Kenneth Roberts Books: Nostalgia and Rabble in Arms

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IMG_3261 Kenneth L. Roberts, “Rabble in Arms,” International Collectors Library (Garden City, NY: 1947)

I’ve picked up Rabble in Arms this week for my summer reading. In doing so, I’ve become a little nostalgic about when I collected my first Kenneth Roberts book. I read my first Roberts book in my junior year of high school. I had a reading report to do and no book to read. So, one day I was wandering around our school library and I just randomly picked up a copy of Rabble in Arms. After glancing through it, I thought I’d give it a shot. Little did I know that upon completing Rabble in Arms, I would have read one of the very few books that stand out from among the rest.

Several years passed by without my reading any other Kenneth Roberts books, but I recall considering Rabble in Arms my favorite book. Finally, in either my senior year of college or just after graduating college, I stopped at a rather large used book store in Baton Rouge (that’s unfortunately not there anymore!). And for some reason, I became intent on finding a copy of Rabble in Arms. I didn’t remember the full title, and I didn’t remember Roberts’ name; however, I was bound and determined to find the book. I was nearing the end of my search, literally in the last section of the store when I stumbled upon the copy of Rabble in Arms you see above. I was ecstatic and went home to begin reading a lost but found treasure. Little did I know what purchasing this book would begin…

My first copy of Rabble in Arms is no first edition, nor is it a special edition or a signed copy.. I had to hot glue the spine to keep it from flapping open, and scuff marks are evident on the back board. Yet, it sits on the shelf containing my best copies of Roberts’ works (except when I’m reading it!). Any time I’ve moved, I’ve made sure this book was packed carefully and placed prominently on my bookshelf. This copy may never hold any monetary value, but it will always be of greatest value among all of my books.

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Kenneth Roberts in Current News: Rick Salutin’s “Simcoe Day”

Today’s installment of “Kenneth Roberts in Current News” comes to you from http://www.rabble.ca in an article by Rick Salutin titled “Simcoe Day: How Should We Celebrate a Myopic Vision of Canada,” published on 8/4/2014. The subject of the article is John Graves Simcoe who, according to wikipedia.org, was a British army officer and, from 1791-1796, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. Simcoe was also instrumental in helping establish what is now Toronto and in “introducing institutions such as the courts, trial by jury, English common law, freehold land tenure, and the abolition of slavery” (wikipedia.org/wiki/john_graves_simcoe).

Salutin’s article provides a brief summary of Simcoe’s contributions to Canada, as well as his tribulations. In addition to the accomplishments listed above, Simcoe was “accused of atrocities, always hard to sort out in wartime, like massacring prisoners and trying to assassinate Washington” (Salutin, para. 4). After being captured in the British defeat at Yorktown, he was shipped back to England where he married an heiress and began his political career. He would eventually seek to make Canada a recreation of “genteel English society,” which would serve as a “beacon for the U.S., who’d forsake their own revolution and rejoin the Empire” (Salutin, para. 4).

Earlier this year, AMC aired Turn: Washington’s Spies, which tells of”‘America’s first spy network'” during the Revolutionary War. In the show, Simcoe is depicted as a “magnificent British villain…he sneers, he taunts, he tortures, he kills” (Salutin, para. 2). Salutin confesses that, despite being an “Ontario history buff,” he was not aware that Simcoe was a player in the American Revolutionary War (Salutin, para. 2). Yet, he was aware of the United Empire Loyalists – those Americans who settled in British colonies (in particular Canada) during or after the Revolutionary War (wikipedia.org/wiki/united_empire_loyalists).

Salutin recounts that he first heard of the United Empire Loyalists and their creating “Anglo Canada after the revolution” from Kenneth Roberts’ Oliver Wiswell which he read when in high school. He also notes that he read Rabble in Arms as well. An interesting connection between Simcoe and Kenneth Roberts that Salutin brings out is that Simcoe “took over a renowned/infamous unit called Roger’s Rangers (Roberts also wrote a novel on them) and renamed them the Queen’s Rangers. Their colours sit in Fort York today” (Salutin, para. 3).

Salutin’s description of Roberts does little justice to Roberts’ contribution to American history and historical fiction writing. Salutin says of Roberts: “Roberts was a cranky conservative in the heyday of American liberalism” (Salutin, para. 2). While Roberts’ cantankerousness and his strong conservative views are well-documented, Salutin’s description really accomplishes nothing in his brief discussion of Roberts works; I fail to see what connection he tries to make here.[1] Nevertheless, I believe that Salutin highlights a point about Kenneth Roberts’ works – despite their having been written over a half-century ago, they are still of historical value even today. While Roberts’ conservative views may be outdated, the historical contribution he made to American history stands the test of time.

Though Salutin laments how Canadians sometimes have to learn from Americans about Canadian history, I appreciate his article, for its Canadian author has taught this American something he did not know about American history.

 

[1] Rick Salutin’s bio on rabble.ca states that “he is a strong advocate of left wing causes” (http://rabble.ca/category/bios/contributor/columnist/rick-salutin). It’s common when one writes on someone of opposing views to make some remark that distances himself from his subject. Perhaps Salutin’s comment is such an attempt. Still, his remark does not serve the point he seeks to make, particularly in the paragraph in which his remark occurs. It is true that one cannot separate the subject’s personal beliefs and views from their works, there are instances such as this where can focus on the subject’s work apart from their overarching worldview. If the article touched on issues of race and immigration (issues on which I strongly disagree with Roberts), for instance, then it would be fair for Salutin to make the remark he does in “Simcoe Day.”

K.R. in the Blogosphere: The Beak Speaks

I am trying to catch up on things for this site, on of which consists of finding blogs that reference Kenneth Roberts.  So, bear with me for any redundancy, hopefully soon I’ll be caught up!

Over at The Beak Speaks, Beakerkin (?) provides a favorable review of Rabble in Arms, my favorite of Roberts’ works.  Interestingly, the Beak has read and reviewed other works of Roberts, such as Arundel and Oliver Wiswell.  Great to see that there are some who appreciate Roberts’ works today.  Though only half a century removed from the height of his career, he is largely unknown today.  Hopefully this blog will help in getting his name out there, especially to those who want to read good historical fiction.

Any thoughts on how to make this blog better?

***Update 9/2/10*** I found another The Beak Speaks review of a K.R. book, this one on The Battle of Cowpens, probably one of the lesser known books written by Roberts.

K.R. in the Blogosphere: Summer Reading List

Kenneth Roberts recently made a summer reading list!  Oliver Wiswell was the book of choice by USA Conservative News.  Here’s the opening line when Roberts was mentioned:

The best historical novels ever written about the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 are by Kenneth Roberts, a very popular author 70 years ago that most people today have never heard of.

This statement, in my opinion, is true on several levels, unfortunately so in regards to the last part “…that most people today have never heard of.”

One Eternal Day” also suggested Oliver Wiswell for summer reading.  Jim Skaggs, the blog author, also suggests Rabble in Arms, The Lively Lady, and Captain Caution.  I like what he says about the quality of Roberts’ work: he makes John Jakes’ work look like “pulp fiction.”  It’s great to see that there are others who appreciate Roberts’ work.

Arundel made it on the reading list at the Hackley Public Library.  A rather trite review of the book, but I think it’s because the author didn’t like it too much; they only gave Arundel a 5.  Oh well, not all are fans!

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