Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Never Walk Alone

cover image By: King, Rufus (male)
Publisher: Popular Library (362)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 314: PS3521 .I527 N48 1951
Contributor: K. Quinlivan

General

Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: Rufus King Geographic Locale: Bridgehaven (fictional town) Date of Publication: 1951  |  Original Date: 1944 Setting: small town in New England, a wealthy estate, World War II background Motives: blackmail and greed involving two rival groups of counterfeiters Alternate Title: The Case of the Dowager's Etchings

Plot Summary

With a burst of patriotic wartime fever, aging wealthy widow Mrs. Chesterton Giles decides to auction off one of her personal etchings to promote the sale of war bonds. Not content with that single gesture, she opens the guest rooms in her mansion to four factory workers from a local defense plant. Mrs. Giles isn't quite sure if this gesture would have received the approval of her late Papa, but she feels certain that her grandson, returning war hero Lieutenant Kent Giles, will understand her motives. Her generosity is quickly overshadowed by mystery when she discovers a corpse in the azalea bushes outside her front door, and locates her grandson's military I.D. tags in the dead man's hand. Anxious to protect her beloved grandson, Mrs. Giles assumes the role of amateur detective and she searches for clues to the murder, before ultimately realizing that appearances can be deceiving, and that not everyone in her household shares her code of honor, sense of patriotism and loyalty.


Major Characters

Mrs. Chatterton (Carrie) Giles elderly female, tall, silver hair, aristocratic widow

Russell Stedman adult male, early 40s, large, well-built, reserved, inscrutable, county prosecutor

Dugald Smith middle-aged male, stocky, plain-faced, thinning hair, defense plant worker

Fergus Wade adult male, young, handsome, simple-minded, defense plant worker and former merchant sailor

Effie Ashley adult female, early 20s, lots of makeup and perfume, gun inspector at a local defense factory

Jefferson Parling adult male, defense plant worker

Agualdo Russdorff adult male, "foreign looking", international crook specializing in blackmail

Dawn Davis adult female, husky voice, martini-drinking society gossip columnist always on the lookout for a great story

Kent Giles adult male, strong, tall, young, army lieutenant and war hero

Hopkins elderly male, aged 80, loyal servant

Ella elderly female, small, white hair, housemaid and wife of Hopkins

Leila adult female, flighty housemaid; niece of the estate's gardener


Weapons

knife, wrench


Level of Violence

minimal; description is matter-of-fact


Sexuality

sexual relationships are practically non-existent, other than the almost comical descriptions of Miss Ashley, who favors the direct approach when it comes to men. The elderly Mrs. Giles views Miss Ashley's behavior with disdain, and frets that her beloved grandson will be ensnared by this flirtatious woman.


Gender Roles

reflect the time period and setting; women function as domestic servants, while Miss Ashley's position as a defense plant worker is due to the economic effects of the War which forced women into jobs on the home front. Despite her advanced age, wealthy Mrs. Giles is depicted as strong, mentally alert, and with a vivid imagination; she is alternately naive and clever, but remains a throwback to a bygone era. Men who happen to have money (or are employed by those that do) are portrayed as devoted, honest, and reliable. Those born into harsher economic circumstances are greedy, scheming and not to be trusted.


Ethnicity

all characters seem to be of European-American heritage. Mrs. Giles is an aging aristocratic Wasp who is ultra conscious of manners, family lineage, and the invisible ties that bind members of the same economic class. Aware that the War has created an entirely different set of rules, she senses that the old class barriers are rapidly crumbling.


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

minor role; sherry and madeira are the drinks of choice for Mrs. Giles when etiquette dictates cordiality; the poorer folks settle for martinis and beer at the local watering holes. Several characters smoke cigars.


Law Enforcement

the county prosecutor is portrayed as industrious, intelligent, and understanding. Perhaps because of Mrs. Giles' advanced age and her social status, he takes a sympathetic view of her devotion to her grandson and her desire to shield him from adverse publicity. The prosecutor is frustrated at times, however, by her polite but stubborn refusal to cooperate completely with his investigation.


Added Features

plenty of contrast between Mrs. Giles' remembrance of things past with the changing lifestyles and values brought about by the War, including the number of women in the work force. There are numerous references to Franklin Roosevelt, the Axis powers, spies, rationing, war slang and the gasoline shortage. Class distinctions are noticeably evident as Mrs. Giles oozes wealth, status and privilege while her boarders come from much wider social strata. Her charitable gestures are to some extent designed to ease her inner turmoil, knowing that her lifestyle is simply the result of being born into a certain social class. She does not want to be associated in the minds of other people with the apathy and lack of concern shown by most members of the upper crust. She readily admits that her father was a cutthroat capitalist, and she recognizes that the desire for money and power often leads to violent clashes with the noble ideals of the past. Astrology is mentioned briefly when one character tries to foretell the future.


Subject Headings

World War, 1939-1945/ Elderly/ Wealth/ Class Distinction/ New England/ Counterfeiters


Psychological Elements

one character is described as being somehow different, "just a little vague" and not altogether there mentally, although her condition and its cause are never specifically pinpointed. She is referred to as a kleptomaniac and this is considered a private family matter that is not discussed with outsiders.