Greeting all! I had desired to write this essay some time ago, but the
problems of moving twice within one year, and attempting to lay out my
books and property twice made that impossible. Finally, I have the time
to devote to a proper study of the historical books by ERB on the seamier
side of life in the 1920s
I began really reading the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs during the
ERB Boom of the early 1960s. The covers! WOW! That drew me to the books
like a hungry moth to the sun! I read all the Tarzan, Barsoom and Pellucidar
books repeatedly. I then read the other books by ERB as they were published.
Some I read more than others.
Then I read without knowledge as a child. As time marched on I read
with old familiar friends. After discovering the internet and ERB mailing
lists I learned a wealth of information. I finally reacquired the biographies
of ERB by Lupoff, Porges, and Taliaferro. Between the biographies and the
fanzines I had picked up stories behind the stories came my way. My future
readings of all Edgar Rice Burroughs stories were greatly enhanced after
that! For me books and libraries have been Time Portals. A way to visit
the future, the past, other places, continents and planets. Always anything
having an historical significance was a major drawing power for me.
The historical aspect of these books is what draws me so deeply into
them. I have for many decades been entranced by history, historical figures
and historical times. In these four books we travel from pre WW I 1914)
to 1919 (advent of prohibition), 1922 (rise of gangsters), and 1924 (The
rip roaring twenties!) Each book shows a little different side of real
life in that period of time that we never see in most books from that period.
So let's investigate the dregs of society where redemption can be found
as readily as in "polite" society, but it means more here.
To me there are four books that should be grouped together being a historical
look at the side of life generally ignored by "genteel" society. The four
books are: The Girl
From Farris's (1914) ~ The
Efficiency Expert (1919) ~ The
Girl From Hollywood (1922) and Marcia
of the Doorstep (1924) The first three books I will be reading
the first paperback printings from Charter / Ace, and Marcia from
the Donald Grant First Edition.
The Girl From Farris's was written between 1913.07.14 through
1914.03.19, and serialized in "All Story Cavalier" from 1916.09.23 through
1916.10.15. OK, this is not roaring twenties, but it is pre WW I, and deals
with corruption and the back alleys of Chicago. Kinda reminiscent of Billy
Byrne as far as location goes. I feel these books are more neglected than
most of ERBs books, and I feel much historical goodies are here for the
taking. So, without fanfare, on to the book!
The book data is as follows. Cover price $1.95. Charter Books # 28903,
and is the first paperback printing. An astoundingly short one hundred
and fifty pages, with a larger print font than most ERB books. Fourteen
chapters divide the book.
The Girl From Farris's is a short novel. The Charter first paperback
printing I read is (as I said) a meager 150 pages long, but the print is
quite large that stretches the page length to make a "normal" sized paperback.
The font is twice that of the Ballantine or small ACE paperback printing
fonts. While easier to read it, obviously, is a very short novel! I think
the last chapter could easily have been two chapters have a better resolution
as compared to the somewhat abrupt ending we have in Charter editions.
A wealth of social types make this a trip through sleazy wonderland.
A big time "religious" hypocrite coupled with corrupt businessman. Police
and racketeers combine to persecute several innocents who move from degradation
overcoming it to living respectable lives. I'll not go through the a summary
as that is available from Tangor's Summary Web site.
What is important is ERB taking on the role of a social reformer. The
first time ERB uses this foil in a story. I was drawn in rooting for June
Lathrop (Maggie Lynch) and John Secor. Every reading this book is fresh
and absorbing. The locales in Chicago and Idaho are realistic to me, and
the villains I abhor with loathing! ERB drew on his past shifting the ending
of the story to Idaho where he worked with his brothers ranching, mining
It took some time before The Girl From Ferris's appeared in book
form. Richard Lupoff said it was not a very good story, and others believe
that ERB but fleshed out the story intending to fill it out at a later
time. Whatever, a popular priced mass market edition was not available
until Charter paperbacks (ACE) published it in June, 1979. I wish I had
been able to read it sooner! I DO reread this book quite frequently (say
every other year). I enjoy this look at America of the seamier side prior
to World War One!
The Efficiency Expert was serialized in "Argosy All-Story Weekly"
from October 08 through October 29th, 1921. Charter (ACE) paperbacks published
the first popular priced mass market edition in June 1979 the same release
date as The Girl From Ferris's. The story is not as short as The Girl
From Ferris's. But still not a very long story. It is a wonderful story
for me. It seems that ERB is writing about his life of job failures as
Jimmy Torrence. The sense of frustration comes through like gangbusters
causing the reader to feel empathy for jimmy, and especially for Little
Eva. For me Little Eva makes the story. Her course from degradation to
redemption through overcoming is the envy of most screaming preachers.
Her death brings her to that higher station in life bringing Jimmy Torrence
with her. While Jimmy lives his life is forever changed by Little Eva!!
Jimmy Torrence graduates from college as a school hero in sports. He
is both smart and atheletic! Hence, a bright future is forecast for Jimmy.
Alas, he is either too qualified or lacking in experience to get a high
paying billet right out of school. I've been there and done that! Finally
he gets a job as a managerial assistant in effect, an efficiency expert.
All goes well until his boss takes to dipping into the till causing financial
woes for the company. He gets Little Eva a secretarial position under her
real name assisting her to escape the life of vice she had been trapped
in for some time. Everything that could possibly go wrong does! Jimmy's
boss lies. cheats and steals his way to causing ruin to the company while
lining his pockets with as much swag as possible. His boss hires villains
to steal cash payroll and accounting books to cover up his thefts over
the years. The end of the story in Idaho is both uplifting and touching!"
The third volume of the historical quartet is The Girl From Hollywood.
Now being one of my favourite ERB books! The Girl From Hollywood ran serially
from June through November, 1922 in Munsey¹s Magazine. The Macauley
Company published eight editions in hardcover followed by two paperback
editions. The first from ACE (January 1976) and the second from Charter
books (June 1979). The Charter edition come out with Girl From Ferris¹s
and Efficiency Expert.
The Girl From Hollywood is the longest of the first three "realistic"
stories. The first four or five times I read it I enjoyed the story as
just an ERB story. The Penningtons were the Burroughs family and their
home, Rancho del Grande is ERB¹s Tarzana Ranch! Much interesting information
regarding The Girl From Hollywood appears in the Porges and Taleaferro
biographies. Reading The Girl From Hollywood as an adventure of
ERB's family, their ranch, and the Hollywood community adds that extra
touch of realism that rises this story far beyond the other realism tales!
There are so many plot complications one almost needs a scorecard to
keep track of everything! <G> The sordid drug side of Hollywood is unmasked
and flaunted for all to see! Acts of despicable men of greed abound bedeviling
the women in the yarn. Death from drug addiction and overdose is terrible
to read, but appeared in newspapers of the time occasionally. The ending
is a surprise that blasts the reader right between the eyes!! I saw it
coming, but too late to say I guessed it in time. I foresee my reading
Girl From Hollywood much more frequently than before. It is quite a
The last of the four historical books is the last to see book publication
-- Marcia of the Doorstep. Marcia was written in 1924 when ERB was
striving to become a "serious" author. It was never serialized nor published
in book form during ERB's lifetime. Finally in 1997 Donald M. Grant published
of the Doorstep and the play "You Lucky Girl" as First Edition hardcovers.
Marcia is by far the longest novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs at
124,000 words. an actor and actress who are married find a baby on their
doorstep - Marcia, and they raise her. Much of the story is Marcus¹s
pride of his "art" keeping him from acting in films (he feels inferior)
and performin solely in legitimate theatre. Marcia has adventures on the
preverbal boat lost at sea and the isolated tropical island. Everything
converges upon the South end of a donkey heading North who is responsible
for everyone's financial woes because of his own supreme greed, Homier
the shyster lawyer. I hat that malignant bastard more that I despise Nicholas
Rokoff!!! What a slime ball!!!
ERB thought it was poor after spending two year to no avail trying to
sell it. I thought it was a grand story. Some parts are contrived, and
too many evil events occur to one family that courses beyond the suspension
In summary it was great to see what life was like in the lower classes
from 1914 through 1924. There were a few scenes of life on the film studio
lots too. Nice touch there! I enjoyed all four books, and from the knowledge
garnered from ERB biographies I now enjoy them all the more! I
Am A Barbarian is the summer symposium. I read the ACE first printing,
and enjoyed the story. it was only my second reading. I came away thinking
Caligula more the Barbarian than Britannicus! I was so glad the bum was
murdered unfortunately I wish he had been killed years earlier! The lives
of the privileged in opulence and the slaves in squalor was aptly depicted.
Slaves of nobles had it better than lower station slaves. However a slave
is still a slave. I wish Britannicus had escaped, but was really ticked
off when the hero dies (off stage) at the end of the book contrary to all
other ERB heroes. The ending left a bad taste in my mouth!
Have a great summer and fall!
Best, Reich von Harben
My sincerest thanks to all APAns for their erudite submissions! I have
enjoyed thoroughly every issue of ERB-APA for the last two plus years!!
Joe Ferrari wrote more about guns appearing in the Tarzan stories that
I ever thought possible! Many weapons he wrote about I was personally familiar
with, and others were not. This amazing amount of research is a standard
to be found in every ERB-APA publication. I read each issue as soon as
it arrives from cover to cover stunned at all the differing viewpoints
of ERB that are presented! WOW!
I got heavily involved in actually reading the BOOKS by ERB during the
1960s ERB Boom. During my high school years an explosion of paperback books
vied with titles and astounding covers for the cash of the baby boomers.
Book racks were stuffed with all kinds of science fiction, and vast space
was allotted to the very popular, James Bond, books. Then ERB appeared.
The Frazetta and Krenkel covers on the small ACE editions, and the basically
uniform Ballantine versions of tarzan and Barsoom making a huge splash.
The Dover multi storied books got the ball rolling with reasonably priced
editions, and then the paperbacks arrived. then BOOM! The popularity swept
the nation! I worked in the high school lunchrooms so I used the money
my parents gave me for books. In nice weather I would walk home in the
afternoon stopping by a bookstore (new & used) four blocks from school
saving the bus fare. With each reading I find something I had not previously
noted. After reading ERB-APAs and ERB biographies I learn more about ERB
and his works aiding me to read his books in a different light than my
I find I am enjoying my rereadings of ERB as much as my first readings
! Each time I read, or look at the early ballantine and ACE paperbacks
I can instantly remember where I was, and what was transpiring about me
during my first reading. Further, I can remember where I purchased the
books, and in what groupings! Every day I had some kind of paperback in
my left hip pocket during high school. I was not alone either as many other
students were reading ERB, james Bond, Science Fiction, and some even Sherlock
Holmes.I started with Holmes building a personal library obtaining an eight
book set of Holmes by Berkeley and the Ace 35 cent edition of the Exploits
of Sherlock Holmes. All the James Bonds followed after I heard my parents
talking about seeing Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger.I
checked the copyright dates, and read Bond in order as I did with Tarzan,
Barsoom and Pellucidar. Tarzan and Pellucidar took my breath away with
the lost cities and an inner world! That intrigues me beyond everything!!!
I appreciate and devour the erudite submissions of Professor Porter.
My, oh my, Huck, you really scrutinize these books for your humble efforts.
Bill Ross seems to know more about the various editions of ERB paperbacks
than perhaps anyone else in the world would want to know! It makes my want
list making so easy when combined with Huck's pocket checklist! I have
been rather fortunate playing on E-Bay this year. Many ERB items have found
their way to my library as well as Sherlockian items, Classics Illustrated
comics, and old trivia games. I have also qualified for Mensa, the high
IQ society when I did a neuro-psychiatric evaluation. That confirmed my
having Asperger's Syndrome (high functional autism) all my life. When I
learned of that all my past behavior made sense! I have started a Special
Interest Group ( SIG) on Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is an electronic forum
through Yahoo Groups called ERB-fans-mensa. It is serving as the nucleus
of ERB fans in the Saint Louis area that will become a Burroughs Bibliophiles
So, my friends, keep writing, and reading, ERB!!! I will!!!!!
Erich von Harben