Sunday, May 16, 2021
Milton Lesser’s Somewhere I’ll Find You
Milton Lesser (1928-2008) was an American author who wrote both science fiction and crime fiction under his own name and under the name Stephen Marlowe. His books as Stephen Marlowe include Model for Murder (1955) which is a sleazy but very entertaining and action-packed hardboiled nor crime thriller.
Judging by the pulp magazine illustration included in the paperback Somewhere I’ll Find You seems to have been originally published under Lesser’s Stephen Marlowe nom-de-plume.
Ed Langdon, his bride-to-be Freya and their friends Bob and Judy Hendrix are sitting quietly watching television when something very odd happens. Something comes flying out of the TV screen, shattering the screen. It’s a tiny spaceship. With a tiny crew. Only once they step outside the spacecraft the crew grow to normal size. They announce that they have come for Freya. They take her aboard the spaceship which then disappears back into the TV screen. Ed, Judy and Bob were temporarily paralysed by the miniature spacefarers and were powerless to do anything.
Ed does have an idea what to do next. He’ll contact Freya’s brother Torstein Haugland. Torstein is a gigantic Norwegian sailor who always seem to know a lot about strange subjects. Torstein informs Ed that this is not the first time Freya has vanished. It happened years earlier, back in Norway, when she was a child. Freya and an old old woman both vanished. Two weeks later Freya was found again, sleeping peacefully in her bed.
Torstein and Ed both have a feeling that the answer to this puzzle may be found in Norway so they take the next flight to Oslo.
They find an answer of sorts but it leads to more questions. They discover that there is not just one Earth, but many. Each Earth represents some slightly different historical possibility, or probability. Some Earths are very strange indeed. Some are dead worlds. Some are ruled by insects. Some are home to advanced civilisations, some are primitive. One civilisation alone, a First Level world, has discovered the secret of the multiple Earths and it’s a secret they guard well.
Freya is one of those many Earths and it seems they may have to search all of them to find her. They do have a clue. They are looking for an Earth ruled by women. It’s something to do with a great battle won by the Amazons in the distant part. Even if they can find that world it may not be a welcoming place to two men who are strangers who do not know the rules. Ed and Torstein may face a fight for survival.
Considering that this is really just a lengthy novel the author packs plenty of plot into his story with descriptions of at least a dozen different Earths visited by our two heroes, with some narrow escapes from certain death on some of those Earths.
The premise, that one of the many Earths has discovered the secret of travelling from one Earth to another and the reasons why they have done this and why it’s such a big secret, is developed economically but effectively.
There are some good action scenes on the planet of the Amazons in which Ed’s chivalry seems likely to be a stumbling block - he just doesn’t like the idea of fighting back when a strapping Amazon maiden takes a swing at him and then gets him down on the ground and starts pummelling him.
Ed is a fairly typical 1940s pulp sci-fi hero, an ordinary American guy who has to become a reluctant hero. Torstein is a bit more interesting, being slightly inclined to mysticism. You get the feeling that the world of Norse paganism is still kind of real to Torstein Haugland.
There’s a villain as well, a Colonel Utgard, and there’s a mystery about him. Other major characters, such as the Magitrix (the old old woman who runs one of the alternative Earths) and the Regent (who is in charge of the First Level world) are intriguingly ambiguous and capricious.
There’s some romance as well although it’s not allowed to slow the story down.
Lesser’s prose is pulpy but lively.
This story is included in another of Armchair Fiction’s wonderful series of two-novel paperback reprints. It’s paired with Fox B. Holden’s The Time Armada.
Somewhere I’ll Find You is fast-moving fun with some cool ideas. Highly recommended.