THE ARSENAL OUT OF TIME was David McDaniel’s first novel. In researching this book, I discovered in an article by J.M. Stine that they dreamed of becoming science fiction writers way back when. At the time, mid-sixties, Ace Books was the largest paperback publisher of speculative fiction. The pair noticed that a large number of titles had the word of in the middle. Thus was born the title The Weapons of XXX(McDaniel couldn’t think of a good alien name so XXX became a placeholder in the title and everywhere it was called for in the text).
The plot concerned the search for a rumored cache of lost weapons from an alien race known only as the XXX. Only remnants of their civilization, millions of years old, remained to be found as Humanity moved out into the stars. Dubbed The First Empire, they were believed to be the first race in the galaxy to rise up and expand to other planets. Long dead, the only whole bit of the XXX found was a spaceship drifting in space. Drive fused, communications destroyed, no bodies, everything else intact. The prize here was the library. After a number of years, they were beginning to crack the language.
Lawrence Edwards was one of a half dozen men that could read any of the documents found in the ship’s data banks. The youngest of those few, he was bored and wanted to get out into the field. One day, while translating a series of documents, he comes across one advising planetary body 7348-F be steered clear of as it was a designated weapons cache. It set him idly wondering if they would still be there, could even be found today after several million years. It could be worth a fortune, in dollars and power to whoever found them and if they still worked.
That was the jumping off point of the story. Naturally word gets out and everyone is looking for this lost planet. Edwards had the location, as of millions of years before. It would take a lot of work to plot where that planet was these days.
The race was on. And not always a friendly race either.
McDaniel sent the manuscript to Terry Carr, a junior editor at Ace, who liked it, and referred it to Donald Wolheim, senior editor. He didn’t like it and passed. A month or so later, Ace landed the contract for U.N.C.L.E. novels and Carr remembered McDaniel and knew of his interest in the new spy show. The rest, as they say, is history. McDaniel’s U.N.C.L.E. novels were the best-selling of the series, so they took another look at McDaniel’s science fiction novel, asked him to expand it, and published it as THE ARSENAL OUT OF TIME, keeping the XXX as the name of the alien civilization.
A fun little novel, it is a look at a developing writer who, but for his untimely death, would surely have done other things. Six U.N.C.L.E. novels(a seventh that was never published), A Prisoner tie-in, and a short story constitute his entire body of work.
In the accompanying early photograph, McDaniel is on the right and Jack Jardine(Larry Maddock) on the left. The lady is Sandy Mills.