This greeting was posted on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac.” My older son fell in love with the Burroughs’ books, not just those about Tarzan, and read every one of them. He subsequently devoured every Agatha Christie novel. Dozens of them.

It’s the birthday of American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875) (books by this author), born in Chicago, creator of the popular fictional character Tarzan, King of the Apes. Burroughs was working in Chicago as a pencil-sharpener salesman when he decided to try his hand at writing for pulp magazines. He said, “If people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, I could write stories just as rotten.” His efforts began appearing in All-Story Magazine (1912) and were a hit, influencing future science fiction writers like Ray Bradbury.

He was also secretly at work on an adventure story about a young boy in the jungles of West Africa. John Clayton, heir to the House of Greystoke, is adopted by kindly great apes after his parents die. The apes name the baby “Tarzan,” which means “white skin” in ape language. The boy is reared by the apes and learns the ways of the jungle. He also finds his parents’ abandoned cabin and their books, and he teaches himself to read and speak English.

Tarzan of the Apes was an instant success upon publication (1914). Burroughs made so much money he formed his own publishing house and bought land in California that eventually became the city of Tarzana.

The character captured the public’s imagination, spawning more than 40 novels, a comic book series, and numerous Hollywood films, which made Burroughs unhappy, because the films portrayed Tarzan as a savage. In the books, he is an erudite and wealthy heir to a noble English fortune.