Friday, September 5, 2014

Forgotten Books: DEATH AT SEA by Richard Sale

Unlike Richard Sale's best books, Lazarus #7, Passing Strange and Benefit Performance, Death at Sea is not a true novel. It was written as a five-part serial for Argosy, and it shows. That said, it's still a book-length story by Richard Sale - one of my pulp favorites - so it's a guaranteed good read.

It doesn't hurt at all that the book bears a great cover by Rudolph Belarski. The painting was recycled from a pulp mag, and I have a picture of it somewhere, but it's eluding me. On the pulp, I believe the sleeve on the left bears a swastika instead of a star.

Our hero in this one is Gabriel Adams, a stuffy ichthyologist whose thrill of a lifetime is getting  his hands on a fish believed extinct for fifty million years. But the Fates aren't making it easy for him. The Dutch oil tanker he's traveling on is beset with mysterious goings-on and grim-faced Germans. And this being 1940, Adams is pretty sure something sinister is afoot. He's right, of course, but though he has ample opportunity to take his fish and run, he chooses to stay and face the trouble.

The serial began in the August 17, 1940 issue of Argosy, under the title Destination Unknown. When Adams asks one of the bad guys where they're going, that's the answer he gets, and it turns out the guy is telling the truth. There is no connection to any of the several movies bearing that title.


Oscar Case said...

How often do you have a novel about an ichthyologist? I think I rad part of this in Argosy when I was in high school in the 40's.

Rick Robinson said...

Another Sale I'd never hear of, though I admit to a weak knowledge base other then what you have taught.

There was a song by Missing Persons the title "Destination Unknown".

Anonymous said...

I've been watching the 1958/59 TV series "Yancy Derringer" created by Sale and his then-wife Mary Loos. A "southern" rather than a western, it's set in post-Civil War New Orleans. Light-hearted adventures with Jock Mahoney and X Brands as Yancy and Pahoo, his silent Indian buddy.
Mike Taylor

Shay said...

Three parts (only three, alas) are available in the Argosy Weeklies on the Unz site.