I’ve read a lot of the same sword and sorcery/sword and planet fantasy that inspired D&D, and so I’ve read about adventurers exploring a lot of proto-dungeons: ancient tunnels and sewers, labyrinths left by wise alien races, and buried cities. One difference that strikes me between these literary dungeons and a standard D&D adventure is that, however sprawling they are – however many twists and turns the heroes take in the Cimmerian darkness – most literary dungeons contains approximately one monster. This rule goes back to the ur-D&D dungeon, Theseus’s labyrinth.
In this way, pulp-fiction spelunking is more like the classic D&D wilderness adventure than dungeon adventure. While a few D&D groups explicitly engaged in hex crawls, many overland D&D trips last for exactly one wilderness encounter.
Could a book be more D&D-y, or D&D be more literary? Well, a dungeon crawl of eight or ten encounters would play hell with the fast, location-heavy pace of your standard pulp novel, and most of the wandering monsters would be excised by an editor wielding Occam’s razor or Chekhov’s gun.
On the other hand, how would it feel to play a D&D game where you were exploring a big, dusty dungeon where you might, or might not, run into the dungeon’s singular supermonster? Would it lead to a) tension or b) boredom?