This workaday Captain-of-Industry saga--set in Idaho, 1896-1954--starts off at a gallop: old farrier Cyrus Jenks, driving a pair of matched Percherons, rescues 16-year-old Rupert Stroud, orphan of a dead whore, from the whip hand of a Legree-style ""Orphan Master."" Eventually, then, Rupert winds up in the town owned by John Hatter--and is willingly tricked into marriage by Hatter's beautiful daughter Leah, who dreams of the cultured life away from Idaho. But Leah's dreams are doomed--as ruggedly handsome Rupert, finding rich limestone deposts on the couple's scraggly grazing lands, turns to cement-making. He starts dickering, bluffing, and push-pulling with banks, government, and railroads; he'll gather associates--among them talented English engineer Peter Collier (dogged by alcoholism), loyal Mexican friend Ubaldo Martinez, and tough ""Dutch"" Stryker (disliked by the Chinese workers). A town is built, neatly divided into white, Mexican, and ""Chink"" sectors. But while the Stroud cement poufs out, so do Stroud troubles: the Wobblies threaten a strike; despite Ubaldo's plea for safety measures before his death (deliberately caused by Rupert's nine-year-old weirdo son Pert), accidents continue; frustrated Leah, having produced sons Pert and Cy, settles for an affair with Peter (which will produce daughter Shelley); Rupert finds true love in Chicago overnights with journalist Sissy Stark. And subsequent decades bring the usual array of murders, marriages, illegitimate babes, taboo matings, and business back-stabs. In sum: Harrington (Quintain, Death of a Patriot) does well by growling generators--but the characters are cast in pure Stroud cement, and the dynasty complications have all been done better elsewhere.
Pub Date: April 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Secker & Warburg--dist. by David & Charles