Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (1938) 192 p.
This is another book I read after plucking it from the Classics list of the New York Review of Books, and while I was reasonably entertained, I can’t say it held up to the high standards of Inverted World.
Written and set in 1938, Rogue Male begins with a famous English sportsman recounting his attempt to assassinate a European dictator. The book goes to great lengths to avoid stating precisely who the dictator is and which country he rules over, but if you read between the lines and carefully follow the implications, you can deduce that it is probably HITLER. ADOLF HITLER. IN GERMANY. The hunter, one of those unnamed stiff upper-lip narrators in the grand tradition of 20th century British literature, maintains that he wasn’t going to pull the trigger – that he was simply seeing if it was possible. The German agents who come across him in the act aren’t convinced of this even after an extended torture session, and so they eventually try to kill him by throwing him off a cliff to make it look like an accident. He survives, however, and manages to evade pursuit. After successfully returning to England, he realises that national borders are of no interest to his pursuers, and the hunt continues.
What I found most odd about this book was that the narrator decides against turning himself over to the British government, suspecting that they will simply extradite him to maintain good diplomatic relations with Germany. While this is true, it seems quite bizarre from a modern perspective. It would have seemed bizarre to readers even a few years after the book’s publication.
In any case, I found Rogue Male to be a fairly quick read, a standard thriller with a good bit of dry wit sprinkled throughout. I saw nothing of the “lip-chewing tension” that other reviews harp on about, but neither was I bored by it.