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Rogue Male ()

[T]he Almighty looks after the rogue male.

In 1924, Collier's Weekly published a short story by Richard Connell, The Most Dangerous Game, which was destined to become one of the most anthologized tales of modern times. You probably read it in school or have seen the movie or may remember a reference to it in Zodiac, but, to refresh your memory, it concerned a famous big-game hunter who gets shipwrecked on the island of a Russian aristocrat, General Zaroff, who is obsessed with hunting to the point that he's taken to stalking humans, the "most dangerous" prey of the title. Having read the hunter's book, Zaroff correctly imagines that he'll make an especially challenging target.

I don't know if Geoffrey Household ever read that story, but in Rogue Male he offered up the story of a British aristocrat, an accomplished sportsman and author, who decides to see if he can stalk an Eastern European dictator and get him in his cross-hairs. And in his NY Times obituary, it is revealed that part of the genesis of the book was his own hatred of Hitler and his belief that: 'the man had to be dealt with, and I began to think how much I would love to kill him.'

The book begins after the unnamed hunter has been captured, his experiment a success. His captors having tortured him to see if he was part of a genuine assassination plot, rather than off on a sporting lark as he insists, they can hardly afford either to charge him with a crime and reveal their own incompetence in letting him get so close, nor release him and have to explain their brutality towards an important British citizen. Instead they hurl him off a cliff, hoping to make his death appear accidental. But he survives the plunge and so begins the manhunt across Europe and into the English countryside that makes up the rest of the book.

Our pretend sniper is both helped and hindered by his background. The Spartan nature of British private boarding school upbringing enables him to withstand torture, pain, and privation and his knowledge of the outdoors and country life enables him to survive off the land. But the gentleman's code forbids him from getting assistance from government, lest officialdom be implicated in his misadventure, and the German operative who in turn leads the hunt for him, a certain Major Quive-Smith, is able to rely on those past writings to anticipate the tactics he'll employ.

Eventually, Quive-Smith traps him underground, in a den he's improvised, and threatens to let him die there unless he signs a confession that he was working as an official British agent. The hunter is physically reduced to the state of the animals he has hunted--just as he'd reduced the dictator to an object of prey--but the question is whether those qualities of the British gentleman will sustain him and help him triumph in the end or whether the enemy can render him a helpless animal.

At the time the book was published, this question of the British sense of fair play and how far it ought to be extended when confronted by an evil like Hitler and Nazism may have seemed a mostly intellectual exercise. But when you consider the damage that followed from not stamping out Hitler in the 30s and the desperate and brutal measures to which the Allies resorted in the war on the Axis Powers, it turned out not to be a merely academic rumination at all. And here's an odd thought for you: consider that, while it lacked the romance of Mr. Household's hunter with a rifle, George W. Bush began the Iraq War with an assassination strike on Saddam Hussein and when we eventually found him he was dug into a "Spider Hole." It all makes this somewhat dated book curiously timeless.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Geoffrey Household Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Geoffrey Household
    -Geoffrey Household (1900-1988) (Kirjasto)
    -INFO: (NNDB)
    -AUTHOR INFO: Geoffrey Household (Random House)
    -AUTHOR INFO: Geoffrey Household (New York Review of Books)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Geoffrey Household (IMDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Geoffrey Household (NY Times)
    -INFO: Rogue Male (1976) (TV) [IMDB]
    -INFO: Man Hunt (1941) (IMDB)
    -GOOGLE BOOK: Rogue Male
    -OBIT: Geoffrey Household, 87, Novelist Who Wrote Suspense Works, Dies (HERBERT MITGANG, October 7, 1988, NY Times)
    -ARCHIVES: The Household mss., 1944-1952, consist of correspondence and writings of Geoffrey Edward West Household, 1900-1988, novelist. (Lilly Library Manuscript Collections)
    -ARCHIVES: Geoffrey Household (Open Library)
    -AUDIO TORRENT: Rogue Male (BBC 7)
    -ARCHIVES: Geoffrey Household (Harper's)
-REVIEW: of Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (CHARLES TAYLOR, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW: of Rogue Male (Katherine A. Powers, Barnes & Noble Review)
    -REVIEW: of Rogue Male (Gail Pruszkowski Platinum Quality Author)
    -REVIEW: of Rogue Male (Shane, 26 Books)
    -REVIEW: of ARROWS OF DESIRE by Geoffrey Household (Charles Champlin , LA Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (BOSLEY CROWTHER, June 14, 1941, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Man Hunt (David Kehr, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Variety, 1/01/1941)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Richard von Busack, MetroActive)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Elliott Stein, July 30th 2002, Village Voice)
    -FILM REVIEW: Manhunt (Michael E. Grost, Films of Fritz Lang)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Chris Cabin,
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Mad Professor Mike, Movie Magazine International)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (El Bicho, BlogCritics)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Barry Caine Oakland Tribune)
    -FILM REVIEW: Man Hunt (Richard T. Jameson,
    -FILM REVIEW: Rough Shoot (1952) (TimeOut)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: The era of pim fortuyn?: Are we on the threshold of a world where cruelty, repression and postmodern consumer culture will live openly side by side? (Guy Rundle, June/July 2004, Arena)
    -REVIEW: Bang, bang - you're dead: Chris Petit discovers that snipers are scary and cost-effective in Andy Dougan's latest book, The Hunting of Man (Chris Petit, The Guardian)