Vintage Treasures: The Outlaw of Torn by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Vintage Treasures: The Outlaw of Torn by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Outlaw-of-Torn-Ace-smallTruth be told, I’ve never been much of a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I think he’s a taste you acquire young or not at all, and I missed the window by not reading any ERB before I turned 25. Talk about a wasted youth.

Of course, it’s entirely possible I simply haven’t read the right book yet. If I were going to be shipwrecked on a desert island tomorrow, and I just happened to get tipped off in advance, I would probably grab a copy of The Outlaw of Torn to bring with me. I’ve wanted to read it ever since I laid eyes on it many years ago, and I’ve had it recommended to me many times by ERB fans since.

At seventeen he was the greatest swordsman in England. At eighteen his reputation as a fearless outlaw had spread throughout the land and there was a tremendous price upon his head. At nineteen he was the leader of a fierce band of more than a thousand men, from nobleman to serf, the only requirements being willingness and ability to fight and an oath to obey the Outlaw of Torn.

Who was this Norman of Torn, the fame of whose daring exploits was ringing throughout the land? Where did he come from? Was he of noble blood or was he of commoner origin?

Through savage combats the Outlaw fights his way in his love for the beautiful daughter of the most powerful baron in England to find the secret of his birth.

On the other hand, our resident ERB expert Ryan Harvey didn’t think too much of The Outlaw of Torn, calling it “stodgy and drearily artificial; it lacks the zest of the best of Burroughs’s work” in his feature review. And Ryan has rarely steered me wrong. I suspect he’d suggest a different book for my ill-fated voyage. (Of course, a true friend might also suggest a different travel agent…)

The Outlaw of Torn was originally serialized in New Story Magazine starting in January 1914, and published in hardcover by McClurg in 1927. The Ace paperback edition above was published in 1965; it is 255 pages, priced at $0.75. The cover is by the great Roy Krenkel, Jr. (Click for bigger version.)

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Well while it may not be one of ERB’s, it is one of my faves. Even if the writing could be better, the star character is terrific fun and could have fueled another book or two. Gotta suggest though, when you’re heading to that desert island, you pack your Steven Erikson MBOTF collection. 😉

Thomas Parker

One desert island Burroughs? That’s tough. If I could cheat and count A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, and Warlord of Mars as one book (in the way that the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings are really one book) that would be my choice. I think The Gods of Mars is the best single volume ERB ever wrote. And I think you’re right about being exposed to this stuff early, John – the day in seventh grade when I plucked that copy of Princess out of the spinner rack at the drugstore was a red-letter day in my life!


I don’t know if i’ll ever read it but i picked this up in a bargain bin just because of the Frazetta cover.

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John Whalen

Hard to choose just one of Burroughs. But if I had to I’d select The Monster Men. It’s not as well known as the others, but it’s a dandy– a combo of Tarzan and Frankenstein. Tell me you can resist a novel that starts with this paragraph:

“As he dropped the last grizzly fragment of the dismembered and mutilated body into the small vat of nitric acid that was to devour every last trace of the horrid evidence which might easily send him to the gallows, the man sank wearily into a chair and throwing his body forward upon his great, teak desk buried his face in his arms, breaking into dry, moaning sobs.”

It’s free on Kindle.

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