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The Bandit of Hell's Bend

When 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 explains 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 belly. 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."

After 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 four words.
   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 Deputy 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.]

 
Edgar Rice Burroughs'
Western Novels

The Bandit of Hell's Bend (1925)
The War Chief (1927)
Apache Devil (1933)
The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County('40)

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Drawings for The Bandit of Hell's Bend
copyright © 1924 Frank A. Munsey Company.
Copyright © 1999 Patrick H. Adkins. All rights reserved.