"Mr Griffis is a highly accomplished writer indeed; he is able to convey thoughts and personalities very well and hold the reader's attention. "
(Book 6 of 'By The Hands of Men')
Epic / Fictional Saga
1924 - 1938
Wyoming and Hollywood, United States
First an explanation; when I first met the characters Robert Fitzgerald and Charlotte Braninov it was in the first two books of a trilogy under the umbrella title of 'By the Hands of Men'. That was about two years ago and since then, the author has 're-branded' the series and split the original two books into five. They are, however, essentially the same, and this is the final volume of whichever version of the series you choose to read. And I do urge you to read the previous volumes, for this one doesn't sit too well as a standalone individual tale. Any back story supplied by the author in this volume is fairly sparse and may be a little confusing in places to the new reader as a place to start the series.
So, a very brief 'catch up'. Robert Fitzgerald was a young Lieutenant at the trenches in WWI, Charlotte Braninov nursed him back to health after he was wounded, they fell in love. But Robert was sent back to England, found himself assigned to Singapore and made his way to Africa where he became a veterinary surgeon; Charlotte also went to England, but returned to her native Russia where she suffered greatly at the hands of the Bolsheviks. She eventually escaped, along with a young child, Zlata.
At the beginning of this final volume, Robert is preparing to leave Africa with his friends Orlando and Deidre Pyle, Their intention is to take up an old offer of employment from Marion Hurst, daughter of William Randolph Hearst. But they are unable to make contact and, stranded in Hollywood, they take odd jobs where they can, Robert finding himself helping out at a failing zoo that supplies animals for motion pictures. Along the way he becomes friends with David Niven and, principally, Errol Flynn.
Meanwhile, Charlotte and Zlata have also come to America, by virtue of Charlotte's continued friendship with one of her nursing colleagues, Kathleen, who has married her American farmer boyfriend, Hector. There they stay for a few years before poor harvests and the Depression see them moving to Hollywood where Zlata has become a stunt rider for one of the major studios. Robert and Charlotte meet for the first time in a couple of decades on the set of The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Mr Griffis is a highly accomplished writer indeed; he is able to convey thoughts and personalities very well and hold the reader's attention. I was particularly impressed with the way he handled that very awkward first meeting proper between Robert and Charlotte. Some readers may find his frequent habit of using parentheses a little off-putting, but I found them to fit in well with his conversational style and, in some cases, almost conspiratorial.
This is a large book and it is almost inevitable that some typographical errors would creep in. There were rather a few more than I would have liked to have seen and some of those occurred in the italicised sections where an 'a' seems to have been inserted instead of a 'd' on a few occasions. This should not reflect on the author, but perhaps on either the editor or the typesetter.
I have no hesitation in recommending this book but with the proviso that it is advisable to read the previous volumes first.
© Richard Tearle
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