Friday, December 19, 2014

Two New Lone Ranger Books

Ever heard of Moonstone Publishing? Described on their website as "a fun little company who works ridiculously hard to bring escapist entertainment to the masses," they license trademarked characters such as The Green Hornet, The Spider, Honey West, The Phantom and other fictional heroes to life with reprints of old dime novels and new fiction from a number of award-winning authors. Among their latest exploits are two books that you might want to consider getting this Christmas season direct from their website, 

The Lone Ranger Chronicles is an anthology offering 16 short stories based on the exploits of the Masked Man and his faithful Indian companion. The stories range from whimsical to action-packed. Here, The Lone Ranger meets up with The Cisco Kid, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, among others. As with any anthology, the prose varies from one story to another -- as does the concepts of what each author had in mind when they were asked to contribute. You'll find many of the stories quite enjoyable; others a little bland. And which stories are worth reading is subjective -- I won't bother with my opinion because I am more of a purist at heart. If The Lone Ranger and Tonto do something in one of these stories that they would never have done on the radio or television program, that is because liberties were made to allow for artistic purposes. Like comic books, each run of script writers and artists allow for a different concept (or direction) where the story goes. And an artist conception is in the eyes of the beholder. 

I would like to say for the record that I wish more books like these about The Lone Ranger, with new prose, were published. We already have a few for The Green Hornet. I am almost done reading all the Big Little Books, Better Little Books and Grossett & Dunlap hardcover novels based on The Lone Ranger character. And I crave more. But before you buy this book, take note: remember that these stories are modern-day retellings of artist conceptions. There is a story that tells the origin of Tonto; another tells the origin of Silver. Fran Striker wrote an origin for both Tonto and Silver and because the creator of the radio program did so, these should not be considered true origin stories. That was established back in the 1930s. (The origin of Silver was dramatized on radio and a recording of that broadcast does exist in collector hands.) So do not add these stories to the official Lone Ranger lore... As long as you are aware of this, the book is worth the read. (I only state this because I will cringe the moment someone tells me the origin of Silver based on this conception and not Fran Striker's, who was the creator of the Masked Man.)

Also reprinted is Fran Striker's Lone Ranger Creed, and an introduction by Dawn Moore, daughter of television's Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore. Oddly, she receives no credit on the cover of the book for writing the introduction (which should have been listed as a "foreword"), no acknowledgment in the table of contents and which must have been included in the manuscript hap-hazardly as three grammatical errors are obvious in the page and a half. I feel sorry for Dawn but I suspect this book was put together rather quickly to cash in on the Disney movie starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. (I am not sure if that would have increased sales any more than had the book been published a year after the movie's release.) This book is also "unauthorized," unlike most of Moonstone's books, which means the copyright holders of The Lone Ranger property were never approached.

Moonstone also published a novel, The Lone Ranger: Vendetta, which stands alone from the anthology described above. Howard Hopkins wrote what is probably the most accurate depiction of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, in the closest representation of Fran Striker's creation. So good that with the exception of a sex scene with the villain, Fran Striker himself would have approved of this novel. It is a sequel to the Butch Cavendish legend (which evolved over the years with each re-telling of Striker's typewriter), again unofficial. 

The retail price for the novel is $4.99 and if you had to choose between this book and the anthology ($19.95), grab the novel. Not because of the price, but because of how good it is. I wrote to Howard Hopkins following the completion of this novel, praising the good job, only to discover he since passed away. A darn shame because if he was still alive and announced another Lone Ranger novel in the works, I would have been the first in line to buy a copy.

If I seem to be on the pedestal for a moment about "authorized" and "unsanctioned," the reason is only because while I do not condone "unsanctioned" works, fans need to -- at the very least -- be aware of what they read. The recent print-on-demand service has also created a number of complications. Namely, cheap knockoffs that seem to benefit no one but the author who hopes to gain a few extra bucks in his or her pocket... with careless regard for the property they write about. A few months ago I purchased The Lone Ranger: The Unofficial Biography and Reference by Jennifer Warner. Sixty-six pages (the book is the width and length of a small dime novel) with information that was obviously "borrowed" from websites such as Wikipedia. (CBS is listed inaccurately as CBC at least twice in the book.) This same book was recently passed around at the SPERDVAC convention and everyone was shaking their heads and commenting how horrible it is. But I guess for less than $6.00, what can we expect? The $2.99 Kindle version is 40 pages and comes with a different front cover image.

More people every year are jumping on the bandwagon, browsing websites such as Wikipedia and cutting and pasting the info into a text file, then uploads their 40 or 50 page "book" to a print-on-demand system and... whola! Easy pocket money pours in. Books sell because they are cheap and customers are finding themselves ripped off. A friend of mine said he bought one about a rock group and quickly discovered how he was ripped off by his purchase... and I fear that trend will continue to grow. So beware of books with a low page count... I am not sure how else I can help steer you from those money pits. Remember that oftentimes you get what you paid for. A page count of less than 80 should be a tip-off. But don't take my word for it... check out the reviews on these two web pages.


And having now saved you from throwing away $6.00, go and buy The Lone Ranger: Vendetta today.