Monday, March 12, 2012

Ki-Gor and the Paradise That Time Forgot

I ordered the second volume in Altus Press's Ki-Gor:The Complete Series books a couple of weeks back. Finally sat down to read one of the stories last night. In this one, everyone's favorite Tarzan Knock-off tries to help the members of a lost safari get out of the jungle, mostly because he's irritated at having the three civilized people in what he considers his part of the jungle. Unfortunately he chooses the quickest route but not the safest, and one of the none too jungle savvy safari members falls into an inescapable valley.
This being a Ki-Gor story, the valley is inhabited by an unknown tribe of bushmen who have lived there for centuries and who have never seen anyone from the outside world. And they have mass quantities of gold, which leads one of the safari members to try and steal it. He manages to escape the formerly inescapable valley, using the rope that Ki-gor used to follow him down. Problem is, the bushmen hold Ki-Gor and his companions responsible for the theft and the penalty for stealing is death.
This is a pretty straightforward jungle hero adventure, and not one of the wilder sort of adventures Ki-Gor would have later in his career. The lost safari is one of the standard fall back tropes for Tarzan, Sheena, Kaanga, Bomba, and others of the jungle hero clan. However the writing in this one is much improved over some of the earlier Ki-Gor tales which appeared in volume one. Since no one is really sure who wrote which Ki-Gor stories, this could be because it was a different writer by this point. There are some attempts at characterization and the story barrels along with plenty of action.
I've mentioned before that Ki-Gor managed to outlast all the other Tarzan imitators by a long shot and the reason for that is two-fold I think. First, Ki-Gor comes the closest to the original model of all the Tarzan clones. He almost IS Tarzan. Second, the stories are almost always entertaining. Fiction House, Ki-Gor's publisher, wasn't the best paying of the pulp markets, but the Ki-Gor series is surprisingly good. Ki-Gor actually made more prose appearances than Tarzan, starring in more than 50 short novels.
The Altus Press book is a big, solid, trade paperback containing five Ki-Gor adventures. Some of the original pulp magazine illustrations are included as well. It could use an introduction, but I suppose the publishers felt that anyone seeking this book out would know who Ki-Gor was.
Anyway, I've found, much as the pulps readers of the 30s,40s, and 50s probably did, that when you've run out of Tarzan stories, Ki-Gor isn't a bad stand-in.


Anonymous said...

Hey Charles,

I'm a big fan of Ki-Gor. "Paradise" is one of the earliest that I thought decent, but there are 7 or 8 of them I thought truly outstanding -- in a jungle-man, politically incorrect kind of way. How many have you read? Tigress of T'Wanbi is the first one that really has some good pacing, and then half a year later came Blood Priestess of Vig'Na, which reads to me a lot like Robert E. Howard writing a Tarzan story.

They could be so hit or miss. There'd be two really good ones in a row, then a real dog. But as Chris Hocking says, the highs are so high that you keep slogging through the series, looking for more good ones.

My favorite probably remains The Silver Witch, the first I read, although there are many close seconds. I wish someone was simply doing a "best of" Ki-Gor, because I don't see any reason to read most of them over again. The good ones, though, are worth revisiting.

Howard Andrew Jones

Anonymous said...

....Hey Charles,

I just leafed through my master title list, and I will upgrade my "really good" list to between 15 and 18. Not bad, out of 59 issues. That's almost a third. Of course, that means that the other two-thirds are either slow, so painfully politically incorrect they can't be endured, just plain flat out terrible, and frequently all three.


Charles R. Rutledge said...

Hey Howard. I've read about 20 of the Ki-Gor's so far, and I would definitely put the Silver Witch near the top of the heap. Fortunately, my introduction to the character was the High Adventure reprints, which start further along in the run than the Altus Press reprints. As you say, I have found some of the stories unreadable and some very good. I did read Tigress of T'Wanbi and I believe I have a copy of Blood Priestess. I'd certainly be interested in your list of which other ones you consider worthwhile.
I've also gotten a lot further in my reading of all your Harold Lamb volumes. I'll drop you and email soon and tell you what all I've read.