enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Edward E. Smith, Have Trenchcoat--Will Travel and others

I read this book about 15-Jun-2001. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2001. This note was last modified Saturday, 19-Aug-2006 10:45:51 PDT.

This note does not contain major spoilers for the book.


Doc Smith hasn't been publishing many new novels lately (since he died in 1965, in fact), so we drooling Doc Smith fans have to make do with what we can get. So when this appeared on the shelves at Dreamhaven last month, I jumped on it with cries of joy.

None of the pieces in this book is science fiction. There's a mystery novel, apparently set in the early 1960s (O'Hare airport is the main Chicago airport, which happened in 1962), and three short stories. I don't know when any of them were written (except that the one mentioning O'Hare had to have been at least revised late enough for the name to have been chosen, of course). They have more of a 30s/40s feel to them; sort of the way the 60s Nero Wolfe stories (by Rex Stout) do.

These make a not bad appetizer for those of us starved for new Smith.

These make a not bad appetizer for those of us starved for new Smith. They have the same larger-than-life characters, the same romantic clap-trap, the same unalterable convictions, the same beautiful, athletic, brilliant people.

Interestingly, the novel Have Trenchcoat--Will Travel uses the common fannish device of having the main characters discover that they are Hungarian. I don't recall Smith using that before; does anybody? This is perhaps especially noticeable to me because of Steven Brust and Jon Singer.

There are some interesting name connections between the novel and various stories in this book, and the rest of Smith's work. Mostly of the form of duplicated or near-duplicated names, including unusual ones (Uhlenhuth, for example). These seem likely to be names that mean something to Smith, but I don't know how to dig for the connections. That particular example seems to be a real German name, and shows up quite a bit in photographic contexts on the web, but I see no likely connection to Smith.

One of the stories, "Motorsickle Cop", shows again Smith's interest in and knowledge of motorcycles (and I don't see the significance of the title spelling yet, either).

Mostly, it's just fun to watch Smith push words around again. He had a very distinctive voice, not at all simple or easy to duplicate, and these books have that.

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David Dyer-Bennet