This is a house of illness this week, I’m afraid, so there’s not much in the way of a column. However, I do have one little nugget from the odds-and-sods pile I’m going to go ahead and put up, because it’s too good not to share.
On one of our thrift-shop bookscouting expeditions that I occasionally chronicle in this space, I stumbled across an interesting little oddity.
Ever wonder what Fran Striker did after creating The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet for radio in the 1940’s? Probably not, but God help me, it’s the sort of thing that crosses my mind, and I just found out. Apparently he went on to create Tom Quest.
This was a short-lived boy’s adventure series published by Grosset & Dunlap from 1947 to 1952 or thereabouts.
Then in 1955 the series was reprinted in super-cheap hardcover by Clover Books, designed to be sold on drugstore racks alongside Whitman’s Big Little Books and Trixie Belden and so on. Clover also put out new seventh and eighth books in the series along with reprinting the original six.
I discovered all this myself just today after a little research … I do carry a lot of crap in my head but I’m not that good. I’m indebted to Bob Finnian, who maintains the Tom Quest Unofficial Homepage, for most of this info.
Anyway, poking around in one of our local thrift stores, I scored the last of the Clovers, number eight– Mystery of the Timber Giant.
Thanks to some first-rate scholarship from Fred Woodworth in the article reprinted on Finnian’s page, we know this is actually a rewrite of an earlier licensed Gene Autry novel, Gene Autry and the Redwood Pirates, which also featured an unscrupulous lumber baron as the villain.
But here’s a fun fact that neither Mr. Finnian nor Mr. Wordworth mentions.
First let me catch you up on the series premise. Tom Quest is the son of a famous scientist and explorer, and goes on his adventures with wisecracking newspaperman Whiz Walton and a huge Texan guy named Gulliver. In the first book, Tom discovers that his father, long believed dead, may still be alive, and, in the second novel Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver travel to Central America in search of him. They do, eventually, find Quest senior (sorry, I guess that was a SPOILER!!)
In later books Tom’s scientist father takes Tom with him on his expeditions and though Tom is nominally the hero of these adventures, really it’s tough guy Gulliver that gets most of the action.
Sound familiar? It should.
Because according to the Wold Newton mythology, Tom later started going by his middle name, Benton, and became a scientist himself.
And his son Jonny Quest would go on to have even more fantastic adventures.
What I love about this supposed connection is the certainty that it was completely unplanned by anyone working on any of these properties …and yet it’s so perfect.
More is revealed in this vastly entertaining series of articles here.
As for me, I’m taking some more flu medicine and stumbling off to bed. See you next week.
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