Review by Scott A. Cupp
This is the 156th in my series of Forgotten Books.
William F. Nolan has been around a long time and produced a great body of work. Most famous for his collaboration with George Clayton that gave us LOGAN’S RUN. He’s worked in the teen market, star biographies, non-fiction, mystery, television and film industries. He’s won the Life Achievement Award from the International Horror Guild, the Horror Writers of America, and the World Fantasy Convention. He is an Author Emeritus of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He has also won the Mystery writers of America Edgar Award a couple of times.
I first encountered his work in short story form in the mid 1960’s and then found LOGAN’S RUN. I liked what I read. I later met him at a couple of conventions and found he was a pretty nice guy. In 1987, Joe Lansdale and I took our families on vacation to southern California and one evening was spent over dinner with Nolan, RC Matheson, and David Schow. This was a very fun trip.
So, I was ready for a really good time when I picked up SPACE FOR HIRE the other night as a book to read. It’s an early mystery/science fiction combination. Nolan has a passion for the Black Mask Boys – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Erle Stanley Gardner (with three novels featuring the characters, formal biographies of Hammett, and an informal study of the three writers).
This book was fun. Sam Space (it only takes one small straight line to convert that to Spade) is working on a case for Esma Pitcairn Umani (a striking Venusian woman with three heads and the skill to use all three of them. Her father, Dr. Emmanual Quantas Umani, is working on a secret project. His enemies are fairly successful at killing him, but he has perfected the process of transferring his mind to other bodies. Unfortunately, his supply is low and he needs Space to accompany a load a fresh bodies from Allnew York and see that they arrive safely on Mars. It’s a simple job.
But no job is ever simple. On the trip he meets Nicole, a stunning red head with winking nipples who wants to seduce him. He gets hit with drugs and finds he has missed his return trip and Dr. Umani and Esma have been killed.
This would normally be the logical end of the story, but logic plays no part in this story. There are alternate realities, multiple versions of each person, time travel, Zubu birds from Pluto, gungoons, the Robot King of the Solar System and his pet dragon, and many more twists and moebius style turns.
At first I was skeptical but the story got wackier and wackier until I was absolutely loving it. So, give it a look if the above piques your interest (and even if it doesn’t). Nolan is a demonstrated master of many forms and they all run wild in here.
As always, your mileage may vary, particularly if you have trouble with the whole cross genre thing.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.