The Mucker

by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series: Mucker 1
Reviewed date: 2009 Oct 19
Rating: 2
190 pages
cover art

I prefer Edgar Rice Burroughs when he writes about fantasy worlds like Barsoom or Amtor. His tales set in the real world lack imagination and are constrained by the mundane familiarity of Earth. The Mucker is vintage Burroughs, but lacks an essential ingredient to make it great.

A mucker is a low, vulgar, coarse, ill-bred person. He is the dregs of humanity. Our particular mucker is Billy Byrne, a glorious drunkard from Chicago's West Side. He drifts through life, barely conscious, barely thinking, never rising above the most basic level of human existence and awareness. When he gets framed for murder, Billy runs to San Francisco where he is shanghaied and made a sailor on the brigantine Halfmoon.

Billy is furious. He fights. He's thrown in chains belowdecks. After weeks without booze his mind clears from a years-long alcohol-induced fog. Having nothing else to do, Billy applies himself to his new work as a sailor. He discovers the value and the satisfaction in honest, hard work. He is still a mucker, though. It isn't until the Halfmoon turns pirate and attacks a yacht that Billy begins to change. The kidnapped young woman, Barbara Harding, calls him a coward to his face. This sets off a chain of events and thoughts inside Billy's head that eventually result in his decision to rise above his mucker status and become a courageous, honorable man--a real hero.

A typhoon wrecks Halfmoon on an unknown island. Barbara Harding is kidnapped by natives, who are a mixture of islanders and a long-lost Japanese expedition. Billy Byrne rescues Barbara, and together they hide out, hoping for rescue. When rescue comes, the rescuers become the rescued: Mr. Harding's rescue party is captured by the natives, so Billy must rescue them. He does so, sacrificing himself to secure their freedom. They leave Billy for dead. Months later he is picked up by a passing ship. He makes his way back to Chicago, decides that although he has become a better man, he is still a mucker and not good enough for Barbara. He convinced her to marry someone else. End of story.

You can read The Mucker and Return of the Mucker online at

Archive | Search