Book of the Week: Bite of the Bulldog
And now for something completely different
Since Polish novelists and ancient historians have proved to be too daunting or time-consuming for most readers, I am taking a different tack and devoting a few days to Bite of the Bulldog (initially titled simply Bulldog Drummond), a short thriller in which the reader meets one of the great pop fiction heroes of the last century, Bulldog Drummond.
The Bulldog's creator, Herman Cyril McNeile was born in Cornwall, the son of a navy captain. He attended Cheltenham College and The Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and he was commissioned lieutenant in the engineers in 1907. As Captain he sailed for France with the British Expeditionary Force in 1914, and from his wartime experiences as engineer in combat he took the nickname Sapper, which became his pen name. Like his hero, Sapper McNeile was loud, hearty, and found of military fellowship. and must have tried the patience of his more reserved countrymen.
One can read the entire book in a few hours of careless perusing--a perfect read for the beach or the cabin. After a few further observations on the author and the period, I want to talk about three things, mostly: first, the formulaic plot--what works and what doesn't; second, the character of the Bulldog; and, third, the political implications--and I do not mean just the explicit political statements made near the end of the book.
To anticipate my conclusions and, perhaps, to whet the appetite, the Sapper and his hero--neither of them much brighter than Bertie Wooster--have a deeper instinctive sense of the 20th century revolutions than most clever political analysts and theorists. In fact, I should go so far as to say that it would be better for the youth to grow up on Bulldog Drummond than on virtually all the popular conservative writers of the past two generations. Someone will undoubtedly observe that I have set the bar rather low,
Read and enjoy. This is not a five course meal or even lasagne. It is good English beef, not so good as John Buchan, by any means, but with less of Buchan's sometimes tedious nationalism.