Yesterday Alex at Cirsova posted a little piece on O. A. Kline’s “Doc Morgan” series. Interesting observation about Kline’s handling of his protagonists’ love interests:
Unlike Brackett’s bad-boy heroes who often end up with the bad-girl (if he didn’t kill her), Kline’s heroes may go after the good one and get her, but are just as likely to find the good-girl is bad and the bad-girl is good.
I read The Swordsman of Mars (unknowing of the fact that it was part of a series) a couple months ago and was indeed struck by the curveball Kline throws in at the end. Throughout the story, one of the hero’s less attractive qualities is his waffling back and forth between two Martian beauties. Just pick, man! I won’t give away the ending (which definitely doesn’t involve the hero being voted Warlord of Mars), but suffice it to say that while you can certainly guess which girl he’ll end up with (you’ve got 50/50 odds there), you’ll never see the lead-up coming.
So, keen note by Alex on what appeared to have been a favorite story element of Kline’s.
As for The Swordsman of Mars, which I never reviewed on the whole – it was a fun, if poorly edited read. None of the characters were very deep, but the villain is villainous, the hero is heroic (if kind of bumbling), the sidekick is loyal, and the princesses are beautiful and mostly virtuous. Swordsman and its ilk are akin to the old Sinbad movies – they’re fun adventure stories that get your imagination going.
My impression from just this one read is that Kline was a skilled storyteller and pastichist, and perhaps the era’s best writer of Burroughsian SFF after Burroughs himself. If you’re looking for some quick, exciting science fantasy, you could do a lot worse.