Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

Rogue Male, a novel published in 1939, isn’t about an elephant on the loose. It’s about a wealthy English nobleman who is a famous adventurer and apparently a big-game hunter. He decides to stalk the leader of a foreign country, supposedly not to assassinate him, but to see if an assassination would be possible. The Englishman, who is never named, is captured before he decides whether to pull the trigger. 

The foreign leader is never named either, but his country borders Poland, so it’s apparently Hitler. The Englishman is tortured and left for dead but escapes, eventually making his way back home. Unfortunately, he has to keep running, because the bad guys, not having found his corpse, are looking for him. So, eventually, are the police. Most of the novel takes place in the English countryside, and, surprisingly, underneath it. Once again, the hunter has become the hunted (hunters should be used to that by now). 

I heard about this novel because it’s one of the out-of-print books that the New York Review of Books has been reissuing. It’s a terrific adventure story and has been filmed twice. As with most adventure stories, it isn’t quite plausible, but it would be interesting to see a film version, or try to write one.  (5/17/12)