Here’s a nifty actioner from 1948 — Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge, a sweat-soaked tale of gold-hunting in Peru. The publisher, Hard Case Crime, is in the business of both reprinting old pulps and scrounging up new ones. The blurb on one of their books — whether an oldie or hot off the presses I do not know — tells the story: “She was young, beautiful… and dead!”
This one by Mr. Dodge (“Bestselling Author of To Catch a Thief”) isn’t quite so horrid as that. Its young and beautiful women yet breath. But Plunder of the Sun — rival looters vie for a cache of Incan gold near Lake Titicaca — is grim enough for the most discerning junk fiction devotee. Al Colby, the hardboiled narrator, pauses at one point to sum up the story thus far thus:
Dead men, live men, thieves, liars, murderers, cheats, their lives tied to three hundred pounds of metal and polished stones.
Other than that he has no complaints even after being knocked unconcious, strangled unconcious and shot unconcious. He’s a trooper. And did I mention he’s hardboiled? He is. Clever enough to get to the Incan swag first, but not clever enough to… but I don’t want to give away plot jinks. You may find yourself languishing in an airport — or, better, crossing the Indian Ocean in a tramp steamer — and turn to this treasure hunt to beguile the hours. It will do the job, guaranteed.
And if you’ve had it up to here with psychological complexity you may enjoy Al Colby’s stripped down dealings with his fellow hard-boiled humans: Women he ogles, men he punches. Viz:
She had small slender hands, the wrists no bigger than a child’s. The rest of her was grown-up enough for anybody.
He… put his arms around her from behind… and she did everything she could, short of biting his ear, to make him realize he was holding something real nice.
She was done up like a Christmas tree… The only thing missing was a man on a leash.
I stood up and hit him about an inch below the breastbone. It didn’t knock him out, but it paralyzed him. He went down like a plank…
I jammed him back against a lifeboat, my left hand on his chest, and whacked him three times…
When he stood up to smack me, I hooked a right at his chin, as hard as I could throw it. He went headfirst over the back of his chair and hit the wall.
and, even with one arm in a cast, Mr Colby gives the guys what for:
I still had a good punch left in my right hand. I let him have it. He fell over into the bathtub and cracked his head against the wall… I said, “I can lick you with one hand, guagua. I’d just as soon do it now as any other time. Get up.”
I’d lend you my copy, but it’s all in tatters and scribbled upon. Happily Hard Case Crime foresaw this situation and had printed multiple copies: