The Martian Falcon – Alan K Baker

This showed up on my recommendations on Amazon, and as it sounded potentially interesting, not to mention being just £1.99, I thought I’d give it a try.

First, the background: the setting is New York City, the year is 1925, but it’s definitely not our New York, much less our 1925. It’s an early 20th century that might have come about if there was an explosion of more insane than average steampunk invention in the late 19th century. Huge flying wings provide luxurious air travel, there’s been a manned mission to Mars by atomic-powered rocket and Al Capone has replaced most of is body with diesel-powered machinery. And as if the technology wasn’t enough, supernatural entities are part of everyday life, from the kobold working in the diner to the vampire gangsters and Capone’s zombie henchmen.

Charles Fort, while still working on his researches into damned data (all the stuff that doesn’t seem to fit and is often ignored), makes a living as a private investigator, very much in the Sam Spade mode, as the title might have led you to hope. Howard Philips Lovecraft, having moved to New York, is pretty much failing to make a living as a writer of weird fiction, so a job as a researcher for a private investigator is a lifeline.

Things start to get interesting when an artefact returned from the Mars expedition, an obsidian statuette in the form of a bird not entirely unlike a falcon, is stolen in a way that’s intended to make it look like Capone did it. Capone hires Charles Fort to prove that he didn’t.

At first it seems quite clear enough – the job was done by vampire gangster Johnny Sanguine and his gang as part of a turf war with Capone, but when Sanguine is fatally staked by an accomplice, things take a turn for the even weirder.

There’s a serious threat of Great Old Ones, sky beasts straight out of Conan Doyle’s The Horror of the Heights[1], yer actual Tesla[2], hard-bitten cops and some quite unpleasant dwellers underground, who are the reason why New York has an overway instead of a subway.

The book skits around the danger of being swamped by all its bonkers ideas and references, and somehow comes together in a very readable story. I’d love to see more of this – there’s a planned sequel Dial M for Mi-Go, but no sign of it so far. Alan K Naber has some books out in another series, and I’ll be investigating those.

[1] Fun short story, look it up
[2] Complete with even more advanced technology

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