Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, June 26, 2017


  • Michael Brandman, Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice.  A Jesse Stone mystery, the second by Brandman continuing the adventures of Parker's character.  "A Hollywood movie company has come to town, and brought with it a huge cast, crew, and a troubled star.  Marisol Hinton is very beautiful, reasonably talented, and scared out of her wits that her estranged husband's jealousy might take a dangerous town.  When she becomes the subject of a death threat, Jesse and the rest of the Paradise police department go on high alert.  And when Jesse witnesses a horrifying collision caused by a distracted teenage driver, the political implications of her arrest bring him into conflict with the local selectmen, the DA, and some people with very deep pockets.  There's murder in the air, and Jesse's reputation as an uncompromising defender of the law -- and his life -- are on the line."  Brandman wrote three Jesse Stone novels following Parker's death; the series is now being continued by Reed Farrell Coleman.
  • Al Cobb, Savannah's Ghosts.  Collection of supposedly "all-true" ghost stories from Savannah, Georgia.  "These exciting stories were compiled by examining past and present supernatural cases involving ordinary Savannah citizens."   The author is a member of The Searchers, a local group which gathers "information and evidence of ghostly activity in and around Savannah."  Cobb is quick to explain that The Searchers "are strictly a non-profit group and not affiliated with any occult or Satanic group of any kind.  We only wish to add to the knowledge of mankind and its purpose spiritually on this planet...Currently [as of the 2001 publication date] The Searchers are running ads in Creative Loafing Newspaper offering to help anyone who has a suspected haunting or other supernatural occurrence."  I've mentioned before that I am a sucker for this type of regional book.  This copy was signed by the author.
  • Douglas G. Greene, editor, Classic Mystery Stories.  Mystery story anthology of thirteen stories dating from 1841 to 1920.  Many of the usual suspects are included among the authors:  Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Rodrigues Ottolengui, Jack London, Jacques Futrelle. Samuel Hopkins Adams, Baroness Orczy, Gelett Burgess. Melville Davisson Post, Susan Galspell, E. C. Bentley, and H. C. Bailey.  A good collection but geared more for the neophyte.  Greene is a noted scholar of the genre and the co-owner and editor of the mystery publisher Crippen & Landrau.
  • Mel Odom, Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel:  Cursed.  Television tie-in novel.  "Sulking around the Slayer in Sunnydale, the vampire Spike has often run into demons intent on punishing him for throwing in with the White Hats.  But when there are hints of a more organized campaign dedicated to the vampire with a chip in his head, Spike sets off on the trail of whomever's put a hit out on him.  Meanwhile, in the City opf the Angels, a vampire with a soul finds that the search for a mystical object is tied to his days as the vicious Angelus.  Then Spike -- his former partner in carnage -- arrives in L.A.  Each nursing a grudge, and with the specter of Buffy in both of their (cold, dead) hearts, the two vampires reluctantly work together...until their torturous past catches up with them!"  This book "takes place in an alternate continuity during Buffy's fifth and Angel's third seasons."
  • William MacLeod Raine, Guns of the Frontier.  Nonfiction.  An account of some of the famous gunslingers and lawmen of the old West.  "It was a free country, wide open.  but freedom was bought by the gun.  And when the gunsmoke cleared away, too many hombres were ready for the undertaker.  Into this lawless land rode the giants of the West:  Wild Bill Hickok, Sam bass, Bat Masterton, Ben Thompson.  Some were bed, some were good...all were quick on the trigger -- and only the toughest survived."  The original subtitle for the book was "The story of how law came to the West."  Raine was a very popular western writer with well over eighty books to his credit.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


A beatboxer explains it all.


Aretha Franklin with Joe Ligon of The Mighty Clouds of Joy.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


The Big Bopper.


Are you a Ralston Straight Shooter?  If so, then this is the comic book for you,   And, keep eating your Ralstom Wheat Cereal -- just one blue seal from the box and some small change could net you some neat premiums!  And did you know?  If you fry up some Ralston Wheat Cereal and pour syrup on it, it make a great breakfast!

Okay, now that you've had your Ralston Wheat Cereal, let's see what's up with Tom Mix and the gang at the TM-Bar ranch.

Oh no!  Tom's smart and talented horse Tony has been kidnapped by Two-Spot Jake, the smartest hoss thief in the Southwest!  Tom and Wrangler go riding off to find them, leaving little Jane and ranch hand (and comic foil) Wash and his mule Zobelia behind.

Later Jane and Wash go into town to get supplies and see a rodeo in progress.  Well, nothing can beat a rodeo, can it?  So Jane and Wash watch from the stands as the rodeo's owner, Colonel Butler ( who looks and dresses remarkably like Buffalo Bill Cody) steps in the ring and introduces "the orneriest hoss in the world!  Black Satan!" and offers $1000 in gold to anyone who can ride him.  Many try but all fail.  But little Jane notices something about the horse.  She runs into the ring to take up the challenge.  Somehow Jane is able to quiet the horse and she climbs on the saddle.  She shouts to Wash to get the sheriff and follow her -- she's going after Tom!  She bolts out of the ring with Black Satan and is followed closely by Colonel Butler and two of his cronies who are determined to stop her before she reaches Tom.  Will she make it?  Or will the Colonel and his men stop her?  Why is she so desperate to see Tom?  And what is the secret of Black Satan?  Why is Jane able to tame the horse while grown men couldn't?  All is revealed in the next three pages.

Jane, by the way, has some strange dreams.  Later in the issue, we find the continuing adventures of "Jane at Dream Castle."  In the previous issue, Jane and her warrior friend -- a tall muscular blond who carries a bow and arrow and wears only a ragged loin cloth -- Sir Lard-Tub and his cowardly squires.  Now she finds herself with her warrior friend outside the dream castle.  The cruel wizard Maldred has imprisoned the rightful lord of the castle and his daughter.  Jane's friend, who finally has a name -- Strongbow, is about to save them.  Jane comes along and her brains, along with some of the things Tom has taught her, help Strongbow gain the castle.  Unfortunately, Jane wakes up before they could rescue the lord and his daughter.  Maybe next issue...

Tom returns for another adventure as he meets "La Puma -- Scourge of the Badlands!"  The mysterious La Puma has been terrorizing the ranchers, sheepherders, and settlers outside of Dobie.  Tom, Pecos, Jane, and Wash ride out to investigate.  Tom and Pecos end up against La Puma and his vicious gang, as well as an angry grizzly bear.  Meanwhile, Jane has an idea to help capture the baddies.

Also in this issue is a story about Amos Q. Snood and the Fumble Family (in which Amos tries to cheap his way out of buying a Christmas tree) and a two-pager about Stubby and His Straight Shooter Pals, along with a gazillion features for kids.

And throughout the book:  reminders to catch Tom and his TM-Bar ranch friends in The Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters every weekday from 5:45 to 6:00 on the Blue Network Coast to Coast!  And keep enjoying your Ralston Wheat Cereal!

Friday, June 23, 2017


Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones livened up 1957 with this hit.


The Lad and the Lion (1917/1938) and The Man-Eater (1915/1955) by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Here are two standalone books with very similar themes by the popular Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The Lad and the Lion first appeared as a three-part serial in All-Story beginning on June 30, 1917.  It was released in book form by Burroughs' own publishing house in 1939, and later by Canaveral Press and by Ballantine Books in 1964.  The copy I read is an Ace paperback printing from 1978 which states, "Twenty-one thousand words of new material added to book edition," which, I assume, refers to the original 1939 edition, although I'm to lazy to compare the editions to verify this.

The book follows a typical Burroughsian path, starting in a Graustarkian kingdom and stranding the protagonist in a merciless African climate to undergo both adventure and maturation.  Prince Michael is the young heir of an old European kingdom undergoing political turmoil.  The revolution comes and the king is assassinated, but a loyal retaining manages to get Michael aboard a crowded ship fleeing the violence.  Naturally the ship runs into a hurricane and is sunk.  A piece of the wreckage knocks Michael unconscious and he wakes up alone in the water, bobbing in his life jacket.  He manages to climb on a nearby lifeboat.  The blow to Michael's head has given him total amnesia -- not only can he not remember his past, every memory is gone including language and any knowledge of being a human.  Michael is a blank slate who existence started only when he climbed onto the lifeboat.

The story could have ended there for Michael except that a steamer passes by and rescues him.  The steamer has a crew of one, an insane man who had originally been a stowaway.  The only other living being on the ship is a huge caged lion.  The man forces Michael to be his slave.  Michael somehow befriends the lion.  This goes on for an incredible three years, until the man beats Michael just once too often and the lion escapes from his cage and kills the man who is beating his friend.  The ship is wrecked off the coast of Africa and the lad (who by now is a young man) and the lion begin a trek across the Sahara.

Whoever said that thing about the willing suspension of disbelief must have had Edgar Rice Burroughs in mind.

Meanwhile, off in Graustarkville (or wherever), political intrigue continues.  There is a new king and a new prince.  The prince, Ferdinand, is a complete little snot.  He has no one to play with and his tutor suggests that he play with Hilda and Hans, the gardener's children, as young Michael used to do.  Ferdinand want nothing to do with Hans, but Hilda is a very pretty little girl and Ferdinand is smitten.  their relationship blossoms into an imperious friendship and Hilda turns from a sweet and innocent girl to a venal turnip-brained fathead.  Ferdinand wants his father dead so he can be the king and do whatever he wants, so there!  It so happens that there's a cabal of plotters within the palace and there's an underground revolutionary movement.  Eventually Ferdinand gets his wish and becomes king.  He then extravagantly spends the country's capital on himself while his people suffer.

Back on the desert, Michael and the lion rescue the daughter of a sheik from a band of desert outlaws.  Remember, Michael has no memory.  He has never seen a girl, especially a beautiful one.  Feeling he can't understand begin to bubble up because of this creature with the strange things arising from her chest.  The girl gives Michael a name -- Aziz.  She begins to teach him Arabic.  Michael and the lion have been raiding the sheik's flock for food.  Now, on discovering the concepts of property and of right and wrong, he vows never to raid another man's livestock again.  The sheik is frightened of both Michael/Aziz and the lion.Michael is taken in by a French official who also has a beautiful daughter.  this girl teaches Michael/Aziz French.  This is followed by the usual romantic misunderstandings, angst, kidnapping, and rescue.

Meanwhile in Europe, characters are dying like flies as political machinations and murder rule the day.

True to Burroughs fashion, the author shifts chapters from one scene to another, from the Sahara with Michael and the lion to the European country with its political intrigue.  Burroughs usually has the two strands meet up near the conclusion of his books but in this case he doesn't until the very last paragraph.  And in the end we are left with a Rousseau-like vision that civilization is bad and back to nature is good.  Typical Burroughs.

I have to note that the stereotypical portrait or race in this book is deeply muted.  There are very few instances of words that might be offensive to the modern reader and much is made of the romance between a white European man and the sheik's daughter, often referred to as of another race.  Burroughs treats this relationship as he does that of John Carter and the zaftig (and oviparous) Martian princess Dejah Thoris -- nothing to be concerned about.

The Man-Eater is a different kettle of fish, abundantly laced with offensive descriptions of blacks (nigger, pickaninny, coon, and that just scratches the surface.  Stepin Fetchits abound in this short book.  I cringed when I read a description of banjos strumming on the steps of the servants cabins at a Virginia plantation.

The Man-Eater was first published almost two years earlier than The Lad and the Lion, asa six-art serial running in the New York Evening World from November 15 to 20, 1915.  It was first published in book form in an unauthorized edition of 300 copies by Lloyd Arthur Eshback in 1955.  It's first major book publication was with another short novel by Buirroughs in Beyond Thirty & The Man-Eater, published by Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications in 1957.  The Man-Eater has been republished several times since then by both Fantasy Press and EBRville Press and as an e-Book.  It is also available on-line.  There not been a mass market paperback edition.

A young baby and her mother are the only survivors of a native attack on their African home.  The woman's parents were slaughtered and her husband was killed trying to get help.  Her late husband's father, hearing of this tragedy, brought them to live with him on his Virginia estate.  Nineteen years later, the older man has died but his will, which left everything to the young girl, cannot be found.  A neer-do-well nephew appears and claims the estate is his because there is no proof that the girl's mother was ever married to the dead man's son.  The only marriage certificate was lost in the attack on their African home.

Luckily, there was one living witness to the marriage ceremony -- the husband's best friend.  Unluckily, that man died a few years ago.  The letter sent to him, pleading for his help, eventually reached his son, a rich and bored young man with a taste for adventure.  He immediately decides to travel to Africa to see if he can find the marriage certificate among the ruins of the family home.  Neer-do-well nephew, in the meantime, has the same idea and scurries of to Africa with two criminal buddies.

A woman is killed and carried off by a lion.  The natives dig a deep pit to capture the lion.  the lion falls in an is trapped.  Meanwhile, neer-do-well and his cronies shoot and kill the lion's mate.  Back at the pit, natives are about to kill the lion but our hero manages to come along and stop them because it's just not sporting to shoot him while he is trapped in the pit.  To make things more sporting, he tosses a log into the pit so the lion can climb out, but keeping his rifle handy in case the lion attacks him.  The lion hops out of the pit, our hero trips while reaching for his rifle, and the lion is on top of him.  The lion, sensing that this man has saved him, leaves him alone and goes off in search of his mate.  The lion (whose name, by the way, is Ben, King of Beasts -- Burroughs' working title) comes across the dead lioness and gets the scent of the three baddies.  Ben vows vengeance (or whatever lions do) against them.

Virginia (the young heiress, named after her father's home state) discovers our hero has gone to Africa and sets off after him to warns him about neer-do-well and his pals, who plan to murder him if he finds the marriage certificate or to murder him if he doesn't find it.  (they are non-discriminating thugs who just like to kill.)   Our hero has discovered a sealed envelope in the ruins and, presuming it to be the marriage certificate, he tucks it in his pocket unopened.  Then there are attacks and captures and cannibals and rescues.  Our hero, gaga-eyed over Virginia, forgets he has the envelope and travels with her back home.

Ben, meanwhile, has been captured, shipped to the States, and is sold to a circus.

Neer-do-well has also traveled to Virginia and is planing to attack the estate.  He doesn't count on a near-by circus train wreck that has freed Ben.  Ben catches neer-do-well's scent and goes a-hunting.  Neer-do-well manages to get the envelope from our hero and jumps out a window with Ben in hot pursuit.  A negro servant hides from Ben in a cupboard (and in an awkward Mantan Moreland fashion); when he finally released, a hidden compartment with another sealed envelope is discovered.  All's well that ends well, except for several people who end up as lion chow.

And so we come to the close of another episode of Coincidence Theater.

Few people can claim that Burroughs was a good writer and keep a straight face.  But Burroughs was an effective writer.  He keeps the balls juggling as he races the plot forward at a pell mell pace.  Somehow the reader becomes invested in his paper thin characters.  His stories are exciting and his occasional shots of humor help alleviate some of his obvious faults.  For some reason, reading an occasional Burroughs novel helps cleanse, rather than stain, my reading palate.

I  don't mind jingoism and I don't mind obvious racism in books of a certain age (because they are of a certain age, you see), but parts of The Man-Eater border on outright bigotry.  You'd be better off just sticking with The Lad and the Lion.