Some authors have to buzz the U.N. to get their publisher's attention, but Harold Robbins isn't one of them. With a history of high-fliers like "The Carpetbaggers" and "Never Love A Stranger," he's been able to pursue the old down-to-earth themes of power and sex and still count on a soaring income and the occasional dinner invitation from an appreciative publisher.
"Memories of Another Day" is the latest in a long list of sagas featuring coitus virutally uninterruptions against interchangeable backgrounds, such as the movie industry, automobile manufacturing, or, in this case, the labor union movement.
"Memories," however, appears to be a change of pace, with less dialogue., more narrative, and a slight loss of steam from the sex episodes. Some of the nonsexual facts of life, like the realities of existence that produced the labor movement, get more play, which can only be a change for the better.
The story begins with Daniel Boone Huggins' funeral, described by this rebellious son, Jonathan, who saw his father as a power-hungry hypocrite. Jonathan's trip to ultimate understanding and love for the old man makes way from time to time for the main body of the book -- Big Dan's biography. Not surprisingly, Dan turns out to have been a pretty good guy all along, except for the habit of committing an accidental murder now and then (always in a good cause), a habit he eventually outgrew. Huggin's mountain background and his early years in the coal mines sound right, and bit parts for John L. Lewis, Jimmy Hoffa. Tony Boyle and others add authenticity.
We learn from the book jacket that Dan'l "rises from the rural poverty and hard times of the West Virginia hills to become a powerful labor leader, through a career that embraces violence, fierce ambition, lust and a deep hunger for justice." That just about says it, and if you've read any of Robbins' other stories, you can take it on your own from there.
Though Robbins has always known how to waste your time enjoyably, you won't miss all that much this time. Along with Jonathan's other difficulties, the young man has a slight reincarnation problem: His father makes cryptic comments to him from within himself. This attempt at mysticism solves the author's dilemma of transition from one section to another and supplies whatever credence there may be to Jonathan's transformation at the end, but it doesn't do much for the leader because it never quite gets off the ground. The rest of the book is so relentlessly matter-of-fact that these flights of fancy seem inappropriate, and suspension of disbelief becomes, hard labor rather than spontaneous response.
I tremble to bring this up, but "Memories" is a man's book. Certainly women will readt it: Women are far more eclectic than men, devouring both "Tom Swift" and "Little Women" from an early age. But a man wrote this one and it shows. These are characters right out of male fantasty: the powerful, good-hearted, stud hero and his assortment of women, all of them sex objects, all adoring, lusty and insatiable.
The heavy labor of Dan's youth is exceeded only by that of his adultery. Practices along this line appear to be the standard ones of overindulging moderns, and are depicted according to the general rule that, on the subject of sex, women tend to write feelings, and men, physiology.
Robbins' style is plane geometric, all surface with little depth, the kind of no-nonsense straight line that is the shortest distance between two points. The pleasure is in the arrival, not the journey, and, although this can be a relief in a day of fanciful locutions, the overall effect is curiously flat.
Some questions remain unanswered. Big Dan was a charismatic figure and did his darnedest for the workers of the nation. Or did he? (That mutual funds plan?) Jonathan hasn't the access to his fathers life story that readers have, yet he comes out finally for the man he hated. Why? the baby that Jonathan ends up with represents -- well, maybe . . .? Big Dan's admonition to his followers that they should "care for one another as we care for ourselves" sounds like -- surely not!
Unoriginal but adequate, "Memories" is an earthly novel that should make some heavenly profits. Publishers pay attention to that kind of thing.