Friday, March 28, 2014

Forgotten Books: Arctic Wings - L. Ron Hubbard

I hadn't read a Northern in a while and was in the mood for one, but this short novel by L. Ron Hubbard (originally published in the June 1938 issue of the pulp FIVE NOVELS MONTHLY) isn't a Gold Rush/fur trapping/frontier story like I expected. Instead it's an adventure yarn contemporary to the time it was published, featuring radium mining, payroll robberies, and Mounties who fly planes and engage in aerial dogfights rather than mushing around with snowshoes and dogsleds.

Bob Dixon is a flying Mountie who's feared by criminals throughout the north country because of his inflexible devotion to the law and his ruthless manner of carrying it out. His nickname is "Lawbook" Dixon. Nobody knows, however, that he's that way because he was psychologically abused as a child by his father, a martinet of a judge who constantly threatened Bob with the idea that he would become a criminal and come to a bad end.

It looks like this is the case when Bob appears to have shot down a payroll plane, murdering the pilot and the manager of the radium mine for which the payroll was intended and stealing the money. It won't come as a surprise, though, that Bob was framed, and he spends the rest of the novel trying to corral the real culprits and clear his name, helped along the way by a beautiful girl who runs a trading post just north of the Arctic Circle.

This may be my favorite of the Hubbard stories I've read so far. The writing is good, the plot is tight, and there's some nice suspense here and there. The action in the dogfights is easier to follow than in some aviation adventure fiction I've read. Overall I enjoyed ARCTIC WINGS quite a bit. It's a good solid pulp action yarn.

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Didn't even know this existed but it sounds like something I'd certainly enjoy.

George said...

I've found L. Ron Hubbard to be a wildly uneven writer. But, when he's on his game--like in ARCTIC WINGS--his work can be very entertaining.

Walker Martin said...

I've also found Hubbard to be very uneven. On one hand, we have very good works like FEAR, TYPEWRITER IN THE SKY, and FINAL BLACKOUT. On the other hand, we have the typical pulp work and the several long SF novels published under his name a few years ago. I say *published under his name* because I strongly believe they were ghost written.

Richard said...

Sounds like a good one.

James Reasoner said...

Yeah, I think any writer who is very prolific, and I include myself in that group, is going to have some ups and downs in their work. Most of what I've read by Hubbard has been pretty good, but I've come across some I didn't like and I don't blog about them.

Lohr McKinstry said...

I believe Hubbard had a contract to write a short novel every issue for Five Novels Monthly. He did air stories, Westerns, detective stories, you name it. Some were good, others not.

Cap'n Bob said...

Because of his monstrous activities after 1950 I could never read anything of his. And if you buy any of the stuff published by his cult you're supporting them, which I strongly suggest people don't do.