Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tom Quest and the Mystery of the Timber Giant

Beginning in 1947 there was an explosion of boys' adventure books from Grosset & Dunlap, publishers, which included the premiere of Rick Brant, Bronc Burnett, Chip Hilton and the first of a series of eight Tom Quest novels, penned by Fran Striker. Yes, the same man responsible for creating The Lone Ranger created new characters for a series of novels that took readers to the Florida Everglades, combatted headhunters in Ecuador, went on an expedition into Mexico where they found a lost city peopled by survivors of a prehistoric race, and witnessed the strange rites among the Mandan Indians in the Red River country. 

The Sign of the Spiral (1947) was the first of the eight Tom Quest novels, introducing us to the cast of characters who were to appear in most of the adventures, including Whiz Walton (a newspaper man) and Gulliver, the unwaveringly loyal with tremendous strength and raw courage. Of recent I finished reading the eighth and final adventure in the series, The Mystery of the Timber Giant (1955). Why Fran Striker did not write additional novels remains unknown. The first six novels were published by Grosset & Dunlap; the final two were published by Clover Books. (The first six were also reprinted by Clover.) Timber Giant concerns Tom Quest's efforts to thwart a crooked lumber scheme operated by a "big boss" syndicate that tricks good people in the lumber region into cutting down pine and redwood without having to pay them the money promised under contract. Tom, Whiz and Gulliver attempt to put a stop to it, through three harrowing escapades. 

Besides the nineteen Lone Ranger novels, Fran Striker also wrote one Roy Rogers and one Gene Autry novel. Gene Autry and the Redwood Pirates (1946) was published by Whitman. Striker wrote under the pseudonym of Bob Hamilton. In that novel, Gene and his horse, Champ, find plenty of trouble as soon as they get into the redwood country to investigate a rumor about a gang who is pirating timber in the forests along the Chicapoo River. Sound familiar?

Not too surprisingly, the Gene Autry novel recycles the plots from a three-part story arc on radio's Lone Ranger program, broadcast December 13, 15 and 17, 1943.

And yes, this Tom Quest novel recycles the same material from both.

In my pursuit to find everything recycled from radio's The Lone Ranger, connecting the dots, names such as Ponderosa Pete, Lefty Lennex, Gimp Gordon, Zach Vinton, Clem Archer and Halfpint Hoolihan were used for other characters on prior Lone Ranger radio broadcasts, as well as names of towns such as Telegraph Hill, Snake River and the Dipper Creek lumber camp.

Regardless of this recent discovery, the eight Tom Quest novels are fun reads. Average price for the hardcover novels is $5 to $10 depending on the condition of the books. The first editions did not have the art printed on the book, but rather clothbound with paper dust jacket. Those first editions (with dust jackets) are the ones worth more and the price is based on the condition of the dust jacket. If you come across these adventures at collector shows or shop on Amazon, use this as a price gauge.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great information. The Lone Ranger radio episode plot material recycling is an interesting study.

Post a Comment