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The Old Limey ()

Fr. George Rutler of Crisis has a pithy way of saying it: “The three greatest blessings to mankind are Christianity, Penicillin, and the British Empire.” For teenage boys, who should already be well drilled in the tenets of Christianity, and might already have imbibed penicillin to deal with the odd ear infection or two, the British Empire stands as a great gateway into the study of modern history. Enter that gate and you enter a world of manly, muscular Christians whose imperial ideals include such worthy ambitions as abolishing slavery and widow-burning, dispensing fair and disinterested justice, and keeping the peace — often nearly alone and by sheer force of character.

The agents of British imperialism were frequently young men, trained in public schools where the curriculum included long, hard runs, cold, dirty baths, Spartan meals, compulsory chapel, and a scholarly emphasis on the classics in Greek and Latin. When they were sent abroad it was assumed they could recreate their own British civilization anywhere, virtually by themselves, the true test of a well-educated man.

In turn, they believed that their civilization had something to give the world. They were tolerant — the British Empire was the largest empire the world has ever known, and ruled over millions of Hindus and Muslims, as well as animists and headhunters, Catholics and Protestants — and usually preferred to rule through local, traditional rulers with a minimum of interference and fuss. When they did fuss, it was on the essentials: “No, sorry, Mr. Slaver, I’m afraid we’ve taken upon ourselves a global mission of abolishing the slave trade, so none of that, if you please”; “No, sorry, put those torches away: your custom may be to burn widows but our custom is to hang widow-burners and confiscate their property, so if you follow your custom, we’ll follow ours” (which is actually what General Napier told a group of Brahmins in India); “No, I’m sorry old boys, but Pax Britannica rules here, so put those spears away, no more raiding other tribes, but we can put on a game of rugger, if you like.”

    -ESSAY: More than a Book for Boys (H. W. Crocker III, 12/09/11, Crisis)

As the above suggests, Mr. Crocker, a heralded executive editor at Regnery Publishing, is an unabashed Anglophile. In this novel he gives us a very funny riff on Don Quixote featuring former Brigadier General Nigel Haversham as the estimable gentleman and a California girl as his unlikely Sancho Panza. Instead of defending and living out the code of Chivalry, the old limey embodies the values of British Imperialism.

Our hero is dispatched to California to bring back his god-daughter, who has gotten herself entangled with a loathsome young filmmaker and a Jamaican drug gang...and then with a rival Hispanic gang that kidnaps her. The General, meanwhile, manages not only to get himself beaten up routinely as he searches LA for the girl--including once when he's trying to pass as a West Indian, but comes off as a blackface version of Don King--but to form alliances with both a Black Muslim cadre and a group of Vietnam vets. Along the way he's prone to flashback reminiscences about his service throughout the Empire. Although we're never sure whether his heroism is tinged with Flashman-like exaggeration or not. A problem his willingness to lie brazenly whenever the occasion demands does nothing to alleviate.

The book races the General and his various sidekicks from one jam to another until a riotous denouement, with just a big enough twist to rescue it from the anticlimactic. That said, one does wish the author had slowed the story down enough to develop the character more and to sharpen the social criticism. As is, it seems as much a movie pitch as a novel, betraying both the inherent weaknesses of a first novel and a lack of a firm editorial hand. That said, it would make a great movie and Mr. Crocker is likely to produce better novels if he sticks to the form. Indeed, while it's been over a decade since this book was published, a subsequent Nigel Haversham adventure would be welcome.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

H. Crocker III Links:

    -AUTHOR PAGE: H. W. Crocker III (Regnery Publishing)
    -BOOK SITE: The Old Limey (Regnery Publishing)
    -GOOGLE BOOKS: The Old Limey
    -ARCHIVES: H. W. Crocker III (Crisis)
    -ARCHIVES: H. W. Crocker III (Catholic Culture)
    -ARCHIVES: Harry W. Crocker III (LewRockwell)
    -ARCHIVES: H.W. Crocker III (Human Events)
    -ARCHIVES: H. W. Crocker III (American Spectator)
    -ARCHIVES: H. W. Crocker III (National Review)
    -ESSAY: Lepanto, 1571: The Battle that Saved Europe (H. W. Crocker, III, Catholic Culture)
    -ESSAY: WHY WE SHOULD GIVE THANKS FOR THE BRITISH EMPIRE : On Thanksgiving Day, let's remember where our ideals of freedom and limited government came from. (H. W. Crocker III, American Spectator)
    -ESSAY: A Paleo-Conservative Guide to the British Empire: In all honesty, they have to rather like it. (H. W. Crocker III, 12/09/11, National Review)
    -ESSAY: How to Scare a Liberal to Death : Shiver your leftist neighbors’ timbers with a few of history’s characters. (H. W. Crocker III, National Review)
    -VIDEO LECTURE: Book TV: H. Crocker, "Great Books to Read in College"
    -BOOKNOTES: Robert E. Lee on Leadership (C-SPAN, 8/8/99)
    -PROFILE: In the Right : A Conservative Editor's Radical Strategy : Conservative editor Harry Crocker has published several recent polarizing books, including Dinesh D'Souza's The Roots of Obama's Rage. (Laura Shin, At UCSD, January, 2011)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEWS: Great Moments in Church History with Fr. C. John McCloskey w/ Harry Crocker (EWTN, 2003)
    -PODCAST: The Old Limey (Ink & Quill)
    -VIDEO: Interview with H.W. Crocker III (Online with Terry Jeffrey)
    -INTERVIEW: Don't Tread on Me : with H. W. Crocker III (Jamie Glazov, October 30, 2006, FrontPageMagazine)
    -INTERVIEW: Author argues the British Empire was bloody awesome! (Jamie Weinstein, 11/01/11, Daily Caller)
    -ARTICLE: CAP smear? (Jake Tapper, Jan 13, 2006, ABC News)
    -INTERVIEW: with H. W. Crocker III (Jon Stewart, The Daily Show)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: with H. W. Crocker III (Talkback with Chuck Wilder on CRN, 4/26/13)
    -INTERVIEW: Two Centuries & Counting : H. W. Crocker III on his new history of the Catholic Church. (Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez, March 29, 2002, National Review)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: H.W. Crocker III talks about his new book, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire.” (Matt Lewis Show)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: HW Crocker, III - The Politically Incorrect Guide to the British Empire (The Dove)
    -ESSAY: Peters on Crocker's strange take on NFP (Carl Olson, 3/09/05, Insight Scoop Blog)
    -REVIEW: of The Unquiet Western Front : Britain's Role in Literature and History by Brian Bond (H. W. Crocker III, Weekly Standard)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: H. W. Crocker III (IMDB)
    -REVIEW: of The Old Limey by H. W. Crocker III? (Dante Ramos, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Old Limey (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Old Limey (Matthew Robinson, American Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Old Limey (David Limbaugh, Jewish World Review)
    -REVIEW: of Old Limey (Curmudgeonalia)
    -REVIEW: of Old Limey (Michael Pakenham, Baltimore Sun)
    -REVIEW: of H.W. Crocker's Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church (Against the Grain)
    -REVIEW: of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War by H. W. Crocker III (Matthew Kenefick, American Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of PIG to the Civil War (Brett M. Decker, The Washington Times)
    -REVIEW: of PIG to the Civil War (Clint Johnson, Civil War News)

Book-related and General Links: