Friday, June 16, 2017

"Everyone Slips Sometimes, and He Was No Exception"

"Mystery on Base Ten."
By William P. McGivern (1922-82).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, January 1942.
Reprinted in Amazing Stories Quarterly (Reissue), Summer 1942 and The First William P. McGivern Science Fiction Megapack (2014).
Short story (11 pages).
Online at The Luminist Archives (HERE) (PDF).

"Veya Mallon knew her father wasn't a traitor, so she blasted spaceward to prove it—right into a hornet's nest of conspirators."
True, Veya is spunky and determined but not, unfortunately, subtle . . .

The characters:
~ Space Commander Wilson:

  "Believe me, I'm as anxious as you are to clear your father's name. Unfortunately, the facts point to his guilt."
~ Veya Mallon:
  "My father was killed because the information he possessed would have incriminated some Earth officer as a traitor. For that reason he was murdered."
~ Lieutenant Tom Vickers:
  "Everything, somehow, had lost its meaning, when Veya had dropped his ring contemptu-ously at his feet."
~ The second lieutenant at Base Ten:
  "The quieter things are, the better we like it."
~ The mastermind:
  "Without those papers, your case will be declared ridiculous."

Comment: You could replace our heroine with Dale Evans, our hero with Roy Rogers, the villain with Roy Barcroft, the incriminating papers with the deed to the ranch, and the rocket ships with horses and you'd basically have a typical '40s B-Western.

How many mystery story protagonists have experienced this?

   "He felt as if he were in a labyrinth of strange motives and actions, and if he could find the right path to follow it would lead directly to the heart of the puzzle. And it was a puzzle. He appreciated that with greater force as each instant slipped past. Looking back he could see the puzzle. But he knew he would have to look forward and move forward to find the key."

Techno-fail: They have rocket ships and electron guns, but important documents are committed to paper and carried in leather cases.

An interesting footnote:

   "Squeelah—a potent drink fermented from the carnivorous plant forms that exist in great abundance on the dank planet of Saturn. It is green in color, bittersweet in taste and TNT if imbibed in quantity. — Ed."
Typos: "Vickers hands clenched" [missing apostrophe]; "his eyes glitteringly triumphantly behind the concealing mask" [should be glittering].
- Hollywood was very kind to William P. McGivern, making classic films from some of
his works and providing him with steady employment as a script writer, mostly for TV
(see IMDb HERE); there's more info on him and his crime and SFF product on Wikipedia
(HERE), the GAD Wiki (quite a lot HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE).
- If you carefully examine those posters just above, preferably with a magnifying glass,
you should be able to find McGivern's name.

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