Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Golden Road by Peter Bourne

There is a world of forgotten books and forgotten authors out there waiting to be discovered. The Golden Road came to me out of a used book dealer’s catalogue years ago. I was vaguely familiar with author Peter Bourne’s Drums of Destiny, and I was intrigued by the jacket copy for The Golden Road so I bought it for less than ten dollars. This G. P. Putnam’s Sons 1951 first edition has the slightly frayed original dust-jacket (in mylar), and the overall condition is average. The pages have begun to brown and the spine is loose. This copy was obviously read numerous times, and probably handed down and read by dozens of people. The Golden Road is well handled by Peter Bourne, dense at times, but the characterizations are realistic. I was interested in the tropical setting involving the building of the Panama railroad in 1850. The narrative doesn’t quite achieve the epic status that the sprawling story deserves. The protagonist is Boston-bred Henry Stewart and the story essentially recounts his adventures in the thirty-five miles of jungle between the Atlantic and Pacific. The sights and scenes include brothels with women of all races, murderers and bandits on the loose, and Stewart’s quest to bring an evil man to justice. There’s plenty of suspense, action and sensuality to keep readers turning the pages. Peter Bourne was once a best-selling, popular author who is forgotten. His other books all have this lush detail, and it’s easy to see why he was popular with readers. I wouldn’t rate him as great but he was capable and I found the book interesting. Peter Bourne was a pseudonym for Graham Montague Jeffries who also published under the name Bruce Graeme. The softcover editions of his novel Drums of Destiny with their sensationalistic cover imagery are sought after by collectors of vintage paperbacks.

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