Lionel Houser. Lake of Fire (1933) 295 pp. Illustrated
by Steele Savage.
This strange story begins on the Irrawaddy River in Burma, where Norris
Haldorn, heir to an oil fortune, is honoring the terms of his father’s
will (Norris must travel the world in his father’s yacht for four years,
unless he marries, or he forfeits his inheritance; he must also take with
him as a traveling companion a beautiful young woman named Night Gambier,
who makes no secret of her desire to return to society as Mrs. Haldorn).
When he receives a message that his best friend is dying, Norris makes
an arrangement with a mysterious American living in Burma named Ed Blackburn.
Blackburn, who bears a striking resemblance to Norris, will assume Norris’
identity and remain in Burma while Norris returns to New York. But Blackburn
betrays him. He badly mutilates Norris’ face with a knife, even cutting
his tongue to alter his speech, steals his yacht, and begins living as
Norris Haldorn—he even marries Night. Several months later, Norris finally
is able to return to New York (too late to see his friend). When he reads
a newspaper story of the murder of “Norris Haldorn” in a San Francisco
hotel, he goes to investigate. Posing as a Haldorn family lawyer, he gets
involved with a grotesque legless gangster—who operates a gambling ship
off the San Mateo County coast—gets framed for the killing, and ends up
standing trial for his own murder. A bizarre tale of identity theft, mutilation,
lust, and murder, provocatively illustrated with strikingly explicit woodcuts.
Baird & Greenwood 1236; Herron