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The Bookshelf

"FIRST PRINCIPLES OF VERSE," by Robert Hillyer, The Writer Inc. 1938, 155 pages, price $2.

By J. G. P.

A brilliant display of red, white, and blue lettering makes the jacket of Mary Borden's latest novel very attractive. Hidden away in this jacket is a book called "Action For Slander." Supposed to create an impression on sensation-seekers, this is a story of the hard-drinking, pleasure-loving upper class of England whose mixed loyalties involve the characters when it is a question of the other man's wife or a poker game.

"A weekend party in a country home; seven men invited to a shoot by a bachelor host, and five of the guests sit down one evening to a game of poker. Their game is suddenly interrupted when one of the players, Mr. Grant, accuses Major Daviot of cheating. The charge is supported by Captain Bradford, Major Daviot's brother officer . . ."

This is the theme of Miss Borden's book. She takes us into a small country court-room presided over by Mr. Justice Trotter. Through several chapters of cross-examination, the reader is given a complete view of the unfortunate poker game and the events leading up to it.

The plot, although occasionally amusing, is at best a feeble affair. The small measure of acclaim the book deserves is owing to the character portrayal. Major Daviot, Captain Bradford, Mrs. Bradford, Lord Pontefract and some of the other important characters are well-delineated. This much is to be expected, for Mary Borden and her husband, Brigadier-General E. L. Spears, move in circles similar to those she describes, with officers living beyond their means and trying to counter-balance the everyday boredom of peacetime military existence by gambling for high stakes and similar diversions.

Despite the popularity and readability of Miss Borden's previous novels, the future of "Action For Slander" does not seem bright. It lacks a plot of sufficient body to support the characterization which is, by and large, well-conceived. Her new effort makes fairly amusing reading, but little more can be said for it.

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