Private Demons

by MacDonald Harris. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1961.

From the Jacket:

It was in Marseilles that Mr. Alfred Benturian conceived his great idea. In a career devoted to fantasies, it was his most improbable and most lucrative one: a cruise on a royhal yacht, with a list of passengers culled from the pages of the Almanach de Gotha. It was true that the Melpone had grown a little rusty since her erstwhile owner, the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, had died in 1916. But the plumbing fixtures were still solid silver, and a little paint can do wonders. The obstacles were insignificant, the potential profits dazzling. Who could have foreseen that the trusted Ampersand nursed ambitions to become a Napoleon of crime? Or that piracy and shipwreck lurked under the smooth waters of the Mediterranean.

The improbable fantasy became fact. The yacht steamed out of port in an atmosphere of spurious elan, its bottom patched with good intentions. The passengers, distinguished more for coronets than kind hearts, included one bit of deposed (and decayed) royalty, an eccentric British peer who dabbled in the occult, a highly questionable Rumanian prince--and Marth, Stanford co-ed turned countess, who shared Mr. Benturian's penchant for haute cuisine.

This account of the last, glorious days of the Melpomene, who sank with both a bang and a whimper, is told with gaiety and wit. Private Demons is the skillful first novel of MacDonald Harris, whose short stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Return to Harris/Heiney publications page