Sunday, October 31, 2010

"The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" by Robert A. Heinlein

First Printing:  Unknown Worlds, October 1942

This was very different from any Robert Heinlein novel I have read in the past.  It appears to be a Twilight Zone crime noir story.  I can definitely see this as the perfect Unknown/Weird Tales type of mystery.

The protagonists are reminiscent of Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man series.  The mystery of what exactly is Jonathan Hoag’s profession is the perfect case.  It starts out as a simple mystery that will be easy to solve.  Just when the reader thinks the mystery is explained, then the story takes a bizarre turn.  Heinlein would have been an excellent crime writer if he had chosen that direction.  I am curious what effect he would have had on the crime fiction field.  It would have been science fiction’s loss.  Fortunately he chose science fiction.

I wonder if Roger Zelazny read this story.  Zelazny liked using the Raymond Chandler style of writing, a setting that appears to be a normal world, then add an element of the fantastic to the mix.  Heinlein's script had a tighter plot that most of Zelazny’s work.  Zelazny had the upper hand with poetic, melancholy language.  I still enjoy re-reading Zelazny’s work because of the language.  

If you have not read “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”, I would strongly recommend you take the time.  It is a short novel that deserves more attention.  It also shows that Heinlein could write something that is completely different from his traditional works.

1 comment:

Carl V. said...

I'm not sure I had ever heard of this one, but tracking it down is something I will now be doing. You have me very intrigued and I've been looking forward to reading some more Heinlein.