Edgar Rice Burroughs Characterizations
Does Tinkerbell Jive?
The Efficency Expert
David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2000
Suggested By a Conversation with Nkima on May 25th, 2000
It was a phone call. Just an ordinary phone call to get the great Nkima motivated to finish one of his sorta started but not quite done ERBList Summary Project projects. In the process of begging and pleading (ye gods, what we editors must go through!) that he sh*t or get off the pot we had a wonderful discussion regarding our favorite author: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Nkima (David Adams of Minnesota fame) has often been accused of finding Jung or Freud in ERB's works and I like to tease that old bear in the northern woods from time to time with Burroughsian "oughta be a Jung And The Restless or Family Freud" topic. Editors are known to do this sort of thing, spark the creative juice, send thoughts soaring, er, get 1,500 words they can publish. :)
I enjoy chatting voice with Nkima. We've done it thrice now with few or no ill-effects. His enthusiasm for ERB is nearly as great as mine (heck, I gotta look monolithic in this essay somewhere!) and we had fun exploring the mind bent of Ed Burroughs as regards Tangor's (that's me) recent ERBList Summaries of PIRATE BLOOD and THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT. David is the instigator of the Summary Project, that is he was the idea man who tossed it out and moved on. It took a stable, sensible fellow like Tangor (that's me again!) to bite the bullet and make it work. Okay, I'm embellishing and digressing for amusement purposes, so will thank you for reading this far and get to the heart of the matter.
Discussing ERB's real world novels (PIRATE BLOOD, EFFICIENCY EXPERT, GIRL FROM HOLLYWOOD, etc.) I suggested to Nkima that THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT was unique among Burroughs tales—the prostitute, a girl of the evening, the lady in red—so to speak—saves the straight up gallant hero. Additionally his best friend is a safe-cracker. Okay...how does Tinkerbell get in the picture?
Tinkerbell is a free spirit—she is what she is and no bones about it. Little Eva (Edith Hudson) is equally free in spirit, a giggle gal at night (and between the covers) by her own choosing. She lives in an era of Americana where the Chicago gangster is a hero and their molls are princesses.
The night life of Chicago when Jimmy Torrence, late of Beatrice, Nebraska and recently graduated from an eastern school near New York comes on the scene, is as pertinent as any tale of Never Never Land. Jimmy meets the Lizard first, but it is Little Eva, the delightful whore (sic, deliberate.) Just want to make sure there's no confusion as regards her profession and stated in a way that ERB never could have got past the editors/publishers of his day) who ultimately saves the hero's handsome and desirable bacon without regard to her own safety. Tinkerbell looked out for Peter Pan, risking her life in the process and so did Little Eva. She risked all to save Jimmy Torrence. At the moment I can't tell you who came first (Tinkerbell/Little Eva—I'm writing in the passion of a thought, not a passion of research), but I can say that both are definitely part of ordinary legend and literature for more years than we care to remember. Little Eva is the good little bad girl, the fairy heart who decides that whatever it takes to bring happiness to her hero is all she desires. Little Eva helps Jimmy Torrence get ahead in the world and does so without any desire of recompense—to her it is what should be and must be.
Peter Pan is the irascable boy, the youth, the fellow with a future. Jimmy Torrence, in Ed Burroughs' THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT is just such a fellow, full of promise and just a bit irresponsible at the same time. Tinkerbell led Peter Pan through the ins and outs of Never Never Land—Little Eva did the same for Jimmy Torrence in the wilderness of Chicago's seamy side.
Reality Check: THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT is a "real world" tale that embraces the era when ERB penned the story. It occurs in a real city (Chicago) and discusses real people: uptown industrialists, their daughters, thugs and hoods, and the ordinary low-lifes like pickpockets and prostitutes. The story is told in matter-of-fact tones, much like Peter Pan is as regards the perils of life in a strange land. Chicago was a "strange land" in 1919 when Ed Burroughs wrote his story. By day the city was of one demeanor, by night it was of another—a darker character.
Little Eva loved Jimmy from afar—but he never hit on her. He was always as good a friend to Little Eva as she was to him.
Little Eva—Edith Hudson—origin unknown. Central character; potential romantic interest; his Gal Friday. Burroughs was not ahead of his time as regards writing about whores who made a difference in the course of an event/story, but he was near, if not in the forefront, of a "modern writer" (ie circa 1918-19) who portrayed prostitutes as real people with heart and ambitions. Little Eva was not a whore of Babylon; she was a simple working girl who made the best of her societial plane without complaint or recrimination. If a fellow had the bucks he deserved the yucks, and whatever happened between the sheets. Breakfast was four in the afternoon and had been for sometime. Breakfast was free of notice or interest to Little Eva until big, handsome, semi-pathetic Jimmy Torrence appeared. The prostitute regular at Feinheimer's Cabaret took an interest in the fellow from Nebraska because he treated her as a lady, or at the very least, as a human being. Little Eva's origin is not described...nor is it necessary for there are too many throughout history who have followed her path. This Tinkerell, this woman of gratification, a fairy of desire and lust, is not the first of her kind. She is, perhaps, one of the few who finds the right man and cannot, because of her station, make the leap from bad to good without help. Jimmy Torrence, slightly Puritanical at heart—most obviously mainstream as far as the reading audience is concerned—helps the girl leave her trade. The two characters find an equilibrium that shuts aside all the deleterious aspects; they become true friends.
In a diferent time, a different world, Jimmy Torrence might have swept the little protitute turned typist away from her dark side. Alas, however, Ed Burroughs was writing ahead of his time—the years of the late 1920's—for such a happy ending to occur. Our little Tinkerbell, the fairy lover, was not to find happiness in THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT.
Jimmy gets Harriet in this tale of "modern" romance and murder. In my reading (my heart), Ed Burroughs intended that Little Eva, one Edith Hudson, a diligent and stalwart friend glad to be rescued from her life of sin by the man she loved, is intended to be the real heroine—the true Tinkerbell. Edith gave her all for Jimmy Torrence, without reservation or qualm. THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT may not truly be a tale of Tinkerbell in Burroughs, but it comes darn close! Heck, I can't give you chapter and verse, dates and times, whims and whimsicals, as regards same, but I am convinced that Eva/Edith is Jimmy Torrence's "Tinkerbell" simply because the shoe fits!