1st IPL edition paperback fine as new...
|Title||:||Rocket to the Morgue|
|Format Type||:||Mass Market|
|Number of Pages||:||176 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Rocket to the Morgue Reviews
ROCKET TO THE MORGUE. (1942). Anthony Boucher. **. I was excited to find this paperback reprint at a used book sale, since I had never read anything by Mr. Boucher. So…? Anthony Boucher was the long-time Crime Fiction Critic for the New York Times, and was highly respected for his insight and ability to pick up on new, soon-go-be-great authors in that genre. It turns out that he was also a big fan of science fiction, which he discovered through the pulps. The year 1940 (or so) was when the pulps began to give up the ghost, and genre fiction began to be issued in hard cover. Boucher was a dabbler in the field, and was also a member of a club of science fiction writers who, generally, went on to fame and fortune. In this short novel – which, alas, I couldn’t finish – he attempted to merge the two genres: detective fiction and science fiction. The result might have been good at the time, but falls flat on its face today – not the co-mingling, but the actual product. The mystery part is essentially a classical locked-room situation which is able solved by Sister Ursula, who also appeared in an earlier novel. The sci-fi part was to throw the case in front of a group of sci-fi writers and wait for their prospective solutions. Aside from this novel, which didn’t work for me, Mr. Boucher was a rabid anthologist and a devout fan of Sherlock Holmes and his cases. In general, he was an ardent supporter of both the mystery and sci-fi, to the point where there is an annual Bouchercon Convention (I’m not stuttering), which my wife and attend on an almost regular basis. Although the theme is mostly mystery and detective fiction, we have found that there is a lot of crossover among the writers, many of them producing works in both genres – in addition to westerns and non-fiction. Although I didn’t find the book to be very good, it would still be a good idea to learn more about Mr. Boucher and his legacy. I will now go after his anthologies and his works on Conan Doyle.
Anthony Boucher's Rocket to the Morgue is an ingenious mystery and also a particular delight to anyone interested in the "pulp" era of science fiction.The novel opens in prewar Los Angeles with Lieutenant Terrance Marshall, amiable family man and homicide detective,feeding the baby and answering his wife's question of "Anything interesting happen today?" Nothing interesting, of course--just a ho-hum corpse dead of low-caliber lead poisoning in a flophouse...only the murderer has not bothered to take the $300 of 1941 cash from the room, while the dead man's jacket holds an oddly distinctive rosary and the telephone number to a "[v]eddy veddy swank" apartment hotel. While Marshall's mystery-minded friend, Sister Ursula, looks into the singular religious artifact, the Lieutenant's investigation of the apartment hotel leads by complete happenstance to the plump, pretentious Hilary Foulkes, heir to his very famous father's literary estate, and a man thoroughly disliked by several science fiction writers. Now, Foulkes just happens to have had a couple of odd close calls recently--a falling brick, then a box of poisoned chocolates--and during Marshall's interview there arrives a package that ticks loudly, so...Well, as one can see, pleasant tangles and red herrings abound. There are professional jealousies and monopolistic squeezings, a glamorous Mrs. Foulkes with little love lost, a brother-in-law who is next in line as literary executor of the lucrative "Dr. Derringer" series, a deferential cousin/typist, and a classic locked room mystery. For amusement we have sentences of the droll "She crossed her legs (she knew they were good) and leaned forward (she knew they were good too)" variety, a promotion-seeking flatfoot from Pasadena, installments of an exquisitely awful space opera being hacked out at a penny a word, and the wry wit and wisdom of the Manana Literary Society.Boucher's depiction of this real-life group of California fantasy and science fiction writers, with its scarcely disguised members such as Robert A. Heinlein and others, is a particular joy. Each of these fellers, of course, has a perfectly acceptable reason for not necessarily relishing the continued corporeal existence of the vain and penny-pinching Hilary Foulkes, but it is the combination of pontificating about the history, future, and meaning of speculative fiction, plus numerous in-jokes, that make them doubly worthwhile. Austin Carter, for example, the Heinlein character, is suave and talkative and completely unflappable; when he says to Lieutenant Marshall something that it seems only the attempted murderer could have known, he then shrugs to the sputtering man, "'I believe I am supposed at this point to light a cigaret nonchalantly? Very well, I hereby do so.' The flame of the match was steady in his hand." This is hard not to adore.Even if one were not already familiar with the lovable cranks of the quirky real-world Manana Literary Society--and I confess to knowing exceedingly little about anyone except Heinlein--all of these factors add up to a very enjoyable five-star mystery from the pulp era of science fiction. In addition to the occasional wisecracks and the literary history and the in-jokes, there really is a mystery here, and its unexpected solving is definitely worth the wait.
Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher (originally published in 1942 under his pseudonym H. H. Holmes). This is another vintage mystery find in that small, heavily-loaded-with-mysteries library in small town Indiana.It revolves around the science fiction writer's world. The now-dead author Fowler Foulkes has reigned over the science fiction world in much the same way as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Holmes have presided over mysteries. His son, Hilary, fiercely protects the intellectual property of his father and does everything he can to keep that property producing the money to go along with the popularity. Hilary's attitude of inflexibility and greed has also earned him many enemies--especially among his father's science fiction colleagues. There are a couple of "accidents" that make him think that his life is in danger...and then a man named Jonathan Tarbell is murdered. Tarbell's death is connected to the Foulkes family by a rosary found in his pocket. The police are called in and Detective Inspector Terry Marshall arrives at the Foulkes home at the same time as a box of chocolates...a box of chocolates that seems to be ticking. And then there's a locked room mystery to be solved.This was the first Boucher mystery I read. I didn't find the earlier work Nine Times Nine (to which this is a sequel) until much later. It isn't the all-time best mystery. It's a competent mystery and a fairly competent locked room mystery--but having read John Dickson Carr first spoiled me for greatness. What was so great about this book was that I read it during my transition period back to mysteries from science fiction. And the book revolves around the science fiction world. Authors of the Golden Age of SF are represented here...and those who know their SF lore will recognize them--and will catch all the in-jokes. It has been said that this book was Boucher's attempt to introduce SF to the mystery loving crowd. I would say that it might work just as well the other way around.
I hate giving 1-star reviews, but "I didn't like it" is the truthful selection. This is a vintage mystery (published 1942) written in a style that didn't hold up very well over the years, in my opinion.The choice of using a narrative voice for background information pulled me out of the story too much, and the over-the-top banter between the characters quickly became annoying. I had to give up on the book after a few chapters.
I need to be honest, I've never read this book. However, I thought you would be interested in a bit of TriviaJames Griffin, in his work "Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion" states that Boucher (under the pen name of H.H. Holmes) closely modeled the primary character 'Austin Carter' on the personna of Heinlein. - page 252, A Selected Heinlein Bibliography
Sister Ursula is one of detective literature's greatest proofs, along with Father Brown and Brother Cadfael, that being a devout Catholic and employing a very sharp intelligence are an ideal match and not a contradiction. It's a terrible shame that Boucher didn't write many more of her cases.
Wonderful portrait of a skiffy community, the MLS (Mañana Literary Society) in the early 1940s. Fans of PKD's Man In The High Castle will also find a very intriguing reference to said work, 20 years before it was published!