Friday, 17 January 2014

Friday’s Forgotten Books: The Best of Adventure, vol. 1, 1910-1912

This book collects the best stories from the first three years of publication of Adventure magazine, a pulp magazine that was considered one of the best pulp magazines. In this review, I’ll focus only on the highlights, which are reason enough to buy the book in my opinion.

The Soul of a Regiment – This story by Talbot Mundy might be offensive to modern sensibilities; it is a story of colonial spirit and the white man’s burden. It can also be read as a story of a man striving to meet his ideals. Sergeant Billy Grogram takes a bunch of ragtag recruits, gives them a sense of pride and creates the idea of the honor of a regiment in their minds.

Brethren of the Beach – This novelette by H.D. Couzens is the highlight of the collection for me. A gang of assorted rejects from society plan to plunder an untouched oyster reef before the owner comes to mine it. They find a treasure in pearls but their greed and lack of trust in each other lead to betrayal.

His present life filled him with disgust. …

What lay hidden in the corruption of the pearl-shell was at present problematical. Divided among six, with a share for the Kanakas, it might mean much or be a mere trifle. At least his share would be a nest-egg to be put to some use. His companions, he knew, would use theirs in carousals at the first port they drifted to, but he was done for good with this side of life.

Many thousand similar resolutions have been breathed to the stars of the tropic night or the crooning surf by men on island beaches writhing in an anguish of self-pity or remorse, to be forgotten with the first fair wind of tomorrow.

Another reviewer has compared this story to the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but I think the noir heist movies of the 1940s and 50s (Rififi, The Killing) are closer to this story in spirit. I felt somewhat let down by the unexpectedly happy ending for the hero.

A Pair of Mules – Nevil G. Henshaw wrote stories of the Louisiana bayous and the Cajuns living along it – his stories have plenty of local color, but what stands out for me is the strong characterizations of the people. I have read some of his other stories in Outing Magazine, and wish someone would put out a collection of them.

A social outcast dreams of owning a farm, and his mules are key to farming the land. When an outbreak of infectious disease causes the villagers to destroy his mules, he sees his dreams shattered and decides to avenge himself on the village. But before he completes his revenge, he sees something …

Juban shook his head. He was a huge, hairy-looking wild man, brown and strong from his life in the open, and bearing himself with the quiet alertness of one who has made his living from his gun. In his face alone was none of the keen watchfulness of the hunter. Here there was only a dazed look of misery

The Mate’s Log – Arthur Somers Roche sets a story of doom in the Sargasso sea. In the real world, the Sargasso sea is a place with some seaweed and little wind. The Sargasso sea in the story is a morass of weed that sucks in ships and, in this case, lures a crew of greedy men hunting for treasure to their doom.

The other stories I enjoyed include "The Plot of Signor Salvi" by Marion Polk Angellotti and "The White Queen of Sandakan" by James Francis Dwyer.

Now for some criticism: The detective story "31 New Inn" by R. Austin Freeman felt out of place in this collection of adventure stories and could perhaps have been left out to make room for some other stories. For each story, the illustration should have been included.

These are minor quibbles, however, and with 7 sea stories, 4 westerns, 6 non-genre and 2 Middle East stories, there is something for every lover of adventure fiction in this book. This is an excellent collection of short fiction, and I wished it wouldn’t end.

For reference, the contents are given below:




“The Outriders”


H. Bedford Jones

"The Soul of a Regiment"


Talbot Mundy

"The Luck of the Annie Crosby"

Sea Stories

Frederick William Wallace

"A Soft Answer From the Kid"


Willett Stockard

"Brethren of the Beach"

Sea Stories

H.D. Couzens

"The Pretender"


Rafael Sabatini

"A Pair of Mules"


Nevil G. Henshaw

"The Mate's Log"

Sea Stories

Arthur Somers Roche

"The Pied Piper, Junior"


Damon Runyon

"From the Book of Fate"

Middle East

George E. Holt

"The Preacher and the Gun-Man"


Hapsburg Liebe

"The Master"

Sea Stories

George Buchanan Fife

"The Plot of Signor Salvi"


Marion Polk Angellotti

"The Hate of Ismail Bey"

Middle East

Bertram Atkey

"The White Queen of Sandakan"


James F. Dwyer

"McQuinn, Sheriff"


William Tillinghast Eldridge

"The Albatross"

Sea Stories

William Hope Hodgson

"The Rug of Imam"

Middle East

Adele M. Donovan

"31 New Inn"


R. Austin Freeman

"Two On Trinity"

Sea Stories

Frank Lillie Pollock

"That Prodigious Postscript"


John Lewis

"The Bravery of Bertie McDodd"


George B. Seitz

"Captain Curlew's Atonement"


C. Langton Clarke

"The Final Average"

Sea Stories

Frank L. Packard

"The End"


Stephen Allen Reynolds



H. Bedford Jones

1 comment:

  1. 31 New Inn by Austin Freeman makes up about 15% of the book. Yet Austin Freeman has been out of copyright for a while and therefore available for free on the web. I hate it when publishers sell us books containing large chunks which are readily downloadable for free.