Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 31, 2013

FORGOTTEN BOOK: BAD RONALD

Bad Ronald by John Holbrook Vance (1973)

With the death this week of Jack Vance at age 96, the world has lost one of its greatest fantasts writers in any genre.  As he joins other luminaries such as Avram Davidson, Jorge Luis Borges, and Fritz Leiber in literary Valhalla, tributes are pouring in -- as well as recommendations for reading:  SF novels Big Planet and To Live Forever, fantasy staples The Dying Earth and The Eyes of the Overworld, the Joe Bain regional mysteries, the novels written as "Ellery Queen,"  the on-going Subterranean Press collections of early stories, Vance's slyly grammatically incorrect autobiography This Is Me, Jack Vance! (or, More Properly, This is "I")...the list goes on, and will most likely include everything that Vance published.

For my part, I'd like to recommend his 1973 suspense novel Bad Ronald, published under his full name, John Holbrook Vance.  I read this book when it first came out and have never forgotten it.  I don't think you will either.  In my mind, the novel channels Vance's inner Robert Bloch.  The story concentrates on a chilling and unbelievable premise that Vance turns into completely believable novel.  Ronald, you see, lives his secret life in a secret room under the stairs in a house where the family that lives there has no idea they have him as a tenant.  And Ronald, being Ronald, is not like the other children.  In fact, Ronald can be very dangerous.

In 1974 Bad Ronald was turned into an ABC Movie of the Week, starring Scott Jacoby in the title role, with Pippa Scott, Dabney Coleman, and Kim Hunter.  The movie was heavily promoted and some consider a classic of its type.  Most people, including myself, rate it a bit above average.  The film just could not transmit the atmosphere of evil that Vance had imbued in the novel.

Here's a clip from the film:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt_1XFxXGts

Catherine Heigel starred in the French remake Mechant Garcon (1992), with Joachim Lombard as Ronald.  I don't know how successful this film was, but I fear it fell short of the mark.  A proposed 2010 remake for Dimension Films evidently fell into development hell.

Give this book -- or any book by Vance -- a try.  You won't be sorry

Thursday, May 30, 2013

UNDERAPPRECIATED MUSIC: HERE COMES THE BOOM BOOM

Even though mean Mr. Weather has been whipping the butt of some parts of the country, summer time is a-coming.  And, for me, that means Freddy Cannon booming from the car radio.  No.  Wait.  It means Freddy Cannon boom booming from the car radio.

Frederick Anthony Picariello, Jr., aka Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, is 73 now and appears  to be still going strong, playing occasional dates.  A rocker of the old style, Cannon's best songs breathe a vibrancy into his material.

He may have been born in Swampscott, Massachusetts, but he took us down to New Orleans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAF5V0V_xlo

And to Palisades Park.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBgaf5gXJcc

And to Tallahassie (by way of Philadelphia).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_G7TYPEawX0

He sent us to Okefenokee.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCiD8sAfnUs

And Indiana.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvacOnn7ceE

He may live in California now, but he never strayed far from Boston.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjUP79e7tX0

No matter where he went, there were some crazy little women there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ5sl-KDaqQ

Among the women, there were

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNEznS_ot2U

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BAnFsSj1sE

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbrDIMoi-88

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQc7oM2XQo0

and (again, via Phillie)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_Wz2qCpJlQ

Of course, we can't forget the muskrats.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D6EfQFcHYA

My foot keeps tapping.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

BAD JOKE WEDNESDAY

My brother-in-law just can't hold a job.  He was working in an orange juice factory last week but was canned because he couldn't concentrate.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

OVERLOOKED FILM: 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1916)

Combining elements of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island with a hokey backstory of revenge and a missing princess, this 1916 film manages to overcome its shortcomings to provide a pioneering cinematic experience.  The underwater photography, filmed in New Providence Island in the Bahamas (the same location where the Disney version of the film would be shot 38 years later), was extraordinary for its time and must have been thrilling for an audience in 1916.

The film was directed by Stuart Paton, who had begun his career the year before and already had eleven short films and four full-length ones to his credit, and who is perhaps best known for 1931's Chinatown After Dark.  Hetzel Effensachs directed the underwater sequences.  Effensachs also directed the marine sequences in Battleship Potemkin (1925) and Captain Blood (1935), and was the marine coordinator on such films as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Captains Courageous (1937), and The Buccaneer (1938)

The role of Nemo was played by veteran stage and film actor Allen Holubar.  Shortly after this film was made, Holubar shifted gears and went to the opposite side of the camera with a solid career as a writer, director, and producer under his death at age 35 in 1923 following a gallstone operation. 

Not much is known about Dan Hanlon, who played Professor Aronnax, the scientist who was rescued by Nemo and his submarine Nautilus; IMDB listed only three credits for him, all in the same year with this movie being the last.  Hanlon died in 1951 at age 84.  Little also is known about Edna Pendleton, who played Aronnax's daughter -- someone never mentioned in the original novel; Pendleton has seven credits on IMDB, again with this movie being the last.

The character of plucky Ned Land was eviscerated in this film and was played by Curtis Benton, who had a long career as a writer; his acting career ended in 1917, only to be taken up again in 1931 in usually uncredited roles as an announcer.

Jane Gail, who played duels roles as Princess Daaker and as "A Child of Nature" never made the transition from silent films.  She is best known for her role as Dr. Jekyll's fiancé opposite King Baggot in 1913's Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Enjoy.

http://archive.org/details/20000LeaguesUndertheSea

Monday, May 27, 2013

MEMORIAL DAY

Remember...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WChTqYlDjtI

INCOMING

  • Basil Copper - The Long Rest.  Another Mike Faraday mystery.  This makes my Mike Faraday read/about-to-be-read number at fifteen.  I have a ways to go -- Copper wrote fifty-one of them.
  • Richie Tankersley Cusick - Vampire.  YA horror.
  • Chrstine Feehan & Marjori M. Lui - Dark Dreamers. Paranormal romance omnibus with Feehan's Dark Dream and Lui's A Dream of Stone and Shadow.
  • Bentley Little, The Disappearance,  Horror.
  • John Ringo, Unto the Breach.  Military SF.
  • Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman, editors, Kender, Gully Dwarves, and Gnomes.  Gaming tie-in anthology, Volume II of DragonLance:  Tales.  Nine stories.

Friday, May 24, 2013

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: SOME RECOMMENDATIONS

I haven't read anything this week that would qualify as a Forgotten Book.  In lieu of a review, then, let me take the easy way out and recommend some good books.  The twenty-five books listed below are the ones short-listed for the Edgar award for best paperback original, from 1970 through 1974 -- the first years the award was granted in this category.  I've listed them alphabetically by author.  Can you tell which five won the Edgar?

  • Philip Atlee, The White Wolverine Contract (Gold Medal)
  • Daniel Banko, Not Dead Yet (Gold Medal)
  • Alan Caillou, Assault on Ming (Avon)
  • Elsie Cromwell, The Governess (Paperback Library)
  • Clive Cussler, The Mediterranean Caper (Pyramid)
  • Jack Ehrlich, The Drowning (Pocket Books)
  • Matt Gattzden, O.D. at Sweet Claude's (Belmont)
  • Ron Goulart, After Things Fell Apart (Ace)
  • Leo P. Kelley, Deadlocked! (Gold Medal)
  • Michael Kurland, A Plague of Spies (Pyramid)
  • John Lange, Grave Descend (Signet)
  • Dan J. Marlowe, Flashpoint (Gold Medal)
  • Frank McAuliffe, For Murder I Charge More (Ballantine)
  • Peter McCurtin, Mafioso (Belmont)
  • Richard Neely, The Smith Conspiracy (Signet)
  • William F. Nolan, Space for Hire (Lancer)
  • Dinah Palmtag, Starling Street (Dell)
  • Will Perry. Death of an Informer (Pyramid)
  • Charles Runyon, Power Kill (Gold Medal)
  • Roger L. Simon, The Big Fix (Straight Arrow)
  • Richard Stark, The Sour Lemon Score (Gold Medal)
  • Scott C. S. Stone, The Dragon's Eye (Gold Medal)
  • Alicen White, Nor Spell, Nor Charm (Lancer)
  • Charles Williams, And the Deep Blue Sea (Signet)
  • Richard Wormser, The Invader (Gold Medal)
There's a lot of good stuff here -- something for just about every taste:  crime, suspense, P.I., gothic, SF, adventure...

Some familiar authors, some unfamiliar, some -- Michael Crichton, Donald E. Westlake, Elsie Lee, James Atlee Phillips -- under pseudonyms, some unjustly forgotten.

Eight of the twenty-five books were published by Gold Medal.  No surprise there.  Two from bottom of the barrel publisher Belmont, which still managed from time to time to publish some good stuff, including the two listed here.  I never heard of Straight Arrow; I read the Simon in a Pocket Books reprint.  If memory serves, I have only read ten of these books.

A few of these books are readily available; others, alas, not as readily.  Any of these twenty-five should be well worth your time.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

PIANO ROLL BLUES

When I was in college I had an old 78 of this record and played it quite a lot.  I remember it had a small chunk bitten off the edge of the record, but that did not affect the song itself.  (Another go-to record was an album with the title -- I believe -- Clark Kessinger, Old Time Fiddler, where every track sounded suspiciously like Turkey in the Straw.  And, of course, there was the Best of Chickenman album...ah, college days!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAJalGmya2U

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

COINCIDENCE

Yesterday afternoon we were watching an episode of Revolution that we had taped, and when we reached the point where everybody seemed to accusing everybody else of being a spy, the Giancarlo Esposito character nodded at another character and said something to the effect of, "What about Travis Bickle over there?"  Cool, I thought.  It's not that often that you hear a DeNiro/Taxi Driver reference these days. 

Since I had had a tooth extracted earlier that afternoon (a longer and more difficult process than neither the dentist nor I had expected) and since my mouth started throbbing in earnest about then, I took a Vicodan (prescribed, I believe, only because my last name is House and because I occasionally use a cane) and went in for a nap.  While waiting for the painkiller to kick in, a read a few pages (three, actually) of the current book, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (it's very,very good, btw) and read this passage on page 122:  "By the time I woke up it was five in the morning and my taxi driver was turning into Travis Bickle."

Strange, huh?  Two Travis Bickle references in less than half an hour.  Well, actually, no.  My life seems to be made up of such minor and inconsequential coincidences, interspersed with periods of non-coincidence.  Your life, too, probably.

I could say that when I fell asleep, I dreamed of a young Jody Foster.  But I didn't and I won't.  Coincidences only go so far, except in bad fiction.

All of the above is very trivial and forgettable and has absolutely no meaning at all.  But when it came time to write a post for the blog, I wrote the above.

Purely by coincidence, of course.

FREE TODAY FOR THE KINDLE!

Penalty Shot by Paul Bishop. 

Soccer can be a dangerous sport as Ian Chappel knows all to well.  The one-time British goalkeeper lost an eye in his last game.  Now there is a dead goalie on the L.A. Ravens team and Chappel is convinced to take his place.  Danger, terrorism, a pretty girl, and soccer action...sounds like a great combination to me.

Paul Bishop is a former (and highly decorated) Los Angeles police officer who has written many acclaimed crime and suspense novels.  He is also one of the creators of the highly popular Felony Fists series.

Also of interest is Out of Bedlam, two stories by the great Stephen Gallagher that take you back to Edwardian and Victorian times of mystery and terror.

Both are free today for the Kindle.  Check 'em out at Amazon.com.

BAD JOKE WEDNESDAY

So I got a job as a prospector but it didn't pan out.

Then I was hired as a butcher, but when I backed into the meat grinder I got a little behind in my work.

But now I've found my dream job.  I'm working in a girdle factory.  I pull down three hundred a week.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

THIS IS A RULE, DECLAN

Just because I am brushing you does not mean that you have to pass gas.  Bad dog.  Smelly dog.

OVERLOOKED MOVIE: BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS (1961)

The word in the title is "Yucca," not "Yuckie."

And it has Tor Johnson.

And, yes, I am easily amused.  Perhaps you will be, too.

http://archive.org/details/Beast_of_Yucca_Flats_movie

Monday, May 20, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARGERY ALLINGHAM!

At the Poe's Deadly Daughters blog today, Julia Buckley makes note of some of the many mystery writers who were born in May, among them Leslie Charteris, Daphne du Maurier, Dashiell Hammett, Tony Hillerman, Jeffrey Deaver, Arthur Conan Doyle, G. K. Chesterton, and Ian Fleming.  And today happens to be the 109th birthday of Margery Allingham, creator of Albert Campion.

I don't think Allingham is very popular today, but she was once one of the Big Five -- the Five Grand British Ladies of Mystery -- along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Josephine Tey.   (Yes, Marsh was from New Zealand, not England, but why quibble?)

Allingham came from a writing family and got her start adopting current movies into prose form for British magazines.  (I've never seen any of these stories and would love it if someone unearthed them and published them.  She also evidently wrote some Sexton Blake stories -- would love to see those, too.)  Allingham's first novel, Blackerchief Dick, was published when she was nineteen.  Six years later, Albert Campion made his debut in The Crime at Black Dudley.

Campion -- not his real name -- is a bit of a mystery himself.  We are given to understand that he was born to an aristocratic family, and was given the name of Rudolph, but little else is revealed about his background throughout the series.  Over his nearly forty-year career, Campion's character continued to morph as time and Allingham's vision matured.  The early Campion is a rogue, devil-may-care and slightly shifty (or is he?). (Allingham 's original vision was to have Campion be a parody of Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey.)  The enigma that was Campion slowly changed as he became involved in counterespionage.  While still keeping his ties to England's underground and to the secret service, Campion then becomes a trusted consultant for Scotland Yard, most specifically for Inspector Oates and (later) for Inspector Luke.  Campion's constant manservant/companion/assistant is the glorious Magersfontein Lugg, a one-time burglar. 

Allingham wrote eighteen novels* about Albert Campion (a nineteenth was completed by her husband after her death; her husband then continued her character for another two novels), as well as six collections of Allingham stories.  I have read most of her ouvre and enjoyed them all.  Several of the stories were adapted for British television:  two (1959-60) with Bernard Horsfall as Campion, and one (1968) with Brain Smith as Campion.  Better known in America were the eight stories that were shown on the PBS Mystery! series (1989-90) with former Doctor Who Peter Davidson as Campion.  Campion himself is excised (unfairly, says I) from the 1956 film Tiger in the Smoke.

Julia Buckley suggests that we celebrate May by rediscovering one of the many mystery authors who share their birthdays this month.  Allingham may be a good place to start.  Here's the Poe's Deadly Daughters post:

http://poesdeadlydaughters.blogspot.com/2013/05/may-is-mystery-month.html

* One of the eighteen, The Case of the Late Pig, is actually a novella and is included in at least one of her collections.

INCOMING

  • George Beahm, The Stephen King Story.  Literary  biography.
  • John Barnes, Apostrophes & Apocalypses.  SF collection of 21 stories and articles.
  • Greig Beck, Beneath the Dark Ice.  Thriller.
  • Ralph Cotton, Valley of the Gun.  Western.
  • Basil Copper, The  Breaking Point, The Empty Silence, The Far Side of Fear, Feedback, Flip-Side, Jet-lag, No Flowers for the General, Tuxedo Park, and A Voice from the Dead.  Mike Faraday mysteries all. 
  • Francisco Goldman, The Long Night of White Chickens.  Literary novel with fantasy elements.
  • Gene Hackman, Payback at Morning Peak.  Yes, that Gene Hackman, and it's a western.
  • Carl Hiaasen, The Downhill Lie.  The mystery author and columnist returns to a sport where he chases a little white ball.
  • Faye Kellerman, The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights.  Mystery collection with seventeen stories.
  • Leo P. Kelley, Good-bye to Earth.  YA SF book (more of a novella, actually); part of the author's Galaxy 5 series.
  • Michael Kurland & "S. W. Barton" (Bart Whaley) - The Last President.  What-if political thriller.  What if the Watergate break-in was never discovered and Nixon remained in office?
  • The Magazine of Fantasy &Science Fiction, March/April, 2011.
  • C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves.  Christian essays.
  • Marjorie M. Lui, Eye of Heaven.  Fantasy, a Dirk & Steele novel.
  • Bill O'Neal, Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters.  Reference.
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters.  Literary crime novel.
  • George P. Pelecanos, Down By the River Where the Dead Men Go.  A Nick Stefanos mystery.
  • S. D. Perry & Britta Dennison, Wonder Woman.  Movie tie-in based on the comic book.  The book appeared but I don't think the movie ever did.
  • Stephanie Pintoff, In the Shadow of Gotham.  Thriller taking place in 1905 New York.
  • Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Children of the Shroud.  Horror novel involving DNA found on the Shroud of Turin.
  • Robert Vaughan, The Wild Wild West #3:  The Night of the Assassin.  TV tie-in novel.
  • Denton Welch, A Voice Through a Cloud.  The final book, a fictional autobiography, from a (literally) tortured writer who died at age 33.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

HYMN TIME

My Uncle Walter passed away this Friday just shy of his ninetieth birthday.  He and his late wife Florence raised seven kids in a very depressing part of Lowell, Massachusetts.  Their home always seemed filled with laughter and love.  I remember someone speaking about my grandfather, to the effect that he raised nine children and every one of them turned out a success; this person figured that this was the highest compliment he could pay.  The same compliment could stand for Uncle Walter.  He had a long and rich life, filled with love and memories.   His obituary mentioned his love of the Red Sox and the Patriots, but I never knew that side of him.   With us, he was always talking about his kids and his grandkids and -- later, the great-grands.  Walter House was one of the best people I have ever known.

So I'm posting this "hymn" in his memory.  From the first time I heard it, this song seemed to encapsulate the uncle Walter I have known and loved.  Make no mistake about it:  in this context, it is a hymn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dvW5D8w8ZM

Walter is now with his beloved wife and with Mark, a cherished son taken too soon.  R.I.P., Walter -- we are all better off by your time here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

ANTIQUES CHOP

Antiques Chop by "Barbara Allan" (2013)


Husband and wife writing team Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins are back with their seventh Trash 'n' Treasure mystery, this time taking on the world of reality television.

Followers of the series are familiar with Brandy Bourne, the thirtyish divorcee, and her manic mother Vivian.  Since Brandy moved back to Serenity, Iowa, to live with her manic mother, the small town on the Mississippi has been host to a plethora of murder -- each solved by Brandy and Vivian in their scattershot and scatterbrained way.  The two have gained a reputation of mixing their antique business with murder.

Which makes quite a hook for a Hollywood producer looking for the next big reality series.  Bruce Spring (he used to be Springstein, but a version of that name seemed to be taken) pitches the idea of Antiques Sleuth to the Bournes, an Antiques Roadshow rip-off with an emphasis on the pair's mystery-solving abilities.  The show would provide them with a new space for their shop and a lot of publicity.  How can you turn something like that down?

And what better place to put their new shop than in Serenity's famous Murder House, where, in 1950, rich, tight-fisted Archibald Butterfield was murdered with an axe.  The murderer (and the axe) was never found.  Suspicion had fallen on Archibald's son Andrew but the case against Andrew fell apart thanks to the testimony of a young Vivian.  The Bourne's received permission to move their shop into the old house when Brandy's thirteen-year-old son stumbles across the gory hacked-up body of Bruce Spring.  Sitting by the body and holding a bloody axe is Joe Lange, a traumatized war veteran and Brandy's friend.

The authors once again pull off an enjoyable, fast-paced cozy, complete with a hobby-like hook (antiques), a pet (Sushi, the old, blind, diabetic Shih Tzu), an attractive heroine (Brandy), an odd-ball character (Vivian), an interesting setting (Serenity, with a full complement of interesting characters), a mystery in the past (Archibald's murder), and a sort-of bloodless murder (well, yeah, chopping someone up is kinda bloody, but the authors don't go in for graphic descriptions).  What sets this series apart from other cozies is the humor and interplay between Brandy and her mother and the absolute removal of the "fourth wall," allowing Brandy and her mother to speak directly to the reader, their editor, and (in offside comments) each other.  Along the way we also get a few strange emoticons, antiquing tips, a recipe, and the last chapter in a difficult to read (for me, anyway) typeface.

If you haven't tried this series yet, you should.  Pure fun from the get-go.

Friday, May 17, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISTINA!

Time marches on and our beautiful little girl is a year older and not so very little anymore.  On my facebook page, I noted that our life ever since Christina was born has been both interesting and precious.  If there is ever a final accounting after this life, then she and her sister will be at the top of the list of the best things we have ever done.

There is some sort of creeping crud moving through out neighborhood and it hit Christina just after her final on Wednesday night.  So, for her final last night we drove her to Baltimore and back, then took the Kangaroo for the night so she could get some decent sleep before getting up at 4:15 in the morning for school.  This morning, Christina was feeling better, but Erin got sick in her the car on their war over here -- something that did not please perfectionist Erin because she has her school concerts this afternoon and tonight.  We had Erin ensconced on the couch while we dropped Mark off early at school for his field trip to King's Dominion.  Then we let Erin sleep while we took Gabby to the dentist for what we thought was merely going to be a checkup.  While some God-awful howling began emanating from the back room of the dentist's office, the Kangaroo threw up in his car seat.  The howling, of course, came from Gabby as they pulled three teeth -- something we had not expected.  By this time Kitty was beginning to feel a little bit off.  The dentist gave us some gauze and told us that Gabby probably should be going back to the first grade today.  We got home and put Gabby to bed, where she slept for three hours.  Put Kitty to bed and she's still sleeping.  Got the Kangaroo cleaned up and put his clothes in the laundry, by which time a pretty foul odor started coming from his diaper.  Because he turned a whole ten months yesterday, he has decided that his new maturity should come with a far more aggressive wiggling, twisting, and kicking whenever possible.  He displayed this newly-found skill in spades when I began to change him, spreading the mess onto his feet and, ultimately, onto my leg and the slipcover.  More fodder for the laundry.  Since he had done his job as he saw fit, he then fell asleep for almost two hours, giving me a chance to get the laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away.

Anyway, my darling, sweet, youngest child, we had planned to go out this morning and get the remainder of your birthday presents.  Alas, something intervened.  So, today on your **mumble, mumble**th birthday, we give you only our undying love and admiration.

Then, this weekend -- presents!

And thank you for being a part of our lives.

FORGOTTEN BOOK: SWEET GENEVIEVE

Sweet Genevieve by August Derleth (1942)


Almost everyone in the quiet village of Sac Prairie is concerned about the eminent war with Germany.  Everyone, that is, except Jenny Breen -- Sweet Genevieve, the strong, determined, and naïve title character of this 1942 novel by August Derleth.  Jenny finds the thought of spending her life in Sac Prairie revulsive.  She feels trapped by her family, especially by her pompous, overbearing father, a successful town lawyer, The town itself is stifling any chance she has of realizing her dream of becoming a famous actress.  Often she has talked with her boyfriend, David Lasson, who shares Jenny's dreams, about the two of them running off to Chicago or New York to pursue their ambitions.  David, however, is reluctant to leave Sac Prairie because he is the sole support of his widowed mother.

Jenny's big chance comes when the showboat Oliver Mackenzie pulls into town.  The boat's leading lady is taken ill with a ruptured appendix and Jenny has a chance to take her place.  She does a passable job as Little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin and is offered a job as a temporary replacement for the boat's leading lady.  Jenny, of course, jumps at this chance to begin her journey to stardom, not knowing that the river showboat is almost always a step down -- not up -- the acting ladder of success.  Jenny leaves Sac Prairie, her family, and David.

Soon everything will change.  World War I sweeps in a new dawn for everyone.  In Sac Prairie the mostly German population is conflicted; the old street gaslights are being replaced by electric ones; the age of the riverboat is closing; many of the laughing young men going off to war will soon be dead, in combat or by disease.  Everything changes for Jenny, also.  Mirroring some of the melodramas the showboat presents, Jenny is chased by a duplicitous cad, whose cad-iness (is that even a word?) is rooted in his self-centeredness an weakness.  David, feeling rebuffed by Jenny, must face his own challenges in Sac Prairie as he matures in place.

Sweet Genevieve is not a major entry in Derleth's Sac Prairie Saga, an offshoot of his larger Wisconsin Saga, but it is a deceptively enjoyable novel to read.  Derleth brings tired tropes to life as he delves into his characters and their place in time.  His love for nature and his enthusiasm for it provides an interesting counterpoint to the artificiality of many of man's hopes and ambitions.  For followers of his work, it's also good to see some of his regular characters in minor roles throughout the book.  Minor Derleth, yes, but better written than some of the author's other efforts in other genres.  For the Derleth aficionado this book is a must.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

BAD JOKE WEDNESDAY

My neighbor called 911 and said, 'I think my wife is dead!"

The 911 operator said, "And why do think that, sir?"

"Well, the sex is the same, but the laundry's piling up."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

OVERLOOKED TELEVISION: TROUBLE WITH FATHER

One of the most popular television in the early Fifties was Trouble With Father, which ran from 1950 to 1955.  You may know it better by the name the show had during its syndication -- The Stu Erwin Show.  Erwin (1903-1967) broke into films with Mother Knows Best (1928) and went on to play Joe Palooka in Palooka (1934).  He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Amos Dodd in 1936's Pigskin Parade.  Although it's not listed on IMDB, Erwin voiced a squirrel in Disney's Bambi.

In Trouble with Father, Erwin played a high school principal named (coincidently) Stu Erwin.  His real-life wife June Collyer played his wife June.  Sheila James (the future on Zelda Gilroy on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and a future California State Senator) played their tomboy daughter, Jackie.  Ann Todd played their other daughter, Joyce, to be replaced by Merry Anders during the show's final season after Todd decided acting just wasn't for her.  The show ran for four or five seasons, depending on how you look at it -- the 1953-54 season consisted entirely of repeats.

The episode below, from November 1952, is titled either "Teacher's Pet" or "Father Takes a Pet" -- you pays your money and you takes your chances. Directed by Howard Bretherton, from a script by Roy Steawart and Margaret Randall, the show revolves around Stu taking a bunch of fish which begin propagating mightily.

Enjoy.

http://archive.org/details/Jeice_Loves_Classic-TV



Monday, May 13, 2013

THIS IS COOL!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KaOC9danxNo

INCOMING

  • Nevada Barr, Borderline.  An Anna Pigeon novel, Big Bend National Park this time.
  • Basil Copper, The Far Horizon, Heavy Iron, and Shoot-Out.  Three more of the quirky Mike Faraday mysteries.
  • Patricia Cornwell, Book of the Dead.  A Kay Scarpetta mystery.
  • Graham Diamond, Cinnabar.  Arabian Nights fantasy.
  • Gardner Dozois, editor, Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, Seventh Annual Collection.  SF anthology with seven stories from 1977.  This is not one of the doorstopper editions of the Year's Best that Dozois has been editing since 1984; rather, it is a continuation of the series started by Lester del Rey of which Dozois edited numbers 6 through 10.
  • Eric Flint, editor, Ring of Fire.  Alt history anthology of sequels to Flint's 1632.  Fourteen stories and a short novel.
  • Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl.  The best-selling mystery that is either A) Fantastic, or B) Overrated, depending on whom you listen to.  I'll find out which when I read it.  This one came in a pile that Dawn dropped off.
  • Dick Francis & Felix Francis, Dead Heat.  Mystery.  Felix's first by-line with his father.
  • Brian Freemantle, See Charlie Run.  Spy novel featuring Charlie Muffin.
  • Gary Gerani, Top 100 Horror Movies.  A countdown, ranking what this jamook thinks are the top 100 horror flicks.  Number one?  1958's Horror of Dracula with Christopher Lee in the title role.  Todd Browning's Dracula came in at number fifteen!?!  Sheesh!  A brief glimpse through the book shows that nobody gave a damn about its production:  copy describing  House of Dark Shadows (number one hundred) is printed instead of the correct copy on a number of the films listed.  HODS copy is also used to caption photos from many other movies.  Double sheesh!  A total crap job throughout.  Thanks to Dawn, though, who saw it at a library sale and thought of me.
  • Kathleen Ann Goonan, Crescent City Rhapsody.  SF, third in the Nanotech Cycle.
  • Joe Gores, Spade & Archer.  A prequel to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.
  • Joe Haldeman, The Coming.  SF.
  • Tony Hillerman, The Shape Shifter.  A Joe Leaphorn mystery.
  • J. A. Jance, Cruel Intent.  An Ali Reynolds mystery.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay, The Summer Tree.  Fantasy, Volume One of The Fionavar Tapestry.
  • Philip Kerr, The Grid.  Thriller.  Published in England as Gridiron.
  • Elizabeth Lyon, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write.  Advice.
  • Patricia MacDonald, Not Guilty.  Suspense.
  • Margaret Maron, Christmas Mourning.  A Deborah Knott mystery,
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., The Best of Walter M. Miller, Jr.  SF collection of fourteen stories.
  • George Pelecanos, Drama City.  Thriller.
  • "J. D. Robb" (Nora Roberts), Conspiracy in Death, Holiday in Death, Judgment in Death, Portrait in Death, and Witness in Death.  Eve Dallas mysteries.
  • The Sagas of Icelanders.  Large compendium of ten Icelandic sagas and seven tales under the general editorship of Ornolfur Thorsson and with nine translators.
  • Lewis Shiner, Glimpses.  World Fantasy Award winning novel.
  • Robert Silverberg, editor, Legends:  Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy.  Eleven novellas by the tops in their field.
  • L. Neil Smith, Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka.  Movie franchise tie-in novel.
  • Christopher Stasheff,  The Warlock Wandering.  Fantasy. 
  • Travis L. Stork, M.D., Don't Be That Girl.  Really.  Don't be.  And don't be that boy.
  • Ross Thomas, Voodoo, Ltd.  Mystery.  Arthur Wu and Quincy Durant are back at it.
  • Harry Turtledove, The Valley-Westside War.  SF novel in the Crosstime Traffic series.
  • Penny Warner, Dead Body Language, A Quiet Undertaking, and A Right to Remain Silent.  Connor Westphal mysteries.
  • Charles Williams, A Touch of Death.  Another great book from Hard Case Crime.
  • Walter Jon Williams, Angel Station.  SF.
  • Marv Wolfman, Superman Returns.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Steven Womack, By Blood Written.  Suspense.
  • R. D. Zimmerman, Tribe.  A Todd Mills mystery.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

DON'T BE THAT GUY. DON'T BE THAT GIRL.

Too often lately we have been hearing about kids who have lost their moral compass.   Kids who take advantage of a girl through drink or drugs and then post the sexual encounter online.  Kids who bully a weaker (or a somehow different) kid, cumulating in the child's suicide.  Kids who parrot hate phrases, sometime not even knowing what they mean.   Kids who loudly lace their conversation with obscenities while in the most public places.  Kids doing thoughtless, selfish, hateful things.  I've read that up to ten percent (or more) of teenagers are involved in sexting.

These are kids who should know better, but don't.

But when you factor out current technology, these kids and these acts have always been with us.  Probably always will.

These things seem to be more wide-spread now, sometimes more perverse.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  Perhaps we are looking back into our past with rose-colored glasses.  Certainly we, looking through those glasses, as well as those we knew, would never do such things.  Perhaps we feel our society is becoming too lax.  Parents too permissive.  Perhaps we feel that our one true religion (whatever that might be) is under attack and being eroded -- that might explain it.  Music, the movies, television, the internet, the clothing, advertising and the sexualizing of our young...yeah, all of that's to blame.

Maybe.

Or maybe we're just to busy blaming things, rather than trying to solve the problem.  I'm not foolish enough to think we can eradicate the situation, but we can solve the problem, one kid at a time.  Maybe we can begin to take responsibility for teaching our kids responsibility.

Canada started an interesting program recently.  Don't Be That Guy.  The guy who doesn't respect girls?  Eww.  Don't be that guy!  The guy who bullies and calls others names?  Ugh.  Don't be that guy!  Selfish...really?  Don't be that guy!  What more needs to be said?  That guy is a jerk, a loser, so really, really, don't be that guy.  The thing about this program is that it has been picked up by the kids.  Peer pressure is a wonderful thing and the program appears to be working and working well.

I recently picked up a book, published in 2008, by Travis L. Stork and Leah Furman called Don't Be That Girl.  Stork, an emergency room physician and television personality, writes that the book came about after talking with a battered woman in the emergency room.  The book focuses on needy, desperate, insecure girls who need to become confident, rational, strong women.  It's interesting reading and I recommend it.

There are people we don't want to be and don't have to be.  No matter what age we are, let's consciously think about not being that guy, or that girl.  A positive peer pressure on ourselves won't hurt.  Who knows, perhaps we may even be able to convince those people in Washington not to be those guys?

Friday, May 10, 2013

JAY LAKE

Our thoughts and prayers go out to writer Jay Lake, who has announced that his cancer has been diagnosed as terminal.  "I will most likely die within nine to twenty-four months, from now, depending on Regorafenib's [a drug that may temporarily arrest tumor growth] effectiveness.  I will never again be out of treatment or free of cancer."  Lake has been fighting cancer since 2001.

Damn.

FORGOTTEN BOOK: CAGES

Cages by Ed Gorman (1995)

Cages, an early collection of short stories, is a sharp reminder of how damned good a writer Ed Gorman is.  The twenty-one stories here cover the gamut from mystery to western, from science fiction and fantasy to horror, and each displays the author's distinct and penetratingly sympathetic voice.  As Gorman mentions in one of his story notes, one reviewer called him "the patron saint of outcasts."  The comment is true to a degree, but Gorman is much more than that; he is a chronicler of the everyday man, the victim, the one with secret sorrows, the person who may contain more good than bad, or vice versa.  Gorman is an incisive scribe of the human condition.  And his stories are just plain entertaining.

The stories in Cages are from the early Nineties (the exceptions being excerpts from two novels published in 1988 and 1989) and give us 150,000 words of pure Gorman.  Only two of the stories had been previously collected, although several have now appeared in later collections.  Included are some of the author's best stories, "Mainwaring's Gift," "The Brasher Girl," "The Face," "The End of It All," and "Moonchasers."

If the world were fair, Gorman would be universally recognized for what he is:  one of the best writers in any field.  But, then, if the world were fair, he wouldn't have much to write about.

The stories:
  • "Moonchasers" (from Criminal Intent)
  • "Mainwaring's Gift" (from Christmas Out West)
  • "Seasons of the Heart" (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine)
  • "Long Lonesome Roads" (from Murder for Father)
  • "Deathman" (from The  Best Western Stories of Ed Gorman)
  • "The Brasher Girl"
  • "One of Those Days, One of Those Nights" (from Crime Yellow)
  • "The Morning of August 18th"
  • "Nightmare Child" (excerpt from Nightmare Child)
  • "The Babysitter" (excerpt from The Babysitter)
  • "Kinship"
  • "Dreams of Darkness" (from Dark Whispers)
  • "Surrogate" (from Hit Men)
  • "Cages" (from The Earth Strikes Back)
  • "The Beast in the Woods" (from Tony Hillerman's West)
  • "Friends" (from New Crimes 2)
  • "Pards" (from The Best Western Stories of Ed Gorman)
  • "Yesterday's Dreams" (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • "The Face" (from Confederacy of the Dead)
  • "The End of It All"

You can't go wrong.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

NOS4R2

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (2013)

In Joe Hill's third novel, young Victoria McQueen is good at finding things, but the kicker is how she finds them. She finds them by riding her bicycle fast through a dilapidated covered bridge and coming out wherever the lost item is to be found, whether is it a few miles or thousands of miles away.  The bridge itself exists only for Vic -- in the mundane world the bridge has been razed a long time ago.

Vic is one of a handful of people who can create their own reality, or "inscape," within the mind and project it onto  the world.  Each one of these special persons appear to have his or her own distinct talent.  One uses Scrabble tiles to give her messages.  Another uses a wheelchair to make her disappear.  And another, Charles Talent Manx, uses a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the license plates NOS4A2 to kidnap children and take them to another reality, a construct called Christmasland, where he psychically sucks the humanity out of them to give himself youth.  All of these people -- good, evil, or indifferent -- pay a heavy cost for their talent.  In Vic's case, it's illness leading to a withdrawal from the world and insanity when she cannot integrate her two realities.

When Vic's father abandoned his family when she was starting high school, she began to rebel, developing a hard-nosed persona and using alcohol and ecstasy to dull the terrible nightmares that her talent has brought on.  Following an argument with her mother, 17-year-old Vic hides in the cellar and discovers her long-lost bicycle, the one that took her over the covered bridge.  Trying to get away from everything, Vic hops on the bicycle and takes off.  Soon the bridge appears before her and she enters it, coming out at Sleigh House, a stopping off point used by Manx while on his way to Christmasland.

Vic is hunted by Manx and one of the kidnapped children -- a boy, cold, more dead than alive, with rows of sharp jagged teeth, and a desire for blood.  She manages to escape through the woods to a nearby road, where she is rescued by Lou, a fat, awkward man on a motorcycle.  Lou takes the wounded girl to a nearby country store.  While they are calling for help, Manx drives up to a gas pump in the Wraith.  Several customers go out to confront Manx, who sprays one with a gasoline nozzle and sets him on fire.  Manx is subdued.

Although suspected of multiple child kidnappings, the authorities cannot prove Manx's involvement.  He is convicted of the burning murder of the man at the country store and sent to prison.  Manx looks ninety and claims to be some decades older than that.  He slips into a coma for a decade, then dies.  His body is autopsied, his heart taken out and weighed.  His body goes missing from the morgue, presumably stolen. 

Evil does not die easily in this book.  Manx is back.  And so is NOS4R2, his Rolls-Royce Wraith.
And Manx is mightily pissed at Vic, the one child who had gotten away.  But Vic is no longer a child.  Her time in mental institutions have made her tougher.  And Vic now has a son, Wayne, whom  she loves and will do anything and will go anywhere to protect -- even to the horrors of Christmasland

NOS4R2 is a fully-realized, self-assured book, zipping from horror to humor to wonder to pathos.  It's one of those novels that you want to rush to the end, while at the same time you don't want it to stop.  Another solid win for Hill.

Recommended. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

BAD JOKE WEDNESDAY

April showers bring May flowers, so what do May flowers bring?  Pilgrims.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

OVERLOOK MOVIE: THE PLAINSMAN (1936)

Happy 112th birthday, Gary Cooper!

I am scheduled to have a tooth extracted today, so I have to put on my stoic Gary Cooper face.  In preparation, let's catch one of his films.  This one, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, features Coop as Wild Bill Hickok, with Jean Arthur as Calamity Jane and James Ellison as Buffalo Bill.  (Anthony Quinn, in his second credited film role, played Cheyenne Indian.)

http://archive.org/details/ThePlainsman

Enjoy.

UPDATE:  I still have my tooth.  The dentist called in sick so my appointment has been pushed back two weeks.  Naytheless, I have remained stoic all day.

Monday, May 6, 2013

INCOMING

  • Terry Brooks, Running with the Demon.  Fantasy.
  • Tom Coffey, The Serpent Club.  Thriller.
  • Jeffrey Deaver, Roadside Crosses.  A Kathryn Dance thriller.
  • Kathryn Fox, Skin and Bones.  Thriller.
  • Heather Graham, Kiss of Darkness.  Paranormal thriller.
  • Marvin Kaye, editor, The Dragon Quintet.  Fantasy anthology with five stories about you-know-what.
  • Richard A. Knaak, Tides of Blood.  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in.  Volume Two of The Minotaur Wars.
  • "T. J. MacGregor," Black Water.  Thriller.
  • Perri O'Shaughnessy, Dreams of the Dead.  A Nina Reilly legal thriller.
  • John Patric, Yankee Hobo in the Orient.  Non-fiction.  A signed and inscribed copy of a self-published book originally printed by Doubleday in 1945 as Why Japan Was Strong.  No date on this copy but the inscription is dated 1956.  (The Doubleday edition went through five printings (total 9500 copies; the self-published edition went through four printings (47,500 copies) -- thus braggeth the author.) 
  • R. A. Salvatore, Road of the Patriarch.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in.  Book III of The Sellswords.
  • Wendi Corsi Staub,  All the Way Home, Don't Scream, Hell to Pay, Nightwatcher, and Scared to Death.  Thrillers.
  • Vicki Stiefel, The Grief Shop.  Thriller.
  • Lisa Unger, Black Out.  Thriller.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

EAGLE #1 (April 14, 1950)

The EAGLE was a popular British comic book featuring, among others, Dan Dare, pilot of the future.  As you can tell from the half a zillion "to be continued"s in this issue, Brits are a patient people.

http://archive.org/stream/DaneDaresEagleMagazineFirst10IssuesPublishedIn1950/Eagle_v1_001#page/n0/mode/2up

Friday, May 3, 2013

FORGOTTEN BOOK: TARZAN, JR.

Tarzan, Jr. by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1937)

Colleen Moore (born Kathleen Morrison, 1898-1988 -- although she claimed to be born in 1902) was a silent film star who first auditioned for D. W. Griffith when she was fifteen.  Although she may have had walk-on roles in several films before she went to Hollywood, her first known role was an uncredited one as a maid in 1916's Prince of Graustark.  From there she worked her way up in the industry, from bit roles, to westerns, then to light comedy and more substantial films.  As she gained experience, she grew in popularity, becoming a major star as well as a fashion icon.

She left film with the advent of sound motion pictures.  She was shrewd with money and invested well.  Her later careers included being a successful real estate broker, a partner in Merrill Lynch, and a partner (with King Vidor) in a television production company.

In 1928 her father made a large doll house for her.  The house, a "fairy c.astle" was nine feet square and towered to twelve feet.  The interior was designed by Harold Grieve, a set designer and noted interior designer.  The doll house toured the country and is now on exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, where some million and a half people view it yearly.

The detail in the house is amazing and its contents...its contents are rarely and expensive. Moore
continued to add to the house for the rest of her life.  The library, for example, contains around a hundred books -- real books, many by prominent authors.  One such author was Edgar Rice Burroughs.

You thought I'd never get around to ERB, didn't you?

In 1937, Moore asked Burroughs if he would contribute a book to her fairy castle.  He came up with an original, pretty silly, and simplistic story.  His son, illustrator John Coleman Burroughs, came up with (again) original, pretty silly, and simplistic drawings to complement his father's work.  The book itself was one inch square, hand-written.  It is a one-of-a-kind book.  The only copy resides in the Fairy Castle in Chicago. 

Known mainly to Burroughs completists, Tarzan, Jr. is a truly forgotten book, if not a dang-I never-knew-it-existed book.  On the positive side, book displays the author's whimsy.  On the negative side...well, there really can't be a negative side to such a trifle (unless you count the author's hasty poor spelling).

First, a little more information on Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle, Check out this link, which includes a fascinating slide show of the various rooms in the castle:

http://www.msichicago.org/whats-here/exhibits/fairycastle/

Then, it will probably take you under a minute to read Tarzan, Jr.  The link eliminates all that time-consuming page turning replacing it with a slightly less time-consuming downward scroll:

http://www.erbzine.com/mag0/0042.html

***********

For links to today's Forgotten (and more substantial) Books, visit pattinase, the wonderful blog of the wonderful Patti Abbott.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

THE EXECUTION OF FRANCIS WARNE AT CHELMSFORD

From an old broadsheet about the public execution of Francis Warne on December 28, 1864, for the murder of Amelia Blunt.  Blunt had the good judgment to leave Warne for another man, but the bad judgment to stay where he could later find her.

Broadsheets were hastily drafted and printed souvenir flyers sold at executions, detailing the gory crime or crimes committed by the soon-to-be hung.  Although prepared before the execution, they usually referred to the execution as a done deal.  Often they had a wood-cut drawing of the hanged body; sometimes -- as here -- they had a moral (and poorly-written) poem so the spectators can feel superior to the poor wretch at the end of the rope...And a good time was had by all, save one.


Come all good people far and near, and listen unto me,
While unto you I will unfold his dreadful tragedy:
Committed was by Francis Warne, or by "Teddy" better known,
He murdered poor Amelia Blunt at Chadwell Heath, near Romford town.

Together they had lived some time, and passed as man and wife
And poor Amelia, sad to say, with him lived a wretched life.
So dreadful he did abuse her that she always was in fear;
Amelia was a widow left with two children dear.

She left him and to service went, there comfort she had seen,
Unto the son in a few days more she would have married been
For the banns had been published at Dagenham church, garments bought for the bridal day,
Alas she was a washing, the villain came and took her life away.

To many he had boasted, her he did intend to kill,
He even to some neighbors said, "That woman's blood I'll spill."
Like a savage he approached her, she could not the murderer see,
For with a knife he came behind her, and did this tragedy.

Then at the Chelmsford assizes before the bar did stand,
And of murder was found guilty, by the laws of God and man,
The judge in passing sentence, these words to him did say,
For the murder of Amelia Blunt, you must at the gallows die.

My doom is fixed, oh, very quick draws high the fatal day,
When from every part of Essex, large numbers they will stray,
Unto the town of Chelmsford, there a dreadful sight to see,
The man for the murder on Chadwell Heath, die on the gallows tree.

The prison bell very often awakes me from my sleep,
And so think upon the gallows, I bitterly do weep;
And the prison clock that strikes so loud, the wheels round fast do fly,
And the fingers, as they onward move, points to eternity.

Come all you worthy Christians that come to see me die,
Pray do not laugh at my downfall, nor mock my destiny,
For little did my parents think when they [undecipherable]ed on their knee,
That they should rear a son to die on the gallows tree.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

BAD JOKE WEDNESDAY

This one has to be for Bill Crider:

There once was a Texas millionaire who collected alligators.  He kept them in his pool in the back yard.  He also had a beautiful unmarried daughter.  One day he threw a huge party.  With all the guests assembled in the back yard he said, "The first man brave enough to jump into this pool filled with alligators and swim all the way across it can have his choice between a million dollars or my daughter's hand in marriage."

Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, there was a large splash! and one young man was swimming like crazy to the other end of the pool, where he emerged unscathed.

The millionaire hugged the young man, saying, "There's still one brave person left in this world!  Tell me, my boy, would you like a million dollars, or would you like my daughter's hand in marriage?"

The young man replied, "I don't want any of your money, mister.  And -- no offense -- I'd rather not marry your daughter."

The millionaire was taken aback.  "Well, what would you like?"  he asked.

"What I want," he said, "is the sonovabitch who pushed me!"