“Mark Phillips” is the pseudonym of two well-known science fiction writers: Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer. Their joint pen-name, derived from their middle names (Philip and Mark), was coined soon after their original meeting, at a science-fiction convention. Both men were drunk at the time, which explains a good deal, and only one ever sobered up. A matter for constant contention between the collaborators was which one. They collaborated for some years, and devised an interesting method of work: Mr. Garrett handled the verbs, the adverbs and the interjections, Mr. Janifer the nouns, pronouns, and adjectives. Conjunctions are a matter of joint decision, and in the case of a tie, the entire game was replayed at Fenway Park, Boston, the following year.
I stole that entire paragraph from the book blurb. I have no shame. But do let me say that while this was a charming and fun novella, I am hard pressed to come up with a reason it needed two people to write it. But then, what do I know? I’m just a reader, looking for a thrill.
This is about an FBI guy whose assignment is to find the telepath who is reading the minds of the people working on some secret stuff for the government. It is set in the time of the Cold War, when we were all over twitchery about what the Soviets were doing and what they were learning from spying on us. So now, the FBI guy has to find a telepath who can noodle around and find the telepath who is doing the dirty. But as the FBI guy asks himself,
If it takes a telepath to catch a telepath, how do you catch the telepath you’re going to use to catch the first telepath?
It turns out that all the telepaths in the world are crazy. Mad as the proverbial hatters. Nuttier than the proverbial fruitcakes. Battier than the proverbial belfry. Rowing with only one oar in the water. Porch light’s on but nobody’s home. So the FBI team are combing the mental institutions hoping to find a telepath or two who isn’t too terribly whacked out and who could help them tune into the spying telepath.
That’s when they come upon Queen Elizabeth — the First. She insists that she IS that Queen of Yore, but she can read minds. And does so with everyone around her. She’s the Real Deal. Well except for the queen thing. She agrees to help them, but insists that they all refer to her as Your Majesty and dress in the appropriate period costume.
Not a laugh-out-loud funny kind of book, more of a chuckle-to-yourself story, but as I said delightful and fun. And yeah, they do nail the spying telepath.
Mmmmmmmm I am peering into your mind. You are thinking: “WTF?” Now you are thinking: “How the heck does she do that!”