FORGOTTEN BOOKS: #322: CLOCKWORK’S PIRATES/GHOST BREAKER By Ron Goulart

clockwork's pirates
Back in the glory days of ACE Doubles, I always preferred the ACE Doubles that featured a single author. Many of these single-author ACE Doubles would have a novel on one side and a collection of short stories on the other. That was my favorite format. The Man With Nine Lives/A Touch of Infinity by Harlan Ellison (#D-413, 1960, $0.35) may have been the best (and most famous) of this type of ACE Double. In 1971, Ron Goulart’s ACE Double Clockwork’s Pirates and Ghost Breaker caught my attention. I’d read several of Goulart’s quirky SF novels and was delighted by this package, especially the nine short stories in Ghost Breaker. They have mystery elements that I enjoyed. I was reminded of Ron Goulart’s ACE Double by a fine review on Black Gate and was inspired to find my copy and reread it. Just click here to check it out.

GHOST BREAKER
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. “Please Stand By”
2. “uncle Arly”
3. “Help Stamp Out Chesney”
4. “McNamara’s Fish”
5. “Kearney’s Last Case”
6. “Breakaway House”
7. “The Ghost Patrol”
8. “The Strawhouse Pavilion”
9. “Fill in the Blank”

31 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS: #322: CLOCKWORK’S PIRATES/GHOST BREAKER By Ron Goulart

  1. Deb

    My favorite story about ACE Doubles is that they would find a way to package anything. Someone said if ACE had to package the Bible, side one would be titled “It Came out of the Void” and side two would be “The Thing with Three Souls”.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Deb, love that joke! But I think the two titles on that Bible Double would be THE LIGHT BEYOND INFINITY and RETURN FROM BEYOND.

      Reply
    2. Todd Mason

      As often with fannish quotations, this one comes in many variations. Ace editor and joke originator Terry Carr is quoted by one of his old friends giving it this way:
      ‘And then there was Terry Carr’s version of the Bible as an Ace Double: “VENGEANCE OF THE DESERT GOD” bound with ‘THE THING WITH THREE BODIES.” ‘

      Reply
  2. Jerry House

    Goulart’s SF books were always a must for me. I would read like them like other people would eat peanuts or potato chips. I was never disappointed.

    Reply
  3. Todd Mason

    I so loved the Max Kearney stories that GHOST–the complete collection of them for the longest time–was the reason I snapped up a reading copy of this one decades ago. Everyone else can have their Carnacki or Jules de Grandin…I was sticking with the wryly hilarious Kearney stories and MW Wellman’s John the Balladeer stories for my investigations of the paranormal. Ron Goulart, when I met him at the 2001 Bouchercon, was just a little weary of being asked for more Kearney, that character having been a close analog for himself in the early ’60s…my FFB of GB:
    http://socialistjazz.blogspot.com/2010/05/fridays-forgotten-novella-and-bonus.html

    Reply
  4. Jeff Meyerson

    Good choice. I haven’t read these – obviously I will have to look for the collection – but I’ve read a number of Goulart’s books over the years, including both mystery and science fiction short stories.

    Reply
  5. R.K. Robinson

    I haven’t read either of these sides. My experience with Ace Doubles, and don’t get me wrong, I love them, is that often one side would be very good and the other much like the B side of a 45 record, just so-so. I often preferred to pay the money for the same number of pages in one good novel. I must have read some Goulart, but can’t think what or when. I’ll keep an eye out for this at Powell’s and Robert’s Books.

    Black Gate has become a great website for reviews of SF-F stuff, hasn’t it? I look in nearly every day.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Rick, I’ve become a BLACK GATE addict, especially the posts of John O’Neill who focuses on classic SF and fantasy. I agree with your analysis of ACE Doubles. But the single author format usually delivered two good books.

      Reply
      1. Todd Mason

        However, he misses so much that’s 101-level…such as his review of Sturgeon’s A TOUCH OF STRANGE, which manages to not note the Doubleday first edition, or even the cover banner on one paperback edition that notes it’s the first unabridged reprint…

  6. Scott Cupp

    Great choice, George. My favorite Ace Double by one author was the Dean Koontz one – DARK OF THE WOODS w/ SOFT COME THE DRAGONS. It had a short novel and a collection of his early short stories plus a gorgeous Jeff Jones cover

    Reply
  7. Carl V. Anderson

    It is possible that I’ve read a Goulart short story in a collection somewhere, but I don’t recall. Safer to say that I’ve not read his work. Something it looks like I need to remedy.

    Fun covers!

    Reply
  8. Wolf Böhrendt

    When Goulart’s humouros stories came out they were a rarity in a way – most SF was so “serious” …
    In Germany we even had the expression SERCON = serious conservative, let’s take Heinlein’s early works as an example or later Larry Niven. Goulart was really refreshing, more in the tradition of Fred Pohl whom I also admire.

    And of course ACE Doubles were a treat – I got many of them in London for less than a pound, those were the days …

    PS:
    SERCON was also applied to fans – you know those guys who would talk all day about intergalactic drives or five dimensional systems etc, discussing how realistic some novel’s settings werewhat Douglas Adams also spoofed …

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Wolf, you are so right! Too much of SF and Fantasy is serious and humorless. Goulart’s work is a breath of fresh air in a stuffy genre.

      Reply
    2. Todd Mason

      “Sercon” was originally a North American fannish term, a portmanteau of “serious and constructive”, and made its way, clearly, to non-Anglophone fandom…sometimes used affectionately for noble projects such as Donald Day’s index to the fiction magazines, sometimes mockingly for the likes of Will Sykora’s attempt to “take over” US fandom (whatever that might mean). By the late ’60s, another heavily ironic meaning was added–if a fan wanted to invite another to go get stoned with him, the first might suggest the other go get sercon with him –thus a gosh-wowing tiresomely hyper-serious fan of Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS (some of whom would “grow up” to become Tea Puppies) and a pot-smoking casual fan of Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND could both be ironically sercon.

      I see Rich Brown notes that Canadian fan Boyd Raeburn originated the term, and suggests the stone version actually didn’t arise till the late ’80s…I’ll buy that for a quarter:
      http://www.fanac.org/Fannish_Reference_Works/Fan_terms/Fan_terms-08.html#010
      http://fancyclopedia.wikidot.com/search:site/q/sercon

      Reply
      1. Todd Mason

        “Sercon” was originally a North American fannish term, a portmanteau of “serious and constructive”, and made its way, clearly, to non-Anglophone fandom…sometimes used affectionately for noble projects such as Donald Day’s index to the fiction magazines, sometimes mockingly for the likes of Will Sykora’s attempt to “take over” US fandom (whatever that might mean). By the late ’60s, another heavily ironic meaning was added–if a fan wanted to invite another to go get stoned with him, the first might suggest the other go get sercon with him –thus a gosh-wowing tiresomely hyper-serious fan of Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS (some of whom would “grow up” to become Tea Puppies) and a pot-smoking casual fan of Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND could both be ironically sercon.

        I see Rich Brown notes that Canadian fan Boyd Raeburn originated the term, and suggests the stone version actually didn’t arise till the late ’80s…I’ll buy that for a quarter:
        http://www.fanac.org/Fannish_Reference_Works/Fan_terms/Fan_terms-08.html#010

      2. george Post author

        Todd, I was hoping you would weigh in on the Hugo Award fiasco. I think it’s despicable for a group of morons to hijack the Hugo Awards.

      3. Todd Mason

        I think the Tea Puppies are pretty much as I suggest above, mostly superannuated 13yo-style fans of the duller sort of old ANALOG and/or Laser Books or just maybe Baen Books story who were angry at the perceived slighting of such work in the Hugo balloting. The other retrograde attitudes of the likes of “Vox Day” are even more sad, but apparently not shared by all the Tea Puppies, who attempted such bloc voting the previous year, but with less vim and with only one recommended slate (two similar ones this time). Relatively few people vote for the nominees, and not enough more for the awards…perhaps this might encourage more attention.

  9. Wolf Böhrendt

    Thanks, Todd, for that info!

    The German Sercon fans were really boring – at lest for me so I didn’t become too active in fandom after I started work in 1969 – only went to two or three cons after leaving university.
    Where should I look for info on the latest Hugos? George Martin hasn’t written anything on his blog during the last week …

    Reply

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