I hadn’t read anything by H. Bedford-Jones for a while, but he remains one of my favorite pulp authors (favorite authors, period, in fact), and THE GOLDEN GOSHAWK is a prime example of why.
This is an excellent new collection from Black Dog Books. As usual, publisher Tom Roberts has put together a nice-looking volume, and this time around he also provides an informative introduction about the origins of the four stories reprinted here. The title story first appeared in the August 1928 issue of the rare and sought-after pulp, THE DANGER TRAIL, one of the Clayton pulps. By the time the second story, “The Jest of the Jade Joss”, appeared a year later in August 1929, the name of the magazine had been changed to WIDE WORLD ADVENTURES. Bedford-Jones wrote two more stories in this short-lived series featuring Captain Dan Marguard, but they went unpublished when WIDE WORLD ADVENTURES folded. A couple of years later, those stories were published in a different pulp, FAR EAST ADVENTURE STORIES. All four of them appeared under the pseudonym Captain L.B. Williams.
What about the stories themselves? Well, they’re great fun. Dan Marguard is a free-lance trader, adventurer, and mercenary in the South Seas, skippering an old schooner called the Gadfly. In the course of these yarns, he retrieves a stolen idol, rescues some kidnap victims, walks calmly into the stronghold of a headhunter tribe to retrieve the dried head of an old friend, and prevents a bloody native uprising. In the process, he usually finds a way to latch on to a decent payoff for himself and his two Chinese “elder brothers” who raised him. The stories are smartly plotted and told in Bedford-Jones’s usual clean, terse, exciting prose. I don’t know how authentic they are in terms of history and geography, but HB-J had the knack of making everything in his stories sound absolutely accurate and believable. He even goes to the trouble in one case of having the supposed author, Captain L.B. Williams, provide an afterword detailing the inspiration for the story, adding another layer to the fiction.
Bedford-Jones was good at this. During the Thirties, he brought back the good captain to serve as half of a joint by-line on his “Ships and Men” series that ran in BLUE BOOK. Those stories all appeared as by H. Bedford-Jones and Captain L.B. Williams. BLUE BOOK, like numerous other pulps, sometimes ran biographical features on the authors who wrote for them, and on the inside front cover of one issue was a biography and an artist’s portrait of the wholly fictional Captain L.B. Williams. The editors had to be in on the joke, but the readers at the time weren’t.
For fans of pulp adventure fiction, I can’t recommend THE GOLDEN GOSHAWK highly enough. Great yarns, a great author, and a little-known character who appeared in hard-to-find pulps adds up to a must-have as far as I’m concerned.
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