ffb: Rocket to the Morgue

this is the 152nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Rocket to the Morgue 
Anthony Boucher – first published as by H.H. Holmes, Dell – 1942 – paperback mystery novel (newer edition shown)

rocket to the morgue“Leona Marshall stretched her long legs out on the bed and clasped her hands comfortably behind her red head. “Isn’t it nice I couldn’t nurse her?” she murmured. “Think how awkward it would be for you to take over a feeding.”

With a book that’s been written about and discussed as significant in the genre, a classic, or similar accolades, it’s often hard for me to define the point at which expectation leaves off and the novel carries it’s own weight. It’s certain, however, that point is further into the book than the point where a simple jacket blurb or short review would place it. When I open a book that has established it’s place in the literature of the genre I always wonder, perhaps fear is a better word, how long I should stay with it should it turn out that the thing is unreadable.

I was at a collectable paperback show, and talking to Art Scott. I told him I had found lots of good stuff, spent my money, but was unable to locate a copy of Rocket to the Morgue. He steered me to a copy, (thanks again, Art!) and promptly I read it.

There was no problem with readability with Rocket to the Morgue. I fell in step with Boucher’s light patter right away, and stayed with him to the end. I’ll tell you right out that I saw the solution when I was barely halfway through. Whether this is due to my keen insight or Boucher’s lack of effort in fooling me I’m not sure, but I suspect the latter. I read Boucher’s The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars not too many months before this one and though I figured that one out too, it was much later in the book than this one.

I’ve read it and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed it, but my socks are still on, if you catch my meaning. Boucher writes light, airy, entertaining stories. I recommend them but only for what they are. Significant? Maybe. Groundbreaking? I don’t think so. Entertaining? Definitely.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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12 Responses to ffb: Rocket to the Morgue

  1. westwoodrich says:

    I’ve read two or three Bouchers and I’d agree with your analysis. He’s very readable but I don’t think he’s particularly stratospheric (tying in with the rocket theme).

  2. Glad to see you back with a FFB posting! I enjoy Boucher’s reviews more than his novels.

  3. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I agree. It was nothing special. Like George, I much prefer Boucher’s criticism to his novels.

  4. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Perhaps I should add that I read it 40 years ago so my memory of it isn’t exactly sharp.

  5. Boucher is a name I recognize from SF. Great title.

  6. Fair enough chum – I enjoy Boucher’s books but I must admit, they never seem to stick too deeply in my mind, though this has lots of SF in-jokes which are fun to spot when you do!

  7. Richard says:

    Sergio, yes, I should have mentioned the SF “in jokes”, along with some mystery fiction ones, too. As others have said, it was Boucher’s reviews that made the most impact, at least on me. I do enjoy some of his SF, and of course he edited some fine anthologies.

  8. Richard says:

    Jeff, you? Hazy brain? Mas non!

  9. Todd Mason says:

    I suspect you should take into account here, at least, Rick, that Boucher is more interested in having a little fun with a roman a clef than in shooting for the Queen’s Quorum with this one…probably likewise with another fannish mystery (contrast Sharyn McCrumb’s latter-day fandom mysteries with the likes of SHE WALKS THESE HILLS)….that said, I have still yet to read this…glad you had a good time! Hope the eyes are still on the upswing.

  10. Jerry House says:

    Like Jeff, I read this one about forty years ago (and, no, I was not reading over his shoulder) l and enjoyed the book as I have all of Boucher’s mysteries. I think this one is considered a classic for its SF references more than anything else; certainly it’s way above Mack Reynold’s later THE CASE OF THE LITTLE GREEN MEN, or, in the case of the case of the Chicago mystery/pulp scene, Carl Hodges’ NAKED VILLAINY. Boucher’s reviews. some of his SF stories, and his role in founding and editing F&SF remain his most lasting accomplishments.

  11. Richard says:

    Todd, I didn’t say I disliked it, only that it wasn’t the “classic” so many have called it. I know he was having fun, and I enjoyed that aspect.

  12. Richard says:

    Yes, Jerry, I agree. I’ve read The Case of the Little Green Men and it was fun on a similar level.

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