Friday, May 29, 2015

FFB: The Whispering Gorilla -- Don Wilcox

As usual, it's all James Reasoner's fault.  In a comment on my FFB review of War of the Giant Apes by "Alexander Blade," he said, "David V. Reed seems like a reasonable guess to me as to the author of War of the Giant Apes'. It occurs to me that if I bought the reprint of those Whispering Gorilla stories, I could read them and compare the style to this story. So it would all be for scholarly purposes, of course."

Naturally I couln't let him get ahead of me when it comes to scholarship, so I bought a copy of The Whispering Gorilla/Return of the Whispering Gorilla so I could also do some scholarship.  The first of these two tales appeared in the May 1940 issue of Fantastic Adventures, and it was written by Don Wilcox, a fairly well-known SF writer of the time.  Here's the scholarship, ripped from the pages of a Fantastic Adventures  "Introducing the Author" feature, which you can read in full here: "Originally Don Wilcox submitted the Gorilla to Mr. [David V.] Reed during his tenure as literary editor of Fantastic Adventures.  Mr. Reed instantly saw the possibilities of the character, and worked day and night for many weeks in close harmony with Mr. Wilcox in whipping the story into the shape in which it was finally published in our pages."  The story was quite popular, so Reed himself wrote the sequel, which appeared in the January 1943 issue of the magazine.

And now on with our story.  The Whispering Gorilla, or W. G., as his friends call him, doesn't really whisper.  That's just the name of the hit Broadway show he stars in.  He also has a hit radio show and is a crusading columnist for a great metropolitan newspaper.  How did this come about?  Well, it seems that there's a contract on crusading reporter Steve Carpenter, so his editor does the only thing he can do.  He sends Steve to live in Africa, where he winds up living next door to Dr. Devoli, who just happens to believe that speech is the key to intelligence.  So naturally he's working on the voice box of a gorilla named Plumbutter to help Plummy speak. 

Africa isn't far enough to run from a hit man who's really into his job, so one night Carpenter is killed.  Dr. Devoli decides that only the body is dead and transplants Carpenter's brain into Plumbutter's body.  (I suppose he just tossed Plumbutter's brain away.)  Sure enough, the gorilla/human recovers but is unhappy.  He wants revenge.  He wants to finish his crusade.  So he skips out on Devoli and gets on a ship that just happens to be carrying a theatrical company.  People assume he's wearing a costume.

I'll skip blithely over the plot details here and say that the problem is this: Carpenter's brain is okay for a while, but the wild blood of the gorilla flows in his veins.  It's a simple scientific fact that the wild blood of the gorilla can overpower the civilized brain and change W. G./ Carpenter into a creature of the jungle.  I can say no more.

However, if you want to read the story, you don't have to buy the book, as I did.  You can read the original magazine publication right here.  Come on, go ahead.  You know you want to.

And by the way, I don't think either Wilcox or Reed writes badly enough to have written War of the Giant Apes.


11 comments:

George Kelley said...

Masterful job of academic analysis! And I really like ARMCHAIR FICTION's Doubles.

James Reasoner said...

My copy is still sitting beside the computer unread, but I'll get to it.

Unknown said...

I await your analysis.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Plumbutter has to be one of the great character names.

John Hegenberger said...

Yeah, but what I wanna know is, who writies this stuff??

Rick Robinson said...

I mentioned this book, both sides of it, on Broken Bullhorn more than a year ago, so I'm ahead of you both...except I have yet to read it.

Unknown said...

The disappointing thing about the physical book is that there aren't really two sides, like the old Ace Doubles it's aping (couldn't resist). It does have two covers, but you don't flip the book over to read the second novel.

Todd Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Mason said...

Meanwhile, I feel I've been denied proper ?credit? for moving everyone toward this result. Perhaps I'm better off thus?

Happily, I was conflating Wicox with David Wright O'Brien, thinking the reason Wilcox didn't write any more WG stories was intervention of WW2 lead at high velocity. Wilcox was still with us till 2000, I see.

It's a bit easier on quality control, I guess, to not do the Ace Double approach.

Rick Robinson said...

Todd, I must have missed that post of yours, I discovered the book(s) in a catalog, perhaps the Sinister Cinema one.

Todd Mason said...

Nothing so elaborate as a post...it was just that the guess James thought was a good one, about David V. Reed, New York representative for Ray Palmer editing Ziff-Davis magazines in Chicago, was mine, in comments on WAR OF THE GIANT APES... Dave Verne, as he'd go by informally, would by the '70s writing Batman scripts, and a famously mean-spirited parody of Batman co-creator Bill Finger just after Finger's death.