VIC CHALLENGER – FAST!
By Jerry Gill
Ann Darrow Co.
203 pages
(http://www.vicplanet.com/)

The old adage about not judging a book by its cover has never been more valid than with this particular paperback novel. But we’ll get to that aspect at the end of our review. We’d much rather focus on the vital stuff, the story itself.

With Victoria Challenger, Jerry Gill has created one of the most original, fun, pulp heroines ever. The back story explains how Vic, as she is known by her legion of fans, is the reincarnation of a primitive cave girl who lived at the dawn of time. Somehow Vic’s memories of her past life survive in her DNA and among these is the fact that in that first life she was mated to a might hunter name Nu, her eternal love. Now reborn in the early 20th Century, she senses that Nu has also returned. This, in her job as a travel writer, she begins to search him out wherever her assignments take her.

In this, the fifth book in the saga, Vic, and her best friend, Lin, visit Australia. One of Vic’s aunts, Ethyl Hudgeons, and her husband Pete, live there on an Outback ranch. Eager to explore this new, rugged continent, both young woman arrive at a western seaport and are taken to the wilderness home by an aborigine named Woorak, who works for the Hudgeons. Along their buckboard journey, the friendly native points out all manner of wildlife and flora to the lovely visitors; information that ultimately proves to be life saving.

Several days after their arrival, during a dance put on for their benefit, the station is raided by outlaws known as bushrangers in the Outback. Among the loot they purloin from Mrs. Hudgeon’s guests is a map detailing the whereabouts of a long lost family treasure. Through various circumstances, Vic and Lin learn that the posse being led by her Uncle Pete has been sent on a false trail and the gutsy Americans decide to go after the brigands on their own. What follows is a harrowing chase across some of the most savage terrain on the planet.

The real fun of Gill’s writing is the overabundance of research he has packed into this really fast paced adventure. Enough so that the reader, while enjoying the action, is also given a glimpse into both the natural dangers and beauties of Australia’s Outback. It’s as if Vic’s own travelogue articles had merged with her personal derring-do exploits. This is a rousing tale expertly written with memorable characters, both good and bad. On his website, listed above, Gill tags Vic as the Queen of the Pulps, and after having enjoyed this outing, we’re not about to argue the point. She is clearly one of the most original such ever put to paper and worthy of your attention.

And that’s the end of the review. Whereas Gill’s obvious one-man operation, is prey to the typical amateur pitfalls of photo-shop like cover images that are really bad. Enough so that they do the fiction a major disservice, in this reviewer’s opinion. We would admonish our readers not to be put off by them. At the same time, we also plead with the author do some web-surfing and find a professional artist who can dress things up professionally. Vic Challenger deserves nothing less.

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