Nat Gould

His life and books

The Roar of the Ring

First published in 1900 by Routledge, the last of their Nat Gould books.

A contemporary reviewer reported it as "An addition to the lengthy list of sporting novels by this well-known holder-up of the mirror to the turf. The "ring" is the betting-ring, the scene is laid in Australia, and the same atmosphere of double-dealing and chicanery surrounds it as surrounds the original institution in the mother country. "The Roar of the Ring" is not Nat Gould's best effort, and a fair estimation of it is expressed in the title of a novel by the same author, which we will leave our readers to select for themselves" (1).

Presumably he meant "A Rank Outsider" rather than "A Dead Certainty" (both published in the same year). Nevertheless it was reissued several times and is currently still in print. Was it "Not So Bad After All" ?

No, the 1900 reviewer was right. The book is far from being Nat Gould's best. The characters are flat and inconsistent. They wander the streets of Bathurst shunting the plot backwards and forwards. The story of a rich uncle found dead in his study is quickly lost among irrelevant verbiage arguing a case for bookmakers and gambling that is preachy, pompous and petulant. Even the racing scenes are dull. There are no surprises, no villains, no likeable people. There are occasional flashes of what the author could achieve, as when a maddened horse bolts unseen through the dark night. There are germs of interesting themes - the drunken carriage-builder, the anxious innkeeper, the secretive uncle - that never develop.

The thin story is rapidly concluded. Then follow three unrelated articles called Up-Country Race Meetings, Country Scenes, and Bush Fires. The collection ends with verses entitled A Ride for Life that previously appeared in a Sydney newspaper. Nat Gould was a marvellous story teller who could enthrall the reader. His talent did not lie in polemic, travel writing and poetry. (TA)

(1) The Birmingham Post Tuesday 22 May 1900.