Pastiche of Pellucidar
By John Martin
John Eric Holmes Goes
to the Inner World
The first ever authorized and published pastiche of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Pellucidar series was "Mahars of Pellucidar," published by Ace Books as
a paperback in 1976.
1993, I asked Mike Conran, the editor and publisher
of Edgar Rice Burroughs News Dateline, if there were any type of articles
he would like to have for his erbzine. He said he would love to see an
interview of the author, John Eric Holmes, to find out, in particular,
the progress John Eric was making on preparing John Coleman Burroughs'
unfinished novel, Danton Doring, for publication.
Since John Eric lived about 90 miles south of me,
in Portland, Oregon, it seemed an ideal assignment. So, I telephoned Mr.
Holmes and made an appointment to interview him for a story in Mike's fanzine.
The resulting story was published in ERB News Dateline No. 49/50 in November
Before I wrote the article, the ECOF was held at
Willows, Calif., hosted by Ralph Brown, and John Eric Holmes was present,
and received the Edgar Rice Burroughs Lifetime Achievement award. He also
was the guest speaker, and told the guests there some of the same stories
he had told me in the interview, and added some details, some of which
I incorporated into my ERB News Dateline article as well.
John Eric Holmes has had a lifelong interest in
ERB, having been a fan from the age of eight, checking Burroughs books
out of the library in Hawaii. He lived in Hawaii from ages 8 to 12 and,
during that time, a neighbor lady learned of his interest in ERB and took
young Holmes to the home of Edgar Rice Burroughs himself. John's mother
gave him a copy of "Tarzan and the Leopard Men" to take along for an autograph,
and John kept that copy all his life.
At the ECOF in Willows, he bought a dust jacket
to put on the book.
Later in life, due to his successful efforts to
get "Mahars of Pellucidar" published, he was able to develop a close relationship
with John Coleman Burroughs, serving as a medical advisor to assist Mr.
Burroughs with medication levels for his Parkinson's Disease. John Eric
Holmes, a doctor, had served as assistant professor of neurology at the
University of Southern California School of Medicine.
So, John Eric Holmes was not only a fan who wrote
a pastiche, but someone who met ERB himself and had later personal contact
with the family.
Mahars of Pellucidar
John Eric Holmes entertained his two young boys,
Christopher and Jeffrey, by reading Edgar Rice Burroughs stories aloud
to them. He read them the Mars series, the Venus series, the Pellucidar
series and a little bit of Tarzan. The Pellucidar series was their favorite,
and one day Christopher said he wished there had been more Pellucidar stories.
That gave John Eric Holmes the idea of writing a sequel himself. And, he
said, "I knew exactly what kind of Pellucidar story he would like."
So John Eric wrote the book -- in long-hand --
featuring a hero named Christopher West, in honor of his son, Christopher
West Holmes. Christopher was 10 when the story was finished, but it didn't
get published until he was in high school.
Some wrangling, of course, was needed in order
to get it published. At first, ERB Inc. refused to consider publishing
"an imiation," but after an appeal by John Eric they gave it more consideration
and so, one day in 1976, John Eric went into the Change of Hobbit Bookstore
that he frequented in Portland and found a paperback copy of his novel
for sale. He bought five copies and mailed one to Christopher, who was
living elsewhere at the time.
At first, John Eric was a bit disappointed that
his book did not get a Frazetta cover, although the cover by some new artists
named "Boris" was certainly a good one. Many years later, when Boris Vallejo
was far more well known, John Eric had a chance to purchase the original
painting. However, it would have cost him more than he earned for writing
the book, so he declined!
In using the Mahars in his story, John Eric was
using a species invented by Burroughs. However, he did not use any of the
human Pellucidarian characters in his story, and so Christopher West, who
becomes known as Red Axe, never runs into David Innes, Abner Perry, Dian
the Beautiful, Ghak the Hairy One, or any of the others. But, since Pellucidar
has more land mass than the outer world, that should not be surprising.
The only non-Burroughsian thing I found in the
books was a reference to Pellucidar being 200 miles below the outer surface,
rather than the 500 miles that ERB specifies. I asked John Eric about that
and he said it was simply an error that he made.
Christopher West is an associate of Dr. Kinsley,
who has developed a beam that can see events taking place 200 miles below
the surface. When they see people about to sacrifice a beautiful woman,
Christopher quickly grabbed a pocket knife and a red fire axe and has himself
beamed down to rescue the woman, not knowing if he will ever make it back.
And thus the adventure begins.
The axe, by the way, is described as having a handle
three feet long and with a blade on one side and a hammer face on the other.
Later, he acquires additional weapons.
The Holmes family, and many others, loved the book.
Christopher even wrote a brief parody of his dad's book called "The Shrubs
of Pellucidar." "Shrubs" is a short book with illustrations and Holmes
brought it to show it around when he attended an ECOF, near Portland, Oregon,
a few years later.
Red Axe of Pellucidar
With "Mahars of Pellucidar " successfully published,
John Eric Holmes wrote a sequel, "Red Axe of Pellucidar." And, he already
had in mind a concept for a third book, which would be called "Swordsmen
Talks were actually under way with ERB Inc. to
have "Red Axe" published. ACE books even ran an advertisement promising
the sequel. However, in what was described by John Eric (when I interviewed
him in 1993) only as "changing times and philosophies" at ERB Inc., the
plans were suddenly dropped.
And so, Red Axe exists, for fans, mostly in the
form of an inch-thick, 241-page manuscript in pica type, double-spaced.
Copies are available from Mike Conran and others, and copies it show up
on ebay from time to time.
My copy has brown paper covers of normal weight.
The front cover is an illustration of Red Axe inside a circle, with the
title above and the author's name below in regular type. Additionally,
my cover is signed by John Eric Holmes.
The story is basically two stories, about John
Eric's experiences with two different Pellucidarian tribes.
Just for an appetizer, the story begins:
"It was a strange group that cautiously threaded
its way over the half submerged fallen tree trunks of the tropical swamp.
Overhead a brilliant sun beat down upon them from zenith, for this was
Pellucidar, the inner world, where the sun, hanging in the center of a
hollow ball, is always directly overhead. It is a timeless world of tropical
immensity, and life flourishes under the bright, hot inner sun that has
long been extinct on the outer crust.
"The leader of the little band of adventurers pulled
himself to the top of a soggy mound surmounted by cycads and giant ferns.
Small lizards scampered out of sight on all sides, some running on two
legs, some on four. Giant dragon-flies, as long as a man's arm, darted
aside to hover on irridescent wings. Farther ahead in the swamp, invisible
in the greenery, there were heavy splashing noises as if some of the larger
reptilian denizens had been disturbed.
"Christopher West's clear blue eyes swept his surroundings.
There was no horizon. Inside the hollow earth the distances faded upward
into the blue -- forests, mountains, lakes and oceans blending into one
another as they receded. In Pellucidar, distance had no end and time did
Just to give some idea of the contents of the book,
here are the chapter titles, except for Chapter 8, which was untitled:
There is also a hard-bound, limited edition of "Red
Axe in Pellucidar." It was put together by Jim Bergen of Beaverton, Ore.,
in a very limited edition of 15 copies and featured color paintings by
Bergen as illustrations. With one copy for Bergen and one for Holmes, the
other 13 were sold out at the 1993 ECOF in Willows, Calif.
Onoloa (name of a girl)
The Fin-Backed Monster
Damsel in Distress
The Mammoth Hunters
The Mammoth Hunt
The Place of Singing Stones
I purchased my manuscript copy from Mike Conran,
publisher of ERB News Dateline, 5943 Summerhill Dr., Hudsonville MI 49426.
I don't know if he still has copies for sale or not, but he probably does,
or might make some more up. If he doesn't have any copies of Red Axe, he'll
be happy if you subscribe to ERB News Dateline!
Besides writing the published "Mahars of Pellucidar" and the fan-published
sequel, "Red Axe of Pellucidar," John Eric Holmes has written other published
works and, as of 1993, had other projects in progress, including work on
an unfinished novel by ERB's son, John Coleman Burroughs.
Holmes had written a few non-fiction articles for
Analog and has also had published a textbook he wrote on neurophysiology.
His one other published entry into the sci-fi field
is a story titled "Modred," published by ACE Books. This is a sequel to
Philip Francis Nowlan's "Armageddon 2419 A.D.", which is a story about
a space adventurer named Anthony Rogers. In the comics and movies, Mr.
Rogers was given the nickname of "Buck," by which he is far better known.
In writing "Modred," Holmes told me he originally
included a line in which Anthony Rogers tells someone: "You can just call
me Buck." But the editors told him: "No, he CAN'T just call him Buck!"
Due to various copyright considerations, the name "Buck" was not available
for use by ACE Books. The company owned only the rights to the novel concept,
and didn't own anything else associated with Buck Rogers properties.
Holmes has also written some published material
for Dungeons and Dragons.
His unpublished works include an attempt at a Conan
novel. He had an agreement with L. Sprague de Camp to write a story about
Conan in Africa. He wrote two-thirds of "Conan on the River of Doom" before
a new editor nixed the idea of a Conan story in Africa. Nonetheless, thanks
to de Camp's contract with him, in which de Camp took pains to protect
the rights of authors, Holmes was paid for the unfinished story anyway.
He figured he would change the name of the hero
and rework the story and attempt to have it published some day. In 1993,
his latest idea was to start off with the battle of the Plains of Zama
where Hannibal is defeated by Scipio Africanus and have his hero be part
of Hannibal's army who escapes and has his own adventures in Africa.
Of most interest to ERB fans is John
Coleman Burroughs' unfinished novel, "Danton
Doring," the Danton name no doubt coming from the name of JCB's
late son, Danton Burroughs.
JCB painted five illustrations to go with the story, and four of
them have been published in full color in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Library
of Illustation, Volume II, along with a little bit of information about
JCB's concept for the story, which basically is the idea of someone being
shrunk in size and finding lost worlds and beautiful princesses in the
lawn out back.
JCB had said: "...at our feet lies a world as wild,
as bizarre, as vicious and as beautiful as any heretofore conceived in
the wildest dreams of the science fiction writers -- an inconceivable vast
world teeming with life and relatively unexplored."
Holmes, a physician, had gotten to know members
of the Burroughs family becauase of "Mahars of Pellucidar," and JCB, who
was suffering from Parkinson's Disease, realizied that Dr. Holmes was knowledgeable
in the area of medicine that treated Parkinson's. So, John Eric Holmes
was able to be of assistance to JCB for many years in helping to adjust
the levels of medication for his disease.
In the process, Holmes was entrusted with the job
of finishing JCB's unfinished story. In 1993, he told me he had completed
24 chapters but still needed to solve some plot difficulties.
Holmes passed away in March of 2010.
Just what the future holds for this story, whether
it will ever be finished and published or not, is something I do not know.
JCB himself had once said, "Someday I'll write my novel or I shall take
Danton Doring's incredible story to my grave with me."
Perhaps, in the end, JCB will have been a prophet!!