Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, June 26, 2017

INCOMING


  • Michael Brandman, Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice.  A Jesse Stone mystery, the second by Brandman continuing the adventures of Parker's character.  "A Hollywood movie company has come to town, and brought with it a huge cast, crew, and a troubled star.  Marisol Hinton is very beautiful, reasonably talented, and scared out of her wits that her estranged husband's jealousy might take a dangerous town.  When she becomes the subject of a death threat, Jesse and the rest of the Paradise police department go on high alert.  And when Jesse witnesses a horrifying collision caused by a distracted teenage driver, the political implications of her arrest bring him into conflict with the local selectmen, the DA, and some people with very deep pockets.  There's murder in the air, and Jesse's reputation as an uncompromising defender of the law -- and his life -- are on the line."  Brandman wrote three Jesse Stone novels following Parker's death; the series is now being continued by Reed Farrell Coleman.
  • Al Cobb, Savannah's Ghosts.  Collection of supposedly "all-true" ghost stories from Savannah, Georgia.  "These exciting stories were compiled by examining past and present supernatural cases involving ordinary Savannah citizens."   The author is a member of The Searchers, a local group which gathers "information and evidence of ghostly activity in and around Savannah."  Cobb is quick to explain that The Searchers "are strictly a non-profit group and not affiliated with any occult or Satanic group of any kind.  We only wish to add to the knowledge of mankind and its purpose spiritually on this planet...Currently [as of the 2001 publication date] The Searchers are running ads in Creative Loafing Newspaper offering to help anyone who has a suspected haunting or other supernatural occurrence."  I've mentioned before that I am a sucker for this type of regional book.  This copy was signed by the author.
  • Douglas G. Greene, editor, Classic Mystery Stories.  Mystery story anthology of thirteen stories dating from 1841 to 1920.  Many of the usual suspects are included among the authors:  Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Rodrigues Ottolengui, Jack London, Jacques Futrelle. Samuel Hopkins Adams, Baroness Orczy, Gelett Burgess. Melville Davisson Post, Susan Galspell, E. C. Bentley, and H. C. Bailey.  A good collection but geared more for the neophyte.  Greene is a noted scholar of the genre and the co-owner and editor of the mystery publisher Crippen & Landrau.
  • Mel Odom, Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel:  Cursed.  Television tie-in novel.  "Sulking around the Slayer in Sunnydale, the vampire Spike has often run into demons intent on punishing him for throwing in with the White Hats.  But when there are hints of a more organized campaign dedicated to the vampire with a chip in his head, Spike sets off on the trail of whomever's put a hit out on him.  Meanwhile, in the City opf the Angels, a vampire with a soul finds that the search for a mystical object is tied to his days as the vicious Angelus.  Then Spike -- his former partner in carnage -- arrives in L.A.  Each nursing a grudge, and with the specter of Buffy in both of their (cold, dead) hearts, the two vampires reluctantly work together...until their torturous past catches up with them!"  This book "takes place in an alternate continuity during Buffy's fifth and Angel's third seasons."
  • William MacLeod Raine, Guns of the Frontier.  Nonfiction.  An account of some of the famous gunslingers and lawmen of the old West.  "It was a free country, wide open.  but freedom was bought by the gun.  And when the gunsmoke cleared away, too many hombres were ready for the undertaker.  Into this lawless land rode the giants of the West:  Wild Bill Hickok, Sam bass, Bat Masterton, Ben Thompson.  Some were bed, some were good...all were quick on the trigger -- and only the toughest survived."  The original subtitle for the book was "The story of how law came to the West."  Raine was a very popular western writer with well over eighty books to his credit.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

TED TALK: THE ORCHESTRA IN MY MOUTH

A beatboxer explains it all.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFjIi2hxxf0&index=1&list=PLwpFrtWg2EJHyqlGm8qNueXjFRvSXu8Ft

HYMN TIME

Aretha Franklin with Joe Ligon of The Mighty Clouds of Joy.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUujg0BTIjk

Saturday, June 24, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: WHITE LIGHTNING

The Big Bopper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NMklxiE6xw

TOM MIX COMICS #2 (NOVEMBER 1940)

Are you a Ralston Straight Shooter?  If so, then this is the comic book for you,   And, keep eating your Ralstom Wheat Cereal -- just one blue seal from the box and some small change could net you some neat premiums!  And did you know?  If you fry up some Ralston Wheat Cereal and pour syrup on it, it make a great breakfast!

Okay, now that you've had your Ralston Wheat Cereal, let's see what's up with Tom Mix and the gang at the TM-Bar ranch.

Oh no!  Tom's smart and talented horse Tony has been kidnapped by Two-Spot Jake, the smartest hoss thief in the Southwest!  Tom and Wrangler go riding off to find them, leaving little Jane and ranch hand (and comic foil) Wash and his mule Zobelia behind.

Later Jane and Wash go into town to get supplies and see a rodeo in progress.  Well, nothing can beat a rodeo, can it?  So Jane and Wash watch from the stands as the rodeo's owner, Colonel Butler ( who looks and dresses remarkably like Buffalo Bill Cody) steps in the ring and introduces "the orneriest hoss in the world!  Black Satan!" and offers $1000 in gold to anyone who can ride him.  Many try but all fail.  But little Jane notices something about the horse.  She runs into the ring to take up the challenge.  Somehow Jane is able to quiet the horse and she climbs on the saddle.  She shouts to Wash to get the sheriff and follow her -- she's going after Tom!  She bolts out of the ring with Black Satan and is followed closely by Colonel Butler and two of his cronies who are determined to stop her before she reaches Tom.  Will she make it?  Or will the Colonel and his men stop her?  Why is she so desperate to see Tom?  And what is the secret of Black Satan?  Why is Jane able to tame the horse while grown men couldn't?  All is revealed in the next three pages.

Jane, by the way, has some strange dreams.  Later in the issue, we find the continuing adventures of "Jane at Dream Castle."  In the previous issue, Jane and her warrior friend -- a tall muscular blond who carries a bow and arrow and wears only a ragged loin cloth -- Sir Lard-Tub and his cowardly squires.  Now she finds herself with her warrior friend outside the dream castle.  The cruel wizard Maldred has imprisoned the rightful lord of the castle and his daughter.  Jane's friend, who finally has a name -- Strongbow, is about to save them.  Jane comes along and her brains, along with some of the things Tom has taught her, help Strongbow gain the castle.  Unfortunately, Jane wakes up before they could rescue the lord and his daughter.  Maybe next issue...

Tom returns for another adventure as he meets "La Puma -- Scourge of the Badlands!"  The mysterious La Puma has been terrorizing the ranchers, sheepherders, and settlers outside of Dobie.  Tom, Pecos, Jane, and Wash ride out to investigate.  Tom and Pecos end up against La Puma and his vicious gang, as well as an angry grizzly bear.  Meanwhile, Jane has an idea to help capture the baddies.

Also in this issue is a story about Amos Q. Snood and the Fumble Family (in which Amos tries to cheap his way out of buying a Christmas tree) and a two-pager about Stubby and His Straight Shooter Pals, along with a gazillion features for kids.

And throughout the book:  reminders to catch Tom and his TM-Bar ranch friends in The Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters every weekday from 5:45 to 6:00 on the Blue Network Coast to Coast!  And keep enjoying your Ralston Wheat Cereal!


http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=68842

Friday, June 23, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: BLACK SLACKS

Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones livened up 1957 with this hit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Iwu3OCm8I

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: TWO BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

The Lad and the Lion (1917/1938) and The Man-Eater (1915/1955) by Edgar Rice Burroughs


Here are two standalone books with very similar themes by the popular Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The Lad and the Lion first appeared as a three-part serial in All-Story beginning on June 30, 1917.  It was released in book form by Burroughs' own publishing house in 1939, and later by Canaveral Press and by Ballantine Books in 1964.  The copy I read is an Ace paperback printing from 1978 which states, "Twenty-one thousand words of new material added to book edition," which, I assume, refers to the original 1939 edition, although I'm to lazy to compare the editions to verify this.

The book follows a typical Burroughsian path, starting in a Graustarkian kingdom and stranding the protagonist in a merciless African climate to undergo both adventure and maturation.  Prince Michael is the young heir of an old European kingdom undergoing political turmoil.  The revolution comes and the king is assassinated, but a loyal retaining manages to get Michael aboard a crowded ship fleeing the violence.  Naturally the ship runs into a hurricane and is sunk.  A piece of the wreckage knocks Michael unconscious and he wakes up alone in the water, bobbing in his life jacket.  He manages to climb on a nearby lifeboat.  The blow to Michael's head has given him total amnesia -- not only can he not remember his past, every memory is gone including language and any knowledge of being a human.  Michael is a blank slate who existence started only when he climbed onto the lifeboat.

The story could have ended there for Michael except that a steamer passes by and rescues him.  The steamer has a crew of one, an insane man who had originally been a stowaway.  The only other living being on the ship is a huge caged lion.  The man forces Michael to be his slave.  Michael somehow befriends the lion.  This goes on for an incredible three years, until the man beats Michael just once too often and the lion escapes from his cage and kills the man who is beating his friend.  The ship is wrecked off the coast of Africa and the lad (who by now is a young man) and the lion begin a trek across the Sahara.

Whoever said that thing about the willing suspension of disbelief must have had Edgar Rice Burroughs in mind.

Meanwhile, off in Graustarkville (or wherever), political intrigue continues.  There is a new king and a new prince.  The prince, Ferdinand, is a complete little snot.  He has no one to play with and his tutor suggests that he play with Hilda and Hans, the gardener's children, as young Michael used to do.  Ferdinand want nothing to do with Hans, but Hilda is a very pretty little girl and Ferdinand is smitten.  their relationship blossoms into an imperious friendship and Hilda turns from a sweet and innocent girl to a venal turnip-brained fathead.  Ferdinand wants his father dead so he can be the king and do whatever he wants, so there!  It so happens that there's a cabal of plotters within the palace and there's an underground revolutionary movement.  Eventually Ferdinand gets his wish and becomes king.  He then extravagantly spends the country's capital on himself while his people suffer.

Back on the desert, Michael and the lion rescue the daughter of a sheik from a band of desert outlaws.  Remember, Michael has no memory.  He has never seen a girl, especially a beautiful one.  Feeling he can't understand begin to bubble up because of this creature with the strange things arising from her chest.  The girl gives Michael a name -- Aziz.  She begins to teach him Arabic.  Michael and the lion have been raiding the sheik's flock for food.  Now, on discovering the concepts of property and of right and wrong, he vows never to raid another man's livestock again.  The sheik is frightened of both Michael/Aziz and the lion.Michael is taken in by a French official who also has a beautiful daughter.  this girl teaches Michael/Aziz French.  This is followed by the usual romantic misunderstandings, angst, kidnapping, and rescue.

Meanwhile in Europe, characters are dying like flies as political machinations and murder rule the day.

True to Burroughs fashion, the author shifts chapters from one scene to another, from the Sahara with Michael and the lion to the European country with its political intrigue.  Burroughs usually has the two strands meet up near the conclusion of his books but in this case he doesn't until the very last paragraph.  And in the end we are left with a Rousseau-like vision that civilization is bad and back to nature is good.  Typical Burroughs.

I have to note that the stereotypical portrait or race in this book is deeply muted.  There are very few instances of words that might be offensive to the modern reader and much is made of the romance between a white European man and the sheik's daughter, often referred to as of another race.  Burroughs treats this relationship as he does that of John Carter and the zaftig (and oviparous) Martian princess Dejah Thoris -- nothing to be concerned about.

The Man-Eater is a different kettle of fish, abundantly laced with offensive descriptions of blacks (nigger, pickaninny, coon, and that just scratches the surface.  Stepin Fetchits abound in this short book.  I cringed when I read a description of banjos strumming on the steps of the servants cabins at a Virginia plantation.

The Man-Eater was first published almost two years earlier than The Lad and the Lion, asa six-art serial running in the New York Evening World from November 15 to 20, 1915.  It was first published in book form in an unauthorized edition of 300 copies by Lloyd Arthur Eshback in 1955.  It's first major book publication was with another short novel by Buirroughs in Beyond Thirty & The Man-Eater, published by Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications in 1957.  The Man-Eater has been republished several times since then by both Fantasy Press and EBRville Press and as an e-Book.  It is also available on-line.  There not been a mass market paperback edition.

A young baby and her mother are the only survivors of a native attack on their African home.  The woman's parents were slaughtered and her husband was killed trying to get help.  Her late husband's father, hearing of this tragedy, brought them to live with him on his Virginia estate.  Nineteen years later, the older man has died but his will, which left everything to the young girl, cannot be found.  A neer-do-well nephew appears and claims the estate is his because there is no proof that the girl's mother was ever married to the dead man's son.  The only marriage certificate was lost in the attack on their African home.

Luckily, there was one living witness to the marriage ceremony -- the husband's best friend.  Unluckily, that man died a few years ago.  The letter sent to him, pleading for his help, eventually reached his son, a rich and bored young man with a taste for adventure.  He immediately decides to travel to Africa to see if he can find the marriage certificate among the ruins of the family home.  Neer-do-well nephew, in the meantime, has the same idea and scurries of to Africa with two criminal buddies.

A woman is killed and carried off by a lion.  The natives dig a deep pit to capture the lion.  the lion falls in an is trapped.  Meanwhile, neer-do-well and his cronies shoot and kill the lion's mate.  Back at the pit, natives are about to kill the lion but our hero manages to come along and stop them because it's just not sporting to shoot him while he is trapped in the pit.  To make things more sporting, he tosses a log into the pit so the lion can climb out, but keeping his rifle handy in case the lion attacks him.  The lion hops out of the pit, our hero trips while reaching for his rifle, and the lion is on top of him.  The lion, sensing that this man has saved him, leaves him alone and goes off in search of his mate.  The lion (whose name, by the way, is Ben, King of Beasts -- Burroughs' working title) comes across the dead lioness and gets the scent of the three baddies.  Ben vows vengeance (or whatever lions do) against them.

Virginia (the young heiress, named after her father's home state) discovers our hero has gone to Africa and sets off after him to warns him about neer-do-well and his pals, who plan to murder him if he finds the marriage certificate or to murder him if he doesn't find it.  (they are non-discriminating thugs who just like to kill.)   Our hero has discovered a sealed envelope in the ruins and, presuming it to be the marriage certificate, he tucks it in his pocket unopened.  Then there are attacks and captures and cannibals and rescues.  Our hero, gaga-eyed over Virginia, forgets he has the envelope and travels with her back home.

Ben, meanwhile, has been captured, shipped to the States, and is sold to a circus.

Neer-do-well has also traveled to Virginia and is planing to attack the estate.  He doesn't count on a near-by circus train wreck that has freed Ben.  Ben catches neer-do-well's scent and goes a-hunting.  Neer-do-well manages to get the envelope from our hero and jumps out a window with Ben in hot pursuit.  A negro servant hides from Ben in a cupboard (and in an awkward Mantan Moreland fashion); when he finally released, a hidden compartment with another sealed envelope is discovered.  All's well that ends well, except for several people who end up as lion chow.

And so we come to the close of another episode of Coincidence Theater.

Few people can claim that Burroughs was a good writer and keep a straight face.  But Burroughs was an effective writer.  He keeps the balls juggling as he races the plot forward at a pell mell pace.  Somehow the reader becomes invested in his paper thin characters.  His stories are exciting and his occasional shots of humor help alleviate some of his obvious faults.  For some reason, reading an occasional Burroughs novel helps cleanse, rather than stain, my reading palate.

I  don't mind jingoism and I don't mind obvious racism in books of a certain age (because they are of a certain age, you see), but parts of The Man-Eater border on outright bigotry.  You'd be better off just sticking with The Lad and the Lion.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

Yes, they do, Cyndi.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIb6AZdTr-A

OLD-TIME RADIO: LIFE OF RILEY

The Life of Riley ran from 1944 to 1951, first on the Blue Network, then on NBC.  The comedy starred William Bendix as the gruff but lovable Chester A. Riley and Paula Winslowe as his wife Peg.  Bendix took the popular character to the movie screens in RKO's 1949 release of The Life of Riley -- which also prevented him at first from starring the television version of the series which began the same year; that role went to Jackie Gleason, while Rosemary DeCamp took over the part of Peg.  That first television season lasted for only 26 episodes due to a disagreement between producer Irving Brecjher and the show's sponsor, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.  Nonetheless, that first series garnered television's first Emmy.

Bendix was back as Riley for the show's second series, which ran for six seasons, from 1953 to 1958, after which it went into syndication.  Marjorie Reynolds replaced DeCamp as Peg.

The episode linked below, "Riley Takes Phone Booth Nickels" aired on January 21, 1945.  For the young whippersnappers out there, there was once such a thing as a phone booth -- and, yes, they used to cost a nickel.

Enjoy.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TzOIgeDSfw

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: IT'S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME

The Harry James Band with the talented voice of Kitty Kallen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rkeh50Nig5U

BAD JOKE WEDNRSDAY

(My brother  sends me banjo jokes, so now it's my turn to get back at him.)


What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a banjo player?
A tattoo.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: SITTIN' IN THE BALCONY

Eddie Cochran.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBmYkXVteaU

TELEVISION OF YORE: THE BEVERLY HILLBILLES

Here is where it all started for Jed, Granny, Elly May, and Jethro:  the first episode.

Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBmYkXVteaU

Monday, June 19, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Queen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3p4MZJsexEs

INCOMING


  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Lad and the Lion.  Standalone adventure novel.  "In a remote European kingdom" -- is there any other kind in these novels? -- "plotters had moved toward the murder of the old king and his young heir, Michael.  but the lad escaped, and, through a series of the chilling, heart-stopping adventures only Edgar Rice Burroughs could have written, finds himself on the shores of Africa, his only friend and protector a giant feral cat."  I had a copy of this one years ago but it went walk-about, so I was happy to pick this one up.
  • Carolyn Haines, Revenant.  Mystery...or is it?  "When a decades-old mass grave near a notorious Biloxi nightclub is unearthed, reporter Carson Lynch is among the first on the scene.  The remains of five women lie within, each one buried with a bridal veil -- and without her ring finger.  Once an award-winning journalist, Carson knows her career is now hanging by a thread.  this story has pulled her out of a pit of alcohol and self-loathing, and with justice and redemption in mind she begins to investigate.  Days more two more bodies appear, begging the question -- is a copycat murderer terrorizing Biloxi, or has a serial killer awoken from a twenty-five-year slumber?"
  • Anne Hillerman, Rock with Wings.  A Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee/Bernie Manuelito mystery, the second of author's continuation of her father's Navajo mysteries.  "Doing a good deed for a relative offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work.  But two cases call them back from their vacation and separate them -- one near Shiprock, and the other at iconic Monument Valley.  Chee follows a series of seemingly random, cryptic clues that lead to a missing woman, a coldblooded thug, and a mysterious mound of dirt and rocks that could be a gravesite.  Bernie has her hands ful managing the fallout of a drug bust gone wrong, uncovering the origins of a fire in the middle of nowhere, and looking into an ambitious solar energy development with long-ranging consequences for Navajo land.  Under the guidance of retired Lieutenant Joe leaphorn, Bernie and Chee will navigate unexpected obstacles as they confront their greatest challenge yet."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

ON FATHER'S DAY

On Father's Day we'll be thinking in gratitude of the memory of Ralph E. House, Harold A. Keane, and Michael T. Dowd, and how lucky we are to have Walt Roof.  Good men all.

And although we may not know all their names, we'll be thinking of all those fathers who have worked and toiled for their families and who have guided and taught and loved their children.  We'll also be celebrating all those mothers who do so much for their children who have no father -- some moms make terrific dads.

Lest I get too sappy, here's a Father's Day song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFVrtjUmz7c

MY DAUGHTER, MALALA

To celebrate Father's Day, I thought I'd post this TED Talk from Ziauddin Yousafzi about his daughter.  "Why is my daughter so strong?  Because I didn't clip her wings."

Our children are our future.  Let's not clip their wings.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4mmeN8gv9o 

HYMN TIME

The Reverend Roger L.Worthy and his sister, Bonnie Woodstock, tells Satan to get back.  I haven't found much information on this song except that it was one side of a 45 rpm record from a small Indiana label.  Comments on the link below state that Roger L. Worthy died in 1999.

A great song.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ua-7OGjZ38k&index=2&list=PLbr6NQ84vJ0p_4NphMWqTK58uz1RbW_sZ

Saturday, June 17, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: THE CASTLE OF DROMORE

I was surprised to see that the great Paul Robeson recorded this version of the well-known traditional Irish song.  His powerful baritone lends something special here.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeFO8camSPM

COMIC STRIP COMPILATION: DIXON HAWKE

From "The Crime Fighters" by W.O.G. Lofts & Derek Adley:

"Dixon Hawke was called by many 'The Scottish Detective' because he was created and issued by the powerful publishing firm of D. C. Thomson of Dundee, Scotland.  Hawke first appeared in 1919 in the Dixon Hawke Library, which ran through 576 issues right up to 1941, followed by Dixon Hawke Casebooks, consisting of short stories.  He also appeared in short stories in The Adventure.  In the early 1970s he was still appearing in The Sunday Post newspaper.  Dozens of authors are known to have written the exploits of this famous sleuth.

"Dixon Hawke was tall and aquiline, wore a dressing gown, and smoked a blackened briar.  His assistant was Tommy Burke, and he had a bloodhound called Solomon.  Hawke was a very influential detective, well enough known to have dined with the Prime Minister.  His friends at the Yard were Detective Inspector Baxter, Chief of Scotland Yard's C.I.D. and Flying Squad, and William Baxford, Chief Assistant to Detective Inspector Duncan McPhinney..  Hawke's rooms were in Dover Street, just of Piccadilly and opposite the Ritz Hotel, and his housekeeper was a Mrs. Martha Benvie.  A strange assortment of garments and disguises was littered in a small windowless room, sandwiched between two bookcases and hidden behind a curtain, and his rooms also had a somewhat hidden back flight of stairs, which few people knew about and which allowed him to get out unobserved.  Hawke had a big Sunbeam roadster and a two-seater sports car that Tommy Burke drove."

*****

Hawke began his career while living in Bath Street in Glasgow.  He moved to London after World War II.  While in Glasgow, his assistant was Nipper, a boy who sold newspapers on the street.  Contrary to Lofts & Adey above, Hawke first appeared in the short story "The Great Hotel Mystery" (The Saturday Post, April 16, 1912 -- seven years before he appeared in book form).  Between then and 2000, Hawke had appeared in more than 5500 stories.  Hawke had been created as a Sexton Blake clone and has eclipsed Blake in published adventures by more than a thousand.

Among the authors who wrote the Dixon Hawke stories are Edwy Searls Brooks, John Creasey, Roy Vickers, Anthony Skene, Rex Hardinge, and Guy N. Smith.  It is very likely that Edgar Wallace also contributed to the saga.

His comic strip adventures appeared in Adventure Stories in the 1920s, single page adventures for the most part.  I have no idea who wrote these.  The link below brings you 19 of these adventures, with one being a two-parter.

Enjoy this famous detective who has the intellect of Sherlock Holmes and the derring-do of Nick Carter.


http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=68656&b=i

Friday, June 16, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: KIND OF A DRAG

I saw The Buckinghams just once, in the late Sixties when they were on a bill with The Beach Boys at a concert at Boston's Symphony Hall.  I can't remember who else played that concert except -- incongruously -- Jim and Jean, a talented folk duo.  As for The Buckinghams, they played this song and several others. Their drummer (probably John Poulas) kept tossing a drumstick spinning in the air, then catching it effortlessly without missing a beat, to the wild applause of the younger ones in the audience.  Ho hum.  Good song though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUyyfC7rsQY

FORGOTTEN BOOK: TOM SWIFT AND HIS BIG TUNNEL

Tom Swift and His Big Tunnel; or, The Hidden City of the Andes
                by "Victor Appleton" (Howard R. Garis (1916)


Following last week's forgotten book, I thought I'd follow up with another adventure of the popular young inventor.  Tom Swift and the Big Tunnel directly follows Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship and involves the tweaking of the explosive from the earlier book.  His Aerial Adventure gave us a look at the militaristic side of Tom, and here we get to see the capitalist side of our hero.

Job Titus and his brother run a construction business that has been awarded a contract from the Peruvian government to build a tunnel through a rugged part of the Andes in order to connect some important railways.  Titus Brothers bid low on the contract but is still posed to make a great deal of money if they complete the project within a specified time; if they don't,they forfeit any payment and the contract will then go to the next lowest bidder who would have an advantage of using whatever work Titus Brothers have done gratis.  And it happens that the next lowest bidder is a crooked outfit that is using any means possible to have the Titus Brothers fail.  It's not the efforts of the bad guys that have stymied Titus Brothers, though, it's that they have hit a large region of impenetrable rock.  Modern equipment and explosives have failed to make much of a dent in the rock and it appears that Titus Brothers will lose the contract.  Then Job heard of the marvelous explosive that Tom had developed for the cannons on his aerial warship.  He goes to Tom's laboratory in Shopton to see if Tom could help.

Tom agrees to help and strikes a very profitable deal for his company.  Tom will make improvements on his explosive and then travel to Peru to supervise the blasting.  Coincidentally -- and there are more than our share of coincidences in the book -- Tom's good friend Mr. Wakefield Damon comes and asks Tom if he would like to join him on a trip to Peru.  Damon has invested heavily in a company that produces quinine in Peru and the Peruvian government is blocking access to the bark from which the quinine is produced.  Damon has been authorized by the company to deal with the Peruvian government.  Killing two birds with one stone, Tom, Damon, and Tom's eight-foot tall assistant Koku, along with Tom's Electric Rifle, head to Peru.

On the ship heading south, Tom encounters a strange man and fears he might be a spy or saboteur from the rival company.  Nope.  He's just Professor Swyington Bumper, a well-known archaeologist and old friend of Mr. Damon, and he happened to save Tom from a bomb thrown at him on the ship.  By another coincidence, Bumper is on his way to Peru, where he had had been trying unsuccessfully for many years to find a rumored lost city.  This time, Bumper is planning to look in the area where the big tunnel is being dug.

In Peru at eh construction site, there is underhandedness afoot.  Efforts have been made to sabotage the work.  Large groups of workers mysteriously vanish from a tunnel with no exits except for the tunnel entrance which was carefully watched.  Natives in the area fear evil spirits and refuse to work.  Tom's marvelous explosive stops working because someone has switched ingredients.  The troubling layer of rock goes much farther than previously thought, delaying the tunnel even further.

In the meantime, Mr. Damon solves his problem by bribing (!) certain officials.  Professor Bumper keeps looking for his lost city to no avail.  Tom's Electric Rifle comes in handy.

**SPOILER ALERT** Needless to say, Tom comes out smelling of roses.  The good guys win out.  Tom discovers the lost city -- which has very little to do except act as a deus ex machina.  Professor Bumper goes on the become a recurring character in later books in the series.  Tom makes a lot of money.

There's a minor subplot involving Tom's undemonstrative romance with pretty Mary Nestor.  Tom has bought her a present but had to leave for Peru before delivering it himself.  He tells his assistant Eradicate Sampson -- a former slave and current Stepin Fetchit-like comic foil -- to package the gift and deliver it to Mary.  Since Eradicate cannot read, he doesn't realize the he has packaged the gift in an empty box labeled "Dynamite."   The Nestor family panics.  Mary father thinks Tom has pulled an unforgivable prank and writes a letter telling Tom that he would never consider him as a son-in-law and to stay away from Mary.  True love never runs smooth.  It would take another ten books and thirteen years before Tom and Mary wed.

Tom Swift and His Big Tunnel is another fast read, full of dated and overworked prose, stereotypes, and facile coincidence worthy of an early Twentieth Century boy's adventure novel.  As with the previous book in the series, this certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed it.
.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: BIGALOW 6-200

Here's Little Miss Dynamite -- Brenda lee.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHCAHEyl6xg&index=30&list=PLRfHzQHz-flM9LvF5DlbylttOKbFBQxGG

OLD-TIME RADIO: FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY

From November 18, 1935, Jim and Marion Jordan play one of America's favorite couples.

Laugh along to "Fibber and the Furnace."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXTTCqyubos

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAROLD A. KEANE!

Today is Kitty's father's birthday.  If my math is right he would have been 97 today.  He also would have been very pissed to know that he shared a birthday with Donald Trump -- Harold held no truck with bullies.

Harold was one of eight children.  His father came from County Cork and work in the New England shoe industry.  (Family legend has it that he turned down a chance to help found a new shoe business that went by the name of Thom McAn.  I'm glad he didn't because the whole family would have been rich, including Harold, and I might never have met Kitty and I would have spent my entire life drifting and aimless.)  In his youth Harold had red hair and was -- naturally -- called Red.  He could dance up a storm.

When World War II came along, Harold and his cousin Eddie joined the Navy.  During the physical, they swapped some papers so that each could pass.  Harold ended up in the Pacific aboard the destroyer Leutze.  Harold had many amusing stories about his experiences there.  He never ever told the non-amusing stories about the war, something that he had in common with many veterans.  The Leutze took part in five invasions and one major battle before being attacked by a kamikaze pilot.  The attack blew a large hole in the middle of the ship.  Harold was tasked with working below in chest-high water to get the ship's electrical systems working again.  His bravery in doing this earned him a Bronze Star.  Miraculously, the ship managed to limp back safely to port.

He had extracted a promise from his girlfriend that she would marry him after the war.  Little did she know that the war would end in a couple of weeks.  And so Kitty's parents were married.  Kitty's mother was raised by her uncle who at that time owned a used car lot.  The reception was at a restaurant next to the lot.  The few dark and grainy films taken showed more car lot than restaurant, so I also said they were married in a used car lot.  Kitty's mother did not appreciate that.

Harold and Eileen move to Georgia where Harold began attending Georgia Tech.  Soon Kitty's older brother Michael came along, the Kitty.  There were four people living in a tiny trailer.  Harold made extra money selling Sunday newspapers outside one of the area's largest Catholic churches.  He had a chance to make more money running moonshine, but Eileen wouldn't let him.  Shortly before graduation, he was called into the College offices and was told he was going to be expelled because (they said) he had lied on his application.  The college had found out that Harold had never finished high school.  Harold denied that he had lied and had them pull out his original application.  He pointed to the space that said High School Graduation and showed him that is was blank.  I never claimed to have finished high school he said, and you accepted me anyway.  Harold was allowed to graduate.

He had a long career as an engineer affiliated with the Air Force, NASA, and finally GE, usually working on projects that he was not allowed to talk about.

Her died when he was eighty of  pancreatic cancer, just week's before Christina's first child was born, which is a shame because he would have gotten such a kick out of Mark, not to mention Erin and Jack who came along later.

Harold was a good guy, with a great sense of humor.  He loved to putter around the house and never met a whiskey-soaked piece of bread pudding that he didn't like.

We miss him.

Tonight, we're all going out for ice cream as our evening meal because that was one of his favorite things.


MUSIC FROM THE PAST: THERE GOES MY BABY

The Drifters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3HXy9mGPpI

BAD JOKE WEDNESDAY

Why does a moon rock taste better than an earth rock?

It's a little meteor.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: WILD THING

British band The Troggs rocked the charts in 1966 in this cover of a song by The Wild Ones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hce74cEAAaE

QVERLOOKED FILM: JOHNNY ONE-EYE (1950)

This is a gangster film but "Johnny One-Eye" is not a gangster, but a dog owned by a cute little six-year-old girl.  That being said, you know this film is going to end with a high dose of schmaltz.

Repetitively named big time gangster Martin Martin is about to enter New York politics when he discovers that the District Attorney is about to charge him (rightly so) for a five-year-old murder.  He manages to escape and arranges a meeting with his former partner Dane Corey (Wayne Morris), knowing full well that Corey copped a plea deal while fingering Martin.  At this meeting, one of Corey's henchmen shoots Martin while Cory flees.  Corey hides out at his girlfriend's apartment (the not-very-aptly named burlesque queen Lily White, played by Delores Moran).  And Lily has a young daughter, Elsie (Gayle Reed).  And Elsie has a one-eyed dog name Johnny (uncredited critter).  And thus we have come full circle.

You can probably figure out the rest of this tale of vengeance and syrup.  (It may help if I mention that the flick is based on a Damon Runyon story.)

This one's directed by Robert Florey (The Cocoanuts, God Is My Co-Pilot, The Beast with Five Fingers) from a script by Richard Landau (Back to Bataan, Frankenstein 1970, The Black Hole).

Enjoy.


https://archive.org/details/JohnnyOne-Eye

Monday, June 12, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: HEY GYP

The Animals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDTP4A1CBQI&list=PLKnfmTQwNxhU7agZKE0QQf4GtqBdqyL06&index=80

INCOMING

Nothing this week, so in it's place here's a Superman cartoon from 1941.

**SPOILER ALERT**  Mechanical monsters versus Sup?  Those mech monsters don't stand a chance!


https://archive.org/details/superman_the_mechanical_monsters

Sunday, June 11, 2017

CROWS

An interesting ten-minute documentary about, you guessed it...crows!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMw6PG4caDU

HYMN TIME

Pat Boone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nGaRZKmG90

Saturday, June 10, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: WHERE IS MY MAN?

Eartha Kitt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwYD2oLhBbE

NEGRO ROMANCE #1 (JUNE 1950)

Fawcett comics tried to break into a niche market with this title in 1950.  Following World War II, African-Americans were becoming a more significant force in the American marketplace.  This appears to be an attempt to capitalize on that.  Did it work?  Well, it lasted for only three issues.  The blacks portrayed are all very light-skinned and the stories are interchangeable with those featuring white characters.  And although other Fawcett comic books were advertised in this title,  Negro Romance does not appear to have been advertised in any other Fawcett title.  Subtle racism made good marketing sense in 1950.

In 1955, Charlton Comics took over the title, beginning with issue #4, which was basically a reprint of issue #2 from Fawcett.  With issue #5 Charlton to Romantic Secrets, abandoning the racial theme.

Negro Romance was created, edited and written by Roy Ald, who was European-American.  Alvin Hollingsworth, the first African-American artist hired by Fawcett, did the artwork.

Enjoy this curio from the past.

http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=68553


For those interested, here's a transcript from an episode of the PBS series History Detectives, in which they delve into the history of this title:

http://www-tc.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/static/media/transcripts/2011-07-12/904_negroromance.pdf

Friday, June 9, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: THEY WERE ALL OUT OF STEP BUT JIM

From 1918, song by Billy Murray.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r1x4DzUzxU&list=PL9-qGPmFEWNMXw57S_q3TZNZg-f99GUMC&index=81

FORGOTTEN BOOK: TOM SWIFT AND HIS AERIAL WARSHIP; OR, THE NAVAL TERROR OF THE SEAS

Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship; or, The Naval Terror of the Seas by Victor Appleton (1915)


Every so often, I like to dip into the treasure trove of the original adventures of Tom Swift and enter a world where -- ostensibly, at least -- good and evil are clearly defined, fair play will win the day, and political correctness is nowhere to be found, a world of inadvertent campiness rules.

 His Aerial Warship was the eighteenth book in the original series that would go on to include forty books before the series ended in 1941.  Tom, who began the series as a boy who worked on mundane projects (a motorcycle and a motorboat) before moving on to larger and more imaginative projects that would take him all over the world, is now a young man and an equal partner with his father, the widower Barton Swift, in a large enterprise devoted to inventions.  Several of Tom's inventions have been used by the government, which is also very interested in his latest creation, a giant dirigible (two football fields in length) that maneuvers well, can target ocean-going ships with ease, and can fire large cannons at enemy planes.

The United States (and Tom) have no intention on joining the war in Europe, but Tom's invention would put America supreme in air power and that's a good thing because...well, golly, just because.  But somehow, the foreign powers have got wind of Tom's latest invention and are doing their best to steal the plans.  Finally, some of these countries join forces in an effort to get the plans and , strangely, seem to forget who is fighting whom -- England, France, Russia, Germany, and other countries are all part of the plot.

In the meantime Tom has hit a sticking point with his invention.  He can't figure out how to stablize the dirigible from the blowback when the giant cannons are fired.  At this point in the series, the role of Tom's father is simple that of naysayer.  It can't be done, Tom.  You might as well give it up, Tom.  Yadda yadda yadda.  The old man is getting frail and may have forgotten that Tom Swift never gives up!  And (surprise!) Tom does solve the problem, but not before facing several acts of sabotage.

To tell the truth, there's not much action in this book.  There is a lot of interplay among the regular characters in the series.

Mrs. Baggart, housekeeper for Tom and his father, has very little to do here, as does Mary Nester, Tom's sweetheart.  (Mary's role in the books is to look at Tom in wide-eyed wonder and to have ice cream with Tom at the local ice cream parlor -- a perfect foundation for their eventual marriage fourteen books later, in 1929; their marriage, by the way, spelled the eventual doom for the series -- the young male readership didn't like their heroes married.)  Tom's best friend Ned Newton manages to take time off from his job at the bank to accompany Tom on his flights and gives Tom one idea on how he may solve the blowback problem.  Wakefield Damon, Tom's elderly friend, spends the book blessing his shoelaces and everything else he can think of while he accompanies Tom on his flights.
Erasmus Sampson, the old former slave who works for the Swifts, is front and center as the comic foil, and so is his mule Boomerang.  Koku, the eight-foot giant whom Tom acquired in one of his adventures, is one the scene to blindly follow Tom and to use his incredible strength.  Of Tom's nemesis Andy Foger is nowhere to be seen; presumably the series has outgrown childish rivalries.

The author behind the "Victor Appleton" house name is Howard Garis, who wrote the first thirty-five books in the series.  Garis is perhaps best known for his Uncle Wiggly series about an elderly rabbit.  Garis wrote a story a day (taking Sundays off) about the character for more than thirty years.  Seventy-nine Uncle Wiggly books were published under Garis' own name.  Under various house names he wrote -- in addition to the Tom Swift books -- twenty-six books in the Bobbsey Twins series,fourteen books in the Baseball Joe series, and an unknown number of books in The Motor Boys series and The Campfire Girls series.  Under his own name he wrote another 114 books (possibly more) in an additional sixteen series.  One series (The Bedtime Series) consisted of eighteen books, each with thirty-one stories!  In addition to all of the above, Garis also wrote at least seven standalone novels.  Phew!

Back to Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship.  The book is clunky, overwritten, and innocently racist.  It's also great fun.  It is somewhat difficult to conflate innocent and idealistic Tom Swift with the inventor of "The Naval Terror of the Seas," but Tom's hidden depth revealed here is just another reflection of the times.

The Tom Swift books will not be to everyone's liking, but I enjoy them.

In small doses.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: THE BALLAD OF HOPALONG CASSIDY

Johnny Rivers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihXUe0_e2oU

OLD-TIME RADIO: HOPPY AND THE SCHOOL MARM

My favorite western character when I was very young was Hopalong Cassidy.  For me, William Boyd as Hoppy was the ultimate hero, a stellar figure who outshone Roy and Gene and the Lone Ranger.  I'm not too sure why.  Hoppy just clicked with me.  I'm talking television here.

But Hoppy was also on the radio, along with Andy Clyde (usually) as California Carlson.  Hopalong Cassidy had a slow start in radio.  A pilot episode was produced and aired in 1941, and then...nothing.  The show just sat for seven years; it took that long for the producers to realize that westerns were popular, I guess.  

Hopalong Cassidy began its syndicated run in 1948, continuing into 1950.  There appears to have been a bit of overlap between the syndicated show and the network show, which began on January 1, 1950 on the Mutual Radio Network.  At the end of September of that year, the show moved to CBS and aired there until December 27, 1952.

Boyd believed the future of the character lay in television.  In 1948, Boyd heavily mortgaged himself to buy the backlog of Hopalong Cassidy films and the rights to the character.  Her then brought his ideas to NBC and on June 24, 1950, Hopalong Cassidy became the first network western television series, leading the way to a plethora of juvenile television westerns, from The Range Rider and Annie Oakley to Roy and Gene and beyond.

"Hoppy and the School Marm" aired on July 16, 1950, but was actually recorded on February 1, 1949..  A school teacher breaks the windows of a new saloon and gambling hall.  When she later disappears, it's up to Hopalong to find her.  Joe Du Val plays California Carlson in this episode instead of Andy Clyde.

Sit back with a foaming glass of sarsaparilla (Boyd's Hoppy didn't drink alcohol, nor did he swear...and he used perfect English) and enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiTca8GYzB4

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: TEN CENTS A DANCE

From 1930, a Rodgers and Hart piece that became a signature hit for America's Sweetheart of Song, Ruth Etting.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpU-mcgBJxE

BAD JOKE WEDNESDAY

Nat Geo just aired a new documentary about beavers.  It was the best dam program I ever saw.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT

Nirvana at their grundgy best.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTWKbfoikeg

OVERLOOKED FILM: THE MAD MONSTER (1942)

George Zucco is Dr. Cameron, a typical mad scientist wishing to exact revenge on those who mocked his theories.  Glenn Strange is Petro, Cameron's not-too-bright gardener and experimental victim.  The beautiful and sad Anne Nagel, whose tear-jerker life would make a very depressing movie, is Lenora, Dr. Cameron's sweet, innocent, and ultimately suspicious daughter.  Former Our Ganger Johnny Downs plays heroic (?) reporter Tom Gregory, to whom Lenora turns for help.  The Robert Strange, who plays the minor role of Professor Blaine, is evidently not related to Glenn Strange.

Typical 1940s horror movie cast?  Check.  Eerie swamp setting?  Check.  Strange organ music?  Check.  What else do you need for this type of B-movie?

Oh.  Right.  How about a murderous werewolf?

Yes, Dr. Cameron has invented a formula that turns people into werewolves.  In this case, just one werewolf -- the not-too-bright gardener, Petro.  Petro may have a hard time learning simple commands, like "Sit," "Beg," "Stay," or "Roll over," but he's an ace at one command -- "Kill."

Helmed by prolific "Poverty Row" director Sam Neufield (276 credits on IMDb, including cult classic The Terror of Tiny Town), the film was written by Fred Myton, who also gave us the gorilla jungle flick Nabonga and a gazillion low budget oaters.

The Mad Monster has both dedicated fans and dedicated haters.  I side with those who really like the film.  Which side you will be on?

Enjoy.


https://archive.org/details/mad_monster

Monday, June 5, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: WALKING IN THE RAIN

The Ronettes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxgQH9g2okE

INCOMING


  • Lee Child, One Shot.  A Jack Reacher thriller.  In Indianapolis, a sniper kills five people -- all with perfectly aimed head shots.  Within hours an arrest is made and an airtight case is built.  The accused refuses to talk except to say, "They got the wrong guy," and then, "Get Jack Reacher for me."  The book was the basis of Jack Reacher, the first film in a franchise (two movies thus far) vehicle for Tom Cruise, whose stature belied the six foot five inch character from the books.  (Author Lee Child, himself six foot five, had to sit behind a desk for his cameo role with Cruise in the movie.)  I saw the film, which was interesting but highly forgettable.  I'm halfway through the book now and it is anything but forgettable.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

THE STRANGEST STAR IN THE UNIVERSE?

The star is KIC 8462852, also known as Tabby's Star since astronomer Tabetha Boyaijian found strange signals coming from it.  A year later, she tells us, things have just gotten stranger.

First, here's her original TED Talk , "The Most Mysterious Star in the Universe":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gypAjPp6eps

Now, "Tabby's Strange Star Just Got Stranger":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V9GIji4pY4

HYMN TIME

From 1956, The Million Dollar Quartet -- Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash -- with "Just a Little Talk with Jesus."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFpxQOd5tHA&list=PLDAtK9h7br4MjwWQMK4VcryQSpAMwugMF&index=6

Saturday, June 3, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: KING PORTER STOMP

Jelly Roll Morton (1890?-1941) began his professional life at age fourteen, playing "devil music" in a brothel.  Despite his somewhat spurious claim that it was he who invented jazz,Morton's great influence on jazz, ragtime, and slide music cannot be denied.  In 1938, while managing a bar in Washington, D.C., Morton was stabbed by a friend of the bar owner.  Denied treatment at a near-by whites-only hospital, his treatment after he arrived at a black hospital was delayed by several hours.  The attack left him with severe respiratory problems that eventually took his life three years later.  His legacy was some incredible music.

Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8_2ISGOIjU

THE DOCTOR AND THE MODEL

Here's an undated issue (No. 1) from Picture Story Studios -- "A Heart-Warming Romance Dramatized in True-to-Life Photo Scenes."  This may be an original story (no credit is given), or, perhaps adapted from a film (I couldn't find any record of a film under that title).  No matter.

The doctor in The Doctor and the Model is Dr. Roy Durrell, a man "dedicated to healing but betrayed by his blind notions of morality."  The model is beautiful Edith (Edie) Dallas, a young American working the fashion runways of Paris.  Edie's best friend Blanche is dying.  Blanche has fallen in love with her doctor...you guessed it...Roy!  An attraction grows between Roy and Edie but the spectre of Blanche always lurks in the background.  To complicate things further, the rich Count Charles Beaumont wants Edie for himself and plots to sever the Edie-Roy attraction.  More complications:  Edie is suspected of stealing a valuable ring so Roy goes off to the battlefields of Algeria with the Foreign Legion.

Treachery and tragedy.  Plots and passion.  Mistakes and misgivings.  Will true love ever prevail?

Also included in this issue is Part 1 of a 5-part photo-story, The Betrayal.

Enjoy.

http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=68371&b=i

Friday, June 2, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: WHO WERE YOU THINKING OF?

The Texas Tornadoes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6ON9tlAQ-8

FORGOTTEN BOOK: SCARED SHIRTLESS

Scared Shirtless:  Thirteen Spooky Tales by R. M. Sebastian (2014)


I found this one in the Local Authors section of my public library.  The author behind the initials is Renee Sebastian, an Florida Panhandle art teacher by day and (perhaps not now) author by night.  This from her blog, dated April 6, 2016:  "It is with a heavy heart that I wanted to tell you...that the current science fiction book I'm working on will be my last book.  It has become obvious to me that people don't really enjoy my books and that I don't want to torture them with poor plot, stilted dialogue, and badly-edited prose."

That's a bummer and I don't know enough to say her self-assessment is valid.  With the book mentioned in the quote above, Ms. Sebastian has published eight novels and the collection under discussion today, all which appear to be self-published under the name Seance Press.

So what about this book?

Well, there are some flaws.  Although it is packaged fairly handsomely there are a couple of glaring typos and one very poorly designed page.  And the title Scared Shirtless does not seem to be suitable for the intended age group of 8-12-year-olds, at least certainly not for the lower end of that spectrum.  (My library conveniently placed their bar code over part of the title.)  The first story in the book, "French Kiss," is also poorly titled for eight year olds.  (The story ends just where the gross titular kiss is about to take place.)  And some of the tales are trite, stale (in one, a family of secret witches meet their doom when they unsuspectingly prey on a family of secret werewolves), and -- at times -- plotless.  Much of this, my friends is grand guignol for the younger set.  One story, set by Fort Pickens on the Gulf Coast, has people ice skating and ice fishing.  Yeah, there are some flaws.

But...

The stories themselves wander into R. L. Stine's Goosebump territory.  And they are told just as well for the most part.  Logic and finesse do not need to enter into these stories.  These are campfire stories intended to give a bit of a shudder.  Taken as such, this is a perfectly and entertaining acceptable book for 11 and 12-year-olds and up.  The protagonists, many of whom meet a grisly and unfair end, are both male and female, most seeming to belong in junior high school.  If the stories are unfair to the characters, life often seems unfair to an 11 or 12-year-old who might be reading these.

Scared Shirtless is a quick read -- thirteen stories over 98 pages.  Some interesting illustrations.  Recommended, as I said, for the upper end of the age range the book tries to target.

Me?  I enjoyed the book despite the flaws, but, at heart, I'm a twelve-year-old.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

MUSIC FROM THE PAST: STANDING AT THE CROSSROADS

Let's get a bit bluesy and little bit funky with Elmore James.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSWVfx39UIs

OLD-TIME RADIO: A CUP OF BITTER CHOCOLATE

From the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER, August 27, 1979, comes this little crime tale starring Joan Shea, Paul Hecht, and Robert Dryden -- an original production written by Ian Martin and directed by Hyman Brown.

Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYEOwF8aiMc