Post by franklinmarsh on Oct 12, 2008 14:17:37 GMT
Apache No 9 - The Naked And The Savage by William M James (Laurence James). NEL May 1980. First published in the USA in 1977 by Pinnacle Books Inc.
'This is for John Stewart, whom I've liked and enjoyed from The Kingston Trio to the Omaha Rainbow and then onward and upward. With sincere thanks and admiration.'
' 'Call me Ishmael!' 'What?' 'Call me Ishmael!' 'Fishmeal?' 'Ishmael!' 'Damn foolish name!' 'You spigot-suckin' son of a bitch!' Instead of replying with his mouth, the tall sailor would have done better to have used his fists. The other man did. His first punch sunk deep into Ishmael's midriff, doubling him up like a child's puppet, breath whooshing from lungs like a steam pump. As Ishmael's head went down, it met the other man's knee coming up. The big man's teeth crashed together with a dreadful splintering sound, and bright blood spurted out across the beer-soaked sawdust of the waterfront saloon. 'You bastard!' '
There's something about that opening that fairly screams that this is one of Laurence James' westerns. 'Call me Ishmael' is one of the best-known opening lines in literary history. Rather disappointingly it's not from Apache 9 : The Naked And The Savage but from Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Moby-Dick was published in 1851. It's a huge, sprawling, housebrick of a novel, incredibly well thought of, an American classic of literature. I've never read it but I have seen John Huston's 1956 film, (the screenplay of which was written by Vault fave Ray Bradbury) and read the MAD parody, which appeared in the paperback The Organisation MAD. Incidently the opening line of the MAD version went something like 'Call Me Fishmeal.' Also incidentally. the MAD Paperbacks were printed by Signet in the US but imported into the UK by NEL, who would even go so far as to put a little NEL sticker on the spine, over the Signet logo. Cindy incidentally, The Organisation MAD was a nose-thumbing at another 'important' book The Organisation Man by William Whyte, which also dates from 1956. I've lost my way a bit here. Oh yeah, as soon as I read that opening, I knew I was in LJ's world. Only he would have the gall to open one of his pulp tales with a genuine piece of literature, and within seconds, turn it into a bloody bar-room brawl. I was very taken with the fact that this punch-up takes place in The Spouter Inn, prop. one Peter Coffin, so was a bit amazed when doing some in depth research into the novel Moby-Dick (ie reading the Wikipedia entry) to find that Pete and his pub are also lovingly ripped off from Melville's original. More kudos to LJ. Would anyone who had read Moby-Dick be liable to pick up a Western penny-dreadful circa 1980? (Bet Pulphack's read it) Can't remember whether Steve/JKD/X covered Cuchillo Oro's origins in his masterful appraisal of Apache 7, but suffice to say that I think it was LJ who came up with the idea of a Western series from the point of view of a Native American. John Ford had occasionally looked at this toward the end of his career, and circa 1970-1972 Hollywood began to look at various elements, taking advantage of relaxing censorship to do so pretty bloodily. Soldier Blue and Ulzana's Raid portrayed the White Man's inhumanity to the Red as a parallel with the current VietNam conflict, Litle Big Man and A Man Called Horse dropped white men into Indian communities, and Michael Winner transformed Charles Bronson, his leading man of choice, into a breed in the Apache template, Chato's Land. As with many Piccadilly Cowboy series, Apache is a quest for vengeance, Cuchillo Oro losing his wife and child, and being mutilated by US Soldier Cyrus Pinner, thus spending the 27 books trying to find and pay back the bluebelly. After the bizarre Chapter One, which is a kind of flash forward, we catch up with Cuchillo Oro en route to San Francisco, where he has reason to believe that Pinner is engaged in a secret mission. The indian hooks up with Roydon Smallwood and his dubious wife Martha along the way. Martha is one of those dreadful women that seem to populate LJs books. Despite initial suspicion, she gradually warms to Cuchillo, and, if Roydon is out of the way , attempts to force her rancid, awful body on his. Needless to say she almost succeeds, but her hubby intervenes and during the following melee accidently blows his missus in half with a scattergun. Cuchillo gets the drop on him and leaves him tied to a tree. Suitaby disguised in white mans clothes, the Indian arrives in SanFran, a teeming metropolis where his bizarre appearance doesn't stand out. He sells the Smallwood's wagon and effects and, now monied, begins to search the city for his nemesis. He fortunately falls in with good-time girl Eliza Barrell. LJs wife was named Elizabeth, and there often seems to be an Elizabeth, Liz, Eliza, Liza, Lisa etc in his books. Ms Barrell reckons that most US officers use a posh brothel on Nob Hill called The Golden Pinnacle (an oblique comment on US publishing there) when in Frisco. The duo visit this den of iniquity, and, although Pinner is there, things go sadly wrong, and they are forced to flee to the docks and attempt to gain passage on board a ship. Eliza knows Captain Melville (no!) of whaling vessel The Ahab (get off!). Cuchillo proves he can hurl a harpoon with the best of them (check out Moby-Dick re nationality of harpooners) and they sail just as Pinner and an angry mob arrive at the waters edge. Things now get even more strange. Cuchillo falls out with Biblical phrasing first mate Ezekiel Bottom. Cap'n Melville spirits Eliza off to his cabin where he gives her a hard time, occasionally emerging pissed as a f*rt on gin and armed to the teeth. Hapless Oriental cook Suki catches sight of Eliza and the Cap'n in flagrante through his cabin window, and is sentenced to 50 lashes. The steaming Captain orders Eliza to wield the whip. Suki ends up dead. The Captain gives Ms Barrell sans clothes to the crew. Cuchillo assists her in gaining her revenge and a form of escape. Pinner and various ne'er-do-wells are chasing the Ahab in another vessel. Phew!The last twenty pages are a magnificent maritime adventure that George Abercrombie Fox or even Ken Bulmer would have been proud of. There's not a lot of the Wild West in this one, but its a great example of Laurence James' plagiaristic creativity and sheer unpredictability.
The indian hooks up with Roydon Smallwood and his dubious wife Martha along the way.
Doubtless a reference to Roydon in Essex which pops up in other Laurence James books and was, as I'm sure FM doesn't need telling, home to Mr James (that's Mister James, not M.R. James) and his family at the time he wrote this.
Pinner and various ne'er-do-wells are chasing the Ahab in another vessel.
Called, I think, The Rachel? Another nod to Melville's book. All this talk of Moby Dick has got me thinking that I might have a stab at writing something about Philip Jose Farmer's 1971 sequel, The Wind Whales of Ishmael, which I read recently. Although, to be honest, it's only a slightly less daunting prospect than attempting a write up of Melville's original.
Incidentally, FM - have you got a copy of Son of Mad? I've got one I could send your way, if not.