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.
"The Royal Marines in 1915"
Review of City of Wonder
||A review by Georges T. Dodds
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.
Copyright © 2006 Georges T. Dodds
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."
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.
"You are a disciple of Einstein, perhaps," Barr suggested.
"I do not know the man," Felipe
replied with dignity.
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.