My grandfather-in-law was a huge fan of James Oliver Curwood. When I'd visit my spouse-to-be at her parents' house in New Hampshire, he'd be sitting in a chair reading Curwood. So, I borrowed a copy or two and got interested as well. After he passed away, I inherited his collection of Curwood novels (most of which my spouse recently gave away to our church's annual "Faire"). But, I'm wondering about this particular one.
When we were first married, my spouse and I used to read to each other, and some of the things we read were Curwood (also The Lord of the Rings
). In particular, we read this one, The Flaming Forest
. We used to jokingly call it The Flaming Asshole
. I thought perhaps we were engaging in a play on words, but now that I'm re-reading this book after several decades, I'm wondering if we renamed the book because the main character was one, a flaming asshole that is.
Anyway, we have David Carrigan, a most noble specimen of the Royal Mounted Police. He's off in his beloved north woods, tracking down the ruthless killer, Black Roger Audemard. For many years, people thought Black Roger was dead, but then he was sighted, and Carrigan has been dispatched to bring him to justice.
But, as the book opens, Carrigan is on a river bank, hiding behind a rock because someone is shooting at him. Eventually, he feels a searing pain in the side of his head and passes out. When he comes to, a most beautiful woman is looking at him with concern written all over her face. Then he passes into and out of consciousness and feels like there are actually two women, one with lustrous black hair and beautiful eyes, and one with flaming, golden hair and blue eyes. He gets dragged up into the trees and is then left.
Eventually, a canoe comes by with the stunning woman with the black hair and beautiful eyes and a massive, half breed with long, apelike arms. The half breed lifts him like a feather and deposits him into the canoe and they're off on the river. The magnificent woman is Jeanne Marie-Anne Boulain, and the half breed is Concombre Bateese. They put him in a well-appointed cabin on a rather large boat on the river and head "downstream". I put downstream in quotes, because they are so far north that downstream is actually towards the north further away from civilization. This is tough for those of us in more southerly climes to keep in mind: once you get far enough north, the rivers flow even further north into the Arctic Ocean. Anyway, they're heading north, further into the wilderness. Eventually, they'll go to the Chateau Boulain, the center of one of the richest fur gathering areas in the world.
"Marie-Anne" claims to be the wife of St. Pierre Boulain, the head of the fur trapping business. Why she tried to kill David Carrigan, and many other things will become clear once they reach the Chateau Boulain. In the mean time, Carrigan is locked into the cabin, trying to figure out how to escape so that he can take up his mission of bringing Black Roger Audemard to justice. It drives him mad that some broken shell of a man wanders around on the boat and in the woods, muttering, "Has anyone seen Black Roger Audemard?"
Well, it sounds like it could be quite an adventure. But the greatest part of it is Carrigan living in his mind. Although he is the manliest of men, and a 35-year old virgin, he has the mind of a 12-year-old boy who has just discovered testosterone. He spends much of his time, when he's not thinking about his exceptional manliness, exulting over the beauty of "Marie-Anne" and dreaming of possessing her. Occasionally he'll feel slightly guilty because she is the wife of another. Yes, the word "possessing" is correct. Carrigan is a hair fetishist who believes women are to be possessed, something one owns and cherishes. Certainly they're not real people like manly men.
Well, I could go on, but I don't want to. Basically, we have many boring pages of adolescent-boy drivel, with an occasional bout of manly-man posturing. Not a whole lot of actual action or adventure. Obviously, there is some. The title gives away that there is a forest fire involved as some point in the action.
I'm not sure why I gave this 3*s. It really should be 3*-, but we can't give pluses and minuses. It doesn't totally suck, so is vaguely better than a 2* book, but only just vaguely.