Nat Gould

His life and books

Racecourse and Battlefield

First published in 1899 by Routledge.

Reissued in 1935, 1955 (abridged), and 1960 (Mellifont).

Alec Medway recklessly spends his fortune and is rejected by Aline Hastings. She accepts the hand of Colonel Mowbray, an unpopular but efficient officer, to the delight of Sir Henry Hastings, Aline's father. Alec is a skilled amateur jockey and has a bad accident in a steeplechase. On recovering, he is given the job of war correspondent for the "Daily Argus" in the Soudan, where Kitchener is about to set out to avenge the death of General Gordon. Alec spends time at Gibraltar on the way and makes friends in the garrison there. He finds himself in the thick of the fighting at the battle of Omdurman and rescues Mowbray from certain death. Mowbray however dies of his wounds, after having asked Alec to take Aline home. Alec suffers a severe injury and is nursed back to health by Aline, whom he marries.

An awkward book to start with. The beginning is confusing - so many characters, barely distinguishable, and persistence is needed to get the reader to the point where Alec's journalistic career begins and the tale starts to interest. The battle scenes are however superb. The remainder is a disappointing anticlimax. A strange book - wooden at first and last, with an excellent centre. The characters are all unlikeable and some incredible. Good in parts, but as a whole very disappointing. (TA)