Friday, June 29, 2012

Forgotten Books: White Heather Weather - John Frederick (Frederick Faust)

Frederick Faust is most famous for the Westerns he wrote under the name Max Brand and numerous other pseudonyms, of course. But like any good pulpster, he wrote a lot of other things, too, including historical novels. WHITE HEATHER WEATHER, which was serialized in the pulp magazine ARGOSY – ALL STORY in 1921 under the name John Frederick, is set in England in the 17th Century, during the reign of Charles II. Its protagonist is a young man named Samson Integrity Northam, and it's no coincidence that his initials spell out the word SIN.

Samson's father, you see, is a former Puritan soldier who served under Oliver Cromwell, but following Cromwell's death and the restoration of the monarchy, John Northam has retired and is running an inn with the help of his son Samson. Then, one moonlit night, destiny rolls into the inn's courtyard in the form of a coach carrying a mysterious, beautiful blonde. The coachman – who has secrets of his own – has a sprained wrist, so he asks Samson to help him drive the coach on to London. Samson, who has caught a glimpse of the blonde, has fallen in love at first sight, and since he's the fanciful sort who has always longed for something more the drab life of his father, he agrees to the proposal.

Well, it won't come as any surprise that the girl is in danger from pursuers, and the first half of the novel is a fast-paced adventure full of swashbuckling action as Samson risks his life numerous times in order to get her safely to London.

Once they're there, however, the story takes a different turn and settles down to become more of a dramatic comedy about romantic and political intrigue. Samson stays in London instead of returning to the inn and is soon mingling with all sorts of historical figures at the royal court. He meets another girl, a serving wench named Sally, who like nearly everybody else in this novel has secrets and unexpected depths of her own.

This is the first of Faust's swashbucklers I've read, and he has a great touch with the swordfights. In fact, I could have done with a few more of them and a little less angst in the second half. Still, Faust writes so well and does such a fine job of depicting English society during this era that I never lost interest in the story. As I got close to the end of the book I wondered how he was going to pull everything together into a satisfying finish, but sure enough, he does.

This is a pretty old-fashioned yarn, as you'd expect from a novel first published more than ninety years ago, but I enjoyed it a great deal. Our friends at Beb Books have rescued it from obscurity and will have an affordable reprint edition available soon. If you like historical novels and all you know of Frederick Faust is his Westerns, you ought to give WHITE HEATHER WEATHER a try.

1 comment:

beb said...

If you'll pardon the plug: It's available now for $6 plus $3 postage. Beb Books are printed on 8.5 x 11 paper, side-stapled with a color cover. (Just so you know) Send check or money order to:
Brian Earl Brown
11675 Beaconsfield
Detroit, MI 48224.