The Corner of Rife and Pacific

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

John Metlen is a dreamy, impetuous man who uses family money to build the first hotel in Grayling, just as the Union Pacific lines are being laid. The other well-to-do man in town, Martin Connard, chooses more wisely by establishing a bank. As the town grows, the Hotel Metlen becomes outdated. Drought and a fierce winter cause Metlen to lose the family ranch as well.

John and Lizzie have one child, Zack, who is also a dreamer. Zack prefers magnets and wires to the extravagant toys his father buys him. In Zack’s generation, the Metlens and Connards come to blows over a woman, Anne Chapman, a great beauty of Indian blood. She refuses Harry Connard’s brazen proposal and falls in love with Zack at their first meeting. In the novel’s climax, Anne stuns the town with a courageous, unconventional clash with Connard in order to obtain the money Zack needs to complete his work on the first reliable radio-broadcasting components.

Although Savage has received rave notices from major novelists and respected reviewers, this reader found his language affected and his characters idealized. Anne is a “raven-haired Sphinx.” The bad boy, Harry Connard, is tall, dark, handsome, and an alcoholic, while Zack Metlen is blond, shy, and virtuous. One can picture the young John Wayne, hat in hand, reciting some of these quaint lines: “The tyke’s mother had died in childbirth, and much is excused a child who has so lost his dam.” Even in its most dramatic moments, the story moves in such a mannered fashion--with a few exceptions--that the reader need never be too upset or too excited by the news.