A recently rediscovered, Lovecraft-influenced early effort from master storyteller Leiber (191092) that was drafted in the 1930s and partly revised in the 1940s. Writer George Kramer, visiting a college friend, eccentric inventor Daniel Kesserich, after a long hiatus, finds the desert town of Smithville, California, in the grip of mass hysteria. The wife of the local doctor, John Ellis—another college buddy—died after eating a poisoned apple, and the whole town is convinced that she was then buried alive. Both Ellis and Kesserich are now missing. Kramer witnesses pebbles and footprints appearing out of nowhere; Kesserich's house explodes and burns; and Mary Ellis's grave, when opened, is empty. Kramer learns that Ellis knew that Kesserich had discovered a method of time travel. Mary was poisoned by a jealous admirer; Kesserich also wanted her, yet agreed to help Ellis change the course of history. A Leiber curio that, despite its old-fashioned, pulpish, lumpy narrative and ragged prose, has its allures.
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