No OTHER MAN—Alfred Noyes—Stokes ($2.50).
THE TWENTY-FIFTH HOUR—Herbert Best—Random House ($2.50).
ATTACK—Leland Jamieson—Morrow ($1.50).
Coming fashions in war books are forecast in two novels from England, one from the U. S. From England comes apocalypse, from the U. S. pugnacity.
In No Other Man and The Twenty-Fifth Hour British Authors Alfred Noyes and Herbert Best offer their visions of the destruction of the human race and civilization in war. Both are good enough stories in themselves. As examples of what English men of letters are providing for beleaguered Britons to read while waiting for total war, they are two of the most curious documents ever written.
Both books begin in the last of the great World Wars. In The Twenty-Fifth Hour mankind dies out doggedly from plagues brought on by bacteriological war fare. Author Best writes with a kind of exaggerated pulp-paper toughness. His de cline of the west is slower, crueler, more realistic, less snagged with philosophical, religious and artistic asides than Poet Noyes's. A buzzard broods over his all-but-dead planet, whose curse is that there is still some doomed life left on it. Only the women are halfway happy as barbarians. Explains Author Best's hard-boiled hero: formerly most women were the drudges of lazy, torpid husbands. The roving sol diers, who kill these husbands and take their places, are more loverlike, practice such endearing military virtues as cooking, washing and mending their own socks.
Poet Noyes's world (No Other Man) is ended at one stroke by a death ray. Only survivors are Hero Mark. Heroine Evelyn (they were submerged in a submarine and a diving bell respectively when the ray struck); some citizens of Assisi, Italy; several herds of contented cows. Author Noyes does not explain how the citizens of Assisi survived or who milks the cows twice daily on a depopulated planet.
Noyes thinks that annihilation is the best thing that could have happened to the debased human race. He has a high old time making his death ray catch in compromising positions all kinds of people who have irked Poet Noyes for years. There is moralizing Critic Sir Herbert Boskin & wife. On a sofa Lady Boskin "was in the arms of a dead man with a long, pale nose, and a red mustache, which gave a touch of macabre comedy to their attitude. . . ." Sir Herbert was in another room, "as dead," observes Poet Noyes gleefully, "as Napoleon. ... On a table beside him there was a magnificently bound copy of a pornographic work. . . ."
Though Authors Noyes and Best differ as to how the old world will end, they are in entire agreement about the nationality of the survivors who will carry on the race. In both novels the Adam & Eve of the new world are an English university graduate and a U. S. girl.
Significantly different from these books of doom in pulse, pace and outlook is a story of war and sudden death by U. S. Author Leland Jamieson. It is a simple, all-action narrative (recently serialized in the Saturday Evening Post) about outnumbered U. S. planes and a power-diving hero in an undeclared Blitzkrieg against the U. S. Fatigue sickens the young airman, fear of death cramps his stomach muscles, terror of being lost at sea in the night momentarily deprives him of his senses. But the last thing he thinks about is the end of the world.
Monday, Jul. 29, 1940