Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"I Sat There Holding the Gun"

THE MULTIPLE VIEWPOINT STORY has its good points and its bad; any tale in whatever genre, including the "mystery," can benefit from such an approach if handled well, but the central problem had better be a darned good one or readers just might find themselves nodding off.

The Japanese film Rashomon (1950; see HERE for its "effect") and a host of imitators have tried to tell a story from multiple viewpoints, presenting events from the limited POVs of various characters, the intention being to enlarge and enhance the significance of plot developments—but that can also be risky; remember the fable of the Blind Men and an Elephant?

"The Past Master."
By Robert Bloch (1917-94).
Illustrations by Ed Vebell.
First appearance: Bluebook, January 1955.
Short story (13 pages, 3 illos).
Online at (HERE).

(Parental caution: Some strong language.)

     "The tall man with the hypnotic stare came out of the sea carrying six million in cash. Only four people could furnish clues to his mysterious behavior. Here are their stories."

Six million clams can buy quite a lot in the present; the question is, though, is it enough to buy the future . . .

~ From the statement of Dorothy Laritzky:
  ". . . he didn't see the way the guy looked at George. Every time I think about it, I could just die!"

~ From the statement of Milo Fabian:
  "I went right down and bought a ticket to Paris. All this war-scare talk is simply a lot of fluff, if you ask me. Sheer fluff."
~ From the statement of Nick Krauss:
  "Lucky thing the cops shot up all four of the guys, the ones who made the haul. So they couldn't trace anything."
~ From the statement of Elizabeth Rafferty, M.D.:
  "No doubt about it. I didn't have to wait for the double-talk to know he was crazier than a codfish. A pity, too; he was really a handsome specimen."
- Our latest contact with Robert Albert Bloch was last year (HERE).
- Several years before Bloch published "The Past Master," Arthur C. Clarke wrote another SFF-nal story with a remarkably similar theme (HERE), which was adapted for live TV back 
in the early '50s.

- There's no mention of missiles in our story; both Cold War superpowers had only bombers until the Russians and the U.S. deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles in the late 1950s.

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