Thomas Tryon

Start Your Free Trial

Download Thomas Tryon Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Tryon, Thomas 1926–

Tryon, an actor turned novelist, has written several best-selling novels. (See also CLC, Vol. 3, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.)

Peter Ackroyd

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There is a line which has resounded through B-films, soap-operas and pulp fiction and it goes something like this: "Ned, wait!… Are you familiar with what are commonly referred to as the Greek mysteries?" There is a pregnant pause, and Ned whispers, in a tone somewhere between shock, anguish and determination, "No! And that won't stop me!" My first quote is taken verbatim from Mr Tryon's new novel (he is already famous for The Other, the other one), but I must admit to writing the second quote myself. The Ned is Theodore Constantine and indeed he doesn't let it stop him; his abysmal ignorance of classical ritual accounts for most of the plot of Harvest Home, and he wouldn't know a vegetation symbol if one got up and tickled him…. Who is Widow Fortune, and why does she keep crying "Drat!" and "Where in the nation!"? Is there something which the villagers will not or cannot reveal? And why is everything so damned rural? Read on, Mr Tryon keeps hinting, and you may see something nasty.

And indeed, eventually, we do. At first there is only the occasional glimpse of darkness visible; the villagers mutter about something called the "Waste" and at one of their simple country fairs there are enough phallic symbols to make an academic blush. But Tryon writes very discreetly, and the first climax comes almost without warning….

The story in question has something to do with the Earth-Mother and the Eternal Return; English schoolboys of the more respectable kind have been studying this sort of thing for years, and it may be that familiarity breeds noblesse oblige. But, whatever his education, Mr Tryon is a shade portentous about these perfectly harmless pagan rites; he reacts to them as an American dame would react to Stonehenge, and his final Dionysian touches are too bloodstained to be interesting. I know that America is a matriarchal society but this, Mr Tryon, is ridiculous.

Peter Ackroyd, "Read Without Rest," in The Spectator (© 1974 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), February 9, 1974, p. 171.

Harvest Home is a marketable concoction of sex, witchcraft and literary pretension, enormously long and unbelievably silly. It is the second, more ambitious and rather more distasteful novel of a Hollywood actor turned writer; its atmosphere resembles those inept horror films especially made for television and shown at furtive hours….

The Cold Comfort Farm names … are misleading: that isn't at all the flavour of the book. The lumbering efforts at thoughtful observation are a diversion, too…. Its real concern is with hysteria, cruelty, and adolescent fantasies of perverse sex. (p. 219)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1974; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), March 1, 1974.

Webster Schott

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Thomas Tryon seems to have been born with a silver story in his mouth. He spins best-selling novels: "The Other," "Harvest Home," "Lady." He probably has written another best seller in "Crowned Heads"—a tale with the impact of "The National Enquirer" crossed with "The Day of the Locust."

The places are right: Los Angeles, New York City, the undiscovered paradises of Mexico and Crete. And Tryon's characters, four of Hollywood's ex-crowned heads bear so much resemblance to real people in remembered situations that his fiction seems to merge with fact. I assume that "Crowned Heads" draws from dozens of actual lives—Greta Garbo, Mickey Rooney, Freddie Bartholomew, Stan Laurel, Gloria Swanson, Marilyn Monroe—in order to create its splendid illusions. But in the manner of his fellow semi-nonfiction novelists, Tryon dodges identification. (p. 6)

There's something for everyone in "Crowned Heads." Tryon plays to the senses. He presses sex, but it always leads to something deeper. He watches manners, introduces details, covers settings with a Peeping...

(The entire section is 1,007 words.)