Friday, December 30, 2022

Chuck Ryan, Logger - Frank Richardson Pierce

Frank Richardson Pierce was a prolific pulpster, writing close to a thousand stories in a career that lasted more than 40 years, from the late Teens to the early Sixties, with quite a few credits in the slicks, too. He wrote mostly Westerns and Northerns, with a detective or sports yarn mixed in here and there, publishing under his own name or his most common pseudonym, Seth Ranger. He used the names Roy Ford and Francis Bragg Middleton, as well. But he wrote only a handful of novels, one of which was CHUCK RYAN, LOGGER, published under his own name by Doubleday, Doran & Company in 1928. (As the old saying goes, whatever happened to Doran, anyway?)

CHUCK RYAN, LOGGER is a contemporary story and opens with a college football game in which our hero Chuck and his friends Brick Winslow, Shanks Emerson, and others are participating. Then Chuck gets word that his father is missing and presumed dead from a mishap during an Arctic expedition. Chuck and Brick leave school and head for Seattle, where they meet with a lawyer and discover that Chuck has inherited a big stand of valuable timber. Chuck decides that he’s going to try logging, especially when he finds out that a villainous timber tycoon named Crandall wants to get his hands on the trees.

Chuck and Brick run into all sorts of mysterious doings when they investigate Chuck’s inheritance, as well as making a staunch friend in Bud Tuttle, a massive young woodsman who becomes a valuable ally. As soon as it’s summer and school is out, Chuck brings in his entire college football team to work as loggers, except for one rich young man who owns his own airplane and goes to work for the Forest Service. Sabotage abounds, a sinister recluse known as String Bean Titus lurks around, mysterious lights flash on Fir Island, there are fights and airplane crashes and finally a forest fire that threatens everything.

CHUCK RYAN, LOGGER is a boy’s adventure book that plays like a slightly more grown-up Hardy Boys novel, with Chuck and Brick standing in for Frank and Joe. But it also reminded me of a good 1930s adventure movie, with John Wayne as Chuck, Ward Bond as Brick, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams as Bud, and Eugene Pallette as the bad guy Crandall. Would’ve made a fine film. Although they would have had to add a female character, since the entire cast of characters is male except for a few nameless secretaries and stenographers.

I had a fine time reading CHUCK RYAN, LOGGER and learned a few things about the timber industry, to boot. It’s a very old-fashioned book, but what would you expect since it was published nearly 100 years ago. And most of the time, I’m more than happy to retreat to that era in my mind. (Thanks and a tip o' the hat to Jack Cullers.)


Rick Hall said...

I wonder if "String Bean Titus" was a nod to Harold Titus, another prolific pulp writer who wrote many stories about lumber and the gold rush.

James Reasoner said...

I hadn't thought about it, but that seems entirely possible. Their careers largely overlapped.