(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell

(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell Essay - Critical Essays

Caldwell, (Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland)

Introduction

(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell 1900–

(Also wrote under pseudonyms of Max Reiner and Marcus Holland) English-born American novelist.

Since the publication of her first novel, Dynasty of Death, in 1938, Caldwell has written over thirty internationally best-selling romance novels. Many of her works are long, multigenerational sagas featuring immigrant protagonists who struggle for wealth and power. Caldwell has also written religious fiction, notably Dear and Glorious Physician (1959) and I, Judas (1977). These novels received favorable reviews for their attempt to demystify Saint Luke and Judas Iscariot. Testimony of Two Men (1968) and Captains and the Kings (1972) were serialized for television.

Critics generally agree that Caldwell's greatest strength as a novelist lies in her narrative ability. Her novels exhibit extensive historical research, thus providing a realistic sense of place. It is conceded, however, that much of her writing is formulaic, with stock characters and contrived plots. In addition, critics fault her didactic tendency. Still, Caldwell provides a "good read" and her enduring popularity ensures her a dominant place in the romance genre.

(See also CLC, Vol. 2; Contemporary Authors, Vol. 5-8, rev. ed.; and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5.)

George Dangerfield

The armaments industry is a subject which fiction does well to take up; and Mrs. Caldwell's attack [in Dynasty of Death] is handled with the patience and skill of a prosecuting attorney. In order to establish her case she builds up a careful background, introducing a number of facts and side-issues which a defense attorney would probably characterize—and an impartial judge perhaps disallow—as irrelevant, incompetent, and all the rest of it. But when the whole picture is complete, you have to admit that she has been handling with considerable ability several interacting and at times rather refractory themes….

One's chief criticism of this novel is that it pays the industry a compliment which, though backhanded and unconscious, is none the less a compliment. The author assumes that the industry requires, as its representative, something rather terrific in the way of a man. In all the pages, and they are 797, in which she deals with Ernest Barbour, she never quite reduces him to human stature. Ernest is a devil, the personification of a great industrial evil; and when a devil goes about the devil's work, something is missing. What we miss in this instance is the ultimate historical irony: on the one hand, the traffic in murder; on the other, a trafficker who is just as muddled and petty and able to compound with his conscience as the rest of us. Only a genius could in a novel of this sort create or maintain such an ironical...

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Halford E. Luccock

[In Dynasty of Death the] author avoids one ready pitfall of the long family-history novel, that of sacrificing everything to breadth and length. There is a stretch of a hundred years and a cast of actors running into many score. Yet there is intensity of interest, full detail and characterization at each period.

The most noticeable weakness of the novel is that the villains are too darkly and consistently villainous and the good people too obviously equipped with a halo. This is seen in the sharp black-and-white woodcut contrast between Ernest Barbour, the Napoleon of the firm, and his brother Martin, a sort of Pennsylvania St. Francis of Assisi. Ernest is a terribly integrated person—completely integrated about the dollar. He is relentless, cruel, endowed with satanic skill and all the other gifts and graces necessary to make a well rounded devil. His brother Martin gives his life in the effort to relieve the terrible slavery into which Ernest has plunged his workers. This gives an unreal effect, for real life is far more complex and perplexing. The typical munitions king or industrial grand duke is likely to be not an inhuman monster, but rather a person deserving of the classic tribute to a pirate, "as mild-mannered a man as ever scuttled a ship."

This is a novel of sustained interest, done with care and skill, notable for its picture of the unfolding industrial life of America, particularly of the steel industry. (p. 1338)

Halford E. Luccock, "One of the Sixty Families," in The Christian Century (copyright 1938 Christian Century Foundation; reprinted by permission from the November 2, 1938 issue of The Christian Century), Vol. LV. No. 44, November 2, 1938, pp. 1337-38.

Harold Strauss

["The Eagles Gather"] continues the saga of the Bouchard family, the great armaments clan whose fortunes were first set forth in "Dynasty of Death." The Bouchards are ruthless, self-willed men, and their women are pawns of their overweening lust for power. One recalls how, in the earlier novel, the Bouchards together with the Barbours founded a small powder and arms factory in Pennsylvania in the middle of the last century. One recalls how they gradually outstripped and exterminated their competitors, how they created a gigantic munitions monopoly with interests extending into affiliated industries, and how these merchants of death learned to manipulate public opinion and to provoke wars when business was dull….

Tradition is a powerful motor force in human behavior. When we first met the Bouchards they seemed shocking and unreal. It was difficult to accustom oneself to the irresponsible violence and unmotivated hatreds with which "Dynasty of Death" was peppered. But now violence and treachery have come to have the force of tradition in the Bouchard family, and one accepts their monstrous behavior with more credence. By that measure "The Eagles Gather" … emerges as a much stronger book than its predecessor. We might also add that its narrative has much more unity, and its drama is much more concentrated. "Dynasty of Death" spread out from 1837 to 1910, and its texture, for all its 400,000 words, seemed a little thin. The new novel...

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Clifton Fadiman

Taylor Caldwell's "Dynasty of Death" succeeded in making munitions manufacturers seem considerably more dramatic than they probably are in actuality. "The Eagles Gather," a sequel, is more of the same, only not as good. For one thing, perhaps Taylor Caldwell can keep her Bouchards clear and separate, but there are just too many of them for this simple mind. After a while you lose count, and after you lose count you lose interest. As a matter of fact, I think I lost interest before I lost count, because the characterization in "The Eagles Gather" is so definitely melodramatic that it makes the whole long, crowded, and painstaking narrative a bit unconvincing. Also, while I'm perfectly willing to credit anything evil I read about munitions people, I cannot believe that they alone manipulate history, start and stop wars, plan in advance what we shall think, etc. They're powerful, no doubt, but they're not gods. The view of current history on which "The Eagles Gather" is based seems to me rather too simplified.

Those who like complicated family chronicles with a raft of sinister villains will, I think, take to Taylor Caldwell's latest installment of Bouchards. My own feeling is that her message could have been projected in half the length and with half the characters. The book would have been about twice as effective, too. (pp. 52-3)

Clifton Fadiman, "Three Novels" (copyright © 1940 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.; copyright renewed © 1969 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.; reprinted by permission of Lescher & Lescher, Ltd., as literary agents for the author), in The New Yorker, Vol. XV, No. 47, January 6, 1940, pp. 52-3.∗

Richard A. Cordell

["Dynasty of Death" and its recently-published sequel, "The Eagles Gather,"] have the same theine—the titanic struggle between ruthlessness, greed, opportunism, selfishness, and dishonesty on the one side (the munitions barons blandly lump together all such practices as "realism"), and altruism, justice, love, and self-sacrifice on the other side. The victor in this internecine war is not announced, for the war is still raging—perhaps more fiercely today than ever before.

"The Eagles Gather" is a depressing, almost terrifying book. It hurls formidable charges against the powers of evil that shape our personal and national destinies, and although the book is fiction, its insinuations and implications are disturbing and sometimes alarming….

Under the impact of these allegations we find difficulty in responding always to the deep human demands of the story, but human interest is here. For these men of greed, these "realists," do not hesitate to sacrifice friends, brothers, children, and parents in their ruthless battle for power. The various narratives of the novel deal with death-struggles between Machiavellism and human decency. Although the author is not an absolute cynic, she is no facile optimist, and to resolve these conflicts she does not conjure up the comfortable old saw that right makes might.

One fault of the novel, less annoying than in "Dynasty of Death," is the confusing legion of characters…. The author does not exercise her artist's privilege to select, but presents to us in detail, often amusing, the whole clan. Possibly, too, the novel is weakened by a glut of guile and hate. Nearly everyone loathes and despises nearly all the other members of the family—brothers hate brothers, parents and children abominate one another—there is hardly a page which does not contain "hate" or "detest" or "nauseate" or "despise" or some such ill-tempered verb. Everything considered, "The Eagles Gather" is a full-blooded book, provocative and haunting.

Richard A. Cordell, "War of the Vultures," in The Saturday Review of Literature (© 1940, copyright renewed © 1967, Saturday Review Magazine Co.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXI, No. 11, January 6, 1940, p. 5.

Clifton Fadiman

Taylor Caldwell's "The Earth Is the Lord's" … reminds one less of a novel than it does of a particularly grandiloquent opera. All the characters talk in a kind of recitative, the psychology is always grand to the point of inflation, and all the action seems to be accompanied by full orchestra, with percussion instruments dominating. The net effect, too, is operatic, for you feel that while all this blood and thunder verges on the silly, it never really is silly but, on the contrary, is perversely, if only momentarily, fascinating.

Those who remember Taylor Caldwell's munitions melodramas, "Dynasty of Death" and "The Eagles Gather"—her taste in titles runs to the garish—will recall her...

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Louise Maunsell Field

For the background of her new novel, "The Strong City," Taylor Caldwell has chosen the town of "Nazareth," Pa., and the steel industry as it was during the latter years of the past century. That was the time when men worked twelve hours a day six days a week, when unions were struggling for existence and many employers regarded the "Knights of Labor" with considerable disfavor and even more suspicion. Immigrants were then swarming into the United States, and it is from among these immigrants and their immediate descendants that the author has chosen most of her characters. First in importance is Franz Stoessel, a foreman in the Schmidt Mills when the novel begins….

The first part of the book is by...

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Herbert Gorman

While "The Arm and the Darkness" by Taylor Caldwell is primarily a long narrative of the physical and spiritual struggles of a young nobleman during the conflicts between the Catholic reaction and the Huguenots in France in the time of Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, it is also an adumbration of the emergence of the Common Man into history and his opening battles for liberty, enlightenment and justice. The real villain of this novel is the corrupt hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and the real hero is that urge toward liberation that expressed itself in the Huguenot movement. Of course, the line between good and evil is not drawn quite so definitely as that, for Miss Caldwell makes it plain that there were...

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The Times Literary Supplement

Miss Taylor Caldwell casts her net wide in search of themes and periods for the sort of elaborate fiction she favours…. Nobody need or should despise the amount of work which has gone into the quarter of a million words or so of ["The Arm and the Darkness"]. Regretfully, however, one cannot but wish it had a little more life, a little real substance or individuality. Here, it must be confessed, is rather too much of the stale perfume of historical romance, too much of the faded tinsel, altogether too much of the conventional rhetoric…. Miss Caldwell, though extreme facility has always been her failing, has written better books than this….

The tale, and with it the personality of Richelieu, is...

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Nona Balakian

[In] "The Wide House" Miss Caldwell has begun to question her formula. She has discovered that "a man might find some kindliness ∗ ∗ ∗ in men who were avowedly rascals ∗ ∗ ∗ and find nothing but mercilessness ∗ ∗ ∗ in those who had the approval of God." But though she has given the matter some thought, her old habits persist.

When the curtain rises on the buzzing young town of Grandeville, N.Y., in the Eighteen Fifties, we meet in Stuart Coleman the robust, full-blooded hero of costume drama. A rebellious Irishman with a weakness for women, he deviates from type in his passionate love for a house. Though only a small shopkeeper, he has built himself a great white castle that stands...

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Richard A. Cordell

Taylor Caldwell's long, turbulent narratives—one appears every year with the regularity of the almanac or year-book—are very much alike. From "Dynasty of Death" (1938) down to [her new novel "This Side of Innocence"] the ingredients vary only slightly; a family or two of wealth and power, most of their members despising one another and engaging in callous and unscrupulous business enterprise; intra-family love duels; intimate details of high finance and industrial backgrounds; meticulous attention to Godey's Lady's Book and other sources of information for details of costumes and interior decoration in the Gilded Age. The prolific Buffalo novelist puzzles the discriminating reader of fiction: the books are...

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MARY McGRORY

Will "There Was a Time" cause a rift between Taylor Caldwell and her everloving public? Will that public … mind that she has slapped their wrists in this semi-autobiographical novel about a young writer who forsakes thunderous chronicles of villainous financiers to write from his heart? The answer to these questions must be a resounding no….

Miss Caldwell's desertion of the titans who stomp through her previous output has in no wise affected her approach or her prose—which still throbs with passion, sags with adjectives and overflows into royal-purple rapture. As of old, her characters, wading ankle-deep in malevolence, are locked in unequal contest with compound, overpowering emotions. To be...

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William Soskin

Taylor Caldwell realizes full well the limitations and stupidities of her Melissa [the heroine of Caldwell's "Melissa"], daughter of a philosophic writer who has deliberately made a mess of her out of his villainous desire to dominate her and make her subject to his psychologically poisonous whims. But the author never intended that we should become painfully bored and irritated with the beautiful creature; and that miscarriage of Taylor Caldwell's purpose must be attributed to the apparent hurry, the lack of careful organization, the adjectival and prolifically adverbial style in which the novel is written. The author of "Dynasty of Death" and other best sellers seems to be writing too fast and too much. Even those...

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Charles Lee

What will America be like in 1970? Miss Caldwell's [apocalyptic "The Devil's Advocate"] makes Spengler seem cheerful by comparison. In this novel of fierce prophecy she sees a Communist conspiracy in control in Washington. The courts and the Constitution have been outlawed; family life is directed by the Government; the fifth world war is about to erupt (this one against South America, the rest of the world being subject and in ruins). Tipping her political hand, she offers as her trump of horrors the fact that the Republican party has been banned as of 1958….

[The story] that follows is full of nightmare complexities and melodramatic suspense. Unfortunately, it is also full of repetitions,...

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Riley Hughes

Up to now Miss Caldwell has been in the habit of simplifying the past, of building her plot and bullying her characters around one idea…. In The Devil's Advocate she presents a simplification of recent past and proximate future both. Her scene is the slave America of the 1970's, the seeds of whose destruction were sown in the 1930's.

America's downward slide into a Communist state "had begun with a loathsome use of the word 'security.' And in the name of that fantasy, that dream-filled myth, American pride, responsibility, grandeur and strength, had been systematically murdered."… Thus by 1970 the Republic had become "The Democracy," and the President was the captive of The Military and...

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Granville Hicks

If critics took the author of "Never Victorious, Never Defeated" as seriously as she takes herself, articles would have long since appeared on "The World of Taylor Caldwell." Fourteen of the sixteen novels she has published in less than two decades portray important aspects of American life in the period from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present time, most of them concerned with families of great wealth and power. Three of the novels, beginning with "Dynasty of Death," have to do with the Barbour-Bouchard family and the manufacture of munitions. In other novels she has done steel, textiles and lumber, and now she has turned to railroading….

If someone were to repeat to Miss Caldwell...

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Harrison Smith

[Taylor Caldwell] has pursued through sixteen novels almost every aspect of the rise of those multi-millionaire families in the United States Theodore Roosevelt called malefactors of great wealth. The fact that her great-uncle once owned all of the railroads in Scotland and that her grandmother was half Irish has had a great deal to do with the subject of her newest book, "Never Victorious, Never Defeated." This long and absorbing novel is by no means a pursuit of a wornout vein; the author has discovered a new gold mine in the intramural conflicts of four generations of a prolific family of Pennsylvania railroad builders fighting to extend their lines north and west. It is a complex story involving more than twenty...

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Jane Cobb

It is impossible to read anything of Taylor Caldwell's without being reminded of the old gag, "He don't sing good, but he sings loud." Miss Caldwell doesn't write well, to be sure—but her books are infused with a sort of wild, anything-goes vitality which can hardly be ascribed to Henry James. Not that "The Sound of Thunder" is a good book. It isn't. But Miss Caldwell has managed to stay sufficiently within the bounds of educated standards to make the reader feel rewarded for panting after her as she free-wheels through this long, complicated chronicle.

The central character is Edward Enger, a hard worker who was sent to help in his father's delicatessen at 14 so that his three brothers and one...

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Virginia Kirkus' Service

In choosing to put emphasis on the early life of Luke the physician, Taylor Caldwell has presented [in Dear and Glorious Physician] quite a different picture from that Frank Slaughter has given in The Road to Bithynia…. It is—she tells her readers—a subject on which she has worked most of her life. The result shows an immense amount of research, a dedication to her subject. Luke emerges as a whole man—and most readers will find the biographical aspects of her story—up to the time when she gears it into the Gospel record—far more moving and convincing than the final chapters, when Luke approaches what has been, at times unwittingly, his life goal, an identification with the "unknown god" of...

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Caroline Tunstall

St. Luke, author of the third Gospel and of the Acts, was with St. Paul in Rome and is referred to by him as "the beloved physician." According to tradition he was a gentile Greek. The shadowy figure evoked by these few phrases bursts forth technicolored and Toddeoscale in Taylor Caldwell's ["Dear and Glorious Physician"]….

Aside from any religious conviction, the scholar will deplore the book's heavy-handed reproduction of the period, while any lover of English will cringe at its lush overwriting. The depiction of Luke, Mary and Jesus as Nordic blondes has all the dignity and restraint of a theater poster. No doubt "Dear and Glorious Physician" will be a best-seller and will be bought by Hollywood...

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Charles Lee

Spacious, alive with the bustle of ancient times and places, and illumined by flashes of genuine lyrical intensity, "Dear and Glorious Physician" is the product of an obsession that has challenged Miss Caldwell's talents for more than forty years….

Armed both with insight and erudition, she movingly reconstructs St. Luke's search for God, universalizing his anguish for troubled men everywhere. With her we live his childhood, meet his family and friends, participate in his extraordinary education, admire his Apollonian beauty and his athletic prowess. We discover the amazing world of ancient medicine; we see him suffer evil and loss, and then, in torments of rage and pity, arrive at an affirmation...

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Riley Hughes

On page 572 (the final page) [of Dear and Glorious Physician] Miss Caldwell adds this sentence (in parentheses) after her own final sentence of the novel: "Continued in the Holy Bible, Gospel of St. Luke, and Acts I and II." There is something awesome in assurance like that, something that defies comment. Lucanus (St. Luke) is a very pedestrian fellow who finally comes to some faint understanding of God.

Lucanus strikes this reader, at least, as a rather dimwitted figure, unable to account for his miraculous powers of healing and, even in his attraction to the new religion, a man who acts remarkedly like a twentieth-century agnostic. If Christianity is Pickwickian and shadowy in Dear and...

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Charles Lee

Taylor Caldwell is an angry woman. She tells us so in a candid foreword to her curious new novel ["The Listener"]. Man does not need a new religion, she says. He does not require better bombs and missiles. He does not have to travel to the moon. What he really needs is someone to listen to his hurts and bewilderments. Of course, that Someone is the not very mysterious "Listener" of her book.

The role of "The Listener" is dramatized in fifteen chapters that successively feature troubled "Souls," each numbered and tagged, as, for example, Soul One, The Confessed; Soul Two, the Underprivileged; Soul Three, The Despised and Rejected. A troubled Soul repairs to a two-room marble sanctuary that is open to...

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Riley Hughes

The Listener is not exactly a novel; it is rather a series of related episodes or tales held together by a slender string of place. The protagonists of these episodes come to a sanctuary built through the aid of a bequest left by the lawyer John Godfrey. Some are scoffing and defiant; others are hurt and humble; all are seeking peace. Some push the button which opens the curtains to reveal "The Man Who Listens" patiently. Others tell their story without caring to learn the identity of the man. Gradually, as one episode succeeds another, it is implied from the guarded language used that (in some way not made clear) "The Man Who Listens" is Christ.

Religious novels such as this one have their...

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Martin Levin

When love comes to Caroline Ames Sheldon in Taylor Caldwell's "A Prologue to Love" …, it is page 553, and there are only sixty pages or so to tidy things up: change a few bequests, do a little benevolent blackmailing, engage a brain surgeon, and otherwise try to alter the course of a lifetime of bitchery.

Bitchery comes naturally to the wretched billionairess, since the father Miss Caldwell has devised for her is a marvelous nineteenth-century monster of a dad who has everything but fangs. Shut up in a rotting old country house for most of her childhood, schooled in niggardliness by her miserly parent, Caroline comes to womanly estate so terrified of poverty that she is incapable of conducting...

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Annette T. Rottenberg

The natural perversity of students can sometimes be turned to good account, as when a student asks (apropos of a discussion about reading habits), "But isn't it necessary to read bad books in order to recognize good ones?" and the teacher replies, "Yes, it is." The attempt to implement this proposition can be unexpectedly rewarding.

My own experience grew out of a class in American Literature since the Civil War, which had just concluded a study of The American and "The Art of Fiction." There would surely be few better opportunities for applying the criteria of the master craftsman to a work which takes itself seriously but must renounce any claim to artistic importance.

The...

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Edith Farr Ridington

[A Pillar of Iron] is a long and pretentious novel about Cicero which I found extremely annoying both because of its many inaccuracies (I made note as I read of some forty questionable statements) and because it builds up a picture of Cicero that seemed to me to be very far removed from the Cicero most classicists know. For a novelist to deliberately alter historical fact for artistic purposes, and to tell the reader that he is doing so, as Thornton Wilder did in his Ides of March, is one thing. But to set oneself up as a model of research and scholarship, as Miss Caldwell does in her Foreword, and then to present a Roman like Cicero as longing for the coming of the Jewish Messiah, and having visions of...

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William B. Hill

[A Pillar of Iron is an] astonishingly powerful novel based on the life of Cicero. Miss Caldwell obviously admires the great orator, practically making him a pre-Christian Christian; she glosses over his faults, extols his virtues. Had she shortened some of the scenes and in general been less wordy, she might have had room for a more comprehensive treatment of Cicero's entire life. But even so, she has made his stirring times real.

William B. Hill, in his review of "A Pillar of Iron," in America (reprinted with permission of America Press, Inc.; © 1965; all rights reserved), Vol. 113, No. 22, November 27, 1965, p. 688.

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Anthony Boucher

["Dialogues with the Devil"] is an exercise in moral indignation without the mechanics of fiction that customarily camouflage Miss Caldwell's opinions. Thus, in an exchange of letters between Beelzebub and the Archangel Michael, we are made directly aware of a catalogue of modern scourges beloved of the devil: egalitarianism, water pollution, Freud, masculine women, insubordinate children, climate control and deodorants for men. (Miss Caldwell doesn't say how the letters are delivered, but I suspect that Lucifer has a hell of a lot to do with the U.S. Post Office.)…

The author is certainly on the side of the angels—but she is guilty of a couple of misdemeanors not mentioned by the devil, namely,...

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The Times Literary Supplement

A conversation with the Devil presents a fairly obvious literary temptation, especially perhaps to a Christian, but to anyone who plans to discuss the painful evil of the modern world, its false values or its misdirected aims, C. S. Lewis comes immediately to mind. He knew that the Devil himself would be difficult to catch, so very cleverly he avoided the problem by composing a series of letters from one of Hell's staff to a junior Tempter on his first assignment in the world…. [In Dialogues with the Devil] Miss Caldwell attempts something much more exacting, for she presents Lucifer himself, and, as though that were not problem enough, puts him into correspondence with the Archangel Michael. She is an...

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Publishers Weekly

No question, [Taylor Caldwell] … can tell an engrossing story. She proves it once again in ["Captains and the Kings," a] gigantic novel about the Armagh family, closest, perhaps, in structure to her first big success, "Dynasty of Death." As an Irish immigrant, Joseph Armagh arrives via steerage in the 1850s. Upon the death of both his parents, Joseph, at 13, is left with a baby sister and small brother, whom he leaves with nuns near Pittsburgh. He sets out to support them and to survive. He becomes tough, ruthless and proud, and eventually makes an immense fortune that gives him a part in international currency manipulation, in politics, and the waging of wars. Joseph marries, lovelessly, has children and ambitions...

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Duncan Fallowell

Until about three quarters of the way through [Captains and the Kings] I more or less knew what I should be writing about. Now I am not so sure. It seemed to be one of those capacious dramatic tales of the American dollar dream in the tradition of The Magnificent Ambersons, The Great Gatsby or Citizen Kane. 'Joseph Francis Xavier Armagh was thirteen years old when he first saw America through the dirty porthole on the steerage deck of The Irish Queen. It was the early 1850's and he was a penniless immigrant, an orphan cast on a hostile shore to make a home for himself and his younger brother and infant sister.' And he does, although the brother turns out to be a homosexual concert tenor and...

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Best Sellers

Big, wordy, sprawling, ["Captains and the Kings"] is probably a thesis novel; there is some loose association with the Kennedy family, though in this instance all of the tragedy is the result of a curse imposed by a ruthlessly destroyed statesman and the time ranges from around 1860 to the second decade of this century; but the theme of an Irish immigrant, raised up to wealth by his own driving passion and bent on making his son President, is finally made secondary to the theme of an international cabal that controls the press and statesmen throughout the world, plans wars, determines international destinies. No one coming new to the book but familiar with the author will be surprised to find that the beginning of all...

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Martin Levin

Return with Taylor Caldwell to ancient Greece [in "Glory and the Lightning"], where characters in desperation are wont to cry: "Wine, in the name of the gods." At an Athenian dinner party, you can hear the architect Phidias say: "Ah, yes, Pericles, I am at your service. I have the sketches drawn, for the Parthenon." Puts you right into the classic picture, where the Acropolis, in its day, was a bigger provocation than the Albany Mall.

There are other social parallels, if you look for them, in the spectacle of a high but weakened civilization being overwhelmed by a determined force of hairies, the Spartans. And there are stirrings of feminism, too, even in the fifth century B.C., the heyday of the...

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Martin Levin

"But you can't marry me! You are—Jeremy Porter—a rich man and a lawyer, and I am only a servant girl!" So says Ellen Watson, a beautiful but dreadfully downtrodden housemaid in turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania. Ellen is actually the illegitimate daughter of one of Philadelphia's first families, but this doesn't matter to Jeremy one way or another. He marries Cinder-Ellen when she is 17, and their life together, according to Taylor Caldwell, becomes a microcosm of the American apocalypse….

Caldwell's ["Ceremony of The Innocent"] finds her at the top of her form as a storyteller and as a vendor of the ideas that have surfaced in her novels since "Dynasty of Death." The story is pure melodrama,...

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Barbara Sicherman

Ceremony of the Innocent is well written, but the plot remains unconvincing. This time the notion of a small group secretly controlling the world is implausible. The book may be of some interest because of its autobiographical insights. Miss Caldwell disavows autobiographical intent but also states that [the heroine] Ellen Porter's "thoughts have been my thoughts and her experiences mine also." The author would be well advised to seek another theme the next time.

Barbara Sicherman, in her review of "Ceremony of the Innocent," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1977 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 36, No. 11, February, 1977, p. 346.

...

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Publishers Weekly

The prolific and best selling Caldwell collaborates with [Jess Stearn in I, Judas], retelling the Judas Iscariot story from an angle that's unusual if not new. In what might almost be called The Gospel According to St. Judas, the protagonist describes how, loving Jesus more than the other disciples and having more faith in him, he "betrays" him only that Jesus may prove his messiahship and liberate both Israel and humankind. Judas tries to show, moreover, that it was really he who was betrayed…. The authors follow the events of the New Testament drama closely, give it a setting of some historical authenticity, and recreate, with middling success, its major participants, including John the Baptist,...

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Glenn Mayer

The collaboration of Taylor Caldwell and Jess Stearn on their second novel, I, Judas, has resulted in an exceptionally interesting work….

Judas is depicted not as a poor thief, but as the educated son of a wealthy aristocrat. He sacrificed a large inheritance to follow Christ. We learn from Judas' actions that he is somewhat of an elitist, as he speaks of "another bleak Galilean fishing village with country clods in evidence wherever we went," a chauvinist, "for anybody who knows about women recognizes that they are the most devious and self-centered of creatures," but above all, a patriot devoted to freeing Israel from the tyranny of Rome. Caldwell and Stearn portray the character of Judas...

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Pat Gold

[Taylor Caldwell's Bright Flows the River] is anti-establishment, anti-feminist, anti-democracy, anti-family, anti-power, anti-duty, and in fact anti almost everything save the right and the need of the individual to make the correct choice and philosophy of a way of life that is not counter to his very basic, personal tenets. Caldwell's prose is, most of the time, majestic and almost poetic. The characters, mostly men and four or five of the women, who she has peopled this—her thirty-second book—with, though not realistic or believable to me, are indeed unique.

The plot of the book itself is fascinating and easy to follow. Guy Jerald is a man who has gone after the American Dream of rags...

(The entire section is 499 words.)

Anne Marie Stamford

After thirty-two novels it's good to see that Taylor Caldwell hasn't lost her touch. Her superb style of storytelling turns the ordinary theme of Bright Flows the River into an extraordinary and memorable novel….

The only reservation that I have is that some of the characters border on clichés, but this somehow did not detract from my enjoyment. In a novel in which most of the action takes place in the minds on the characters, Caldwell manages to sustain the suspense of an adventure story. I think that this is a relevant and thought-provoking book.

Anne Marie Stamford, in her review of "Bright Flows the River," in Best Sellers (copyright ©...

(The entire section is 120 words.)

Kirkus Reviews

Although there's no dearth here of Caldwell's portable sermonettes on such evils as soft living, [Answer As a Man, a] turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania tale of rags to riches and love tangles, has the ease and zip of the author's earlier period. The hero and true M-A-N of the title is Jason Garrity, only approved kin of his grandfather, Bernard. Bernard is another true M-A-N, plumping for solid male strength and putting a fist in the face of the flabby, whining, slimy world. As for wimmin: "they should niver have the rearing of men children." So Jason has enough gumption to survive childhood and youth in a shantytown house with his widowed mother, his fatuously religious brother John, his dazzlingly beautiful,...

(The entire section is 300 words.)

Richard Freedman

Taylor Caldwell is a shining exemplar of Grey Power, still churning out highly successful novels in which she loftily pretends the 20th century—at least in fiction—never happened.

Millions of readers must agree that the narrative innovations of Proust and Joyce, to say nothing of Beckett and Borges, were all a mistake; that old-fashioned linear realism is still the best mode for fiction. So her ["Answer as a Man"] reads the way the works of Arnold Bennett or Theodore Dreiser would read if they hadn't been geniuses. On a certain level, Miss Caldwell steadfastly insists on providing a "good read."

This time her hero is Jason Garrity, born at the end of the 19th century to a...

(The entire section is 245 words.)