Monday, May 26, 2014

Adventure’s Heart by Albert Dorrington

As vapid and mediocre as its title
Adventure’s Heart, a novella by Albert Dorrington, was originally published in the May 1, 1922 issue of Top-Notch magazine. Darrel Mace, a former boxer, is shipwrecked on a deserted atoll in the South Pacific. There he is discovered by a native who invites Mace back to his home island. When they arrive, Mace is shocked to find that the community of indigenous islanders is ruled by a white woman. The welcome he receives from his new acquaintances is far from warm and, not surprisingly, he must employ his finely-honed fighting skills in order to survive.

This story bears a striking resemblance to many of Jack London’s tales of the South Seas, including the occasional thinly veiled white pride message. Mace is depicted as the physical and intellectual superior of all the natives, and Dorrington seems to consider it perfectly natural that a tribe of Pacific Islanders would willingly submit to the rule of a Caucasian queen. In the early ‘20s, of course, the queen had to be white in order to allow for some romance with the hero, as interracial love would have been taboo. The political incorrectness of it all is not particularly offensive, just cheesily antiquated. The most offensive thing about the story is that it’s rather boring. To its credit it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Through every perilous situation, Mace maintains his sense of humor and spouts a steady stream of light-hearted slang.

Habitual readers of pulp fiction know what to expect from these white-man-in-the-jungle stories, and Adventure’s Heart delivers exactly what’s expected, but nothing more. It serves its purpose while you’re reading it, but there’s nothing original or memorable about it. This vanilla tale is every bit as generic as the title it bears. If you’re looking for adventure in the South Pacific, you’d be better off reading London’s stories in the collections A Son of the Sun and South Sea Tales.

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