Monday, May 6, 2013

Twenty Fathoms Down by L. Ron Hubbard


Twenty Fathoms Down is another reminder that our vast cultural history should be preserved for future generations. This nifty pulp tale was published in 1934 in Five Novels magazine. In many ways it is typical of the pulp era; a short novelette with a romantic angle and a stalwart hero; but it also features some fine writing by L. Ron Hubbard whose work is receiving positive attention from scholars and pulp fans alike. These reprints of Hubbard’s work by Galaxy Press are themselves collectors items. In the recent batch of releases (The Devil-With Wings, Gunman’s Tally, Red Death Over China) I think this one is my favorite. Deep sea diver Hawk Ridley (I love that masculine, hardboiled name) has discovered a sunken Spanish galleon bearing millions in gold. But just before diving on the wreck Ridley and his crew discover a stowaway is aboard – Vick Stanton, daughter of his rival. Ridley isn’t convinced the girl’s sudden appearance isn’t part of a set-up to foil their plans, and the situation becomes deadly as they lose a crew member under mysterious circumstances. And the discovery of some rare emeralds suddenly turns this adventure into a deadly cat and mouse game with everything at stake. Hubbard’s natural talent as a writer is evident in the prose; and the flourishes he adds are a delight. For example, Both Ridley and Vick enjoy deep sea diving because it opens up another world; a world of mystery and beauty. “It’s the kick you get out of it.” Hawk tells Vick. “You know what I mean. It’s rather grand.” And Vick understands her man perfectly. “I know. It gets you.” She tells him. But the sea is also dangerous, and this is, after all, an adventure story. Peril awaits Hawk Ridley at every turn: “It was a strange world of blackness, where trees waved slowly and gently and unsuspected hillsides rose up and fell away with appalling suddenness.” Twenty Fathoms Down is a fine piece of adventure writing by L. Ron Hubbard. Galaxy Press is at about the halfway mark in this landmark reprint series and Twenty Fathoms Down is all the evidence I need to continue reading.

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