Tuesday, 5 January 2021

One Man's Opinion: ROGUE MALE by GEOFFREY HOUSEHOLD



My copy of Rogue Male is published as one of Orion's Crime Masterworks. I guess that should make the author a household name, though I very much doubt that is the case. 

Rogue Male wasn't the story I expected. It tells the story of a hunter on the run after attempting to assassinate a European leader who is clearly a malignant influence on the world. The opening is a thrilling tale of an early capture and escape. Following on, we accompany the protagonist back to the UK where he uses his connections to help him disappear.

In truth, the hunter-turned-hunted is highly skilled in keeping a low profile. His chosen method of disappearance is to live from the land. In many ways, his animal instincts to survive are all he needs. There are occasional treats, such as taking a hot bath, which are described in wonderful detail and should make one grateful for the luxury items in life that we take for granted. There's also an acknowledgement that some of his desires can't be satisfied within a solitary world, though he is logical and philosophical about how to cope with such problems. 

As it turns out, the foreign agents who are hunting him down are skilled and plentiful. Even when going totally off-grid, they are able to follow the scent and pin our man into a corner. 

It's a gripping read while also being one that requires the taking of time to savour the language and the ideas being explored. I imagine a runner may appreciate some of the contradiction here: the desire to produce a quick time conflicting with the benefits of slowing down in order to appreciate the features and natural beauty of the route. Household succeeds by sucking the reader into the internal workings of the protagonist's mind as well as into the dark pits he inhabits along the way. Ideas of purpose and lack of it are reminiscent of existential fiction and, though the language is sublime and beautifully English (I had to make frequent use of a dictionary to help me along the way), there's also a sense that the style is of European stock.   

Totally engaging, yes. Powerfully intelligent? I think so. Surprises at every turn? Definitely. A dull and anticipated ending? Definitely not. 

In short, worthy of the classic status and I wish I'd read it a long time ago. Well worth your time and, given the theme, more than appropriate for our latest lockdown. 

And here's a link to info of the Fritz Lang adaptation in case you're interested. 

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