Jack Lynch Mysteries
The Jack Lynch Mysteries are a series of six semi-furry hardboiled detective science-fiction stories by Clint Warlick totaling around 36,500 words, five of which were published in Yarf! between 1991 and 1997. Clint dropped out of the fandom and stopped writing the series, but surfaced in 2004 in the Dealers' Den of the first Califur with a self-published collection of all six stories. The protagonist is faced with classic detective problems, such as tracking down missing persons, solving murders, and saving beautiful women from danger.
A cross-genre blend of hardboiled detective, near-future biopunk, and post-holocaust aftermath sci-fi, sort of "Dashiell Hammett meets Cordwainer Smith around the time of Blade Runner", but with furries.
The stories appear to be set in a future San Francisco Bay area; though "The City" is never openly stated as being San Francisco, it is inferred from secondary locations that are mentioned. Clint also does not pin down the time period, but internal evidence suggests the middle of the 21st Century. This makes the series slightly "unstuck" in time and place.
The near-future milieu has many deliberately "retro" elements and atmosphere reminiscent of the 1930s to 1950s, fitting the hardboiled detective genre.
A generation and a half ago, a pandemic ("The Plague") swept the world, killing off most of the world's population. Even First World countries lost at least half their population to The Plague Years, never mind the series of bush wars that exploded among the survivors afterwards as the virus melted down civilization.
First among the First World, the USA survived with the least disruption, though still at a cost of half its people and technological base and most of its economy to the necessity of survival. Afterwards, as the world recovered and memories slowly faded, a reaction similar to the 1950s (after the Great Depression and WW2) set in, a forced "return to normalcy" after the Great Crisis.
During and after the Plague Years, most high technology stagnated or regressed slightly due to the die-off of skilled and knowledgeable manpower to maintain it. The only exception to this was biotech and genetic engineering, from the desperation to discover a cure and/or vaccine before humanity died off completely. They succeeded barely in time, and the biotech fallout from the interim haunts the world to this day.
Besides the obvious search to engineer a cure/vaccine, other biotech "Manhattan Projects" included genetically-engineering post-human or semi-human species in an attempt to leave somebody behind to carry on if (as seemed likely) humanity became extinct.
When the Plague finally ended, the country was desperately short of manpower to recover and under threat from surviving "have-nots" whose countries had collapsed completely into tribal raid-and-pillage survival mode. With 21st Century weaponry. Genetic-engineering from the Plague Years promised a way to meet that manpower shortage.
The Repopulation Act triggered production of semi-human genetic constructs -- pookas, kappas, and others. Legally, the labor of these constructs was indentured for seven years from decanting, after which they became free agents -- as often as not turning on their former owners for mistreatment. The solution for this legal liability was to begin engineering most constructs with a deliberate seven-year lifespan, ensuring they would not live long enough to see their freedom -- and be able to start filing lawsuits.
The result was a return of a form of chattel slavery -- and a huge black market for "Retro", the engineered retrovirus that let seven-year constructs live past The Big Seven and see their freedom.
- Pookas are animal-appearing constructs, providing the furry element. Most all the current generation are engineered sterile with a seven-year lifespan, but there are exceptions. Their "upright talking animal" appearance is deliberate, so they are easier to view as non-human animals or pets, i.e. "Not really one of us".
- Kappas are reptile-based constructs otherwise similar to pookas. Mentioned as a background element, "scale-heads" do not actually appear in the stories, as North American climate is normally too cold for them.
- Constructs are the catchall term for non-pooka, non-kappa constructs, usually of human or near-human appearance. Examples include the "Ogres", massively strong near-humans engineered as soldiers (and probably resembling movie Uruk-Hai) and "Goldenboys", classic ubermenschen not interfertile with humans (who keep such a low profile they're considered mere rumor). Most of these do not have the seven-year kill-switch. (Soldier-types do not because of the tradition that "Armed Forces service brings citizenship" and pressure from human veterans who served with them, though they are still normally engineered sterile.)
- The Big Seven is a construct's seventh birthday (counted from decanting), when they legally become free persons instead of chattel property. Also the pooka word for "death", as most of them are engineered with a lifespan of just under seven years.
- Retro is the engineered retrovirus that deactivates the seven-year kill-switch, allowing a construct to survive the Big Seven and live out a normal lifespan. Technically illegal, but unofficially tolerated by the authorities and available through the right channels.
Main continuing cast
- Jack Lynch -- Main character, a private detective since he was fired from the police force years ago (scapegoat in a scandal). Since then, he has operated hand-to-mouth as a small-time private eye, unconsciously following many of the shticks of the hardboiled detective genre. Since the events of Ocelots Have Spots, his business has improved at the cost of more and more of his clients being pookas or other constructs, which has given him the street name of "The Pooka Detective". All stories are narrated by Jack in first-person. Jack is deliberately never physically described.
- Sue -- Jack's red fox-pooka secretary, hired during the events of Ocelots Have Spots. An old movie and mystery fan as well as a highly-competent "Vixen Friday", she keeps pointing out similarities between Jack and various pop-culture fictional detectives, to Jack's continuing bewilderment.
- Connie -- Sue's roomie, a cougarette-pooka nightclub singer, maguffin of Puma Sings the Blues. Connie was originally a pet/toy for a drug dealer, who got her hooked on just about everything he dealt, legal or illegal. Mr Lawrence won her in a card game and got her cleaned up, retroed, and unhooked from most everything except cigarettes. Except for Puma Sings the Blues, she is mostly a background element; her party-girl behavior often drives Sue out of their apartment and into sexile in Jack's office. (The names "Connie & Sue" were originally a pun on Konny and Czu, title of a Matt Howarth indy comic.)
- Mister Lawrence -- Human businessman/philanthropist, widely hailed as "The Pookas' Savior", but after dealing with him Jack has his doubts. This was to eventually lead to a major falling-out between Lawrence and Jack.
- Tsar Boris -- "The Tsar of Pookatown", a nine-foot (a little under 3 m) expensively-dressed bear-pooka who runs organized crime in Pookatown; think Marvel Comics' "The Kingpin" as a Kodiak bear with a thick (and artificial) Russian accent. In many ways, he shapes up to be the "Anti-Lawrence", a "Pooka Savior" in his own (thoroughly-illegal) way.
- Roxy Blue -- Seven-foot (slightly over 2 m) tall female blue dragon, a one-off draconid-pooka built without the seven-year lifespan. Nine years old, total sexpot, with a total schoolgirl crush on Jack since he helped her get her freedom (and sent her former owner to Five-to-Ten in Folsom) two years ago. Her often-clueless pursuit of Jack is a continuing nuisance.
- Ocelots have Spots (Yarf #17, November 1991) -- Introductory story where Jack is hired by Mr Lawrence to track down an ocelot-pooka with an important implanted data-chip. The case takes him into the underworld (almost literally). In the process, he hires Lawrence's ward Sue as his secretary, setting him on the path to becoming "The Pooka Detective".
- Puma Sings the Blues (Yarf #26, September 1993) -- Classic hardboiled murder mystery where Connie has been framed for killing her slimy boss at the club and Jack has to clear her.
- Squirrel in a Stew (Yarf #40, January 1996) -- Raquel "Rocky" Brunswick, a desperate squirrel-pooka nearing The Big Seven, needs Jack to score her some retro. Unknown to Jack, she is also in big trouble with Tsar Boris. Introduces both Tsar Boris and (in a cameo) Roxy Blue.
- Blue Dragon Blues (Yarf #43, August 1996) -- Roxy Blue walks into one of Jack's investigations -- literally -- and Jack has to drag her out. Originally combined with In Sheep's Clothing as one continuous novelette; published in Yarf as a separate short.
- In Sheep's Clothing (Yarf #47, March 1997) -- Jack has to save the life of one Emma Cheviot, a sheep-pooka who knows too much about a big-time fraud, before someone turns her into seatcovers. In addition, a stalker is after Roxy Blue, in a continuation of Blue Dragon Blues. Jack has to keep both balls in the air hiding out both dragoness and ewe.
- When I Had a Real Job (Self-published collection, first Califur, 2004) -- Non-furry flashback story detailing how Jack got fired from the police department years ago; actually written around 1998.