Friday, September 26, 2014
I don't remember when I first ran across the name "Bulldog Drummond", but it was most likely in one of Philip Jose Farmer's fictional biographies of either Tarzan or Doc Savage. All I knew about the character was that he was British and a significant physical specimen. Getting and reading a Bulldog Drummond story has been a low-grade ambition for many many moons.
So when I stumbled across a Wordsworth edition of the first four novels featuring the character I snapped it up. Such was my condition that I could read the first novel immediately and it was a whopper. "Sapper" who is in reality writer H.C. McNeile, fashioned a peppery adventure full of brawny and brave men and dastardly villains.
Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond is a World War I veteran, a man who found in the trenches a sense of purpose and a lust for danger and adventure. At home he is bored and like most British heroes leads a life of relative comfort (properly attended to by a just-assumed-to-be-there servant) and then he puts an ad in the paper essentially asking for trouble. He finds it when a beautiful woman answers his ad and he finds himself battling his arch-enemy Carl Peterson for the first time. Peterson is the name for a mysterious master villain who has a big gang of thugs and who seeks to undermine the British government itself to enrich himself and his associates. But as ruthless as Peterson is, we find that Drummond is no less a man of violence, a veritable bear of a man who uses his wits and his brawn to escape sundry dangerous situations.
Drummond is helped by his mates, men and veterans like himself. I was much reminded of Doc Savage's aides as Drummond's main men fell into place, each with a distinctive personality, but all brave and thoroughly gung-ho. We find in Drummond a powerful personality, a man who is comfortable leading others into danger and who is more than willing to take not only the law but destiny itself into his powerful hands.
I've seen some of the Bulldog Drummond movies and they are dandy entertainments, but none of them that I've seen were as good or had the fundamental weirdness of this novel.
It's easy to see why these adventures were such a hit. The story explodes and propels itself along. I'm most eager to read the sequel at the soonest opportunity.