Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bomba, Again


After posting about Johnny Sheffield, and after reading Juri's and Frank's comments, I just had to have a look at a Bomba book or two. So I went to the shelves. Naturally I grabbed one with a croc on the cover. Here's the opening paragraph: "A jagged streak of lightning shot athwart the sky, followed by a deafening crash of thunder." How long has it been since you saw the word "athwart" used in a novel? A little farther on we have Bomba "ever and again sending a glance aloft at the lowering skies." Hard to imagine a little ten-year-old kid these days reading a book with a vocabulary like the one "Roy Rockwood" uses. Great stuff.

But it's on page 11 that we get to the kind of thing I remember most fondly from the Bomba series. Ever and again Bomba finds himself in real pickles. In this case a jaguar is about to spring at a man hanging from a tree branch. Bomba is about to draw his knife to attempt a rescue: "While from that belt the jungle boy was drawing his razor-edged machete it may be well, for the benefit of those who have not read the preceding volumes of this series, to tell who Bomba was and what had been his adventures up to the time this story opens."

Yes, as I recall, that's what happens in every book. There's tension you can cut with a machete, and the author steps in to interrupt the story and recall for us the tedious history of Bomba's origins. As I say, I remember this device fondly. I came to expect it and to depend on it. I'm indeed a sad case.

Another thing you could count on with Bomba is that there would be plenty of action to interrupt. By page 11 of the book I'm looking at, lightning has split a nearby tree in half, and Bomba has fought off a savage puma (with the aid of another puma, friendly to Bomba, but still savage). Almost immediately after that, the jungle boy is swept away by a wall of water, and as soon as he escapes drowning, he spots the man dangling from the tree limb and the threatening jaguar. A thrill a minute! They truly don't write 'em like that anymore.

2 comments:

  1. Yes, the plot device was very awkward in the only Bomba book translated in Finland. So, what were the books the readers were supposed to already know? "What the f..?"

    Athwart? Now, that's a real word! I must use it some day.

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  2. I first read the Bomba books in the 50 cent Clover, slick picture cover edition of the 50s. The first eight were the only ones reprinted by Clover, even though there was a vital story arc that ran from #1 through #19 -- the identity of Bomba's parents! Bomba seeks his parents in every issue, aided only by the feeble memory of Jocasta, wounded by an exploding rifle. I guess the Clover publishers figured we 50s kids couldn't handle the truth. Once Bomba finds his parents in #19 it's ho hum, another day, another snake to fight. In fact, that could describe all of the issues. The eight Tom Quests from Clover were much better.

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