Review

Hunt at the Well of Eternity

Gabriel Hunt as told to James Reasoner

Gabriel Hunt has arrived just in time for long summer weekends
and idle days spent relaxing on the beach or backyard. If you loved
Indiana Jones and crave some light summer reading involving nonstop
adventure in exotic locales, complete with harrowing escapes,
blazing gun battles and beautiful damsels in distress, then HUNT AT
THE WELL OF ETERNITY is the book for you.

This is the first installment of a new paperback original series
created by Charles Ardai, creator of Hard Case Crime books. Hard
Case Crime has been a resounding success while breathing new life
into the genre. Ardai’s idea was to publish a paperback
hard-boiled crime novel a month, reprinting long-lost pulp works by
the masters of the genre and original works by current-day
authors.

Now Ardai has turned his attention to another lost part of the
once-thriving world of pulp fiction: the adventure story. The
fictional adventurer Gabriel Hunt is very much in the tradition of
Doc Savage. With over 181 issues from 1933 to 1949, readers would
plunk down their dime each month to read about Doc’s latest
hair-raising adventure in Doc Savage Magazine.

By the 1950s, adventure stories were filling the book racks of
candy stores during the Golden Age of pulp paperback originals.
These books were famous for their action-packed, bright-colored,
lurid covers depicting beautiful women wearing little besides looks
of terror. Many of those dog-eared books ended up beneath the beds
of young American boys who enjoyed the covers probably as much as
the stories.

Then television arrived like an invading alien army, its eerie
electronic glow piercing the darkness in living room after living
room, conquering all before it and destroying forever the pulp
paperbacks originals.

The spirit of the pulp adventure series lived on, most famously
in the Indiana Jones movies and in the genre’s high-tech
first cousin: spy adventure series like James Bond. Now Ardai
brings us a pulp paperback adventure series for a new century.
There will be six books issued over the next year and a half. Hunt
will be telling his story with the help of professional writers
such as Ardai, Christa Faust, Raymond Benson and James Reasoner.
Reasoner, author of 200 books in the western, mystery and military
genres, is “co-author” of WELL OF ETERNITY.

The Hunt books are written in current time. Gabriel Hunt and his
brother run the $100-million Hunt foundation. Gabriel is a
modern-day explorer, globetrotting the world in search of
discovery. Reasoner writes of Gabriel, “He had spent much of
his life in far-off, out-of-the-way places where modern
civilization was a rumor at best. People liked to think that the
entire world had been tamed, that modern technology now reached to
all four corners of the globe. They didn’t know how wrong
they were.”

But despite its modern setting, Hunt is pure pulp in the classic
style. WELL OF ETERNITY begins with a black-tie affair that the
foundation is throwing in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum
of Art to unveil some Egyptian artifacts. Then a beautiful woman
tries to give Hunt’s brother an old bottle wrapped in some
kind of flag and all hell breaks loose.

The bullets start to fly, and in true pulp tradition they rarely
stop. In a pulp adventure story, the idea is to keep the action
coming fast and furious. Within hours of the mayhem at the museum,
which ends with the mysterious woman being kidnapped, there is a
gun battle on the Queensboro Bridge as an SUV tries to ram
Gabriel’s souped up convertible into the East River. But
Gabriel is always prepared. He never leaves home without his trusty
Colt .45 Peacemaker six-shooter.

And that is just by page 25. I counted at least six spectacular
attempts on Gabriel’s life in the first two days of the
story. Our hero is chased through the swamps of Florida by killers
on airboats and jet skies. Then, killers try to take him out on the
hills above Mexico City and the jungles of Central America. He is
after the woman but also trying to break the mystery of the bundle
the woman brought to the museum.

It turns out that the bottle was from a distillery that has been
out of business for 144 years, and the flag was the battle flag of
a Confederate Civil War cavalry regiment.

To give away more would be to spoil the fun. In the true pulp
fiction tradition, this book is pure escapism, filled with action
verbs. Fists “crashed down.” Silenced pistols
“spit death” There is the “wind rip” of
slugs passing by. WELL OF SILENCE gives us a little bit of
everything: jungle bandits springing ambushes, bullwhip fights,
life-and-death battles on swaying rope bridges hundreds of feet in
the air. There are great exotic names: the Black River, the Blade
of the Gods gorge.

And the book also comes with a beautiful original cover painting
by Glen Orbik. Those of us still small boys at heart can marvel at
the covers of the entire series, although we probably won’t
have to keep them under the bed anymore.

Our guide through the story is this handsome, six-foot hero who
has a way with the ladies. Reasoner writes, “Gabriel woke up
with an armful of warm, nude female flesh, which almost made up for
the fact that he was lying in a narrow bunk with nothing but a thin
bug-infested mattress for cushioning in a crude hut in the middle
of the Guatemalan mountains.”

If you want a discussion on the impact of neo-liberal economics
on Central America or torture policy in the War on Terror, this
might not be the book for you. But if you want something light for
a plane ride or a day at the beach, you can’t go wrong with
Gabriel Hunt. Charles Ardai is once again to be congratulated for
resurrecting and revitalizing another glorious part of
America’s pulp fiction past. Consider this passage:

“Escalante said, ‘Does trouble always follow you so
diligently, amigo?’

“Gabriel chuckled, ‘Not always. Just most of the
time.’”

Let us hope that it keeps following him long into the future.
HUNT AT THE WELL OF ETERNITY is a rollicking, fun read.

Reviewed by Tom Callahan on January 22, 2011

Hunt at the Well of Eternity
Gabriel Hunt as told to James Reasoner

  • Publication Date: April 28, 2009
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Leisure Books
  • ISBN-10: 0843962461
  • ISBN-13: 9780843962468