His first book was as a humorist, Out of the Hurly Burly; or, Life in an Odd Corner (1874), using the pen name Max Adeler to disassociate with his serious journalism. It was dedicated to "the intelligent compositor," the machine that laid out the type, for being "a humorist who has had too little fame" thanks to its occasional typos. The book reportedly sold over a million copies. Several other books with humorous intent followed, though Clark also attempted more serious writing. He and Mark Twain had a spat or two over their literary borrowings, both intentional and unintentional.
A representative selection from Out of the Hurly Burly offers a glimpse into Clark's/Adeler's casual humor. In this section, he is writing about umbrellas and their various uses as well as how umbrellas are perceived by certain people. He offers, for example, a story about a soldier who went into battle in the rain with an umbrella. "I do not mind being killed," he said, "but I object decidedly to getting wet." The following account is offered immediately after:
And there was the case of Colonel Coombs — Coombs of Colorado. He had heard that the most ferocious wild beast could be frightened and put to flight if an umbrella should suddenly be opened in its face, and he determined to test the matter at the earliest opportunity. One day, while walking in the woods, Coombs perceived a panther crouching, preparatory to making a spring at him. Coombs held his umbrella firmly in his hand, and presenting it at the panther, unfurled it. The result was not wholly satisfactory, for the next moment the animal leaped upon the umbrella, flattened it out and began to lunch upon Coombs. Not only did the beast eat that anxious inquirer after truth, but it swallowed the hooked handle of the umbrella, which was held tightly in Coombs's grasp, and for two or three weeks it wandered about with its nose buried among the ribs of the umbrella. It was very handy when there there was rain, but it obstructed the animal's vision, and consequently it walked into town and was killed.