Friday, March 26, 2010

Forgotten Books: Island of Kings - Blaine Stevens (Harry Whittington)

Late in his career, Harry Whittington wrote several historical novels under the pseudonym Blaine Stevens. ISLAND OF KINGS is the final book to appear under that name, and in fact, it may be the last book that Whittington wrote. I believe it was the final new Whittington novel to be published, but if I’m wrong about any of that, I hope someone will speak up in the comments.

At any rate, whether or not it possesses the historical significance of being the last Whittington novel, ISLAND OF KINGS is worth reading. It’s set in Hawaii in the 1770s and is a fictionalization of the young prince Kamehameha’s efforts to avenge his brother’s murder, unite all the Hawaiian islands, and establish himself as the king. Kamehameha’s rise of power is complicated by the arrival of the British explorer Captain James Cook and the two ships under his command. This is the first time the islanders have ever encountered anyone from the outside world.

The other protagonist in this novel is a roguish young British officer on one of the ships who falls in love with an island girl, deserts the ships, and goes native, eventually winding up involved in Kamehameha’s plan to unite the islands.

As usual in a Whittington novel, the story is fast-paced, colorful, and filled with sex and violence. Not all the characters turn out the way you’d expect, either, and such surprises are always nice. Never having studied Kamehameha or Captain Cook, I don’t know how historically accurate the book is, but it’s definitely a good yarn, which is all I was looking for.

The only real flaw in ISLAND OF KINGS is the head-scratcher of an ending, which reads like Whittington ran out of time, energy, or both. Despite that, it’s an entertaining, fast-moving novel, and worth reading despite being a definite notch or two below Whittington’s great suspense novels and Westerns. (I couldn't find a better cover scan on-line, so that's the actual beat up, cover-clipped copy I read.)


Randy Johnson said...

Whittington is one of those writers I've been remiss in reading. None of his original stuff, I believe the only ones I've read were the Bonanza, the U.N.C.L.E.s(both the paperback series and the magazines), and his Elvis western novelization, Charo.

Evan Lewis said...

Weird to see a Whittington book published this side of the 60s. Sounds very interesting, though.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

You can get the remnants of that sticker off by soaking it with lighter fluid. A single-edge razor blade can then shave it clean. And free that poor girl's breast.

Anonymous said...

I recently finished reading Whittington's TO FIND CORA, reprinted by Stark House. The essay by David Laurence Wilson mentions his historicals, and I've wondered about them. This title is listed in the HW Bibliography and appears to be his last book published before his death in the same year, 1989. Great stuff. Thanks for the review.

Ed Lynskey