Adventure Fiction Book Review

Tarzan and the Madman

by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series: Tarzan 23
Reviewed date: 2023 Jan 24
Rating: 2
160 pages
cover art
cover art

Another Tarzan doppelgänger? Really?

How many times has Edgar Rice Burroughs used this trick? There was Esteban Miranda in Tarzan and the Golden Lion and again in Tarzan and the Ant Men. There was Stanley Obroski in Tarzan and the Lion Man—a book which featured not only a Tarzan look-alike but a look-alike of the heroine too. At least in this book the Tarzan double doesn't look exactly like Tarzan—just similar enough that people who don't know Tarzan personally are fooled.

Tarzan and the Madman is a perfunctory effort from ERB. It's got the standard capture-escape-recapture plot. It's got the standard two (2) lost cities deep in the jungle, warring with each other. This time it's the descendents of Portuguese explorer Cristoforo da Gama (brother to Vasco) in the city of Alemtejo, making war on the black Galla tribe whom they call Moslems but who are actually nothing of the sort.

The Tarzan doppel is a West Virginian named Rand, although we don't find that out until the last chapter. The gimmick here is that Rand hits his head and thinks he really is Tarzan, but his jungle survival skills are merely above average and nothing like Tarzan's. The king and priests in Alemtejo claim Rand is a God and ask him to do all sorts of stuff including raiding nearby tribes and kidnapping a white woman, Sandra Pickerall, to be their Goddess. The king and the priests don't actually believe in gods, but they're using Rand and Sandra to control the people and to jockey for power amongst themselves.

It's not so much the kidnappings and killings that Rand commits that brings Tarzan into the story: it's that Rand is calling himself Tarzan of the Apes. Someone has been sullying Tarzan's good name.

There are various villains, including a couple of greedy treasure-seekers who die of thirst in the jungle when they refuse to leave their heavy packs of gold to go find water. That was the best chapter of the book.

This is a second- or third-rate effort from ERB, I'm afraid. There is none of the fantastic inventiveness of earlier books like Tarzan and the Ant Men. I'm told this book was refused by the magazines.

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