This month, March, 2015 marks the beginning of the centenary year of the book publication of The Return of Tarzan by A. C. McClurg & Co. of Chicago, and I’m making a special occasion of it with a limited offer which I’ll tell you about later.
Ever since the publication of Tarzan of the Apes in The All-Story Weekly in September 1912, readers had been bombarding the offices of the magazine for a better conclusion to the romance. One reader called the ending “punk” and another was so angry about it that he refused to read another tale written by ERB. Thomas Newell Metcalf, editor of All-Story had tried to encourage a sequel as soon as the letters started appearing, but Ed was not so sure, writing back to him, “… although I have a really bully foundation in mind for one. These sequel things usually fall flat. I’ll be glad to think it over, however… .”
A month passed with no idea for a sequel though, and Metcalf, being his editor and often involved in helping to push Ed toward a story, suggested something in a letter of October 11, 1912, where Tarzan, after losing the girl, makes an attempt “…at being highly civilized in some effete metropolis, like London, Paris or New York…” and becoming disaffected with civilization, returns to the jungle where he becomes even more of a savage. On October 30 Ed submitted a rough outline. He had taken Metcalf’s idea of the “effete metropolis” and set some of the action in Paris. He had even titled the story “Monsieur Tarzan.” But, in getting his characters back to Africa he had fallen back on shipwrecks and mutinies, devices he had used in “Apes” and he had brought in an episode of cannibalism in the lifeboat that lands Jane and Clayton on the African shore. Metcalf aptly labeled the first idea “overdone” and to the second he wrote, “Really now, that is going a bit too far.” He wanted to see more jungle adventure, to reverse the “main thread” of the first book and see it deal with Tarzan’s attempts to renounce his now-civilized nature.
On his second try, on December 5, Ed sent Metcalf a detailed outline axing the first shipwreck and the mutiny, pushing Tarzan overboard, putting him on a secret mission for the Minister of War, and traveling to an ancient walled city in the heart of Africa where he finds a fortune.
Through December and the first week of January, 1913, Ed worked hard on the book, finishing it on January 8 and mailing it off to Metcalf the next day. He had re-titled the book, “The Ape-man.” By mid-January he still hadn’t heard back from his editor and he sent off a letter asking how he liked it. On January 23rd he found out. Metcalf wrote to say that he was doubtful about it and, “…What I feel more than anything else is a kind of lack of balance…”
For a beginning writer to labor over a story of this length through a number of editorial suggestions and still not make a sale, Metcalf’s response was tantamount to an unqualified rejection. ERB was disappointed, frustrated and disgusted. He wrote back that the writing game was too much of a gamble, he couldn’t be certain that, even if he did what the editor asked, he was writing what was wanted. He was ready to “chuck” it. However, the very same day he wrote a query letter to Street & Smith describing the great response that Tarzan of the Apes had generated and wondering if they would be interested in the sequel — and, by the way, “…I understand that your rates are higher than those paid by the All-Story.”
Two weeks later, on February 8, Ed got a letter from A.L. Sessions, editor of Street & Smith’s New Story Magazine with an offer of $1,000 — that’s about $23,600.00 in today’s dollars. Ed accepted two days later.
Tune in tomorrow to find out about my special RETURN OF TARZAN CENTENARY REBATE OFFER.