“The Oxbow Wizard” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts (1924)

The Oxbow Wizard” (Garden City Pub, 1924) Theodore Goodridge Roberts

The Oxbow Wizard,” a highly popular young adult frozen north wilderness adventure novella, was the 1st of 3 experimental forays by Garden City Publishing into the “A Book for Boys” series. These were part of the even larger never-properly-define broader series of soft cover digest-paperbacks (similar to dime novels in format) for which I have already earlier blogged. Numbered “60” on the spine for the overall series, the rear cover adverts up to 62 titles, overall, and sports an internal copyright notice of 1924, and 1920 for the original, via Open Road’s publishers, Torbell.

No records to my knowledge has ever indicated where the novella originally was published, however, I have located serial installments of the novella in Torbell’s The Open Road. This was a magazine designed to encourage young boys and men to get out-doors, rather than remain indoors and idle. The serial begins the in December 1919 issue, with the installment titled “Up the Oxbow.”

Additionally, parts of this serial MIGHT appear in The Trail Makers Boys’ Annual (Volume 1, 1920) but I have never obtained a copy for confirmation, nor have I been able to ascertain the full contents of said volume, which contains “stories and articles for Canadian boys” by Canadian men.

These three boys books lack the reproduced covers from SHORT STORIES magazines that made the series initially so enticing to collect. Unable to trace all of the Open Road mags, I can’t be certain whether this cover image originates with the magazine or hails from an entirely different source. Hopefully one of our blog readers may one day solve that mystery!

The story introduces young men to the coming-of-age young Dan Evans. While cleaning out a boarder’s room, he stumbles across an abandoned green bound volume, later revealed to be the collected adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Having read various tales, he begins to apply the logic into his real-life adventures and solves small home issues. His father, never kindly disposed to his son, thinks he is acting “smart” and dislikes his good intentions. However, when a young lady mysteriously vanishes, he applies his newly aroused detective skills and inadvertently bumps into his “odd” uncle, whom is more than he seems. Realizing the young man is smarter than he looks, the uncle demands he continue on to his cabin, where he will meet him later. However, on arriving at the cabin, young Dan Evans discovers the place is occupied by the missing lady, being harassed by a hooligan. Evans takes out the interloper, and it is learned that she married and eloped with the uncle, secretly because the uncle is very shy.

Some time later, as a reward for his skill and assistance, his uncle, removed far and away from the wild and seated at a desk in the city, offers Dan the opportunity to take over his cabin and partner up with an older man, and trap the wild animals for their fur, etc. Dan gives up his lumbering job for the hardworking winter job of trapping.

Mysteries abound when the cabin is found broken into, supposedly by a bear, per his partner. However, Dan sees signs that a bear would not have caused. Time passes and Dan comes upon a woman whom imposes upon his good will to help her feed her starving babies. Her husband is at home, laid up. Dan discovers the man is actually heavily intoxicated, and notices bear claws under the bunk and, an extremely large bear fur on the ground, the dimensions for which match the assumed size of the mythical bear that broke into their cabin!

Realizing the drunk broke into his cabin (despite the girl claiming it was herself, with the good intention of salvaging food for her children) Dan decides to work in the family’s favor to keep them fed.

But when his traps are worked over, he realizes the drunkard is stealing his furs. Proof surfaces when the man, terribly drunk, is found by the partner. Unable to drag him to safety, he remains outside in the frozen wastes. Dan, upon returning to the cabin, discovers his partner missing, and quickly hunts him down. Finally realizing the man’s whereabouts, he is introduced to the drunkard, and they learn that he sold the fur(s) and bought mostly illegal liquor, rather than stocking up with food for his family.

When more of his traps are found disturbed, Dan is irked. Determined to best the drunkard, he utilizes his skills to bait the shiftless cretin, and tracks down the person peddling the illegal booze. With the aid of a policeman, the whole incident is nearly neatly handled.

Not the best story I’ve ever read by Theodore Goodridge Roberts. His other three entries, previously blogged about, better stood the test of literary time than this young adult farce. Overall, of the four titles via this publisher, “The Lure of Piper’s Glen” is undoubtedly the most entertaining.

“The Oxbow Wizard” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts (1924)

2015 December 20: “Green Timber Thoroughbreds” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts

45 Green Timber Thoroughbreds

Book 45 is “Green Timber Thoroughbreds” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts, with cover illustration by Lynn Bogue Hunt. The pulp tale was originally featured in the 10 November 1923 edition of Short Stories magazine.

The tale opens with Robert Vane walking into a wilderness north town and a house is on fire. He rescues an old man and then proceeds up a ladder to carry out another body that is unconscious from smoke inhalation. Then he departs the scene and seeks shelter at the village hotel.

The next day, the town is a-buzz over the whole ordeal, and Vane is thanked profusely for saving Joe. When he is greeted and thanked in person by “Joe” he is nonplussed to learn that “Joe” is a girl, short for Josephine.

He confesses to the hotelier that he is interested in horses, and seeking a specific breed locally that has good blood in it. The tale is more convoluted, in that the horses’ pedigrees all dial back a century when Vane’s grandparents brought over a horse of fine-standing, but was stolen. Stories of great horse races in this region and markings lead Vane to the quiet remote town to investigate if these are descendants of the original.

They are.

So he seeks to buy one horse but the locals that own the breeds are a nefarious, murderous bunch of scoundrels, and, illegally brewing during prohibition. So, thinking he is a  government man, they go out of their way to capture and kill him, but fail.

Finally, they do capture him, drag him far out into the woods and leave him to do. Unfortunately for them, Joe trails the villains, frees Vane, and they, overnight, through a snowstorm, find their way to a cabin and collapse.

They recover overnight with the cabin’s tenants, and two weeks later, marry.

The villains are all arrested by the sheriff.

It’s not really the author’s best work, by a long-shot, but, I am happy to have had the pleasure to read this novel, since it is a damn hard one to obtain. The story falls flat with me since I have zero interest in horse racing and the background of the pedigrees, etc, which was used more as “padding” then necessary to the overall story.

2015 December 20: “Green Timber Thoroughbreds” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts

2015 November 22 “Musket House” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts

22 Musket House

“Musket House” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts originally appeared in the pulp The Popular Magazine (7 June 1921), and represents book No. 22 in the Garden City Publications series.

My apologies, foremost, for supplying such a shoddy cover. It is the only copy I have ever been able to locate. As noted, the cover became wet and adhered to another book (an earlier title in my possession which affected the rear cover instead) and both are heavily water-damaged titles. This title is doubly-difficult to reasonably obtain because the author still has a devout, however small, following, even today.

The tale involves a 28 year old male whom can’t settle down to one job or task in his life, departing from London and abandoning all he has ever known, in search for lost, buried treasure. His hankering for this treasure appears in the form of a diary note his grandfather wrote, regarding his adventures overseas. While in the wilderness, he and a crew of other assorted Lords and such made hospitable stay at a Dexterfells’ home, the Musket House, which legend holds was so named after Dexterfell annually surrendered rifles to the local Indians in exchange for land.

That aside, he also reportedly was something of a pirate and had buried loot upon his lands. While drinking heavily and playing cards, he becomes deeper and deeper in debt beyond monetary capability, and Lord Stourbridge decides to burn the notes. Dexterfell becomes enraged and humiliated, insists on honoring the notes, and whispering, informs the Lord that their is loot beyond his imagination buried upon the land.

Oddly, he ends up leaving Musket House to kill an annoying whippoorwill that is torturing the assorted Englishmen, but ends up blowing his face off instead, by accident.

Fast-forward a couple generations, and Lord Stourbridge’s useless grandson, having read that diary entry, has sold all his worldly possessions to pay for ship and rail to track down this fairy tale loot.

And so, enter Rodney Goodwin.

Foolishly, he makes to meet the current resident of Musket House, the last reported known heir of the Dexterfell line. He’s informed that the old man is madly insane, but knocks on the door, regardless, and is met with a pair of circular objects that lead down twin long barrels and a leering face that gives him a 15-second start to run before he’s filled full of lead.

He accepts the sprinting challenge and promptly hugs the dirt as one barrel, then the other, cleave the air above him. Angered by the assault, he charges the assailant, Dexterfell, whom is chuckling but unaware of the charge, for he can’t see through the shotgun’s cloud.

Rodney tackles the coot and knocks the gun aside and threatens to thrash him, when, to his amazement, the old nutter speaks completely and rationally sane. Rodney cares not for his sudden miraculous change of attitude and confiscates the shotgun, and departs back to the place he is bedding down at.

While in his room at night, something is hurled through the open window, and attached is a note written by Dexterfell, begging for the return of his only gun, so that he doesn’t starve to death. He admits to being poor and the gun is is only means to obtaining food.

Recklessly, Rodney returns the firearm and departs. He’s later invited to meet the old man in even terms at Musket House. Accepting, he knocks at the door and finds the man relatively cleaned up, of good speech, and acting the part of a gentleman. They play chess and Rodney loses on purpose, hoping to get in the man’s good graces and perhaps learn more of the treasure.

Plans go awry when an equally crazy half-breed assaults Dexterfell and, Rodney, whom comes upon the scene, stupidly hurls himself through a shattered window. The half-breed knocks him out and tosses him down into the wine cellar, to die.

Departing, Rodney is left unconscious and old Dexterfell, upstairs, is out cold, too, from a brutal bit of torture.

To their rescue comes Lizbeth. She resides at the home in which Rodney takes residence, down the trail a bit, and worries about his not appearing for meal time. Grabbing a gun, she hustles up to Musket House, spies the shattered window, and creeps in carefully. Finding Dexterfell out, she searches the whole house until she finds the trapdoor cellar and descends.

Alarmed at her findings, she returns with help and brings both men back with her to the house. Nursed back to health by a regional doctor, whom, incidentally, recognizes our Rodney from a London party, disclaims him as a bounder (honestly, the odds of anyone knowing him from anywhere is absurd, and it does zero for the plot).

Eventually, each profess their love for each other, but the plot thickens and we learn the half-breed Indian and Dexterfell are actually half-related, and, furthermore, that Lizbeth is the granddaughter of a Dexterfell herself, something that she never knew, until the half-breed, in a drunken state, blurts it out to Rodney, whom disbelieves it.

Sadly, she is nearby and overhears the drunken confession and makes a run for it. Lizbeth fears Rodney will never now marry her, because she is tainted with Dexterfell “mad” blood in her.

The whole story collapses with Rodney chasing her and injuring himself to the point that she returns to his side and all the while, back at Musket House, a lynx that happens to have wandered in the house was down in the cellar, and assaults the half-breed. A lantern is upset and the whole place goes up in one big blaze….


2015 November 22 “Musket House” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts

2015 October 19 “The Lure of Piper’s Glen” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts


Herewith, book 6, was a surreal pleasure for me to leisurely peruse. I’m fond of Frozen North and tales of the oblique lumbering wilderness, if and when written in a carefree manner. Roberts captures your imagination between the pages of “The Lure of Piper’s Glen,” admirably writing what in all views may be tagged as a young adult’s novel. Told from the perspective of a man coming-of-age, Jim Todhunter packs his belongings, and instead of heading off to college, heads North, to seek adventure and learn a business education in the vast wildernesses of the Frozen North. Seeking a business partner, his father, somehow-or-other, sets up him with an unscrupulous vulture of iniquity hiding behind the veil of a righteous God-fearing man. The man, one Amos Hammond, owns a small business in the wilderness community, a general store, essentially, in which Todhunter, should he be interested, will invest his meager funds and become a business partner.

However, on arriving at the rail depot, he is not picked up in time by the sinisterly duplicitous Hammond, but, rather, greeted, eventually, by the rail ticket man, whom introduces him to a game of cards. Hammond finally arrives, very late, and immediately rails on the non-virtues of playing cards and gambling. Not one to back down, Todhunter rallies and informs that they were not gambling, merely playing cards, and if anything, Hammond should not have been unduly late.

Not used to having anyone brook argument with him, Hammond lapses into silence for most of the journey to his homestead. There, Todhunter meets son Mel, of equal age to himself, a daughter, and Amos’ wife. To varying degrees, all live in mortal terror of Amos and are starkly amazed that Todhunter has the gall to put him in his place.

Fed up one day of playing “shop”-keeper to a business that did zero all day, he closes and goes for a walk up the trail. Hence, he comes across another youth, some years older than he, whom accosts him and throws down a challenge. The two duke it out while the challenger’s sister watches in awe as Todhunter dispatches her unbeatable brother, Mark Ducat, self-proclaimed cock of the river.

Once Mark is situated to walking again, they shake and Mark is impressed with Todhunter. They fast become friends and the sister, Flora, is clearly enamored of the newcomer

Developments arise in which Amos kicks a widow out of her home after her husband dies and she can’t meet the interest payments, and Todhunter, in the winter, crosses her path one day. She begs ammo of him, and he surrenders a few. He later gets into a blistering fight with Amos after the man makes unkind accusations against him and the Ducat clan. Leaving the man beaten and battered in his sleigh (also obtained from another poor soul that could not “pay-up”) our youthful Todhunter rides away, but not before in the distance he hears a gun’s report. He assumes that Amos took one last parting shot at his back but keeps riding.

He arrives at the Ducat home and sleeps there. Next day, word arrives that Amos was shot and wounded, and that another had seen Todhunter leave the scene shortly before the shot was fired. The sheriff is due to collect Todhunter for attempted murder. Todhunter, not caring the least, says he’ll stand trial, for he is innocent, and they can’t prove anything. Flora wrongfully believes that he in fact DID shoot Amos and convinces him to run, but only after tricking him. When he refuses to run, she confesses that it was actually HER that shot Amos.

He flees, then, in order to protect her, but when the sheriff arrives and the widow also arrives, announcing (proudly) that she shot Amos, and only wished it had been buckshot and not rabbit pellet that Todhunter had given her, Flora realizes her mistake and sets out to find Todhunter.

With both out of the picture, enter now another character, whose position in the story is never really concretely established….Homer. Unaware that the widow had accepted full responsibility, all he hears is that Todhunter is on the lam. For some odd reason, he hates Todhunter and while dressing to chase the boy down, the grand-elder Ducat quickly slices open the bullets and empties the shells, leaving them to be harmless blanks. As a jest against Homer, for they think him a fool, they prank the four empty bullets on him and when he eventually does capture Todhunter, he fires and the gun fails to properly discharge!

Todhunter, with the aid of Flora, take him down. Sadly, they need Homer’s assistance, since Todhunter had injured himself the night prior with an ax upon his leg. Tricking Homer (after he revives) Flora helps to bind Todhunter and they drag him back to the Ducat home for eventual trial. But, the real trial was getting him brought in. Tuckered from the ordeal, Homer collapses at the end, and Flora unties Todhunter. They quickly explain to him the truth, and, embarrassed, Homer saddles up at night and rides away, likely to never be seen from again…..

The tale originates within the 25 May 1922 issue of Short Stories magazine. I am not sure which issue sported the cover art, since it has not been uploaded to the FictionMags database. If anyone can supply the original cover data to me, and an image, for the site, that would be wonderful. The cover art was rendered by Edgar Franklin Wittmack, dated 1922.

The cover has little to do with the content, but, it comes damn close, given that Homer does go after Todhunter, so, one could make that cover argument.

I highly recommend this tale to anyone that wishes to wallow away the nighttime hours, as I do, in pleasure-reading without straining the brain.

2015 October 19 “The Lure of Piper’s Glen” by Theodore Goodridge Roberts