Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Talbot Mundy -- Fascinating Tales of Adventure


“Silence is the only safe answer to Silence,” is a quote from Talbot Mundy’s Om the Secret of Ahbor Valley but sometimes you just can’t be safe with silence.  A couple of years ago I posted about a writer not often read these days, Peter Saxon and I had intended to follow up with a post about Talbot Mundy, another influential writer of the 20s and 30s.  Well good intentions pave the road to Blogger Hell and although the notes were made for the post, it was not finished until now:  Peter Saxon:  Guardian, Author, and Figment   (9 Aug 2011).

Talbot Mundy is one of those writers that seemed to encompass the old British Empire, but interestingly lacking in the Jingoism and Orientalism of writers of that period that irritates the post-colonial, postmodern lit-crit crowd, who tend to condemn out of hand such works.  In fact, Mundy had a great sensitivity and sympathy about the cultures he wrote.  Some of his works are on par with Robert E. Howard’s works such as the Conan the Barbarian series with his Tros of Samothrace series, almost in the vein of H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines/She series.  His influence extended to such writers as Fritz Leiber, Andre Norton, Daniel Easterman, Leigh Brackett, and James Hilton’s Lost Horizon was inspired by Mundy’s works.  So you can see how influential his stories were and continue to be on writers past and present.


Mundy’s biography deserves a close look and his life would almost appear as a plot from one of his own books.  He was born William Lancaster Gribbon in 1879 in London and ran away at 16, travelling to Africa, India and the near east.  He eventually moved to America and was a kind of petty thief and confidence man.  A near death encounter while on one of his sub-rosa expeditions turned his life around and he walked the straight and narrow ever afterward.  The experiences give his work a realistic feeling.  There are no supermen in his books, but extraordinary people who are in exotic settings, amazing circumstances, and great danger.  An excellent bio on Talbot Mundy is located at http://theosophy.katinkahesselink.net/talbut-mundy/mundybio.html


His interest in the esoteric religions of the east was tempered with a genuine regard and a bit of understanding.  He generally didn’t use magic, but telepathy, psychic powers, and powerful personalities play a subtle role.  Like a stage magician, Mundy never quite lets you know what is going on behind the scenes, and he doesn’t treat esoteric practices and religions as humbuggery either.    There is lot of interest in his works on the net and I was gratified to find some excellent blogs.    A great article about Talbot Mundy is available at  http://talbotmundy.blogspot.com/2012/03/talbot-mundy-first-anti-imperial-writer.html



The Jimgrim/Ramsden stories are particularly interesting.  This short bibliography below just touches the surface and just for clarity I won’t go into the variant titles used in different countries and at different times, nor the serializations.  I have undoubtedly made errors, omissions and multiple listings while trying to graft together a rudimentary listing for the beginning Talbot Mundy reader.  I am gratified to find there is still strong interest in Talbot Mundy’s works.  See also http://www.talbotmundy.com/  and http://talbotmundy.blogspot.com/2012/03/bibliography-of-talbot-mundy.html .   For a great hard copy, bibliography see also Winds from the East, a Talbot Mundy Reader by Donald L. Hassler (2007).

                                                                                          CoastConFan

More links of interest to the Talbot Mundy reader.  
Wikipedia bibliography of Talbot Mundy works which covers his Jimgrim/Ramsden, Tros of Samothrace, and other stories  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talbot_Mundy
Article about Mundy's Tros of Samothrace: 

Four biographies with bibliography:   
Talbot Mundy, Messenger of Destiny  by Donald M. Grant, 1983


The Last Adventurer:The Life of Talbot Mundy, 1879-1940 by Peter Ellis, 1984
Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure by Brian Taves,McFarland, 2006
Winds from the East, a Talbot Mundy Reader by Donald L. Hassler, 2007.


Update December 2014
Talbot Mundy is supposed to have written for a radio series called Moon Over Africa in the 1930s and 28 these episodes are available for free download here:



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