Suspense by  L. Ron Hubbard

For all later talk of L. Ron Hubbard as a “legendary master of science fiction’s golden age,” to quote another critic of the genre, let us never forget him as first and foremost an author of adventure. After all, not only did he cut his literary teeth on those tales of bold men in desperate straits, but the great bulk of the LRH catalog undisputedly falls within that realm of high adventure.

     In the main, and as noted, a fair quantity of that adventure was actually drawn from the author’s own fairly adventurous life. To cite another typical example: his 1936, “Sky Birds Dare,” tells of a glider pilot’s harrowing flight to prove the military worth of a powerless aircraft; while an undergraduate at George Washington University, Ron had not only held local records for sustained powerless flight, but was generally known for aerial antics that “made women scream and strong men weep.” Yet there was another factor attendant to the LRH acclaim in the likes of Western Action, Argosy and Thrilling Detective, and that is the stuff of his 1937 “Suspense.”

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     In a later assessment of what made pulp action so utterly memorable, an editor of the era would speak of an emphasis on minute detail, subtlety of emotion and a plausibility no matter how implausible the setting or circumstances. Then, too, one hears much talk of the classic pulp pacing and what those from Black Mask so succinctly described as “swift movement and action.” While for a comparative sense of what Ron terms that “dragging agony of suspense,” one need only examine a climatic sequence from a Hammett, Chandler or Erle Stanley Gardner of “Perry Mason” fame. But in either case, nowhere does one find such a careful analysis of what rivets a reader to a page, “tensely wondering which of two or three momentous things is going to happen first.”

Suspense continued...

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