Friday, May 06, 2005

Well-Red Propaganda

Last night I finished a 1941 novel by Allen Chase entitled The Five Arrows. I had picked it up for a buck on a sale table at my favorite used bookstore the other day. Cheap investments like this have often paid off for me. Indeed, some of my most pleasant reading experiences have come as a surprise; that is, finding unknown authors in just such chance circumstances as with that $1 table.

But...The Five Arrows was not one of those delightful experiences. I only finished the 304-page novel because I wanted the full taste of what I had realized quite quickly was the most obvious piece of pro-Communist propaganda (in fiction form) I had ever seen. I mean, really over the top!

The novel, published by Random House, featured a tough, ruggedly handsome character clearly based on models supplied by better authors than Chase -- the more subtly leftist Dashiell Hammett comes immediately to mind.

The Five Arrows
is set in the fictional Latin American country of San Hermano and the protagonist is an idealist veteran of the Spanish Civil War who has seen the horror and viciousness of fascism up close. Thus Chase explains his hero's worldview which places everyone to be in one of three basic camps: fascists, fascist dupes, or highly ethical and visionary Communists.

The story is part adventure, part mystery, part political thriller, part racy romance -- but all propaganda! I need not warn you about this novel or its author. From what I've been able to discover, Chase only wrote one other book and it had as dismal impact as this one. You probably couldn't find either of them if you wanted to...and, trust me, you don't.

Nevertheless, reading things that you don't like can have beneficial effects and, as soon as I think what one of them might be from my reading The Five Arrows, I'll tell you!