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Volume 0778
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ERB C.H.A.S.E.R ENCYCLOPEDIA
A Collector's Hypertexted and Annotated Storehouse of Encyclopedic Resources
Present
Ace paperback with Pirate Blood: August 1970: Roy Krenkel art
Click for full-size cover image
PIRATE BLOOD
A 34,000-word novelette written in early 1932 under the penname:
John Tyler McCulloch

PUBLISHING HISTORY (USA)

PULP
Rejected by numerous publications. First published posthumously.
FIRST EDITION
Ace paperback ~ August 1970 ~ published with The Wizard of Venus ~ 158 pages
    Roy G. Krenkel Venus cover art ~ Pirate Blood cover art never used.
    Statement under title: "Including the first publication anywhere of Pirate Blood Burroughs' last great adventure novel."
REPRINT EDITIONS
Ace paperback ~ January 1973 ~ with The Wizard of Venus ~ 158 pages ~ same Krenkel art
Ace paperback ~ June 1979 ~ with The Wizard of Venus ~ 248 pages ~ same Krenkel art
    Esteban Maroto cover art
Ballantine-Del Rey ~ July 1991 ~ New title: The Wizard of Venus and Pirate Blood ~ 186 pages
    Richard Hescox cover art
 
For detailed information, see Robert B. Zeuschner's
Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Bibliography (ERB, Inc., 2016).
Click on www.erbbooks.com or call 214-405-6741 to order a copy.
Pirate Blood
The story of a lone American who ventured among the unexplored islands of the far seas, where piracy still held sway and a man was judged only by his skill with a knife and pistol... This devil-may-care hero experimenter, designs his own aircraft and ventures among the little explored islands of the far seas to find that piracy still lives and that chivalry still requires the maximum of endurance and the utmost in courage.
Amazon Review
"Pirate Blood" was another ERB novella found in the same safe as The Wizard of Venus, although it was apparently written back in 1932. The hero is Johnny LaFitte, who is descended from the infamous Jean LaFitte. The story returns to one of ERB's favorite themes, heredity versus environment, and his belief that it you do not have the right environment a "bad seed" will indeed go bad. This is a very atypical Burroughs novel, filled with cold blooded murders, violent rapes, and suicide. There is even an illegitimate pregnancy between Johnny and his gal as ERB really lays on the morality play. Clearly the only reason that "Pirate Blood" was published with "The Wizard of Venus" was because they were found in that safe together. These stories have nothing in common and "Pirate Blood" really reads like a first draft that ERB just never went back and revised. 
Review from the MANAPOP Website
Pirate Blood was another story, along with The Wizards of Venus, that was discovered in the safe of Edgar Rice Burroughs after his passing, and like The Wizards of Venus it was an unfinished work. Pirate Blood was penned in 1932 and when one reads it one can’t be too surprised Burroughs never got around to finishing it as tales of rape and savage lust may not have sat too well with readers of the time.

The protagonist of Pirate Blood is Johnny LaFitte, a young man who finds himself second to best friend Frank Adams in both academic areas as well as sports. Johnny holds the view that this has more to do with heredity than environment as Frank and many of his privileged friends come from noble families while Johnny’s most notable ancestor was the famous pirate Jean LaFitte. So Johnny isn’t surprised when after university he finds himself a simple motorcycle cop while his friends all live more prestigiously. He tries not to be bitter with this but when one day he pulls over a drunken speeder and it turns out to be Daisy Jukes, a girl he has loved since grade school, he takes it kind of hard. He learns she is engaged to Frank Adams and he’s not sure if it’s the fact that she’s been drinking or that she’s engaged that upsets him the most. This is a nice peak into the mind of Burroughs and what he thinks of women who drink.

The next day the local bank reports a millions gold and securities are missing and one of the tellers is a suspect. Johnny is sent to the local airfield to stop the embezzler from escaping via dirigible and of course it turns out that the thief is another old classmate of Johnny named Bill Perry. When Johnny tries to arrest Perry there is a scuffle and Perry is able to loose the mooring lines and the dirigible lifts off into the air. Perry refuses to land so Johnny dumps all the loot overboard to the authorities waiting below. Not relishing the idea of going to jail Perry steers the craft towards the Pacific Ocean. Johnny is unfamiliar with dirigibles so he is at the mercy of this nitwit robber and soon the two of them find themselves lost over the vast ocean. We get a bit of a cat and mouse game with the dangers of the craft losing altitude and dumping them into the drink, but eventually things come to a head when Perry tries to bite through Johnny’s jugular while he slept. He fails and decides suicide is the best option and jumps overboard.

This leads to the second half of the story as the incredibly sinking dirigible finally dumps Johnny on an island in the middle of nowhere…right in the middle of a pirate fight on the beach. Johnny lands right between the combatants, and shoots two that attack him, the rest of that group flee to their boats leaving Johnny in the hands of the winners. Johnny is captured by the “winners” and is brought back to their island fortress. This pirate chief, named Vulture, was wounded in battle and as Johnny tends to his wounds he learns of what a vile individual he is, the Vulture has been plaguing the shipping lane for years but survives because he leaves no survivors to tell of him and his band of cutthroat’s existence. Johnny learns that those on the beach he shot belonged to a rival pirate faction and his aide in repelling those bastards intrigues the Vulture, and so Johnny is spared. Johnny then meets La Diablesa, the willing mistress of the Vulture. She is basically a sex slave until one day the Vulture will kill her and replace her with a younger model.

This has got to be the darkest story Burroughs ever wrote, and most likely why he never finished it as getting it published would have been tricky. Johnny LaFitte is also one of the more complex characters in Burroughs’ canon as when he joins the Vulture’s band of pirates there isn’t any thought of “just going along” and then escaping. He just accepts that being a pirate was his genetic destiny. He isn’t as ruthless as the Vulture; he enslaves many of those on ships he captures instead of just murdering everyone. Though he does murder a lot of people in this new career. The word “rape” is never used but “make love to” is and as this making love is against an unwilling captive woman…yeah this book is kind of rapey. And that isn’t even the darkest stuff this story has to offer as when Johnny meets up with Daisy Jukes things take a turn for the worse.

There are no Captain Jack type pirates in this story, and the hero himself has quite the dark soul and does things that your typical Burroughs protagonist would never do, but this is what makes Pirate Blood such a good read as it takes a fairly realistic view of modern pirating if also a strange view of nature vs nurture. I highly recommend this one.

Decay of a Second Banana
A Review by John Martin

  John Lafitte – a descendant of pirate Jean Lafitte -- is the main character in “Pirate Blood.” But he is not the hero. 

  There is no hero in this story, except possibly Frank Adams, who was the hero of the hometown football team at the start of this novelette.

  But this is not supposed to be a tale of heroes, winners, or people of high community and moral standards, but rather the story of a second banana football player who becomes a second banana pirate.

  The story, written in 1932, was also something of an experiment.

  The writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs, was already the famous author of a stable of fine heroic stories of adventure set in exotic locales such as Africa, the inner world, and the unearthly worlds of the moon, Mars and, soon, Venus, and several other worlds in between, some real and some of his own invention.

  Reportedly, Burroughs wanted to find out if he could write a different type of story and sell it under an assumed name.

  He found out.

  The story was rejected, and Burroughs locked the manuscript, by “John Tyler McCulloch,” in his safe, the experiment over.

  Even decades later, when the story was finally published as part of the Burroughs boom of the '60s, it was still “rejected,” in a sense, by being printed in the secondary portion of a paperback book which featured, as its marquee title, “The Wizard of Venus.” One had to read the smaller print on the cover to even know that the back section of the book contained another story: “Pirate Blood.”

  It is possible that, by this time, with such things as on-demand printing available, that someone may have finally published a book which features “Pirate Blood” as the main, or only, story, complete with action-packed cover art. I don’t know if anyone has done that or not and a cursory search of the internet failed to locate one.

  However, for at least many, many years, it was never the lead or sole story in any hard or softcover publication.

  So,  like its second-banana protagonist, the story itself has been available only in a second-banana status.

  The story is about blood – not the type of blood shed at the point of pirate swords (although there is plenty of that) – but blood in the sense of heredity.

  ERB liked to use some of his stories to explore the theme of heredity vs. environment.

  His Tarzan inherited and displayed the noble characteristics of an English lord, despite being reared in the jungle by a band of wild apes. Noble blood triumphed.

  Tarzan’s son, Korak, though, inherited his father’s aptitude for jungle skills, despite being raised in the environs of a civilized English estate. The blood of the primal man dominated.

  There is at least one Burroughs hero who can compare to John Lafitte in the scalawag department. That true hero is Billy Byrne, the title character of “The Mucker,” who could be as intimidating of a baddie as John Lafitte, but with a marked difference: Byrne started out as a brute, a product of his environment, but, sparked by the presence of a decent woman, turned into a genuine good guy, who made up for the bad he had done. Lafitte, by contrast, started out with every advantage: A good town to grow up in, athletic abilities, popularity, and a steady job as a policeman, charged with enforcing the law. Yet, at the first opportunity, he changed sides, becoming a criminal pirate who shed innocent blood and thought nothing of it.

  One might excuse Lafitte for his initial willingness to become a pirate. Caught by a band of cutthroats when he parachuted onto their island from a damaged blimp, Lafitte’s eagerness to join the band of pirates was probably the only thing that saved his life – at that time.

  However, with the pirate captain, The Vulture, lying ill, Lafitte makes a life-changing decision. When the other pirates report a motorized schooner has put into the island’s small harbor, he seizes the opportunity to take five men and commandeer the ship.

  As the attackers board the vessel, they are outnumbered in people, but not in weapons and so, the superior weaponry prevailed. But, with one of the five pirates already shot dead by a yachtsman, Lafitte could have turned with his own weapon and killed a couple of his fellow pirates, thus giving those aboard the ship the opportunity to join him in turning things around. He could have started an action that might have resulted in the pirates being defeated, and thus won his way back to civilization and his police officer’s job.

  As it is, even though this is fiction, it is unsettling to read of these 12 yachtsmen and their crew who were so summarily and thoughtlessly executed and disposed of. It does, however, give a good picture of what being a pirate really means!

  Byrne, having earned the right to be second banana to The Vulture, participates in other raids where murder, likewise, is committed.

  Eventually, due to Lafitte’s interest in the affection of The Vulture’s woman, known as La Diablesa (the devil, the witch), he falls out of favor and is about to be killed when he seizes an opportune moment to abdicate to a rival band of pirates, commanded by a brigand known as the Portuguese. Before long, Lafitte earns his way to second banana status there, as well. He betrays his former crew (no honor among thieves), leading the Portuguese and his men to a successful surprise attack on The Vulture’s island compound.

  The Portuguese is killed by one of his own men, leaving Lafitte to become, at last, the top banana. But we do not get to read of his exploits as such, for the story comes to a quick end after that. We learn that he winds up in Paris with La Diablese as his wife. And, as a married man, he no doubt reverts to second banana status once more!


RANDOM THOUGHTS:

  Blood: The story wasn’t only about the blood-line of Lafitte the pirate (our “hero” being descended from pirate Jean Lafitte), but also the blood of Lafitte’s “girl of his dreams,” the hometown beauty named Daisy Juke whom he never had the courage to ask for a date. Her ancestor was said to be the notorious real-life ne’er-do-well Max Juke. Through various circumstances, Dasiy also ends up in a position to be captured by the Portuguese’s pirate band, and comes to an ignominous end.

  Pacing:  The first half of “Pirate Blood” is too long; the second half is too short. Yes, it is true that ERB had to come up with a plausible way of getting John Lafitte from Southern California to a pirate island thousands of miles across the Pacific, but why did that ill-fated balloon ride have to take five chapters? Fewer would have been better. Or, perhaps ERB should have sent him on a short ride to the southeast, where he could have ended up as a Pirate of the Caribbean like his infamous ancestor!

  Still, there were some edge-of-seat moments that showed up in those chapters, particularly the part that had Lafitte barely hanging on, leaning out of the gondola, undoing stubborn bolts to try to drop the useless motor so the overburdened airship would rise.

  Davis of the L.A.P.D.: In Chapter 9, Lafitte says, “Since joining the police force I had perfected my work with the revolver until I could shoot in such company as that of Davis of the Los Angeles Police Department and not feel ashamed of myself.” Burroughs admired James E. Davis, who served as chief of the L.A. force twice (1926-1929 and 1933-1939), so no doubt Lafitte’s mention of Davis is intended as a reference to this man. Burroughs spoke well of Davis in an article he wrote for a 1929 edition of “The Police Reporter.”

  Read article here: www.erbzine.com/mag2/0256.html or beginning at page 221 of “Edgar Rice Burroughs Tells All,” compiled by Jerry L. Schneider, available in hardback or paperback at: www.erbvillepress.com

  The L.A.P.D. had been plagued by corruption (with people like Lafitte in it, no wonder!). But Davis was a reformer. Wikipedia.com says: “In his first term he fired almost a fifth of the force for that conduct and instituted extensive firearms training and also the dragnet system). In his second term, Davis instituted a “Red Squad” to attack Communists and their offices.”

  Notable quotables:
  As usual, ERB sprinkles his stories with clever bits of writing. Some examples:

  “I thought I would swear, but as there was no one to hear me, it didn’t seem worth the effort. It is remarkable how many of our reactions are dependent upon an audience.” – Chapter 6, while dealing with the foundering blimp.

  “Her figure was divine. The combination may best be described as body by Fischer, bearings by Timkim.” – Chapter 8, a description of La Diablesa.

  “I have killed men, but I have never sent their widows large bills for my operations. I have robbed people of their all, but I have mercifully put them out of their misery that
they might not live to bemoan their losses or suffer the deprivations and reproaches of poverty. In my own way, I too am a philanthropist and a benefactor of the human race.” – Chapter 10, a sardonic putdown of worldly do-gooders in an attempt to justify one’s wrongful actions. 

  “The test of true friendship is the secret sacrifice that one would make for a friend where no reciprocation of any applause were possible.” – Chapter 13, while musing on the company he keeps.

.

COVER GALLERY

Ace paperback January 1973: Roy Krenkel artAce paperback with Pirate Blood: June 1979: Esteban Maroto artDel Rey paperback: July 1991: Richard Hescox artDel Rey paperback: July 1991: Back Cover

Roy Krenkel Preliminary Art


Read Pirate Blood in fully-illustrated graphic format.
Script by Martin Gately ~ Art by Anthony Summey
Part of the Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Comic Strips Series.
$21.99/year for Full Access to more than 20 strips.
www.edgarriceburroughs.com/comics





Web Refs
Bill Hillman's Illustrated ERB Bibliography
ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Online Encyclopedia
Hillman ERB Cosmos
Patrick Ewing's First Edition Determinors
John Coleman Burroughs Tribute
Edgar Rice Burroughs: LifeLine Biography
Bob Zeuschner's ERB Bibliography
J.G. Huckenpohler's ERB Checklist
G. T. McWhorter's Burroughs Bulletin Index
Novel Summary by David Bruce Bozarth
Illustrated Bibliography of ERB Pulp Magazines
Burroughs Bibliophiles Bulletin
Phil Normand's Recoverings
ERBzine Weekly Online Fanzine
ERB Emporium: Collectibles ~ Comics ~ BLBs ~ Pulps ~ Cards
ERBVILLE: ERB Public Domain Stories in PDF
Clark A. Brady's Burroughs Cyclopedia
Heins' Golden Anniversary Bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Bradford M. Day's Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Bibliography
Irwin Porges: The Man Who Created Tarzan


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