Jeff Mariotte

Tarzan and Me, or, You Never Know What a Weekend Trip Will Bring

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Some people remember their first exposure to Tarzan. I’m not one of them. I’m pretty sure it was Johnny Weismuller movies on TV when I was a child in the late 1950s/early 60s. Later in that decade, I was a faithful viewer of the Ron Ely Tarzan show (in color!), which I considered truer to the character than Weismuller’s monosyllabic portrayal. By then, I had learned that Tarzan had originated in stories and books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and I sought them out and loved them. Through my teen years I read the Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar books, too, and some of the standalones. I had friends who were Burroughs experts–none more so than the late Dick Lupoff, who wrote one of the best books on Burroughs’s work.

As a tie-in writer, there are always those pop-culture characters you’d love to write but never have the chance. Conan and Spider-Man were two of those, but eventually I got to write them both. Tarzan, for a long time, was a kind of Golden Fleece, always out of reach.

But then, I took a weekend trip with pal Bob Boze Bell, artist and publisher of great True West Magazine, down to the 2019 Dum-Dum in Willcox, AZ. The Dum-Dum, also known as ERBFest, is an annual gathering of Burroughs fans and scholars. In 2019, Bob was the keynote speaker, and I tagged along because I wanted to meet those folks and see some cool Burroughsiana.

While I was there, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the people from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., including Christopher Paul Carey, the Director of Publishing, and Jim Sullos, the President. These are people with some of the best jobs in the world–and Chris gets to do his at a desk that Burroughs actually used. Burroughs wasn’t thrilled with the way he was being published, and thought he could do a better job himself. He was one of the first authors to incorporate himself, and as the corporation, he put out many of his own books. The company still puts out Burroughs books, comics, and related material today, as well as handling the licensing for other products. They keep Burroughs’s timeless work alive for each succeeding generation, and it’s a noble effort. I had a couple of good, long talks with Chris, who’s an author in his own right, and we agreed that we’d like to work together sometime.

That, in itself, was enough to make the trip worthwhile for me. But on the way back I started telling Bob about an idea I’d had for a Western novel. The idea was mostly the setup. Bob asked, “What happens next?” I didn’t know. But I started to think about it.

That novel eventually became O’Meara’s Gold, the first book in the Cody Cavanaugh series that Wolfpack Publishing will be putting out soonish (I’m working on the third one, Passage to Pedregosa, now). And the conversations with Chris ultimately led to this:

Forest of Stone

I’ll let ERB, Inc. describe it: “Announced at PulpFest/ERBFest 2021 this past weekend in Mars, Pennsylvania: TARZAN AND THE FOREST OF STONE, a new novella by award-winning author Jeffrey J. Mariotte to be published in 2022 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. The story will be published under its own covers in both trade and limited editions, and will be set during the classic canon directly after the events of TARZAN AND THE LION MAN by Edgar Rice Burroughs.”

So I got to write a Tarzan novella, which will be published by the same publishing house that put out many of Burroughs’s own works. And I got to tie it directly to a Tarzan novel by Burroughs himself. The writing life doesn’t get much more fulfilling than that.

Four books eventually grew out of that one weekend trip to Willcox (more, if Wolfpack extends the series after the first three). That’s a pretty good return on investment, I’d say. I’m having a very productive year, book-wise and word-count-wise, and I’m having a great time doing it.

      Johnny Weismuller, of course    

My wonderful wife and writing partner Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell is having a banner year, too, selling poems and short stories all over the place. Her latest published poem appears in the online and print versions of SF poetry mag Scifaikuest. Check it out!

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