Legion Pulp: Land of the Sword

This month’s pulp story, Land of the Sword, is a complete novelette (39 pages) written by Robert Carse.  It appeared in the 03 November 1934 issue of Argosy Weekly.  The story concerns two young men, cousins from opposite ends of the Atlantic, who become close friends but bitter rivals for the affections of Miss Susan Lewis.  As war looms on the horizon Henri Goustier, the French cousin, returns to France from one of his regular vacations in the United States in order to fight the Germans.  Gill Mays, not to be out done, organizes and finances a volunteer ambulance unit and is on the front lines shortly thereafter.  When Gill finally meets his cousin again, in the late part of the first year of the war, he is wearing the uniform of the Foreign Legion and Henri is in the Colonial Infantry leading a Company of Senegalese.  Gill and Henri carry on both their friendship and consuming rivalry throughout the war and in the years afterward.   At one point they agree to a final boxing match in the Olympic games in order to settle their personal quarrel once and for all.  Winner takes Susan.  Gill wins only by a technicality and Henri disappears to leave Gill and Susan alone.  This is when the story really takes an odd twist.  We next find Henri at Fort Polignac as a commander of Compagnies Méharistes (indigenous camel troops).   He discovers that his cousin Gill, unable to adjust to peacetime, is actually the leader of a mercenary band of former Spanish and French Legionnaires that have been growing in strength and power in the far reaches of the Saharan desert.  Eventually the two men have their final showdown in the desert and the best man wins the hand of Susan and renews a long forged friendship.

I enjoyed this story but I was a bit let down when the narrative moved to the Saharan desert.  I expected Gill to join the French Foreign Legion again when he told Susan that he had to continue his fight and he knew just where to go to find all the action he wanted.  I never expected him to become a warlord.   I also thought that Henri joined the Legion when he disappeared and that the two cousins would meet again in a bar or barracks room in Sidi Bel Abbes.  Oh well, it’s still a decent novelette by Carse despite it not having much “Foreign Legion” flavor.

Land of the Sword

About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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