Pulp review: Foes of the North
Foes of the North, by prolific pulpeteer William Merriam Rouse, combines fast action writing, an isolated setting, and a shoestring plot. It’s a terrific example of the form.
Foes of the North
By William Merriam Rouse
Thrilling Advenures, May, 1937.
William Merriam Rouse was a pulp writer whose works appeared in Argosy, Astounding Stories of Super-Science, Popular Detective, and All-Story Weekly. Thrilling Adventures published Foes of the North in 1937, the year of Rouse’s death at age 53.
His step-daughter, Miriam DuBois Babcock, wrote this of him:
He was a prolific freelance author in the heyday of the pulp magazine era. He wrote hundreds of short stories, novelettes, serials of adventure, mystery, comedy, detective, romance and horror as well as his favorite colonial and Quebec stories for various pulp and slick magazines. Among Bill Rouse’s manuscripts, unpublished at his death, were many blood and thunder French-Canadian stories. Residing for some time in Quebec, he grew familiar with the lifestyle and earthy language of a bucheron, or woodsman chopper. He wrote of the turn of the century lives of the French Canadians; mansions and dungeons, gallant horses pulling sleds or traineaus on snowy streets, hand to hand battles with knives and guns, often on snowshoes, always with suspense, mystery and usually a beautiful girl.
For those interested in writing, Babcock’s book Tales of Old Quebec contains copies of letters he received from the famous editors of the pulp magazines of his day.
Foes of the North is a straightforward tale of Jason Brock, an outlander from Quebec who buys a chantier, or logging site, in Canada. At the logging site are workmen who distrust him, a villain, an ally, and a beautiful woman. He has four days to send a courier for a stack of money to prove to the loggers he can pay them — but what happens when someone murders and robs his courier?
We adore this story here at Rot Gut Pulp, and give it our highest rating. The setting — a remote logging site in Canada — is the domain of the author who brings the chantier to life. Characters include a one-armed mute war veteran who “does not fight about trifles,” must write on a slate because he “has no tongue,” and whose “face was made in a hospital.” His sister is the damsel, and the villain’s muscle is a “man of gigantic stature with a stubby mustache lifted above yellow teeth.”
Rouse writes clear, economical, fast-paced fight sequences that convey a good deal of action in a few brief sentences. A fight may only last a paragraph, but in the mind it plays out over several minutes. Skill, indeed. The setting is claustrophobic, as any cabin requiring snowshoes to access might be.
The plot? Shoestring. The twist? Obvious. But who cares? This is a pulp you read for steel flashing toward a balcony and a knife quivering in a man’s arm before he reels, stumbles, and falls over.
We can’t wait to read more from Rouse moving forward.
Find this and other stories at www.pulpgen.com
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