13 Nov

Sorry. Feeling like all caps today. To continue with our general topic – forgotten literary gems, but I want to throw in the mix one of my stock rants.

Hollywood does not like making period pictures. They cost more. Vintage cars, dressing sets and so on. It has to be PIRATES OF THE CARIB to stand a chance of making money. MASTER AND COMMANDER just about covered its costs in the end. So in pursuit of CYA thinking, if the studio is dragooned into making a period picture, it is going to be a remake or revamp of a tale that has been told a zillion times. THE THREE MUSKETEERS for example. There are so many good period stories crying out to be made – or even remade. SCARAMOUCHE deserves a new version. Any Georgette Heyer Regency novel would attract all the Jane Austen devotees. And so on. But do they pay heed? No.

Which brings me to the forgotten novel of today’s post. THE WAY TO THE LANTERN by Audrey Erskine Lindop, a writer of bestsellers in her day, who has disappeared off the map. It’s hard to find anything about her on the internet. LANTERN is set during the French Revolution. Here’s the set up.
A young strolling actor Roberts, who has fluent French from his mother, is seen by some county gentry in a street theatre drama. His performance draws an offer from a local rich spinster. She wishes him to pretend to be an French aristocrat bent on making advances to her. This is to make her local suitor jealous enough to propose. The charade is played out at a ball. The scheme works. But the spinster now has changed her mind. She wants Roberts to remain in the role of Philippe permanently and marry her. In a night brawl Roberts accidentally kills the local suitor. He goes on the run to France. He now has three identities. The actor Roberts. He has the forged papers of an English gentleman, Sir Antony Buckland. And he is Count Philippe. In Paris, where he has been pursued by the spinster Eliza Weldon, Roberts comes to the attention of various zealous revolutionary committees who all want the privilege of sending him to the guillotine as a spy or traitor. There are some wonderfully original characters and desperate situations. There are great parts to be played. But who is noticing? If you see a second hand copy, grab it.

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