Three Cheers for ‘The Golden Skull’

Today I’d like to direct your attention to something really excellent, something from a better time–my favorite Rick Brant “science adventure,” The Golden Skull.

I used to read this book a lot when I was a kid. It was especially potent on a rainy summer afternoon. We had a grass rug on our back porch. I remember the subtle aroma of it, undetectable until you lay down on it to read on a rainy day. Aah…

Hal Goodwin, under the pen name of John Blaine, wrote The Golden Skull in 1954. In this outing, teenage pilot and electronics wiz kid Rick Brant and his friends go to the Philippines in search of a golden skull. Their interest is purely archeological, but the bad guys in the story want to grab the legendary artifact and sell it.

Certain writers today try to imitate these books, and other books of this class. It always seems to come off un-authentic. Maybe those writers aren’t old enough to remember the better world those books came from.

One of the things that made the Rick Brant series so wonderful–it started in 1947 with The Rocket’s Shadow–was that Hal Goodwin really knew what he was talking about. In his time, he worked for just about every government agency you could name, including NASA, and traveled all over the world. He was also an electronics expert, and intimately acquainted with the cutting-edge technology of his time.

He must have had a soft spot for the Philippines. The Golden Skull takes you there–inside the old walled city that’s inside the modern city of Manila, to the unique rice paddies terraced into the mountainsides of North Luzon… He was also great when it came to depicting Jersey shore towns that had seen better days.

Anyhow, this was a really cool book for me when I was twelve years old, and I think I like it even better now. Okay, so the prose is not Chaucer, or even F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don’t care. If you think I’d trade one Rick Brant book for the whole collected works of J.D. Salinger, Tom Wolfe, Toni Morrison or any quantity at all of College Perfessor Fiction, you’ve got another think coming.

You can get The Golden Skull via Alibris,, etc. It won’t cost you an arm and a leg; and the next time this summer that it rains on the weekend, you’ll be glad you have this book.

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