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The Lady of the Terraces
E. Charles Vivian
Ramble House, 202 pages

E. Charles Vivian
Evelyn Charles Vivian, (1882 Oct 19–1947 May 21) was a popular author of the 20s and 30s, writing lost-race adventures, Oriental fantasies under his real name Charles Cannell, and supernatural fiction as Jack Mann. Besides such lost race titles as City of Wonder, Fields of Sleep, King There Was, People of the Darkness, Woman Dominant, etc., Vivian also retold the Robin Hood stories in The Adventures of Robin Hood and produced an early history of aviation: A History of Aeronautics. He was (re)published in pulps such as Famous Fantastic Mysteries, The Boy's Own Paper, as well as Hutchinson's Adventure-Story Magazine and Hutchinson's Mystery-Story Magazine, which he edited from 1922-1925. As Jack Mann, he produced the celebrated tales of Gees (short for Gregory George Gordon Green), an occult detective (forthcoming from Ramble House). As Mann, he also wrote tales of the adventurer Coulson: Coulson Goes South, Reckless Coulson, and Coulson Alone.

Publisher's website
E-TEXTS: "The Royal Marines in 1915"
Review of City of Wonder

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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The Lady of the Terraces First I must admit that I'm a huge fan of lost race novels, so E. Charles Vivian's The Lady of the Terraces (1925), notwithstanding a couple of racial stereotypes typical of the time, went down easy. The 20s was nearing the end of the popularity and plausibility of lost-race novels, though the remote jungles of Ecuador remain sparsely explored even today. Vivian's book has most of the tropes (not to say clichés) of lost race novels, a strong good looking male hero, a birthmark announcing him as prophesied leader/saviour of an ancient race, his relationship with a beautiful princess/queen, his defeat of an evil priest, ditto for the nasty usurper king, and lots of battles. However, unlike many such tales, the hero, Colvin Barr, brings along a love-lorn Spanish-English half-breed who serves as mooching sidekick and comic relief, though he can be handy in a fight too. As well, the lost civilisation doesn't collapse or get swallowed up by floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, and doesn't have any Atlantean or other supertechnologies at hand, but things get along just fine nonetheless.

Vivian, along with the likes of Ganpat, A.O. Friel and Mark Channing, was among the best of the later lost race novellists. His writing in the genre, quite done to death by the time he was writing, still effortlessly captures the elements that make the lost race novel entertaining, while evolving beyond the Victorian strictures of Haggard and his ilk. Vivian seems to have had a "grand ol' time" writing this sort of stuff, and actually pokes fun at the genre, having the hero's sidekick state, after they are captured and placed in a dungeon darker "than a stack of black cats":

"I have read stories of adventure, but they are not like this [...] There are excitement and danger, but never are the adventurers made to look like fools, and if there is a fight there is some reason for it.
Unlike much of the early lost race novels, where the motivation which led to the discovery of the lost race was either exploration (inspired by the likes of Burton, Livingston and Stanley, amongst others), or the rescue of some disappeared family member, in The Lady of the Terraces the trip's purpose is to afford the hero's escape from the liveable but humdrum life a nitrate prospector can expect when he goes home to England on a 8 months' leave — it is about breaking out from societal strictures, though when he reaches the lost land, much of his time is futilely spent trying to get in and get out before any attachments or tradition lost race novel hero's roles are forced upon him. His almost Jeeves-like sidekick, the useful but humourously annoying Felipe, ever pointing out his command of English vocabulary, incites Barr to go with him, using his cottage wisdom of "better to be eaten south of the Jurupary than to rust uneaten," and later sees that things progress along the expected romantic lines when the lost land is reached. Much of the fun of The Lady of the Terraces is in the sniping that goes on between the two:
"One thing only is essential in life, and that is a meal when one is hungry," said Felipe sententiously. "All the rest is relative."
"You are a disciple of Einstein, perhaps," Barr suggested.
"I do not know the man," Felipe replied with dignity.
The interplay between the two main characters, and the near continuous action-adventure, marred by only a couple of necessary romantic interludes, makes The Lady of the Terraces an entertaining, humourous and yet ultimately tragic piece of popular 20s fiction, and a pretty darn good lost-race novel to boot.

Copyright © 2006 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.


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