Friday, May 22, 2015

Forgotten Books: Pirates' Gold - H. Bedford-Jones

This novel by one of my favorite authors, H. Bedford-Jones, appeared complete in the December 20, 1922 issue of the iconic pulp magazine ADVENTURE, and it certainly is an adventure tale in the classic sense. Ever since TREASURE ISLAND, writers have been spinning yarns about desperate people going after buried gold, and that's what Bedford-Jones does here. The story opens in London in the early 1700s, where narrator George Roberts, a sailor from the colony of Virginia, is looking for a ship to sign on with. He winds up taking a position as first mate on the King Sagamore, under the command of an old friend, Captain Ned Low. There are some pretty shady rumors about Low's past, but Roberts doesn't put much stock in them. Turns out he probably should have.

Because the ship has barely left port before there's a murder, and a beautiful young woman shows up on board, and everybody in the crew seems to have some secret or another, usually sinister, and there's more going on than a simple search for buried treasure, including a years-long quest for bloody vengeance.

Everything clips along at a fast pace, in Bedford-Jones' terse prose (terse compared to a lot of pulp writers who got paid by the word, anyway), and there are several nifty twists along the way. PIRATES' GOLD is definitely a little old-fashioned in some respects, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it a great deal. It was reprinted a number of years ago by Wildside Press in a trade paperback edition that's still available, and there's an e-book edition as well. If you like traditional historical adventure tales, it's a mighty good one.


Walker Martin said...

I looked up my copy of this issue and I see from my note that I read the story in April 1988 and commented "Shades of Treasure Island! Very good imitation of that great yarn."

Also I see the Campfire letter column has a couple letters of great interest. Adventure had a policy of downplaying love interest in adventure stories. One woman reader complained that this policy showed "sex morbid and sex perversion" tendencies.

But then a male reader wrote in and said there was too much love interest in a story and it left a taste of "mush" in his mouth.

The editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman, ruefully comments that it is hard to satisfy everybody.

Adventuresfantastic said...

This one is on my radar although I'm not sure when I'll get to it.

There's an H. Bedford Jones Megapack that contains this one along with 19 other tales for 99 cents on Amazon.

James Reasoner said...

That's a good deal!

Brian Busby said...

It's long past the time at which I should've picked up my first Bedford-Jones. I've even visited his hometown, for goodness sake! Where do you suggest I begin, James?

James Reasoner said...

That Megapack Keith mentions would be a good place. Several complete novels and a bunch of short stories. I've read about half of them, and they're all good.

Brian Busby said...

Thanks, James. Seems just the writer to read this summer.

John Hegenberger said...

I stumbled onto Old Henry's work several years ago and was immediately hooked. I've read several hundred of his tales since and only disappointed twice (probably me, rather than him). I have a couple hundred still on hand and read at least one every couple of weeks. What a master!

Walker Martin said...

H. Bedford Jones was very prolific and he wrote the most for BLUE BOOK. Almost every issue in the 1930's and 1940's had his work.

At Pulpcon about 30 years ago, I was almost involved in a fist fight and brawl over who was the biggest expert on H. Bedford Jones. As Frank Gruber said about the pulps, it's a jungle out there!