Ole Gunderstrom has been shot. The circumstantial evidence points to Buck Mason as the murder. Buck and Ole had an argument over a fence between their property. Since Buck the deputy sheriff disappeared right after the murder everyone thinks that he is guilty.
Buck knows he is innocent and has opted to go undercover. Adopting the persona of Bruce Marvel a wealthy eastern tenderfoot he checks into the TF dude ranch. The owner Cory Blaine is running a cattle rustling. Buck acts the perfect clueless easterner but there are instances that betray his knowledge of the west. Skillful detective work results in the capture of the real murderer.
This is a interesting book that has well thought out characters and consistent action. Burroughs lived and worked on ranches in Idaho and Arizona so there is a feeling of authenticity in the stories. It is set in modern times i.e. 1940 but has the feel of a western. One of four westerns that he wrote and this one is my favorite.
Life on the Pennington ranch is hard but removed from the problems of the big city. Unfortunately the problems are coming to the ranch. Custer the son has a drinking problem and his best friend Guy Evans is involved in smuggling bootleg whiskey. Guy is an aspiring writer that wants to marry Custer’s sister Eva. He needs money so that is why he turns to the bootlegging operation.
While this is happening a young actress Shannon Burke gets the news that her mother has died and she must dispose of some property in the country. Shannon had high hopes when she came to Hollywood but was tricked by a sleazy producer onto cocaine and now sells drugs for him. While visiting the ranch Shannon is taken in by the Pennington’s. She finds the life in the country peaceful and kicks the drug habit and falls in love with Custer.
It all comes crashing down when the sleazy producer comes out to make a movie. Guy’s partners in the bootleg business frame Custer for murder of the producer. Shannon’s secret is exposed and Custer is arrested.
Wow drug use in Hollywood. Sleazy producers getting young impressionable girls hooked on drugs. Its so great that in the last eighty years the entertainment industry has been able to clean up its image. This is not your typical Burroughs story. The male lead is an alcoholic and the female lead is a drug addict. Not what you’d expect to find in one of his stories. The story is set in the real contemporary world of his time with none of the fantastical elements.
I give him a lot of credit for going out of his comfort zone to try something new. I’m sure he had some exposure to Hollywood from the Tarzan movies that were made. The story except for the prohibition bootlegging subplot is as relevant today as it was eighty years ago. It has mystery, courtroom drama, and fair amount of action.
A thief breaks into the home of Jonas Prim the president of the Oakdale bank and cleans out the safe of money and jewelry. He then goes out and meets a group of hobos. The hobos with such names as Dopey Charlie, Soup Face, Dirty Eddie and the Sky Pilot. This bunch is a tough lot and the boy tries to get into their good graces by calling himself the Oskaloosa kid and showing his stolen loot. This was not a good idea as the hobos try to murder him for the money.
The kid flees and runs into Bridge the poetic tramp that was the Muckers companion in the last book. Bridge has to save him from the hobos plus a private detective and a lynch mob. The man the kid stole from has his daughter Abigail missing and another man murdered. Throw in a traveling gypsy and her trained bear and you have one adventurous night. The ending come with a whole pile of coincidences and one revelation that was totally out there.
This book is a hard one to write a short coherent review. It is short but the story is written as all plot and action. There is almost no description or character thought so it takes a while for the reader to figure out what is going on. It is an interesting story that I think any fan of Burroughs will enjoy. The ending was a complete surprise that I never saw coming.
The second book finds Billy Byrne back in Chicago hoping to start a new life. Unfortunately his old life comes back to haunt him. An old acquaintance turns him in to the police for he is still wanted for murder and quickly arrested. He escapes and goes on the run. He meets a hobo named Bridge who sprouts poetry. The two head off down to Mexico.
Mexico during this time is in the midst of a civil war. Gringos are not popular but Byrne fall in with a rebel general bandit named Pesita. Bridge goes to work on an American owned ranch that is owned by Barbara’s father. Barbara is down there with him after breaking off her engagement. Eventually she gets kidnapped and Byrne has to rescue her. The two then work out their differences and end up happily married.
The sequel to the first Mucker book is not that good as the first. It does tie up the loose end of Byrne’s and Barbara’s romance so it is crucial for the whole Mucker story arc.
Billy Byrne is a product of the slums of Chicago. He has made his way in life though various petty crimes and larceny. One day he is unjustly framed for a murder he didn’t commit and flees to San Francisco. There he is drugged and shanghaied on the ship the Halfmoon.The ship is on a mission to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy businessman for ransom.
Billy beats up the daughter Barbara’s suitor Billy Mallory in a brutal manner. He expects that Barbara will cower in fear but she confronts him and calls him a coward. Now Byrne has always prided himself on his brutality as a sign of strength. He now starts to question his beliefs. Slowly he decides to change and also falls in love with Barbara.
A storm shipwrecks the ship on an island inhabited by descends of medieval Japanese samurai who have intermarried with the local headhunters. The tribe forms a hybrid of the two cultures. Byrne and the survivors have adventures among the inhabitants and he starts to exhibit more noble qualities. Barbara comes to love him and Byrne seems to sacrifice himself to rescue her fiancé. Barbara and the others are rescued and leave Byrne thinking that he is dead.
Months later Billy is rescued and finds his way back to Chicago. He cleans his act up and becomes a boxer with serious potential. He reads that Barbara is engaged to Mallory and goes to New York. Barbara is willing to break off the engagement for him but Billy decides he could never fit in her world and encourages her to marry Mallory.
This is one of Burrough’s books that are held in high esteem by fans. I can see why. It has pirates and savage, mysterious civilizations on a strange island. The main feature of this book is the protagonist Billy Byrne. He is not the usually well bred and educated man that are the staple of Burrough’s stories. He is an uneducated thug that speaks with heavy slang. He will hit a person while he isn’t looking and kick him while he’s down. He grows to eventually see that life can offer more and falls in love. There was a lot of character development in this story which is something is usually lacking in Burrough’s books.
These are the memoirs of Britannicus. Britannicus was the son of a chieftain of a tribe in Britannia that lost a war and was sold to the Belgae. Later the Belgae tribe was defeated by the Romans. He is spared because the young son of the legion’s commander desired him as his personal slave. So begins his life as the slave to a seven year old that was nicknamed by the soldiers in the legion as ‘Little Boots.’ He would grow up to be the mad emperor Caligula.
The memoirs chronicle his life among the Romans. Rome is depicted as a grand city but Roman civilization as decadent and corrupt. Everyone is conspiring to climb up the ladder to power and position. He witnesses the intrigue, gladiatorial games and chariot races.
Eventually his master Caligula becomes emperor and a reign of terror grips the empire. Caligula bankrupts the state with his extravagant lifestyle and mad projects. Finally in one of his mad moods he has a portion of the gladiatorial audience throw into the arena to be fed to wild animals. Finally he is assassinated with Britannicus being the first to plunge in the knife blade.
This is another of Burroughs pseudo historical novels. I am not familiar enough with Roman history to vouch for its historical accuracy. I will say that it is an excellent exciting story. The decadent civilization and the antics of Caligula and his family provide a fascinating story. This is a book I really enjoyed.
Barney Custer of Beatrice, Nebraska is visiting the kingdom of Lutha, a fictional European country in the Balkans. While there he is mistaken for the escaped Leopold the mad king of Lutha. Leopold has been imprisoned unjustly by his uncle Peter who wants to eliminate Leopold and rule the country. Barney gets into adventures were he must impersonate the king. He also falls in love with the king’s betrothed princess Emma. He defeats the evil schemes of Peter but is forced to flee the country. It is discovered that Barney’s mother was the runaway princess and he is in fact of royal blood. Also Leopold discovers the love between him and Emma so Barney must flee the country as his father did but without a princess.
The second part of the book finds Lutha being threatened by Austria at the start of the First World War. Barney returns to help his friend and once again is involved with the intrigue of Lutha. Forced again to impersonate the king in order to free the country from the Austrians. The end finds him crowned as the true king and Emma as his queen.
I really enjoy these stories that Burroughs set in these fictional little European countries. They have a sort of goofy charm with their convoluted plots and fairy tale romance. This one was probably his best for one of these stories.