Picks and Pans Review: The Titan

updated 03/18/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/18/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Fred Mustard Stewart

The hero of this overstuffed novel by the author of Ellis Island and Century is Nick Fleming, illegitimate son of a Pennsylvania coal magnate and a beautiful Russian immigrant. He grows up before World War I, and after his mother is jailed for prostitution—she dies in prison—he attaches himself to his father's young widow, who later sends him to Princeton and adopts him. She makes a gentleman of him, and he tries Wall Street for a while. Then he goes to work for a gunmaker, seduces the boss' daughter, sails to Russia to deal with the government just before the Czar is overthrown, and moves on to London. There he falls in love with a viscount's daughter and convinces Winston Churchill that the American machine gun he's selling can win the war. Fleming and the viscount's daughter marry and he gets even richer in New York real estate. Because his wife thinks it would be fun to be a movie star, he buys a studio in Hollywood. If it's big events you want in your fiction, this novel has them. All the above is presented in flashback. The book starts with Fleming, an old man on his yacht, being stalked by a hired killer. Five hundred pages later the story returns to the assassin...ah, but we mustn't spoil the suspense. Stewart is a relentless yarn spinner whose characters are comic book figures. He uses historical events and personages when they suit his purpose—which is to keep his plot humming along. He provides the usual violence and sex, and some of the love stuff is quite funny: The virginal British beauty is deflowered and cries out, "Oh, my God. It's better than clotted cream!" The Titan, however, is not better than clotted cream. It's more like a tub of milk gone sour. (Simon and Schuster, $17.95)

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