|Tib helps four fugitives escape capture disguised as circus animals.|
Tib, as he’s known by his young sidekick Billy, is often on the search for exotic wild animals. Whether leopards, apes, or polar bears, an order comes from a circus agency in New York, and the two men are off to another corner of the pre-postcolonial world. There the animals are easy to find, but the local natives are quick to take umbrage.
Thus every chapter is a different death-defying and thoroughly farcical adventure. In Mexico they are stranded in the middle of an insurrection. There they keep hostile troops at bay with the aid of a handy kinetoscope, projecting movies of marching armies on the side of a cliff.
Captured by headhunters in the Amazon, Tib engages the chief in a game of baseball, dumbfounding him with sinkers, sliders, and curve balls. Deep in the jungles of Burma, he discourages an attack of spear throwers by loading dogs with explosives. In Canada, they discover a stash of medieval armor in an abandoned fur trading post and get out of trouble by using it to skate along a frozen river with a band of indigenous cutthroats in hot pursuit.
And so on.
|Abbott and Costello, 1949|
If you have the temerity to sample this novel, you’ll find the first stories lack the finesse of the later ones. Since making sense of it all relies not at all on the order you read them, start with the chapters near the end and work your way backwards.
All or nearly all of the Tiberius adventures appeared first in the magazines: Munsey’s, Saturday Evening Post, Everybody’s Magazine, and All-Story Magazine among others. Pendexter burst upon the scene in 1904 with a story in The Red Book. By 1907, the year that Tiberius Smith saw hard covers, he’d published 28 titles in the magazines. And it was just the start.
Tiberius Smith can currently be found at Internet Archive, google books, and for the nook.
Illustration from the novel by Albert Levering
Africa Screams, Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Old West glossary, no. 20