by George F. Worts, © 1930 – this edition: Black Dog Books 2007 trade paper – adventure short story collection, pulp reprint
This collection of 5 stories, all published in 1930 in Short Stories magazine, one of many collections by the fine pulp reprint publisher Black Dog Books, is a heck of a lot of fun.
“Samuel Larkin Shay is a United States citizen from Cairo, Illinois but for the past six years he’s been a restless rover of the Asiatic tropics. For six hard, weary years, Singapore Sammy has been hunting for a man. For six years, in every manner of conveyance, from ox cart to lady liner, from Malay proa to airplane, he has followed the tortuous trail; losing it, picking it up again. It has taken him from Pekin to the Punjab, from Ceylon to the Celebes and far beyond. The man in question is Singapore Sammy’s father, Bill Shay – whom Sammy has several accounts to settle with. The old rascal deserted Sammy and his mother when Sammy was but an infant of two. Upon departing, Bill Shay took Sammy’s grandfather’s will, which leaves a fortune to Sammy. The estate cannot be claimed without the will—and Sammy wants that will!”
Bill Shay is nuts about two things: elephants and pearls. Both of these are to be found in abundance in the Asian tropics, so Sammy has trailed his father there. That gives the bare facts, but these wonderful, fast-moving stories are not about facts, they’re about adventure, danger, treasure, and a terrific character nicknamed Singapore Sammy. Tough as nails, not always smart when the search gets hot, Sam is always quick-witted and the scene is never boring.
I love adventure stories set in this part of the world in this time period – the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, it was a time of every-man-for-himself adventure, where a bold man with a smart plan could make a fortune one day and lose it that night in a crooked game of poker. The sea, seemingly always shark-infested, is often in play, or a steaming jungle and crocodile filled rivers. There is the smell of copra (I knew what it was but didn’t know how it smelled until I read this book), the black mud of the swamps, the crystal clear tropical waters studded with islands like gems, the double-dealing of friends and enemies, the promise of riches and always, always the hunt for Bill Shay, who keeps just a jump ahead. Or does he?
This is perfect summer reading – or reading any time of year. What are you waiting for? Think you need a drink with a little umbrella in it? Nah, this is rough and tumble, anything cool will do. These stories are a fun kick in the pants. Pair this book up with The Golden Goshawk by H. Bedford Jones (also published by Black Dog) and you’ll have a terrific tropical double-header. Settle back and enjoy. My one wish is that there were more of these wonderful tales.
Alert! Wishes DO come true. Just minutes before posting this, I got word that there is a second volume of Singapore Sammy stories, The Python Pit coming from BDB in 2011. That’s great news!