I grew up reading pulp novel adventures, either in paperback or in Christmas annuals. Stirring adventures with titles like Ace Carew, Men of the Mist, The Lost World of Everest. As well as the adventures of Biggles, Sexton Bake, or Allan Quatermain in King Solomon’s Mines, these are just some of the ones I can remember reading by torchlight. When you think about it, books like those, as well as many others inspired such modern icons as Lara Croft and movies like Sky Captain.
The Valley of Despair is one of those books.
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Lost in a savage Jungle…
Having survived a terrific plane crash, Erik von Mendelsohn is forced to endure the terrors of a primitive world. Now lost in the fastness of an African jungle, he has no idea where lay the lines of friendly forces he was trying to reach before flying off course after his compass malfunctioned.
Soon Erik discovers there are forces at work more dangerous than the savage predators that have stalked him since abandoning his wrecked plane when he discovers a mysterious, prehistoric city governed by grim, gray inhabitants from another world.
Forced into servitude for his new masters, and instructed in their tongue by a beautiful slave girl, Erik begins plotting their escape…
But is escape even possible from this valley of despair?
The Valley of Despair was a revelation. It was almost as if it needed to be read by a younger me, from an old paperback, on yellowing pages. Not on my mobile phone, via the kindle app.
The story captured the spirit of those books, indeed, it could have been one of them. There was a plucky adventurer, a strange foreign location, a damsel in distress and an evil presence. Everything that was needed by the genre.
Right down to the language, which was rooted in the inter-war era, with all its flowery prose, over the top descriptions and anachronisms.
Chris Adams has done a great job of taking me back to my youth with the adventures of Erik von Mendelsohn, who finds a lost city in the African wilderness. The inhabitants have a secret and it’s up to Erik to do what a man must do, save the day and win the hand of the damsel. The question, that kept me reading, is a simple one. Can he succeed?
It’s not a foregone conclusion, the fate of many is in the balance right up to the end.
The background story and the way that events unfold drive this narrative. The whole thing is imaginative and well-written.
Four stars from me.
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