There is something wonderful about the British genre writing done around the turn of the 19th century. Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Anthony Hope – it feels as though you could list the great names forever. And up there with the best of them was H. Rider Haggard.
Now if you’re a fan of this sort of thing, you’ve probably read Haggard’s great classic She, cited by Carl Jung as a perfect depiction of his concept of the anima, and King’s Solomon’s Mines, which is sometimes said to have created the Lost World genre. You may even have read their sequels, Ayesha: The Return of She, and Allen Quatermain.
But if you get a chance – and if you haven’t read it yet – try People of the Mist. I only stumbled upon it recently while messing around with my kindle, where a good edition is available for only 99 cents. It’s a joy. Like eating cheesecake while making love… to a piece of cheesecake. A lot of joy.
The story’s about Leonard Outram. His father blows his fortune through dishonest business deals, and so he loses his estate and his fiance to a – gasp! – Jew. (Oh no, not a Jew! Yes! A Jew!) But anyway, he sets off to Africa with his brother to win them both back. I won’t give the rest away except to say there’s action, adventure, human sacrifice and a very cool dwarf. It’s all more fun than will soon be legal under the current administration. Great stuff.