Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

I don’t remember how I came to buy a copy of “Rogue Male” but there it was – a slim paperback, half hidden among a number of books in a carton I call my Someday Box. Only 224 pages I thought it would make a quick beach read and I threw it in my book bag with several others. When I finally pulled it out and started reading I literally could not put it down. Every accolade on the back cover is true.

The unnamed protagonist is a British gentleman who hunts big game. Bored, he attempts to penetrate the compound of a dictator, also unnamed. His rifle is aimed at the man, who we are left to presume is Adolf Hitler. Still he tells himself that he doesn’t really intend to pull the trigger; he just wants to see if it can be done. His motives don’t matter when he’s caught by the guards, tortured and left for dead. Somehow he manages a harrowing escape and stows away on a boat bound for England. But his pursuers will not give up. Now he’s the prey, and only his strong instincts for self preservation will keep him alive.

This is the story of a man who is hunted like an animal and what he has to do to survive. The plot is simple and yet incredibly suspenseful. There are few characters and little dialogue. Some readers may find the writing style dated. And yet the spare narrative is very effective at portraying the thrilling chase. The tension grows right up to the conclusion. An extraordinary adventure on one level, it’s also interesting on a moral level as the protagonist explores his real motives and decisions.

Geoffrey Household, the author, was born in Bristol in 1900, he died in 1988. “Rogue Male” was published in 1939 and it’s justifiably a classic, as exciting today as it was then. A sequel, “Rogue Justice,” was published in 1982.

Publisher: NYRB Classics (November 6, 2007)

ISBN: 978-1590172438

Pages: 224

Price: $14.00