Monday, January 09, 2017

Read It: The Lone Ranger Rides North (1946)

This edition includes the erroneous character creator credit of the Lone Ranger 
to radio station manager George Trendle. Some of the basic ideas were his,
but were fleshed out to great success by Fran Striker.
Recently, I spent nearly six hours in a hospital waiting room as my mother underwent back surgery. With all the class papers graded, I turned to the pile of books I have been periodically reading on-and-off for (what turns out to be) a ve-e-e-ry long time. One book in particular provided an opportunity to escape the waiting room and travel back to those thrilling days of yesteryear...

This volume is easy to find online
at a very affordable price, though I
went to Berkeley, CA, to get mine.
Three summers ago, while visiting my best friend in California, we found ourselves in an independent used bookstore in Berkeley. There I came across an old volume entitled The Lone Ranger Rides North written by Fran Striker. Despite being a Western New Yorker myself, I had little prior understanding that Striker was not only from nearby Buffalo, New York, but was also the creator of both the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet. Given the volume's slight price, and as a fan of both the character's classic Clayton Moore iteration (the one I, like most, are best acquainted with) as well as it's modern Dynamite comicbooks' version, it was a purchase that could not be resisted.

Published in 1946, The Lone Ranger Rides North is comprised of thirty chapters in which are developed three storylines, which when combined, read very much like one of the Clayton Moore's 169 episodes (or the 52 made with replacement Ranger John Hart). It is easy to envision these stories as some that were ultimately serialized for either radio or television. Present in the story are the familiar plot points of traditional Hollywood cowboy heroics: slick, smooth talking criminals, kind-hearted regular folk put in danger and in need of rescue, and our masked hero needing to clear his own name from the nefarious deeds committed by another.

The interesting reveal in this novel for fans is the introduction of a young boy named Danny who idolizes and feels a connection to the Lone Ranger. Long time Lone Ranger fans will recall that "Danny" is actually Dan Reid, the Ranger's long lost nephew whom he believed dead. In modern Ranger stories, including the recent box-office failure Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger (2013), Danny is such an integral part of our hero's origin that the reader likely connects the dots earlier than the novel's original audience. This Lone Ranger is much more mysterious here with only the most common characterization traits, including his faithful companion Tonto and their trusty steeds, in tact. Freed of the contemporary necessity for explanation of every single, minute facet of a character's background, the hero of The Lone Ranger Rides North draws much of his strength from his mysterious background. Here, he is a force of good who does not need the humanizing relationship of extended family to elicit the support of the reader.

Given Striker's professional training as a radio theater writer, the storytelling approach is dialogue heavy with most exposition taking place at the beginning of each chapter. Our narrator is so extremely third person omniscient that he frequently (and with language bordering on melo-drama) takes the reader into each character's head to reveal feelings that might otherwise be reflected in the voices of actors delivering the lines. For example, maudlin lines such as the one below saying of Danny that "there were tears in his eyes--tears of pride and gratitude" would be cringe worthy if not for the proper historical context. In 1946, in a story about the heroic Lone Ranger, this time of syrupy language seems somehow appropriate in a tale of "the resourceful masked rider of the plains."

The Lone Ranger Rides North (1946) by Fran Striker is readily available online for less than $10, a more-than-worthwhile purchase for Ranger and fans of Americana alike.

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