Thursday, June 09, 2011


By Talbot Mundy

Talbot Mundy created his best character more or less by accident. He was a favorite at Adventure, one of the top quality pulps in the ‘20s & ‘30s. He had committed to a historical yarn about Queen Cleopatra (first it would appear as a serial in Adventure, then as a hard-back novel). But he kept stalling, it turns out he found a rather minor character to be far more interesting. The story of Cleopatra’s captain proved far more compelling. The Queen got a novel eventually, but Tros got a novel three times as long and another that followed Queen Cleopatra!

Tros is a Hellenized Samothracian. Like many other Mundy heroes he is a member of a highly ethical secret society that seeks enlightenment. A bit of derring-do in the service of good is on the menu too. Tros is blackmailed into acting as a secret agent for Caesar in Britain. Instead Tros hooks up with Casawallwn (Cassiavellaunus of Caesar's Commentaries) and his Britons, builds the world’s most advanced warship, and recruits a bunch of Vikings to crew it!

The action doesn’t flag. Tros follows through, trying to avoid bloodshed in a bloody world, chasing Caesar’s schemes through Roman Spain, Gaul, all the way to Rome itself. He faces crackpot sorcerers, treachery, Roman arrogance, and even gladiatorial combat before Britain is safe.

While it may seem odd in our Celtophilic days, Mundy’s depiction of Caesar as an ambitious militarist building a dictatorship was controversial. It is a mark of Mundy’s influence that his ideas are pretty much the norm now.

The book has a complex publication history. It appeared as four volumes from Avon in the 1960s and as three from Zebra in the 1970s. A peculiarity of the Zebra editions is that Robert E. Howard got bigger billing on the cover!

-Dave Hardy

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