Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Regular friends of the decanter may recall that ol’ Robbo has developed a new interest in what one might call Ripping Yarns this year and, to this end, has started in on a series of authors he really should have read more when he was a kid – P.C. Wren, Robert Louis Stevenson and Conan-Doyle to name but three.
Well, pursuant to that design, I thought I would mention a couple of pairs of books here, offering a substantive observation about the first and a purchaser’s caution on the second.
Recently, ol’ Robbo finished both R,L. Stevenson’s Kidnapped, together with its sequel Catriona. The first is simply an outstanding adventure story, as the hero David Balfour and the hugely entertaining Alan Breck, after escaping kidnapping and shipwreck, make their dangerous way across the Scottish Highlands of 1751, chased by rival clans and Redcoats. The second, which RLS wrote many years later and which takes up the story immediately where Kidnapped left off, is not nearly as good, seemingly more plodding and taken up with legal intrigue and David’s mooing over women. I will say, without giving away any spoilers, that when Alan Breck reappears toward the end, the book brightens right back up and comes near to Kidnapped quality.
Having polished off those, I leapt immediately into Arthur Conan-Doyle’s The White Company, in which sturdy English yeomen of the reign of Edward III take their longbows off to the Continent to beat up on various enemies and load themselves down with plunder. I’m in the early stages, in which the nucleus of the company is being formed, but I already enjoy it. People forget that ACD was a writer of tremendous range (I believe he even dabbled in science-fiction) and a very solid story-teller to boot.
Anyhoo, when fooling about at the devil’s website, I found that the book comes in two volumes but that I couldn’t find any complete set put out by the same publisher. So I simply picked two at random. This, my friends, was where ol’ Robbo made something of a mistake. Volume One does not even give a publisher name, simply stating that it was printed at Lexington, KY on August 19, 2014. In other words, right around the date I ordered it. I wouldn’t care about this in itself, but what I mind mightily is the fact that the whole thing is printed in about 8-point font, making it basically a 171 page footnote. My poor old eyes simply can’t take much of it at any one time. Stupid fly-by-night publishers! But what are you going to do when you’re looking for rayther obscure works that the big houses simply don’t bother with?
On the other hand, the second volume that I picked up was put out by an outfit called Accessible Publishing Systems. I didn’t notice, when I ordered it, that the thing is an “EasyRead Large Bold Edition” featuring 16-point font. I don’t know if this was because I was inattentive or because the devil’s website didn’t choose to mention it. I offer this as a cautionary tale.
(Oh, and yes, these are both illustrations by the greatly under-rated N.C. Wyeth.)