Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Murray Leinster's "Evidence" (short story, non-genre, free): Cars during early twentieth century

Quote from short story titled Evidence by Murray LeinsterWhile there is nothing sf about this story, it has a curios value in ways similar to Arthur Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God".

Clarke's story gives us glimpses into early days of digital computing where even minor software tweaks require hardware changes.

Leinster's story gives us a peek into the early days of automobiles. Set in Texas, US, & may be modern for its times. Cars have appeared on the roads, but

  1. they're still owned by minority; majority travels on horses.
  2. automatic ignition has began to appear, but is a luxury. Most people still need a good amount of ceremony with the crank & spark-plugs to start the car.
  3. have 2-speed gears! There is a scene where a horse is tied behind the car, & car is traveling reasonably fast on its second gear, & horse can still comfortably keep up!
  4. roads not quite meant for cars! This story appears to be set in a rural area; may be urban roads would be better.
We also get a glimpse into a law enforcement, justice delivery system, & attitudes towards banking that are now difficult to identify with. I'm not sure of its accuracy, but there was an air of authenticity about it.

Main story is mundane, but readable. "Ol'" Abe Martin has been murdered for money. Everyone has already concluded Harry Temple is the culprit, & he's being tried for murder. Good-hearted Jimmy Calton will enter uninvited for defense, help identify real culprit, & save Harry. Story is narrated by a friend of Jimmy who is a witness to the trial.

Fact sheet.

First published: All-Story Weekly, 12 July 1919.
Download full text from PulpGen.
Rating: B
Related: All stories of Murray Leinster.