Kenneth Roberts in the News: Prescott Evening Courier 1938 and Northwest Passage

Which Kenneth Roberts novel is your favorite? For me, it’s always been Rabble in Arms, followed by Northwest Passage and Oliver Wiswell tied for second. While Roberts published his first novel in 1930 (Arundel), he did not gain notoriety until after the publication of Northwest Passage (1937). So popular was the novel that it made the silver screen starring Spencer Tracey. (If I’ve read Roberts correctly, he was none too happy about his novels being set to movies. Within the first three pages of I Wanted to Write, Roberts made known his dislike of Hollywood producers butchering perfectly fine novels).

Way back in 1938, however, George Tucker, in a column titled “Man in Manhattan” in the Prescott Evening Courier (3/19/38) wonders aloud why Roberts’ first two novels weren’t more popular than Northwest Passage:

Never was fame more illusive or unpredictable than it is now. Take the case of Kenneth Roberts, who wrote “Northwest Passage” and became “discovered.” Everybody is reading it and the money is rolling in. Yet, despite these enjoyable royalties, Roberts must turn his back occasionally and indulge in a private chuckle. For, it seems to me two earlier books, “Arundel” and “Rabble in Arms,” are so much better than “Northwest Passage” that comparisons are ludicrous. It just doesn’t belong in the same league with either.

While I think Tucker is a little hyperbolic, I do agree that Roberts’ first two novels can stand with Northwest Passage.

An interesting little read from way back in 1938.

One Response

  1. Indeed. Arundel should have been and my Patriot should be but historicals are tough. Hollywood would rather do comic books. Hemingway said if you sell a novel to Hollywood just” drive it to the Colorado River, throw across and forget about it.” I’d love to have the chance.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: