Andrew Lytle Fred T. Marsh - Essay

Fred T. Marsh

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["The Long Night"] tells a story which succeeds in keeping you on its trail. Whatever else it may be, it is not dull.

It seems to be a good many things at once, not always to its advantage, a kind of split personality of a novel. The opening chords are ones of mystery and terror as we arrive at a kind of House of Usher [where] … a dark tale of the past is unfolded—here during the course of a long night….

It is a tale of revenge in blood feud resurrected by the aged narrator out of a demonic period in his past….

There is all the theatricality of a Monte Cristo …, all the suspense …, the stealth and secrecy, the "making your peace with God" kind of thing so familiar to romantic mystery. But this is only one phase of the novel.

Much of the book is plain regional and historical realism, with character sketches, dialogue in dialect, stories of horse races, drinking bouts, typical episodes and twice-told tales….

Mr. Lytle has done a number of good things well. But we doubt if any one will feel terror creeping over his body…. The Poesque vein runs pretty thin and whatever one may think of Poe's dictum for general application, it is certainly true that for his own kind of story-telling there must be totality of effect. Mr. Lytle tries his hand at several styles in several moods to achieve several effects with considerable virtuosity. But the result is that [the terror becomes] increasingly unconvincing.

Fred T. Marsh, "Mystery and Terror in Mr. Lytle's Novel of the South," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1936 by The New York Times Company; copyright renewed © 1964 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 6, 1936, p. 9.