Legion Pulp: A Captain of the Legion

This unique tale of historical fiction was written and illustrated by Armand Brigaud and appeared in Blue Book Magazine in August 1936.  Brigaud was born in France but raised near San Francisco and educated in England before his family returned to their native Toulouse.  He apparently joined the Foreign Legion at a young age but that career choice was abruptly curtailed by an influential uncle in the French cavalry.  Brigaud later went to St. Cyr and become a cavalry officer himself–serving in the Chasseur’s D’Afrique, the Spahis, and the Meharistes (Camel Corps).  He fought in several conflicts in North Africa, World War One and lastly against the Riff in the mid-1920’s where he was wounded for the fourteenth and final time.  His service had brought him again to the Foreign Legion as well as exotic postings in Chad and French West Africa.  When his military career pretty much ended he then turned to writing and women.

This story features several real life personalities from French North African Colonial history such as General Laperrine (legendary soldier of the French Meharistes) and Father Foucauld (former cavalry officer turned religious hermit).  It also has a cameo appearance of a certain Lt. Brigaud, a young Mehariste officer who participates in the epic battle between the French led Tuareg tribes and the fanatical Sennussi, Bedouin tribesmen and their Turkish advisers.   This battle, if it happened, would have taken place around 1916/17 which corresponds to the author’s actual transfer from the Western Front to the Sahara and when there actually was serious trouble stirred up by the Turks/Sennussi against the Allies in Egypt, the Sudan and Libya.  Foucauld was murdered by Sennussi assassins in 1916 and Laperrine died in an airplane accident in March of 1920 and the author was undoubtedly present when these pages of history were being written.

But this is a pulp story so the protagonist is actually Captain Tarver, an adventure seeking American of the 1st Regiment of the Foreign Legion seconded to the French Camel Corps.  He is put on a very dangerous mission to convince an influential tribal leader to maintain the Tuareg’s fragile alliance with the French.  This Tuareg chieftain happens to be Raidane, a statuesque Tuareg beauty who leads her tribe like the ablest of warriors.  Laperrine’s mission order to Captain Tarver includes a great caveat: “make love to her if necessary”.  Of course he does.  He also wins the day in the huge showdown between the French/Tuareg allies and the Sennussi.  This was a great story full of splendid details about the Tuareg culture and the Saharan desert.  Maybe it’s not a completely “Foreign Legion” type of tale but it’s close enough.  Brigaud made this one reek of authenticity and also provided seven of his own wonderful pen and ink illustrations which is not something you see very often in the pulps.   (File below is almost 12MB)

A Captain of the Legion

About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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