James Bond. Doc Savage. Indiana Jones. MacGyver. All guys who seemed to have unlimited resources and unlimited adventures. All owe something to the pulp action stories of yesteryear — with Doc Savage being one of the icons of that era.
Now we have Gabriel Hunt.
The Gabriel Hunt series is an attempt to bring back the pulp action hero by the folks at Hard Case Crime who have almost single-handedly brought back this genre (now published by Titan Books). With a premise of Hunt being “backed by the resources of the $100 million Hunt Foundation and armed with his trusty Colt revolver,” how can you go wrong?
The series is fast-paced escapism as Hunt travels the world in search of lost places, deadly ancient mysterious and Bond-esque villains at every turn. And, of course, Hunt is quite the lady’s man.
Unfortunately, the series only went six volumes. Recently re-released (although not with the original pulp-art covers), maybe the Hunt Foundation will return? Perhaps Hunt can save us from too much “heavy handed message fic” — not that we want to check out from the issues of society, but sometimes escapist fiction can teach us a thing or two.
Like that we need a few more Hunts, Savages and MacGyvers in the world.
We’ve often been told that adventure fiction is dead or not worthy of note other than a quick escape from reality. Apparently authors and film makers have not been made aware of this impending collapse of their world. In fact, they have been told for decades that there is no place for their fiction. Even over a century ago, when Edgar Rice Burroughs came on the scene, author Brian Stableford wrote in an introduction to a recent edition of Tarzan that, “…critics thought the Romantic tradition might be outdated and ripe for replacement.” What they called the “Romantic tradition” was embodied in the high adventures of H. Rider Haggard or Jules Verne. Burroughs added to the mix John Carter of Mars and Lord Greystroke — otherwise known as Tarzan. Stableford continues:
Burroughs demonstrated…that there is something in the Romantic tradition that offers a deep and fundamental appeal to the human imagination…[and] Tarzan does so by appealing to the frustrations of conformity that we all feel in living in a complex society…[but] Tarzan does not merely live an ideal existence in his symbolic jungle, but he also carries the skills learned there into his social intercourse with the damaged products of civilization.
Literary-level thought in Tarzan among the unrelenting action? Perhaps many have had their perception colored by the many bad films that stray from the source material. Even Burroughs considered the movie versions in his day “travesties.” A new film this summer may remedy that and provide a needed respite from superhero overload.
Ironically, Tarzan was one of the first modern superheros that inspired much of what followed. And he taught us a thing or two about society along the way.
I have posted numerous times on the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His knack for fantastic adventures set the stage for books and film for decades right up to this day. Funny, though, I have never read his best known series.
Twenty-six books in the series were penned by Burroughs. Some 200 films have the name Tarzan in the title, but most stray considerably from the source material. First written in 1912, Tarzan finally gets the big budget Hollywood treatment it deserves:
Disney failed to launch Burroughs’ epic Barsoom tales into a franchise (though take a look at how much Burroughs’ Mars books inspired Star Wars), but maybe Warner Brothers can bring Tarzan into the 21st Century.
And quite frankly, we need a hero who isn’t a mutant or alien.
The busyness of the Christmas season has become nearly a tradition itself. Many are bogged down in the Retail Apocalypse right to the last hours of Christmas Eve. Stores will do anything to get in you in the door and our leaders will smile at the minor economic bump and run and hide when it’s erased with post-holiday debt. Nevertheless, perhaps you’re like me and try to carve some time out of these weeks to tone it down a bit. Perhaps you’d like to go on an adventure? Disappear into the jungles searching for lost cities like Indiana Jones?
No, seriously, you can for only a few dollars.
In The Lost City of Z, you can follow the trail of legendary explorer Percy Fawcett. In 1925, he disappeared into the Amazon looking for the fabled city. When you’re done, head to Honduras in Jungleland and search for Ciudad Blanca — perhaps the fabled El Dorado. Then head back down south and follow the footsteps of Hiram Bingham and explore Machu Picchu in Cradle of Gold.
So take a breath, turn the lights down, and vanish into another world.
Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, artifacts, Books, Forgotten Places, History, Mysteries, Native Americans
Tags: Adventure, Cradle of Gold, Hiram Bingham, Jungleland, Lost City of Z, Machu Picchu, Percy Fawcett
In my continuing quest to find great “vintage” sci-fi and fantasy, I now turn to Lin Carter’s Thongor books. The six volume series takes place in the mythical lost continent of Lemuria. Thongor of Valkarth, the near-barbarian exile, finds himself on one near-death adventure after another across Lemuria. Not surprisingly, he rescues himself a princess and becomes a ruler and warrior of note. Often compared to Conan (which Carter also contributed to), but the stories ring closer to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tales of peril. Perhaps that’s why I was drawn into this series more than Conan. The first outing is rather brief and straight-forward, but the storytelling in book 2 reaches that Burroughs-level of constant, page turning escapades. I think this kind of quick and fun adventure will, if it hasn’t already, find success with modern audiences. Sometimes authors try a little too hard in their world-building and narrative. Unfortunately, this series is a short one.
Sometimes – if not quite often – readers want to be swept away into another world full of larger-than-life, sword-swinging heroes facing unimaginable peril and rescuing their beautiful women. Thongor is all of this.
Politically incorrect? Perhaps to some. Fun and entertaining? Most certainly.
Robert Ellsmore Grandon stifled a yawn…He was tired of life at twenty-four, he decided – tired and disillusioned and trapped…[he] yearned for action, adventure, romance – something that seemed to be gone in this world of the Twentieth Century.
That is how Otis Adelbert Kline’s novel Planet of Peril began.
And it was written in 1930.
We often think that our lives are unique to our time, but in many ways they are not. So were the fantastic adventures of Kline and his contemporary Edgar Rice Burroughs, at their foundation, a reflection of buried desires? In particular the desire not to be suppressed and molded by whichever social and political masterminds are currently in style? To not be drug into endless, mindless repetition? The rebellion against conformity and corruption?
Perhaps some think this is reading too much into the over-the-top adventures from sci-fi’s first Golden Era. On the other hand, those extreme adventures may also be reminders of how far we fall from our potential.
Read to be entertained. Read to get lost. Read to be inspired.
Why do people love fictional stories and adventures so much? Because they mirror what is inside us. A desire to do to great things and go beyond the horizon. Do what we were meant to be. There is destiny written on our souls for us to choose or ignore. Jason Clark writes in his book Surrendered and Untamed on this discovery:
I no longer desire to be on the fringe, yet neither will I try to fit the mold. I’ve come to see there’s swimming against the stream just to swim against the stream. And then there’s swimming against the stream like the salmon do — to give others life so others might live — and to get back home. You face predators along the way and the trip is exhausting and you die a thousand deaths, but you do it for the glory and the story.
I’ve written on how The Land that Time Forgot and The Lost World inspired all the books and films about lost lands and hidden creatures that came after them.
These books appeal to our fascination of the mysterious and unknown. No matter how far we advance, there is always something tugging at our minds. That’s why we explore. An that’s why many write. J. Allan Danelek‘s new book, Serpente Gigante, is the latest in this legacy of stories.
There are a lot of over-the-top books out there with Indy-clones or people where the impossible always seems to happen to. Yes, the whole point of fiction (or one, anyway) is to explore the impossible. Alternate realities that most likely never will exist. On the other end of the spectrum are those books that present their fantastic tale in a more plausible fashion. These books are just as interesting and that is where Danelek’s resides.
Brazilian jungles. Giant snakes. It may sound familiar, but the characters make it real. They aren’t quite as perfect or lucky as some other heroes. One subplot — let’s just say man’s tampering with what he shouldn’t — is not of uncommon territory. Yet it fits well because it is an increasingly real danger in our world.
Danelek has created a fast-paced diversion that considers various ideas without the heavy-handedness seen in other books. This is the first of a series, a decent first entry. So here’s the question:
Are you afraid to explore the unknown?