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Book Review

Book Cover

The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to 100 Years of Tarzan


Author: Sean Egan
Telos Publishing
RRP: £15.99, US $34.95, Cdn $34.95
ISBN: 978 1 84583 067 0
Available 31 August 2012

This October (2012) sees the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of Tarzan, in The All-Story magazine. To celebrate the Centenary Telos publish the unofficial and unauthorised guide written by Sean Egan.

Egan guides us through 100 years of the ape-man with all the passion of an obvious enthusiast. And what a rollercoaster ride it is - from the early pulp stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs through the height of his cinematic fame, the waning popularity to the recent reboot via Disney.

The book is ordered chronologically with the ten chapters dealing with the important developments throughout the vine swinger’s first 100 years. The opening chapter deals with the creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs and he comes off less than favourably. While Egan obviously has respect for Burroughs for creating the focus of his passion and love, he seems unable to excuse Burroughs’s subsequent dismissal of the character as mere pulp fodder. Egan is also troubled by Burroughs’s many questionable beliefs such as his belief in a pure race and in eugenics. As such Burroughs is only granted a few pages and the rest of the book is dedicated to Tarzan.

Throughout the book, each story and film is described and dissected with such enthusiasm and attention to detail that it's as if we have seen the films, read the books and lived through the turbulent creation process ourselves. In this Egan is to be congratulated for making a potentially tiresome subject come alive. Every angle is probed and studied with a near forensic eye.

In his exhaustive research, Egan has managed to talk to a lot of the remaining key players, including the last ever interview with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ grandson, Danton Burroughs and the oldest surviving screen Tarzan, Denny Miller. There are also comments from Hugh Hudson, RA Salvatore and Michael Moorcock.

A comprehensive Appendix is given which details all authorized appearances of Tarzan across all media - books, film, stage, TV, radio, newspapers and comics. Sadly there are no photographs and this is a missed opportunity.

Ape-Man is really a book for the Tarzan fanboys and girls and is unlikely to appeal to, or even reach, a wider audience. A shame as the book is well written, entertaining and tells an interesting story of the golden era of the Hollywood Studios. It’s ultimately the amount and density of facts crammed into the book’s 300 pages that will put off all but the most stalwart of Tarzan fanatics.


Richard A Bennett

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