The 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time

What follows is a list of two hundred of my favorite adventure novels published before the Eighties (1984–93). They’re organized not qualitatively — that would be impossible — but chronologically.

I’ve also listed another two hundred fifty second-tier favorite adventures, which you can peruse via the following posts: Best 19th Century Adventure (1805–1903) | Best Nineteen-Oughts Adventure (1904–13) | Best Nineteen-Teens Adventure (1914–23) | Best Twenties Adventure (1924–33) | Best Thirties Adventure (1934–43) | Best Forties Adventure (1944–53) | Best Fifties Adventure (1954–63) | Best Sixties Adventure (1964–73) | Best Seventies Adventure (1974–83).

Sci-fi fans! Here’s a list of the 100 Best Radium Age Science Fiction Novels; and the 75 Best Golden Age Science Fiction Novels; and also (in progress) the 75 Best New Wave Science Fiction Novels.

Also, please check out these additional lists. The 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time. THE OUGHTS: 1904 | 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1908 | 1909 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912 | 1913. THE TEENS: 1914 | 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918 | 1919 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922 | 1923. THE TWENTIES: 1924 | 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1928 | 1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933. THE THIRTIES: 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943. THE FORTIES: 1944 | 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953. THE FIFTIES: 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963. THE SIXTIES: 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973. THE SEVENTIES: 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983. The goal, eventually, is to publish a Top 10 Adventures list for every year of the 20th century.

Finally, I’ve broken out the overall list of four hundred fifty top adventures into the following sub-genre lists: 101 Science Fiction Adventures | 70 Crime Adventures | 65 Fantasy Adventures | 61 Espionage Adventures | 40 Atavistic & Historical Adventures | 25 Frontier & Western Adventures | 20 Avenger & Artful Dodger Adventures | 20 Apophenic & Treasure Hunt Adventures | 20 War & Ruritanian Adventures | 18 Picaresque Adventures | 10 Robinsonade & Survival Adventures.

Enjoy! And please let me know what I’ve overlooked. — J.G.

NOTE: This page received 50,000 unique visitors in 2014. That’s a lot of adventure fans! UPDATE: As of February 2017, this page has been viewed over 175,000 times.

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Why does my Top Adventures List project stop in 1983? I figure that adventure fans already know which adventure novels from the Eighties, Nineties, and Twenty-Oughts are worth reading; so I’m interested in directing attention to older, sometimes obscure or forgotten adventures.

Also, I have friends who’ve published adventures since 1983 — and I don’t want these lists to be biased!

In chronological order:

  1. 1814. Walter Scott’s 18th c. frontier adventure Waverley. The novel — which sends a young Englishman adventuring in the highlands of Scotland, during the Jacobite uprising which sought to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the British throne — is regarded as the first historical novel. Note that Scotland, that savage tribal land just across the border from hyper-civilized England, was the original adventure frontier.
  2. 1818. Mary Shelley’s Gothic science fiction adventure Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. From multiple points of view, we read about a brilliant scientist and his creation: a dehumanized creature who longs for love and friendship and, eventually, revenge. PS: There are two editions of the book; the 1831 “popular” edition was heavily revised and tends to be the one most widely read; scholars tend to prefer the 1818.
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  4. 1820. Walter Scott’s 12th c. knightly adventure Ivanhoe, the protagonist of which makes his first appearance at a tourney in disguise, known only as The Disinherited Knight. (Also at that tourney is a mysterious archer named Locksley. Who can it be?) This popular book was single-handedly responsible for the medievalist craze in early 19th-century England.
  5. 1826. James Fenimore Cooper’s frontier adventure The Last of the Mohicans. Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales were popular and influential (esp. in France!), and therefore deserve a mention here — despite the fact that Mark Twain tore Cooper a new one. Despite its flaws — there are many! — this novel features an epic pursuit, and for that alone it deserves a place on this list.
  6. 1837–39. Charles Dickens’s crime adventure Oliver Twist. A great adventure, and the Artful Dodger is such a memorable character.
  7. 1838. Edgar Allan Poe’s Gothic sea adventure The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Poe’s only complete novel — about a teenager who stows away on a ship, is kidnapped by mutineers and pirates, encounters cannibals, and explores the Antarctic before discovering the key to all Western mystical traditions — has been described as “at once a mock nonfictional exploration narrative, adventure saga, bildungsroman, hoax, largely plagiarized travelogue, and spiritual allegory.”
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  9. 1844. Alexandre Dumas’s 17th c. swashbuckling adventure The Three Musketeers introduces us to three unforgettable characters: the distinguished, highly educated Musketeer Athos; the religious and scholarly yet womanizing younger Musketeer Aramis; and the Falstaffian Musketeer Porthos. It is their sanguine companion D’Artagnan who coins the classic phrase “All for one, and one for all!”
  10. 1844–45. Alexandre Dumas’s avenger-type adventure The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s all here: a wronged man seeking revenge, a jailbreak, poisonings, smugglers, a sex slave (spoiler: she’s freed), and a treasure cave. Serialized in 117 installments, it’s on the long side; still, according to Luc Sante, this story is today as “immediately identifiable as Mickey Mouse, Noah’s flood, and the story of Little Red Riding Hood.”
  11. 1847. James Fenimore Cooper’s sea-going adventure The Crater. Fun fact: Adventure aficionados consider this one much superior to his Leatherstocking tales!
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  13. 1851. Herman Melville’s sea-going adventure Moby-Dick is, we all know, much more than it appears to be on the surface. It is an allegory of (maybe) man’s gnostic rage against the occluded world in which he lives, separated from real reality. Perhaps more than you want to know about how whaling works, but one of the all-time great yarns.
  14. 1865. Lewis Carroll’s fantasy adventure Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
  15. 1868. Wilkie Collins’s detective adventure The Moonstone. Generally considered the first English-language detective novel.
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  17. 1870. Jules Verne’s science-fiction adventure Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea introduces us to Captain Nemo, a scientific genius who roams the depths of the sea in his submarine — in quest of treasure, knowledge, and revenge. NB: The book inspired Arthur Rimbaud’s poem “Le Beateau Ivre.”
  18. 1874. Jules Verne’s science-fiction Robinsonade The Mysterious Island. An engineer, a sailor, a young boy, a journalist, and an African American butler escape a Civil War prison in a hot air balloon and crash land on a Lost-type island in the South Pacific. Who is observing them, helping them? Marred by didactic lessons of all sorts.
  19. 1876. Jules Verne’s espionage adventure Michael Strogoff, considered one of Verne’s best books. When the Tartar Khan incites a rebellion and separates the Russian Far East from the mainland, Michael Strogoff, courier for Tsar Alexander II, is sent to Irkutsk on a crucial mission.
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  21. 1883. Robert Louis Stevenson’s 18th c. treasure-hunt adventure Treasure Island, which led to the popular perception of pirates as we know them today: e.g., peg-legged, one-eyed. Note that the castaway character Ben Gunn is a parody of Daniel Defoe’s character Robinson Crusoe!
  22. 1884–45. Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — note that Twain, who scorned Walter Scott-type romances, uses the term “adventure” sardonically. He was poking holes in the prevailing sentimental and Romantic ethos of the literary establishment. Still, Twain’s novel is a fun romp through the American South in its grotesquerie, and it offers authentic thrills along the way.
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  24. 1885. H. Rider Haggard’s frontier adventure King Solomon’s Mines, which set a new standard for thrills — thanks to the author’s illiberal belief that denizens of England are so coddled that they’ve forgotten their own savage nature. The first novel written in English that was based on the African continent, and the first “Lost World” adventure. NB: Haggard would write 18 books featuring Allan Quatermain, the hero of King Solomon’s Mines.
  25. 1886. Robert Louis Stevenson’s 18th c. avenger-type adventure Kidnapped, in which young David Balfour is sold into servitude by his wicked uncle. With the help of Alan Breck, a daring Jacobite, David escapes and travels across Scotland by night — hiding from government soldiers by day.
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  27. 1887. H. Rider Haggard’s treasure hunt/occult adventure She. Weird fun, particularly if you like reincarnation stuff. Spoiler: In a later novel, She and Quatermain will cross paths!
  28. 1888. Rudyard Kipling’s Haggard-esque frontier adventure The Man Who Would Be King. Two British adventurers become kings of a remote part of Afghanistan, because — it turns out — the Kafirs there practice a form of Masonic ritual and the adventurers know Masonic secrets.
  29. 1891. Arthur Conan Doyle’s knightly adventure The White Company. Perhaps more of an ironic homage to than a sardonic inversion of the genre. Actually one of his best adventures!
  30. 1891. H. Rider Haggard’s Viking adventure Eric Brighteyes. Considered one of his best books.
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  32. 1894. Anthony Hope’s swashbuckling adventure The Prisoner of Zenda, which takes place in the fictional central European country of Ruritania, and which concerns a political decoy restoring the rightful king to the throne, was so influential that its genre is now called Ruritanian. Perhaps the first political thriller.
  33. 1896. H.G. Wells’s science fiction adventure The Island of Doctor Moreau. Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man, is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, who creates human-like beings from animals. After Moreau is killed, the Beast Folk begin to revert to their original animal instincts.
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  35. 1897. Bram Stoker’s supernatural horror adventure Dracula, whose readers know what kind of monster the protagonists seek before they do. Described by Neil Gaiman as a “Victorian high-tech thriller,” the book’s use of cutting-edge technology — and true-crime story telling, from newspaper clippings to phonograph-recorded notes — creates an eerily realistic vibe.
  36. 1898. Alfred Jarry’s ’pataphysical adventure Gestes et Opinions du Docteur Faustroll, Pataphysicien. Faustroll and his monkey butler travel around Paris — on a mythical register — in a high-tech boat/vehicle. Published posthumously, in 1911.
  37. 1899. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the protagonist of which is sent up a river in Africa to seek the European manager of a remote ivory station who has turned into a charismatic monster, is a sardonic inversion of yarns by adventure authors who didn’t give much thought to the colonialist and racist context within which their civilization-vs.-savagery narratives played out. “The horror! The horror!”
  38. 1900–01. Rudyard Kipling’s espionage adventure Kim, in which an Irish orphan in India not only becomes the disciple of a Tibetan lama, but is recruited by the British secret service to spy on Russian agents participating in the Great Game. In the process, he races across India; Kipling — an imperialist, but a keen observer of India all the same — brilliantly captures the essence of that country under the British Raj.
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  40. 1901. Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective mystery adventure The Hound of the Baskervilles. Mystery adventures don’t have a large place on these lists of mine… because although they’re fun exercises in ratiocination and puzzle-solving, they’re often not particularly thrilling. Conan Doyle, however, is a great adventure writer. And this novel is not your typical Sherlock Holmes story; it is jam-packed with thrills and chills.
  41. 1903. Robert Erskine Childers’s espionage adventure The Riddle of the Sands can be a demanding read for those with no interest in sailing or timetables. But it’s a thrilling yarn nevertheless, one which sought to alert British readers to the danger of German invasion. Its protagonists are archetypes of the amateur adventure hero, the likes of whom would later appear so memorably in the novels of John Buchan.
  42. 1903. Jack London’s Klondike adventure The Call of the Wild, which expresses the author’s notion that because the veneer of civilization is fragile, humans revert to a state of primitivism with ease. PS: Note that London’s White Fang shows the flipside of this trajectory.
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  44. 1904. Jack London’s sea-going adventure The Sea Wolf. A clash of opposing philosophies, one of which — quasi-Nietzschean; more accurately Social Darwinist — is embodied by Wolf Larsen, a brutal yet enigmatic sea captain.
  45. 1904. G.K. Chesterton’s Radium Age science fiction adventure The Napoleon of Notting Hill, in which battles rage between neighboring boroughs of London.
  46. 1904. Joseph Conrad’s treasure-hunt (sort of) adventure Nostromo. An ambitious longshoreman thwarts a worker revolution in a South American mining town… and attempts to enrich himself in the process.
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  48. 1905. Baroness Orczy’s historical (18th c.) adventure The Scarlet Pimpernel. Set during France’s post-Revolution Terror. Sir Percy Blakeney, the effete aristocrat who is secretly the daring Scarlet Pimpernel (or vice-versa), would inspire characters such as Zorro and Batman. “Is he in heaven, or is he in hell, that damned elusive Pimpernel?” Orczy would write numerous sequels, prequels, and spinoffs — including I Will Repay (1906), The Elusive Pimpernel (1908), Eldorado (1913), Lord Tony’s Wife (1917), and The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1922). Fun fact: British actor Leslie Howard starred not only in the 1934 film adaptation of this book but in the 1941 British anti-Nazi thriller “Pimpernel” Smith.
  49. 1906. Jack London‘s Klondike adventure White Fang. In this companion novel to London’s Call of the Wild, a hybrid wolf-dog born in the frozen wilds of northwest Canada learns to kill or be killed. Our protagonist is White Fang — so named by Grey Beaver, an Indian who takes the cub in and raises him. Right from the beginning, the action is brutal — nature red in tooth and claw. White Fang’s father is killed, his siblings starve, his mother first protects him and then rejects him. Grey Beaver is a harsh, uncaring master, and his other dogs, led by the fierce Lip-Lip, persecute the outsider; so White Fang grows up “the enemy of his kind” — a savage killer. He is purchased by Beauty Smith, a dog-fighter who pits White Fang against increasingly tough opponents… including wolves, a lynx, and a huge bulldog. When a gold hunter, Weedon Scott, purchases him from the dog-fighter, will White Fang at last be tamed?Fun fact: First serialized in Outing magazine, White Fang has been read as an allegory of humanity’s (or, at least, the author’s) progression from nature to civilization — a de-individualizing process that does violence to the soul, even as it makes contentment possible.
  50. 1907. L. Frank Baum’s Radium Age science fiction/fantasy Ozma of Oz. The third Oz book, and the first in which we meet one of Baum’s most delightful characters: “He was only about as tall as Dorothy herself, and his body was round as a ball and made out of burnished copper. Also his head and limbs were copper, and these were jointed or hinged to his body in a peculiar way, with metal caps over the joints, like the armor worn by knights in days of old.” From a printed card attached to its neck, Dorothy learns that Tiktok is a “Patent Double-Action, Extra-Responsive, Thought-Creating, Perfect-Talking Mechanical Man Fitted with out Special Clock-Work Attachment. Thinks, Speaks, Acts, and Does Everything but Live.” Though one of the earliest fictional appearances of true machine intelligence, Tiktok is not a free agent like his equally metallic, yet living new friend, the Tin Man — to whom he confides that “When I am wound up I do my du-ty by go-ing just as my ma-chin-er-y is made to go.” Fun fact: Baum revisited this story for his 1913 musical, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, in which Tiktok sings: “Always work and never play!/Don’t demand a cent of pay!”
  51. 1907. Maurice Leblanc’s crime adventure collection Arsène Lupin, gentleman-cambrioleur (Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar). In this collection of eight linked stories, we first meet gentleman thief and master of disguise Arsène Lupin. (Lupin would become a beloved figure in French pulp fiction; he’d eventually be featured in 17 novels and 39 novellas.) In “The Arrest of Arsène Lupin,” Bernard d’Andrèzy, a passenger on a ship to America, attempts to unmask Arsène Lupin, who has stolen a woman’s jewels; but who is d’Andrèzy? In “Arsène Lupin in Prison,” Lupin demands that a baron send him certain valuables, lest Lupin come and steal them; but he does so while he’s in prison. And in “The Escape of Arsène Lupin,” Lupin attempts to escape from prison via a complex stratagem in which he makes himself look like… a Lupin lookalike. Quel génie! Other stories: “The Mysterious Traveller,” “The Queen’s Necklace,” “The Safe of Madame Imbert,” “Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late,” “The Black Pearl,” and “Seven of Hearts.” Fun facts: These stories were first published in the French magazine Je sais tout beginning in July 1905.
  52. 1908. G.K. Chesterton’s metaphysical thriller The Man Who Was Thursday. Subtitled “A Nightmare,” Chesterton’s best novel follows Gabriel Syme, a Scotland Yard man, as he infiltrates the London chapter of the European Anarchist Council. Lucian Gregory, an avant-garde poet, publicly endorses anarchism… in order to make himself seem harmless, when in fact he is up for election as “Thursday,” one of seven members of the Council, each named for a day of the week. Syme gets himself elected in Gregory’s place… only to discover that nothing is as it seems. The Council’s president, Sunday, is a sinister mastermind who has purposely recruited undercover police detectives and pitted them against one another! As Thursday and his colleagues pursue Sunday, the “nightmare” becomes more and more fantastical and absurdist. I the end, we’re left to puzzle over whether Sunday is evil or… Christ-like. Fun facts: Included on Michael Moorcock’s list of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels. Orson Welles’s 1938 adaptation of The Man Who Was Thursday for The Mercury Theatre on the Air is pretty great.
  53. 1908. Kenneth Grahame’s children’s fantasy adventure The Wind in the Willows. When they aren’t enjoying the simple pleasures of life in England’s Thames Valley, three anthropomorphized animals — the naive Mole, the friendly Rat, and the fierce Badger — struggle to keep their hapless friend Toad, a wealthy idler with a mania for automobiles, out of trouble. Readers are treated to a jail break and hunted-man adventure, during which Toad — who was imprisoned for stealing a car, and is now disguised as an elderly washerwoman — flees from his pursuers via steam engine and horse-drawn barge, only to steal the same car again. Immediately after this sequence, which is so entertaining that Disney Land designed a ride in its honor, Toad’s friends must help him to recapture his stately home — via a secret tunnel sneak attack — from weasels and stoats who’ve invaded the Wild Wood. The preceding chapters are perhaps less thrilling than these, but still funny, sweet, and utterly charming. Fun facts: The Wind in the Willows has been adapted as a movie several times, most notably by Disney in 1949, Rankin/Bass in 1985/1987, and Terry Jones in 1996. British bands from Pink Floyd to Iron Maiden have referenced the mystical chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” in their music.
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  55. 1910. John Buchan’s frontier adventure Prester John. In this Haggard-esque yarn set in the early 20th century, David Crawfurd, a young Scotsman seeking his fortune in Blaauwildebeestefontein, South Africa, runs afoul of Laputa, leader of a planned rising of the Zulu and Swazi peoples against British colonial rule. Donning the necklet of Prester John, the fabled king said to rule over a Christian nation lost in the Orient, Laputa gathers the tribes and initiates the uprising. Crawfurd must steal the necklace, evade Laputa’s forces, and alert the colonials. Fun fact: The first terrific yarn from Buchan, who would develop into one of the all-time greatest adventure writers. Too bad it’s so racist about Africans.
  56. 1911. Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre’s crime adventure Fantômas. A bloodthirsty avenger/artful dodger adventure about the ruthless Fantômas — who would become one of French crime fiction’s most popular characters. When Marquise de Langrune is murdered, her friend Rambert accuses his son, Charles, of having committed the heinous crime. Inspector Juve of the Paris Sûreté suspects that Fantômas was to blame, but it’s too late — Charles’s body is pulled from a river, an apparent suicide. Meanwhile, Lord Beltham has disappeared; Juve finds his body stuffed into a trunk belonging to Beltham’s friend, Gurn. Then, when a Russian princess is robbed, Juve questions Mademoiselle Jeanne, the hotel’s cashier — who knocks him out, before revealing herself to be… Charles, who is not dead! (Charles winds up becoming Juve’s assistant.) Juve captures Gurn, who is actually… Fantômas! How will Fantômas escape the guillotine? Fun fact: Allain and Souvestre would crank out over 30 subsequent Fantômas feuilletons together — including nine in 1911 alone! These lowbrow entertainments were devoured by high-lowbrow artists and authors — Raymond Queneau, Blaise Cendrars, René Magritte, Robert Desnos, Guillaume Apollinaire, James Joyce — some of whom were inspired to introduce adventure elements into their own writing.
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  58. 1911. Alfred Jarry’s ’pataphysical adventure Gestes et opinions du docteur Faustroll pataphysicien: Roman néo-scientifique suivi de Spéculations (trans. as Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician). The scientist-inventor Dr. Faustroll travels — in a high-tech (capillarity, surface tension, equilateral hyperbolae are involved) amphibious copper skiff — from the Seine from point to point through the neighborhoods and buildings of Paris. He is accompanied by his Wookiee-like baboon butler Bosse-de-Nage, and also by the story’s narrator, Panmuphle, a lawyer attempting to convict the good doctor of debt. Opposed to mainstream science’s principe de l’induction, Faustroll practices a “science of imaginary solutions” that he calls ’pataphysics. Whereas the inductive reasoner brackets his imagination and blinkers his perspective, the ’pataphysician embraces as many perspectives as possible; no conjecture is regarded as impossible. Spoiler alert: Dr. Faustroll dies! But he manages to send a telepathic letter to Lord Kelvin describing the afterlife and the cosmos. Fun fact: Jarry is best known as the author of the proto-Dada play Ubu Roi. This posthumously published novel is regarded, by exegetes, as the central work to his oeuvre.
  59. 1912. Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s atavistic adventure Tarzan of the Apes (pub. a book, 1914). When England’s Lord and Lady Greystoke are marooned in the western coastal jungle of equatorial Africa, their infant son is adopted by Kala of the Mangani — a species of manlike apes who speak a primal universal language understood by other animals, too. “Tarzan” (Mangani for “white skin”) grow up to be a fierce warrior and skilled hunter; he also discovers his parents’ abandoned cabin, and teaches himself to read English. Not long after, another party is marooned on the coast: including professor Archimedes Q Porter and his daughter, Jane; French Naval Officer Paul D’Arnot (who befriends Tarzan, and teaches him how to behave among Europeans); and Tarzan’s cousin. Will Tarzan assume his rightful role, as Earl of Greystoke in England? Or will he remain in the jungle? Fun facts: Serialized in All-Story Magazine. Burroughs would write over two dozen Tarzan adventures; and the franchise has grown to include movies (starring Johnny Weissmüller, in the 1930s–40s), TV and radio, and comics (drawn by Jesse Marsh, Russ Manning, and Doug Wildey from 1948–1972, and by Joe Kubert from 1972–1976).
  60. 1912. Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Having assembled a crew of adventurers, the brilliant, blustering physiologist and physicist Prof. Challenger journeys to a South American jungle… in search of a lost plateau crawling with iguanodons. It’s a ripping yarn — the first popular dinosaurs-still-live tale, prototype for everything from King Kong to Jurassic Park. At the same time, however, it’s a philosophical novel, one which animates — in a thrilling, humorous fashion — the author’s obsessive drive (also seen in his Sherlock Holmes stories) to reconcile the claims of logical reason and intuition. Challenger’s foil, the respected zoologist Professor Summerlee, is an avatar of the inductive method of reasoning; we first meet him when he rises from the audience at a lecture in order to accuse Challenger of making non-testable assertions. Although Summerlee is an admirable figure, in the end his refusal to accept any facts that haven’t been revealed by means of instruments and techniques of observation and experiment make him look like a dogmatic nincompoop. Plus: Battles with proto-humanoids! Fun fact: Doyle followed up this bestselling novel with The Poison Belt (1913) and The Land of Mist (1926), as well as two short stories about Challenger. Reissued by Penguin Classics.
  61. 1912. Zane Grey’s Western adventure Riders of the Purple Sage. If you’re only going to read one Western, this is the one. Set in the cañon country of southern Utah in 1871, its relatively complex plot involves polygamists, a notorious gunman searching for his long-lost sister, and a mysterious masked rider! Mormon-born Jane Withersteen has inherited a valuable ranch; when she befriends Venters, a “Gentile” (non-Mormon), the Mormon elders begin to persecute her. Venters heads out in pursuit of gang of rustlers that includes a mysterious Masked Rider; meanwhile Lassiter, a laconic Mormon-killer, arrives at Jane’s ranch in search of his sister. Will he and Jane fall in love? How will they escape from the vengeance of the Mormons… and from rustlers, too? Fun fact: One of the most influential western novels. Riders of the Purple Sage has been filmed five times; a comic-book version was published by Dell in 1952.
  62. 1912. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s A Princess of Mars (pub. in book form, 1917). Transported to Mars — via something like astral projection — ex-soldier John Carter finds himself embroiled in a war between the Red and Green Martians. The barbaric, nomadic Green Martians are 15 feet tall, with six limbs; they inhabit the abandoned cities of Barsoom (that is, Mars). The Red Martians, meanwhile, are civilized humanoids, organized into city-states that control Barsoom’s water. Carter’s unusual coloring, and the extraordinary strength he is afforded by the planet’s weak gravity, make him uniquely capable of forming alliances among honorable members of both Barsoomian peoples. He falls in love with Dejah Thoris, beautiful daughter of a Red Martian chieftain, and rescues her from both Green and Red Martians before leading a Green Martian army against the enemy of Thoris’s state. Fun facts: Serialized pseudonymously, in the same year that Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes appeared, this is the first in the author’s popular “Barsoom” planetary romance series. It was originally titled Under the Moons of Mars. PS: I might be in the minority, on this subject, but I quite enjoyed the book’s 2012 Hollywood adaptation, John Carter.
  63. 1912. William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land (1912). In the far future, what remains of the human population dwells deep below the Earth’s frozen surface in a pyramidal fortress-city that for centuries has been surrounded by giants, “ab-humans,” enormous slugs and spiders, and malevolent Watching Things from an alien dimension. The unnamed narrator, along with apparently every other surviving human, lives trapped in the Last Redoubt, a eight-mile-high metal pyramid-city constructed by their ancestors using now-forgotten technologies. The pyramid is protected from the Slayers, who surround and observe it constantly, by mysterious Powers of Goodness, and also by a massive force-field powered by the “Earth Current” — a Tesla-esque force drawn from the planet itself. When the narrator receives a telepathic distress signal from a young woman whom (in a previous incarnation) he’d once loved, he sallies forth on an ill-advised rescue mission — into the uncharted and unfathomable Night Land. Fun fact: “One of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written.” — H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (1927). Reissued by HiLoBooks, with an Introduction by Erik Davis.
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  65. 1913. Sax Rohmer’s The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1912—1913). In this first Fu Manchu novel, assembled in 1913 from stories published in magazines during 1912, colonial police commissioner Nayland Smith is in hot pursuit of Fu Manchu, an agent of a Chinese secret society, the Si-Fan. A brilliant scientist and criminal mastermind, Fu Manchu has relocated from China and Burma to East London’s Limehouse district, from where — Smith believes — he is orchestrating a wave of assassinations targeting Western imperialists. Oh, and he appears to be kidnapping Europe’s best engineers and smuggling them back to China for some nefarious purpose, too! Fun facts: Rohmer’s Fu Manchu character would inspire racist depictions of Asian sci-fi/fantasy villains from Ming the Merciless to Dr. No. The character was also featured in movies, TV, radio, comic strips, and comic books through the middle of the century; these latter entertainments — which depicted Rohmer’s villain with a long, drooping mustache (not mentioned in the books), has led to that style of facial hair becoming popularly known as a “Fu Manchu.”
  66. 1913. Earl Derr Biggers’s semi-comical thriller Seven Keys to Baldpate. William Magee, a dime-store novelist who hopes that solitude will allow him to produce a great work of literature, acquires what he thinks is the only key to Baldpate, a New Jersey mountaintop resort that’s closed for the winter. Which may sound like the set-up of The Shining, but in fact this is an apophenic adventure. Six uninvited guests — a hermit, a peroxide blonde, a disgraced college professor, a political op, a bald-headed gangster, and a high-society dame — show up at the resort, each of whom tells Magee a far-fetched tale about who they are and why they’ve come. Magee finds himself caught up in a fast-paced plot, complete with witty repartee, that’s more far-fetched than his own stories. Is everyone involved in a crime caper of some kind? What are they up to? Fun facts: Before Earl Derr Biggers invented his famous detective character Charlie Chan, this was his most popular book. It was adapted by George M. Cohan as a hit play, then several times as a movie; the 1935 version written by Cohan is the best-known of these.
  67. 1913. Marie Belloc Lowndes’s psychological thriller The Lodger. The author grew up in London in the late 19th century, during Jack the Ripper’s killing spree; in this atmospheric murder-mystery-without-a-sleuth, she takes us back to that era. Ellen and Robert Bunting are an older couple who have retired from a life as servants to open a rooming house… but they’ve been unsuccessful, and they’re about to lose everything. One day, however, a Mr. Sleuth arrives at their door and offers them a generous monthly fee for the use of their rooms. At the same time, a killer — who signs himself “The Avenger” — begins to stalk London’s foggy streets. Slowly, Mrs. Bunting begins to suspect that her lodger’s odd behavior may indicate that he is the killer. However, fearful of financial ruin, she doesn’t share her suspicions with her husband. The pace is slow, the tonality brooding and melodramatic. Brrr! Fun facts: Alfred Hitchcock adapted Lowndes’s novel as a silent movie of the same title in 1927. Hitchock also adapted the story, in 1940, as the first installment in the radio drama series Suspense.
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  69. 1914. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Radium Age science fiction adventure At the Earth’s Core. A mining engineer discovers — thanks to his “iron mole” machine, that the Earth is hollow; at its center is Pellucidar, a land (lit by a miniature Sun) in which stone-age humans are dominated by intelligent flying reptiles… and in which prehistoric creatures roam freely. NB: H.P. Lovecraft was a fan; check out his 1931 adventure At the Mountains of Madness.
  70. 1914. André Gide’s Les caves du Vatican (in English: Lafcadio’s Adventures, or The Vatican Cellars) is best described as an ironic homage to the adventure novel. Its protagonist, Lafcadio, a would-be Nietzschean superman who reads only adventures like Aladdin and Robinson Crusoe, stumbles upon a plot involving the Pope.
  71. 1914. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventure The Valley of Fear. I try to avoid mysteries on these lists, because in most cases they’re not adventures, but the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel fits the bill. A coded message, Professor Moriarty, and a backstory based on the supposedly real-life exploits of the Molly Maguires in Pennsylvania!
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  73. 1915. John Buchan’s Richard Hannay adventure The Thirty-Nine Steps. When mining engineer Richard Hannay discovers the existence of a ring of German spies who have stolen British plans for the outbreak of war, he is framed for murder. Fleeing to Scotland, he must elude not only spies but the police. The best hunted-man thriller (or “shocker,” to use the author’s term) ever, at least until Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male. Like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jack London, Buchan’s prose juxtaposes realistic hunted-man chases, violent weather, and hand-to-hand combat with fantasy and atavistic (alas, usually racist) elements. Adapted into a humorous adventure movie of the same title by Alfred Hitchcock.
  74. 1915.Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Radium Age science fiction novel Herland. When young Van Jennings and his friends — Terry and Jeff — invade an isolated society composed entirely of women, they carry with them not only brightly colored scarves and beads but sexist ideological baggage. Jeff is an idealist who regards women as things to be served and protected; Terry is a cynic who views women as conquests. Van, a sociologist, is uniquely able to apprehend the social construction of gender roles… and the fact that a woman-only social order is superior in every way to western civilization. First serialized in 1915; read it on HiLobrow.
  75. 1915. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s YA adventure The Lost Prince. The author of the sentimental children’s classics Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden also wrote one of the best Ruritanian-type yarns ever. Two adolescent boys, one of whom is a disabled street urchin called “The Rat,” play a proto-Alternate Reality Game about a revolution in far-off Samavia… which turns into the real thing. Read it on HiLobrow.
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  77. 1915. Rafael Sabatini’s sea-going historical adventure The Sea Hawk. This swashbuckler is set in the late 16th century. Sold into slavery by his fiancée’s villainous brother, Cornish gentleman Oliver Tressilian is liberated by Barbary pirates — i.e., Muslim corsairs — among whom he makes a name for himself as Sakr-el-Bahr, the Hawk of the Sea. Tressilian then returns to England for revenge. NB: The Errol Flynn movie was supposed to be an adaption of this novel… but it’s quite different.
  78. 1916. John Buchan’s Richard Hannay adventure Greenmantle. In the second of Buchan’s five terrific Richard Hannay “shockers,” this sequel to The Thirty-Nine Steps introduces us to: Sandy Arbuthnot, an Orientalist and master of disguise; the doughty Afrikaner hunter and scout Peter Pienaar; and the fat, dyspeptic American anti-fascist John Blenkiron. During the First World War, the Germans plot to organize a jihad to rouse the British Mahometans in India to fight for the Caliph against England. Germany needs to control a mystical Muslim figure, Greenmantle, who can “madden the remotest Moslem peasant with dreams of Paradise”; the beautiful but evil Hilda von Einem sets out to seduce her false prophet… but ends up falling in love with him. Can Hannay and his companions stop the plot in time? Fun fact: The character of Sandy Arbuthonot is loosely based on the extraordinary real-life Orientalist and British diplomat Aubrey Herbert.
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  80. 1916. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s atavistic adventure Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. The fifth (of twenty-six) Tarzan books, and one of my favorites. In The Return of Tarzan (1913/1915), as you may recall, the ape man had become the chief of the Waziris, who led him to the lost city of Opar — a colony of Atlantis, and the source of that vanished civilization’s fabulous wealth. Although La, the beautiful high priestess of Opar, fell in love with him — male Oparians are bestial creatures — Tarzan, ever faithful to Jane, had rejected her advances. When Tarzan returns to Opar to remove more gold, La once again attempts to seduce/sacrifice him. Meanwhile, a Belgian ne’er-do-well has followed Tarzan to Opar… and Tarzan loses his memory during an earthquake! Fun fact: Serialized in 1916, published in book form in 1918.
  81. 1916. Talbot Mundy’s espionage/occult adventure King of the Khyber Rifles. At the outset of the First World War, Captain King, a kind of secret agent for the British Raj, is ordered to investigate the possibility that Turkey might try to stir Muslims into a jihad against the British Empire. Traveling (in disguise) from India to the Khyber Pass and Khinjan in Pakistan and Afghanistan, King makes contact with Yasmini, a beautiful woman worshipped by the fierce hill tribesmen on the Raj’s northwest frontier. Is Yasmini loyal to the Raj… or is she trying to raise an army of her own? Meanwhile, King seeks out the murderous mullah who dreams of a jihad… and discovers an ancient secret — the Sleepers — concealed in a sacred cave. Fun facts: This is the author’s most famous novel; it influenced Robert E. Howard and other prewar fantasy adventure writers, and it was adapted as a movie twice (in 1929 and 1953) — not to mention as a 1953 Classics Illustrated comic. PS: This novel’s plot is strongly reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s 1954 YA adventure, The Eagle of the Ninth. Hmmm…
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  83. 1918.A. Merritt’s Radium-Age sci-fi/fantasy adventure The Moon Pool. The scientist Dr. Goodwin, the dashing pilot/adventurer Larry O’Keefe, and others descend into the Earth’s core — in pursuit of an entity that sometimes rises to the surface of the planet and captures men and women. In addition to a lost race of powerful, handsome “dwarves” and a lost race of froglike humanoids, the explorers discover that the entity they seek is the Dweller, essentially an AI created by an advanced race, known as the Shining Ones (ancient astronauts?). The Dweller has the capacity for great good and great evil, but over time is has tended to become evil rather than good. Yolara, a beautiful woman who serves the Dweller, falls in love with O’Keefe; so does Lakla, a beautiful woman who serves the Shining Ones. The adventurers must persuade or coerce the Dweller to become good — but how? Fun fact: Merritt was a best-selling author during this period. The Moon Pool, which originally appeared as two short stories in All-Story Weekly, is sometimes cited as an influence on Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu.” Reissued by Bison Frontiers of Imagination.
  84. 1919. James Branch Cabell’s comical fantasy adventure Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice. In search of courtly love, the protagonist — a poet, who is allowed to relive a year of his youth — journeys through fantastic realms. The novel’s sexual content caused a storm of controversy. Aleister Crowley was a fan, and Robert Heinlein patterned Stranger in a Strange Land after it.
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  86. 1919. John Buchan’s Richard Hannay adventure Mr. Standfast. Near the end of WWI, Hannay is recalled from active duty on the Western Front to go undercover — as a pacifist! — in search of a German agent at large in Britain. John Blenkiron and Peter Pienaar (now an ace pilot) reappear; and we meet their beautiful, brave comrade Mary Lamington.
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  88. 1920–1921. Karel Čapek’s Radium Age science fiction play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots. Čapek, a brilliant Czech litterateur, satirized the capitalist cult of efficiency, and expressed his fear of the unlimited power of corporations, in this play. On a mission from a humanitarian organization devoted to liberating the Robots (who aren’t mechanical; they’re the product of what we would now call genetic engineering), Helena Glory arrives at the remote island factory of Rossum’s Universal Robots. She persuades one of the scientists to modify some Robots, so that their souls might be allowed to develop. One of these modified Robots issues a manifesto: “Robots of the world, you are ordered to exterminate the human race… Work must not cease!” Chaos ensues. Fun fact: R.U.R. (w. 1920, performed 1921) gave the world the term “robot,” which the author’s brother, Joseph, coined as a play on the Czech term for unremunerated labor.
  89. 1920. Max Brand’s Whistling Dan Barry western adventure The Night Horseman. This is the second of three Whistling Dan Barry books serialized in the pulp fiction magazine Argosy. No white-hat good-guy, Barry is a feral figure — more comfortable in the wilderness than in town, more in tune with his animal companions than with humankind. (When a character in this story tries to explain Barry to an outsider, he says it’s a strange story: “It’s about a man and a hoss and a dog. The man ain’t possible, the hoss ain’t possible, the dog is a wolf.”) In this novel, considered one of the best Westerns ever, Barry is embroiled in a revenge duel to the death with the fearsome mountain man Mac Strann; meanwhile, he is sought by Kate, his foster-father’s daughter, who loves him — and whose love might be Barry’s only link to civilization. Fun fact: Writing as “Max Brand” (among other pen names), Frederick Faust dominated the pulp Western fiction field from the end of WWI (when he replaced Zane Grey, who had moved on from pulps to upscale magazines) until his death as a journalist on the Italian front in WWII. He also wrote a 1937 cowboys-and-aliens sci-fi novel, The Smoking Land.
  90. 1921. Brian Oswald Donn-Byrne’s frontier adventure Messer Marco Polo. An elderly Scotch-Irish bard — in modern times — tells a lively tale, to his young American nephew, about Marco Polo, an Italian Catholic explorer journeying across Asia from Venice to the courts of Cathay in pagan China, during the High Middle Ages. Though sent as a kind of missionary — after an audience with an Irish pope — when Marco Polo visits the court of Kubla Kahn, the Mongol ruler and emperor of China, he falls in love with Golden Bells, daugher of the Khan. Their love story is lyrical and sweet, but the book is very much an adventure, too. The caravan is lost in the Gobi Desert; there is murder and witchery. And the amused politeness with which Marco Polo’s preaching is met is wicked! Fun fact: Often categorized as a children’s book, but in fact it’s Menippean satire. The multi-layered, historical/fantastical, ironic/romantic quality of this yarn brings to mind Donn-Byrne’s contemporary, James Branch Cabell, who called this “a very magically beautiful book”; as well as Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds or William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. Donn-Byrne died tragically young, in 1928, in an automobile accident.
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  92. 1921. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. This dystopian novel, set in a totalized social order whose citizens (“ciphers,” with numbers for names) eat, sleep, work, and even make love like clockwork, extrapolates from the rhetoric of those communists who advocated extending Taylorism and other capitalist scientific-management techniques beyond the factory into all spheres of life. Their ancestors were right to invent a more equitable social order, the female revolutionist I-330 tells D-503. But afterward, she adds (speaking in a mathematics-inflected register intended to subvert D-503’s lifelong conditioning) “they believed that they were the final number — which doesn’t exist in the natural world, it just doesn’t.” Fun fact: We circulated in samizdat for years — in which form it influenced George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Reissued by Penguin Classics.
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  94. 1922. John Buchan‘s Huntingtower. Published between the third and fourth of his tremendous Richard Hannay novels, Huntingtower was a departure for John Buchan. The book’s protagonist is not a soldier-turned-spy, but instead a retired Scottish grocer who joins a quixotic effort to rescue a Russian noblewoman from Bolsheviks. With this novel, Buchan was attempting to take the curse of irony off the word “adventure” — that is, to bring adventure into everyday life. Having sold his grocery business, Dickson McCunn sets out on a hiking trip across Scotland… and meets John Heritage, a modernist poet who McCunn doesn’t respect. However, the two join forces when they discover that an exiled Russian noblewoman has been imprisoned by Bolshevik agents. They assemble an unlikely fighting force — an injured laird and his menservants, a group of street urchins from Glasgow — and sally forth to save a damsel in distress… and to protect Scotland against Russian intrigues. Fun fact: The first of Buchan’s three Dickson McCunn books; the others are Castle Gay (1930) and The House of the Four Winds (1935). Huntingtower was serialized, here at HILOBROW, from January through April 2014.
  95. 1922. Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood: His Odyssey. Peter Blood, an Irish physician who’d formerly been a soldier and sailor, and who has now settled peacefully in southwestern England, wants no part in 1685’s Monmouth Rebellion against King James II; however, he does tend to rebels wounded at the Battle of Sedgemoor. He is arrested, convicted of treason, and sold into slavery on a sugar plantation in the Caribbean. Blood becomes friendly with Arabella, the daughter of his new owner, the governor of England’s colony of Jamaica… who hunts Blood, with the intention of hanging him, when Blood and other convict-slaves escape and become successful Caribbean pirates. When French forces attack Jamaica, will Blood overcome his enmity for England and sail to the colony’s rescue? Fun facts: The novel, which first took the form of stories published in 1920–1921, was very popular; Sabatini was inspired, in part, by the real-life adventures of Henry Pitman. Captain Blood has been adapted as a movie several times, most memorably in 1935; this was to be Errol Flynn’s breakout role.
  96. 1922. Karel Čapek’s Radium Age sci-fi adventure Továrna na absolutno (The Absolute at Large). In the near future, a Czech scientist invents “perfect combustion,” and an industrial concern starts manufacturing an atomic reactor that provides cheap energy — with an unexpected byproduct: the Absolute, the spiritual essence that permeates every particle of matter… or did, anyway, until matter began to be annihilated by the super-efficient Karburetor. As they’re released from imprisoning matter by efficient Karburetors and Molecular Disintegration Dynamos cranked out in the thousands by Ford Motors (the novel’s Czech title means “the factory of the Absolute”) and other manufacturers around the world, God-particles infect humankind with wonder-working powers and ecstatic religious sentiments. What’s more, the Absolute begins operating factories itself, producing far too many finished goods for anyone to consume. As a result, economies collapse, unemployment is universal, and fanatical sects whose -isms (including rationalism, nationalism, and sentimentalism) are religious only in the broadest sense do battle. Every country is drawn into the Greatest War, during which atomic weapons are deployed and civilization collapses. Fun fact: Reissued by Bison Frontiers of Imagination.
  97. 1923. E.V. Odle’s Radium Age sci-fi adventure The Clockwork Man. Years from now, advanced beings known as the Makers will implant clockwork devices into our heads. At the cost of a certain amount of agency, these marvelous devices will permit us to move unhindered through time and space, and to live perfectly regulated lives. However, if one of these devices should ever go awry, a “clockwork man” from the future might turn up in the 1920s, perhaps at a cricket match in a small English village. Considered the original cyborg novel, and perhaps the original singularity novel too. “Odle’s ominous, droll, and unforgettable The Clockwork Man is a missing link between Lewis Carroll and John Sladek or Philip K. Dick,” says Jonathan Lethem. “Considered with them, it suggests an alternate lineage for SF, springing as much from G.K. Chesterton’s sensibility as from H.G. Wells’s.” Fun facts: Reissued by HiLoBooks with an Introduction by Annalee Newitz. Rumors that “E.V. Odle” was a pen name for Virginia Woolf are amusing, but unfounded. Edwin Vincent Odle (1890–1942) was a writer who lived in Bloomsbury, London during the 1910s. From 1925–35, he was editor of the British short-story magazine The Argosy.
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  99. 1924. Johnston McCulley’s historical swashbuckling adventure The Mark of Zorro. The first novella featuring Don Diego de la Vega, a Californio nobleman who, wearing a black mask, defends the people of the land against tyrannical officials. Batman and The Lone Ranger were inspired in part by Zorro, and McCulley’s other pulp inventions were influential too.
  100. 1924. P.C. Wren’s French Foreign Legion adventure Beau Geste, in which three brothers, each of whom is convinced that he is saving the other two from prison (a precious jewel has gone missing) by doing so — flee Britain and join the Foreign Legion. In French North Africa, a sadistic officer attempts to discover which of them (if any) possesses the jewel; meanwhile, bloodthirsty Tuaregs besiege their little garrison at Fort Zinderneuf.
  101. 1924. John Buchan’s Richard Hannay adventure The Three Hostages. In his fourth outing, Hannay must rescue the kidnapped children of three prominent people. Also, it seems that a sinister criminal organization is tapping into the psychic disorder caused by the Great War! Hannay’s wife, Mary, and his comrade Sandy Arbuthnot, master of disguise, join him in his quest.
  102. 1925. Earl Derr Biggers’s crime adventure The House Without a Key. The author was best known, at the time, for his 1913 semi-comical thriller Seven Keys to Baldpate; it was adapted into a hit Broadway play and several films. In 1924, Biggers read about the exploits of Chang Apana, a shrewd, tenacious Chinese-Hawaiian detective in the Honolulu Police Department; he inserted a similar character into the thriller he was writing at the time. The House Without a Key, set in Hawaii, became the first in a series of six immensely popular Charlie Chan novels. Fun Fact: Except for Sherlock Holmes, for some years Charlie Chan — who was, in part, designed to counteract the British adventure’s tradition of the sinister, untrustworthy Oriental; but whose mannerisms and habits of speech cannot but help make today’s enlightened reader wince — was literature’s best-known sleuth.
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  104. 1926. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Maid. A sprawling saga that gallops from Julian 5th’s crash-landing on the moon, where he makes a daring getaway (with a moon maid in tow) from subhuman Kalkars who dwell in the asteroid’s hollow interior; to the same Julian’s doomed effort to defeat a Kalkar invasion of Earth; to Julian 9th’s failed but inspiring rebellion against the mongrel descendants of the Moon Men, communistic tyrants who’ve presided over the Earthlings’ regression to a medieval agrarian lifestyle; to the final triumph of Red Hawk (Julian 20th), the leader of a primitive tribe of freedom-fighters — who, 400 years after the invasion, defeats humankind’s overlords in a pitched battle set in the ruins of Los Angeles. Fun fact: The Julian 9th story, one hears, was originally written after the Bolshevik revolution, and was rejiggered later to fit into the Moon Maid saga. Reissued by Bison Frontiers of Imagination.
  105. 1927. Dashiell Hammett‘s Red Harvest (as a book, 1929). The Continental Op, a short, overweight, cynical private investigator employed by the Continental Detective Agency’s San Francisco office, is one of literature’s first hard-boiled detectives — the prototype for Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Hammett’s own Sam Spade. (The character made his debut in Black Mask in 1923; Red Harvest is Hammett’s first novel.) Called to a corrupt western town — modeled on Butte, Montana — the Op agrees to help Elihu Willsson, a local industrialist, rid the city of the competing gangs who Willsson invited there in the first place. He also investigates the murder of Willsson’s son, a local newspaper publisher. The Op starts a gang war — pipe bombs, arson, gun fights, and corrupt cops galore — but he’s framed for the murder of a gangster’s moll. Even his own agency isn’t sure he’s innocent! Fun facts: André Gide called the book “a remarkable achievement, the last word in atrocity, cynicism, and horror.” Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 samurai film, Yojimbo, was probably influenced by Hammett’s novel; Kurosawa was a fan.
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  107. 1928. Leslie Charteris’s light-hearted mystery/crime adventure Meet the Tiger. Here, for the first time, we meet the wealthy adventurer Simon Templar (known as The Saint), his manservant ’Orace, and young socialite Patricia Holm. Templar, a thief who steals from thieves, aims to settle an old score with a mysterious individual known as “The Tiger.”
  108. 1928. W. Somerset Maugham’s espionage adventure story collection Ashenden. Partly based on the author’s WWI experience as a member of British Intelligence in Europe. Again breaking my rule against including stories — as opposed to novels — on these lists.
  109. 1929. Ernest Hemingway’s hardboiled WWI adventure A Farewell to Arms. “I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain… I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it…” The section on the Caporetto retreat is one of the greatest fictional depictions of warfare.
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  111. 1929. Erich Kästner’s YA adventure Emil and the Detectives. En route to Berlin from the provinces, schoolboy Emil Tischbein is robbed of his mother’s salary, which he was bringing to his grandmother. Emil’s cousin, a tomboy named Pony, helps him gather a posse of Berlin street urchins; together they set a trap for the thief.
  112. 1930. Philip Gordon Wylie’s Radium Age science fiction adventure Gladiator. Hugo, a young man who is super-strong, nearly invulnerable, and can leap over trees is forced to hide his abilities from his peers while growing up, builds a fortress of solitude, and plans to adopt a secret identity in order to fight crime in New York. If this makes him sound like Clark Kent, it’s because Siegel and Shuster’s 1938 Superman comic was undoubtedly heavily inspired by Gladiator. Unlike Clark Kent, though, Hugo fights in WWI as a member of the Foreign Legion, and despairs of flawed mortals. Fun fact: Wylie also wrote (with Edwin Balmer) the pessimistic 1933 sci-fi novel When Worlds Collide.
  113. 1930. Arthur Ransome’s YA adventure novel Swallows and Amazons. During holidays in northwestern England, the Walker siblings meet Nancy and Peggy Blackett — two piratical sisters who fly the Jolly Roger from their sailboat. This is the first in a series of twelve books, including Swallowdale (1931), Winter Holiday (1933), We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea (1937), and Missee Lee (1941). Swallows and Amazons establishes our characters and introduces us to their milieu: an English lake, with an island for camping, surrounding farms, and minor adventures everywhere. Fun fact: The Swallows and Amazons’ imaginative, largely grownup-free adventures are influenced by the protagonists’ mutual love of Treasure Island.
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  115. 1930. Dashiell Hammett’s crime/treasure-hunt adventure The Maltese Falcon. San Francisco private eye Sam Spade and his partner are hired, by a beautiful woman, to follow a man; while doing so, Spade’s partner is killed. Spade, who once had an affair with his partner’s wife, is a suspect. Meanwhile, a shady character names Cairo pulls a gun on Spade, because he suspects that the woman, O’Shaughnessy, has given him a valuable figurine — the titular Maltese Falcon. Spade discovers that Cairo and O’Shaughnessy, along with a third figure, “G,” all seek the figurine. Tempted by wealth and love, Spade sticks to his own moral code… and brings his partner’s killer to justice. Fun fact: Grittily realistic, morally ambiguous, the book is considered by aficionados to be the standard by which all subsequent American mysteries must be judged. And, of course, the 1941 film adaptation by John Huston is a masterpiece.
  116. 1931. Francis Iles’s psychological thriller Malice Aforethought. In the novel’s first paragraph, we learn that Dr. Bickleigh, who lives in the exclusive Devonshire hamlet of Wyvern’s Cross, intends to murder his domineering, shrewish wife, Julia. This was an innovative twist on the genre, at the time; this sort of thing is known in the trade as an “inverted detective story.” In fact, not only does the reader know who dunnit, but the residents of Wyvern’s Cross do, too. So it’s a psychological thriller, in which the author’s goal is to keep us feeling sympathy for a murderer as long as possible. This Iles (Anthony Berkeley Cox) does by playing up Bickleigh’s meekness and his wife’s awfulness; we’re almost rooting for him, by the time the deed is done. (It takes time — Bickleigh influences Julia to take ever larger doses of painkillers.) The narrator’s depiction of Wyvern’s Cross as a claustrophobic, hypocritical social order is very funny. However, we also begin to see that Bickleigh is a self-centered sociopath, a serial philanderer. When the woman Bickleigh loves announces her engagement to another man, we wonder: What next? Fun fact: The novel’s plot is loosely based on a real-life case. Along with Agatha Christie and Freeman Wills Crofts, Anthony Berkeley Cox, who wrote as Francis Iles (among other noms de plume), founded London’s legendary Detection Club. He is considered a key figure in the development of crime fiction.
  117. 1931. A. Merritt’s The Face in the Abyss. This semi-occult SF novel combines Merritt’s stories “The Face in the Abyss” (serialized Sept. 1923) and its sequel, “The Snake Mother” (serialized Oct.-Dec. 1930). In the Peruvian Andes, treasure-hunter Nicholas Graydon rescues Suarra, handmaiden to Adana, the Snake Mother of Yu-Atlanchi. Adana is the last of a race of superintelligent serpent people whose servants, the Old Race, are immortal. Although possessed of fragments of their superior science, they are now obsessed only with sex, hunting mutants with dinosaurs, and dream machines. (Who can’t relate?) Adana, who possesses spectacular paranormal abilities, is humankind’s only defense against Nimir, a Sauron- or Voldemort-like mage who’d conquer the world if he could inhabit a physical body. He wants Graydon’s. Fun fact: Merritt was once considered the greatest living science fiction and fantasy writer; he even had a magazine — A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine — named after him.
  118. 1932. Aldous Huxley’s Radium Age sci-fi adventure Brave New World. Six hundred and thirty-two years A.F. (After Ford), a narcissistic culture of youthfulness, consumption, mood-altering drugs, and sexual promiscuity has become dominant throughout the World State. Fetuses are manipulated, and children conditioned, in such a manner as to produce an optimal ratio of labor to management; two of the story’s main characters, the “pneumatic” Lenina Crowne and Bernard Marx, work in London’s Directorate of Hatcheries and Conditioning. Bernard is troubled by the methods by which society is sustained; Lenina is content. While on vacation at a “Savage” (pre-Fordist) reservation in New Mexico, Bernard and Lenina discover John, a young man whose mother was from the World State; John sees everything in terms of Shakespearean characters, plots, and tropes. John makes attempts to intercede in the smooth functioning of the soulless “brave new world” he discovers; he is thwarted at every turn, though. Will he succeed in winning “the right to be unhappy”? Fun fact: One of the most famous science fiction novels of all time, Brave New World anticipates real-world developments in reproductive technology. The Modern Library ranked it fifth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
  119. 1932. Hergé‘s Tintin adventure Les Cigares du Pharaon (Cigars of the Pharaoh, serialized 1932–1934; as a color album, 1955). In Tintin’s fourth outing, and one of his trippiest, the young Belgian reporter is traveling in Egypt when he and his dog, Snowy, stumble upon an underground tomb… in which he discovers the mummified bodies of missing Egyptologists! They pursue drug traffickers across the Middle East and India. Along the way, Tintin meets the bumbling, spoonerism-spouting policemen Thomson and Thompson (“with a ‘p,’ as in ‘psychology'”) for the first time; the criminal mastermind Rastapopoulos makes his first appearance here, too. Tintin hits it off with the Maharaja of Gaipajama, and must rescue the Maharaja’s son from a fakir! Fun fact: Hergé was inspired, in part, by the tabloid speculation surrounding an alleged Curse of the Pharaohs following the 1922 discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun.
  120. 1932. Edwin Balmer and Philip Gordon Wylie’s Radium Age sci-fi adventure When Worlds Collide. Two rogue planets are entering the sun’s orbit! The League of the Last Days — an international band of 1,000 brilliant scientists, action heroes, and fertile women (I exaggerate, but not much) — hatch a desperate plan, and set about designing, constructing, and outfitting rocket-arks. We are treated to two terrifying apocalyptic scenes: One, when the rogue planets first pass by the Earth, triggering stupendous cataclysms; and the other, when worlds collide: “The very Earth bulged… It became plastic. It was drawn out egg-shaped. The cracks girdled the globe. A great section of the Earth itself lifted up and peeled away….” But it’s the post-apocalyptic scenes that are the most haunting: a deserted Chicago whose skyscrapers are knocked out of plumb; violent, half-naked mobs battling the National Guard in Pittsburgh; an army of hate-filled Midwesterners that nearly succeeds in wrecking the rocket-ship project. Sequel: After Worlds Collide (1934). Fun facts: The book influenced the strip Flash Gordon, while Siegel & Shuster lifted key ideas from both When Worlds Collide and Wylie’s earlier SF novel, Gladiator when they created Superman. George Pal’s 1951 movie adaptation of Worlds is a sci-fi classic.
  121. endore werewolf

  122. 1933. Guy Endore’s horror/historical adventure The Werewolf of Paris. In a city besieged by the Prussian Army, a young man — who might or might not be a werewolf — begins to feed upon the blood of his willing, perverted lover.
  123. 1933. James Hilton’s adventure Lost Horizon. A kidnapped Englishman who is temperamentally — thanks to his WWI experience — a philosophical ironist (but not a cynic!) discovers, in a remote Tibetan valley, a quasi-monastic community for whom philosophical irony has been elevated to a noble Weltanschauung.
  124. 1933. James Hilton’s Buchan-esque espionage adventure Knight Without Armour. A British secret agent in Russia rescues the daughter of a Tsarist minister from Bolshevik revolutionaries. Adapted into a fun 1937 movie starring Robert Donat and Marlene Dietrich.
  125. cain postman

  126. 1934. James M. Cain’s hardboiled crime adventure The Postman Always Rings Twice, in which a drifter conspires with his lover to kill her husband, the owner of a roadside sandwich stand. The author’s first and most enduring book.
  127. 1934–46. Milton Caniff’s hardboiled adventure comic Terry and the Pirates. Terry and his tutor, Pat Ryan, arrive in China seeking a lost gold mine. Accompanied by their interpreter Connie, the two get into one scrape — complicated by a beautiful woman, including spoiled Normandie Drake, the thief Burma, and the bandit queen Dragon Lady — after another.
  128. 1935–36. Robert E. Howard’s atavistic fantasy adventure Conan the Conqueror (aka The Hour of the Dragon). The plot — Conan’s Aquilonian throne has been usurped, thanks to the sorcery of the resurrected mage Xaltotun; Conan must track down the Heart of Ahriman, a magic gem which alone can defeat Xaltotun, before leading an army of loyal Aquilonians and allies against the usurper — is a picaresque. Conan is paralyzed by an extraterrestrial fiend, and his consciousness is blasted by the advanced technology of Xaltotun. With the help of a beautiful slave girl, he escapes a pitch-black dungeon. Disguised as an executioner, he rescues a countess from an iron tower. Disguised as a slave, he pursues the Heart of Ahriman across Hyboria — from Aquilonia to Stygia. He is shanghaied, only to lead a galley-slave rebellion. He is pursued by relentless Khitanese (Chinese) assassins. He does battle with a Poe-esque murderous ape, a ghoul, a giant snake, and a Haggard-esque vampire queen. “I trod again,” Howard has Conan muse, “all the long, weary roads I traveled on my way to the kingship… All the shapes that have been I passed like an endless procession…” We are saying goodbye.
  129. african queen

  130. 1935. C.S. Forester’s frontier adventure The African Queen. In 1914, as WWI begins, the German military commander of Central Africa conscripts all the natives, leaving Rose Sayer, a highbrow spinster missionary, with nothing to do but tend to her dying brother… who dies. Allnutt, a lowbrow bachelor mechanic and skipper, shows up and takes Rose to his steam-powered launch, the unreliable African Queen. If you’ve seen John Huston’s 1951 Bogart-Hepburn movie of the same title, then you know more or less what happens next. The book’s ending, however, is more ambiguous and downbeat. Fun fact: Forester would go on to write the enduringly popular 12-book Horatio Hornblower series (1937–67), depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era.
  131. 1936. John Buchan’s Richard Hannay novel The Island of Sheep, in which Hannay and his old comrade Sandy Arbuthnot — plus Hannay’s teenage son — must protect the heir to the secret of a great treasure from a sinister conspiracy. The action takes place in Scotland and the Faroe Islands. The modern Scottish tradition of adventure romances draws to a close….
  132. 1937–38. Hergé’s Tintin adventure The Black Island. Wait, here’s one more adventure romance set in Scotland! I’ve long suspected that The Black Island — in which Tintin escapes from an evil German doctor who runs a mental institution, then busts up a forgery racket in an abandoned castle on an island off the coast of Kiltoch (Scotland), is an homage to Buchan. Published as a color album in 1943.
  133. Hobbit1

  134. 1937. J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy adventure The Hobbit, in which stay-at-home halfling Bilbo Baggins is persuaded by the wizard Gandalf to travel across Middle Earth and burgle the dragon Smaug’s treasure hoard. Along the way he and his dwarven companions encounter elves and trolls, goblins and wargs, talking spiders, and the twisted creature Gollum.
  135. 1937. John P. Marquand’s Mr. Moto espionage adventure Think Fast, Mr. Moto, by the Pulitzer-winning author of The Late George Apley. Sent from Boston to close down a Hawaiian casino run by a distant relation, who turns out to be a beautiful woman, hapless Wilson Hitchings stumbles upon a Manchurian money-laundering scheme. Japanese super-spy Mr. Moto to the rescue!
  136. 1938. T.H. White’s fantasy adventure The Sword in the Stone. It may have been adapted into a Disney movie, but it’s not for kids. Merlin is weird and wise; Maid Marian is a leather-clad bad-ass; Colonel Cully (a hawk) is insane; King Pellinore is a bumbling fellow who can’t give up his search for the “Questin’ Beast.” From these and other marvelous characters, the Wart learns to be a great king.
  137. ambler epitaph

  138. 1938. Eric Ambler’s espionage adventure Epitaph for a Spy, the simple declarative style of which — “I arrived in St. Gatien from Nice on Tuesday, the 14th of August. I was arrested at 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, the 16th, by an agent de police and an inspector in plain clothes and taken to the Commissariat.” — signaled the genre’s break with cloak-and-dagger melodrama. A teacher on vacation is coerced into assisting with a counter-espionage operation.
  139. 1939. Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled crime adventure The Big Sleep, in which we first meet wisecracking PI Philip Marlowe. This complex, amusing, thrilling story — whose characters double-cross one another at every turn — is one of the best novels of the century. Plus, Howard Hawks’s 1946 adaptation is terrific.
  140. 1939. Eric Ambler’s espionage/crime adventure The Mask of Dimitrios; US title: A Coffin for Dimitrios. On vacation in pre-WWII Turkey, crime novelist Charles Latimer begins researching a master criminal and spy who has recently died. As he enters his subject’s criminal underworld, Latimer realizes that his own life may be in jeopardy.
  141. household rogue

  142. 1939. Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, the most exciting hunted-man adventure since Buchan’s Thirty Nine Steps, is one of my favorite novels. A big-game hunter stalks a European dictator (presumably Hitler), gets caught… then escapes back to England. Thanks to top-notch fieldcraft, he eludes his pursuers by going to ground like an animal.
  143. 1940. Michael Innes’s espionage adventure The Secret Vanguard, a sardonic inversion of John Buchan-style stories, complete with German spies, a chase through Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and a heroine on the run (in Scotland, of course). This might be a controversial pick, on my part, because many Innes fans dislike it. But it was a turning point in the author’s career, a transition from whodunnits to thrillers; and it was a key influence on Graham Greene.
  144. 1941. Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp’s fantasy adventure Land of Unreason. An American diplomat is wounded during a WWII air raid in England; while recuperating in Yorkshire, he is transported to the land of Faerie. There, he is recruited by Titania and Oberon, who send him on a secret mission to the totalitarian Kobold Hills (i.e., Germany).
  145. long ships

  146. 1941/45. Frans G. Bengtsson’s atavistic adventure The Long Ships (or Red Orm; original Swedish: Röde Orm), which is perhaps the definitive Viking novel. Set in the 10th century, the tale follows the adventures of Red Orm… and traces Scandinavia’s transformation from a pagan to a Christian civilization. Reissued by the New York Review of Books!
  147. 1941. Helen MacInnes’s espionage adventure Above Suspicion. A British spy working covertly in Germany is missing, so a young British couple are asked to turn their summer vacation into an undercover mission. Considered exemplary because of the author’s nuanced understanding of history, politics, culture, and geography, this is MacInnes’s first novel.
  148. 1941. Agatha Christie’s espionage adventure N or M?, which features a hunt for two of Hitler’s top secret spy agents in Britain. Fun fact: MI5 investigated Agatha Christie because a character called Major Bletchley appeared in her N or M?. MI5 was afraid that Christie had learned of Britain’s top-secret codebreaking center, Bletchley Park.
  149. macinnes

  150. 1942. Helen MacInnes’s WWII adventure Assignment in Brittany. In this story about a Francophone British soldier sent to spy as part of the resistance to the Nazi occupation of northern France — because he looks just like an injured Breton soldier — MacInnes strikes a dynamic balance between Buchan-style romance and Ambler’s hardboiled style. PS: The book was required reading for Allied intelligence agents sent to work with the French underground.
  151. 1943. Graham Greene’s espionage adventure The Ministry of Fear, which Fritz Lang adapted for the screen in 1944. At a charity fête held in wartime London, Arthur Rowe wins a cake that contains a secret message. As German bombs rain down on the city, Rowe is pursed by Nazi spies. NB: Greene credited Michael Innes’s The Secret Vanguard as his inspiration.
  152. 1943. Carl Barks’s 10-page Donald Duck comics are among the greatest achievements in the history of the medium. Barks didn’t invent the character, but he placed Donald in the city of Duckburg, which he populated with Uncle Scrooge McDuck, the sinister Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose, and many others. Plus, Barks sent Donald (and Donald’s nephews, armed with their Junior Woodchucks Guidebook) on great adventures — often treasure hunts.
  153. macinnes

  154. 1944. Helen MacInnes’s WWII espionage adventure The Unconquerable (aka While We Still Live). A British woman in Warsaw becomes a double agent — working for Germany while passing along secrets to the brave Polish resistance. Neither side trusts her, so when she is pursued by a German officer through the forests of Poland, she’s on her own… almost.
  155. 1945. E.B. White’s children’s fantasy adventure Stuart Little. A mouse born to a human family races a sailboat in Central Park, gets shipped out to sea in a garbage can, and sets out — several years before Kerouac’s On the Road — on a cross-country odyssey. The book was criticized, at the time, by the New York Public Library’s influential children’s lit expert for being nonaffirmative, inconclusive, and unfit for kids.
  156. 1946. Kenneth Fearing’s noir crime adventure The Big Clock. George Stroud, a disaffected wage slave, must solve a murder… in which he is the chief suspect. Meanwhile, his boss, who’s assigned him the task, wants to pin the murder on him. Stroud is trapped in an invisible prison — the “Big Clock” of the title is short-hand for bureacracy.
  157. vian

  158. 1946. Boris Vian’s (as Vernon Sullivan) noir crime adventure I Shall Spit on Your Graves. Lee Anderson, a light-skinned black man, sleeps with the daughters of a plantation owner who’d orchestrated the lynching of Anderson’s brother, thus setting the scene for an orgy of violence. It’s been described as “a fusion of prime US pulp and French sado-eroticism.”
  159. 1946. Michael Innes’s fantastical WWII crime/espionage adventure From London Far, an ironic homage to the adventures of John Buchan. A middle-aged scholar of classic literature stumbles upon a massive art smuggling operation in war-torn London; he pretends to be a member of the smuggling gang, and winds up at an isolated Scottish castle housing foreign agents.
  160. 1949. Michael Innes’s espionage adventure The Journeying Boy. Why does Humphrey Paxton, son of one of Britain’s leading atomic boffins, insist that he is being persecuted by spies? His new tutor, Mr. Thewless, “a man almost irrationally determined to deny that the universe holds anything dangerous or surprising,” suspects that Humphrey is a fantasist and a delinquent — and so does the reader, at first. Ironic homage to the adventure genre.
  161. innes white

  162. 1949. Hammond Innes’s survival adventure The White South. Duncan Craig, captain of a whaling ship, is trapped in the Antarctic — along with the crew of an enormous factory ship. “I can still hear the roar of the ice as the great bergs close in upon those stranded men of the whaling fleet,” Daphne du Maurier said of this novel… which the author researched on location.
  163. 1937–49. J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy adventure The Lord of the Rings was written during these years. A posse of easy-going hobbits must destroy the One Ring, the ultimate weapon created by the Dark Lord. They are aided by the superhuman ranger Aragorn, the Human Boromir, the Dwarf Gimli, the Elf Legolas, and the wizard Gandalf. The book began as a sequel to The Hobbit, then turned into an epic. Published as a book in 1954–55.
  164. 1949. Robert Lawson’s YA adventure The Fabulous Flight. When young Peter P. Pepperell III shrinks until he’s pocket-sized, he befriends a slang-talking seagull named Gus. Learning that a reclusive middle-European scientist has invented a tiny, super-powerful explosive, Peter and Gus volunteer to steal it away from him. To this day, the compartment in which Peter rides on Gus’s back makes me gnash my teeth with envy.
  165. greene

  166. 1950. Graham Greene’s crime adventure The Third Man, a treatment prepared by the author as he was writing the screenplay for the suspenseful 1949 movie of the same title. In postwar Vienna, Rollo Martins, a British author of pulp Westerns, discovers that his old friend Harry Lime is dead… and that he’d been suspected of being “the worst racketeer who ever made a dirty living in this city.” Martins begins an investigation to clear his friend’s name.
  167. 1950. Nevil Shute’s WWII adventure A Town Like Alice. Having served as a prisoner of the Japanese in Malaya, a young Englishwoman returns after the war to build a well in a village… then travels to Australia, in search of a former fellow prisoner whom she had believed dead. Once there, she makes improvements to a primitive town in the Queensland outback. An endearing combination of a prisoner-of-war adventure with an entrepreneurial Robinsonade.
  168. 1950. Patricia Highsmith’s crime adventure Strangers on a Train, which was adapted as a film in 1951 by Alfred Hitchcock. Guy Haines wants to divorce his unfaithful wife, Miriam; while on a train, he meets Charles Anthony Bruno, a sociopath who proposes an idea to “exchange murders” — it seems his wants his father killed. Guy doesn’t take Bruno seriously… but when he returns from a trip to Mexico, he discovers that his wife has been murdered!
  169. cruel sea

  170. 1951. Nicholas Monsarrat’s WWII sea-going adventure The Cruel Sea, which draws on the author’s own wartime experience on anti-submarine escort ships. A young naval officer, Keith Lockhart, is given command of an unglamorous little corvette, complete with an inexperienced crew. For years, they battle U-boats and fierce storms… until they are torpedoed.
  171. 1951. Mickey Spillane’s crime adventure One Lonely Night, in which ex-WWII assassin Mike Hammer so frightens a woman he was trying to rescue that she leaps to her death from a bridge. Discovering that the woman was a Communist, Hammer attends a meeting… and is mistaken for a spy from Moscow. Meanwhile, the FBI is searching for lost secret papers and the career of a popular politician is threatened.
  172. 1951. C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower historical sea-going adventure Lieutenant Hornblower, serialized. Probably my favorite of the series. Unique in being told from a perspective other than Hornblower’s… which allows the author to sustain a mystery about how Captain Sawyer, a paranoid schizophrenic, came to be injured. Published in book form in 1952.
  173. Household_Rough_Shoot

  174. 1951. Geoffrey Household’s espionage adventure A Rough Shoot (aka Shoot First). A Buchan-esque thriller — written to be serialized — in which Roger Taine, a Dorset salesman, accidentally kills a man (while hunting) who turns out to be a neo-Nazi. The dead man’s comrades want revenge — and hunt Taine across the rooftops of London. The first of two short adventures, published one after the other, about the same protagonist.
  175. 1951. John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure The Day of the Triffids, in which a man whose eyes are bandaged escapes a world-wide epidemic of blindness (caused by a meteor shower). Not only does civilization collapse, but the blind are helpless to resist the depredations of a bioengineered species of plants known as “triffids.” Rival colonies of survivors are formed, some more humane than others.
  176. 1952. Alfred Bester’s science fiction adventure The Demolished Man, serialized. A police procedural set in harshly capitalistic future world where widespread telepathy has rendered deceit and crime impossible — and privacy a thing of the past. When Ben Reich, a young businessman, decides to murder a rival, he hires an Esper (telepath) to hide his murderous thoughts. Published in book form in 1953. NB: Winner of the first Hugo!
  177. thompson

  178. 1952. Jim Thompson’s surreal crime adventure The Killer Inside Me. Lou Ford, a cliché-spouting deputy sheriff in a small Texas town, is secretly a sadistic sociopath. Stanley Kubrick’s blurb: “Probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered.” Credited with spawning the serial-killer adventure sub-genre.
  179. 1953. Ray Bradbury’s science fiction adventure Fahrenheit 451. Published shortly after McCarthy’s speech about Communists making policy in the State Department, Bradbury’s best novel takes as its theme censorship and the threat of neo-fascist book burning in the United States. But it’s also an exciting hunted-man tale: Who can forget the robot dog, with its hypodermic snout!
  180. 1953. Poul Anderson’s fantasy adventure Three Hearts and Three Lions, serialized. Holger Carlsen is an Allied covert operative who winds up in a parallel universe, one whose historical past is the Matter of France. There, he must prevent the evil of Faerie from encroaching on humanity. Expanded and published in 1961. NB: The Dungeons & Dragons alignment system was influenced by this book.
  181. anderson broken

  182. 1954. Poul Anderson’s fantasy adventure The Broken Sword. Michael Moorcock declared The Broken Sword superior to Tolkien, calling it “a fast-paced doom-drenched tragedy in which human heroism, love and ambition, manipulated by amoral gods, elves and trolls, led inevitably to tragic consequences.” PS: It was influenced by H. Rider Haggard’s 1891 Viking adventure The Saga of Eric Brighteyes.
  183. 1955. Crockett Johnson’s children’s dream adventure Harold and the Purple Crayon. A four-year-old with a purple crayon draws an adventure for himself. Along with Ruth Krauss, P.D. Eastman, Syd Hoff, Leo Lionni, Lilian Moore, and William Steig, Johnson (who was author, from 1942–52, of the great newspaper strip Barnaby) was a leftist who raised questions — in an ostensibly playful manner — about our taken-for-granted forms and norms.
  184. 1957. Alistair MacLean’s WWII commando adventure The Guns of Navarone. New Zealand mountaineer-turned-commando Keith Mallory, American demolitions expert Dusty Miller, and Greek resistance fighter Andrea are sent on a mission impossible: to destroy a seemingly impregnable German fortress that threatens Allied naval ships in the Aegean Sea. Adapted as the 1961 movie starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn.
  185. tintin tibet

  186. 1958–59. Hergé’s Tintin adventure Tintin in Tibet, the author’s own favorite of his books. A strange adventure without an antagonist (unless the Yeti counts?), without Calculus or the Thompsons. Just Tintin, Haddock, Snowy, and the sherpa Tharkey, trekking across the Himalayan mountains in search of the sole survivor of a plane crash. An emotional, mystical, funny, weird voyage of redemption. Published as a color album in 1960.
  187. 1958. Graham Greene’s espionage adventure Our Man in Havana, a sardonic inversion of the genre. In this black comedy, which Greene considered an “entertainment” rather than a “novel,” Greene mocks intelligence services, especially the British MI6 (for whom he’d worked during WWII), and their willingness to believe reports from local informants. Adapted as the 1959 movie starring Alec Guinness.
  188. 1959. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure Time Out of Joint. Ragle Gumm believes that he lives in the year 1959 in a quiet American suburb. His repeatedly wins the cash prize in a newspaper competition, “Where Will The Little Green Man Be Next?”. Confusion gradually mounts for Gumm. Adapted as (actually, baldly ripped off by) The Truman Show. Except Gumm’s occluded reality is much weirder than Truman’s.
  189. manchurian

  190. 1959. Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate, a political thriller about the son of a prominent US political family who is brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin for a Communist conspiracy. Condon’s over-the-top style is strong medicine; as much as I like the 1962 John Frankenheimer movie adaptation, the novel is much better. “Raymond stood as though someone might have just opened a beach umbrella in his bowels.”
  191. 1959–60. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s historical adventure Asterix the Gaul. The story was first published as a serial in Pilote magazine, a Franco-Belgian comics magazine founded by Goscinny and others. Published in album form in 1962. The English translation was first published in 1969.
  192. 1960. Donald Hamilton’s espionage adventure Death of a Citizen, the first in a long-running (27 titles) series featuring assassin Matt Helm. The title refers to the metaphorical death of peaceful citizen and family man Matt Helm and the rebirth of the WWII killer. NB: In the late 1960s, several comedy movies — sardonic inversions of the genre — starring Dean Martin were produced.
  193. Household_Watcher

  194. 1960. Geoffrey Household’s hunted-man adventure Watcher in the Shadows, his second best novel (after Rogue Male). Zoologist Charles Dennim is sent a mail bomb — why? Turns out that during the war, he was a double agent working for the Allies as a Gestapo officer in a concentration camp. Now the husband of one of the Gestapo’s victims wants revenge.
  195. 1960. Jean Lartéguy’s military adventure The Centurions, which concerns paratroopers in Indochina and Algeria. Lt. Col. Pierre Raspeguy must transform a military unit accustomed to conventional warfare into one that can handle the complex, dynamic challenge of defeating an insurgency. The book, which includes the first use of the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario, was adapted in 1966 as the movie Lost Command.
  196. 1962. Lionel Davidson’s adventure The Rose of Tibet. A Haggard-esque yarn in which an English man travels to Tibet searching for his missing brother. He is mistaken for a god; he falls in love with a high priestess; he is entrusted with a treasure; and he in the end, he must flee the invading Red Chinese army. Graham Greene: “I hadn’t realised how much I had missed the genuine adventure story until I read The Rose of Tibet.”
  197. lengle wrinkle

  198. 1962. Madeleine L’Engle’s YA science fiction adventure A Wrinkle in Time. Fourteen-year-old Meg Murry is shy, awkward, and too good at math to be considered cool. When their scientist father disappears, Meg and her genius baby brother travel through space and time to rescue him — with the assistance of two weird neighbors (Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who), and a basketball-playing jock.
  199. 1962. Eric Ambler’s crime adventure The Light of Day. A petty crook in Athens, Arthur Abdel Simpson, preys on an international jewel thief — who blackmails him into driving a suspicious car across the Turkish border. Caught by the Turkish police, Simpson is coerced into spying on his erstwhile colleagues. Adapted by Jules Dassin as the light-hearted caper movie Topkapi.
  200. 1962. Len Deighton’s espionage adventure The IPCRESS File is a sardonic inversion of the genre… but still an exciting thriller. The plot involves mind control, the titular acronym standing (absurdly) for “Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex under strESS.” The novel’s protagonist if nameless; he works for an intelligence agency with the unexplained acronym WOOC(P). Adapted in 1965 as the popular Michael Caine movie.
  201. HunterPocket

  202. 1962. Richard Stark’s (Donald E. Westlake) crime adventure The Hunter. Parker, a brutal thief, is shot and left for dead by his partner and wife. He recovers, then embarks on a relentless quest to retrieve his money and get revenge. Westlake would write 23 other Parker novels over the next half-century; he is credited with having made it OK for readers to root for the bad guy. Adapted in 1967 as John Boorman’s excellent movie Point Blank.
  203. 1963. Thomas Pynchon’s apophenic adventure V. — published on the cusp of the Sixties. I am fascinated by fiction from ’63 — including YA lit — in so much of which we find a volatile admixture of seriousness (not earnestness) and irony. In Pynchon’s début novel, which details the picaresque exploits of schlemiel Benny Profane and the Whole Sick Crew, in and underneath New York, characters in search of a plot (in the paranoid sense of the term), jazzman McClintic Sphere articulates Pynchon’s cynical-yet-innocent worldview: “Keep cool but care.”
  204. 1963. Helen MacInnes’s espionage adventure The Venetian Affair. Though she got famous writing WWII anti-Nazi espionage adventures, some consider her Cold War anti-Communist books to be her best. In this one, set in picturesque Venice, a resourceful, intelligent amateur gets into a situation where a skilled agent would fear to tread. Adapted into a film in 1967 starring Robert Vaughn and Elke Sommer.
  205. grifters

  206. 1963. Jim Thompson’s crime adventure The Grifters. A lollapalooza, in which a young con artist’s half-hearted efforts to go straight are stymied by his youthful con artist mother — who strongly resembles his girlfriend. Crime, sex, murder, crime, sex, impersonation, incestuous desire, murder. “There is no ease on Uneasy Street. The longer one’s tenancy, the more untenable it becomes.”
  207. 1963. John Le Carré’s espionage adventure The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, in which the head of the West Berlin office of the British Secret Intelligence Service, is recalled in disgrace… but then asked to stay “in the cold” for one last mission. A sardonic inversion of the genre, one which de-glamorizes the spy and spy-craft — and at the same time a suspenseful, elegantly plotted, morally ambiguous thriller. Publishers Weekly named it the “best spy novel of all-time.” Adapted as an excellent 1965 movie.
  208. 1963. Maurice Sendak’s children’s fantasy adventure Where the Wild Things Are. Forget the self-consciously sad live-action 2009 Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers feature-film adaptation — please! Dressed in a wolf costume, Max goes wild — and is sent to his room, which transforms into a jungle. Max sails to an island inhabited by magnificently grotesque Wild Things, whom he (the most feral thing on the island) subjugates. A Wild Rumpus ensues.
  209. fitzhugh harriet

  210. 1964. Louise Fitzhugh’s YA espionage adventure Harriet the Spy. Perhaps my favorite YA novel ever. Harriet is an amazing character. She’s praiseworthy in her intrepid, self-motivated, eccentric (and un-supervised) adventuring; a talented crafter of gnomic aperçus; a loyal friend and a terrifying enemy. And yet, she’s in the wrong; the reader knows it, and so does everybody else in the book. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride.
  211. 1964. Thomas Berger’s revisionist Western Little Big Man. Jack Crabb, a 111-year-old survivor of Custer’s Last Stand, narrates his mock-heroic, picaresque adventures. As his roles vary over the course of his wanderings, from Cheyenne warrior to Army scout to small-time huckster, so does the style of Crabb’s (unreliable) narrative. Adapted as a movie in 1970 by Arthur Penn.
  212. 1965. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Via an odyssey of nested hallucinations, the Gnostic idea that the world is the creation not of God, but of an evil, lesser deity, is burned forever into the reader’s mind. The title character is a demiurge who brings to mankind a “negative trinity” of “alienation, blurred reality, and despair.”
  213. warriors

  214. 1965. Sol Yurick’s hunted-man adventure The Warriors, which was loosely based on Xenophon’s Anabasis — which recounts the travails of Greek mercenaries betrayed and stranded deep within enemy territory. After an assembly of gangs devolves into chaos, the Coney Island Dominators, a black/Hispanic gang of murderers and rapists, must trek home from the Bronx — all the while defending their thuggish sense of manhood — through gang turfs. Adapted into the cult 1979 movie of the same title.
  215. 1965. Frank Herbert’s science fiction adventure Dune, a potboiler about one family’s declining empire, a mythology-saturated fantasy about the founding of a new social order, and a band-of-brothers yarn (Thufir Hawat, the human computer; Gurney Halleck, the troubadour warrior; master swordsman Duncan Idaho). It’s also a criticism of humankind’s despoliation of nature in the name of progress. Plus: Alia, a telepathic four-year-old girl, roams the battlefields of Arrakis slitting the throats of imperial stormtroopers! The Bene Gesserit, who subtly guide humanity’s development! The worm-riding Fremen! Wow.
  216. 1966. J.G. Ballard’s science fiction adventure The Crystal World. In the Cameroon Republic, a British doctor discovers that entrance to the forest is being discouraged… but he can’t figure out why. Seeking his friends, who run a leper colony, he travels upriver and discovers a forest of glass. Trees, grass, water, animals and men are slowly encased in glittering crystals. The universe, its myriad of possibilities, is crystallizing into sameness. Serialized in the first Moorcock-edited issue of New Worlds.
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  218. 1966. Thomas Pynchon’s apophenic adventure The Crying of Lot 49. California housewife Oedipa Maas uncovers a centuries-old conflict between two mail distribution companies; or perhaps she’s detecting signals where there is only noise. “The ordered swirl of houses and streets, from this high angle, sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. Though she knew even less about radios than about Southern Californians, there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate.”
  219. 1966. Richard Fariña’s comical picaresque Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. The adventures of undergrad Gnossos Pappadoupoulis in the American West, in Cuba during the revolution, and at an upstate New York university. The author was a folksinger who died in a motorcycle accident two days after this first novel was published.
  220. 1966. Lionel Davidson’s hunted-man adventure A Long Way to Shiloh (aka The Menorah Men). Caspar Laing, a British professor of Semitic Languages, is asked to translate an ancient scroll found in Israel — which appears to give directions to the hiding place of a sacred menorah rescued from the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD. The Jordanians are also hunting for the menorah… and what’s worse, the scroll is purposely misleading. Veers from deadly cat-and-mouse chills to hermeneutic thrills. Also, it’s funny!
  221. reed

  222. 1968. Ishmael Reed’s African-American postmodern Western adventure Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down. Set in a time warp, it concerns the battle of black cowboy The Loop Garoo Kid against an evil rancher. It introduces Reed’s concept of HooDoo, i.e., the primitive forces of life pitted against the white Christian tradition.
  223. 1968. Charles Portis’s satirical Western adventure True Grit, which is told from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl seeking retribution for the murder of her father. Considered one of the great American novels. John Wayne would win a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 movie adaptation; the 2010 Coen Brothers adaptation is also excellent.
  224. 1969. Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction adventure Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy Pilgrim witnesses the firebombing of Dresden in WWII while “time-tripping” to the distant planet of Tralfamadore, where he is put in a zoo and mated with a movie star. Sardonic inversion of the genre; considered the author’s masterpiece.
  225. leguin left hand

  226. 1969. Ursula K. LeGuin’s Hainish science fiction adventure The Left Hand of Darkness. A much-admired novel set on a frozen planet whose denizens are neither female nor male: they have gender identities and sexual urges only once a month. When a Terran envoy, Genly Ai, and an exiled native politician, Estraven, escape from a prison together, they battle snow and ice together; and as Estraven changes from male to female, Ai questions the binary assumptions that structure his own worldview. Harold Bloom said, of this book: “Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time.”
  227. 1971. Walker Percy’s satirical science fiction adventure Love in the Ruins. When Sixties-type political and cultural divides lead America to devolve into chaos, a small-town Louisiana psychiatrist sets up a love nest at an abandoned motel — and uses his invention, the Ontological Lapsometer, to diagnose and treat the harmful mental states at the root of the social crisis. “For the world is broken, sundered, busted down the middle, self ripped from self and man pasted back together as mythical monster, half angel, half beast, but no man….”
  228. 1971. Lionel Davidson’s frontier adventure Smith’s Gazelle, which should be much better-known. A 9-year-old Bedouin boy and a 9-year-old Israeli kibbutznik runaway meet in a hidden ravine in the Israeli desert, which is rumored to be haunted by djinns; though Ishmael and Jacob have been raised as foes, they become friends. Turns out that a reclusive, crazed, and deformed Bedouin shepherd has bred a herd of gazelle in the ravine; an Israeli officer and others are searching for evidence that these gazelle — a species thought to be extinct — do in fact exist. And then the Six-Day War happens.
  229. thompson

  230. 1972. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Subtitled A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, the novel is a sardonic inversion of the picaresque. Raoul Duke, a journalist who bears a striking resemblance to Thompson, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo (based on Oscar Zeta Acosta), arrive in Las Vegas to report on a motorcycle race. Loaded to the gills with LSD, ether, cocaine, alcohol, mescaline, and cannabis, they destroy hotel rooms, wreck cars, experience visions in the desert, and comment on how the promise of the Sixties — not to mention the American dream — hasn’t panned out.
  231. 1972. Ishmael Reed’s metafictional crime adventure Mumbo Jumbo, which is set in 1920s New York — locus of a virus known as “Jes Grew,” which influences people to listen to ragtime and jazz, dance, and be happy. (It also infects the book — whose format is disrupted by radio dispatches, photographs, drawings, footnotes — itself. Agents of the white, western, Christian hegemony attempt to suppress the virus. Other agents — including the Mu’tafika, who steal historical artifacts from Western museums and return them to their places of origin — work against the hegemony. PaPa LaBas, a Voodoo practitioner, is drawn into the conflict.
  232. 1972. Richard Adams’s epic talking-animal adventure Watership Down, sometimes called the rabbits’ Aeneid. A group of rabbits escape the destruction of their warren and journey across south-central England in search of a new home. Along the way, they encounter predators, snares, and automobiles; and they’re tempted to join un-free rabbit societies; the monstrous rabbit leader of one of these societies leads an attack on their new warren. Fortunately, the nomadic rabbits are resourceful and brave… and they’ve learned how to survive and thrive from the lapine mythology of El-ahrairah the trickster.
  233. eiger

  234. 1972. Trevanian’s espionage adventure The Eiger Sanction, the author’s first novel. In this sardonic inversion of the espionage sub-genre, an art professor and mountaineer who doubles as a hired assassin for a CIA-like government agency, is tricked into a hazardous “sanction” that involves an attempt to scale one of the most treacherous peaks in the Swiss Alps. Trevanian (film scholar Rodney William Whitaker) has been called “the only writer of airport paperbacks to be compared to Zola, Ian Fleming, Poe and Chaucer.” The book was adapted into a weird, vapid 1975 movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.
  235. 1973. Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Set during the waning days of WWII, Pynchon’s infamous masterpiece is an espionage adventure revolving around the quest to uncover the secret of a mysterious device (the “Schwarzgerät) that is to be installed in a German V-2 rocket with the serial number “00000.” (The book’s title refers to the parabolic trajectory of a V-2, as well as to the introduction of randomness into physics via quantum mechanics.) But the book is also a picaresque adventure following naive Tyrone Slothrop, a naive Allied Intelligence operative, as he wanders — under surveillance — around London and Europe.
  236. 1973. J.G. Ballard’s survivalist adventure Crash… whose theme I describe as “survivalist” because the author’s earlier novels were sardonic inversions of Adventure’s survivalist sub-genre. Whereas those other books (The Drowned World, The Crystal World, etc.) were cataclysms set in the future; Crash takes place in the cataclysmic present, i.e., in a social order where catastrophe has become normalized. When “Ballard,” our narrator, is involved in a car crash, he is drawn into the orbit of Dr. Vaughan, leader of a cult of crash victims who are sexually aroused by re-enacting fatal celebrity car crashes.
  237. stone dog

  238. 1974. Robert Stone’s crime adventure Dog Soldiers. Set in Vietnam and the United States, it concerns a heroin deal that goes violently awry. Its theme, meanwhile, is the decline of the promise of the Sixties: the death of the counterculture in America, mistrust of authority figures, and the end of youthful American optimism. Published in the cusp year of 1974, Stone’s book signals the emerging tone of Seventies-era adventure.
  239. 1974. John le Carré’s espionage adventure Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. George Smiley — the pudgy, cuckolded, anti-James Bond — is recalled to the British Secret Intelligence Service to hunt down a double agent… one of his own ex-colleagues. After The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, this is the second-best novel by the author… who worked for MI5 and MI6 in the ’50s and ’60s, when Kim Philby was exposed as a KGB mole. The 2011 movie version, starring Gary Oldman, was pretty good; so was the the 1979 miniseries with Alec Guinness.
  240. 1974. Ursula K. LeGuin’s anarchistic science fiction adventure The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, a pointed critique of typical utopian narratives. It’s set on Annares, a planet whose inhabitants value voluntary cooperation, local control, and mutual tolerance — but who have preserved their grooviness through an entrenched bureaucracy that stifles innovation. Le Guin’s protagonist temporarily abandons Annares for a nearby world, one that is superior in certain respects because its inhabitants value the free market. How to reconcile?
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  242. 1975. J.G. Ballard’s atavistic adventure High-Rise. An ultra-modern apartment block in London populated by well-to-do yuppies who rarely leave the premises gradually becomes a self-sustaining vertical city. At which point social relations between different groups of tenants worsen; they stratify into three castes — depending on which floor you live on. A new social order emerges, one in which “all life within the high-rise revolved around three obsessions — security, food and sex.” Sardonic inversion of the atavistic sub-genre.
  243. 1975. Jack Higgins’s WWII commando adventure The Eagle Has Landed. An IRA operative and team of disgraced — because they’re too kind-hearted, and anti-Nazi — German commandos are recruited to infiltrate an English village, where Winston Churchill is going to spend a weekend. Their objective is to kidnap him and smuggle him out of the country. Adapted in 1976 as a movie starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Duvall.
  244. 1975. Len Deighton’s espionage adventure Yesterday’s Spy. Thirty years after WWII, Steve Champion, hero and wily leader of an anti-Nazi intelligence group which operated in occupied France during the war, is up to something. His former second-in-command, the novel’s unnamed narrator, is tasked with the unenviable job of figuring out what it is.
  245. abbey monkey wrench

  246. 1975. Edward Abbey’s anarchistic adventure The Monkey Wrench Gang. Four ecologically minded misfits team up to use sabotage (bulldozers and trains) as way of protesting environmentally damaging activities in the American Southwest. The Monkeywrench Gang despise liberals — particularly the Sierra Club. The book, which is very funny and exciting, inspired the formation of the direct-action environmentalist group Earth First!
  247. 1976. Samuel R. Delany’s Foucauldian science fiction adventure Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia. A post-structuralist novel set on a Neptunian colony where no one goes hungry and everyone is sexually confused. The subtitle signal’s the author’s critique not only of utopian narratives but of Le Guin’s vestigial nostalgia for pastoral communes. Political tensions between Triton — where one can change one’s physical appearance, gender, sexual orientation, and even specific patterns of likes and dislikes — and Earth lead to a destructive interplanetary war.
  248. 1977. Philip K. Dick’s science fiction adventure A Scanner Darkly. Set in a barely futuristic suburban LA of 1994, Scanner tells the story of “Fred,” a disillusioned narc who enjoys the company of the addicts with whom he lives as “Bob” — whose own drug intake contributes to a toxic brain psychosis complicated by Fred’s new assignment… to spy on Bob. The book ends with a dramatic dedication to Dick’s many friends who’d been killed or permanently damaged by drug abuse; the author’s own name is on the list.
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  250. 1977–on. Gary Panter’s comic Jimbo. Panter’s “ratty line” illustrations helped define the style of L.A. punk. But the appeal of Jimbo — an all-American, freckle-faced punk wandering through a post-apocalyptic social order on Mars known as Dal Tokyo — is timeless. The first Jimbo comics appeared in the zine Slash and in Spiegelman/Mouly’s Raw; they have been collected in Jimbo (1982), Invasion of the Elvis Zombies (1984), Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise (1988), and Jimbo’s Inferno (2006). Panter is still producing Jimbo adventures today!
  251. 1979. Gilbert Sorrentino’s meta-fictional adventure Mulligan Stew. On loan from Fitzgerald, O’Brien, Joyce, and Hammett, the characters in a “new wave murder mystery” rebel against its author. The book turns into an improvised soup of journal entries, erotic poetry, parodies of all kinds, love letters, interviews, lists, and — above all — intentionally bad writing, from incoherent ideas to clichés to stupid metaphors.
  252. 1980. Geoffrey Household’s occult adventure The Sending. When Hollaston, an ex-Indian Army colonel, inherits a dead friend’s polecat, he discovers that he has suppressed shamanistic powers… and what’s more, he’s being targeted — via psychic transmissions — by a cult! Four decades after Rogue Male, another great yarn from the great Household.
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  254. 1980. Octavia E. Butler’s Patternist science fiction adventure Wild Seed. Anyanwu, a 350-year-old shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss, is lured from an African jungle to the colonies of America by the ruthless Doro, an immortal entity who changes bodies like clothes — and who wants to use Anyanwu for his breeding experiments. The history of slavery, recapitulated as alien abduction! The prequel to Mind of My Mind (1977), Clay’s Ark (1984), Survivor (1978), and Patternmaster (1976).
  255. 1980. Umberto Eco’s historical/hermeneutic adventure The Name of the Rose, set in the early 14th century. As the Sherlock Holmes-like Franciscan friar William of Baskerville (get it?) arrives at a Benedictine monastery in Italy, several monks die under mysterious circumstances. William and his novice, Adso, explore a labyrinthine medieval library containing forbidden literature, discuss the subversive power of laughter, and confront the intolerance of the Inquisition… but is there a mystery to be discovered, after all?
  256. lanark514

  257. 1981. Alasdair Gray’s postmodernist fantasy adventure Lanark. In two of this epic tome’s four sections, a young Glaswegian is driven mad by his inability to form relationships; in the other two sections, Unthank — a Glasgow-like fantasy civilization — disintegrates for the same reason. Are the two narratives connected? Perhaps, perhaps not. In the Epilogue, the author himself tells the protagonist: “A heavy book will make a bigger splash than two light ones.”
  258. 1981. Jean-Patrick Manchette’s “neo-polar” crime adventure The Prone Gunman. Martin Terrier, a young hitman eager to retire, returns to his home town. There, he loses the woman he loves, the money he’s saved, the one friend he has left, and finally, his marksmanship. A violent, existentialist exploration of the human condition and French society; the author’s last completed novel. French cartoonist Jacques Tardi’s adaptation of The Prone Gunman is great; check out Fantagraphics Books’ 2011 English-language edition.
  259. 1981. John Crowley’s fantasy adventure Little, Big. The complex, sprawling, quasi-mythic story of an eccentric family’s relationship with the occluded world of faerie. The family’s members believe that they are each part of a grand supernatural Tale, and that their fates are intertwined with the faeries’ hidden universe. According to Harold Bloom: “A neglected masterpiece. The closest achievement we have to the Alice stories of Lewis Carroll.”
  260. V+for+Vendetta

  261. 1982. Alan Moore’s graphic novel adventure V for Vendetta, set in a near-future United Kingdom, ruled by the fascist Norsefire Party, which came to power after a nuclear war. An anarchist revolutionary, who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and calls himself “V,” begins a campaign of terrorism designed to bring down the government — and revenge himself on the scientists whose experiments led him to develop superhuman abilities. Illustrated mostly by David Lloyd.
  262. 1982. T. Coraghessan Boyle’s semi-fictional historical adventure Water Music, which follows the parallel adventures of Scottish explorer Mungo Park and a London criminal, Ned Park, in 19th-century London, Africa, and the Scottish highlands. A riotous, erudite, imaginative yarn loosely based on the real-life Mungo Park’s Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa. The author’s first novel.
  263. 1982. Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast. A sardonic inversion of a cozy-catastrophe-type Robinsonade. The patriarch of a would-be Swiss Family Robinson tells his family that civilization has been destroyed — although it hasn’t. Before that, he tries to bring an ice machine to the natives of a Central American jungle village; so it’s also a sardonic inversion of a frontier epic.
  264. 1983. Terry Pratchett’s comical fantasy adventure The Colour of Magic, the first book of the Discworld series. Caught up in a boardgame played by the gods of Discworld, the incompetent wizard Rincewind journeys across the Disc with wealthy tourist Twoflower. A sardonic inversion of fantasy; Pratchett has described the book as “an attempt to do for the classical fantasy universe what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns.”

20 ADVENTURE THEMES AND MEMES: Index to All Adventure Lists | Introduction to Adventure Themes & Memes Series | Index to Entire Series | The Robinsonade (theme: DIY) | The Robinsonade (theme: Un-Alienated Work) | The Robinsonade (theme: Cozy Catastrophe) | The Argonautica (theme: All for One, One for All) | The Argonautica (theme: Crackerjacks) | The Argonautica (theme: Argonaut Folly) | The Argonautica (theme: Beautiful Losers) | The Treasure Hunt | The Frontier Epic | The Picaresque | The Avenger Drama (theme: Secret Identity) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Self-Liberation) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Reluctant Bad-Ass) | The Atavistic Epic | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Artful Dodger) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Conspiracy Theory) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Apophenia) | The Survival Epic | The Ruritanian Fantasy | The Escapade

MORE LIT LISTS FROM THIS AUTHOR: 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time | 100 Best Radium Age Sci-Fi Novels (1904–1933) | 75 Best Golden Age Sci-Fi Novels (1934–1963) | 75 Best New Wave Sci-Fi Novels (1964–1983) | 55 Best Scientific Romances (1864–1903) | Best 19th Century Adventure (1805–1903) | Best Nineteen-Oughts Adventure (1904–13) | Best Nineteen-Teens Adventure (1914–23) | Best Twenties Adventure (1924–33) | Best Thirties Adventure (1934–43) | Best Forties Adventure (1944–53) | Best Fifties Adventure (1954–63) | Best Sixties Adventure (1964–73) | Best Seventies Adventure (1974–83) | 101 Science Fiction Adventures | 70 Crime Adventures | 65 Fantasy Adventures | 61 Espionage Adventures | 40 Atavistic & Historical Adventures | 25 Frontier & Western Adventures | 20 Avenger & Artful Dodger Adventures | 20 Apophenic & Treasure Hunt Adventures | 20 War & Ruritanian Adventures | 18 Picaresque Adventures | 10 Robinsonade & Survival Adventures. ALSO: Best YYA Lit 1963 | Best YYA Lit 1964 | Best YYA Lit 1965 | Best YYA Lit 1966 | Best YYA Lit 1967 | THE OUGHTS: 1904 | 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1908 | 1909 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912 | 1913. THE TEENS: 1914 | 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918 | 1919 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922 | 1923. THE TWENTIES: 1924 | 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1928 | 1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933. THE THIRTIES: 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943. THE FORTIES: 1944 | 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953. THE FIFTIES: 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963. THE SIXTIES: 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973. THE SEVENTIES: 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983. | Best Scottish Fabulists | Radium-Age Telepath Lit | Radium Age Superman Lit | Radium Age Robot Lit | Radium Age Apocalypse Lit | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophe Lit | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Cold War “X” Fic | Best YA Sci-Fi | Hooker Lit | No-Fault Eco-Catastrophe Lit | Scrabble Lit |

What do you think?

  1. Great lists, thanks for putting them together.

    Any chance of making a list of Supernatural Adventure fiction? Examples; Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft etc.. Sort of a list of guns and ghosts adventures?

  2. Great list until you hit the last fifty years. No The Day of the Jackal? Really? Arguably the greatest commercial thriller of all time. Doesn’t do a lot for the credibility of the rest of it.

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