Monday, November 7, 2022
W. Wirt’s When Tigers Are Hunting
W. Wirt was American and born in 1876 but apart from that not much is known about him. He claimed to have been a Federal agent and to have had various adventures in far-flung places but that was in a bio he provided for a pulp magazine so there’s no way of knowing how much of it was true.
These stories are at the very very pulpy end of the pulp fiction spectrum.
These are pure action stories with very little plot. Each story begins with the heroes in the midst of an epic fight and the fighting rages on until the story ends. The heroes always run short of ammunition and have to resort to hand-to-hand combat. They always kill hundreds if not thousands of bad guys.
Whether you’ll enjoy these stories or not depends on what you want from your pulp fiction. If you just want non-stop action without any real rhyme or reason you’ll be content. If you want interesting stories, genuine thrills and suspense, real atmosphere and the occasional surprise you’ll be disappointed. These stories are about as basic as pulp fiction gets.
You definitely don’t want to read several of thee stories in one sitting because they’ll start to blend into one another. It’s essentially the same story every time.
He’s a Good Little Guy at That appeared in Frontier Stories in May 1928. Jimmie Cordie is one of four soldiers of fortune seeking treasure in Malaya. Actually to call them soldiers of fortune or adventurers would be rather generous. They’re murderous thieves. They’re after the treasure of a local snake god and if they have to machine gun a few hundred Malays to get it that doesn’t bother them one bit. They seem to enjoy killing.
Although these are described as the Jimmie Cordie stories he doesn’t seem to be the the leader of this band of thieves. Red Dolan seems to be the leader, although at times Grigsby seems to give orders. Putney just obeys orders.
They’ve come well equipped for treasure hunting - they have a machine gun, lots of rifles and automatics and a large supply of hand grenades.
Amidst all the carnage they create they come across a twelve-year-old English girl held captive by the tribesmen. And suddenly these cut-throats (Red Dolan in particular) turn into a bunch of sentimental softies. Now nothing matters except to save the little girl. It’s a weird little story, mixing extraordinary amounts of violence and brutality with amazingly soppy sentimentality.
The Major Wanted Him Alive appeared in Frontier Stories in June 1928. Cordie and pals are now, temporarily, Federal agents. Their job is to clean up a smuggling ring. Cordie goes undercover a stir-crazy cook. There’s lots of mayhem.
According to My Size and Disposition appeared in the October 1928 issue of Frontier Stories. This time Cordie and his friends are in China, caught in a struggle between rival warlords. And there’s something about a mining concession. There’s a lot of shooting but no actual plot.
Private Property was published in Short Stories in October 1928. Again there’s action aplenty and there’s a girl who needs rescuing although perhaps rescuing her isn’t such a good idea.
In The Jewel in the Lotus (from Short Stories, November 1928) Cordie and his pals are after a fabulous ruby when they get caught in a vicious struggle between rival Chinese factions. The priests always seem to be the bad guys in these stories and Cordie and his friends are once again fighting to save a brave young girl. They find that the jewel isn’t what they thought it was. A better story.
In When Tigers Are Hunting (from Frontier Stories, November 1928) the boys meet up again with the little English girl they rescued in He’s a Good Little Guy at That. She’s now eighteen and her father has been kidnapped. Jimmie has by now established a connection with a tong - he saved the life of the tong leader’s son. This provides him with very useful sources of intelligence.
As usual the bad guys fire thousands of rounds at our heroes and miss evert time, while the good guys never miss. They kill a few thousand Chinese and rescue the girl’s father.
That Fish Thing was published in Frontier Stories in January 1929. The fish thing is an amulet, Red Dolan has it and a tong will stop at nothing to get it back. Lots of mayhem again.
Right Smack at You! Is from Frontier Stories, April 1929. It’s a longer more ambitious story (more of a novelette) about the search for the treasure in the tomb of Genghis Khan’s son. It’s still basically non-stop action scenes but with a bit more of a plot.
These stories are not quite what I look for in pulp adventure fiction set in exotic locales. I prefer a bit more weirdness, a bit more intrigue, more romance, more of the mystery and strangeness of the exotic. If you share my tastes you probably won’t go for this collection.
But if you like relentless action with millions of rounds of small arms ammunition being expended and a few explosions as well you might find these tales to be just what you’re looking for. We all have our own tastes in pulp fiction and I’m not going to try to persuade you that my tastes in pulp are the only valid tastes.
With these thoughts in mind you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to try When Tigers Are Hunting.