by Howard Melvin Fast
Jacket Picture by John Gram
In "Two Valleys" the Dial Press believes that it is presenting to the American public the work of a new novelist of the first order. "Two Valleys" is the story of a woman and two men_the love of the two men for the woman, against a background of frontier war at the time of the American Revolution. It is indeed a story of adventure, and an exciting one, replete with Indians and frontiersmen, and attacked stockades, but it is something deeper, too. It tells of Bess, of her love for Kenny, the ne'er-do-well adventurer, who deserts her and her child; of Max who marries her and takes her through the wildnerness; of her sufferings and her growing love for her husband; of his heroic struggles to protect her and her child; of the return of Kenny, and of his final and equally heroic sacrifice. Bess, Kenny, and Max are three splendidly drawn figures, and mark Mr. Fast as a master of the human heart, as well as a story-teller of unusual power. "Two Valleys" is a first novel well able to stand beside such works as "The Great Meadow" and the novels of Thomas Boyd, and in maturity of outlook and technique bears no hint of the youth of the author. Mr. Fast is not yet nineteen.
from the dust jacket of the 1933 Dial Press first edition
From Frank Campenni's 1971 dissertation, Citizen Howard Fast
The setting for "Two Valleys" is Virginia in 1775, and the story concerns itself mainly with the love of young Bess for two men, Kenny Wester and Max Calver. When the novel opens, Kenny, who has been raised in Bess' home by her Aunt Allie, has suddenly returned from two years of aimless wandering in the west. Surprised that his childhood companion is now a woman, Kenny offers to marry her and settle down. The plan meets with no objection from Bess or Aunt Allie, only a worried suspicion that wanderlust will someday again claim Kenny. Before long, he does indeed leave to serve as a frontier scout for the Colonial cause, though the war means little except adventure and a strange need to rejoin the wilds. He is not aware that Bess is pregnant, and Bess, unwilling to plead her stomach to hold a reluctant lover, bears her shame and disappointment in silence.
Kenny is replaced by Max Calver, a blacksmith and boyhood friend who proves truer and teaches Bess of love's deeper foundations. Bess marries the gentle, persistent Max and they leave for a new life in the west. Kenny returns only hours after their departure and learns the terrible news.
After years of hardship and hard work by Max, the "blonde giant," the young couple have made a home in the west. Max has totally accepted the child fathered by Kenny, and they are settled respectably among the bold frontiersmen and women. Then the once distant war moves in and the settlement is subjected to a devastating raid by combined forces of Indians and British. Nearly everyone is killed. But just as Bess, a wounded Max and their four year old child are about to be massacred, they are rescued by Kenny, who suddenly appears as a British scout. He bargains successfully for their lives, makes one last savage attempt to reclaim Bess' love, and then leaves Bess to rebuild with Max the stable life that Kenny could never offer.