might be. I doubt there is one, as there’s really no overarching plot within this volume — each chapter is a more or less independent short story. Peter Blood, once an Irish surgeon, is a wanted man back in Europe for rendering aid to an injured enemy soldier and so is forced into piracy in the Caribbean. He remains, however, a virtuous sort of buccaneer, stealing only from those who deserve to be stolen from. Those people, generally but not exclusively, are the Spanish. Blood’s battles are sometimes won by violence and at other times by cunning. My favorite chapter, called “Sacrilege”, is an example of the later. An English slave trader is robbed by the Spanish commander of Havana. Blood disguises his compatriot as the Cardinal-Archbishop of New Spain and demands ransom from Havana for his release. The ransom, of course, is more than enough to repay the Englishman and make it worth Blood’s while.

No inscriptions.

Rollo in London (Jacob Abbott, 1854)

I would assume this is the next in the series after Rollo on the Atlantic, but I honestly don’t know. The order isn’t marked, and of the twelve I’ve got in my library, London seemed the most likely.

Rollo and Jane have arrived in England. Their father is still in poor health and unable to do much sightseeing, so uncle George takes Rollo on a tour of London. The book’s educational component comes from George’s explanations to Rollo about the places they visit, some of which are better woven into the narrative than others. At the docks, for example, George launches into a long digression on the shipping industry and commodities and brokers and African trading, which is interesting in its way, but what child could possibly care? To be fair, while Rollo listens politely, he does seem to be more intrigued by the big crane and the cool drawbridge.

Inscription: on the inside front cover, “China Lefrary, from Edith Frost Stevens”. I can’t find anything about China online, but Mrs. Stevens seems to have been a teacher at the Woods school in Unity, Maine in 1912.