Friday, June 12, 2015

Forgotten Books: Spawn of Jupiter - Ed Earl Repp

Ed Earl Repp is best known as a Western writer, of course (and these days, for Frank Bonham's marvelous autobiographical essay "Tarzana Nights", about ghosting for Repp), but he wrote a considerable amount of science fiction, too, from the early days of the genre up through the 1940s.

I'm fudging a little by calling SPAWN OF JUPITER a book, since it's actually a novella originally published in the March 1944 issue of AMAZING STORIES. But it's available as an e-book on Amazon, so hey, close enough. (I assume the tiny naked guys on the pulp cover are from Robert Bloch's story "It's a Small World", because they're sure not in Repp's yarn.)

This one certainly has some similarities to Repp's Westerns, since it's set in Death Valley and has a couple of old desert rats as supporting characters. The protagonist is astrophysicist Dave Weston, who as the story opens is searching in Death Valley for his missing father, also a scientist who was on the trail of a mysterious meteor that supposedly landed in those arid badlands. In the course of his search, Dave encounters a mysterious, beautiful blonde, tangles with an old enemy of his father's, and eventually uncovers a deadly secret in the Last Chance Mountains bordering Death Valley. There's plenty of two-fisted action along the way, and while nobody would ever accuse Repp's prose of being stylish, he knew how to keep a story clipping along at a nice pace.

The science involved in the plot is pure handwavium, implausible even for the pulp era, but nobody reads this kind of SF story for the scientific speculation. It's an adventure yarn, and if I'd read it when I was ten years old, I probably would have thought it was one of the greatest stories ever written. At more than fifty years older than that, I still thought it was pretty entertaining.

Of course, you can't write about one of Repp's stories without wondering if he really wrote it or farmed out the first draft to somebody else and just plotted and polished it. As far as I recall, I've never heard any rumors about his science fiction being ghosted, only his Westerns, so maybe he wrote SPAWN OF JUPITER. My hunch is that he did, but I can't prove that. Regardless of who really wrote it, if you can approach this one with the mindset of a ten-year-old just discovering science fiction, it's a fast-moving, enjoyable tale.

1 comment:

Bill Crider said...

The story sounds worth reading for the title alone.