Short Reviews – Thieves’ Blueprint, by Ronal Kayser (as Dale Clark)

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Thieves’ Blueprint by Ronal Kayser writing as Dale Clark appeared as the featured novelette in the March 1943 issue of G-Men Detective.

Thieves’ Blueprint has almost everything you’d expect from a “hard boiled detective story”: a mystery that starts and ends with a dame, a couple of no goods up to no good, a murder, and a no nonsense detective who narrates the whole thing to himself. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say Thieves’ Blueprints was a satire or spoof, it’s so by-the-numbers. But Ronal Kayser wrote and published hundreds of detective stories, so by 1943, he’d gotten it down to a science. Rote and predictable as it is, it doesn’t fail to entertain.

Steve Sheridan is an undercover FBI agent stationed in San Diego; he’s got a job at the naval base, but it’s cover to keep an eye out for spies and saboteurs. The story begins with Sheridan offering both ode and lament for his encounter with a dame down in Tijuana who is certainly the reason why his tires have been slashed. Flash-back to the previous night, the drop-dead gorgeous Sheila Feyne comes into a Tijuana night spot with an older gentleman, Warren. Sheridan observes and overhears a few things: they’re somewhat flush with cash from the races, the dame is playing with a cheap straw horse, and a rough pair – the Hawk and the Ogre, he dubs them – are watching them intently.

The man Sheila came in with gets up, making to go to the bathroom; shortly thereafter, the Hawk and the Ogre head to the back after him. Thinking herself ditched, Sheila leaves only to find her car’s been stolen. Playing knight-in-shining armor for the dame, Sheridan offers to take her back across the border. They file a police report on the stolen car and go their separate ways. Sheridan wonders if they were just ships passing in the night when the next morning he finds his tires slashed!

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Short Reviews – Pa Howdy Goes Fishing

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Pa Howdy Goes Fishing by Laurence Donovan appeared in the June 1943 issue of G-Men Detective. 

Though much better known for his 18 Doc Savage novels, Lawrence Donovan apparently wrote several Pa Howdy stories for various detective publications through the 30s and 40s.

Pa & Ma Howdy are Montana ranchers who’ve moved to west coast in their retirement and solve mysteries with their rubish country ways and wits to the aggravation of local constabulary and kids who insist on not getting off lawns.

In this headache-inducing adventure, Pa Howdy is a crotchety air-raid warden who crashes in on a bunch of swing kids and smashes the “greasy” “olive-faced” Italian juke-joint owner’s top end juke-box. While Pa seems to hate fun and Ma can’t abide by the factory worker girls wearing pants, Pa’s violent outburst fortuitously uncovers a possible murder mystery, leads to a kidnapping, and exposes a conspiracy which, yes, the greasy Italian is behind.

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Short Reviews – Panama Peril, by Jean Francis Webb

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Panama Peril by Jean Francis Webb appeared in the June 1943 issue of G-Men Detective. It was the 73rd Dan Fowler Novel (a regular feature of the magazine) and comprised about half of the issue. g_men_detective_194306

I’ve decided to branch out a bit in my pulp reading to see what else was going on in the 40s in hopes I’d be able to gain a better grasp of the zeitgeist and context in which the SF I’ve been reading existed. My first such sidequest will be into a small handful of G-Men Detective magazines acquired awhile back.

Riding the G-Men craze of the 30s, G-Men Detective promised to offer up all kinds of exciting thrills for would-be crimefighters: hard-boiled detective stories, crime-stopper tips, cryptoquotes and other cypher puzzles, and newswire press releases from the desk of J. Edgar Hoover masquerading as addresses to the readership. I think you could even sign up to be a Jr. G-Man and get a decoder ring!

From what I’ve read so far, G-Men Detective manages to do a good job of being a truly “all ages” publication. It promises, and delivers on, action and suspense, not dipping too far into the lurid or tawdry, though it could do with a bit more romance and allure.

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Short Reviews – The Diversifal, by Ross Rocklynne

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Diversifal by Ross Rocklynne originally appeared in the Winter 1945 issue of Planet Stories. It was reprinted “by Popular Request” in the March 1951 issue of Planet Stories and in at least three other anthologies. It can be read here at Stories Logo

The Diversifal is very different from the other two Ross Rocklynne stories I’ve read. It had a rather interesting premise and a heartbreaking ending. It was not the ending I wanted, but I can’t deny that it was a moving ending.

Bryan Barret, an ethical journalist and “Seeker of the Truth” has been visited by a strange being from the distant future called Entore. Entore is a creepy looking Homo Superior with telepathy and a striking resemblance to Brainiac; he can manifest himself in a strange semi-transparent physical manner in the present as he guides Bryan down a path that will change the future:

There is a woman Bryan Barret must never meet, must never fall in love with, must never marry, and must never have a child with – the fate of humanity in the midst of an interdimensional war in the year 800,000 AD depends upon it!

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Short Reviews – Asteroid of Fear, by Raymond Z. Gallun

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Asteroid of Fear by Raymond Z. Gallun was featured in March 1951 issue of Planet Stories. It can be found here at Stories Logo

This issue that started out a bit rocky* finds its footing with Asteroid of Fear. Though the menace is human, the setting and sci-fi elements are anything but mundane.

John Endlich and his family are the first agricultural colonists on the asteroid Vesta, assigned and provided for by the Asteroids Homesteaders Office to grow foods locally for asteroid miners. Johnny’s one of those guys who’s made his own bad luck in the past, and this could very well be the last chance to do right by his family. After a rough ride of ups and downs in life, standing up to a bully landed him in jail for six month, costing him last farm, so in a last ditch effort, he signed up to be given a kit and head off to the asteroid belt. Unfortunately for John, he finds himself the target of harassment from a group of space miners on their way back from a brief respite on Earth.

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Short Reviews – The Envoy, Her, by H.B. Fyfe

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Envoy, Her by H.B. Fyfe appeared in the March 1951 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Stories Logo

“His Illustrious Sublimity the Lord Vyrtl, Viceroy of Terra, Emperor of Pollux,” yadda yadda yadda, is on Klo, the moon of Jursa, awaiting the envoy from the planet where the imperial armada has just crushed a rebellion. All that’s left is the formality of the Jursan’s suing for peace in a groveling show of genuflection. When the envoy arrives, Lord Vyrtl is intrigued; no mere diplomat, Daphne Foster is the most beautiful and alluring woman the emperor has ever seen! He’s caught off guard, taken aback by her wit and enchanting beauty and ultimately grants a number of concessions that he otherwise likely would not to the defeated Jursans.

Folks want to know what’s up, why the emperor would give up all of that to some old crone. Old crone? Preposterous! Did they not see the envoy’s stunning beauty?! Nope, only the emperor had. Before she can get back to Jursa, Daphne’s summoned to the emperor’s presence. To soften the terms of the surrender, the Jursan used a psychic projection device that allowed someone to project someone’s ideal into their perception of an individual; she appeared to Vyrtl as the impossible ideal of a beautiful and enticing woman.

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Short Reviews – The Star Saint, by A.E. Van Vogt

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Star Saint by A.E. Van Vogt appeared in the March 1951 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Stories Logo

The Star Saint is the first story I’ve read by A.E. Van Vogt; it’s a deconstruction of the Raygun Romance, and I hated it.

A ship full of colonists is on its way to drop off a fresh batch of pioneer folk at a frontier outpost only to find that the outpost is destroyed and all of the colonists are dead. There were only enough supplies for a one-way trip, so the colonists are going to have to hold out against whatever alien threat awaits until something more can be done. Something like receiving aid from the Star Saint.

The Star Saint is something of a rogue space cop – he only shows up where and when he feels like it, but when he does show up, he has a reputation for saving the day. He’s strong, he’s brilliant, he’s reputed to be able to survive even in the vacuum of space, and the womenfolk all around the galaxy swoon at the thought of him. He practically craps rainbows. Except he’s not the main character. Some poor shlub named Leonard Hanley is.

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