Monday, April 29, 2013

Multitude of Favorites 5: Adventure Writers

My earliest reading as a kid, beyond comic books, tended to be adventure stories. I had a pretty insatiable thirst for action and intrigue as a boy-- stories I could put myself into and imagine I was a swashbuckling pirate or a heroic gunslinger or a brave explorer. In some ways, this was a natural outgrowth of my comic book reading-- the next step, I guess you could say.

Here are my five favorite adventure story writers.

Lester Dent. As Kenneth Robeson, Dent penned the vast majority of the classic Doc Savage novels. Originally appearing in his own pulp magazine, these great adventure tales were issued in paperback by Bantam Books, just in time to coincide with my own youth. The brilliant, super-strong, and unbelievably-skilled-at-everything Doc Savage is still one of the greatest heroes of all time, and definitely the greatest hero to come out of the pulps.

Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan, man. You don't get much more exciting and intriguing than the Tarzan novels, especially the first five or six in the series. I can't even tell you how badly I wanted to be Tarzan... hell, I still do.

Robert E. Howard. I came by REH in an odd way, through the Conan comic books Marvel was doing at the time. Imagine my happiness when I discovered the surly barbarian was also in prose stories. I tore through all the Lancer Books editions at an early age, and later discovered the Solomon Kane tales (which are still my favorites from Howard). Much later, as an adult, I stumbled across his Westerns, boxing stories, and "orient adventure" tales and was just as thrilled with them.

Arthur Conan Doyle. I consider the Sherlock Holmes stories adventure tales more than tales of deduction. The best of them have fantastic bits of exotica and intrigue, whether they come from the amazing back-stories related to Holmes and Watson by a client, or the hairy situations our heroic duo find themselves in. Also, Doyle's Professor Challenger stories, like THE LOST WORLD, are flat-out high adventure.

H. Rider Haggard. The hero of Haggard's three most famous novels, Allan Quatermain, has been unfairly cast in modern day as a racist imperialist; granted, there is some of that in KING SOLOMON'S MINES and SHE, but by the standards of the time, he's actually quite sympathetic to the natives he comes across in his epic adventures through lost cities and civilizations in "darkest Africa". And the stories are intensely exciting.


  1. Hmmm, this could help explain why I enjoy your writing so much. Except for Haggard, our favorite childhood adventure writers are the same. I didn't discover Haggard until I was almost 30. But I grew up on Dent, REH and Doyle, and Tarzan and I are practically related. My mother collected Tarzan books and comics before I was born.

  2. Excellent list of authors! Being a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, I noticed you didn't list his Caspak Trilogy along with Tarzan as some of his most exciting work. If you haven't had a chance to read this trilogy you have to pick it up!