Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.


It's Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Kalevala Day, Dia de Andalusia, National Science Day, Peace Memorial Day, Teachers' Day, and Bubba Smith's birthday...but for many of us, it's MARDI GRAS!

I just got back from a pre-school Mardi Gras celebrations where kids from 1 to 5 put on a parade for parents and grandparents, after which we settled down to red beans and rice and king cake.  (Traditionally, a little plastic baby Jesus is baked into the king cake and whoever gets the baby Jesus in their slice gets to be king for a day.  The lucky person -- assuming he or she does not choke to death on baby Jesus -- also gets to buy the king cake the next year.)

Since I now live one town over from Pensacola (where they celebrate Mardi Gras and am a hop, skip, and jump to the east from Mobile (which proudly claims the first Mardi Gras in America), and am only a few hours from the Big Easy (where Mardi Gras is as much an industry as Dixieland jazz), I have become acutely aware of the day before the first day of Lent.  Let me transfer some of that awareness to you in the form of this episode from April 18, 1950 of Suspense.

Here's Tom Drake, George Reeves, Mary Sinclair, and Jack Klugman in a mystery scripted by Charles Robinson (from a story by Robert Arthur and David Kogan) and produced and directed by Robert Stevens.


Monday, February 27, 2017


Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys.


  • Lee Child, Running Blind and Without Fail.  Two early Jack Reacher thrillers.  In the first, women across the country are being killed; the only connection between the victims -- They all knew Jack Reacher.  In the second, a Secret Service agent wants Reacher to find holes in the vice president's security, but a covert group already has VPOTUS in their deadly sights.  I've been reading a lot of books in this addicting series over the past few months.
  • Graham Masterton, Unspeakable.  Horror novel.  Holly Summers is deaf but is also a very talented lip-reader.  She uses this gift moonlighting for the Portland, Oregon, police, including for a case of a string of women who have disappeared without as trace.  Now someone has targeted Holly "with a supernatural vow to harm her.  And the terror begins when Holly's young daughter disappears."
  • Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Thunderhead.  Stand-alone thriller."On an abandoned Santa Fe ranch a young archaeologist finds a letter written sixteen years ago yet, mysteriously, mailed only recently.  In it her father, long believed dead, hints at a lost city of gold that will make him famous -- and rich.  now Nora Kelly is leading an expedition into a harsh, remote corner of Utah's canyon country.  Nora begins to unravel one of archaeology's greatest mysteries...Thousand of years ago a thriving civilization suddenly and mysteriously vanished.  For Nora Kelly and her strife-ridden team of explorers, the answer is at their fingertips.  Then the terror explodes..."
  • Colin Wilson, The Mammoth Book of True Crime, New (1998) Edition and The Mammoth Book of The History of Murder (a revised edition of The Mammoth Book of True Crime 2).  Wilson, one of England's "Angry Young Men" and a self-styled philosopher, delighted in the bazarre and the unusual.  Among his output are many books about true crime, mysticism, and the paranormal -- with at least two dozen books focusing on true crime.  Most, if not all, of these books are more like surveys and cursory glances than in-depth coverage of specific cases.  Certainly this is the case of the two books listed here.  Wilson's gullibility regarding the occult probably does not transfer to his true crime writings.  Both of these books appear to worth dipping into.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


From the late Eighteenth century, a mechanical device to amaze and astound...and play chess!


The great Mississippi John Hurt.  Simple lyrics.  Superb guitar.  Powerful song.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


The Boyd Sisters.  (Is this Patti, Jenny, and Paula?  Can anybody confirm?)


"Captain Albright is known to many as one of America's great inventors, but only a trusted few know that it is he who dons the blazing uniform that spells terror to evil forces and becomes that iron-fisted fighter for freedom -- CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT!"

The character of Captain midnight was created by Wilfred G. Moore and Robert M. Burtt for a Chicago ad agency which developed the show as a syndicated radio program for a few area radio stations in 1940.  The program came to the attention of Ovaltine (as any kid from the time could tell you, Ovaltine is an anagram for "Vital One"), which had already been sponsoring the radio adventures of Little Orphan Annie.  Ovaltine brought the program to a national audience, first on the Mutual network, then to NBC's Blue Network for three years, and then back to Mutual.  The radio show ran from 1938 to 1949.

Popular with kids -- many of whom owned a Captain Midnight secret decoder ring -- the show spawned a 15-episode film serial, a popular kid's television show (later renamed Jet Jackson for syndication), a newspaper comic strip, comic books, at least one novel, and a host of premiums and tie-in products.  The character was revived in 2010 by Moonstone Publishing with a new comic book story and an anthology of short stories, and by Dark Horse comics in 2012 with new comic book adventures.

Fawcett Comic's run of Captain Midnight ran from June 1942 to September 1948 and differed in many aspects from the original radio character.  He now wore a skin-tight red suit, was a world-famous inventor, and has an array of remarkable inventions at his beck and call.

In this issue, Captain Midnight battles his nemesis, the criminal mastermind Captain Ivan Shark, in "Marauders of the Deep."   Captain Midnight then conquers space in "Trip to the Moon" -- mistakenly billed as an "Interplanetary Adventure."  When Captain Red Albright and his colleagues Ichabod Mudd and  Professor Edan pilot an experimental rocket on the first flight to the moon, they are aware of two stowaways:  the beautiful and ambitious reporter Sally Blaine and the dangerous escaped convict "Killer" Jordan.  Ichabod Mudd takes center stage as he dons the costume of Sergeant Twilight -- a comic take on his boss and our hero -- in "Sergeant Twilight Meets the Dawn!"  Captain Midnight shows up in the last five panels to save the day.  (Unfortunately, a portion of this story is missing from this copy, but not enough for one to miss out on any important plot points.)  In "Captain Midnight Fights for Freedom," Midnight is sent to rescue freedom fighter Don Vereo, who has been captured by the tyrant dictator Shiro.  Rounding out this issue is the brief first chapter of the serial "Johnny Blair in the Air" (where young Johnny meets and befriends members of the Flying Police) and several humorous filler shorts.

You don't need a secret decoder ring to enjoy this issue.

Friday, February 24, 2017


At least Aretha knows I want a little respect.


Sinners and Supermen by William F. Nolan (1965)

William F. Nolan has had his fingers in many pies.  He's written movies, television shows, biographis, mysteries, westerns, science fiction, horror, poetry, and just about everything in between.  He's won two Edgars and a Bram Stoker Award, and has been named IHG Living Legend in Dark Fantasy, SFWA Author Emeritus,  and World Horror Society Grand Master, as well as being given the HWA Lifetime Achievement Award.  He is probably best known for co-writing Logan's Run, a novel that inspired the movie, a television show, and a number of sequels.

Before embarking on fiction, Nolan churned out articles and books on one of his hobbies, auto racing.  His first book of profiles Men of Thunder, covered many of the big names in the history of auto racing.  He then embarked on other profiles people he knew and admired, as well as others who had extraordinary, larger-than-life careers.  Fourteen of these profiles, dating from 1956 on, are included in this book, which was published by the small California paperback publisher All Star Books as a Private Edition Book.  The cover copy declared:  "Guys with Gusto living in a world of wonderment where the bizarre becomes the status quo."  And the back cover went on:  "These modern mavericks thumb their noses at middle-age conventions as they indulge their volcanic mania for life in the raw.  envied, imitated, and often despised, the world's most illustrious men of action live and love to the maximum degree possible, while on-lookers idly sit back and discuss their daring escapades."


All fourteen of the men profiled here are entertainers in some way.  Some of them are not pleasant people.  Some are just plain talented.  Nolan does a superb job bringing each to life on these pages, making for an interested and now (alas) sometimes dated read.  Those covered are:

  • Marlon Brando
  • Ian Fleming
  • Otto Preminger
  • Ray Bradbury (good friend and major influence on Nolan's career)
  • Luis Miguel Dominquin (bullfighter)
  • Orson Welles
  • Rod Serling (another good friend and influence)
  • Lance Reventlow (millionaire playboy and sometime auto racer)
  • Raymond Chandler (another influence)
  • Peter Sellers
  • Ben Hecht
  • Dean Martin
  • Howard Hughes
  • James Thurber
This collection was reprinted some 32 years later by Borgo under the title Legends and Lovers:  Fourteen Profiles.  Copies of the original paperback are available from the usual on-line sources for ten bucks or more.

Sinners and Supermen isn't a major book by any standard, but it is certainly worth picking up if you happen to run across it.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Sam Cooke.  So much talent.  So many great songs.

Bring It All Home To Me:

Chain Gang:


Nothing Can Change This Love:

You Send Me:

Having a Party:

Another Saturday Night:

You're Always On My Mind:

A Change Gonna Come:

Unchained Melody:

Twistin' the Night Away:

Stand By Me:


Only Sixteen:

I'll Come Running Back To You:


X Minus One was NBC radio's revival of its previous program Dimension X (1950-1951) and ran from April 24, 1955 to January 9, 1958 for a total of 126 episodes, including 11 re-broadcasts.  A 127th episode was produced and aired in 1973 in an attempt to spark interest in another revival.  Many of the episodes aired were based on short stories by some of science fiction's most noted contemporary writers -- Ray Bradbury, Clifford D. Simak, Philip K. Dick, Robert A Heinlein, Murray Leinster, Frederik Pohl,  Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, among many others.

Robert Sheckley's "Skulking Permit" was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1954, and has since been reprinted 29 times -- including translations in French, German, Dutch, and Italian.  A far-flung human outpost is due to have a period inspection from the Terran Empire.  The outpost is determined to show it has a sufficiently advanced civilization and it decides that such a civilization must have every type of caste, including criminals.  But the colony does not have any criminals, so it hires one from its population.  How does a man act like a criminal when he has no idea how to do it?

Robert Sheckley (1928-2005) was a versatile and accomplished satirist who had been nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award.  A former fiction editor of OMNI, Sheckley was also named an Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  Films based on his works include The Tenth Victim, Freejack, and Disney's Condorman.

"Skulking Permit" was first aired on February 2, 1956 and was re-broadcast on July 4, 1957.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017


The Marcels.


My brother is a wine snob.  He insists on serving white wine with fish and white grapes with sushi.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


She's no Nanny Ogg, but Sarah Vaughan has got the singing chops on this classic.


Terry Pratchett's Discword comes to...well, not life, but animation in this full-length film.  Join the antics as Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Margrat Garlick cast a spell on you.  With a special appearance by Death (Christopher Lee), who ONLY SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS.


Monday, February 20, 2017


When you talk about bluegrass legends in New England, you're talking about Joe Val (1926-1985).  Born Joseph Valiante, he was a powerful force in the field, eventually forming the New England Bluegrass Band, which released seven albums from 1972 to 1983.  He had previously played with a number of Boston's top musicians, along with several bluegrass groups, including the Charles River Valley Boys.  The Charles River Valley Boys followed the the "British Invasion" releasing a 1966 bluegrass album of Beatle songs, which received major airplay in the region, prompting at least one prominent DJ to wonder where the Charles River Valley was and deciding it must be the Park Street Under subway station.

Val was diagnosed with lymphoma and a benefit to help with his medical expenses was held on June 9, 1985.  He died two days later.  The following year, the first Joe Val Day was held.  It has now grown to the three-day Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, which was named the 'event of the Year " in 2006 by the International Bluegrass Music Association.  My brother and my beautiful niece (one of three beautiful nieces because inner and outer beauty just rampages through the House family genes) just attended this years festival and (reportedly) there was a lot of squeeing going on.

Here's Val and the New England Bluegrass Band circa 1984:


  • Shaun Hutson, Shadows.  Horror novel.  "In Oxford and Paris, psychic investigators were attempting to probe hidden areas of the mind.  In New York, writer David Blake was studying the methods of miracle healer Jonathan Mathias.  Driven by their own desperate motives, these researchers were about to unlock Pandora's Box.  For concealed deep withing us all are horrifying forces capable of devastating destruction -- and now those forces were about to be unleashed on a helpless world."  Not great literature, perhaps, but Hutson (like his fellow Brit Guy N. Smith) can tell a pretty effective story.
  • Richard S. Wheeler, The Fire Arrow.  A Barnaby Skye western, the 14th in the Ske's West series.  "In the midst of a cruel winter in the Rockies, Barnaby Skye's Crow Indian wide is critically injured during an attack by Blackfeet.  The riders leave Skye and Victoria stranded in their frozen camp with no horses and little food.  When, miraculously, two horses wander into the camp, Victoria believes they have received a gift from her spirit helper.  Soon she and Skye are able to travel toward Victoria's home on the Musselshell River.  Their journey is interrupted by a party of renegade white men with a wagonload of cheap and poisonous whiskey they intend to trade to the Indians -- including Victoria's people, the Crows.  Dragooned into service by the outlaws, Skye is forced to assist them, but all the while he plans to ruin their deadly enterprise."  Five-time Spur winner Richard S. Wheeler is always a good read.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


George Takei has become a cultural spokesman with wit, intelligence and dignity.

His recent Broadway musical Allegiance is coming to over 350 movie screens in select theaters across the United States and Canada for one day only -- TODAY!  If you have a chance to see it, don't miss out on this opportunity!

In this TED talk. he takes on a theme that is becoming increasingly important.


People, get ready for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


I do like burgers and fries.  I also like Charlie Pride.  Just don't ask me which one I prefer because the answer keeps changing.


Amentep was a prince of Egypt some four millennia ago.  His love was the beautiful Princess Taia of Thebes, but palace intrigues and evil neer-do-wells worked against them.  Taia was kidnapped and poisoned while Amentep was imprisoned.  Luckily Amentep was given the magic Ibistick*, an ancient "get out jail free card" with almost unlimited power (as we soon see, it can turn a plane into a falcon, then turn the falcon into a horse).  Before Taia dies, Amentep put her in suspended animation and then puts himself in suspended animation so that some time in the future they can renew their love.

Okay, so there's not much logic going on there.  Why didn't he just use the Ibistick to cure Taia and to defeat all the bad guys?  Well, logic in a 1940 comic book is pretty much a rarity.

Anyway, to strain credibility further, flash forward to present day (1939-1940-ish) and Amentep's mummy is resting comfortably at a museum in a major American city.  And then, Shazaam!**, the mummy comes to life!  And he happens to have the magic Ibistick with him, which he uses to melt the case which holds him and to change his mummy swaddling into modern day clothing.  And he speaks English.

Now known as Ibis, he does a number of good deeds as he roams through the city.  Then he travels to Egypt, where (surprise, surprise) he doesn't find Kaia.  He does find that Kaia's mummy is in Europe, so off he goes.  While there, he saves and completely restores a bombed-out city.  Eventually he finds his love and brings her back to life -- and in a sexy Egyptian costume, to boot!  They head off to the Egyptian desert where he recreates the ancient city of Thebes.  Of course, a desert ruler kidnaps the Princess to use her to trade for the Ibistick.  But it's not nice to fool with Ibis the Invincible and the bad guy is soon turned into a pig.

More adventures lay ahead, including a face-off with Murder Malone, the leader of an illegal munitions gang who had taken control of Boysville, a city comprised of orphaned American boys.  Through it all, the Ibistick does its job at a rate of about three miracles a page.

Ibis continued his career through Fawcett Comics' Whiz Comics #155 (June 1953) and even had his own title for six erratic issues spreading from 1942 to 1948.  He was picked up briefly by Charlton Comics for at least one appearance in 1955.  The character eventually was sold to DC Comics, which basically used him for cameo appearances since 1976.  He should have used the Ibistick to create a better comic book career for himself.


*  I'm a little confused about the Ibistick.  Shouldn't it be Ibisstick?  Or Ibis Stick?  Let's face it, Ibi- stick makes no sense and Ibis-tick is just plain disgusting.  I'm just going to have to give creators Bill Parker and C. C. Beck one demerit.

** I can use the word because the very same issue of Whiz Comics included the origin story of Captain Marvel.

Friday, February 17, 2017


Big Joe Turner with a big boogie woogie sound.  My feet are tapping.


Patti Abbott suggested that this week the Forgotten Books gang concentrate on the theme of "Children Gone Wrong."  My mind first went to old juvenile delinquent paperbacks by Hal Ellson, Albert Quand, Wenzell Brown, Harlan Ellison, and so many others, as well as the Amboy Dukes trilogy by Irving Shulman and Evan Hunter's superb collection The Jungle Kids.  Sadly, my old copies of these books went walkabout long ago.  Then there's William March's The Bad Seed, in which the kid did not go wrong, but was bent from the start.  Another possiblity was Max Allan Collins' The Road to Perdition, but the author just released a new and expanded edition from Brash Books.  (Not to sound like Kellyanne Conway, but go out and buy it now!  You won't be sorry.)  Let's not forget the zillion and one horror novels about evil children.

In the end, my choice for the week was clear.  I had already reviewed it over three and a half years ago.  So, excuse the repetition, but this one deserves another look:

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin.  Two talented people.


Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons ran from October 12, 1937 until September 26, 1955, making it one of radio's longest running shows.  It first appeared on the NBC Blue network and switched to CBS radio in 1942, where it remained until the end.  Of almost 1700 episodes only 59 are said to survive, although 618 scripts are known to exist.*

Robert W. Chambers' 1906 fix-up novel The Tracer of Lost Persons is generally considered the source for this popular radio series.  That book, Mr. Keen was primarily interested in romantic themes rather than the murder, mystery, and mayhem involved in the radio show.  Frank and Ann H
Hummert updated and brought the character to radio.  Over the airwaves, Mr. Keen was never referred to by his first name; although sometimes he was called "Boss" or (more rarely) "Peachy."  Writer Jim Cox, in his 2004 book on the radio show, revealed that Keen had the unlikely first name of Westrel.  Is there any wonder Keen hid that name?

Bennett Kilpack played the title character for most of the show's run, followed by Philip Clarke and Arthur Hughes.  Jim Kelly played Mike Clancy, Keen's stereotypical Irish "Watson."  Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons could never be considered great art.  But is was great fun.

Ivan Shreve has an interesting perspective on the show here:

Click on the link below to hear the episode from February 24, 1944, "The Case of Murder in the Air."

* Dates and number of episodes vary.  I've tried to use those I felt were most likely.  So feel free to take these details with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Here's a gentle little children's song from folksinger Sam Hinton.  Hinton was an oceanographer, a calligrapher, a folklorist, and a darned fine musician.  His 1961 folkways album Sam Hinton sings Songs of Men is one of my favorites and contains a song I often sing to myself (because no one else can stand my attempts at singing) when I encounter someone who doesn't believe in the concept of evolution, "It's a Long Way from Amphioxus."

How many of these animal noises can you make?


[This one is for my brother.]

What's the difference between a banjo and an anchor?

You tie a rope to an anchor when you throw it overboard.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


This one is for Kitty, on this Valentine's Day and on every other day.  She gives my life light and meaning and laughter.  I am the luckiest guy in the world.


It's Valentine's Day, so how about a nice little rom-com/screwball comedy?  But not just any rom-com, this one features Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell and is based on the Hecht-MacArthur play The Front Page.  For me, this is one of the best films ever.  Everything clicks,

This is a film made for popcorn and for snuggling up with your significant other while watching.

Monday, February 13, 2017


The Grammies were awarded last night.  Sadly, I'm not au courant about today's music, but here's the first Grammy-winning song.  "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)" by Domenico Mondugo from 1957.


This week's regular INCOMING was posted last Friday so I could concentrate on this:
  • Santa Rosa Animal Shelter, Dog.  Well, we think it's a dog, but I'm not too sure.  When we moved to Florida, we were positive we would get an apartment, so we reluctantly re-homed Declan.  Of course we got down here and discovered that it was cheaper for us to buy a house that to rent an apartment.  Daughter Christina was upset that we were dog-less and cat-less and told us so.  Daughter Jessamyn also felt the same, as did our grandkids.  Long story short, we began to check out the local animal shelters online.  One had a photograph of what looked to be a waterlogged and filthy rat cowering in a corner.  The caption claimed it was a newly arrived dog.  A few days later the photo was changed.  The animal was no longer filthy nor waterlogged and was described as a Cairn terrier mix.  (Coincidently, the one-eyed dog my brother recently adopted was a Cairn terrier.)  It looked nothing like any Cairn terrier I had ever seen, but if you quint real hard and are in a dark room, well, you know...So last week we drove up to the shelter to take a look at this thing.  According to the intake sheet, the dog was given up by the previous owner because of excessive barking.  She also had a tendency to bolt out the door and run.  She had been spayed after having a litter of puppies (all of which had given away).  She was two years old.  She is house-broken.  Supposedly her name was Alicia.  (I think names are given randomly by shelter staff upon arrival.)  Well, she isn't noisy -- last night she barked for the first time (twice! at another dog who barked at her while I was taking her out); other than that, she's been little Miss Mute.  She does not bolt and run.  She doesn't like the outside and (when not sleeping) follows me around the house.  She had not been spayed -- the shelter took care of that before we picked her up.  She's not completely housebroken (grrr) so we take her outside often.  We don't know her age.  There's some gray on her muzzle but that could be genetic.  I have a suspicion she may have come from a puppy mill but that's only a suspicion and completely unfounded.  Wherever she came from, I don't think it was a happy place.  Despite desperately needing someone close to her, she's very timid.  She likes to be held.  And she's butt ugly.  Scraggly course fur.  Black body, brindle head and legs.  Her tail droops.  (It wags, but droops.)  She has floppy ears going in different directions.  She weighs only a few pounds.  I can see some Cairn terrier in her, but she's as much Cairn terrier as I am Charles Atlas.  And, of course, there's the problem of the name.  Kitty likes to name give dogs Irish names and for the past five days we have been trying out various names but none seemed to fit, although the grandkids liked Shamrock.  The dog does not respond to any names but will come if you click your tongue against the roof of your mouth; unless you're a member of a certain African tribe that uses clicks in its language, that's not a practical name for a dog.  I, myself, felt "Thunder Rat" was a pretty good name.  (The grandkids felt this was even better than Shamrock.)  So we've settled on Quinn because "You've not seen nothing like The Mighty Quinn."  She is a sweet (but ugly -- did I mention she was ugly?) dog.  Definitely not a VBD* and I hope we will prove to be worthy owners of her.
*Hat tip to Bill Crider.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Jia Jiang spent 100 days looking for rejection.  Here's what happened.


Few people did it better than Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  You just know Ain't No Grave Hold Her Done.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Wow.  The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is fifty years old!  My old, addled mind is wondering how that could be.  The show, the acts, the songs...all are still fresh in my mind.  Sic transit smothers.

Tom and Dick Smothers seemed the most unlikely comics to be at the vanguard of the protest movement, but their many battles with CBS censorship are legendary and eventually led to their cancellation.

To celebrate the golden anniversary of the show, here's their take on a Phil Ochs song.  Guest George Segal (and his banjo) joins in.



Take a 1940s hipster, mix him with a 1950s beatnik, put him in a 1920s Joe College coat, and use some out of touch writers to present him to an early 1960s teen audience and you have Cool Cat.

Didn't work.  Cool Cat lasted for just three issues, of which this one was the last.

But why  -- I hear you ask -- is this issue listed as Volume 9, Number 2, when the title only lasted three issues?  That's because the book was first a horror comic titled Black Magic from 1950-1951.  A total title and format change came about in 1962.  Who knows why?  But by 1963 the publisher, Crestwood/Prize Group closed down its comics line; most just went into a black hole but two romance titles (Young Love and Young Romance) were sold to DC comics.  (The company continued to publish its humor magazine, such as the Mad magazine rip-off, Sick.)

The saving grace for this particular issue is a guide on how to talk Hip.  And, yes, it misses the mark completely.

Check it out.

Friday, February 10, 2017


  • Mike Carey, Dead Men's Boots.  Supernatural thriller, the third featuring ghost hunter Felix Castor.  Castor's "getting involved with a brutal murder case that has all the hallmarks of a long-dead American serial killer...while fighting for the life -- if not the soul -- of his demon-possessed friend. Raffi.  to top it off, Castor can't shake the feeling that his [...] problems are related.  turning to succubus Juliet and zombie data-fence Nicky for aid, this overworked ghost hunter may fit the pieces together before someone rips his throat out.  Or not."  Carey wrote one of my favorite comic book series, Lucifer, and I wanted to try one of his novels.
  • David Stuart Davies, Forests of the Night.  Historical mystery. Sherlock Holmes expert Davies explore a London that is no longer gas-lit but is just as dark.  "By all accounts, Pamela Palfrey was plain and painfully shy -- the sort of girl that few people miss in the best of times.  And with Nazi bombs nightly raining down on London, and hundreds dying every day, these aren't the best of times.  this is particularly true for Johnny Hawke, who lost an eye -- and his dreams of a military career -- to an accident in basic training.  Though he has set up shop as a private investigator, Hawke is doing little more than nursing his feeling of inadequacy until the Palfreys hire him to find their missing daughter.  It soon becomes clear that Pamela was nursing some secrets of her own, and Hawke's passion for the case deepens as he comes to sympathize with the young woman's dreams -- which, like his own, appear to have been painfully thwarted."
  • David J. Schow, Gun Work.  Crime thriller.  "Life isn't always cheap south of the border -- some lives are worth a million dollars.  That's what the Mexican kidnapping cartel was demanding for Carl Ledbetter's wife.  So Carl reached out to the one person he knew with a chance of saving her, a deadly man whose own life he's saved in the sands of Iraq.  It was time to call in some favors.  Because some situations call for negotiation, but for gun work."  Schow is best known for his works in the horror field and for the screenplays for The Crow and two Texas Chain Saw Massacre films.  He was also one of the six writers who contributed to the modern-day pulp adventure novels about "Gabriel Hunt."  Gun Work was published by Hard Case Crime, so it's a guaranteed good read.
  • Charles sheffield, Cold As Ice.  SF novel.  "Twenty-five years ago, there was a great interplanetary was in the solar system.  It was a suicidal spasm in which terrible weapons were created and used; in which nine billion people were killed.  The rivalries that led to the was are not gone.  And a few of those deadly weapons remain -- some stillorbiting the sun in the debris of destroyed ship; some delibertely placed in storage."  The first book of a trilogy, Cold as Ice was nominated for the 2005 Kurd Lasswitz Prize when it was translated in German.


The most un-PC song the Beatles ever did.  The sentiments are terrible but the beat is irresistible.


The Wizard of Venus and Pirate Blood by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1970, 1979)

First published in 1970 by Ace Books under the title The Wizard of Venus and then in 1979 under the current title, this book contains two posthumous works found in Edgar Rice Burroughs' papers.  The Wizard of Venus was first published in the collection Tales of Three Planets in 1964 along with two (three?) other tales by Burroughs.  The book contained the two-part Beyond the Farthest Star (Part 1 from Blue Book, January 1942, and Part 2, "Tangor Returns," was an unpublished piece found after Burroughs' death), "The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw," a previously unreprinted story from Argosy, February 20, 1937, and The Wizard of Venus.  Pirate Blood is original to this book and evidently has not been reprinted (at least, not according to ISFDb) outside of the ten editions of this book book from 1970 to 1991.

The Wizard of Venus is the final adventure of Carson Napier, the "Wrong-Way Corrigan" who ended up on Venus (or Amtor, as the natives called their planet) instead of Mars and stayed for four books (the last being a fix-up of four novelettes) before he ended up with Duare, the beautiful daughter of the emperor, with the couple looking forward to a lifetime of peace and content.  This was not to happen immediately, though.  Napier and his Venusian friend Ero had designed a flying machine (called an anotar) and the two decided to take it on a three day cross-country test flight, while using the opportunity to map some uncharted parts of the planet.  The two found themselves in a cloud covered area where, for unknown reasons, their compasses refused to work.  They decided to land and wait for the clouds to disperse before returning home, which they calculated to be some ten thousand miles away.  They land and are taken to the castle of a local Togan (similar to a Baron), where they are feared to be wizards.  One of the neighboring Togans is a powerful wizard who exerts his powers over the area by turning people, Circe-like, into zaldars, animals used for food.  The Togan's beautiful (of Course) daughter is one such victim.

All this, of course is bunkum.  The wizard turns out to be an old man who knows a few sleight of hand tricks but does have great hypnotic powers with which he convinces people they are zaldars.   By this means, his neighbors are convinced that any zaldar might be a relative so they refuse to eat them, leaving a huge supply of zaldar's for the wizard's table.  (Of course, the wizard's people, thinking the prisoners in their dungeons are also zaldars, often dine on the hapless prisoners.)  Carson Napier had learned some mind control tricks from an East Indian mystic while he was on earth, but had previously seldom used these powers during his previous adventures.  He now uses these powers -- and eventually -- good wins out.

The Wizard of Venus is unlike any other adventure Carson has had.  There's very little action.  The improbable plot is told with wit and unassuming charm.  I don't know if Burroughs ever planned to publish the story during his lifetime, but it reads like a doodle he wrote for his private amusement.  I really enjoyed this piece of nonsense.

As Donald A. Wollheim notes in his brief introduction, Pirate Blood reads like a first draft.  Johnny Lafitte is a young Californian, the son of a poor cobbler.  His best friend is Frank Adams, descendant of two presidents and born with the proverbial silver spoon.  They both love the beauteous Daisy Jukes, who only has eyes for Frank.  The discovery of oil in their town has made all of their gang except Johnny very wealthy and Johnny begins to distance himself from his friends.  Johnny eventually graduates from law school but fails the bar exam.  Proudly (and stupidly) refuses to try again and accepts a position as a motorcycle cop.  One of Johnny's childhood friends is accused of embezzling a million dollars from the local bank and Johnny is tasked with arresting him.  The friend, Billy Perry, had been building a dirigible to use for his escape with the loot.  Johnny arrives just in time to board the vessel to arrest Perry but Perry manages to launch the ship before Johnny can stop him.  Johnny has no idea how to steer or land the dirigible so he is at Perry's mercy.  Perry sets course for the East Indies and neither Johnny nor member of law enforcement can stop him.  After a days it becomes obvious that the dirigible is losing air; the cold nights condense the air and continues to lower the vessel.  Johnny and Perry manage to stay aloft by jettisoning various things.  As the days pass and they limp along, Perry goes mad and attacks Johnny.  Eventually the maddened man leaps off the ship into the ocean.  Alone, Johnny continues to cannibalize the ship.  Eventually, just when there is nothing left to throw overboard and the dirigible seems doomed to crash into the ocean, Johnny spots an island.  Rather than go down with the ship, Johnny parachutes to the island, landing on a beach where two cut-throat gangs are battling.  When one of the men, evidently on the invading side, attacks Johnny, Johnny shoots him.  Eventually the attack is repulsed and the defenders of the island take Johnny to their leader, a dreaded pirate known as the Vulture.

Johnny Lafitte happens to be a descendant of Jean Lafitte, the famous pirate, and his pirate genes awaken within him.  Johnny eventually becomes second in command to the pirate gang and cuts a bloody swarth throughout the East Indies and surreptitiously falls for the Vulture's mistress. .  Eventually he falls in disfavor with the Vulture and allies himself with the Vulture's even more untrustworthy enemy the Portuguese.  In true Burroughs fashion, Johnny also runs into Daisy Jukes, the woman he has always loved.

In first draft fashion, the bones of an fairly good adventure novel are here but Burroughs never returned to the story to smooth it out.  There are a lot of threads left hanging, characters and plot need some fleshing out, and the story's denouement -- which takes up only the final two paragraphs -- definitely needs work.   Nonetheless, Pirate Blood is highly readable, unpolished Burroughs.

Unpolished Burroughs?  I had never before thought of Burroughs as a particularly polished writer and maybe I should.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Today's 1-A NPR radio show with Joshua Jackson featured a discussion with Timothy B. Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till, which revealed that the woman who had accused 14-year-old Till of molesting her fifty years ago finally admitted that she her testimony was fabricated.  Because of this lie, Till was abducted, beaten, mutilated, and shot and his body was consigned to the Tallahatchie River.  The act brought national and international attention to violent racism in the American South.  After being acquitted of Till's killing, the two accused freely boasted of committing the murder, knowing that they could never be charged again for the crime.

A sad and shameful time for america and for humanity.

Anyway, this got me thinking about this classic Billie Holiday song.  I've posted it before, but some things need repeating.


Everybody's favorite Belgian detective (and his little gray cells) take center stage in this radio play from July 12, 1945.  Starring as Hercule Poirot is Harold Huber, a prolific radio and film character actor, perhaps best known for his role of Nunnheim in 1934's The Thin Man, as well as his several supporting roles in a number of Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto movies.  Poirot was not the only household name Huber played on radio; he also play the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu for one season (1932-3) on CBS Radio.

The Hercule Poirot radio series was not based on any of Dame Agatha's writing, borrowing only her character.  Christie however, seemed to approve of the series, and taped a brief introduction to be used on the first show of the series.

Exercise your little grey cells by clicking on the link.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Where's Jack Reacher when you need him?


Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes.


Robert Donat plays Captain Terence Stevenson, a British spy who is sent to infiltrate and destory a German chemical weapons plant in Czechoslovakia during World War II.  To do this he assumes the role of Jan Tartu, a member of the Romanian Iron Guard who is both a dandy and a ladies' man.  The first order of business is to make contact with the Czech resistance and convince them that he (as Tartu) is on their side.  It's a dangerous game all around and Stevenson seldom knows whom to trust.  Also known as Sabotage Agent, this film is an ambitious and thrilling flick with stellar performances by Donat and Valerie Hobson (playing the beautiful Resistance fighter posing as a Nazi).  Also adding to flick are excellent performances by Glynis Johns and Walter Rilla.

Directed by Harold Bucquet (best known for directing nine of the Dr. Kildare movies), with a script by John Lee Mahin (Quo Vadis, Showboat, The Bad Seed) and Howard Emmett Rogers (Calling Bulldog Drummond, Assignment in Brittany, Tarzan and His Mate) from a story by John C. Higgins (Shield for Murder, He Walked by Night, Robinson Crusoe on Mars), this one is a must-see.

Monday, February 6, 2017


Lyle Lovett.


  • Paul Bishop, Sand Against the Tide.  Crime novel.  "Calico Jack Walker has just retired after thirty years on the LAPD, but it doesn't look like he's going to get a chance to enjoy life on his fishing boat, Thieftaker.   Thieftaker had been chartered by a couple of hardcases who looked like they were more interested in feeding the fishes than in catching them -- but a lot of people like deepsea fishing.  It's a mistake for a cop to ignore his instincts...Now Jack, and his ex-partner tina, are going to find out just who is stupid enough, or dangerous enough, to try to hijack a cop's boat, and murder a cop's son."
  • William Hopson, High Saddle.  Western.  "Who was the stranger riding into town alone?  He was hard, cold, spoke only a little and when he did they wondered about his strange accent.  The questions he asked chilled the townspeople.  Was he a bounty hunter, tracking down his prey with quiet cunning?  Or a man with a memory which he would not allow to touch him?  He cared for no human being, it seemed.  Had the Apaches seen to that?"  Looks like someone needs a much better blurb writer.
  • Richard Laymon, Dark Mountain.  Horror.  "for two families, it was supposed to be a relaxing camping trip in the California mountains.  They thought it would be fun to get away from everything for a while.  But they're not alone.  The woods are also home to two terrifying residents who don't take kindly to strangers -- an old hag with unholy powers, and her hulking son, a half-wild brute with uncontrollable, violent urges.  The campers till need to get away -- but now their lives depend on it!"
  • Dana Stabenow, editor, Powers of Detection.  Fantasy/mystery anthology with  twelve stories "set in in worlds where sleuths may wield wands instead of firearms -- and criminals may be as inhuman as the crimes they commit."  The copyright notice includes Martin H. Greenberg's Tekno Books. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Roselinde Torres is a senior partner and managing director of the People and Organization practice at The Boston Consulting Group.  In 2014 she received the Woman leaders in consulting award from Consulting magazine.  She is an advisor to the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership and the Latin Leadership Initiative.


Jim Reeves.

Saturday, February 4, 2017


Charlie Daniels.


Madame Zero, a spy with a mysterious past and an unknown future, was one of the briefest of franchises in comic book history; her adventures lasted for just three stories in late 1952.  Her exploits were narrated by American Secret Service agent George Dennison, the pseudonym also used to sign all of the three stories which appeared in Fiction House's Fight Comics #83-85.

We first see Madame Zero posing as a nightclub entertainer in Paris, where she takes down a ring of Communist spies who have been kidnapping scientists.  Next, she is in Korea where she infiltrated a band of North Korean soldiers to rescue a South Korean patriot.  And finally, Madame Zero poses as a Russian general to destroy a cache of deadly germs by redirecting the rockets that carried them to explode in North Korea.

Then, as quickly as she appeared, Madame Zero disappeared.  Fight Comics lasted for two additional issues before it disappeared itself with issue #87 in 1953.

Madame Zero was never meant to be a comic book superstar.  Her brief adventures appear to be mere fillers, with character and plot never fleshed out, but the bones of major character were there.  With a little bit of effort and some editorial push she could have been a contender.  As it was, Madame Zero was just a minor footnote in comic book history.  Sci transit gloria.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Now she is fifteen.  Where does the time go?  It seems like it was just yesterday when she was born on a Superbowl Sunday and I was trying to sleep on some uncomfortable chairs in the hospital waiting room.  It took her a while to be born but the very best things do take time.  And suddenly she was there and, once again, my life was changed for the better.

Erin has grown from being a sweet, giggling little girl to being a sweet and often giggling young lady.  And in a few months she'll be getting her driver's permit.  Where does the time go?  I swear it was just yesterday when we brought her to pre-school and when she was acting in classroom plays and when she placed second every time her school had a spelling bee (the first time she got caught up on "surprise"; the last time she would have won but the judge allowed another girl to correct a mistake), and when she named student of the month, and when she went rafting on the Colorado river, and when she visited the Galapagos, and when she cried over a dead pet, and when she learned that some little girls can be cruel, and when she learned to do so many complicated yet beautiful designs on her fingernails, and when she learned to play the flute, and when we discovered she had mad skills with a hula hoop.  All of this and so much seems like it was just yesterday.

It also seems like it was forever.  It's hard to imagine our lives without Erin.  Super smart, super cool, super wonderful Erin.

Erin is in high school now.  At first the thought of entering high school scared her.  Her friends from eighth grade were all going to other school because of local districting.  Erin soon realized she did not have to worry.  She joined the school Color Guard and was instantly part of a group of nice, accepting girls, many of whom also giggled.

Erin is surprisingly close to her older brother.  They laugh easily together.  And she is extraordinarily tolerant of the Kangaroo and is his best friend outside of his pre-K class.

Kitty and I are lucky to have three granddaughters whom we love with all of our being.  We look at Erin, the youngest of the three, and wonder, where does the time go?  The time goes to memories of special days and of special persons like Erin.  She is a bright and sparkly part of our past, present, and future.

We love her very much.


The Chordettes.


The Mysterious Planet by "Kenneth Wright" (Lester del Rey) (1953)

Lester del Rey contributed eight novels to Winston Publishing's Adventures in Science Fiction series.  The Mysterious Planet is the weakest of them, which may explain why it was published under a  unknown at the time pseudonym.  (Tuck's 1978 The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, for example, showed no knowledge that this was a del Rey* pen name.)

A tenth planet has been discovered beyond Pluto (which was still a planet back then).  What at first appeared to be a highly eccentric orbit turns out to be something completely different.  Planet X does not have an orbit; instead, it is traveling through the solar system heading towards earth.  The solar Federation Navy sends its Ninth Wing to investigate.  Aboard the Icarus, one of the ships sent on this mission, is newly minted Cadet Bob Griffith, who's father happens to be the Commander of the Ninth Wing.   On their way they are met by a fleet of large black ships of unknown origin.  Reluctantly, the Federation ships are drawn into a battle which they lose handily due to the enemy's highly advanced technology and weapons.  The three surviving Federation ships limp back to their home port while the enemy ships make their way to Planet X.

Bob and two of his friends disobey orders and travel back to space in an attempt to get vital information about the enemy's technology but they fall into a trap and are captured.  The three are brought to Planet X, which is actually a world from a distant sun that went nova.  The humanoid people of Planet X want their planet to orbit our sun but they fear Earth and its warlike tendencies.  Neither side, it turns out, wants a war but both feel they are being forced into one by the other side.

There's a lot of good stuff in this novel, but you have to sift through a number of time-word tropes, some plodding plotting, philosophical conundrums, and a simplistic resolution to find it.  Del Rey, who could and did do much better, seems to have phoned this one in.

I am afraid you'd be better off reading any of his other contributions to this series, either under the del Rey name of his Philip St. John pseudonym.

* Del Rey, of course, was also a pen name.  He claimed (and it was widely believed) that his true name was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcote-Brace Sierra del Rey y de los Verdes.  It was only more than a decade after his death that his real name was Leonard Knapp.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Here's CCR.


From August 16, 1942, here's another episode from NBC Radio's Author's Playhouse, this one featuring Eric Knight's delightful Sam Small, the "Flying Yorkshireman."  In this tale, Sam is walking ( a polite description, considering Sam's condition) home from the pub when he bumps into a lamp post, splitting the poor man into two identical persons -- a form of Yorkshire schizophrenia, perhaps?  Each personality considers himself the "better half" but things get more complicated when add the other "better half," Sam's wife Molly.

Sam is played by Charles Penneman and Hilda Graham takes the role of Molly.  The cast is rounded out by Herb Butterfield, Fred Barron, and John Goldsworthy.

Eric Knight is best known for his book Lassie Come-Home (the basis of a certain collie franchise), although mystery readers might remember him as "Richard Hallas," the author of the hardboiled thriller You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up.  Knight was born in Yorkshire in 1897.  He enlisted in Canada's Princess Pat Legion in 1917.  His two brothers enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard and were killed on the same day in 1919.  Major Eric Knight was killed in a crash of a C-54 in Suriname on January 15, 1943; at the time he was working for the OSS.  "On board were secret documents, a large sum of american money and 35 people.  This was at the time the worst air disaster in North American aviation history.  There were no survivors."  The plane carried eighteen military personnel and eight civilian support staff.  It is suspected that the plane was shot down by a German submarine.

Enjoy this whimsical and extraordinary tale from an extraordinary man.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra.


The last time my uncle went skydiving (and I mean the last time) he was having a blast during free fall but when he pulled on the cord, the parachute did not deploy.  As he was plummeting down to the ground he met a man who passed him going up.

My uncle called out, "Hey!  Do you know anything about parachutes?"

The man answered, "Nope.  Do you know anything about propane tanks?"