Books, Culture and Society

A Gold Hunter Takes Pulp Fiction Fans Prospecting in Devil’s Manhunt

Gold! The word conjures images of untold riches. Gold, the most sought-after of metals, derives its modern name from the Scottish gould, the Swedish guld and the Icelandic gull, is a heavy, metallic element with a yellow luster.

A Gold Hunter Takes Pulp Fiction Fans Prospecting in Devil’s Manhunt

Thomas McNulty is the author of Wind Rider, and Death Rides a Palomino. Visit him online at thomasmcnulty.com. He is also a passionate advocate of lifelong learning through audio books on cd collections. Sample a free story by clicking here at http://www.goldenagestories.com/the-cossack-b.html

Symbolized by Au (from the Latin aurum, or shining dawn) and number 79 on the periodic table of elements, gold is the one metal along with silver that is identified with money and wealth. Gold is used as coinage and is the standard for many monetary systems. Gold fever has stricken many a prospector and in the vast reaches of the American West gold prospecting is a way of life.

Arizona has the largest concentration of gold seekers with its rich topography that both entices the prospectors while discouraging them with its often treacherous terrain. This rugged landscape, rife with desert and dry creek beds that can easily flood during one of the southwest’s rare but violent thunderstorms, is also the pulp writer’s domain.

In L. Ron Hubbard’s classic, Devil’s Manhunt, twenty-three year old Tim Beckdolt has struck paydirt. After a month of grueling work he can boast a haul of $175,000 in gold ore. All he has to do is survive, for there in the shadow of the aptly named Desperation Peak young Tim Beckdolt is about to be ambushed. Not only his fortune but his life hangs in the balance.

While Devil’s Manhunt makes for riveting fiction, the background behind the story is historically accurate. Cochise County alone is among the highest producers of gold. From 1879 through modern times, Cochise County mining companies and individuals have unearthed more than three million ounces of gold. Gold prospecting remains so popular that today several Arizona companies offer vacation packages for travelers looking for that unique get-away experience. Prospecting for gold while on a week’s vacation is exactly what thousands of people do each year.

A prospector’s tools are vital to his success. For Tim Beckdolt, who had discovered an ancient creek bed sparkling with gold, the sluice box was his preferred tool. A sluice box was usually made of long narrow wood and when placed in a creek bed could be used to separate the heavier gold deposits from the detritus and silt that normally flows downstream. The heavier gold particles would catch along the bottom boards, called riffles, where a prospector could easily retrieve them after sifting through the dirt.

Westerns were an integral part of the pulp fiction industry. During its heyday the westerns were mass produced by the hundreds on a monthly basis. Famous Westerns (where Devil’s Manhunt first appeared in 1950), Western Story, All Western, Western Aces, and Five-Novels Monthly are just some of the magazines that featured blazing western fiction. Devil’s Manhunt is the sixth of Hubbard’s westerns to be released by Galaxy Press.

Devil’s Manhunt is a short but incredibly fast-paced action yarn. Hubbard’s deft characterizations bring his characters vividly to life. Beckdolt is faced with both human adversaries and the unforgiving landscape where he is forced to survive against impossible odds. Included in Devil’s Manhunt is an example of superb western American fiction.

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