Part III - Enter the Sonora Kid
An American known as the Sonora Kid was about to set foot in Aden. There were actually two American gunfighters called the Sonora Kid. Both were named Stephen Angus Allison, but preferred to be called Steve Allison. The first Steve Allison gained fame in the American West during the 1870’s and the 1880’s. Due to an unrecorded incident in the northwest Mexican state of Sonora, this man earned the nickname of the Sonora Kid. He led cattle drives across the Chisholm Trail (see “Knife, Bullet and Noose”). The first Sonora Kid had a fear of snakes that nearly caused him to become an outlaw (see “The Devil’s Joker”).
Eventually, the first Sonora Kid settled down to raise a family near the Mexican border. He fathered two sons, Frank and Steve Jr., and three daughters, Marion, Helen and Mildred. After the birth of Steve Jr. in 1887, the family moved to Arizona. When Steve Jr. reached manhood, he adopted his father’s alias of the Sonora Kid.
Steve Jr. developed into a wiry man of medium height. His hair was dark, and his long narrow eyes were gray. At the age of seventeen, Steve Jr. sought employment at the Double Z-U Ranch in Arizona during 1904. Steve Jr. was given a job because he proved his boast that he could beat the toughest man on the ranch in a fistfight (see “The Sonora Kid—Cowhand”).
At the ranch, Steve Jr. befriended Billy “Drag” Buckner, a cowhand of about the same age. The pair met in 1905. While exploring an Indian pueblo, Steve Jr. and Billy had a chance encounter with a Mexican bandit (see “A Blazing Sun in a Blazing Sky”). On another occasion, Billy met Steve’s cousin, Madge Meraldson, at a railway station (see “Madge Meraldson”). Madge was the daughter of the original Sonora Kid’s sister and John Meraldson, an Arizona settler. Besides Madge, the Meraldsons had two other children, Teddy and Dorothy. Steve Jr. and Billy once drove into the town where the Meraldsons lived. One of Steve’s sisters, Marion, was visiting the Meraldsons. Marion became concerned about Steve’s gambling at the local saloon (see “The Sonora Kid’s Winning Hand”).
Marion’s fears were justified. Steve’s gambling debts compelled him to become the leader of an outlaw band in 1906. He even prevailed on Billy Buckner to join his gang. After some minor instances of horse-stealing and cattle-rustling, the gang struck it big by robbing the funds of a large mining corporation. Even though it possessed no legal proof, the corporation was aware that the Sonora Kid and Billy Buckner were involved in the theft. Acting on this information, the corporation posted a reward for the duo. A bounty hunter seeking the reward was slain by the Sonora Kid during a gunfight in Buffalotown, Arizona (see “The Hades Saloon”).
Legal action by Steve’s father forced the corporation to withdraw its reward. However, the mining company hired a relentless private detective named Moriarty to uncover proof of the Sonora Kid’s complicity. While Moriarty never found any evidence that would prove the Sonora Kid’s guilt, this sleuth ruthlessly pursued Steve and Billy throughout the American West.
This Moriarty could be related to Professor Moriarty, the great master criminal defeated by Sherlock Holmes in 1891. My genealogical researches into the Moriarty clan indicate that the Sonora Kid’s nemesis could be the son of the Professor’s older brother, Colonel James Moriarty. It is not inconceivable that a nephew of the Professor immigrated to the United States in order to escape the notoriety surrounding the family name in the British Isles. The Professor’s nephew could have become a detective to atone for his uncle’s sins.
While eluding Moriarty, Allison and Buckner crossed the path of a group of Sioux Indians. The Sonora Kid had always imagined that the Sioux Indians were generally peaceful, but he was wrong on this occasion. The Indians tried to scalp him.
Realizing that Moriarty’s continued attention would prevent them from spending their ill-gotten gains, Allison and Buckner decided to split up, Buckner went to Canada while Allison traveled to the state of Washington. Finding Moriarty still on his trail, Allison joined a ship, the Aerial, as a sailor in Seattle.
Sometime in 1907, the Aerial was off the port of Aden in the Red Sea. During a fight with the ship’s captain, Allison jumped overboard. Swimming ashore, Allison found himself alone and friendless. He soon found himself tangled in El Bahr’s machinations to kill Francis Xavier Gordon.
Learning that Allison was a skilled gunfighter, El Bahr hired him to slay Gordon.
Since Allison might be reluctant to shoot a fellow American, El Bahr deceived the Sonora Kid into believing that El Borak was a Spaniard. In order to rid Allison of any notion of requesting help from Aden’s British administrators, El Bahr misled the geographically ignorant American into believing that Aden was part of Oman (then also known as the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman).
Crossing the path of El Borak in a bazaar, the Sonora Kid challenged him to a gunfight. Before Allison could fire, his gun was shot out of his hand by Gordon. Sparing Allison’s life, El Borak revealed his true identity and the extent of El Bahr’s treachery to the younger American (see “El Borak,” the long fragment).
Now allied with Gordon, Allison joined in the quest for the lost treasure.
Recovering the map from El Bahr, Gordon organized his forces for a quick expedition into the desert. El Bahr followed them with several warriors. Gordon and his allies found the buried treasure, defeated El Bahr, and returned to Aden with a fortune. The short fragment entitled “El Borak” is probably a description of a minor skirmish with El Bahr’s followers.
To some degree, Gordon was Allison’s surrogate brother. The Sonora Kid preferred to address Francis Xavier Gordon as Frank. This was the name of Allison’s older brother.
Dividing up the Arabian treasure, Gordon felt that a share should go to Steve Clarney in recognition of the effort that he put into tracing the map. At the same time, Gordon felt the need to return to Oman in order to help Mustapha el Hamid against El Bahr’s surviving henchmen. Therefore, Gordon divided his team into two groups. The first group went with him to Oman. The second group led by Yar Ali Khan went to Rhodesia.
The Sonora Kid accompanied Yar Ali to Rhodesia. In addition to participating in the search for Clarney, Allison had an adventure of his own. He prevented a British girl from being raped. Allison was forced to kill the girl’s assailant, a white settler of Dutch ancestry. Being a member of a wealthy family, the girl wanted to compensate Allison for his heroism. Declining any monetary reward, Allison remembered that his sister Marion had always wanted to visit England. At Steve’s request, the British girl agreed to pay for Marion’s passage to England. Furthermore, Marion would be a guest at the British girl’s family estate.
After finding Clarney, Allison and the others returned to Oman. By 1908, political peace had descended on Oman. At Mustapha el Hamid’s insistence, The Sultan had appointed an extremely capable new governor who removed all of El Bahr’s adherents from positions of power. The governor, Al Wazir, was supposedly an Arab. In reality, he was a Russian nobleman who had been wandering the globe in search of some mystical goal, Al Wazir’s true nationality was known to a select few. The real identity of Al Wazir was kept secret because the Sultan was afraid that the British would object to the appointment of a Russian to such an important post. Even though Britain and Russia had settled their differences during 1907 for the purpose of forming an anti-German alliance in Europe, the new allies still retained some suspicions of each other.
Shortly after skillfully reorganizing the government of Oman, Al Wazir unexpectedly tendered his resignation. He announced his intention to meditate in the Arabian desert on the meaning of existence. Virtually all of his wealth was distributed to the poor of Oman. Only one important possession of Al Wazir remained unaccounted for. A mystery surrounded the whereabouts of the Blood of the Gods, Al Wazir’s set of perfectly matched rubies.
Al Wazir asked Gordon to take him to an obscure spot in the desert. Together with Yar Ali and the Sonora Kid, Gordon escorted Al Wazir to a place of solitude. Before reaching their destination, the expedition was ambushed by Wahabi tribesmen. The Wahabis are a fundamentalist religious sect which allied itself with the House of Saud in order to carve out the nation of Saudi Arabia in the 1920’s. .
The Wahabi assault was repelled, but the raiders captured Yar Ali Khan. While Gordon transported Al Wazir to safety, Allison remained behind to successfully rescue Yar Ali. As a sign of gratitude, Yar Ali bestowed a ring on the Sonora Kid. If Allison was ever in Afghanistan, he could display the ring to chieftains such as Khoda Khan and Yar Hyder to gain assistance.
After depositing Al Wazir in his refuge, Gordon rendezvoused with his comrades in the desert. Upon their return to Oman, Allison found a British diplomat with a message from the girl in Rhodesia. The message mentioned that Marion Allison would soon be arriving in England. Planning to surprise his sister, Allison boarded a ship for the British Isles.
The Sonora Kid arrived at the British girl’s family estate, an old castle, in the middle of a murder mystery. A male guest had been murdered at a house party attended by Marion. The father of the girl from Rhodesia hired Allison as a private detective to apprehend the killer. Allison discovered that the slayer was not human. The killer was a python that had hidden itself in the castle’s dungeon after escaping from a circus. The Sonora Kid slew the reptile. If Allison had inherited his father’s fear of snakes, then this adventure would have been extremely harrowing.
Allison rejoined Gordon in Oman sometime during 1909. Prior to the Sonora Kid’s return, Gordon had foiled a conspiracy to locate Al Wazir and steal his rubies (see “Blood of the Gods”). As a consequence of this exploit, Al Wazir abandoned his self- imposed exile in the desert. With Al Wazir again advising the Sultan of Oman, Gordon felt the political situation was stable enough for the departure of himself and his companions.
Gordon and his crew went to India. During a tiger-hunting expedition, Gordon and Allison investigated a seemingly deserted fortress in the jungle (see “The Shunned Castle”). Gordon and his entourage then went north to Afghanistan. Feeling homesick, Allison declined to accompany El Borak. The Sonora Kid returned to the United States.
Soon after reaching Afghanistan, Gordon learned of a plot to overthrow Habibullah Khan, the Amir. Calling on Khoda Khan and Yar Hyder , Gordon gathered a force of Afridi warriors that broke the rebellion in the battle of Kalat-i-Ghilzai (1Kalat-i-Ghilzai, also called Kalat and Qalat, is the capital of Zabul province and on the road between Kabul and Kandahar.). The Amir had not always been on friendly terms with Gordon. Habibullah had initially viewed Gordon as an outlaw. This attitude had begun to soften in 1903 when Habibullah listened to Geoffrey Willoughby’s impressions of the courageous American. As a result of the victory at Kalat-i-Ghilzai, Gordon found himself a welcome advisor at the Amir’s court.
Upon his arrival in America, the Sonora Kid sought out his family in America, Riding with his sister Helen, Allison had an exploit involving a handsome young stranger (“The Hot Arizona Sun”). Allison also became reacquainted with Billy Buckner who had returned from Canada. Using his share of the Arabian treasure, the Sonora Kid relocated his family and Buckner in New York. Besides his parents and his sisters, the family of Steve’s aunt, the Meraldsons, also participated in the move eastwards. Only the Sonora Kid’s brother elected to remain in Arizona.
Allison and Buckner journeyed to Mexico in 1910. There they found a lost silver mine in the Yucatan peninsula. The outbreak of the Mexican Revolution prevented the processing of their claim. Concluding that Mexico was too hot to hold them, they went to Europe.
Even though now a wealthy man, the Sonora Kid was still attracted by the lure of crime. Allison had read popular account of “gentlemen burglars” such as A. J. Raffles of Britain and Arsene Lupin of France. Desiring a new thrill, Allison convinced Buckner to join him in series of jewel robberies in Germany. Allison probably chose Germany because no great master thief had yet arisen there. Finding themselves guests at a nobleman’s castle, Allison and Buckner were hoping to commit their first burglary. They were diverted from their scheme by the presence of a monstrous ghost (see “The West Tower”).
El Borak was also tempted to commit an illegal act during 1910. Gordon seriously contemplated the commission of a homicide in India. One of Gordon’s close friends had been murdered by Ditta Ram, a corrupt official of Peshawar. Unable to prove Ditta Ram’s guilt, Gordon nearly took the law into his own hands. A top British official dissuaded Gordon from such a course of action. Three years would pass before Gordon could bring Ditta Ram to justice
In the same year of 1910, El Borak arrived in Mongolia. Little is known about his trip except that Gordon and Lal Singh “heard the roar of the ten-foot bronze trumpets that blare in the bare black mountains of forbidden Mongolia, in the hands of the shaven-headed priests of Erlik.” This quote is from the long version of “Three-Bladed Doom.” In the shorter version, Yar Ali Khan rather than Lal Singh is identified as Gordon’s companion in this unrecorded exploit.
Events in Afghanistan would draw El Borak and the Sonora Kid Back together during 1911. Billy Buckner had been fascinated by Allison’s tales of Asia. The Sonora Kid was always boasting how he had made three journeys to the Orient. Allison viewed his adventures with Gordon as three separate trips because of the sojourns in Rhodesia and England. Eager to see Asia himself, Billy Buckner showed the Sonora Kid a newspaper about an enigmatic mullah stirring up trouble in Afghanistan.
Together with Buckner, Allison took passage on a ship bound for India. The duo was surprised to learn that Moriarty, the detective who had persistently hounded them in the West, was a fellow passenger. Allison and Buckner forced Moriarty to disembark in Lisbon. Arriving in India, the two Americans went north to Afghanistan. There they gained the friendship of Yar Hyder by displaying Yar Ali Khan’s ring (see “North of Khyber”) Through Yar Hyder, Allison and Buckner were put into contact with El Borak. Acting under Gordon’s leadership, Allison and Buckner played important roles in thwarting the mullah from launching a jihad (“holy war”) in Afghanistan.
The Sonora Kid stayed in Asia for about a year, but he pursued adventures independent of Gordon. During 1912, Allison visited Yarkand, a town in Sinkiang (Xinjiang). In a duel with scimitars, the Sonora Kid received a wound under the left armpit. He also incurred the hatred of a dangerous woman.
In the same year, El Borak posed as a Kurd named Shirkuh for unknown reasons. Gordon’s disguise was rather intriguing because Kirby O’Donnell had not only posed as a Kurd but was also called El Shirkuh. Perhaps Gordon’s false identity was a sort of tribute to his American predecessor in Afghanistan.
Before El Borak could shed his Kurdish identity, he was drawn into the machinations of an old enemy. Vladimir Jakrovitch was a Russian who converted to Islam in 1902. His activities over the next ten years had brought him into conflict with Gordon over more than one occasion (2Possibly Jakrovitch was a former lieutenant of Gustav Hunyadi from “The Lost Valley of Iskander.”). During 1909, Jakrovitch joined the Black Tigers, an Afghan secret society that had evolved from the elite bodyguard of Genghis Khan. Becoming the order’s leader in 1911, Jakrovitch wanted to carve out an Asian Empire in the tradition of Hunyadi. Gordon defeated Jakrovitch’s schemes in 1912 (see “The Country of the Knife”).
By 1913, Allison and Buckner had returned to New York. The Sonora Kid brought back the scimitars from his Yarkand duel and mounted them on the wall of his apartment. After playing a prominent role in a minor domestic comedy involving his sister Mildred and a red wig (see “Red Curls and Bobbed Hair”), Allison learned the woman from Yarkand was in New York seeking his life (see “Steve Allison”).
The unnamed woman from Yarkand was a beauty with black eyes and a dark complexion. This description would fit Yasmeena from “The Daughter of Erlik Khan.” If the previously cited rumors about Yasmeena’s devilish actions in Mongolia were true, then it is not improbable for her to have been implicated in nefarious enterprises in Sinkiang, Mongolia’s neighbor. In fact, Gordon and Lal Singh may have become reacquainted with Yasmeena during their 1910 trip to Mongolia.
The Sonora Kid survived the murderous attentions of the woman from Yarkand. Following that dangerous escapade in New York, Allison took his family on a vacation in Egypt. His sister Helen nearly fell into the clutches of an unscrupulous Arab, but Allison rescued her (see “Desert Rendezvous”).
Gordon was also in the Middle East during 1913. The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 pitted the Ottoman Empire against an alliance of Eastern European nations. El Borak had harbored a bitter resentment of the Ottoman Empire since his days as a sailor. With the Ottomans were expending the bulk of their military might in the Balkans, Gordon saw a ripe opportunity to stir up a rebellion in the Empire’s Asian territories. El Borak decided to use the Kurds as his pawns. Despising them for the abduction of Clarney and Yar Ali Khan in 1906, Gordon had no moral qualms about using the Kurds as cannon fodder to achieve his goal of toppling the Ottoman Empire.
When Gordon entered Kurdistan in 1913, the Kurds did not receive him as a friend. However, they still feared the American because of his activities as a bandit years earlier. Although there were some Kurdish leaders responded favorably to Gordon’s seditious proposals, others betrayed him to the Ottoman authorities. The Turks imprisoned Gordon in an ancient castle in Kurdistan. Escaping from his cell, Gordon rescued a blonde woman who was also being held prisoner (see “Intrigue in Kurdistan”)
Robert E. Howard did not identify the town in which the castle stood. Such a castle is known to exist in Bitlis. This town is connected to Gordon’s adventures in a passage from “Three-Bladed Doom.” A Kurd, Yusuf ibn Suleiman, made these remarks about Gordon’s activities in Kurdistan: “Once I saw you come to the Turks of Bitlis with open hands; but when you closed those hands the streets of Bitlis ran red and the heads of the Lords of Bitlis swung from the saddles of your raiders.”
The Kurd must have been exaggerating Gordon’s actions in Bitlis. There was an actual raid on Bitlis by Kurds in July 1913. Seven hundred Kurds under the leadership of Sheikh Seid Ali (3Seid Ali is also known as Said Ali and Selim of Hizan.) occupied Bitlis. Every Turkish official successfully left the city before the Kurds took control. A week later, the Turks re-conquered the city. Seid Ali fled Bitlis, but was eventually caught and hanged by the Turks.
Therefore, it can be concluded that Gordon must have found a safe haven with Seid Ali after escaping confinement in the castle. Gordon was the hidden strategist behind the Sheikh’s brief conquest of Bitlis. The Kurd from “Three-Bladed Doom” misrepresented historical events when he described a massacre of Turkish officials in Bitlis. When the Turks retook Bitlis, Gordon avoided the Sheikh’s fate by returning to Afghanistan.
Back at Habibullah Khan’s court, Gordon wondered whether a sinister force was responsible for a wave of assassinations throughout Asia. Rumors spread that a mysterious cult, the Hidden Ones, were responsible for the deaths of the Shah of Persia, the Nizam of Hyderabad, and most recently the Sultan of Turkey. The Shah was said to have been killed by an Arab, and the Sultan was allegedly slain by a Kurd named Hasten. A Delhi Moslem who “fired” at the Viceroy of India was also said to be a member of the Hidden Ones.
References to these events were made by Gordon and the Amir of Afghanistan in the opening chapters of “Three-Bladed Doom.” Foreign news must have been reaching Afghanistan in a somewhat garbled form. History paints a different picture. The last Shah of Persia to be assassinated up to that time was Nasr-ed-Din. He was killed by a fellow Persian (not an Arab) in 1896. The Nizam of Hyderabad had perished recently (December 1911), but the death of this Indian ruler was attributed to natural causes.
There was an attempt to kill Charles Hardinge, the Viceroy of India, in 1912, but he was wounded by a bomb instead of a bullet. Because the Viceroy’s assailant was never identified, it could not be said with certainty that he as a Moslem.
The remarks about the Sultan of Turkey are extremely perplexing. Neither of the two men who held that office before World War I was murdered. Abdul-Hamid II was overthrown as Sultan in 1909, and died under house arrest in 1918. His brother and successor, Mohammed V, died in the same year. In the shorter version of “Three-Bladed Doom,” the remarks about the Sultan were altered by Robert E. Howard to indicate that Hasten the Kurd failed to slay the Sultan (presumably Mohammed V). I can find no reference to Hasten in any historical documents. It could be theorized that the Turkish government withheld news of Hasten’s attempt from the public, but informed other governments because of suspicions surrounding the involvement of the Hidden Ones.
Even though no Sultan was slain, it should be noted that Mahmud Shevkhet, the Prime Minister of Turkey, died from bullets fired by a group of assassins in June 1913. The killers took their orders from a political exile in Paris, but they also could have been allied with the Hidden Ones.
The impression is created by the comments in “Three-Bladed Doom” that all of the assassinations committed by the Hidden Ones were done with a three-bladed knife. None of the historical deaths corresponding to these murders involved a knife. Perhaps such a weapon was discovered on conspirators connected to the murders.
After Habibullah Khan was nearly killed by the knife of the Hidden Ones, El Borak located the headquarters of the monstrous organization in the mountains of Afghanistan. The Hidden Ones were revealed to be a revival of the Assassins (4The Hidden Ones primarily consisted of the Assassins, but it also had members belonging to the Yezidees of Kurdistan and the Erlik cult of Mongolia.), the murder cult crushed by the Mongols in the thirteenth century. The leader of the Hidden Ones, Othman el Aziz, professed to be a direct descendant of the man who had founded the original Assassins centuries ago. Othman, a Persian, was old enough to have played a role in the Shah’s death in 1896. Prior to the establishment of a base during Afghanistan in 1909, Othman had been operating out of Kurdistan for an unspecified period of time.
Othman was receiving was receiving financial support from an unidentified group in Europe who wanted the Hidden Ones to subvert British influence in Asia. The liaison between Othman and his European backers were Ivan Konaszevski, a Cossack who had previously tangled with Gordon in an unrecorded exploit (5Like Jakrovitch, Konaszevki could have once worked for Hunyadi.). Despite his origins, it is unlikely that Konaszevski’s employer was the Tsar. Britain and Russia had settled their differences in Asia during 1907. Since Germany wanted to expand its influence in the Middle East during this period, it would seem more likely that the Cossack was working for the Kaiser. On the other hand, Konaszevski could have been a minion of European crime syndicate similar to the Moriarty organization defeated by Sherlock Holmes (6Konaszevki could have been reporting to Dominick Medina, the criminal mastermind of John Buchan’s The Three Hostages (1924). Medina had nebulous ties to Central Asia. In 1921, a world-wide crime syndicate led by Medina was smashed by Richard Hannay.).
Konaszevski utilized the alias of Bagheela, which means “panther.” This name appears in two other contexts in Gordon’s exploits. In “Khoda Khan’s Tale,” one of Gordon’s allies is an Afghan chieftain called Bagheela Khan. In “The Shunned Castle,” Gordon himself is known as Bagheela in certain parts of India. Possibly Bagheela Khan perished in Gordon’s service and transferred his authority over his Afghan followers to the American in a dying declaration. In order to honor his slain comrade, Gordon adopted the name of Bagheela. Aware of Gordon’s alias, Konaszevski assumed it himself to mock his bitter enemy.
Killing Othman and Konaszevski, Gordon destroyed the power of the Hidden Ones. Gordon also uncovered proof, that Ditta Ram, his old enemy in Peshawar, had been in league with the Hidden Ones. Arriving in Peshawar, Gordon gave his evidence to the British authorities. Ditta Ram was arrested, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Incarceration came at a bad time for Ditta Ram. He had just learned the location of an ancient treasure. In 1933, Ditta Ram persuaded an unscrupulous American to arrange a jailbreak in exchange for a share of the treasure. The American cheated Ditta Ram after liberating him from confinement. Presiding over a band of Thugs, Ditta Ram pursued his treacherous partner to the United States. There Ditta Ram perished while combating two American private detectives, Brent Kirby (7Brent Kirby maybe the detective named Kirby who appeared in Howard’s fragment, “The Spell of Damballah.” This Kirby was partnered with a man named O’Brien. Perhaps O’Brien was Butch Gorman’s predecessor as Brent Kirby’s partner. “The Spell of Damballah” appeared in Revelations from Yuggoth #1 (Cryptic Publications, November 1987) and The “New” Howard Review #4 (January 1999).) and Butch Gorman (see “The Hand of the Black Goddess”). Two years later, Kirby and Gorman would also become involved in a different case concerning a treasure from the Sudan (8 “Sons of Hate” happened fifty years after the fall of Khartoum in 1885.) (see “Sons of Hate”).
When Ditta Ram escaped twenty years after his arrest, El Borak was no place to be found. However, Khoda Khan learned of Ditta Ram’s escape. The man murdered by Ditta Ram in Peshawar had also been Khoda Khan’s friend. Pursuing the miscreant to the United States, Khoda Khan lost the trail of his quarry. A false lead took the Afghan warrior to River Street, the Asian quarter of an American metropolis (9In River Street, Khoda Khan killed a Chinese resident of unknown reasons. Perhaps the Chinese resident had sold Khoda Khan false information about Ditta Ram’s whereabouts.). In River Street during 1933, Khoda Khan aided Steve Harrison, an American detective, against an Oriental mastermind (see “Names in the Black Book”).
In the short version of “Three-Bladed Doom,” the character of Ditta Ram is absent. There are other notable differences from the long version. The Cossack is called Mikhail Ignatieff. The Hidden Ones are the Zurim, an ancient cult that supposedly was the secret power behind the historical Assassins.
After the events of “Three-Bladed Doom,” Gordon remained in Afghanistan for about a year. In early 1914, he received a message from the Sonora Kid. Together with Billy Buckner and a botany student, Allison was organizing an expedition to the Himalayas in search of the Abominable Snowman (see ”…the Mountains of Thibet”). Allison asked Gordon if he wished to accompany them, but the older American declined. El Borak did not wish to stray too far away from civilization. He felt something monumental was about to occur in the world.
What Gordon sensed was the impending outbreak of World War I. When war was declared, El Borak realized that it was only a matter of time before Turkey allied itself with Germany. El Borak intended to launch a revolt that would shake the foundations of the Ottoman Empire. Where he had failed with the Kurds, he intended to succeed with the Arabs.
Arriving in Arabia, Gordon went to Mecca to talk to the city’s ruler, Hussein. El Borak remained in Mecca for two years without making any headway in his efforts to persuade Hussein to war against Turkey. The British was also trying to make Hussein take the same course of action. In 1916, Hussein agreed to launch an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The British sent the remarkable T. E. Lawrence to Arabia to organize the Arabs into an effective fighting machine. Gordon offered his services to Lawrence. Reporting directing to Lawrence, Gordon fought alongside the army commanded by Feisal, Hussein’s son. In 1917, El Borak defeated a group of renegade Turks who intended to forge a new empire in the Middle East (see “Son of the White Wolf”). Gordon also met a beautiful British spy, Gloria Willoughby (perhaps a relative of Geoffrey Willoughby from “Hawk of the Hills”).
World War I ended in November 1918. Gordon only stayed briefly in Arabia after the conclusion of peace. By early 1919, he was in Africa where he found himself fighting Arab tribesmen (see the untitled fragment). While in Africa, he chanced upon a lost civilization where dinosaurs still roamed the earth (see “The Land of Mystery”). When Gordon returned to Asia in 1920, he was stunned by the consequences of recent events. In February 1919, Habibullah Khan had been assassinated by an unknown killer.
To this day, no one knows who put a bullet in Habibullah’s brain (10A clue to the identity of Habibullah’s assassin exists in Talbot Mundy’s Jimgrim (1931). A beautiful female spy named Baltis was supposedly involved in some unrecorded matter called the “the affaire Habibullah” (chap. 7). Nominally a French agent, Baltis was really working for Dorje, a notorious master criminal. He was active as early as 1908. Mundy hinted that Dorje detonated an historical explosion that destroyed a large portion of Siberia in June 1908. Mundy incorrectly stated that the event happened in the year of the 1918 armistice (chap. 37). Most scientists theorize that the Siberian 1908 disaster was caused by a comet or a meteor. Dorje could have ordered Habibullah’s death. Dorje perished in another explosion. References to the recent arrest of Gandhi in India (chap. 28) squarely put the death of Dorje in 1930.). The Soviets accused an alleged British agent. The British suggested that Amanullah Khan, Habibullah’s son and successor, was behind the murder. Unlike his father, Amanullah Khan was anti-British. Viewing El Borak as a pawn of the British, Amanullah barred the American adventurer from Afghanistan.
The news from the Middle East was also startling to Gordon. The victorious Allies had reneged on a promise to make Feisal ruler of Syria. The French had driven Feisal out of Damascus in July 1920. Gordon now became secretly involved in a plot to restore Feisal to the throne of Syria. He intended to purchase guns and munitions for Feisal’s supporters. Some people learned of Gordon’s action and misread his motives. They mistakenly believed that Gordon intended to make himself master of an Arab empire.
Gordon needed capable assistants in his grand enterprise. He summoned Yar Ali Khan, Lal Singh and others who had followed him in years past. Lal Singh had served as a soldier in the British army during the war (11. His war service is alluded to in “The Song of Lal Singh.” It is possible that Gordon’s friend is the same Lal Sing who briefly appeared under the command of British officers (chap. 5) in Talbot Mundy’s The Winds of the World (1915), a novel set on the eve of World War I in 1914.). In 1920, the British wanted him to join the army again in order to serve as part of the forces dispatched to police Iraq in the wake of the mandate granted by the League of Nations. In “The Song of Lal Singh,” the Indian warrior refused with these words:
Why should I sail beyond the sea To slay the men of Arabee?
Instead Lal Singh planned to fight for the Arabs in Syria. El Borak also sent a message to the Sonora Kid in New York. Allison was quite willing to join Gordon on the trail of glory. The most exciting thing that he was doing in New York was keeping his sister Mildred from succumbing to the temptations of the Prohibition Era (see “Brotherly Advice”).
Gordon met with his comrades in an unknown location. They asked him about his recent exploits in Africa. Gordon responded by telling them the events of “The Land of Mystery.” One of Gordon’s audience was an Arab named Abul el Kadour. He may be meant to be the same person as Ahmed el Kadour in the long “El Borak “fragment.
Not content with ordinary armaments, El Borak sought new weapons for Feisal’s cause. Gordon visited New York during a snowstorm in early 1921 for this purpose. He met the eccentric inventor of a robot soldier. Unfortunately, the robot ran out of control forcing Gordon to destroy it (see “The Iron Terror”).
Gordon soon abandoned his efforts to acquire arms for Feisal. During 1921, Feisal made a deal with the British that netted him the throne of Iraq, Syria’s neighbor. With stability apparently settling on the Middle East, Gordon looked for adventure in another region of the world.
In 1922, Gordon and Allison found themselves in Hong Kong. Here they soon became embroiled in a conflict between two of the most dangerous secret societies in Asia. On one side were the priests of Erlik whom Gordon had combated in Afghanistan and Mongolia. Opposed to them were the remnants of the Si-Fan, a powerful crime confederation under the leadership of the notorious Dr. Fu Manchu. The Si-Fan had fallen into disarray due the defeats it suffered at the hands of Sir Denis Nayland Smith before the outbreak of World War I. Nevertheless, the acolytes of Fu Manchu were still dangerous. At one point during their battle with the Si-Fan, minions of Fu Manchu ambushed Allison openly in the street of Hong Kong. Allison fought hem off until Gordon arrived to help him. So formidable was Gordon’s reputation that the Si-Fan agents quickly dispersed.
Leaving Gordon in Hong Kong, Allison went to Canton with two other Americans, Mr. Marlo and his daughter Editha. There Allison purchased a white jade ring with a large ruby. He arranged to send the ring to Gordon in Hong Kong (“The White Jade Ring”).
Having earned the enmity of both the Erlik cult and the Si-Fan, El Borak deemed it prudent to vacate China in 1923. Gordon decided to revisit the South Seas. He convinced the Sonora Kid to accompany him. Allison was surprised that his friend was still remembered as “Wolf” Gordon of the 1890’s. In Samoa, Gordon and Allison boarded a schooner where they prevented the rape of an island king’s daughter (see “A Power Among the Islands”).
Somewhere in the Pacific, the world lost all trace of Francis Xavier Gordon. He had made his name feared throughout Africa and Asia. Maybe he retired on a island paradise with the Sonora Kid. Perhaps El Borak perished in one last great crusade against evil. No one knows what became of the American gunslinger.
1870’s and 1880’s
Birth of Francis Xavier Gordon.
Birth of Stephen Angus Allison Jr., the second Sonora Kid. 1893-95.
Gordon sails the Seven Seas. In the South Seas, he becomes known as “Wolf” Gordon. He visits the Philippines, Indochina, Tunisia and the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs christen him El Borak (“the Swift”). Gordon views dinosaur fossils in museums.
Lal Singh bests a Rao of Rajputana in a matter of smuggled jewelry. The Shah of Persia is assassinated by a gent of Othman el Aziz, Lord of the Hidden Ones.
Disguised as a Kurd named Ali, Kirby O’Donnell kills Ivan Kurovitch in Afghanistan.
O’Donnell befriends Yar Muhammad (“The Curse of the Crimson God”). Lal Singh meets Marendra Mukerji (“The Tale of the Rajah’s Ring”). Lal Singh and Marendra Mukerji swindle Parsee merchants in Bombay (“The Further Adventures of Lal Singh”). Lal Singh fights a gang of Thugs (“Lal Singh, Oriental Gentleman”).
Kirby O’Donnell saves Yar Muhammad’s life on two separate occasions. Gordon arrives in India. Yar Ali Khan tries to kill Zumal Khan (see an untitled fragment).
The Boer War rages in southern Africa.
Gordon briefly romances Yasmeena. He meets Lal Singh during the adventure of the “Wolves of Jagai” (Jagat?). Gordon discovers a rare book that mentions the lost land of Valooze (Valusia?) in Africa. Kirby O’Donnell is nearly killed in an ambush orchestrated by Yar Akbar. Arriving in Afghanistan, Gordon meets Yar Ali Khan and Khoda Khan (“The Coming of El Borak”).
Yar Ali Khan travels with Gordon throughout Asia. In the Himalayas, Gordon demonstrates a mastery over wolves. According to Yar Ali Khan, he and Gordon slew “a great dragon of the Gobi Desert” during this period (Khoda Khan doubts the veracity of this assertion).
Gordon guides Yasmeena to Yolgan. Gordon and Yar Ali Khan meet Steve Clarney in a Thuggee temple. Clarney and Yar Ali Khan begin to search for a treasure map while Gordon investigates rumors about Gustav Hunyadi in Turkestan. Steve Allison Jr. gets a job at the Double Z-U ranch (“The Sonora Kid – Cowhand”).
Steve’s gambling debts begin to get him into trouble (“The Sonora Kid’s Winning Hand”). Gordon foils Hunyadi’s plot to build an Asian Empire (“The Lost Valley of Iskander”). With Gordon’s aid, Yasmeena flees Yolgan (“The Daughter of Erlik Khan”).
Steve Jr. becomes the leader of a band of outlaws. The gang robs a mining corporation that retaliates by hiring a detective, Moriarty, to track them. Steve Jr. slays a bounty hunter (“The Hades Saloon”). Gordon leads a group of raiders into Kurdistan. Clarney and Yar Ali Khan discover Kara-Shehr (“The Fire of Asshurbanipal”). Steve Jr. is nearly scalped by Sioux Indians. He becomes a sailor.
Gordon hides Al Wazir in the desert. Steve Jr. saves Yar Ali from Wahabi raiders. Steve Jr. investigates a murder mystery in a English castle.
Gordon brings Al Wazir back from the desert (“Blood of the Gods”). Steve Jr. and Gordon investigate a castle in India (“The Shunned Castle”). Back in America, Steve Jr. goes riding with his sister (“The Hot Arizona Sun”). Gordon defeats a rebellion against Habibullah Khan, the Amir of Afghanistan. Vladimir Jakrovitch joins the Black Tigers. The Hidden Ones establish a base in the Afghan mountains. The Allison and Meraldson families move to New York.
Steve Jr. and Bill Buckner find a silver mine in Mexico. They attempt to be gentleman burglars in Germany (“The West Tower”). Ditta Ram kills one of Gordon’s friends in Peshawar. Gordon and Lal Singh hear the trumpets of the priests of Erlik in Mongolia.
Steve Jr. and Billy Buckner search for Gordon in Afghanistan (“North of Khyber”). Jakrovitch becomes leader of the Black Tigers.
Asia is rocked by a series of assassinations attributed to the Hidden Ones.
Gordon disguises himself as a Kurd. He visits the lair of the Black Tigers (“The Country of the Knife”). Steve Jr. earns the hatred of a mysterious woman (Yasmeena?) in Yarkand.
Steve Jr. and his family are involved in a domestic comedy in New York (“Red Curls and Bobbed Hair”). The woman from Yarkand plots vengeance on Steve Jr. (“Steve Allison”). Gordon stirs up trouble in Kurdistan (“Intrigue in Kurdistan”). He participated in the Kurdish raid on Bitlis. Back in Afghanistan, Gordon destroys the Hidden Ones (“Three-Bladed Doom”). Ditta Ram is sentenced to life imprisonment. The Allison family visits Egypt (“Desert Rendezvous”).
Steve Jr. searched for the Abominable Snowman in the Himalayas (…”The Mountains of Thibet”). World War I erupts. Gordon arrives in Mecca.
Gordon meets T. E. Lawrence.
Gordon battles fanatical Turks (“Son of the White Wolf”).
World War I ends.
Habibullah Khan is assassinated.
Gordon has adventures in Africa (the untitled fragment and “The Land of Mystery”).
In New York, Gordon combats a robot (“The Iron Terror”). Feisal becomes King of Iraq.
Gordon and Steve Jr. battle the priests of Erlik and the Si-Fan in Hong Kong. In Canton, Steve Jr. buys a ruby ring (“The White Jade Ring”).
Gordon and Steve Jr. journey to the South Seas (“A Power Among the Islands”).
Kirby and Gorman are involved in a case surrounding a treasure from the Sudan (“Sons of Hate”).
About the author
This article was written by Rick Lai. This entry was posted on pjfarmer.com. Used with permission.
Posted February 19th, 2023. Layout, small corrections (typos), images and links added by Ståle Gismervik.
Thanks to Ralph Grasso for providing me the article and getting til approval of Rick Lai.
Teaser image by Ken Kelly.