“The Iron Duke” by L. Ron Hubbard

I don’t generally read this kind of thing, but it was given away free by a very nice lady on the L. Ron Hubbard stand at the London Book Fair earlier this year. I don’t like to write anything off without having read it first, so I thought I’d give it a try.

The writing was not bad, and the plot moved along quickly, with lots of twists and turns. The only problem was that the characters did not feel like human beings. And that, for me, is a big problem. There was a hero, a dame, a sidekick and a villain, and at no point did they threaten to break out of those narrowly-defined roles and acquire the complexities of real, living people. At no point was there any doubt that the hero would coolly win every battle, the dame would fall for the hero, the sidekick would provide occasional comic relief, and the villain would curse as his dastardly plots were foiled.

If you like a good, exciting plot with lots of action, this is the book for you. If you are interested in character, and want to read books that make you think about the world slightly differently, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.

The most interesting part of the book for me was the history of pulp fiction and the biography of L. Ron Hubbard at the end. He certainly had an adventurous life, and his output was prodigious: “Between 1934 and 1950, L. Ron Hubbard authored more than fifteen million words of fiction in more than two hundred classic publications.” He also wrote under fifteen different pseudonyms: Winchester Remington Colt, Lt. Jonathan Daly, Capt. Charles Gordon, Capt. L. Ron Hubbard, Bernard Hubbel, Michael Keith, Rene Lafayette, Legionnaire 148, Legionnaire 14830, Ken Martin, Scott Morgan, Lt. Scott Morgan, Kurt von Rachen, Barry Randolph, Capt. Humbert Reynolds. There are apparently 230 million copies of his works in circulation.

The pulp fiction magazines in general boasted thirty million readers each month – perhaps a fact for today’s short-story magazines to chew on.

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There are 3 comments

  1. I kept expecting you to say something about Scientology – this is the same L. Ron Hubbard, right? And there was nothing in there about that? H

  2. I was wondering the same thing. Is this THE L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology? I didn’t know he was such a prolific writer. – G

  3. Yes, it’s the same guy – I was waiting for the scientology pitch too, but it never came. This was written much earlier in his life, and is a straight adventure story, no religious subtext unless I was really missing something!

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