Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I've just finished reading Ed Gorman's Cavalry Man:  Powder Keg, a western that takes place in 1883-4.  (Unsolicited plug:  It's a darned fine book, as are all of Gorman's -- give it a try.)  One thing that  bothered me just a tad, though:  twice in the book Gorman made reference to several townspeople being members of Rotary.  The Rotary that I'm familiar with (the Chicago club that grew into Rotary International) was begun in 1905.


Was there a previous organization named Rotary, or was this just an error on Gorman's part?  Inquiring people want to know?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


February is Black History Month.  As I am typing this the Oscars are being presented.  That got me thinking about Hattie McDaniel, who was the first Black to attend the Oscars and who had to sit in the rear of the auditorium during the ceremony.

     Ethel Waters originated the role of Beulah for television, but left the series in 1951.  She was replaced by Hattie McDaniel,who had played the role on radio since 1947.  McDaniel, however, filmed only six episodes before falling ill.  Those six episodes were shelved until McDaniel would be able to return to the show; in the meantime, Louise Beavers took over the role.  The McDaniel episodes were finally showed in 1952, at the end of the show's second season.  By that time, McDaniel had been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.  Beavers continued in the role for the third and final season.

     Beulah was often criticized for promoting stereotypical racism, much the same as Amos and Andy was.  (Interestingly, the parts of Beulah, Amos, and Andy were originated by whites on radio.)  It wasn't until 1968 and Diahann Carroll's Julia that a "non-stereotypical" Black played the lead on a weekly series  Carroll's role, however, was that of a bland "white Negro."  Still this was an important and deliberate step by creator Hal Kantor, who had written radio episodes for Beulah in the 1940s.  Leslie Uggams, who had played Ethel Waters' young niece in Beulah, created little controversy when she became a regular on Sing Along with Mitch in 1961, seven years before the creation of Julia.

     Looking back from 2012, it is sometimes difficult to realize how much American culture has changed in sixty short years.  We still have a long way to go but the journey will be worth it.

     So, from 1952, here's Hattie in two episodes in her ground-breaking television series, Beulah:

Monday, February 27, 2012


Two Texas Tales:  Raining Willie & Cranked by Bill Crider

This short e-book collection of two stories is once again evidence of how good a writer Bill Crider is.  The first "Raining Willie" concerns the past history of an engagement ring; Crider traces the ring back to Karla, a good ol' gal who gets mixed up with burglary, bullets, explosions, and meth labs.  The second, "Cranked," a fine example of "geezer noir," combines Karla, rednecks, dope, robbery, more bullets, more explosions, and a geezer.  This one was nominated for an Edgar award after it appeared in the anthology Damn Near Dead.

    Great stuff.  This just one of a number of books Bill has made available for the Kindle.  Check 'em out.


Jan Berenstain, co-creator of the Berenstain Bears, has died at age 88.  I, however, will fondly remember her and her late husband Stan as the creators of Lover Boy.



We broke down this week and bought a new computer.  Last week we dipped our toes in the Twenty-first Century and bought Way the Heck Smarter Than Us Phones.  It has been a traumatic (and expensive) time for your favorite Luddites.  To ease the pain I bought books and downloadin some nifty free e-books onto the computer.

  • "Gordon Ashe" (John Creasey), A Shadow of Death.  A Patrick Dawlish mystery.
  • Iain M. Banks, Surface Detail.  SF, part of the Culture series.
  • Paul Bishop, Running Wylde.  E-book mystery collection from everybody's favorite L.A. cop.
  • Traci Briery, The Werewolf Chronicles.  horror.  Evidently the first of a series.
  • Octavia E. Butler, Mind of My Mind.  SF.
  • D. G. Compton, The Unsleeping Eye.  SF.
  • Bill Crider, Two Texas Tales:  Raining Willie & Cranked.  E-book.  Two mystery stories from one of my favorite writers.
  • John Dalmas, The General's President,  SF.
  • Peter Dickinson, Eva.  YA SF.
  • Ansen Dibell, Persuit of the Screamer.  SF.
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Arcturus Landing (originally published as Alien from Arturus), The Chantry Guild, The Far Call, Hour of the Horde, The Pritcher Mass, and The Star Road.  SF all from a master.  Many moons ago, back in the days when I attended conventions, a popular late-night part of the program was a drinking session between Dickson and Ben Bova, in which each would sample the most horrendous concoctions the audience could devise.  After one such session, Dickson sat down with me and talked nonstop for about ten minutes.  Too this day I have no idea what he said.
  • Bruce Feistein, Tomorrow Never Dies.  The final shooting script for the James Bond movie.
  • Lee Goldberg, Joel Goldman, and Paul Levine, Three To Get Deadly.  E-book.  Three mystery stories.
  • Lee Goldberg, Double Impact:  Watch Me Die & McGrave.  E-book.  Two mystery stories.  McGrave has been getting nothing but rave reviews; I'm really forward to it.
  • The Gordons (Mildred Gordon & Gordon Gordon), Power Play.  Mystery from one of the great husband-wife writing teams of yesteryear.
  • Nancy Holder, The Angel Chronicles, Vol. 1.  TV tie-in with three stories.
  • Jean Lorrah & Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Chanel's Destiny.  A Sime/Gen SF novel.
  • Lynn Mason, Alias:  Recruited.  TV tie-in novel.
  • Ian McEwan, Solar.  Literary SF.
  • Dorothy McMillan, Blackbird.  Horror.
  • Warren Murphy, Dead End Street.  Mystery.  Number 2 in the Razoni & Jackson series.
  • Ed Naha, Cracking Up.  Mystery.
  • David Erik Nelson, Tucker Teaches the Clockies to Copulate.  E-book.  Steampunk.
  • J. G. Passarella, Wither.  Horror.
  • Louise Penny, The Cruelest Month.  Mystery.
  • Phillipa Pullar, Frank Harris.  Biography of the writer (and sexual exaggerator/dreamer/liar).
  • "Jon Sharpe," The Trailsman #231:  Salt Lake Siren.  Adult Western.
  • Anthony Neil Smith, Choke on Your Lies.  E-book.  MysterySmith publishes far too seldom for my tastes.
  • George R. Stewart, Storm.  Novel.
  • Sarah Strohmeyer, Bubbles A Broad.  Fun mystery.
  • Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Sword and the Circle.  YA Arthurian novel, second in the series.
  • Philip Wylie, The Disappearance.  An SF classic.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Dog in the Sky:  The Authentic and Unexpurgated Odyssey of Runyon Jones by Norman Corwin (1952)

Norman Corwin (1910-2011, -- that's right, another long life well lived) was one of the most recognized writers of radio scripts in the world.  Dog in the Sky was his first novel.

     Runyon Jones, age nine years and four months, is looking for his dog Pootzy, who had been run over and killed by a car he was chasing.  Pootzy was "an auto chaser and tire nipper class 4; a resister of leashes; he assaulted a dogcatcher with intent to bite; and he was known to have stayed out all night on at least one and possibly several occasions."  All of which made Pootzy a perfect dog for a nine-year-old boy.  Alas, it also made Pootzy ineligible for Heaven and thus he was sent to Curgatory.

      Runyon starts his quest on the 131st floor of The Building, at the Department of Lost Dogs.  From there he is sent to the 197th floor, the Department of Deceased Dogs.  An argument with the director of that department, Mr. Bubb, led to both being brought before the Supervisor.  (On the way, they pass the Hall of Fame for dogs; there's a staue of Rin Tin Tin and one for Hunding, who once bit Adolph Hitler and caught rabies from him, and one of Highandry, a rescue Saint Bernard who carried kegs of brandy under his nose for ten years and never touched a drop.)  The supervisor, touched by Runyon's pleas, broke/bent the rules by giving Runyon passports and documents to someone who might know the location of Curgatory.

     So Runyon begins his journey to find Curgatory.  It's not an easy task, but nothing is as determined as a boy separated from his dog.  Unknown to Runyon, he is chased across the universe by a contingent of demons who would be able to use him to expand their powers beyond Earth.  On his epic journey Runyon also encounters Father Time, Mother Nature, old man Winter, heat-loving Summer, the Harpy, and the Giant.  He also meets strange people and creatures from all parts of the galaxy, including a cosmetics salesman whose most powerful perfume is called STATUTORY RAPE, which  is "violent and irresitible; a flaming sword; yet it is perfectly safe when worn with a chaperone," and the prosletizing Mr. 62Kru, who is a Hunkerlite "resolute in [his] virute, confident in the supremacy and inviability of love, and [we] have alreadyy killed several million disbelievers to prove this."

    Dog in the Sky is charming and whimsical, a juvenile that really is not a juvenile.  The novel is an expansion of one of Corwin's radio plays, The Odyssey of Runyon Jones.  The radio play can be found in Corwin's collection Thirteen by Corwin (1942).


Thursday, February 23, 2012


Loren Owens and Wally Brine are radio personalities in Boston.  The Loren and Wally Morning Show has been a top-rated show on WROR for many years and along they way they've had a host of interesting "regulars."  One of the most popular has been Tom Doyle, whose song parodies -- "Townie Tunes" -- can make you choke while the milk comes spurting out of your nostrils.

     It's been sixteen years since I moved away from the Boston area so I wasn't familiar with Tom Doyle.  That changed when I got a CD of his songs for Christmas.  Here are a few of the songs.  Of course, most of these tunes are about Boston and its environs, but there's also a visit with the Men from Maine with their unique take on "animal husbandry" and the not-so-true story "behind" Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It's no secret that I am a fan of August Derleth's writing.  I'm currently reading Restless Is the River, his 1939 novel about Wisconsin in the 1840s.  As usual, I'm struck by how sensual an author Derleth could be.

     Derleth himself was a sensual person, with a large appetite for rich food and for sex.  His other senses -- sight, hearing, smell -- were also very important in his appreciation of nature and his surroundings.  In his novels sex was tastefully glossed over and, to a lesser degree, so was the sensual nature of food.  The other three senses, however, were very important; the senses were an important part of Derleth's most important character, the state of Wisconsin.

     Many novels suffer from an overly descriptive narrative.  It's to Derleth's credit that his descriptive narrative almost always enhances his story.  Here are just a few samples from early in the book.

     Augustin turned at once and led the way along the shore toward the landing, where he paused to wait
     again.  Night had come down now; the stars shone forth in the heavens, bright Jupiter gleaming high in the
     southeast, Arcturus amber in the east, and over the hills which they had descended toward the Wisconsin,
     a great yellow moon had begun to lift itself, outlining hill-lines and trees in a glow of orange and yellow.
     From time to time, bats and nighthawks flashed through the glow, across the moon, feeding on insects in
     the air.  (page 48)

     Here the sense of color ("bright Jupiter," "Arcturus amber," "yellow moon," "a glow of orange and yellow") morphs into a verb "bats and nighhawks flashed").

     A few pages later, Derleth uses smell and sound, combined with a brief physical description, to reinforce the image of a frontier land:

     The air was fresh and fragrant; dew lay heavy on the grass, only the gentlest of breezes blew from the
     south, and all around him rose the countless odors of the spring:  turned earth, opening leaves of maple,
     sycamore, oak, flower fragrance, and the deep richness of wild crabapple, now visible in clumps all over
     the prairie, faint and ghostly in the dawnlight that fanned upward in the east.  Standing there, conscious of
     the sounds of stabled animals not far north of where he stood, he was aware also of other sounds at the
     river's edge, and cognizant again of voices drifting back from the point.  Impulsively he set out along the
     path to the cemetery, past the sheds there, through the deep wood, where old trees towered on the north
     side of the path, and an orchard shone whitely among younger trees on the other.  (page 52)

     Later in the chapter, smell and sound are used to further show the importance of place in the novel:

     The hills in the west were lavender, the line of sky and earth sharply defined.  In the southwest a low bank
     of cloud had risen and lay bright in the sunlight, the countless convolutions of thunderheads singularly
     beautiful against the deep blue beyond.  The music of birdsong was lessened now; instead, from the high
     dome of aquamarine came the whickering of hawks, the cawing of crows. occasional heron and eagle
     sounds, and the clamor of geese in flight.  From the distant bottomland near the river came the shrill,
     incessant crying of curlews, and upland the plover called.  Violets grew quickly where they had paused,
     and on the wind lingered a tantalizing fragrance which Augustin had not before known.  He asked about it
          "That's trailing arbutus," answered Chalfonte.  "It grows plentifully in hills here, but it's almost done
     blooming now." (pages 63-64)


Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Today is SHROVE Tuesday, not Shove Tuesday.  Mistakes have been made.


It's 1931 and some studios are still grappling with sound.  Here's a programmer from Ralph M. Like Productions (who?  what?) [aka Action Pictures (oxymoron much?)], directed by Stuart Paton (who?  huh?), and featuring such noble talent as Carmel Myers and Rex Lease (they cudda been contenders).

    Cheesy?  Yes.  Painful to watch?  Well, that depends on how much cheese you can tolerate.
     I report.  You decide.

     For more of today's Overlooked Films, go to Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom blog.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Kitty dropped her phone this week and broke it.  So off to the phone store we went and came back with smart phones that came with a Kindle app.  And so, by golly, there are some e-books on this list.
  • "Jeffrey Ashford" (Roderic Jeffries), Counsel for the Defense.  Mystery, the first of many Jeffries wrote under that name.  This is a Collier paperback; has there ever been a paperback publisher with covers poorer than Collier?
  • George Baxt, Topsy and Evil.  Mystery.  Third in the Pharoah Love series.
  • William Peter Blatty, I'll Tell Them I Remember You.  Memoir.
  • Simon Brett, editor, The Faber Book of Parodies.  Satire. Ninety-one poems, stories, oddments, and scraps.
  • Poppy Z. Brite, The Devil You Know.  Horror collection with sixteen stories.
  • James M. Cain, Past All Dishonor.  Historical novel.
  • Hugh B. Cave, The Lower Deep.  E-book.  Horror.
  • Jerome Charyn, Pinocchio's Nose.  Novel.
  • Agatha Christie, Six Mary Westmacott Novels.  Omnibus of the six novels Christie wrote under the Westmacott pseudonym:  Giant's Bread, Absent in the Spring, Unfinished Portrait, The Rose and the Yew Tree, A Daughter's a Daughter, and  The Burden.
  • Richard Dalby, editor, Mistletoe & Mayhem:  Horrific Tales for the Holidays.  Horror anthology.  Thirteen tales, old and new, witha bright spot being a 70-page original story by Basil Copper.
  • Paul Gallico, The Man Who Was Magic.  Fantasy novel.
  • Walter Gibson,  The Shadow:  A Quarter of Eight & The Freak Show Murders.  Pulp adventure novels, original published under the "Maxwell Grant" house name.  From 1945 and 1944, respectively.  The Shadow:  Servants of Siva & The Madrigals of Mystery.  Volume 12 in anthony Tollin's series, originally published as by "Maxwell Grant" in 1938 and 1949, respectively.
  • Chris Grabenstein, The Crossroads.  YA Horror novel.
  • Wyman Guin, The Standing.  SF.
  • Elizabeth Hand, 12 Monkeys.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • "Cyril Hare" (Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark), Suicide Excepted and Tenant for Death.  Golden Age whodunnits.
  • Charles L. Harness, Wolfhead.  SF.
  • James Herbert, Shrine.  Horror.
  • William Hope Hodgson, The Lost Poetry of William Hope Hodgson and The Wandering Soul.  E-books.  The first covers three poetry books that Hodgson had written but had never published before his death in World War I; it contains most of the poems included in his first posthumous poetry book.  The second contains miscellania by and about Hodgson.  Both were edited by Jane Frank.  A treasure trove for Hodgson freaks like me.
  • Peter James, Alchemist.  Thriller with horror/SF overtones.
  • Dan Jolley, World of Warcraft:  Death Knight.  YA graphic novel gaming tie-in.  Art by Rocio Zucchi.
  • Stana Leicht, Of Blood and Honey.  E-book.  Fantasy.
  • A. J. Liebling, The Jollity Building.  Nonfiction.  Four articles from The New Yorker.
  • Peter Lovesey, The Reaper.  Mystery.
  • Frank D. McSherry, Jr., Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenberg, editors, More Dixie Ghosts.  Horror anthology in the American Ghosts series.  Fourteen stories.
  • Marlys Millhiser, Nightmare Country.  Horror.
  • Walter Moudy, No Man on Earth.  SF.
  • Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, The Best of the Destroyer.  Omnibus of three men's adventure novels in the Destroyer series:  Chinese Puzzle, Slave Safari, and Assassin Playoff.
  • Lara Parker, Dark Shadows:  The Salem Branch.  TV tie-in novel written by the woman who played "Angelique" in the series.
  • Terry Pratchett, The Truth.  Discworld fantasy.  This one is an ARC from 2000.
  • Derek Raymond, He Died With His Eyes Open.  Mystery.  The first Factory novel.
  • J. D. Rhoades, Lawyers, Guns and Money.  E-book.  Mystery.
  • "Kenneth Robeson" (Paul Ernst), The Avenger #15 House of Death, #17 Nevlo, and #21 The Happy Killers.  Pulp novel reprints from 1941-2.  Ernst wrote all the ones for the magazines; Ron Goulart continued the series in paperback with #25.
  • Wayne Allen Sallee, For You the Living.  E-book.  Horror collection.
  • Noel Scanlon, Black Ashes.  horror.
  • Sharon Shinn, The Shape-Changer's Wife.  Fantasy.
  • Mark Stammers & Stephen James Walker, editors.  Doctor Who:  Decalog:  Ten Stories, Seven Doctors, One Enigma.  TV tie-in.
  • Steve Vernon, Red Valentines.  E-book.  Horror collection with three stories.
  • Charles Wilson, Extinct.  Thriller.
  • Dave Zeltserman, Bad Thoughts.  E-book.  Mystery.

Friday, February 17, 2012


This past Tuesday -- Valentines Day -- a twelve-year-old girl who went to my grandson's school committed suicide.

     This was not a result of bullying, or of boyfriend drama, or of gender confusion, or of a difficult homelife.  None of the reasons we hear about on the news.  There is no one to point the finger of blame at.

     It just happened.

    From what I have been able to understand the girl just very sad.  She did not tell her parents or any adult.  Instead, she texted a friend and told her that she felt very sad.  The friend texted some other friends and they all texted the girl trying to cheer her up.  They told her they loved her.  They told her what a wonderful person she was.  They tried everything they could think of.

     Except tell an adult.

     Now the girl's friends have to live with the guilt that comes from not having been able to something.  Remember we're talking about twelve-year-old girls here.  They tried.  It was not their fault.  They did the best they could.  They just never considered telling an adult to be an option.

    The girl's parents were not home at the time; her younger sister discovered the body.  I can't imagine the hell the family is going through.  The parents shouldn't blame themselves, even though I know they will.  Kids have a natural talent for hiding their feelings and I suspect that this was the case here -- her friends and her teachers had no idea of the pain the girl was going through; her parents probably didn't either.

     The girl will never taste another ice cream cone, never go on another amusement ride, never go on a date, never get wrapped up in the latest fad, never learn how to drive, never giggle or laugh again, and never never never do those simple things that make life so wonderful.  Death is the one thing you cannot fix.

     When you are a kid, you do not comprehend what death means.  The human brain is not fully developed until around age twenty-two.  That's one of the reasons kids do stupid and dangerous things.  This week a kid did a stupid and dangerous thing and there are no take-backs.  The day after she died, one boy went into a class they had shared and thought, her desk is empty; the following day, her desk was still empty; and empty again on Friday; he is just now beginning to realize that death is real.

     My daughter spent eleven years as a paramedic and running an emergency ambulance, so she had already drummed a few mantras into her kids' heads:  There is nothing so bad that it can't be fixed.  If something is bothering you, tell an adult.  If you find that something serious is bothering a friend, tell an adult.

     A girl did a stupid thing this week and now she is dead.  If she had given herself just an extra five or ten minutes to think, this might not have happened at all.  I can't lay any blame on her.  Depression kills.  It's the depression that took a life, not the girl who was as much a victim as a victim could be.

    The world is now less one person, a girl who could have grown to be a bright and witty woman, someone who may have made a large difference in the lives of others.  We are less one person who was loved and will always be loved and now, tragically, is no longer able to love.  It's a damned shame.

     I didn't know the girl or her family.  Neither did my wife or my daughter.  Yet we all weep.  The entire community weeps for a senseless death and a lost future.

     There is nothing so bad that it can't be fixed.

     Tell an adult.


Check him out.


Author Andre Norton (1912-2005) would have turned 100 today, an age that would in no way come near to the number of books she wrote.  The quiet librarian who assumed a male name published her first book, The Prince Commands in 1934.  Most of her early books were written for young adults:  she wrote of romance and spies and pirates and the Civil War and murder and retold children's stories.  In the early 1950s she began published science fiction.  For many people she was a gateway to reading.  She worked until the end, producing stories that thrilled, amazed, and enthralled.

All of which makes me realize it's about time I entered Witch World again.


Today is Donald Westlake Day at Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books project.  I had planned to do Westlake's quicky biography Elizabeth Taylor (Monarch, 1961, as "John B. Allen"), by my copy is hiding somewhere among a gazillion books.  So...

     Just to be contrary, my post is about John D. MacDonald.  I can't really call any of MacDonald's books forgotten, nor can I call JDM a forgotten writer.  MacDonald has been a staple for me since high school.  I have read all but six (three fiction and three nonfiction) of his books -- and five of the six are in my backyard shed waiting for me; the sixth is actually a 26-page pamphlet he wrote for the Library of Congress to promote reading.

     What I thought I would do today is direct you to some of John D. MacDonald's fiction that is available on the web -- including some that has never been reprinted.  The major source of these stories is, a site recommended last month by Juri Nummelin on his always interesting blog Pulpetti.  This site has scans of many old magazines and pulps; be warned:  once you start on the site you may not want to log off.

     Anyway, just go to follow the links to the magazine issues.  There are eight stories by John D. MacDonald from the general-interest magazine Collier's:

     Dead on Christmas Street.  December 20, 1952.  Never reprinted.
     Elimination RaceSeptember 13, 1952.  Never reprinted.
     Flight of the Tiger.  A three-part serial.  March 5, March 19, and April 2, 1952.  Never reprinted.
     Looie Follows Me.  August 27, 1949.  This story was included in JDM's collection The End of the Tiger (1966).
     My Brother's Widow.  A five-part serial.  March 15, March 22, March 29, April 5. and April 12, 1952.  This was the magazine version of JDM's novel Area of Suspicion (1954).
     The Men Women Marry.  June 8, 1956.  A short-short story (that's Collier's version of flash fiction).  Never reprinted.
     The Unsuitable Girl.  February 3, 1956.  Another short-short story.  Never reprinted.
     Who's the Blonde?  August 9, 1952.  Never reprinted.

     There's one story here from Fantastic Adventures:

     Vanguard of the Lost.  May 1950.  This story was reprinted in Amazing Stories, December 1966.

     And three from Startling Stories:

     Shenadun.  September 1948.  Never reprinted.
     The White Fruit of Bandalas.  September 1951.  This story was reprinted in Dangerous Vegetables, edited by Keith Laumer, Martin H. Greenberg, and Chalres G. Waugh (1998)
     Wine of the Dreamers.  May 1950.  This was the magazine version of JDM's science fiction novel of the same name (1951); it was later reprinted as Ballroom of the Skies (1953).

     Two more SF stories from Thrilling Wonder Stories:

     Amphiskios.  August 1949.  This story was reprinted in Time Wars, edited by Poul Anderson, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh (1986).
     Like a Keepsake.  June 1949.  Never reprinted.

     And, finally, two stories from the venerable Weird Tales:

     But Not in Death.  May 1949.  This story was reprinted in JDM's collection Other Times, Other Worlds (1978).
     The Great Stone Death.  January 1949.  This story was reprinted in Tales of Dungeons and Dragons, edited by Peter Haining (1986).

     The second site I found comes with a caveat:  I have not used the site and have no idead what is required.  The site -- -- allows to "borrow" books in e-format.  (If anyone has experience with this site, I'd love to hear about it.)  Anyway, five of JDM's novels appear to be available:

     The Crossroads
     Deadly Welcome
     The Deceivers
     The End of the Night  (This novel has been highly recommended by Stephen King, among others.)
     Soft Touch

      The web is a large place and there are probably more stories by MacDonald lurking out there.  If you know of any, please let me know in your comments.  In the meantime, give the stories I have listed a try.

     (This particular post is dedicated to Harold Keane, my late father-in-law, who could never get enough of Travis McGee.)

     As usual, Patti will have reviews and links to other revues at her site, Pattinase.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


A few days ago, Bill Crider mentioned Vikki Dougan in a post on his blog.  He wanted to post the Limelighters song about her but was unable to find it.

Here's Bill's original post:

And here is The Song That Could Not Be Found (because both Bill and I both mispelled her name):

And here is Vikki in a tight dress:

Blogs can be educational, you know.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


One of my favorite shows, and with this episode titled Ghost Story, I couldn't resist.  Enjoy.

For more overlooked stuff for today, go to Sweet Freedom, where Todd Mason will have all the links.

Monday, February 13, 2012


  • Brian Aldiss, Supertoys Last All Summer Long and Other Stories of Future Time.  Collection with 21 stories.  Is there a writer who has been more consistantly inventive as Aldiss?  I'm in awe of the guy.
  • Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January-February 2001.
  • Mike Ashley, editor, The Mammoth Book of Extreme Science Fiction.  Nineteen stories.
  • Jim Baen, editor, New Destinies, Volume One/Spring 1987.  The first issue of the paperback SF magazine.  Nine stories and articles.  Oddly, this one contains Part 2 of a Poul Anderson stories the was begun in another anthology series.
  • Michael Bishop, editor, Light Years and Dark:  Science Fiction and Fantasy of and for Our Time.  Anthology with 44 stories and four poems.
  • Ben Bova, The Return.  SF.  Book IV of the Voyagers series.
  • Leigh Brackett, The Halfling and Other Stories.  SF collection of seven stories.  No one did planetary adventure like Brackett.
  • Keith R. A. DeCandido, Supernatural:  Bone Key.  TV tie-in novel.
  • Lester del Rey, editor, The Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year:  Third Annual Collection.  Fifteen stories from 1973.
  • Gardner Dozois, editor, The Year's Best Science Fiction:  Eighth Annual Collection.  Twenty-five SF stories from 1990.
  • David Drake, Patriots.  SF.
  • J. T. Edson, The Justice of Company 'Z'.  Adult western in the Alvin Fog series.
  • Roger Elwood, editor, Future Corruption.  SF anthology with twelve stories.
  • Steve Fisher, Saxon's Ghost.  Supernatural novel from one of the mainstays of the old detective and western pulps.
  • Christopher Golden, Prowlers:  Laws of Nature.  Horror novel, the second in a series.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, editor, A Taste for Blood.  Anthology with fifteen vampire novellas.  Copyright page adds Stefan R. Dziemianowicz and Robert Weinberg to Greenberg's name.
  • Justin Gustainis, Black Magic Woman.  Dark fantasy, the first in the Quincey Morris/Libby Chastain series.
  • Peter Haining, editor, The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories and Vintage Science Fiction.  Anthologies with 35 stories (and one poem) and 20 stories, respectively.
  • Peter F. Hamilton, The Temporal Void.  SF.  Second in the Void series.
  • Harry Harrison, editor, Nova 2, The Outdated Man (a.k.a. Nova 3), Nova 4, and SF:  Authors' Choice 4.  SF anthologies with fourteen, thirteen, twelve, and fifteen stories respectively.  Nova 4 also has an informative autobiographical article by Alfred Bester.
  • "Alfred Hitchcock," editor, Alive and Screaming.  Fourteen stories (from 1959 through 1972) from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.
  • Janet Hitchman, Such a Strange Lady.  Biography.  Originally published with the subtitle An Introduction to Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957).
  • Carla Jablonski, The Books of Magic:  Consequences.  Number 4 in the YA fantasy series based on the graphic novels created by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton.
  • Laurence M. Janifer, Bloodworld.  SF.
  • Stephen Jones, editor, The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women.  Thirty-four stories.
  • Stuart Kaminsky, CSI:  NY:  Blood on the Sun, CSI:  NY:  Dead of Winter, and CSI:  NY:  Deluge.  TV tie-in novels.
  • Brian Keene,  Dead Sea and Urban Gothic.  Horror novels.
  • Marc Laidlaw, The Third Force.  SF.
  • Louis L'Amour, Westward the Tide.  Western.
  • Robert N. Lee and David T. Wilbanks, editors, Damned Nation.  Horror anthology with 22 stories.
  • Jeff Mariotte, Supernatural:  Witch's Canyon.  TV tie-in novel.
  • John McCarty, Thrillers:  Seven Decades of Classic Film Suspense.  Nonfiction.
  • Ayn Rand, The Early Ayn Rand:  A Selection from Her Unpublished Fiction.  Eleven pieces, edited by Rand disciple Leonard Peikoff.  While not a fan of Rand's philosophy, I'd thought it would be interesting to check this one out.
  • Tony Richards, Dark Rain.  Dark fantasy.
  • John Ringo & Julie Cochrane, Cally's War.  SF.
  • Todd Robinson, editor, Thuglit Presents Sex, Thugs, and Rock & Roll.  Twenty-four neo-noir stories.
  • Jonathan Strahan, editor, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume One.  Twenty-four stories from 2006.
  • Chris Steinbrunner and Burt Goldblatt, Cinema of the Fantastic.  Nonfiction focusing on fifteen films.
  • Neal Stephenson, Odalisque.  You can pick your own catagory for this one.  Book 3 of the Baroque Cycle.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lost Road and Other Writings.  Posthumous collection of background writings, notes, and details; this is Volume 5 of The History of Middle-earth.
  • Roy Torgeson, editor,  Other Worlds 2.  Fantasy anthology with ten stories and an exerpt from a Poul Anderson novel.
  • John Varley, Mammoth.  SF.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I am an invenerate obituary reader and the local papers in my area usually offer interesting ones.  I read obituaries not because I am morbid but because it allows me to celebrate lives well lived and to mourn those lives that have not achieved their purpose.  One of this week's local papers offered both.

     Joseph America -- love that name -- passed away last week at age 91.  A World War II veteran, he was a Master Tool and Die Maker at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  When his beloved wife passed away in 1974, he retired from his job and assumed the role of parenting the seven of his fourteen children who were still living at home.  All but one of his fourteen children survive him.  He loved to spend time fishing, crabbing and boating with his family and friends.

     I have no idea what type of parent or person he was, but I strongly suspect -- in both cases -- he was a good one.  A life well lived.  A person I would have liked to have known. 

     Brenn Carter was only 18 when she died.  Her favorite pastimes were drawing, getting her nails done, applying make-up, and changing her hair color and style.  In other words, she was a teen-aged girl who should have had a lifetime of promise and opportunity ahead of her.  Whoever wrote her obituary knew her and loved her and tried desperately to describe the person she was:  "From the start it was clear to see that she was a force to be reckoned with.  Forthright, energetic, funny, and creative, her charm went before her like a torch, illuminating those she was around with joy.  Her gregarious nature was infectious; her smile brilliant; her eagerness for life made it vividly apparent that Brenn would leave an indelible imprint on those with whom she came into contact.  Naturally artistic, Brenn possessed a distinct flair for expression.  Drawing was her passion, ambition her palette, audacity her paint, life her canvass, and what remains is a work of art."

     It is unjust that young people die.  It happens, but I don't like it.  It may sound corny, but a part of me is diminished whenever I read about a young person's death, whether from accident or disease, war or violence.  So today I mourn Breen Carter, a young lady I have never met, as much as I celebrate Joseph America, another stranger to me.

     There were other obituaries this week:  Judith Bell, 66.  Pauline Chase, 51.  Joan Davis, 78.  William Ewaski, Sr., CMSgt, Ret., 90.  Gordon Harris, 53.  Beverly Harwood, 79.  John Lloyd, 84.  Clarence Parker, 91.  Gene Schwallenberg, Jr., 48.  Some passed before their time; some had full lives.  All had gone through life touching others.  I hope that all had lives well spent.

     I read obituaries because they connect me with humanity.

     What about you?

Friday, February 10, 2012


Brief Candles by Manning Coles (1954)

Neighbors Cyril Coles and Adelaide Oke Manning decided one day over tea to write a spy novel, thus giving birth to both "Manning Coles" and Tommy Hambleton, the hero of twenty-five novels.  While best known for  that series, the pair also went on to write three novels about cousins James and Charles Latimer and Ulysses, Charles's alcohol-loving monkey.  All three happen to be ghosts.

     The series starts with Brief Candles, in which the cousins James (an Englishman) and Charles (an American) are in a French village near the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.  The French have been defeated and are on the run from the German army.  The Latimers (with Ulysses) are the only customers in a restaurant.  They have been drinking heavily, as has their waiter, a patriotic old Frenchman.  The waiter decides to fight the oncoming army -- something that, through their alcoholic haze, seems to be a good idea to the cousins.  Armed with rifles, they confront the army and are killed.  To the outside world they have vanished.

     Fast forward 83 years.  The cousins -- as ghosts -- reappear one evening, with out-of-date beards and dressed in out-of-date clothing.  They pilfer modern clothes, then enter a bank to "borrow" some money.  The bank, however, was in the midst of being burgled.  The cousins "borrow" their money and leave the would-be thieves locked in the bank's vault.  Later that night they shave off their beards -- something I find very interesting.  Who knew ghosts could shave?

     All of this is preparatory to meeting a newly married couple, Jeremy and Sally Latimer.  Sally, it turns out, is the great-granddaughter of James.  She had met and fell in love with her distant cousin, the great-grand nephew of Charles.  It seems that James and Charles appear when relations are nearby -- and are in trouble.  Jeremy and Sally's trouble is money.  Sally's family is broke and is about to lose the family estate, Oakwood Hall.

    The cousins get a ride to Paris with Jeremy and Sally, where they meet up with Ulysses, who had appeared near the Paris zoo.  Adventures ensue.

    Anthony Boucher has called this series "as felicitously foolish as a collaboration of Wodehouse and Thorne Smith."  More Smith than Wodehouse, I'm afraid.  From a prism of 68 years, Brief Candles seems a little dated.  While still good fun (and funny in parts), the writing and episodic plotting can also wear thin.  I like it enough to seek out the other two books in the series, Happy Returns (also published as A Family Affair) and Come and Go., but it pales in the memory of the Tommy Hambleton books I read back in the day.

     The three-book series was published in England as by "Francis Gaite" and under the Coles pseudonym in the United States.

     For more of this Friday's Forgotten Books and links to still more, check in at Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


From Tom Rush's latest newsletter:

     "...A recent study found that the average American walks about 900 miles a year, while a different study revealed that americans drink an average of 22 gallons of alcohol annually...(I)f you do the math you will see that Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon.  Just an average, mind you, actual results may vary, but I thought you should know."

     Here is where I say something snarky about Detroit if I were the snarky type.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


When I was a kid, like many a geezer, 1984 was a far-off destination.  1984 finally came and went and somewhere along the line doublespeak became a reality.  Still, the book remains as urgent today as when it was first published.

The first adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 was arguably the best.  In 1954, as part of their BBC Sunday-Night Theatre,  the network presented a televised version written by Nigel Kneale, the creator of the science fictional hero Quatermass.  Four days later, on December 16, a live repeat of the show drew the country's largest television audience since the Coronation. 

BBC Sunday-Night Theatre ran from 1950 to 1959, showing over 500 programs.  1984 was directed by Rudolph Cartier, who would eventually direct 30 episodes of the show.  (Cartier, incidentally, directed all three BBC Quatermass programs.)  Peter Cushing, then one of England's most famous television actor, starred as Winston Smith.  Andre Morell, Yvonne Mitchell, and a young Donald Pleasance were also featured.

Comments on IMDB and on Internet Archive indicate that this has been a hard-to-find program.  You can catch it at the link below.

The budget was low (and it shows), but the performances are excellent.

Todd Mason, as usual, will have the links to all of today's Overlooked Films and/or A/V at his blog, Sweet Freedom.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I got up Thursday.  Saw my shadow.  So I bought some books.
  • Baantjer, deKok and the Dead Lovers.  (ARC)  Mystery.  Translated from the Dutch by H. G. Smittenaar.
  • David Brin, Kiln People and The Practice Effect.  SF novels.
  • Terry Brooks, The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara.  Fantasy.  Boxed set containing Isle Witch, Antrax, and Morgawr.
  • Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings:  J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Their Friends.  Nonfiction.
  • Mary Higgins Clark, editor, The Night Awakens.  A Mystery Writers of America anthology with ten stories.
  • Ralph Compton, The California Trail, The Oregon Trail, and The Old Spanish Trail.  Westerns.  Books 5, 9, and 11 in the Trail Drive Series.
  • "Ralph Compton," The Alamosa Trail and The Convict Trail.  Two westerns not by Ralph Compton; each is labeled as "a Ralph Compton novel by..."  The first is by Robert Vaughn and is Book 15 in the series, the second by Joseph A. West.and, despite its title, is not part of the Trail Drive series.
  • "Brian Craig" (Brian Stableford), Plague Daemon and Storm Warriors.  Warhammer gaming tie-in novels.  Books 2 and 3 in the Orfeo Trilogy.
  • Al Dempsey, What Law There Was.  Western.
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Wolf and Iron.  SF.
  • Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, December 2008
  • Timothy Ferris, editor, The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathemathics.  Nonfiction.  Clifton Fadiman, general editor.
  • Christopher Fowler, Rune.  Horror.
  • Alan Furst, Blood of Victory.  Spy thriller.
  • George G. Gilman, Edge #40:  Montana Melodrama.  Adult western.
  • Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Stagecoach.  Western anthology with eight stories.
  • Alexander Irvine, Iron Man 2.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Louis L'Amour, The Daybreakers.  Western.  A Sacketts novel.
  • Richard Laymon, After Midnight.  Horror.
  • Bentley Little, The Store.  Horror.
  • David Morrell, Black Evening.  Horror collection with sixteen stories.
  • Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, The Burning City.  Fantasy, set in world created by Niven in The Magic Goes Away.
  • David Pringle, editor,  Red Thirst.  Warhammer gaming tie-in anthology with six stories.
  • Fred Saberhagen, The Lost Swords:  The First Triad.  Omnibus of three fantasy novels:  The First Book of Lost Swords:  Woundhealer's Story, The Second Book of Lost Swords:  Sightblinder's Story, and The Third Book of Lost Swords:  Stonecutter's Story.
  • Florence Stevenson, Household.  Horror.
  • S. M. Stirling, T2:  Infiltrator.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Carten Stroud, Sniper's Moon.  Suspense.
  • John Whitman, 24 Declassified:  Chaos Theory.  TV tie-in novel.
  • John Wooley and Ron Wolfe, Old Fears.  Horror.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I know I'm late in discovering this, but China Mieville is writing a reboot of DC Comics Dial H for Hero.  The series has been rebooted a couple of times already and this latest effort will be part of the "New 52" line, which reboots many of DC's superhero comics.

I remember the original 1960s Dial H for Hero fondly.  A kid finds a magic dial (remember, this was back when rotary phones were the norm), dials in the word H-E-R-O, and transforms into a superhero.  Trouble was there was no controlling what kind of superhero he would turn into, and he could not (usually) transform into the same superhero twice.  This glitch in the dial offered a lot of play with the story -- often the superhero would seem unequal to whatever task it had ahead of it.  Sometimes the superhero would be cool, sometimes not.  I remember one time the kid turned into a giant bouncy ball -- I mean, what kind of superhero is that?

Many of the DC Comics when I was a kid were just this side of terrible.  Superman was a soap opera.  Batman always battled (place villain name here) in some museum exhibit consisting of giant-sized ordinary objects, such as a pencil or a spool of thread.  Wonder Woman was fighting a giant egg (you don't have to be Freud to figure that one out).  Plots were weak and contrived; some were just plain silly.  I learned early to avoid most of these comics.

And the there was Dial H for Hero, which I believe was a feature in House of Mystery -- one of the few comics I felt worth my time and/or money.  This, along with American Comics Group's Herbie, showed imagination and creativity.  You never really knew what was going to happen and how issues would be resolved.  It helped spark a sense of wonder.  It may have also done the same to those of you old enough to remember it.

Now China Mieville -- China Flippin' Mieville!!! -- has control of the dial!  Talk about your sense of wonder.  It will be great to see what he can do with the title.

Friday, February 3, 2012


The Flood by John Creasey (1956)

John Creasey was an amazingly prolific writer with over 550 novels (under two dozen pseudonyms), more than a dozen nonfiction books, at least four plays, and eight anthologies to his credit.  He churned out romances, westerns, juveniles, sports stories, and a handful of Sexton Blake thrillers, but is most well-known for his mysteries.  I have found his work to be highly readable (and sometimes excellent).  Of his many characters, I am particularly fond of George Gidean (under his "J. J. Marric" pseudomyn), followed closely by the adventures of Roger "Handsome" West.

Creasey was a co-founder of the Crime Writers Association.  He also served as president of the Mystery Writers of America and has been named one of their Grand Masters.  The annual CWA award for Best First Novel was for many years named in honor of him; alas, no longer.  Once one of the most popular writers in the mystery field, Creasey is, if not forgotten, then considered by many as a dusty page from the past.

One of Creasey's most popular creation was Dr. Palfry, the tall, blond head of Z-5, an international association dedicated to stopping world threats.  At first these threats were from Nazis, then after the war, Z-5 was chartered to deal with individuals and private organizations bent on world domination.  The books drifted into the science fiction/mad scientist realm  From their titles alone, you could almost taste the melodrama:  The Drought, The Inferno, The Sleep, The Famine, The Plague, The Smog, among others; there were about two dozen books in the series.  In the Seventies, Berkley Book issued a number of them in paperback.

As you would expect from the title, the world is threatened by inundation in The Flood.  It starts in Scotland, where a strange rain, one that starts at the ground and moves up with great power, pulls down mountains and destroys a village.  Bob Woburn, visiting his sister and her family, witnesses this and narrowly escapes the danger, saving also the beautiful Eve Davos.  Eve lives with her father on a large estate nearby.

Enter Dr. Palfrey.  This strange phenomenon has already destroyed a Pacific island as well as places in America and Canada.  Palfrey has good reason to suspect Eve's father is behind all of this.  He's right, of course, Davos wants to eliminate the inperfect human race and start anew with a selected people, a race to be begin with his daughter Eve, whom he wants to mate with a very masculine (seemingly dim-witted) guy named Adam.  Within days, he plans to release the flood world-wide.

The flood is caused by rapidly multiplying life forms called octi -- kind of a cross between a crab and a jellyfish; one they reach maturity they explode and release a large volume of hydrogen which mixes immeditely with the oxygen in the air to create highly pressurized water.  Davos has planted these creatures in certain fissures in the earth.  If all this sounds silly, it is; but we willingly suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the ride.

Bob discovers a way to stop the octi, but his message to Palfrey is garbled.  Has Palfrey received enough information to figure out what Bob wanted to say?  (Spoiler Alert!)  Of course he does, but not before East Anglia, the Netherlands, and a few other locations are (sorta) destroyed.

A good old fashioned thriller.  Fun.


As of today, there is an opening for the Most Beautiful, Smartest Nine-Year-Old Girl in the World.  The title of Most Beautiful, Smartest Ten-Year-Old Girl in the World, however, has just been captured by Erin. 

Nine was a great age for her.  She came into her own in soccer, playing many positions and scoring goals and running her little heart out; she has a little skip in her run that is precious.  She was one of the fastest girls on her team.  She's developing into a strong swimmer and will soon be a great asset for that team.  School is still fun and she aces everything, adding flair and imagination to all her projects.  She's a voracious reader and reads at least two grade levels ahead.  She was accepted (through a competition) to an elite math club at school.  For the second year in a row, she placed second in her school spelling bee.  This was the year that she started playing the flute; she loves to practice and is far ahead of the rest of her class.  This week, she got a professional keyboard and has been learning it on her own and has already mastered several songs.

Born with medically short stature, for the past few years Erin has had to inject herself with medicine six days a week for the last few years.  She started out at the bottom of the growth chart and has been working her way up to the fifth percentile, to the ninth percentile.  Last week we found out she reached the thirteenth percentile on the growth chart.  (Double digits again! -- Woot!)
But above all, Erin is a wonderful girl.  She has a kind heart.  She empathises.  She's patient.  She loves animals.  She has a  great sense of humor, peppered with whimsey and irony.  She has many friends.  She laughs a lot.  She giggles a lot.  Her smile melts my heart.

And ten is going to be a fantastic age for her.

Happy birthday, Sweetie!  We love you.