In the late 1800s and early 1900s, serial characters were the name of the game.
They provided a writer with an opportunity to write several stories with the same character which, hopefully, would grow in popularity and provide the writer with a regular source of income. This was all, no doubt, heightened to an extreme by the popularity of Sherlock Holmes in the Strand magazine. Because so many readers would buy each new adventure of Holmes that they published, the magazine could rely on a higher profit from that issue and would, naturally, encourage more stories from Doyle.
So it is no surprise that Hodgson not only saw this trend but attempted to capitalize upon it himself.
During his writing career, Hodgson would attempt several times to create a serial character that would both capture the public’s imagination and line his pockets with repeat sales. Carnacki was his most famous example but there were some others as well.
Gault was an usual character for Hodgson. Being more fleshed out, Gault was more ‘alive’ than many of his other characters. Appearing in stories written near the end of Hodgson’s career, Gault is an amoral ship’s captain who is not above smuggling the odd contraband through customs is the price is right.
Unlike many of Hodgson’s other characters, Gault’s moral code is ambiguous. He is also untrusting of women which is another rare trait for a Hodgson character. Not unsurprisingly, however, Gault is very patriotic and shows a great deal of dislike for the Germans (then at the start of WWI). As with many writers, we have to wonder if Gault might not be showing some of Hodgson’s own personality traits.
Gault appeared in the following stories:
“Contraband of War”
“The Diamond Spy”
“The Red Herring”
“The Case of the Chinese Curio Dealer”
“The Drum of Saccharine”
“From Information Received”
“He ‘Assists’ the Enemy”
“The Problem of the Pearls”
“The Painted Lady”
“The Adventure of the Garter”
“My Lady’s Jewels”
“Trading with the Enemy”
“The Plans of the Reefing Bi-Plane”
Cargunka is another in Hodgson’s collection of ‘men of action’. Although only appearing in a few stories, he leaves an impression of a rough and tumble fellow. The ‘D.C.O.’ stood for “dot-and-carry-one”, which is an aside to Cargunka’s irregular gait due to having one leg shorter than the other. Like WHH, Cargunka fancies himself a poet but is not particularly gifted. Rare among Hodgson’s characters, Cargunka is not a ship’s captain but, rather, an owner. In addition to owning two ships, Cargunka also owns two bars and a marine supply store. He appeared in only these two stories:
“D.C.O. Cargunka–The Adventure with the Claim Jumpers”
“D.C.O. Carbunka–The Bells of the Laughing Sally“
One of Hodgson’s lesser characters, Captain Jat is a tall, lean man who is primarily interested in treasure, women and drink. His cabin boy, Pibby Tawles, is his confidant and companion on his adventures and also has to endure rather poor treatment at Jat’s hands. The character itself is limited and appears to be little more than another of Hodgson’s stereotypical ‘bad officers’. Jat appears in only two stories:
“Capt. Jat–The Adventure of the Headland”
“Capt. Jat–The Island of the Ud”
Hodgson never quite hit the mark with these serial characters. Although Carnacki has proven to outlast him, only seven of the nine stories featuring the character were published in his lifetime. Gault fared a little better, possibly owing to it’s more contemporary setting, and was actually responsible for the one American publication issued during Hodgson’s lifetime.