Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, June 24, 2019


Fleetwood Mac.


Openers:  There is a sort of legend abut Corporal George Orbach.  More than one man of his outfit has summed him up as the only person he ever met who didn't know what fear was.  They have a good many pat explanations, the way men will when they have nothing to do between patrols but pin labels on one another.  "A born killer" is a favorite.  A lieutenant called it "a suicidal complex."  This particular phrase did not take with the men.  A handful of sleeping pills, a loaded .32, they figure, and he could die in bed without scurvy, without frostbite, and without Migs.

-- "Born Killer" by Dorothy Salisbury Davis (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 1953)


  • J. L. Bourne, Day by Day Armageddon.  Zombie novel, the first of four novels in the series.  "Sporadic news reports indicate chaos and violence spreading throughout U.S. cities.  an unknown evil is sweeping the planet.  The dead are rising to claim the Earth as the new dominant species in the food chain."  From small press publisher Permuted Press.
  • Jon Ajvide Lindqvist, Handling the Undead.  Zombie novel.  "The power grid has gone crazy.  Electric appliances won't stay switched off, and everyone has a blinding headache.  Then the shocking news beaks -- in the morgue and cemeteries, the newly dead are waking up.  What deadly price will grieving families have to pay for the chance to see their loved ones just one more time?"  Lindqvist previously put a new spin on vampires with Let the Right One In; now he does the same with zombies.  Translated by Ebba Segerberg.
  • David Moody, Autumn:  Purification.  Zombie novel.  Noticing a trend here?  The final book in the Autumn trilogy even though three additional books in the series have been published.  "Trapped between the military and the dead, the survivors carve out a fragile and uncertain existence.  In a moment of madness their safety and security is jeapordised.  Surrounded by relentless hordes of bodies they run blindly through a harsh and lifeless world."  From small press publisher Infected Books.
  • Alan Moore, Voice of the Fire.  Moore's first novel.  From Wikipedia:  "The story follows the lives of twelve people who lived in the same area of England over a period of 6000 years, and how their lives link to one another.  Each chapter carries the reader forward in time, but circles around the center of Northhampton, drawing in historical events and touchstones, before seguing into metafictional narrative in the closing chapter, as the author himself directly comments upon the previous chapter's ambiguous closing line, before relating a personal (;possibly fictional) anecdote about Northhampton which relates a personal experience of local myth, and features a personal appearance by his daughter and son-in-law, the writers Leah Moore and John Reppion. Throughout, the image of fire sparks resonate between the tales, while Moore finds a different voice for each character -- though most are inherently duplicitous in some manner, leading to a further commentary on the disparity between myth and reality, and which is more likely to endure over time."   The edition I have includes fourteen full color plates by Jose Villarrubia.  Moore is best known for his graphic novels V for Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Batman:  The Killing Joke, and Lost Girls.  He marches to the beat of a different drummer.
  • Z. A. Recht, Thunder and Ashes.  Yet another zombie novel, the second in the Morningstar Strain trilogy.  "A lot can change in three months:  wars can be decided, nations can be forged,,,or entire species can be brought to the brink of annihilation.  The Morningstar Virus, an incredibly virulent disease, has swept the face of the planer, infecting billions.  Its hosts rampage, attacking anything that remains uninfected.  Even death can't stop the virus -- its victims as cannibalistic shamblers."  Another book from small press publisher Permuted Press.  The author died (at age 26) the year after this book was published; the final book in the trilogy was published three year after the author's death -- it may have been completed by Thom Brannon, who is listed as co-author on the French edition, though not on the American edition.  

A Trump Tent:  Over the past weeks, a Trump tent has appeared sporadically on the site of a closed gas station a couple of blocks from where I live.  The tent is festooned with flags and large banners proclaiming "Trump 2020."  There are t-shirts and (presumably) other paraphernalia.  Noticeably lacking on all the banners and t-shirts is the name "Pence."  I suppose they are just covering their bases.  Pence, who believes that God has singled him out to one day be president, appears to be in a shaky position vis-a-vis 2020.  It's interesting to note that here in the middle of solid Trump Country there has been absolutely no traffic stopping at the Trump tent.   Compare that to the long lines of vendors of Trump merchandise outside the Pensacola Bay Center whenever Trump has a campaign rally there -- something that he has done frequently.

In the meantime, Trump's antics and criminal behavior seems to be catching up with him.  The Iran crisis...the horrid treatment of minors at the border...the stonewalling of his people before the House Judiciary Committee...the lies...the corruption...and the even more lies.  Impeachment seems to be closer.  When it does come, I hope enough evidence has been compiled that it is a slam dunk and even the Senate Republicans will be hard-pressed to defend him.

Speaking of Senate Republicans:  Is there anyone who has abused his position more than Mitch McConnell?  He appears to have met his match in Jon Stewart, who passionately pleaded for the 9-11 first responders.  McConnell made the mistake of poo-pooing Stewart's remarks and Stewart tore him a new one.  Good show, Jon.

And the Flood Gates Opened:  Seventy-two years ago today Kenneth Arnold made the first widely reported UFO sighting.  Arnold, a businessman and an experienced pilot, claimed he saw nine unusual objects flying in tandem in the skies near Ranier, Washington.  The objects "shaped like a pie plate" had an odd motion "like a fish flipping in the sun."  The press soon dubbed these objects "flying saucers;" Arnold said that one of the objects resembled a crescent or flying wing.  Soon there were sightings all over the place and the saucer craze had begun.

Arnold wrote several articles on at least one book (THE COMING OF THE SAUCERS, 1952, with Raymond Palmer, the SF wunderkind who never met a conspiracy he did not like) and several articles, one of which (from Palmer's Fate magazine, Spring 1948) is here:

They're Here?:  A former manager of the DOD Threat Assessment Program says the UFOs are real:

Pardon me while I leave the room to scoff.

Another Conspiracy Theory Smashed:  Despite popular opinion, Walter Cronkite was not the second highest mountain in the Andes.

Today's Poem:
A Bit of Science

What!  Photograph in colors?  'Tis a dream
And he who dreams it is not overwise,
If colors are vibration they but seem,
And have no being.  But if Tyndall lies,
Why, come,  then -- photograph my lady's eyes.
Nay, friend, you can't.  the splendor of their blue,
As on my own beclouded orbs they rest,
To naught by vibratory's motion due,
As heart, head, limbs, and all I am attest.
How could her eyes, at rest themselves, be making
In me so uncontrollable a shaking?

-- Ambrose Bierce

Sunday, June 23, 2019


The legendary science fiction author and editor of Astounding/Analog in a fascinating interview by 17-year-old Fred Lerner.

This half-hour interview was archived by the FANAC Fan History Project.

Enjoy this interview with the man who helped shape science fiction for decades.


The Chuck Wagon Gang.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


Ray Bradbury would have been 99 today.  Rachel Bloom honors (?) the writer in this 2010 video.  Supposedly, when shown this on his 90th birthday, Bradbury "was charmed by the whole thing."

Bloom, a former intern for Seth Myers, won a Golden Globe and a Critics' Choice Award for her work on the television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend This video was nominated for a Hugo for Best Dramatic presentation.



The Black Terror was, to cite don Markstein, one of the "1940's long underwear guys," clad in black with gold trim and with a skull and crossbones emblazoned on his chest.  The costume resembles that of the much later Punisher from Marvel Comics, except The Black Terror had a cape and a teeny tiny mask that did nothing to hide his face; in true Clark Kent style, when The Black Terror took off his glasses no one recognized him.  Because he first appeared in May 1942 (in Exciting Comics #9), this superhero was white  -- a 2011 version of him, dubbed "The Blackest Terror," had him African-American.

The Black Terror was created by Richard E. Hughes and was originally drawn by D. (for either David or Don, toss a coin) Gabrielson.  Later artists included Sheldon Moldoff, George Tuska, and the team of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin.  Later writers are not know, save for Patricia Highsmith, who penned some episodes before she began writing novels.  (Sorry, I don't know which episodes Highsmith wrote.)

The Black Terror's secret iden tity was Bob Benton, a pharmacist who invented something called "formic ethers" while he was trying to develop a pick-me-up.  The formic ethers gave him superpowers of strength and limited invulnerabilty.  One supposes he adopted the name The Black Terror because no one would buy a comic book titled Bob Benton, Pharmacist.  Benton's assistant at the pharmacy became his costumed kid side-kick Tim.  Often lurking around the pharmacy was Benton's love interest, the pretty Jean Starr, the secretary to the town's mayor. The Black Terror and Tim (collectively known as the "Terror Twins") fought spies, saboteurs, and crooks with equal vigor.  They were featured in three of Better Publications comic:  Exciting Comics, The Black Terror, and America's Best Comics.  All three titles were cancelled in 1949 and Better Publications (and the many companies that were under its umbrella) bit the dust a few years later.

The Black Terror went into public domain and has since been revived/revisited/reimagined by fifteen different companies since 1983.

In Exciting Comics #50, The Black Terror takes the lead story as he investigates the supposed death of a well-known hypnotist.  Witnesses and suspects have been hypnotized by a huge pair of disembodied eyes.  Gangsters are trying to stop anyone from looking into the hypnotist's so-called death.  A helicopter is used to knock The Black terror out.  (You had to have been there.)  Things reach a peak when a bridge is blown up, sending The Black Terror and Tim's car hurtling through the air only to crash through the roof of the gang's hideout.

One perhaps prophetic take from this story takes place on the tale's fifth page, as the Terror goes after two gunmen:

Bad guy:  WOW!  HE IS FAST!   The Black Terror (delivering a knock-out punch):  FAST AND FURIOUS, THUG!

The Black terror isn't the only one to be featured in this issue.  There are also stories about Crash Carter, Air Cadet, The Crime Crushers, The American Eagle, and Sergeant Bill King, along with three text stories, one of which is signed by prolific pulpster Donald Bayne Hobart.  And there's neat cover art by Alex Schomburg!


Friday, June 21, 2019


It's the first day of summer!  Here to remind you is Jerry Keller.


Murder of a Wife by Henry Kuttner (1958)

After reading and reviewing Kuttner's collection Three by Kuttner last week I was in the mood for another book by him.  Luckily Murder of a Wife, the last of his four mysteries featuring San Francisco psychoanalyst Michael Gray, was near the top of mount TBR.

Kuttner, who died much too soon in 1958, had directed much of his energies to mystery novels in his last years, even as he was studying for a Master's degree when he had his fatal heart attack.  Murder of a Wife appeared in March 1958 (just one month after the author died) in a paperback edition from Permabooks -- its only paperback appearance.  It was reprinted in 1983 as part of Garland Books "50 Classics of Crime Fiction, 1950-1975" series, selected by Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor.  The Michael Gray Mysteries, an omnibus containing all four Michael Gray mysteries, is forthcoming from Haffner Press.  Only eight copies of the Permabook edition are available from Abebooks, from $24.95 to $133.00; none of the Garland Press edition is available.  The Haffner Press omnibus credits Kuttner's wife C. L. Moore as co-author; this is probably true, but I don't know is she had any input on Murder of a Wife.

So much for the publishing background.  Now on to the story.

We open with the beautiful Karen Champion being attacked in her bedroom by her estranged husband.  Or do we?  Karen is a pathological liar with a history of making wild claims.  The police do not believe her.

As a favor to Karen's doctor, an old friend of Michael Gray's, Gray agrees to try to get  sense of whether Karen is telling the truth this time.  This leads him and his police captain friend Harry Zucker into a complicated case that ends with a viscous double murder.

Karen claims her safety lies only in having her violent husband declared insane.  Dennis Champion is the senior partner in CQD -- Champion-Quigley Developments -- with a 51% ownership stake.  The remaining 49% is owned by Roger and Joyce Quigley, a married couple who are also pushing to have Dennis Champion declared insane so they could gain control of the company.  Dennis Champion has hired Ira Fenn, a sleazy (and blackmailing) private detective who tries to bribe Gray into declaring that Karen champion is insane.


To complicate things, Karen has struck up a friendship with Oliver Albano, a mob-connected thug.  Albano wants the friendship to develop into an affair but has not had any luck so far.  Karen and Albano were introduced by Joyce Quigley, who had been having a torrid affair with Albano.  Albano had been seen threatening Perry Brand, a quack doctor who has been milking his clients with phony cures.  One of Brand's clients is Susan Turk, the wife of CQD's business developer Wesley Turk;  Susan had been surretiptiously cleaning out the Turk's various accounts (including some $20,000 from a safe deposit) to pay for Brand's "treatments."  Brand was also being blackmailed by Fenn.

Did I say, phew?

The key to the mystery is Karen's pathological lying, as well as "blank" memories from her past.  And who is the mysterious "Judy," of whom Karen denies having and knowledge?

Murder of a Wife is a solid psychological mystery with a hard-boiled flavor, set very much in the late fifties.  There is an irritating (and somewhat illogical) interplay between Gray and his friend Zucker, as well as a mild sexist late-Fifties attitude, much these are minor quibbles.  As with the previous three books in this series, Murder of a Wife is a winner and a solid reminder of what could have been a long-running, popular series, save for Kuttner's death.

My recommendation:  Scoop up the Haffner Press omnibus.  It's available for pre-order and worth every penny of the $45.00 price tag.  You can't go wrong.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


Happy Birthday, Lionel Richie!


Another radio case for Ellery Queen -- and this time it's personal.  His secretary, Nikki Porter, is the suspect in the murder of a bank robber as the loot from a train robbery goes missing from her train compartment.  Nikki can't explain what had happened before she stepped off the train because she has...(wait for it)...AMNESIA!...(rim shot here)

Written by Manfred B. Lee (one half of the "Ellery Queen" partnership) and Kendall F. Crossen (prolific pulpster who created Buddhist superhero The Green Lama, as well as insurance investigator Milo March), "Nikki Porter, Suspect" first aired on March 5, 1947, with Broadway star Alfred Drake as the guest armchair detective.

Seven-and-a-half years latter, the show was restaged in Australia using Austalian actors, including Charles Tingwell, who played Ellery.  This time the guest armchair detective was Gypsy Rose Lee.  The Australian version was recorded at the Palladium Theater in Sydney and aired on November 19, 1954.  It is this version that is linked below.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Patti Page, from 1951.


Before he was Silky Harris on The Alaskans, and before he was Beau Maverick on Maverick, and before he was Simon Templar in The Saint, and before he was Lord Brett Sinclair on The Persuaders, and before he was 007 in the James Bond films, Roger Moore was Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe in the 39 episodes of the syndicated series Ivanhoe.

Ivanhoe was a joint production of Screen Gems Television and England's Sydney Box Productions.  Plans were to sell the pilot to ABC so cast and crew headed to Los Angeles to film the pilot.  But ABC did not bite so the remaining 38 episodes were filmed in England.  Interestingly, the pilot had been shot in color but after ABC rejected it, it was televised in black and white, fitting for a syndicated show of the time.

As a series, Ivanhoe soon leaves Sir Walter Scott's novel in the dust.  Wilfred (usually referred to as Ivanhoe) is soon stripped of his title and becomes a roving knight bringing justice to bad Prince John's England.  He is aided by peasant leader/servant Gurth (Robert Brown) and, for a while, by Gurth's son Bart -- who is soon dropped from the series, only to remain in the opening where he blows a horn and yells "Ivanho-o-oe."  Lady Rowena appears only in the pilot episode.

(Robert Brown and Moore remained friends and Moore arranged for Brown to play James Bond's M for his last two films; Brown continued in that role after Moore left the franchise.)

linked below is the pilot episode for the series, "Freeing the Serfs."


Sunday, June 16, 2019


Openers:   They were almost two hundred, men in khaki trotting up a bare slope blasted by an ardent sun.  Divided, they formed sections and combat groups, united, they composed a company of the French Foreign Legion.  From the crests came a continuous crackling of detonations, a fusillade that swelled furiously, sank into unexpected lulls.  There were other sounds nearer, subtle and  murderous, musical and insidious, a thousand sinister voices whispering.

"You -- you -- for you!"

-- "Affair of Honor" by George Surdez (Adventure, April 1937).  Surdez was a master of the Foreign Legion adventure story, something you don't see much of nowadays.

This Day in Dracula History:  Times were tough in the fifteenth century.  So were many of the rulers.  Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, was no slouch in the toughness department, but so was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II.  The Ottomans had levied a tax against non-Muslims which Vlad refused to pay.  In 1459, Pope Pius II called for a crusade against the Ottomans.  The idea fizzled and the only leader to show enthusiasm for the crusade was Vlad, who was a good friend of the Pope.  Knowing there was a lack of support for the Pope's crusade, Mehmed went on the offensive, easily conquering several cities.  In 1460, Mehmed captured Vlad's only ally, Hungary's Mihaly Szilagya, killing Szilagya's men and them sawing Szilagya in half in what could be considered to be a modern day magic trick gone horribly wrong.

Mehmed sent envoys asking Vlad for the late taxes and, in addition, 1000 boys who would be trained as janissaries.  Vlad killed the envoys.  Mehmed then sent his people into Vlad's territory to do some recruiting.  Vlad impaled them.  In 1461, Memed asked Vlad to meet him in Constantinople to iron out their differences.  Vlad refused.  Mehmed then sent and envoy with a thousand troops to "negotiate" with Vlad.  (By negotiate I mean to capture Vlad and bring him to Constantinople.)  Vlad's army boxed in the "negotiators" and wiped them out using hand cannons -- making Vlad perhaps the first crusader to use gunpowder in such a deadly way.  Then Vlad got serious and began waging a systematic war, first slaughtering any Turks as well as any possible supporters in his territory, then crossing the Danube to Bulgaria and impaling Turks.  Turks were also burned in their homes or were beheaded in battle.  Mehmed then sent his Grand Vizier with 18,000 soldiers to raze a Wallachian port, only to be soundly defeated by Vlad and losing 10,000 of the 18,000. Like I said, the fifteenth century was a tough time.

After Vlad's latest victory, many Turks became afraid of Vlad and left the area for safer climes.  Mehmed decided it was time to take control of things himself.  Mehmed assembled a force of some 250,000 - 300,000 men; Vlad's forces were estimated to be about half that.  As Mehmed entered Vlad's territory, Vlad put forth a scorched earth policy, moving populations from towns into the mountains, then burning the villages and poisoning the water.  As Mehmed advanced he found only ruins.  Vlad also sent the ill to infiltrate Mehmed's forces -- bringing with them leprosy, tuberculosis, and the plague.  The plague was particularly effective and spread through the Ottoman troops. 

The on June 17, 1462, Vlad directly attacked Mehmed's camp in an attempt to capture or kill the Ottoman ruler.  Only bad intelligence saved Mehmed; Vlad personally attacked what he thought was Mehmed's tent but it turned out to be that of two of Mehmed's viziers.  After the failed attempt on his life, Mehmet brought his troops to Wallachia's capitol city of Targoviste only to find a few soldiers manning the city.  Leaving Targoziste, Mehmed came upon some 23,000 impaled Turks.  Perhaps to save face, Mehmet sailed to the Danube port city of Braila and burned it to the ground, before retreating back to his own country.  Both Mehmed and Vlad claimed victory.

Happy Birthday, M. C. Escher:  "Want to hear a joke/" the bartender says as M. C. Escher walks into a bar.  As M. C. Escher walks into a bar, the bartender says, 'Want to hear a joke?"

Florida Man:  He's been busy:

-- Two Bradenton brothers were upset over a practical joke played on them by a woman.  One brother hit the woman with a hamburger, punched her twice in the face, and bit her neck in response.  The other brother left the room, returned with a gun, and threatened to kill her.  Geez, guys.  Can't you take a joke?

-- A Charlotte County deputy resigned after tests indicated that he showed up drunk at a children's event.  The man and his wife had gone out celebrating their anniversary the night before.  Evidently they celebrated a lot because his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit the next morning at the children's event.

-- It's not a party unless the police show up.  In Pasco County, this Florida Man's family arguments often become violent.  Florida Man merely did what many of us want to do -- he shot his  Amazon Alexa.  When his wife expressed displeasure, he begin to hit her.  A ten-year-old girl then called the police.  When the police came, Florida Man began firing at them, probably thinking they were a new form of Amazon Alexa.  Two officers and Florida Man were shot, although it's unclear whether Florida was shot by police of whether the wound was self-inflicted.

-- A Palm Bay man has admitted to stealing pool floats in order to have sex with them.  At least thirteen cases of float theft have been reported and police found about 75 pools floats at the accused home.  He told police he had sex with the pool floats so he wouldn't have to rape women.  Considerate guy, that Florida Man.

-- "Keith Byrne cut off a car in traffic.  He got out of his car (with a gun) in an effort to apologize (with a gun).  Before he could a passenger got out of the cut-off car and shot him square in the chest.

"The mortally wounded Byrne, 41, was also prepared to fight back.  With his own gun, he fired two shots at 22-year-old Andre Sinclair, and Sinclair died of his injuries at the hospital two days later.  Byne died on the scene."

Perhaps both will receive a Darwin Award.

-- A couple were swimming in a pool when they were joined by an alligator.  The male (hitherto known as Florida Man) "hauled ass" out of the pool, leaving his girlfriend as the alligator charged at her.  The event was caught on camera:

-- A fifty-year-old Florida Man was smoking crack cocaine when he was involved in a hit-and-run in Miami.  A police chase ensued that led all way to the Florida Keys.  along the way, Florida Man ingested 20 rocks of crack cocaine, some of which was still in his throat when he crashed his car into a cement abutment.  Somewhere along the way his tires had blown out.  He told police there was a woman in his vehicle but none was found.

-- And Florid T-Rex terrrorizes Tampa!

Today's Poem:
A Prouder Man Than You

If you fancy that your people came from better stock than mine,
If you hint of better breeding by a word or by a sign,
If you're proud because of fortune or the clever things you do --
Then I'll play no second fiddle:  I'm a prouder man than you!
If you think that your profession has the more gentility,
And that you are condescending to be seen along with me;
If you notice that I'm shabby while your clothes are spruce and new --
You have only got to hint it:  I'm a prouder man than you!
If you have a swell companion when you see me on the street,
And you think that I'm too common for your toney friend to meet,
So that I, in passing closely, fail to come within your view --
Then be blind to me forever:  I'm a prouder man than you!
If your character be blameless, if your outward past be clean,
While 'tis known my antecedents are not what they should have been,
Do not risk contamination; save your name whate'er you do --
'Birds o' feather fly together':  I'm a prouder bird than you!
Keep your patronage for others!  Gold and station cannot hide
Friendship that can laugh at fortune, friendship that can conquer pride!
Offer this as to an equal -- let me see that you are true' 
And my wall of pride is shattered:  I am not so proud as you!

-- Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

(Lawson was one of the best-known Australian poets of the colonial period and has been called Australia's greatest writer of short stories.)


This article claims to point out 20 of the worst fathers in history.  Actually, there are many who are far worse than these, and several of those listed are fictional.  Nonetheless, it's hard to argue that most of these dear old dads are not a waste of protoplasm. 

I'm just lucky that my own father was a caring, wonderful good man.

Who would you nominate for the Worst Father List?


For Father's Day...

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Ruby and the Romantics.



Yep, it's the Green Hornet, great-nephew of the Lone Ranger and champion of justice.

We open with the "strange tale of two people, caught in the web of a tragic killing...into which is woven the the hand of the laughing killer, THE CLOWN...and the cunning of THE GREEN HORNET...when he smashes the case of THE ONE-EYED MONKEY!"  At the end of the tale, The Clown gets away to fight The Green Hornet another day, but the Hornet is able to free an innocent man from death row.

Then, West Point cadet Gary Blakely dons the (ridiculous) costume of The Spirit of '76 to battle America's enemies in Major Ralston's tale of a torpedoed boat, a nest of Nazis, and a battle with a wild jaguar in the jungles of Brazil as The Spirit of '76 fights to save his girl friend and her brother.

Next up, tough guy Mike Lancer (a prototype from Mike Hammer) stars in "The Syndicate of Death," a six-pager written by Mickey Spillane.  Wall Street executives are being murdered and Mike Lancer notices a similarity between the murders and the work of the supposedly late Marty the Rat.  But Marty the Rat wasn't dead -- at last not until Mike Lancer got hold of him.  Before he died, Marty the Rat named "Cropper" Langwell as the man behind the Syndicate of Death and Wall street big  wig Claridge as the man putting the hit on his colleagues.  Bodies pile up as Mike kills his way to the conclusion, saving the father of Mike's beautiful client.  (The somewhat crude artwork by Harry Sahle shows that Mike Lancer does not sport Mike Hammer's trademark porkpie hat.  Don't know if that was Spillane's decision or Sahle's.)

The Blond (note the spelling) Bomber is actress Honey Blake, who cracks a Nazi spy gang run by Little Adolf while filming a movie in "Sabotage on Parade."

Then, The Green Hornet returns in "The Career of Farmer Filcher."  Filcher is the country gangster chief who runs a city slicker gang.  The Hornet's alter ego, publisher Britt Reid, is frustrated because there is no direct evidence indicating Filcher as the crime mastermind.  The Green Hornet, however, is determined to put Farmer Filcher behind bars.

The modern day Robin Hood (Dr. Fairbanks) and His Gang (including Friar Tuck and Big John) tackle with a murderous gang who have targeted recently released a gangster in an attempt to gain stolen loot.  Some comic book heroes strain credibility.

The Zebra is an ex-con who has donned his striped prison shirt, tight shorts,calf-length boots, yellow gauntlets,  a mask, and a red cape to fight the baddies.  Of course The Zebra (a.k.a. John Doyle) had been framed.  The Zebra goes against a gangland kidnapper trying to ransom a child for the bad guy's brother's freedom.

Also included in this issue are acouple of text stories and a six-page comic story featuring The Mighty Midgets, a group of very small army guys -- Please do not confuse with the title characters of the 1998 film SMALL SOLDIERS.


Friday, June 14, 2019


Today is Flag Day.  And that means it's also my father-in-law's birthday.  He would have been 98 or 99.  (I'm not good with numbers larger than the total of my fingers and Kitty's taking a nap so I can't ask her.)

Harold was always proud to share his birthday with Flag Day.  He would have been far less proud had he known he shared his birthday with Donald Trump.  Harold held no truck with liars, bullies, or bigots.

Harold was one of eight children in a first generation Irish-American Catholic family.  His father was  factory worker; his mother was a saint.  (Harold's father was one of three brothers who suspiciously left Ireland in a hurry -- one to America, one to Canada, and one to Australia.  Hmm.)  Harold's older brother Bob came down with polio at age twelve.  When she was told that Bob would never get out of an iron long, their mother said no.  Bob got out of the iron lung.  When told that Bob would never get out of  wheelchair, their mother said no.  Bob got out of the wheelchair.  When told that Bob would never walk, their mother said no.  Bob walked, albeit with crutches and leg braces.  And Bob began a long career with Raytheon as a draftsman.  And Bob drove a specially modified car.  And Bob built a garage and workshop by himself and shingled his home, moving slowly up and down a ladder.  Bob never let his disability get the better of him because his mother said no.  That's the type of family Harold grew up in.  (Harold's younger sister Clare had Down Syndrome.  In those days it was an early death sentence.  Well-meaning folks suggested that Clare be placed in a group home.  Her mother said no.  Clare stayed at home.  She held a job and lived to the ripe old age of 43 when pancreatic cancer got her, far outlasting the medical opinion of the time.  Clare was a real sweetheart and I am lucky I got to know her and love her during the last years of her life.)

Harold was a hero to his younger brother Don because Harold saved money from doing odd chores and bought Don a bicycle as a surprise.  Don is in his nineties now and still recalls Harold's generosity.

Harold was in high school when World War II broke out.  He and his cousin Eddie dropped out of school to join the Navy.  They got in by switching their records during certain parts of their physicals.  Harold said he was Eddie for a part of the physical they knew Eddie would fail and Eddie pretended to be Harold during another part of the physical.

Harold served on the destroyer Leutze in the Pacific theater.  In April 1945, the Leutze was hit by a kamikaze plane which almost severed its fantail and left a gaping hole in its port quarter.  Casualties included seven missing crewmen, one dead, and thirty wounded.  Harold was dispatched to the ship's hull to try to restore its electrical system, working in dark quarters while waist-deep in water.  The ship miraculous did not sink and managed  to limp to port.  Harold received the bronze star.

While in the service, Harold had proposed to Eileen, who really did not want to get married so soon.  Thus, Eileen told Harold she would marry him when the war ended.and darned if the war didn't end a few months later.  We have an old and very dark video of their wedding reception, held in a nice restaurant; the restaurant happened to be near a used car lot and the most visible part of the footage had the wedding party exiting near the car lot.  We would use that video to claim that they got married in a used car lot.  Eileen did not think that was funny but Harold would just laugh. 

After the service and newly married, Harold enrolled at Georgia Tech.  He and Eileen (and soon, two young children -- Kitty and her older brother Michael) settled down in a trailer.  Harold would earn money selling Sunday newspapers outside a large church after services.  He had an opportunity to make real money running moonshine but Eileen put a kibosh on that idea.  Sometime before graduation, officials at Georgia Tech discovered that Harold had never finished high school and threatened to expel him for lying on his application.  Harold had them produce the application and showed that he never claimed to be a high school graduate on the application, only that he had attended Rockland High School on the dates he had listed.   Harold stayed and graduated with an engineering degree.

Harold began a long career working on projects through companies contracting with the Air Force, often on hush-hush stuff dealing with rockets.  Many times, his family did not know where he worked and could only contact him during emergencies and through an intermediary.  This allowed Kitty and her three brothers to make up all sorts of stories about what he did, the more outrageous the stories the better.  Once, when Harold was working at Cape Canaveral,  he woke up all the kids at three in the morning, telling them it was a great time to take a walk.  While on this "walk" they just 'happened" to watch the launch of the original Gemini rocket.

Harold was a gentle, easy-going, and methodical man with a great sense of humor.  Until someone tried to take advantage of him, that is.  That's when you would see what the phrase "getting one's Irish up" meant.

Harold died of pancreatic cancer at age 80, after having seemingly beating that evil beast twice.  The saddest part of that is that he had one grandson and two great-grandkids born after his death, three people deprived of ever knowing him.  He would have gotten a kick from all three -- Mark, Erin, and Connor -- and they, I'm sure would have loved him.

Harold loved to take the family to Kimball's Ice Cream Stand  in Westford, Massachusetts, where the servings are so large they make a full meal by themselves.  Every year on Flag Day we go out and splurge on ice cream for dinner in honor of a wonderful man.  Ice cream has never tasted better


Billy Murray, known as "The Denver Nightingale," was one of the most popular singers of the early twentieth century.  It's estimated that he recorded from 6000 to 10,000 songs over a forty-five year career.  Here's his 1906 recording of "You're a Grand Old Rag" -- soon to be changed to "You're a Grand Old Flag."  (It took a while to find this particular one on Youtube -- most of the 1906 Youtube clips start with an ad from Lara "Mrs. Waste of Protoplasm" Trump, aka Mrs. Eric Trump, in which she co-opts the song to shill for her father-in-law.  Ptah!)

Enjoy this Trump-less version.

And have a happy and meaningful holiday.


Kuttner Times Three by Henry Kuttner (1988)

A slim, fan-produced booklet of three rare stories by Henry Kuttner assembled by Virgil Utter in a limited run of 200 typed copies to mark the 30th anniversary of Kuttner's death, Kuttner Times Three has long been a difficult volume to obtain.  Until this week.  It is now available online at Internet Archive and Kuttner fans should definitely check it out.

Kuttner (1915-1958) was one of the most popular and prolific writers of pulp science fiction and fantasy, publishing stories under at least two dozen names.  Much of his early work was slap-dashed
and formulaic but his later stories included many absolute gems, especially after his marriage to fellow writer Catherine {C. L.} Moore.  Moore was his frequent collaborator (often uncredited) and their partnership often produced stories so seamless that no one could tell what parts were written by Kuttner and what parts by Moore.  Kuttner (an Moore) have enjoyed a resurgence lately, with massive retrospection collections from Haffner Press and Centipede Press, including an omnibus of the four Michael Grey mysteries originally published by Permabooks (1956-8).  Kuttner died way to early at age 43 -- about six weeks before fellow SF great C. M. Kornbluth died at age 34.  (I'm always struck by how many of my favorite authors die long before their time...Stanley G. Weinbaum, Charles Beaumont, Tom Reamy, and so many more.)

Back to Kuttner Times Three.  The first story, "The Old Army Game," comes from Thrilling Adventures, November 1941 and is actually the first story in Kuttner's Hogben series.  The Hogbens are a strange hillbilly family of mutants, steeped in corn likker and feudin' and somewhat at odds with modern civilization.  Consider this story a try-out for the four  tales that followed it.  More of a tall tale than a SF or fantasy story, "The Old Army Game" follows in the tradition of Robert E. Howard's Breckinridge Elkins or Pike Bearfield stories.  Young Huet Hogben (twenty-two, but not yet reached his full growth being only just a mite over six feet tall) has been drafted.  His army buddy's Grandpa Eliphalet has developed a new alloy that will improve America's war planes and the Nazis are out to get the formula.  Huet does not want to interfere because his Maw always told him not to get mixed up in other folks' feudin', but when Nazis rudely threaten Huet's hidden still, well, that's going just too far.  Six years after this story was published, Kuttner returned to the Hogbens with the first of four (far more refined and overtly fantastical} stories that firmly established the series as a fan favorite.  "The Old Army Game" had not b.een reprinted before this booklet and has only been reprinted one other time, in the Borderland Press 2013 collection The Hogben Chronicles.

The other Hogben tales, all published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, are:  "Exit the Professor" (October 1947; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited); "Pile of Trouble" (April 1948); "See You Later" (June 1949; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited); and "Cold War" (October 1949; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited).

The second story in this collection is "Bamboo Death" (Thrilling Mystery, June 1936) which Utter in his introduction claims to be Kuttner's second published story.  "The Graveyard Rats," often pointed out as Kuttner's first published story appeared in the March 1936 issue of Weird Tales, but -- according to ISFDb -- Kuttner's first story was, in fact, "The Monkey Wrench" (Jungle Stories, August 1931, as by "Bertram W. Williams").   "Bamboo Death" was actually Kuttner's third published story.  Update:  Not so.  See Stephen Haffner's response below.

Young Joan Masson has inherited her uncle's Florida estate, located deep in the Everglades.  With her friend/maybe-fiance Lee Dean, Joan travels to the run-down, Southern Gothic-y estate, only to discover that the hulking, brain-damaged Quentin has had the run of the place for years.  Joan's uncle, who never approached the estate had imported Indian bamboo plants so that Quentin could perform his "experiments" in an effort to produce immortality, a la the Fountain of Youth.  Quentin has constructed bamboo cages to torture animals of all sorts.  (Since bamboo can grow an inch an hour, animals are placed on bamboos shoots topped with sharp metallic needles which soon grow to pierce the bodies.  Makes no sense to me -- or to anyone, other than the sadistic, mad Quentin.)  You can see where this is going.  The story could easily have been printed in any issue of Terror Tales or Dime Detective.  "Bamboo Death" has been reprinted in the Haffner Preess edition of Terror in the House:  The Early Kuttner, Volume One (2010).

The final story in this booklet, "The Wolf of Aragon," comes from the July 1941 issue of Thrilling Adventures.  Juan Vasquez, the son of full-blooded Aztec woman and  a conquistador who had bequeathed his ranchero in old Mexico to Juan, is due to be wed when he received a summons from Ixtal, a giant native said to be born in the time of Montezuma.  Because he is half-Aztec, Ixtal said, Juan must marry an Aztec girl rather than his betrothed Spanish senorita.  Juan refuses to forsake his beloved Rosita.  Ixtal predicts dire consequences will come from that decision.   Then..."Fromthe blood-stained chaos of Europe came the Wold of Aragon.  A renegade and a killer, driven across continents by outraged kings, Don Diego of Aragon went yelling and slaying into the New World.  Plundr and murder followed his steed's hoofbeats."  Don Diego's murderous trail soon crossed Juan's ranchero, leaving Rosita's crushed body behind.  Juan sets out for vengeance, hoping that he might be aided by the Feathered Serpent of his ancestors.

All three tales are very minor ones and I loved them all.

I'm glad they are finally available to Kuttner fans.  Check it out.

Saturday, June 1, 2019


Closeup and Comedy was a syndicated newspaper comic strip that brought the glitter and glamour of Hollywood right to your kitchen table and/or your living room chair, giving interesting "facts" (or fictions crated by Hollywood agents) about many of the stars of the day.

Here is the inside dope on 210 stars, many of whom are forgotten today.

How many do you know?

Friday, May 31, 2019


"The Bacteriological Detective" by Arthur B. Reeve (first published in Cosmopolitan, February 1911; reprinted in Reeve's The Silent Bullet:  The Adventures of Craig Kennedy, Scientific Detective, 1912; later reprinted in Scientific Detective Monthly, February 1930 and in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2003)

Craig Kennedy was America's answer to Sherlock Holmes.  A Columbia university professor aided by his "Watson," roommate and newspaperman Walter Jameson, Kennedy used the latest in scientific knowledge and machinery to solve seemingly unsolvable cases.  He first appeared in "The Case of Helen Bond" in the December 1910 issue of Cosmopolitan.  He made another 81 appearances in that magazine, ending in August 1918.  His adventures continues in many other magazines and many of his later appearances appear to have been ghost-written.  Four collections and 26 novels eventually appeared about the hero, ending in 1936.  Kennedy also appeared in two movie serials and in a 1951 television program, Craig Kennedy, Criminologist.

After gaining fame with the creation of Craig Kennedy, Arthur B. Reeve began writing film scripts in 1914, peaking "in 1919-1920, when his name appeared on seven films, most of them serials, three of them starring Harry Houdini."  When the film industry substantially moved to Hollywood, Reeve remained behind in New York.  Reeve entered a contract with Harry K. Thaw (the man who murdered Stanford White in 1906  and was found not guilty  by reason of insanity) to produce scenarios about fake spiritualism.  Thaw refused to honor the contract, forcing Reeve into bankruptcy.  Reeve was k own as an anti-racketeering advocate, hosting a radio show in the early 1930s.  He also was known to have been a consultant for the FBI.

"The Bacteriological Detective" has Kennedy investigating the mysterious death of millionaire Jim Bisbee, who recently died of typhoid fever in a private hospital.  Bisbee had recently been to his country house when five of his employees were struck with the disease.   A noted germaphobe, Bisbee retreated to his New York apartment, where he came down with typhoid a few days after.

To solve the case, Kennedy used microbiology, as well as the emerging sciences of fingerprinting and handwriting analysis and the practice of immunology.  In a case easily solved by the modern reader, Kennedy's investigation provided ample excitement and wonder for the readers of the time.

Along the way, Reeve bemoans the good old days.  "We [Kennedy and Jameson] had commented on the artificiality of the twentieth century.  No longer did people have homes; they had apartments, I had said.  They didn't fall ill in the good old-fashioned way any more, either -- in fact, they hired special rooms to die in.  They hired hall for funeral services.  It was a wonder they didn't hire graves.  It was all part of out twentieth century break-up of tradition."

An interesting story, quaint and fastly read.  Not everyone's cup of tea, though.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


The Korean War needed a Korean War hero and America got it -- briefly -- in Captain Jet, AMERICA'S WAR ACE!  Captain Jet lasted for only six issues from Ajax-Farrell comics before transforming into Fantastic Fears #7, a horror anthology comic book.  The art for Captain Jet was provided for by the Iger Studio, known for re-purposing earlier comic book art as they did here from World War II comic book art.

Captain Jet appears in three adventures in this issue.  First, he stops the enemy from using poison gas; then, while transporting General Barton and his "doll-faced aide" Linda Parker, Jet's plane is brought down by the enemy who capture all three (SPOILER ALERT!  but not for long); finally, Jet is signalled by an intelligence agent disguised as a saronged native girl.

Besides a number of features and a four-page story about top American war correspondent Ace Reynolds, this issue is chocked-filled with grotesque drawings of Korean villains because that's how american comic books rolled during the Korean War.

Not the greatest comic book of its time but some of the plot points and artwork are pretty good.

Check it out.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Blogging has been sporadic for the last week and will probably continue that way for another two or three weeks.  Two visits to Alabama last week and a planned weekend in Atlanta in a couple of weeks.  Plus, we're spending a lot of time ferrying grandchildren to and from school and appointment.  Our niece will be visiting at the end of the week.  One granddaughter had four wisdom teeth pulled this morning and will need some TLC.  Jack's medication has changed and is not working well so we need to get a handle on that.  And the combination of chemo and Prednisone that Kitty is on for her anemia has swollen her legs painfully.  In the grand scheme of things, these are all minor, but combined make for a hectic few weeks while everything gets sorted out.

Better times are ahead.  In the meantime, I'll blog when I can.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


Bobby Lewis.


Super-Mystery Comics had a spotted run from July 1940 to July 1949, a total of 48 issues.  During World War II, comic books were popular both with kids and with the armed services overseas.  Some of ads in the comic book seem to be targeted to America's fighting forces.  Case in point, the inside from cover of this issue which touts two books:Private Letters of the World's Greatest Lovers and Guide to Intimate Letter Writing (which will allow you to "master the ways of love," and includes a "Personal Directory of intimate love phrases" -- something every lonely doughboy needs).

In this issue enemies of America get their comeuppance from such heroes as Magno the Magnetic Man, Dr. Nemesis, Hap Hazard, The Sword, Mr. Risk, and Paul Revere, Jr..

Magno, the Magnetic Man, should not be confused with other Magnos.  This Magno is a creation of Ace Periodicals and is a playboy adventurer who apparently has no secret identity and no everyday garb.  He has a masterful control of magnetism which also allows him to fly and to be invincible.  He fights enemies of America and is aided by his sidekick Davey a schoolboy who suit gives him some of Magno's powers.  Other Magnos in Comicbookland include Quality Comics' Magno, an elecrtical lineman named Tom Dalton who got superpowers when he got zapped (twice) with 10,000 volts of electricity, and Sandy Laker who is Magno, Man of Magnetism, and who first appeared in British comics in 1971.  (Similarly named comic book characters include Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier's Mangor (who learns super-heroing from reading comic books) and Magneto, arch-enemy of Marvel's X-Men.)  Magno and Davey were the headliners ofdf'frthglbgvb,,,gdrdrdrdrdrdrdrdrcv,l; .e Clown, who is after a formula that appears to transmute metal into gold.  At the end of this adventure we learn that "Magno and Davey put all their spare money into War Bonds and Stamps -- Do you?"

Dr. Nemesis is really Dr. James Bradley, who dons a surgical mask and carries a hypodermic needle to fight crime.  As a skilled surgeon he knows where all the weak points of a body are.  His identity is kept secret, even from his fiance, the lovely nurse Mary Strong.  He appeared in twelve adventures from Ace Periodicals with this issue containing his last appearance.  In this issue Dr. Nemesis battles Japanese Agent X-2 as the evil oriental infects American soldiers with leprosy. This adventure ends with "If you can't give your blood to the Red Cross, the least you can do is buy War Bonds."   This Dr. Nemesis should not be confused with the much-later nemesis of Dr. Who.

Hap Hazard, the red-haired copy boy of the Daily Star, goes on a walk with his girlfriend Arabella and gets sprayed by a skunk, leading him to find two more skunks -- a pair of German spies.  Although not a superhero, Hap handles himself well in situations that are mostly his own fault.

Schoolboy Arthur Lake transformed into The Sword whenever he pulls Excalibur from the stone.  As The Sword he has the strength of "many times ten" men.  One of the neat things about this strip is that whenever Arthur draws Excalibur, his two best friends also transform into superheroes:  Lance Larter becomes The Lancer and Moe Lynn becomes Merlin.  Young Arthur keeps Excalibur hidden in a nearby place for when he needs to transform to battle Nazis and saboteurs.  His arch nemesis is Faye Morgana, head of Nazi operations in the U. S.  In this episode Faye Morgana is joined by bad guys The Goth and The Hun to stir up prejudice against foreign workers at a war factory.  (A completely different Sword from Golden Age comics was Olympic fencing champion Chic Carter in stories published by Quality Comics; Carter did not become the Sword until his 24th appearance in Smash Comics, after which he appeared in fifteen issues of National Comics and eighteen issues of Police Comics.  Quality Comics also had a different Merlin in the person of playboy Jack Kellog, who could cast spells when wearing the original Merlin's cloak.  He appeared in forty-five issues of National Comics, only to be killed in his first adventure for DC after Dc bought out Quality comics stable of characters.)

"The man who knows no fear" is known only as Mr. Risk, who has no powers beyond being a good fighter and a master of disguise.  He is usually accompanied by his faithful servant Abdul.  In a story that does not involve spies or enemy agents, Mr. Risk finds himself against an uncommon criminal, the blackmailing murderer The Cougar.  The Cougar's identity had been discovered by one of his victim's twin sons.  The Cougar -- not knowing which son saw him -- must kill one boy and goes after the other when Mr. Risk steps in.

Paul Revere, Jr., is the son of newspaper columnist Paul Revere, Sr.  Jr. and his friends of the america awake club, Pat Henry and Betsy Ross, stumble on a Nazi plot to sabotage a patriotic waste fat collection program.  (Waste fat can be used in the production of gunpowder to be used against the Axis.)  Jr., Pat, and Betsy spoil the German's plot and discover that the smallest things an ordinary citizen can do add up to a mighty weapon against tyranny.

After reading this issue, you will be wondering how in heck the Axis thought they could beat America.


Friday, May 17, 2019


She got off to a rough start.  Actually, the start was pretty good -- she was healthy, happy, and placid at birth -- but coming out of the gate...

She developed colic.  Not your run-of-the-mill colic, but the kind of colic that had all other colics bow down in fear and trepidation.  And it lasted forever.  Kitty and I would take turns trying to soothe her at night, with each of getting about four hours of sleep if we were lucky.  Kitty's mother told us we just did not know how to handle a colicky baby.  "Let me take her for one night.  I'll show you."  The next day she told us, "I was going to rock her to sleep, but I couldn't find a biog enough rock!"  The pediatricians told us she would grow out of it.  She didn't.  Finally one doctor wrote a prescription for cranky baby drops -- "She doesn't really need it but from the looks of you two, you do."  We were so far gone by the time we got them, we spilled over half the bottle over her.  But the cranky baby drops did the trick.  Within two days, she was sweet and loving and perfect.  Our Mr, Hyde has transformed into Dr. Jekyll.  It was like she was making up for the previous few months.

And she has been perfect ever since.

Up until she began school she was known as Christy.  One day early on (was it kindergarten or first grade?  I can't remember) she came home from school and told us her name was not Christy, it was Christina.  And it's been Christina ever since.  (She still retains the family nickname Bink, but everyone else knows her as Christina.)

She has always been a determined child, something that she has carried  into adulthood.  While attending George Washington University, she went with one of her roommates to check out the schools Taekwondo club; her roomie bailed after  couple of weeks but Christina stayed with it, eventually getting her black belt and becoming president of the club.  It wasn't easy going through the belts.  She would reach a plateau and keep practicing and practicing until suddenly she would leap to another plateau.  That cycle would repeat itself over and over until she became an inspiration for others.

One of her favorite past times was to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Monument with a friend and watch all the different types of people visiting there.  One day a limousine pulled up and a well-dressed man got out, followed by numerous secret service agents.  They asked a secret service agent who the man was and was told,"I can't tell you."  Christina and her friend thought they might be in midst of some big government secret but the agent then continued, "I can't tell you because he's some big politician from an Eastern European country and I can't pronounce his name."  So much for a big government secret.

One of her part-time jobs while in school was at a muffin shop in Crystal City.  At the end of the day there were always a number of muffins thrown out.  Christina would take those muffins and hand them out to the homeless on her way back to the dormitory.

She credits being able to finish school on A-1 Sauce.  You can pour that sucker on anything the school cafeteria dishes out and it becomes edible.

She majored in biology, a subject she loved, and had intended to become a doctor.  While at GW she met many doctors and most of them were unhappy.  Unhappiness was not in her game plan, so becoming a doctor was out.

After graduation she worked for a DC-area  ambulance service.  It was there she met Walt, the man she would marry.  It almost didn't happen because Walt had Greta, a massive rottweiler who scared Christina.  Greta turned out to be a sweetie and the best dog-ever-at-that-time and Christina loved her.  She and Walt later got another rottweiler, Athena, who was the best dog ever.  They also got Grace, a Great Dane, because they felt sorry for her.  Then they got Phantom, a nervous Australian cattle dog, who was skittish but sweet.  Then came Pirate, a Chesapeake Bay retriever who instantly became the best dog in the universe.  Then Acorn, another Chessie, and Duncan, an active little black ball of fur.  Most recently they acquired Happy, a sweet puppy whose name fits her to a tee.  I probably forgot a few dogs along the way.Currently they are down to the last three named.  But I haven't mentioned the goats, which had to be re-homed when they moved to Florida, or the monitor lizard, or the bearded dragon, or the ball pythons, or the turtle, or the hedgehogs, or the four cats -- Willow (now residing with us), Sage, Mint (who managed to sneak outside on day and vanished, probably at the paws of a bear or coyote **sniff**), and Sprout-the-best-kitten-in-the-world.   I mention all the animals because a love of animals and nature is an essential part of Christina.

Christina worked for a while as an assistant in a doctor's office, then moved on to be an emergency room assistant.  The ER doctors were grateful whenever Christina was on duty because they knew everything would run perfectly.  She would take everything in stride, even when the ER was quarantined because of an unknown hemorrhagic threat.  Seemingly cool under pressure, we described her a a duck, swimming smoothly on the surface while paddling like the dickens below the surface.  The thing I am proudest of her during those years was that Christina would sit with dying patients because of her belief that no one should die alone.

She then trained to become a cardio-stenographer, often spotting dangerous situations and keeping patients until a cardiologist could arrive.  For a while she also taught cardio-stenography at her alma mater, George Washington University.  After a few years, wheeling a five hundred pound machine from room to room became a strain on her back.

The transition to sign language interpreter was not an easy one but, as I said, Christina is determined.  She currently is a sign language interpret for a high school girl in the public school system.

In addition to the above, she and Walt run their own cold process soap making business which is becoming very successful -- Cove Lake Soapworks (good stuff, look them up on Etsy).

Christina's biggest accomplishment is her children.  Mark is finishing up his first year of college.  He is quiet and has a great sense of humor.  He also has Christina's determination.  He runs, and runs well.  In addition to many smaller races he has completed two marathons and is prepping for a third this fall.  Erin will be a high school senior in the fall.  If possible, she is a more avid animal lover than Mark.  As a junior she already has enough credits to graduate high school and will be taking more college courses in the fall while remaining a senior.  And Jack.  Jack, now six, is in his own category.  Christina and Walt began fostering him when he was six weeks, immediately after he was released from Children's Hospital after detoxing from the drugs his mother took while carrying him.  They legally adopted him a few years later.  As the newest and youngest Roof, Jack has flourished beyond expectations.  There are still some physical hurdles to navigate and the long-term effects of being a drug addicted newborn are not known.  Jack today, however, is sweet and smart and active.  He reads above his grade level and can dance up a storm.  The patience and guidance Christina has given each of her kids is remarkable.  

By the way, all of her kids are good-looking.  Mark is studiously handsome.  Erin is drop dead gorgeous.  And Jack has striking devil in his eyes good looks.  (Christina and Walt are also tres good-looking.)

The house...the family...the soap business...I don't know how Christina handles it all, but she does.  And does it well.  

That this caring, loving, determined, sweet woman is our daughter amazes us.  We are so proud of her, as we are proud of her sister who has many of the same qualities.  Can there be any doubt that we love her?  I thought not.

Monday, May 13, 2019


R.I.P., Doris.


Openers:   Spring around the Mideastern campus, especially during Easter vacation, is something the Army would invade with weasels, so on this fine Easter of 1949, as with every other year I've been on the Mideastern squad, we had borrowed, for two weeks, the facilities of little Grandon College, in Florida, a state even the Army couldn't spoil.

--  "Bye, Bye, Backfield" by "John Wade Farrell" (John D. MacDonald) (Fifteen Sports Stories, July, 1949)

Weasels?:  I was thrown by that phrase above, "something the Army would invade with weasels."  After a brief check I found that the M28 Weasel was a tracked vehicle (as a tank is tracked) introduced in World War II and designed to operate in snow.  Built by Studebaker, there were seven other types of Weasel beside the M28.  Weasels were also used by the Marines and by the English, French, and Canadian armies.  Because of their capabilities in snow and cold weather, 25 weasels were used in the VIII Winter Olympic Games in 1960 at Squaw Valley, California.

Thus, the Mideastern campus in John D. MacDonald's story was usually snowed in as late as Easter.

It is also nice to know that MacDonald, a resident of the state, felt that even the Army couldn't spoil Florida.  MacDonald evidently never heard of...

Florida Man!:   This one hit pretty close to home.  A 29-year-old Florida man, Erich Reitz,  was shot and killed by his father after he had stabbed both parents multiple times.  Both parents survived.  The incident happened a few streets from where we used to live.  The man was a former police officer in a town near where one of my daughters work.  A decorated former military veteran, he had been hired by the Niceville, Florida, Police Department in 2015 and had had three merit increases during his 2 1/2 years on the department.  He was fired early last year for being "unfit to perform the duties of a police officer" and that he "could no longer have access to a firearm," this following a medical report dated three days before Reitz was fired.  According to his termination letter, Reitz had violated the Florida Moral  Character Code (which means he had lied on his job application) and that he had admitted to providing false testimony during a military court marshal; exactly who was being court marshaled was not stated.  (Reitz received an honorable discharge from the Air Force.  While serving he had received "the Combat readiness Medal with two Oak Leave Clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign medal with one Service Star.")  According to the county sheriff, Reitz was terminated for 'psychological instability."  After being let go from the police department, Reitz worked as a customer service representative at the local Lowe's, where he could well have served me.  And then...

He was hired by the school department (!) as a paraprofessional and assistant wrestling coach at Gulf Breeze High School -- the same high school were my granddaughter Erin attends and where my grandson Mark had graduated last year.  Paraprofessionals in the Florida school system work with disadvantaged children on a one-on-one basis, provide tutoring, or help with classroom management.  Reitz had been a graduate of Gulf Breeze High School and had been on the wrestling team for four years.  A Niceville police officer who had work with Reitz provided a reference, saying that Rietz had been a detective in the department and that he had left the force "voluntarily."  The same reference letter said that Reitz "was one of the most dependable law enforcement officers I had worked with.  He followed instructions and completed assignments in a timely manner.  I felt safe when Erich Reitz was on shift with me."

The question remains, how did this guy get hired by a school department?  School officials would not give details on Reitz's hiring or on their screening process.  One would hope that the school district had contacted the Niceville Police Department, but -- if so -- what happened?  Someone clearly dropped the ball. Oops.

Don't Get Me Wrong:   I have sympathy for all involved.  I have no idea what happened to trigger the attack.  Nor do I know what the family dynamic was.  What I do know is that this was a guy in trouble, and a guy who did not get the help he needed.  I don't now if he sought help or if he even realized he needed help.

There are cracks not only in the hiring process the school district used, but in our society.  Mental health treatment is spottily available and (sadly) often ineffective.  We do not put a premium on caring for the more troubled and least of us.  Perhaps Reitz could not be helped but we do no know that.  I firmly believe that few people are incapable of being helped.

As a society, we have had a long history of dismissing others -- native Americans, immigrants, ethnic groups, those whose sexual makeup differs, those whose political positions differ...all types of people.  I see this disturbing pattern re-emerging and getting stronger as the current administration deliberately pushes the country into further polarization.  It's time for us to yield to our better nature.  It is time for u to remember that we are all co-passengers on spaceship Earth.

Pothole as Superhero:  Last month a Nebraska man suffering from super ventiricular tachycardia was being rushed to a hospital in Omaha.  Omaha has had a rough winter and  bad spring rsulting in what could politely be called a surfeit of potholes.  Over 7000 potholes were repaired between March 29 and April 4; another 6000 or so were patched a week later.

They missed one.

That was the one the ambulance hit -- jarringly.  In fact, it hit the pothole so hard the patient's heart rate was shocked back to normal.

Not a recommended medical procedure, but an effective one. And there's at least one Nebraska man who will never again complain about Omaha's potholes.

Two Goodbyes:  Peggy Lipton, who I remember so well from The Mod Squad (1968-1973), in which undercover cops Pete, Linc, and Julie managed to infiltrate a different school, organization, or business on weekly basis with ease.  Knowing what the job market was in those days, this amazed me.  I often wished I could have their job-getting superpowers.  Lipton went on to be a featured actress in Twin Peaks as Norma Jennings.  Lipton was married to Quincy Jones from 1974 to 1990; the couple and been separated for some four years before the divorce was finalized.  In 2017 she played the mother of the title character in Angie Tribeca, which starred her real-life daughter Rashida Jones as the title character.  I'll always remember Peggy Lipton as the super cool, super lovely hippie Julie Barnes of my youth.  Lipton was 72.

Doris Day died today at 97.  The singer and actress was an American fixture for decades, beginning as a big band singer with Les Brown and His Band of Renown, through a string of films from 1948 to 1968 -- mainly romantic comedies with such stars as Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, James Garner, Frank Sinatra, John Raitt, Clark Gable, Richard Widmark, Gordon MacRae, and Jack Lemmon.  In the early 1960s she was the screen's biggest female star.  She entered (unwillingly*) into series television with The Doris Day Show, which lasted for five seasons, from 1968 to 1973.

(Her son, Terry Melcher, was a singer and recording producer who had once auditioned charles Manson for a record deal, but decided not to sign him.  At the time Melcher was living in a house which was later leased to Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate.  It was rumored that Manson's "family" had gone to the house to kill Melcher and ended up killing a pregnant Tate and four others.  Although Manson evidently knew that Melcher no longer lived at the address, he ordered the murders to "instill fear into" Melcher.)

In later year she devoted herself to animal welfare, a cause that she had held dear since a teenager.

Today's Poem:
"Nature" Is What We See

"Nature" is what we see --
The Hill -- the Afternoon --
Squirrel -- Eclipse -- the Bumble bee --
Nay -- Nature is Heaven --
Nature is what we hear --
The Bobolink -- the Sea --
Thunder -- the Cricket --
Nay -- Nature is Harmony --
Nature is what we know --
Yet have no art to say --
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

-- Emily Dickinson

(posted in light of a U.N. report that a million species
 will soon become extinct due to mankind's actions)


* Her late husband had signed her to the series without her knowledge.  He had also left her broke though bad investments -- something she had been unaware of until his death.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Ray charles.


Thunder Mountain began as a ten-part serial in Collier's from October 22, to December 24, 1932.  It was first published in book form by Harper and Brothers in 1935.  The comic book adaptation was one of many of Zane Grey's best-selling westerns put out by Gold Key Comics in the decades after the author's death.

The three Emerson brothers (Sam, Jake, and Kal) came to the base of Thunder Mountain looking for gold because of a legend told them by an old Indian.  And strike gold they did -- a rich lode that could be worth millions.  Sam keeps guard on their claim while Jake heads to Boise to obtain financial backing for their operation and Kal goes to the nearby town of Salmon to purchase supplies.  In town, Kal comes to the rescue of a young lady being bothered by an over-demanding Cliff Bordon.  The young lady in question is Sydney Blair, who came west with her father looking for a new start.  Kal invites them to go with him back to Thunder Mountain.  When they get there, Kal discovers that a small community had sprung up in the few weeks he had been gone.  Word of their discovery had evidently got out.  Of his brother Sam, there is no trace and Kal is told that a man named Rand Leavitt had laid stake to the claim.

Thunder Mountain (both the novel and the comic book adaptation) is a classic tale of gold, greed, and vengeance.  Grey based his story on historical fact.  Yes, there is a Thunder Mountain, Idaho, and around 1894 three brothers, Lew, Ben, and Dan Caswell came there in search of gold.  Their adventures, as told to Grey by local guide Elmer Keith, formed the kernel of Grey's book.


Friday, May 10, 2019


Bascom Lamar Lunsford with a classic Appalachian tune.


The Vampire Affair  (The Man from U.N.C.L.E. #6) by David McDaniel  (1966)

Among the television shows that helped define the mid- to late-1960s* was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (105 episodes, 1964-1968), a camp and tres spy-guy show about a fictional international agency, the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. and two of its top agents, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

Exploiting the James Bond craze, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was created by Sam Rolfe and Norman Felton, with a minor assist from Bond's creator Ian Fleming.  (Felton had asked Fleming for some concepts for the show.  Fleming came up two:  the names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer -- Dancer became the lead character in the spin-off show The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.)  The show was originally going to be called Ian Fleming's Solo with the emphasis on the title character, but the character of Illya Kuryakin tested so well, he was given a co-starring role.  As the proposed title switched to the familiar one, Sam Rolfe felt that the acronym in the title should remain undefined, allowing viewers to assume the U.N. part stood for United Nations, but potential legal issues quashed that idea.

The New York headquarters for U.N.C.L.E. is hidden behind an nondescript tailor shop.  The head of this operation is Alexander Waverley (played by Leo G. Carroll), who sends Solo and Kuryakin (Robert Vaughan and David McCallum**) on assignments throughout the world, most often to defeat nefarious plots by enemy organization THRUSH***

The influence of the show is strong.  Not only were there films**** (eight of which were mash-ups of the television show), books, comic books, soundtrack albums, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine (and a related magazine featuring April Dancer), board games, action figures, lunch boxes, toy guns, and other tie-ins.  U.N.C.L.E. memorabilia is displayed at the Ronald Reagan, Library, C.I.A headquarters, and museums.  The show also spawned a number of sex-up book series with various spies from O.R.G.Y,  L.U.S.T., S.T.U.D, S.A.D.I.S.T.O. and other such organizations.  The show and its characters have been reference in television, films, and music many time since the 1960's.

David McDaniel (1939-1977) penned seven books in the paperback series, including the "unpublished" final book, fittingly called The Final Affair.*****  McDaniel also wrote a tie-in novel for television's The Prisoner and a stand-alone SF novel, The Arsenal Out of Time.  An active SF fan -- as can be seen by one of the characters he inserted in The Vampire Affair -- McDaniel was also known by his fan name "Ted Johnson."

The Vampire Affair  opens with a lone man running through the dark, fog-enshrouded Transylvania woods, being chased by a pack of something...dogs?  wolves?  what?  In his haste, he trips and injures his ankle.  He drags himself to the trunk of a large tree and, with his back to the tree, counts the bullets in the gun.  He must save the last bullet for himself... 

The man, we learn, is an U.N.C.L.E. agent.  His body has been found in the Transylvanian woods completely drained of blood.  Waverley fears someone is pulling a joke on his, or that there was a mistake in the coding of the message that reached New York.  He sends Napoleon and Illya overseas to find out what really happened.  In Romania, they rescue a man who had been set upon by a mob; the man turns out to be  Zoltan Dracula (Yes.  A descendant of that Dracula) whose family had once owed a large castle in Pokol, the small provincial town in Romania near where the body had been found.  Acting as their guide is the lovely Romanian U.N.C.L.E. agent Hilda Eclary, dressed as one would expect a hip young girl of the time would dress.

Napoleon and Illya head to where the body had been found.  With night closing around them, they cannot find there car.  Suddenly they are being followed by wolves, a pack of about twenty -- something unheard of outside of legends and horror films.  Running for theior lives they find a small empty cave where they can make a stand but they probably do not have enough bullets to kill the entire pack.  From behind them a dark figure appears and mysteriously bids the wolves to depart
and they do.  The man, calling the two agents by name, tells them where their car is and vanishes just as suddenly as he appeared.  Later, going through records, they recognize the man to be a centuries-old descendant of the Dracula family, and a man reputed to be a supernatural being.  There was no record of what had finally happened to this man.

Then, at night, Illya and Zoltan hear screams coming from the hotel's next room which had been given to Hilda Eclary.  Breaking down the door, they find the mysterious man bearing fangs and looming over Hilda's unconscious body.  Illya shoots the man pointblank to no avail.  It is only when two silver knives, crossed to form a crucifix, that the vision backs down and, leaping through a third-floor window, vanishes into the fog.

More wolves.  A labyrinth of dark tunnels under the old castle of Dracula, an ancient, freshly polished empty coffin placed in undisturbed dust.  More hints of the supernatural.  And an American tourist named Forrest J (no period) Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmdom and an expert on vampire lore.  I can't say McDaniel threw in everything but the kitchen sink, because he reserved that for a later novel.******

A fun read, just as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a fun show.

* Other influential television shows that followed were Batman, Dark Shadows, Star Trek, and Laugh-in.  The Sixties were a turbulent time of change and viewers needed to escape into a world far removed from reality.

** Now in his eighties, McCallum plays medical examiner Ducky in the series NCIS.  (Tony Dinozzo:  I wonder whay Ducky looked like when he was younger?  Leroy Jethro Gibbs:  Illya Kuyakin.)

*** In the television series, no one knew what the heck THRUSH stood for, or whether it was an acronym or not.  In one of his entries in the book series, David McDaniel noted the THRUSH stood for the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity -- a title certainly in keeping with the campiness of the television show.

**** The reunion movie Return of the Man deom U.N.C.L.E., filmed fifteen years after the show's close, featured a cameo by James Bond star George Latzenby as a famous spy known as "J.B." who drives an Aston Martin "just like On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

***** Ace editor Terry Carr had planned this, the 24th entry to be the capstone of the series.  McDaniel, however, was several months late in finishing the book and, by the time it was submitted, the television series had been cancelled.  The book was never professionally published but can be found online here:

****** The Rainbow Affair, which includes such characters as The Saint, John Steed, Emma Peel, Willie Garvin (right-hand man to Modesty Blaze), Tommy Hambledon (ace spy created by Manning Cole), Father Brown, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Fu Manchu, and Neddie Seagoon (a character from The Goon Show).

For the curious:
Here are the Ace paperbacks in the series:

#1  The Thousand Coffins Affair by Michael Avallone
#2  The Doomsday Affair by Harry Whittington
#3  The Copenhagen Affair by "John Oram" (John Oram Thomas)
#4  The Dagger Affair by David McDaniel
#5  The Mad Scientist Affair by John T. Phillifent
#6  The Vampire Affair by David McDaniel
#7  The Radioactive Camel Affair by Peter Leslie
#8  The Monster Wheel Affair by David McDaniel
#9  The Diving Dames Affair by Peter Leslie
#10  The Assassination Affair by J. Hunter Holly
#11  The Invisibility Affair by "Thomas Stratton" (Buck Coulson amnd Gene deWeese)
#12  The Mind Twisters Affair by "Thomas Stratton"
#13  The Rainbow Affair by David McDaniel
#14  The Cross of God Affair by "Fredric Davies" (Ron Ellik and Fredric Langley)
#15  The Utopia Affair by David McDaniel
#16  The Splintered Sunglasses Affair by Peter Leslie
#17  The Hollow Crown Affair by David McDaniel
#18  The Unfair Fare Affair by Peter Leslie
#19  The Power Cube Affair by John T. Phillifent
#20  The Corfu Affair by John T. Phillifent
#21  The Thinking Machine Affair by Joel Bernard
#22  The Stone Cold Dead in the Market Affair by John Oram
#23  The Finger in the Sky Affair by Peter Leslie
#24  The Final Affair by David McDaniel (unpublished but available; see footnote above)

Still curious?:
Three YA novels were published by Whitman:

The Affair of the Gunrunner's Gold by Brandon Keith
The Affair of Gentle Saboteur by Brandon Keith
The Calcutta Affair by George S. Elrick

And a juvenile storybook was published by Wonder Books:
The Coin of Diablo Affair by Walter B. Gibson

More curious?  Geez, can't you get enough?:
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Magazine published 24 issues, each with a lead "'novel" credited to house pseudonym "Robert Hart Davis":

"The Howling Teenagers Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, February 1966)
"The Beauty and the Beast Affair" (by Harry Whittington, March 1966)
"The Unspeakable Affair " (by Dennis Lynds, April 1966)
"The World's End Affair" (by John Jakes, May 1966)
"The Vanishing Act Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, June 1966)
"The Ghost Riders Affair" (by Harry Whittington, July 1966)
"The Cat and Mouse Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, August 1966)
"The Brainwash Affair" (by Harry Whittington, September 1966)
"The Moby Dick Affair" (by John Jakes, October 1966)
"The Thrush from THRUSH Affair" (by Harry Whittington, November 1966)
"The Goliath Affair" (by John Jakes, December 1966)
"The Light-Kill Affair (by Harry Whittington, January 1967)
"The Deadly Dark Affair" (by John Jakes, February 1967)
"The Hungry World Affair" (by Talmage Powell, March 1967)
"The Dolls of Death Affair" (by John Jakes, April 1967)
"The Synthetic Storm Affair" (by I. G. Edmonds, May 1967)
"The Ugly Man Affair" (by John Jakes, June 1967)
"The Electronic Frankenstein Affair" (by Frank Belknap Long, July 1967)
"The Genghis Khan Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, August 1967)
"The Man from Yesterday Affair" (by John Jakes, September 1967)
"The Mind-Sweeper Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, October 1967)
"The Volcano Box Affair" (by Richard Curtis, November 1967)
"The Pillars of Salt Affair" (by Bill Pronzini, December 1967)
"The Million monsters Affair" (by I. G. Edmonds, January 1968)

I sure hope you're no longer curious, because I am not going to list The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. books and stories!