The Captain and Tennille.
The Magigals Mystery by "Maxwell Grant" (Walter B. Gibson), 1949
Chicago may have been the town Billy sunday couldn't put down but can it stand up to The Shadow?
After reading a Shadow adventure for last week's Forgotten Book (The Freak Show Murders, which see), I decide to continue with a couple more. The Magigals Mystery takes near the very end of The Shadow magazines run -- this one is from issue #323 (Winter 1949) and there would be only two additional issues before the pulp closed. Talk about going pout on a high note. This one is the best adventure of The Shadow that I have read, a story written with enthusiasm and love. The reason? The background is the world of magicians and magic, a world that encompasses the author's greatest interest.
Gibson was a professional magician and a magic junkie. He was a friend, a co-author, and a ghostwriter for many of the most famous magicians of the Twentieth century -- Houdini, Thurston, Raymond, Blackstone, and Dunniger. Gibson received a literary fellowship from the Academy of Magical Arts in 1971 and was inducted into the Magicians' Hall of Fame in 1976. In 1979 he was awarded the Academy of Magical Arts' Masters Fellowship.
Gibson became interested in magic when he was nine years old and had a solo magic act when he was in high school and lter when he was on college at Colgate. While in college he began writing tricks for different magic magazines. The year before he graduated, Gibson joined the Society of American Magicians; his membership cared (#586) was signed by then-president Harry Houdini, who later became a good friend. The year after he graduated, Gibson published his first book, After Dinner Tricks; he would go on to write more than a hundred books on magic and related subjects. The book led to a gig performing magic tricks on radio station WIP in Philadelphia -- something not as easy as it may sound. In 1925, he opened a short-lived magic shop in Philly. He toured with noted magicians and continued producing books, articles, and publicity about the world of magic and its practitioners. He introduced the Chinese Linking Rings trick to America and created the well-known Nickles to Dimes trick. He also began writing fiction.
Gibson was approached to create stories about a mysterious radio character known as The Shadow. At the time The Shadow was used only to introduce episodes of The Detective Story Hour, tales based on stories that had appeared in the Street and Smith magazine. Soon, people began asking for "that Shadow magazine" at newstands with such regularity that the publisher decided to create one. Gibson's pen name came from the last names of two dealers in magical paraphernalia; the name Cranston -- soon to become The Shadow's best-known alter ego alter ego -- came from the name of a theater owner in Scotland, which Gibson had found while going through Houdini's notes. Gibson had churned out the first four Shadow adventures when he was called by Thurston to go to Bermuda for three weeks to handle publicity for a tour -- the fifth Shadow adventure was written in whatever spare time Gibson could take away from those duties.
Gibson loved to include magic in his stories and he made sure that any escape trick or magical trick that The Shadow did was as authentic as possible. Many professional tricks made their way into The Shadow saga. In at least one case, a trick that Gibson had created (the Tire Trick) for one of his stories was adapted and used by Blackstone and became a cornerstone of his act -- a trick still performed by Blackstone, Jr.
So, what about The Magigals Mystery? The "Magigals" were a loose-based national group of female magicians who decided to throw a convention in Chicago. Underestimating their own popularity, over 500 Magigals showed up for the convention to find there weren't enough hotel rooms to hold them all. The women decided to drive out the staid guests at the Hotel Harbison with magic pranks. Collapsing skeletons, room lights magically going on and off at odd hours, floating electric light bulbs, an invasion of rabbits and doves in the corridors and elevators, and phone calls from quacking ducks were enough to do the trick, and as each guest left, a Magigal was their to take his room. One guest who did not leave was Lamont Cranston, who had been foisted upon the Chicago police at the request of Cranston's friend, New York City Police Commissioner Weston. Chicago had had eight suicides in the past three days, all committed in different ways, but all involving men from out of town -- unrelated, well-to-do, apparently healthy men with no discernable reason to take their own lives -- and all evidence pointed to these deaths being actual suicided. The evening Cranston arrived, there was a ninth suicide.
The Chicago police were firmly convinced that all deaths were suicides. There was no motive and no commonality between the victims...nothing that could point to murder. Until Cranston discovered that each man was an amateur magician.
Back to the Magigals and the Hotel Harbison. A shop in the store displayed a crystal skull. Perfectly see-through and made of a hard substance, the skull had the ability to move itself back and forth. Although their appeared no mechanical device attaching the jaw to the skull, the skull could count; when one held fingers in front of its garnet-embedded eyes, the jaw would open and close, clicking the exact number of times as the fingers held before it. The skull had been recently sold to an unnamed buyer and awaited delivery. Many of the Magigals were fascinated by the skull until attention was diverted by a famous and very handsome Hollywood magician named John Halifax. Soon, all the women were swooning over Halifax, who had come to speak at the convention. All women save one: Verity Joyce, whose attention remained steadfast on the crystal skull.
Later that day, The Shadow discovers that the skull had been stolen. He also discovers that "Verity Joyce" does not exist -- she is really Gail Tyburn, the estranged wife of local millionaire and bigwig Lester Tyburn. Tyburn has allowed his wife to use his estate to hold a large charity event. Although his estate is outside city limits, he wants Police Inspector Rick Smedley to provide extra protection. The recent suicides had all been very public and Tyburn is afraid that someone will decide to off himself at the function and bring bad publicity to the charity. Did I mention that Tyburn has not seen his wife for several days?
In the meantime, Cranston, an amateur magician himself, takes some time off to visit Chicago's Magicians' Round Table, a regular gathering of professional and amateur magicians at a local restaurant -- a place for the men and women (but no women today; they're all at the Magigals convention) to talk about their trade and its lore. Cranston is introduced to those present (many of them real-life personalities). There is Chick Schoke, Dorny Dornfield, Monk Watson, Larry Acuri, Doc Tarbell. Milbourne Christopher, Theo "Okito" Bamberg, Al Plough (editor of The Linking Ring), Walt Gibson (who was editor of Conjurors) -- yeah, Gibson threw himself into the crowd, Bill Sachs (magic columnist for Billboard), Rufus Steele (an expert on gambling devices), Johnny Platt, and Dai Vernon. John Mulholland, editor of Sphinx, was running late. (Try to guess how many are real people and colleagues of Gibson.) Cranston proceeded to woe these magicians with paraphernalia found amongst the suicide victims -- one of a kind items that were most likely created by the reclusive and "untraceable" magician Professor Sedley Marsh.
The so-called suicides, the eerie crystal skull, the Magigals, the non-existent Verity Joyce, the mysterious Professor, the Hollywood magician, a gang of ruthless killers, and magic, magic, magic! How does this all come together? That's for the Shadow to know and you to find out.
A truly fun outing. Alongside the mystery, danger, and outrageous plot plot, you can almost feel Gibson'd joy as he typed out this adventure.
We are fine. Unscathed, even. Well a piece of debris hit an outside faucet, breaking the handle and, in doing so, turned on the water. I'm not sure how long it had been running before I found it and turned it off; I'll probably find out when the water bill comes in. We lost neither our electrical power or our internet.
Christina had four window shutters torn off and an uncounted number of roof shingles. she may need a completely new roof. Water leaked down from the ceiling into Erin's bedroom. Water also came in through some of the front windows. Her back yard was flooded. Trees came down in her neighborhood but her property was saved from that. She lost her power for a while and the freezer in her garage blew something -- some food may have been lost. She has no internet at the house but can access it on her phone.
In Pensacola, Jessie's neighborhood was completely blocked off by fallen trees and two large trees from neighboring properties fell into her back yard. She lost power yesterday and has not gotten it back yet, so a lot of food will be ruined. For some reason her cell phone is not working, although Amy's is. Her neighborhood had some fallen trees and some mailboxes took to the air, but there was no major damage to life, limb, or property.
Areas of Pensacola -- including the downtown are -- were flooded. It will be a while before there are full damage estimates. The Pensacola Bay Bridge (a.k.a. The Three-Mile Bridge) from Pensacola to Gulf Breeze is closed. A section of it is now missing. This is a new bridge; the first half opened this spring and is temporarily used for traffic going both ways while the other half of the project is under construction. I have heard that up to eight barges broke loose and slammed into the bridge. At least one crane toppled onto the bridge and drone footage shows some small chunks missing from the side of the bridge. This bridge was the only direct access we had to Pensacola.
In the 1981 film version of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun, Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith enter into a singing catfight, in which Daphne Castle (Smith) tries to ruin Alena Stuart Marshall's (Rigg) rendition of this Cole Porter classic.
A lovely and entertaining piece of film with two great actors.
Rest in peace, Diana Rigg.
I don't know if the groundhog saw his shadow in 1949, but he may have listened to this program on .
Jewel thief and safecracker Boston Blackie was created in "The Price of Principle" (The American Magazine, July 1914), the first of twenty-three short stories by Jack Boyle (19228-1928) that were continued to 1920; the first four stories in the series were published as by "No. 6066." While working as a newspaper reporter, Boyle became addicted to cocaine and began a slide into crime. He was jailed for writing bad checks, then imprisoned for robbery at San Quentin, where he began writing his Boston Blackie stories. Five years after his release, he cannibalized some of the stories to produce his lone novel about the character, Boston Blackie.
Boston Blackie became a detective for the movies, radio, and television. From 1918 through 1949 there were twenty-five Boston Blackie movies released, the most popular being those starring Chester Morris, beginning in 1941.
Morris then took the character to radio in 1944 as a summer replacement for Amos 'n' Andy. The show was revived in 1945 for syndication to the Mutual and other networks with Richard Lollmer in the title role. More than 200 episodes were produced before the program ended in 1950.
From 1951 to 1953, Boston Blackie became a syndicated television show with Kent Taylor as Blackie.
In this episode, Mary Wesley (Jan Miner) asks Blackie to get her cousin's song published. As you can glean from the title, things go wrong.
In honor of a certain storm.
And this is what we've been going through:
September 11 Openers: On an otherwise ordinary evening in May, a week before his twenty-ninth birthday, Jonathan Hughes met his fate, coming from another time, another year, another life.
His fate was unrecognizable at first, of course, and boarded the train at the same hour, in Pennsylvania Station, and sat with Hughes for the dinnertime journey across Long Island. It was the newspaper held by his fate disguised as an older man that caused Jonathan Hughes to stare and finally say:
"Sir, pardon me, your New York Times seems different from mine. The typeface on you front page seems more modern. Is that a later edition?"
-- Ray Bradbury, "A Touch of Petulance" (first published in Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, 1980)
Early in career, the legendary writer broke into the crime genre with a number of stories for the detective pulps, such as Detective Tales, Dime Mystery, and Detective Book Magazine. Often overshadowed by his early fantasy and science fiction stories, these efforts have mainly laid undiscovered, some appearing on occasion in various collections of his work, others languishing. In 1984, Dell issued a slim paperback containing fifteen of these early tales, a Memory of Murder; that book has never been reprinted in English.
Now, Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai, Bradbury literary agent Michael Congdon, and Jonathan R. Eller, the director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University's School of Liberal Arts to select twenty of Bradbury's best crime and suspense stories, from his early pulp days to his later tales of the 1950s and 1960s. The result: A major new collection, Killer, Come Back to Me, issued this August from Hard Case Crime.
Understand that for the Bradbury fanatic, most of these stories have appeared over the years in Bradbury collections. Six of them. plus Bradbury's introduction (presented here as an afterward), appeared in A Memory of Murder. A (very) few have not appeared before in a Bradbury collection. But...
They are here! In one glorious collection! Kaloo! Kalay!
To my mind, Bradbury's early stories have a raw strength about them. There is nothing sentimental here, just a series of hard punches to the gut. His later stories -- more evocative, more sensitive -- can often be just a little bit too sacarrine, or twee, for me. But Bradbury in this collection? He is a master, a genius, just beginning to feel his way through the literary landscape. In these tales you can see that he is a force to be reckoned with.
A vexing case in the annals of murder, the "Green Bicycle" affair may be a case when the culprit got awat with murder.
Twenty-one-year old Bella Wright, a girl of "good looks and of good character," was bicycling to her uncle's home in Gauby. Bella Wright often bicycled that summer around the villages in the area to run errands or to call on friends and acquaintances, as well as bicycling to her work on the late shift at a rubber factory. On the way to see her uncle she met Ronald Light, who was also bicycling and asked him if he had a spanner so she could tighten a loose bolt on her bicycle. Light reportedly did what he could and offered to bicycle with her to her uncle's house. While he waited outside, she told her uncle that she had just met him and that he seemed to pose no threat. The uncle had a natural dislike to the man, but did not know his name, only the he rode a green bicycle.
Bella's body was found half an hour after she had left her uncle's home. Bloodied, lying beside her bicycle, and shot at least once under the left eye. A call went out to identified the man on the green bicycle. No one came forward. In November of that year, a coal barge happened to snag the frame of a green bicycle. The area was dredged and other pieces of the bicycle were found. The serial numbers had been filed off the frame and the seat but a faint number was found on the inside of the fork. This led to Light, who was arrested on March 4, 1920, at Dean Close School in Chettenham, where he had been hired as a mathematics teacher two months before.
Light's background was questionable, to say the least. At the age of 17 he had been expelled from school for lifting a girl's dress over her head. He also tried to seduce a 15-year-old girl and admitted to indulging in improper conduct with an 8-year-old girl. At age 28 he was fired from a job as draftsman for setting fire to a cabinet and for drawing indecent graffiti in a bathroom. Later, he was fired from a firm for setting fire to the haystacks. In 1915 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers; a bit over a year later he resigned his commision "at the request of a superior officer." He then became a gunner in the Royal Artillery and was court-marshalled in 1917 for forging orders. Light was demobbed in 1919, officially suffering from shell shock and a deaf ear, and was sent home to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Light's background, the fact that he was seen with Bella Wright a half hour before her body was found, and the fact that he did not come forward, even after admitting he read about the murder in the nespaper a few days after the body was discovered, all combined to make him appear guilty. Oh, and he also dismantled his distinctive-looking bicycle, sanded off the serial numbers, and threw the parts and his empty holster and ammunition into a canal.
After a highly publicized trial Light was found not guilty, mainly because of his attorney's assertion that there was no motive. Criminologist and students of true crime are divided on this case. H. R. Wakefield, in his 1930 book The Green Bicycle Case argued that Light was innocent. In 1993's The Green Bicycle Murder, author Christine Wendy East argued that Light was guilty and that the contemporary class structure had helped his release. (Light was from a wealthy family and Wright was the first of seven born to an illiterate agricultural worker.) Others wondered if the death was the result of an accident, a bullet going off while Light was showing the girl his gun, perhaps. Three days after Light was acquitted, the Leicester Superintendent of Police wrote a note claiming that Light had confessed to Wright's accidental death; the validity of this not has been questioned.
So. Did he do it? Did he get away with murder? That seems to be the opinion of the piece below:
"Patrick Kelly was originally an ace fighter pilot in World War II who fought in the Pacific Theater under General Stilwell, as a member of the Avenger Corps. He was from Brooklyn. He was later transported to the future, where he explored the galaxy and continued to defend freedom as a rocket pilot. He was called to another planet where he became the Keeper of the Flame of Democracy, the flame being a mystic energy felt by the free people of the universe. Kelly was accompanied in his adventures by his World War II gunner Punchy (originally called Wacky) who was a former Brooklyn cab driver, and a beautiful nurse named Sue Andrews (she was later replaced by a girl name Diana). Kelly's enemies included Indus, Vengo and Diablo, who was determined to extinguish the Flame of Democracy." [pdsh.fandom.com]
Rocket Kelly first appeared in The Bounce #10 (dated Fall, 1944, but published in 1945), first with a two-page intro, "It Happened to Me," in which Kelly is fighting a number of Japanese (that's not the word they used) planes and outflying and outsmarting them all. The next page begins the first full Rocket Kelly story, "Atom World of Selura." He's now in the the future -- no explanation given -- piloting a rocket ship with Wacky, Sue Andrews, and the dwarf Sibio aboard. Rocket Kelley appeared in five issues of The Bouncer and at least one issue of Everybody's Comics before starring in his own title; perhaps some of the back story was revealed there. Perhaps not.
Kelly was created and drawn by Ted Small. Who or what was Ted Small? Dunno. A brief jaunt through the internet revealed nothing. If anyone has any information, please let me know.
Issue #1 features two Rocket Kelly stories. The first, "When Mountains Trembled," has Rocket and the crew back on Earth and somewhat in the present. Don't ask, 'cuz they didn't tell. Rocket's father is concerned because he has not heard from his eccentric inventor friend Professor Maynor, whose laboratory is located on top of Bleak Mountain somewhere in Asia. Flying to Bleak Muntai, Rocket and pals discover the Professor's body, guarded by his distraught pet ape. Maynor has been shot and his scientific instruments have been smashed! Punchy takes some photographs and discovers the last thing Maynor saw -- recorded on his retina! (Yeah. Evidently that was still a thing back in 1945.) It's the image of Nihil, a villain who had supposedly die in an escape attempt after being convicted by the World Court of crimes against humanity! Rocket soon locates Nihil's "Fortress of Treachery," where he, Sue, and Punchy are captured. Can they stop Nihil's evil plan to destroy the world? Well, can they?
In "The Vengeance of Vengo," time has become topsy-turvy and the people of Earth are beginning to age rapidly -- including Rocket, Sue, and Punchy! Turns out this is a plot by Vengo -- another villain presumed dead after escaping prosecution for murders caused by his time experiments. Can an aged Rocket and gang find Vengo, stop his evil plans, and somehow inoculate the entire planet before it is too late? Well, can they?
Also in this issue: A tale of Illuso, the world's greatest magician who has been given magical powers by a Tibetian lama. with the understanding that Illuso will use these powers for the benefit of mankind. Here, Illuso investigates the disappearance of a policeman who has been accused of robbing a warehouse. The villains are really fingers Crowell and his gang, who are holding the policeman prisoner. Magical powers and illusions (a la Mandrake, without Lothar) save the day.
And, in "Forty-five Feet of Murder,"star reporter Betty Boyd meets up with the world's largest python, now accused of killing the curator of the local zoo. Well, the python is innocent and it's the bad guys, including a punch-drunk ex-fighter, who try to throw Betty into the alligator pit. They should have known better than to have gone against a plucky young girl reporter!
The issue ends with a one-page "Minit Mystery" featuring Inspector Trent. The (sorta) obvious solution is revealed in the last panel, which is printed upside down.
Rocket Kelly, both as a comic book and as a character, did not last long. Wonder why?
Give it a whirl.
The Shadow #279: The Freak Show Murders by "Maxwell Grant" (Walter B. Gibson) [The Shadow, May 1, 1944]
Sherlock Holmes once said, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the basis of a pulp story about The Shadow." That may not be an exact quote.
This is a late season adventure of The Shadow; The Shadow magazine would close with issue #325 after limping along as a quarterly for its last four issues. No longer is The Shadow Kent Allard, the name used in the earlier Shadow novels; he has now adopted the name of Lamont Cranston, meshing with the radio series character. Cranston is a name borrowed from the real Cranston, who is travelling the world. Also merging with the radio series is the character of Margo Lane, the wealthy socialite who is the girlfriend/companion of The Shadow. As with the radio show, The Shadow is able to cloud men's minds, giving him the ability to move in shadows and to have the darkness follow him somehow.
The Freak Show Murders with Steve Kilroy, a representative of Associated Metallurgy, meeting with Milton Treft one night in Treft's manor home. Treft has the formula for alumite, a miraculous lightweight metal with superlative strength. The true inventor of alumite was Abner Pettigrew, now deceased. Before he died, Pettigrew used all of the metal he had created to make a dozen life-sized statues, each representing an hour on the clock. The statues, while appearing made with a hefty bronze, actually only weighed about twelve pounds apiece but were strong enough to withstand bullets. With the formula and the twelve statues, no one would be able to dispute the claim of ownership. The statues had been divvied up between Treft and his three co-investors. Before Steve could close the deal with Treft, a man in a harlequin costume appeared and shot Treft in the heart.
In the fight that ensued, Steve ended up with the assailant's gun, but the Harlequin manged to escape with the formula and the names of the co-investors. Before Kilroy could give chase, Treft's bodyguards had burst into the room and tackled Steve, believing he was the murderer. Steve managed to get away but was chased through the woods by the armed bodyguards. Coming across a railroad track, Steve jumped on a train carrying The Sorber Greater Shows, a travelling carnival. Steve hires on as a roughneck, hoping that the Harlequin, because of his costume, was a member of the carnival and that Steve would be able to identify him.
Enter The Shadow. As a shareholder in Associated Metallurgy, Cranston does not believe that Steve is the killer authorities make him out to be. There must be "an unknown factor in the case." Cranston also knew about the carnival travelling nearby and deducted that Steve was hiding out there. The Shadow enlists Margo Lane and off they go a-carnivaling.
The carnival, run by Pop Sorber, is having difficulties. Circumstances forced the carnival to forgo a profitable local stop and its advance man set up a number of other stops to make up for it. The new stops were very small communities and very much out of the normal circuit the carnival took. One main event of the carnival was its freak show, advertising ten -- count 'em, ten -- freaks. Sadly, Sober has only five freaks and hopes the rubes don't notice. Margo Lane shows up and is hired to portray two freaks -- the Spiderwoman and the mermaid. Steve is promoted from roughneck to portraying Atlas the Wild Man. Another roustabout is drafted to portray Nicco the Cigarette Fiend. Soon Sorber has his ten freaks, including a sword swallower. a snake queen, a knife thrower, a tattooed man, an electrical wizard, and Damon and Pythias, the Inseparable Twins (or Siamese twins). On of them must be the Harlequin. Why? Well, why not.
Steve joins up with Margo and The Shadow to find the Harlequin. The carnival's new route takes them to towns where the Treft's other co-investors live. In a drawn-out cavalcade of comic errors, The Shadow and the Harlequin battle, but luck is on the Harlequin's side and not The Shadow's. The cold-hearted villain leaves a trail of bodies behind him as he amasses the life size statues, but where can he hide the loot? And who is he? The answers are fairly obvious to the reader by some heavy-handed misdirection.
The plotting may be clunky but Gibson reliably provides fast-moving action and a realistic carnival,background -- the author had toured as a magician with a travelling carnival, so the language and the feel of the carnival are authentic.
The novel has been reprinted twice, once in a volume from Doubleday in 1978 and once in an omnibus volume (#149) from Sanctum Books earlier this year.
For Shadow fans, pulp hero fans, old farts like me, and anyone who wants to spend a quiet evening at home lost in a world some seven-and-a-half decades gone.
For much of it's life on the radio X Minus One aired stories from Galaxy Science Fiction magazine. This one comes from a story by "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins), one-time "Dean of Science Fiction," was was first published in Galaxy's September 1951 issue.
"They've got a queer sort of evolution hereon Moklin. Babies here inherit desired characteristics. Not acquired characteristics, desired ones."
Ralph Camargo, Stan Early, Helen Gerald. Dick Janaver, Joseph Julian, John Marley, Karl Weber, and Patricia Weil were the featured actors, while Kenneth Banghart was the announcer. The episode was directed by Daniel Sutter. Ernest Kinoy adapted Leinster's story for this episode.
Tim Buckley (1947-1975) with "Sweet Surrender."
His son Jeff (1966-1997) with "Grace."
In a twist on Arsenic and Old Lace, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre try to create superhuman zombies from hapless traveling salesmen for the war effort. Their failures are buried in the cellar of an old colonial inn. Wackiness ensues, with a bizarre cast of characters thrown in to add to the humor.
Former boxer Maxie Rosenbloom, Larry Parks, and (Miss) Jeff Donnell co-star.
A minor horror/comedy that actually entertains. Worth a look.
Openers: Nekonkh, captain of the Nile boat Silver Beetle, paused for the fiftieth time beside his vessel's high beaked prow and shaded his eyes to peer anxiously across the wharfs.
The city that rose beyond them shimmered, almost drained of color, in the glare of Egyptian noon. Doorways were blue-black in white buildings, alleys were plunged in shadow; the gay colors of the sais and hulls that crowded the harbor seemed faded and indistinct, and even the green of the Nile was overlaid by a binding surface glitter. Only the sky was vivid, curving in a high blue arch over ancient Menfe.
The wharf itself seethed with activity. Sweating porters hurried in and out among groups of merchants haggling over stocks of cargo yet to be loaded; sailors, both foreign and Egyptian, swarmed everywhere, talking in a babble of tongues. A donkey drover pushed through a cluster of pale-faced traders in the fringed garments of Babel laid wagers on a dogfight at one end of the wharf, while a ring of yelling urchins surrounded a cage of monkeys at the other. Over all rose the rank smell of the river -- an odor compounded of fish, mud, water-soaked rope, pitch and crocodiles.
-- Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Mara, Daughter of the Nile (1953)
From the blurb in the Puffin edition: "Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom. But her escape from her cruel master only places her at the mercy of not one, but two rival masters who each support contenders to the throne of Egypt -- and who would kill Mara instantly if they suspected her role as double spy. although distrustful of both at first, Mara begins to believe in one of them, Sheftu, and his plan to restore Thutmose III to the throne. And as her belief grows stronger, Mara finds herself, against her will, falling in love with him. But before she can reveal that love and pledge her aid to Sheftu, her duplicity is discovered, and a battle ensues in which both Mara' life and the fate of Egypt are at stake."
Wow! Danger, romance, political intrigue, a mysterious far-off locale, and adventure, all with a plucky young heroine! No wonder this was one of my wife's favorite books when she was young. She was probably in junior high school when she first read Mara, Daughter of the Nile about the same time that she was discovering Mickey Spillane, Michael Shayne, and Agatha Christie -- this was when she almost gave up on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd about a third of the way in; she had figured out who the murderer was, how the crime was done, and the motive. (My wife is very smart, you see.) Anyway, she loved this book so, early in our marriage I found a hardcover copy for her and she loved me for it. Over the years, that copy probably went walkabout, or was buried in one of a zillion storage boxes, so last week I picked up a paperback copy for her and she still loves me. (What a gal!)
McGraw (1915-2000) was a popular children's and young adult author. She won the Newbery Honor three times over three decades: Moccasin Trail (1952), The Golden Goblet (1962), and "The Moorchild" (1997). Her 1977 book, A Really Weird Summer, won the edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. McGraw also wrote two Oz books (Merry Go Round in Oz,1963, and
The Forbidden Fountain of Oz ,1980, both credited to herself an her daughter, Laura Lynn McGraw, although all writing was done by Eloise; a third Oz book, The Rundlestone of Oz, 2000, was credited to Eloise alone), as well as assisting in the editing of Gina Wickwar's The Hidden Prince of Oz (2000). McGraw wote at least fourteen other books including historical novels, including Greensleeves (1968), The Seventeenth Swap (1986), and The Striped Ships (1991). For her final novel, McGraw returned to ancient Egypt for Pharoah (1998), her only adult novel.
There are a lot of young adult authors who provide satisfying reading for adults. Eloise Jarvis McGraw is one of those.
Check her out.
From 1982, three of the greatest writers of science fiction (all sadly gone now) are interviewed by Studs Terkel and Calvin Trillin on the Alpha Repertory Television Service, the precursor to the Arts and Entertainment Network.
Intelligent talk. Intelligent people. Good stuff.
One of the holy grails for collectors of paperback books is Mansion of Evil by Joseph Millard (Gold Medal #129, 1950). one of the first (if not the first) full color graphic novels issued by a paperback publisher. A quick check shows that four copies are currently available on Abebooks, ranging in price from $100 to $350.
Six days ago, this rare book was made available on that wonderful site Comic Book Plus, having been uploaded by "Cimmerian32."
The artist is not identified, but comparisons have been made to the old EC Comics.
Bill Crider posted about this book on May 22, 1977: "Maxwell Haimes, a famous artist, happens to see Beth, who's a double for the wife her recently murdered. Haimes believes that if Beth has an 'accident,' he can cover up the murder. So he kidnaps her and takes her to the Mansion of Evil. After that it's a race against time for Beth's fiance and the cops. Can they save her? sure.
"Along the way we're treated to a portrait of Laura (the dead wife), which of course shows the dead woman's startling resemblance to Beth. (Where do these writers get these ideas?) We see the secret room in the basement where Laura is buried. We get car wrecks and near escapes. It's not V for Vendetta, that's for sure, but it's kind of fun in a dated way. I even like the art.
"After looking this one up on abebooks.com, I can't recommend that you check it out. Way too pricey."
Well, it's not pricey here, so check it out.
Joseph Millard (1908-1989) wrote in a number of fields, mainly westerns, although he also published pulp mystery, science fiction, aviation, and men's adventure stories. He wrote books 2-8 in the tie-in series featuring Clint Eastwood's character from A Fistful of Dollars, as well as tie-ins to the movies Cahill: U.S. Marshall and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, as well as one tie-in from the Hec Ramsey television series. His rather mundane science fiction novel The Gods Hate Kansas was filmed as They Came from Beyond Space; the movie was actually worse than the book. He also wrote as Ray Lunt, Aaron Peabody, and N. J. Westwood.
Nebula Award Stories Eleven, edited by Ursula Le Guin (1977)
Just a bit of explanation: The Nebula Awards are presented annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America and are voted on by its membership. It is one of the two major annual awards in science fiction, the other being the Hugo Award, voted on by registered attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention. (There is a third, lesser-known but still cherished award -- The Jerry, which is given freely to anyone who supplies me with donuts and/or pizza. Play your cards right and you, too, may receive a coveted Jerry.) Now, on to the review.
1975 was a banner year for science fiction.
Joe Haldeman's classic war novel The Forever War won the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. (Other contenders were The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, and The Female Man by Joanna Russ -- heady competition indeed.) It also win the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1976. The book details the centuries-spanning interstellar war between Earth against the enigmatic Tauran civilization. For this anthology, LeGuin has chosen "End Game," a section of the novel first published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, January 1975.
Roger Zelazny won the Best Novella Award (and the Hugo Award) for "Home Is the Hangman" (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, November 1975). A sentient space-exploring robot, previously thought lost, has returned to Earth and one of its original designers has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Is there a link? (Other stories nominated that year were "The Storms of Windhaven" by Lisa Tuttle and George R. R, Martin, "A Momentary Taste of Being" by "James Tiptree, Jr.", and "Sunrise West" by William K. Carlson.)
Tom Reamy, a blazing talent who died much too young, took the Nebula for Best Novelette with "San Diego Lightfoot Sue" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1975). A Kansas boy falls in love with a prostitute when she moves to Los Angeles; the prostitute casts a spell to rejuvenate herself, but magic can be tricky. (Other stories nominated were "The Final Fighting of Finn MacCumhaill" by Randall Garrett, "Retrograde Summer" by John Varley, "A Galaxy Called Rome" by Barry N. Malzberg, and "The Custodians" by "Richard Cowper".)
The Best Short Story Award went to one of the best short story writers ever, Fritz Leiber, for "Catch That Zeppelin!" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1975). Leiber placed himself in this alternate history story, as he sees a zeppelin moored to the Empire State Building in 1973. He has shifted to another timeline where Germany's defeat in World War I was so decisive that peace and international prosperity grew and that the Hindenberg disaster never happened because the US sold non-volatile helium to Germany for their dirigibles. And there's a peaceful German airship engineer named Adolf Hitler. (Four of the other nominees for this award were "Sail the Tide of Mourning" by Richard Lupoff, "Utopia of a Tired Man" by Jorge Luis Borges, "A Scraping of the Bones" by A. J. Budrys, and "Doing Lennon" by Greg Benford. An additional three short story nominees -- listed below -- were selected by Le Guin to fill out this volume.)
"Child of All Ages" by P. J. Plauger (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, March 1975) deals with an immortal little girl who has spent the past twenty-four hundred and thirty-three years (give or take a decade) as a prepubescent child.
Harlan Ellison's "Shatterday" (Gallery, September 1975) explores primal fears as a man fights for his life against his own doppelganger.
Craig Strete, talented writer of Cherokee descent, gives us another of his Native American-themed stories with "Time Deer" (Worlds of If, November-December, 1974). In this sensitive and elegiac story, an elderly man takes some time to commune with nature before his son places him in a nursing home. (Off point: Does anyone else prefer the Canadian term "first nations" to "Native American"?)
Rounding off this volume are two original essays on the state of science fiction: "1975: The Year in Science Fiction, or Let's Hear It for the Decline and Fall of the Science Fiction Empire!" by Peter Nicholls and "Potential and Actuality in Science Fiction" by Vonda N. McIntyre.
All in all, Nebula Award Stories Eleven is an excellent and varied collection of memorable tales. I truly can't pick a favorite. More to the point, I truly can't pick a least favorite.
Dashiell Hammett's satanic-looking private detective had been played on the radio before -- once in 1941 by Humphrey Bogart, the in 1943 by Edgar G. Robinson, both in CBS adaptations of The Maltese Falcon -- but it wasn't until 1946 that Spade got his own radio series. A young Howard Duff played Spade and radio legend Lurene Tuttle played his secretary Effie Perrine for 13 episodes of The Adventures of Sam Spade from July 12, 1946 through October 4, 1946 on ABC radio. (On occasion, actor Stephen Dunne filled in for Duff.) The shoe then moved with Duff and Tuttle to CBS radio for 137 episodes (September 29, 1946 to September 25, 1949). On October 2, 1949, the program (still with Duff and Tuttle) moved to NBC for 51 episodes until September 17, 1950. By then Dashiell Hammett's name had been removed from the series because he was being investigated for Communist activities by Senator Joseph McCarthy's mob. Duff himself was removed from the show at the end of this run because his name in the Red Channels book -- a right-wing publication that named 151 prominent actors, writers, musicians, and broadcast journalists it suspected of Communist manipulation of the entertainment industry, effectively blacklisting all, including Duff. Duff's sin? Supporting labor unions. After a month's absence, The Adventures of Sam Spade returned to NBC sans Duff on November 17, 1950, with Steve Dunne assuming the title role. This incarnation ran for 24 episodes, ending on April 27, 1951.
Let's go back to nearly the beginning. Sam and Psyche was the fourth episode to be aired. Peter Lorre and Jay Novello are uncredited co-stars in this episode in which Sam and Effie are dragged into a murder and Sam finds himself in the act of grave-robbing. William Spier directed this episode from a script by Jason James and Robert Tallman.
Vittorio Candella (Victor Mature) grew up on the tough streets of New York and became a police lieutenant. His childhood friend was not so lucky -- Marty Rome (Richard Conte) became a violent petty crook and a cop killer and is now in a prison hospital ward, riddled with bullets. Marty's sleazy lawyer, W. A. Niles (Berry Kroeger), wants Marty to confess to a different crime, thereby clearing himself of the murder charge, but Marty refuses. Candella must check out the lawyer's allegation, but as a close friend of the Rome family, must walk a careful tightrope. Marty is afraid that Candella might implicate his girlfriend, Teena Riconti (Debra Paget, in her screen debut) and Marty will do anything to protect Teena. thrown into the mix is Tony (Tommy Cook), Marty's kid brother, who is just on the cusp of becoming a hoodlum -- or will he take the straight and narrow path. Marty is pushing Tony toward the bad side.
Also in the better than average cast are Shelley Winters, Fred Clark, Hope Emerson (Mother on Peter Gunn), Roland winters (Charlie Chan in five movies), Betty Garde (Caged, Call Northside 777, and various roles in nearly forty television programs from 1949 to 1971), and Walter Baldwin (Grandpappy Miller in Green Acres and Petticoat Junction).
Director Robert Siodmak has made a visually stunning, nuanced film that is a classic of film noir.
Based on Henry Edward Helseth's novel The Chair for Martin Rome, the film's script was credited to Richard Murphy. It was an open secret that this was one of many films Ben Hecht (The Front Page) served as an uncredited writer.
A nifty film that deserves to be better recognized.
Openers: Ellie was changed when she came out of the coma.
Not that I expected the same flaky, sixteen-year old we'd all known and loved, not after she had been dead to the world between Christmas and May, all the while constantly shuttled in and out of a hyperbaric chamber to help heal her buirns. The doctors warned me that some cognitive changes were inevitable.
But this was something else. This was someone else.
She awoke looking just like her sixteen-year old self -- the same straight black hair, the same round face and pale skin. But she wasn't really Ellie. Not anymore.
Someone else looked out through her owlish blue eyes.
-- F. Paul Wilson, Signalz (2020)
Signalz is the latest addition to Wilson's "Adversary Cycle," a series that began with The Keep and ended with Nightworld, and all part of "The Secret History of the World, " a far-ranging saga that includes the adventures of Wilson's most popular hero, Repairman Jack. The basic premise of all of this is that there is a cosmic battle (more of a game, perhaps) spanning the universe and various dimensions between two entities -- one completely malevolent, the other uncaring about the individual worlds that are pawns in this contest. One of those pawns (a fairly insignificant one) is Earth. Aiding the Enemy have a number of humans throughout millennia who are currently organized as the powerful Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order; those in the Order believe they will be put in charge when the "Change" comes -- not realizing that they too will be sacrificed by the viciously hostile Enemy. Signalz takes place in the final month of, and just before, the end of civilization.
Signalz is the story of the strangely changed Ellie, the spunky forensic accountant Hari, and the strangely omniscient writer P. Frank Winslow (wonder where that name came from), who has written a series of novels that patterns the hidden doings of the Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order and feature a recurring character named Jack Fixx (wonder where that name came from).
The Secret History of the World currently encompasses thirty four books and a number of short stories. They make exciting reading -- part mystery, part crime, part thriller, part adventure, part fantasy, and part horror. Like most of Wilson's work, there is a strong Libertarian bent to the series. This adds to the excitement: Strong individuals fighting against even stronger forces and using any method available to come out on top. Whether it's James Bond, The Shadow, or any other well-meaning vigilante, we're rooting for him. In real-life, though, Libertarianism is not as wonderful as it is in our fantasies.
Several of Wilson's early science fiction novels have received Prometheus Awards from the Libertarian Futurist Society. Among his other awards and recognitions are a Stoker Award, the Grand Master Award from the World Horror Convention, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America, the Thriller Lifetime Achievement Award from the editors of Romantic Times, and the San Diego ComiCon Inkpot Award. He has frequently been on The New York Times best-seller list. Wilson's work has been translated into twenty-four languages and has sold of nine million copies in the US alone.
I, myself, am a Repairman Jack addict. The lone vigilante who always prefers taking the fight to the enemy -- no matter how heavy the odds against him are -- is a fully-formed hero who speaks to my thirteen-year-old self. You can't go wrong with Repairman Jack.
And you can't go wrong with F. Paul Wilson.
William Livingston: Two hundred forty-four years ago today William Livingston became the first governor of New Jersey, a post he held until his death, nearly fourteen years later. Previous to Livingston, New Jersey had been governed by a royal governor. Livingston was fairly new to the state, having moved there in 1772 at age 48 and began building a house for his large family -- he had thirteen children, at least six of whom survived him. While his home was being built, he rented a house in what id now Elizabeth; a young Alexander Hamilton lived with him for at least one winter while attending school He quickly gained influential friends and was elected in 1774 as one of New Jersey's delegates to the Continental Congress.
Livingston did not favor independence and, in June of 1776, was not re-elected to the Continental Congress. Livingston then decline an offer to head the state's militia, but did return as a Brigadier General of the militia, a title he had been given the previous year. That August, he was elected governor, the first not appointed by the Crown. Although he had not been in favor of independence at first, Livingston was active in the revolution and the British had offered a reward for his capture. Livingston was part of the New Jersey delegation to the 1787 constitutional convention and was one of the signers of the Constitution.
He had been born to an influential Albany family. His father was the second Lord of Livingston Manor and his maternal grandfather was the mayor of Albany. One of his older brothers became the New York State Treasurer and another served in the New York Senate. William Livingston enrolled at Yale when he was thirteen (or possibly fourteen) and graduated in 1741. He then went to New York City to study law, apprenticing as a law clerk for prominent attorney James Alexander, a Scot who had to flee his home country after supporting James Stuart, later becoming Attorney General of New York and active in state politics. Livingston left there due to some disagreement before finishing his apprenticeship and went to the law offices of William Smith, Sr., who had turned down the presidency of Yale at age 27 to begin his New York City law practice; he went on to become Attorney General of New York and a judge of the New York Supreme Court.
Livingstone became friends with William Smith, Jr., and John Moran Scott, who later became one of the original Sons of Liberty and served as a Brigadier General under George Washington during the Revolution. The three -- Livingston, Smith, and Scott -- founded the weekly journal the Independent Reflector, which ran for 52 issues before political pressure placed on the printer forced its closure. The Reflector was New York's only non-newspaper publication and the only one being published in British North America at the time. It supported the upstate New York Presbyterian gentry and firmly opposed the downstate Anglican and Dutch Reform political bloc. In particular, it vigorously opposed the founding of King's College (now part of Columbia University) for fear that it was an excuse for the Anglican church to install a bishop in the colony.
Despite failing to close the college (and the non-appearance of an Anglican bishop), Livingston remained active in politics and served one term in the New York Assembly until his political allies lost power in 1761.
A number of Livingston's children also gained prominence, most notably his daughter Sarah, who at seventeen married John Jay in 1774. Jay would go on to be one of the country's Founding Fathers, a delegate to the First Continental Congress. a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, sixth president of the Continental Congress, United States Minister to Spain, Acting United States Secretary of State, second Governor of New York, and the first chief Justice of the United States. Sarah Livingston Jay's role in society greatly aided her husband in these posts. She was evidently quite a looker; once while attending a theatre in Paris, she was mistaken for Marie Antoinette and the entire audience rose in homage.
Another of Livingston's daughters, Susannah became the stepmother-in-law of William Henry Harrison, and a son, Henry, was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Also on This Day: In 1897 Thomas Edison patented the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector. Edison had experimented with films previously. Here are the first ten films (two and a half minutes' worth) made in America by Edison that have survived:
Come On-a My House: It's also the birthday of William Saroyan, a writer born to immigrants who fled the Armenian genocide and author of The Human comedy, My Name Is Aram, and The Time of Your Life, among others. What is not that well-known is the he and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian (who would later create Alvin, Theodore and Simon -- The Chipmunks) wrote a song that became a hit for Rosemary Clooney:
Yes, It Is Fun: In 1948 the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association came out with this promotoinal comic book with the well-duh! title of It's Fun to Stay Alive, full of tips for kids (and adults) about automobile, pedestrian and bicycle safety. Utilizing prominent cartoon characters, including Carl Anderson's Henry, Bugs Bunny, Raeburn Van Buren's Abbie an' Slats, and J. P. McEvoy's Dixie Dugan, among others, this sixteen-pager balances the fine line between promoting safety and scaring the bejeezuz out of kids. Check it out.
VIP: Virgil Partch (who signed his work "VIP") was a popular magazine gag cartoonist in the 40s and 50s. Although he was a staff gagwriter for The New Yorker, his cartoons seldom appeared in that magazine because Harold Ross disliked his drawing style; instead he published in True, Collier's, Playboy and other top magazines. Many of his cartoons were about drinking and about the relationship of men and women and some were just plain weird. In addition to his single-panel cartoons, VIP created and drew the popular syndicated comic strip Big George.
VIP was born in 1916, retired from cartooning in 1984 because of cataracts, and died some eight months later in a car accident.
Here's a Pinterest page with some of his work for your enjoyment:
Chadwick Boseman: The world lost a bright talent this past week with the death of Chadwick Boseman at age from Stage 4 colon cancer. His character of Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe has been a positive inspiration for many children worldwide. In addition to playing the Black Panther, Boseman also had significant roles as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown.
After the news of his passing, many people went to this spot-on performance on Saturday Night Live as a tribute to him:
Only in Florida: Here's the fourth and final (so far) "Only in Florida" clip. Florida Man will return in all his ignoble glory next week.
Because We Really Need the Good News: