Friday, February 21, 2020

Birthday Review: Claremont Tales II (plus more short stories), by Richard A. Lupoff

Today is Dick Lupoff's 85th birthday. Lupoff is a science fiction and mystery writer of considerable accomplishment, a winner of a Hugo (with his wife Pat) for his great fanzine Xero, and an expert on such subjects as comics, pulps, and Edgar Rice Burroughs (among many more things.) I reviewed a wonderful anthology of work from Xero here: Review of The Best of Xero.

Below is a reproduction of a review I did of his short story collection Claremont Tales II (originally at SF Site), as well as a couple more reviews I did of his short stories, one in a retro review of the 1970s Cosmos, and another Locus review of Weird Tales.

Claremont Tales II, by Richard A. Lupoff

a review by Rich Horton

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Veteran SF and Mystery writer Richard A. Lupoff is back with a second retrospective collection of his best short fiction. Last year, Golden Gryphon published Claremont Tales, and now we see Claremont Tales II. This collects several fairly early stories (1969 through 1978), and some recent stories (including a brand new story for this book).

Immediately noticeable is Lupoff's versatility. Included are some straight SF, some supernatural horror (two stories, at least, fairly directly influenced by Lovecraft), and some straight mystery stories, as well as some amalgams of all of the above. Always noticeable, too, is Lupoff's assured storyteller's touch, his engaging voice, and his ability to alter that voice in service of his aims, most notably here in "The Adventure of the Boulevard Assassin", a Sherlock Holmes story written in the style of Jack Kerouac. (Back in the 70s, Lupoff attracted some notice with a series of SF stories pastiching various author's styles, all written as by "Ova Hamlet".)

The above-mentioned Holmes piece, a very sly divertissement, is one of the more impressive entries here. I also quite liked "Jubilee", an Alternate History of a Roman Empire where Julius Caesar survived his assassination attempt. And despite my general lack of sympathy for Lovecraft, I was rather taken with the two Lovecraftian pieces in Claremont Tales II, "The Devil's Hop Yard" and "The Turret". The new story in this book is "Green Ice", a sequel to an earlier story called "Black Mist". This is an SF mystery, in which Japanese-Martian detective Ino Hajime is called in to investigate the activities of a descendant cult to Aum Shinrikyo (the Japanese cult which perpetrated a poison gas attack on a subway a few years past) on the Jovian moon Europa. It's an intriguing, rather mystical, story, which perhaps leaps a bit too quickly to its conclusion, but which is a good read nonetheless. "31.12.99" is an evocative and moving story of the new millennium. "News from New Providence" is a somewhat mordant account of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor investigating a murder in the Bahamas. "Whatever Happened to Nick Neptune?" is a very enjoyable story of a very special pulp magazine. And so on -- top to bottom this is an extremely enjoyable collection.

Somewhat shamefacedly I must confess to having mostly lost track of Mr. Lupoff's career in recent years. I had been quite impressed with his novella from Again, Dangerous Visions, "With the Bentfin Boomer Boys on Little Old New Alabama"; and I quite enjoyed the Ova Hamlet pastiches. I also took notice of "Black Mist" and "31.12.99" in their recent appearances. But I have missed the rest of his work recently -- apparently including a linked series of mystery novels. (A related short story is included here.) This book is evidence that he remains a forceful and worthwhile writer -- check it out.

Cosmos, September 1977

Lupoff's "The Child's Story" is a far future story, about a group of very different (from each other) posthumans, returning to Earth for a visit -- with rather different motives. It's not a bad attempt at portraying posthumanity.

Locus, September 2006

My favorite from Weird Tales for August-September, however, is a moving semi-autobiographical story by Richard Lupoff, “Fourth Avenue Interlude”, about a boy in love with books who helps out in an old New York City bookstore, and the wonderful discovery he makes – but the wonderful discovery isn’t the point: or only to the extent that what he really discovers is the pleasures of all sorts of stories.

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