The Bandit of Hell's Bend
John Guidry announced this first ERB-APA symposium, I was pleased at his
choice of The Bandit of Hell's Bend, a book I had only read once--an
increasingly rare thing among Burroughs titles--and at that, some twenty
years ago. Luck was on my side as well; it is also one of the few Burroughs
stories which I possess in both the standard book version and in the original
(1924) magazine form--excerpted, unfortunately.
Most of you, I reasoned, would probably
run critiques of the novel. By reading the magazine version and offering
a comparison with the book edition, I could avoid burdening the mailing
with yet another set of observations that, undoubtedly, would be much like
those of my fellow members. Instead I could make the kind of solid contribution
to ERB scholarship (however minor) that I so admire from others but am
seldom able to attempt.
Argosy All-Story Weekly accommodated me from the very first page,
when "meals at the home ranch implied a preliminary scrubbing" instead
of (in the book version) "required a toilet."
As I progressed, I found a steady trickle
of very minor differences: things heard instead of heered;
people arose instead of rose; and it was to-night
instead of tonight. Song lyrics were stepped instead of justified
left. Many of the differences were odd, not following a predictable pattern.
The book's ". . . in the Arizona of that day" is clipped to "in Arizona"
in the magazine, but the magazine's "the girl observed, her tone slightly
reproving" becomes, in the book, "said the girl." Another time, the girl
in the magazine, but merely says in the book. Often--again, without
a clear pattern--paragraphs are broken apart or combined. Not surprisingly,
the magazine prefers the more decorous word stomach to the book's
In one amusing instance, the magazine editor seems to have been determined
to avoid the phrase "Stick'em up," which ERB used three times in close
succession in the book. First he substituted "Hands up!" Then "hold 'em
up," and finally "raise 'em up."
two chapters of this sort of thing, I was beginning to despair. How could
I ever get an article out of it? I skimmed ahead, spot checking a few places
that seemed likely to sport major differences. I found more of the same
minor editorial (I presume) changes. The single most interesting one was
when the editor censored the book version's "...the office door swung open,
revealing Lillian Manill in a diaphanous negligee" by cutting the last
I wasn't prepared to say that I had examined
all the differences between the two versions (I lacked the time, and the
mailing deadline was racing toward me), but I felt reasonably certain that
I was following a dead-end path. It looked as though I would have to find
something interesting to say about the story itself.
I had enjoyed rereading the book--even found
myself regretting those times when I had to set it aside--but it was, after
all, pretty much a standard Western, at least as far as I (no regular reader
of Westerns) could determine. I found it reminded me strongly of Zane Grey's
1912 "classic" Riders of the Purple Sage, Bull seeming a good bit
like Lassiter (if that's the character's name). Certainly it didn't have
the ring of truth that I admire in ERB's Apache novels and even in
Sheriff . . . .
Then John Guidry came to my rescue (as occasionally
happens and I sometimes even admit) by suggesting that I reprint some of
the charming magazine illustrations by Modest Stein, spacing them out as
necessary so that my brief comments would fill the two pages required for
a contribution. I thought that an excellent idea.
--September 25, 1985
[In its original layout, the final sentence and date were
perfectly positioned at the bottom margin of the second page--no easy feat,
since this article was composed on a typewriter around penciled-off areas
where photocopies of the drawings would later be pasted.]