School' for Eternity. By Harry HerveytMacmillan, 9s.) The Navy Colt. By Frank Gruber. (Nicholson and Watson. 7s. 6d.)
Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT
QIR Hugh Walpole completed The Killer and the Slain before his death and ranked it high amongst his writings, we are told. The story is simple enough. It tells how John Talbot, shy, sensitive and retiring, was dominated increasingly by Jim Turistall. Meeting at school in the small seaside town where they lived Tunstall from the start held some sort of fascination for Talbot. He was strong, hearty. successful and a bully. He proclaimed himself the friend and protector of the weaker boy. Talbot responded in a timoreus way midi the patronising contempt and open mockery of Tunstall, ever disguised under a pretence of hearty good fellowship, goaded him almost to madness. There were some uneventful years after they left school. Talbot looked after the shop in Seaborne and eventually marries, while Tunstall made a name for himself in London as a painter and marries a woman of means. '
Unexpectedly Tunetall returns to Seaborne and plays an important and flamboyant part in the social life of the town. He begins et once to reassert
his influence over Talbot. Friendly mockery and, a skilitil playing on the weak spots in Talbot's character drove the latter to such a frenzy of bate that he succeeds one night in tipping his friend over the edge of the cliff into the sea. A joyful sense of freedom Soon gives place to a disturbing sense
of obsession by the dead man. He seems to see him, hear him even, at odd times. Sometimes he finds himself speaking as Tunstall spoke and
even sharing information known to Tunstall alone.. Both his appearance and habits change; he becomes stout, hearty and a drinker. He seeks the company of those he had previously despised and hated. It is a complete and horrible transformation. For Tunstall was an evil man and the'anthor delights in painting that evil. It is a subject that requires an extreme of subtlety and ekill to be convincingly depicted. There is skill in the telling. so that it is readable throughout, but the subtlety is absent. It moves on too earthy a plane and the crisis, horrible in itself, lacks conviction. The goodness of the one " good " character lacks robustness so that we hope, but cannot he sure, Ow it achieves all that the author intended.
THE author of School for Eternity appears to be an Arnericaa. He adopts for the purposes of his book a rather cheap cynicism and holds himself superior to religious or moral teaching ; in other words, his attitude is that of a 'moral and intellectual bankrupt tinged with sentimentality. San Liguori is a West Indian island on which the most estimable characters, apparently, are Fr. Damon, an unfrocked priest, and a certain Count Girghiz. The priest is represented as a friend to publicans and sinners, and the Count as an aloof and wealthy man who finds his delight in the study of the frailtice of his fellow humans. At leis suggestion Fr. Damon gathers a collection of unknown guests to pass a week-end with him and we are told some of the salient features of their lives. Most were regrettable and all were unfortunate.
Lady Mag, the best drawn of the lot and the most attractive, is a high light amidst much that is sordid and revolting. She proves that the author is capable of something better than the present book.
THE Navy Colt, a very American 1 thriller, continues the adventures of Johnny Fletcher, hawker of books, and hi, friend Sam Cragg, a professional Strong man. There is, in spite of all the crudity, a sort of charm and simplicity about Johnny so that he makes' a happy diversion in an unhappy world.