The work of Willard Price (1887-1983), has had mixed fortunes of late. For some he is the height of political incorrectness, his Adventure series of children’s books are, after all, about two boys sent by their father into the most dangerous places on earth in order to capture and bring back animals for his business selling them to circuses and zoos. The attitudes to the natives are not the most modern in children’s literature, nor for that matter, on the rare occasions they make any kind of appearance, are the attitudes towards women. But in none of these things does his ‘old-fashioned’ approach reach the level of being offensive and I have been extremely surprised recently to discover that many more of the people I know read and loved the Adventure Series and look back at it fondly than I would have imagined: and a surprising number of women.
No one could claim, either, that they are great literature. The pace of the Adventure books in particular is relentless and the plots stretch the idea of ‘implausible’ to new heights. In the book I have just finished, Cannibal Adventure, the two boys (aged 19 and 14 I might add) escape a storm at sea, an attack by a Cannibal tribe, a murder attempt and being grabbed and pulled into the water by a man-eating croc as well as making a tribesman come back from the dead - and, literally, that’s in the first 30 pages. But they are immense fun and it is certainly true for me that Price’s first Adventure book Amazon Adventure sparked a childhood obsession with the place, wildlife and people of the Amazonian rainforest which has never truly left me. I devoured all fourteen Adventure books and, amazingly, for a series, the first of which was published in 1949, I had to wait for the last one to come out before I could read it in 1980.
There was much more to Willard Price than the Adventure series: he was an inveterate traveller, journalist and political commentator - there has also been recent speculation that he was effectively a spy for the US government in Japan and Micronesia, and above all he was a travel writer. It is this side of Price which I and many others are just coming to know so, for what it’s worth, below is a series of ‘notes’ towards his bibliography.
These notes are only that. I make no claim to completeness, nor could what follow be considered in any sense an academic bibliography of Price’s writing. I have used the catalogues of The British Library and The Library of Congress, booksellers’ catalogues and descriptions and have made reference to those books in my own collection. I have been discerning and as conservative as possible in the use of this material but these notes cannot be regarded as absolutely accurate or definitive. Certainly what follows could be regarded as a checklist in the broadest sense and it is hoped that it will not only form the basis for a more comprehensive and well sources bibliography but that it will give interested parties a good grounding in the range of Price’s works and help them identify books they have yet to find.