Friday, April 23, 2010

Forgotten Books: THE SPOTTED PANTHER -- James Francis Dwyer

James Francis Dwyer's life story is almost as interesting and full of action as his fiction. Click the link and read about him. It's worth your time. Then you can come back and read about today's Forgotten Book.

Last week I jokingly
said something like, "Before there was Gabriel Hunt, there was Mark Stone." But this week I'm talking about the thing itself, the pure serene. When it comes to treasure-hunting tales, you can hardly beat Dwyer's The Spotted Panther. First of all, it was written in 1913, when the world was a much larger place and still full of wonder, when most people reading the serial in Munsey's had no idea what might lie "deep in the heart of the Borneo jungles." (And maybe we still don't.)

It begins with a brawl in an opium den and the revelation of the Chalice of Everlasting fire: [T]hat chalice had lived upon the spice-scented breezes for centuries. Lived, mind you! In the fo'c'stle of every blistered tramp that hooted of nipa-palm villages in search of cargo, the Chalice of Everlasting Fire was the subject of discussion. Men talked of it on the stinking Wusung, whispered of it at the pearl fisheries at Thursday Island, and dreamed of it as they looked upon the snows above Darjeeling. It had a dozen names. Dyak, Kling, Chinese, Jap, Tamil, Hindu, Shan, Khond, and Rajput kknew it by a name of his own. It was the Vessel of Flame, the Holy Cup,the Burning Pitcher, the Goblet of Life, and a dozen other names, but English and American sailors spoke of it as the Chalice of Everylasting Fire.

If that doesn't get your blood stirring, then this isn't the book for you. But that's just for starters. You see the three adventurers at the heart of the book already have the Chalice in their possession. What they're really after is the Parong of Buddha, and to get that, they're going to have to travel into the interior, see wonders, and fight to the death. The Moon of Blood. The Place of Evil Winds. The Passage of the Glow-worms. And a lot more.

Those of us who love pulp adventure are luck that Black Dog Books is making pulp classics like this available. Be warned that the racial attitudes are far from enlightened, as you might expect in a book nearly 100 years old. See the quotation for a small example. In spite of that, highly recommended.

8 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never knew books like this existed until the Indiana Jones movies. Funny how your eyes only see certain things.

George said...

I'm a buyer of BLACK DOG books. This one goes to the top of my want list!

bish8 said...

I was sold by the cover alone. I'll going to have to pick up a copy from Black Dog (need to have that cover), but I wonder if I can also get it for my Kindle from the Munsy site?

Scott Cupp said...

Munsey and Manybooks.net both have The White Waterfall but that's it for Dwyer.

Bill Crider said...

Maybe Black Dog will reprint some others.

Jerry House said...

Dwyer's collection Breathe of the Jungle is also available online, Scott. I'm too lazy to check, but I think it's at Internet Archive.

Anonymous said...

My Mom had original printings of "The Spotted Panther" and "The White Waterfall" from when she was young. I used to read them as a kid. I just inherited both copies!

Bill Crider said...

That's very cool.