Dian of the Lost World
Writing about Garr the Cunning (yes, the story is still in the works) was a good opportunity to refresh my caveman pulp readings.
Manly Wade Wellman’s Hok the Mighty, of course, and Burrough’s Cave Girl and assorted Pellucidar titles, but also a a few books that had so far slipped under my radar.
I was particularly pleased – and vaguely disappointed – discovering Dian of the Lost Land, a lost world novel first published in the 1920s, and variously reprinted, most famously in the April 1949 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, with a cover by Lawrence Sterne Stevens that certainly sold a few extra copies.
The novel was written by Edison Marshall, a prolific adventure and historical fiction writer that was the recipient of the O Henry Award in 1921, and that was a frequent contributor to a number of magazines .
He was also a big game hunter – his stories sold nicely enough for him to pursue this hobby.
Incidentally, Marshall was the man behind The Viking, another oft-reprinted novel that was turned into a movie featuring Kirk Douglas – certainly one of my favorite historical adventure flicks1. Considering the quality of his writing and a number of his titles, I think I’ll be reading more of his in the next months.
Dian of the Lost Land is very faithful to the model pioneered by H. Rider Haggard: Antartic explorers discover a hidden valley in the icy mountains of the South Pole, where prehistoric animals roam and a matriarchal society of Cro Magnons thrives. The Cro Magnon are actually quite a nice and cultured people – as far as cavemen go, but when the sacred queen Dian falls for doctor Adam Weismann, things escalate fast. Adventure and romance ensue. Then the brutish Neanderthals appear.
And yes, there is a creeping racism in the novel that has not aged well, and that’s irritating when it’s not plain ridiculous. But this is probably the only true problem of the book.
Dian of the Lost World is available on loan for online reading in the Internet Archive, and at 160 pages is a fast read, and generally fun, if dated.
The disappointment in finding it only now comes from the fact that Dian the Cro Magnon goddess/queen would have been a nice entry in the article about lost world queens I published last year. But on the other hand, this means I can hope to do an updated, expanded edition.
And now, back to writing my own caveman pulp story.