The Reign of Law by James Lane Allen is the story of young man with his heart set on becoming a minister.
David’s parents think he’s too stupid for college, but accept his desire to be a minister as an explanation of why he’s always been so peculiar.
After two years of hard labor in the hemp fields to earn college money, David finds the “nonsectarian” Bible college’s preoccupation with dogma abhorrent.
He visits churches of other denominations, which marks him as a heretic.
“I always knew there was nothing in you,” his father says when, after three semesters, David is expelled as unfit for the ministry.
His dream destroyed, David goes back to the hemp fields to figure out what to do next.
Allen tries to make the novel about David’s loss of faith, but there’s no sign he had any more faith in God before college than after.
David’s real problem seems to be that he’s a friendless, only child, reared by weird parents in the middle of Kentucky’s hemp fields. Allen makes working with hemp seem idyllic compared to living with David’s parents.
Allen’s solution is to provide David with a nice girl.
If you believe that’s the answer, you have a lot more faith than David.
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come is an improbable tale of an orphan boy genetically predisposed to become a paragon of virtue.
As the novel opens, the family with whom Chad lived has died. Chad and his dog, Jack, take off across the mountains.
They land in Kingdom Come, Kentucky, where Jack wins a dog fight and Chad wins lifelong enemies.
He also wins Melissa, whose family takes Chad in.
By accident, Chad meets Major Calvin Buford who discovers that Chad is his grandson and gives him a home. Chad wants to be friends with the Major’s neighbors, the Deans, especially Margaret Dean, but they think he’s a bastard.
When Civil War looms, Chad chooses the blue uniform. The Major and his Bluegrass friends turn their backs on Chad.
In the war, Chad wins the respect of the Dean men and love of Margaret Dean, but loses all the other people he holds dear.
John Fox Jr. can write great description, but he flunks character development and plot creation. Most of the novel is a recital of Civil War battles.
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come is as dumb as the summary sounds and even more boring.
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come
By John Fox. Jr.
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903
My Grade: C-
John Fox Jr.’s Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come was on the 1903 and 1904 bestseller list. His The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was on the lists in 1908 and 1909. By 1913, readers were ready for a new novel by the popular author.
Fox obliged with The Heart of the Hills.
The story concerns two pairs of cousins, one pair bred from the the feuding Hawns and Honeycutts of the Cumberland Mountains, the other carrying the more genteel bloodline of the Blue Grass. Fox repeatedly drags the cousins up the mountains and back down so they and readers can see the vast difference between the two cultures.
That’s about all readers see.
The characters are rudely drawn, the plot so disjointed it reads like Fox dropped the manuscript and failed to get the pages back in the right order before publication.
The story is padded out with long passages about Kentucky politics, the importance of education for the development of the frontier, and the disastrous impact tobacco had on the state’s environment and economy.
Drivin’ Woman is a historical romance set against the backdrop of the tobacco industry.
As the Civil War ends, America “Merry” Moncure runs what’s left of her family and its plantation. Merry marries a cousin, Fant Annabel, and moves with him to Kentucky from her Virginia home.
When Fant jumps from a riverboat to avoid a murder charge, he leaves Merry penniless and pregnant. Fortunately, a distant relative who assumes as everyone does that Fant us dead, leaves his farm in trust to Merry’s child.
Merry drives herself and her hired help hard to make the farm profitable, but her “late husband” reappears stealthily every few years, leaving her cashless and pregnant. The community and her four children consider Merry a whore.
Meanwhile, few savvy traders are turning tobacco into a major industry. By the time Fant is killed in a shootout in Merry’s yard, the trading syndicate has a stranglehold on tobacco farmers. One of its leaders is Merry’s brother-in-law.
The farmers unite to sell their tobacco as a block to keep the price up, but it’s Merry who saves the day.
Elizabeth Pickett Chevalier chose her historical setting well. It provides cover for a contrived plot and characters that never quite ring true. There’s plenty of entertainment in this novel, and a generous dollop of historical insight as well.
Elizabeth Pickett Chevalier
My Grade: C+
1942 Bestseller #5