Sunday, December 21, 2008


So what can be said for Blood Reign of the Dictator?
Many words come to mind: exciting, relentless, action, thrills, adventure, existential. OK, I may be stretching things with that last one, but you do get the point. Frederick Davis never once lets up in this novel. Each chapter was a bullet train ride to the next one. I kept turning to the next episode just to see what was going to happen and there were enough plot twists to keep me reading. I can't say such a thing for many books published in the last ten years. The author knew his audience and how to deliver what they wanted.
Ursus Young emerges from Blood Reign as one of the most sinister villains I've ever encountered in pulp literature. All he cares for his power and how to get it. But he too knows his audience and what they want to hear. Although comparisons with Josef Stalin are made time and again, Young's role model resembles Mussolini. His fictional home state of New Cornwall sounds North Eastern, but Young resonates better as a corrupt, ruthless Southern Pol. But to have made him Southern would've drawn too many resemblances to Huey Long.
Another novel which looked at the rise of a fictional fascist dictator in America was Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here. The Lewis novel was published after the Davis one, but I doubt there were any influences. His dictator, "Buzz" Windrip, doesn't resemble Ursus Young very much. Likewise, It Can't Happen Here is mostly concerned with the rise to power of it's villain. Young is already entrenched by the time Jimmy Christopher moves against him.
There isn't a lot of back story in Blood Reign. We're told Ursus Young rode to the governorship of his state by way or patronage jobs and pay-offs, but much else. His fall occurs quickly, maybe a little too quickly. What happens in the rest of the country outside Washington, DC when the Silent Sentinels are on the march? And how did Young maintain his power base? Did he have his own political party? We're never told.
But the novel wasn't intended to enlighten English professors. Davis aimed at giving his Depression-weary audience a thrill ride, which he brilliantly did. And with the entertainment came a warning: beware of politicians who promise everything, but thirst for absolute power.
It's a warning still meaningful.

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