Thomas B(ertram) Costain Ben Ray Redman - Essay

Ben Ray Redman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] main story-line of "Ride with Me" is the line of Frank's pursuit of Gabrielle through the corridors of history, with many fine shows along the way. It is a line that will be followed with pleasure by those who take their historical fiction by the pound, who demand only that heroines be beautiful and heroes dauntless. But the judicious will, I am sure, mark down "Ride with Me" as a brave but unsuccessful essay in the difficult field of the historical novel.

Evidences of Mr. Costain's industry are manifest on every page, and there is no doubt as to the genuineness of his interest in and enthusiasm for the Napoleonic period, in which his people have such being as he gives them. But industry and interest and enthusiasm are not enough when material is ineffectively organized, when trivial byproducts of research clutter pages, when characters are wooden, when the reader must plod instead of being pulled, when the author scants or shoots around scenes that might have been his biggest. That he has taken in a lot of territory and quite a chunk of history does not suffice, in view of the fact that his central historical figure is only a shadow, and the other figures from life no more than names. We are given glimpses of General Sir Robert Wilson ("Riding Bobby"), to the tale of whose exploits this book was originally dedicated … but it all adds up to very little, certainly not to the image of a man and a hero. (pp. 9-10)

Ben Ray Redman, "Francis Ellery's Crusade," in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. XXVII, No. 34, August 19, 1944, pp. 9-10.