Friday, May 31, 2013

Forgotten Books: The Lure of "Adventure" - Robert Kenneth Jones

Robert Kenneth Jones, who wrote THE SHUDDER PULPS, a study of the Weird Menace pulps, also produced this slim volume about one of the leading general fiction pulps and in the opinion of some the best pulp magazine ever, ADVENTURE. I don't quite agree with that assessment, but ADVENTURE certainly belongs in the top five or six pulps.

Jones concentrates on the magazine's first fifteen years, from 1910 to 1925, an era generally acknowledged as ADVENTURE's golden age. He takes a look at the work of some of its best-known writers, such as Talbot Mundy, W.C. Tuttle, Arthur O. Friel, Arthur D. Howden Smith, Walt Coburn, Harold Lamb, Georges Surdez, Hugh Pendexter, H. Bedford-Jones, and many others. He also discusses the magazine's letters column, "The Campfire", the site of many spirited discussions between the magazine's writers and readers, and its other features such as "Ask Adventure", a source of advice and information on just about any subject under the sun.

One of the most entertaining parts of this book is the section on legendary editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman. Hoffman had a number of idiosyncracies, such as the persistent misspelling of some words (one has to wonder if Robert E. Howard, known to be an ADVENTURE reader, picked up his spelling of "surprize" from Hoffman) and his editorials railing against the government.

There are a few minor mistakes here and there, but when this book was first published in 1989 research wasn't nearly as easy as it is now, and Jones, along with the other pulp scholars of that era and earlier, deserve a great deal of credit for paving the way with books like this. THE LURE OF "ADVENTURE" also includes a lot of black-and-white cover reproductions. Sure, you can find good color scans of many of those covers on-line now, but you couldn't back then and as far as I'm concerned they contribute quite a bit to the book's charm.

I believe a reprint of this volume is still available from Wildside Press. It has a plain cover, but the interior is a facsimile reprint of the original 1989 edition from Borgo Press. THE LURE OF "ADVENTURE" is an entertaining, informative book, and if you're a pulp fan it's definitely worth reading.


Walker Martin said...

A couple years ago, I was on an evening panel at the Windy City pulp convention discussing great pulp magazines and favorite authors. I also had the opinion that ADVENTURE was the best pulp magazine, especially during the years that Arthur Sullivant Hoffman was editor, 1910-1926. The other panel members(Tom Roberts, Doug Ellis, Ed Hulse), felt the same.

This is an excellent book about the magazine and I remember talking to Bob Jones about expanding it but unfortunately he died an early death.

Tom Johnson said...

Bob Jones began his study of Adventure in the great fanzine, BRONZE SHADOWS, then we published the serialized version in ECHOES before it went to book format. I agree with Walker, ADVENTURE was one of the better magazines. I had a long run of them at one time, but decided to concentrate on the pulp character magazines and let them get away from me. To this day, one of my favorite pulp covers is on ADVENTURE.

Keith West said...

So, James (and others), what are the pulps you feel are of equal or near-equal quality with ADVENTURE?

Not that I'm trying to stir up trouble or anything...

James Reasoner said...

Based on both quality and longevity, I'd rank ARGOSY and BLUE BOOK slightly ahead of ADVENTURE. SHORT STORIES, WESTERN STORY, and STAR WESTERN are all in the mix for me, too. But they're all great and any issue of any of these titles you might pick up stands a good chance of being excellent.

Walker Martin said...

Keith West asks what are the pulps that are equal or near equal to ADVENTURE. Actually I addressed this interesting question about a year ago(March 15, 2012) on the blog, MYSTERY FILE.

Under the title Adventures in Collecting: My Favorite Magazines, I listed and commented on what I consider to be the best slicks, digests, literary magazines, and pulps. The link to the article for those interested is

In the general fiction or adventure genre I would say ADVENTURE, SHORT STORIES, BLUEBOOK, ARGOSY, ALL STORY, and POPULAR MAGAZINE were the best. But I also discuss the best in the other genres in the article.

Read the comments also because some readers had interesting observations.