Best 1937 Adventures (8)

By: Joshua Glenn
May 12, 2017

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1937 adventure novels. Happy 80th anniversary!


Ernest Hemingway’s sea-going adventure To Have and Have Not.

When a boorish customer stiffs Key West’s Harry Morgan, his already shaky charter fishing business founders. He has a wife and three daughters to feed; so he agrees to transport some illegal Chinese immigrants, and hard liquor, in from Cuba. Harry’s boat crew — including a drunk who’s no longer much use as a sailor — are even more luckless “have notes” than he is. Cuban revolutionaries turn up, and nearly transform this novel into a political thriller… but although Harry sympathizes with their cause, he isn’t much impressed by the revolutionaries themselves. His true sympathies are with Key West’s idle but authentic “conches.” The writing is experimentalist, the plot disjointed. But the descriptions of Harry’s adventures at sea are terrific.

Fun facts: Hemingway complained that this was his worst book; some readers agree, while others think it’s brilliant. Part of it was published in Cosmopolitan in 1934; another part in Esquire in 1936. Loosely adapted in 1944 by Howard Hawks, as a film starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan and Lauren Bacall in her debut.


Let me know if I’ve missed any 1937 adventures that you particularly admire.


Adventure, Lit Lists