Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Big Book of Horse Stories (1946) aka Great Horse Stories

In a personal best, I manage to respond within 24 hours to a request for a review of one of those wonderful old horse story anthologies from the mid-20th century.

The Big Book of Horse Stories
originally published as Great Horse Stories
ed. Page Cooper, il. C.W. Anderson (cover)
1946, Berkley Books

Florian by Felix Salten, from the 1934 novel
Break-Neck Hill by Esther Forbes, originally published in The Grinnell Review in 1915
The Begats by Phil Stong, from the 1946 book Horses and Americans
The Seeing Eye by Will James, from the 1940 book Horses I Have Known
The Maltese Cat by Rudyard Kipling, from the 1894 collection The Day's Work
Cristiano: A Horse by W.H. Hudson, from the 1919 book The Book of a Naturalist
Highboy Rings Down The Curtain by George Agnew Chamberlain
Strider: The Story of a Horse by Leo Tolstoi, begun 1863, finished 1886

Florian by Felix Salten
"Do you remember, Elizabeth whispered to her husband, what our boy once said about Florian? He sings - only ones does not hear it."

Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria, attends a performance at the Spanish Riding School, and is entranced by the star, Florian.

Break-Neck Hill by Esther Forbes
"But Mr. Geth he's just been standing in his box or the paddock for four weeks now. We've been waiting for you to say when he was to be shot. He's in a sweet temper and d' y'er know, I think, I do..." "What do you think?" Willet blushed purple. "I think Cuddy's got something in his head, some plan if he gets out. I think he wants to kill some one before he dies. Yes, sir, kill him. And you know, if he gets the start of you there is no stopping the dirty devil."

A young man heads to his father's racing stable one Sunday morning to take an aged and vicious former racehorse for a final ride, one which he plans to culminate in a bullet. Cuddy, who's earned the hatred of grooms and horses alike, seems to have been waiting for this opportunity through the boredom of retirement, leading to the groom's uneasy warning that the canny rogue is plotting something.

The Begats by Phil Stong
Messenger was remarkable for much more than a splendid get of colts. He stood at stud in the United States in 1788, by uncontestable evidence, four years before he is supposed, by some reports, to have landed here. His breeder testified to his lineage at the time and his testimony cannot be questioned or doubted since the breeder had been an angel in Heaven for two or three years at the time he uttered his certificate.

A tongue-in-cheek look at the various influences on the American horse, and on American horses themselves.

The Seeing Eye by Will James
A cowboy recounts the story of his boss, blind rancher Dane Gruger, and his two 'seeing eye horses' Little Eagle and Ferret.

The Maltese Cat by Rudyard Kipling
‘Let’s see,’ said a soft, golden-coloured Arab, who had been playing very badly the day before, to the Maltese Cat, ‘didn’t we meet in Abdul Rahman’s stable in Bombay four seasons ago? I won the Paikpattan Cup next season, you may remember.’ ‘Not me,’ said the Maltese Cat politely. ‘I was at Malta then, pulling a vegetable cart. I don’t race. I play the game.’ ‘O-oh! ‘said the Arab, cocking his tail and swaggering off.

Cristiano: A Horse by W.H. Hudson
A more restless horse I had never seen. His head was always raised as high as he could raise it - like an ostrich, the gauchos would say - his gaze fixed excitedly on some far object; then, presently, he would wheel round and stare in another direction, pointing his ears forward to listen intently to some faint far sound, which had touched his senses.

A naturalist tells the story of a gaucho's favorite horse, whose hyper-alertness initially strikes the naturalist as a sign of playfulness.

Highboy Rings Down The Curtain by George Agnew Chamberlain
When the driving horse Helen of Troy dies in a pasture accident, her owner's interest in driving seems to die with her. His misery stirs his trainer to the unthinkable - he brings out the long-ignored rebel Highboy, a great grey whose reaction to being harnessed with a team was to bite the hell out of his unlucky partners, thus earning himself a cozy early retirement.

Strider: The Story of a Horse by Leo Tolstoi
Of all the horses in the enclosure (there were about a hundred of them), a piebald gelding, standing by himself in a corner under the penthouse and licking an oak post with half-closed eyes, displayed least impatience. It is impossible to say what flavour the piebald gelding found in the post, but his expression was serious and thoughtful while he licked.

An old horse tells his life story to an unruly herd.

Cristiano (and the rest of The Book of a Naturalist) can be read online at Google Books
Strider can be read online here and here
The Maltese Cat can be read online here
Break-Neck Hill can be read at Google Books

The Will James Art Company
NYT review of Home In Indianna (1944)
Internet Broadway Database - George Agnew Chamberlain


Page Cooper, editor
Also wrote several horse books, and served as editor for a dog anthology.
Other Books: Famous Dog Stories; Man O'War; Amigo, Circus Horse; Red Tartar; Pat's Harmony; Thunder; Silver Spurs To Monterey

Felix Salten
Hungarian-born Austrian whose real name was Siegmund Salzmann, and who fled to Switzerland in 1938 as being Jewish in Vienna was becoming unhealthy. Most famous for the 1923 novel Bambi.

Esther Forbes
Most famous for her award-winning 1943 children's novel Johnny Tremain.

Phil Stong
Native Iowan whose most famous work was State Fair, which became a famous Hollywood musical.

Will James
A Canadian-born writer and artist whose tales of the cowboy West became classics. Most famous for Smoky, he also wrote various books about the cowboy life as well as several others focused on particular horses, including Sand, Scorpion, and The Dark Horse.

W.H. Hudson
Born in Argentina to American-born parents, he ended up in England; he was a naturalist and ornithologist whose many books on nature were influential in his day, but he is best remembered for his 1904 novel Green Mansions.

George Agnew Chamberlain
The New Jersey native wrote many thrillers, often set in the rural half of his home state, which were very popular in the early 20th century. Two books were made into films in the 1950s. One of these about a horse, The Phantom Filly, was adapted twice for the big screen - 1944's Home In Indiana and 1957's April Love. He wrote at least one Broadway play, Lost, which was produced in 1927.

Leo Tolstoi
Russian author most famous for War And Peace and Anna Karenina. Strider is also known as as Kholstomer.


AC said...

Nice! I didn't have this exact collection, but some of the stories are familiar. I always enjoyed the snarky polo ponies in the Maltese Cat.

AC said...

I just noticed that Page Cooper is the author of Amigo, Circus Horse, which was one of my favorites.

One of the most interesting things to me about this blog is the fact that so many of the books you review are OTHER books by the authors of books I loved. Growing up in the 80s on a diet of library and garage sale finds, I never realized that so many of my favorite authors had more stuff out there. It really was a different world before we had the internet.

Sarah said...

I know what you mean. My favorite Internet/horse book revelation came with Patricia Leitch's Jinny series. Key word: series. I had bought the first one in the mid-1980s through a Scholastic book fair, but had no clue it was a 12-book series until 2005, when I made an idle Google search and the results made me nearly fall off my chair.