Saturday, August 25, 2012

Three Pulp Classics by L. Ron Hubbard


I began reading and reviewing the pulp fiction reprints from Galaxy Press a few years ago and I’ll be continuing that on this blog. These are the three latest releases from Galaxy Press.

THE BATTLING PILOT
Air adventure stories may be a thing of the past but they are finding a new audience with reprints such as The Battling Pilot by L. Ron Hubbard. This 1937 gem from the pages of Five Novels Monthly is about a jaded pilot named Pete England. His job shuttling passengers between Washington and New York changes dramatically when a lovely blonde takes over one of his flights. The babe turns out to be a princess on a crucial mission that can end either in war or peace. Hubbard was a master of setting up a brisk tale with romantic elements. But before the last page there’s always plenty of suspense coupled with All-American charm, grit and 1930s style oomph! The Battling Pilot is a lighthearted and entertaining adventure perhaps typical of the era. These short novels were a mainstay of the pulp market and I’ve found that Hubbard’s air adventure stories always have that aura of authenticity, a fact attributable to both Hubbard’s writing talent and his own experiences as a barnstorming pilot. With chapter titles like “Bullets Rip Through Wings” you know how it will all play out in the end. This one has it all – action, thrills and romance!
BEYOND ALL WEAPONS
Beyond All Weapons is a real treat because it features three classic science fiction tales from the golden age. The title story, Beyond All Weapons, tells the tale of Firstin Guide, a tough rebel who leads a group of colonists off earth to escape the tyrannical government. What follows is a suspenseful and often grim tale of survival amidst the hope of one day returning to earth to rescue their families and destroy the Polar regime. Long time fans of Hubbard's work will recognize elements in the story similar to those found in his classic novel To the Stars. But Beyond All Weapons is still a wholly unique and thrilling story. I think if he hadn't written To the Stars then Beyond All Weapons might have been remembered as a classic of space travel after its appearance in the January 1950 issue of Super Science Stories. The second story, Strain, is a compelling and taut thriller that would have made a great episode on the old Outer Limits television show. A study of men under duress and holding dear to their patriotic duty, the ending was a surprise and initially seemed perfunctory. So I read the story again and savored it at a slower pace and I now realize how expertly Hubbard set up the plot. Strain is a classic. The final entry, The Invaders, offers a lighter tone, but still features some wonderful hard-boiled writing by Hubbard. Gedso Ion Brown, a technician from the Extra Territorial Scienticorps, has been sent to offer assistance in the alien attacks being suffered at the Crystal Mines. To say more would give away the twist ending. You'll just have to read it to find out what happens. All in all, these are three great stories from the glorious golden age of science fiction pulps
 THE TOUGHEST RANGER
Although he’s best known as a science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard contributed a substantial word count to pulp western stories. As you may have guessed I have taken to his style like a duck to water. His westerns are great and The Toughest Ranger is a sleek, polished and exciting tale. Cowboy Petey McGuire has had a difficult time. He’s forlorn and disgusted with his lot in life.  All of that changes when quite by accident he stumbles into the Arizona Ranger’s office and joins up. With a new bold attitude McGuire suddenly discovers a new side of himself – a self-confident almost boisterous side that may get him killed. My favorite line in the story is: “The fellow was hung together so loosely that he looked like a rattlesnake wearing boots.” (p.24) L. Ron Hubbard’s pulp fiction is always a delight and his westerns are nothing less than spur-rattling fun. The bonus stories included are Silent Pards and The Ranch That No One Would Buy. Highly recommended!

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