Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 20, 2018


Six-Gun Gorilla, written anonymously (perhaps by more than one author from internal evidence), 1939

Gorillas are pretty neat, especially when they roam the wild west, packing heat and out for revenge.

This particular gorilla also has a pretty neat gorilla name...O'Neil.  Well, it's better than Konga.

Six-Gun Gorilla first appeared as a fifteen-part serial in the British boy's magazine The Wizard, beginning with the March 18, 1939 issue.  Don't be frightened because the story was written for boys almost eighty years ago.  While the language is somewhat simplified and the story tends to have one of two sentence paragraphs, there's enough blood and humor (whether wittingly or not) to satisfy even the most jaded gorilla-phile.  I'm surprised an excerpt did not make it into Rick Klaw's essential 2013 anthology Apes of Wrath.

We open with Bart Masters, an aged gold miner and hermit, deciding that it was time to retire.  Over the years he had accumulated about ten thousand pounds (pounds, not dollars -- this is a British magazine, remember?) of gold dust and nuggets -- enough for him to spend the rest of his life in ease.  Although Masters is a hermit, he does have a partner, of sorts.  O'Neil, the giant gorilla, had been by Masters' side for eight years, ever since he was purchased in San Francisco from a sailor.  Masters trained the young gorilla, who grew to be devoted to him.  Masters even taught O'Neil how to fire a gun -- an act made somewhat difficult because the giant ape fingers could not fit in the trigger guard.  True, O'Neil was a very poor shot, but the gorilla had learned the fundamentals.

That evening, with sacks of gold on the table, Masters slept in his cot.  O'Neil slept in a corner, chained to the wall -- the chain being a remnant of the two's early days together, although by now it was used out of habit more than anything else.  Quietly, four figures came into the cabin.  It was the Strawhan gang, four of the most vicious outlaws in the West, led by Tutt Strawhan.  In a few short minutes, Masters was dead and O'Neil was knocked unconscious by a bullet that grazed his skull.

O'Neil woke to find his friend and master dead.  Still chained, he tore the chain from the wall, taking part of the wall with him.  His only thought was to avenge himself on the four outlaws.  Awkwardly at first, he strapped on Masters six-gun and, with a bandolier across his chest, set out following the scent of the Strawhan Gang.

O'Neil's efforts often seemed to little, too late, but he soon avenged himself on the gang one by one -- and in a bloody manner I might add.  Along the way, he destroyed a saloon, fought an enraged bull buffalo, battled Redskins, and more...a trail of vengeance that spun over forty-five chapters.

Not great literature, but Six-Gun Gorilla is an interesting read, not only because of its unique hero and way out plot, but because its fun to see British pulp writers attempt to write an authentic western.

The complete serial is available at Gutenburg Australia and probably else where on the web.  Check it out.


  1. You review some unusual books! I have never heard of SIX-GUN GORILLA, but I'll be visiting Gutenberg Australia to check this out!

  2. As you probably know, but I didn't: In 2013 two comic book adaptations of "Six-Gun Gorilla" were released in the very same month. The first (an independent comic titled "Six-Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance") was released on June 5th 2013, the second (a BOOM! Studios comic titled simply "Six-Gun Gorilla") hit shelves a week later. Both garnered critical acclaim.


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