Tuesday, January 08, 2019

2. The Shadow of Suspicion by Emilie Loring

The cutoff top is the book, not my photo
Part of the really great pulp haul from the Bookmark in Oakland, this was really not a very good read.  The premise is cool and it had some potential, but was ultimately undone by obvious plotting, inconsistency and a pretty insipid and uninspiring female protagonist.  It's about a young woman who goes to Maine to support her widowed aunt who must stay in her lumber camp to ensure they cut down enough wood to pay off the debts her husband incurred.  There is trouble at the camp, unrest among the men and other more mysterious whisperings.  The previous manager who was well-liked was killed in a hunting accident (this is the first of the bad plotting: he was shot in the head and it was dismissed as an accident even though they never discovered who did it).

So that all sounds good, but because this is 1955 there has to be some steely-eyed, firm-jawed dude who is actually going to do all the investigation and commanding and stuff.  His character also had potential, a Korean vet who had been imprisoned and now was on the hunt for a commie traitor he had discovered while being released.  He accidently discovers that the traitor may well be at the lumber camp. He is supposed to be this totally awesome dude "whose manners are invariably charming" except when he spazzes out and accuses the heroine of having fallen in love with the dude who drove her up to the camp.  That's like 20 pages in!  I am familiar with the sexual conventions of books of this period, but there is a subtlety even within those restrictions. This book was just weird, with her immediately falling in love with this guy and he obviously in love with her and yet not consummating for no reason other than stilted conversations.  His eyes are always flashing and her cheeks blushing. It's just badly constructed and leaves the reader with zero emotional romantic feelings about them.

I read up on Emilie Loring and she was really prolific.  She also died in 1951 and her family kept publishing under her name using a ghost writer and scraps of her remaining writing.  They did not do a very thorough job here.

Most interestingly, check out this list of other books at the back. This is like an excellent survey of the very specific nurse/female doctor romance/thriller sub-genre from the mid-50s.  You can just feel the tension between the conflicting cultures of traditional female domesticity competing with the dawn of the professional woman ("Has a dedicated nurse the same right to happiness as other women?" "Her ideal of nursing conflicted with her fiancé's ideas of the duties of a wife", "Dr. Gail Benton's rise in the medical profession is threatened by the imperious demands of her woman's heart")

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