This is a pretty amazing piece of work.
I had the good fortune to read “Death On The Moon” before it was published in Cirsova #6, and my response was to think that if I had been told that it was from, say, an issue of Astounding Science Fiction in the late 1940s I would have accepted that without question.
And this is me we’re talking about. I don’t just read fiction, I dissect it. I write at great length about semiotics and the subtle mechanism of word choice. The philosophy of fiction is my primary interest. So when I say that somebody can recreate a time period–not just the style, but the story beats, the language, the unspoken assumptions, everything–well enough that I would accept it as genuine, that’s saying something.
Now, I am not going to accuse Spencer Hart of having the pickled brain of Murray Leinster in a jar hooked up to a restored Underwood typewriter in his basement and that’s how he managed this. I’m not ruling it out, mind you, but I can’t prove it.
What makes this different from the average pastiche or homage is that Hart respects the material. There’s no wink, wink, nudge, nudge here. Most–heck, nearly all–authors who attempt to imitate an earlier style can’t resist the temptation to prove their temporal superiority.
“This was an unenlightened time–I’ll write the tropes of old-timey action and adventure, but I let you, the reader, know that I am evolved beyond such silly things. Sure, these characters have quaint and backwards opinions, but don’t think for a second that I, the author, share them.”
That attitude comes across on every page of the average “Hard Boiled” or “Pulp Era” pastiche. Sometimes subtly, sometimes in bright neon, but it is there and as a consequence there is an element of parody that makes the work feel false.
Spencer Hart doesn’t do that. In fact, I don’t think he thinks that way at all. There is nothing quaint or backward about Bert Henderson. He’s a tough and savvy man in a tough job and he delivers the goods. These stories are played absolutely straight.
It’s incredibly refreshing and I’ll admit I get a big kick out of these stories. Highly recommended and two stories for a buck? Such a deal.