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The sign of the spider Paperback – September 13, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Nabu Press (September 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1171877668
  • ISBN-13: 978-1171877660
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,206,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gregg Zimmerman on July 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been a Bertram Mitford fan for a number of years. Of the four African adventure novels that I have read by him, "The Sign of the Spider" is my favorite.

Mitford was a contemporary of the much more famous H. Rider Haggard, and like Haggard wrote stories of adventure set in the colonial days of south Africa. He often mixed in supernatural/fantasy elements, also like Haggard. But he was far from being a mere Haggard imitator, as many of the "Lost Race" writers of the era were. Mitford was original and had his own voice. His world view and fictional approach were very different from Haggard's. H. Rider Haggard was at heart a Romanticist, and he had an endless faith in the dignity and ethical superiority of the Englishman. To Haggard, colonialism conferred blessings on the native Africans, and English colonial policy was based upon philanthropy and motivated by the noble cause of elevating the natives to a state of enlightened Christian civilization. Mitford, on the other hand, was a realist and even a naturalist. Mitford's focus charactors are often self-serving scoundrels with no reservations about straying beyond the boundaries of the law into criminal activities. Stanninghame, the protagonist of "the Sign of the Spider", abandons his family in England, and has no qualms about joining up with a slaving party after arriving in Africa and finding little success in legitimate commercial ventures. No Haggard hero would ever dream of such a thing. Likewise, to Mitford English colonial policy was based solely on mercantile gain and it ruthlessly exploited the native population. Making money and exerting control were the primary objectives of the British colonial presence.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 4, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Laurence Stanninghame is one of the most complex heroes I've encountered in Victorian fiction - a rogue and a cynic with noble qualities. We first meet him as a gentleman living in genteel poverty in the London suburbs, burdened with a shrewish wife, three children and a rapidly shrinking bank account. His only assets are hunting skills, reckless courage and nerves of steel. So he ships out to Johannesburg to seek his fortune, or die doing it.

In South Africa our hero does two despicable things. He gets involved with a beautiful young woman in Johannesburg without mentioning the wife and kids in London. And he turns slave trader up country to repair his finances. Somehow, despite this unworthy conduct, Stanninghame continues to engage our interest. His fearlessness, thoroughbred manners, caustic humor and iron self-control are seductive.

The action revolves around Stanninghame's horrific adventures in the miasmic African forests and the plains that are home to the People of the Spider. Ingenious twists of plot and Fate kept me glued to my armchair.

Bertram Mitford's depictions of cannibalism, tribal warfare, ritual sacrifice and slave raids are shockingly graphic for a late Victorian writer. An aristocratic colonial with broad life experience, Mitford spoke Zulu and once served with the frontier mounted police. As a popular fiction writer he was an important contributor to the high romance of Africa.

The Sign of the Spider was first published in 1896 to great success. The introduction, which I suggest reading after the book, goes deep into some fascinating theories on the symbolism of the spider and the behavior of the characters in terms of fin de siècle racism and imperialism.
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By Fantasyman on May 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the first of Bertram Mitford's works I have read. I am impressed with his writing as well as with his grasp of character. His eye for the haps, mishaps, and circumstances of life is sharp, observant, and to the point. His characters are fully three-dimensional, they talk, act and behave like real people. I can't recall any scene in the story where the actions and motivations of the characters didn't seem natural. His descriptions are good, in-depth and set the scene well. Mitford writes knowingly of Africa, yet, he never seems to veer of into travelogue-like monologues on the landscape. Then again, this story isn't just about Africa, it's really a story about the men that risked all to make great fortunes there in the days when the British Empire was at it's height. One thing is for sure, the hero of our story does things that he dare not speak of in later life.

This is a sweeping tale of adventure across the vast uncharted interior of Africa as it was before Western mores of civilization changed it forever. It's a tale of slave raiders, cannibals, fearless enemies in the vast lawlessness of Central Africa. 'One of the dark places of the World,' where mercy is a rare commodity, and morality is just a word.

For free on Kindle. If you are in the mood for something out of the ordinary, then this story is just the ticket.
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