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My Review of The Whispering Gorilla, by Wilcox and Reed

8 Dec

December 8, 2018

The Whispering Gorilla by Don Wilcox & Return of the Whispering Gorilla by David Reed.

Wow, where to begin?

First, if you have not checked them out, look at the other titles published by Armchair Fiction. They publish a huge number of stories from the pulp era.

As for this book, it may be the best story of a gorilla with the transplanted brain of a man fighting Nazis that I have ever read. On the other hand it is also the worst. (I’ve only read one, of course.)

And that really does sum up this book. The first story is short, about 79 pages, but it is a fast read and deceptive. It reaches 79 pages only because it is printed in a larger font than the longer second story. However, it is the better of the two. It is written in a simple and straightforward style but it is surprisingly realistic. Although the Whispering Gorilla talks like a man and dresses and acts like a man, he is still in the body of a gorilla. A sillier story (and yes, I know how silly this already sounds) would have him simply accepted as a talking gorilla. But that never happens in this book. Everyone suspects he is a very eccentric man in a gorilla suit to hide his identity. Not for a second does anyone think he is a real gorilla. As for the plot, the gorilla continues his previous human life as a crusading journalist (whom everyone thinks is a man in a gorilla suit, for some reason) and brings down a ring of war profiteers, before apparently dying at the hands of the police. Ridiculous as it sounds, it is a fun tale.

The second, longer story, is written by another, arguably better, author. I say “arguably” because while the writing is more complex and sophisticated than in the first, the plot is ridiculously laughable. The Whispering Gorilla did not die at the end of the first book but was secretly transported back to Africa to recover at the home of the scientist who created him. The problem is that he is slowly losing his humanity, while also becoming leader of all the jungle apes. Well, if it stopped there, this could be a somewhat interesting variation on Tarzan. Problem is the author didn’t stop there. The Whispering Gorilla is not the main character in this story. Neither is the scientist, who had a large part in the first book. Here, the scientist is bed-ridden and does little at all. The main plot is about a group of Nazis who plan to train gorillas to command submarines to sink allied destroyers. In the jungle!

I’ll let that sink in. A group of Nazis who plan to train the gorillas to command submarines to sink allied destroyers.

To that end, they build silly gorilla-sized ships and submarines on wheels and ride them around the jungle like oversized tricycles to teach the gorillas maneuvers that will destroy the enemy ships. This takes only a couple of days, believe it or not,  and the head Nazi is ready to put his plan into action. To say it doesn’t work is really not necessary, is it? The rest of the plot is about resistance fighters and a beautiful girl, with whom the gorilla -of course- falls in love.

This was certainly one of the stranger books I’ve read. I really enjoyed the first story. It was a great example of 40’s pulp fiction. The second story had delusions of grandeur and never lived up to the fun of the first. I’m glad I read it and I’ll probably reread the first story again, but not the second.


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Retail Re-tales

29 Nov

November 29, 2018

With Black Friday behind us, I certainly hope you all got your, um, whatever the big thing is this year. As far as I can tell, there is no big hot toy or must have item this season. And that’s a real shame. I’m old enough to remember when people were stabbing each other in the backs to get a Cabbage Patch doll or Colecovision. Shopping today just isn’t the same without the threat of premeditated homicide in the checkout line.

But I am old enough to remember back in the 90’s when the retail industry got together and tried to change the image of Black Friday.

For some reason, probably the threat of premeditated homicide I mentioned above, the Big Retail Companies™ felt that Black Friday had a negative connotation. Long lines, crowds, sold out items, murder, etc, so they tried to change the name. Now back then retail was a different beast than we have now. People weren’t shopping online like today, and the stores were different too. People bought clothes at places like Chess King and Merry-Go-Round and shopped in huge department stores like Bamberger’s and Korvette’s. Where are these titans of industry today? Long gone and buried. And it’s no surprise given that these are the folks who tried to change the name of Black Friday to Green Friday.

BAM!-Berger’s!

Yup, Green Friday.

Today that sounds like an environmental message: Go Green This Friday With Recycled Shoelaces! Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Flying Pantsless This Friday! and yes, it sounded that way back in the 90’s too. But they weren’t thinking of green grass, but of green money. All the green green cash that would be flooding their registers. So to stop people from thinking about long lines and stab wounds, they tried to get people to associate the day after Thanksgiving with Green Friday.

And you know what?

Nobody gave a damn.

And that is why we still call it Black Friday today.

Ah, tradition.

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