File Size: 1127 KB
Print Length: 303 pages
Publication Date: May 4, 2017
Donnegan, a short red-haired tramp, rides the rails in research of a man named Rusty Dick (please, no snickering). Having discovered that his quarry is lifeless, Donnegan jumps off the train, forces his way into a stranger's house, and falls into love with the owner's daughter on the spot. The owner, one Colonel Macon, sends Donnegan with his child to the Corner, a mining town, hoping that the girl will regain the woman lover, Jim Landis, from the shadowy Lord Chip, who has horned in on the Colonel's profitable business arrangements with Landis. Failing that, Donnegan is to kill Landis.
This almost intolerable beginning then gives spot to a fairly good second act; the Corner actually is an interesting place with interesting characters. Donnegan wins himself an ally, a giant black fighting man named George Washington Green, while the beautiful, scheming Nelly Lebrun proves a formidable barrier to Donnegan. Jim Landis proves to be no opponent whatsoever, but a mere human football which the real players are fighting to possess.
Donnegan's character gets more fleshed out in the second work. As in Destry Trips Again, Max Brand shows a talent for portraying a hero that is significantly and obviously flawed - lazy, an almost pathological liar, perpetually needing to prove his manhood - yet nonetheless lovable for that. Indeed, Donnegan is so flawed that the story is apparently inevitably heading for a tragic denouement which may redeem the absurdity of the first act.
Sadly, there's no such luck. Practically from the minute the shadowy Lord Nick walks on the stage (his true identity should shock no one), the history careers off into utter absurdity again. The characters' motivations, none too credible to begin with, now contort into self-parody. Don't feel bad if you can make no sense whatsoever out of the last few chapters; everybody, such as the characters themselves, is definitely as confused as you are.
In contrast to many later Western authors, lots of whom preferred to tiptoe around the question of racism, Max Company places race relations front side and center in this novel, even more than in Destry Rides Once more. This time, we get a clearer picture of what Brand's own ethnic attitudes were: he needed to give a friendly and sympathetic view of African Americans, and largely been successful, but could not entirely free himself of the unconscious prejudices of his era. George Washington Eco-friendly is a strong, courageous, and likeable character, as he will likely be, and Company consciously rejects his contemporaries' stereotypes of black people as perpetual children. Presently there is a major landscape showing Brand's contempt for racial segregation. However, Company cannot portray a real friendship between Green and Donnegan; he can have a baby no intimate relationship between a white man and a black one other than that of master and servant.
At the same time, Brand continues to hint at a much less wholesome racial attitude, not towards blacks, but towards Chinese. His hero, like the other major characters here and in Destry, harbors a deep contempt and distrust of the Chinese, which time, there is also a strong implication that the villainous Colonel Macon's love for things Chinese is a reflection of his rudeness and avarice. While it would be unfair to judge Brand by modern standards, it could also be a mistake to think that he had already received before the racial enlightenment of later times..
The information of the Corner and the racial attitudes make Brand's work a sort of academically interesting specimen, but not, by the wildest stretch of the imagination, a good novel. It's a shame that, unlike Destry Rides Again, Donnegan was never made into a movie. A good film treatment might have redeemed some of the book's flaws, and it would have been delightful to see Orson Welles play Colonel Macon.
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