Many of us who are Christians and/or conservatives have enjoyed Russell Kirk’s books over the years. Although The Conservative Mind gets most of the attention, I suspect some may have found The Roots of American Order to be a better read. The difference is that The Conservative Mind is early scholarship that happened to hit just the right note at the time whereas The Roots of American Order is the wide-ranging reflection of a learned academic wise-man with a heck of a jazzy hook. The Roots of American Order , it turns out, can be found in Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and London. It’s a wonderful way to start a book which is a fusion of historical and political analysis.
Neither of these volumes is Kirk’s best seller.
The all-time champion of the Kirk canon, supposedly outselling all the rest combined, is The Old House of Fear . Quite a few conservatives know that Kirk wrote some ghost stories, but haven’t read them. I took the plunge several months back and read Ancestral Shadows , which is a fantastic collection of his stories offered by Eerdmans. You can read that review here .
The publisher recently sent me The Old House of Fear so I could read Kirk’s novel length entry in the supernatural story genre. Having finished the book, I can again express satisfaction with Kirk’s handiwork. The novel features a good plot and a excellent character study. A wealthy old man wants to buy land on a semi-inaccessible Scottish Isle, but has a terrible time pulling it off despite his fantastic means. He hires a military veteran turned lawyer to travel there and find a way to make the purchase happen. Events unfold in an exciting manner from that point. The veteran/lawyer character is wonderfully drawn. He is in his late 30’s, single, physically sturdy, resourceful and somewhat wasted in legal practice. Part of what makes the book work is our desire to see what this complex man will do as he encounters obstacles. The villains are well established, too. And fairly creepy.
When you have that open weekend when you want to spend time in your favorite chair reading a good book, the kind you can just enjoy instead of alertly marking up and taking notes, I highly recommend The Old House of Fear and Ancestral Shadows .