The Hell Job Series (Part 1/3)

Q
uite apart from adventure for the sake of adventure, those familiar with the literary works of L. Ron Hubbard may recognize the substance of events recounted here in his stories of the 1930s and early 1940s. For example, it was precisely from his Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition that Ron drew the atmosphere for his “Murder at Pirate Castle,” and thus his scripting of the Columbia Pictures serial based upon that story, The Secret of Treasure Island [Picture] Similarly, those familiar with Ron’s 1936 “Test Pilot,” describing thoroughly accurate aeronautical feats, may have rightly surmised the story had been based upon Ron’s experiences in the world of aviation. Finally—and here we come to the point—if he had not the personal experience from which to shape a story, he promptly went out and gained that experience.

Such was the premise of Ron’s 1936 “Hell Job” series for Argosy magazine (and most recently available in the L. Ron Hubbard Classic Fiction Series). Having procured a list of “extrahazardous professions,” Ron proceeded to pilot experimental aircraft, drive logs down North Pacific rivers, enter wild animal cages and otherwise immerse himself in the so-called “K jobs,” i.e., those deemed too dangerous to underwrite.

As he explains: “These are the accident taboos. The rating, as you know, starts at A, the preferred risk on accident. This covers clerks and writers and such. Then there is B, a little higher and having more risk to it, and then you go up letter by letter until you get to E. E is just about as high as a company wants to write. The rates are very high. Anything following comes under the head of special policy. F, G, H, I, and J are the upward limits. J is pretty bad, carrying only day to day insurance in most cases and costing as high as fifty percent.

“Then comes this rating K. K is out completely. It’s the ban. They list K’s so that they can be certain a K will never come into the office. They don’t want to see any of our K’s at all. They almost have signs on the door telling them to beat it.”

Presented here, in a similarly off-hand letter to Argosy readers (in the “Argonotes” column), is Ron’s description of that “Hell Job” series, and particularly as pertaining to his December 1936, “The Shooter.” Drawn from experiences in and around the wildcat fields of Texas, the story concerns some thoroughly rousing adventures of one Mike McGraw: “shooter” of wells, foiler of claim-jumping hoodlums and general roustabout. As a further explanatory note, “soup” is the shooter’s term for nitroglycerin, and every bit as temperamental as Ron suggests, while the seaside dock from which he plunged actually lay above a very chilled and dark Puget Sound.

The Hell Job Series Continued...



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