The Bride of Osiris by Otis Adelbert Kline
I’m back with another review of a pulp classic, published by the folks at Pulp Fiction Bookstore. No, I am not getting a kickback, although I should have signed up for their Affiliate Program. They had an end of the year sale, and I took advantage of it and picked up a few gems.
Otis Adelbert Kline is best known as the literary agent who guided Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s career, and was linked in a fake feud (invented as a literary stunt in 1936) with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Robert Sampson in Yesterday’s Faces: Strange Days, Volume II, part of his massive series on pulp characters writes that: “Kline was a professional writer, accustomed to giving the editor precisely what he wanted, a sound business practice, if suspect artistically.” When Weird Tales launched he would become an assistant editor, and contribute numerous stories to the publication.
One of those tales, released in 1927 as a three-part serial was The Bride of Osiris. Like one of my other favorite by-gone authors, Sax Rohmer, Kline was an amateur orientalist. Many of his stories feed off that mystic vibe.
The Bride of Osiris caught me completely by surprise. It opens in a opera house in Chicago where we meet our hero, Alan Buell (handsome and athletic), and heroine, Doris Lee (beautiful). There are only a few lines to hint that danger is lurking when Doris is suddenly kidnapped as they exit the theater. Alan attempts a rescue to her, but is injured in the effort. Later in the grand tradition of those early pulps he is made a special law enforcement agent and partnered with a rough and tumble Irish rookie named Dan Rafferty.
Together with a only a charm that Buell had ripped from the clothing of a kidnapper they search for Doris. In rather short fashion, we are on the trail of the villains that at first glance fall neatly into that gangster pigeonhole. Kline, however, pours on the mystery as our duo finds themselves trapped in a lair that keeps winding deeper below the Windy City.
The next thing you know we are in The Temple of Re, in the city of Karneter, built under Lake Michigan long before the Civil War. Ruled by a host of Egyptian deities, where our two investigators find themselves enslaved by the supreme leader the Mighty Osiris.
Kline does a great job of laying out how Karneter came to be, and how it has survived and grown over the years. It features all the classic elements of a ripping good yarn – vestal virgins, High Priests, human sacrifice, giant scimitar swinging warriors, and so much more.
We learn quickly that Karneter has only beautiful women, not extremely beautiful, and Doris Lee is destined to become the title character. Buell is chosen to be put death as part of the wedding ceremony, while Rafferty becomes an electrician. Fair warning you must suspend belief when you enter this underground Egypt because while they appear primitive, they have electricity, explosives, and even a submarine, but not one gun. (Even though they are aware of the upper world, and steal from it all the time.)
The Bride of Osiris was a joy to read and I breezed though it in a flash. I confess I could not put it down. Kline’s pace was perfect and he keeps the reader engaged, and flipping through the pages to see what happens next. If you like, adventure tales, you cannot go wrong with this book.