Mundy, Talbot

Tagged: Author

Pseudonym of UK-born author William Lancaster Gribbon (1879-1940), who emigrated to the USA in 1909 after his early life as a confidence man, ivory poacher and all-round rogue in British Africa had culminated in a prison sentence. He soon became a professional author, with most of his work first appearing in Adventure magazine, where he became the star writer; after 1935 he left Pulp-magazine fiction and wrote scripts for the radio series Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. Mundy's work is sometimes difficult to classify. In his early stories he tried to combine Mainstream standards with exotic adventure in Africa and the Near East; his later work often carried a didactic message and might be called philosophic adventure fiction. From the first his sf stood apart from US Genre SF in its narrative structure, characterization and situation, having grown out of the adult adventure-fiction models to be found in Adventure, with tight, complex plotting, well handled ethnic types and exotic locales, and a strong influence from Rudyard Kipling. He commonly used quest themes, stressing loyalty, honour and spiritual self-development. The fantastic element derived in large part from occultism, with ideas drawn from a schismatic branch of the Theosophical Society (see Theosophy) to which he belonged. Such motifs – which included various Psi Powers, fantastic archaeology (see Ruins and Futurity), incredible Weapons, strange Drugs, Antigravity, atomic energy, Atlantean science, Supermen (mahatmas), Transmutation of elements and vibratory phenomena – were conceived rationally and "scientifically" as part of the ancient wisdom, a body of knowledge once possessed by mankind but since lost.

Most of Mundy's sf can be found in the large group of associated novels known as the Jimgrim/Ramsden sequence, though the interconnections are sometimes slender. Chief characters include Jimgrim (James Schuyler Grim), a US soldier of fortune, Athelstan King, an Anglo-Indian career officer – though King – of the Khyber Rifles: A Romance of Adventure (1916) is not usually considered part of the series – Jeff Ramsden, a US engineer, Narayan Singh, a Sikh soldier, and Chullunder Ghose, an unscrupulously brilliant Bengali babu. Mundy's more important works in this series are: The Mystery of Khufu's Tomb (10 October 1922 Adventure as "Khufu's Real Tomb"; 1933), fantastic archaeology based on Ancient Egyptian superscience; Caves of Terror (10 November 1922 Adventure as "The Gray Mahatma"; 1924), in which a vibratory superscience possessed by Jain adepts is in danger of falling into the hands of an adventuress; Om: The Secret of Ahbor Valley (1924), which is ultimately concerned with a jade sphere from a great past civilization, but is noteworthy for its description of a travelling Indian dramatic group; The Nine Unknown (1924), in which an investigation into the disappearance of gold in India uncovers both a benevolent secret organization that disintegrates the gold for atomic power and an evil Shaktist order that uses secrets from the Ancient Wisdom as "magic"; Jimgrim (15 November 1930-15 February 1931 Adventure as "King of the World"; 1931; vt Jimgrim Sahib 1953), featuring an attempt at world conquest using scientific secrets from Atlantis deciphered from golden plates found in buried cities in the Gobi; and Full Moon (1935; vt There Was a Door 1935), with Fortean elements (see Charles Fort), disappearances into another Dimension, fantastic archaeology and superscience of the past. Some of Mundy's novels – like The Devil's Guard (1926; vt Ramsden 1926), Black Light (1930) and Old Ugly-Face (1939) – gradually moved toward religious occultism.

Mundy remains best known for the Tros of Samothrace books, a sequence of minimally fantastic, essentially mainstream historical stories set in Britain, Gaul and the Mediterranean world just before the beginning of the Christian Era, with debunking portraits of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and others. First appearing irregularly 1925-1935 in Adventure, these stories were published in book form as Queen Cleopatra (1929), Tros of Samothrace (1934; vt in 4 vols as Tros 1967, Helma 1967, Liafall 1967 and Helene 1967; vt in 3 vols as Lud of Lunden 1976, Avenging Liafall 1976 and The Praetor's Dungeon 1976) and The Purple Pirate (1935). For sf readers, however, the Jimgrim/Ramsden books are of greater interest. At his best, Mundy was a highly competent writer who produced the finest stories of Oriental adventure to appear in the pulps. [EFB]

William Lancaster Gribbon

born London: 23 April 1879

died Anna Maria Island, Florida: 5 August 1940

works (selected)

series

Jimgrim/Ramsden

Tros of Samothrace

individual titles

about the author

links

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