The story of this book is set in the Missouri
Ozarks. I am not aware of any exact location. As with most
of Harold Bell Wright's books, this one has a huge autobiographical element to
it. Almost always described as a "sweet' story, this tale demonstrates that sometimes a good man just
needs to leave an unpleasant and unappreciative wife and move on to a
new one. Harold Bell Wright himself lost a lot a fans and admirers when he
filed for divorce from his first wife about the time he started writing
this book. He remarried a year after the book was published.
Robert Lewis, who owns a copy of The Recreation of Brian
Kent with the following inscription comments, "This book and the next
[The Eyes of the World] both have the name scratched out but they were
[evidently] close friends because this one had six or so personal pictures
of HBW pasted in the back." Chudleigh's guess: From the tone of this letter
and the one in The Eyes of the World, I assume both
inscriptions were written to a gentle little lady, who Wright thought would
be offended by the immoral events in Eyes. And that woman became a close
friend while Wright lived in the Mission Inn in Riverside, Calif. The only
person I am aware of who fits that description — and fits it very well — is the wife of the influential Armenian painter
Hovsep Pushman, the woman depicted in the painting
that Hovsep gave to Wright. Or maybe not.
How can I even
thank you for "Brian Kent"? You who were the first to
ever hear this story as it came, crude and unfinished from my hand in
the little study in Mission Inn - you more than you can even know made
the story what it is. Thank you is too little to say. Perhaps the book
itself can somehow make known to you my gratitude.
All American first editions are by
the Book Supply Company and look exactly like the illustrations above.
The first edition was also available in leather. Hodder and
Stoughton published a British first edition. The book was
reprinted by A. L. Burt and Appleton.
Most of the reprints carry no indication that they are not first
Total sales: 702,043
If you have wandered from book store to book store for
years looking for the Harold Bell Wright books still missing from your collection
you are probably tired of seeing this title. Even though it was
not Wright's best seller it seems to be among the most likely to show up for
sale. There are two versions of the dust jacket. The most
common one by far shows a young man walking into the woods with an
vulnerable-looking girl on his arm and an axe over his shoulder. Some
have speculated that it was this rather frightening scene that led the
publisher to use a less sinister illustration for a few later dust
jackets. This illustration (below) is found following page 328
in the novel. Thanks, Robert Lewis for
providing this photo:
On the right is an interesting edition owned by Robert
Lewis. Dutch Edition, The Hague (capital of the
Review of Book
by Dr. Joyce Kinkead Copyright
1979 by Joyce Kinkead. Used by
1919 Wright used the Ozarks again for his ninth novel, The
Re-Creation of Brian Kent. Unfortunately,
the novel does not maintain the quality which can be found in the
earlier novel. In The Shepherd of the Hills, the landscape
descriptions are realistic, depicting both the beauty of the spring
season and the brutality of a drought.
In contrast, Wright dwells upon trite sunsets in his later novel.
The novel focuses on Brian Kent, a bank clerk who steals money
from the Chicago bank where he works to placate his extravagant wife who
socializes with members of a degenerate, rich clique.