Friday, July 20, 2012


Poor No More, Robert Ruark, Holt Rinehart & Winston Inc, 1959, 832 pp

Robert Ruark's earlier top 10 bestseller was Something of Value, 1955. It told the story of the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya from the viewpoint of white British farmers in that country and I enjoyed it as both a novel and a historical perspective.

Poor No More, the # 10 bestseller of 1959, is more than 50% longer, set in the world of United States business, finance and investing, and the main character is basically a scoundrel. Sam Price grew up dirt poor in the South, determined to break out of poverty. So he did, at the expense of every positive human trait he had.

Ruark lets a good 100 pages go by before the plot takes hold. He then fills another 732 pages showing how Sam lost his innocence as he gave up on being a decent person and took to using any break than came along to his own advantage. He grew addicted to the excitement, the stress, and the material rewards of business, becoming an extremely wealthy man. But he never learned a single lesson as to why he was so alone in the world, since he preferred being free to do as he pleased to finding any happiness with other people. 

Because this is not an original tale, though one that Americans seem to like reading over and over, and because Ruark gives it a few different twists but takes much too long to bring it to an underwhelming conclusion, I enjoyed it more than 50% less than Something of Value. Ruark was evidently trying to be Hemingway in the earlier novel. In this one, he took after Theodore Dreiser and John O'Hara. Too bad he did not figure out how to be Robert Ruark.

(Poor No More is out of print and I could not even find it in any of my local libraries. It is available from used book sellers.)

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