Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Here's an audio recording of Montezuma's Castle, an 1899 collection of sixteen weird short stories by Charles B. Corey (1857-1921).  An ornithothologist, Corey was at one time the curator of the Boston Society of Natural History.  Some good stuff here.



The opening sentences of Chapter Five from five books chosen at random:

When word started spreading about a one-eyed Red man who was called the Prophet, Governor Bill Harrison laughed and said, "Why, that ain't nobody but my old friend Lolla-Wossiky."  -- Red Prophet by Orson Scott Card (1988)

Despite the maintained force of the north wind, which seemed to be gusted by some avenging spirit with a grudge against the world, Edge was encompassed by a warm feeling as he widened the distance between himself and the worked-out mine. -- Edge #5:  Blood on Silver by "George G. Gilman" (Terry Harkness) (1972)

Using a spear that one of the natives had left behind, Max and 99 cut the ropes that bound their hands. -- Missed It By That Much! by William Johnston (1967)

The judge had told the people in the courtroom to hold their places a few minutes while he retired to the clerk's office to investigate a point of law. -- Stand Proud by Elmer Kelton (1984)

"I hope you don't mind the early morning statement," Debrah said. -- 24 Declassified:  Veto Power by John Whitman (2005)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I first heard him do this over 45 years ago at Club 47 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on a dual bill with his then-wife.  Every now and then I'll burst out with the chorus and embarass Kitty and everyone else within hearing range.


They brought a little boy into the hospital yesterday.  He had swallowed ten quarters.  I called the hospital this morning and was told there's no change yet.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Another week, another trip to the wound clinic.

For the past few days, Kitty's been getting antsy.  After all, we are smack dab in the middle of winter which means spring will be around sooner or later, which then means it will soon be time for spring cleaning -- at least it will be time for spring cleaning for ordinary people.  My bride is anything but ordinary.  Her super power is wanting to get things done now.  So Kitty has been wandering around the house (on her walker), looking at what needs to be done, and actually doing it.  Which is just swell.  Not really.  Actually what is just swelling is her leg because of all her moving around.

At the wound clinic, the doctor was pleased at Kitty's progress, but not as pleased with the swelling.  So, for the next week or so, Kitty is going to be a couch potato and keep her leg elevated.  (Mental conversation to myself:  "Yeah.  Like that's going to work.")  The doctor told her to not stand or sit for more than a half hour at a time.  (Mental conversation continuing:  "S-u-u-u-r-r-r-e-e-e.")  Doesn't the doctor know that there is nothing decent on television?  Doesn't the doctor know that my wife, who is normally a voracious reader, has not been able to concentrate on a book since her operation?  Doesn't the doctor know that the ceiling above our couch is extemely boring?  No, the doctor does not know.  What the doctor does know is how to heal wounds, so we will be listening to her and obeying her instructions, though I may need duct tape to keep Kitty lying flat on the couch.

The other big thing is that the wound dressing will be altered.  Kitty won't have to change the dressing daily by herself.  Beginning Thursday, they'll be switching to something called a vac dressing.  That's just what it sound like -- a vacuum cleaner-like device placed in the divot in her leg.  This will do a more efficient job in handling the drainage.  The suction will also allow blood vessels to rise closer to the surface and speed up the healing.  The dressing will be done by a visiting nurse on Thursdays and Saturdays and by the wound clinic on Tuesdays.  The device is evidently rechargable and portable (about the size of Kitty's little pink Vera Bradley pocketbook, they said).  We need something like this to make life a tad more interesting, methinks.

That's the update.  Things are going well -- very well, in fact.  The doctors have been great and are focused on the quickest and best possible outcome.  We are a bit apprehensive about the vac dressing, but that's only because it's something completely new to us; come Thursday, when they actually deliver the device and change Kitty's dressing, those anxieties will disappear and she can continue to concentrate on healing.

She may grumble about her new couch potato status and about all the foofarah involved in healing, but we also saw some of the other patients at the wound clinic today.  It made us realize how much better off Kitty is compared to some of those other patients.  Things could be much, much worse.  It also made us realize how lucky we are to have access to this level of medical care and how amazing that medical care really is.


Shotgun Slade was the third western television series that pulp legend Frank Gruber created, following Tales of Wells Fargo and The Texan.  Gruber was well-known for his mystery and western novels and Shotgun Slade played to both of those strengths.  At a time when television western heroes were lawmen, gunfighters, ranchers, or wandering do-gooders, the title character in Shotgun Slade was a private detective.  His weapon of choice (of course) was a shotgun.  His backgound music was jazz (!).  Here was a character who was different on a number of levels from other western heroes.

Shotgun Slade (did he ever have a first name, or did his parents name him so he could fit in with his brothers Rifle, Howitzer, and Uzi?) was played by Scott Brady, a ruggedly handsome man whose bread and butter was in western and crime films, both on the big screen and on television.  Slade wandered the West for 78 syndicated episodes before fading away. 

Given the format of the show, Slade had no regular sidekicks; according to IMDB, the most times any other individual actor appeared in the series was ten (Chick Hannan as a "Barfly"), followed by Kermit Maynard (five times as "Coonskin").  A number of actors guested, though, including Jeanne Cooper, Andy Clyde,  Allison Hayes (yes, the 50-Foot Woman), Roscoe Ates, Ernie Kovacs, Brad johnson (Lofty Craig on Annie Oakley), and Tex Ritter (as a marchall in the first episode of the series).

The episode on hand, A Flower on Boot Hill, (Season One, Episode 36, June 11, 1960) was written by John Bernadino, Martin Berkeley, and Charissa Hughes.  Beradino was a major league baseball player, a shortstop and second baseman for the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Browns, and the Pittsburg Pirates; as an actor, he appeared in many television shows and had recurring stints in I led Three Lives and (as Dr. Steve Hardy) General Hospital; as a writer, this is the only credit IMDB gives him.  IMDB is even less generous with Martin Berkeley, while listing over forty writing titles, it names him as an informer before the House Unamerican Activities Committee and effectively a ruiner of some 155 careers.  This episode was evidently Charissa Hughes' only writing credit, but as an actress she did have an uncredited role as a tavern maid in 1955's The Virgin Queen.

A Flower on Boot Hill was directed by Sidney Salkow, who helmed eight episodes of Shotgun Slade.  Salkow directed over a hundred movies and television shows in a thirty-one year career, icluding four of the Lone Wolf movies.  He also had sixteen writing credits.

This episode also features William Roerick, Paul Langton, Shirley Ballard, Kathie Browne, Sandra Rogers, Frank Richards, and Sherman Sanders  I've never heard of any of them, although Kathie Browne appeared (as Angie Dow) in 16 of the 17 episodes of Hondo in 1967, and Frank Richards has credits in two of the minor Davy Crockett episodes (River Pirates and Keelboat Race) in Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color in 1955.  While not well-known, most of these actors were familiar faces in Fifties and Sixties television.

Here's Shotgun Slade investigating a "baffling" bank robbery:

Monday, January 28, 2013


Free today for the Kindle from is Steven Torres' The Concrete Maze.

When 13-year-old Jasmine Ramos goes missing, one man, her father, races desperately to save her from the horrors of life and death on the streets of New York City.  Can he rescue his daughter from the pitiless concrete maze, or will he be swallowed whole?  A look at the consequences of just one simple mistake...

Stephen Torres is the author of the Precinct Puerto Rico mysteries (one of my favorite series) and of Lucy Cruz and the Chupacabra Killings.  Torres is an author not to be missed and this one is a bargain.


Yesterday we watched a documentary on what is now being called "America's Stonehenge," in Salem, New Hamphire.  When I was a kid living a few towns down, it was called "Mystery Hill"; before my time it was called "Pattee's Cave," after the farmer who owned the property in the 19th century.  It's an interesting site whose importance and history have apparenly been conflated for years.

Mystery Hill, the name I grew up with and with which I am most familiar, contains a number  of large stones in various formations.  Well, the stones are not that large when compared to England's Stonehenge, but a number of them weigh a few tons.  The stones leading down to the main site are placed vertically -- which we are told is something common with ancient Celtic sites.  Some of the stones are arranged to mark the soltices and other astrological events.  There is also a large flat rock with runnels that has been claimed to be a sacrificial site, the runnels to catch the blood an deliver it to a bowl that ciould be placed at the bottom of the rock.  A nearby room made of stone has a six-foot deep opening leading to the sacrificial altar and which could be used as a speaking tube, allowing the voice of a priest (or a god?) to echo through the ceremony.  Heady stuff for the younger me.  Heady stuff, also, we have been told, for H. P. Lovecraft, who, we have also been told, visited the site several times and was greatly affected by it.

Yeah.  Well...

From Pattee's time the site was known for its boulders.  Pattee used to take in paupers (presumably being paid to do so by the town) and he used a number of spots around his farm for storage.  In the 1930s, a man named William Goodwin became obsessed with the idea of the stones were proof that pre-Columbian Irish monks had settled the area.   Goodwin bought the site in 1937, changed the name to Mystery Hill and began promoting the site to match his beliefs.  (Evidently, he also moved a number of the stones to better match his theories.   The family of the current owners bought the site in the mid-Fifties an have been promoting the hell out of it ever since.  The term America's Stonehenge first was used in a newspaper article in the Sixties and the family co-opted the name for the site officially in 1982.  Never mind that there was no connection with the British Stonehenge, thhis was a catchy name for the tourist attraction.  (But wait!  Where's there's a PR opportunity, there's a way.  In a little bit, I'll get to the newly "discovered" connection with Stonehenge.)

Just about everything at Mystery Hill can be explained by normal farm usage in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as by the over-eager actions by a select few to move a few stones around to fit preconceived theories.  But what, you ask, about that terrible sacrificial altar?  Most likely this was a lye-leaching stone, used to drain lye from wood ashes as one of the first steps to make soap -- a common practice in Colonial New England.  This saddens me because the sacrificial altar story had gotten my adolescent imagination a-spinning.  Another myth exploded.  **sigh**

And Lovecraft?  I believe I did read in one of his letters about his visiting Mystery Hill.  Lovecraft died in March of the same year that Goodwin bought the site and named it Mystery Hill.  So the Mystery Hill name may have preceded Goodwin's purchase.  Whatever the name of the site, its presumed reputation would have interested Lovecraft, although I do not think that there is any evidence that Mystery Hill was a great influence on Lovecraft's writing -- except, that is, in publicity originating from the owners of Mystery Hill themselves.  (Come to think of it, at one time I purchased a small booklet there that purported to trace Mystery Hill's influence on Lovecraft;  the booklet was vague and unconvincing as I remember.  I can't find any mention of the booklet on Worldcat or any other sources I just checked.)

The television show we watched featured something called a forensic geologist, a hoo-rah cheerleader for archeoastronomy who was more than eager to accept anything that was told him.  The owner's son told him about a experiment he did with Google Earth, tracing the summer solstice line originating at Mystery Hill (excuse me, America's Stonehenge) eastward.  Damned if that line didn't go straight through Stonehenge in England!  Damned-er even, when following that selfsame line further eastward it landed smack-dab in Beruit!  Yes, Beruit.  Where the Phoenicians came from (we are told).  Yep, them self-same Phoenicians who gave us the alphabet.  I have no idea what this all means, but the forensic geologist (or whatever he was) thought this was the bee's knees and something of monumental importance.  A straight line that goes directly from Southern New Hamshire to Beiruit with a side stop in the center of Stonehenge, and following the path of the summer soltice, well...that is pretty monumental.

Maybe a future show will focus on Mystery Hill's neighbor to the south, the Westford Knight in Westford, Massachusetts, another pseudoarcheological site, this one offering "proof" the the Knights Templar visited our shores in pre-Columbian times.

O, for the days when television documentaries were actual documentaries!


  • Groff Conklin, editor, Operation Future.  SF anthology with nineteen stories.  There once was a time when, on mentioning SF anthologies, the mind went automatically to Groff Conklin.
  • David Ely, Time Out.  Mystery/horror/unclassifiable collection of fifteen stories.  Ely may be best known for his novel Seconds, which became a Rock Hudson cult movie.  Ely's Edgar-winning short story "The Sailing Club" is included here, as is his chilling "The Academy."  If  the other thirteen stories here are half as good, this book will represent money well spent.
  • Laurence L. Janifer, Impossible?  SF collection of sixteen stories, one in collaboration with Donald Westlake and one with Michael Kurland; some of the storieswere first printed under the "Larry M. Harris" by-line.  (I hinted in an earlier blog post that I am a great fan of the late Craig Rice.  As Harris, Janifer wrote The Pickled Poodles, a mystery featuring Rice's character John J. Malone -- a Forgotten Book choice someday, perhaps, unless someone beats me to it.  Janifer and Randall Garret also wrote a classic SF trilogy under the joint pseudonym "Mark Phillips" about one of Malone's descendants [Brain Twister, The Impossibles, and Supermind])
  • Edna Mitchell Preston, editor, The Arrow Book of Spooky Stories.  Fifty-year-old children's anthology of ghost and folk tales.  Ten stories and one poem.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


As an artist, Marc Chagall spoke to the people and for the people.  His work is synonymous with compassion, love, struggle, and joy.  This clip ends by proclaiming Chagall the greatest artist of the Twentieth Century.  That statement may be challenged by some, but it cannot be denied that he was one of the greatest.



Saturday, January 26, 2013


Narrated by John MacKenzie.


One of the best songs Si Kahn ever wrote and Hazel Dickens does a fantastic job on it.


Time for another update on my bride.

When we last left Kitty, our stalwart heroine had just had her first visit to the wound center, where they had cleaned, debrided, scraped, and left a large divot in her leg to aid the healing of her surgery, and had given her detailed instructions on how to change her dressing daily.

I believe I have mentioned that both of us can get a little queasy.  Kitty -- being far wiser than I will ever be -- rightly decided that I am the bigger wuss and has banned me from being anywhere around while she changes the dressing, let alone let help or do it for her.  (She mentioned something about my vomiting on the wound would probably not help the healing process.)  So, for the past week or so she has been flushing out the wound, applying all the strange and wonderful wound-fixing stuff (I believe that's an actual medical term), and putting on new dressings.  As one might expect, during all those times the nagging thought of "Am I doing this right?" kept dancing around in her head.

This past Tuesday, we went back to the wound center and, voila!, she certainly had been doing it right.  Not only is the wound slowly (and properly) healing, but the swelling has reduced considerably.  The doctor was mightily pleased, as were we.

At the bottom of the divot in her leg, however, was something the  doctor called a "blue stitch," which was a subcutaneous suture the surgeons had placed there when repairing her leg.  This blue stitch (the wound doctor told us) could become a possible source of infection and impair the healing process.  So she asked Kitty to ask the surgeon if it could now be removed and, if so, she would remove the stitch when she sees us again next Tuesday.

The next day we had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon and he was mightliy pleased with Kitty's progress and with the work the wound clinic is doing.  We asked about the blue stitch and he said he could take it out for us, which he did.  (Neither of us watched him do this because of the wuss/queasiness factor.)  The blue stitch did not look blue to us.  It was black and mean and ugly and it was big.  At first it looked as if he had taken a giant black mamba out of Kitty's body.  (Yeah, that's an exaggeration, but it seemed pretty close to the truth at the time.)  Actually, the main stitch was about three inches long.  Yuck.

Anyway, Kitty's coming along nicely.  We next see the wound clinic doctor on Tuesday and the surgeon in about a month.

This week, Kitty has also reduced the number of pain pills she is taking.  She had been taking only about half of the maximum recommended dosage and she's now cut that by another half.  The blood thinner she's taking seems to be on target also, with none of the bruising or bleeding they have been monitoring her for.  For the first time  since the operation, she has been able to sleep part of the night on her side rather than flat on her back -- another good signand a small win.  She still tires easily and rests a lot, but she is moving about more, which is good, although it does temporarily increase the swelling in her leg.  And sometimes it feels as if her new knee wants to bend the wrong way and Kitty then has to give the knee a lecture.

The one worrying sign is that for the past two days she has twice gotten up and, without thinking, began walking without a walker or a cane -- something for which she is not yet ready.  She's caught herself both times before going too far (thank goodness) and has had me bring her the walker.   She is still too unsteady to go and do something cocky like that.  She has to consciously remind herself not to get ahead of the healing process.

Our mantra -- without setting any specific goals -- has been "by the end of March."  By that time the warm weather will be here again and she should be doing super-great.

Throughout this whole painful process, she continously amazes me with her determination and courage.  Just another reason for me to want to keep kissing her.


Silas Grimstone's voice was thick with clotted greed as he glared at my companion.  From "The Adventure of the Crawling Horror" by Basil Copper (in The Secret Files of Solar Pons, 1979)

A "voice thick with clotted greed"...what an image!


Jeffrey Marks strikes again!  Atomic Renaissance: American Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s and 1950s is available for free today from!  Marks follows his Who Was That Lady?  Craig Rice:  The Queen of Screwball Mystery with another don't-miss book.  This one examines seven various (and varied) mistresses of mystery:  Charlotte Armstrong, Mignon G. Eberhart, Leslie Ford, Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy B. Hughes, Margaret Millar, and Phoebe Atwood Taylor.  Essential reading for anyone who has enjoyed these authors, or for any mystery lover who has not read them.  Grab it now!

Also free today for the Kindle:

Redemption, a Noah Milano novelette by Jochen Vandersteen.  Great PI action!

The Goldfish Heist and Other Stories by Jay Stringer, a brilliant writer from Britain's West Midlands.  His stories can be (and are) described as "social pulp," and there are thirteen of them here.  (Curiously four of the stories here that serve as a prequel to Jay's novel Old Gold are also available free today in a separate Kindle book, Faithless Street -- The Old Gold Prequel.  But why bother when you  can get nine additional stories in The Goldfish Heist?)

Finally, What Would Lizzie Do? by Sephera Giron is a short story about a medium and (perhaps) the spirit of Lizzie Bordon.

Interesting stuff and free! free! free!  Gotta love the price.


Friday, January 25, 2013


The Ghost by William D. O'Connor (1867)

Twee, maudlin, syrupy, many words that I could use to describe this short novel.  To this let me add surprisingly effective.

The Ghost is a Christmas story in the tradition of A Christmas Carol (which had been published nearly a quarter century before), although not nearly as well-written. 

Let me state here and now that what follows is basically a **SPOILER** because I'm pretty sure than none of you will actually track the book down and read it.  (And because I've already mentioned The Christmas Carol the entire plot is. for all intents and purposes, preordained.)

The scene is Beacon Hill in Boston -- Bodoin Street, actually.  The street's original name was Middlecott, from the man who gave the property to the city in his will.  Legend had it that Middlecott's spirit was not pleased when the street name was changed and stories kept arising about an aged, mysterious figure that was occasionally seen lurking in the dim shadows of the street.  In recent years, the stories became more common, the figure now reportedly gaunt, with long white hair.  The stories were partly right:  a spectre was haunting Bowdoin Street, but it was not the aged spirit of Middlecott, but that of the Christ-like George Feval, and he was not haunting the street but only the home of his friend Dr. Charles Renton.  Renton's only loves at this time are his fifteen-year-old daughter and his bank acccount.  Renton and Feval were very close friends when younger.  They separated for a time as their interest diverged, only to have Renton reestablish contact when Ferval was on his deathbed, around the time when Renton's daughter was born.

Dying, Ferval wrote a letter to his friend admonishing him to love the least of humanity:

     "Farewell -- farewell!  But, oh!  take my counsel into memory on Christmas Day, and forever.  Once again, the ancient prophecy of peace and good-will shines on a world of wars and wrongs and woes.  Its soft ray shines into the darkness of a land wherein swarm slaves, poor laborers, social pariahs, weeping women, homeless exiles, hunted fugitives, despised aliens, drunkards, convicts, wicked children, and Magdalens unredeemed.  These are but the ghastliest figures in that sad army of humanity which advances, by a dreadful road, to the Golden Age of the poets' dream.  These are your sisters and brothers.  Love them all.  Beware of wronging one of them by word or deed.  O friend!  strong in wealth for so much good -- take my last counsel.  In the name of the Saviour, I charge you, be true and tender to mankind!  Come out from Babylon into manhood, and live and labor for the fallen, the neglected, the suffering, and the poor..."

And so on and so on, in excruciating overwrought detail.

But -- alas! -- Renton is not being true to his charge.  One of the many properties he owns is rented to an oyster and ale house, where the customers drink perfidious drink and act perfidiously.  Indeed, just the night before -- the eve before Christmas eve, a fight in the alehouse led to the stabbing of one man who now hovered at death's proverbial door.  In the apartment above the ale house a poor woman is three months behind in her rent, has no money for food, and is burdened by a sick child.  What o what is Renton to do?  Renew the lease on the ale house and evict the poor woman and her sick child on Christmas Day, of course.

Feval's spirit psychically links Renton's subconscious with the letter he wrote him fifteen years before.  That and the giving spirit of Renton's young daughter combine to convince Renton to change his ways and do the right thing.  **Yay!**

I cannot leave this tale without giving you a glimpse of the ale-house on Christmas eve:

     "Before him [Renton] was the dramshop, let and licensed to nourish the worst and most brutal appetites and instincts of human natures, at the sacrifice of all their highest and holiest tendencies.  the throng of tipplers and drunkards was swarming through its hopeless door, to gulp the fiery liquid whose fumes give all shames, vices, miseries, and crimes, a lawless strength and life, and change a man ino a pig or tiger.  Within those walls no good was ever done; but, daily, unmitigated evils, whose results were reaching on to torture unborn generations."



Admittedly, the story is saccharine and trite and verbose.  Yet, approached on its own terms, I found The Ghost to be entertaining and interesting.  Insulin (surprisingly) was not needed when I finished it.

William Douglas O'Connor (1833-1889) was a noted literary figure and minor government official whose fame has been eclipsed by that of his one-time friend Walt Whitman.  (Whitman and O'Connor were close friends for over ten years until a disagreement caused O'Connor to sever ties with the poet.  Both during and long after their friendship, O'Connor was an influential defender of Whitman's work.)  O'Connor was heavily into the liberal and progressive causes of the day -- abolitionism, prohibition [not the example quoted above], women's rights, divorce laws, welfare, and spiritualism.   O'Connor was also a staunch Baconian and was convinced that great personage had actually penned Hamlet, a play ofter attribiuted to a different author.

The Ghost is readily available online, either in a separate book publication or in O'Connor's 1892 collection Three Tales.  But you now know the entire story so why bother?


This week, Forgotten Books are in the capable hands of Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom.  Stop by for today's links.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Free today for the Kindle is Who Was That Lady?  Craig Rice:  Queen of the Screwball Mystery by Jeffrey Marks, the first (and only?) full-length biography of that mysterious, talented, and tragic writer, the creator of John J. Malone, Jake and Helen Justus, and Bingo Riggs and Handsome Kusak, and the ghost writer for (probably) Gypsy Rose Lee and actor George Sanders.

Great stuff.

Check it out at

Update:  Nigel Bird also has a free story today for the Kindle:  With Love and Squalor.  Nigel's work is always interesting.  Check this one out, too.


Let's celebrate his 66th birthday by taking a look at the universe.  In a nutshell.

(Tellingly, this video is 42 minutes long.  **Hitchhiker reference**)


From Hour 25.

(Hat tip to SF Signal)


Conposed by Ferde Grofe in 1931, The Grand Canyon Suite is just plain good music, and something I am apt to play at the drop of a hat.  It relaxes me in the same way that Rhapsody in Blue does.  Sometimes I need the relaxing.


I came across this 20-minute clip of SF convention Arisia 2008, held in January of that year in Cambridge, MA.  About six minutes in there is a contest for the best mad scientist laugh.  Can any of us do better?  Bwahahahahahaha!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Today is the 134th anniversary of the Battle of Rorke's Drift.  Sound familiar?  Well, let me give you a little more information.  Rorke's Drift was a mission station near the Buffalo River in the Natal Province in South Africa.  Remember it now?

The Battle of Rorke's Drift pitted just over 150 British and colonial troops against three to four thousand Zulu warriors.  And, yeah, Michael Caine was there.

Yep, this is the anniversary of the battle immemorialized in the 1964 Cy Enfield film Zulu.  What a battle.  What a film.

Lord Cararvon (the guy who helped with the federation of Canada, and financed the opening of King Tut's tomb, and who lived at Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed -- I mean, this dude was all over the map) suggested that efforts similar to those he used in Canada might be used to form a similar South African federation from the various kingdoms, tribes, and Boer republics.  In 1874, the British High Commissioner in South Africa, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, was charged with investigating such a possibility.  Like any good government official, Bartle Frere bollixed everything up by acting on his own (without government approval) and began to instigate a war with the Zulu nation.  A border dispute beteen the Zulu nation and the Boers of Transvaal had been investigated and, in 1878, a commission ruled in favor of the Zulus.  Nonetheless, Bartle Frere sent a thirteen-point ultimatum to the Zulu king Cetshwayo, making laughably impossible demands with an eventual deadline of January 11.  Cetshwayo ignored the ultimatum and instructed his army to fight only if invaded.  That January, Bartle Frere (again without government approval, sent Lord Chelmsford to invade Zululand with more than 15,000 troops.

Earlier in the day on January 22, the Anglo-Zulu was began in earnest with its first battle, the Battle of Islandlwana in which Chelmsford's British troops were soundly defeated.  Brevet Major Henry Spaulding, who had charge of Rorke's Drift, was called to Islandlwana, leaving the post (which was basically a supply depot and hospital) in the charge of Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers -- who had been sent to Rorke's Drift to repair bridge pontoons; Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead remained in charge of the garrison troops.  Two survivors of the Battle of Islandlwana managed to make it to Rorke's Drift with word that a large contingent of Zulus was heading that way.  After weighing their options, Chard and Bromhead decided that a retreat was impossible and that Rorke's Drift must then be defended.

That defense provided the basis of one of the best films of the 1960s.  With outstanding performances by Baker and Hawkins and a career-making performance by Caine, Zulu is (IMHO) a near perfect film.  Pay special attention to John Barry's score, which incorporated authentic Zuli songs and chants.


Victor Whitechurch's railway detective Thorpe Hazell appeared in at least nine mystery stories which were collected, along with six other stories, in Whitechurch's 1912 Thrilling Stories of the Railway, which earned a coveted spot on the Queen's Quorum.

Here is five fifteen-minute episodes produced for BBC Radio, apparently read by Sherlock Holmes himself, Benedict Cumberbatch.  There is an irony in this as Hazell -- a health-conscious vegetarian -- was created to be the anithesis of Holmes.

Beware -- there are tricky waters ahead...


For more of today's Overlooked Video and A/V and Stuff, stop by Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

Monday, January 21, 2013


First lines from five books picked at random:

It was hot, the way it gets in the Gulf Stream during mid-July.  -- Mickey Spillane, Something's Down There (2003)

Usually the city of Clarkston had come to a slow broil by mid-August, but sometimes the dishlike vally in which the city lay, stifled by layers of moist, unmoving air, was swept by cool winds from the Eden Mountains just to the north. --  John Farris, The Girl from Harrison High (1968)

The year in which Captain Dragonet, a bluff and good-hearted sea-rover with a harmless (one would think) fancy for young ladies with round bosoms, was murdered by a mercenary named George something-or-other, hired by the Municipality of Joppa (a bargain, if that is what it was, which the Municipality would soon regret and rue), was or should have been famous for another event. -- Avram Davidson, Peregrine:  Primus (1971)

"Throughout the past thousand years of history it has been traditional to regard the Alderson Drive as an unmixed blessing." -- Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, The Mote in God's Eye (1974)

NEW JOURNAL! -- Rob Reger & Jessica Gruner, Emily the Strange:  Piece of Mind (2012)


  • Jerry Ahern - The Defender #8:  Justice Denied and Track #8:  Revenge of the Master.  Two different men's adventure series novels; Sharn Ahern is also listed in the copyright of the Defender book.
  • Kingsley Amis - The Crime of the Century.  Mystery.
  • C. J. Cherryh - Gate of Ivrel.  Fantasy.
  • "Tabor Evans" - Longarm #116:  Longarm and the Blood Bounty.  Adult western.
  • Michael Genelin - Siren of the Waters.  Mystery (a Commander Jana Matinova investigation) that Dawn contributed to the cause, along with a very high recommendation.
  • Stephen Leigh - Ray Bradbury Presents Dinosaur World.  SF novel based on a Bradbury concept; the first in a series of six books.
  • Eric Lustbader -  Floatin City and Second Skin.  Nicholas Linnear thrillers.
  • Steve Martini - Garden of Lies.  Thriller.  Another on from Dawn because she thinks we  don't have enough books.
  • "A. J. Matthews" (Rick Hautala) - Follow.  Horror.
  • Archer Mayor - Occam'sRazor.  A Joe Gunther mystery.
  • Shawna McCarthy, editor - Isaac Asimov's Space of Her Own (abridged).  Seventeen stories written by women, from IASFM.
  • Annie Proulx - The Shipping News. The Pulitzar Prize-winning novel.  Another donation from Dawn.
  • Sax Rohmer - The Green Spider and Other Forgotten Tales of Mystery and Suspense and The Leopard Couch and Other Stories of the Fantastic & Supernatural.  Volumes 1 and 2 in Black Dog Books' Sax Rohmer Library, with thirteen stories each.  Great stuff.  I can't say enough about this company.  (BTW, Battered Silicon Dispatch Box is releasing several new volumes of Rohmer stories; those, too, should be interesting.)
  • Michael Ruetz, photographer - Scottish Symphony.  Large coffee table book with pictures of all the places in Scotland that Kitty can't walk until she gets better.  Another book from Dawn, presumably to motivate Kitty to get back into fighting form.
  • A. Kingsley Russell, possible editor (he wrote the introduction) - Science Fiction by the Rivals of H. G. Wells.  Twenty-six examples (more of less) of proto-SF from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  One "story" is actually six pieces from George Griffith's Honeymoon in Space; another is the complete serialization of Cutcliffe Hyne's The Lost Continent as it appeared in Pearson's Magazine.
  • Raymond W. Thorp & Robert Bunker - Crow Killer.  Fictionalized biography of Liver-Eating Johnson.  This paperback edition is a quasi tie-in to the Robert Redford movie Jeremiah Johnson.  ("A fantastic the subjecct of the tremendous Warner Bros. film...")  A check at IMDB shows that this book got some of the story credit for that film, but the majority of the film was based on Vardis Fisher's novel Mountain Man.
  • Joseph A. West -Gunsmoke:  Blizzard of Lead.   A much after the fact television tie-in novel.  This is the third in a series and has an introduction from Marshall Dillon himself, James Arness.
  • Chet Williamson - Mordenheim.  Horror.  A Ravenloft book issued by gaming company TSR.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Here is an interesting short, narrated by Rex Stout an written by Paul Gallico, about War Bonds.

(If Stout were alive today, imagine him revisiting his The Illustrious Dunderheads with this current Congress.  I'm smiling inside just thinking about it,)


A little bit jumpy but, hey, the art is by Reed Crandall!

Friday, January 18, 2013


Free for your Kindle today at Amazon -- Richard Prosch's Branham's Due.  Check it out!


The Metal Monster by A. Merritt (1946)

I may have met my match.

Have you ever tried to read a book, one that you are actually interested in, and  found yourself slogging through it?  For the past week and a half, I have been doing that with Merritt's The Metal Monster, and I'm still only about half-way through this fairly short book.  Turgid prose has never stopped me before, but this may be a first.

Merritt (1884-1943) was one of the most popular early science-fantasy writers out there.  His output was not great -- only eight novels and a handful of short stories -- but much of his work remains classics of the imagination.  His most famous book was The Moon Pool (1919), a fix-up of the eponymous short story and its six-part sequel from All-Story Weekly in 1918 and 1919.  The Moon Pool was one of the first important "lost world" stories (following Conan Doyle's The Lost World) and has thrilled readers for almost a century about the adventures of Dr. Walter Goodwin and Larry O'Keefe among the strange beings in an underground world.

Goodwin returns as the narrator of The Metal Monster, as he decides to go on a solitary botonical expedition in the Himalayas.  In Tehran, he picks up a servant and confident, the Chinese cook Chiu-Ming, and off they go into the Himalayas.  After three months of trekking through this lonely landscape, they run into Dick Drake, a recently de-mobbed Brit who had decided to go walkabout around Turkestan, Tibet, Hindu-Kush, and the Trans-Himalaya.  Thus begins Merritt's execise in coincidence theatre.  Drake, it turns out, is the son of an old colleague of Goodwin's.  They join forces and soon they find themselves in a valley where a strange aurora draws their attention.  There are strange noises.  They come upon a strange (and very, very, large) footprint, which Chiu-Ming thinks is the foot of Shin-je, the lord of Hell.  In the distance can be seen the ruins of an ancient city, but as they make their way there, a poisonous miasma of despair almost destroys them.  Somehow, they make it to the city, only to find  **coincidence, coincidence** Ruth Ventnor, a beautiful young scientist friend of Goodwin's.  Ruth is there with her scientist brother Martin, trapped in the city by the strange miasma.  To make matters worse, a maurading band of Persians, lost-race survivors of the age of Darius, are about to attack.

And attack they do.  Defeat is all but certain for our heroes when there appears a beautiful woman cloaked in light and floating in the background.  (Understand, Ruth is a beautiful woman, but this other gal is beautiful in spades -- a goddess in human form.)  The woman is Norhala, one who has a supernatural control of the elements.  Metals become alive and form weapons, killing the Persians while saving our heroes.  Norhala motions for the group to join her, while paying special attrention to Ruth.  Along the way, Norhala kills Chiu-Ming without a second thought or any remorse.  (This part disturbed me because it had seemed that Chui-Ming was being set up for an important role in the story.  Oh, well.  What's one more dead Oriental in the pulps, anyway?)  Norhala uses her powers to forge metal platforms for out heroes to follow her into a large mountain cavern, through more turgid prose, to her home where we meet the Metal Emperor.  The Metal Emperor is just that, a living being of metal (with a crunchy chrystal core).  The Metal Emperor controls Norhala, using a sort of psychic brain-washing that makes her his willing slave -- the same technique he uses to begin to control Ruth.

Seeing what is happening, Martin fires his gun at the sentient metal being only to be zapped by an energy blast.  Only Ruth's pleading saves Martin from death, but her brother is in a coma, teetering on the edge of death.  Well, not a coma, really...Martin's mind is in another place where he has some insights into what the Metal Emperor is; the problem is in communicating that to Goodwin and Drake who remain on our psychic plane.

We also meet Yuruk, an ageless wrinkled enuch who is Norhala's loyal servant.  He has hypnotizing hands, it seems.

And that's about where I am in the book right now.  I'm interested, really interested.  But, Sweet Mother of Jesus, that clunky prose...

It wasn't that long ago that Merritt was considered on of the very best fantasy prose stylists.  His work has influenced fantasy writers for generations, from H. P. Lovecraft on.  Times, at least for me, have changed.

Although The Metal Monster was finally published in book form in 1946 (as an Avon paperback), it first appeared as an eight-part serial in Argosy All-Story Weekly in 1920 (All-Story Weekly had merged with Argosy that year).  Seven years later, Hugo Gernsback changed Ruth's name and published the story as an eleven-part serial in Science and Invention under the title The Metal Emperor.  Mary Gnaedinger dropped the first two chapters and printed the story in Famous Fantastic Mysteries in 1941.  (Gnaedinger's championship of Merritt's work actually lead to the creation of the short-lived magazine A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine (1949-50).  Sam Moskowitz reprinted the book in his Hyperion Classics of Science Fiction series in 1974.  The novel was also published as part of the Lovecraft's Library series from Hippocampus Press in 2002.  The book has fallen into the public domain and is now available online.

I'm willing to bet that a number of you have read this book years ago and were suitably thrilled and impressed by it.  And I bet that many of you would enjoy it today.  And probably a few would find it as clunk as I have.  So, while I can't recommend the book, I certainly can't dismiss either.

Meanwhile, I'll keep plodding along.  Maybe the book won't defeat me, after all.


For links to today's less-plodding Forgotten Books, go to Davy Crockett's Almanack where Evan Lewis (as he says) tries to fit into Patti Abbott's size 7 pumps this week. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Ed Wood, Jr., considered in some circles are the world's worst auteur, was also pretty much near the bottom of the barrel as a novelist, as witness this paragraph from Chapter One of his Death of a Transvestite (1967):

     My eyes flashed to the guards then back to Glen as he [Glen] continued.  "And to be buried
     in such clothes.  That's my last request, Warden.  I want you to get me a blouse, a soft cardigan
     sweater, a skirt, high-heeled shoes and the proper undies,  And don't tell me the regulations
     forbid it because I doubt if such a request has ever been made before, so there can't be any
     regulations for a precedent."

O, sweet mother of God.

According to Wikipedia, Wood wrote at least 80 sleaze novels, including such titles as Black Lace Drag (1963, also published as Killer in Drag), Orgy of the Dead (1965, and yes, I once had a copy of this masterpiece but it went walkabout years ago),  Devil Girls (1967), The Sexecutives (1968), The Photographer (1969), Take It Out in Trade (1970), The Only House in Town (with Uschi Digard, 1970), Necromania (1972), A Study of Fetishes and Fantasies (1973), Fugitive Girls (1974), and the quasi-memoir Hollywood Rat Race (1998).  I can only assume that each of these unique reading experiences bring camp to new lows.

Wood also wrote hundred of pieces, fiction and non-, for magazines lurching well on the wrong side of respectability.  The following link -- definitely not safe for work or probably anywhere else -- will give an idea of this output:

Me?  I think I'll stick to the Tim Burton movie.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Here's an update on Kitty:

Earlier this week, she drove the car for the first time since the operation.  Yay for her!

She's been moving around better and doing more (in moderation -- she tires easily; recovery from a major trauma is draining on all levels -- physically, mentally, and emotionally).  Another yay for her!

She also realized this week that she could have bled out after the fall that broke her leg.  The thought of that possibilty scared her and she is determined to do whatever she can to remain safe and healthy.  Another yay, although I don't like to see her upset.

We took positive, albeit futile steps, to address some of the problems in our living situation.  WE Kitty was released from the hospital, we realized that our furniture was not compatible with Kitty's new condition.  The seats were too low and some of the furniture did not arms, making difficult for her to get up or down.  We took a chance and ordered a couple of armchairs from IKEA that looked like they would give her the support and the height she needed.  The IKEA armchairs turned out to be munchkin chairs much lower to the ground than our present furniture.  So as soon as it stops raining (and it's been raining for four days now), we have to somehow get the chairs into/on top of our car and travel the 75 miles or so to return the chairs.  Then Kitty saw an ad for a chair from K-Mart:  high-seated with solid arms and back, a combination armchair/rocker/recliner.  We picked that one up on Monday (yes, in the rain), levered a portion of it into the car trunk and, with the help of a number of bungi cords to hold it in place, drove it the twenty miles to our home.  We got it in the house, I unpacked the chair and assembled it (assembly consisted of merely sliding the chair back into a locking mechanism on the chair base) and dang if it was a really comfortable chair, the right size and height and everything.  Well, almost everything.  Kitty decided to see how comfortable the chair was as a recliner.  She pulled the lever and...nothing happened.  Oh, well.  Then, a full three or four minutes later, twang! the chair reclined on its own initiative (!) with a sudden and powerful spurt that luckily did not damage to Kitty's injured leg.  And when the chair reclined, the right side of the chair became -- for want of a better word -- dislocated. The side pulled away from the base of the chair, taking with it whatever locking mechanism that would have closed the recliner.  We got Kitty disentangled from the chair and pushed to dadnabbid thing into a corner.  Now, whenever it stops raining, we'll have to figure out how to secure the chair to our car so we can return that one, too.  In my mind, I keep paraphrasing that line from Jaws:  'We're going to need a bigger bungi cord."  This afternoon, the last of our attempts to get new furniture -- a loveseat -- is scheduled to be delivered.  Can't wait to see what happens with that.

Anyway, yesterday we made the trip to Annapolis (yes, in the rain) for Kitty's first visit to the Wound Center, where her surgeon had referred her.  Anne Arundel Medical Center is a magnificent complex, but, being a complex, it is complex.  The closest parking garage -- and they have four -- is some distance from the Wound Center.  Kitty is no longer in a wheelchair, but has been using a rollator (a type of wheeled walker with a built-in seat) and canes.  By the time we traversed the (it seemed like) 735 miles of twisty corridors to where the Wound Center was, Kitty was flat-out pooped.  Now that I know exactly where in the comples the Wound Center is, I'll be able to drop her off in front, the park the car and walk the (it seems like) 735 miles of twisty corridors by my lonesome.

So, we are at the Wound Center.  The thing about doctors -- all doctors, good, bad, or indifferent -- is that they are competitive and they have large egos.  This is reflected is how they each view their own specialties.   Kitty's surgical team, her rehab team, and the Wound Center team are all top-notch and we are grateful to have them; every single one of them is determined that Kitty has the best possible outcome.  But still, there is some intercollegiate grumbling...

     **mumble, mumble, mumble, I'm not totally pleased with the look of that wound, mumble,mumble, mumble, when will the surgeons learn, mumble, mumble, mumble, they should just do surgery and be done with it, mumble, mumble, mumble, then they should send their patients to us, mumble, mumble, mumble, wish I had seen you sooner, mumble, mumble, mumble**
     [Last Wednesday, the surgeon had taken a swab for testing to see how effectively Kitty's antibiotics were working.]
     **mumble, mumble, mumble, can't tell anything with a swab, mumble, mumble,mumble, really need a tissue sample to get the best result, mumble, mumble, mumble, gotta talk to the surgeons about that, mumble, mumble, mumble**

We also learned that a wound may look healed, but is it really?  Well, actually, Kitty's wound is healing up nicely, except for at the top of the incision just above the replaced knee.  Which means it was time to debride the wound and excise all the dead tissue.  So they numbedKitty's leg and got to work.  You know how on television shows like House they come up with this cool idea of pouring maggots over a patient to eat the dead tissue?  Well that would have been better to watch than this procedure.  Queasy me, I avoided my eyes as much as possible; queasy Kitty was lying flat and could not see what was happening.  Kitty now has an honest-to-God yucky-looking divot in her leg.  They rinsed and flushed  and cleaned the wound thoroughly.  Then they took some sort of hard, woven, honey-enfused thing and cut to fit the wound, placed it in the wound and packed it with gauze. (Honey, by the way, happens to be a great anti-bacterial; the stuff they put in her wound would soon soften.)  They taped the gauze, applied some compression stockings (the edema in her leg has been going down steadily over the past weeks, but is still present), and wrapped the whole thing up with an Ace bandage.  And that was it.

"That wasn't as bad as I thought," she told me.  "The leg actually feels much better now."  Those comments changed when we got home and whatever they used to numb her leg wore off.  Oh, yeah, those comments changed significantly.

We go back  to the Wound Clinic on Tuesday, and to see the surgeon on Wednesday.  In the meantime, we are sterilizing baby bottles (thank you, Kangaroo) to hold the various home-made solutions we have to brew up to keep the wound clean when we change the dressing daily.  Any additional antibiotics are on hold for the next week, as is much of her physical therapy.  And we do not to get an antiseptic cream that had been prescribed and that had fell into what can best be described as a "well of misunderstanding" between our pharmacy and our insurance, saving us $170 bucks and change.  Yay for us!

We did get a copy of the hospital costs for Kitty's two operations.  (These do not include ancillary charges that will be coming in from every billing center possible.)  Kitty's original knee replacement came in at just over $14,000; the second operation a week later came in at over $45.000.  A clear indication of how tricky and complicated the second operation was.  No we have to wait for all the bills.  And the insurance company.  Depending on the outcome, here is a chance I may be offering one of my kidneys for sale.

Conclusions:  1) Things are going well and we have high hopes of a great recovery.  2) Kitty is a brave woman and I am the luckiest guy on earth to be married to her.

Update:  The loveseat was finally delivered today (yes, in the rain) and, yes, the seat is too low for our purposes.  Another return for when it stops raining.  (By the way, the only dimensions given for any of these are height, depth, and width -- never the actual height of the seat; all we can do is go by a picture and guess if the seat will be high enough.  We are very lousy guessers.  I guess.)


Okay, everyone who believes in telekinesis, raise my right hand.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Groucho, George Fenneman, the secret word, DeSoto automobiles, and a contestant with the unlikely name of Albert can you go wrong?  Television from the Fifties.

The show began on ABC radio in 1947, moved CBS radio in 1949, and made to the small screen in 1950 on NBC.  The show's format allowed it to appear on radio and television simultaneously.  Over the years, there were many famous guest contestants but run of the mill contestants often became the best foils for Groucho's wit.  The show ran until 1961.  Over the following years there were a number attempts to revive the show -- sans Groucho -- but nobody could take Groucho's place.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Super beautiful sunrise this morning, followed by a gorgeous rainbow.

Not braggin'.

Just sayin'.



  • Brian Aldiss - The Male Response.  Fiction.
  • Robert Asprin - The Cold Cash War.  SF.
  • Ben Bova - The Green Trap.  Thriller.
  • John Burke, editor - Tales of Unease.  Horror anthology with 21 stories. 
  • Martin Caidin - Almost Midnight and Zoboa.  A thriller and a SF novel.
  • Diane Carey, Peter David, Keith R. DeCandido, Christie Golden, Robert Greenberger, & Susan Wright - Star Trek: Gateways, Book 7 of 7What Lay Beyond.  Television tie-in collection of six linked stories.
  • Deborah Chester - Lucasfilm's Alien Chronicles, Book 2:  The Crimson Claw and Book 3:  The Crystal Eye.  SF.  Tie-in novels with nothing to tie into except a corporation.  Go figure.
  • Glen Cook - The Swordbearer.  Fantasy.
  • John Putnam Demos - Entertaining Satan:  Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England.  Non-fiction.
  • Gordon R. Dickson - The Last Dream and Mindspan.  Twelve fantasy stories and thirteen SF stories, respectively.
  • David Drake - Through the Breach.  Military SF.
  • Alan Dean Foster - The Man Who Used the Universe.  SF.
  • Edmond Hamilton - Doom Star.  SF.
  • John Jakes - Six-Gun Planet.  Sf.  Yee-haw!
  • Glen A. Larson & Michael Resnick - Battlester Galactica:  Galactica Discovers Earth.  Television (yeah, from the first series -- the bad one) tie-in. 
  • Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir, creators - The Destroyer #88:  The Ultimate Death.  Men's action adventure.
  • Larry Niven - The Ringworld Throne.  SF.
  • William F. Nolan - Sinners and Supermen.  Collection of 14 celebrity profiles.
  • Andre Norton - Flight in Yiktor.  SF.
  • Don Pendleton - Copp in the Dark, Copp for Hire, and Copp on Fire.  Pi novels.
  • Cris Ramsay - Eureka:  Substitution Method.  Television tie-in.
  • Mike Resnick - Stalking the Unicorn.  Mystery cum fantasy, or vice versa.
  • Alistair Reynolds - Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days and Galactic North.  The first collects two short novels, while the second collects eight stories.  SF all.
  • Kate Ross - Cut to the Quick.  Historical mystery with Julian Kestrel.
  • Mark W. Tiedemann - Asimov's Chimera.  Billed as the 'new Isaac Asimov robot mystery."

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Lawrence Person is reporting the death of writer Steve Utley.  For some reason, this saddens me far more than I had expected.  I never met the man and have read only a few of his stories.  But from what I had read, I got the image of a man full of life and enthusiasm.  Somehow my world has been diminished.

This follows on the heels of the deaths of mystery writers Margaaret Yorke and Gwendoline Butler.

Ah, me.


Few people could do this better than TennesseeErnie Ford.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


From The Hairy Green Eyeball, August 18, 2008, a post about Max Allan Collins' Strip for Murder and Al Capp's Fearless Fosdick.  Something like this just has to be shared.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Rex Trailer, a long-time Boston-area television personality died Wednesday at age 84.  Born Rexford Traylor in Fort Worth, Texas, Trailer worked as a rodeo performer while in his teens.  He moved into television doing odd jobs for the Dupont network, rising to host the network's Oky Doky Ranch, a children's show similar to The Howdy Doody Show.  Trailer moved to WPTZ in Phildelphia where he hosted several children's shows.  At the same time, Trailer began a successful singer career, at one time recording with a pre-Comets Bill Haley.  In 1956, with the sale of WPTZ, Trailer moved to Boston's WBZ and begain his long-running children's show Boomtown, which ran for almost twenty years and was a positive influence on an uncounted number of children throughout New England.  Trailer was also dubbed "the cowboy with a conscience" for his involvement with children with disablilities.  There is currently is bill going through the Massachusetts legislature naming Trailer the offical State Cowboy.

Trailer came to our house one night when I was a kid to borrow a block and tackle from my father to lift his sidekick Pablo into the air for a sketch on the next morning's program.  I remember my sister being upset because she was asleep when he visited -- Linda was in high school at the time and well beyond Boomtown's demographic but Rex Trailer's personality was such that his fans never outgrew him.  I ran into him several times in the 1970s and 80s after his run on Boomtown was over; he would appear at any number of events promoting chaperoned school-vacation trips to California.  At these events, one could see adults -- both parents and granparents -- who grew up with Boomtown and the undiminished respect with which they held Trailer.

Trailer kept busy -- making appearances, teaching at Emerson College, running a helicopter transport company, working for mentally retarded and physically disabled children, and follow his "diving" passions (both sky and scuba).

Rex Trailer was one of the good ones.  He will be missed.

Here's the theme song to Boomtown, along with some memories:

Rex and a Conestoga wagon train for the ARC:

Here's a "lost" sketch with Trailer and Pablo (Richard Kilbride):

And a song:

And a tribute to mark 60 years in television:

And, finally, here's the song Rex Trailer wrote to honor the victims of 9/11.  As he explained, "Ever since 9-11, the world has changed for all of us.  We have to stick together, protect each other, and let those you love, respect, and admire know how much you appreciate them."  Sounds like a pretty good cowboy creed to me.

Thank you for everything, Rex Trailer.


The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico (1941)

This very slight book -- no more than a short story, really -- was perhaps the most popular book published by this very popular author and sportswriter (1897-1976).  Often decried as a sentimental tear-jerker, The Snow Goose is nonetheless a powerful and evocative story.  Here's the late, great Molly Ivins' description of the book (which I have gleefully lifted from Wikipedia):

"The Snow Goose is a tale about a disabled painter living in a lonely lighthouse on the coast of the county of Essex in England.  One day a girl brings to him a wounded snow goose, which he nurses back to health.  The goose returns each year, as does the girl.  But the artist is killed rescuing soldiers after the evacuation of Dunkirk, while the snow goose flies overhead."

(I apologize for Ms. Ivins -- she really should not have spoiled the ending of the book for you.)

You can judge the book for yourself.  It's a very short read.  I liked it a lot, but maybe I was in a sentimental, tear-jerking mood.  Here it is:

In addition to The Snow Goose (which was an O. Henry prize winner and was later made into an Emmy-nominated TV movie), Gallico was also the author of The Poseidon Adventure, Too Many Ghosts, The Adventures of Hiram Holliday (remember that Wally Cox television series?  You don't?  Geez, I'm getting old!), Thomasina, Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, and many other best-selling books.


Patti Abbott will have all of today's Forgotten Book links at her uber-fascinating blog, Pattinase.

Thursday, January 10, 2013



Mark Spoelstra was a favorite.


In the continuing saga of my newly-mechanical bride...progress!!!

Yesterday, we once again travelled to Annapolis for yet another check-up.  The wound appears to be healing fairly well, although we now have a referral to the hospital's wound center.  The infection is down.  (Swabs were taken to determine which type of antibiotic to continue.)  A  new prescription for pain pills was written.  (Kitty takes them sparingly, but sometimes you just need the darned things.)  Physical therapy has once again resumed.  The kangaroo accompanied us and the office staff paid more attention to him than to Kitty.

Kitty is moving around much better but is still very careful.  She tires very easily, but has not yet tired of me.  Slowly, she's getting there.

Mark has installed a soccer net in our back yard and has been running around like a banshee in his Messi shirt.  I don't know of Kitty will be joining him this year, but I wouldn't put it past her.

I am very proud of the progress she has made.  I think I'll give her a kiss.

Back to the doctor in two weeks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I called the police and said that I wanted to report a nuisance caller.  They said, "Not you, again."


On this day in history, January 9, 1947, Elizabeth Short was last seen alive.

Ms. Short's gruesomely murdered body was discovered days later -- on January 15.  Now known forever as the Black Dahlia, her unsolved murder has been the subject of dozens of theories and books, as well as some notable movies.

A terrible way to gain notoriety.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Today is the 198th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans.  The 1814 "little trip along with with Colonel Jackson" culminated in the early 1815 rout of the British, and ended up giving us this Johnny Horton song.  (And the Johnny Horton song ended up giving us this strangely-costumed video.)   And since Powdering a Gator's Behind WBAGNFARB, maybe we should dedicate this post to Bill Crider.


What do you get when you combine Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Hoot Gibson, and Duncan Renaldo into a twelve-part cliff-hanging Republic oater?  You get The Painted Stallion, a 1937 serial based on an idea by Hal E. Evarts, popular author of dozens of Western novels.  Scripted by Barry Shipman and Winston Miller and helmed by Alan James, Ray Taylor, and William Whitney, The Painted Stallion also brings in such western legends as Kit Carson, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett.

If you are a Saturday matinee kid at heart, as I am, enjoy these twelve bits (three and a half hours worth) of awesome.


For more awesome, check out today's links at Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom.

Monday, January 7, 2013


From yesterday's Washington Post:

     Cat caught sneaking tools into Brazilian prison: A white cat with a saw, a cellphone, a
     charger, drills and other contraband items taped to its body was "detained" as it entered
     the main gate of a prison in Arapiraca, in northeastern Brazil, on New Year's Day, news
     media said,  All 263 detainees in the prison are considered suspects in the smuggling plot.

UPDATE:  According to NPR this morning, it was a black and white cat.  This, of course, runs counter to the WaPo account of a white cat (above).  Which is it?  What are they trrying to hide?  Is this the beginning of another liberal media cover-up?  Paranoid minds want to know.


Today would have been the hundredth birthday of cartoonist Charles Addams.  What a legacy he left us!  Gomez and Morticia would be proud.


  • Ben Aaronovitch - Moon Over Soho.  Fantasy.
  • Joan Aiken - Is Underground.  YA fantasy, part of the Wolves series.
  • Rennie Airth - The Blood-Doomed Tide.  Mystery.
  • John Applegate - Deadly Sleep.  Horror.
  • Linwood Barclay - Bad Guys.  Crime.
  • Burl Barer - Body Count.  True Crime.
  • Stephen Baxter - Coalescent.  SF.
  • M. C. Beaton - Death of a Glutton.  A Hamish Macbeth mystery.
  • James R. Benn - Blood Alone.  A Billy Boyle mystery.
  • Alan Brennert - Time and Chance.  Fantasy.
  • Gerald Brittle - The Devil in Connecticut.  Yeah, this is supposedly non-fiction, but anything claiming demonic possessions are true are firmly rooted in non-non-fiction, it seems to me.
  • Fredric Brown - The Proofreaders' Page and Other Uncollected Items.  Edited by Phil Stevensen-Payne.  Non-fiction, mainly.  Includes articles from trade journals, as well as stories, poems, non-fiction, and whatnot that have not been collected before.  Interesting stuff and even some fascinating stuff.  I had not realized that Dennis McMillan's version of The Office that he published in 1998 was an early draft of the novel and considerably different from the Dutton version I had read -- thus another book gets added to my wish list.  Ah, me.
  • John Burke - The Hammer Horror Film Omnibus.  Movie tie-in.  Novelization of four Hammer films:  The Gorgon, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Revenge of Frankenstein, and The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb.
  • Gwendoline Butler - Coffin on the Water.  Mystery.
  • John Carnell, editor - The Best from New Worlds Science Fiction.  The first (1955) anthology from the legendary British SF magazine.  Carnell started New Worlds in 1946 but it went belly-up after three issues.  He rebooted the magazine in 1949 and New Worlds went on to become the major SF magazine in England and (under the later editorship of Michael Moorcock) helped usher in the "new Wave" of the 1960s and 70s.  Nine stories.
  • Thomas Chastain - Nightscape.  Mystery.
  • Molly Cochran & Warren Murphy - The Forever King.  Arthurian novel.
  • Max Allan Collins - Quarry's Ex.  Crime.
  • Groff Conklin, editor - Crossroads in Time and Science Fiction Oddities.  SF anthologies with eighteen and nineteen stories respectively.
  • Bernard F. Conners - The Hampton Sisters.  Horror.
  • Susan Rogers Cooper - Chasing Away the Devil and Houston in the Rearview Mirror.  Milt Kovak mysteries.
  • Charles de Lint - Wolf Moon.  Fantasy.
  • Peter Dickinson - The Last Houseparty.  Mystery.
  • Michael Dorn - Time Blender.  Star Trek's TNG's Worf wrote an SF book -- but not by his lonesome:  Hilary Hemingway and Jeffry P. Lindsay are listed on the title page as co-authors.
  • David Drake & Janet Morris - Arc Riders.  SF.
  • Diane Duane - A Wizard Alone.  YA fantasy, Book 6 in the Young Wizards series.
  • "Terence Duncan" [house name; it's William F. Nolan this time around] - Powell's Army #8:  Rio Renegades.  Western.
  • Mignon G. Eberhart - Unidentified Woman.  Mystery.
  • David Farland - Worlds of the Golden Queen.  Fantasy omnibus containing The Golden Queen and Beyond the Gate, both originally published as by Dave Wolverton.
  • Alene Ferguson - The Angel of Death.  YA mystery.
  • Alan Dean Foster - Transformers.  Movie tie-in.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, editor - The Further Adventures of Xena Warrior Princess.  Television tie-in anthology with fifteen stories.
  • Lyndon Hardy - Master of the Five Magics.  Fantasy.
  • Cynthis Haseloff - The Kiowa Verdict.  Western.  Winner of the Spur Award.
  • "Robin Hobb" (Megan Lindholm) - Fool's Fate.  Fantasy, Book three in the Tawny Man series.
  • Nancy Holder - The Evil that Men Do.  Television (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) tie-in novel.
  • Alan Hunter - Gently in Trees.  Mystery.  I'm enjoying the George Gently series currently running on PBS.
  • Kathy Ice, editor - Magic:  the Gathering: Tapestries.  Gaming tie-in anthology with seventeen stories.
  • Terry C. Johnston - Dance on the Wind.  Western.
  • Dean Koontz - Odd Interlude.  Three e-books/novellas ( Odd Interlude #1#2, and #3) about Odd Thomas, the fry cook extraordinaire who hobnobs with the dead.  A little snippet to hold fans over until the publication of Deeply Odd this coming spring.
  • Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory - The Outstretched Shadow.  Fantasy, Book 1 in the Obsidian Trilogy. 
  • Ursula K. Le Guin - The Other Wind.  Fantasy, an Earthsea novel and a World Fanrtasy Award winner.
  • Philip MacDonald - Mystery of the Dead Police.  A classic detective novel.
  • William Martin - The Rising of the Moon.  Historical fiction.
  • Michael Nava - Goldenboy.  A Henry Rios mystery.
  • Andrew Neiderman - The Dark, Sister, Sister, and Tender Loving Care.  Three horror novels.
  • William F. Nolan - Seven for Space. Collection of two SF novels (Space for Hire and Look Out for Space) and five short stories, all about Sam Space, private eye.
  • Mel Odom - XXX.  Movie tie-in.
  • Jean Paiva -  The Lilith Factor.  Horror.
  • Arturo Perez-Reverte - Captain Alatriste.  Historical adventure. 
  • Nancy Pickard - The Virgin of Small Plains.  Mystery.
  • Katherine Ramsland - The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds.  Non-fiction.
  • Russell Rhodes -Tricycle.  Horror.
  • John Ringo - Into the Looking Glass.  SF.
  • Charles Robertson - The Children.  Horror.
  • Craig Russell - The Deep Dark Sleep.  Mystery.
  • Brett Rutherford - The Lost Children.  Horror.
  • William Schoell - Spawn of Hell.  Horror.
  • Remar  Sutton - Long Lines.  Mystery.
  • Duane Swierczynski -  Fun & Games.  Thriller.
  • Julian Symons - The Color of Murder. Mystery.  Gold Dagger winner.
  • Kate Wilhelm - Children of the Wind.  SF.  Five novellas.
  • Anne Wingate,  Ph.D. - Scene of the Crime:  A Writer's Guide to Crime Scene Investigations.  Non-fiction.
  • John Wyndham - Sleepers of Mars and Wanderers of Time.  Two collections, each with five early SF stories from the classic writer.  The title story "Sleepers of Mars" is a sequel to the author's Stowaway to Mars (apa Planet Plane).

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Verse (A la Alice) by Murray Leinster

If things had happened quite my way,
We would not be in this cafe.

If you had not insisted on it,
I would gladly have forgone it.

But you announced an appetite
And said you always dined at night.

But you need not have ordered duck.
It's that which makes me out of luck.

So I must tell you I'm not able
To pay for what is on the table.

So when you've eaten all you want,
They'll throw us from this restaurant.

-- from Saucy Stories, May 1919


Here's an update on my bride and her @#$%^&* knee. 

Actually, there's less to @#$%^&* about now. Things are looking much better and (as the doctor says) let's be cautiously optimistic.

So we headed back to Annapolis, the three of us.  (Christina and Walt were both working, so we had the Kangaroo -- which is fine because we are bound to get stopped by every female in Annapolis because they just have to ooh and aah at the five-month awesomeness of the Kangaroo and that will help keep Kitty's mind away from her knee, as well as helping the Kangaroo refine his skills at charming the ladies.)  And -- frabjous day! -- the doctor is happy!

The incision is healing up nicely he says, although there is still some drainage.  The infection is getting better.  The blood tests and the cultures came through with flying colors.  The bone chip (or whatever) doesn't seem to be a problem at present.  And Kitty can resume physical therapy on Monday with no restrictions.

So we're happy.

And relieved.

Small victories are good victories.  We'll take 'em.

Starting physical therapy again is going to be a bear, but it is a good (albeit probably painful) step in the right direction.

Another checkup scheduled for Wednesday.  Kitty still tires very quickly, but now she smiles when she tires.



Where else can you get a chance to read a Golden Age comic and get motion sick at the same time?  And where did the music come from?  And why?

Friday, January 4, 2013


They Shall Have Stars by  James Blish (1956)

Freshman Senator Blake Wagoner has a problem.  As the chairman of the Joint congressional Committee onspace Flight, Wagoner realizes that mankind is not making any real scientific progress, and hasn't for at least half a century.  In that time, there hasn't been a major engineering or scientific discovery.  Mankind -- especially in the Western world -- is stagnating in political and scientific orthodoxy.  Wagoner knows that it's time to think outside the box, to begin examining the "oddball" ideas that have been rejected by the mainstream to see if any of those ideas have have the potential to jumpstart humanity back onto its path of progress.  Once such projects are identified, Wagoner must implement the projects while keeping the true purposes of these projects hidden from a hidebound government that would not approve of them.

One such project is the Bridge.  Mankind's most massive and ambitious project, a "bridge" on the surface of Jupiter.  The purpose of the Bridge is hush-hush, but everyone knows that it's important because of the time and money being spend on it.  It is a Bridge to nowhere.  Eleven miles wide, thirty miles high, and currently fifty-four miles long and counting.  The harsh conditions on the gas giant are continually destroying parts of the Bridge, but Bridge operators controlling the remote automatic construction keep rebulding the damaged parts and adding to the main structure.  The bridge itself is made of native Ice IV.  Formed on the planet at 94 degrees below zero Farenheit and at a million atmospheres of pressure, Ice IV is the only material in the solar system that can withstand the 25,000 mile per hour wind that exists five thousand miles below the visible surface of Jupiter.

The surface of Jupiter is constantly changing.  To secure the Bridge, a large satellite was brought down to the mushy surface of the planet and embedded there.  The Bridge was then anchored to satellite.  Because the surface of the planet changes so, the Bridge will soon move to a confluence of Jupiter's Red Spot and another large storm; it is doubtful the Bridge will survive.

Robert Helmuth is one of the Bridge operators, painstakingly creating, repairing, and expanding the Bridge from his remote location on one of Jupiter's moons.  The pressure of his assignment is beginning to get to Helmuth and he wonders if he is going insane.  Helmuth is also beginning to get an inkling of the true purpose of the Bridge:  to lead mankind to the development of a working form of antigravity -- the "spindizzy."  Helmuth also discovers that, below the Bridge, native life exists unsuspected.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Colonel Paige Russell is using his leave to deliver soil samples he had taken from the Jovian system to Jno. Pfitzner & Sons, a medical research company that is obstensibly looking for new sources of drugs.  There, Russell meets Anne Abbott, an overly-lknowledgable receptionist for the company.  At first glance, Anne is a rather plain girl, but her smile changes that impression and Russell finds himself falling for her.  Russell is then slowly drawn into Pfitzner's culture and realizes that the company's true purpose is being hidden from the public and the government:  Pfitzner is developing an agathic drug -- a drug that can "cure" death and bring mankind to the brink of immortality.

Lurking in the background of both of these projects is Francis Xavier MacHinery, the heriditary head of the FBI.  The powerful MacHinery has a vested interest in the status quo and would do everything in his power to block both projects if he knew their true purposes

They Shall Have Stars is the first book chronologically in Blish's Cities in Flight series, in which the cities of Earth use the spindizzy and the agathic drugs to roam through space.  although the first chronologically, it was the second published in what was to become on of the most innovative science fiction series of the 1950s.  The four books in the series are:

  • Earthman, Come Home (1955), a fix-up of the stories Okie, Bindlestiff, Sargasso of Lost Cities, and Earthman, Come Home.
  • They Shall have Stars (1956), a fix-up of novellas Bridge and At Death's End; the book has also been published as Year 2018!
  • The Triumph of Time (1958).
  • A Life for the Stars (1962), whose events run concurrent with those in Earthman, Come Home.
All four novels have been published in an omnibus volume, Cities in Flight.

James Blish (1921-1975) is still a recognizable name in the science fiction field.  He was known for his rigorous scientific approach, his unbridled imagination, and his strong philosophic bent.  Besides the above books he has given us such classics as A Case of Conscience, Surface Tension, and There Shall Be No Darkness, among many others.  Blish also adapted the original Star Trek series into a dozen collections.  His pioneering work in science fiction criticism has been collected in The Issue at Hand and More Issues at Hand, both as by "William Atheling, Jr."  Blish remains one of a handful of writers whose work (while valuable and entertaining in and of itself) should be read in order to gain a better understanding of modern science fiction.


Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom is collecting today's Forgotten Books links.  Check it out.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Doctor Who and an Unearthly Child by Terrance Dicks, based on the script by Anthony Coburn (1981)

In this the Golden Anniversary year of the  Doctor, I thought it appropriate to go back to the beginning -- to the very first episode of the long-running television show.  Docotr who and the Unearthly Child novelizes that adventure, and (help me along here, memory) does a journeyman job in doing so.  this episode, strangely enough, did not get novelized until 1981, placingit at Number 68 in Target Books' Doctor Who Library.

Schoolteachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton are concerned about one of their students, fifteen-year-old Susan Foreman.  Susan is very bright and is obviously more knowledgeable than either of her teachers,  to the point that Susan seems to know things that have not yet actually happened.  According to school records, Susan lives with her grandfather at an address that (as Barbara discovers) is actually an empty junk yard.  Barbara and Ian watch as Susan goes home one day, they see her go through the gate, and follow her only to find...nothing.  An empty lot with no sign of Susan.  Nothing but pieces of junk strewn around the lot...and a blue police call box.

Yep. Susan's grandfather is none other than the Doctor in his first incarnation:  cantankerous, imperious, and sometimes forgetful.  Soon Barbara and Ian find themselves travelling with the Doctor and Susan to a prehistoric time in which a local tribe is desperate to rediscover the secret of fire.  The tribe's previous leader has died before passing on the secret to his son Za.  Without the ability to make fire, Za is in danger of losing his new leadership role (as well as Hur, the hottest girl in the tribe) to an outsider named Kal.  (Okay.  I grant you that early 60s Brit kiddie SF television was not too sophisticated in naming prehistoric people.)

Anyway, the Doctor goes off to sit on a hill and smoke his pipe while cogitating the secrets of the universe or some.  You can see where this is going.  The Doctor...alone...smoking...pipe...hmm, leadership...this dude must know the secret of fact, this dude is a ticket to tribal leadership and that hot chick Hur.   At least that  was Kal's resoning as he spied upon the Doctor from the bushes.  And so the Doctor is conked on the head and taken prisoner.  Then everyone else is taken prisoner.  Several times.

You know our heroes will live on to fight another day.  And we're told at the end of the book that that other day bill be on the planet Skaro where the Doctor will have his first encounter with the Daleks.

All in all, a fairly banal beginning to a series that would  eventually bring us the coolest evil  snowmen ever in last month's Christmas episode.

Some points of interest.  Evidently it was Susan who gave the TARDIS its name -- at least she claims credit for it here.  And the TARDIS seems to have had its "chameleon circuit" damaged, which would have allowed it to change its shapeand appearance to fit to whatever time and place it had landed -- but it's now a blue police call box and will remain one forever, possibly because none of the following ten Doctors bothered to fix the chameleon circuit.  (The Doctor is still not fully knowledgable about the workings of the TARDIS -- he has to reply on a little notebook he compiled.) And who the hell is Susan anyway?  The Doctor has a granddaughter?  We learn only that Susan and the Doctor are both aliens and cannot not (for unspecified reasons) return to their home planet in the foreseeable future.  I only watched the first episode of the show's first season and have no idea how the Susan thing will resolve itself.  (Looking back from a fifty-year perspective, it is kinda creepy to have an old man with a fifteen-year-old girl.)  It appears the Doctor is not (yet) the last Time Lord if his next adventure is to  be facing the Daleks for the first time.  I pulled out the novelization of that episode (Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker) and hope to get to it sometime this month.