Literature: Rogue Male
"The behavior of a rogue may fairly be described as individual, separation from its fellows appearing to increase both in cunning and ferocity. These solitary beasts, exasperated by chronic pain or widowerhood, are occasionally found among all the larger carnivores and graminivores, and are generally males, though, in the case of hippopotami, the wanton viciousness of the cows is not to be disregarded."1939 thriller written by Geoffrey Household in which a bored upper-class British hunter is arrested in the grounds of an un-named dictator's residence with his hunting rifle in hand. His claim, maintained under torture, that he was stalking the dictator purely as an exercise in the skill of the hunt and that he had no intention of firing is so audacious that it is almost believed - but nonetheless he cannot be allowed to live. To execute such a well-connected Briton would cause an international incident, so his captors decide to kill him by throwing him over a cliff so that his body will show injuries consistent with accidental death. Though badly injured he survives and manages to make his way to the Channel and from there back to England. Where he discovers that home does not mean safety, nor an end to the pursuit.
— Epigraph to Rogue Male
This book contains examples of:
- Buried Alive: How it looks as if the protagonist will end up when he is tracked down and trapped in his last bolt-hole, an earthen den scarcely bigger than a coffin.
- Cold Sniper: The unnamed protagonist thinks of himself as this, until, when in an apparently hopeless situation, he admits to himself that he has more personal and tragic motives that he had not allowed himself to think about - his lover (implied to be Jewish) was executed by the dictator.
- Epigraph: As quoted above, describing the behaviour of rogue males among the animals that the protagonist is accustomed to hunt. It contains a Title Drop and foreshadows the cunning and ferocity that the solitary protagonist demonstrates in the story. A hint as to his motives is also given.
- Even Mooks Have Loved Ones: The protagonist appears to worry about this trope when the landlady of Johns, the agent he killed in Aldwych Station, mentions Johns' 'poor old mother' in press interviews. Subverted when this comment disappears from later editions of the press, suggesting the mother was a cover story for his work.
- Evil Counterpart: Major Quive-Smith, the agent assigned to hunt down the protagonist. As with the protagonist, we never hear his real name, although the protagonist eventually learns it. Like the protagonist, Quive-Smith comes from an aristocratic background, appears to have extensive experience of big game hunting, is multilingual, resourceful, and ruthless but cultured. The protagonist himself says: 'I have neither cruelty nor ambition, I think; but that is the only difference between Quive-Smith and myself.'
- The Film of the Book: Twice made into a movie, by Fritz Lang as Man Hunt (1941) and a 1970s TV movie starring Peter O'Toole.
- Gentleman Adventurer: Complete with well-hidden higher motives.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The protagonist instructing Muller on how to spend a night, concealed, in Lisbon. "If you drink a coffee at any of the bars in the centre of the town, I expect some way of passing a discreet but pleasant night will occur to you." Muller later repeats these instructions 'crudely'.
- Great White Hunter: The narrator's former hobby. Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: his current hobby at the start and end of the book.
- The Hunter Becomes The Hunted: And how. The main character goes from being a cool aristocrat stalking his prey with a rifle to being a hunted animal, literally driven to earth.
- Improvised Catapult: Making savagely ironic use of materials provided by his enemies, namely the sinews and skin from the dead body of a cat of which he had been fond, killed by his pursuers and thrust into his dugout to torment him, the protagonist improvises a catapault to power a bolt of Laser-Guided Karma in Major Quive-Smith's direction.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: In a distant, respectful way (and while living almost as a wild animal himself), the protagonist enters into a cautious friendship with a wild cat.
- Oh Crap!: Muller when the protagonist holds him at gunpoint after having killed Quive-Smith and escaped from his lair. He also exhibited 'all the involuntary reactions of panic'
- Police Are Useless: Despite the fact that the police had a rough idea of the location of the protagonist long before he knew they had traced his movements, he easily manages to evade pursuit several times, and sets a false trail for them to follow. They have no idea of his real identity. Quive-Smith, on the other hand, isn't fooled for a moment.
- Sinister Subway / The London Underground: A fight to the death in a deserted tunnel of the now-disused Aldwych London Underground station ends with the "hideous, because domestic, sound of sizzling."
- Trapped in Villainy: The Swiss employee (though he doesn't seem to have resisted much).
- Unreliable Narrator: From a desire to repress traumatic memories the main character is this.
- Worthy Opponent: Major Quive-Smith and the protagonist pretend to see each other this way. The mask sometimes slips for both of them.