TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD was the first novel by another writer authorized by the Burroughs estate, an important distinction as the character has been ripped off around the world by any number of publishers who don’t worry about things like copyright laws. Most notably was a series of five novels credited to a Barton Werper. The estate finally quashed it and all copies unsold were destroyed(yes, I own that series). This book was based on a movie script by Clair Huffaker for the film starring former Los Angeles Ram, Mike Henry, in the title role.
But the novel by Fritz Leiber, the legendary fantasy author, was so much more than a novelization. In the preface, Hulbert Burroughs talks about how it came about. When Ballantine Books, in the person of Ian Ballantine, suggested a novel, the estate was understandably wary. Leiber was a long time admirer of Burroughs’ work and wrote a sample chapter which was submitted, the estate was impressed, and agreed to the deal. The novel was so well done, true to Burroughs’ character, that it was numbered twenty-five in the series. There are references to the other novels, complete with footnotes, all through the book that gives one a sense that it belongs.
This Tarzan novel has everything a good Tarzan should: A lost Inca city in the Amazon jungle, a villain named Nivaro, with a penchant for distributing gold watches and jewelry with explosives built in, and his hulking bodyguard, Mr Train, wearing a black eye patch, a small, mysterious boy found wandering in the jungle, accompanied by a white jaguar companion, and with a map on a gold medallion around his neck.
This Tarzan is more like the one of the novels, an English Lord that can revert to his animal raising in an instant, his senses more alert to his surroundings than most men. Not at all like the Tarzan people who don’t read, just watch the movies, know. I’m speaking of the Weismullers, never a real favorite for me. His portrayal of the jungle man as a cunning, grunting savage never rang true as I’d read most of the novels before seeing them.
When the novel opens, Tarzan is in Mexico getting ready to fight two bulls, in his own inimitable manner, having spoke with the pair the night before. He receives a telegram from his friend, Professor Lionel Talmadge and leaves for Brazil on a jet. Upon arriving, an attempt is made on his life.
He learns from Talmadge about Vinaro and Train, remembers seeing them in Mexico, and that they are looking for the hidden valley. When he arrives at the compound of an old friend, where the boy was staying, hr finds the place burnt to the ground, his old friend, Ruiz, dying, his wife already dead, and the boy kidnapped.
Tarzan heads out through the Brazilian jungle in the direction they took, accompanied by the boy’s jaguar, a big lion Ruiz and he had rescued as a cub and raised, and a chimpanzee named Dinky.
Leiber took a script that, as best I remember(having seen the movie only once years ago), was okay, but not exceptional, and turned it into a good novel, adding to it and explaining things glossed over in the movie(the explosive jewelry for one thing. In the movie for nice, shiny explosions). The final showdown with Vinaro and Train, with a helicopter…
A worthy addition to the Tarzan legacy.