High June: Reading Sanctum #23 — The Curse of Capistrano

Way back in March of 2020, The Mustache and the Beard celebrated our 100th post with a video called “The Definitive 50 Books a Geek Must Read Before Dying.” However, pretentious that might sound, we endeavored to recall every book we had ever read which we considered essential primers for well-rounded Geekery as a whole. The Beard shared his list of 50 books, and I, the Mustache, shared my list.

It should come as a surprise to no one, that I thought my list was correct and perfect. However, because I am a huge reader and via the Mustache and the Beard, I get access to things that not everyone can access, I have systematically gone through some of the books the Beard had on his list and read them to see if something on my list might need to change.

Clearly, most people are familiar with Zorro. We saw him on TV. We read about him in comic books. He was in movies. There were even pulp magazines with pictures and stories. Zorro was famous. Even so, The Mark of Zorro was on the Beard’s list, but it wasn’t on mine. I had never read the actual book. I have recently rectified that oversight.

The first installment of The Curse of Capistrano was originally published in the August 9, 1919, issue of All-Story Weekly, a pulp magazine that featured several such stories of escapist (high adventure) fiction.

The original story ran over the course of five issues of the magazine. It was adapted then into a silent movie in 1920, starring Douglas Fairbanks titled The Mark of Zorro, which referred to the three rapier slashes made by Zorro to form a Z.

The movie met with so much success that the author Johnston McCulley began a new series of stories starring the masked hero, because magazine subscribers were calling out for more Zorro. In 1922, McCulley began the enterprise of writing more Zorro stories, eventually writing more than 60 serialized stories.

Those stories along with the initial story eventually were collected into books: The Curse of Capistrano stories were gathered together and renamed after the movie The Mark of Zorro and then we have The Further Adventures of Zorro, Zorro Rides Again, and The Sign of Zorro.

There was a deliberate attempt to keep the name of the character in the title (which means fox in Spanish). Although the Curse of Capistrano sounds good, there’s no mention of the title character which of course was the major selling point of the stories — a masked vigilante that intercedes on behalf of the populace.

It took twenty years for 20th Century Fox to create and release a new movie with Tyrone Power playing Don Diego Vega. This movie was also titled the Mark of Zorro, but it was a talkie version, that received critical, financial, and popular success renewing the interest in Zorro.

So, I’ve mentioned why I read the book, but I’ve withheld how I felt about it, but if you’re a regular follower of the blog, would I have gone through so much set up if I hated the thing? The Beard told me he wanted to read my post, when I mentioned it to him, so here goes exactly what I wrote on Goodreads.

“The Curse of Capistrano, otherwise known as The Mark of Zorro by Johnson McCulley was published in 1919 as a pulp hero of the early Wild West period when the Presidio fortress was established as a Spanish foothold in the early United States.”

“This book came to my attention through the blog I share with my best buddy for over 37 years: The Mustache and the Beard. A few years ago, for our 100th post we were asked to give our 50 Novels a Geek Must-Read Before Dying. One of my western offerings was Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, #44 on my list. The Mark of Zorro was #18 on the Beard’s list.”

“After reading / listening to this audiobook. I have elected to eliminate the Zane Grey novel and replace it with this book. To my mind this book has everything. It has romance. It has swashbuckling action. It has pistols, a masked hero, and a righteous cause.”

“It has historical significance, and most important of all to a Puerto Rican, ill-accustomed to heroes looking like me, it started a series of books with an ethnic hero fighting for justice. The audiobook swept me away and what seemed like just a short while later, it was finished. I loved it. Classic. Romantic. Perfect.” 

So, my thanks to the Beard, I have to admit he taught me something. By me wanting to prove the Beard wrong, and celebrate my own literary acumen, I found a really good book to add to my list. And yes, I said “Perfect!” If you follow the blog, you know what perfect means.

5 out of 5 Grey Geeks

I have really enjoyed eating crow (not really), but I enjoyed spending time with you. As always, we gratefully thank you for reading our posts and watching our videos. The Mustache and the Beard just wouldn’t be the same without you. See you, later. Take it easy. Peace.

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