Sunday, June 17, 2007

29. Conquest in California by Berkeley Gray

Conquest in California pictureMy reading consumption has dropped off considerably with the start of summer. Nice weather, gaming, weddings, etc. are making it hard for me to sit down and make good progress. Fortunately, I've had Conquest in California in my side pocket for the last couple weeks and have been stealing pages from it when I could.

I picked it up at an antiques store for a buck. As you can see, the cover alone is enough. I did a bit of internet research and discovered that Gray was a pseudonym for Edwy Searles Brooks, a journeyman British author who produced a massive amount of published work. Conquest was one of his later and more succesful series.

Norman Conquest (get it) is a young englishman of excellent character, wealthy and athletic. And fearless. He lives to get in scraps and have adventures. In this one, he rescues a young American girl (a blonde to which he is always attracted) from a threatening thug. This gets him caught up in a tale of small-town corruption in Clam City, California, where Conquest goes to show American thugs how its done and clean up the mess. There is a lot of not-so-subtle British pride here. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is anti-American, but you can tell that the writer and the intended audience have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Lines like "Conquest swung his fist up with a short, outward jerk of the elbow and struck the American on the side of the jaw," give a good sense of where this book is coming from.

It was a fun read, particularly for the setting and the side characters. The plot is pretty straightforward and moves forward a bit too clunkily. There is a lot of repetition of exposition and a lot of the author telling us how awesome Norman Conquest is. Sometimes it is very effective, but generally you get the feeling that the whole thing could have been cut down a lot and the book would still have been entertaining.

I would check another one of these out if they come across my path. Check out these sweet covers!


Jason L said...

Nice author find. I'd never heard of this guy.

WeSailFurther said...

reminds me of The Limey a little bit.

Crumbolst said...

"A trouble hunter with no respect for danger." That's great.

Alice said...

I found a case filled with "Norman Conquest" books in our attic when I was younger, and have therefore read a bunch of them. I loved them! I have to say I wouldn´t have read any of them today, if not for reminiscing, as I have opened my eyes to different literature. But, that being said, I miss the drama, "Pixie" and the other characters.