Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household; 14 editions; First published in DAISY for print-disabled Download ebook for print-disabled (DAISY). An un-named man stalks an un-named European leader (clearly Hitler at Berchtesdaden) in the months leading up to WW2. He is caught. Read "Rogue Male" by Geoffrey Household available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first download. something: a professional.
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Read "Rogue Male" by Geoffrey Household available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get £3 off your first download. One of the classic. One of the classic thrillers of the 20th century - 'Simply the best escape and pursuit story yet written' [THE TIMES] - with a brand new Introduction by Robert. Get this from a library! Rogue male. [Geoffrey Household].
But who the devil would think of that? The outward journey had taken me under a stand of larch, where the earth was soft and free of undergrowth. I had brushed past the trunk of one tree which I now meant to climb. The lowest branch was within two feet of the ground; above that were another and another, sweet-smelling sooty branches as close together as the rungs of a ladder.
The muscles of my hands were intact; I had gone beyond worrying about the state of surfaces. That half-minute was just a compelling of one hand above the other: two pistons shooting alternately from heaven knows what cylinder of force. My friends have sometimes accused me of taking pride in the maceration of my flesh. They are right. But I did not know that I could persuade myself to such agony as that climb.
The rest was easier, for now I could let my feet bear my weight and pause as long as I wished before each hoist. My legs were not limp; they were immovable. That was no disadvantage.
When I climbed into the narrowing of the cone and the boughs were thicker and smaller and greener, I got jammed. That suited me well enough, so I fainted again. It was luxury, almost sin. When I became conscious, the tree was swaying in the light wind and smelling of peace.
I felt deliciously secure, for I was not looking forward at all; I felt as if I were a parasite on the tree, grown to it.
I was not in pain, not hungry, not thirsty, and I was safe. There was nothing in each passing moment of the present that could hurt me. I was dealing exclusively with the present. If I had looked forward I should have known despair, but for a hunted, resting mammal it is no more possible to experience despair than hope.
It must have been the early afternoon when I heard the search-party. As they worked down the slope to the north of my tree I could watch them. The sun was in their eyes, and there was no risk of them spotting my face among the soft green feathers of the larch which I pushed aside.
So far as I could tell, my legs were not bleeding; drops falling on the lower branches would be the only immediate sign of my presence. The slight bloodstains from my hands were there to be seen if anyone looked for them, but, on black boughs in the half-lit centre of a tree, not readily to be seen.
Three uniformed police were trampling down the hillside: heavy, stolid fellows enjoying the sunshine and good-humouredly following a plain-clothes man who was ranging about on my trail like a dog they had taken for a walk. I recognized him. He was the House detective who had conducted the first part of my examination. He had proposed a really obscene method of dragging the truth out of me, and had actually started it when his colleagues protested.
They had no objection to his technique, but they had the sense to see that it might be necessary for my corpse to be found and that it must not be found unreasonably mutilated. When they came nearer I could hear scraps of their conversation.
The policemen were looking for me with decent anxiety. They knew nothing of the truth, and were in doubt whether I had been man or woman, and whether the case had been accident or attempted suicide. They had been notified, I gathered, that a cry or a fall was heard in the night; then, unobtrusively guided by the detective, they had found my knapsack and the disturbance in the patch of marsh.
Of course I could not work out the situation at the time. I could only receive impressions. I was growing to my tree and aware of immense good nature as I listened to them.
Later on, I made sense of their words. Seeing my reptilian trail disappear into the stand of larch, the House detective perked up and took command. He seemed certain that I should be found under the trees. He shouted to his three companions to run round to the other side in case I should escape, and himself crawled under the low boughs. He nearly gave the show away there, for I was supposed to be eagerly awaiting help; but he wanted to find me himself and alone.
If I were alive, it was necessary to finish me off discreetly. He passed rapidly beneath my tree, and on into the open. I heard him curse when he discovered that I had not stopped in the wood. Then I heard their faint voices as they shouted to one another up and down the stream.
That surprised me. I saw no more of the hunt. A few hours later there was a lot of splashing and excitement down by the water. They must have been dragging the pools for my body.
The stream was a shallow mountain torrent, but quite fast enough to roll a man along with it until he was caught by rock or eddy. In the evening I heard dogs, and felt really frightened. I started to tremble, and knew pain again, aches and stabs and throbbings, all the symphony of pain, all my members fiddling away to the beat of my heart, on it or off it or half a bar behind.
I had come back to life, thanks to that healing tree.
The dogs might have found me, but their master, whoever he was, never gave them a chance. When night fell I came down from my tree. I could stand, and, with the aid of two sticks, I could shuffle slowly forwards, flat-footed and stiff-legged. I could think, too. None of my mental activities for the past twenty-four hours might be called thinking. I had allowed my body to take charge.
It knew far more about escaping and healing than I did. I must try to make my behaviour intelligible. This confession — shall I call it? I am not content with myself. With this pencil and exercise-book I hope to find some clarity. I create a second self, a man of the past by whom the man of the present may be measured. Lest what I write should ever, by accident or intention, become public property, I will not mention who I am. My name is widely known.
I have been frequently and unavoidably dishonoured by the banners and praises of the penny press. This shooting trip of mine started, I believe, innocently enough. Like most Englishmen, I am not accustomed to enquire very deeply into motives. I dislike and disbelieve in cold-blooded planning, whether it be suggested of me or of anyone else. I remember asking myself when I packed the telescopic sight what the devil I wanted it for; but I just felt that it might come in handy.
It is undoubtedly true that I had been speculating — a curiosity that we all share — upon the methods of guarding a great man, and how they might be circumvented. Police protection is based upon the assumption that an assassin is a half-crazed idiot with a clumsy, close-range weapon — the bomb, the revolver, or the knife. It is obvious that the type of man who is a really fine shot and experienced in the approaching and killing of big-game would shrink from political or any other kind of murder.
A Bond Street rifle, I say, is not a weapon that the bodyguard need consider, for the potential assassin cannot train himself to use it. The secret police, who know all about the political antecedents of anyone disaffected to the regime, are not going to allow such a man to possess a good rifle, to walk about with it, or even to turn himself into a first-class shot.
So the assassin is compelled to use a weapon that can be easily concealed. Now, I argued, here am I with a rifle, with a permit to carry it, with an excuse for possessing it. Let us see whether, as an academic point, such a stalk and such a bag are possible. I went no further than that. I planned nothing. It has always been my habit to let things take their course. I sent my baggage home by train, and covered the last hundred miles or so on foot, travelling only with a knapsack, my rifle and sight, my maps and my field-glasses.
I marched by night. During daylight I lay up in timber or heath. I have never enjoyed anything so much. Whoever has stalked a beast for a couple of miles would understand what a superbly exciting enterprise it was to stalk over a hundred passing unseen through the main herds of human beings, the outliers, the young males walking unexpectedly upon hillsides. There was only one bird: the fun of the stalk. I arrived on the ground at dawn and spent the whole day in reconnaissance.
It was an alarming day, for the forest surrounding the House was most efficiently patrolled. From tree to tree and gully to gully I prowled over most of the circuit, but only flat on the earth was I really safe.
Often I hid my rifle and glasses, thinking that I was certain to be challenged and questioned. I never was. I might have been transparent. I have learned the trick of watching shadows, and standing motionless in such a position that they cut and dapple my outline; still, there were times when even a rhinoceros could have seen me.
Here, at any rate, they had considered the offensive possibilities of the rifle. At all points commanding the terrace and the gardens clearings had been cut; nobody, even at extreme ranges, could shoot from cover.
Open spaces, constantly crossed by guards, there were in plenty. I chose the narrowest of them: a ride some fifty feet broad which ran straight through the woods and ended at the edge of a low cliff. From the grass slope above the cliff the terrace and the doors leading on to it were in full sight. I worked out the range as five hundred and fifty yards. I spent the night on a couch of pine needles, well hidden under the mother tree, and finished my provisions and slept undisturbed.
A little before dawn I climbed a few feet down the cliff and squatted on a ledge where the overhang protected me from anyone who might peer over the brink.
A stunted elder, clawing at the gravel with the tips of its top-heavy roots, was safe enough cover from distant eyes looking upwards. In that cramped position my rifle was useless, but I could, and very clearly, see the great man were he to come out and play with the dog or smell a rose or practise gestures on the gardener.
A path ran across the bottom of the ride, just above my head, and continued along the lower edge of the woods. I timed the intervals at which I heard footsteps, and discovered that somebody crossed the ride about every fourteen minutes.
As soon as I was certain of that, I came out of hiding and followed. I wanted to understand his exact routine. He was a young guard of splendid physique, with loyalty written all over him, but he had, I should think, hardly been out of an industrial town in his life.
He knew perfectly well that he was not alone, for he looked over his shoulder again and again, and stared at the bush or the fold in the ground where I was; but of course he put his sensation down to nervousness or imagination. I treated him with disrespect, but I liked him; he was such a sturdy youth, with one of those fleshy open faces and the right instincts — a boy worth teaching. His eyes when he bagged his first tiger would be enough reward for putting up with a month of his naive ideas.
After I had been round his beat with him and behind him, I knew for how many minutes, at any given time, I could occupy the grass slope, and by what route I must escape. When at last the great man came out to the terrace, my young friend had just passed. I had ten minutes to play with. I was up at once on to the slope.
I made myself comfortable, and got the three pointers of the sight steady on the V of his waistcoat. He was facing me and winding up his watch. He would never have known what shattered him — if I had meant to fire, that is. Just at that moment I felt a slight breeze on my cheek. It had been dead calm till then. I had to allow for the wind. I should not disagree with them, for providence assuredly takes special care of any lone and magnificent male. Everyone who has stalked a particularly fine head knows that.
The Almighty Himself is always considered to be masculine. I heard a yell. The next thing I knew was that I was coming round from a severe blow on the back of the head, and my young friend was covering me with his revolver. He had hurled a stone at me and himself after it — immediate, instinctive action far swifter than fiddling with his holster.
We stared at each other. I remember complaining incoherently that he was seven minutes early. He looked at me as if I had been the devil in person, with horror, with fear — not fear of me, but fear at the suddenly revealed depravity of this world. I should never have been such a conceited fool as to upset his nerves and his routine by following him about. He had neither heard me nor set eyes on me, but he was aware enough to make his movements irregular.
See a Problem?
Together with his commanding officer he took me down to the House, and there, as I have already written, I was questioned by professionals. My captor left the room after disgracing his manhood — or so he thought — by being violently sick. Myself, I was detached. Perhaps I should not call it detachment, for my body is sensitive and there was no interruption or hiatus in its messages to my brain.
But training counts. I hold no brief for the pre-war Spartan training of the English upper class — or middle class as it is now the fashion to call it, leaving the upper to the angels — since in the ordinary affairs of a conventional life it is not of the slightest value to anyone; but it is of use on the admittedly rare occasions when one needs a high degree of physical endurance.
I have been through an initiation ceremony on the Rio Javary — the only way I could persuade them to teach me how their men can exercise a slight muscular control over haemorrhage — and I thought it more a disagreeable experience than any proof of maturity.
It lasted only a day and a night, whereas the initiation ceremonies of the tribal English continue for the ten years of education. I was conditioned to endure without making an ass of myself. That is all I mean by detachment. I suspect that resignation was a lot easier for me than for a real assassin, since I had nothing at all to give away, no confederates, no motive.
I had no right to endanger others by irresponsible invention. So I kept on automatically repeating the truth without the slightest hope that it would be believed. At last someone recognized my name, and my story of a sporting stalk became faintly possible; but, whether it were true or not, it was now more than ever essential that I be discreetly murdered.
And that was easy. I had admitted that I had not spent a night under a roof for five days, and that nobody knew where I was. They put all my papers and possessions back into my pockets, drove me fifty miles to the north, and staged the accident. When I came down from that blessed larch and found that my legs would carry me, I began, I say, to look forward.
It would be supposed either that I was drowned or that I was lying hurt and incapable in some riverside cover where my corpse would eventually be found. The police and the authorities in neighbouring villages would be warned to look out for a moribund stranger, but it was most unlikely that any description of me would have been circularized to other districts. The security offices at the House had no official knowledge of my existence and would share their unofficial knowledge with as few outsiders as possible.
It was a convenience to have no existence. Had I stolen a watch instead of stalking the head of a nation my photograph would have been in all the police stations. If I could walk, if I had new breeches, and if I could pass the danger zone without calling attention to myself, my chance of clearing out of the country was not negligible.
I had my passport, my maps, and my money. I spoke the language well enough to deceive anyone but a highly educated man listening for mistakes.
Dear old Holy George — my private nickname for their ambassador in London —insists that I speak a dialect, but to him polished grammar is more important than accent. A well-trained diplomat is supposed to write French, for example, like an angel, but to speak it with the peculiar gutlessness of a Geneva nancy-boy.
I wish I could apologize to Holy George. He had certainly spent some hours of those last twenty-four in answering very confidential cables about me — wiring as respectfully as possible that the bodyguard of his revered master were a pack of bloody fools, and following up with a strong letter to the effect that I was a member of his club and that it was unthinkable I should be mixed up in any such business as was, he could hardly believe seriously, suggested.
I fear he must have been reprimanded. The bodyguard were, on the face of it, right. It was now, I think, Sunday night; it was a Saturday when I was caught, but I am not sure of the lapse of time thereafter. I missed a day somewhere, but whether it was in my tree or on my island I cannot tell. I knew roughly where I was, and that, to escape from this tumbled world of rock and forest, I should follow any path which ran parallel to the stream.
My journey would not have been difficult if I had had crutches, but I could find no pieces of wood of the right height and with an angle to fit under the arm. It was, when I come to think of it, a nearly impossible quest, but at the time I was angry with myself, angry to the point when I wept childish tears of impotence. For an hour I raged and cursed at myself. I thought my spirit had altogether broken. It was pardonable. When everything was impossible, it was unreasonable to expect myself to distinguish between the miracle that could be forced to happen and the miracle that could not happen.
Finally, of course, I had to accept a miracle that could be forced; to make myself progress without crutches. With a rough staff in each hand I managed about four miles, shuffling over even ground, and crawling for short distances over obstacles or for long distances whenever my legs become unbearably painful. I remember that common experience of carrying a heavy suitcase farther than it can reasonably be carried; one changes it from arm to arm at shorter and shorter intervals until one can no longer decide whether to continue the pain in the right or change to instant pain in the left.
So it was with me in my changes from crawling to walking and back again. I thanked God for the dawn, for it meant that I need not drive myself any farther. Until I knew exactly where I was, and upon what paths men came and went, I had to hide.
I collapsed into a dry ditch and lay there for hours.
I heard no sounds except a lark and the crunch of cows tearing at the grass in a neighbouring field. At last I stood up and had a look at my surroundings. I was near the top of a ridge. Below me and to the left was the wooded valley along which I had come. I had not noticed in the night that I was climbing. Part of my exhaustion had been due to the rising ground.
I shuffled upwards to the skyline. The long curve of a river was spread out at my feet. The near bank was clothed in low bushes through which ran a footpath, appearing and disappearing until it crossed the mouth of my stream by an iron bridge. On the farther bank, a mile upstream, was a country town with a few small factories.
Downstream there were pastures on both banks and a small islet in the centre of the river. It was tranquil and safe as any of our hidden English Avons.
I got out the map and checked my position. I was looking at a tributary which, after a course of thirty miles, ran into one of the main rivers of Europe. From this town, a provincial capital, the search for me would be directed, and to it the police, my would-be rescuers, presumably belonged. Nevertheless I had to go there. It was the centre of communications: road, river and railway. And since I could not walk I had to find some transport to carry me to the frontier.
At intervals the breeze bore to me the faint sound of cries and splashing. I thought someone was being hurt — a morbid fancy, natural enough in the circumstances — but then I realized that the screaming was the collective voice of several women, and that they were bathing.
It occurred to me that when commerce and education stopped for lunch men might come to swim at the same place, and I could lay my hands on a pair of trousers. I waited until I saw the girls cross the iron footbridge on their way back to town, and then hobbled down the ridge — a stony, barren hillside where there were, thank heaven, no fences to cross and no officious small-holder to ask me what I was doing.
The bathing-place was plain enough, a semicircle of grass with a clean drop of three feet into the river. Above and below it the bank was covered with a dense growth of willow and alder. I took to my elbows and belly again, and crawled into the thicket. There was already a sort of runway leading into it, which, at the time, I could only assume the Lord had made for my special benefit.
I realized afterwards that it had been bored through the bushes by some young fellow who was curious to know the female form and too poor to arrange for it in the ordinary way. I think of him as charitably as I can.
From the end of his burrow I had an excellent view of the bushes behind which a modest bather would undress. My necessary males were not long in coming. Indeed I had a narrow shave, for I heard them yelling and singing their way along the path before I had turned myself round.
They were five hefty lads: sons, I should think, of shopkeepers and petty officials. There were two pairs of shorts, two nondescript trousers, and an old pair of riding-breeches. It was that, I think, which gave me the brilliant idea of taking them all. To steal one pair of trousers would obviously direct attention to some passing tramp or fugitive; but if all disappeared, the theft would be put down as the practical joke of a comrade.
I remember chuckling crazily as I worked my way back to the edge of the bushes. They undressed in the open, ten yards from the water. That meant there was only one chance for me — to do the job the moment the last man had dived in and before the first came out.
It was a mad risk, but I had gone long beyond caring what risks I took. They dived in within a few seconds of each other, all but one who remained on the bank shadow-boxing with his fat-bottomed, idiotic self until a friend, as fed up with his posing as I was, reached an arm for his ankles and pulled him in.
I was out of my observation post on the instant and hunching myself across the grass. I got four pairs; the fifth was too far away. I just had time to slip behind a bramble bush before one of them pulled himself up the bank. Now what was the one place where they would not look?
To climb a second tree was unsafe; young men in high spirits naturally think of trees. As for the bushes, they would trample them down like a herd of buffalo.
The best place for me was, I decided, the water. I made for the bank and slid under the willows into a patch of still water full of scum and brushwood. Two of them were swimming quite close, but the boughs trailing in the water protected me well enough from casual glances.
They dashed up the path, and I heard their voices resounding from the hillside as they yelled for one Willy. When Willy was not to be found, they draped towels round the tails of their shirts and stormed through the thicket. I heard one of them within a yard or two, and ducked. At last, in an evil mood, they took the path for home and Willy.
They never doubted for a moment that the culprit was Willy. The sort of man whom one instantly accuses of any practical joke that has been played deserves whatever is coming to him. Together with the trousers I let myself float down to the islet which I had seen from the top of the ridge. I could only use my arms for swimming. However, I managed to keep myself and my soggy raft of trousers well out into the river, and the current did the rest.
The islet was bare, but with enough low vegetation on its shores to cover me, provided I kept close to the edge, from observation by anyone on the high ground where I had lain that morning. There were four notices, neatly spaced, to the effect that it was forbidden to land. Perhaps because any idle person in a boat would naturally want to land, and anything that encourages idleness is considered immoral.
I spread out myself, my clothes, and the breeches to dry in the afternoon sun. I did not attempt to examine my body. It was enough that the soaking had separated textile from flesh with no worse result than a gentle oozing of matter. I remained on the islet for the Monday night and all the following day. Probably I was there for the Tuesday night too. I do not know; as I say, I lost a day somewhere. It was very heavenly, for I lay on the sand naked and undisturbed, and allowed the sun to start the work of healing.
I was barely conscious most of the time. I would hunch myself into the half-shade of the weeds and rushes and sleep till I grew cold, and I would hunch myself back again and roast and scar my wounds. I had but those two pleasures within attaining, and both were utterly satisfying. I did not want food. I was, I suppose, running a fever, so my lack of appetite was natural. I did suffer from the cold at night, but not severely.
I had all the various garments to cover me, and, at any other time, I should have thought the weather too hot and still for easy sleep. I awoke, feeling clear-headed and ravenously hungry, at the false dawn of what turned out to be Wednesday. I chose the riding-breeches — holding them against my body they seemed roomy enough not to rub my hide — and threw shorts and trousers into the river.
I hope that their small change was not too great a loss to the owners. Only one had a wallet, and that, since it stuck out from his hip-pocket, I had managed to slip on top of the rest of his clothes.
I tied two bits of driftwood together with my belt, and put all my possessions on this improvised raft. I found that I could splash with more ease — though the regular motions of swimming were still beyond me — and reached the farther bank, the raft helping, without being carried more than a hundred yards downstream.
So far my looks had mattered no more to me than the condition of its fur to an animal; but now I proposed to re-enter the world of men, and the impression I made was vitally important.
Only my shoes and stockings were respectable. That was far from being the mere prejudice of an Englishman against appearing in public with his bristles.
If a man is clean shaved and has a well-fitting collar and tie — even reasonably dirty — he can get away with a multitude of suspicious circumstances. Item: Gloves. The ends of my fingers had to be shown while paying money and taking goods, and they were not human. Item: An Eyeshade. My left eye was in a condition that could not be verified without a mirror.
The eyelid had stuck to a mess of what I hoped was only blood. Item: A Clothes Brush. My tweed coat had no elbows, but it might pass provided I brushed off the mud and did not turn away from anyone I spoke to.
I had to have these things. Without them I might as well have given myself up. I had not the will to crawl and hobble night after night to the frontier, nor the agility to steal enough to eat; but if I entered so much as a village shop as I was, the proprietor would promptly escort me to the police or a hospital. The putting-on of the breeches was an interminable agony. I managed three and had to forgo the rest for fear of leaving bloodstains all over the cloth.
Shirt buttons were quite impossible. I crossed a field and stood for a moment on the empty main road. It was the hour before dawn, the sky an imperial awning fringed with blue and gold. The tarred surface of the road was blue and calm as a canal. Only the trains were alive, dashing across the flat vale as if striving to reach the mountains before day.
At my disposal, as the map had told me, were river, road, and railway. I was inclined to favour escape by river. But again there was the insuperable handicap of my appearance. On the far side of the road was a farm-cart, backed against the edge of a field of wheat. I knelt behind it to watch the passers-by. Men were already stirring, a few peasants in the fields, a few walkers on the road. From the latter I hoped to obtain help, or at least, by observing them, an inspiration how to help myself.
There was a workman bound for some small factory in the town to whom I nearly spoke. He had an honest, kindly face — but so have most of them.
I had no reason at all to suppose he would protect me. Two aimless wanderers went by together. They looked to be persons who would sympathize, but their faces were those of scared rabbits. Then there were several peasants on their way to the fields. They would have had some sport with me before handing me over to the police; they seemed that sort.
There was a wretched fellow mumbling and weeping, who raised my hopes for a moment. Then came another factory-worker, and then a tall, stooping man with a fishing rod. He cut across to the river and began to fish not far from where I had landed. He had a melancholy, intellectual face with a deal of strength in it, and I decided to have another look at him. Their tiresome conception of the State has one comforting effect; it creates so many moral lepers that no one of them, if he has a little patience, can long be lonely.
The flotsam of the nation is washed together into an unrecognized, nameless, formless secret society. And dawn, I think, is the hour when the pariah goes out. Not for him is the scornful morning with its crowds pointing the fingers of their minds at him, nor the evening when all but he may rest and be merry; but the peace before sunrise cannot be taken from him.
It is the hour of the outlawed, the persecuted, the damned, for no man was ever born who could not feel some shade of hope if he were in open country with the sun about to rise. I did not formulate these thoughts at the time. I have developed them in the curious and lonely circumstances under which I write.
But I give them for what they are worth to account for my intuition in choosing the right face and the fact that there were so many to choose from. There was no cover on the farther side of the road and precious little on the bank, so that I had to make up my mind about the fisherman as I slowly and silently crossed the field towards him. He was paying more attention to his thoughts than to his rod. By the angle of his float I could see that he had hooked the bottom, but he was quite unaware of it.
I walked up behind him and wished him good morning and asked if he had had any luck. He jumped to his feet with the butt of the rod pointed towards me as if to keep me off. Even considering me the last word in villains, he thought it best to propitiate me. He did his best to look servile, but his eyes burned with courage. I held out my hands to him and asked if he knew how that was done. I want gloves, shaving tackle, and a clothes brush.
Give me old things that have no mark on them by which they could be traced back to you if I am caught. His face was absolutely expressionless. The next move was up to me. I saw a flicker of interest in his eyes, but he made no sign that he had understood me. I carried on in English. I was completely in his power, so that there was no point in hiding my nationality.
I hoped that the foreign tongue might break down his reserve. He refused — with a very sweet, melancholy smile — but gave me an address in England to which I was to pay what I thought fit if ever I got home. In one stride he had dissociated himself from me completely.
He knew by experience that among the proscribed the truest courtesy was to waste no time in courtesy. The traffic on the road was increasing, and I had to wait some minutes before I could safely cross into the shelter of the wheat. The sun rose and the landscape budded men and business — barges on the river, a battalion out for a route march on the road, and damned, silent bicycles sneaking up every time I raised my head.
The fisherman was back in an hour, but the road was too busy for him to drop a parcel under the cart unseen. He solved the problem by fetching his rod and sitting on the cart while he took it apart and packed it. When he got up he accidentally left the parcel behind.
One way for them is to hide away in a huge book, preferably of a technical, experimental nature to make access for the Reader into their habitat more difficult. Huge sentences and uncommon words are the trees in which they hide. These creatures are mostly left alone. Sometimes a domesticated Rating is thrown into their dense Woods, but it never survives for long and is easily shot down by the experienced Readers stalking these lands, who are out to find the real deal. Whenever a Reader returns to Goodreads with one of those specimens, he is considered a Hero.
Banquets and statues will be raised in his honour. But some Ratings don't need big books to hide in. They don't need to hide themselves, because they are experts in hiding their Rating character. The Reader can stumble upon one early on in a book and put it in his bag and carry on, only to find later on, upon checking the bag, the creature has changed its appearance completely.
What was once a smelly creature of boils and warts suddenly transformed into a delicate creature that is soft to the touch, emitting scents of fresh springs and green fields. Still later it changes into a grey stone, inanimate, with no specific traits. At that point the Reader can only count himself lucky to have it in the bag already, for in this rocky manifestation they can be particularly hard to find in the wild. These are the dangerous Shapeshifting Ratings. They should be approached with extreme caution, for Readers have been found losing their senses or even worse, their Reviews, over these sly creatures.
The Researcher identified three methods to deal with the Shapeshifting Ratings: You decide to leave the book be without a Rating, or to bring in a domesticated one to ease the mind. This requires harsh decision taking on the part of the Reader.
The dead Rating will in these cases tell more about the Reader rather than the book it lived in. This is a very time intensive process and the resulting Review may not be helpful to fellow Readers, nor entertaining. The Researcher thinks this the best option, out of love for the creatures, but recognises the practical problems of keeping a live Shapeshifting Rating in the less than flexible confines of the Review.
Of course, this is all theory. The Researcher therefore decided to attach an addendum to this study, in which he tries to describe his hunt for the Rogue Male Rating. A case study into the life, and death, of a Shapeshifting Rating that was particularly hard to pin down. In pursuit of the Rogue Male Rating This book is marketed as " simply the best escape and pursuit story yet written ", and if I hold it against that light, the outlines of a two-star Rating become clearly visible.
I started reading this book with the idea that this would be a quick, exciting read. A little snack in between bigger volumes. In the end it took more than a week to finish it. What happened? The first thing that happened is that this book was published in That's close to a century ago. And sadly not all of its elements are as timeless as you would expect an escape and pursuit story to be. I simply could not identify myself with the protagonist, and the settings in which he found himself were not painted vividly for me.
A bush was not simply a bush. A bush had a name. Gorse, sloe and any other name that would make me reach for the dictionary and break immersion, only to find out it's all a bush or a tree or some agricultural tool that really wasn't worth the effort.
Is the book to be blamed for that, or is it my limited vocabulary? Who cares, this is my Rating-hunt, blame doesn't come into it. In describing the settings and travels the author used many words that were completely foreign to me, all in order to refer to perfectly mundane and every day things, to such an extent that I felt lost. In England, a roof is no longer a roof, but this alien thing consisting of slates, gables and copings. The main character is on the run, I get that, but that shouldn't stand in the way of the reader getting him.
The intense descriptions made me feel like one of his pursuers, confused and at a loss, during most of the beginning of the book. When the first person narrator who remains nameless describes his movements in and out of the subway stations, I found it impossible to follow.
This could lead one to wonder if that effect was intentional, but I decided it wasn't. Or that even if it was, it wasn't a nice reading experience. The main problem I had was exactly this overall reading experience: It's more of an essay. The author sat down and thought through the following hypothesis: Where would I stay and hide?
What would I do? Where would I go? How would I survive on my own? The ideas that he comes up with in answering these questions are very ingenious: The story, meant for giving this academic approach a bit of flesh, blood and warmth, can't quite cover up a narrative that is rather wooden or metallic at best. But in the end, despite the finding of the two-star specimen earlier on, I found a three-star Rating in my bag. It looked nice and friendly, but knowing it to be a Shapeshifter Rating and not wanting to lose my mind, I killed it dead and its three stars are now hanging above this review like a deer's antlers above a fireplace.
Two stars are for the ingenious solutions Geoffrey Household proposed for those on the run, albeit in a rather dry fashion. One extra star is for the insights into what moves people, what motivates them. When pursuer confronts the pursued, a conversation takes place that, accompanied with a strong inner monologue, carries important philosophical messages and casts a whole new light on the story.
A little twist in the narrative that endows a story that was wooden with a pulse. A pulse of which I would have hoped it had been more perceptible, but a pulse nonetheless. On a re-read I wouldn't be surprised to find more traces of this philosophical aspect, on what it means to be alone, on what it means to lose who you love, what it means to have an identity, lose it and find a new one, and other such important questions.
Just thinking about it makes the Rating shift through its five spectra all over again. But right now I can't be bothered with that. I'm just glad with another Rating in the bag and over the fireplace. Three stars and that's it. The only advice I can give, in summary, is not to approach this as an escape and pursuit story.
It's not exciting enough to deliver on that, but don't let that lead you to underestimate this book: But like its protagonist, it's a rogue. Catching it might prove bothersome. View all 17 comments.
This book is considered to be a classic of the thriller genre. After finishing it, I can understand why.
And also why, like most classics, it seriously underwhelmed me. The novel revolves around the premise of a man, simultaneously on the run from the police and the baddies, fighting it out in rural England. Interestingly, it is a war of attrition than one of aggression: There is surprisingly little violence only three This book is considered to be a classic of the thriller genre. There is surprisingly little violence only three scenes, and the torture scene at the beginning described elliptically , and no acts of daredevilry usual in such tales of the recent past.
This is a very English thriller, if I may term it like that! The unnamed protagonist, the "Rogue Male" of the title, is on the run from the minions of a dictator of a European country in , it is obvious who this is. His crime? Our hero says he never intended to shoot, view spoiler [ which is revealed as a lie later on: Tortured horrendously and left for dead, he manages to return to England. Since he is rather well-known, and England's relations with the dictator's country is peaceful, he does not want to approach the police; rather he decides to run from the agents of the enemy who are obviously pursuing him.
During his flight, he is forced to commit murder in self-defence, and suddenly, the Crown constabulary are also baying for his blood. Hemmed in from all sides, the rogue male goes literally to earth in Dorset, and it is here where the surprisingly low-key climax is played out.
The thing I most liked about the novel is this part, where there is absolutely no action in the traditional sense: They even talk in perfect King's English to each other - there's nary a cuss-word! And the denouement, the last-minute turning of the table when it comes is appropriately unexpected and satisfying. However, to offset this, there were a lot of things I disliked. First, the story is written in such a flat way that any possibility of suspense is killed effectively however, I thought Hitchcock could have made something out of it!
Second, I could not empathise at all with the rogue male, or any of the characters. Third, the story felt extremely contrived just to bring about that final climactic sequence. It's a fast read, and I see that many of my friends here on GR has liked it very much - so I have to say that my two stars is personal. View all 5 comments. Rogue Male is a chase book that gains momentum as it goes along. When the clever protagonist being pursued meets his match in an equally clever antagonist giving pursuit , the reader can't help but breeze through pages to see who wins the high-stakes chess match.
Luckily, I stopped reading Victoria Nelson's introduction when I sensed it might give up too much of the plot. I went back to it after finishing the book and yes, it did, which makes one wonder why it's not an afterword instead of an Rogue Male is a chase book that gains momentum as it goes along.
I went back to it after finishing the book and yes, it did, which makes one wonder why it's not an afterword instead of an introduction. It's good. It's just in the wrong place. So don't read it first if you pick up the nyrb version of this book. Anyway, set back in time a bit, this novel pits an ever-polite Brit against an equally polite German.
All I can say is, beware of polite people. They kill politely. Also, it's a tough book for claustrophobes. Our hero is ultimately chased into a burrow, an underground lair where he draws comparison to animals holed away from hunters above. The description of "life" in this close space is not for the faint-hearted, especially when the climax arrives and the match of wits reaches its height.
At only pp. I found the ending particularly clever. John Gardner, a man who knew something about writing, called it "a classic. View 2 comments. I came to ' Rogue Male ' by Geoffrey Household knowing very little about it, other than it is regarding by many as a classic.
The set up is simple - the story told with understated economy and amusing nonchalance - and the reader is plunged straight into the action from the very first page. It's , and our stiff upper lipped English aristocrat narrator has left England with the possible intention of assassinating an unnamed European dictator resembling Hitler. He is caught by the dictator's se I came to ' Rogue Male ' by Geoffrey Household knowing very little about it, other than it is regarding by many as a classic.
He is caught by the dictator's secret service guards and, having been badly tortured, is thrown over a cliff and left for dead. His initial challenge is to leave the country despite being barely able to walk, with limited use of his hands, and with only one fully functioning eye. The book's lack of names helps to create a simple, taut narrative, as does the very simple plot which is essentially how one man, pushed to the limits of endurance, has to evade resourceful foreign assassins.
The second half of the story plays out in Dorset, where the protagonist ultimately burrows down into a hidden lane, complete with very evocative descriptions that demonstrate how well Geoffrey Household must have known this area.
As an interesting postscript, Robert Macfarlane wrote a book called ' Holloway ' with Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards in which Macfarlane relates a trip he made with the late Roger Deakin to find the Holloway that plays such an important part in Rogue Male Holloway - a hollow way, a sunken path. A route that centuries of foot-fall, hoof-hit, wheel-roll and rain-run have harrowed deep down into bedrock.
Six years later, after Deakin's early death, Macfarlane returned to the holloway with the artist Stanley Donwood and writer Dan Richards. View all 4 comments. The first-person protagonist of this book is unnamed, but everyone he meets knows who he is. He does not have a job, as far as the story is told; rather, he is an adventurer and a famous one. He is caught trying to assassinate a European tyrant also unnamed but clearly Hitler , tortured, left for dead; and then when he is clearly not dead and back in England, bad guys pop up like some child's pounding game.
At one level the book is about his very specific step-by-step flight and concealment. He The first-person protagonist of this book is unnamed, but everyone he meets knows who he is. He lives off the land. Of course, the book is also about what kind of man he is.
He is a swashbuckler, yes; but he is also a man of deep reflection. At one point, our narrator considers, after the facts, that there is a simple logic to the actions he took. He did A because of B and because he wanted to avoid C. But, he considers, he wasn't thinking that at the time. It seemed to me though that his logic and reason were clear then and clear now.
He realized later only the mistakes he made. We don't usually read A because of B and to avoid C. Or maybe we do sometimes. He sees his homeland with a sharpened focus from his new perch. In Rogue Male , our protagonist considers that his time away gave him a better focus of his native land.
I followed this with The Poet of Tolstoy Park , where the protagonist there, like the Rogue Male here, gave up a former life, both preferring the seclusion of their own souls, the feel of the earth, the redemption in an eccentric task. An unnamed narrator, a Brit on a shooting trip in Poland, decides to wander over to an unnamed dictator's clearly Hitler compound across the border.
His reasons for doing this are revealed later. After hours of surveilling the property, he is caught with the dictator in his rifle sights, tortured the torture is "off-page" , dropped over a cliff and presumed dead. He is not dead, and he goes on the run. The novel consists of the hunt for the unnamed narrator. I'm a John Buchan fan, and the si An unnamed narrator, a Brit on a shooting trip in Poland, decides to wander over to an unnamed dictator's clearly Hitler compound across the border.
I'm a John Buchan fan, and the similarities to his adventure novels were quickly apparent in Rogue Male: They live by their wits in the out of doors, chased by evil conspirators. When they kill, it's usually in self-defense. They can flee through a dense forest without leaving a twig snapped, sleep upright in the crotches of trees, MacGyver an animal carcass into a slingshot, and they always have enough cash on hand in the proper national currency to download rowboats, sleeping bags, or another man's clothes off his back.
Or they steal the clothes from the river bank when the man jumps nude into the swimming hole this happened all the time in the olden days. The introduction mentions that this genre is sometimes called "wilderness procedurals," which is clever. This narrator, though, has internal monologues and opinions which are decidedly unBuchanesque Buchan's protagonists don't engage in a huge amount of self-reflection: She was a sturdy wench in corduroy shorts no longer than bum-bags, and with legs so red that the golden hairs showed as continuous fur.
Not my taste at all.
But my taste is far from eugenic. May 05, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy rated it it was amazing. Incredible stuff. A big game hunter decides, on what he tells himself is a mere whim, to stalk somewhat bigger game than usual - the dictator of a certain central European nation. He is caught, tortured and left for dead.
Only, he refuses to die, battling against crippling injuries and skilled pursuers to make his way back to his native England where he goes to ground - literally - and waits out the chase.
It's a harrowing story of self-realisation as the hunter turns hunted and draws on previou Incredible stuff. It's a harrowing story of self-realisation as the hunter turns hunted and draws on previously untapped reserves of energy and invention as well as of patience and endurance, coming face to face with the true story behind his own motivations in the process.
This is a gripping book, but it's also gruelling - there's very little external action - what there is, is swift and brutal - lots and lots of skulking and burrowing and simply biding of time while mental processes tick over. A gripping if unusual and unusually demanding thriller and a superb character study.
Household's other work seems out of print; if any of it is even a tenth as good as this, he deserves a full-scale revival. Jan 02, Lauren rated it really liked it Shelves: Rogue Male has an irresistible thriller premise: He claims, not entirely implausibly, that he never intended to shoot, that he only wanted to see whether or not he could get close enough to do so; he winds up tortured and left for dead.
Eminently capable at dealing with the wilderness, and reasonably astute about dealing with people in general, Our Man then tries to make his way ba Rogue Male has an irresistible thriller premise: Eminently capable at dealing with the wilderness, and reasonably astute about dealing with people in general, Our Man then tries to make his way back home to England before anyone can realize he's still alive.
The novel then becomes an elaborate cat-and-mouse game as Our Man hides out in the countryside and tries to stay alive despite police attention, curious villagers, and one all-too-sharp secret agent on the other side. The novel is ostensibly the three-part diary of Our Man, and Household makes good use of that format, creating an immediately likable voice--assuming you're vulnerable to a kind of English gentleman sense of honor and sportsmanship, which I am--and also letting Our Man eventually talk himself through his own denials and equivocations.
He's keeping a secret from himself, one that is only barely alluded to early on, and it's the revelation of his true motives that drives him even more than the desire to stay alive. This gives the novel a tight, claustrophobic psychological tension in addition to the very well-done wilderness-survival and fugitive-improvisation suspense tacks.
At just slightly under two hundred pages in my edition, this is a taunt, finely-crafted, and well-paced suspense story and has rightfully earned its classic status.
Dec 08, Evan rated it really liked it Shelves: The upshot on this -- and no surprise: An entirely new character is written into the film, a romantic interest and hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold played by Joan Bennett, who steals the movie, lending a bit of screwball comedy sensibility that the mostly humorless novel lacks. Bennett's good-time Cockney gal thus serves the same narrative purpose ultimate The upshot on this -- and no surprise: Bennett's good-time Cockney gal thus serves the same narrative purpose ultimately as the feral cat, Asmodeus, does in the book.
The protag's relationship with the cat in the book is far more interesting than the human "romance" in the film, though. The long European escape and shipboard sojourn that make up most of the first half of the novel is cut to a brief few minutes in the movie, and the English countryside survival adventure that makes up almost all of the second half of the novel is basically cut into one little scene in the movie.
The interrogation episode in Nazi Germany that is recalled in first-person flashback in the novel is elongated extensively for the film to set up a more obvious rivalry, and "Thornton's" he's unnamed in the novel arch-enemy Quive-Smith -- who is only slowly learned about from clues over the course of the book rather interestingly -- is introduced straight away in the film for the obvious conflict set-up.
At least he's played by George Sanders, who was pretty much the ideal suave Nazi. To the film's credit, it does touch upon the book's moral dilemma that makes up its most interesting thought-point Thornton's supposedly sporting and superior "moral" imperatives and Quive-Smith's ability to call them into question, thus presenting the protag with an interesting bit of self-reflection. The movie's ending has a rather fun and rousing patriotic propaganda slant, which is actually ironic in a good way, compared to the far more amorphous end in the novel.
Both provide interesting alternative finales. This is a great book, and the movie suffers in comparison. It was a great read while sitting around getting jury duty assignments a couple of weeks ago. I was going to write more, as I had taken extensive comparison notes, but have other things to do KR KY Oct 15, Reh rated it really liked it.
More books should be as compactly and neatly composed as this was. It's refreshing not to feel as if the author were dragging events on for the sake of gravity.
The tone speaks for itself. Another accomplishment: I've already forgotten what small troubles I had with the plotting and protagonist because i was so satisfied by the ending. The hunter becomes the hunted is the basis for this tightly written and concise thriller. Enjoyed the time period depicted and the setting of a lush rural England.
Not your typical suspense story. Household also tackles class hierarchy, patriotism and the Third Reich. The unnamed Dictator in the story is clearly intended to be Hitler.
Excellent read. Ian I remember watching a British film adaptation of this back in the s, with Peter O'Toole in the lead role. It made quite an impression on me at the I remember watching a British film adaptation of this back in the s, with Peter O'Toole in the lead role. It made quite an impression on me at the time. So thanks for this review, which has reminded me of the story. I might read this. Dax Ian wrote: It made quite an impression Ian wrote: So thanks for this review, which has re It a short read too, so you wouldn't be risking a lot of your reading time.
I recommend it. Rogue Male is a strange book, if for no other reason than we never discover the name of the hero. All we know is the first name of his solicitor, the assumed name of his pursuer, and the last name of the character he calls The Second Murderer after Shakespeare. Rogue Male is pure adventure. The Hero walks from Poland into Germany, visits Berchtesgaden and draws a bead with his hunting rifle on Ad Rogue Male is a strange book, if for no other reason than we never discover the name of the hero.
The Hero walks from Poland into Germany, visits Berchtesgaden and draws a bead with his hunting rifle on Adolph Hitler, when he is jumped by one of his guards. Of course, Household never tells us it is Germany and Hitler that was the hero's goal -- it's just that it could have been nowhere else and no one else. Our hero manages to escape, but he is pursued, both by the police for a murder he had to commit by throwing one of his pursuers on the third rail of a tube station, and by "Major Quive-Smith," who is in the pay of the Nazis.
Oddly, he thinks the only way to survive is by digging a hole for himself in rural Dorsetshire. For almost half the novel, the narrator is either planning his underground hidey-hole or actually hiding there. His pursuers eventually catch up with him, but I have been sworn to secrecy about the ending.
In fact, you don't know my name, what country I'm from, whether I'm left-handed or right-handed, and what my preference is in savory spices. In any case, this book is enjoyable despite my thinking it couldn't work. David Kowalski, Sketchbook.
Am very glad to have come across this novel, and I'll certainly be looking for more by Household.
Rogue Male (1973) - Peter O'Toole, John Standing, Alastair Sim - Feature (Drama, Thriller)
The narrative voice is completely compelling and the story suspenseful. Victoria Nelson, in her introduction, calls it a "wilderness procedural.
The novels are quite different but both men escape from 'civilization' and live on the run, close Am very glad to have come across this novel, and I'll certainly be looking for more by Household. The novels are quite different but both men escape from 'civilization' and live on the run, close to or within, in this case the land.
Of course, Coetzee's vision is bleaker David Kowalski should read this and review it. And you, dear Reader, should too. But if you get this edition, do NOT read Nelson's introduction before you read the novel. Unless, of course, you want to know what will transpire View all 22 comments.
Mar 24, Dfordoom rated it really liked it Shelves: More interesting than the subject matter is the unusual structure of the book. Instead of leading up gradually to the assassination, the attempt takes place on the very first page.
The would-be assassin who is also the narrator is captured and tortured but refuses to say anything of his motives and insists he acted alone. Since the interrogation has failed to produce anything of value the decision is made to dispose of the assassin.
Against the odds and suffering from horrific injuries he survives, and sets out on a nightmarish return journey to England. So who is this would-be dictator-killer? He is an English big-game hunter.This is a gripping book, but it's also gruelling - there's very little external action - what there is, is swift and brutal - lots and lots of skulking and burrowing and simply biding of time while mental processes tick over.
When Willy was not to be found, they draped towels round the tails of their shirts and stormed through the thicket.
However, I managed to keep myself and my soggy raft of trousers well out into the river, and the current did the rest. There's also a psychological element to the book because the premise - that the attempted assassination was for the challenge rather than a political gain - is rather thin and the man needs to work that one out at the end even while the reader stubs his toe on it half way through.
Cancel Forgot your password? The manhole was never screwed up again, and I lay on my cushion suffering little more discomfort than I generally suffer at sea. They turned us inside out this morning and all other ships at the wharf. An unnamed Englishman is caught trying to assassinate the leader of an unnamed Eastern European government. All day I saw no one but a most human billy-goat belonging to a herd of cows in the neighbouring field.
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