The Honorary Consul: Incisive, insightful, intriguing

Graham Greene called his earlier bestseller Travels with My Aunt an entertainment and The Honorary Consul a novel. The distinction is apt.

Bright sunny colors with thin box around words The Honorary Consul
An image can’t capture the story of The Honorary Consul.

The main character in The Honorary Consul is physician Eduardo Plarr whose English father disappeared after having gotten involved with revolutionaries in Paraguay.

Plarr’s medical bag gives him entree into all classes of society in the unnamed Argentinian city in which Charles “call me Charley” Fortnum is honorary consul. Britain recalled the under-worked real consul. The locals don’t know the difference, and most of the time Charley is too drunk to care.

Charley has wed a woman from the local brothel who, to Charley’s delight, is pregnant. Unknown to Charley, Dr. Plarr is Clara’s lover and father of his child.

Charley is kidnapped by revolutionaries who mistake him for the American Ambassador. Rather than waste a hostage, the revolutionaries threaten to kill Charley if their demands are not met.

The kidnappers call Plarr to look after Charley.

Greene is a master of incisive detail. Whether sketching a character or describing a revolution, his pen is precise: Every word matters.

What’s more, every character matters. Greene cares about the countries and the people about whom he writes.

He’ll make you care, too.

The Honorary Consul: A Novel by Graham Greene
Simon and Schuster, © 1973, 315 p
#1973 bestseller #8. My grade: A

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Adventurers makes a cult of killing

In the opening chapter  of The Adventurers, the main character, Dax, at age 6, sees his mother and sister raped and killed.

In chapter two, later that day, Dax pulls the trigger to execute their killers.

The Adventurers by Harold Robbins

Trident Press, 1966, 779 pp. 1966 bestseller #2. My grade: D-.

women's faces replace continents on world map on Adventurers dust jacket

From that opening, this bloated novel about a clique of mid-twentieth century paparazzi-magnets sinks to trash-level.

The sex and violence that Robbins obscured under a recognizable, if implausible, plot in The Carpetbaggers, is swollen to obscenity here.

Robbins provides Dax with a clique friends whose morality is on a par with his own.

Robbins shifts focus from one with dizzying speed, and compounds the confusion by flashbacks, foreshadowings, and scene shifts from one continent to another.

The point of the story — beyond the titillation — seems to be that good men trying to do good in the world are powerless against evil.

Robbins brings names and events that readers of his day would recognize : the Korean War, Eisenhower’s run for president, Joseph Kennedy’s search for a political foothold for his family.

Every hundred pages or so Robbins uses the word tumescence in describing a sexual encounter, but the story needs more sanitizing than that.

Don’t soil your hands or your mind with The Adventurers.

© Linda Gorton Aragoni 2016