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The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure –

The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure

Sunday , 23, April 2023 3 Comments

Swashbucklers: men fencing with epees wearing puffy shirts. D’Artagnan, Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Zorro. A genre that certainly has a cinematic past but before the movies there was the prose in books. The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure is a 475 page large paperback that I just read. Somehow I missed it when it came out from Pegasus Books in 2014. Editor Lawrence Ellsworth has been translating Dumas into English and is the expert on the genre.


Author Title
Lawrence Ellsworth Introduction
Rafael Sabatini Sword and Mitre
Anthony Hope The Sin of the Bishop of Modenstein
H. Bedford-Jones Pirate’s Gold
Sidney Levett-Yeats The Queen’s Rose
Jeffery Farnol Cheerly O and Cheerly O (Poem)
Johnston McCulley Senor Zorro Pays a Visit (Excerpt)
Arthur Conan Doyle How the Brigadier Played for a Kingdom
Pierce Egan Robin Hood Meets Guy of Gisbourne
Farnham Bishop The Buccaneer’s Last Shot (Poem)
Alexandre Dumas White Plume on the Mountain
John Bloundelle-Burton The King of Spain’s Will
Baroness Orczy The Cabaret De La Liberte
Harold Lamb The Bride of Jagganath
Lilian Nicholson The Piract Sea (Poem)
Rafael Sabatini Captain Blood’s Dilemma (Excerpt)
Stanley J. Weyman Crillon’s Stake
Marion Polk Angellotti The Black Death
Jeffery Farnol The Fight for Black Bartlemy’s Treasure

I used to love watching swashbuckling movies in my youth. The 1970s versions The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers with Michael York, Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch, Oliver Reed, and Faye Dunaway have a flambloyant delivery. It did not hurt that George MacDonald Fraser wrote the screenplays. I did not know about Rafael Sabatini back then and wish I had been reading him alongside Edgar Rice Burroughs.

This is a great introduction to the genre. I have read some of the authors and heard of others. A few were totally new to me. I will warn people that much of the prose here has lots and lots of talk. It is not all crossing swords with villains.

The stories by H. Bedford-Jones, Harold Lamb, and Johnston McCulley were all originally in pulp magazines. The Harold Lamb story sticks out as different due to locale (early 17th Century India) and the amount of action. The Johnston McCulley selection is an excerpt of “The Curse of Capistrano” that originally appeared in All-Story Weekly in 1919. In some ways the movie The Gay Blade of Zorro is closer the original novel with McCulley’s portrayal of Don Diego. “Captain Blood’s Dilemma” was published in Adventure though I am not sure if the book was out in the U.K. Is Captain Blood a pulp character?

There is mention of a successor volume The Even Bigger Book of Swashbuckling Adventures but alas it appears it is a ghost book. I got it from Hamilton Books for a grand total of $5.95. It originally retailed for $24.95. Order your copy now. En garde!

  • Will says:

    My understanding is that the stories first appeared in The Premiere Magazine, a UK publication that was mostly a pulp magazine (at some point in the mid-1920s they tried becoming a slick). The stories were then reprinted in Adventure. Sabatini He then strung the original stories together to create the first book. There was a lull before he wrote more stories, again published in Premiere and I believe reprinted in Adventure. I found those early 1920s Adventures on Google Books and that is how I’ve read the Captain Blood yarns. But, I would say he is definitely a pulp character.

  • Will says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, for fans of AD&D, this collection is a real treat for the fact that Lawrence Ellsworth includes the Dumas story “White Plume on the Mountain,” from which, writing under his real name of Lawrence Schick, he derived the title for his famous module: S2: White Plume Mountain.

  • Jay DiNitto says:

    Completely OT, but I just realize I haven’t been getting updates from you since the RSS feed stopped working:

    Looks like these first two lines are sneaking into the xml file and invalidating it:

    Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in /home/linweb28/c/ on line 31

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