Written by Fred Patten, and published on the LASFS Rex Rotary, July 14, 1966. Intended for the 7th meeting of the G. Peyton Wertenbaker Appreciation Society, at Len Moffatt's home, July 15, 1966. Salamander Press no. 189
Puckoon, by Spike Milligan, Penguin Book 2374, 157 p., 2/6.
As an old "Goon Show" fan, I found it extremely interesting to study this example of Milligan solo. It gives me a deeper insight into the program, and looking back on favorite broadcasts, I can now hazard a guess as to which characters and which parts of the dialog were Milligan. "'e falling in de water!", a running gag-line repeated over many broadcasts, usually delivered in a squeaky falsetto, is surely Milligan. I suspect that Milligan must have probably been Min (of Min and Bill) and Bluebottle (of Eccles and Bluebottle). Consider these representative lines taken from Puckoon, and draw your own conclusions:
"He did in fact look like King Edward the Seventh. He also resembled King Edward the Third, Fifth and Second, making a grand total of King Edward the Seventeenth. He had a mobile face, that is, he always took it with him."
"There coming up the drive was the worst Catholic since Genghis Khan."
"'When did you last come to church, Milligan?'
'Oh, er, I forget -- but I got it on me Baptismal certificate.'"
"The Roman lashed his mount and galloped over the frontier towards the back of the church.
'Who the blazes was that?' said Lt Walker doubling across.
'Julius Caesar,' said the sentry, and wondered why he was demoted on the spot."
"'Oh, steady Father,' gasped Milligan, 'dem's more than me trousers yer clutchin'.'
'Sorry, Milligan,' said the priest, releasing his grip. 'We celibates are inclined to forget them parts.'"
Puckoon is a little village in Ireland, and such plot as the book has revolves around the reactions of some of its inhabitants when the new border between the Irish Free State and North Ireland, at the end of the Revolution, is placed right down the center of Puckoon's churchyard. (The novel is presumably set just after the Revolution, though either Milligan's time sense is hopelessly awry, or he delights in throwing in anachronisms, ranging from the Congress of Vienna to the present.) The principal actors include the protagonist, whose name just happens to be Milligan; the parish priest, Father Rudden; Dan Doonan (R.I.P.); Gulio Caesar; Ah Pong, the inscrutable Chinese police constable; a nameless black panther; the omnipotent author, who does not get along with the protagonist at all; a clock that reads 4:32 and is only right once a day; and assorted IRA terrorists, politicians, morticians, poachers, policemen, villagers, and the like. Prospective readers are warned that Milligan's humor is as earthy as it is zany. For those of you who were ever "Goon Show" fans, you must buy this book, if only to help keep penguins from becoming extinct.
The "Cities In Flight" series, by James Blish:
v.1. They Shall Have Stars, Avon #S210, 159 p., 60¢.
v.2. A Life for the Stars, Avon #G1280, 144 p., 50¢.
v.3. Earthman, Come Home, Avon #S218, 254 p., 60¢.
v.4. The Triumph of Time, Avon #S221, 158 p., 60¢.
The "Cities In Flight" tetralogy is James Blish's science-fictional magnum opus, comparable to Heinlein's "Future History" series or Asimov's "Foundation" series in scope. In it, Blish traces mankind's spread across the galaxy, covering the period from 2018, when the "spindizzy" star drive and the anti-agathic, age-preventing drugs to make interstellar travel possible are discovered, to 4004 A. D., and the end of the Universe -- and the beginning of another? Probably the best-known part of this series is the third volume, Earthman, Come Home, which was the first collection of the original "spindizzy" series, featuring the adventures of the star-traveling New York City of the 39th and 40th centuries, and of its eternal Major John Amalfi, most of which appeared in ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION in the early '50's.
"Cities in Flight" is usually not reckoned as the greatest series that science-fiction has ever produced, but it is certainly a highly readable and considerably important work; one that no collector who hopes to build a library of the major works of science-fiction can afford to have missing from his shelves. This is particularly true now that it has been issued as an inexpensive, attractively uniformly-bound set of paperbacks by Avon. Besides the uniform format, each volume has a new Author's Note by Blish, telling something of the series as a whole and of that particular volume's place in it; the final volume contains an overall Chronology. Even if you have this series as it was originally published, then, in assorted unconnected hardbound and paperback editions, this particular set is worth getting for your library. Buy.
12 Must Die, by "Zorro", Regency-Corinth Suspense Novel #CR118, 159 p., 60¢.
This is one of the new series of old pulp adventure novels of the '30's that Earl Kemp is currently republishing in paperback format; "Doctor Death Book No. 1", to be exact. It is the most incredible conglomeration of bad science, bad occultism, bad detective fiction, and bad logic that I have ever encountered, even as a pulp-fiction fan. This does not mean that the book is not worth getting, of course (it's worth getting if only for the cover portrait of Dr. Death; Earl posed for it); such is only what every pulp novel fan expects, and in this case, while he may not be delighted, he likewise will not be unduly surprised. The plot, which shows occasional glimpses of a familiarity with Fu Manchu, concerns one of the world's greatest scientists, who learns to control the forces of the occult (zombies and evil elementals, mostly), and, possessed of a mad delusion that he has been Appointed to lead the world back from mechanized sterility to a Rousseallian primitivism, sets out to destroy modern civilization in the form of the 12 most important scientists and public leaders in America. His nemeses are Detective Inspector John Ricks and young Lt. Jimmy Holm, both of the Police Department; the romantic interest is provided by Jimmy and Dr. Death's niece and assistant, Nina Fererra, who are in love with each other. The methods employed by Dr. Death to destroy civilization by occult means, and the methods employed by the Good Guys to thwart him, would be unbelievable to any but the most hardened Sax Rohmer or penny dreadful fan. What's more, there are at least two further novels available in the "Doctor Death" series (Earl posed for their covers, too), not to mention the "Phantom Detective" series, the "Operator 5" series, the "Secret Agent X" series, and any others to which Earl can obtain the rights. (Let's hope he can get some of the Street & Smith heroes, such as the Whisperer, or the Avenger.) Buy according to your taste for this sort of thing.