Ice Cream, U.N.C.L.E., and Errol Flynn

by Mel Gilden

Good news on the writing front this week.  Not only am I approaching page 320 on the novel I'm writing, but I heard from Gordon Van Gelder, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  You may not believe this, but he is putting together an anthology of great science fiction about dogs.  Some years ago, I think it was back in the 1980s, I wrote a short story called the Green Dog.  It concerns an ice cream man who is helped by an alien.

Why an ice cream man?  (Of course, you know why an alien.)  For many years my father was part owner of a fleet of Eskimo Pie ice cream trucks.  I even drove a truck myself one summer and earned enough to buy my first car, a 1960 Chevrolet Belvedere.  Anyway, selling ice cream off a truck has always been a handy metaphor for me, and it is part of a world I know well.  The alien seemed to fit right in.

Dad used to occasionally rent a truck or two to a TV show or movie.  On one occasion he rented a truck to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for an episode called The Suburbia Affair.  To tell the truth, it wasn't their best episode, but it was fun to see the truck on TV.  When the U.N.C.L.E. people brought it back, I looked for bullet holes. I was disappointed not to find any.

I've been watching episodes of an old TV show called Columbo.  Do you know it?  The show concerns the adventures of a Los Angeles police lieutenant who cracks cases that seem impossible to solve, all the while schlepping around in his raincoat pretending that he hasn't a brain in his head.  One interesting result of watching so many of these episodes close together is that I can see how over time the character became more like the character I know.  One can get similar entertainment watching very early Star Trek episodes and comparing them with episodes and movies that came later.

On of my Christmas gifts was the old Errol Flynn pirate movie, Captain Blood, AND the novel by Rafael Sabatini that it came from.  I haven't actually watched the movie yet, but I'm enjoying the book immensely.  Though its style seems a little old-fashioned (published in 1922), it is still a quick and exciting read.

(Many years ago I worked in the book department of the May Co.  A woman called me on the phone one evening wanting to order a copy of Mutiny on the Bounty by Rafael Sabatini.  I patiently explained that Mutiny on the Bounty was written by Nordhoff and Hall, but she refused to believe me.  She told me that her son had been in the navy, and that when he had had his ship shot out from under him all that had kept him alive was the knowledge he'd gained by reading Mutiny on the Bounty by Rafael Sabatini.  There was no arguing with her.  I wished her well.)

Thanks for your interest.  Questions and comments are always welcome.