DCIB Book Club: Ranson’s Folly! Romance and Adventure in the West!!!

Oh, I really hope a lot of you read this! I just love it because it is so ridiculous, and I feel like DCIB is a community that loves the ridiculous.

This is the most ridiculous wish fulfillment-y kind of a story for boys, but I don’t care, because it is enjoyable for me too! Let me explain why:

The heroine is respected for her personality! Richard Harding Davis is big on spunky brave heroines who are more interesting than just pretty women.

The hero doesn’t fully buy into his own awesomeness. RHD heroes are always brave and smart and stuff, but just think of themselves as regular people who muddle along and try to do the right thing. They aren’t ambitious, if that makes sense, they see themselves as just regular people trying to help.

The world of RHD is so insular that it isn’t that racist/classist? Sort of by accident. He never bothers to write non-white characters, or even non-super-educated or non-moderately-well-off characters. This story comes close, but it lands on kind of a middle-class pleasant reformed older criminal.

The PLOT!!!! This is like an Agatha Christie sort of in terms of him clearly starting with the central riddle of the story and then building all the rest around it. Just such a great tension. Father secretly robbing to pay to make his daughter a lady, then framing someone else for his crimes who he realizes is the man his daughter loves, and the man realizing the father is guilty, and this whole ever growing confusion.

RANSON'S FOLLY by Richard Harding Davis - First edition - 1902 - from Andre  Strong Bookseller (SKU: 11244)

To make that central riddle work (which I do think was his main interest), he had to sell us on the heroine and the romance, and I think he does. Making her this kind of diamond in a coal mine type, with a natural dignity and intelligence that makes her the equal of a son of privilege, more so than the striving officer’s wives. And making their romance this thing neither of them says out loud even to themselves and they just sort of drift into it, until suddenly it is a Big Big Thing for them. I buy the hero as a smart bored young man who has a little more growing up to do, and the heroine as a young woman who is more romantic than she lets herself believe.

Ranson's Folly (1915) - IMDb


First most important: Who would you cast as father, hero, and heroine? Stay with me on this, I would do Shahrukh, Varun, Alia. Right??? And have it a, like, construction zone or something where the young rich son is sent off to work and ends up hanging out at the local canteen owned by Shahrukh who has a villainous past.

Second question: Was the heroine too drab? Should she have been smarter and talked more instead of just going along with things mostly?

Third question: Is this relationship actually going to last? Or did they fall in love with the idea of each other more than the reality?

Fourth question: If you had to choose, do you think the hero or the father should have taken responsibility? On the one hand, if the father takes it, he can go to jail and his daughter can marry and have her whole life wiped clean. Also, he is actually guilty. On the other hand, if the hero takes it, it will all be hushed up and nothing bad will really happen to him because he is so powerful.

Final question: do you feel the need to read any more Richard Harding Davis, or is this pretty much enough for you?

5 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club: Ranson’s Folly! Romance and Adventure in the West!!!

  1. You’re right about this being a boy’s fantasy. It definitely doesn’t feel like a man’s.

    I imagined the father somewhere along the lines of Charles Dance, even before he turned out to be a criminal. Do we have someone like that in Indian film? Somehow I want the close-cropped hair, otherwise I’d say Amish Puri, even if we need a time machine. But then we’re back a generation and might as well cast SRK and Kajol just for the sake of silly wish fulfillment.

    The heroine was definitely more realistic than the hero, so I’d say that outweighs the fact that she’s less interesting on her own.

    I think the couple is well matched. I mean if she’s silly enough to want the kind of hero Ranson represents, then he surely is that silly kind of hero. Their continued happiness would then depend on both of them growing up at about the same time.

    I can’t root for the actual robber even if he isn’t guilty this once. Of course, I wouldn’t want him to hang for a murder he didn’t commit, so I can live with the actual resolution. But I’m really, really with the title that describes this whole adventure as a “folly”. And, come to think of it: If Ranson always knows that he’d get off even if he’s caught, what is his bet even worth? Well yes, privileged young guy, for you it doesn’t take any guts to fake hold-up the stage coach.

    This is a very different kind of story from what I’d normally read, so it’s good to know that this kind exists, that there are people with the kind of wishes that would be fulfilled by this kind of story.

    Also, random thought: Did anyone else stumble over the alkali water infused with coffee? There was actually a proto-cola in the old West?


    • What about Naseeruddin Shah? Older, still cool, still can be a little scary when he has to be? Or Aamir (since it is his birthday today)? Surprisingly young looking for a father, still active and strong and so on.

      Ha! I think you nailed it with it being a boy’s fantasy, and a silly kind of hero. All the RHD books are like that, heroes who have a very simple unthinking view of the world, bravery and doing the right thing, but no ability to have abstract thought. Or forethought, of any kind.

      Now I have a very depressing (possibly realistic) idea of the couple getting married, her continuing to read and think and learn, and eventually getting sick of her boy-husband and just feeling trapped with him.

      Yep! It’s like a privileged young man in modern times buying drugs on a bet. Not to get the drugs, but just to do something dangerous and exciting. But of course if he actually gets arrested, who cares? He can always get off.

      Not at all surprised by proto-cola!!! Real cola came along about the same time, I would expect that it was based on the alkali water thing.

      On Sun, Mar 14, 2021 at 9:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • I’m kind of imagining someone tall as the father. Other than that, Amir actually might work best from that generation. Of course, the father is at least as silly as the hero, seeing as he’s still behaving just as stupidly later in life.


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