Tuesday 27 March 2012

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household- Penguin No 695- 1949

     I picked this book off my shelf most likely because it wasn’t 400 pages long. I had two library books to get through quickly but didn’t want to lose momentum on a Penguin read.
Had I known how suspenseful this book was going to be I would have read it the day I brought it home even if it had turned out to be 800 pages long.  This is a really exciting read.

     The story unfolds like a set of Russian dolls. One opens the book and by the end of the third page so much has happened that the reader must keep taking more dolls out of the stack.  The opening sentence is very enticing.

“I cannot blame them. After all, one doesn’t need a telescopic sight to shoot boar and bear; so that when they came on me watching the terrace at a range of 550 yards, it was natural enough that they should jump to conclusions. “

     The reader has no idea who this man is for some time. He is immediately caught stalking another man who we later find out is a dictator in a Central European country. We don’t know the country.  We know he is an Englishman writing in the first person. We know he had the ‘target’ in his sights. We don’t know why.  The moral dilemma is whether,  if not interrupted,  would he have shot the man or not.   He is captured by the guards and we learn that he was tortured just before being left hanging over a cliff to fall to his death.  By the third page he comes to at the bottom of the cliff, his left eye is useless, his fingernails are scratched down to nothing if in fact they exist, he cannot walk. He seems to be missing quite a bit of flesh.

     For people who don’t like graphically told tales there is no worry.  It is not much more graphic than the last paragraph you just read. The narrative focuses on the progression of the story and there are few words that aren't needed for the story.

     By the end of the third page we know what has happened to him but not entirely and we are certainly not privy to the torture and watching him dangling over the cliff face at the hands of his captors.  He is mired in mud and once he realises he is not dead he goes from there to escape. But how on earth does he make his escape from where he is?  Now, please remember .... you are only on the third page!!

     The reader has a head full of questions.  Who is he?  Who was he planning to shoot?  Would he have shot him?  For what reason?  Is it sport? Is is retaliation for something else that has happened?  Why did they torture him?  If he has one damaged eye, very little left of his finger tips and quite a bit of flesh missing from his legs how does he escape?  How did he survive?  What does he do now? We know he can’t walk.

Open up another doll and look for the next one in the stack.  

     It is hard to say much more about this book except to say we do find out he’s an Englishman.  The word Poland is mentioned early on but that doesn’t do much more to enlighten us.  It is necessary to continue to go through the stack of dolls until the very last one is left standing alone by the end of the 200 pages.

     I could not put this book down.  While looking for more information about The Rogue Male on the internet I did find out that in its day it came to rival books such as the Manchurian Candidate and The Day of the Jackal.  There is absolutely no letup in the experiences this man endures.  I felt like I was at the top of an enormous water slide and was pushed racing down a pitch dark tunnel. 

     I had never heard of the author Geoffrey Household.  I asked another couple of people who spend a lot of time with books, old and  new and they had not heard of him either.   After searching Wikpedia, the New York Times and a couple of other web sites I learned he was a prolific British writer who mainly wrote thriller type books.  Evidently this particular one is the one he was most famous for. 

Some interesting trivia is that he was born on the 1 January in 1900 and died exactly 88 years later on the 1 January in 1988.

He was married twice, had children and lived in many places around the world.  He was educated at Clifton College Bristol and Magdalen in Oxford. He had a BA degree in English Literature.  He wrote 37 novels including books for children. 

     He was a banana importer living in Spain and France, a secretary of a bank in Romania, composed children’s plays for radio in the USA.   During WWII he worked as an intelligence agent in Europe, the Mid East and South America. 

     It wasn’t until after the war that he began writing his English gentleman thrillers while living at his country estate.
If someone handed me another of his books this evening I would no doubt finish it by morning if it is as exciting as the one I just finished.

     While lately I have read books of women having cups of coffee whilst discussing complex relationship problems or planning travel,  I was certainly a world away from any such civilization in this book.  I couldn’t put it down.  I certainly recommend this story to someone who desires a fast read full of action and excitement. Wear gloves though as you might not have fingernails left by the end.

Wikpedia has a list of all his published works. To see them click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Household 


  1. I've not seen your blog before and this sounds like an admirable project. I only have one 'orange and white' and that is Nancy Mitford's U and non-U. Never actually read it! Will be following your progress with interest.

  2. thanks for your interest, I have viewed your blog a couple of times, will have to keep an eye on each other....all the best, ;-)


I love comments. I promise to try very hard to reply to any message left.