JOHN KEEL: NOT AN AUTHORITY ON ANYTHING

June 9, 2010

“The Fickle Finger of Fate”

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:02 pm

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The Fickle Finger of Fate (Fawcett, 1966) isn’t as well known as John’s other books, and may puzzle readers who know him only as a reporter of the unexplained.  It’s the only novel he published under his own name (although he also used his real name for a number of short stories).  It’s really more of a humor book than a novel: a spy and superhero spoof much like such TV shows of the time as “Batman” or “Get Smart,” or the broad take-offs of MAD magazine.  In fact, there are exaggerated cartoon sound effects, like those in “Batman”:

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and illustrations by veteran MAD cartoonist Al Jaffee:

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Satyr-Man, a sexually insatiable superhero in a “jet-age plastic helmet,” battles G.Y.P.  — “Global Yokel Put-On” — “the dastardly organization of international swindlers, smugglers, assassins, and hubcap thieves.”  As you might suspect, his career is mostly farcical sex and slapstick violence.  “Camp” and “kitsch” were the bywords then; in fact, even Jerry Siegel (see the last post) put out a paperback of High Camp Superheroes that same year.  College humor magazines were filled with parodies like “Fratman” and “Captain Crud.”

As usual, John included some of his friends in cameos.  Dick DeBartolo (prolific MAD writer) appears as a ship captain, since he was a boating enthusiast; and Paul Krassner (writer and editor of the satirical magazine The Realist) shows up as the ship’s “token atheist.”

There is an interesting connection to Mothman in all of this.  The creature was originally known as the Mason County Monster; and the popularity of camp superheroes – including Satyr-Man — probably inspired its re-christening as Mothman.

There was also a movie called The Fickle Finger of Fate in 1967.  It starred Tab Hunter.  I’ve never seen it; but the reviews I’ve read indicate that its plot owed nothing to John’s book.

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By the way, the British edition had a different cover.  Here it is:

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7 Comments »

  1. I have both editions of this book… and I must confess it’s the only Keel book (that I own) I haven’t yet read cover-to-cover.

    Comment by John Lacey — June 10, 2010 @ 5:10 am

  2. It’s pretty silly, but John was obviously having a good time. I was 11 that year, and can look back on the camp craze with a certain nostalgia. And it’s fun to see that old pro, Al Jaffee, teaming up with John.

    John had a crisis that year: he became fed up with show business, and quit TV and comedy writing to specialize in forteana. By the next year, his life was very different!

    Comment by Doug — June 11, 2010 @ 12:20 am

  3. I got a real kick out of this book. At a FortFest back in 1999 John signed my copy, saying “To Greg, the man behind the mask – John Keel”. I guess my secret is out!

    Doug, I want to thank you for the work you’ve put into this site. I greatly appeciate all the new information about John that you’ve brought to light. It is a woderful tribute and a valuable archive. Thank you.

    Comment by Greg — June 12, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  4. Thanks, Greg! There’s more to come. By the way, I’ve been thinking of posting some of John’s book inscriptions — a chance to enjoy his wit and spidery handwriting. If there are any you want to air, send them along!

    Comment by Doug — June 12, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

  5. 8/6/12 is it possible to get a copy of keels book the fickle finger of fate, still??? peace paul

    Comment by paul — August 6, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

  6. Well, it’s out of print, but there are used copies around. You might try abebooks.

    Comment by Doug — August 6, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

  7. [...] and he was indeed inundated with material.  The meeting with Fawcett concerned his superhero spoof, The Fickle Finger of Fate (which has, parenthetically, puzzled some Keel fans unaware of his earlier work as a comedy [...]

    Pingback by Keel and Sanderson Try to Write a Book (7) « JOHN KEEL: NOT AN AUTHORITY ON ANYTHING — April 10, 2013 @ 10:45 am

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