"`Two Gun' Doak Flies South," an adventure novelette with comic overtones, was the kind of story that Burroughs enjoyed creating as a change of pace from the customary fantasies. Written between December 1, 1937, and January 31, 1938, with a pen name of John Tyler McCulloch apparently used for some submissions, the 29,000-word story provides an opportunity for Ed's own style of satire and biting humor.
Stock characters, created for the purpose of ridicule, include Mrs. J. Witherington Snite, a huge, domineering woman referred to as "the lady hippopotamus," whose millionaire husband owns a chain of restaurants. Among others in the cast are Wilbur Klump, the Candy King, a "real sugar daddy," and his wife Gladys, twenty years younger, who obviously married him for his money. An "intellectual appearing young man" is revealed as the snobbish and pretentious E. Allan Smith, a New York Times book reviewer.
These and other colorful characters, joined by young Jerry Hudson, the hero, and Larry Maxton, the heroine, are all passengers on a TWA flight bound for New York, but fated never to reach there. In the action Ed anticipates a familiar modern crisis, the skyjacking of the airplane, this being accomplished by a gangster named "Trigger" Schultz. The background of Jerry and Larry, who are accidentally together on the plane, began with their fathers, Jeremiah Hudson and Larry Hill Maxton, oil and mining tycoons and close friends, who many years earlier had made an unusual agreement. This occurred after Maxton, who had always wanted a son, found himself with a daughter; even though he named the girl after himself, this could not compensate for his disappointment.
Hudson, trying to console him, suggested that it might be a blessing in disguise, as his son could marry Maxton's daughter, thereby giving each of them a son and a daughter; so they shook hands on it and entered into a gentlemen's agreement. . . .
The two young people, now grown up (they had not seen each other for fifteen years), are notified of the marriage plans. They at once reject the idea, but Larry is persuaded to travel to California to meet Jerry. Some hectic events follow. Larry's plane is late, and when Jerry, imbibing too many drinks while waiting, fails to be there, she arranges to take another plane back to New York. Pursued by the police because of his erratic driving, Jerry winds up as a stowaway on the same plane and assumes the alias of "Joe Doak." Unaware of the old family ties, the two become newly acquainted as Joe and Larry. Because of his escape from the police, Jerry is believed to be a criminal; taken with the idea, he accepts the sobriquet of "Two Gun Doak."
With the stage set for the skyjacking by "Trigger" Schultz, the action then proceeds with an enforced landing at the gangster headquarters in Mexico, where, under the leadership of The Big Shot, Tony Turino, the gangsters and their "molls" are staying. The illegal activities conducted from the Mexican location include bootlegging, dope-running, and the smuggling of Chinese into the United States.
The plane passengers face an uncertain fate. Jerry, accepted by the gangsters as one of their ilk, is allowed to pilot another plane back to the States to collect supplies and ransom money, and during his absence the Mexican soldiers arrive to rescue the passengers.
Jerry is still presumed to be a gangster, and the Mexicans are waiting to seize him, but upon his return he is warned in time by Larry, and the two escape in the plane. Ironically, each still unaware of the other's true identity and the family association, they are in love and planning to marry, just as their fathers had intended.
In his characterization of the married couples and of the gangsters and their women, Burroughs created and exaggerated a situation which had been a familiar source of humor in many stories and cartoons. The spectacle of the dominant, overbearing wife and the intimidated or henpecked husband is one that readers have encountered often. It is illustrated in the J. Witherington Snites and even more so in the relationship of the Klumps. When Wilbur sings with the group in his off-key voice, his wife Gladys tells him to "shut up" and he subsides.
ERB's gangster characters reveal themselves as coarse and crude and become obvious stereotypes of the period. But in their associations with their "molls" they exhibit a surprising submission and inferiority.
Ed could not resist the opportunity to lash out again at overly refined literary writers. E. Allan Smith, when reminded that this experience with the gangsters should provide him with material for writing, views the whole matter with disdain, doubting that he could "utilize anything like this. . . . `The importance of fine writing is more or less of a fetish with me. I deplore the modern tendency toward slovenliness of style, vulgarity of situations, and the general luridity of conception — if you get what I mean.' " Smith, it is noted, fails to mention that all of the magazine editors have rejected his stories, and that even those "lurid" ones, submitted to the pulps, have been returned.
In his sales efforts for "`Two Gun' Doak Flies South" Ed followed customary procedures, sending the story first to Liberty. The note of rejection read, "It has some amusing moments, but, as a whole, it's a pretty inexpert job. . . ." On February 25, 1938, the story was returned by Cosmopolitan and two years later, in June 1940, by Blue Book. Marketing attempts ended. Never published, the story later was retitled "Mr. Doak Flies South."
The Burroughs files contain a version with the original "Two Gun" title, headed "outline of a story"; this eighty-four page manuscript is written in play form with characters' names followed by dialogue. Some plan may have been considered to submit this adaptation for radio broadcast or for a film scenario.
Reference: ERB: The Man Who Created Tarzan
By Irwin Porges ~ Pages 895-897
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