Friday, March 16, 2018

Forgotten Books: White Savage - John Peter Drummond

WHITE SAVAGE may be my favorite of the Ki-Gor novels so far. Originally published in the Fall 1941 issue of JUNGLE STORIES, this yarn finds Ki-Gor and his beautiful redheaded American wife Helene affected by the spread of World War II into Africa, as they encounter some sinister Italians before running afoul of an even more dangerous lost race. It’s difficult to explain too much about the plot of this one without venturing too far into spoiler territory, so I’ll just say that this is easily the creepiest Ki-Gor novel yet.

It’s pretty well written, too, by an unknown author with a smooth, fast-paced, evocative style. The way it’s structured is a bit of a problem, because it comes across like one novelette crammed into the middle of another novelette to make a full-length novel, but the author handles this deftly enough that it works.

Ki-Gor’s sidekick Tembu George, who has become one of my favorite pulp characters, makes a brief but important appearance, as does good old Marmo the elephant. Best of all, Helene, while not quite the badass of the early books, is much tougher and competent in this story and actually has stuff to do, instead of just standing around looking beautiful and getting kidnapped, as she does in some of the other novels.

With this novel and the previous one, KI-GOR—AND THE TEMPLE OF THE MOON GOD, I get the feeling that this series is starting to hit its stride. The next volume in the reprint series from Altus Press is on its way to me, and I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’d recommend WHITE SAVAGE to anyone looking for an exciting jungle pulp yarn.


Howard Jones said...

You lured me out of my writing cave with more Ki-Gor!

This is definitely a step-up, but believe me, you haven't seen anything yet!

I completely agree that Tembu George is pretty danged cool. He's my favorite of the side characters.

Off-topic, I just read my first Lewis Patten western the other day and liked it quite well. I know he's a favorite of yours -- are there any must reads by him, or must avoids? Any broad guidlines, like, say, only read the stuff between 50 something and 1960 something?

James Reasoner said...

I've enjoyed everything I've read by Patten that came from the Fifties and up to the mid-Sixties. After that he gets more inconsistent. One that I started and didn't finish was VILLA'S RIFLES. One that I recall liking a lot is ROPE LAW.

Duane Spurlock said...

Patten is one of my favorites. I'm reading a Patten western now -- TOP MAN WITH A GUN -- from 1959. It's pretty good so far. The first three chapters zoom along, with the lead character caught up in Quantrille's Raid of Lawrence, Kansas.

Duane Spurlock said...

I recently saw on FB one of those ubiquitous ads for other FB pages, this one about Talmadge Powell, with the spines of various of his books. One was titled THE WHITE SAVAGE. Not having read either Powell's book or this particular Ki-Gor adventure, I wondered if Powell might have been a writer behind the Drummond house name.

Denny Lien said...

"THE WHITE SAVAGE" seems like one of those titles that writers (or editors) come up with independently; one of Arthur Upfield's "Bony" Australian detective novels also bears that name, and WorldCat turns up four or five dime novels and a handful of nonfiction books using the term as well. So I probably wouldn't take the Talmadge Powell usage as anything out of the ordinary.

Howard Jones said...

James, thanks for the Patten info.

As for Powell and Ki-Gor, I read and loved every one of the Ed Rivers novels Powell wrote, and while it's just possible a younger Powell could have written Ki-Gor, using much less polished pacing and plotting, I'm thinking it's more likely that he wrote a western of that same title. Now if someone told me that he'd written one or two of the very best Ki-Gors a little later in the batch I'd be more willing to nod in appreciation.