There are two books I’ve picked up at a local thrift shop, each containing the feature story, an extra short as well as a biography, an introduction on the history of pulp fiction & previews for other Hubbard stories. I’m used to reading more contemporary books written in a more or less modern style, so I’ll try to ignore the 1930’s writing style here. The first title in this quadruple review being…
Originally published in 1937 in ‘Western Romances Magazine’, the story follows ‘Betsy Trotwood’, a young woman from the east who travels to the wild west with a chest full of money for her father. Her trip suddenly turns sour when Betsy is faced with bandits & decides to (stupidly) hide herself into her clothing chest. This leads Sunset, a bandit with a change of heart, to discover Betsy & grow feelings towards her. Love at first sight, I guess. This is also the turning point for Betsy when she finds out her father is a sadistic land grabber killing or having people forcefully sell him their land.
It’s a very short read, we as the readers get accustomed to the characters very quickly & the writing is decent enough to have a good time reading. Though the title lead me to believe it was going to be more romance than adventure, but I’m not disappointed.
The whole story is your typical, rough & tumble, pin by numbers western with nothing inventive or original. If you’re looking for a progressive western with deep characters with deep philosophy, then you’re looking in the wrong place.
When Gillhooly Was in Flower
This is an awkward title for a story that is basically a comedic, romantic, western version of ‘Don Quixote’. So as all of you can tell, Jigs Gilhooly is the main character, he’s an idiot & he’s played for laughs. Really, he did get me to chuckle, nothing laugh out loud here. The story begins with schoolmarm ‘Mary Ann’ who has feelings toward Gilhooly (Why? I will never know. I guess dorky, hillbilly stereotypes got way more action in the 30‘s than today), but can’t come to grips with the fact because he’s such an idiot. So she hands him a copy of ‘Ivanhoe’ to teach him how to be a smart manly man full of chivalry! The thing Gilhooly learns from reading Ivanhoe is not to be a man, but to be a knight, so he dresses himself & his horse like a knight with his own homeade javelin. Shoved into this comic tale is yet another land grabber who wants Gilhooly’s land & decides to kidnap the love interest in order to get what he wants. Seriously, what was up with the wild west & land?
Gilhooly is what you may call a character who evolves by the end of it & you can’t really hate a character like that. It’s a pulp that kept me entertained for the three hours I spent reading it, so it’s not the worst thing I’ve read in my life.
Then we come to the second copy of the Galaxy Press reprint of a pulp genre that was known as the ‘Oriental Adventure’.
Originally published in ‘Thrilling Adventures’ Magazine in 1935, the title pretty much gives everyone the bare necessities of what is going on in this ‘complex’ story. The story is written all in first person by an unnamed Indiana Jones styled character as he travels through China with a fellow archeologist in order to find six red diamonds. Along his adventure he comes across Chinese soldiers who want to keep him from finding the buried treasure.
This is one of those times where it felt less like I was reading a swashbuckling story which captured my imagination & felt more like hearing a drunk old person’s scribes about his so-called adventures from his youth. We don’t get very little time to absorb the surroundings of China or even the characters. The supporting characters, aside from the unnamed main character, are as paper thin as a finger puppet from Kindergarten class & the action sequences took me a while to absorb as L.Ron writes with vague descriptions.
I understood what I could understand, but at the end of the day this was a pretty boring, unsatisfactory story.
This is probably the first & hopefully the only story I read where I felt lost, confused & bored reading. One second I’m reading about the main character ‘Wind Gone Mad’ doing something, the next page he’s in jail with some American guy who felt like a background character rather than Wind Gone Mad’s sidekick. If I were to spend 15cents on a magazine containing this story, I would feel ripped off. I thought the story was about McCall who is sent to China in order to stop two armies from battling & obstructing a trade route. That’s all tossed aside & it’s all a vaguely written, rushed for the deadline, manuscript about adventuers. I know this isn’t a movie, but the story had too many awkward cuts in it. I didn’t have fun with this story.
The only positives I can give for both ‘The Trail of the Red Diamonds’ and ‘Hurricane’s Road’ is they both provide realistic (considering these stories were written in the 30’s) depictions of China. At that point writers who have never been to China described the country as this land of mystery with dragons & obese emperors with ninja assassins, pretty dated. I also give Hubbard Kudos for the character of ‘Wind Gone Mad’, a Chinese main character who is competent & isn’t played for cheap xenophobic laughs. Then again, the characters weren’t described or fleshed out as much, for all I know he may or may not be Chinese. Damn, that writing was too damn vague.
Hurricane’s Roar felt like the rushed script Hubbard submitted before the deadline for a free meal ticket. It’s understandable, considering the writers of this era sent in two scripts in order to feed their families or themselves. Both of these stories were Hubbard’s meal ticket for the week since they both felt rushed.
Best Story: When Gilhooly Was in Flower
Worst Story: Hurricane’s Roar