By Harold MacGrath (1871-1932).
The Bobbs-Merrill Company.
1914. 340 pages. $1.25
Filmed in 1916 (IMDb and AFI—the latter has SPOILERS).
Online HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
[Full review] It is something of a relief to turn to a frankly extravagant story of adventure, such as Pidgin Island, by Harold MacGrath.
The island in question lies on the border line between Canada and the United States; and while a good fishing ground, it is a dangerous harbour for a small boat during September gales.
Young Cranford, the hero, is an ardent fisherman, as all the world is free to know; what the world does not know is that he is in the Government secret service for the detection of smugglers, amateur or professional, who attempt to make unlawful entry of foreign jewels into the United States.
What Cranford himself does not know is that Pidgin Island, where he goes when off duty, is a chosen smuggling place of a notorious gang, who have a long standing account to settle with him; and he is equally far from suspecting that Diana Wynne, the clear-eyed, self-reliant young woman with whom he becomes unconventionally acquainted and who can out-row, out-sail and out-fish him, holds the same sort of Government job as himself,—and, what is more, has come to Pidgin Island, not blindly but with her eyes wide open.
If you know Harold MacGrath's methods, you know in advance pretty well the sort of story he can serve up with these elements of adventure and danger and romance. But in any case read the book; you are at least certain not to be bored. — Norman Bryce, "Random Gleanings from Current Novels," THE BOOKMAN (August 1914; go to page 683, left bottom)
A story of fishing and of smuggling. When John Cranford faced the necessity of earning a living, he entered the secret service because it was the only thing that offered, but he learned to hate his work,—he called it a "sneak's business,"—and when it got on his nerves, he went fishing.
But up at the lake resort where he had fished for years, he found that his favorite guide was not at his disposal. Uncle Billy was rowing that season for another fisherman—a girl. And she proved, too, to be as good a fisherman as Cranford himself; and also as clever at catching smugglers: for, as it turns out, she is in the secret service herself, and the two together find a piece of work already cut out for them. — BOOK REVIEW DIGEST (1915)
Elements of 'Pidgin Island' that are good prove that the author has not lost his fundamental art—that of being able to tell an interesting story—but what a pity that he should write so carelessly. — BOSTON TRANSCRIPT (May 13, 1914)
Mr. MacGrath writes with spirit, and will carry with him that large class of readers which asks only to have conjecture held in leash and curiously sustained until the end. — THE NEW YORK TIMES (April 12, 1914)
[AFI film summary] After arresting smuggler Michael Smead, Government Customs Service secret agent John Cranford takes a vacation on Pidgin Island in the Saint Lawrence River. While there, he falls in love with another tourist, Diana Wynne, who is [SPOILER]. Diana, who soon reveals to John that [SPOILER], then discovers that Michael has [SPOILER] and is planning to [SPOILER]. With John's help, she [SPOILER], after which the two secret agents decide to ignore the Customs Service for awhile, and concentrate on [SPOILER]. — AFI
- It was quite recently that we spent some time with Harold HERE.
- AFI has a listing of the 24 films made from MacGrath's stories—with SPOILER summaries—HERE.
Category: Romantic spy fiction