This adventure romance from the early 20th century begins with Stanley Morse taking in an old friend, Ronald Murdock, who until recently hunted exotic orchids, particularly in South America. Murdock, however, is worse for wear and knows he doesn’t have long. Before he dies, he wants to tell Morse he has seen a city with an advanced civilization in the jungles of South America.
Morse is skeptical. After all, Murdock is Scottish and the Gaels are apt to go a little “fey” and see visions. He’s skeptical until Murdock produces a vase that appears to be of Greek work, an object stolen from the mysterious city by an ancestor of a native contact of Murdock’s when the people worked as slaves for the light-skinned people of the mountains. Morse can only come to the same conclusion the Murdock did: These are Atlanteans!
Murdock, who is incapable of such a trip anyway, passes away peacefully in the night. An archaeologist and anthropologist, Gordon Laidlaw, a colleague of Murdock’s, joins Morse. Much to the scorn of the scientific world, Laidlaw has long held that a remnant of Atlantean civilization escaped to South America. He is ecstatic as the sight of Murdock’s vase.
Together they mount an expedition and after much difficulty, find the city of Dor and the descendants of those who fled the destruction of Atlantis. Conveniently, the denizens speak a Greek Laidlaw can understand without much difficulty.
But all is not well in paradise. A conspiracy between the high priest and the evil Queen Rana (the latter of which has set her cap for our intrepid hero) threatens the lives of the party from the North. In the meantime, Morse has fallen in love with Leola, a celibate priestess. She is also Rana’s sister. Oddly enough, all those celibate priestesses seem to be young, nubile things and good with bows and arrows.
While this drama is going on, the equipment is lugged and camp is set up by local faithful Indians. They are uniformly tough and fearless in their service, asking for little in return.
The wish fulfillment is transparent in this story. The men are rugged, even the case of one with a deformity. The native population is divided by those willing to serve them or serve their opponents. The women are either pliant and “good” or working against the protagonists and “evil.”
When the affair (such as it is) between Morse and Leola is found out, both are brought before the assembled nobles and sentenced to death.
‘Silence, you wanton!’ It was the shrill voice of Rana, cracking in its malignity and unsuppressed anger. The queen had risen, and her face was convulsed with a deadly hatred. [The high priest] laid a restraining hand upon her arm.
Leola smiled. ‘Yours is a hollow victory, my sister. I win far more than I lose, and you lose what you could never have won.’
Rana snatched a sharp-cutting dagger from the table and threw it with all her strength and fury. Hate thwarted her aim, and the blade sank into the shoulder of a guard who stood close by.”
Even though author J. Allan Dunn was prolific and seems to have made a good living for himself, these types of works do not stand the test of time. The writing rings hollow and overwrought to 21st century ears, and the social and racial implications are silly at best.