Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, September 16, 2019


The Cars.


Openers:  The place stank.  A queer, mingled stench that only the ice-buried cabins of an Antarctic camp know, compounded of reeking human sweat, and the heavy, fish-oil stench of melted seal blubber.  An overtone of liniment combated the musty small of sweat-and-snow-drenched fur.  The acrid odor of burnt cooking fat, and the animal, not-unpleasant smell of dogs. diluted by time, hung in the air.

-- John W. Campbell, Jr. (writing as "Don A. Stuart"), "Who Goes There?" (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1938)

This story, the basis for the 1951 Howard Hawkes film The Thing from Another World and John Carpenter's John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing, was (according to Isaac Asimov) a rewrite of Campbell's "Brain Steaalers of Mars" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Decmeber 1936).  Last year a much longer version of the story was discovered; it is scheduled for publication in October by Wildside Press under the title Frozen Hell -- a gotta have.


  • Jim butcher & Mark Powers, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files:  Full Moon, Volume Two.  Graphic novel with pencils by Chase Conley; the second half of the eight-issue series based on Butcher's second Harry Dresden book.  "Harry Dresden is a private investigator whose clients require a detective with suernatural expertise -- in other wirds, he's a wizard for hire.  The Windy City has been hit with an outbreak of savage werewolf attacks -- a case made even more chaotic and challenging by the fact that Harry's uncovered no less than three lythantropic groups, each seemingly in conflict with one another.  On top of that, Harry's lost the faith of his one friend and ally among the Chicago Police Department, Karrin Murphy.  Now she, along with werewolves and hostile FBI agents, hunts Harry while he races against the rise of the next full moon to discover who -- or what -- is behind the string of murders!" 
  • L. Ron Hubbard and Kevin J. Anderson, Ai! Pedrito!.  Adventure novel, supposedly "inspired by a real incident in the life of L. Ron Hubbard."  Ah, but Hubbard was such a liar that any adventure he claimed to be real should be looked on in askance.  "Naval Lieutenant Tom smith discovers that his exact look-alike is the notorious South American revolutionary and spy, Perdito Miraflores.  Pedrito, while admired by many, leaves behind a throng of foes out for blood when he heads north to assume Smith's identity.  Smith, meanwhile, has been outfoxed, arriving in South America for a quiet vacation only to be attacked in a setup by a froeign intelligence agency."  According to the introduction, Hubbard wrote the story as a screenplay and (out of the kindness of his heart and his desire to promote new authors) granted the novelization to be written by a younger author.  Of course, Anderson had been writing professionally since 1982 and had published some two dozen books by the time Ai! Pedrito! was published.
  • George MacDonald, The Wise Woman and Other Stories.  MacDonald (1824-1905) was a popular novelist, lecturer, and preacher, best remembered to day for his epic fantasies and fairy tales, although a number of his other novels have been updated and abridged by a Chrisitan publishing house.  This book collects a novella and three short stories.
  • James Petterson & Nara Lee, Maximum Ride:  The Manga 2. YA manga.   "Having recovered Angel, Max and the flock head to New York to pursue a lead regarding their true identities, but where the flock goes, Erasers are sure to follow!  Even more troubling, though, is the voice that's begun whispering in Max's head.  Is it really her destiny to save the world?"  

A Stain on Florida:  Nope, not Florida Man, but something that may be far more evil and sinister.

Bee Love Slater, 23, a black transgender woman, was found on September 4, burnt beyond recognition in her car about 65 miles west of West Palm Beach.  Slater was identified through dental records.  She is the 18th transgender person known to have died by violent means in America in 2019.  In 2018, there were at least 26 such deaths, most of whom were black transgender women.  The case is being investigated as a homicide, although officils were quick to point out that there is no evidence as yet that Ms. Slater's death was a hate crime.  Nevertheless, a former longtime Hendry County commissioner said, "That's the feel of the community, that this is really a hate crime."

The American Medical Association has called violence against transgender persons an epidemic.  It noted that violent deaths of transgendered persons "could be even higher due to underreporting, and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence."

No matter what the actual circumstances or motivation, the death of Bee Love Slater diminishes us all.

Meanwhile, Also in Florida:  Florida Man has been busy during the first half of September:
And in storm-related news:

R. I. P., Ric Ocasek:  The Cars frontman ws found dead in his home yesterday.  He was 75.

Happy Birthday:  Music legend B. B. King would have been 94 today.  No mention on how old Lucille is.

Happy Birthday:  Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, which was introduced at a televised demonstration on this date in 1959...Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, which was intoduced at a televised demonstration on this date in 1959...Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, which was introduced at a televised demonstation on this date in 1959...Xerox 914, the first successful photocopier, which was introduced at a television demonstration on this date in 1959...Xerox 914, the first successful photoco--

OMG!  I'm caught in photocopier hell!  Argghhh!

Today's Poem:
The Photocopier

The photocopiper's stopped again; it's really not much use.
We'll have to get another one, since it won'r reproduce
And even when it does, it's slow and mucks up each copy.
If you want double-sided, you can sup ten cups of coffee
And fume and swear and rant and curse and utter wwords unkind
While it is merely warming up and making up its mind
As to when to jam and get stuff stuck, (which it really does a lot)
Usually a pesky paper scrap in an inaccessable spot!
It seems to have two settings:  much too black and far too pale.
It does the opposite of what you want -- Exactly, without fail!
I really shouldn't groan and gripe and come across as a moaner,
Though, always when you're in a rush, it's running low on toner
But I'm sure we'd miss it if it went; I'm sure you understand
Since it'd take us flipping ages to copy stuff out by hand!

-- C. Richard Miles

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Sometimes you just have to put the fun in funeral.  Monique Heller ralized that when she honored her father, Joe, who passed away last week at age 82.  Joe's irreverent life well lived was chronicled in his obituary:

It's my view that funerals should not be solemn.  They should be a joyous celebration of life as well as a chance to say things that should have been said before.   We should all be as lucky as Joe Heller in that ours lives should be appreciated and honored with joy, laughter, and good memories.


The Rambos.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


Trini Lopez does a great job covering the immortal Marty Robbins song.


A thief steals the "All Seeing Eye" -- a fabulous diamond from the idol in the Temple of Ashmara in Northern India.  Gantz Ali, the high priest of the temple, chases the thief but loses him when he boards a ship bound for England; Ali pursues him in the next England-bound ship and manages to find him on the Falmouth docks.  Before Gantz Ali could avenge the All Seeing Eye the thief boards a coach.  Following the stage on foot (!), the high priest watches as a highwayman stops the coach.  The thief is killed and the highwayman -- Flash Ned -- is surprised to find the large diamond on the thief's body.  Flash Ned rides off and delivers the gem to his employer, the "hanging judge" Jeremy.

Enter Dick Turpin, that gallant knight of the road, who robs Judge Jeremy and gains possession of the All Seeing Eye.  But Dick is followed by Ganz Ali, who attempts to get the diamond back.  Dick hears Gantz Ali's tale and, believing him, returns the stone to the high priest.

But Judge Jeremy captures Dick's friend Tom King, holding him ransom for the diamond...

The real Dick Turpin (1705-1739) was a poacher, burglar, highwayman, and killer.  His life became highly romanticized after he was hung as a horse thief, most famously by William Harrison Ainsworth in his 1834 novel Rookwood.  The myth of Dick Turpin has been recounted in numerous books and on stage, film, and television. 

Thriller Comics Library published a number of Dick Turbin adventures in its 450 issues, as well as adventures of Turpin's mythic counterpart Robin Hood.


Friday, September 13, 2019


The "Golden Fog," Mel Torme, whould have been 94 today.


FP 1 Does Not Reply (originally FP 1 antwortet nicht, 1931) by Kurt Siodmak, translated by H. W. Farrell (1933)

Curt Siodmak (1902-2000), who sometimes used his Christain name spelled with a K, claimed that heowed all to Adolph Hitler because if it wasn't for that son of a bitch he would never had come to America.  Born in Dresden of Jewish parents, he began writing novels after earning a degree in mathematics.  He invested his royalties in a film, Menshen am Sonntag, which was co-directed by his older brother Robert Siodmak and Edger G. Ulmer, with a script by Billy Wilder.  It was actually a anti-Semetic tirade by Joseph Goebbles that convinced Siodmak to emigrate, not Adolph Hitler.  He first went to England, then America and Hollywood in 1937, where he wrote many classic B-movie horror films for Universal studios.

Much of what many today consider to be traditional werewolf lore was invented by Siomak when he wrote Universal's The Wolfman  -- including the notion that a werewolf can only be killed by silver.  (Siodmak recalled "After The Wolfman made its first million, [producer/director] George Waggner got a diamond ring for his wife and [executive producer] Jack Gross got a $10,000 bonus.  I wanted $25 more a week and they [Universal] wouldn't give it to me.")  Siodmak also wrote such films as The Invisible Man Returns, Balck Friday, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and I Walked with a Zombie.  IMDb gives Siomak 79 writing credits, nine directing credits, and one acting credit (as one of the workmen in Fritz Lang's Metropolis).  Siodmak's 1942 novel Donovan's Brain, a classic science fiction/horror tale in the brain-in-a-bottle genre, was perhaps his most famous novel and was filmed four times.  FP 1 antwortet nicht was itself filmed three times, with the original German film starring Hans Albers and Peter Lorre.

FP 1 Does Not Reply is a tale about attempts to place a floating airport in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  In the days when large airplanes did not carry enough full to make a cross-Atlantic trip, both passengers and cargo relied on ocean-going ships to make the journey.  Young engineer Bernard Droste realized that a mid-Atlantic airport where planes could refuel would dramatically reduce travel time, adding convenience to money saved.  Working feverously, Droste design FP 1 (Floating Platform 1), a large luxury-laden structure providing not only aircraft facilities but a posh hotel with five star service, amenities, and cuisine.  Droste, an orphan, who raised by shipbuider Lennartz borrowed heavily to build Droste's dream at his shipyard.

The German government promised additional funding, only if the platform was in place and operational on a certain date.  The bank also indicated that it would call in its loan if the governemt did not provide the promised funding, Lennartz's entire fortune and his business are on the line -- if the conditions are not met he would be bankrupt and his shipyard would be put up for sale.  Lurking in the wings is another shipbuilder, Hansley, who stands to lose much of his shipping business if the platform succeeds.  No one realizes that Hansley controls the bank.  Hansley also has lured Lennartz' general manager Pechtold to his side -- Pechtold has been doing his best to ensure the platform's failure through bribes, sabotage, and not supplying needed equipment.

Schmiedecke is the captain hired to sail the platform to its permanent place in the ocean and to secure it to the ocen bed.  Too many accidents and too much miscommunication have happened to delay the platform's arrival.  Schmiedecke suspects sabotage and wires Droste about his suspicions.  Droste flies to the platform and discovers that Schmiedecke was correct.  Needed supplies were missing, machinery has been sabotaged, as has been the platform's food supplies.  Things go worse.  The platform's radio is sabotaged, the crew is gassed, and the platform is taking on water at a rate that will sink it within days; parts needed to save the ship have been stolen  The crew is rebellious and almost mutinies.  The floating platform has become a "coffin ship."

Let's add a little romance to the mix.  Droste is in love with Lennartz' daughter Gisela but has been a dim bulb, ignoring her while creating the platform.  Gisela is in love with Drost, but does not know whether her loves her because he is a dim bulb at romance.  Airman and adventurer Ellissen has fallen in love with Gisela but does not realize she loves Droste because Ellissen is a dim bulb.  Dim bulb Gisela does not realize Ellissen's feelings because she is fixated on Droste but she's thinking about settling for Ellissen for no particular reason.  (Ellissen, BTW, is an unscrupulous cad who was the only survivor of an arctic expedition and is suspected of murdering the other expedition members.)   Lennartz is also a dim bulb who ignores the obvious in order to further the plot.

 FP 1 Does Not Reply is pure melodrama, adding constantly rising dangers to cardboard characterizations and a coincidence-laden conclusion.  But sometimes melodrama is what I need in a story and this is one of the times.  Despite its many faults I enjoyed the book.

Thursday, September 12, 2019


Strawberry Alarm Clock.


The introduction to the show was:

"From the heart of the jungle comes a savage cry of victory.  This is Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle!  From the black core of dark of enchantment, mystery and violence come one of the most colorful figures of all time.  Transcribed from the immortal pen of Edgar Rice Burroughs -- Tarzan, the bronzed, white son of the jungle!  Andnow in the very words of Mr. Burroughs:"

Well, not quite.

The stories aired had little to do with anything that came from Burroughs' pen.  Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle was a product of the very small and scappy Commodore Productions, which consisted of Walter White, Jr., and his wife Shirley Thomas.  (Apropos of nothing, White and Thomas were married three times in three years -- which must be a record of some sort.)  The show ran from 1951-1953 and began at LA radio station KHJ before being picked by the Don Lee Mutual Broadcasting System, which covered 45 stations in the Western States.  Eventually the program went to CBS radio with General Foods as a sponsor.

This Tarzan, who is highly articulate, is played by Lamont Johnson and does not live with Jane (in fact, I'm not sure if Jane is ever mentioned); instead he lives at the cabin that had built by his parents.  From there, Captain Sidney Lawrence of the Governmental Police contacts him about some jungle problem that Tarzan goes off the resolve.  Sometimes instead of Lawrence, Tarzan is contacted directly by natives.  Tarzan also spends a lot of time with the Punya tribe.  No matter what the challenge, Tarzan manages to pack a lot of action and plot into a half hour time frame.

Johnson is the only cast member credited with a specific role.  No roster of other players exists.  The names of some of the actors are known but there is no indication which parts they played.  White produced all the episodes and all but three were written by Budd Lesser.

And now, on to "Tarzan and the Stranger"...

"Perhaps only those who have visited a native African village during the long rainy season can picture the crawl of the Poona tribe.  It had rained on and on for months, great stagnant pools of water were everywhere, rubble was piled high behind each hut and the natives that were out doors wore hides that were mildewed and sodden.  Yet inside the hut where Tarzan towered above Torgo, the small native boy who was Almost like a son to him, it was comparatively comfortable..."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


From back in the days when people deliberately threw their backs out, here's Chubby Checker.


I'm pretty sure I have already posted about my spinal problems.  If I remember, it was about a weak back.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


You just can't be unhappy listening to banjo music.  Here's Barney McKenna of The Dubliners performing "The Old House," "Maid Behind the Bar," "Boyne Hunt," "Shaskeen Reel," and "High Reel."


A one-reeler starring Vincente Howard and Ruth Roland.  Added bonus:  Absolutely no loud gun fights!





Openers:  A mile ouside of Picture City, they has set up a tent for the meeting with the Apaches.  A troop of cavalry from Fort Apache had been dispatched to the conference, and now two lines of horsemen faced each other on the cloud-darkened meadow -- one line of the saber-bearing cavalrymen; the other the blanketed Apache braves, impassive-faced, sitting [on] their ponies like waiting statues.

Richard Matheson, Shadow on the Sun (1994)

Sharpiegate:  When will it end?  The lying, the stupidity, the dismantling of our government, the erasure of American values, the deliberate attack on our environment, civil rights, and personal freedoms, the hatred and xenophobia, the currying of favor toward dictators to the expense of our tradional allies, the growing income gap, the teetering on recession, the moral vacuum, public offices being used for private enrichment, the lack of empathy, the disdain toward the poor and minorities, the inconsistancy, the braggadocio, the waffling, the incompetence, the greed, the ignorance, the kowtowing to the NRA, the personal attacks on all who disagree, the defensiveness, the bullying, the smarmy, immoral, and corrupt administration...I can go on and on.

On the bright side, we still don't own Greenland.

Oh, And Did I Mention?:  ...the threatened firings at NOAA.  Geez Louise, how on earth did we get here?

Football:  I am not a big sports fan.  I have trouble remembering team names and often mix up those names with the sports they play; I can't tell you anything about statisics; and I would be hard pressed to come up with a name of a sports announcer or reporter.  The last time I followed any sport was with the 1967 Red Sox; after that, any information I possess about sports has been sucked into a large spinning black hole.

That being said, football season has begun.  As a courtesy to those who, like me, are among the sports illiterati I present a brief explanation of the game:

In addition, let me refer you to Hold 'Em, Girls!:  The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Men and Football by Judson P. Philips and Robert W. Wood, Jr., a 1936 tome that explains it all.  (Philips, who also wrote as "Hugh Pentecost," went on to become a well-respected mystery writer; this was his frist or second book -- I'm too lazy to look up which.)

100 Days In:  Today is the 100th day of 2019 and I am grateful we made it this far.  I'm not celebrating yet, though, because if history teaches us anything, it's that on this date in 1912 the RMS Titanic set sail on its maiden only voyage.  Suddenly I have a sinking feeling...

Also on This Date:  F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was published in 1926.  the novel, which Fitsgerald felt would cement his literary reputation, met with less than stellar reviews.  "So light, so delicate, so sharp -- a literary lemon meringue" -- New York Herald Tribune.  "No more than a glorifed anecdote, and not too probable at that" -- H. L. Mencken.  "Seems a little raw" -- The Times-Picayune.  "A minor performance" -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  "One finishes Great Gatsby with a feeling of regret, not for the fate of the people in the book, but for Mr. Fitzgerald" -- The Dallas Morning News.  There were positive reviews (in The New York Times and The New York Post, for example, and the book was privtely praised by T. S. Eliot, Edith Wharton, and Willa Cather) but generally the book landed with a thud.  Fitzgerald, convinced of the book's quality, had refused a $10,000 offer for magazine serialization because he wanted to get the book into print as soon as possible; he ended up with an advance of nearly $4,000 in 1923 and another near $2,000 on publication.  He had expected sales of some 75,000 copies while the actual sales were in the 20,000 range.  As late as 1946, Scribner's still had the original edition on their list.  When Fitzgerald died in 1940 the book had become nearly forgotten.

But fate is tricky.  Slowly The Great Gatsby began picking up critical and popular steam.  Now considered one of the greatest American novels with its take on the American dream, gender issues, and cultural inequality, it has sold well over 25,000,000 copies.  The book has been filmed four times, the latest in 2013 by Baz Luhrmann (a terrible film from a terrible director, IMHO) and has been made for television at least once.  It has been adapted for radio three times and has also been adapted for the stage thrice.  The novel has also been turned into an opera and into three ballets.  It has even seen two computer games based upon it.

Almost as popular as the navel is the iconic cover art by Francis Cugate, who completed the painting while Fitzgerald was still writing the novel.  The cover, with its disembodied eyes and mouth and with a nude woman reflected in the irises, had so affected Fitsgerald that he wrote it into the book.  Fitzgerld's appreciation for the painting eventually waned, but the appreciation of the general public remains strong.

Good News:  Here's some of the good news headlines from this past week:

  • New Reactor Uses Renewable Energy to Turn Greenhouse Gases Into Fuel for Hydrogen Batteries
  • Deep Magnetic Stimulation Shown to Improve Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Father Uses Scuba Therapy to Restore His Paralyzed Son's Motor Function -- And Now It's Doing the Same for Others
  • New Research Links Five Separate Lifestyle Choices to a 60% Reduced Risk of Developoing Alzheimer's
  • Bob Ross's Legacy Is Helping Inmates Plant "Happy Little Trees" Throughout State Parks
  • Anonymous Man Spent Almost $50,000 on Generators and Food for Hurricane Victims in the Bahamas
  • Dad Develops New Treatment for Peanut Allergies With Almost No Side Effects After Son Suffers Severe Reaction
  • Flight Crew and Passengers in First Class All Welcome Boy with Autism During Mid-Flight Meltdown
  • And this:

Florida Man Thinks It Through:  Patrick Eldrige of Jacksonville made headlines when he parked his smart car in his kitchen so it would not blow away in Hurricane Dorian.  Not all Florida Men are stupid -- some come up with innovative ways to handle a problem.

Today's Poem
The September Rose

To sighs of morning air, that froze, --
(With her lips opened for a say),
How curiously has smiled the rose
On a September fleeting day!

And how has she ever dared
To great, with air of springy greens,
The single blue-tit, in the bare
Shrubs fleshing in the orb of wings.

To bloom with steadfast dream that later,
Just leaving her cold bed in rest,
She'll cling, the last and dissipated,
To a young young hostess's charming breast!

-- Afanasy Afansa
yevich Fet

Saturday, September 7, 2019


And now for something completely different:  Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra.


Schoolgirls' Picture Library was a long-running (327 issues!) UK digest comic book starting in June 1957; after issue #327 in 1965 it was merged into June and School Friend Picture Library.  Each issue contained a full-length adventure about plucky schoolgirls full of true British spirit.  Their Keep Calm and Carry On Spirit is supplemented by their proper schoolgirl manners.

"Schoolgirl Riders to the Rescue" a scene-setting paragraph before moving on to the slow-moving action:

The year was 1943 -- when Britain was at war with Nazi Germany, and all at home were called about to help with the war effort.  The girls of Eastford College knitted for the troops, raised money for medical supplies, and dug hard every evening to produce extra food for Britain.  And now Wendy King, captain of the fourth form riding club, proposed that a gymkhana be held on Long Meadow -- the one field that remained free for school activities.  It would be a grand welcome for the lonely evacuee children , coming to the district soon -- and it would raise money for the war effort.

Huzzah for the British was spirit!

And young girls and horses...stereotype or not, it certainly worked for girl readers of the 50s.

Wendy and her best friend Kay spot two strangers taking measurements on Long Meadow and Wendy -- perhaps because her older brother Roger is in military intelligence -- wonders if they could be Nazi spies.  Then Roger shows up and cryptically tells Wendy that the gymkhata must be held.  Hmm.

The two strangers keep showing up, acting suspiciously.  Then they chase Wendy and Kay, and the girls trick them and lock them in a shed.  Informing the authorities that they had captured two Nazi spies, they are chagrined to learn that the men are from military intelligence -- the same unit as Roger!

Nonetheless, there are strange goings-on and opposition to their gymkhata.  Then the gumkhata is cancelled -- a terrible blow to the girls and probably a very minor blow to the war effort...

But in true British fashion, the girls prevail, a dastardly plot is exposed, and England can continue to fight the Nazis.

Three cheers.  hip-hip-hooray!  hip-hip-hooray!  hip-hip-hooray!

Enjoy this little tale of girls, horses, Nazi spies, and the British can-do spirit.

Friday, September 6, 2019


The Crystals.


Love Among the Ruins:  A Romance of the Near Future by Evelyn Waugh (1953)

This bitingly satirical novelette (illustrated by Mervyn Peake!) first appeared in the British magazine Lilliput in its May/June 1953 issue and was issued as a thin book later that year by Chapman Hall (London).  Its prolific author, Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), was a persnickity, thin-skinned, fundamently conservative whose life was periodically undone by his own folly.  Nonetheless he was a sharp, often dispassionate observer who could wickedly skewer modern times (which he despised) with his old-fashioned pen and inkwell (no typewriters for Evelyn, no, no, no; also no telephones and no driving, so poo to modernity).  Waugh's reputation as a horrible person may have arisen from a well-crafted persona, but he was certainly elitist, strongly believing in the rightness of a rigid class and economic structure, as well as being an anti-Semite and a racist and being presumed to be pro-Fascist.  But, ah could he write!  And write with such a devastatingly humorous edge that his works are still read and revered today...Brideshead Revisited, The Loved One, Vile Bodies, Decline and Fall, and so many more.

Lost within that shuffle is Love Among the Ruins, a dystopian novel about a future welfare-state England.  SPOILER ALERT!  What follows is a complete and total spoiler.  What the heck?

Our protagonist, Miles Plastic, grew up as an orphan and, as such, had no opportunities given him.  When of age, the government took him from the orphanage and placed him in the Air Force, where set fire to the barracks, killing many.  By this time England was a benevolent state and its official policy was that criminals were the victims of inadequate social services, so Miles was tried by the Court of Welfare as "Court Martial had been abolished some years before this."

     "It was plain from the start, when Arson, Wilful Damage, Manslaughter, Prejudicial Conduct and Treason were struck out of the Indictment and the whole reduced to a simple charge of Antisocial Activity, that the sympathies of the Court were with the prisoner."

A state psychologist testified that if Miles' pyromania were checked it might lead to psychosis and that Miles, in burning down the barracks, had performed "a perfectly normal act" and "had shown more than normal intelligence in its execution."  And so Mile is sent to Mountjoy, a large estate converted into a "hospital," for rehabilitation.  Mountjoy is run like a country club, with wide manacured gardens, concerts and activities, fine food, and freedom, along with mandatory singalongs -- rehabilitation sessions were few and far between because those in charge of the sessions were away giving speeches about rehabilitation.  (At Mountjoy, murderers lived on the first floor, sexual deviants on the second, and so on.)  Residents at Mountjoy game the system so they can never be rehbilitated.  Sadly for Miles, he was fated to be inadvertently rehabilitated.  In fact, he is the first and only person who was actually rehabilitated by the system -- proving to government officials that the system worked!

Freed from Mountjoy, Miles is given a job comeasurrate with his status as the only rehabilitated person in an important government department -- Euphanasia.  The welfare state had led to massive depression and the demand for euphanasia is high (because suicide is just so passe?).  The lines outside the Euphanasia are long and part of  Miles' job is to let in six people at a time.  One day, a priority case comes to the department on the recommendation of the Drama Department.  (The various Departments weild a lot of influence.)  The priority case is a beautiful young girl named Clara with a long silken beard.  (This takes a bit of explaining.  Clara was a ballet dancer and the Ballet Instructor insisted that his dancers not have children, so they must be medically sterilized.  The result of Clara's operation was a very rare side effect that gave her the beard.  Since she could perform in public with a beard, she was forbidden to continue her career.  The Drama Director, feeling that her life without ballet was not worth living, suggested that she go to Euphanasia.  Clara agrees to to visit the department to please the Director, while steadfastly refusing euphanasia.  Now back to the thrust of the story's action.)  When  he realized that Clara was not willing to die, Miles' boss ousts her uncerimoniously.

Miles has become smitten with Clara and they soon become an item.  Miles receives promotions and Clara gains weight.  Hmm.  Turns out the weight gain is a pregnancy; Clara's sterilization had been bungled.  The child is Miles' -- Clara had been a virgin before she met Miles.  Miles is excited but, coming home one day, he finds a note from Clara:  she has gone off to be by herself for a while.  Clara never returns to their home.

Later, Miles discovers that Clara is a hospital patient.  Anxious he goes to see her and finds her beardless.  (Also childless.  The feotus has been aborted.)  Clara had found a doctor that could remove her facial hair, along with her skin, replacing the skin with a type of plastic that can hold make-up wonderfully well.  With the make-up, Clara can again resume her ballet career without offending the audience.  Miles realizes that Clara has always been self-absorbed.  He wanders off and finding himself in front of Mountjoy.  Reverting to his pyromaniacal ways, he burns down the rehabilitation center, incinerating most of the residents.  Non-chalantly, he wanders off.

Mountjoy is gone, but Miles remains as its one proven success.  The government now enlists Miles to go on a speaking tour touting the benefits of the rehabilitation system.  Because the populace responds better to married people the government has Miles marry a hideously-looking woman who will accompany Miles on his tour.  Rushed to the Registrar for the marriage ceremony, Miles stands with his bride-to-be with his hand in his pocket where he fingers his cigarette lighter...

Love Among the Ruins is a quick, enjoyable, and magnificent farce, one worthy of Waugh's reputation.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 5, 2019


The Supremes.


Screen Directors Playhouse was a sometimes half hour/sometimes full hour program on NBC Radio that adapted motion pictures for that medium, usually featuring the actors who starred in the films and occasionally with the particiaption of the films' original director -- if only to introduce the episode.  The program ran from January 1949 through to September 1951 -- 122 shows.  The program was variously titled NBC Theater, Screen Directors Guild Assignment, and Screen Directors Assignment before landing the eventual title in July 1949.  (Note the lack of the posessive apostrophe in the various titles.  I don't know why.)

(The show moved over to the small screen for the 1955-6 season (35 episodes) on NBC and then for 7 episodes on ABC over the summer of 1956.  Rather than focusing on adapting movies, the TV version used original teleplays and adapted short stories,)

Dorothy Macardle was an Irish novelist, playwright, and popular historian.  She was also a fierce nationalist who served serveral jail terms for her beliefs.  Her later work as a journalist for the League of Nations gave her a greater sense of social justice which led to her disagreement with the Republic of Ireland on its neutrality during World War II and the reduced rights of women under the Irish Constitution, among other things.  She published three novels.  The first, 1941's Uneasy Freehold, was a supernatural tale of a brother and sister who purchase a home in Cornwall and encounter the paranormal.  It was adapted by Paramount as The Uninvited (the title of the book's American edition) in 1944, directed by Lewis Allen from a script by Frank Partos and Dodie Smith and starred Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp. Cornelia Otis Skinner, and Gail Russell.  Ray Milland reprised his film role with a cast of radio actors, including John Dehner, June Foray, Alma Laughton, and Maru Shipp.  Lewis Allen directed and Milton Geiger wrote the radio adaptation.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019


The Doors.


John Creasey, the British writing machine, produced over 600 books under 29 names, most of which were mystery, detective, and thriller novels.  With such a large output it is safe to assume that much of his work was formulaic.  Be that as it may be, I have enjoyed all of the Creasey novels that I have read (more than fifty of them) and, of his many series characters, probably the best realized was Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard, followed by Inspector Roger West.  The Gideon books were written under the pseudonym "J. J. Marric."  His 1961 novel Gideon's Fire won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1962.

Gideon, C.I.D. was a British television airing from 1965 to 1966 for 26 episodes, with John Gregson in the title role.  Gregson was a poular stage, television. and film actor in England, perhaps best kown for his comedic roles.  The series was filmed at Eltree Studios in London at the same the television show The Saint was being filmed and Gregson appeared in one episode of that show -- but not as Geroge Gideon.

Gideon, C.I.D., also known as Gideon's Way, was unusal for a police drama.  If focused heavily on Gideon's family while also while also providing crime lovers with strong stories and fast-paced action.  Daphne Anderson played Gideon's wife and his children were played by Giles Watling, Richard James, and Andrea Allan (as Gideon spawn Malcolm, Matthew, and Pru, respectively).

Episode 1 of the series, "State Visit," was based on a storyline in Gideon's March in which a chemist who suffered Nazi atrocities is upset at a visit from the German President.  Armed with ten ounces of nitrogylycerin, he plans to kill the visiting dignitary -- and possibly hundreds of others -- during a parade at Whitehall, a parade that Gideon's wife and children are attending.  The episode was directed by John Moxey from a script by Jiom O'Connolly.  It first aired on March 18, 1965.


Monday, September 2, 2019


Fats Waller and Ada Brown, from Stormy Weather (1943), with Lena Horne and Bill "Bojangles"


Openers:   I had no way of knowing how long they'd kept me in that sm stron, naked bulb in the socker spotlighted me.all, square basement room,  The walls, like the floor, were constructed of solid cement bricks, with no window.  The metal door didn't have an opening in it either.  And whenever it was opened briefly, all I could see was the artificial light of the corridor outside.  The only light in the room was from the gooseneck lamp on the bare table, the neck twisted so the strong naked bulb in the socket spotlighted me.

-- Murder in Room 13 by "Albert Conroy" (Marvin H. Albert)  (1958)


  • Philip K. Dick, Voices from the Street  A mainstream novel written in 1952 but not published until 2007.  "Stuart Hadley is a young radio-electronics salesman in early 1950s Oakland, California.  Hadley is also an angry young man -- an artist, a dreamer, a screw-up.  He has what many would consider the ideal life; a nice house, a pretty wife, a decent job with prospects for advancement, but he still feels unfulfilled:  something is missing from his life.  He first tris to fill this void with drinking and sex, but nothing seems to work, and it is driving him crazy.  He reacts to his wife's love and the kindness of his employer with anxiety and fear.  This is the story of Hadley's descent into depression and madness, and the story of his redemption."
  • Zenna Henderson, The Anything Box  A collection of 14 science fiction and fantasy stories from 1951 to 1962 by the author of The People:  No Different Flesh.  Nine of the stories first appeared in  The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a magazine that championed the writings of talented women.  The blurb describes the stories as Horrifying, Lyrical, Poignant, Terrible, Beautiful, and Unique.  I can only assume that "Terrible" does apply to the quality of any of the stories; Henderson was a magical writer.
  • Walter S. Masterman, The Perjured Alibi.   A mystery from 1935.  "Crowfield Hall, the ancestral home of young Kenneth Darent, Was gay and brilliantly lighted to celebrate on the morrow the marriage of Sir John Barton, and the beautiful young Marjorie BroWne.  In the midst of the gayety [sic on the dated spelling], Dennis Tracey, guest and friend of Darent, turned to look out the window and was horrorfied to see the body of Sir John lying on the lawn."  Masterman emerged from Christ College Cambridge with a blue in football (whatever that is -- I am neither a sports guy nor a Britisher) and played for Tunbridge with his brother Harry.   He went from footballer to soldier to teacher to fisheries official to convict...Wait.  What?...He was convicted of stealing 862 pounds from the Board of Fisheries and served three yers in prison.  Once released, the formerly privileged man had most careers closed to him, so he turned to writing detective, horror, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery novels, some 25 of them.  His firt novel had an introduction by G. K. Chesterton.
  • Raina Telgemeir, Sisters.  An autobiographical YA graphic novel.  Raina and her younger sister Amara must figure out how to get along during a road trip from San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.  I'm becoming a big Telgemeir fan.  Her insight, humor, and humanity is addictive.

The Chosen One:   Randy Rainbow has a new song out:

Move Day:   We moved into a new apartment this week and will spending the next few days getting settled.  If anyone needs our new address, let me know at house_jerry

Speak Softly:  Today is the anniversary of Teddy Roosevelt's first public speech carrying his trademark "Speak softly -- and carry a big stick."  It was at the Minnesota State Fair and the year was 1901; Roosevelt, then Vice President, was speaking on "Public Duties. "
The phrase was used by then-New York Governor Roosevelt in 1900 in a letter about forcing the state Republican Committee to stop backing a corrupt financial advisor:  "I have always been fond of the West African proverb:  'Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.'"

Four days after he made that speech at the State Fair, President William McKinley was shot by an assassin.  When McKinley dies eight days later, Roosevelt became president.  As president, he used the "Big Stick" policy to enforce the Monroe Doctrine as well as for his "Canal Diplomacy," which led to the creation of the Panama Canal.  "Speaking softly" while negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth which ended the 1904-5 was between Russia and Japan brought Roosevelt the Nobel Peace Prize.

Roosevelt, of course, had to speak softly.  Reportedly he had a high, squeaky voice,

Big Winds:  It looks like Florida will spared much of the wrath of Hurricane Dorian.  Just as well, we don't want a repeat of 1935's Labor Day Hurricane, the most intense storm to ever hit the continental United States.  When it landed in Florida it claimed 400 lives.  Hurricanes are serious business, but technological advances in predicting them have gone a long way to saving lives.  If only human stupidity and political willingness were as advanced.

Fie to You, Mr. Tooth Decay:  Temporary dental fillings may soon be a thing of the past, according to findings published in the journal Science Advances.  Chinese researchers from the Zhejiang University School of Medicine have developed a gel that allows tooth enamel to repair itself.  Early days yet, but the treatment may well help the fight against Mr. Tooth Decay, one of the most prevalent chronic diseases among humans.

And, recent studies indicate that good dental health my substantially reduce the risk od Alzheimer's.  So be sure to floss.

Good for Her!:  Daisy-May Demetre, a 9-year-old British schoolgirl, will make history next month as the first double amputee to walk the catwalk at New York Fashion Week next week.  She'll move on to Paris Fashion week next month.  Daisy-May had both legs amputated when she was 18-months-old.  "Her parents never never dreamed that their daughter would go on to become a fearless gymnast, as well as a model for Boden, Britain's largest clothing catalogue."  Daisy-May has also worked for Nike and and Matalan, as well as representing Lulu et Gigi at London Kids' Fashion Week.

Sometimes, limitations can be in our minds and not necessarily in reality.

Valerie Harper:  Diagnosed with lung cancer, the actress announced in in March 2013, that doctors had given her less than three months to live.  She died Friday at age 80.  She was funny.  She was Talented.  She was strong.  

Today's Poem:
The Biblomaniac's Prayer

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom's way
That I may eternal truths seek;
I need protecting care to-day, --
My purse is light, my flesh is weak.
So banish from my erring heart
All baleful appetites and hints
Of Satan's fascinating art,
Of first editions, and of prints.
Diret me in some godly walk
Which leads away from bookish strife,
That I with pious deed and talk
May extra-illustrate my life.

But if, O Lord, it pleases Thee
To keep me in temptation's way,
I humbly ask that I might be
Most notably beset to-day;
Let my temptation be a book,
Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,
Whereon when other men shall look,
They'll wail to know I got it cheap.
Oh, let it such a volume be
As in rare copperplates abounds,
Large paper, clean, and fair to see,
Unique, uncut, unknown to Lowndes.

-- Eugene Field

(Note:  William Thomas Lowndes [1798-1846] published the Bibliographer's Manual of English Literature, a seminal work in the field, no pun intended.)

Sunday, September 1, 2019


Carmen Yulin Cruz, San Juan's mayor, talks about Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricane Maria in this TED Talk.  For many, Cruz became the face of the island in the days and weeks following this disaster, earning the wrath of Donald Trump as well as some of his supporters (check out the politically charged comments and notice their tone, wording, and distortion of the facts.)


The Carter Family.

Saturday, August 31, 2019


From 1973, Roxy Music with a somewhat creepy song.


Everett True is a middle-aged, bald, stout man with a premanent frown on his face.  He is quick-tempered and easily upset by life's little irritants -- rudeness, cruelty to animals, self-centeredness, impositions, stupitity, and the unthinking people you meet every day.  Whenever he encounters such an affront to his sensibilities he has an outburst, sometimes in the form of of a rant but more often in a physical attack, amusing any by-standers who wished they could have done the same.  True's outbursts were every man's wish fantasy fulfilled.

He began his career as a two-panel newspaper comic strip (syndicated by the Newspaper Enterprise Association) on July 22, 1905.  The strip was created by A.C. Condo and J. W. Raper, with Condo doing the artwork; I'm not sure what Raper's contribution was because I suspect Condo also wrote the strip.  (Condo created several other strips including Mr. Skygak, from Mars [1907-1912], considered the first science fiction comioc strip.)  The original title of the Everett True comic strip was A Chapter from the Career of Mr. Everett True, but was soon changed to The Outbursts of Everett True.  The strip ran until January 13, 1927, when it Condo's health problems led his to stop it.  During its lifetime the comic strip was the syndicate's most popular feature.

The first book collection of Everett True's ill-tempered adventures was published in 1907 and can be found at the link below.



Friday, August 30, 2019


How long has it been since I posted a car song?  Here's Michael Z. Gordan & The Routers.


A Long Time Dead by Micky Spillane & Max Allan Collins (2016)
Quarry in the Black by Max Allan Collins (2016)
Quarry's Climax by Max Allan Collins (2017)
Fate of the Union by Max Allan Collins with Mtthew V. Clemens (2015)
Executive Order by Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens (2017)
Better Dead by Max Allan Collins (2016)
Men's Adventure Magazines with text by Max Allan Collins and George Hagenaur (2008)

Over the past week and a half I read seven books by Max Allan Collins.  Collins, a MWA Grand Master and recipient of the PWA Life Achievement Award, is certainly not a "forgotten" author and his books have been well-received, but the sumbitch writes so much that many (like me) find it hard to catch up and sometimes a book will fall through the cracks.  I can't keep count, but I think he's pubished over 150 books -- and that doesn't count video games, mystery jigsaw puzzles, comic books, and anthologies.  (He also writes and directs independent films and is a musician -- his 60s revival band Cruisin' has been inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and has opened for some of the biggest names in rock.)

About the headline above:  Since this review covers a number of his books, I felt that Max Allan Collins deserved a collective title.  "Murder" had already been taken by crows; "Collection" would be confusing because only a small amount of his books are collections; "Cacophony"?  That's just not right.  Anyway, I settled on "Contagion" because that's what his writing is:  contagious.  You can't eat just one Lays potato chip.  Likewise, you can't read just one Collins if there are others laying around.  His finely-honed, swift-moving prose grabs you and doesn't let go until the end and you find yourself searching for more.

Now, on to the books in question.

Collins was a long-time friend of writer Mickey Spillane as well as a longer-time admirer of his work.  Before Spillane's death, they edited four crime anthologies together, and collaborated on comic books and several films.  Shortly before Spillane's death, he asked Collins if he would finish his work in progress, The Killing Bone.  Spillane also asked his wife to give any unfinished work to Collins -- "He'll know what to do."  Collins took the incomplete manuscripts, notes, and fragments and carefully constructed a number of books and short stories from them, with more to come.  A Long Time Dead collects the eight Mike Hammer stories that resulted in this posthumous collaboration:

  • "The Big Switch"  Donald Dilbert, known by many as "Dopey Dilldocks," was not the smartest kid on the block.  He was just an innocuous messenger who happened to be found guilty of murder and sentenced to die.  Shortly before his execution date he asked to see Mike Hammer and told him the he had been framed.  Hammer has less than two days to stop the execution and deliver justice Hammer-style.  This story was selected for The Best Crime and Mystery Stories of 2009.
  • "Fallout" A 2006 Scribe Award winning story.  Hammer, suffering from insomnia, had taken to long walks at night, following the same route each time -- a route that would take him past the site where he happened to see a hooker hit and killed by a runaway driver a month before.  During the month that followed there had been three "incidents" that could have been attempts on Hammer's life.  Then the night-time building guard where Hammer had his office was murdered...
  • "A Long Time Dead" Nominated for the CWA Dagger Award, a Thriller Award, and a PWA Shamus Award, this story was selected for Best American Mystery Stories of 2011.  Grant Kratch, sadistic killer of at least three dozen women, had been executed.  He was dead.  He was really dead.  So why did Mike Hammer see him getting into a New York City taxi when the serial killer was supposed to be long gone?
  • "Grave Matter"  Bill Reynolds, auto mechanic turned war hero, came back missing an arm and a leg.  His wife left him and he could not get work at any garage; his new prosthetics worked well, but not well enough to be an auto mechanic.  The last time Hammer saw him, Reynolds was feeling good  and was about to start work as a handyman at an estate upstate in a town named Hopeful -- the town's name being a good omen perhaps.  Or perhaps not.  Reynolds' body, spine broken, was found in the city park.  Local police did not investigate, saying he had probably been hit by a car.  In standard B-movie horror fashion, Reynolds had been hired by a beautiful and reclusive scientist working in unnatural waters and attended only by a large, thuggish mute.  Hammer, on the way to investigate, ran his car into a ditch during a violent storm and had to find refuge in the creepy mansion.  Cue eerie music.
  • "So Long, Chief"  2014 winner of both the Shamus and the Scribe Awards, and nominated for an Edgar.  Forty-three years ago, a newly promoted police detective turned Hammer's life around.  Hammer was a young kid then and running numbers for the mob.  The cop who made Hammer take a different path ended up as police chief, retiring before Hammer began his brief career as a cop.  Now the Chief was dying and Hammer came to pay his respects.  The dying man gives Hmmer a key without telling him what it opens.  Then, with maybe a day or so left to him, the Chief is murdered in his hospital bed.
  • "A Dangerous Cat"  The neighbors across the way from Hammer had moved and had left their cat behind.  The cat, being very cat-like,  adopted Hammer.  Coming home, Hammer is greeted in the hallway by the cat, but Hammer knew that the cat had been locked in his apartment when he left.  This was the third odd thing that had happened to Hammer in recent days.  First a car had tried to run him down, then he had been winged by a bullet from a barroom brawl, and now someone had broken into his apartment.  Instict had Hammer calling his friend Pat Chambers to get a bomb-smelling dog to his apartment.  The dog narrowed in on eight sticks of dynamite.  Who is after Hammer this time and why?  The story ends with a five-word sentence that is the essence of Mickey Spillane.
  • "It's in the Book"  Don Nicholas Giraldi, head of one of New York's Mafia families, has died.  Rumor had it that the Don had kept a hand-written ledger of every transaction and every deal he had ever made.  Hammer is hired by a U.S. senator to find the book, which could not only incriminate himself but also the president.  The Don's nephew also wants the book.  Hammer, of course, quickly finds the journal and outfoxes the mafia, collecting a fee from both the mafia and the senator.  The story ends with a fitting and surprising twist.
  • "Skin"  Hammer spots a dog on the side of the road, body stetched out, pointing toward some bushes, teeth bared.  Hammer stops his car and takes a look.  There's a mangled body in the bushes.  "If it weren't for the hand lying next to the carnage wreaked on a human body, you would have thought it was road kill that half a dozen vehicles had rolled over."  Turns out that the area has had a spate of graverobbing over the past few years, always beautiful women who had died young, two or three a year.  But this body was a man and the fingerprints on the severed hand cameback as those of Victor King, a famous Broadway producer who had vanished the month before.  The hand was King's but the body wasn't -- and the body was fresh.  Hammer meets up with a pretty young newscaster and a homicidal maniac with a skinning machine.  This story takes place in the late nineties.  (All eight stories are presented in chronological order according to Hammer's timeline, from the 60s to the 90s.)  Hammer may be older, perhaps slower, but he remains the engine of justice he has always been.
Collins has taken Spillane's fragments and notes and produce stories true to Spillane's legacy.  Perhaps too well.  Although trying to do justice to Spillane's style, some of the stories (IMHO) read better than Spillane himself.

Quarry, the hitman protagonist of Max Allan Collins' longest-running series, has been around since 1976's The Broker (republished as Quarry), in which the returning Vietnam vet arrives home a day early, only to catch his wife in bed with her lover.  Quarry crushed the lover beneath a car and soon got an offer to be an assassin for a mysterious middleman known as the Broker.  Quarry has been the subject of a movie and of a television show and was lately the subject of a graphic novel, Quarry's War.  In Quarry in the Black, he is still working for the Broker  He and his sometime partner (the Broker's hitmen always work in pairs) are sent to Ferguson, Missouri, to dispatch a Black civil rights leader, thought to be the next Martin Luther King, Jr.  The target is linked to Eugene McCarthy's run for the White House.  Quarry usually doesn't do racial or political assassinations, but he is assured that the hit is due to the target's drug dealing.  But now Quarry has to face a couple of Nazi country boys, the St. Louis mob, and a KKK Klavern, learning that his target has never dealt drugs.  Quarry has to maneuver these various obstacles and figure out a way not to kill his target.  The Quarry books are fast and violent and  have a lot of graphic sex and this one is no different in that regard.

In Quarry's Climax, the titular anti-hero's assignment is not to kill someone, but rather to save someone from assassination.  The Broker had been contacted about an assignment to kill a pornographer based in Memphis.  The Broker turns down the assignment because he has a financial interest in the target's strip club and "adult" (think gynocology) magazine.  Knowing that someone else is certain to take up the contract, the Broker sends Quarry and his some-time partner Boyd to Memphis to prevent the hit from taking place.  It's not enough to take out the other team; Quarry must also figure out who ordered the hit in the first place and eliminate that threat also.  More violence.  More sex.  And more great action-packed reading.

In 2014 Collins and his frequent collaborator Matthew V. Clemens released Supreme Justice, the first in a trilogy of thrillers focused on the three branches of American government.  This first volume concentrated on a plot against the Supreme Court.  It was followed up by 2014's Fate of the Union, dealing with the legislative branch.  One of the main characters in the trilogy was Joe Reeder, a former Secret Service Agent who had been assigned to presidential protection.  Reeder had taken a bullet saving the president, becoming a national hero.  His career ended when he openly criticized that president, whose policies Reeder hated.  Reeder became a private investigator in D.C.  The other main character was FBI Special Agent Patti Rogers.

Reeder is straight, divorced with a college-age daughter and is a liberal.  Rogers is a mild conservative, possibly gay, possibly bi, and some years younger than Reeder.  There is no romance among them, in case you were wondering, but there is a strong affection between the two and they work well together.

A retired colleague of Reeder's is dead of a suspected suicide, but Reeder is not convinced.  Meanwhile Rogers is heading a special task force looking into a series of possibly related murders seemingly random victims, killed months apart, each killed by a double tap to the head. The cases begin to converge with hints of a vast conspiracy against the heart of the government and a plot to blow up Congress and the Senate.  Reeder, Rogers, and her team face almost impossible odds as they race to stop the greatest threat the country has ever faced.

Another character in the trilogy was Miguel Altuve, an FBI computer wizard.  Altuve is known as "Miggie."  I mention this because the actor Miguel "Miggie" Ferrar was a close friend of Max Allan Collins and I suspect Collins "Tuckerized" his friend in this trilogy.  "Miggie" has an even greater role in the final book in the trilogy, which was published the year Ferrar died.

One character introduced in Fate of the Union was Kevin Lockwood, who as "Virginia Plain" was a successful drag queen.  By the final book in the trilogy, Kevin and Rogers are dating.

The trilogy closes out with Executive Order, which focuses on the executive branch.  The Secretary of the Interior has died from an allergic reaction to sesame "accidently" included in her sandwich.  Reeder, who had known and dated the secretary after his divorce, thinks it was murder.  The country's economy is doing poorly and there are federal budgets cuts looming -- on the chopping block is Rogers' FBI team.  To avoid this, she needs a headline-grabbing case to keep the pencil pushers of her back and to retain her team.  Reeder suggests that she look in the the Interior Secretary's death.

In Azbekistan, four CIA agents have been sent, against the president's orders, to scope out a planned Russian invasion.  Somehow the invasion began sooner than their intelligence had said it would and all four were killed by Russian soldiers.  Hardliners are demanding action and WWIII appears to be on the horizon.  At home, several government agents have been killed.  It's all a part of a large plot hatched by powerful members of the same group that was behind the plot in the previous book -- the group that Reeder and Rogers thought had been destroyed.  This time they plan to place one of their own in the presidency by eliminating the president, vice president, and cabinet.  This organization's tentacles extend everywhere and Reeder and Rogers soon find themselves wanted by law officials.  As the tension ratchets up, all the pair have to do is get past the ultra-high security at Camp David and save the president. 

The Reeder/Rogers books are pure high-tension suspense, reminescent of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels set on a larger stage.

Perhaps Collins' most signature character is Nathan Heller, who started as a private eye in Chicago in the thirties and eventually ended up connected with some of the most famous cases of the twentieth century.  His cases have involved notorious gangsters (Nitti, Ma Barker, Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Jack Ruby), politicians (Anton Cernak, Huey Long, the Kennedys), famous personalilties (Amelia Earhart, Marilyn Monroe, Sally Rand, Barney Ross, Charles Lindburgh, Bill Veeck), and such events as the Roswell UFO case and the murder of Harry Oakes.  All of the Heller stories are based on actual events and are thoroughy researched, allowing Collins to come up with plausible alternative solutions and surprise twists.

(A timeline of Heller's life written by Bill slankhard was printed this week on Collins official web site.  It makes intersting reading and you can find it here:

Better Dead is the latest Nate Heller novel.  (A new novel, Do No Harm, will be published in March.)  Heller is hired by Dashiell Hammett, representing a group of leftist writers and Hollywood personalities, to find evidence that would exonerate Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.  It's a Hail Mary pass, as the two accused spies are due to be executed the following month.  Columnist Drew Pearson, who put Heller in touch with Hammett, has agreed to pick Heller's expense in exchange for a news story. Meanwhile, Heller has a tenuous relationship with paranoid, Red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy, having done some work for the Senator.  McCarthy's legal aide is the unscupulous Roy Cohn, who happened to be the person who railroaded the Rosenbergs to a death sentence.  (Incidently, Cohn went on to nurture a young Donald Trump, teaching The Donald his take-no-prisoners and never-admit-you're-wrong-never-apologize philosophy.)  Cohn uses his power to force gangster Frank Costello to warn Heller off the Rosenberg case.  A young staffer working for Cohn is Bobby Kennedy, who admires Heller because of occasional work he had done for the family -- including erasing much of the evidence of Jack Kennedy's brief, ill-timed first marriage.  McCarthy thinks the CIA is riddled with communists who are trying to sabotage his mission and wants Heller to see what the CIA has on him that it can use for blackmail.  He also hires Heller to investigate Hammett and his friends.  Heller interviews the Rosenbergs and finds them personable.  He then interviews Ethel Rosenberg's brother, who supposedly had smuggled information about the atomic bomb for the Russians and who had accused his sister and Julius of being spies to save himself from a deth sentence.  The Rosenberg's had an incompetent lawyer and a farce of a trial with much of the evidence being manufactured by Cohn.  The common feeling is that Ethel Rosenberg, accused only of typing up some notes, will never be executed and that she is sitting on Death Row in an effort to intimidate her husband into telling all.

And that's just the first third of the novel.

McCarthy wants Heller to interview a scientist about the CIA.  The scientist tells Heller about mind control activities and about CIA poisons and LSD experiments.  Later the scientist goes missing and Heller tries to find him.  Meanwhile Heller meets Bettie Page and manages to save from testifying before Estes Kefauver's senate committee.  The CIA misdoings lead to murder.

As with Sacco and Vanzetti, people are widely divided on the guilt or innocence of the Rosenbergs.  Whether guilty or innocent, it is clear that their treatment went far beyond reasonable bounds.  Collins skillfully covers the pros and cons in this matter.

Nathan Heller's career takes him on the fringe of history.  He's an important, albeit minor, character in many of the events that shaped the country and its culture over the last century.  Because of the detail Collins includes, reading a Heller novel is like reading a history text, although more interesting, more fun, with more detail on individuals involved and with the violence and sex left in.

Speaking of textbooks, Men's Adventure Magazines is a hefty coffee table book about the size and weight of a college physics text.  It includes hundreds of full color pictures of covers and cover paintings of the men's "sweat" magazines of the 50s and 60s -- Male, Man's Action, Man to Man, True Men, Epic, Fury, and Real Action, to name just a few.  All images were taken from the Rich Oberg Collection.  These magazines, containing what purported to be true stories, focused on blood, babes, and beasts -- outrageous and oft-times xenophobic stories with such titles as "The Promiscuous Redhead of Torture Island," "I Saw Blood Lusty Congo Cannibals Butcher White Hostages and Eat The Alive!," "Wrestling to Death with a Wounded Leopard," "The Hill Ran Red with Blood," "Those Slimy Rodents Are Eating My Flesh," "Death Orgy of the Doomed Vice Queens," "Hi-Jacked Yank Skipper Who Smashed a Dominican Red Ring," "Sex-Slave to the Jungle Japs," "Devil Dog Dan Was the Toughest S.O.B. of Them All!,"  "Secrets of the Nazi Horror Castle," and the immortal "Weasels Ripped My Flesh."  The covers usually features bare-chested manly men, cleavage-showing, well-endowed female beauties in distress, leering Nazis or Japs or Africans or Viet Cong or what have you, blazing guns focused on the enemy (be they soldiers, sadists, ships, or planes), mean-assed animals with a grudge against humans, rough seas, hot sands, jungle huts, battlefields, and Nazi labs.  These covers were coll, man, and designed to attract the male reader.  The stories, of course, were usually not true, and those that were had little to do with the cover illos.

Collins and his long-time researcher George Hagenaur provide the text -- what little there is of it.  It seems like there's much more than is really there because it is repeated in German and in French and is printed in teeny tinny type which, to my old eyes, is about the size of  pimple on a protozoa.  Nonetheless, their text is interesting, informative, and entertaining.  That said, it's the art that makes the book truly worthwhile.  Think the polar opposite of the old Playboy excuse, "I buy it for the aricles, not the pictures."

So.  Seven books over a period of about ten days.  All of them winners.  All of them highly recommended.  Few authors have shown more consistancy over so many themes and genres as Max Allan Collins.

P.S.  I don't want to think that this all of Collins that I have read this year.  Earlier I read his graphic novel Quarry's War, his throughly researched non-fiction book Scarface and the Untouchable (written with A. Brad Schwartz; they're working on a sequel now), his latest Mike Hammer novel Murder, My Love (bylined with Mickey Spillane), his western novel The Bloody Spur (based on characters created by Spillane in an unproduced movie script for John Wayne), and Antiques Ho-Ho-Ho Homicide ( a collection of three novelettes in the Trash 'n' Treasures mystery series he writes with his wife Barbara Collins under the joint pseudonym "Barbara Allen").  And there\'s still plenty left for me to read.

As I said, the sumbitch writes a lot.

And well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


The Moody Blues.


My wife keeps getting on my back because of my poor sense of direction.  Finally I had enough, so I packed my bags and right.


Twenty-three years ago I took on a new role.  No longer was I just a husband and father, for the first time I was a grandfather.  I think this was a role I was ready for all my life.  Catherine Delaney Dowd was a quiet and serene newborn, swaddled so tightly I was amazed at the nurses' skills.  From the get-go she was a happy baby -- just happy to be here, just happy to be.  This beautiful child melted our hearts and became part of us forever.  I was willing to call her Laney, for a cherished cousin of mine who had passed away way too early.  But everyone else was determined to call her Cayley, a "combination of her first and middle names.  But nobody settled on the "proper" to spell the name, so she was variously Cayley, Caylee, Kayley, Kaylee, and probably a  dozen other riffs on the name.  (Proper name spelling has become very creative.  Just read a list the names of recent high school graduates in you community.)  Somewhere along the line, she settled for Ceili (an Irish word for dance) and although she has moved on from that spelling, I haven't.  Lately she has been going by Della, taken from her middle name, but for me she always be Ceili.

The smiling, laughing child took a backseat to a fearful one after she watched her father die from a sudden heart attack when she was nine.  That trauma will probably remain with her for the rest of her life, but she has built upon it to become a righteous warrior, compassionately and fiercely defending the underdog and the ones who are marginalized by society.  She has also grown up to have a wicked sense of humor (wonder where that came from).  She's super smart and knows more about history than I do and even than Kitty (a history major) does.  She's a fangirl and knows everything about The Lord of the Rings, Marvel movies and comics, and just about every cultural phenomena of the last two decades.  She is personable and has gained respect from everyone she has worked with.  Each time I see her, I think there's a huge balloon has  just appeared over my head saying, "I'm so proud."

To say that we love her underestimates our feelings.

Happy  birthday, pretty girl.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


The Who.


Mark Sheldon (Robert Wilcox) is an undercover agent for the Department of Justice investigating Stephen Daniel (Peter Lorre), the owner of a private island who uses convict labor to mine diamonds.  Sheldon, falsely "convicted" of murder, is sent to the island as (under the convincing alias of "Mr. Smith") a laborer to expose the cruel conditions of the island.  Lorre uses a cat-of-nine-tails to keep order among the convicts and is suspected of murdering at least one of them.  It's implied that he also used his whip to keep his wife (Rochelle Hudson) in line.  Sheldon falls in love with the wife Lorraine and together they plot their escape from the island.

It's all standard B-movie fare, but Lorre's performance elevates the film.

Wilcox was a contract player for Universal and led an unhappy life.  He felt underused and typecast in "cops and robber" roles.  His second wife was actress Diana Barrymore and their marriage was plagued by alcoholism, infidelity, public fights, and frequent encounters with the law for domestic disturbances.  The marriage ended with his death at age 45 in 1955.  He was found dead of a heart attack by a porter in a Pullman birth at the Rochester (NY) train station during a trip to his home town.

Rochelle Williams started in films when she was fourteen.  She was fifteen when signed by RKO, which added a couple of years to her age because it was felt (rightly) audiences would cringe at a 15-year-old in romantic roles.  She went from ingenue to lead actress to character player in her career and was in three films that were nominated for an Oscar.  She dropped out of Hollywood in 1955 after playing Natalie Wood's mother in Rebel Without a Cause only to return briefly in 1963.  In her later years she found success in Palm Springs real estate.  She was married (and divorced) four times.  She died at age 56 from pneumonia brought on by a liver disease.

Island of Doomed Men was directed by Charles Barton, who had a busy career directing B-movies, first at Paramount, then Columbia, and then to Universal where he gained a reputation for comedy films (of which Island of Doomed Men was definitely not one).  In 1951 he moved to directing television directing Amos and Andy (78 episodes), then moving on to other popular family shows:  The Great Gildersleeve, Zorro, Dennis the Menace, Petticoat Junction, and Family Affair among them.

Robert Hardy Andrews (Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Girl's Town, Tarzan Goes to India) wrote the original screenplay.


Monday, August 26, 2019


Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers.  (The Beatles, contrary to the title on this clip, did not perform on this song.)


Openers:  The only important society in existence today is the EFC -- The Eclectic
but Comprehensive Fraternity for the perpetuation of Gratitude towards Lesser Lights.  Its founders were William Lemming, of Lemming and Orton. print-sellers; Alexander Hay McKnight, of Ellis and McKnight, provision-merchants; Robert Keede, MRCP, physician, surgeon and accoucheur; Lewis Holroyd Burges, tobacconist and cigar-importer -- all of the south-eastern postal districts -- and its zealous, hard-working, but unappreciated secretary.  The meetings are usually ar Mr Lemmings's little place in Berkshire, where he raises pigs,

-- "Fairy Kist" by Rudyard Kipling, from MacLean's, September 15, 1927

One word in the paragraph above sounded familiar but for the life of me I couldn't come up with a definition.  It turns out an accoucheur is a male mid-wife, or obstetrician.  If I use this word in a sentence four more times today, it will be mine to keep.


  • Chad Oliver, The Wolf Is My Brother.  Western novel. a Golden Spur award winner in 1967.  "Comanche chief Fox Claw has seen the savagery of the white man.  They have ravaged his land, slaughtered his buffalo and now senselessly murdered the young brave he loved as a son.  The is nothing else Fax Clae can do.  He must kill the white man.  He must buirn them from his sacrd land.  Colonel Bill Curtis of the Twelfth Cavalry respects the proud Clomanch nation.  But why must his own people kill the defenseless, violate their women, massacre their young?  He shares Fox Claw's anger.  But Colonel Curtis also knows his duty and his destiny:  destriy Fox Claw...or be destroyed by him"  Oliver was a a well-respected anthorpologist and educator and the author of some of the best anthropolgical science fiction novels ever written.   The Plains Indians were one of his major research subjects, which helped give his western novels empathy and realism.
  • Thomas Tessier, Wicked Things.  Horror novel.  "The small town of Winship seems so perfect...on the surface.  But as investigator Jack Carlson is finding out, appearances can be deceiving.  He's looking into a rash of deaths in the town, but the more he pokes behinds the picture-postcard facade, the more frightened he becomes.  How could someone disappear in an opoen meadow, as if swallowed by the earth?  Why does the ground seem to glow in spots? Why is no one able to stop the gangs of young thugs who roam the street at will?  Local residents are afraid to answer his questions -- with good cause.  They know that Winship's tranquil exterior hides some truly...WICKED THINGS."

Florida Man = Florida Fan:  People here in the Land of Crazy just love their football and -- just perhaps -- don't love certain types of music.  That may be why a Universtiry of Miami Hurricanes fan assaulted the Florida Gators Universoty of Florida Gators band director after the Hurricanes lost to the Gators (24-20, if you're interested) before a sell-out season opener crowd Saturday evening.  The band director, Jay Watkins, was grabbed from behind in a chokehold and was thrown to the ground.  Watkins had a few bumps and scrapes but soon was back on the bus to Gainesville.  He declined to press charges against his assailant which was all to the good because we do not know who the assailant was -- no description was given in the police report.  No student band members were injured during the assault, but a woman was so upset that she suffered a nosebleed.  At lest this Southern belle did not have the vapors.

Delayed Rection:  A Chicago woman is suing former basketball star Scotty Pippen for expenses some 26 years after the fact.  The woman, Chyvette Valentine, said the she had an affair with Pippen from 1987 to 1993 and that she would travel on her own dime to see Pippen whenever the Chicago Bulls played out of town, paying thousands of dollars on hotels, car rentals, food, and parking.  Since the suit is in small claims court, she is asking $9,999 -- the largest amount allowed in small claims, although she says she had spent much more.

Ms. Valentine also said that she did not know Pippen was married and had an infant when they first hooked up.  When she saw bottles of formula at his house, Pippen told her they were for his sister.  Pippen told her the truth in 1988 (on Valentines Day, because nothing says "I love you" more than fessing up to being married), but they still continued the relationship for another five years.

This rises a number of questions, most of then pertaining to Ms. Valentine.  Why wait for over two and a half decades before suing?   And since she was a willing participant in the affair, why does she feel she is entitled to these "expenses"?  Did she keep receipts for these expenses?  If she has a lawyer, did she find him in the Yellow Pages under "Incompetent"?  And as for Pippen, he evidently had a baby when this thing started, but only married the mother the following year, in 1988 -- the year he told Valentine we was married and had a child.  That said, he's still a cheating sleazeball.

Speaking of Sleazeballs:  A Union County, North Carolina, man turned himself in after killing his 15-year-old daughter this weekend.  The daughter, who lived with her mother, usually visited her father, Joshua Lee Burgess, on weekends.  Burgess strangled the girl and then slit her throat.  Because Burgess is white and the girl was bi-racial, some are suspecting the murder was racially motivated.  Consider, however, Burgess was also charged with statutory rape, first degree statutory sex offense, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree degree sexual expoitation of a minor, I tend to believe Burgess was not racially motivated but that he is just a worthless piece of protoplasm who abused and killed a child.  I am not a believer in the death penalty but there are times when this belief is sorely strained.

Let's Cleanse Our Palate With Some Good News:

  • A Cambridge University scientist may be on the verge of curing multiple sclerosis.  MS occurs when the body's immune cells attack the protective layer around nerves.  Dr. Sue Metcalfe has discovered a switch within the immune cell that can be "reset" to its normal activity.  Her promising studies may not only cure MS but could perhaps rstore cells already damaged by the illness.
  • Sgt. Seth Craven flew from Afghanistan to the United States ro witness the birth of his son.  When he landed in Philadelphia, however, a storm caused his final flight to Charleston, West Virginia, to be delayed several times.  All rental cars had been taken so Craven could not drive the final leg of his trip.  Enter Charlene Vickers, a fellow airline passenger from the Philadelphia area whose car was parked in the airport lot.  Hearing of Craven's distress, she offered to drive him to Charleston, an eight-hour drive.  Craven didn't even stop to pick up his luggage.  He hopped in the car with this total stranger.  They made it Craven's house by midnight and the next morning he was at his wife's side when son Cooper was born the next morning.  The only thing Vickers asked for was that a picture of the baby be sent to her.  Random kindness can men a lot.
  • Two Indonesian high school teenagers, "Anggina Rafitri and Aysa Aurealya Maharani decided to test the claims of a local traditional medicine by developing a treatment extracted from the native Bajakah tree.  Two weeks after performing a study on a rat with cancerous tumors, the rat was cancer-free."  The girls have given new hope that this disease (breast cancer in the case of the rat) can have a swift-acting cure.  It's a long way from curing a rat to curing a human, but doctors and politicians alike are hopeful.   Kudos to both girls for their scientific curiosity and their empathy.
  • Researchers at the University of Adelaide have developed a carbon nanospring magnet that can dissolve microplastic polluting the water without harming microorganism.  A big step toward eliminating a major environmental health hazard.  It's early days but there is a chance that these dissolved micropollutants can he used as food to spur algae growth.
  • Another act of random kindness:
  • Some Webster Grove (Missouri) firefighters returning from a call noticed an elderly woman struggling to get her wheelchair across her front lawn.  A team of firefighters return to the woman's home the next weekend and spent their days off building a concrete walkwal and ramp to her front door.  Said one person, "That's what it's all about!  Neighbors helping neighbors.  Job well done, guys!"
  • We still don't own Greenland.
  • And a recent study from the University of Sussex and Aarhus university show that Europe has the potential of providing enough wind energy to meet the needs of the entire world.  Hmm.  I sincerely hope they're right.

Today's Poem:

What is life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And star as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts and grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich the smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

--  W. H. Davies