Review: "High Stand" by Hammond Innes

“Popular in his native England and in the U.S. as an author of suspense fiction and historical nonfiction, Innes’s [High Stand] is a swift, bravura story.” – Publishers Weekly


Hammond Innes needs little introduction to most readers of high adventure suspense fiction published in the mid-twentieth century. He wrote no fewer than thirty novels, including his classic 1956 novel, Wreck of the Mary Deare. His first novel, The Doppleganger – a supernatural thriller – was published in 1937, and his last, Delta Connection, hit print two years before his death in 1998. While many readers prefer his earlier work, most of his later novels are also worth reading. An example is Innes’ 1985 novel, High Stand.
      Philip Redfern is a British solicitor specializing in wills and trusts. A recent client – an old money playboy named Tom Halliday – disappears, and a visit from Halliday’s much younger wife Miriam involves Redfern indirectly at first, and then as the novel develops, directly in the playboy’s disappearance. The action is primarily in British Columbia where Halliday owns a successful gold mine discovered by his grandfather, and a large tract of timber called High Stand. Redfern follows Miriam to Canada where he, acting as Halliday’s solicitor, stumbles around trying to find the missing man, but mostly finds trouble.
      High Stand is a pedestrian adventure novel. It builds slowly without being boring, and includes a fair amount of financial talk and environmentalist narrative. It also, as is expected from Innes, includes some top-notch action scenes. The plot feels contrived in places. As an example, the deed to the timberland includes a curse for anyone who cuts down a tree. It’s a strange (and semi-unbelievable) device, but it is used to account for much of the characters’ irrational behavior.
      Once the action begins it feels like an old school Hammond Innes novel, and the prose has an easy fluidity without any artificial drama or gimmicks. It is relaxed and smooth no matter the situation; whether describing violence, action, or the usefulness of trees to Earth’s ecosystem:

“He slapped me then. Twice, with his open palm, each side of my face, so hard he almost knocked me off my feet.”

High Stand isn’t a masterpiece, but it is an easy novel to like. It has just enough of the good stuff – adventure, action, exotic locations, mystery and uncertainty – to let the reader gladly forgive any shortcomings.

A bit of Hammond Innes trivia:

Hammond Innes set three of his novels in Canada. They are, Campbell’s Kingdom [1952], The Land That God Gave Cain [1958], and High Stand [1985].

For more detail about Hammond Innes and his work,
check out the introductory guide, Vintage Lists Presents:
The Complete Hammond Innes
, at Amazon.


Popular Posts