Saturday, June 9, 2012

"The Crimson Diamond" by Frederick Nebel

Just finished the second of eight adventure stories in the new Empire of the Devil collection from Black Dog Books, and I'm mighty dang impressed. Like most folks, my Nebel reading has been pretty much confined to his detective work. But as shown by the bibliography in the back of this book, roughly half of Nebel's pulp writing was done for adventure mags, most notably Action Stories, North-West Stories, Air Adventures and Wings. And it's good stuff!

The turning point came in the early '30s, when he began working on his novels and started selling to the slick magazines - for far more than he could get from the adventure mags. From that point on his pulp work was pretty much limited to the detective magazines.

That's not a bad thing, of course, because he turned out some great work. But based on what I'm seeing in Empire of the Devil, Nebel had a real gift for adventure, too, and - had he chosen to pursue that line - could have become one of the most popular writers in Adventure and Argosy.

"The Crimson Diamond," from the April 1928 issue of Action Stories, finds soldier of fortune Jack Trask on the Afghan border, hunting a legendary jewel with a nasty curse attached to it. It costs him dearly to get it, and the reward of a thousand rupees is nearly within his grasp when he discovers the cost will be even higher.

I especially enjoyed Nebel's assessment of the Afghan border, which I expect ain't changed all that much (except for inflation):

     For on the Afghan border, in the farther reaches of Hindustan,you can very easily get your enemy done away with for five rupees, or a dollar and half American money. In that blistering summer, not so long ago, there were just about a hundred thousand potential murderers - white, yellow, brown and black - in northern India.
     Back alleys were traversed and watched by men who traveled in ways that were dark. In every bazaar there were listening ears, searching eyes, a knife up every sleeve or a gun handy in a pocket. Each night there was a murder or two in half a dozen towns and cities. And the native police and the white officials threatened violence. But the quest went on - the deadly quest - of a hundred thousand men, nine tenths or more of whom were ready to do murder in the twinkling of an eye.

Empire of the Devil is available right HERE.


David Cranmer said...

Black Dog Books is rocking the joint. I will grab a copy of this very soon. Btw I have Tom Roberts of BDB at BEAT to a PULP this week:

Anonymous said...

I have this one too, and though I haven't read it yet, I'm eager to do so. David is right, Black Dog is publishing some absolutely great stuff.