The Pulp Swordsmen: Michel de Guyon

Sunday , 3, June 2018 1 Comment

Historical adventure took on a new life in the pages of Argosy-All Story Weekly in the late 1920s. It had been a part of both Argosy and All-Story Weekly before the two merged as one publication in 1920. There seemed to be some waning of historical adventure during the 1920s and then an upsurge late in the decade.

Swashbucklers remained a steady form of fiction for Argosy up until its end as pulp magazine in 1943. In fact one could probably put together a hefty collection just of pirate fiction and another of puffy shirt swordsmen stories from its pages.

One writer who wrote a handful of swashbucklers was Forrest Rosaire (1902-1977). He is best remembered today as a crime/detective/mystery writer under the name of “J.-J des Ormeaux.” Joseph T. Shaw reprinted one of his stories from Black Mask magazine (“The Devil Suit”) in the classic anthology, The Hard-Boiled Omnibus in 1946.

As des Ormeaux, he also had one story in Weird Tales (“Siva the Destroyer) February-March 1931 which is a Sax Rohmer type super criminal story.

“The Black Sorcerer” sounds like the title of a Clark Ashton Smith story. It appeared under Forrest Rosaire instead of the des Ormeaux pseudonym in September 16, 1932 issue of Argosy. Under the title on the table of contents page, the line “Action Stories of Every Variety” was present. Gone were the romance stories that H. P. Lovecraft had hated in the teens.

Michel de Guyon, a younger son of Count Henri de Guyon has arrived in Paris from Normandy. He intends on taking service with Duke de Barbizan. Leaving with a porter carrying a salver containing Norman apples, he is accosted by a villainous drunk. The drunk asks him to read a note given to him. The note tells the inebriated bravo to meet de Barbizan at a tavern. Michel exchanges words with the brunk and he knocks him out with a wine bottle.

Arriving at the duke’s residence, surly guards and an impertinent majordomo escort Michel to de Barbizan, or rather Braquard de Barbizan, next of kin to the duke. The majordomo collapses after biting in to one of the apples. Michel had to fight his way out with some hair breadth escapes and sword play.

He decides to have it out with the de Barbizan’s pretender by meeting Braquard de Barbizan’s secretary at the tavern pretending to be the hired bravo. He is to murder a sorcerer believed to have a big stash of gold created through alchemy. Michel arrives at the sorcerer’s house, informing his beautiful niece and an old maid they are in mortal danger. His plan is to kill Braquard de Barbizan and his henchmen. They arrive finding it is Michel de Guyon and not the hired bravo. Some fighting including swordplay ensue. Braquard wears a metal glove with which to grab his opponent’s swords and then kill them with a dagger thrust. It does not go that way.

The sorcerer joins in the fight with a battle axe. It turns out the sorcerer is the real Duke de Barbizan who is in this residence to experiment. The villains are dealt with and the Duke hires Michel to put in charge of his house.

There is a mention of the queen’s mother, a de Medici and her expertise at poisons, so this story is set in the later portion of the 16th Century. Rosaire knows who to write a smooth story, almost too smooth. He has some sentences that are jarring to the mood:

“Michel went like an antelope, hurdling cornices, bounding over gables like a kangaroo.”

“One was pot-bellied elegant with a mustache like a stuffed muskrat fastened to his lip.”

He did this generally in action scenes. I have one other Rosaire swashbuckler  in Argosy and will have to see if he did that in elsewhere.

 

One Comment
  • John E. Boyle says:

    Not familiar with this author at all, but that whole muskrat thing has gotten my attention.

    Thanks for the post!

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