Writer: Sterling E. Lanier
First Publication: 1971
Back in my early days of reading the science fiction magazines, I stumbled on a copy of “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction”. It was the July 1974 issue. The cover by Ron Walotsky caught my attention. It showed a jungle scene with an explorer hiding among the plants. A giant rat, holding a bloody knife, was standing upright in an intimidating pose. The cover story was called “A Father’s Tale” by Sterling Lanier. At the time I did not realize it was part of a series.
A few science fiction authors were using the framework of a bar or club where people told tall tales. Larry Niven had “Draco’s Tavern”. Spider Robinson wrote about “Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon”. Before that Isaac Asimov wrote a series of mysteries about the Black Widowers. Arthur C. Clarke penned “Tales from the White Heart”. In recent years Mike Resnick has published the adventures of Lucifer Jones. The framework goes back earlier than these stories.
Lanier’s main character, at least on the cover, appears very similar to Sherlock Holmes. “A Father’s Tale” was nominated for many awards but I never saw any other stories about the Brigadier. Last year I searched for Sterling Lanier on my Kindle and discovered that he had published two collections of stories about the Brigadier. “A Father’s Tale” is in the second collection but I wanted to try out the first. Lanier does an excellent job of pulling you into the world of the club. I could almost smell the smoke from their pipes. The chair I was sitting on transformed into an old leather chair. Lanier made me feel like part of the group.
If classic tall tales interest you, I would recommend searching for a copy of this collection (or the second one). Copies (digital for the Kindle or used print editions) are available through Amazon.