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New Treasures: The Big Book of Adventure Stories, edited by Otto Penzler

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Big Book of Adventure Stories-smallIt shouldn’t be a surprise that I love these big omnibus collections, and The Big Book of Adventure Stories is much bigger and omnibus-er than most. Weighing in at a generous 896 pages, it’s Penzler’s generous gift to those of us who love fast-paced pulp adventure… or just need a door stop (for a bank vault).

The massive volume is divided in 11 intriguing sections, including Sword & Sorcery, Man Vs. Nature, Island Paradise, Go West, Young Man (pulp westerns), Future Shock (science fiction), Yellow Peril (sinister Asian villains), and by far the largest, In Darkest Africa.

You can pack a lot of great authors into nearly 900 pages, and Penzer doesn’t disappoint, including Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Philip Jose Farmer, Harold Lamb, Rudyard Kipling, Ray Cummings, Rafael Sabatini, Sax Rohmer, Cornell Wollrich, Louis L’Amour, and many others. Among other fascinating tales are the one that introduced The Cisco Kid, O. Henry’s 1907 “The Caballero’s Way,” and Edgar Rice Burrough’s complete novel Tarzan the Terrible.

Everyone loves adventure, and Otto Penzler has collected the best adventure stories of all time into one mammoth volume. With stories by Jack London, O. Henry, H. Rider Haggard, Alastair MacLean, Talbot Mundy, Cornell Woolrich, and many others, this wide-reaching and fascinating volume contains some of the best characters from the most thrilling adventure tales, including The Cisco Kid; Sheena, Queen of the Jungle; Bulldog Drummond; Tarzan; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Conan the Barbarian; Hopalong Cassidy; King Kong; Zorro; and The Spider. Divided into sections that embody the greatest themes of the genre — Sword & Sorcery, Megalomania Rules, Man vs. Nature, Island Paradise, Sand and Sun, Something Feels Funny, Go West Young Man, Future Shock, I Spy, Yellow Peril, In Darkest Africa — it is destined to be the greatest collection of adventure stories ever compiled.

Featuring: Lawless open seas, ferocious army ants, deadeyed gunmen, exotic desert islands, feverish jungle adventures.

Otto Penzler had produced a small library of massive anthologies over the past few years, including The Big Book of Ghost Stories (848 pages), Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! (832 pages), The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories (1136 pages), and The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps (a whopping 1168 pages). Perhaps my favorite is The Vampire Archives, which describes itself as “The Most Complete Volume of Vampire Tales Ever Published” — and at 1,056 pages, I believe it — which doubtless deserves its own New Treasures article.

The Big Book of Adventure Stories was published May 31, 2011 by Vintage Original. It is 896 pages in oversized trade paperback, priced at $25. The eye-catching cover is by Rafael Desoto.

10 Comments »

  1. The covers of these old books like this crack me up. They scream to my 13-year old inner child: “You must buy this!”

    Comment by James McGlothlin - January 15, 2014 2:20 pm

  2. I know. And this one isn’t even that old!

    Comment by John ONeill - January 15, 2014 2:39 pm

  3. “Featuring: Lawless open seas, ferocious army ants, deadeyed gunmen, exotic desert islands, feverish jungle adventures.”

    I think they left out the “deadly Amazon beauties” but I think I’ll pick up a copy anyway. :)

    Comment by BeautyInRuins - January 15, 2014 4:56 pm

  4. “some of the best characters from the most thrilling adventure tales, including The Cisco Kid;…… Queen of the Jungle; Bulldog Drummond; Tarzan; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Conan the Barbarian; Hopalong Cassidy……… Zorro; and The Spider”.

    An Anthony “Buck” Rogers reprint also appears in this volume. That does remind that while one has “classic monsters” such as Stoker’s Count Dracula, Mr. Hyde and the Frankenstein’s Monster, “classic adventure heroes” actually from prior to 1938 seem rarer. Some of these properties have lain inert in many ways. Buck Rogers has not had a TV or film project since 1981, for example.

    Comment by PB210 - January 15, 2014 9:45 pm

  5. @PB210: Hey, is “Buck” Rogers now in the public domain? One couldn’t draw upon any content from the later adaptations–serial comics, TV show, etc.–but that is a character and premise with a lot of potential to have real fun with.

    Comment by Nick Ozment - January 16, 2014 3:48 pm

  6. > I think they left out the “deadly Amazon beauties” but I think I’ll pick up a copy anyway.

    Beauty,

    I think that’s covered under “Island Paradise.” How can you have an island paradise without Amazon beauties?

    Comment by John ONeill - January 17, 2014 7:29 pm

  7. > An Anthony “Buck” Rogers reprint also appears in this volume.

    Holy cats — you’re right. How did I miss that? The complete short novel “Armageddon—2419 A. D.”, featuring the first appearance of Buck Rogers (from the August 1928 AMAZING STORIES) is also included.

    > Buck Rogers has not had a TV or film project since 1981, for example.

    Whew… is that true? Talk about a property ripe for a re-make!

    Comment by John ONeill - January 17, 2014 7:35 pm

  8. > Hey, is “Buck” Rogers now in the public domain?

    Nick,

    Possibly – although I doubt it. We’re currently in a holding pattern at 1927 (finagled by Disney lawyers, to prevent Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse from entering the public domain), and “Armageddon—2419 A. D.” appeared in 1928. So it won’t enter the public domain for some time.

    If the copyright wasn’t renewed by the creator (Philip Francis Nowlan) then it’s possible. I’m sure there’s an easy way to look it up, if only I could think of it. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - January 17, 2014 7:38 pm

  9. John,

    Recently got and read both Armageddon 2419 A.D. and “Airlords of the Han” on my kindle app device for FREE from the Kindle library. Also you can download them from wikisource/project Gutenburg, etc. because they are “Public Domain”.

    Comment by GreenGestalt - January 19, 2014 6:44 am

  10. [...] week I wrote  brief piece on Otto Penzler’s marvelous The Big Book of Adventure Stories, and I’ve been having so much fun with it that I decided to look at some of his other [...]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » New Treasures: The Vampire Archives, edited by Otto Penzler - January 24, 2014 3:33 pm


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