Buy F&SF • Read F&SF • Contact F&SF • Advertise In F&SF • Blog • Forum

May/June 2014
Current Issue • Departments • Bibliography


The Murder of the U.S.A., By Will F. Jenkins (1946)


That's not the way this little book begins, but boy, does it end that way. It's the sound of atomic "rocket bombs" being launched against the unnamed nation that has unexpectedly blasted the United States with atomic weapons, killing tens of millions of Americans.

Jenkins, who is probably better known to readers here under his pseudonym Murray Leinster, wrote this one just after WWII, as much a plea for peace as a cautionary tale. It's a plea that both anticipated and reflected the reasoning of the time; i.e., the way to prevent such an attack is to promise a retribution that would utterly destroy the attacker. Well, it worked for NATO.

Murder is both typical and atypical of Jenkins's work. He could—and did—write almost every kind of fiction during his long career, but as a rule his concepts were far-reaching and, well, cosmic. After all, he essentially invented the first contact yarn with his 1945 story for Astounding, titled (what else?) "First Contact," and pioneered the alternate history concept with his 1934 story for the same 'zine, "Sidewise in Time."

Here he turns that imagination inward, with his two primary characters, Sam and Betty, working to solve the mystery of whodunit (whodroptit?) from an underground bunker.

Multiple "WHOOOOOOOO-ooooo-ooooo-oooo-oommm!"s notwithstanding, Jenkins was too good a writer to fall back on sound effects alone to provide excitement. Although it's a bit dated now, this one was right on the edge in 1946 when Crown published it, and like most of his work, it still reads just fine.

One could almost say it's da bomb.

—Bud Webster

To contact us, send an email to Fantasy & Science Fiction.
If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to

Copyright © 1998–2020 Fantasy & Science Fiction All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted by:
SF Site spot art