Friday, March 11, 2011
The Trail of the Red Diamonds: Review
Okay, so I have this feeling that I am no more a pulp mystery lover than I am a hard-boiled fan. I can read them. They may have some good bits. But there is no way that I would want a steady diet of such things.The Trail of the Red Diamonds by L. Ron Hubbard is a reprint of two of Hubbard's pulp mysteries form the 1930s. The title story revolves around Lieutenant Daly's discovery of the mention a chest of fabulous red stones buried with the long-dead Emperor of China, Kubla Kahn in an original manuscript of The Travels of Marco Polo. It is a bit difficult to decipher, but he's able to translate the tale well enough to realize that there are clues to the location of this offering to the gods. Originally meant to light the leader's way to heaven, the glittering stones are worth several million dollars. Recently recovered from a bout of malaria and two bullet holes collected in war-ravaged Gran Chaco, Lieutenant Daly sets out on his treasure travels, ignoring warnings from friends and doctors. He follows Marco Polo's words straight into a dark maze of betrayal, espionage and death with more riding on each step he takes than he ever imagined.
The second story, "Hurricane's Roar" is about two rival warlords in Mongolia who have been fighting for so long it seems they have forgotten what started it (sort of like the Hatfields and McCoys). A salesman from Panama-Pacific Airlines arrives, wanting Jim Dahlgren (aka Wind-Gone-Mad) to intervene in the war and make it possible for the airline to set up an airfield in the battle zone. After much fighting (both verbal and physical), blowing up several encampments, saving a fellow American held prisoner by one of the warlords, and unveiling the traitor who has been working each side against the other, we still have no idea if Dahlgren succeeded and there will be an airfield. It would seem so, but there's no real wrap-up.
What we really have in these two stories is a lot of action. That means a lot of killing, a lot of blowing things up, beating people up, and secrets and betrayals. A lot of worry about who's on what side and will they stay there. I can definitely see why this sort of story would have been popular during the Golden Age for the pulp magazines. Fast-paced, easy to read, action-packed stories that don't require a whole lot of brain power. Sometimes a whiz-bang finish. All right up the alley of the young boys who ate these things up. But I'm afraid they don't do a whole lot for a middle-aged woman who grew up on mysteries that were more puzzle-oriented. Not that I'm against action...but, please, let there be some thought going on along with it--some sort of mystery to clear up. Two stars out of five.