(All mini-reviews are posted with permission and are subject to
copyright. OSG refers to the Objectivist Study Group.)
Robert Tracinski, Editor, The Intellectual Activist
I have just finished three of Spearman's books - The Nerve of Foley and Held for Orders, two volumes of short stories, and Whispering Smith, a novel. The books were written at the turn of the century and their setting is the Western division of a transcontinental railroad. Their theme is the worship of competence and courage. They are stories of railroad men faced with extraordinary challenges - deadly disasters, impossible deadlines and monumental battles against man and nature - who rise to the occasion and succeed.
The outlook is thoroughly romantic, in the sense of being focused on man's power of volition. In each case, it is the character's choice to accept the challenges he faces and to work to overcome them that is the focus of the story.
Spearman's novels are popular fiction; he does not have the literary skills of a Victor Hugo. But what makes his stories remarkable is their sense of life, which, in its can-do optimism and belief in the heroism of productive work, is thoroughly and uniquely American. For this reason, I place Spearman's work in the same category as Calumet "K" and Shane.
Part of the charm of Spearman's novels is the feeling of being transported back to the America of the 19th Century. It was the kind of world in which giants of productive ability were admired, in which they were considered models of virtue. Could you imagine popular fiction today that centered on the heroic struggle of businessmen and their efforts to solve the challenges that face them in their work? This is precisely what Spearman's books present.
I recommend Spearman's books as entertaining reading and as a look at what America once was - and can be again.
Robert Tracinski (OSG)