Friday, November 01, 2019

Forgotten Books: Young Kit Carson - H. Bedford-Jones

As you know if you’ve read this blog much, H. Bedford-Jones is one of my favorite pulp authors and indeed one of my favorite authors, period. I think he was at his strongest with historical adventure novels, so it’s no surprise that YOUNG KIT CARSON is a top-notch yarn that’s been out of print since 1941, when it appeared in the fiction supplement of a Canadian newspaper. A copy of it was discovered recently, and it’s about to be reprinted by Bold Venture Press.

The story is set in 1835, when Carson is 25 years old, a fur trapper who has worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the past as well as being an independent trapper. It opens in Santa Fe where Carson encounters the beautiful Marie, the daughter of a French-Canadian trapper and a Blackfoot woman. Marie is also known as Go Everywhere Woman, because she can travel among any of the frontier tribes with impunity, even the ones who are feuding with each other.

Carson and some of his friends are soon involved in a dangerous quest for a rare white beaver pelt, a talisman regarded by the Indians as possessing great medicine. A prophecy says that once the white beaver pelt is found, all the tribes will unite into one great army and scour the Americans from the frontier. This is exactly what the Hudson’s Bay Company wants, of course, so their agent, that French-Canadian trapper who is Marie’s father, is working behind the scenes to bring that bloody frontier apocalypse about.

Bedford-Jones never lets the action lapse for long, and he paints a vivid picture of the early West. In his hands, Kit Carson is a very likable protagonist and the supporting cast is excellent as well. The love-hate duel between Carson and Go Everywhere Woman that continues almost through the entire book is compelling, and I honestly didn’t know how it was going to turn out.

This would have made a good Forties or Fifties big-budget movie, with maybe Alan Ladd playing Kit Carson and not having to stand on a box for a change since Carson was notably short. The Indians even refer to him as Little Chief. There’s also an excellent role for Alan Hale as Kit’s sidekick. Such a movie was never made, of course, but it’s fun to think about.

And we have the novel itself, thanks to Camille Cazedessus, who located the copy of it, and Rich Harvey and Audrey Parente of Bold Venture Press who are reprinting it. If you enjoy historical adventure fiction, you really need to read H. Bedford-Jones, and YOUNG KIT CARSON is a fine example of his work. Highly recommended.


Matthew Clark said...

Fictional adventures featuring Kit Carson were being written throughout his life. One of the best books about the actual events of his amazing life is "Blood And Thunder" by Hampton Sides. And Alan Ladd would have been great as Kit Carson in a movie.

Richard Moore said...

Great to see you in Dallas, James! I am also a big fan of H. Bedford Jones, who despite his large output managed to maintain a high level. I have made a point of buying pulps with his stories and serials for years as well as what book publications I could find. Now there was a story teller!

Michael Tuggle said...

We need more books like this. Kids these days are looking for tales of heroism. Thanks for posting!