by Denis Hughes
(available in eBook format)
When geologist and big game hunter Rex Brandon set off into the African jungle to prospect for a rare mineral, he knew dangers lie ahead. Two previous expeditions had never returned. George Traski brought back rich samples from the deep interior — but refused to say where he found them. Instead, he insisted on mounting a second expedition for a more detailed survey. Then he vanished …
More recently, Professor Shaw and his daughter went missing after following in Traski’s footsteps. Brandon decided the time had come to locate the mineral deposit, and find the missing explorers. But he little realized to what dangers his own safari would be exposed …
Check out all the Rex Brandon, Jungle Hunter adventure thrillers.
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The folks at Bold Venture Press have been bringing back into print some interesting series from England and Australian that U.S. readers have probably never seen. The latest is the Rex Brandon, Jungle Hunter series. This 12-volume series was published in England from 1951-52 by Curtis Warren. They were written by Denis Hughes (1917-2008) who was a prolific writer mainly of western and science-fiction works. He is largely unknown because almost nothing appeared under his name but rather under a dozen pseudonyms. The series has a strange beginning. In 1950-51, publisher Curtis Warren brought out a six-book series about Azan the Ape Man. No, I’m not kidding. It was written by David Griffiths under the Marco Garron name. It was intended to take advantage of the recent reprinting of Tarzan by another publisher but was so close that ERB Inc. threatened legal action if the series wasn’t removed. So Curtis Warren quickly turned to Hughes to create a different character, Rex Brandon, and published under the name of Marco Garon. It was successful enough that a total of 12 were written. I have no idea why no further ones were done. The first one is Death Warriors. Here, Rex, a geologist and big-game hunter, is off to the African jungle in search of not just a mineral deposit, but two prior expeditions, especially that of a Professor Shaw and his daughter. Rex is a bit of a cipher. We know he’s a geologist and big-game hunter, and is obviously knowledgeable and skilled in those areas. He is English. But we have no physical description of him, such as his hair color. The adventure starts in Nigeria when Rex is flown into a remote village. There he meets a couple of men who seem to represent England and France, and who fill him in on matters. We learn that a George Traski had gone into the interior during World War II and returned with some samples of a rare and valuable mineral. This mineral is called “irikum,” and is more valuable than uranium for atomic power. And the Western allies need it. Traski had returned after the war to go after it again but disappeared. More recently Professor Steven Shaw and his daughter, Coralie, followed, as Shaw knew Traski and hoped to also find it. They, too, have gone missing a year ago. Rex then, heads to the Cameroons to mount the expedition under the guise of a hunting trip, possibility for gorillas. He gathers a group of native bearers, though they will start using five trucks. One bearer in particular, N’gambi, is a tracker and will oversee them. Before they leave, a strange fellow named Arthur Betts joins them, as he is a zoologist interested in finding a unique species of gorilla. Heading out, there are issues. The natives think the safari is bad luck. They are entering Borwingi country and their drums are beating. A truck breaks down. A lion carries off and kills one of the bearers. Someone takes a shot at Rex. Other dangers arise: rogue gorillas, angry tribes, an escaped convict, deadly swamps, and animals. Soon it’s down to Rex and a couple of others. They then find the source of the mineral: the Valley of Devils. And they find out what happened to the prior expeditions. Do all return? You’ll have to read to find out. I guess I have to point out that this was written in the 1950s, with the attitudes of the time. They aren’t what we would have, though certainly better than what we might have seen in the 1920s or ’30s. But you can still enjoy this work. This is a short novel, and the story moves right along. While most characters are given basic descriptions, I was surprised that Rex Brandon wasn’t given one. Also, as with most such series, I wonder if any of these characters will appear in subsequent novels? I kind of doubt it, as I expect each one to be standalone works, with no connection to prior ones. You seldom see a constant set of secondary characters. But won’t know until I read more. The cover art and design for this one are excellent. They were clearly trying to harken back to the Doc Savage and Tarzan paperback covers and did an excellent job. The original artwork leaves a lot to be desired. I hope they don’t use it for the subsequent volumes. I believe the plan is to get these out about every other month or so. I also recommend folks take a look at Bold Venture Press’s other recent reprint series, though all have been westerns. I’d like to see more action/adventure series. There are the westerns like Benedict and Brazos (up to about #30), the new O’Brien, and the Masked Rider Western, along with the war-time Rat Bastards.