Saturday, November 26, 2016

"God Gave Me a Brain Beyond the Normal, and I Use It"

ONE OF THE MANY aliases adopted by logorrheic Englishman John Russell Fearn included Thornton Ayre; according to FictionMags and the ISFDb, "Ayre" produced a short-lived series character, Brutus Lloyd, "the scientific detective" ("Detective! I, sir, am a specialist!"), who evidently appeared in only four adventures, two of which we were able to locate online. Here is Lloyd's exiguous curriculum vitae:

   (1) "The Man Who Saw Two Worlds," Amazing Stories, January 1940 (a.k.a. "Blind Vision")
   (2) "The Case of the Murdered Savants," Amazing Stories, April 1940 (below)
   (3) "The Case of the Mesozoic Monsters," Amazing Stories, May 1942 (below)
   (4) "The Copper Bullet," Vargo Statten British SF Magazine, January 1954.

"The Case of the Murdered Savants."
By Thornton Ayre (John Russell Fearn, 1908-60).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, April 1940.
Reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall 1940 and A Case for Brutus Lloyd: Science Fiction Mystery Stories (2013).
Novelette (24 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
(Parental caution: Strong language.)
"Even the scientific detective, Brutus Lloyd, was baffled by the mystery that surrounded the murder of America's finest men of science . . . or was it murder?"
   Chapter I: "At the morgue he went through the ordeal without a word, merely nodding his head dazedly as he gazed on the waxen face of his dead twin—a face so like his own."
   Chapter II: "The Stained Scalpels"
   Chapter III: "The Dead Undead"
   Chapter IV: "Ambition Diabolical"
Somebody is killing off research scientists at an alarming rate, all of them stabbed through the heart with surgical scalpels, and with no reason for it in sight. When a young radio engineer, suffering from visions relating to his recently murdered brother, appeals to dimin-utive Dr. Brutus Lloyd for help, it's up to the little man with the gigantic ego to see to it that these malefactions cease—assuming, that is, he can keep his Derby hat out of his eyes.

Comment: This story asks us to believe that experienced forensic pathologists, when they're performing autopsies, don't know what a dead body looks like.

Major characters:
~ Inspector Branson:
   ". . . we can't yet see why this steady murdering of scientific men is going on. No apparent motive. It's the damnedest thing I ever heard of!"
~ Rex Thomas:
   "He was murdered, and yet last night I had the strangest dream. In fact, it wasn't a dream—more a kind of vision. In that vision my brother was still alive, yet only a few hours before I had seen him in the morgue."
~ Beryl, Rex's fiancée:
   "It's a pretty highbrow affair, I suppose, but there'll be lots of ignorant folks there, like you and me, who aren't interested in scientific mumbo-jumbo."
~ Jonathan Clayton, Beryl's stepfather:
   "Big, gray-headed, strong-necked, he looked more like a champion athlete than an inventor—and probably the best inventor the United States Government had ever employed for regu-lar service."
~ Professor Eliman, a brain surgeon:
   "The maniacal killings of scientists are not worth considering. At least, I am not afraid."
~ Joseph Clough, the Wall Street financier:
   "Waste of time, in my opinion. I made my money soaking people, not helping them."
~ Dr. Brutus Lloyd:
   ". . . a gnomelike little man under five feet in height, with an immense forehead down which curled a lock of hair shaped in a Napoleonic 'J.' You can call him an expert in any branch of science and criminology, and be right every time."

A typical Brutus Lloyd outburst:
   "Bloodstains! Bah! The stain on this knife contains proportions of sodium chloride—salt, to the uneducated; phosphate, lime, a trace of sulphuric acid, and cochineal for coloring. No man with that mixture in his veins could ever live. No man—not even I, and I can do most things."

Typos: "Crandal, the scultpor"; "Bronson asked."
~ ~ ~
"The Case of the Mesozoic Monsters."
By Thornton Ayre (John Russell Fearn, 1908-60).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, May 1942.
Reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Winter 1942 and A Case for Brutus Lloyd: Science Fiction Mystery Stories (2013).
Novelette (20 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
(Parental caution: Strong language.)
"Brutus Lloyd had never faced a more amazing mystery than the one that confronted him when he saw those incredible dinosaur footprints!"
   Chapter I: "Dammit man, dinosauria died out millions of years ago—and even supposing otherwise they'd sure have more sense than choose a dump like Trenchley to park in!"
   Chapter II: "Seance Extraordinary"
   Chapter III: "Monsters Over New York"
   Chapter IV: "Trail's End"

An infestation of dinosaurs isn't too common nowadays, so when Inspector Branson asks Brutus Lloyd to tag along to where there is one, at first the deeply dubious minuscule mastermind is totally underwhelmed at the whole idea. Soon, however, Lloyd will have to change his monumental mind, not about the dinosaurs per se, but about that infestation—for something very strange and unusual is going on in little Trenchley, events that have less to do with nature gone wild than with base human nature reasserting itself.

Principal characters:
~ Inspector Branson:
   "Seems a group of villagers, residents, saw two dinosaurs on the outskirts of the village last evening. I've questioned them all, and they all have the same story."
~ Dr. Brutus Lloyd:
   ". . . I would point out I require no aid in this matter, Dr. Phalnack. I am Lloyd—therefore self-sufficient."
~ Dr. Phalnack, a spiritualist, and Ranji, his servant:
   "It disturbed my communion with Beyond. I was aware of an unwanted dangerous element."
~ Ted Hutton, a skeptic, and his credulous wife, Janice:
   "I saw them as I was coming back from an electrical survey just out of the village. . . Gigantic! Dinosaurs . . . !"
~ Sheriff Ingle:
   "I was so surprised I don't remember."
~ The vicar:
   "I saw two huge monsters against the sunset, just outside the village. They seemed to be coming towards me."
~ Murgatroyd, a salesman:
   "Guess I saw them as I was driving into the village."

Typo: "where he'd the instruments"
Resources:
- The Brutus Lloyd stories have been collected in A Case for Brutus Lloyd: Science Fiction Mystery Stories (2013), described on Amazon this way:
Dr. Brutus Lloyd was no more than four feet ten inches tall, an amazingly gnome-like man. The most surprising thing about him was his deep bass voice. A brilliant scientist and criminologist, his unorthodox methods caused conster-nation to Inspector Branson of the New York City Police when: an accident caused a mining engineer to see into 'another world,' four scientists were murdered for their collective brainpower, and when dinosaurs were seen on the outskirts of a village ...
- So far there are only two reviews of A Case for Brutus Lloyd on Amazon (HERE):
"A humorous novel of short stories of a brilliant little fellow with a giant brain and not afraid to let everyone know it as he solves cases and uses Latin phrases." — Larry Boutin
. . . versus . . .
"This is a set of four stories: Blind Vision, The Case of the Murdered Savants, The Case of the Mezoic [sic] Monsters, and The Copper Bullet. They were originally published in 1940, 1942, and 1954. They are billed as sci-fi mysteries, but they are pretty disappointing on both counts. There are much better sci-fi stories from this era: the science isn't very imaginative or coherent, and the plots are pretty dull. As mysteries, they are probably even worse off: there's no sense that you can follow along with the story and anticipate the resolution ... the plot is too arbitrary. The characters don't make much sense and aren't very appealing, and the writing style, while well edited, is pretty flat. John Russell Fearn wrote like a million stories, I think you could find better ones than these." — Frances Nashua
- Writers in all media love hypnosis because it opens up all kinds of possible storylines (as well as making it possible to get away with otherwise weak plots); see how much hypnosis has penetrated the zeitgeist (HERE).
- As usual TV Tropes nails it down; see "Mind-Control Device" (HERE) and follow (if you dare) all of its subsidiary links.

The bottom line: "The ancient demagogue could only appeal to as many people as his voice could reach by yelling at his utmost, but the modern demagogue could touch literally millions at a time, and of course by the multiplication of his image [in newsreels and on TV] he can produce this kind of hallucinatory effect which is of enormous hypnotic and suggestive importance." — Aldous Huxley

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