Books: Crinolines & Corruption

HOUSE DIVIDED (1514 pp.)—Ben Ames Williams—Houghton Mifflin ($5). Ben Ames Williams made his reputation as a writer of brawny short stories, many of which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. Like good hybrid corn, his yield has increased until it has overflowed into novels—novels that get bigger as Williams gets deeper into the American past. In Thread of Scarlet, he covered Nantucket Island during the War of 1812, in a mere 374 pages. Come Spring, a Revolutionary War novel, ran to 866 pages. His latest, House Divided, sprawls over fifteen hundred pages and four...

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