Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Lost Land is REALLY, REALLY Hard to Leave!

Read/Watch 'em In Order #62

When Robert Moore Williams took us back to Lost Land one last time, we find Alan Hunter, Ann Hunter and Jongor still trying to leave and still pursued by Murtos (the monkey people who have become Jongor's arch enemies).

This is from "Jongor Fights Back" (from Fantastic Adventures, December 1951), the last of the trilogy. But one does not simply walk out of Lost Land. They tried that in "The Return of Jongor," and ended up getting involved in a centaur civil war. This time, they get attacked by Murtos who have hired a nine-foot-tall giant to back them up.

It is indicative of Williams' faults as a writer that no origin or explanation for the giant is ever given. This is a being whose existence isn't even hinted at previously, but suddenly Lost Land has at least one (and presumably more) giants.

Also, there's a contrived amnesia sub-plot that takes up part of the book and is used simply to keep Jongor from rescuing Ann too quickly. In addition to this, two more outsiders enter Lost Land looking for super-scientific gizmos that will make them rich. For centuries, the valley goes undiscovered by the outside world, but now fortune hunters (all acting independently of each other) show up every few days.

But I mention the flaws mostly to get them out of the way quickly, because "Jongor Fights Back" is still entertaining. Williams was sloppy in his plot construction, but Jongor, Ann and Alan are all likable characters--with Jongor still getting enough of a personality to differentiate him from Tarzan. Also, Williams does indeed know how to generate excitement and suspense when needed. A sequence in which Ann is lost alone in the jungle is very tense, while the finale (in which Ann and Jongor are about to be sacrificed to a Murto god that is really a super-scientific death ray) is genuinely exciting.

Like the previous two Jongor stories, the brevity of "Jongor Fights Back" is both a blessing and a curse. The flaws don't stand out as much as they would in a novel-length story, but Williams once again stuffs the tale with really cool ideas, then doesn't give himself enough time to expand upon them properly. I actually like the idea of a giant working as a mercenary for the monkey people. BUT WHERE THE HECK DID HE COME FROM? Gee whiz.

That's it for Jongor. Next, I think we'll visit with Jo Gar, a half-Phillipino private detective who starred in a series of stories set in Manila. Written by Raoul Whitfield, they originally appeared in Black Mask magazine and are excellent and unusual examples of hard-boiled fiction. Six of those stories, from 1931, make up a novel titled The Rainbow Murders. We'll be looking at those stories individually.

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