JOHN G. ROWE – The Roped Square. Mellifont Sports Series #36, UK, paperback original, no date stated [1941].

   Not my usual type of reading fare, but the book’s in the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, so when a copy came to hand, and being suspicious of its origin as part of a “sports” series, I thought I’d check it out, browsing my way through, and see exactly how “criminous” it actually was.

JOHN G. ROWE The Roped Square

   And before I knew it, nearly an hour had gone by, and I was well over half way through (128 pages of small print). Jim Ballard, a strapping young lad, is indeed a boxer, as you may have guessed from the title, or he would be, if his mother didn’t frown so upon his desire to become one.

   A small bout, though, in which he is not only the winner but also the recipient of the ten pounds of prize money, softens her opposition a bit. But the notoriety also arouses the interest of a certain criminal element, and Jim’s father is set upon by thieves, one of which, a man with a scar, promises to tell Jim something about his past if Jim were to let him go.

   It turns out that Jim’s parents are not his real ones, they reluctantly tell him. He was abandoned on their doorstep when he was tiny, and thus Jim’s world is turned upside down. In between further boxing matches he is kidnapped into an opium den (see the cover image), dropped off a barge into a river to drown, and is discovered to be the son of a local lord.

   Which between you and I, the latter’s story should not be believed for a minute. This reads like a Horatio Alger story to me, with new revelations and narrow escapes coming more and more quickly as the tale goes on. It’s all very interesting, although Jim, while quite the boxer, is far more naive than a young man of his years should be.

   Interesting until, that is, he is shanghaied and he finds himself in irons on a ship sailing for who knows where, which is one scrape too many. The author’s only out (if you don’t mind my revealing this to you) is to have half of the crew mutiny (it wasn’t too clear which half, nor why), and all of a sudden Jim is home, the villain revealed, and Jim is champion of the world.