WHH Short Fiction: “The Adventure with the Claim Jumpers”

Essay: “The Adventure with the Claim Jumpers”, William Hope Hodgson, 1915.

Besides Carnacki, Captain Gault, and Captain Jat, Hodgson had one other series character if only for two stories. This is the second of the stories featuring D.C.O. (as in “Dot-And-Carry-One”, a reference to one of his legs being shorter than another).

Cargunka is an interesting series character. Perhaps hearkening to Hodgson’s own reputed love and skill at fighting, Cargunka likes beating people up and cooking. He even, on the ships he owns, signs on as cook. He also loves Lord Byron and his poetry. A running gag is that Cargunka is always seeking people’s agreement that, yes, he looks like the portrait of Byron up in his saloon. Yes, like Byron, he’s a great athlete and, he thinks perhaps God, in giving them a disability, helps men attain their greatness. However, even Cargunka is too modest to go fishing very hard for compliments that, as with Byron, the ladies find him irresistible.

There’s the feel of a western story here what with the plot involving claim jumpers, and it’s set in California around San Francisco at some unspecified time. Hodgson, in his sailing days, did land in San Francisco. While I’m no expert in the subject, Hodgson’s version of American slang doesn’t seem right.

The plot has Cargunka agreeing to help a man drive off the men who have jumped his gold claim and getting the stolen gold back (for a fee, of course). Much humor in the story comes from how dumb the miner is and how his hot-headedness almost blows Cargunka’s plans up.

I’d put this in the middle tier of Hodgson’s non-weird short fiction. It’s not as fun as the Captain Gault or Captain Jat stories, but it’s still amusing, and, as we’ll see, there are worse Hodgson’s stories.



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