Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, April 23, 2017


It's today.  Read a book.  Read a book with a child.  Talk about your kids' favorite books with them.  It's more important than you may realize.


Ella Fitzgerald and the Treorchy Male Choir, from The Tom Jones Show, 1970.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


Since today is Earth Day, here's Pete Seeger's full album God Bless the Grass.

Enjoy.  And be an active steward.


From 1955, The Five Keys.  Yes, there are six of them.  Go figure.


The lead story in this newspaper insert featured Will Eisner's The Spirit, an artist and character always worth your time.

But that's not all, folks!

There's also an adventure of Ford Davis' lovely crimefighter Lady Luck, aka society deb Brenda Banks!

But that's still not all, folks!

Rounding out the issue is S. R. Powell's Mr. Mystic (and Chowderhead)!


Friday, April 21, 2017


The Siegel-Schwall Blues Band.


Exiles of Time by Nelson Bond (1948)

Nelson S. Bond (1908-2006) had a pulp career that ranged from the late 1930s to the mid 1950s, writing a number of distinctive stories while remaining lesser known than many of his contemporaries.  Bond's output was spread out, publishing sports stories as well as science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales.  Much of his most popular work was published in Blue Book and escaped the notice of many Sf fans.  Nonetheless, Bond was named a Science Fiction Writers of America Author Emeritus in 1988 and had two posthumous retrospective collections released by Arkham House.

Bond's best-known stories are about Lancelot Biggs, about a spaceman who always manages to come out ahead.  He also wrote the classic tale "Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies," which became a radio series and later a television show.  Among Bond's other series characters were Meg the Priestess, who appeared in three post-holocaust stories in 1939-40), Pat Pending (about a loopy inventor), Squaredeal Sam McGhee (who appeared in a number of tall tales), Horse-Sense Hank (another character who always ends out on top, despite the odds),

Bond wrote three novels in his loosely related Squared Circle trilogy*, where each novel covers one of the three ages before ours -- a concept from Mayan lore.  The first of these was Exiles of Time, which appeared in the May 1940 issue of Blue Book and appeared in book form from Prime Press in 1948.

Exiles of Time is pure pulp adventure.  It begins with an archaeology dig near Petra (in what is now Southern Jordan, but is described as Arabia in the book).  Archaeologist Lance Vidor discovers a site that appears date from at least eight centuries before Christ, fully five centuries older than previous finds from the Nabatean civilization.  More startling was Lance's discovery of a blood red brooch found in an alabaster jar:  the brooch was set in aluminum, millennia before it was produced by modern man.  According to the native legend, the brooch is the Nur-ed-Dam, the Light of Blood, a forbidden item that must return to the inviolable crypt from which it came.  Lance and the other members of the expedition poo-poo the natives' fears. consequently, their workers attack them, killing every member of the expedition except Lance, who has found temporary shelter in the crypt.  Just before his enemies are to break into the crypt, Lance has a falling sensation and blacks out.

He wakes up thousands of years in the past with others who have had the same experience at the exactly the same time.  It turns out that each was holding a blood red gem when they were transported to the past.  They are in a city called Spel on the ancient island of Merou and Merou is actually Mu, the legendary advanced civilization said to have sunk into the ocean in prehistory.  They were brought there by Cal-thor, a scientists who had placed the blood-red stones in different areas around the world.  The gems themselves had the ability to transfer whoever was holding one into the past at a specific time designated by Cal-thor

The eight million or so of Merou are the descendants of a race of Ancient Ones, long-vanished people who had scientific knowledge that has been lost to time.  Cal-thor has discovered that a giant comet will strike the Earth soon, wiping out most of the population.  Since his people do not have the scientific knowledge to avoid this doom, he determine to use the stones to bring back people from the future who would surely have the advanced knowledge to prevent the comet from crashing into Earth.  This finely-honed plan had a fatal flaw:  Civilizations rise and fall, with heights and dips, and the late 1930s era civilization that Cal-thor picked at random was not as advanced as Merou.

The world seemed doomed.  But was it?  Meerou's science, based on what was remembered from the Ancient Ones, was not complete.  There were some things that 20th century science knew that the Merouians did not know.  One of those things was that energy has mass.  Using that knowledge and the Merouian science, Lance and some of the other time travelers are able to devise repellent guns that might shift the comet's orbit.  For the best chance of success, the guns needed to be placed at a specific location -- the land bridge that connected the future England to the future Europe:  the Bifrost Bridge in a land controlled by the Norse (whom Bond calls "Vikings").  Yep.  Unless stopped, the comet will bring about Ragnarok.

To complicate matters, among the accidental time travelers are three murderous gangsters who have plans of their own.  There are adventures, marvels, battles, romance, and a surprise revelation as this super-science story barrels its way along in pure pulp fashion.  A great read for those willing to cast aside critical judgment.

*For those interested, the other two novels in the Squared Circle trilogy are "Gods of the Jungle" (from Amazing Stories, June and July 1942, and reprinted in Bond's 2005 posthumous collection Other Worlds Than Ours,, and 'That Worlds May Live" (from Amazing Stories, April 1943 and printed in form by Wildside Press in 2002.  All three issues of Amazing Stories are available online at Internet Archive.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Here's Mick and the crew.


Yes, the ever optimistic Jiminy Cricket appeared on the radio in this 1947 radio show, explaining what the world might be like in 1960, according to leading economists.  He's aided by Donald Duck and the Seven Dwarfs.  It has to be heard to be believed.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017




A woman carrying her baby boarded a bus and the bus driver exclaimed, "Good Heavens!  That's one ugly baby!"

The woman was highly miffed.  Finding an empty seat, she told the man sitting next to her, "That bus driver is the rudest man I've ever met."

The man said, "I think you should go back and tell him off.  You go ahead and I'll hold your monkey."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


The Earth has orbited the sun once again and it's time to honor Amy, one of the three greatest granddaughters in the world.  That's a bit misleading because every day is a time to honor and appreciate Amy, who brings so much joy to the world.

Let's honor her smile, her devastating wit, her super smarts, her talent, her spot-on opinions, her enthusiasm, and her dedication.  And let's honor the fact that she makes every day better.

Ocean Amy is part fish and loves the water.  It looks as if she will change her major from marine biology to marine chemistry.   I know very little about either but, knowing Amy, she'll be able to make a bigger impact on the world with her choice.

Happy birthday, Amy.  We love you more than you could possibly imagine.


George Harrison.


Linnea Quigley, the shy girl from Davenport, Iowa, who went from working at Jack LaLanne's Health Spa, to a career in film, is one of the best-known "Scream Queens" from the 1980s.  Not content with stopping at the 80s, she has continued to the present day with over 140 film credits.

A cult favorite, Quigley has appeared in Silent Night, Deadly Night, Return of the Living Dead, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4:  The Dream Warriors, Night of the Demons (both the 1998 film and the 2009 remake), and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, along with other memorable or totally forgettable films.

Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout may be the strangest film she has done.  Quigley stars as herself in this combination exercise video, clip show, and horror flick.  Fans who cannot get enough of Quigley will cheer. (Others may get too much of the actress, if you know what I mean.)

Be warned:  This is a fairly sexist film.  There's a lot of girls in skimpy costumes and a few scenes with Ms. Quigley in less than that.  The cleverness of turning B-movie horror film cliches into exercises may make up for that.  (Or not.)

Decide for yourself:

Monday, April 17, 2017


A dear friend of ours does closed captioning throughout the country, but since she lives in the D.C. area, many of her jobs are there.  This past Saturday she captioned the Kennedy Center's Tribute to Pete Seeger,   Performers young and old honored the legacy of the folksinger, social activist, and environmentalist.  Beverly had not really known much about Seeger and his music and came out with a deep appreciation for the man, his character, and his music.  She was amazed how much some of the old songs from the Sixties have taken on a new meaning in today's world.  So...

Thought I'd post this Pete Seeger song.


  • Kevin J. Anderson, Unnatural Acts.  Humorous fantasy, the second book in the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series.  "In the Unnatural Quarter, golems slave away in sweatshops, necromancers sell black-market trinkets to tourists, and the dead rise up -- to work the night shift.  But zombie detective Dam shamble is no ordinary working stiff.  when a local senator and his goons picket a ghostly production of Shakespeare in the Dark -- condemning the troupe's 'unnatural' lifestyles -- Dan smells something rotten.  And if something smells rotten to a zombie, you're in serious trouble..."  I've heard some good things about this series and I;m saving this book for some time when I'm really in the mood for a laugh.
  • Joe R. Lansdale, Hap and Leonard.  Redneck noir collection of  seven stories and two essays about everybody's favorite East Texas tough guys.  Included are the novellas Hyenas, separately published with the short story "The Boy Who Became Invisible" (also included here) by Subterranean Press in 2011, and Dead Aim, also separately published by Subterranean press in 2013.  Two stories and one essay are from the chapbook Veil's Visit:  A taste fo Hap and Leonard by Lansdale and Andrew Vachss (1999), omitting only Vachss' introduction and a further essay by Lansdale.  Of the remaining two stories, one is original to this volume and one is from the George R R. Martin and Gardner Dozois anthology Rogues; the remaing essay is also original to this book.  This book is a tie-in to the Sundance television series Hap and Leonard.  An e-book version, dropping the novellas and two stories while adding two stories and a comic book script of one of the stories dropped, is available as Hap and Leonard Ride Again.  Lansdale is one of the best writers we have in any genre, hands down -- a true American original. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017


John Carnochan, former Detective Chief Superintendent and Head of the Scotland Yard Violence Reduction Unit on an old idea that still works.


For those who celebrate, a very happy and blessed Easter; for those who don't, have a wonderful day.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Hound Dog Talor & The Houserockers, with Little Walter on harmonica, circe 1967.


As some you may know, I am a little bit smitten with a lady named Kitty, and have been for 51 years.  Kitty's maiden name was Keane (pronounced "Kane," not "Keene," as some may think; of course if your are in the branch of the family that went to Australia instead of America, it's pronounced "Kine," because they talk funny).  During high school, there was always some wit who would call her "Kitty Keene, the Teen-Age Queen" as a not-too-bright play on the comic book character Katy Keene (who was originally billed as "America's Pin-Up Queen").  All of which explains my fondness for Katy Keene.  Katy Keene's looks have been described as a comic book version of Betty Page, without the adult trappings and experiences that the real Betty carried with her.  (For the record, my Kitty has always been, and always will be, way cuter than Betty Page.)

Katy Keene was the creation of Bill Woggin to fill a hole in Archie Comics' Wilbur Comics, starting with issue number 5 (Summer 1945).  Katy is (at least, at first) a model/actress/singer with an impish redheaded kid sister (known as "Sis, the Candy Kid") and a slew of boyfriends, most notably the muscle-bound K. O. Kelly and his rich rival Randy van Ronson.  Katy is about 21 years old and Sis is about 7; their parents did not seem to be around

Anyway, Katy bounced around various titles in the Archie Comics line until she got her own magazine in 1949.  The second issue (linked below) gave only a 1950 date.  The comic book lasted for a dozen years, with additional various specials.  Archie comics revived the character from 1983 to the early 90s, then, again, beginning in 2005.  Each revival tweaked the original premise a little.  From 1979 to 1983, there were 18 privately published issues of Katy Keene Fan Magazine, as well as several Katycons

One great appeal to the original comic book was a call to readers to submit dress designs for Katy to wear.  These designs. with credit to the submittors. made their way into the comic book stories.  In this particular issue over 70 (!) reader-submitted designs were used.  Many issues also featured Katy paper dolls and costumes.

Comic Buyer's Guide rate Katy #57 in the it's "100 Sexiest Women in Comic Books" listing.

The stories are typical Archie comic book humorous fare.  In this issue, Katy buys a hat, goes to a masquerade ball, and watches Sis open a lemonade stand -- all while looking fabulous, darhling...


Friday, April 14, 2017


Carolina Cotton, "The Yodeling Blonde Bombshell."


Death of a Glutton by M. C. Beaton (1993)

This week, many of the Forgotten Books crew are concentrating on small-town cops.  The small town I have chosen is the village of Lochdubh in the West Highlands of Scotland, a " weird twisted countryside of mountain, loch, and moorland where the old gods rode the wind" and where "summer usually only lasts six weeks at the best of times in the far north."  The small-town cop, of course is P. C. Hamish MacBeth, a tall, lean, friendly, red-headed young man with a canny mind and a lazy manner.

"M. C. Beaton" is one of seven names that Scottish author Marion Chesney has used to publish well over a hundred thirty novels, many of them romances.  in the mystery field her series about Hamish Macbeth (thirty-four novels and counting) and Agatha Raisin (twenty-seven novels and counting).  Hamish MacBeth spawned a BBC Scotland television series (1995-1997), in which the producers used the character's name and the Lochdubh name and little else, but was nonetheless very popular.  Agatha Raisin also got the television treatment with a pilot in late 2014, followed by a series in 2016.  Chesney's romance writing has been dropped due the pressures of keeping up with the demand for Hamish MacBeth and Agatha Raisin.

Death of a Glutton is the eighth book in the MacBeth series.  By now the regular characters have been pretty well defined.  Hamish has been assisted in solving murders by the beautiful Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, the woman he had been in love with "had she only known it."  Hamish is determined not to be burned again by Priscilla's charms, no matter how innocently he had been burned.  Priscilla is the daughter of Colonel Halburton-Smythe, who had turned their large home into a hotel when he had lost his money.  The hotel is thriving and Halburton-Smythe had recovered the money lost and then some, but he still kept the hotel open, basking in its glory while letting Priscilla and Mr. Johnson, the former manager of a Lochdubh hotel that had gone bankrupt, do all the scut work.  The bane of Hamish's existence is his immediate superior Detective Chief Inspector Blair, who is happily far away in Spain on vacation as the book begins.

Maria Worth runs a successful (and exclusive) marriage agency -- the Checkmate Singles Club.  Maria has decided to pair eight of her clients and has booked a week for them at Haliburton-Smythe's hotel.  The four men and four women do not seem to agree with Maria's judgement, however, forming different pairs than Maria had intended.  At least they seemed matched.  The fly in the ointment is Maria's partner Peta Gore, who was once a rather nice and attractive person, but has since devolved into an obese, bitter, self-deluded woman determined to us Checkmates to find herself a husband.  Peta is a disgusting and selfish glutton.  Watching her eat is simply disgusting.  Maria had thought she was able to bring her clients to Lochdubh without Peta's knowledge, but Peta appeared at the hotel anyway, accompanied by her young, very beautiful (and very shallow) niece, Crystal.  [SPOILER ALERT:  Peta's the one who's going to be murdered already knew that because of the book's title.

Anyway, before long. every one of the eight clients, as well as Maria, have a reason to kill Peta.  So, too, does Crystal, and so, too, does the hotel's chef, who maliciously cooked up a three day dead wild cat* and fed it to Peta.  As for Peta, she was found in an old quarry, suffocated, with an apple jammed into her mouth.

Death of a Glutton is an enjoyable, witty cozy.  The local characters are well drawn, as is this bus driver, commandeered into driving the eight clients on a tour:  "Like most of the natives, he knew very little of the history of Sutherland, but being a true Highlander, he planned to make it up as he went along."  (And like a true Highlander, his talent for fabrication was extreme.)  "Beaton"/Chesney's Highlands rings true and Hamish's attempts to not have romantic feelings about Priscilla are as entertaining as they are in vain.  All in all, a pleasant wat to spend a few hours.

For more small-town cops and other Forgotten books, visit our fearless leader Patti Abbott at pattinase, where she will have compiled all the links for today's FFBs.  (Of course, when you're talking about small town cops, the first name that comes to mind is that of Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes, a series that is unhesitatingly recommended.  I'll be interested to see how many of the FFB crew reviews a Dan Rhodes book today.)

* I read this book on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, I see that Taiwan became the first Asian Country for ban eating cat or dog.  Good for you, Taiwan.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


The Animals.


"Up in the sky!  Look!  It's a bird! It's a plane!  It's Superman!  Yes -- it's Superman, strange visitor from the planet Krypton, who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.  Superman, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, race a speeding bullet to its target, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice."

The wording changed slightly over the years, but the import of the message remains clear -- kids glued to their radios (and later, television) were in for another exciting adventure of the man who wore his underwear on the outside.  And from 1940 through 1951, there were 2088 radio episodes to enjoy,

Bud "Beat the Clock" Collyer starred as the titular costumed hero of Superman, which began humbly as a three-times-a-week, 15-minute, syndicated program from New York City's WOR radio station.  The show would soon change its name to The Adventures of Superman, and would appear on the Mutual Network for seven years before moving to ABC.  Originally, the radio show varied from the comic book, which had debuted only two years earlier.  Krypton was a planet directly opposite Earth's orbit around the Sun, the infant Superman grew to adulthood while journeying to Earth, and emerged from his rocket full grown -- therefore he was never adopted by the Kents, but started his career right off the bat.  The radio show soon shifted to the comic book version of the saga, although the radio show introduced Kryptonite, as wel as characters Perry White and Jimmy Olsen -- features that the comic book adopted.

The link below takes you to the first two episodes of Superman:  "The Baby from Krypton" and "Clark Kent, Reporter," which first aired on February 12 and 14, 1940.

Also included at the link are the first two episodes of the short-lived (May-September 1940) The Blue Beetle radio show, starring Frank Lovejoy.

The original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett ( who was also the Blue Beetle in the radio show), originated in Mystery Men Comics #1 (August 1939) and was drawn by Charles Nicholas from a script that was perhaps written by Will Eisner.  Garrett was a rookie cop who wore a special bulletproof costume and who took "vitamin 2X" to give him super energy.  The Blue Beetle waged war against the forces of crime, assisted by Dr. Franz, a local pharmacist and inventor.  The Blue Beetle had far more success in the comics than on the radio, the radio show lasting only 48 13-minute episodes.  (BB also had a brief comic strip of his own, drawn anonymously by Jack Kirby.)

Enjoy this trip to the past and to childhood heroes of yore.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


The Guess Who.


A dog swallowed a hundred dollar bill, so the family took him to the vet, who suggested that he keep him overnight.  The next morning they called the vet and asked how the dog was doing.  The vet said, "No change."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


From 1967, folksinger Len Chandler.


When it comes to "Jiggle Television," two shows stand out in my mind...Charlie's Angels and Baywatch.  It's hard to go wrong with a television show that emphasized good looking women, especially when most television executives were male.  Of the two, I think Baywatch may have made more money because of its great popularity overseas.  David Hasselhoff was a huge hit in Japan and other countries.  What happens when you have a very popular show based on a simple formula?  If you are a television executive, you make a spin-off that belies everything that made the original show successful.  Thus, we have Baywatch Nights, a two-season, non-jiggle, private eye (vs. crime in the first season, and vs. monsters in the second) misstep.

Hasselhoff stars, again as Mitch Buchanan, the lieutenant in charge of LA County's lifeguards.  But, and this is a big BUT, he now moonlights as a private detective.  Buchanan is joined by Sergeant Garner Ellerbee (Gregory Alan Williams, who played the same role in Baywatch) and Detective Ryan McBride (Angie Harmon).  Ellerbee lasted the first season, while McBride soldiered on for the entire 44 episodes.  Also on board were Lou Rawls, playing Lou Raymond, the owner of the nightclub where Buchanan rented his office -- another character who didn't make it to the second season.  Also in the cast were Edidie Cibrian as Griff Walker and Donna D'Errico as Donna Marco.  D'errico had enough jiggle to slide her character over to Baywatch after Baywatch Nights was cancelled.

So how bad was Baywatch Nights?  Pretty bad.  A ludicrous surmise and lack of jiggle doomed it from the start.  The effort to save the show by trying to copy the successful X-Files formula did not go over.  (Full disclosure:  I really liked the cheesiness of the second season, far more than I liked the first season or its primogenitor, Baywatch.)

Here's the first episode of the revamped second season, "Terror of the Deep," first airing on September 29, 1996.  "Mitch and Griff investigate a sunken freighter where they fight for their lives against an unknown force and realize that the freighter might have been sunk by a New Guinea sea monster according to a woman they found floating in the ocean near sunken wreckage of her sailboat."

Enjoy.  I think.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Doc Watson, one of my favs.


  • John Appleyard, Pensacola:  A City Under 6 Flags.  Historical novel, covering the Pensacola from  1764 to 1920, through the eyes of the Hunter family.  About this 2003 book:  "This book is truly a community project.  After reviewing the text content, the Escambia County* School System requested 3,000 copies for instructional use.  Next, an arrangement was made for the net sales proceeds to go to the ongoing support of the Miracle Camp**, a recently inaugurated service for seriously ill children..Work to ready the book for publication was done by the professional staff of the John Appleyard Agency, whose founder was the author.  Three organizations or individuals provided funding for the project, thus making possible the free distribution to the schools, and the income opportunity for the camp.  Funding Sponsors:  Erik Nickelsen, founder of Miracle Camp; Wachovia National Bank, whose officials strongly support community programs; Dick Appleyard and the John Appleyard Agency, Inc."  At nearly 400 pages of heavy stock and loaded with historical photographs and prints, this vanity project appears to be fairly accurate historically.  Not sure on the merits of the book itself, though.
  • Barbara D'Amato, Jeanne M. Dams, & Mark Zubro, Foolproof.  2009 Thriller.  Personally affected by the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, Brenda Grant and Daniel Henderson "establish a clandestine division that scours international Internet traffic for hints of terrorism.  Days before the upcoming presidential election, the Cairo office transmits a coded warning.  A short time later, one of Brenda's old friends makes an appointment to see her but is killed before she can keep it.  As Brenda and Daniel investigate these events. they uncover a sophisticated plot to hijack the election.  The plan employs cutting-edge electronic balloting software, involves the highest strata of the U.S. government, and threatens democracy worldwide."  People trying to hijack American elections?  Whoda thunk it?
  • Robert Ferrigno, Scavenger Hunt.  Crime novel.  Reporter Jimmy Gage meets Garrett Walsh, "a bad-boy moviemaker in the truest sense.  He's just been released from prison after serving seven years for the murder of a teenaged girl.  But Walsh claims he was framed and is writing a screenplay to prove it.  He wants Jimmy to help him peddle it, sight unseen.  The net time Jimmy sees the director, he's floating facedown in a koi pond and 'The Most Dangerous Screenplay in  Hollywood' has disappeared..."
  • "J. R. Roberts" (Robert J. Randisi), The Gunsmith #90:  Six-Gun Sideshow.  Adult western.  "A fine-looking young lady is brutally butchered before Clint Adams' eyes.  Then some back-shootin' varmints start taking potshots at Buffalo Bill Cody, the West's proudest hero.  The Gunsmith takes this insult right personal and figure on takin' their hides to a wall with some .45 caliber slugs."  Randisi churned out this series with one (or more) books a month to an astounding 400 books while keeping the quality of the series high.  That doesn't even count the hundred or so other books he has written of the thirty-some books he has anthologized.  That man just seems to not know the meaning of "slow down," and we readers are the better for it.

*Escambia County includes Pensacola
** The Miracle Camp is still active and doing good works.

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Online personality, humorist, and performance artist Ze Frank explains nercore comedy and what it can do.


The Roberta Martin singers.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Joan Baez has just announced that she is coming out of retirement because she needs to speak against the policies of the current administration.  Since Donald Trump has put much effort in talking about (or against) immigration, I'd thought I link to a classic Woody Guthrie song.


Red haired Betsy Crane first appeared in Charlton Comic's Teen Secret Diary #11.  The next issue was renamed Nurse Betsy Crane and Betsy became a brunette who would carry the comic book for 16 issues.  Ostensibly, Nurse Betsy Crane was a romance comic book, but Betsy would solve a few mysteries or meet some challenging cases along the way.  Betsy appears to be a super-nurse, well liked by doctors, nurses, and patients.  In this issue, Betsy serves as a duty nurse, an emergency room nurse, and a surgical nurse and the staff neurologist is also a brain surgeon, making me wonder what kind of hospital this is.

The lead story in this issue, "Wall of Fear," focuses on Betsy's relationship with Rusty Corwin, an up and coming boxer who needs brain surgery:

"It is difficult for a man to change his life overnight, especially when the change is forced upon him without choice!  Sometimes the people who are near and dear to him innocently tend only to irritate an already irritating situation!  At times, it takes a stranger with the ability and understanding of a miracle worker to forge a path through this intense wall of fear!  Such a person is Nurse Betsy Crane!"

All well and good, but the story doesn't really deliver on its introduction.  Rusty Corwin enters the ring for a match that will send the victor to challenge the champion.  Both boxers swap light taps, feeling each other out, and suddenly Rusty collapses and cannot be revived.  Taken to the hospital, Rusty cannot be revived that night, although in the morning he is bright, alert, feeling fine, and wanting to go home.  Soon, we find out that Rusty has a "slight pressure on a nerve leading leading directly from the medulla and the rear center of the brain."  A simple fix, as brain surgery goes.  Rusty does not like the idea of an operation that would end his boxing career.  Betsy tells Rusty, "If you walk out, you have less chance of living than if you stay."  Rusty replies, "Okay...I'll Stay."  The operation is a success.  The end.  No muss, no fuss, no drama.  And we close the book on another not very thrilling adventure of Super Nurse!

The back-up story is even worse.  College student Lita Miller is a bubble-headed girl who seems only to exist to please her boyfriend Mell.   Mell offers to take her to a school football game.  The opposing team whose star player is Ted Cole.  Lita, of course, don't know nuttin' 'bout birthin' no babies doesn't know the first thing about football but...anything to please Mell.  At the game Lita sees Ted Cole in action as a far-off figure running and moving with extreme grace.  Although Mell is "the sun and moon and stars" to Lita, she falls instantly in love with Ted and spends days dreaming about him.  When she finally meets Ted and discovers that he is not handsome, the bubble pops and she's ready to spend her life in subservience to Mell.  Ptah!

I guess I just don't understand the teen romance comics.

This one is a fast read.  See if you fell as I do.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Bobby Rydell.


Split Image by Robert B. Parker (2010)

Not really a "Forgotten Book," but perhaps an overlooked one.

And therein lies the rub.

When Robert B. Parker burst onto the publishing scene, he became -- if not instantly, then very soon thereafter -- a admired writer to watch.  His character Spenser was a breathe of fresh air on the P.I. landscape.  His novels were exceedingly readable and gritty, if not too realistic.

That Parker was a passable and sometime irritating writer slowly dawned on many readers.  His books began to appear padded...lots of white space, large type, big margins, short sentences mostly consisting of clipped dialog, scenes that added nothing to the plot but extended the page count well beyond that of a novella.  A Parker novel of 300 pages could be read in less than three hours.  Many readers, enthusiastic at first, gave up on the author.  Luckily there were new readers to come on board, some inspired by the Spenser for Hire television series (1985-1988) and some by the good reputation of his earlier books.

I think his basic problem was that he was too maudlin in his writings.  His books (and many of his characters) espouse a romantic ideal.  Usually this can be a good thing; the classic P.I. in literature is a romantic character, facing seemingly unbeatable odds, titling at windmills, embodying the virues of honor and chivalry.  Parker, however, took this ideal to an extreme.  You have a feeling that his main characters are looking down at you from their exalted height.  Love (as opposed to sex) is something that is approached with the attitude of an overly sensitive teenager.  Women (well, Susan Silverman and some others) are viewed as ultra-perfect Madonnas -- which is one reason why Susan Silverman is one of the most annoying characters in mystery fiction.  Regular secondary characters -- no matter how bad -- look up to the protagonist with admiration and awe.   Some of this was born from Parker's own personal relationships which (IMHO) was magnified in some of the characters he inflicted on us.  This maudlin side of Parker was evinced in full bloom with his 1983 standalone novel Love and Glory, an excretable exercise that truly needed a good editor and/or a paper shredder.

For myself, I managed to stay with Parker until the mid-nineties.  There were too many other bright and shiny things grabbing my attention.  Shortly after that time, Parker began launching other series.  Jesse Stone came in 1997 and Sunny Randall in 1999; western characters Cole and Hitch appeared in 2008; several YA books were also published.

Recently, I've been catching up with Parker's book.  I am torn about this because a part me feels that I'm being played, yet his books are absolute pageturners.. It turns out that Parker, like Dean Koontz (another writer I like despite his faults), can be absolutely addictive.  Go figure.


Split Image is a Jesse Stone novel, the last that Parker published before his death.  Stone is the police chief of Paradise, Massahusetts, a North Shore Massachusetts town.  A former Los Angeles cop, Stone is hung up on his ex-wife (who will sleep with just about anyone to further her career) and is a functional (sometimes, just barely) drunk, but Stone -- like Spenser -- is a man of honor and compassion -- a man who would rather do what's right than what may by in the rule book.  When Stone speaks I hear the voice of Tom Selleck, who has played the character in a number of television movies; for me, that's a good thing.  I like Jesse Stone much more than I like Spenser.

At this point in the series, Stone is having a relationship with Sunny Randall, the detective from one of Spenser's other series.  All three of Parker's contemporary heroes share the same universe and a number of the same characters (cops, thugs, lawyers, and the over-hyped Susan Silverman) can pop up at any time).  Randall is also a flawed character, still in love with her ex-husband who is married to another woman and is the father of a new child.

Two plot threads interweave in Split Image, the body of a thug is found with a bullet in his head.  The dead man worked as muscle for Reggie Galen, a mobster who lives in Paradise.  Nest door to Galen is Knocko Moynihan, another mobster and Reggie's brother-in-law.  Both Reggie and Knocko are supposedly (ha!) no longer involved in criminal enterprises.  Each married a beautiful identical twin who use sexual games as a tool for power.  At the same time, Sunny Randall is hired by the parents of an 18-year-old girl who is living at an odd religious retreat in Paradise.  The parents want Sunny to kidnap the girl and bring her home, but their concern is not for their daughter but their own reputation and standing in society.  Sunny refuses but agrees to talk to the girl to see if she is there at her of her own free will.  The parents hire someone else to kidnap the girl and place her in a phony residential psychiatric hospital, drugged to the limit.  Of course, Sunny has to save the girl.

There are a few more twists in both narratives.  Both Stone and Sunny don't do much.  Things fall neatly into place by the end of the book.  In each instance deus seems to have ex machina-ed its way into the conclusion conveniently.  Stone and Randall spend a lot of time talking bout their personal problems.  In the end (SPOILER!) Stone is pretty much over his ex and Randall is pretty much over her ex and things may become a little brighter for the two.  Both characters (as well as Spencer and Virg and Hitch) have had their series posthumously continued by other writers.  i haven't approached those books yet so it can't say how things turn out for the two.

Split Image is a fast read.  You may want to give it a try.  You may -- like me -- find the damned series addictive.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Ray Charles helped make 1961 memorable with this hit.


Jack Vance's colorful tale (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1950) of an Earth Planetary Affairs representative trying to unravel the mystery at the heart of the beautiful pottery produced on the planet Firsk got its dramatic treatment on the July 28, 1950, episode of Dimension X.  Featuring Karl Weber, Wendall Hall, Raymond Edward Johnson, Luke Appling, and Ed Prentiss, this episode was adapted by Ernest Kinoy.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Stephen Haffner, of Haffner Press, suggested that bloggers use this day to honor Robert Bloch.  Patti Abbott (who has links to over a dozen contributions at, and Todd Mason are among those who rose to the challenge.  My humble piece follows.

One hundred years ago on this date, the writer Robert Bloch (1917-1994) was born in Chicago, where, when he was ten, two formative things occurred:  He saw Lon Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera and began a lifelong love of horror, and he discovered the puilp magazine Weird Tales.  Soon his favorite writer became H. P. Lovecraft.   When he was 17 he wrote a fan letter to Lovecraft and soon began regular correspondence with the writer.  Lovecraft encouraged Bloch's writing and gave him advice on his fiction writing.  Bloch's early published efforts were heavily influenced by Lovecraft and many were set within Lovecraft's Mythos universe.  Bloch and Lovecraft once famously and playfully killed each off in a pair of stories that were published in Weird Tales.

In 1935 Bloch became a member of the Milwaukee Fictioneers, a group of writers who included Stanley G. Weinbaum, Ralph Milne Farley, Raymond A. Palmer, and Gustav Marx.  Marx gave Bloch a job in his advertising company, which perversely allowed Bloch time to write his own fiction.  Bloch also continued his interest in theater (which had developed while he was in high school) and wrote and performed  in his own skits, as well as selling jokes to several radio comics.  He became active in local politics when asked to manage a campaign for a city attorney who was running for mayor.  Bloch and his partner for the campaign , Harold Gauer, formed an unusual, and original campaign, which included the first time ever of dropping balloons from a ceiling, so the next political convention you watch, you'll know who to blame for all those damned balloons.

Bloch moved away from Lovecraftian stories and began to develop a unique style, often walking the thin edge between comedy and horror and relying more on psychological aspects.  He created the Runyonesque character Lefty Feep, often imitated but never equaled, for his friend Raymond Palmer's Fantastic Adventures.  He wrote 39 episodes of the radio horror program Stay Tuned for Terror, often basing the scripts on his own stories, "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," which has become a modern classic.  Bloch's first novels were paperback original crime thrillers, The ScarfSpiderwebThe Kidnapper, and The Will to Kill -- each of which rose far above its contemporaries with its deft use of psychology, and all remain immensely readable today.  It was Bloch's novel Psycho that cemented his reputation.  The Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of that novel opened many doors for Bloch.  He moved to Hollywood and began a long career as a screen and television writer.

Robert Bloch was one of my gateways to reading, as he was for many teen-aged and pre-teen boys (and girls, too, but mostly boys).  His writing style, imagination, and combined sense of humor and shock were perfectly fitted for those insecure years.  His television work -- especially for the Boris Karloff anthology series Thriller, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (an episode of the earlier Alfred Hitchcock Presents was pulled when both network and sponsor felt the ending was too gruesome; the episode, "The Sorceror's Apprentice" was later aired in syndication), Star Trek, and Tales from the Darkside -- were memorable.  His short story collections, starting with his early Arkham House edition of The Opener of the Way, through later pun-filled titles such as Out of the Mouth of Graves, Tales in a Jugular Vein, Fear Today -- Gone Tomorrow, and Such Stuff as Screams are Made Of, to the thick posthumous collections assembled in his honor, contain a plethora of thrill, chills, and smiles.  His story "That Hellbound Train" was the first pure fantasy story to win the science fiction Hugo Award for best short story.  Throughout his career, Bloch kept up his activities in science fiction fandom, penning articles and appreciations and becoming one of the most sought after toastmasters in the field, and publishing several books of his fannish writings.

I don't think anyone has ever said a bad word about Robert Bloch.  He was a kind and supportive man.  In his last months, with the full knowledge that he was dying, he penned an article about his oncoming death for Omni magazine.  It was one of the most powerful pieces I have ever read.  I never met the man, nor have I corresponded with him (in his later years he would answer correspondence with a brief postcard, which was all his writing schedule would allow -- but he would answer), but that Omni article brought me to tears as I realized that I was losing a friend I never met, a man kind enough to sign a book on the west coast sent by a man on the east coast -- something I have always appreciated.

He published 26 novels and hundreds of stories.  These, along with his film, television, and radio work, all the smallest part of his legacy.  His major part was the man himself and the effect he had on his many friends and admirers.




(I've been going through some back issues of The Comedy Bulletin, an Irish monthy newsletter from Dermot Crossley that published hundreds of jokes -- most of them unfunny or dated or cliched.  Here are the first ten from the June 1988 edition.)

- My uncle will do anything to improve his golf score.  He even considered a 'sex change' just so he could use the ladies tees.

- We all worship in our own way.  Mine is saying, 'Oh, God' every time a girl with a great body walks down the beach.

- I did ten deep knee bends today. I hate it when the chemist puts the condoms on the bottom shelf.

- Maybe I did have a little to [sic] much to drink last night -- but I didn't hear any complaints from that lamp post I asked to dance.

- I really shouldn't drink -- it makes my dog jealous when I'm down on all fours and he sees people pet me.

- My hangover is so bad it feels like haemorrhoids from the neck up.

- I don't want to say how much wine (      ) drank last night -- but he did qualify as a Catholic mass.

- Every summer its [sic] the same thing.  My neighbour starts to complain.  Just because my toilet overflows into his swimming pool.

- Times have changed.  My kids are scared to death of the neighbourhood bully, and I keeping telling them, 'You have just got to stand up to her.'

-  Eat, drink and be merry -- for tomorrow you'll have your head in the toilet.

(Sometimes I don't miss the good old days.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


From 1958, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters.


Not that long ago, Africa was really the Dark Continent -- a land of mystery with strange tribe, exotic animals, and unusual customs.  Shot over a period of 14 months (with some staged portions films afterward), Africa Speaks! covers an expedition led by Paul F. Hoefler into what was then the Belgian Congo.  Narrated by Lowell Thomas in a casual -- and to modern ears, condescending and sometimes offensive -- style with some witty remarks that fall flat.  A lot of information and good deal of misinformation here.  These's also a lot of stunning nature photography here.  Africa Speaks! brought a relatively unknown part of the world to movie audiences of the day and fed a demand that also brought a vast number of jungle movies to theaters.  Footage from this movie was used in many of the Bomba the Jungle Boy films.

 The copy linked to below has been edited to 50 minutes from the original 75 minutes.  Still, it's worth a look.

...And this 25 minute version of the expedition includes footage of the Ubangi tribe that was not included in the above:

Monday, April 3, 2017


This one always gets my head a-bobbing.  Deep Purple.


  • Kate Daniel, Baby-sitter's Nightmare.  YA thriller.  "Alice Fleming is trapped in a nightmare.  someone's been breaking into houses all over town, stealing and wrecking furniture.  The victims all had one thing in common:  Alice baby-sat their kids.  The p[olice re ready to lock Alice up, and even her friends are wondering if Alice has a dark side they never knew...The one night Alice cancels a baby-sitting job, and the substitute sitter is murdered. Alice is desperate to find the real killer.  Bur as she follows the killer's trail, is she walking into a dealy trap set just for her?"  Sounds kind of blah, but it only cost me ten cents.
  • "J. V. Lewton" (Stephen Gresham), Just Pretend.  YA horror.  "Sixteen-year-old Clay Brannon has the ability to see things.  Some call it a gift, but Clay calls it a curse.  Especially when he hear's a little girl's voice on a call-ion radio show:  "I pretended a bad man...and he's going to kill me."  Although the phone call is dismissed as a prank, Clay knows what he heard is true.  In his mind he can visualize a little girl at the mercy of a madman who has killed before and will kill again -- unless Clay can find him and stop him in time.  It won't be easy...because Clay has just seen an image of someone else's death.  his own."  The pseudonym is a nod to classic film director Val Lewton.
  • Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Witch.  YA fantasy.  Sunny looks like a West African, but she's an albino and doesn't seem to fit in anywhere.  "Her classmate Orlu and his friend Chichi reveal that they have magical abilities -- and so does she.  Sunny is a 'free agent,' overflowing with latent power.  And she has a lot of catching up to do.  Soon, Sunny's taking a crash course in magical history, spells, juju, shapechanging, and dimensional travel.  Her new world is a secret to hwer family, but it's well worth all the exhaustion and sneaking around.  But...there is a dark side.  Just as she's finding her footing, Sunny, with Orlu, Chichi, and their American friend Sasha, is asked by the magical authorities to help track down a criminal.  Not just a run-of-the-mill bad guy.  A real-life, hard-core serial killer -- with abilities stronger than theirs."
  • Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief.  SF novel, the first in a series featuring Jean le Flambeur, who has had many lives and who has been a thief, confidence man, posthuman mind-burglar, and more.  From ISFDb:  "A breathtaking ride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people who communicate vis shared memory, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as an MMORPG guild."  This book placed third in both the 2011 Locus Best First Novel catagory and the 2011 Campbell Memorial Best Science Fiction Novel catagory, as well as being nominated below the cutoff for the 2011 and 2012 Hugo Best Novel Awards.  (The reason for two Hugo nominations lies in the fact that it was first published in England and the following year in the U.S.)

Sunday, April 2, 2017


The line between STEM and the arts is artificial.  This is something that everyone should recognize.

Makulla Abdullah is now the president of the University of Virginia and has approached this job with a message:  Embracing Opportunities for Excellance.


Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Dino, Desi & Billie.


We start the month of April off with the most exciting comic book news in decades -- the discovery of a previously-unheard-of comic book dating back to 1901!  A brown and fragile copy of Honus Wagner, Boy Detective #1 was found by workmen behind the fireplace bricks of an old house being torn down in Pittsburgh .  Research has shown that the house once belonged to Edmund S. Sterling, who once worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball franchise.  Honus Wagner (1874-1955), of course was the famed shortstop for the Pirates professional baseball team from 1900 to 1917.  He later served as a coach for the team from 1933 to 1951.  Wagner holds the distinction of being the player on the most valuable baseball card ever -- the T206 Honus Wagner card from the American Tobacco company.  With this recent discovery, Wagner undoubedly brings a similar value to the comic book.

The discovery was evidently made some eight months ago, in August 2016, but had been kept secret until experts could verify its age and provenance.  According to the owner of the comic book, Miss Patricia Mae Skelnik, it appears that this was the first of possibly three or more issues of the comic book published.  I should be noted that no other copies of this comic book or of any other issues have year been discovered.  While going through the stored records of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, researchers are "relatively assured" that the Honus Wagner series was planned as a promotional giveaway, capitalizing on the popularity of "The Flying Dutchman," who was a mainstay of the team.

In format, the book resembles many of the dime novels of the era, at least in size.  Rather than a text story, each page contains one illustration with a two- or three-line description below it, forming a continuous narrative.  The storyline follows young Honus hauling slag from a coal mine (in real-life Honus Wagner dropped out of school at age twelve to work with his father and brothers in a coal mine) when he overhears a plot to rob the mine offices.  It turns out that this is just the beginning of an orchestrated plot by rival mine owners to destroy Hiram J. Hornstrung, the owner of the mine where young Honus worked.  Thrill after thrill follows, as Honus manages to retrieve the stolen payroll, save the mine from being blown up, rescue the young daughter of the mine's manager, and finally putting a kibosh on the whole nefarious plot.  Honus uses his wits, his speed, and his daring to save the day, along with a heavy helping of his speed and accuracy in throwing.  Honus is also portrayed as being pure of heart.

The author and artist of this comic book are unknown, although reports are that the artwork is similar to that of Winsor McKay.  Actual copies of the comic book have not been available for examination.  Fans will have to wait until later this year for that thrill.

Skelnik said that Honus Wagner, Boy Detective #1 will be reprinted this November in a deluxe boxed edition from Knopf.

Meanwhile, the search has been intensified to find further issues about the adventures of young Honus.  Perhaps in your attic...

Friday, March 31, 2017


99 years ago today -- much to Crider's displeasure -- Daylight saving time went into effect in much of the United States for the first time.

Here's the Stones.


The Dark Tower I:  The Gunslinger (revised and expanded edition) by Stephen King (2003)

The Dark Tower, Stephen King's epic fantasy series, was a long time a-coming.  Although it was born in 1970, it really began as a series of stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1978 to 1981,  These five stories were collected as The Gunslinger in 1982.  The series then lay fallow until 1987, when the second book, The Drawing of the Three was released.  four years after that, the third volume, The Waste Lands, was released.  It then took another six years for the fourth volume, Wizard and Glass, to come out in 1997.  Seemingly the author was channeling his inner George R. R. Martin's writing pace.  The Dark Tower series was a labor of love for King and he approached it as such, taking his tine and working on it slowly, in between his other, more popular work. After all, King had all the time in the world...

Then came that day in June 1999 and a distracted driver and his pickup careening down a Maine road.  King's injuries were extensive; he was lucky to be alive.  It was a long recovery and King realized that he didn't have all the time in the world, after all.  He began work on the last three novels in the series.  While doing this, he realized that the first book was somewhat "out of sync" with the rest of the series, and so we have the revised and expanded edition of The Gunslinger.  When this edition was published, the fifth book in the series was due to be published and the remaining two books were completed and just needed revisions.  The final book in the series was published in 2004.  (Since then, King published and eighth book, The Wind Through the Keyhole, containing two novellas that take place chronologically between the fourth and fifth volumes.  There have also been a number of graphic novels by Peter David and Robin Furth that have helped flesh out the series.)

I read the original stories in The Gunsmith when they were first published in F&SF and again when the book originally came out.  I wasn't overly impress: the stories seemed too diffuse and it appeared to me that King was writing the tales with no definitive idea where the series was going.  The Drawing of the Three marked the point where the series really began; it was a well-written, imaginative, fully-formed novel that led, inexorably, to the rest of the series.  And the books kept getting better.  Roland's journey to stop the Walking Man and to save the Dark Tower which holds the universes together.

The revised version of The Gunslinger brings this early work into synergy with the remainder of the series.  Variants of fact and incident that did not agree with the overall opus were corrected and the book meshed much better into the series.  Although King completely rewrote the book from start to finish, there is really only about 35 pages of material that has been added, the inclusion of a few scenes.  It's a much better book.  The series itself has an epic sweep that I find astounding, and is an essential read that anchors much of King's other work.

After years of false starts, The Dark Tower is finally a movie, to be released this July.  Reportedly the movie is partially a sequel to the series.  The fate of Hollywood projects is always an iffy thing, but this movie may (or may not) be a huge blockbuster.  For anyone who wants to catch on the books before the movie is released, The Gunslinger is the place to start.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Frankie Laine (1913-2007) would have been 104 today, March 30.  Although perhaps best known today for his western songs, Laine's repertoire covered the gamut, from musicals to pop standards, from calypso to gospel, and from operetta to romance; it seemed as if there was nothing he couldn't do.  While at Columbia records alone, Laine had 39 hit records.  He performed with many of the great popular singers of his time:  Patti Page, Doris Day, Jo Stafford, The Four Lads,and Johnnie Ray, while hosting such talents as Ella Fitzgerald, Georgia Gibbs, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Shirley MacLaine, Teresa Brewer, and Jack Teagarden.

Laine grew up in Chicago's Little Italy, where his father was once Al Capone's barber.  His wide range of musical interests became evident when his early influences were the very diverse Enrico Caruso and Bessie Smith.  His outspoken opinions on equality had many persons confused as to his race.  Her was a close friend to Nat King Cole and was one of Cole's pall bearers.  He joined Black singers in giving a concert to Martin Luther King's supporters during the Selma to Montgomery march.  He was noted for his charity work, especially with the homeless, the Salvation Army, and Meals on Wheels, and donated much of his time to these and other charities.

His last song, "Taps/My Buddy," was recorded shortly after the September 11 attacks and was dedicated to the firefighters of New York; all profits from that recording are donated in perpetuity to the NYFD.

"That's My Desire"

"That Lucky Old Sun"

"Cool Water"

"Mule Train"

"Gunfight at the O.K. Corral:

"There Must Be a Reason"

"The Cry of the Wild Goose"

"The 3:10 to Yuma"

"North to Alaska"

"Answer Me, My Love"

"The Wayward Wind"


"The Kid's Last Fight"


"Ghost Riders in the Sky"

"Stars Fell on Alabama"

"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"

"Robin Hood/Champion the Wonder Horse"

"I Believe"

and there are so many more...


Philo Vance (that "pain in the pants") goes drilling for murder when he investigates the death of a dentist.  This was radio's third incarnation of S.S. van Dine's famous detective and featured Jackson Beck in the title role.  Purists may be upset that Beck's Vance had little to do with van Dine's character other than the name while others may be pleased that Vance's insufferable personality traits are not evident.

From February 15, 1949:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Lee Mckinley & the Magnetics.


What's the difference between a Texas tornado and a Tennessee divorce?
Not much.  Either way, someone's gonna lose a trailer.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


If you shoot J.R. people may talk about it for a summer, but if you shoot the sheriff or Liberty Valance, they make songs that people will be humming for years.

Here's Gene Pitney.

Monday, March 27, 2017


Jack Mulhall's film career lasted for fifty years, from 1910 to 1959, with 447 credits (including television) on IMDb.  Many of his roles were uncredited, so most people would be excused if they didn't recognize his name.  He had bit roles in such landmark films as Around the World in Eighty Days, The Man with the Golden Arm, My Friend Irma, and The Glass Key.  He starred as Craig Kennedy in the 15-episode serial The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand and he had the title role in this 12-episode serial.

"Burn-em-Up" (sometimes with hyphens, sometimes not) Barnes is a race car driver who comes to the aid of bus line owner Marjorie Temple (Lola Lane, Deadline at Dawn) when a gang of crooks go after supposedly worthless land she owns.  Helping Barnes is his teenaged buddy, Bobby Riley (Frankie Darro,  The Phantom Empire).  Also in the cast was Jason Robards, Sr. (who was billed just as Jason Robarts because his son -- being twelve -- was not yet Jason Robards.)

A lot of cars.  A lot of racing.  A lot of cliffhangers.

Below is the first episode, with links to take you to the remaining eleven episodes.





  • Mike Carey, Vicious Circle.  Fantasy, the second in the Felix Castor series.  'Felix Castor has reluctantly returned to exorcism after a successful case convinces him that he can do some good with his abilities --'good' being a relative term when dealing with the undead.  But his friend Raffi is still possessed, the succubus Juliet still technically has a contract on him, and he's still dirt poor.  doing some consulting for the local cops helps pay the bills, but Castor needs a big private job to fill the hole in his bank account.  That's what he needs.  what he gets is a seemingly insignificant 'missing host' case that inexorably drags him and his loved ones into the middle of a horrific plot to raise one of hell's fiercest demons.  When satanists, stolen spirits, sacrifice farms, and haunted churches all appear on the same police report, the name Felix Castor can't be too far behind..."  I love Carey's comic book work and this ounds really interesting.
  • Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book.  Fantasy.  Thursday Next, the literary detective who works inside books, is forced to work as a Prose Resource Operative for Jurisfiction (the police force inside books) in an effort to save the love of her life, who has been erased by the Goliath Corporation.  There she apprentices to Miss Haversham from Great Expectations, then travels to Poe's "The Raven," and works by Kafka, Austen, and Beatrix Potter.  'Thursday finds herself the target of potentially lethal coincidences, the authenticator of a newly-discovered play by the Bard himself, and the only one who can prevent an unidentifiable pink sludge from engulfing all life on Earth."  This is the second of (thus far) seven books in the series.
  • John Lutz, Mister X.  A Frank Quinn thriller.  "He mutilates his victimes.  Slices their throats. And carves an X into their flesh.  Five years ago, he claimed the lives of six women.  Then the killings abruptly stopped -- no one know why.  Ex-homicide detective Frank Quinn remembers.  which is why he's shocked to see one of the dead women in his office.  Actually, she's the identical twin of the last victim, and she wants Quinn to find her sister's murderer.  But when the cold case heats up, it attacts the media spotlight -- and suddenly the killings start again..."  Lutz is a master of the form and I just haven't been keeping up with his books as I should.  I was a big fan of both his Alo Nudger and Frank Carver series.  Maybe it's time for me to start catching up.
  • Stuart MacBride, Cold Granite.  Mystery, the first in the popular Logan McRae series.  "After a long recuperation from a stab wound, Detective Sergeant Logan McRae's first night back on duty in Aberdeen, Scotland, takes him to the crime scene where the body of a missing boy has been found on a riverbank.  To the horror of even the most experienced cops on the job, all details point to a ritualistic murder -- a serial killer.  The twenty-four hours later, another child goes missing."  This one won the 2006 Barry Award for Best First Novel.  There are now eleven books in the series, which has been called a fine example of Tartan Noir.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


I don't have a hymn for this Sunday, although if you pay attention to the words, this song embodies much of what Christ taught us.  This was the song they played immediately after our wedding ceremony 47 years ago.  This is how each of us felt then.  This is how each of us feel now.  This is part of the commitment that Kitty and I made then, follow now, and will for as long as we live.

Richard & Mimi Farina:


Forty-seven years ago today I married the love of my life.  The ceremony was held in a girl's college dormitory; the champagne reception afterward ran out of champagne -- all in all, an auspicious start to the best 47 years of my life (so far).

Kitty was 16 when I met her.  She was one of those rare people whose inner and outer beauty radiated from like a beacon on a starless night.  I was 19 and smitten, but it did not take long to realize that I was far more than smitten.  What she saw in a goop like me, I'll never know.  More importantly, were the things she didn't see in me -- things that I mistakenly thought were there, the things that held me back.  The day I met her marks the day I began to become a better man.

Four years later we were married.  I had just graduated from college with a useless degree (either English or Comparative Literature; the school never told which and I didn't find out until several years later) and was working as a laborer for my father's construction company.  Kitty was having a difficult time with her classes; that was the year that student protests over Kent State shut her school done for a while, then the anxious bride-to-be faced mid-terms just days before we were married.  Kitty graduated with a teaching degree at a time no teaching jobs were available.

We muddled through.  We each took a succession of scut jobs, some of which help guide us over the years.  Kitty became part of a pilot program designed to close juvenile detention centers in Massachusetts.  We both discovered this was something we were good at and it eventually led to our becoming foster parents for kids with extreme problems.  I briefly ran a used book store until the owner told me on a Monday that I had to buy the business by that Thursday or would be fired.  I discovered I had a flair for writing and worked (also briefly) for a firm writing undergraduate and graduate papers until the state made that business illegal.  I got a job as a stringer for a local paper and soon found myself its editor, then the executive editor for a group of weekly newspapers.  Kitty got a job at a local community college only to discover that her union (which she had to join) had negotiated a deal where new hires would not get a pay raise for three years.

We had kids.  Two of the very best, as a matter of fact.  To help pay for both girls to go on a student exchange to Japan, Kitty began delivering the Boston Globe at three o'clock every morning.  We bought a three family tenement and sold it a few years later with the full knowledge that we were not cut out to be landlords.  We bought a small lot of land from a shady character who had owned a house one the property, insured it, and torched it, then went in and expanded the foundation so that the lot was sold under a grandfather clause that allowed us to build on the expanded foundation.  (The fire chief told me, "I know that sonuvabitch torched the place, but I just can't prove it.").  Building the house on our own took a lot of nights and weekends and an awful lot of beer.  We kept the house for many years until we sold it to help the girls get through college.

Thus we muddled through.  Some low points and a lot of high points.  Some tragedy and loss and a lot of laughter and happiness.  We raised two fantastic women and are now watching our five grandchildren grow into very special people.  (There's a reason why they are called "grands.")

Today, I look back in awe at the fact that I had met someone like Kitty (actually, I'm convinced there is no one like Kitty) and had the great luck to marry her.  Her smile still captivates me.  I can look into her eyes for hours and remain enchanted.  Her warmth, compassion, humor, intelligence, and integrity continue to make me a better person.

I love her with all my being.  She deserves nothing less.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


From Stop the World - I Want to Get Off, here's Anthony Newley.


If you want a Golden Age comic book western hero who is really golden, you don't have to look any further than Roger Parsons, a.k.a. Golden Arrow.  Shortly before World Was I, Dr. Paul Parsons developed a new gas that would revolutionize balloon travel.  (In some way that I cannot fathom, this gas could revolutionize aviation and provide a needed boost for the American military.)  In order to test the gas, Dr. Parsons embarked on a cross-county balloon voyage with his wife and infant son.  While traveling near the town of Prairie gulch, Parsons balloon was shot down on the orders of evil Brand Braddock, who wants the formula for the gas for himself.  (Remember that this was before WWI and we learn that Braddock's ranch house alone cost $3,000,000!  Clearly, the fruits of evil pay off big time!)  Parsons and his wife were killed, but out from the wreckage crawled the infant -- Roger Parsons.  Unfortunately, a mountain lion spotted the infant, clamped him in its jaws, and strolled away to enjoy a tasty meal.

Will the saga of Golden Arrow be ended before it even began?

No!  Because the old prospector Nugget Ned happen on the scene and shot the mountain lion.  With the infant in his arms, Nugget Ned backtracked the mountain lion's trail to the crash site where, hidden, he saw Braddock's men raiding the wreckage.  Instantly nugget Ned knew that Braddock was responsible for the crash and that the infant's life would be worth less than a pig's patootie if he knew the child was alive.  So Nugget Ned did what every respectable old prospector would do:  he vowed to raise the baby himself, in secret.

And so the infant grew up.  And how!  The "healthy outdoors" allowed the boy to gain a great physique.  By age five, he could wrestle and pin a bear cub.  At age seven, he could outrun an antelope.  At ten, his eyesight was better than an eagle's.  The boy became a master of the bow and arrow, able to sever a rattlesnake's head at 100 yards.  At eighteen, he tamed the leader of a pack of wild horses, training him to become the fastest and mightiest horse in the west -- White Wind.  Because Nugget Ned was (I guess) a bit contrary, he had no real use for the gold he dug up; so he let the boy coat his arrowheads with gold.  And Golden Arrow was born!

Because the boy had finally grown up, Bill Parker (the editor/creator/writer of the comic book) gave the old prospector a heart attack, but before dying, Nugget Ned told the boy that his name was Roger Parsons and that Brand Braddock had killed his parents and stolen the valuable gas formula.  And so Golden Arrow goes to reclaim his heritage and face Braddock and his two (equally evil) sons -- Bronk and Brute.

And so we have Golden Arrow's origin story as told in Fawcett's Whiz Comics #2 in February 1940 (the same issue that introduced comic book heroes Captain Marvel, Spy Smasher, Ibis the Invincible, and the somewhat forgotten Lance O'Casey, seafarer).

The original artist for the series was Greg Duncan.  Later artists and writers included Bernie Krigstein and Pete Costanza.  

Golden Arrow had his own erratically scheduled comic book (6 issues spanning seven years) and a few miniature-sized comics, but spent most of his Fawcett career at Whiz Comics, ending with the April 1953 issue (#153).  Fawcett sold its superheroes to DC Comics, leading to speculation that DC's Green Arrow was in part inspired by Golden Arrow.  And that may be true.  Who knows?

The archive linked below carries Golden Arrow's adventures through Whiz Comics #8.  


Friday, March 24, 2017


Dave Mallett has a poet's soul and a voice that can drip like honey.  Here he reminds us, in a song that has great personal meaning to me, that all of nature can come together in a moment of synergy to validate a very special love.


The 7 Cardinal Virtues of Science Fiction edited by Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh, & Martin Harry Greenberg (1981)

This book's title and that of its companion volume, The 7 Deadly Sins of Science Fiction (1982), would have been great titles for critical essays about the field.  As it stands, however, the virtues and sins of SF are a rather diffuse topic for anthologies and makes me think the editors were straining for a theme.  No matter how much they were straining, the stories in this book are pretty good -- even the one that (speaking of straining) I had a hard time finishing.

The stories, and the virtues they reflected:

  • Temperance: "Superiority" by Arthur C. Clarke (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1951)  Greenberg included this well-known short story in at least seven of his anthologies
  • Justice:  "Whosawhatsa?" by Jack Wodhams (from Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact,December 1967; a novelette)
  • Faith:  "Riding the Torch" by Norman Spinrad (from Threads of Time, 1974, edited by Robert Silverberg, an anthology of three novellas)  This one was a Hugo finalist for Best Novella and placed third in the Locus Awards for Best Novella.  This is the one I hard a hard time getting into and I don't know why.  It's a fairly bleak story about a society with a strange aesthetic and about man's place in the universe.-- themes that do not normally deter me.
  • Prudence:  "The Nail and the Oracle" by Theodore Sturgeon (from Playboy, October 1965; a novelette)
  • Fortitude:  "Jean Dupres" by Gordon R. Dickson (from Nova 1, 1970, edited by Harry Harrison; a novelette)  This story was nominated for a Hugo for best short story, placing third.
  • Hope:  "Nuisance Value" by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1957; a novella)
  • Charity:  "The Sons of Prometheus" by Alexei Panshin (from Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, October 1966; a novelette)  This one made the first ballot for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.
  • Love (and the meaning of Charity):  "The Ugly Little Boy" by Isaac Asimov (from Galaxy, September 1958, originally titled "Lastborn")  An expanded version of this novelette was published as Child of Time by Asimov and Robert Silverberg in 1991 in Britain; the U.S. edition was published as The Ugly Little Boy in 1992.
Solid stories all -- including the Spinrad.


An omnibus edition of the Cardinal Virtues and Deadly Sins anthologies appeared as a instant remainder from Bonanza Books:  The Seven Deadly Sins and Cardinal Virtues of Science Fiction, 1982.  Note that "sins" come before "virtues"... I wonder what that says about how marketing works?

Monday, March 20, 2017


I'm taking a few days off to explore St. Augustine.  See you on the other side.


  • Lee Child, The Enemy and The Hard Way.  Jack Reacher thrillers.  I've been catching up on this series, reading about a book a week and still have a while to go.  The Enemy takes us back to 1990 and the case that changed everything for Reacher.  A two-star general is found dead in a motel and Reacher is ordered to control the situation.  Then the general's wife is murdered and Reacher is being set up as the fall guy.  Big mistake.  In The Hard Way, Reacher is trying to a kidnapped woman whose husband happens to be the head of an illegal mercenaries for hire organization.  Things get nasty on both sides but Reacher, stuck in the middle, doesn't know how to quit.A very addictive series.
  • Carl Hiaasen & Bill Montalbano, Trap Line.  Crime novel.  This is the second of three books Hiaasen wrote at the beginning of his career with Montalbano.  These early books are not as outrageous as Hiaasen's solo work, but they should be pretty good. ( A little bit of nostalgia:  I won one of Hiassen's novels back in the Nineties at a book signing in Massachusetts for wearing the "most Florida" outfit.  Now that I'm in Florida, I wish I had kept the outfit.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017


The Silhouettes were basically a "one-hit wonder" group from Philadelphia.  "Get a Job" was originally the B-side of one of their releases, but soared to number one on the charts after being sold in 1957 to Ember Records.  It was the (very) rare instance of an economically-themed doo-wop song soaring to the top of the charts.  Although the Silhouettes continued as a group until 1968, they never had a record to match their first and only hit.

If you're going to have only one hit, this is a pretty good one to have.


From Wikipedia:  "The Eye is a fictional comic book character created by Frank Thomas and published by Centaur Publications.  The character had no origin story, and existed only as a giant, floating, disembodied eye, wreathed in a halo of golden light.  This powerful being was obsessed with the concept of justice, and existed to encourage average people to do what they could to attain it for themselves.  If the obstacles proved too great, The Eye would assist its mortal charges by working miracles.  Time and space meant nothing to The Eye and it existed as a physical embodiment of man's inner consciousness."


Despite what might expect from the above, The Eye was not a product of the mind-altering Sixties.  He (she? it?) first appeared in the December 1939 issue of Keen Detective Funnies and continued for eight issues before moving over to his own short-lived (just two issues) magazine, Detective Eye.

Thomas created a number of golden Age comic book heroes, most of whom faded into obscurity.  Aside from The Eye, his best known character was probably Dell Comics' The Owl.

The Eye may be a footnote in comics history, but I think he (she? it?) is a pretty cool character.

See if you agree.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Here's a few from the late, great Tommy Makem.

"Four Green Fields"

"Gentle Annie"

"Red Is the Rose"


The Moon Metal by Garrett P. Serviss (1900)

Garrett P. Serviss (1851-1929) was a journalist and amateur astronomer who wrote a number of popular books on astronomy and other scientific subjects.  He graduated with a law degree but never practiced law; instead he began a 16-year career at the New York Sun, where he developed a talent for popularizing scientific subjects.  In 1894 Andrew Carnegie asked him to deliver a series of scientific lectures; this led to a long career as a popular speaker, while also contributing articles to leading magazines.  In 1923 he worked with Max Fleischer to produce a short film, The Einstein Theory of Relativity, based on one of his books.  Serviss did not begin to write fiction until he was almost 50 years old, publishing five novel and one magazine serial that never made to book form.  His best-known novels were Edison's Conquest of Mars (yes, that Edison), A Columbus of Space (a science fiction homage to Jules Verge), and The Second Deluge (in which the Earth is inundated by a cloud of water from space and a modern day Noah steps up.)  Hugo Gernsback republished most of Serviss' fiction in early issues of Amazing Stories, which made Serviss very popular among the newly-minted science fiction fans and his works are now considered classics in the field.  (Creaky, but classic).

The Moon Metal, the shortest of his novels (basically a novella) was published by Harper and Brothers in 1900.  (It supposedly had an early publication as a newspaper serial, but that has not been confirmed.)  It was reprinted in All-Story Magazine in 1905; Hugo Gernsback reprinted in Amazing Stories in 1926; and Mary Gnaedinger used it in Famous Fantastic Fiction in 1939.  It was not reprinted in book form until 1972, when FAX Collectors' Editions produced a small print run.  A decade later, Forrest J. Ackerman included it in his The Gernsback Awards:  1926, an attempt to highlight the best stories from that early year in SF history.  It has since been republished by a number of companies and is easily available in E-book or publish-on demand form, as well as being available from Gutenberg and Libravox.

In the not too distant future, a large field of gold has been discovered in Anarctica -- far more gold than had previously been mined on the planet.  Suddenly, the value of gold dropped and the gold standard, for all intents, became worthless.  The financial leaders of the world are stymied; the economy of every country appears to be crashing.  Suddenly there appears the mysterious, satanic-looking Dr. Syx, who claims to have the solution.  Syx says that he has discovered a large amounts of new metal -- rare, beautiful, pliable enough to be used to create jewelry and works of art.  This metal, which he called artemisium, could easily replace gold as the basis of the world's economy.  The financiers are skeptical, but Syx takes them to his mining operations in Wyoming to ease their doubts.  Since much of the process he claimed to be "secret," they saw only what he wanted them to see -- which was enough to convince them.  Soon the world's economy was set straight and Syx was on his way to becoming the wealthiest man in the world.

One young engineer smelled a rat and, after a long investigation, discovered that Syx's entire operation was a phony.  So where did this marvelous new metal come from.  SPOILER ALERT (BUT NOT TOO MUCH OF ONE, GIVEN THE BOOK'S TITLE):  The metal came from the moon.  Syx had devised a ray that, when aimed at the moon, pulled particles of the moon back to Earth.  Those particles were pure artemisium.  (Artemis, of course, was the goddess of the moon.)  END THE NOT TOO MUCH OF A SPOILER ALERT.

Syx's monopoly is broken.  The world's economy is once again in danger.  Steps are taken to save it.  Hurrah.  The end.

The Moon Metal is an interesting book, although certainly not a fast-moving one.  It clunks along in a meandering way and doesn't answer all the questions it raises.  At one point Syx shows the financiers a film of a strange race of people in an alien landscape.  No explanation is ever given.  Are these supposed to be moon people?  People from a different planet? Or what?  And why show the film?  What was most interesting about this film was that it was in color (!) and that the beings filmed moved in a smooth fashion and not in the jerky way people in films from 1900 moved.

And Dr. Syx himself.  Who was he?  There is a vague implication that he might be Satan himself, but this, too, was never explored.

And the moon.  Is is entirely made of artemisium?  It certainly appears so.  Or, perhaps the rays are calibrated only to extract particles of that one metal?

To expect answers to these questions is rather silly.  The Moon Metal is a good example of proto-science fiction, to be read as much for its historic value as for its entertainment.  It's a quick read and I'm glad I had a chance to step back in time and enjoy it.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Who else, but The Archies?


If you are truly old school then you are probably scratching your head at Riverdale.  Where's the goofy, love-struck Archie we know?  Is that really Veronica, Betty, and Jughead?  I mean, they're not like they were when I was a kid.  Archie is 122 years old*, for Heaven's sake!  He can't change now!

Luckily, we can still go back to the good old days (which Bill truly misses) via the old-time radio show Archie Andrews.  The radio program began on May 31, 1943 on the NBC Blue Network, moved to Mutual in 1944, then to NBC Radio the following year, where it stayed until September 5, 1953.

This episode aired on October 29, 1948 and starred Bob Hastings as everybody's favorite redheaded teen.  Future pop singer Gloria Mann is Veronica, Rosemary Rice played Betty, Alice Yourman played Archie's mother, while Art Kohl played Archie's father.  Jughead at various times was played by Hal Stone, Cameron Andrews, and Arnold Stang; I'm not sure which one is featured on this episode.

So, let's trip a trip back to the Riverdale of old, when men were men and teenagers were goofy.


BONUS:  From Mad #12 (June 1954), here's a look at "Starchie" from the usual gang of idiots.

* Archie debut in 1941 and assuming he was sixteen then...well, you do the math.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Lightnin' Hopkins would have been 106 today.  Rolling Stone ranked him at #71 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time -- I would have ranked him higher.  Something I didn't know:  Hopkins was Houston's poet-in-residence for 35 years.


What do you say when you don't want to go to yoga class?
Namaste at home.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Brook Benton's first major hit, "It's Just a Matter of Time," reached #3 on the charts in 1959 and was the singer's first gold record.  The song (co-written by Benton) had originally been meant for Nat King Cole but Benton's writing partner convinced him to record the song himself.  The rest is history.


Sometimes you're just in the mood for a George Zucco flick.  If that's the case, you're in luck!

In The Flying Serpent, Zucco plays archeologist Andrew Forbes, who discovers a living feathered serpent -- the Quetzalcoati of the Aztecs.  But when he gives one of the beast's feathers to his wife, the beast follows her and kills her.  Since Zucco is so good playing a mad scientist, he decides this would be a good way to get back at his enemies -- just give them a feather, then sit back and wait for the bloodbath.  And somewhere in the movie there's Montezuma's fabulous treasure!

Aiding Zucco in this flick are a host of unknown, little known, and familiar (in a "What's his name?  Dunno, but he looks familiar" way) faces:  Ralph Lewis, Hope Kramer, Eddie Acuff, Wheaton Chambers, Henry Hall, Milton (Miltin) Kibbee, Budd Buster (love that name!), and Terry Frost.  Richard Crane (who went on to play the title role in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger) has an uncredited role.  The monster is played by a somewhat undersized, goofy model maneuvered by strings.  (There is some debate whether the strings are visible; some swear they are viewed in every shot, others deny stoutly it.   I suspect these people were watching different prints of the films.)

The Flying Serpent was directed by "Sherman Scott," who was really Sam Newfield, the man who gave us The Terror of Tiny Town, at least nine Lone Rider films, a bunch of Billy the Kid films, and many, many other totally forgettable movies.  John T. Neville provided the script -- which was the last of his 60 credits on IMDb.

The Flying Serpent can be viewed as Bela Lugosi's The Devil Bat-lite.