Where there's a will....

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Stevie P
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Where there's a will....

Post by Stevie P » Tue 5 Sep, 2006 09:30:52

It seems strange to start a review of 'The Fabulous Valley' by taking a step backwards to my previous book review, 'Black August'.
One of the Characters (Kenyon) in 'Black August' asks the question, "What books would you choose if left on a desert island"
The three books selected were 'Martyrdom of Man' by Windwood Reade, Magee's 'Time and the Unconscious' and 'A Glastonbury Romance' by John Cowper Powys, a writer who I also greatly admire, but amazingly enough I have never completed the mammoth tome even though I've owned the book for years.
I resolved therefore to read this book at the same time as reading 'The Fabulous Valley'.

Having now completed 'TFV' but with quite a way to go on 'AGR' with its half a million words I started to pick up a few similarities.

The first chapter of 'AGR' is titled 'The Will'.
This chapter revolves around members of the immediate family of 'John Geard' gathering at a reading of his will.
In short, the immediate family receive virtually nothing, but the friends and acquaintances of JG with whom he spent his final years all became beneficiaries.

The second chapter of 'TFV' is titled 'The Will'
This chapter revolves around members of the immediate family of the rather unfortunately named, 'John Thomas Long' gathering at a reading of his will.
In short, the immediate family receive virtually nothing other than some cryptic clues to a potential treasure, but the friends and acquaintances of JTL with whom he spent his final years all became beneficiaries.

The main romance in 'AGR' is between two immediate cousins 'John and Mary Crow'.
The main romance in 'TFV' is between two immediate cousins 'Michael and Patricia Long'

One of the characters in 'AGR' lives in a Linen shop.
In a room at the back of the shop he sits in a large cage which he bought in an auction from a bankrupt bank!!!!. His desk and chair is situated within it so that he can carry out his work 'In the cage' .

One of the main characters in 'TFV' (Roger Philbeach) eventually becomes known as 'The Gorilla' who lives in a tree house in (yes you?ve guessed it) 'the cage'.

There is another potential link between the Raft ride through the mountains in 'TFV'
and numerous references to Wookey hole caves in 'AGR', but these are rather tenuous links and perhaps I am just looking for other examples that aren't there.

These examples could all be coincidences but DW would very likely have obtained a signed first edition of this book being a collector of JCP's books and he obviously had read 'AGR' or he wouldn't be recommending in 'Black August'.
'AGR' was first published in England in 1933. 'The Fabulous Valley' was published a year later.

I'm not suggesting that there is any serious plagiarism going on, as the two books are totally different but maybe a few of the main idea's were utilised.

The book itself, 'TFV' that is, I would certainly not recommend as one of DW's best books. It moves along in a sort of Indiana Jones way but in all honesty fades out to be more of a 'Boys Own' adventure story.

DW wrote this book after holidaying in South Africa. He visited many places and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. However, he points out in his autobiography 'Drink and Ink' that a reviewer of 'TFV', said that he should make up his mind whether he wants to write a novel or a travel guide. (Which DW agreed was a valid criticism).

I thought the best part of the book was the previously mentioned Raft ride through the mountain which was very well done.

A passage from the Arrow edition of the book (Page 42) made me smile,

"How will you dispose of them' (The uncut Diamonds being smuggled out of South Africa) she asked thoughtfully".

"Oh, we're not worried about that" he assured her.
"Ernest has a friend in Hatton garden" Not a crook, you understand, but a legitimate diamond dealer.
(Is this friend in Hatton not a crook to be accepting smuggled Diamonds!!!!!!)

For the record, Politics and Religion were kept to a bare minimum although his numerous 'politically incorrect' references to the various races make you cringe nowadays.

DW managed to bring in a reference to his beloved Justerini and Brookes by Page 22. "my wine merchants at Pall Mall !!! "

And the educational snippet from the book (page 47)

"Oh, one of my aunts on fathers side married a Portugoose"
This apparently is the singular of a Portuguese person ?.. You live and learn.
Last edited by Stevie P on Wed 3 Sep, 2008 17:12:17, edited 3 times in total.

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Bob Rothwell
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Post by Bob Rothwell » Thu 7 Sep, 2006 00:30:50

Oh, brilliant, StevieP! =D>

For the record I do know that DW did own ‘Martyrdom of Man’ by Windwood Reade and ‘A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys, both 1st editions, but neither of them signed! I can find no record, however of Magee’s ‘Time and the Unconscious’.

And I'm sure you're right re the unconsious plagarism. However, again for the record, DW has recorded the following as reference material for ‘The Fabulous Valley’:
  • Chilvers (Hedley) Out of the Crucible. Being the Romantic Story of the Witwatersrand Goldfields, and of the Great City which arose in their Midst, Reprint, Cassell, 1932;
  • Fitzpatrick (Sir Percy) Jock of the Bushveld, Reprint, Longmans, 1907;
  • Rhodes. PLOMER (William) Cecil Rhodes, Peter Davies, 1933.
(Ref. Blackwell's Catalogue, 1979)

Love the Portugoose!

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Post by Cibator » Mon 13 Apr, 2009 12:09:04

Presumably "Portugoose" came about by analogy with goose and geese. It occurs in other writings, notably John Buchan's Prester John - a book, incidentally, that I can heartily recommend; the notion of white superiority that underpins it is of course totally outdated, but there's a depth and complexity to the characters and their motivations that raises it far above your run-of-the-mill South African adventure tale. And Buchan's prose is a true joy to read.

Another variant - "Portugee" - can be found in King Solomon's Mines and elsewhere. Similar to Chinee and Chinese.

In both the works mentioned, the Portuguese in general don't seem to be highly regarded, except for the gentlemanly Jose Silvestre in KSM. Contrast this with DW's depiction of the border official in The Fabulous Valley.
Fas est et ab hoste doceri

Steve Whatley
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Post by Steve Whatley » Sun 24 May, 2009 20:43:40

A couple of months ago I was looking for an exciting adventure to read, so decided on a DW - my first for a few years - and selected The Fabulous Valley. It must have been twenty years since I first read it, and I remembered it indeed as 'Boys Own' stuff, as Stevie P said in the first post on this topic.

Though perhaps I didn't find it quite as thrilling as I had in my younger days, I was still absolutely satisfied by the adventure as a whole, and it even had not one but two romances which reached a happy conclusion.

I found the criticism re 'novel or travel guide' rather unfair (even if DW himself did say it was justified), as the facts dispensed seemed far less-gratuitously spliced in than those in some other DW novels I can think of (the Roger Brooks and Mayhem In Greece spring to mind for example).

I'm going to disagree with Stevie and say that the raft ride through the mountain, however well-written it may have been, was for me the least-convincing episode in the book.

I had loads more with which to bore you all, but you'll be pleased to know that in the intervening weeks I've forgotten it all.

Stevie P
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Location: Rugby

Post by Stevie P » Tue 26 May, 2009 09:57:17


Pleased to hear that you have re-read the book. I, like you was not as impressed with the book as I was when I was younger but it still holds a certain something.

I can fully understand your comment on the raft ride but, like the Indiana Jones films where you know that most of the things Harrison Ford does are so far fetched that he wouldn't stand a chance of suviving the situations he finds himself in, I still found the idea of the raft ride in a dark subterranean cave exciting, not totally convincing but exciting.

I also note that you'd forgotten a lot of what had happened fairly soon after reading it. I had this problem with several of DW's books and I wished that I had written down some information to jog my ever failing memory for future references and this was primarily why I chose to write these reviews in the first place as a memory jogger for the future.
The thing is that now I remember scenes from DW stories but can't remember which books they belong to.
I really need to chart some form of concordance listing so that I can relate to certain areas of DW's stories. I wonder if this could be done by utilising the 'word search' facility within the website??? Have I got the time??? :?

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Post by Charles » Tue 26 May, 2009 19:18:01

Memory lapses ... much relieved to hear the comments from the two Steves.

I thought it was just me.

Maybe I haven't lost my marbles after all !!

All best !


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