J. T. EDSON and BUNDUKI
Copyright © 1999, 2000
Originally appeared in ERB-APA #61, April 30, 1999
ECOF : Annapolis 1999…
For years professional writers and amateurs alike have read the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and something within them has spawned the idea for writing a sequel. Few however have ever reached the publishers due to constraints held for many years by ERB Incorporated. One of the few that managed to break through this seemingly impenetrable barrier turned out not to be a writer known for his romantic fiction, but instead for his prolific writing of the western genre.
J.T.Edson began his writing career in the 1950’s and had his first book published in 1961 having only just turned 30 years of age. By 1979 he had over one hundred book titles behind him and even a casual glance through the list of books he has written would show his love for writing westerns. In his early years he would visit the cinema as often as possible to see the likes of John Wayne, Randolph Scott and Audie Murphy. His background reading gave him the acquaintance to some of the great escapist writers of the time including none other than Edgar Rice Burroughs. However, one fact beyond all others disappointed him in the wide variety of books he read... lack of extensive detail. In his introduction to his one hundredth novel he writes… "The hero would catch the ‘baddie’ cheating at cards, but there was only rarely an explanation of how this was done. Or the villain would be on the point of shooting the hero in the back, when his gun would jam and, except on a few occasions, the cause was not described... From those beginnings, I decided that if I wanted the kind of plot plus detail I enjoy, I must follow the old Yorkshire adage, ‘If you want a job doing properly, do it yourself.’ "
When J.T.Edson approached ERB Incorporated, they granted him permission to write a trilogy of stories of the adopted son of Tarzan. To ensure that there would be no infringement upon the stories written by Burroughs, Edson had his two lead characters transported to the primitive planet of Zillikian by the mysterious ‘Suppliers’.
Throughout the trilogy of books, Edson was true to his word about detail and if he couldn’t find a way to fit it into the story line, he would add a series of footnotes. Edson was also true to his promise to ERB Inc. that he would not infringe on Burroughs work. But to give his own characters some background, he of course had to mention the name Tarzan. This could have been problematical but Edson simply handled it by referring the reader to a specific ERB novel and so avoid direct contact.
However, when J.T.Edson returned to ERB Inc. for permission to continue the adventures of Bunduki, the door was firmly shut in his face. Whether it was the frequent mentions of his adoptive parents that swung the tide against Edson, but no amount of plea bargaining or sharing of profits would sway them from their stand and Edson turned his back on them, disillusioned.
But Bunduki was Edson’s creation and there was nothing that ERB Inc. could do about that. When he returned with the fourth novel of the series, Fearless Master of the Jungle Bunduki was still the adopted son of Tarzan. It no longer mattered that he had not been given permission to use the name Tarzan, all he had to do was refer the reader back to his opening trilogy for Bunduki’s adopted background. There was to have been a fifth novel entitled Amazons of Zillikian but for reasons unknown, this never saw publication. Nor is it known if this was intended to be a spin-off from the Bunduki books or a continuation. The adventures of Bunduki and Dawn did continue however in later novels, but were actually a series of short story prequels and not related to the earlier four novels. J.T. (John Thomas) Edson is now semi-retired and lives in his home near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England. His writing of western novels has been widely recognised in the United States and despite his English nationality, has been made an honorary Deputy Sheriff in Travis County, TX and also in Thurston County, WA.
The Bunduki books have long been out of print except for the occasional sighting of the first of these novels usually in the DAW edition. Strangely, the British Corgi editions never seem to surface in second hand book stores anywhere. Unfortunately this has never stopped the numerous requests by my many U.S. friends to locate these books for them, all to no avail. With little or no likelihood that enough copies will ever be found to suit demand, over the next few months I intend to write a synopsis containing the adventures of the adopted son of Tarzan, book by book. Although many of you will have already read or at least have the first novel in your possession, I will begin with Bunduki to set the scene and style for the other novels and short stories to follow.
Bunduki..... a synopsis
Chapter 1 : Where is Dawn?
James Allenvale Gunn, better known as Bunduki is Chief Warden of the Ambagasali Wild Life Reserve. He was adopted by Lord and Lady Greystoke when just 3 years old after his own parents were murdered by Mau Mau terrorists. During a visit by his adopted cousin Dawn Drummond Clayton, the two are on a routine patrol when a sniper fires a shotgun at their vehicle, killing the driver. Before anyone has time to react, the Land Rover swerves over the edge of the Gambuti Gorge plunging them towards certain death.
He awakes to find himself in the crouch of a tree in a strange and unfamiliar land. The clothes he had been wearing are gone, replaced only by a loin cloth, a bowie knife that hung at his side, plus his bow and arrows - none of which were on his person before the incident. His first thought is of Dawn who is no where in sight but instinctively knows she is somewhere to the Northwest. Bunduki cries out the challenge of the bull ape in the hope Dawn will answer, but instead hears only the answering challenge from another mangani ape - a species his 'father' had told him was now extinct.
Hunger soon put a stop to his search and after felling a deer, he is about to eat his kill when he is distracted by the scream of a terrified girl.
Chapter 2 : Are you also a great warrior?
Dawn Drummond-Clayton awakes on a ledge half way up a mountainous slope. Like Bunduki, she discovers that her personal bow, arrows and knife are suddenly and mysteriously on her person. Unfortunately, while she searches for Bunduki who she instinctively knows is somewhere to the Southeast, she fails to stay alert for impending danger and disturbs a full grown lion lazing in the shade of some bushes. Realising the lion had only just fed, Dawn stands her ground and then slowly retreats out of harms way.
A short time later she sees a column of smoke from a camp fire and decides to investigate. But before she can get there, her way is barred by a wide chasm. While she ponders her way across, she notices first three riders on quaggas (an extinct variety of zebra), two men and a woman, the latter carrying a bird of prey and then a further six riders join them. Fearfully outnumbered, Dawn attempts to bluff her way by saying her cousin and the rest of their tribe are close by, but this ruse fails. While they keep Dawn talking, two riders close in behind her. She turns and runs from her attackers but the female rider unleashes her eagle to attack Dawn.
Chapter 3 : You take woman. Go!
As soon as Bunduki hears the scream, he leaps into action. A girl suddenly bursts through into the clearing but stumbles over when she sees Bunduki. Her four attackers are a new and unknown variety of ape who seem to know how to handle rudimentary weapons. The leader of the pack growls in the language of the mangani and more surprisingly, Bunduki discovers that he can talk back to them. The two challenge one another by the cry of the bull ape. The ape is surprised and tries to back out by offering the girl in exchange for the food laying to one side. Bunduki declines. The ape attacks with a club but Bunduki doesn't want to kill him so fires an arrow, disarming his attacker. He then lays aside his bow. Bul-Mok charges again but Bunduki turns and throws the ape over his shoulder. Taking up a strangle hold, Bunduki demands surrender and it is given. Meanwhile, the girl looks on believing that her rescuer is the great jungle god of her tribe who rescues maidens in distress. Bunduki turns his back on the defeated ape but one of the younger apes lunges at him from behind with a spear.
Chapter 4 : I'll let you have your revenge
Dawn stops, realising the futility of running. She turns and sees the bird of prey about to go into its death dive. Dawn makes ready her bow and fires. Across the chasm, Dryaka the High Priest of the Mun-Gatahs is furious with Charole who acted because she had seen Dryaka look at the girl and felt her position as High Priestess threatened. As the arrow strikes the eagle full on, Dawn leaps out of the way knowing that the dead eagle could still injure her if it fell on top of her.
Charole lets out a stream of abuse, but stops when she sees Dawn raise her reloaded bow and aims it in her direction. However, Dawn is distracted by the two riders closing in on her and decides to run instead. She sees one rider stumble and falls head first, breaking his neck on impact. The second rider pulls out his lance, butt first planning to wind the girl. Again Dawn raises her bow as her attacker charges ever closer.
Chapter 5 : If you follow, Tar-Ara kill!
"Look behind you!" the girl screams, but Bunduki is expecting the attack. He turns and springs forward landing a punch in the apes stomach who doubles over only to find Bunduki raise his knee and catch him in the chest. Bal-Tak surrenders. Joar-Fane flings herself at Bunduki, offering herself but he is more concerned for Dawn and takes the girl with him as he continues to search for her.
Chapter 6 : I want to catch that girl!
Tomlu had expected the girls arrow to bounce off his rhinoceros hide armour. He was still grinning when the arrow passes straight through, killing him. The Mun-Gatahs are equally surprised by the outcome particularly as Dryaka had plans to conquer all of the neighbouring tribes. Dryaka crosses the river in pursuit as he is now more interested in Dawn's weapons than the girl herself.
Dawn enters the forest, certain that she would lose her pursuers but just as she stops for something to eat, a man steps from behind a tree and confronts her.
Chapter 7 : What kind of wood is that?
The Mun-Gatahs were now more divided than ever, those behind Dryaka and those behind Charole. When they arrive at the scene of Tomlu's death, Dawn is nowhere to be seen. Bending down over the dead mans body, Dryaka examines the arrow still deeply embedded in his chest. Ordering one of his aids to collect the dead bird, he is able to study the arrow better never having seen a fibre glass shaft before. Now more than ever he wanted to catch Dawn if only as a hostage because her 'tribe' must be better equipped than the Mun-Gatahs. Just then, a messenger from the Council of Elders approaches asking him to return immediately. He wonders if the strange discovery by the herbalist Zongaffa had found a practical way to use it.
Chapter 8 : Are the others coming after you?
Dawn picks up her loaded bow and aims it at this newcomer. After discovering that Dawn is not of the Mun-Gatahs but they were following her, At-Vee tells Dawn that he is searching for Joar-Fane who had been taken by the People Taker. Suddenly a tiger emerges into the clearing and attacks At-Vee. Dawn shouts a warning and fires an arrow. At the same time, At-Vee turns and braces his lance on the ground to impale the animal. At-Vee injures his ankle in the encounter and is surprised that Dawn should help him. They head towards a stream where they can better attend his injury. They hear voices and realise that it is the Mun-Gatahs nearby. Knowing that At-Vee was now incapable of fighting, she hands him her bow and arrows and goes to lead the pursuers away from the stricken man. She first hides behind a tree and upon seeing her pursuers, makes herself visible until she is seen, then begins to make a run for it.
Chapter 9 : She isn't as good a lover as me
After finishing their meal, Joar-Fane again makes advances on Bunduki who tells her that he already has a mate. She tells him that whenever the People Takers come, the warriors of her tribe are 'put away' by the Elders to stop the bloodshed that would otherwise follow. Her mate At-Vee, had been away hunting when they came and she was taken but managed to escape in the night only to become hopelessly lost and that was when she was chased by the apes. While they talked, Bunduki thought more of Dawn who up to that point had considered her much like a younger sister despite how beautiful she had become. Joar-Fane's description of the Mun-Gatahs was less than helpful as he knew of no tribe in Africa that rode zebras. She also tells him of a tribe of red men known as Gruziak who rode zebras without stripes and of another tribe of just women. While he ponders over her words, he hears the wailing cry of a female mangani in the direction he knew Dawn to be.
Chapter 10 : Don't kill her, damn you!
Dryaka orders his followers to track Dawn and Charole does likewise. Hesitant of entering the forest and the land of the Hairy People but aware of their orders, they enter the woodland. Suddenly they see her and without her bow and so give chase. Dawn races towards some dense foliage ahead but senses one of the riders is close behind and she makes a quick glance back. It was the eagles attendant and he wants revenge. As he pulls out his sword, he stands in his stirrups to take a better swing. Dawn changes direction and slaps the animals head forcing it to rear up and causing the rider to lose his sword as he fights to keep control.
While Dawn once again races into the foliage, the attendant picks up his sword and chases in after her. At-Vee had expressed concern that Joar-Fane was fearful of the Hairy People and Dawn hopes the Mun-Gatahs feel the same. Deciding that nothing was lost by trying, she gives the distress cry of the she-mangani. But as Dawn finishes her cry, she hears a sound close by of a rhinoceros having been disturbed. The rhino charges blindly in Dawn's direction and she knows that there is no room either side to turn and the Mun-Gatah is close behind her.
Chapter 11 : They've caught the foreign bitch!
Dawn decides to run in the direction of the rhino and just as it bows his head for impact, she vaults over the animal. Suddenly there is a yelp behind her as the rhino continues its charge and connects fully with her pursuer, killing him instantly. As Dawn reaches the clearing at the other side, she discovers some of the remainder of her pursuers had obviously found another way round blocking her exit. Again Dawn makes herself visible and again the chase is on. The foliage becomes dense and Dawn swings into a tree like her adopted father, hoping that this would lose them. However, as she dives towards a branch of a neighbouring tree, a snake distracts her. It is enough for her not to grip the branch properly and falls to the ground, stunned.
Charole's followers are the first to find the unconscious girl and tie her up. But as they rejoice in their capture, Dryaka's followers attack them from behind killing both of them. "Dryaka wants her for himself."
Chapter 12 : I'll break every bone in you body
Although not realising it was Dawn's distress call, Bunduki continues his search for her but as night falls, he knows the futility of searching in the dark. As he makes ready a place to sleep, Joar-Fane cries out for help. Racing to her rescue, he discovers three men and a woman who he assumes to be Mun-Gatah's closing in for the capture. Bunduki begins his attack from behind when suddenly the injured At-Vee appears carrying Dawn's bow from one side of the clearing. Bunduki shoulder charges one of the attackers in the back, snapping his spine. The two remaining warriors face Bunduki as Joar-Fane attempts to club the female attacker, but the blow is fended off and she is knocked flying. The first warrior swings his sword down at Bunduki who in turn fends the blow with his knife and in one continuous movement, slices open his neck. The second warrior makes a horizontal swing with his sword, but Bunduki ducks the blow and thrusts his knife into his stomach, killing him. The female warrior begins her attack but on seeing Bunduki retrieve his knife in a slicing action, her nerve fails and she flees.
At-Vee tells Bunduki of his encounter with Dawn and how she led away their attackers, but he had not seen her since. Bunduki once again cries out the challenge of the bull ape hoping for a response but none is forthcoming. Much as hated the thought, his adoptive cousin could be dead.
Chapter 13 : Let me make her talk, Lord Dryaka
When Dawn awoke, her wrists are already bound and she is placed on one of the quaggas and led back to the Mun-Gatah's camp but not before she notices two fresh stains of blood on the grass nearby. She could hear Bunduki's challenge but decides to stay quiet otherwise she would be silenced, painfully. As they enter the camp, Lord Dryaka appears looking pleased, but the smile soon fades when he does not see her weapons. Ordered into his tent, Dawn is questioned by Dryaka but she remains silent. One of his female followers Elidor, attempts to punch Dawn, but Dawn counters despite still being tied and sends the girl flying. A fight ensues and Dawn is about to deliver the decisive blow when she is restrained by two guards. Using them as a lever, Dawn lifts her legs high kicking Elidor unconscious. Dryaka is pleased, he would pit Dawn against Charole, to the death.
Chapter 14 : You're not a Mun-Gatah
Charole is displeased and rather than face Dryaka's triumph, she opts to join some of her followers out hunting. Unfortunately she is preoccupied by her thoughts and runs into the path of a buffalo being hunted by her friends. Charole is thrown but not before her ankle is caught in one stirrup and she is dragged along the ground by the frightened quagga.
At-Vee gives Bunduki directions to the Mun-Gatah camp, but first he dons the clothing of one that he killed the night before. Riding one of the quaggas, he nears their camp when he sees Charole thrown. He charges the buffalo at right angles and catching hold of its tail, throws the beast off balance into a crumpled heap. He chases after the frightened quagga and manages to bring it to a stop where he releases Charole's ankle from the stirrup. The hunting party of ten men catches up with them and realising Bunduki is not of their tribe, attempt to restrain him. A fight ensues but he is eventually beaten by the overwhelming numbers. Here, thought Charole, is a man who could help her beat Dryaka.
Chapter 15 : I alone stand between you and death
Bathed and rested after the fight, Dawn is taken before Dryaka. His thoughts are of her superior weapons and asks where her 'Suppliers' make their deliveries. Dawn is puzzled but tells him that only Tarzan and his elder children know the location. While Dryaka continues his interrogation, a messenger enters and tells of Charole bringing in a prisoner. He also tells Dryaka that a bag filled with black powder had been delivered to Charole. "Thunder Powder!" he bellows.
Not wanting to draw attention, Charole waits until nightfall before bringing in Bunduki. Discovering that Dawn was already a prisoner, he decides not to attempt to escape just yet. Charole begins a seductive interrogation but they are disturbed by one of her followers. Bunduki takes the opportunity to sniff the black powder. Not knowing what it is but knew that Zongaffa had been making it for Dryaka, she asks Bunduki what it is. Bunduki claims not to be sure and asks for a lamp to be brought forward. The guard distrusts Bunduki, and grabbing the bag, pours the powder over the naked flame.
Chapter 16 : Aaaah-Eeee-Aaaah-Eee-Aaagh!
Unconfined and less violent, but just as spectacular, a column of flame shoots into the air. As the tent catches alight, a second guard enters but Bunduki picks up his knife and another lamp and throws it at the newcomer. As a second blaze begins, Bunduki begins to cut a hole in the tent wall but guards outside see his attempt to escape and charge at him with lances.
Dryaka rushes into his sleeping quarters at the news and does not notice he drops Dawn's knife near her feet. Before he returns, Dawn manages to smuggle the knife between her tied wrists. Still not realising the full potential of the thunder powder, Dryaka is about to ask the messenger how Charole got her hands on it when they hear the dull explosion outside. As Dryaka and the messenger go to investigate, Dawn cuts her bonds free and then cuts a rope supporting a chandelier, causing a fire to break out. She then cuts her way out but is seen by sentries who chase after her into the darkness.
As Bunduki cuts the hole, the first guard attacks him from behind but Bunduki ducks just as the two sentries strike with their lances impaling their comrade. Bunduki makes his escape and first makes for the quaggas but notices another fire and guesses Dawn is the cause. He gives the call of the bull ape that starts a stampede through the village. Dawn answers the call and the two guards in pursuit of her turn and run when a large figure approaches through the darkness. Bunduki and Dawn are reunited and head back to join At-Vee and Joar-Fane but as they start to cross a river, a strange glow appears on the opposite bank, getting brighter all the while.
Chapter 17 : Will you go back, or stay here?
Taking the form of an old man, he introduces himself as an alien life form who they may refer to as their 'Supplier'. They are on the planet Zillikian that lies in the same orbit as Earth but on the opposite side of the sun. It was he who had rescued them from the Gambuti Gorge. He and his kind had populated the planet from tribes of other worlds. Unfortunately, their first tribe increased in numbers so dramatically that they introduced a human predator to reduce the population explosion. Enter the Mun-Gatah's and the People Taker to maintain a natural balance. Bunduki asks why they were brought to Zillikian to which the 'Supplier' replies, "We want you to be Chief Warden." Asked if they have a choice, the 'Supplier' tells them that he can return them if they so wish. Bunduki and Dawn decide to stay and the 'Supplier' disappears with the words, "You will not see me again. What happens now is entirely up to you."
Unlike the DAW edition of Bunduki, the Corgi edition finishes with…What happens next will be told in BUNDUKI AND DAWN