Thursday, December 8, 2022

Thoughts on The Honour of Israel Gow from The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton

Thoughts on The Honour of Israel Gow from The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton

First published in The Saturday Evening Post (March 25, 1911) as The Strange Justice, and then in The Innocence of Father Brown collection (1911). This edition: The Complete Father Brown Mysteries (Carousel Books, 2021). SPOILERS AHEAD?

The piano hasn't been drinking, but upon it are piles of snuff. People seem to assume I like Tom Waits. I do, but only for a little bit and then he gets awfully precious. This story had me batting down notes from his dark cabaret tunes that kept rising up in my head as I read. Settings reminiscent of the "end of the world," figures within it which conjure up "the sinister steeple-hats of witches in fairy tales." That, maniacal lineages, and a be-shoveled mute draped in all black, topped with tophat.

Desecrated prayer cards and Father Brown says "Now devil worship is a perfectly genuine religion." This after making connections with the clues at hand which Flambeau and Scotland Yard's Craven swore held no connection. Although, when pressed mildly, the little priest admits his concocted connections were just to prove their possibility--but were not, in reality, the case at all. That was a cute bit. To draw lines between dots and form a purposefully incorrect image. Shots fired at the deductions of Holmes?

However, and in the end, the title tells the tale as does the near to its opening couplet of "As green sap to the simmer trees / Is red gold to the Ogilvies."

Simply and sans telling the whole tale (although also spoiling it completely) Israel Gow is [see what I said of the title.] This is a quite dark tale with goodly amounts of GK Chesterton's theology shining through, sharing a singular ray of light with Gow, an honourable fellow in a dark space, indeed. Now I'm thinking Snape and not Waits and I'll back slowly away from the truly terrifying topic of JK Rowling. Some of those Harry Potter movies were rather good (I have kids) but I never read the books.

I like how in discussing the setting, it bleeds into its inhabitants to the point of no delineation, like a cheap stogie flavor profile. I said I don't like Tom Waits all that much. Nor do I like Young Adult (Potter) fiction, necessarily... but I do have a fondness for cheap-o smokes which never do fail to put me in a somewhat vaudevillian mindset. A boxcar hopping vagabond. (When I was in grade school, I told my teacher I wanted to be a vagabond when I grew up.) This Father Brown installment would pair well with all that. A simple tale of a good man easily seen by those unafraid of the dark.

It's a good thing there are a lot of candles. Old man Johnny Cash is cool in these environs, too. Shane MacGowan (not Tom Waits as I originally thought) becomes that eventually. As does Nick Cave age into Leonard Cohen's trilby. This is not a good review of The Honour of Israel Gow. For that, I apologize. Although I only promised 'Thoughts,' and in my defense, the story is a moody little thing. And maybe I (accidentally) excellently related that.

Previously: Thoughts on The Invisible Man from The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton

Next: Thoughts on The Wrong Shape from The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton

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