MacDonalds of Glencoe
Ile Stooped lu Conquer. By Jane Lane. 4Dakers, as. (id.) The Dark Piper. By Florence Bone. (Stanley Paul, 10s. 6d.) Lobster Post. By Frank Stafford. (Ilurst and Blackest, Ss. 6s1.) Reviewed by W. J. IGOE MIS3 LANE has chosen the massacre of the MaeDonalds of Glencoe as subject for her ,latest book. lt is one that offers her mense scope. On the one hand. there was the clan, the unit of the old Europe„ woven into its tradition the ancient ways intertwining with Christianity: on the other, the looming power which has crystallased in the modern scene. Here was the conflict of high tragedy. the father king who led his people in peace and in battle, opposed to the alien monarch. Dutch William, who dwelt in far-off shadows employing fratricides as agents. The word quisling had yet to be employed; but the sin was as old as Cain. The ingredients are there; what has Miss Lane made of them ?
I think her historical partisanship, which I share, has removed her novel from a plane she is capable of holding. the highest plane of historical action. If Jane Lane the novelist eau develop a conscience as strong as her counterpart in scholarship, she will emerge as the best historical novelist in English, and the only one of note writing toeday.
Her love for the Maclacatalds has led her into tulting rh6f effect on the reader for granted. The old Maclan Was a figure Of grandeur dwelling in a (Within -setting. But he was human. The dignity is here hut ii lacks all weakness. It is picturesque in a manner reminiscent of she murale in the clan bar of a certain hostelry in Glasgow. The dirk and the torten, the brave whiskers and the eagle's feather, the lofty speech anti the court held in the kitchen. These were Ciaeldorn: but there must have been something more, something less. Those who are Scottish cannot afford to be too Celtic these days. lest the dirge the pipes have played since before Glencoe die for want of breath to liven the reeds.
The villains of the piece emerge more humanly. The shoddy Glenlyon seeking the hospitality of Clan Donald, carrying in his pouch the orders of his contemptible master. He is very Scottish in his grand meanness; torn hetweet) tear of his superiors: cowering under their whip. his own ruplellt3; his vanity lusting after promotion in a hated uniform; the decencies of the tradition bred in him warring with his pitiful disloyalty: his craving for the bottle and his gaming. Glenlyon knew his king lay over the water and he sold his own clan's high good place when he sold the blood of MacDonald. To a king, from over the water, to the Ciaela usurper.
In another character. James Campbell. a redcoat who befriends the children of those he unwittingly is soon to kill. Miss Lane again captures authenticity. This pathetic redhead still roams high on Castle rock on a Saturday night. Ilc. and sometimes his name is MacDonald. still befriends children on embattled roads.
But Barber. the Cockney. sergeant. is perhaps the best little study in the hook. There is little difference between the small monsters of sevenmeeth-centary slumdom and their modern razor-slashing incarnations. Shaclowly sketched one can see lurking in these Hume the horror of Graham
Greene's little evil men. Barber has his own life and itshvile implications. I think Miss Lane has an important Lalunt and so 1 suggest to 'her that a novelist cannot be Too impetuous in her denouncement of old injustice. Her motives are the impact which have given her novel the 'speed of it firstclass thriller. But a little leas outraged scholarship and a little more fiotional insetbauivit would have knocked all her critics in the aisles of the public libraries.
Scots svill read this hook because it will corroborate the verdict of their dorninies who treat the muse of Rise tory like the lying wench she is. The English will read it as a thriller became they are a secret even from themselves. It's a good book. second only to the one it might have been.
1\10 reviewer will . quarrel over Miss
'1" • Bone's history. She treats the muse with respect hut keeps her at arms' length. The Dark Piper played on the Yorkshire niuors while Boney played across the English Channel moat. There is a heroine, just a trifle lees Scarlet than O'Hara. a Dobbin-like hero and. a dour tainted squireserhoee name. Sir Raise Valliant, is an indication of his character. There arc authentic worthies and a gaits Yorkshire girl in the background when evil bites •• the dust arid virtue scrambIes
home a shore head. This book has everything to make it popular. It is history t) /a Drury Lane. . If you like it that way, you carrrica go wtorsg. •
LOBSTER Post is a sound sea thriller with spies and the occanscapv, around these islands thrown in for good measure. By some magical alchemy Mr. Stafford has managed to blend settings and a hero out of John Buchan with a rogue who has all the Tad Slaughterish vitality of Mr. Valentine Williams Clubloot. I enjoyed tflif book.