Wed 28 Jan 2009
ROBERT BARR – Revenge! Chatto & Windus, UK, hardcover, 1896 (shown). Stokes, US, hardcover, 1896.
As readers no doubt realise, the theme of this collection is the many and varied forms of revenge, some of them more inventive than others. A few thoughts on its contents follow:
“An Alpine Divorce.” A woman is dead but it suicide or murder? [The English Illustrated Magazine, Oct 1893.]
“Which Was The Murderer?” Will the man whodunnit escape justice via a legal loophole?
“A Dynamite Explosion.” How might you destroy a cafe under police guard, particularly when you live in a flat above it?
“An Electrical Slip.” Revenge carried out by a particularly well-placed relative of the victim.
“The Vengeance of the Dead.” A woo-woo tale wherein a disgruntled chap punishes his cousin and the lawyer who won the cousin’s case against him. [The English Illustrated Magazine, May 1894.]
“Over the Stelvio Pass.” But will the newlyweds be able to pass safely over it?
“The Hour And The Man.” A condemned prisoner escapes from prison. [The English Illustrated Magazine, Aug 1894.]
“And the Rigour of the Game.” A young man does not gamble or imbibe at his club, why does he attend it?
“The Bromley Gibberts Story.” An author planning a murder rampage calmly describes its details to an editor beforehand.
“Not According to the Code.” Collar manufacturers fall out and it all ends in tears. [Black and White, 31 June 1895.]
“A Modern Samson.” A member of the Alpine Corps attempts to escape a court martial by scaling a mountain on the border with Italy.
“A Deal On ’Change.” Wall Street magnate craftily ensures his daughter-in-law is not shunned by society.
“Transformation.” An inventive watchmaker extracts justice for his brother’s death. [The Strand, June 1896.]
“The Shadow of the Greenback.” Under a man’s will the man or men who kill his murderer will receive $50,000.
“The Understudy.” An actor steals the identity of a missing African explorer but with the best of intentions. [The Strand, Dec 1895.]
“Out of Thun.” A young woman collects marriage proposals when conducting research for, well, you’ll see. [McClure’s, July 1896.]
“A Dramatic Point.” Two actors argue about a piece of stagecraft.
“Two Florentine Balconies.” It would be wise not to mess with Venetian ladies….
“The Exposure of Lord Stansford.” Lord Stansford gets an interesting offer. [The Strand, Aug 1896.]
“Purification.” And it’s also best to avoid aggravating jealous Russian women.
My verdict: To describe the stories more than I have would give away much of their content and then a host of “continential objurgations” (a wonderful phrase stolen from one of the above yarns) would surely fly about.
However, I can reveal a number of these tales have twist endings and I found it an enjoyable collection to dip into at odd moments.