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."