Barehanded Castaways (J. Allan Dunn) Review
This novel of castaways is an uncommonly vivid and authentic adventure. In terms of outdoor minutiae, this is as specific as Thoreau's Walden, but unlike that tedious reading experience, this one is engaging from the first page to the last.
Barehanded Castaways is a very consistent tale, a rich adventure that lacks nearly all of the common contrivances of such stories, though it is occasionally marred by J. Allan Dunn's too frequent references to other fiction (the regular allusions to things like Robinson Crusoe and Aenid break the fourth wall and are distracting). This latter is a minor complaint.
The major part of the novel (originally printed in the Adventure pulp) vividly conjures the day to day realities of life in the wild for modern man, which I've experienced to a very small degree when camping, but rarely felt to such an extent when reading good adventure fiction (even with vivid wordsmiths like Arthur O. Friel, H. Rider Haggard, L. Patrick Greene, etc.). Additionally, the characterization rings true almost always (which is not the norm for pulps of this era) and the plot flows naturally, seemingly unguided, and unfolds in a very gratifying way.
This novel was selected for reprint by Ed Hulse (of Murania Press), whose terrific taste, thoughtful essays, and superb reference book The Blood 'N' Thunder Guide to Pulp Fictionhave dramatically altered my bookshelves (and life) for the better.
Beware of puffins!