Jimgrim and Ramsden, by Brian Taves

In a series of letters to 1920s readers of Adventure magazine who first read of the exploits of James Schuyler Grim, known as "Jimgrim," Mundy provided the background of his hero.  He "has served in the Intelligence Departments of at least five nations, always reserving United States citizenship. He speaks a dozen languages so fluently that he can pass himself off as a native; and since he was old enough to build a fire and skin a rabbit the very midst of danger has been his goal, just as most folk spend their lives looking for safety and comfort."

Resourceful, calm, and cunning, friendly but also distant, only once does he nearly become romantically involved, when the wily Arab woman Ayisha hopes to ensnare him--but he instead marries her to the Arab chieftain Ali Higg to insure tribal peace (The Woman Ayisha). During the years around World War I and its aftermath, Jimgrim, in his late 30s, was recruited by the British army intelligence service because of his skill at impersonation and disguise and his knowledge of Arab life.

Mundy asserted that all of his Jimgrim stories were founded on fact, and Grim was based on a real person who had fought behind Lawrence and twice made the pilgrimage to Mecca, "on one occasion overland, and once by train." Jimgrim may have been based on actual individuals Mundy met or heard about while he lived in Jerusalem.

The Lawrence of Arabia myth was so central to the time as to be an unavoidable influence, and Mundy had been impressed with the importance of Lawrence to the Arab cause during his visit to Feisul's court in Damascus. In apparent reference to Lawrence, Mundy notes that the ability to lose oneself in another culture is not rare, but the ability to function equally well in one's own culture as well as others is truly exceptional. This is Jimgrim's gift, his adaptability and capacity to immerse himself in different cultures, moving back and forth with equal facility between the West and the East.

As an American, Jimgrim believes in freedom and self-rule for colonized countries, and is not, unlike Lawrence, tied to European imperialist policies.  Jimgrim first appears, spikeing small-scale Arabian rebellions, to avoid bloodshed, but soon reveals his commitment to Feisul and the larger cause of Arab independence. Jimgrim leaves British service to form the agency of Grim, Ramsden, and Ross to do good around the world, shifting his base of operations first to Egypt, then to India and the Far East. He investigates the occult and the supernatural, leading to his initiation into training by the Masters in the legendary Tibetan Sham-bha-la.

Returning with mystical powers, Jimgrim ultimately sacrifices his own life to save the Earth from conquest by a man who possesses scientific secrets. During the ten years Mundy wrote about Jimgrim, from 1921-1930, he became a mythic figure, an archetype of his time.  Jimgrim's spiritual evolution paralleled Mundy's approach to changing world politics, as Jimgrim's activities facilitate the rise of former colonies and the East to a new position in the balance of world power. As Mundy wrote, "It won't be until a few millions of us on both sides get that gift of Grim's, and learn to see both sides at once, that East and West will ever really meet."

Jimgrim attracts a dynamic range of associates of many nationalities who appear in various combinations in the stories. Most frequent is Jeff Ramsden, who becomes a steady companion on Grim's adventures, and is most frequently the first-person narrator, partly the Dr. Watson to the cerebral Holmesian nature of Grim. Ramsden not only assists Grim but also helps to balance the narratives as a more informal, plain-speaking, unpretentious man, thereby demonstrating the heroic potential of anyone with persistence and unwavering courage. 

Ramsden serves as a surrogate for the reader into the realm of Jimgrim's fabulous adventures, sharing the surprises of Grim's talents, surroundings, and experiences. Ramsden is "a heavy siege-gun of a man," a man of notable physical size and a tower of moral strength.  He has worked at mining, and as an American, embodies his nation's raw strength, vitality, and natural wealth.

In The Mystery of Khufu's Tomb and The Hundred Days, the wealthy, lively young Joan Angela Leich falls in love with Ramsden, and they share adventures together with Grim in Egypt and India.  Although Ramsden also loves Joan, he feels that at middle-age, in his early 40s, he is too old for her.  The name, Jeff, was a tribute to the redhaired reporter, Jeff Hanley, that Mundy met days after his arrival in America in 1909--and who later took him in when Mundy was homeless and encouraged him to start writing.

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COMPILED BY BRIAN TAVES