(The following commentary was originally published on June 9, 2000 on the
old Inside the Web Galloping Ghost message board.)
Radium Island, A Dan Perry Adventure Story
Comments by Mark Johnson
A few weeks ago I came across a listing on eBay for three books in
the Dan Perry series. They were in nice condition with colorful dust
jackets and they intrigued me. I added the books to my "watch list"
and was shocked when they fetched a top bid of over $225.00. I
decided I would keep an eye out for this series and on a recent trip
to one of the local used book stores I was lucky enough to find a
reading copy of "Radium Island" which is the opening story.
"Radium Island" is not your standard series book fare. In some ways
it resembles a combination of, Tom Swift Sr. and Ted Scott with very
small dollops of Tom Quest and Rick Brant thrown in. The author of
the Dan Perry Series was Kent Sagendorph and as far as I can tell,
these three books were his only foray into juvenile series writing.
Published by Cupples and Leon, the book itself is well bound and not
unattractive, with a glossy frontispiece and 208 pages.
The story begins with Dan Perry trying out a new Lockheed Electra
airplane that belongs to his father Anson Perry, a famous explorer.
Dan's sidekick is Shorty Keenan. Shorty's father serves as Anson
Perry's navigator but does not actually appear in this story. The
plot involves an island that has fabulous reserves of the ore that
produces radium. The island is in Canadian territory , not far from
Alaska. Anson Perry discovered the island but now a Russian named
Varkofsky wants to take it away. I won't spoil the book for anyone
who has not read it, so I will say only that Anson Perry is taken
captive by his enemies, who then take over the island. The rest of
the book tells the story of Dan and Shorty trying to right the
situation, aided by Canadian Mounties and some of the area natives.
The writing style of Sagendorph is somewhat unusual and uneven. The
action scenes are very well done, and the flying sequences are the
best I have come across. However, the writing is bumpy during chunks
of dialogue and when new people or situations are introduced.
Sagendorph wrote several biographies, a history of Michigan
University, and a book about the air power of the United States. One
can imagine that he was probably far more comfortable describing real
events and actions, then he was writing dialogue and constructing a
In addition to the dialogue oddities, there are other weak spots. The
boys run across a fellow named Angus (he pretty much just falls out
of the sky) who is nothing more than a device to bridge two parts of
the main story. Apparently unable to come up with a better idea, the
author has Angus appear, twists and turns him to make the whole
scenario work, and then dumps him 30 pages later, never to refer to
There are some grisly passages for a kids book. For instance there is
death, killing and torture. Also there is talk of suicide as a way to
get out of slavery. I don't want to mislead you into thinking that
the whole book is this way, because large sections of it could be
from any of a dozen series. There are however several departures
from the standard fare.
It was of interest to me that a Russian was cast as the arch villain.
This book came out in 1938 before WWII and long before the Cold War
made it an accepted fact that Russians are always causing trouble.
Overall the writing is superior to most series books and I would rank
it somewhere in that vast gulf between Rick Brant and Tom Swift Jr.
The plot is engrossing and the heroes certainly earn their victory.
Except for Rick Brant and Don Scott in the "Veiled Raiders", I can
not recall any series book protagonists being held captive for so
long and humiliated the way Dan and Shorty are. "Radium Island" is a
good book that kept me turning the pages all the way, and I look
forward to finding and reading the rest of the series.
(The following commentary was originally published on June 21, 2000 on the
old Inside the Web Galloping Ghost message board.)
Book #2. Beyond the Amazon, A Dan Perry Adventure Story
Comments by Mark Johnson
As related in a review a while back, I read the first book of this
series, "Radium Island", and was favorably impressed. So when I
located book two on eBay a few days later I was pleased and looked
forward to another good read.
Ever heard of the Sophomore Jinx?
"Beyond the Amazon" gets off to a great start as Dan Perry and his
comrades discover that another of Anson Perry's claims has been
jumped. Before you know it, Dan, Shorty, and a salty dog named
Scrappy Larkin are off for Brazil and the deepest parts of the Amazon
This time it is a diamond mine that is at issue. A couple of American
criminals have set up a phony state and claimed the mine as their
own. I say "phony" because while that is what it really is, the
Brazilian authorities actually credit it as legitimate. I have no
clue what Brazil was like in the 1930's but according to this book,
the jungle was pretty much anything goes. In the Brazil of "Beyond
the Amazon" anyone could set up a state and be recognized by the
central government. The justification for this was that the
government wanted to tame the jungle and thus would grant official
status to anyone who was game to try.
The first few chapters make for good reading, as the Perry group
prepares to enter the jungle and take back their property. Then
things start to slide downhill. The book quickly goes from fantastic
to ridiculous. Then basic editorial booboos start to crop up until it
appears that either no one edited the last 150 pages or a complete
For instance on page 50 Scrappy explicitly says "I'm an engineer" ,
and yet 56 pages later Dan finds a map Scrappy drew and since it is
well done and very accurate he thinks that "Scrappy must have
acquired some engineering training somewhere!" Maybe it happened
while he was studying for that engineering degree.
Then there is the character named Dom Pedro. He ranges from cheap
crooked bureaucrat to King of the Jungle, from quivering coward to
fearless and fearsome man hunter, from slimy enemy to trusted friend.
This book continues the odd writing style of "Radium Island" where
there is often a lot of running around and "action" that leads no
where and seems to involve no rational thoughts or plans on the part
of the heroes. This is also true regarding the bad guys.
Chapter 7 is titled "A Declaration of War" and after a little
skirmish in which things don't go well for the forces of evil, we are
told that: "...Even Shorty could not foresee the terrible revenge in
store for them from the enraged Graziano. Nobody...had any idea that
Graziano would violate every fundamental of civilized conduct, ride
roughshod over every human restraint, hunt them and pursue them
with the crazed, relentless fury of a hungry animal" Wow! Sounds like
some real action is ahead doesn't it? Never happens.
Graziano does little more than throw a temper tantrum and smack a
few native boys around. It is as though the author took a vacation
between chapters and on his return forgot about all the bloodthirsty
stuff Graziano was going to do.
This book also has a comical attitude toward the natives. They are
portrayed as being pretty useless, given to firewater, superstitions,
and above all, great cowering fear and awe of the white man. The bad
guys have hundreds of natives that they have reduced to near
The Perrys also have natives on their side. Yet most of the "battles"
involve the white guys fighting and the natives doing nothing.
An example of this is near the end of the book when Dan is hot on the
trail of one of the bad guys named Da Costa. Dan and Da Costa both
find cover and take turns wasting bullets while Da Costa's loyal
natives wade out into reptile infested waters and watch.
Now for the most amazing part. Overall this book features absolutely
appalling editing and very sloppy writing, yet the plot and locale is
so interesting and the writing so good in certain segments, that I
read it very quickly and enjoyed it greatly!
I don't know what to say. It is a lousy book and I recommend it!
I have been lucky enough to get hold of all three books, and when I
get around to reading the final one I will be back to tell you about
Post Script July 2012: Well I've read Book #3 Sin-Kiang Castle a couple
times in the 12 years since I posted the two reviews above. I just haven't
gotten around to writing down my thoughts. I shall get to it soon however!
|Dan Perry : An Unusual Series
Comments By Mark Johnson
|Copyright 2000-2012 by R. Mark Johnson