The Trail of Conflict

Trail of Conflict cliff wprEmilie Loring’s first, full-length novel, The Trail of Conflict, followed an entire decade of published works. She had already written a book review column for the Boston Herald, plus homemaking articles, short stories, two compilation books published under her pseudonym Josephine Story, and several, serial novels.

The Trail of Conflict actually appeared first as a serial in Munsey’s Magazine, from December 1921 to April 1922. Munsey’s longtime editor Bob Davis was away from his desk when it was accepted, but when he returned, he liked what he saw.  His opinion mattered, as he had discovered both O. Henry and Mary Roberts Rinehart. He passed it along to the agent Carl Milligan, who showed it to Charles Shoemaker of the Penn Publishing Company of Philadelphia.

Trail frontispiece wpr
The Trail of Conflict, frontispiece

In February, while the serial was still running, Emilie and Victor signed her first contract for a full-length, hard-cover novel. She received ten free copies of her book and a two-hundred-fifty-dollar advance against ten percent of the first five thousand copies, which sold for $1.75 each.

Her publisher, Charles Shoemaker, signed the first copy: “To the author from the publisher with the hope that this first copy may be followed by another hundred thousand. C C Shoemaker, 30 August 1922.” That was pretty quick progress, from a serial in December to a book in August.

The serial and book stories were largely the same, except for a bit of embellishment and some fine-point editing. One amusing change is the bit of dialogue that closes the first scene. In the original, Steve says, “Glamorgan be damned!” The book version reads, “Glamorgan be hanged!” Neither is very nice, of course.  I wonder what the Owen sisters thought of this.

Trail of Conflict pbk wprI don’t know what people are thinking when they write cover blurbs. The Bantam Books paperback version is just silly: “In the shadow of a sinister conspiracy, a courageous young heiress fights to save her marriage from certain doom.” (That scene on the front cover never happens, either.)

Penn’s newspaper ad in 1922 read, “A marriage of convenience of the East becomes a stirring love affair of the West. While winning a fight against great odds, Steve wins the love of his wife.” Emilie got right to the point in the first line of the book:

“That is your ultimatum, Glamorgan? My boy for your girl or you scoop up my possessions and transfuse them into yours?”

Emilie’s father, sister, and brother were all playrights, but she chose novels for their “broader canvas,” the opportunity to describe settings and to have her characters think as well as speak. Indeed, the difference between their private and expressed thoughts is one of her more compelling, magnetic devices.

“…there was an aggressive set to lips and jaw, a mixture of amazement and antagonism in his eyes, then something else flamed there which she couldn’t diagnose as easily.

“He looks stunned. What did he expect, the pig-faced lady?” the girl thought contemptuously even as she advanced with extended hand and smiled up at the elder Courtlandt.

“Mr. Courtlandt, you seem like an old friend, my father has spoken of you so often,” she welcomed in her charming, well-bred voice which had a curiously stimulating lilt in it.

Trail of conflict wprEmilie’s father had been gone many years, but she wrote the story shortly after her mother’s death, when she was especially reflecting on their absence.

“I find it profoundly interesting to wonder and imagine what follows this world. For instance, look at the question in this way. At this moment I can send my mind to the Manor; in spirit I’m pacing the terrace with Sir Peter. I can see the boats chugging up and down the river, can smell the queer fragrance which the sun is baking out of the box hedge in the garden, can hear the birds twittering among the vines. If I can do all that now, what will it be when the spirit is not hampered by the body? It will be like flying, won’t it?” The Trail of Conflict

If there is an over-riding message in the book, it is this one:

“From now on I’ll subscribe to that bit of philosophy of Doc Rand’s, ‘Things have a marvelous, unbelievable way of coming right.'” The Trail of Conflict

Trail of Conflict modern wprBut the last thing she wanted was to moralize.

“I hereby frankly declare that I write to entertain. It is my hope, more than ever now when the deep and bitter tragedy of this anguished world lies heavy on every heart, that when my name appears on a gay book jacket, my followers will promptly park their problems outside the cover and fare forth with me into the realm of imagination, where there is always romance, always adventure in a story, salted not too heavily I trust, with my philosophy of life. If, when those same readers reach THE END, they forget to pick up some of their problems, Victory perches on my banner.”

This modern cover claims that 37 million copies of Emilie Loring’s books are in print.  If that is true, I need to revise my promotional materials!  If you don’t have a print copy of The Trail of Conflict, there are many online.  Now apparently in the public domain, you can find it at Hathi Trust, Project Gutenberg, Google Books, Amazon’s Kindle, and others.

The Trail of Conflict is a fun read and a toe-curling romance.  Enjoy.

 

 

 


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