Harold Robbins’ 1981 bestseller Goodbye, Janette is a new low for a writer I thought couldn’t get any worse.
The book opens as the Allies are about to take over occupied France. A French collaborator named Maurice and a German general are preparing to escape separately.
They have put Jewish companies they operated during the war in the name of the beautiful Polish woman the General rescued from the concentration camps.
By convincing his uncle that he worked undercover for the Allies, Maurice will assure he inherits the title Marquis be Beauville. Then he’ll marry Tanya, giving her and her daughter, Janette, French citizenship. The General will join his family in South America.
When life returns to normal, all parties will profit.
That might have become a good novel.
Robbins turns it into a visual encyclopedia of sexual perversions.
After literally taking a whipping from Maurice, Tanya outsmarts him. They remain married, live more or less under the same roof.
Tanya isn’t aware that Maurice has started molesting Janette until she becomes pregnant after a week of being raped and beaten by Maurice and his male lover.
Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park is like no other murder mystery you’ve ever read.
By taking traditional murder mystery elements into unfamiliar settings, Cruz Smith creates a world that feels absolutely authentic.
The novel is set in Moscow, where three frozen corpses are found by accident in Gorky Park. When the Militia’s homicide detective, Arkady Renko, arrives on the scene, the KGB agent is already there, which means the murder is a political crime.
Major Priblula makes sure his men destroy as much potential evidence at the scene as possible, declares the murders aren’t a political security case, and turns the investigation over to Renko, stipulating that Renko send him regular, detailed reports.
Renko senses he’s being used. He tries to keep busy investigating without finding anything, but his instincts lead him to facts that his analytical mind pieces together.
The story gets more complicated when Renko finds one of the murdered men was an American who had the same last name as an American tourist who turns out to be a New York City policeman .
The plot is complicated by believably complex characters, many of whom are not what they appear to be and several of whom don’t even admit their motivations to themselves.
Colleen McCullough’s novel An Indecent Obsession is emotionally raw tale told with restraint and respect.
The story begins as World War II is about to end for men in Australian military hospital “troppo” ward who broke under the stresses of jungle warfare.
Nurse Honour Lantry has just five men left in ward X: Neil, their leader, whom Honour thinks she might like to know better post-war; blind Matt; hypochondriac Nugget; sadistic Luce Daggett, who scares her; and severely withdrawn Ben Maynard, the only one Honour thinks really belongs in a mental hospital.
The men call her “Sis.”
All except Luce respect and adore her.
The group’s dynamic is upset when Sergeant Michael Wilson appears at the ward. Compared to the others, Mike is obviously normal.
Honour can’t figure him out. His paperwork says he had a violent crisis; he says he tried to kill a man.
Honour, having served in the field for the entire war, is emotionally exhausted. She allows herself to feel unprofessional interest in Mike, which provokes a crisis.
McCullough relates the story from Honour’s perspective but with a degree of distance that refuses to let Honour be exonerated when she misinterprets what her senses perceive.
The front dust jacket of Stephen King’s Cujo puts the story in one image: It’s about a vicious dog.
At nearly 200-pounds, Cujo, a Saint Bernard, is a gentle giant.
Out chasing a rabbit, Cujo is bitten by a rabid bat. The rabies virus turns Cujo into a killer.
King pads his page count with some subplots , all of which are resolved by the dog’s death.
King has one subplot about four-year-old boy who sees monsters in his closet. Tad’s terror is so real that his father starts imagining he see things in the closet, too.
Tad’s mother, afraid of losing her youth in backwoods Maine, has had a brief fling with a transient poet/cabinet maker. When she breaks it off, he sends her husband a letter about her infidelity, then trashes her home.
The poet/cabinet maker is scary.
Cujo’s owner, 10-year-old Brett Chamber, and his mother are away visiting her sister. Charity Camber is debating whether to divorce her husband. Joe Chamber is as nasty a redneck as ever beat a wife.
Joe Chamber is scary.
On the whole, I found the men in the novel far more frightening than the dog.
Maybe you just had to be there.
Cujo by Stephen King
Viking Press. 1981. 319 p.
1981 bestseller #3. My grade: C+
In Noble House, James Clavell updates the story of Straun’s Hong Kong trading company—the Noble House— whose 19th century founding was the topic of his earlier bestseller Tai-Pan.
Ian Dunross becomes tai-pan—head—of the company in 1960 determined to turn it into an international rather than an Asian company.
From the start, he’s hampered by bad decisions of former tai-pans and a century-old rivalry with another trading company run by Quillan Gornt.
Dunross hopes to repair his fortunes by a joint venture with an American company.
Par-Con Industries’ CEO, Lincoln Bartlett, arrives accompanied by his negotiator “Mr. K. C. Tcholok” who turns out to be a very attractive young woman whose expectation of being treated as a professional offends both men and women in Hong Kong.
Clavell keeps at least a half dozen different stories running at the same time, enabling him to show how people in various strata of Hong Kong society live.
Much of Noble House is very much a product of its time. There are many references to spies and scandals of the ’60s, French and American involvement in Vietnam, drug trafficking, and Russian-Chinese rivalries.
At 1,206 pages Noble House is not a novel for weaklings, but it’s well worth reading.