Day of the Conquerors by Niven Busch. Harper and Brothers (1946), 276 pp.
This may be Niven’s Busch’s most fully realized novel. In it war correspondent Mark Gregory returns to San Francisco after more than two years in the Pacific theater. The Japanese have just surrendered, and the city is bracing for another day of celebration. Like other Americans (and most characters in the book), Mark ponders the changes that peace will bring to the world, the country, and his own life. In particular, he wonders about his marriage and the peculiar behavior of his wife, Corinne. The story moves on to others to whom Mark is somehow connected: his young son Lorry, left-wing activist Steve Brogan, weary diplomat Baron Van Ruysman, angry international businessman Roy Larish, and sergeant Brick Pollard, back from the war but not the hostility. Descriptions of their activities round out the author’s slice-of-life picture of America at the conclusion of the war. Busch adds passages that approach reportage. Here, for example, is Mark’s view from the street: “This wasn’t a happy-go-lucky crowd, the kind he’d heard described as he crossed the Pacific: there was a restless feeling in the air, a letdown, an anger, a choked-up mood fast turning into a yen to smash something.” (p. 172) So this is an ambitious book, dealing with the problems of individuals and the mood of the country. The writing is vigorous and the characters unusual. The revelation near the end of the book, however, may be less surprising to modern readers than it was to Mark. Compared with a couple of Busch’s other novels, Day of the Conquerors seems fresher than The Actor and less didactic than They Dream of Home.