Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"The Whip" - Robert Carse (ARGOSY, Oct. 30, 1937)

This is another story from the October 30, 1937 issue of ARGOSY. Robert Carse was a prolific author for the pulps and later on turned out quite a few paperback historical novels, as well as the novelization of the movie MORGAN THE PIRATE, which I didn’t think was very good. Carse’s specialty in ARGOSY was the French Foreign Legion story, and “The Whip” is a top-notch example, a ripping yarn if there ever was one.

The Whip of the title isn’t an actual whip, but rather the name of a group of Hungarian terrorists who are out to overthrow the king in the years following World War I. They set up an assassination attempt, but the young man chosen to perform the killing has an attack of morals at the last minute and backs out, so the king survives and the young man has to go on the run to escape the vengeance of his former comrades in The Whip. He figures he can spend the rest of his life hiding in the French Foreign Legion.

Well, you don’t have to have read much adventure fiction to know that sooner or later, our hero’s past is going to catch up to him, in the person of his former friend who is now the deadliest assassin in Europe. But the fact that “The Whip” is somewhat predictable doesn’t detract too much from the entertaining nature of this story. Carse’s prose is lean and tough enough that it could have almost been written yesterday, without any of the supposed purple prose the pulps were famous for. (And that purple prose was never as prevalent in the pulps as their detractors made it out to be, for that matter.) “The Whip” is a fine story, and it, along with Theodore Roscoe’s “I Was the Kid With the Drum”, make this issue of ARGOSY a definite keeper if you ever run across it.

As for the rest of the issue, well, ARGOSY is somewhat problematic for a reader today because of all the serials that ran in the magazine. There are installments of three serials in this issue: a Northern by Frank Richardson Pierce, one of the top authors in that genre; a sports yarn by Judson Philips, who wrote a lot of those before becoming much better known as a mystery author under his own name and the pseudonym Hugh Pentecost; and the concluding installment of a novel about Sheriff Henry Harrison Conroy (think W.C. Fields in the Old West) by one of my favorites, W.C. Tuttle. Good stuff, I’m sure, but I didn’t read any of them because I don’t have the other installments. There’s a horse racing story by Richard Sale (normally a dependable author, but I didn’t care for this one); a story by David Gardner about drilling gas wells that’s okay; a comedy about a magician by Edgar Franklin, a long-time contributor to ARGOSY; and a short-short humorous crime story by the inelegantly named Nard Jones, who went on to write at least one Gold Medal novel in the Fifties. None of the shorts are particularly memorable.

But the stories by Roscoe and Carse are well worth your time and make this issue worth picking up. This is the first issue of ARGOSY I’ve read in a while, but you can bet I’ll be sampling more of them soon.


David Cranmer said...

I love the challenge of finding that next issue to finish the serial. But it can be maddening (which is the case in several of my old finds)if you don't

Richard Heft said...

I believe Nard Jones wrote two Gold Medals: I'LL TAKE WHAT'S MINE and RIDE THE DARK STORM. The first is fairly rare.