Kenneth Gilbert (1889-1969?) was a prolific Pulpster who wrote for Adventure, Western Story, Argosy, North-West Romances, Blue Book and many others. He was born in Chetek, Wisconsin. He wrote several books on hunting and fishing and the north, like Smoke over Skygak (1951), Bird Dog Bargain (1947), and Arctic Venture (1950).
One of Gilbert’s more impressive “novels” is the lead story from Action Stories (September 1926) called “The Menace of Mastodon Valley”. The first part is a Northern until the characters enter the valley, where everything becomes more Edgar Rice Burroughs in tone. I got a hoot out of the fact that the places in BC are all known to me, but in 1926 would have been pretty remote.
Tom Franklin, aviator, agrees to take Edith Gresham and Lanny Beardslee to Fort Nelson, British Columbia to look for Edith’s uncle, an archaeologist. They head out from Telegraph Cove and all goes well until a “willowaw” or sudden air current, forces them down on a lake in a mist-covered valley.
Once safely on the beach, the trio is attacked by a Liard Indian man carrying an old-fashioned gun. Tom subdues the attacker, ties him up and forces him into the plane. Beardslee, being a spineless type, does nothing to help. Tom quite likes Edith, who has plenty of courage, and Tom wonders why she would agree to marry a man ten years her senior.
Tom paddles the broken plane out into the lake to avoid any other locals. Only it’s not a lake but a river. The current pulls the aircraft along, despite Tom improvising an anchor, even diving into the freezing waters to try and halt the plane.
They are swept into a mountain cavern. The plane catches on a ledge, allowing the trio and their captive to explore. The Liard, who is named Anak, tells them through a language Edith knows from her work on her uncle’s digs, that the valley is sacred and inhabited by demons. The cave leads into a volcanic valley where they see a sabre-toothed tiger attack a white deer. Later they camp and Anak is attacked by a mastodon but escapes with only bruises.
The plot from here involves evading the rampaging mastodon, that has begun a campaign of violence against the Liards. Tom and Edith find the lost uncle and meet the ruler of the valley. Beardslee proves a villain, planning to steal the valley’s mysteries for himself. As I said, the rest is more Burroughs jungle fare than Northern. Overall. Gilbert tells the story well, even handles the fantastic elements deftly. (He wrote one story for Gernsback’s Amazing Stories in October 1927 called “The Winged Doom”. E. F. Bleiler described it succinctly as “Pretty terrible”.)
The Edgar Rice Burroughs feel reminds me that old ERB wrote a story with a Northern beginning too, called “The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw” that I will look at in another post. But the idea of a mammoth that is waging war against a village of First Nations people does pop up again but not in a Burroughs novel. The Last Mammoth (1953) by Manly Wade Wellman has the cousin of Davy Crockett go off into a 19th Century America to help a remote band of Native Americans fight off the last remaining mammoth. The idea is pretty close though Wellman was writing for young adults.