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PONGA JIM MAYO

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Full Name: Ponga Jim Mayo
Nationality: American
Organization: None
Occupation Adventurer

Creator: Louis L'Amour
Time Span: 1940 - 2006

ABOUT THE SERIES

Ponga Jim Mayo is an adventurer.

He is not a spy nor would he want to be one. He loves the sea and the freedom being able to sail her to new and unusual places is what he is all about. Unfortunately, to survive means to eat and that means to earn a living so while he is always wanting to go wherever whim takes him, he has to feed his belly and that entails work. The work he spends most of the time we follow him is as captain and master of the Semiramis, a tramp freighter.

His presence in this compendium comes from the fact that he will find many of his adventures working either directly for or doing small side-jobs on behalf of the British Government, often at the request of or using the services of Major William Arnold. That individual was described as usually wearing "his neat white drill and military mustache" showing that "he could have been nothing but a British officer".

The timeframe is 1940-43 and the location is mostly Indochina. The British and the Dutch and the French had controlled most of this region but the Japanese expansion was seeing their conquering much of it and the Germans were also trying to make sure they got a good share of the resources this area had in abundance.

Since His Majesty's forces were mostly being used in Europe, the efforts to hold as much ground as possible in the Far East meant using people it might not normally have availed itself of - folks like Mayo. Mayo would not object to two different terms to describe his overall status: soldier-of-fortune and master of his vessel.

In the first instance, he earned it as someone who hired on to fight someone else's battles and in his early years he did a fair amount of that all over the world. We are told by his chronicler that Mayo "was an Irish-American who had served his first years at sea sailing out of Liverpool and along the west coast of Africa's Ponga River, where he picked up his nickname".

In the second instance, he acquired some time before we first encounter him the steamer named "Semiramis" and having earned his qualification to be a master, he gladly took the helm and has been ekeing out a living working the tramp trade all over the Pacific though largely in the Southeast Asia region.

Tramp trade is seldom a lucrative one for anybody and Mayo is living proof of this. On our first glimpse of him "everything he owned in the world was on him, from the soft, woven-leather shoes on his feet to the white-topped cap to the big Colt automatic in its shoulder holster". It is in the second recorded adventure that he sinks what tiny little he has to purchase the Semiramis.

Since he is usually in need of some work or another and since he is used to putting his life on the line for payment, throwing in the fact that War was happening or threatening everywhere he went, Mayo could not be choosy. This meant that he would find himself frequently either working directly for spies or against spies or hauling people who were spies or carrying cargo that spies wanted delivered or destroyed.

Mayo is described as being "over six feet tall [weighing] two hundred pounds and [carrying] it like a featherweight. In the officer's cap, the faded khaki suit, and woven-leather sandals he looked tough, hard-bitten. His jaw was strong, and his face was tanned by wind, sun, and brine."

As the promotional blurb for his collection of adventures puts it: "He's a two-fisted American adventurer and veteran of a hundred waterfront brawls. He's 'Ponga Jim' Mayo, and he minds his own business and leaves international intrigue to others [he doesn't, really]. But, as master of his own tramp freighter, trouble seeks him out as he navigates the treacherous East Indian seas from Borneo to Singapore. Never one to back away from danger, Jim straps on his Colt automatic and takes the helm of the Semiramis, ready to battle pirates and spies, dope peddlers and gunrunners and whoever else dares to challenge his command . . . and God help the man who crosses Jim Mayo."

BOOKS

Number of Books:3
First Appearance:1987
Last Appearance:2006

       There were no Ponga Jim Mayo books written by Louis L'Amour, just short stories. These were collected, however, in several different volumes over the years as show below.

1 West From Singapore West From Singapore
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1987

A collection of the first 7 Pongo Jim Mayo adventures originally released in the pages of Thrilling Magazine from January, 1940 to May, 1942. The stories are:
East of Gorontalo
From Here to Banggai
On the Road to Amurang
The House of Qasavara
Well of the Unholy Light
South of Suez
West from Singapore
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2 With These Hands With These Hands
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 2002

A collection of 13 previously uncollected short stories. The last one in this group is the 8th Ponga Jim Mayo story:
Voyage to Tobalai
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3 May There Be A Road May There Be A Road
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 2002

A collection of 10 previously uncollected short stories. The next to last one in this group is the 9th Ponga Jim Mayo story:
Wings Over Brazil
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4 The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour - Volume 4: The Adventure Stories The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour - Volume 4: The Adventure Stories
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 2006

A huge collection of all of Louis L'Amour's Adventure short stories. This includes all nine of the Ponga Jim Mayo tales:
East of Gorontalo
From Here to Banggai
On the Road to Amurang
The House of Qasavara
Well of the Unholy Light
South of Suez
West from Singapore
Voyage to Tobalai
Wings Over Brazil
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NOVELLAS AND SHORT STORIES

Number of Stories:9
First Appearance:1940
Last Appearance:1943

1 East of Gorontalo East of Gorontalo
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1940

First published in Thrilling Adventures, January 1940. Reprinted in the collections West from Singapore and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
Ponga Jim Mayo had been captain of the S.S. Natuna until its owner sold it to a combine run by Mayo's old enemy, Pete Lucieno. Now Mayo is certain that Lucieno is up to no good and Mayo is out to stop it; the it this time turning out to be running a shipment of illegal guns and ammo out to a submarine to cause trouble in New Guinea. Mayo will find himself working with Major Arnold of British Intelligence.
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2 From Here to Banggai From Here to Banggai
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1940

First published in Thrilling Adventures, June 1940. Reprinted in the collections West from Singapore and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
"In Makassar, a port city on the South-East coast of the island of Celebes, Ponga Jim Mayo again runs afoul of the activities of the S. S. Carlsberg, a vessel secretly supplying Nazi agents. The passengers are obviously German and Mayo is afraid that the Gestapo wants to put him out of the picture for the trouble he has already caused them.  But payments on the ship are due and he needs the money. During their trip the mysterious passengers alter the destination of their cargo from Banggai to the tiny island of Tembau on the edge of the Greyhound Straight and it’s notorious port called Tukoh Bay, a resort for all the renegades in the islands."
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3 On the Road to Amurang On the Road to Amurang
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1940

First published in Thrilling Adventures, October 1940. Reprinted in the collections West from Singapore and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
"With plenty of contacts but few actual customers Jim Mayo must be ready to compete for every cargo … cargos that, with the beginning of warfare in Europe, are getting harder and harder to find.  The Semiramis eventually winds up in Balikpapan, an oil town on the east coast of the island of Borneo.  She is tied up at the Punchar Wharves without enough cargo to pay her way to the next port.  A series of mysterious sinkings has dried up all the shipping and confounded the local authorities. When Major Arnold finds Mayo at the Balikpapan Dutch Club he offers him a cargo from Li Wan Chuang … if Jim will investigate the sinkings.  Li is the only merchant desperate enough to risk shipment via the Molucca Passage and Mayo gets himself embroiled in a hijack attempt and a bit of revenge from his old nemesis Pete Lucieno.  The Semiramis soon finds herself in trouble while steaming along the Celebes coast east of Himana Bay and negotiating the reefs off Tanjung Banka."
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4 The House of Qasavara The House of Qasavara
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1940

First published in Thrilling Adventures, December 1940. Reprinted in the collections West from Singapore and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
"In the Dutch East Indies, fears of Japanese intervention are whispered in the streets.  The Axis powers have promised “liberation” to many of the native peoples held under the administration of the colonial British and Dutch. Certain Germans are also still interested in eastern New Guinea, perhaps trying to establish a foothold in their old colony before the Japanese can make their moves in the South Pacific. In the midst of a native uprising organized around the return of Qasavara, a mythical monster supposedly killed by the creator god Qat, Jim Mayo finds himself anchoring off of Cape Wabusi and Broken Water Bay to search for a missing British agent."
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5 Well of the Unholy Light Well of the Unholy Light
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1941

First published in Thrilling Adventures, September 1941. Reprinted in the collections West from Singapore and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
"In the Netherlands East Indies Captain Jim Mayo comes ashore at Ibu Bay on Halmahera to find an old acquaintance murdered. The Japanese and Germans are attempting to spread scores of two man submarines across the commercial shipping lanes of the Far East. To discover what has happened to the man he knew Jim heads for the interior.  Climbing the Gam Konora volcano he discovers a secret weapons workshop in a ruined city and enters into a final confrontation with the S.S. Carlsberg in Halmahera’s Todahe Bay."
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6 South Of Suez South Of Suez
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1942

First published in Thrilling Adventures, March 1942. Reprinted in the collections West from Singapore and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
"Continuing from Aden up the Red Sea to Port Tewfik the crew of the Semiramis observes a mysterious and ultra modern battleship in action against a British convoy. An unknown cabal is using the war-weakened state of the British Empire and the growing power of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood as an opportunity to launch a plot to control the Middle East … and leading it is someone with a connection to Jim Mayo’s distant past."
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7 West from Singapore West from Singapore
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1942

First published in Thrilling Adventures, May 1942. Reprinted in the collections West from Singapore and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
"Heading west for the British port of Aden with a load of pilots and aircraft destined for the Middle East, the Semiramis dodges subs and merchant raiders (cargo vessels secretly armed like small warships) by avoiding the regular shipping lanes. They are also carrying a famous French general who was banished to New Caledonia for his anti fascist views … he must be delivered to the Free French forces mustering in North Africa.  Tensions mount as they begin to suspect there is a traitor or Axis agent on board."
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8 Voyage to Tobalai Voyage to Tobalai
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1942

First published in Thrilling Adventures, July 1942. Reprinted in the collections With These Hands and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
"Racing against time, the Semiramis is headed east from Cape Town, South Africa with a load of torpedo planes destined for Balikpapan, in the Netherlands East Indies.  After following a course that crosses the southern Indian Ocean Mayo turns the Semiramis north; slipping through the Linta Strait on the east side of the island of Komodo, taking the narrow passage closest to the Flores coast.  His course is being kept a secret; the passengers and some of the crew believe that they are several hundred miles to the west, nearing Makassar.  When the truth gets out, an enemy agent takes a risk to alert the Japanese so they can revise a deadly plan."
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9 Wings Over Brazil Wings Over Brazil
short story
Written by Louis L'Amour
Copyright: 1943

First published in Thrilling Adventures, November 1943. Reprinted in the collections May There Be A Road and The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour, Vol 4.
"At a party at the estate of Don Pedro Norden Jim receives an offer for his plane, the amphibian he took from Count Kull.  When he refuses he is threatened and discovers that he has stumbled on a plot by a powerful group of land owners and industrialists to take control of Brazil away from it’s pro-allies government and deliver it to the Axis. [After his plane is stolen] The search for his missing ship and an attempt to stop the junta being planned in northern Brazil takes him from the lakes and sand hills near Don Pedro’s estate to the Acarau River and the, one time, Pan Am field outside of Natal.  Stopping the plotters will require a desperate struggle on land, on the sea, and in the air."
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MY COMMENTS

The main character obviously lived in a world before there were such things as brain concussions, considering the number of times someone whacks him over the noggin putting his lights out. Sure, he has the odd headache here and there but nothing he cannot shrug off with a growl or a shot of hootch. Today, he would not like any diagnosis a physician might give him.

I adored the Westerns by Louis L'Amour and in the 70s and 80s sought out and read every one he penned up. His short stories, though, were not available to me yet; they were long out of print and the magazines nearly impossible to find even if I knew about them, which I did not. And even when his estate started reprinting them in collections, I foolishly did  not bother.

I have stopped being foolish and have been rewarded by some really excellent tales written by a man just starting to hone his skills but already showing why publishers knew they had found a winner.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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