Friday, June 19, 2015

Forgotten Books: Gone North - Charles Alden Seltzer


Technically this novel may not be forgotten, since Altus Press just reprinted it as one of the first entries in the Argosy Library, but I think it's safe to say that before that, not many people other than Matt Moring remembered it. Charles Alden Seltzer is best known as a Western author, but he wrote other sorts of adventure fiction, too. GONE NORTH, as its title implies, is a Northern, since it takes place in Canada's Great North Woods, but it doesn't have Mounties or snowstorms or dogsleds or many of the other trappings we associate with that genre. It does, however, have a varied cast of characters after a fortune in gold.

What else does it have, you ask? Well, how about a great stone castle in the middle of the woods, complete with towers and cannon and secret passages, populated by bloodthirsty pirates (the sea-going kind, who have moved north), foppish but deadly European aristocrats, a beautiful young girl raised by the above-mentioned pirates, and a prisoner who knows the location of a fabulously valuable gold mine. If that's not enough, how about a two-fisted protagonist who made a fortune in the Klondike and now roams the world in search of adventure and wrongs to right? Then there's his sidekick, a giant Indian who steps on his enemies' necks in order to break them. Throw in some sword fights, a lot of running around in those secret passages and tunnels, epic brawls like you'd find in movie serials from Republic Pictures, riding the rapids in canoes, and assorted other mayhem. How Seltzer overlooked a quicksand scene, I'll never know.


This novel appeared as a six-part serial in ARGOSY in March and April of 1930, and the readers must have been holding their breath from one installment to the next. GONE NORTH is old-fashioned, sure, but it's also extremely entertaining if you're a fan of the adventure pulps. I loved it. It's exactly the sort of thing Ace Books would have reprinted in one of those small-size paperbacks in the early Sixties, and I would have read it on my parents' front porch on a summer day, utterly enthralled. It's hard to recapture that feeling now, but GONE NORTH does at times, and I'm grateful to Altus Press for bringing it back.

I've been wanting to read some of Charles Alden Seltzer's Westerns for a while. Now I want to even more.

11 comments:

Bill Crider said...

It's really too bad that there's no quicksand scene.

Peter Brandvold said...

You can't beat a giant Indian side-kick. No--you really can't!

I just ordered mine. Takes place just north of me.

Duane Spurlock said...

What Bill Crider said.

Duane Spurlock said...

Having read at least one of Charles Alden Seltzer's westerns, I'm a bit surprised by your description of this novel. Sadly, there were no Indian side-kicks in the stories I read.

Walker Martin said...

I have the issues with this serial but I see that I haven't read it yet. But I did read the Theodore Roscoe novelet "The Blue Cats of Buddha" and enjoyed it a lot. I read it back in 1981, over 30 years ago. Time flies fast for pulp collectors.

Anonymous said...

"Gone North" was earlier reprinted in the late 40's as a digest sized paperback as part of a series called "Adventure Novels Classic". I mention that just for the sake of completeness.

Curt Phillips

James Reasoner said...

Thanks for the info, Curt. I didn't know about the digest-sized reprint. I like the sound of "Adventure Novels Classic".

Moring said...

Thanks for the plug, James! I'm really pleased at the response to The Argosy Library, and I'm already nearing completion on Series 2. You might be surprised as who's been included in that forthcoming wave of ten books (and I'm all ears as to suggestions to reprint in the future).

At the risk of taking advantage of James's blog, I wanted to let everyone know that Series 1 of The Argosy Library is available as one heavily-discounted set in softcover, hardcover, and ebook formats at:

http://www.altuspress.com/shop/the-argosy-library-series-1-ten-book-set/

R.K. Robinson said...

I haven't ordered it yet, but I'm going to. After this review and one one Evan Lewis' blog.

Shay said...

There are about a dozen of Seltzer's Westerns available as free downloads from archive.net and Project Gutenberg.

Pulp Flakes said...

James, you made me pull this out of the to be read mountain and give it a go right now. I'm glad i did. Seltzer keeps moving the narrative so fast that you never notice any of the improbabilities when you're reading.

I think the movie/serial comparison is quite apt, many of his stories got made into movies as well. All in all a fun quick read, and one i'm happy i read.