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Duff, Douglas V

Entry updated 13 September 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1901-1978) Argentinian-born author of UK parents, in the UK from 1906. His service in both World Wars (in 1916 as a naval cadet who had his ship sunk under him), and his inter-war career in the Palestine Police, mark him as a Young Adult writer with nothing to prove about his own manliness; it may (or may not) be consequential upon his personal experience of the world that his work is (almost uniquely in his generation of writers) free of racial or sexual stereotyping: women are active and fun; wisdom and resource are found in men and women of all colours; the culture of "primitive" peoples is contrasted favourably with ours. Identified pseudonyms include Mainsail, Alan Paxton, Leslie Savage, Douglas Stanhope and Peter Wickloe. Of his nearly 100 novels – some of them clearly addressed to an adult audience – an undetermined number are sf or fantasy, circumstances occasionally disguised by the burying of genre action at the heart of tales which begin mundanely. Sf and fantasy that have been identified include: The Horned Crescent (1936); Jack Harding's Quest (1939); Peril on the Amazon (1946); Atomic Valley (1947); The Sky-Pirates (1948), which contrasts ill-used modern Inventions and their Mad Scientist exploiters with a noble Lost Race of Sumerians; Casper Clinton (1951) as by Peter Wickloe, which features a mysterious female Chinese pirate named Ayesha (see She); The Man from Outer Space (1953); The Miracle Man (1953); Sea-Serpent Island (1957); The San Matteo (1957); and The Nuclear Castle Story (1958).

Of these, perhaps the most interesting early title is Jack Harding's Quest, a Lost World story set in the Middle East, where a Lost Tribe of Israel has been hoarding the Seven Horns of Joshua; the eponymous young protagonist, with the aid of some scientific boffins, establishes the reality of the Horns, which have the effect of disrupting matter at the molecular level. This effect is acoustically recorded; and the Horns are then unilaterally destroyed by the British, to keep the secret from the German foe. The Lost Tribe knuckles under. The San Matteo (1957), one of the Adam MacAdam adventures, demonstrates Duff's later fluency in a tale which involves international intrigue, a Lost Race, a futuristic Airship capable of initiating a nuclear Holocaust, and Monsters from Under the Sea, all told with panache and an eye for the natural world. [JC]

Douglas Valder Duff

born Rosario de Sante Fe, Argentina: 10 July 1901

died Dorchester, Dorset: 23 September 1978



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