12 Jan 2014

One Penguin a Week

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There are all sorts of reasons to read books. In some cases, we may select our reading matter simply on the basis of its past selection by a reputable and respected publisher.

Karyn Reeves
has a blog discussing her personal indulgence of reading one older edition (pre-1970) Penguin paperback per week.

I sympathize. I always buy unfamiliar old Penguins myself whenever I run into one with a promising title at a book sale or antiquarian book shop.


My capricious choice of Penguin cover, I find, was not felicitous. Efandrich wrote a terrific review, well and truly demolishing this one.

Our four characters are sailing the mysterious South Pacific seas, not humming Bali Hai because Rogers and Hammerstein haven’t written the song yet. Anyhow, clever Arnold discovers two things. One, Judy is a doctor. He deduces this from the way she hands her cousin a scissors to slit some book pages. (Tidbit for youngsters …This is a time when book pages have to be slit apart. If you go into a library and find an old book with unslit pages you know the book hasn’t been read, no matter how many times it may have been checked out. But I digress ….). Apparently Judy slapped the scissors into her cousin’s hand the way a surgeon would. And clever Arnold concluded Judy was not a surgical nurse because she looked more like a doctor. Okay….. The second thing Arnold discovered was that “THERE WAS PLAGUE ON THE SHIP.” Now, to give Judy some credit here, she noticed that bodies were being dropped overboard after dark and thought something was odd, especially since some of the bodies, including the doctor, weren’t really, most sincerely dead. Besides, a rat dramatically expires at the entrance to the dining room. Most of the passengers just figured it had eaten some of their dinner.

Should Judy reveal she is a doctor and come to the aid of the passengers who are becoming sick??? Not our Judy!! Screw the Hippocratic Oath! Let’s get off this damn ship! So Judy and the two heroes plan their escape when the ship docks at a small village. They have to sneak off the ship because there is a cholera epidemic in the village so passengers can’t disembark! (Talk about the headache and upset stomach dilemna….plague or cholera, maybe even both!) Quietly, Judy prepares. She takes some quinine, lots of money, and dresses in her prettiest outfit with silk stockings and lovely dancing slippers. Then they hail a passing canoe and climb aboard, only to be discovered by Mrs. Mardick. Afraid she will blow the whistle on their escape and thwart them (neat word, thwart), they force her into the canoe. Didn’t think to tie her up and stuff her in a life boat where she would be discovered the next morning. Nope, much better to bring her along.

The plan was to hire a fishing boat to sail up the coast 30 miles to a port where they can get connections to Europe. They will be on their way home before their passenger ship gets out of quarantine. Now they face their first major obstacle. The village fishermen won’t sail them up the coast because they are “fighting” with the fishermen up the coast. Now, considering this is a very, very poor village and that our heroes’ pockets are stuffed with money, wouldn’t it be sensible to “rent” or even “buy” one of the little fishing boats? It would probably be more money than the villagers saw in a lifetime and both Judy and Stewart are world-class sailors.. Noooo… There would be no novel if this happened. Instead, they hire a guide who speaks a sort of English and head into the jungle!!!!! Let me stress, THERE IS NO REASON TO HEAD INTO THE JUNGLE!!! So our six adventurers.. ..Deotlan the faithful Indian companion, the faithful guide and his beautiful native girlfriend Wan Nau……and our four Europeans head into the deep, dark, dank, dim, dismal, damp and dangerous jungle. (Guess which two do not survive, bearing in mind that “white is right”.)

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