Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mermaids And Larry Rance II

An earlier post on Poul Anderson's contemporary fantasy novel, The Devil's Game (New York, 1980):

quotes "...Masterman York...is known with certainty to be descended from a mermaid" (p. 57);
links this reference to Anderson's historical fantasy novel, The Merman's Children;
also links the merfolk theme to the Devil's Game contestant, Larry Rance, because Lance's challenge, to swim two miles through sea containing sharks and barracuda, and his ambition, to use the million dollar prize money to build a schooner and cruise the world, are maritime in nature.

Well, blow me down if Anderson doesn't go on to make this second link later in the novel:

"Larry wouldn't settle down with us away from the sea. He's obsessed. Hear the mermaids singing to him, but they have shark teeth." (p. 241)

This may be only a small point but maybe also I am getting in tune with Anderson's texts if I can anticipate a connection before it becomes explicit.

Meanwhile, in the novel that I am currently reading, in this case for the first time, Perish By The Sword (New York, 1959), I recognize a moment on which I have commented in several of Anderson's problem stories. Yamamura is speaking but breaks off in mid-sentence:

"Yamamura's argument was cut off as if by an ax. Pereira saw him, not stiffen, but relax totally, so that dark slitted eyes filmed over and the long body almost slid from the chair." (p. 133)

Asked "What is it?," he does not reply but sits unmoving for an entire minute, then for longer. This is the moment of realization. The hero has solved the problem. The detective has identified the murderer. But he will not tell anyone yet. He will check the facts, confirm his suspicion, act accordingly and we will be told what we need to know in due course.

There is something odd and obviously significant about the surnames of two characters but I am no wiser about solving the mystery. Are detective novels like crossword puzzles? Do some readers guess the ending in advance? And get it right?


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Amazing, that you found possible allusions to THE MERMAN'S CHILDREN in THE DEVIL'S GAME. I certainly did not think of that when I last read GAME. And, of course, Anderson made these allusions so skillfully that you don't need to KNOW of these allusions to enjoy reading either book.

As for readers realizing or guessing who was the murderer in a mystery, I'm reminded of how Dorothy L. Sayers had one character saying precisely that in one of her Peter Wimsey novels. The dowager duchess of Denver said in, I think, STRONG POISON, that she had figured out who was the muderer later than she usually did in one of Harriet Vane's books.


Paul Shackley said...

Well I think the connection with THE MERMAN'S CHILDREN is one that we can see if we want to but not one that PA planted for us to find.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Yes, that does make sense. Not something NECESSARILY meant or deliberately planted in the story by Poul Anderson. But still intriguing!