Rogue Male (novel)
|Publisher||Chatto & Windus|
The book was reissued in 2007 with an introduction by Victoria Nelson.
The protagonist, an unnamed British sportsman, sets out in the spring of 1938 to see if he can get an unnamed European dictator in the sights of his rifle. Supposedly interested only in the stalk for its own sake, he convinces himself that he does not intend to pull the trigger. Caught while taking aim by the dictator's secret service guards, he is tortured, thrown over a cliff and left for dead.
But he comes to and manages to make his way to a port, where he succeeds in stowing away on an English ship bound for London. Once there, he discovers that agents of the unnamed country are aware he has escaped and are after him. He evades one by pushing him onto the live rail in the London Underground, after which the police launch a nationwide manhunt for the murderer.
Unable to go to the British authorities, who cannot condone assassination of a head of state, and pursued both by agents of that state and by the police, he decides to go literally underground in Dorset. Reports that he has been sighted alert Quive-Smith, leader of the agents, who locates the hide and blocks the exit, leaving only a breathing hole. He wants his quarry alive.
Trapped, the protagonist ponders on his predicament and confesses to himself that he would in fact have pulled the trigger, as revenge for the execution of his fiancée by the totalitarian régime. Constructing a makeshift catapult or miniature Roman ballista (a kind of cross-bow), he induces Quive-Smith to look into the breathing hole and shoots him dead. Taking Quive-Smith's papers, money and car, he drives to Liverpool and boards a ship for Tangier. From there, he plans his second stalk, determined this time that he will not miss his target.
Interviewed by the Radio Times for the first screening of the BBC film version of the novel, Household explicitly acknowledged that he always intended the protagonist's target to be Hitler: "Although the idea for Rogue Male germinated from my intense dislike of Hitler, I did not actually name him in the book as things were a bit tricky at the time and I thought I would leave it open so that the target could be either Hitler or Stalin. You could take your pick."
- Man Hunt, starring Walter Pidgeon and George Sanders, was a 1941 Hollywood film based on Rogue Male, in which the unspecified dictator of the novel is explicitly identified as Hitler. For this version, Pidgeon's character is named Captain Alan Thorndike.
- In 1951, the story was adapted for American radio as a half-hour episode of the CBS anthology series Suspense. Herbert Marshall and Ben Wright starred.
- Rogue Male was a 1976 BBC TV film, starring Peter O'Toole, John Standing and Alastair Sim. For this version, O'Toole's character was named Sir Robert Hunter.
- The book was adapted for radio by the BBC, in 1989, as a 90-minute drama starring Simon Cadell and David Googe.
- In 2004, an unabridged reading of Rogue Male, performed by Michael Jayston, in fifteen half-hour episodes, was broadcast on BBC Radio 7. It was broadcast again on Radio 4 Extra in August/September 2012, and most recently in March/April 2014
The book influenced David Morrell's first novel, the 1972 "hunted man" action thriller First Blood, which spawned the Rambo film series. Morrell has acknowledged the debt in several interviews, including: "When I started First Blood, back in 1968, I was deeply influenced by Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male."
In 2005 Robert Macfarlane and Roger Deakin set out to find the possible location of the 'holloway' where the protagonist makes his stand in Dorset. Deakin writes of it in his posthumously published diaries Notes from Walnut Farm, and Macfarlane in his introduction to a reissue of Rogue Male and his own book Holloway.
Household published a sequel, Rogue Justice, in 1982. A fifteen-part abridged reading by Michael Jayston was broadcast on BBC Radio 7 in 2009 and subsequently repeated there and on BBC Radio 4Extra.