Friday, June 13, 2014

George C. Chesbro, "Strange Prey" (1970)

Chesbro, George C., "Strange Prey," Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, August 1970
_____, Strange Prey and Other Tales of the Hunt, Apache Beach Publications, December 2004

_____, Shadow of a Broken Man, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1977


"Strange Prey" at ISFbd
"Strange Prey" at IBList

Rating: 7/10

For more Friday's Forgotten Books, please visit Evan Lewis's blog.

As a pre-teen in the late eighties I used to pick up back issues of different magazines in a neighbouring used bookshop for mere change. My favourite at the time was The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and I'd nab those ugly colourful browning issues from the 1960s and 1970s off the crowded shelves. The excitement whenever the little cluttered shop received another wave of those issues is fondly remembered. One reason I liked AHMM is that, other than the colourful interior artwork and the fact that I was, thanks to my mother's healthy influence, a huge fan of the director himself (who had nothing to do with the magazine outside of image and name and nepotism--his daughter Pat was involved), there was a wide range of stories collected. The magazine did not shy from stories that fused mystery with science fiction or fantasy, a feature which at that impressionable age was a welcome novelty, and I looked forward to stories from the likes of John Keefauver and Theodore Sturgeon in the AHP anthologies, and Robert Twohy and George C. Chesbro in AHMM. With Chesbro there were two stories that particularly gripped me: "Short Circuit" (AHMM, October 1971) and the novella "Strange Prey" (AHMM, August 1970).

"Strange Prey" features renowned architect Victor Rafferty, recent survivor of a terrible car accident and miraculous life-saving operation, who learns that he has the ability to read minds, and albeit with some painful difficulty, telekinetic talents. Rafferty is pursued by the government that wishes to use him as a super spy, a potential weapon against, among others, the Soviets. Rafferty, however, wants only to be left alone and to live happily with his wife Pat. At the time the story was no doubt original, whereas now it reads like a plot-line from the X-Files.

At that time this was among my favourite AHMM stories, as it featured elements of science-fiction along with suspense, a fast-paced plot, government corruption and a non-conclusive ending. Though the story holds up well enough, I wouldn't rank it today as among my favourites. Then again, my jaded adult self probably wouldn't rank most of these stories as highly as I did back in that era of innocence. I recently discovered that the story was the basis for the first of the "Mongo" books, Shadow of a Broken Man, and having read it before my "Strange Prey" re-read, am surprised to find that pretty much the entire novelette is adhered to by the novel, as detective Mongo tries to discover the mystery behind the architect's death and possible resurfacing. (I will post my review for the novel soon enough.)


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