A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Longford Collector

Continuing our series of Early Flynn, we have "The Longford Collector" (Analog, Jul 1988) now appearing on the Story Preview page. The year 1988 was the annus mirabilis of Flynnic fiction, for no less than six stories and one fact article appeared that year in Analog, albeit two of the stories under pseudonyms. The fact article, "An Introduction to Psychohistory," was a two-parter. The four stories under the Flynn name were "The Steel Driver," "The Longford Collector," "The Adventure of the Laughing Clone," and "Remember'd Kisses." The pseudonymous works were "Throop's Revenge" and "Grave Reservations."

"The Longford Collector" was supposed to be the first in a series of mystery stories, each named after an Irish tune and involving the Shaw-Locke detective agency and their artificial intelligence. For some reason, it never gelled and this is the only story that got written, though the main characters show up in a cameo in the story "Buried Hopes," which appeared in the collection Captive Dreams.

One of the things present readers will notice is that the Web did not then exist and our detectives had to arrange for modem links to access various data bases. [As TOF had to do while writing cross-country with Niven and Pournelle.] Also, this was just before neural nets became sexier than knowledge bases and decision trees as a foundation for AI. At one point Jamie has to explain to his relatives how a scanner works 'like a printer in reverse.' How times do change! Also the statement that "the price of gold is over $400/oz." seems a bit quaint, but it had been $35/oz. when it was liberated.  The Lt. Charles Schwar mentioned is the story was a cousin of TOF's grandmother. Back in the 1920/30s he was head of the Phila. Missing Persons Bureau, and is mentioned in two separate news stories found here and in another story here.

Luckin is real. TOF worked with Dick Luckin at the old Coors Container Company back in the day, and he really was a railroad enthusiast who made a catalog of railroad china titled Eating the Rails. By some weird coincidence, my brother Kevin was asked a couple weeks ago to address a railroad group in Denver about the extension of the RTD light rail system. Kevin is a spokesman for RTD. During casual conversation, Dick realized that Kevin was my brother and he mentioned this story, amazed that such an ordinary thing as railroad china could become the germ of a story idea.  Kevin called me just after I had prepped this story and staged it in the cue for posting today. Coincidence? Cue Twilight Zone music.


  1. You wrote the "revenge"? Cool!

    Maybe I should subscribe again ...

    Hermann the German

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