You have to love a writer who spends about half a book setting up a climactic race between the Black (backed by his true love owner Alec Ramsey) and Satan (the Black's son, backed by his trainer, Henry), and then has the race cancelled and all the horses quarantined when one of them drops dead from swamp fever, in order to have them whisked out into the mountains so the climactic race can occur as they race for their lives to outrun a deadly forest fire. That's The Black Stallion and Satan. There's also the really quite strange twist in which the comic Italian Tony volunteers his horse Napoleon as the guinea pig to test the blood of Satan and The Black, and a lovely little moment at the end when Alec lets Henry keep his illusions.

I really hope that there is a better test for swamp fever now than injecting a healthy horse with the blood of a possibly infected horse, and then waiting to see if the healthy horse dies.

The Black Stallion Revolts is the one with amnesia, caused by the second plane crash and about the fifth serious vehicular accident in the series. If I was Alec, I would never travel except on horseback.

The Black feels his wild oats and tries to kill Satan; Alec decides to let him run wild on an enormous ranch for a month to get it out of his system; Alec leaves his ID with Henry; the co-pilot gives the Black a bucket of ice water, which gives him colic, which makes him go berserk and causes the plane to crash-land; the Black runs off and kills a bull moose; Alec hits his head, gets amnesia, and stows away in a truck; Alec wakes up with no ID, a wad of blood-stained money, no memory, and everyone talking about an escaped criminal who looks just like him; saves the life of a horse an evil guy named Cruikshank was trying to drag to death behind his truck; and gets a job as a cowboy on a ranch. Where he finds the Black! And feels the bond! But he still thinks he's a criminal! And so is afraid to ride the Black in a race when the ranch owner wants him to, because he might be recognized and arrested! Woe!

If I was Mrs. and Mr. Ramsey, by now I would stop worrying any time my son disappeared and was presumed dead. This is about the sixth time. If the Black is with him, he'll be OK.

View on Amazon: Black Stallion and Satan

The Black Stallion Revolts
You have to love a writer who spends about half a book setting up a climactic race between the Black (backed by his true love owner Alec Ramsey) and Satan (the Black's son, backed by his trainer, Henry), and then has the race cancelled and all the horses quarantined when one of them drops dead from swamp fever, in order to have them whisked out into the mountains so the climactic race can occur as they race for their lives to outrun a deadly forest fire. That's The Black Stallion and Satan. There's also the really quite strange twist in which the comic Italian Tony volunteers his horse Napoleon as the guinea pig to test the blood of Satan and The Black, and a lovely little moment at the end when Alec lets Henry keep his illusions.

I really hope that there is a better test for swamp fever now than injecting a healthy horse with the blood of a possibly infected horse, and then waiting to see if the healthy horse dies.

The Black Stallion Revolts is the one with amnesia, caused by the second plane crash and about the fifth serious vehicular accident in the series. If I was Alec, I would never travel except on horseback.

The Black feels his wild oats and tries to kill Satan; Alec decides to let him run wild on an enormous ranch for a month to get it out of his system; Alec leaves his ID with Henry; the co-pilot gives the Black a bucket of ice water, which gives him colic, which makes him go berserk and causes the plane to crash-land; the Black runs off and kills a bull moose; Alec hits his head, gets amnesia, and stows away in a truck; Alec wakes up with no ID, a wad of blood-stained money, no memory, and everyone talking about an escaped criminal who looks just like him; saves the life of a horse an evil guy named Cruikshank was trying to drag to death behind his truck; and gets a job as a cowboy on a ranch. Where he finds the Black! And feels the bond! But he still thinks he's a criminal! And so is afraid to ride the Black in a race when the ranch owner wants him to, because he might be recognized and arrested! Woe!

If I was Mrs. and Mr. Ramsey, by now I would stop worrying any time my son disappeared and was presumed dead. This is about the sixth time. If the Black is with him, he'll be OK.
I went to a used bookshop yesterday and picked up this, The Black Stallion and Satan (the one with the forest fire), The Black Stallion's Filly, and The Black Stallion Revolts (the one where Alex gets amnesia. Hmm, which to read next...?

In this, the third Black Stallion book, the Black is still in Arabia in the care of Really Long Named Arab Sheikh. RLNAS keeps his promise and sends Alec the Black's first foal, a black colt with a white diamond on its forehead. Alec is thrilled, but the colt, whom he names Satan, is not just wild, but vicious, malicious, and directs his considerable intelligence to the cause of harming everything in his sight. In the course of the book, Satan makes a determined effort to kill not only Alec and Henry, but the comic Italian stablekeeper's old horse Napoleon and Alec's father's dog.

I like that Farley does not make Satan glamorously dangerous, but a disturbingly disruptive influence: the colt is enormous, everyone is afraid of him, and the difficulty of breaking him leads Henry into a pretty dark place. (At one point Alec accuses Henry of beating Satan with a chain!) Alec does manage to tame him, of course, but Satan never loves him like the Black loved him.

Races: 2

Aliens: 0

Rabid vampire bats: 0

Vehicular accidents: 0

Apocalypses: 0

Dramatic training sequences: At least 5

Injuries requiring hospitalization and/or bed rest: 3, including the dog's.
I went to a used bookshop yesterday and picked up this, The Black Stallion and Satan (the one with the forest fire), The Black Stallion's Filly, and The Black Stallion Revolts (the one where Alex gets amnesia. Hmm, which to read next...?

In this, the third Black Stallion book, the Black is still in Arabia in the care of Really Long Named Arab Sheikh. RLNAS keeps his promise and sends Alec the Black's first foal, a black colt with a white diamond on its forehead. Alec is thrilled, but the colt, whom he names Satan, is not just wild, but vicious, malicious, and directs his considerable intelligence to the cause of harming everything in his sight. In the course of the book, Satan makes a determined effort to kill not only Alec and Henry, but the comic Italian stablekeeper's old horse Napoleon and Alec's father's dog.

I like that Farley does not make Satan glamorously dangerous, but a disturbingly disruptive influence: the colt is enormous, everyone is afraid of him, and the difficulty of breaking him leads Henry into a pretty dark place. (At one point Alec accuses Henry of beating Satan with a chain!) Alec does manage to tame him, of course, but Satan never loves him like the Black loved him.

Races: 2

Aliens: 0

Rabid vampire bats: 0

Vehicular accidents: 0

Apocalypses: 0

Dramatic training sequences: At least 5

Injuries requiring hospitalization and/or bed rest: 3, including the dog's.
It's the one with the aliens. [livejournal.com profile] matociquala was right on the money when she said that Walter Farley is his own crackfic.

A boy named Steve whose black hair distinguishes him from Alec Ramsey, whose hair is red, previously discovered Skull Azul Island and its secret hidden valley containing Flame, the wild red stallion, and other purebred Arabian horses in The Island Stallion, which I haven't yet read. He's back visiting Flame when an alien spaceship containing two alien tourists lands on Skull Azul Island, just as Steve is daydreaming about racing Flame-- something which he can never do without revealing the secret of Skull Azul Island and ruining everything for everybody. But lucky for him, one of the aliens just happens to be a big fan of horses and horse-racing, and is eager to set it up, with a magic bridle for Flame and liquid disguise for Steve, so Flame can race in an international contest and then safely return to Skull Azul Island without anyone ever learning where he came from.

No, really. No, really.

At first I thought, "Wow, Farley hates to use a normal plot device when a totally insane one would do." But the aliens, who can turn into birds or men in suits or pretty much anything else, turn out to be not just a handy device for getting Flame to race, but integral to the story-- and their arrival at Skull Azul Island is not a coincidence.

It's still kind of a whacky story, but it's a thematically coherent and poignant, if slightly preachy, whacky story, which is more than I had expected.

Boggle on Amazon: The Island Stallion Races (Black Stallion)
It's the one with the aliens. [livejournal.com profile] matociquala was right on the money when she said that Walter Farley is his own crackfic.

A boy named Steve whose black hair distinguishes him from Alec Ramsey, whose hair is red, previously discovered Skull Azul Island and its secret hidden valley containing Flame, the wild red stallion, and other purebred Arabian horses in The Island Stallion, which I haven't yet read. He's back visiting Flame when an alien spaceship containing two alien tourists lands on Skull Azul Island, just as Steve is daydreaming about racing Flame-- something which he can never do without revealing the secret of Skull Azul Island and ruining everything for everybody. But lucky for him, one of the aliens just happens to be a big fan of horses and horse-racing, and is eager to set it up, with a magic bridle for Flame and liquid disguise for Steve, so Flame can race in an international contest and then safely return to Skull Azul Island without anyone ever learning where he came from.

No, really. No, really.

At first I thought, "Wow, Farley hates to use a normal plot device when a totally insane one would do." But the aliens, who can turn into birds or men in suits or pretty much anything else, turn out to be not just a handy device for getting Flame to race, but integral to the story-- and their arrival at Skull Azul Island is not a coincidence.

It's still kind of a whacky story, but it's a thematically coherent and poignant, if slightly preachy, whacky story, which is more than I had expected.
Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses. A set of very brief essays on the five senses (organized by sense) and related matters, ie, the section on taste has essays on chocolate and vanilla. This makes amusing bedside reading, but Ackerman's overheated writing style and precious persona get tiresome if you read more than a few at once. She's constantly getting manicures and leaping into scented baths-- I mean, even more than one would expect given the subject matter. Also, some of the information she presents is wildly oversimplified or even wrong-- not totally off-base, but not quite right. (Sorry, I can't recall examples off-hand.) Not bad, but Sharman apt Russell does this sort of thing with more wit, less swooniness, and much better attention to accuracy.

Walter Farley, The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt, in which the Black sires a son, Bonfire, on a harness-racing mare. Horse-knowledgeable readers, how likely is it that the son of a race horse would do harness racing? That's the excuse to include this book in the Black Stallion series, anyway, because it has no other connection. Harness racing, in which horses pull light carriages, is traditionally done at county fairs, but times are changing and it's starting to become a big sport with big money involved. The old harness racer who owns the colt is violently opposed to this, but it's not a clear-cut issue.

This entry is exceptionally well-written and well-characterized, centering around a young man who cares for and races the colt, and his complicated relationships with several father-figures from the harness-racing world. The young man is your basic reader stand-in, but the adults are complex, prickly, sometimes unlikable characters who grow and change and reveal more facets of themselves as the story goes on. One of them is a middle-aged woman who races her own filly against Bonfire in the climax. Let me repeat: there is a middle-aged female jockey! She's sympathetic-with-flaws, like the other adults in the story.

This one has no vampire bats, aliens, apocalypses, or other insane plot elements. It's not that kind of story.
Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses. A set of very brief essays on the five senses (organized by sense) and related matters, ie, the section on taste has essays on chocolate and vanilla. This makes amusing bedside reading, but Ackerman's overheated writing style and precious persona get tiresome if you read more than a few at once. She's constantly getting manicures and leaping into scented baths-- I mean, even more than one would expect given the subject matter. Also, some of the information she presents is wildly oversimplified or even wrong-- not totally off-base, but not quite right. (Sorry, I can't recall examples off-hand.) Not bad, but Sharman apt Russell does this sort of thing with more wit, less swooniness, and much better attention to accuracy.

Walter Farley, The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt, in which the Black sires a son, Bonfire, on a harness-racing mare. Horse-knowledgeable readers, how likely is it that the son of a race horse would do harness racing? That's the excuse to include this book in the Black Stallion series, anyway, because it has no other connection. Harness racing, in which horses pull light carriages, is traditionally done at county fairs, but times are changing and it's starting to become a big sport with big money involved. The old harness racer who owns the colt is violently opposed to this, but it's not a clear-cut issue.

This entry is exceptionally well-written and well-characterized, centering around a young man who cares for and races the colt, and his complicated relationships with several father-figures from the harness-racing world. The young man is your basic reader stand-in, but the adults are complex, prickly, sometimes unlikable characters who grow and change and reveal more facets of themselves as the story goes on. One of them is a middle-aged woman who races her own filly against Bonfire in the climax. Let me repeat: there is a middle-aged female jockey! She's sympathetic-with-flaws, like the other adults in the story.

This one has no vampire bats, aliens, apocalypses, or other insane plot elements. It's not that kind of story.
I stare at it.

It stares back.

I stare at it.

It stares back.

I eat dinner and watch the first episode of Naruto, which is ever so much more poignant when you've already read thirty volumes of manga. Also-- yep, that was Urahara and Tsuzuki's voice actor, all right. Too bad he's not in the rest of the show, although I see why they wanted a good actor for that role.

I go back to staring at the project.

It goes back to staring back. Balefully.

I will now work on for another forty minutes without doing anything else, and will then knock off and continue reading The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt, which is excellent despite the total lack of aliens, vampires, or rabid vampire bats.
I stare at it.

It stares back.

I stare at it.

It stares back.

I eat dinner and watch the first episode of Naruto, which is ever so much more poignant when you've already read thirty volumes of manga. Also-- yep, that was Urahara and Tsuzuki's voice actor, all right. Too bad he's not in the rest of the show, although I see why they wanted a good actor for that role.

I go back to staring at the project.

It goes back to staring back. Balefully.

I will now work on for another forty minutes without doing anything else, and will then knock off and continue reading The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt, which is excellent despite the total lack of aliens, vampires, or rabid vampire bats.
Also know as, "The One With The Rabid Vampire Bat." I am using this icon because it's the closest I have to a deadly rabid vampire bat icon.

This is the first sentence: Like a giant bat the transatlantic plane flew through the night, using sensitive antennas to find its way.

Bats have antennas? Or is that antennae?

The title of the first chapter, by the way, is "Bat 29167." From page two: It [the plane] could now be seen clearly and the name on its side read Bermuda Atlantic Transport. On its vertical tail fin were the large initials:
B
A
T


Alec, the trainer Henry, and miscellaneous crew members are transporting the Black and other horses by air when they get caught in a storm, lose their way, and crash at sea. The humans get on a lifeboat, and the horses swim away. While searching for land, the humans are attacked by sharks and the Black by a giant squid. But the humans make it to an inhabited island, and the horses to Skull Azul Island, site of Sekrit Government Experiments, alien visitations (in other books-- they don't turn up in this one), and the wild red stallion, Flame.

Alec and Henry immediately begin searching for the Black. They follow reports of a wild black horse, which leads them to the discovery that a deadly rabid vampire bat is on the island. A lengthy info-dump on bats, vampire bats, and rabies ensues, sprinkled with an impassioned defense of bats as a species, which left me in inappropriate hysterics.

The policeman smiled sympathetically. "I'm afraid you're prejudiced against all bats," he said, "And you shouldn't be."

...

"Did you know that bats were flying millions of years before our own race appeared on Earth?"


And so forth. Alec and Henry go to Bat Cave (no, really) to look for the vampire bat. It's there, it attacks Alec, it escapes, they find the wild black horse dead of rabid vampire bat bite, and charter a boat, Night Owl to look for The Black on surrounding islands. But little do they know that in the cabin of the Night Owl slept the vampire. ... He slept comfortably, awaiting the coming of night when he would set out once more to feed on another's blood.

Meanwhile, on Skull Azul Island, which appears to be a featureless dome of rock but which contains a secret passageway to an island paradise within, The Black and Flame are having it out over who gets the mares. But when Alec and the vampire bat boat get close to the island, the bat attacks Alec, then flees to Azul Island, where it attacks the horses. At this point we get a bit of the vampire bat's POV: Finally, the drive within him turned to aggressiveness, and he was no longer able to quell his mounting excitement.

A lengthy rabid vampire bat vs. The Black and Flame battle ensues. Let's just say that by the end, everyone lives happily ever after. Except the bat.

Boggle on Amazon: The Black Stallion and Flame
Also know as, "The One With The Rabid Vampire Bat." I am using this icon because it's the closest I have to a deadly rabid vampire bat icon.

This is the first sentence: Like a giant bat the transatlantic plane flew through the night, using sensitive antennas to find its way.

Bats have antennas? Or is that antennae?

The title of the first chapter, by the way, is "Bat 29167." From page two: It [the plane] could now be seen clearly and the name on its side read Bermuda Atlantic Transport. On its vertical tail fin were the large initials:
B
A
T


Alec, the trainer Henry, and miscellaneous crew members are transporting the Black and other horses by air when they get caught in a storm, lose their way, and crash at sea. The humans get on a lifeboat, and the horses swim away. While searching for land, the humans are attacked by sharks and the Black by a giant squid. But the humans make it to an inhabited island, and the horses to Skull Azul Island, site of Sekrit Government Experiments, alien visitations (in other books-- they don't turn up in this one), and the wild red stallion, Flame.

Alec and Henry immediately begin searching for the Black. They follow reports of a wild black horse, which leads them to the discovery that a deadly rabid vampire bat is on the island. A lengthy info-dump on bats, vampire bats, and rabies ensues, sprinkled with an impassioned defense of bats as a species, which left me in inappropriate hysterics.

The policeman smiled sympathetically. "I'm afraid you're prejudiced against all bats," he said, "And you shouldn't be."

...

"Did you know that bats were flying millions of years before our own race appeared on Earth?"


And so forth. Alec and Henry go to Bat Cave (no, really) to look for the vampire bat. It's there, it attacks Alec, it escapes, they find the wild black horse dead of rabid vampire bat bite, and charter a boat, Night Owl to look for The Black on surrounding islands. But little do they know that in the cabin of the Night Owl slept the vampire. ... He slept comfortably, awaiting the coming of night when he would set out once more to feed on another's blood.

Meanwhile, on Skull Azul Island, which appears to be a featureless dome of rock but which contains a secret passageway to an island paradise within, The Black and Flame are having it out over who gets the mares. But when Alec and the vampire bat boat get close to the island, the bat attacks Alec, then flees to Azul Island, where it attacks the horses. At this point we get a bit of the vampire bat's POV: Finally, the drive within him turned to aggressiveness, and he was no longer able to quell his mounting excitement.

A lengthy rabid vampire bat vs. The Black and Flame battle ensues. Let's just say that by the end, everyone lives happily ever after. Except the bat.
I read a bunch of this series when I was a kid-- there are 25 of them-- but not all, and I must have missed The Black Stallion Returns because it didn't seem at all familiar, and I am pretty sure I would have remembered the ending, if nothing else.

These were much as I remembered them: pulpish but evocative writing about a boy and his horse, the joy of riding and communing with a powerful and half-wild animal, and enough races, troubles with registration papers, and thrilling adventures to make up a story upon which to hang the overarching point of the series, which is the love between Alec Ramsey and his stallion, The Black. (Shut up, it is totally platonic.)

The best part of the first book is the first half, in which teenage Alec survives a shipwreck by hanging on to the halter of the wild black stallion the ship was transporting, and whom he'd earlier tried to befriend by leaving sugar in his stall. The Black swims to a desert island, where Alec manages to feed them both by drying seaweed, and tames The Black and learns to ride him. The second half, where they are rescued and Alec brings The Black back to America, breaks him to saddle, and races him in a test match between the two fastest horses in the country, is a bit of a come-down after the primal desert island scenes.

The Black is absent from much of The Black Stallion Returns, for his original owner, an Arab chieftain, shows up to claim him. Alec offers to buy The Black, but the chieftain refuses to sell and taes him away. Alec manages to get the owner of one of the horses The Black beat in the test match to take him and The Black's trainer to Arabia, to seek out the chieftain, Abu Ja Kub Ben Ishak, and no I am not going to type that out every time I mention him, so they can buy some of his other horses as breeding stock, since he's obviously got an excellent breeding program. This does not square with the fact that The Black appeared to be a captured wild horse in the first book, but whatever.

Arabian adventures follow, as Alec and company get lost in the desert and have to drink water vomited up by a dying camel, get mixed up in a complicated scheme involving a feud between two Bedouin tribes, get shot at, get tortured, see significant Arabian medallions, are instrumental in returning a house-boy with a significant birth mark to his rightful place in a Bedouin tribe, and, of course, Alec races The Black.

This is kind of Orientalist-- it was written in 1945-- but I prefer the "They are a noble race, terrible in battle yet bound by honor" Western narrative of the Middle East to the current one of "They are a race of evil suicide bombers."

The first book also assumes that women can't ride and have no interest in horses, but the second one introduces a tough Bedouin princess who rides The Black's intended mate. (She hooks up with another Bedouin, not with Alec. I think Alec is still fourteen at that point.) The Black Stallion and the Girl includes two female jockeys, although one is unfortunately a bit of a Mary Sue of a free-spirited hippie girl and the other is hard as nails.

Fun stuff. I look forward to reading The Island Stallion, which I vaguely recall involves aliens or weird experiments or Atlantis or some other sf-nal elements, unless I'm totally hallucinating.

View on Amazon: The Black Stallion

The Black Stallion Returns
I read a bunch of this series when I was a kid-- there are 25 of them-- but not all, and I must have missed The Black Stallion Returns because it didn't seem at all familiar, and I am pretty sure I would have remembered the ending, if nothing else.

These were much as I remembered them: pulpish but evocative writing about a boy and his horse, the joy of riding and communing with a powerful and half-wild animal, and enough races, troubles with registration papers, and thrilling adventures to make up a story upon which to hang the overarching point of the series, which is the love between Alec Ramsey and his stallion, The Black. (Shut up, it is totally platonic.)

The best part of the first book is the first half, in which teenage Alec survives a shipwreck by hanging on to the halter of the wild black stallion the ship was transporting, and whom he'd earlier tried to befriend by leaving sugar in his stall. The Black swims to a desert island, where Alec manages to feed them both by drying seaweed, and tames The Black and learns to ride him. The second half, where they are rescued and Alec brings The Black back to America, breaks him to saddle, and races him in a test match between the two fastest horses in the country, is a bit of a come-down after the primal desert island scenes.

The Black is absent from much of The Black Stallion Returns, for his original owner, an Arab chieftain, shows up to claim him. Alec offers to buy The Black, but the chieftain refuses to sell and taes him away. Alec manages to get the owner of one of the horses The Black beat in the test match to take him and The Black's trainer to Arabia, to seek out the chieftain, Abu Ja Kub Ben Ishak, and no I am not going to type that out every time I mention him, so they can buy some of his other horses as breeding stock, since he's obviously got an excellent breeding program. This does not square with the fact that The Black appeared to be a captured wild horse in the first book, but whatever.

Arabian adventures follow, as Alec and company get lost in the desert and have to drink water vomited up by a dying camel, get mixed up in a complicated scheme involving a feud between two Bedouin tribes, get shot at, get tortured, see significant Arabian medallions, are instrumental in returning a house-boy with a significant birth mark to his rightful place in a Bedouin tribe, and, of course, Alec races The Black.

This is kind of Orientalist-- it was written in 1945-- but I prefer the "They are a noble race, terrible in battle yet bound by honor" Western narrative of the Middle East to the current one of "They are a race of evil suicide bombers."

The first book also assumes that women can't ride and have no interest in horses, but the second one introduces a tough Bedouin princess who rides The Black's intended mate. (She hooks up with another Bedouin, not with Alec. I think Alec is still fourteen at that point.) The Black Stallion and the Girl includes two female jockeys, although one is unfortunately a bit of a Mary Sue of a free-spirited hippie girl and the other is hard as nails.

Fun stuff. I look forward to reading The Island Stallion, which I vaguely recall involves aliens or weird experiments or Atlantis or some other sf-nal elements, unless I'm totally hallucinating.
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