SOME OF YOUR BLOOD (1961) by Theodore Sturgeon

OK folks, this one might get a little bit tricky. For the record, let me state that Exhibit A, Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon, is a remarkable book. It describes an investigation into a person’s character, via a case history of a GI under psychiatric assessment after he punched out the lights of a senior officer, and does so in a unique manner. It’s not whodunit or a whydunit or even a howdunit. If anything, it’s a ‘whatdunit’. Chances are that you have never read anything like its truly unforgettable conclusion. Trouble is, that is precisely the one thing I cannot talk about. Although this is a book that only males sense after the final revelation, it would not be fair to spoil it. Instead, I’m going to try to persuade you to read it without revealing its trump card. Are you sitting comfortably? We’ll soon change that …

I offer the following review as part of Friday’s Forgotten Books meme run by Patti Abbott at Pattinase, though as she is temporarily indisposed, this week Todd Mason is guest hosting over at his Sweet Freedom blog.

“His first straight crime novel, plausible and fascinating … Sturgeon makes completely credible a not unprecedented but still astonishing case of extreme criminal psychosis –  one of the season’s most absorbing books” – Anthony Boucher

This book has been marketed usually as a crime novel though over the years it has also been classed as horror, though there are no supernatural elements of any kind – some have even gone so far as to say that the ‘climax’ may even be considered pornographic. Such uncertainty may reflect both a sense of discomfort with the subject matter, which was certainly a deliberate aim of the book, and a reflection of the fact that it was initially aimed to those who already knew the author for his SF and fantasy stories. But Theodore Sturgeon was a very varied writer who liked to push the boundaries in several genres as he explored his theme of love, in all its forms, as a positive and transcendent power, which had made his work particularly attractive to young readers and those who felt themselves to be outsiders, marginalised by the mainstream.

“How could such a creature as George exist for any appreciable time in a modern society?”

Sturgeon, who was born Edward Hamilton Waldo, blossomed into one of the greats of 40s and 50s science fiction and fantasy, though his first magazine sale actually harks back to before the Second World War. Mainly a short story writer, his tales of strange love occasionally became book-length, More than Human (1953) remaining the most influential of his half-dozen original novels (he also wrote novelisations and books under pseudonyms). To others though he may be better known as the author of two classic episodes of the original Star Trek series: ‘Shore Leave’ and ‘Amok Time’. In addition he was immortalised in fictional form by Kurt Vonnegut in the shape of his recurring character, ‘Kilgore Trout’. But he also dabbled in crime fiction, ghosting the 1963 Ellery Queen novel The Player on the Other Side. As fine as that book is, and it is one of the best of the Queen novels of the 1960s, Sturgeon’ s most distinctive excursion into the crime genre however remains undoubtedly Some of Your Blood,which was originally issued as a paperback original by Ballantyne.

Theodore Sturgeon photographed in the early 1970s (image:

This book is largely presented as the case history of a man with a psycho-sexual compulsion, and in that sense falls right in with the kind of work being published by Margaret Millar and Robert Bloch around that time. The core of the book is structured using the epistolary format, presenting a variety of documents relating to the case. The bulk of correspondence is between Colonel Albert Williams at the Military Hospital HQ in Portland, Oregon and his friend, Sergeant Philip Outerbridge, the psychiatrist at a military base in California. The subject is a patient referred to only with the pseudonym ‘George Smith’. In its surreptitious opening chapter,  Sturgeon addresses the reader with an offer to spy into the private files of the psychiatrist – here are the sussurating words the novel opens with:

“You know the story. You have the key. And it is your privilege. Would you like to know why?”

Through such distancing devices the narrative is thus arranged at several stages removed from the events, though there is also a postmodern flourish in this introductory section in which the author reassures us that this really is a fictional story. By the end of the novel, he will again remind us of this, but then follows this up by asking us to consider why that is important, or why we might find that to be reassuring in fact. In this respect Sturgeon is prefiguring the effect that John Fowles would also strive for with such success in The French Lieutenant’s Woman some half-dozen years later – only this time the mainstream critics were reading too. This potentially coy introduction, and the use of reported actions through private letters, interviews under hypnosis and biography are meant to provide a level of third person objectivity to the depiction of a highly peculiar state of mind, but just how objective is it? Sturgeon is in fact playing a very canny game. A hulking and taciturn GI from a remote village in the hills of Kentucky, ‘George Smith’ is sent back from the war in Korea after striking a major on the nose after a letter he sent to his girlfriend back home was opened and censored. As a result of this violent action, he is now accused of being mentally unstable. Williams sees this as the petty retaliation of a small-minded Major and so asks Outerbridge to assess ‘Smith’ and get him a dishonorable discharge from he army as soon as possible to get the man off their hands. But Outerbridge senses that there is a lot more going on than meets the eye and asks the prisoner to write about his early life. To help him communicate he suggests that they use a fictional frame, adopting a third person approach and a pseudonym. Once again we will be given decisive and dramatic events but presented through a filter.

‘Smith’ gives us a long and detailed portrait of a young boy badly abused by his violent and drunken father. The boy from an early age takes refuge in the forest and learns to love hunting though not killing animals. Hi mother, increasingly crippled by arthritis and the repeated beatings from her husband, stops being able to take care of the boy and after she dies he is sent to reform school after being caught in a petty theft. We feel great pity for Smith as he describes his kinship with nature but his solitude from people. After his two-year sentence is over he ends up staying another year at the school as his father has since died and there is no one to take him in. Eventually his aunt comes to take him back to her farm and it is there that he is briefly at his happiest when he meets a homely local girl, Anna. The two strike up an intense relationship and for two years find time to hide away in a cave in the woods and create their own little world. But the seemingly inevitable happens and she falls pregnant – knowing that her father will disapprove, he enlists in the army. He actually finds structure and solace there even if it is a war zone – but it is only when his letter to Anna is intercepted that things really come to a head. The next part of the narrative explores Outerbridge’s growing sense that there is something ‘missing’ from Smith’s narrative, so he defies his orders and embarks on a long treatment to find out what really happened in the boy’s life – and try and understand the violent imagery that seems to dominate his imaginative life even though on a day-to-day basis he seems the most placid of men. The doctor will eventually uncover a hidden pattern leading to several murders and a psychological hangup new to crime fiction. Sturgeon’s enormous sense of empathy for those usually excluded from ‘polite’ society never leaves him and his portrait of ‘George’ is complex and compelling even as we learn just how hard his childhood life had been and what a toll this has taken on him. A really fascinating tale of psychological suspense, and very adult in its themes and language, whichever genre you are tempted to lump it in with.

Some of Your Blood is currently in print courtesy of Centipede Press (for their homepage, visit: For more about the author (including the image of Sturgeon reproduced above), you can visit the Eric Weeks’ wonderfully detailed resource at:, as well as the official Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust homepage at:, which has been responsible for a grand 13-volume collected edition of all the writer’s short work.

Sturgeon fell largely silent in his later years, but he is an author of remarkable power and acumen – and this book, if you can stomach it, should not be missed even, or especially perhaps, if it does not quite seem like your usual beverage of choice.

***** (4 fedora tips out of 5)

This entry was posted in Friday's Forgotten Book, Margaret Millar, Psycho, Robert Bloch, Scene of the crime, Theodore Sturgeon. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to SOME OF YOUR BLOOD (1961) by Theodore Sturgeon

  1. John says:

    I read a Sturgeon novel last month and its in the review queue for a future FFB. Great minds, eh? Did not know he wrote a quasi crime novel. I’ll have to track down a copy of the Ballantine paperback, the cover of which (second one shown, the first printing?) I like an awful lot. I think I’d like this one knowing my penchant for the darker stuff. Stugeon’s short stories are superb. He wrote one of the first overt gay themed SF stories (“The World Well Lost”) and for that he has my undying admiration.

    • Thanks for that John – I really hope you enjoy this one. My copy is the the first image and was a reprint from 1967. The other cover may be the original and is certainly more attention-grabbing though also a bit more in the style of the SF covers of the day, which is why I didn’t put it in pole position (as it were). I love Sturgeon and I think ‘love’ really has to be the operative word. His stories of sexual difference were real trailblazers at the time, though I suppose the changing tide of the late 60s caught up with him eventually. There are some passages here, about the nature of sexual desire and gratification, that probably were considered shockingly on the nose then and now seem tame and even jejeune. If and when you read this book, you’ll probably spot that I have been pretty ‘hands off’ about the story (don’t know how the review got sooo long – I bet that will put a lot of people off reading it – darn!). One could sell this book much harder in terms of reader interest but I do think it would spoil it. I do really recommend his Ellery Queen novel by the way if you haven’t read it – it’s certainly, in my view, one of the best of the 60s titles not co-authored by Manfred Lee and has elements that I think are very recognisably Sturgeon-like (sic).

  2. Todd Mason says:

    Well, beyond his desire to push envelopes (and there’s much more that’s playful rather than jejune about such short fiction as “Affair with Green Monkey”–jejune is probably a more appropriate tag for more of Sturgeon’s disciple Philip Jose Farmer’s work, or for the work of Robert Heinlein that was clearly influenced by his old friend Sturgeon), Sturgeon, as one of his most devastating horror stories is titled, always was pushing the readers to consider “A Way of Thinking”…or several ways of thinking. He attempted to understand and study love in all its forms, and I do mean love rather than solely sexual or romantic love…he certainly didn’t succeed in every work, but damn he did some impressive work…of which this rationalized vampire novel is certainly one. His other best-known student was Ray Bradbury, who slavishly followed his example in various ways in his early work, and never shook Sturgeon’s influence (and was better when he didn’t try). Vonnegut would never hesitate to praise his work, while being terrified of recapitulating his life. Etc. Asimov rarely wished he could write like anyone else, but Sturgeon was one he wished he could emulate, and some of favorite work of his own was an approximation. Like that. And Sturgeon began professional fiction publishing with short mysteries.

    • Thanks for all that Todd. I read Bradbury, Kuttner and Bloch (all marvellous writers) before reaching Sturgeon and in a way was glad I did that in the ‘wrong order’ because, Sturgeon’s was a unique talent and it’s easy to see why he could exert such a powerful hold on readers and writers alike. I haven’t read any of the early syndicated material that Sturgeon wrote before breaking through with SF stories. Bizarrely, I think the first Sturgeon I read was by him without knowing it, the Ellery Queen book The Player on the Other Side, which he ghosted from Dannay’s outline during Manfred Lee’s writer’s block.

      • Todd Mason says:

        Avram Davidson’s and Jack Vance’s EQ ghost jobs are also waiting for me to get to them.

        • Paul Fairman part-ghosted the (fairly ingenious) Queen novelisation of A Study in Terror as I recall. I wonder why so many SF writers were used.

          • Todd Mason says:

            Every writer we’ve cited has been an “amphibian” between fantastic and crime fiction…Sturgeon, who as noted was no stranger to crime fiction (and continued to publish short crime fiction occasionally throughout his career) was the least amphibian of a crew that included Davidson, Vance and the smooth hack Fairman, who’d also served as managing editor of ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE.

          • I really like the “amphibian” term – definitely can feel that trickling into my lexicon … There are some other amusing examples such as Harry Harrison who ghosted one of the Leslie Charteris Saint novels (actually a novelisation, ‘Vendetta for the Saint’) as well as writing crime fiction under his own name (though I haven’t read his ‘revenge’ books). Fredric Brown is one of my favourite authors who straddled both with equal success.

      • Todd Mason says:

        Sturgeon was really much more at home with the fantasy magazine UNKNOWN than he was with its sf stablemate ASTOUNDING, and his early work for the fantasy title, including such extraordinary horror fiction as “It” and “Shottle Bop,” and slightly more humorous items such as “The Ultimate Egoist” are much more comfortable and accomplished than even his best early science fiction…which in its turn is by no means shabby.

        • One wonders, if the market for short story publications had been less segmented in terms of genre, what other vehicles Sturgeon might have been able to find (and make a living at). Really fascinating stuff.

    • Todd Mason says:

      That’s “Affair with a Green Monkey,” actually. What a busy day this has been. And “The World Well Lost” was the first story to be published in the sf magazines to take an unabashedly homosexuals-are-no-worse-than-heteros position, and to hell with you if you insist differently…and it’s notable that it didn’t appear in GALAXY and sure as hell didn’t in ASTOUNDING nor even F&SF but in UNIVERSE SCIENCE FICTION, so nods to editor (Ms.) Bea Mahaffey and publisher Ray Palmer, too…one of the steps of his on the side of the angels (flying saucers and Deros being among his less savory adventures…FATE was his major moneymaker among his magazines at the time).

      And Sturgeon managed to break other sorts of rules, too. How many writers have placed sf stories in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. I count one. He was the second, after Judith Merril, to place an sf magazine story in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES.

      • Thanks very much for doing all the hosting this week (and for putting the Sturgeon book in pole position – very generous indeed). Fascinating to get all this detail Todd as one has an inevitably skewed perspective reading the stories in collection decades after their initial publication – Sturgeon was certainly a protean talent. I have not read any of his Western stories as that is a genre I know very little about outside of movies and TV.

        • Todd Mason says:

          STURGEON’S WEST is a fine collection, most of the stories in collaboration with ZANE GREY WESTERN MAGAZINE editor Don Ward. You’ll almost certainly enjoy it. Meanwhile, a cover as strong as Richard Powers’s for the first edition of SOME OF YOUR BLOOD would compel image placement thus even if I wasn’t such a fan of Sturgeon (and Powers). And in any week Patti doesn’t contribute, Sergio, you are likely to be first alphabetically by surname, after all.

          • Well, I can only thank my Dad for that of course, but thanks all the same. So that was the first edition? I really wasn’t sure – well worth knowing, ta very much Todd. I shall definitely look out for Sturgeon’s West, thanks. I have a couple of the Matheson excursions into the Western genre but haven’t read them yet. In fact, they’ve been on the shelf since the 90s, so that may be telling something too …

  3. Todd Mason says:

    I think I might’ve nudged you to consider this one. Hope so.

    • You certainly did Todd – it was great re-reading it after a gap of probably 15 or 20 years and discovering I still liked it as much as ever (even if I remebered it pretty well) – and I am definitely in your debt.

  4. Todd Mason says:

    Actually, Sturgeon had recurring lengthy writer’s block. His readable but unfulfilled last novel, GODBODY, was a struggle for him.

    • I haven’t read Godbody – wasn’t this originally going to be an erotic novel for Essex House (apparently they used to pay a mere $1,000 per manuscript)? Only it was returend as they were about to go under, leading to the years of tinkering? I’ll have to seek it out as its the only one of his original novels (ie not novelisations or collaborations) that I have yet to track down.

  5. John says:

    THE PLAYER ON THE OTHER SIDE is one of the best – if not THE best – of the ghosted Queen books. Utterly brilliant. And so very different in style. There was a mesmerizing quality about the writing and the story. Although it’s filled with the requisite Queen esoterica (the Hebrew alphabet business, for instance) those portions weren’t rendered in the usual pedantic lectures of the Dannay/Lee books. I read it as a teen and it has stayed with me for decades. I found a paperback copy last summer and had to buy it so I could re-read it. I’ll probably get to it later this year.

    • I thought you must have already read it. I really look forward to reading the review John – I first read it in Italian needless to say but over the years it has been fun re-acquainting myself with authors by going to the original language version (well, when in English anyway). Only occasioanlly have I decided that the translation was an improvement (would love to be able to really appreciate the Baudelaire translations of Poe for instance).

  6. I think I’ve mentioned my admiration for this one at other times. Your fine review brings back a lot of memories of the period I read it(the first one is also my copy; I bought it new). I just recently picked up THE PLAYER ON THE OTHER SIDE, one of the half dozen “Queens” I need to find and read to complete the cousins’ books(the others are all their work I think).

    • Hiya Randy – thanks very much for the kind words. I always seem to do things in the wrong order as I think most of the Queen novels I first read were all from the 1960s, nearly all of which (with the major exception of Face to Face) were written without Lee’s involvement. I do really rate Player though as one of the best books from the peirod. I think I have read all of their books with the main exception of The Glass Village and Inspector Qyeen Own Case, in both of which Ellery does not appear, and which I am saving for a rain day.

  7. macavityabc says:

    One of my prized possessions is my copy of SOME OF YOUR BLOOD that Sturgeon signed for me at a convention long ago. My wife still thinks he was one of the most impressive people she’s ever met.

  8. Sergio, the next time I visit your blog I might do well to read the comments and your responses first and then go on to your post! I enjoyed reading both and came away with fair knowledge of Sturgeon and his work among other things. He’s one of a handful of writers I have been determined to read for a long time. Curiously, I haven’t come across any of his books, new or used, so I’ll have try and read his works online, if that’s possible. This has been a lively discussion. Many thanks.

    • Thanks very much Prashant – Todd in particular has been extremely generous by sharing his knowledge and opinions so its been a really lively and wide ranging discussion so far. it’s really gratifying when so many people participate. You can read two of his stories (legally) online here: A PDF of his classic story Microcosmic God is available as a PDF here though I am less certain of the status.

      • Todd Mason says:

        And “Microcosmic God” is perhaps not the story to judge Sturgeon by…though it was the first of his stories to get a Lot of attention (rather as with Bloch’s “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” or Asimov’s “Nightfall” or Borges’ “El hombre de las esquinas rosadas”, it was the early story that people would come up to him and tell him was his best, when it was clearly more an Impressive but not yet masterwork–of this quartet, the Bloch was probably the closest to his better, later work).

      • Todd Mason says:

        “The Man Who Lost the Sea” in the “FreeSFOnline” page is the story that was collected in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, and is a better measure of his mature work.

        • Yeah, it was really good to find two contrasting examples available legitimately online. Incidentally, Sheldon’s The Screwfly Solution is also available online and this also appears to be legit (at least based on appearances) – it is here: I am guilty of viewing clearly illegally posted material on YouTube like anybody else, but when it comes to the illegally republishing of copyrighted print material online without permission, I really draw the line. Some fascinating content can be found over at the Hathi Trust (, which should be all legit though I really have my doubts in some cases.

  9. Sergio, thanks for the links. I have been to the Free Speculative Fiction Online” site a few times in the recent past though I haven’t read anything there. I look forward to reading the two stories by Sturgeon featured on the page as well as THE MARTIAN AND THE MORON that I was able to download yesterday. THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN seems like a very interesting anthology though you and Todd will have lots more to say about it, my knowledge of sf being limited thus far. I was wondering if the three editors had left out any notable sf writers from the anthology.

    • Hi Prashant, that anthology edited by David Drake, Eric Flint and Jim Baen includes many seminal science fiction tales and, perhaps more importantly, provides a guide to many of the great authors of the ‘Golden Age’ (a phrase Brian Aldiss tells us is equivalent to the age of twelve). Obviously there are plenty of other writers that could have been included even if restricting choices to authors mostly pre-1960 (I would add the likes of Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg and Henry Kuttner) but it is an excellent starting point.

  10. I thought you or Todd might come up with more names not included in the anthology whose roster of sf writers is impressive even if mostly pre-1960 as you point out. I am familiar with the names (just names!) of most of the well-known sf writers of the Golden Age though I have started reading their work only since a year or two. Of the lot I have read Asimov and Bradbury before, more of the latter. I have also been reading early sf magazines online, a veritable treat, thanks to Creative License. A couple of Silverbergs were crying to be picked up when I bought a dozen used paperbacks recently. I ought to go back and buy those too. One of the joys of reading other blogs, such as yours and Todd’s to name some, is being “introduced” to new writers and their books.

    • Hi Prashant,

      well, there are lots and lots of terrific science fiction authors out there of course. Anthologies can be a really great way to start. Here’s a list of some of the authors I would recommend beyond those not included in the volume already mentioned:

      Henry Kuttner (who also published as Lewis Padgett and Lawrence O’Donnell amongst others) – Kuttner later married CL Moore (author of the wonderful ‘Shambleau’ in that anthology) and most of their subsequent works are usually seen as collaborations of one sort or another even if not credited as such. Best known stories include ‘Vintage Season’ and ‘The Twonky’ but wrote dozens of stories just as good and many fine short novels too.

      Harlan Ellison: author of hundreds and hundreds of short stories and editor of a groud-breaking anthology, Dangerous Visions, which you must truck down if you can. His best books include ‘Deathbird Stories’, ‘Shatterday’, ‘Strange Wine’.

      Todd and I have mentioned James Tiptree Jr, one of the pseudonyms used by Alice B. Sheldon – she was at her best in the 60s and 70s with very powerful if not always very easy stories that combines anthropology, gender issues and SF and is an exceptional talent. Paved the way for the late Joanne Russ – Ursula K. Leguin is also a fine Fantasy and SF author (thankfully still with us). Judith Merril is another fine female SF author unfairly overlooked these days.

      Richard Matheson: I’ve reviewed some of his books here before (see here). Best known as the author of the SF vampire novel I Am Legend and he also wrote many of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone. Also a very, very prolific screenwriter, including Duel, from his own short story and memorably filmed by the young Spielberg.

      Alfred Bester: author of wonderful novels like The Demolished Man and Tiger, Tiger and many great short stories in the 50s and 60s.

      Philip K. Dick: probably needs no introduction having emerges posthumously from his cult corner after such movie adaptations as Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report – all these films are fine on their own terms but the many novels and short stories are very much their own beasts and need to be sampled properly. Dick’s work can be challenging and very odd, even impenetrable at times, but always powerful. The Man in the High Castle in a fascinating alternate history novel in which Hitler won the war that is really impressive.

      Fritz Leiber: with Sturgeon, perhaps my favourite of them all, straddling SF, Fantasy and horror – great novels include Conjure Wife, The Wanderer, Our Lady of Darkness and The Big Time. It is said that he in fact coined the phrase ‘Sword and Sorcery’ for his long-running Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series.

      Plenty more of course … but this is just to get you started – Incidentally, I would recommend Stephen King’s Danse Macabre as a useful primer to many of these authors. Happy hunting …

  11. Thanks, Sergio, for the fine recommendations. I’d better take a printout of this entire page now! Incidentally, I just discovered an sf anthology sitting on my shelf for the past few months. I’d completely forgotten the random purchase of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION edited by Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg. It has stories by A.E. van Vogt, C.L. Moore, A. Bertram Chandler and, hold your breath, Sturgeon (KILLDOZER!), among others. I think I mentioned this book to Todd at his blog. Honest mistake on my part. Thanks…

  12. Pietro says:

    I never read it, but if it has been written by the author of The Player on The Other Side, surely it will be interesting. He was only writer to love people who are different, abnormal, deformed, and to demostrate the infinite superiority of people different from the normal: “More Than Human”, for example.

    • Ciao Pietro, thanks every much for the comments. Sturgeon’s novel definitely fits right in with his general approach and Some of Your Blood, despite its deliberate attempts to be shocking, is clearly by the same author as More than Human.

  13. Pietro says:

    Non mi sono dimenticato di quello che ti promisi, Sergio. Sto solo prendendo tempo e vedendo di trovare qualcos’altro. Hai letto nulla di Japrisot o Magnan?

    • Sei davvery troppo gentile (come dicono da qeste parti). A dir la verita, no ho letto nessuno dei sue (ho visto un paio dei film derivati dal lavoro to Japrisot credo). Grazie ancora per l’aiuto.

  14. Sturgeon is better known for his short stories, but I find his novels fascinating, too. I have some of his ghosted Ellery Queen books on my Read Real Soon pile.

    • I really rate Sturgeon’s The Player on the Other Side and I’ll be very interested to read what you think of it. Along with Face to Face (which apparently saw Lee back collaborating with Dannay), it is my favourite of the later Ellery Queen books.

  15. Zeno says:

    This is a excellent book by one of the literary masters of science fiction. Not just of science fiction but a great writer of any genre. Sturgeon understood human nature with more insight than many other writers.

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