(1927-1987) US writer of much competent but routine sf, chiefly for magazines; his first published story was "The Absence of Heat" (1944) as by Gordon Garrett. His finest achievement was the Lord Darcy series of Detective/Thriller Fantasies, set in an Alternate-World England whose history diverged at the time of Richard I (1157-1199) and where Magic rather than science has been harnessed and codified, subject to laws based on those of Sir James Frazer. The Darcy series comprises Too Many Magicians (1967), Murder and Magic (coll 1979), Lord Darcy Investigates (coll 1981), and "The Spell of War" in Thor's Hammer (anth 1979) ed Reginald Bretnor (1911-1992). The first three volumes were assembled as Lord Darcy (omni 1983). A typical Darcy story has a twofold interest as period detection, with his lordship in the role of Sherlock Holmes, and as an exposition of Rationalized Fantasy, with his assistant Master Sean o Lochlainn clarifying but never quite solving the crime using forensic sorcery. Sean's processes and lectures are narrative highlights, cannily echoing scientific method while developing plausible sympathetic-magical laws such as those of Relevancy and Synecdoche. Like Dr Watson with his revolver, Master Sean is also a useful wielder of defensive spells; other entertainingly Recursive detective elements abound. For example, not only does the title Too Many Magicians echo several thriller titles by Rex Stout (1886-1975), but its obese Marquis of London and his legman Lord Bontriomphe are obvious cognates of Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin; the strictly prosaic though psychically aided murder method gestures ironically towards the similar improbable stroke in The Judas Window (1938) by Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr). The series' sympathetic treatment of Religion and priestly magic – shown to complement secular magic with Talents of Perception and healing, including psychiatry – reminds us that RG spent several years in Holy Orders.
The 1981-1986 Gandalara Heroic-Fantasy series, though partly plotted and nominally co-authored by RG, was actually written by his third wife Vicki Ann Heydron after viral meningitis had left him hospitalized and amnesiac. After RG's death the Darcy sequence was extended by Michael Kurland (1938- ) with the somewhat inferior Ten Little Wizards * (1988) and A Study in Sorcery * (1989). The original series remains a fantasy landmark. [DRL]
other works: Pagan Passions (1959) with Laurence M Janifer (1933- ), a comic fantasy featuring the gods of classic Mythology in a futuristic setting.
Gordon Randall Phillip David Garrett