Books: Horn Tooter

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RESTLESS Is THE RIVER—Augusf Derleth —Scribner ($2.50).

Good writers are supposed to make their name on merit alone; bad writers are supposed to be those who go around tooting their own horns. That supposition is not accurate. The trick is, for the critic, to shut out the tooting long enough to hear himself think.

A horn tooter is August Derleth, burly-chested, blond, 30-year-old native of a sleepy, picturesque village called Sauk City, Wis. (pop. 1,137). Last fortnight he published his 14th book, Restless Is the River, a historical novel laid in the Sac Prairie country, revolving around a democratic-minded Hungarian count who flees Metternich's terror, settles in Sac Prairie, and in a whirlwind decade founds a thriving town while his wife goes insane from loneliness.

Author Derleth wrote this tale in seven weeks. He plans to write about 50 more in the same series—a Sac Prairie Saga. A champion letter writer to the press, a sort of village Merlin, Derleth has contributed over 1,000 stories to more than 200 magazines, from pulp thrillers to Scribner's and Story, His 14 books include murder mysteries, poems. He writes a mystery story in a week, turns out 500,000 words a year. His journal now runs to almost 1,000,000 words.

Indefatigable August Derleth is also Clerk of the Sauk City Board of Education (salary $76 per annum), sponsors the local Boy Scouts, participates in a community theatre, organized a PTA (though neither teacher, parent nor married man). Self-appointed "watchdog in village politics," he issues broadside pamphlets muckraking the village board. He snoops in housewives' kitchens looking for good cake. Fellow villagers "consider me an egotist likely to get his horns bumped off, but they can't help liking me," says Derleth. "I enjoy life and nobody takes me seriously, thank God."

In spite of all his busy horn tooting, August Derleth cannot be called a bad writer. Restless Is the River is better than its predecessors, stacks up with better-than-average historical novels.