Manning Draco

Created by Kendall Foster Crossen (pseudonyms include Bennett Barlay, M. E. Chaber, Richard Foster, Christopher Monig & Clay Richards; 1910-1981)

An early SF gumshoe, MANNING DRACO is a 35th century intergalactic insurance investigator hot on the trail of an alien grifter called Dzanku Dzanku in the 1953 sci-fi/P.I. hybrid novel Once Upon a Star, which was cobbled together from the first four previously published short stories. Played for laughs, supposedly.

And reader Tom Gray, who has fond memories of the novel, wrote in to pass along the following tidbits:

  • Manning was the only Terran ever to develop a secondary mind shield.

  • He won a game of Tzitsa (sp?), a telepathy game in which one player thinks of a word and its definition. Player 2 attempts to grope in player 1's mind for the word and definition, momentarily opening player 2's mind shield, while player 1 attempts to break through the shield and seize control of player 2's mind.

  • The other player in the game was Dzanku Dzanku, a Rigellian. Rigellians invented Tzitsa, I think, and were the best at it (I suppose with hindsight that this was supposed to be comparable to Russians and chess).

  • Hmmm, another character in the book was named Nar Oysnarn. Draco picked him up when Oysnarn was standing out in space holding his thumbs out, hitchhiking. Hmmm, more is coming back. Oysnarn had the power to paralyze someone while he attempted to read their mind.

Tom adds that "I read the book when I was about 10 (maybe 40 years ago) and liked it well enough that I still remember a little about it."

There were three further Manning shorts, all appearing in Thrilling Wonder Stories. The last story, "The Agile Algolian" (1954) is particularly interesting, relating how Manning originally got his secondary mind shield, and also includes a nice send-up of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer ("Mickey Hatchet").

In 2013, Kendra Foster Crossen re-edited the final three stories and published them as Whistle Stop in Space.

Author Kendall Foster Crossen, working under his own name and a series of pseudonyms, wrote over 400 radio and television dramas, some 300 short stories, 250 non-fiction articles and around forty-five novels. He was best known for creating The Green Lama, a costumed vigilante who appeared in the forties pulps, but he also wrote reviews, and edited several science fiction collections, and served as editor for a while for Detective Fiction Weekly. On the crime side of things, he was probably best known for Milo March, but he also created insurance man Brian Brett and 1950s tough guy dick Pete Draco, who may or may not be related to that ol' Tzitsa-playing Manning.

NOVELS

COLLECTIONS

SHORT STORIES

  • "The Merakian Miracle" (October 1951, Thrilling Wonder Stories)
  • "The Regal Religian" (February 1952, Thrilling Wonder Stories)
  • "The Polluxian Pretender" (October 1952, Thrilling Wonder Stories)
  • "The Caphian Caper" (December 1952, Thrilling Wonder Stories)
  • "Whistle Stop in Space" (August 1953, Thrilling Wonder Stories)
  • "Mission to Mizar" (November 1953, Thrilling Wonder Stories)
  • "The Agile Algolian" (Winter 1954, Thrilling Wonder Stories)

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with much appreciated help from reader Tom Gray.


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