Thursday, December 14, 2006

By Edgar Rice Burroughs and Joe R. Lansdale

ERB was a thorough writer. He left behind little in the way of unfinished manuscripts, but he did leave one. In 1995 Joe Lansdale turned that partially completed tale into a full novel. The result is perhaps more Lansdale than Burroughs, something that may grieve some, but frankly I find Lansdlae’s contributions highly entertaining.

While I am not normally a fan of pastiches, I liked Tarzan The Lost Adventure. I’ve got admit up front that I’m more of a Lansdale fan than an ERB fan. So reading a Tarzan tale told with the distinctive Texas twang of Lansdale is my idea of a good time.

Lansdale’s Tarzan is a man sick of civilization, but unable to completely distance himself from it. Like a gunfighter who’s outlived the wildness of the West, Tarzan is just a bit unsure of himself. Not too unsure of himself though, give him a Cape Buffalo to wrestle or some bad guys to liquidate and he is in top form.

Prof. Hanson of the University of Texas is looking for anthropoid apes and a lost city in the jungle. He is accompanied by his daughter Jean and has a supporting expedition led by a pair of bumbling grad students. But also on the trail are a band of murderous cutthroats, deserters from the Foreign Legion. The jungle holds even greater dangers than outlaws.

This supporting cast is well developed. The outlaws and the bearers are men with personalities, not just extras around to hold a gun or tote a box. Tarzan is not the only character to show heroism, the spear bearers can rise to the occasion as well. Tarzan’s animal comrades Jad-bal-ja the lion and Nkima the monkey are essential parts of the tale.

The Lost Adventure is a bit of a curio cabinet of Texana and even martial arts oddities. It is also a rich field for the Texas banter that Lansdale writes with such verve.

Hunt said, “You speak to lions and monkeys?”
“Yes,” Tarzan said. “I find they have to be spoken to. Neither can read notes.”


“Have it your way, Bwana,” Billy said. “But I tell you this. Lots of wind. Lots of rain. Whip you to pieces. Twist you like rope, tie you in a knot. Throw stuff the wind whip does. Throws straw through trees. Makes elephant and hippo cower in fear. Not make Billy feel all so good neither.”

Some reviewers have focussed on Lansdale’s ending and plot points that were not resolved satisfactorily. Perhaps, but for me the fast-paced sweep of the story kept me hooked till the end. Now if there is never another Tarzan sequel ever written by anybody, I won’t feel cheated. ERB said plenty with his character, and he said it well without the need of any help. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this one time Joe Lansdale told a Tarzan story.
-Dave Hardy

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