11) Duel in Nightmare Worlds, by “B. Flackes” (W.D. Flackes)
This is the third sf book I have read attributed to the veteran Northern Irish political journalist W.D. Flackes, written in the early 1950s. It is basically the only one where we can be pretty certain of his authorship as it is under his own name – the other two that I have read are both by “Clem Macartney”, and John Clute informs me that he is thought to have been one of the people behind the pseudonym “Vektis Brack”. Reading this was especially useful for me because I felt that the two “Clem Macartney” novels were quite possibly by different people, one a competently executed but unexciting Dan Dare rip-off, the other a thoughtful but clunky rewrite of When Worlds Collide.
On the basis of Duel in Nightmare Worlds I now feel pretty certain that Flackes wrote the latter but not the former of the Macartney books. The prose has improved, but we have the same somewhat cardboard characterisation, the same casual disregard for celestial mechanics, and most of all the same colonial/imperialist approach. The agenda is made clear on the first page:
Kyle and Gar Braddan had been commissioned by Earthcontrol, the Earth Government, to prevent the occupation of Venus by the Mercurians, as well as to conquer the planet, Mercury, where two separate races had developed, each possessing scientific knowledge rivalling Earthmen’s. On Earth, there was widespread fear that the Mercurians would conquer Venus and threaten the Earth.
Rex Kyle, our hero, and his allies Walter Holt, Burgess, West and the glamorous Kay Lammins, all have good British-type names; the treacherous human military leader Gar Braddan and his sidekick scientist Carl Roshen sound vaguely foreign and sinister. The story is largely set on Venus, which rather than rather than being hot and swampy is a desert rather reminiscent of North Africa. The native “Veenies” are an inferior race, sometimes quaint, sometimes vaguely threatening, but in any case destined to remain under the enlightened rule of the Earthmen (note the gender of that noun). The intriguing possibilities of the two civilisations of Mercury are not, in fact, explored, as the Earthmen unite in conquest of the planet.
The book is interesting as a revelation of the author’s mind-set, but really not one I could recommend as literature.