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January/February 2015
 
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The Devil and the Doctor, David H. Keller (1940)


DAVID H. Keller (1880-1966) was a neuropsychiatrist who served active duty in both World Wars. He wrote fiction and semi-autobiographical tales for his own amusement before becoming one of the pioneer American science fiction writers with his first "Kelleryarn," "The Revolt of the Pedestrians" (Amazing Stories, February 1928). Arguably the only Gernsback writer not to have to clamor for payment, Keller generated more than a hundred tales of all lengths as well as medical texts and marriage/sex manuals luridly sold in the back pages of many a pulp magazine.

It may never be known if Keller's claim that The Devil and the Doctor (published by Simon & Schuster, no less!) was pulled from bookshelves for its taboo presentation of a sympathetic portrayal of Old Hob (or a villainous Jehovah!) is true. The Devil here, one Robin Goodfellow, visits Jacob Hubler, a folksy semi-retired country doctor enjoying a sedentary life of book-collecting and compulsively planning the construction of a stone fence for his dream house.

Hubler's friendship with the charming Goodfellow results in his achieving this, along with the addition of a new young wife! Jealous and suspicious neighbors begin to question the source of Hubler's recent happiness. It also appears that Goodfellow's brother objects to the doctor's newfound success and Hubler finds himself the target of Heavenly dispatches. I'll leave it for the reader to learn how Dr. Hubler fares in this battle. Icing on the cake: like the Herb Roese artwork for the novels of Thorne Smith, the illustrations by Gregor Duncan are perfectly suited for this nifty charmer.

—Stephen Haffner

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