The Word: More than its title is deceiving

Stark black and red type on dull white background lead the ey toward the symbol of a skewered fish.
The skewered fish is a clue.

Irving Wallace’s The Word is not a religious novel any more than Elmer Gantry is.

It’s a suspense-packed novel about Steve Randall, a public relations man who has had a buy-out offer that would give him enough money to be able to go write a novel.

There’s a hitch: He first has to organize a PR campaign for a new translation of the New Testament incorporating a recently-found gospel by James, the younger brother of Jesus, that contradicts existing accounts.

An international syndicate of religious publishers and theologians are risking their fortunes on the success of the new translation.

Steve, who has no faith, is intrigued.

Doing background research for the book launch, Steve comes upon various bits of information that don’t add up. Digging deeper, he finds a tangle of deceits with deadly consequences.

Since The Word is an Wallace novel, the leading man must have minimum of three sex partners in 500 pages and wind up doing something of redeeming social value.

Despite those preset parameters, Wallace holds readers’ attention. There’s plenty of technical detail to make the story seem mysterious, and plenty of weird characters to make it feel threatening.

The Word is a definite page turner.

The Word: A novel by Irving Wallace
Simon and Schuster, ©1972. 576 p.
1972 bestseller #5. My grade: B

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Make Winter Come Again

Headstone of WWI soldierIf you have time to read only one vintage novel this year, make it A. S. M. Hutchinson’s 1922 chart-topper If Winter Comes.

The plot begins to roll when Mark Sabre discovers that he and his bride do not laugh at the same jokes. As time passes, he discovers they really have nothing in common at all.

Mark retreats into his work in educational publishing, depending for intellectual companionship on two neighbors who have eccentricities of their own.

Mark occasionally sees his soul mate, Nona, now married to the emotionally abusive Lord Tybar, as she passes through Penny Green en route to somewhere else. Only the outbreak of World War I keeps Mark from helping Nona escape from her intolerable marriage.

Mark’s honest heart and instance of seeing things from other people’s perspective renders him incapable of seeing his wife’s and co-workers’ behind-the-scenes machinations.

Hutchinson accentuates the intricate plot and vivid characters with an extraordinary sense of pacing. As Mark gets swept up in events over which he has no control, the story accelerates so readers feel Mark’s loss of control and helplessness.

Hutchinson will make you laugh, and weep, and pause to read aloud lines that glow with a pearly sheen.

If Winter Comes
A. S. M. Hutchinson
Grosset & Dunlap, 1921
415 pages
1922 #1 Bestseller
Project Gutenberg #14145
My grade: A

Photo credit: “Graves 1” by yohanl

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni