Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


James Brown.


Edmond Lowe played newspaper columnist David Chase for all thirty-eight episodes of Front Page Detective, a half-hour crime drama from the Dumont Television Network from 1951 to 1953.  Chase often helps police (most notably Lieutenant Andrews, played by George Pembroke in thirteen episodes) in difficult cases.  Eye candy was provided by Paula Drew, who played Sharon Richards in eighteen of the episodes.  Drew had a brief seven-year film and television career consisting mainly of uncredited roles and culminating with her turns as Sharon Richards.  The television show took its name from the pulp magazine Front Page Detective and the episodes were supposedly based on stories from that magazine.

"Murder Rides the Night Train" was the show's fourteenth episode.  It was directed by Arnold Wester from a script by Herbert Moulton and Robert Leslie Bellam (Moulton was best known as a television producer and assistant producer; Bellam was a prolific pulp writer and the creator of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective).

In this episode, a crime boss (Lyle Talbot) is traveling to testify before a Congressional Committee.  David chase rides on the same train to get an interview and soon realizes that there are some people who don't want the gangster to testify.


Monday, November 18, 2019


The Moody Blues.


Openers:  The little poodle's name was Gigi.

It huddled close to the body of the dead woman.  Occasionally it shivered uncomfortably, although the temperature inside the house was a comfortable seventy-one.  Now and again, the poodle would whine for a few minutes; sometimes it turned its head to lick the woman's still arm.  It would not lick her face because there was too much blood on it.

-- Clark Howard, Love's Blood (1993)

"The Shocking True Story of a Teenager Who Would Do Anything for the Older Man She Loved -- Even Kill Her Whole Family"  The teenager was Patricia Ann Columbo, who slaughtered her Elk Grove Village, Illinois, family in May 1976.  Writer Clark Howard first met her in a maximum security in January 1991 as he was researching a book on the crime.  Slowly over the next two years, the details of the crime emerged.

Howard (1932-2016) was the author of sixteen novels, six non-fiction books of true crime, three short story collections, and over two hundred uncollected short stories.  He won the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, five Ellery Queen Reader awards, the Derringer award, and has been nominated for Anthony, Shamus, and Spur Awards.  His stories have been adapted for film and television.  Howard's original screenplay Last of the Good Guys was a featured CBS Movie of the Week and his non-fiction book Six Against the Rock was also a television movie.  His writing is marked by a deep insight into human nature.

Born in Ripley, Tennessee, Clark Howard spent his less-than-idyllic youth on the streets of Chicago.
He detailed part of that time on the opening pages of Love's Blood:

Chicago periodically drew me back to its concrete bosom.  I hadn't lived there for nearly twenty years, but every once in a while I had to go back and prowl its lower West Side streets like a specter in a graveyard.  Maybe it was because it was between the ages of eight and fourteen I had spent a hundred years on those streets searching for an ex-convict father who was already dead; or because my mother had overdosed on heroin there; or because my earliest real friends had been street kids like myself and had all been sucked into the sump of killings, crime, prison, drugs, alcohol -- and I had not.  My only "time" had been done in a euphemistically named "state training school"  for boys -- read reformatory -- and my only killing had been sanctioned by the Marine Corps.  I had long ago made my own break from my own prison. and it had been successful,  the other kids hadn't escaped.  Maybe that was what drew me back now and then.  Wondering:  why me?

Howard enlisted in the Marines at age seventeen.  He admitted the discipline and sense of purpose there turned his life around.  Serving as a rocket launcher gunner, he was one of eight who survived the battle of the high ground north of Punchbowl in Korea.  Discharged at age twenty, he attended journalism school at Northwestern University but left after one semester when a professor declared his writing "undisciplined and of no commercial value."  By that time, he had already sold two stories to New York magazines.

A major rediscovery of Clark Howard is long overdue.


  • Kevin J. Anderson, Hair Raising.  A Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novel, fourth in the series.  "The fur really flies when a serial scalper stalks the supernatural citizens of the Unnatural Quarter, targeting werewolves -- and what's sadder than a chrome-domed lycanthrope?  Zombie P.I. Dam Shamble is on the case, trying to stop an all-out gang war between full-time and full-moon werewolves.  As he combs through the tangled clues to hunt down the bald facts, things get hairy fast.  Shamble lurches through a loony landscape of voodoo tattoo artists, illicit cockatrice fights, body builders assembling make-your-own-human kits, and perhaps scariest of all, crazed fans in town for the Worldwide Horror Convention.  Yet the reign of hair-raising terror grows longer.  If Shamble can't snip this off at the roots, the whole world could end up howling mad."  
  • Mike Ashley, editor, The Mammoth Book of Dickensian Whodunnits.  Mystery anthology with 22 original stories by Robert Barnard, Charles Todd, Peter Tremayne, Martin Edwards, Edward Marston, and others.  "Charles Dickens's works and his unforgettable characters are still read around the world.  But just what became of Oliver Twist or David Copperfield or young Pip in Great Expectations?  And what really happened to Edwin Drood?  Was the case ever solved?  Here are more than 20 specially commissioned new murder mysteries based on characters and incidents in Dickens's fiction, as well as his own life.  All major works are represented including Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House, Hard Times, Great Expectations, and, of course, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Even Dickens himself turns a hand to investigating, plus we meet up with contemporaries Mrs Gaskell. S Baring Gould, and Edgar Allan Poe."
  • Peter Brandvold, Once Late with a .38.  A Sheriff Ben Stillman western from Mean Pete hinmself.  "Sheriff Ben Stillman has enough of a hard time keeping the peace in the town of Clantick without having to worry about the likes of Matt Parrish.  Since his father died, Matt has been responsible for the Circle P Ranch -- and his hotheaded streak has been responsible for a lot of trouble with other ranchers...including his future father-in-law, Tom Suthern.  Despite failing health and loss of profits, Tom refuses to sell his spread to Matt, even if he is marrying his daughter.  So when Matt is discovered in the presence of Tom's bullet-riddled corpse, people naturally assume he murdered the old man.  Now it's up to Ben Stillman to protect Matt from a trigger-happy posse and find the real killer -- before it's too late..."  For fast-paced western action, you can't go wrong with Bandvold.
  • D. M. Devine, My Brother's Killer.  Mystery novel.  "Oliver Barnett is found murdered in his office.  The investigation into the crime reveals a man that his younger brother, Simon, does not recognize -- a callous blackmailer.  But was this the reason for his violent death?  Simon sets out to clear his brother's name, and to demonstrate the innocence of the woman he once loved."  This is the first of thirteen mystery novels written by Devine (1920-1980), the last seven appearing as by "Dominic Devine."  His books were well-written and superbly plotted.  Agatha Christie was a fan of Devine's throughout his writing career; she had nominated this book as winner of the Don's Detective Novel Competition held by Collins Crime club in 1961.  Unfortunately, Devine was a university administrator and not a don, so the book was disqualified, yet the contest kick-started his career and it was published by Collins Crime Club.
  • Clark Howard, Love's Blood.  True crime.  See above.
  • [Eleanor Sullivan, editor] Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1973, October 1984, and January 1985 issues.  Thrift store finds.  Includes stories by Isaac Asimov, William Bankier, Lawrence G. Blockman, Christianna Brand, Mary Higgins Clark, Miriam Allen deFord, Robert L. Fish, Celia Fremlin, Michael Harrison, Edward D. Hoch, James Holding, H. R. F. Keating, Patricia McGerr, Robert P. Mills, Francis M. Nevins, Jr, Shannon O'Cork, Josh Pachter, and Janwillem van de Wetering, among others.  Plus the usual features and the second part of an EQMM Author Photo Quiz.  This magazine has always been a bargain since its inception in 1941.

Getting Your Thanksgiving Freak On:  With the holiday less than two weeks away, it's time to start thinking about what to serve for your Thanksgiving Day meal.  Should you stick with the traditional but tasty meal that your family has always had?  Or perhaps it's time to think out of the box?  Here's a couple of ideas.

If Thanksgiving means turkey to you and yours, this Bourbon Glazed Turkey is a unique twist on a holiday favorite.

If your family and friends like things hot, how about trying Oyster Kimchi Stuffing?  This recipe takes a bit of preparation but the results are amazing.

How about something a little different for your spuds this year?  Mashed Potato Mushroom Caps might just fill the bill.

Sweet potatoes are a staple on many the Thanksgiving table.  For reasons I can't understand, people tend to serve them candies or topped with marshmallow or something equally repulsive.  Instead of trying to drown the wonderful flavor or sweet potatoes, why not just enhance it with these Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potatoes?

For another interesting variation for your table, try Cornbread with Dried Tomato and Basil.

Add the flavors of the season with this after-dinner treat:  Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding.  And don't forget the sweet bourbon sauce.

If you listen to NPR, then you are already familiar with Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish.  "It sounds terrible but it tastes terrific," Susan Stamberg says of her mother-in-law's now famous recipe (which she lifted from a 1959 New York Times clipping of Craig Clairborne's Cranberry Relish).  It is a must-try.

Thanksgiving is about gratitude, family, and friends.  Some of the above ideas may add to your enjoyment and appreciation of the day.

Impeachment:  I'm not going to go into it this week.  You know what's going on, who's saying what, who's denying what, who's accusing who, how both sides are trying to spin, and you've probably made up your mind on which side you are.

Florida Man:

  • Florida Man called Dade City 911 to report his roommate has stolen his weed.  Florida Man was insistent and kept calling.  Again and again.  Over and over.  A Dade City deputy finally had to post a message on Twitter:  Stop calling.
  • Newly official Mar-a-Largo Florida Man retweets son Eric's promo of their DC hotel, infuriating his former ethics chief.
  • Florida Man and registered sex offender Brian Sherman of Orlando has been arrested for fondling a "Disney Princess" at Walt Disney World.  The Magic Kingdom has suddenly lost its magic.
  • Fourteen-year-old Florida Girl has been charged with slapping a man dressed as Donald Trump at a Haunted house in Collier County.  Also, Florida Man Matthias Ajple of Indian River County was arrested after spitting on a  man and slapping off his MAGA hat.  The resistance is beginning to take things a little too far, my friends.
  • Florida Man Sandy Lamar Graham, Jr, turned himself in to police after hitting three banks in three hours.  He robbed the first two and attempted to rob the third.  He did not make the Guinness Book of Records because there was not an official to view his hat trick.
  • Naked Florida Man is all over the place.  In Fort Lauderdale he beat and killed a peeping tom who was spying on him and his girlfriend.  In Delray Beach he jumped aboard a yacht to steal a flag.  And in Cape Coral he was caught smashing the windows and doors of plumbing businesses.  None of these incidents provide an image I want seared into my brain.
  • In Polk County, Florida Man Andy Sigears was arrested for drunk Segway driving.  Sigear and the nearly two bottles of wine inside him rode into incoming traffic on the wrong side of the road.  It might have been bad luck or just bad judgement that he did it in front of a county sheriff substation. 

There Is Also...Wait for It...Good News!:
There is wonder and kindness and good all around us.  All we need to to do is to take the time to appreciate it.

Today's Poem:
[You are coming to me in the rain]

You are coming to me in the rain
a self confessed illusionist
with the weather in attendance like a well-trained pet
your long hair webs about your neck
skin shows warm through flimsy cotton

in your eyes I see what I've been longing for
our fingers hardly touch; it's time enough however
for a life's experience to slip away
for you to lose a paralysing charge
so this theatre-piece of vein and muscle falls apart
the juggler's mid-thrown fan of bones comes
clattering down

I'm left with nothing but my skin to hold me up

-- Rodney Hall

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Saturday, November 16, 2019


Happy Birthday, Diana Krall!


Magazine Enterprises, a small comic book publisher, managed to snag a couple of popular western characters for their magazines.  In addition to their regular titles, the characters appeared in the quarterly anthology comic book Best of the West.  The first issue featured radio's Indian hero Straight Arrow, Charles Starrett's popular movie character The Durango Kid, radio's Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders, and the original Ghost Rider.  Bobby Benson was bumped in issue #2 to give way for Tim Holt as a regular in Best of the West.  This line-up continued until the last issue (#12) in which Straight Arrow and Tim Holt were replaced by Red Hawk and Red Mask.

Issue #1 starts off with "Giant Killer!"  In a David and Goliath story, Comanche Straight Arrow is pitted against the Crow giant Pow-Tah-Kan in battle.  (Pow-Tah-Kan is so large he cannot ride a horse and has to use a war chariot.)  When I said a David and Goliath story, I meant that literally.

"Death on the Buffalo Trail" features The Durango Kid.  Remember when slaughtering buffalo for their hides was thought to be a good idea?  Well, a gang of owlhoots has been killing buffalo hunters for their hides and money -- which ticks off Steve Brand (The Durango Kid*) when his buddy Brancy is murdered.  To catch the baddies, Steve and his sidekick Muley join the "Buffalo Trail."  Soon enough, The Durango Kid identifies the bad guys and finds himself caught between their blazing guns and a stampeding herd of buffalo -- certain death from two fronts!  Well, not so certain.  We know The Durango Kid will prevail somehow.

Young Bobby Benson and his B-Bar-B Riders are in the north country where, for a change, they come across "The Timber Rustlers" instead of cattle rustlers.  Bobby suspect Jud Jenson, the foreman of the Collins Timber Ranch, to be behind the timber rustling but Collins finds that hard to believe.   Bobby and Collins' young Daughter Cathy manage to catch Jenson in the act but Cathy is captured and Bobby goes logrolling in an attempt to escape.  The bad guys shoot at the logs, causing Bobby to fall off.  Our boy hero does not get crushed by the logs however and must try to rescue Cathy and capture Jenson and his gang.  Can he do it?  Be still my beating heart!

Rex Fury, the original, non-supernatural Ghost Rider, faces off against a cunning band of Kiowa raiders.  The Indians have forced the telegraph operator at the Jophar Wireless Station to send a false message to the nearby Army fort that the Indians are raiding far-off Sable Falls.  Leaving the fort guarded by just two men, the army rides off in full strength -- giving the Kiowa an opportunity to raid the fort for guns and much-needed supplies.  The Indians did not count on a third person being at the fort -- the Ghost Rider!  By the time the Ghost Rider arrives at the fort , the raid has commenced and the two soldiers guarding the fort have been swiftly killed.  Rex, clad all in white, with a flowing cape and bone-white hood (and his pure white steed Spectre), fill the superstitious Indians with terror.  The Kiowa retreat for the moment, allowing another person to enter the fort -- Sing-Song, Rex's Chinese cook.  Together, they prepare several spooky surprises for the Indians as the Kiowa chief Tecmahseh urges his men to attack once more.  Pity the poor Indians.

Good art by Fred Meagher, Joe Certa, Bob Powell, Dick Ayers, and (I believe) Frank Frazetta back up these solid stories, which may have been written by Gardner Fox.


Friday, November 15, 2019


Marianne Faithful.


Secret of the Black Planet by Milton Lesser (1965)

Milton Lesser would soon be better known as Stephen Marlowe, a pseudonym he used and then legally adopted.  As Marlowe, mystery readers may best know him as the author of the best-selling paperback series about P.I. Chester Drum, others may best know him as the author of such best-selling novels as The Shining, Colossus, The Lighthouse at the End of the World, and The Valkyrie Encounter.  In the early Fifties Lesser was a hack writer who most often published stories in the Amazing Stories stable, with occasional jaunts to Ray Palmer's Imagination and other lesser magazines under his own name and as "Adam Chase," "Darius John Granger," "C. H. Thames," and "Stephen Wilder," reserving the Marlowe name for the mystery magazines and for his early paperback mystery novels.  As "C. H. Thames," he wrote a popular SF series of ten stories about Johnny Mayhem; one addition Mayhem story was published under the "Darius John Granger" name.

After his name became Stephen Marlowe, he seemed to abandon the SF field, first for the mystery field as Marlowe, "Andrew Frazer," Jason Ridgeway," "C. H. Thames," and "Ellery Queen" (he ghost-wrote the first EQ paperback novel that did not feature Ellery Queen as a detective), then for the hardcover best-seller field.  Lesser/Marlowe was always a readable author who in his later career became an accomplished one.

Lesser's early SF work fit his name aptly.  It was lesser.  His audience was basically uncritical teenagers eager for fast action, facile characterization, improbable ideas, and a hero who would conquer against all odds -- in other words, old-fashioned space opera.  Not that there's anything the matter with that.

Which brings us to Secret of the Black Planet, a paperback "original" novel that's neither original nor a novel.  It's really two novellas that were published in back-to-back issues of Amazing Stories:  "Secret of the Black Planet" (June 1952) and "Son of the Black Chalice" (July 1952).  In the first sectin, we meet a circus strongman called Bok-kura, the strongman of Jupiter; Bok-kura has no memory of his past -- just of his past few years as Bok-kura.  It turns out that he is really John Hastings, a well-known space explorer who vanished and was thought dead after discovering a mysterious asteroid.  (SPOILER:  The black planet of the title is really this black asteroid, which isn't even an asteroid but an alien-made construct.)  And John Hastings may be immortal.  Whatever happened on the asteroid gave him super-regenerative powers -- he cannot be killed and may not even age.  He finds himself caught between warring factions from Venus and Mars but somehow manages to rediscover the lost asteroid, hook up with a beautiful girl, and bring the secret of immortality back for a select few.

Twenty-five years later, Hastings' son Johnny finds himself in the middle of another battle.  Because the nature of gaining immortality -- via an alien machine -- it is impossible for all but a few to reap the benefits.  The numbers do not allow the majority of humanity to become immortal; there are only so many people who can use the machine at any one time -- to many people to use just one machine.  Now this is where Lesser ignores basic mathematics (just as he later ignores basic physics and the laws of relativity) -- there are a million immortals now in the three-world system.  Everyone else feels left out and resent those who are immortal.  War is brewing.  Anyway, Johnny has figured out how to survive an interstellar trip in a starship and heads into space to try and find the race that not only designed the immortality machine, but also "seeded" the planets with lifeforms that eventually evolved to be human.  It's a small starship, but a girl smuggles herself aboard, they fall in love, and marry in the hokiest ceremony in the galaxy.  Eventually they find another black "asteroid," occupied by a five-million-year old robot who guides them to another galaxy.  Can they find the answers they seek and return to Earth in time to stop the bloodshed?

The writing is simple, fast-paced, facile...Great stuff for the hidden teenager inside of you.

I should note that the second section falls victim to Belmont Books' cheap production standards.  Stick with it.  the rewards are slight but they are there.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


James & Bobby Purify were not brothers, but were cousins:  James Purify from Pensacola and Robert Dickey (who took Purify as a stage name) from Tallahassee.  Dickey left the duo for health reasons in 1971 and the new "bobby Purify" was Atlanta's Ben Moore.


Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche star in this version of Magnificent Obsession, a 1929 Lloyd C. Douglas best-selling novel that was filmed in 1935 with Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor (in a role that brought him to stardom).  Lux Radio Theatre had previously aired a version of this story on April 26, 1937 that featured Dunne and Taylor in their original roles.  I chose the Colbert/Ameche version  to link to here simply because it aired almost 75 years ago on November 13, 1944.

Spoiled rich guy Ameche is saved through the use of specialized hospital equipment which meant that the equipemnt could not be used for kind, philanthropic surgeon Dr. Hudson at the same time.  Hudson died and his widow (Colbert) blames Ameche.  Ameche realizes that he had been a cad all his life and that Dr. Hudson should have lived instead of him.  When Colbert is blinded in an accident, Ameche watches over her without revealing who he is, eventually paying for the failed operation that attempted to restore her sight.  Ameche reveals himself and proposes to the still blind Colbert.  Colbert refuses, not wanting to be a burden to him.  Ameche then goes on to be a brain surgeon.  When Colbert needs brain surgery, guess who's there?

A lifetime supply of Kleenex and all the violins in the world are needed for this tear-jerker.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Glen Campbell and Jerry Reed.


A burglar broke into a house one night and as he was looking for valuables he heard a voice behind him saying, "Jesus is watching you!"  The room was dark and he only had a small flashlight, which he swung around and saw there was a caged parrot in a dark corner.  The parrot repeated, "Jesus is watching you!"

He let out a sigh of relief.  "You startled me, bird!"

The parrot cocked his head and said (with great resentment, mind you), "My name is not 'Bird.'  My name is 'Throckmorton.'  Please call me by that name."

The burglar laughed.  "What idiot named you Throckmorton?"

"The same idiot that named the rottweiler 'Jesus.'"

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Mr. Penniman.


Today is Jack Oakie's birthday.  To celebrate, here's a 1934 mystery with Oakie playing Jack Ellery, the stage manager for the musical review Earl Carrol's Vanities.  When someone tries to injure the show's leading lady Ann Ware (Kitty Carlisle in her film debut), Ellery calls on his friend, policeman Bill Murdock (Victor McLaughlin), to investigate.  Eventually there's a murder (an unknown woman found on a catwalk) and Murdock suspects the leading man Eric Lnder (Carl Brisson), who happens to be Ann Ware's fiance.  You know that the murder will play second fiddle to the musical numbers in this pre-Code film.

Did I say pre-Code?  One musical  number, "Sweet Marijuana" from Gertrude Michael, features nudity, blood, drug references, and swearing.  (Bette Midler covered that one in the 1970s.)  Also featured was the hit song "Cocktails for Two."  Duke Ellington and His Orchestra add to the musical talent.

And the cast is incredible:  Toby Wing, Charles Middleton, Donald Meek, and Gail Patrick. Look closely and you'll find Lucille Ball, Alan Ladd, Dennis O'Keefe, and Ann Sheridan in uncredited roles.

Directed by Mitchell Leisen (Death Takes a Holiday, Frenchmen's Creek, The Big Broadcast of 1938) and adapted by Carey Wilson (Mutiny on the Bounty, Green Dolphin Street, Scaramouche) from the play by Earl Carroll and mystery writer Rufus King.


Monday, November 11, 2019


(2005-2019)  You were a good dog.  You were loved.  You will be missed.


Priscilla Herdman, with Guy van Duser on guitar.  Eric Bogle's powerful words are at the link.


Openers:  We drove up the hill from the entrance gates and saw before us vaguely, through the night and the rain and the activities of the windshield wiper, a low, extensive building and three wind-blown elms.  This was the Ivory Tower, a name which I should never have given a house of mine, for it implies that those who live in it have run away to shelter from the realities of a life too hard for them to face.

I had never met the Mrs. Granville who owned this place, but i happened to see her one day in the summer, a hot, blazing morning in early July, I think.  Near the medical school where my husband Jeffrey is head of a department, I had seen the station wagon with the curious inscription in block letters on its door, "Ivory Tower, Jefferson, Connecticut."  It was a title easily remembered.  The car was jammed with people, plus a barking red setter, and was driven by a woman in her early thirties.  I thought her, even in that glimpse as we passed each other, one of the most interesting and beautiful women I had ever seen.

-- Theodora Du Bois, The Case of the Perfumed Mouse (1944)

Du Bois (1890-1986) was a playwright and novelist who published at least 38 books in a number of genres:  mystery, science fiction, fantasy, historical romance, and juvenile, as well as at least one nonfiction book.  She used her married name for most of her work and her maiden name Theodora McCormick for historical romances.  Many of her mysteries are tinged with science fiction or the fantastic and often involved medical themes.  About half her books (including this one) feature the detective duo of Anne and forensic chemist Jeffrey McNeill.  Her writing career took a major downturn when her publisher, Doubleday, stopped publishing her books after Seeing Red (1954), which savaged the House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism.  Her husband of 47 years, Delafield Du Bois, was an engineer who later worked on the Manhattan Project.  The couple were active in World War II helping displaced scientists and academics from Cambridge and Oxford, and their families.

Dubois is not well-known today.  Her most recognizable book is probably the science fictional Solution T-35 (1951), in which the American resistance comes up with a weapon to fight the communists after the USSR wins World War II.  The Case of the Perfumed Mouse has the McNeills investigate a murder at a party at Ivory Tower -- a murder by rats.  A houseful of misfits, a dead perfumed mouse, a thirteen-year-old girl with "mental vagarities," and the sound church bells all figure into the mystery.

Theodora Du Bois is a forgotten writer who should be rediscovered.

Veteran's Day:  The holiday began as Armistice Day, first celebrated on November 11, 1919, the one year anniversary of the end of World War I.  In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance and it became a national holiday in 1938.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954.  Except for four years when the holiday was observed on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day has always been held on November 11, to celebrate the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" -- the day that World War I ended in 1918.

Unlike Memorial Day, which honors our war dead, Veterans Day honors all veterans -- living and dead -- who served honorably in any of the branches of the US military. 


  • 18.2 million living veterans served during at least one war as of 2018.
  • 9 percent of veterans are women.
  • 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
  • 3 million veterans have served in support of the War on Terrorism.
  • Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 496. 777 were still alive in 2018.
  • Connecticut was home to the highest percentage of World War II veterans as of 2018 at 7.1 percent.
  • 2 million veterans served during the Korean War.
  • As of 2017, the top three states with the highest percentage of veterans were Alaska, Maine and Montana, respectively.
Despite having a low draft number during the Vietnam War, I did not pass the physical and thus did not serve.  (My right eyeball was damaged when I was three and my right hand was still wonky after I lost a battle with a moving cement mixer a couple of years before.  None of this "bone spur" nonsense for me.)  

I have had good friends and relatives who have served.  I have had friends who died.  My namesake, Jerry Speed, lost his life at Guadalcanal.  I have always had the greatest respect for those who served, and much, much less respect for politicians who got us into wars for specious reasons.  I believe in a strong military and a strong defense.  I do not believe in wasteful spending that short-changes our troops of needed equipment and does not honor the needs our men and women in uniform, and their families.  I get angry when our veterans do not get the full medical support they have earned.  I am grateful for the men and women who have served because I am grateful for America; we cannot have one without the other.

Sing Along:  
A Look at World War I:   Percy Crosby, who would go on to create the Skippy comic strip, enlisted in the Army during World War I.  He was awarded both the Purple Heart and the Victory Medal.  The sketched below, featuring a naive rookie named Private Dubb. were drawn in No Man's Land, lying on the ground and waiting to move as the war exploded around him.  That he was able to find humor in such a situation speaks well of the American soldier.

  • Between Shots (1917-1919)

  • That Rookie from the 13th Squad:

A Look at World War II:  Nobody personified the American soldier better than Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe:
Today's Poem:
The City's Oldest Known Survivor of the Great War

marches in uniform down the traffic stripe
at the center of the street, counts time
to the unseen web that has rearranged
the air around him, his left hand
stiff as a leather strap along his side
the other saluting right through the decades
as if they weren't there, as if everyone under ninety
were pervasive fog the morning would dispel. 
in its own good time, as if the high school band
all flapping thighs and cuffs behind him
were as ghostly as the tumbleweed on every road
dead-ended in the present, all the ancient infantry
shoulder right, through ea skein of bone, presenting arms
across the drift, nothing but empty graves now
to round off another century, 
the sweet honey of the old cadence, the streets
going by at attention, the banners glistening with dew,
the wives and children blowing kisses.

-- James Doyle

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Books, comics, magazines, true crimes:  all fodder for a public thirsting for excitement.  Even the worst writers found a market here.   A documentary from the State Library of New South Wales.


An old recording.  Artists unknown.

Saturday, November 9, 2019


One of the most revered comic books of the mid-Sixties was Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents from Tower Comics.  Take one part superhero, one part The Man from U.N.C.L.E, and one part James Bond, mix in some science fiction and you have The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves -- T.H.U.N.D.E.R. 

We open with U.N. agents landing at a remote mountain laboratory, too late to stop an attack by the forces of the mysterious Warlord, an unknown enemy who has forces around the world.  Dead is Professor Jennings, the genius scientist who was developing a number of top secret projects.  Gone are irreplaceable laboratory records and experiment notes, but in the rubble are three objects, each with a specific purpose:  a belt that could give the wearer's body the consistency of steel, an invisibility cloak, and what seems to be a helmet that can intensify a person's brain power many times over.   These objects will soon be worn by agents to be known as Dynamo, Menthor, and NoMan.

Dynamo is Leonard Brown, who wears the belt that can his body the consistency of steel, making him super-strong and invulnerable -- but only for thirty minutes, then the stress from the belt could kill him.

Menthor is John Janus, who wears the mental amplifying helmet.  Janus is aptly named because he is a double agent working for the Warlord, but when Janus wears the helmet he becomes a force for good.  (Janus is killed several issues in, but the helmet goes on with new Menthors.)

NoMan is just that.  Anthony Dunn is a dying scientist who transfers his mind into the bodies of android that he has built.  He can use the invisibility cloak for ten minutes only before it drains the batteries of his android  body.

Issue #1 covers the origin story of each of the three superheroes.  The comic book's introduction and the origin story of Dynamo were written by Len Brown and drawn by Wally Wood.  NoMan's origin was written by Larry Ivie and drawn by Reed Crandall.  Lou Silverstone wrote Menthor's origin story, which was drawn by Gil Kane and George Tuska.

The two-page text story in issue #1 was written by Larry Ivie and featured NoMan.

But that's no all!  There is also a ten-page story that introduces the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad, other members of the elite U.N. agency:  Guy Gilbert, weapons man Dynamite Daniel Adkins, Kathryn "Kitten" Kane, "Weed" Wylie, and "Egghead" Andor.  (Andor will be killed off in the next issue.  **sigh**)

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents lasted for 20 glorious issues before Tower Comics went belly-up in 1969.   since then, ownership of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents has changed several times and various companies have licensed the characters, most recently DC Comics and IDW Publications.

To my mind, the original series -- as well as the short-lived spin-offs Dynamo and NoMan -- was one of highlights of m y comic book reading in the mid- to late-Sixties.

This is where it all started:

Friday, November 8, 2019


Boz Skaggs.


Look Behind You! by Arthur J. Burks (1954)

Arthur J. Burks was an extremely prolific writer for the pulps, a million-plus words a year writer who could churn out stories for virtually every pulp market.  According to one estimate he wrote over 800 stories for the pulps,  Burks himself, in 1936, wrote that the number was much closer to 1400; the latter estimate feels right, somehow, given the high probability of yet undiscovered pseudonyms.  He was known to challenge people to name an object, any object, and he could write a story around it (an ability that he himself satirized in at least one short story).  Burks was never a good writer, per se, but he was an effective one, creating mood pieces that were strong on atmosphere and weak on plot.

Burks began his career as a military man, joining the Marines during World War I, eventually serving as an aide to General Smedley Butler, with whom he shared a by-line on at least one book.  Burks began writing in 1920 and published his first novel the following year.  In 1927 he resigned from the Marines to become a full-time writer.  He reenlisted during World War II, eventually retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.  Following that war (and especially in the Sixties) Burks' interest in metaphysical and paranormal subjects occupied most of his time as he produced works and lectured on both subjects.  Mysticism had always played an important part in his science fiction, fantasy and horror stories from his early stories about Haiti and the Dominican Republic, eventually leading to his 1939 metaphysical treatise Who Do You Think You Are? and to later books such as Bells Above the Amazon, the Life of Hugo Mense, Explorer of the Spirit (1951), Sex:  The Divine Flame (1961), and En-Don: The Ageless Wisdom (1973).  (A throwaway line in "Our Daily Tuesday," one of the stories in Don't Look Back!, is somewhat telling:  "Helena, desperate, called in some famous psychiatrists, psychologists and dianetics experts."  Each was described as a scientist later in the paragraph.)

Look Behind You! was the first publication from the very small press of Shroud, publishers.  In his introduction to the book, the book's editor Kenneth J. Krueger, a former fanzine publisher, states that he was asked by Shroud's owner, Robert J. Fritz, "to help him select a group of stories with which to inaugurate a new series of books devoted to the rather select field of fantasy and the macabre."  (As far as I can tell, the name Fritz soon vanished from the scene and Krueger [1926-2009] stayed on as publisher of Shroud's occasional books and magazines until his death.)  Krueger turn to his friend Arthur Burks, who responded by giving him the six previously unpublished stories in this book.  (Krueger noted that the book was originally to have 13 stories; why it was reduced to six stories is a mystery but possibly had something to do with the cost of printing.)  There is a strong hint that these were unsolf "trunk" stories, rather than works written specifically for this book.

Look Behind You! was published in two states: a hardcover edition of 80 copies and a paper edition of 650 copies.  The paper edition was plastic ring bound and had cardboard covers.  Although no price was listed on the book, it sold for $1.00.  The pages were type-written and justified on both the right and left, causing some rather weird spacing on each line.  The type is small, making it difficult to read.  The cover and  the eleven illustrations are by DEA (Margaret M. Dominick), a fan artist whose ability can be likened to that of a moderately talented high school sophomore.  The cover includes the exclamation point in the title, while the title page and the title story omit it.  A surprisingly off-putting aspect of the book is the numbering of the pages.  The right-hand (recto) pages are even-numbered and the left hand (verso) pages are odd-numbered. giving the small book 73 pages.  (Considering how off-putting I found that, I must be OCD.)

The stories:

  • "All the Lights Were Green"  A mood piece about a small plane pilot and his passenger -- a South American revolutionary.  There are mystical lights as the revolutionary goes to his unexpected, ultimate fate.
  • "The Kindness of Maracati"  Maricati, the chief of a Brazilian tribe, was noted for his kindness.  Fifty years earlier, his wife Bokai had cheated on Maricati, who murdered her lover and buried him under their hut.  this is the tale of Maricati's fifty years of kindness.
  • "Our Daily Tuesday"  The story of Mark Gibney, a genius who had learned to "reset" his body every day so that he remained forever twenty-one while those around him aged.
  • "Ye Imys of Helle"  The narrator returns from the jungles of South American with some ayahuasca, a mind-altering drug that allows him to enter the minds of others and to mentally travel to wherever he desires.  After some experimentation, he decides to find out if Hell is real.  It is, but it's  not what he expected.
  • "Look Behind You"  The longest story in the book.  Randolph Perssons is a photographer who has secretly developed the "S-Film" and the "S-Whisper track."  With these inventions he is able to record the past, beginning with the past of a well-respected woman in town -- revealing her renunciation of an affair with a married man; realizing that she could never marry her lover and would not marry any other, the woman turned her life to good works.  Perssons sends her the film he had taken with his inventions.  The next day, the woman goes missing.  And so it begins...
  • "The Chosen of the Gods"  Lon Baldwin stumbles out of the Brazilian jungle, sick, wasted, and near death.  He comes to a remote village and finds that medical help is days away -- too far to save him.  A local "witch doctor" promises him help if he travels to Caushuikari -- the witchcraft place. 
A minor and slight collection.  Is it worth your time?  As I said above, these are mood pieces, with little plot and even less characterization.  But there is a power to them.  The writing may not be that original but the ideas behind each story are.  The reader would probably be better served with the 1966 Arkham House collection Black Medicine or with last year's Masters of the Weird Tale:  Arthur J. Burks from Centipede Press, but Look Behind You! is still an interesting, albeit flawed, collection.

Thursday, November 7, 2019


Happy birthday, Joni Mitchell!


Remember, remember the Fifth of November...?

Well, I did.  Kind of.  Two days late.

To make up for my lapse of memory, here's a timely-but-two-days-late adventure of the world's first consulting detective, originally airing on November 5, 1945.

Holmes' client, James Stuart, is afraid that his cousin Guy Fawkes Guy Falkenberry is planning to blow him up.  Hmm.


Monday, November 4, 2019


One of the songs that helped usher in the new millennium, this one from Pink.


Openers:  "Don't spare that switch, Achmed" Nabil called back from the lead position where he played the flashlight along the slope rising ahead of them.  "Getting there second is as good as not getting there at all."
     I know that, Achmed thought and swatted the donkey's flanks with great vigor.
     He and his brother panted as they pulled and drove the reluctant beast up the incline into the craggy foothills below the high wilderness.

-- Virgin by "Mary Elizabeth Murphy" (F. Paul Wilson) (1996)

When a two thousand-year-old scroll is discovered that reveals the final resting place of Mary, mother of Jesus, it causes a sensation.  The sensation is short-lived when the ink on the scroll is dated to less than a dozen years ago.  Certainly the scroll is a fake.  Or is it?  Skeptics and believers vie for the remains of 'the Mother" in this religious thriller of international scope that ranges from Judea to Ireland to America to the middle of the Pacific.  The only novel Wilson ever published under this pseudonym, Virgin was later released under his own name.  Wilson was already a well-established writer in 1996:  with the science fictional/Libertarian LaNague Chronicles behind him, he had already finished his first pass at the six novels that made up his "Adversary Cycle" and would shortly come into his own with the first independent Repairman Jack novel.  Virgin's publication was bookended by two thrillers written as by "Colin Andrews," Implant and Deep as the Marrow, both of which have been re-issued under Wilson's own name.


  • Jeff Connor, editor, Classics Mutilated.  CTRL-ALT-LIT.  An anthology of 13 mash-ups for some "High-Impact Genre-Blending Mayhem."  "This all new collection redefines the so-called Monster Lit movement, bring Mashup Culture and Genre Blending together in one illustrated cage match of Subversive Fiction...Snow White vs Alice...Huck Finn vs Uncle Remus vs Cthulhu...Jim Morrison vs. Edgar Allan Poe...Dr. Moreau vs Hollywood...Capt. Ahab vs the Wendigo...Sid Vicious vs Voodoo...Joe McCarthy vs Killer Frogs...and more!"  Authors include Joe R. Lansdale, Nancy A. Collins, John Shirley, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Thomas Tessier, Mark Morris, Rick Hautala,  Marc Laidlaw, Rio Youers, and John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow.
  • Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls.  YA fantasy.  "The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.  But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting, the one from the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the won with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...This monster is something different, something ancient, something wild.  And it wants the truth."  Inspired by an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd (it would have been her fifth young adult novel; "She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning," this was the first book to win both the Carnegie Medal for literature and the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration.  Yes, the illustrations by Jim Kay are great.
  • Sarah Shankman, editor, A Confederacy of Crime.  An anthology of a dozen "stories of Southern-style crime."  "Look past the mint julips and magnolias, the grace and good manners.  Forget about the sultry drawls and the beautiful belles.  Hidden behind the sweet-as-honey smiles and the 'yes, ma'ams" and "no, sirs," there's a sinister, seamy side of the South that you may not have seen -- until  now...Do you know how best to react when you overhear your own flesh and blood plotting your murder?  Agatha Award-winner John.  Have you ever met an obituary writer with a disturbing obsession?  In Terry Kay's story, you will.  Do you sometimes wonder just how far a wronged widow will go for revenge?  After reading Michael Malone's tale, you'll know.  Have you ever been in the middle of a murder investigation in steamy Atlanta?  Thomas Cook puts you there.  In this collection of never-before-published fiction, twelve esteemed authors expose the shrewdest characters and cleverest crimes in the South -- where what you don't know might just kill you."  Despite this less-than-sterling back cover blurb, I suspect his is a pretty good anthology with some very worthwhile stories.

Sandwich Day:  Yesterday was National Sandwich Day, one of those totally made-holidays that retailers love.  Alas, the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A did not love it this year.  As you may know, Chick-fil-A and Popeye's have been having a "war" over their chicken sandwiches lately. Chick-fil-A has been touting their chicken sandwich by noting that they don't run out their sandwiches.  For it's part, Popeye's notes the people still get hungry on Sundays (the day on which Chick-fil-A famously is closed).  Any promotions that Chick-fil-A might have been considering for National Sandwich Day were blown out of the water when November 3 fell on a Sunday.

Since I am a chicken and refuse to get involved in the chicken war between these two purveyors of tasty sandwiches, I hereby offer -- one day late -- my own suggestion for a great sandwich:  a spipcy, moth-watering habanaro, rum and molasses pulled pork sandwich.  Try it.  You'll thank me later.

The Week in Trump:
  • Trump vows no more federal aid to California amid devastating wildfires.  Sugguest that California should concentrate on cleaning the forest floors, harking back to his erlier theory that forest floors should be raked to prevent forest fires.
  • As smugglers are seen cutting through the big, beautiful border wall with ordinary household power tools, Trump admits that "You can cut through any wall."
  • Trump was booed at the fifth game of the World Series with loud calls of "Lock him up!"  He was later booed at a mixed martial arts event.  
  • Trump went to Mississippi to try to rally the faithful for Republican Tate Reeves, who is in a tight battle for the state's governorship.  As usual, the rally was more about Trump (and falsehoods) than it was about Mr. Reeves.  Trump declared victory over the "Clinton dynasty, the Bush dynasty" and -- reminiscent of his false claim that Obama was not born in the United States -- "the president  Barack Hussein Obama Dynasty," noting that he was "kicking the ass" out of Obama and his supporters.  I don't think Mr. Trump knows the definition of the word "dynasty."  Trump also went on to call Beto O'Rourke "a poor bastard," to falsely claim that Tate Reeves' opponent is a "progressive liberal," and to blast the "deranged impeachment witch hunt."
  • As the impeachment inquiry is about to open its doors to the full House and the public, the president has ramped up his attacks on the inquiry and the Democrats in the House.  He is also pushing to have the "whistleblower's" identity , something which is protected by law.  A number of Republicans in the Senate are said to now be in agreement that a quid pro quo had happened in the notorious phone call to the Ukranian president, but that such an offense does not rise to an impeachable matter.  Meanwhile, reports are beginning to circulate that there was a previous quid pro quo.  Also, the action of Trump's lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, and his associates, as well as several former members of Congress are being called into question.
  • Trump has indicated that the impeachment inquiry may have the effect of closing the government and that he is just fine with that.
  • It was revealed that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman had been instructed by a white House lawyer not to discuss the July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zlensky.  A  number of subpoenaed witness have refused to speak and/or appear before the House committees -- several on orders from the White House.
  • The transcript of the call has been moved to a highly classified server -- the NSC Intelligence Collaboration Environment, or NICE.  Former Trump national security experts have said this was an unheard of move (storing presidential calls with foreign leaders on NICE), although it is believed that at least on other such transcript had been placed there by John Eisenberg, the white house's legal adviser on national security issues.
  • Trump wants to print t-shirts with "READ THE TRANSCRIPT" on them in an effort to counter the impeachment probe.  Trump has also floated the idea of him reading the transcript on television.  The transcript in question is not a true transcript, just an edited reconstruction of the call with glaring omissions.  Even so, most people consider what has been released to be damning.  Trump doesn't think so and feels that this would completely vindicate him.  this may be another indication that he is delusional.
  • Syrian president Bashir Assad has praised Trump as "the best U.S. president.  Not because his policies are good, but because he's the most transparent president."
  • Trump tweeted on Saturday:  "Schiff will change the transcripts just like he fraudulently made up the phone call.  He is a corrupt politician!"
  • Trump ordered federal agencies to no longer subscribe to The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Happy Birthday:  Today is the birthday of Will Rogers (1879-1935):

The Good, No Bad, and Definitely No Ugly:
Simple kindnesses...a willingness to change the world for the better...beautiful in so many ways.

Vote:  Tomorrow is Election Day in many states and communities.  You now what you have to do.

Today's Poem:
When I Will Be No More

Nothing will happen that had not happened
In my lifetime:  sailors will
Sail the seas, the winds will howl sadly
In the branches, the ripe ear of wheat will bed towards the earth.
Boys and girls will love each other
Like nobody had
Ever loved before.

-- Dragutin Tadijanovic (1905-2007)


Bobby Vinton.

Saturday, November 2, 2019


Eva Cassidy, channeling her inner Robert Burns.


First, a very obvious confession:  I have no idea what the heck is going on here.

There's this masked guy with a cape (the hero) -- Pimpernel.

There are car chases.  Lots of them.  How much did gas cost in the Netherlands in 1947, anyway?

There are bullets flying.  Pang Pang Pang.

There's also a babe with heavy seams on her nylons.  Her name may be Cora.  Once she's rescued we don't hear anything else from here.

The art work is amateurish.  Cartoonish.  Inelegant.  Ho-hum.

There is one nifty explosion.

It looks like the Pimpernel said something funny in the last panel.  Or perhaps not.

Not knowing the Dutch language is not necessarily a handicap in approaching this book.  You can make up your own dialogue and story to go with the artwork.

Have fun!

Friday, November 1, 2019


Evelyn Knight & The Stardusters.


A Scent of New-Mown Hay by John Blackburn (1958)

John Blackburn (1923-1993) secured his reputation in England with this, his first book, a thriller cum horror novel that cannot be easily fitted into genre categories.  His reputation in America is a little less assured because his books do not easily fit into marketing niches that can help propel books in this country.  Still, his works have been enjoying a resurgence thanks to publishers such as Valancourt Books (which has reprinted fifteen of Blackburn's novels) and Centipede Press (which has reissued six novels thus far).

From the Valancourt Press listing for A Scent of New-Mown Hay:

"With a plot featuring Cold War intrigue,Nazi mad scientists, and a pandemic that threatens to destroy humanity by mutating people into fungoid monsters, it is not hard to see why A Scent of New-Mown Hay (1958) became a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic and an instant science-fiction classic.  After a British ship's crew and a remote Russian village are wiped out in mysterious and horrible fashion, General Charles Kirk of British Foreign Intelligence sets out to investigate.  As the [plague spreads to England, Kirk's frantic search leads him from the desolate tundra of Russia to the ruins of a Nazi camp, the site of unthinkable wartime atrocities.  But who is responsible?  Is it a Soviet experiment gone horribly wrong. the work of a depraved madman, or something else entirely?  And can it be stopped?

"In this, his first and still best-known novel, the prolific John Blackburn (1923-1993) introduced the formula he was to employ so successfully in his career, seamlessly blending mystery, horror, and science fiction to create a thrilling best-seller that readers found impossible to put down."

And in his review of the novel, Don D'Ammassa wrote, "A demented scientist has bred a deadly fungus whose distinctive aroma warns of the disease it carries.  Primarily a novel of espionage, the story is punctuate with distinctly horrific scenes and the climax, involving an animated, human-sized fungus , is every bit as chilling as a supernatural manifestation."

All well and good, but these descriptions mask the true nature of this novel.  A Scent of New-Mown Hay is not a gross-out disaster novel as typified later in works by Guy N. Smith or James Herbert.  Instead it is solidly in the tradition of the quiet catastrophe novel that was oh-so-British in the 1950s and 1960s (many of which were written by writers named John:  "John Christopher," John Boland, "John Wyndham," John Creasey...although at least one James -- J. G. Ballard -- contributed greatly to this quasi-genre).  Focusing on a few characters and the impact the catastrophe might have on them universalizes the impact of the disaster for the reader.

There is a sly humor in this novel, often in throwaway lines and descriptions:  "He was an elder of the chapel, a county councillor, a justice of the peace, the Liberal candidate at the last election, and a thorn in the side of all desecrators of the Sabbath."

This is also a book of its time.  Most of the characters are veddy, veddy British-y polite -- 1950s style.  The scientific theory that might stop the plague is pure nonsense.  The identity of the bad guy is ridiculously telegraphed.  The action moves as if it were a late-50s, early-60s thriller movie -- and a British thriller movie at that.  All that being said, if you approach the book with no preconceptions, you'll find it an entertaining and worthwhile thrill ride.


I should mention the only two things that bothered me with this book.  First, there was a misplaced comma on page 33 that continued to irk me for the next fifty pages or so.  (Anyone familiar with this blog knows how comma-happy I am, which should be an indication of how egregious I found this to be.)  Second, the blurb on the back jacket flap misidentifies one Mrs. Baker, an inveterate shoplifter who eventually falls victim to the plague, as "Mrs. Bates."  Ptah!

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Michael Jackson.


This classic radio play was written by Lucille Fletcher (Sorry Wrong Number, And Presumed Dead, Night Watch) and first presented by Orson Welles on The Orson Welles Show on November 17, 1941.   Welles reprised the play three more times on radio:  on Suspense, September 2, 1942, on The Philip Morris Playhouse, October 16, 1942, and on The Mercury Summer Theatre of the Air, June 21, 1946. The haunting music for all four radio shows was composed by Bernard Herrmann, Lucille Fletcher's then husband.

Rod Serling famously adapted the play for the first season of The Twilight Zone in 1960.

Ronald Adams, driving cross-country from New York to California, first sees the hitch-hiker as he leaves Brooklyn.  He sees him again at the Pulasky Skyway, and again and again as he crosses the country -- always the same man, always hitchhiking.  There is no logical way the hitchhiker cold continually appear ahead of him on so many points of his journey.  Adams becomes terrified of the apparition and becomes determined to run him (it?) down the next time he sees him.  A close encounter in Texas leads to a shocking conclusion in the New Mexico desert.

A truly frightening program, just right for Halloween day.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


From 1933, Borrah Minnevitch & the Harmonica Rascals.


Those darned neighborhood kids!  They smashed my Jack-o-lantern on the sidewalk!

Not to worry, though.  I fixed it with a pumpkin patch.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Bessie Smith.


Here's a fairly obscure classic for your Halloween week.

Dorothy Burgess plays Juanita Lane, whose parents had been killed in a voodoo ritual.  Now married with a young daughter, she returns with her family to the island of her youth to confront her past.  greeted as a voodoo priestess, she slowly descends into madness.  Fine performances from Burgess, Jack Holt (playing the husband), and Fay Wray (as the family's nanny), a literate script, and evocative cinematography make this one a winner.

A great example of pre-code horror.  Directed by Roy William Neill (Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, Doctor Syn, numerous Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies) and scripted by Wells Root (I Cover the Waterfront, 1937 and 1952's The Prisoner of Zenda, Texas Across the River) from a story of the same title by Clements Ripley*.

Enjoy this little and effective chiller.

* IMDb noted incorrectly that Ripley's story was taken from Cosmopolitan Magazine; it actually appeared as a serialized novel in Nash's Pall Mall Magazine in 1933.

Monday, October 28, 2019


The Classic IV.



           The curtain rises, morning light fades in on the Sheriff's office.  WINSTON, a deputy sheriff               inclined to matter-of-fact laziness, sits at the desk, speaking on the telephone.  On the desk are             an intercom, radio apparatus, sheafs of papers, and so forth.  The wall-clock reads 8:10.

WINSTON: [Plaintively]  Baby...didn't I just tell you?  I can't leave till Bard gets here.  [He listens]         Listen, baby -- this night shift gets my goat as much as it does yours.  You think I wouldn't like to       be in that nice warm bed?  [There is a buzz on the intercom on the desk]  Hold it.  [He speaks into       the intercom]  Yeah, Dutch?
DUTCH'S VOICE:  Winston...Bard's going to want those Terre Haute reports right away.
WINSTON:  [Irascibly, into the intercom]  What do you think I'm gonna do with ' 'em for            breakfast?  [He flips off the intercom, returns to the phone]  Hello, baby...[Listens]  Yeah, that's            what I said, isn't it?  In that nice warm bed with you.  Who'd you think I...[Listens]  Okay, okay,          baby...go back to sleep and wait for papa.  [Hangs up, shakes head, pleased; speaks with gusto]          Give me a jealous woman every time!

-- Joseph Hayes, The Desperate Hours (1954), a three-act play based on Hayes' novel of the same title.  First produced at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York, on February 10, 1955, ran for 220 performances, winning a Tony as the outstanding play of the season; an additional Tony went to the play's director, Robert Montgomery.  The play featured such talent as James Gregory, Karl Malden, Paul Newman, and George Grizzard.  The book on which the play was based was a major bestseller and a major book club selection.  Hayes gained a hat trick with his story, writing the screenplay for the 1955 movie adaptation, which won an Edgar Award for best motion picture.  The film had a solid cast of leading and character actors:  Humphrey Bogart, Frederick March, Arthur Kennedy, Gig Young, Martha Scott, Whit Bissell, Ray Collins, Simon Oakland, Bert Mustin, and Joe Flynn.  The story was later turned into a regrettable television film in 1967, about the less said the better.  A 1990 film remake by Michael Cimino starring Mickey Rourke was also a dud, despite the fact that Joseph Hayes contributed to the screenplay -- or, perhaps, because Hayes did not have complete control of the script as he had in the 1954 play and 1955 film.  If you have not read the original book, seen the play, or seen the 1955 film, consider that all three should be on your bucket list.  All three are that good.

  • [Anonymous editor], Beyond the Stars:  Tales of Adventure in Time and Space.  YA SF anthology with ten stories and seven excerpts.  "Seventeen stories from the exciting world of science fiction, including Star Wars and Doctor Who and tales by Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke.  this spectacular collection is illustrated throughout with specially commissioned drawings."  A very minor (and somewhat overblown) collection.
  • Peter S. Beagle, We Never Talk About My Brother.  Collection of nine fantasy stories and one poem cycle from 1981 to 2009.  "The nine extraordinary stories in Peter S. Beagle's new fantasy collection are profound explorations of love, death, transformation, and the choices that define just who we are and what we are.  Ranging from an artist' loft in 1950s New York to the lacquered hallways of a feudal Japanese castle, each is a singular world of the imagination, told with wit and timeless wisdom.  - A modern-day angel of death moonlights as an anchorman on the network news; - King Peles the Sure, short-sighted ruler of a gentle realm, betrays his kingdom by dreaming of a manageable war; - An American librarian discovers -- much to his surprise, and to his wife's sadness -- that he has become the last living Frenchman; - Bitter rivals in a supernatural battle over love and real-estate forgo pistols at dawn in favor of dramatic recitations of dreadful poetry."  Beagle is the real thing.
  • Carole Bugge, The Star of India.  Pastiche.  "Holmes and Watson find themselves caught up in a complex chess board of a problem, involving a clandestine love affair and the disappearance of a priceless sapphire.  Professor James Moriarty is back to tease and torment, leading the duo on a chase through the dark and dangerous back streets of London and beyond."  This is from "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" series by various authors from Titan Books.  Some of the reprints in this series are wonderful additions to the Holmes legend, so I thought I'd give this one a try in spite of its lackluster back cover blurb.
  • Andrea Camilleri, Excursion to Tindari.  An Inspector Montalbano mystery.  "A young Don Juan is found murdered in front of his apartment building early one morning, and an elderly couple is reported missing after an excursion to the ancient site of Tindari --- two seemingly unrelated cases for Inspector Montalbano to solve among the daily complications of life at Vigta police headquarters.  But when Montalbano discovers the couple and the murdered young man lived in the same building, his investigation stumbles onto Sicily's brutal 'New Mafia,' which leads him down a path more evil and far-reaching than any he has been on before."  This is the fifth of (so far) twenty-seven books in the Montalbano series.  It was a finalist for the CWA's 2006 International Dagger Award.  Translated by Stephen Sartarelli from La gita a Tindari.
  • Jck Dann & Gardner Dozois, editors, Beyond Flesh.  SF anthology with ten stories from 1957 to 2001.  "In the future, the human race will no longer evolve.  It will upgrade...Welcome to an existence without boundaries, where the rules of humanity no longer apply, a future time when consciousness is no longer restricted to the prison of the flesh.  In this astonishing anthology, a host of the world's most expert dreamers are taking you there.  So open up, gain access to the heretofore unexplored regions of the body and the mind, and check all limitations at the door."  Authors include Poul Anderson, Greg Egan, Michael Swanwick, Ian R. MacLeod, and Stephen Baxter.
  • John Lutz, Frenzy.  A Frank Quinn thriller.  "Pretty Maids all in a row -- Six dead women in a hotel room.  Five of them students, still in their teens.  tied up.  tortured,  The NYPD recognizes the suspect's signature -- three bloody initils carved into each victim's forehead.  Ex-cop Frank Quinn has faced this madman before.  Both bear scars from their last encounter.  Killer and cop, hunter and prey..In a deadly game of matched wits, only one can prevail.  It's not just about who gets killed.  It's about who will survive..."  This book includes a bonus story:  the e-short "Switch."  For the past twenty years or so, Lutz has had a profitable career turning out paperback original page-turners, ten of them featuring Frank Quinn.  Does anyone else miss the earlier novels Lutz wrote about Alo Nudger and about Fred Carver?
  • Chris Robertson, editor, Adventure, Vol. 1.  Anthology of 17 stories with pulp sensibilities.  "The first volume of an annual anthology of original fiction in the spirit of early 20th-century pulp fiction magazines.  this inaugural edition features stories from all genres, promising both literary sophistication and pulse-pounding action."  There was no second volume.  As for the stories:  "ICEBOUND SURVIVAL ON AN ALIEN WORLD...BOXING TOE-TO-TOE WITH FLESH-EATING GHOSTS...A SUPERHERO'S LAST STAND...A GUNSLINGER IN WONDERLAND...THESE AND MORE IN ADVENTURE."
  • Thomas E. Sniegoski, A Kiss Before the Apocalypse.  Fantasy novel, the first in the Remy Chandler series.  "Boston PI Remy chandler has a life any man would envy, with friendship, a job he's good at -- and love.  But Remy is no ordinary.  He's an angel who chose to renounce heaven and live on Earth.  so he's able to will himself invisible, hear thoughts, and speak and understand any language -- of man or beast.  Talents that will become invaluable to him when his angelic past returns to haunt him...The Angel of Death has gone missing, and Remy's former colleagues have come to him for help.  But what at first seems to be about tracing a missing person turns out to involve much more -- a conspiracy that has as its goal the destruction of the human race.  And only Remy Chandler can stop it..."  A popular series I have not gotten into yet.  I find it interesting that the back cover blurb writer did not capitalize "heaven" but did capitalize "Earth."  Don't know why I find it interesting, but I do, and a quick scan of the book shows that Heaven is capitalized in the text.

The Florida Man Bandwagon:  Seth Meyer has hopped aboard:

Killing bin laden Al-Baghdadi:  I couldn't stand more than a minute or two of Trumps' press conference announcing the death of the ISIS leader.  Any minute I expected Trump to chortle and rub his hands in glee.  He was like a kid reliving the most exciting movie he had ever seen, something that may not be far from the truth since he watched the in-progress raid live.  (I wonder if he had his own box of popcorn.)  Finally, here was an accomplishment for his administration to match one of the signature ones of the previous administration.  The photograph from the Situation Room shows the president and his advisers posing sternly around a table and is meant to show (I assume) America's resolve in the fight against terrorism.  Compared to the photo released after bin Liden was killed, the one released today appears to be pure PR.   We all know that Trump single-handedly has defeated ISIS because he has told us so enough times, but sometimes those pesky facts get in the way.  The operation that killed Al-Baghdadi was accomplished in spite of the president and not because of him, although Trump did give the go-ahead order.  The chaos of Trump's lack of a coherent foreign agenda and of his disruptive and uncertain policies had worked -- and may still work -- in ISIS's favor.  The president's grand-standing announcement may possibly embolden ISIS further; there are still many powerful ISIS leaders tasked with operational duties still out there.

Make no mistake about it.  I'm glad Al-Baghdadi is dead.  He was an evil man and the world is much better off without him.  I am sorrowful that be took three children with him.  I doubt that his followers will consider his death the act of cowardice that Trump proclaimed.  Instead he may be considered a martyr who refused to be humiliated by being captured.  Trump's raging narcissism distorts his view of reality; in his black-and-white, living-in-a-John-Wayne world there is no room for nuanced considerations -- something that has allowed him to blunder through the world stage without thinking.

There are time when I wish our president would keep his mouth shut, or at least temper his remarks.  Trump has called this a good day for the United States, and it is.  He then went on to say it was a good day for Turkey and Russia.  Jesus.

383 Years Ago; or, My, How Time Flies:  On this date long ago, the Massachusetts Bay colony voted to establish a theological college, which would eventually become Harvard University, which, in turn, allowed this to exist:

Halloween:  I love it.  It's my favorite holiday.

On the Good News Front:

Today's Poem:
The Night Wind

Have you ever heard the night wind go "Yooooo"?
'T is a pitiful sound to hear!
It seems to chill you through and through
With a strange and speechless fear.
'T is the voice of the night that broods outside
When folks should be asleep,
And many and many's the time I've cried
To the darkness brooding far and wide
Over the land and the deep:
"Whom do you want, O lonely night,
That you wail the long hours through?"
And the night would say in its ghostly way:

-- Eugene Field

Have a great Halloween!