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. 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.
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April 25, 2005
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Excerpt from West from Singapore by Louis L'Amour
THE HEAVY CONCUSSION of the first shell brought Ponga Jim, Mayo out of his bunk, wide-awake in an instant. He was pulling on his shoes when he heard the whistle in the speaking tube.
"Skipper?" It was Gunner Millan. "We're running into a battle! Can't see a thing but red flashes yet, about three points on the starboard bow. Sounds like a battlewagon."
"Put her over to port about four degrees," Ponga Jim said quietly. "Have the watch call Brophy and get the gun crews topside."
He got up, slid into his dungarees, and slipped on the shoulder holster with the forty-five Colt. There would be no need for it at sea, but he had worn the gun so long he felt undressed without it.
When Ponga Jim reached the bridge the sky was lit with an angry glow of flame. Two freighters of the convoy off to the starboard were afire, and something was lifted toward the sky that looked like the stern of a sinking ship. They could hear the steady fire of six-inch guns and then the heavy boom of something much bigger.
SECOND MATE MILLAN came toward him along the bridge, swearing under his breath.
"Skipper," he said. "I must be nuts, but I'd swear that gun wasn't smaller than an eighteen-inch, and there's nothing afloat carries a gun that big!"
"Sounds like it," Jim said briefly. "Might be a sixteen. The Tirpitz, maybe. But you wouldn't think they'd gamble a battleship in waters as narrow as the Red Sea."
The blazing wreck of one freighter was directly opposite them, and suddenly a low, ominous blackness moved between them and the blazing ship. For a few minutes it was clearly outlined against the red glow of flame.
Squat, black, and ugly, the monster glistened in the reddish light. It was built low and completely covered by what appeared to be a steel shell. Even as they looked they saw the muzzle of a heavy gun belch flame. A big freighter, almost a mile away, was attempting to escape. Even as they watched, the shell struck it amidships.
Suddenly, but with every move so perfectly detailed as to seem like a slow-motion picture, the distant freighter burst. The amidships vanished and the bow and stern seemed to lift away from it and then fell back into the flame-tinged water. Then there was a slow rain of black d?bris.
"Gun crews standing by, sir," first mate Slug Brophy said, as he came up. He saluted snappily, but he was scowling as he looked off across the water. "What the devil kind of a craft is that?" he demanded. "Looks like she was a seagoing tank."