Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Richie Valens.


Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated... was published by Seaboard Publishing and lasted for 13 issues, providing competition for the elephant in the room, the much bigger and better known Classics Illustrated.  Not only did Seaboard usurp the concept from Classics Illustrated, but it used some of the same artists, angering Albert Kanter (the owner of CI ) who bought the tiny, pesky competition.  What was to be Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated...#14 (The Red Badge of Courage) was published as Classics Illustrated #98, perhaps the thinnest comic book in that line because the story (following Seaboard's usual length) was only 32 pages long.

A major exception to the 32-page length was issue #7, which came out 52 pages.  This issue also differed from the others by featuring a story that was a bit unlike anything else Seaboard published in the series, which had previously adapted The Scarlet Pimpernel. Captain Blood, She, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Beau Geste, and Macbeth, and would go on to adapt Hamlet, Nicholas Nickelby, Romeo and Juliet, Ben Hur, Svengali, and Scaramouche.  Also, The Window was adapted from a movie, RKO's 1949 adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" (Mystery Book Magazine, March 1947). 

The film starred twelve-year-old Bobby Driscoll, Barbara Hale, Arthur Kennedy, Ruth Roman, and Paul Stewart.  Directed by Ted Tetzlaff from a script by Mel Dinelli, the movie was actually shot in 1947 but was shelved by studio head Howard Hughes for two years.  Woolrich's original story was later published under the title "Fire Escape" in his pseudonymous collection  Dead Man's Blues by "William Irish."; it has been republished several times, most notably in two anthologies edited by Bill Pronzini.  A proposed remake of the film eventually morphed into 1984's Cloak & Dagger, featuring Henry Thomas and Dabney Coleman.

Back to Stories by Famous Authors Illustrated...:  Tommy Woodry is a young boy prone to exaggeration and telling stories.  His world of make-believe included, cowboys, Indians, gangsters, and whatever else his vivid imagination could conjure.  Of course, no one believes his tales and the adults get very tired of his fabulations.  So when Tommy is the only witness to a murder he is not believed.  Except by the killer.

Woolrich's tale for the comic book was adapted by Dana Dutch and drawn by Henry Keifer (perhaps the best-known of the artists who were poached from Classics Illustrated).

Enjoy this bit of comic book noir.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Raise a glass for this Temperance song from Arthur Fields and Fred Hall.


The Murder of Sir Edmund Godfrey by John Dickson Carr (1936)

It was a Saturday, October 12, 1678, when noted London magistrate Sir Edmund Godfrey walked out of his house and disappeared.  Five days later, his murdered body was found.  The case was a sensation -- rumors of a Popish plot to overthrow the throne of Charles II were rife and, eventually a dozen poeple were brought to trial.  Three men were found guilty and executed; their innocence was later proved beyond all doubt.  Ever since then, scholars and historians have tried to resolve the question of who killed Sir Edmund Godfrey -- with suspects as improbable as Queen Catherine and Smauel Pepys,

This was not some insignificant murder.  It ehlped set the stage for the political turmoil of the late Seventeenth century, helped set the dividing lines between Whig and Tory, and came close to stoping the reign of James II even before he ascended to the throne.  

Charles II, a canny politician, spent his reign battling parliament over efforts to limit the rights of the crown, amid a nation-wide fear of the Catholic church.  Charles' crown, because he had no issue with his wife and refused to divorce her (although he had no problem with the royal avocation of messing around), would go to his brother James upon Charles' death.  James, however, had adopted the Catholic faith -- a cause for concern while Charles lived, but not a real problem; many Catholics supported the Protestant Charles.  The Green Ribbon opposition to Charles was trying to foment rebellion, as well as urging a war with Catholic France.  France could not afford a war and kept the pot from boiling over by secretly bribing influential members of both sides.  In short, the political situation was a mess, although Charles seemed able to skate his way through the morass.  About then, the priest Titus Oates, produced "evidence" of a Popish plot to poison Charles.

That's the background, soon to be followed by the disappearance and subsequent murder of Godfrey.

Carr, an anglophile and lover of history, wrote only two nonfiction books in his career, this and a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle.  He investigates this murder with the eye of a novelist.  Although well-researched and accurate as possible, The Murder of Sir Edmund Godfrey is presented as a detective novel. with an eye for detail as the author presents the many fascinating people who revolved around both the court and this case.  His conclusion matches that of several historians and defies that of others, but -- following the rules of the detective novel -- comes to a logical conclusion.  
We will never know if Carr is right in his deductions, but he gives an intimate and revealing  look at the time and at the people involved.

Recommend for those who love 1) history, 2) murder, 3) John Dickson Carr, or 4) any of the above.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


A number 1 hit in 1944 by The Andrews Sisters.


Dr. Sixgun (Dr. Ray Matson) dispenses medicine and his six gun to solve problems in the Old West of the 1870s.  He's accompanied by his friend Pablo and Pablo's pet raven.  Here he solves the mystery
of a killer riding a horse with no mane in an episode that aired on October 14, 1954.

Dr. Sixgun aired for just over a year on NBC radio from 1954 to 1955.  Karl Weber, a veteran stage, radio, television, and film actor, played the title role.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016