Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, September 16, 2023


The blog is taking a couple of weeks off.  I'm not going anywhere or doing anything special ot exciting; I just need some time to recharge my batteries.  I realized that for several months now I had not been taking the time to take a breath, calm my soul, and truly appreciate all the good that is surrounding me.  Time to do that.

See you on the other side.


Here's a Golden Age Aussie superhero, private detective Ralph Rivers, The Crimson Comet.  There's not much done in these comics.  Richards is pictured as a rather stiff guy, wearing sunglasses and holding a pipe in his mouth (not sure if he ever smokes it).  He wears a raincoat that may be hiding a hunchback, but it's not -- it's to hide his golden wings.  Yep.  He flies.  As the Crimson Comet, he is a supposed friend of Ralph Rivers.  He wears a tight red bodysuit with the underwear on the outside ('natch) and some sort of swimming cap that hides his hair and ears; on the front of the cap is a cicled "C" with two wings extending from the circle.  He had a wide holstered gun belt with a big circular buckle. and he wears calf-high boots.  He is the epitome of a costumed superhero, even though the book is printed in black-and-white.

I have no idea of his origin story, or if he ever had one.  The comic book ran for 73 issues, from 1949 to sometime in the Fifties, during its first run, then for another possible 32 issues, ending in 1958.  The first issue was published by Leisure Publications, an early name for the H. John Edwards publishing company of Sydney; the second series of comics was published by Action Comics of Sydney.  The Crimson Comet was created and drawn by John Dixon, who left the book after seven issues to be replaced by Albert de Vine. who drew the book well into the mid-Fifties, when Dixon returned to the fold.

In no way should this Crimson Comet be conflated with D.C.'s The Flash, sometimes refered to as the Crimson Comet.

Re:  the Australian comic book.  This one was stapled across the top. 2which meant it had to be turned on its side to be read.  This form of formatting appears to be unique among some Australian comic books.

In issue #13, pretty young Cecily Adams crashes into Ralph Rivers outside his metropolian office.  She begs Rivers to hide her from aliens who are about to invade the Earth.  Turns out that eighteen months before, she was horseback riding, inspecting her property in the country, when she spotted a small, fast-moving, silver metalled craft that landed behind some nearby hills.  When she went to inspect it, she discovered a flying saucer about the size of a bicycle tire.  Two "men" emerged from the saucer and stabbed her in the leg with a hypodermic needle.  She woke up, shrunken in size, a captive inside the saucer, which then took of at astounding speed.  They travelled in space for four days before landing on what she was to learn was the planet Neput.  She was forced to drink some sort of liquid which returned her to normal size, and then she was brought before the Emperor Nazikom, the ruler of Neput.  (Could a villain have a more appropriate name than Nazikom, especially in  the early 1950s?)  Neither spoke the other's language, but Cecily was given a tour of the planet which emphasized the world's vst technological skill and advanced weapons of war.  Evntually she was taught the language of the Neputians.

Brought back before Nazikom, she was told that she must teach his subjects English to better enable then to conquer Earth.  (Neput had already cuered all its nearby neighboring planets.)  Cecily refused, but she was placed under a machine whose rays zapped her powers of resistance.  Now, with two Neputian officers, she was returned to Earth so they could pave the way for the invasion.  The officers were to meet with the invading general to discuss invasion plans while Cecily was locked in a hotel room.  Cecily managed to tie some bedsheets together and escape through a window.  Fleeing, she bumped into Ralph Rivers, which is where we started the story.

This seems like a good place for me to carp about fashion choices and proportionality, and there's a lot to unpack about both.   Cecily starts out on horseback wearing a one-piece outfit with puffy full sleeves and a very skimpy pair of shorts.  She may be riding brefoot (it's hard to tell).  Through her eighteen mopnths of captovity, she wear the same darned outfir, carefully shaded underneath her breast to emphasize her ta-tas (which are admirable).  But now whe's wearing high heel shoes!  When she and her Neputian guards go back to Earth and check into a hotel (the Ritz), she has a mid-length dress, a small skullcap-like hat (which mysteriously vanishes in the next few panels) and a pearl necklace.  The Neputians outfit of choice one their planet are Speed-os, tight-fitting shirts with blousy arms, and high pointed hats, all of which makes them resemble a Frank R. Paul illustration. 

As far as proportions go, the flying saucer is the size of "a bicycle wheel," yet the occupants are seven inches tall.  When Cecily regains her height, they appear to be about three feet tall or so.  The flying saucer has a number of compartments in it, including a room for Cecily to be imprisoned in, closets for the Crimson Comet to hide behind, a control room and more.  At the hotel, the saucer is carried under one of the Neputian's arms and appeared to be the size of a 78-rpm record album.

And how many bedsheets does a hotel room at the Ritz have anyway?  Enought to reach the ground from a window when tied together?  And what floor was that room on anyway?

I know I'm picky.  Sue me.

The artwork, except for the characters, is pretty nifty.

And, don't worry about the alien invasion.  SPOILER:  A single auto-piloted hydrogen bomb blew the planet Neput all to hell.

Enjoy this weird little piece of Australian comic book history.

Thursday, September 14, 2023


 Comfort Station by "J. Morgan Cunningham"  (Donald E. Westlake), 1973

For thousand of years, the wisestof us have poindered the question,"Can a bad book ever be a good book?"  And, over the millennia, the answer has always come back with a resounding "No!"

Purportedly cashing in on the phenominal success of such 1970s blockbusters as Hotel and Airport, J. Morgan Cunningham has produced the epic story of the various cast of characters who passed through the men's room of the Bryant Park Comfort Station near the New York Pub;oc Library on 42nd Street on one very rainy day.

At the beginning of the book, we are given the cast of characters, of which I have taken the liberty to reproduce verbatim:

     FRED DINGBAT -- omnibus operative, prooud of his position in intraurban transit.  Too proud?

     MO MOWGLI -- custodian of the Comfort Station.  What was there about his past that haunted him?

     ARBOGAST SMITH -- plainclothes patrolman. In responsibility he found anodyne -- and the testing of his strength.

     HERBERT Q. LUMINOUS -- bookkeeper om the run.  What happened to him was almost a cliche.

     CAROLINA WEISS -- onetime Russian countess now A & E mechanic.  In the arms of another man she sought forgetfulness.

     GENERAL RAMON SAN MARTINEZ TORTILLA -- deposed dictator.  What was it he wanted to get off his chest?

     FINGERS FOGELHEIMER -- mobster.  Out of the thrilling days of yesteryear, he returns for vengeance.

     LANCE CAVENDISH -- Black.  With him and thirty-five cents you can take the subway.

Characters will meet.  Characters will interact.  Some lives will be changed.  A modicum of suspense may occur.

It sholuld be noted that author Cunningham was enthusiastic, if not very capable, with his prose.  He delivered an manuscript of over three million words, which staff editors managed to winnow down to a smallish paperback.  In doing so, the editors tried to retain the distinct and unpleasant (and oft times excruciating) flavor of the author's writing.  Best-selling blockbuster authors need not feel threatened.  Although considering the quirks of the publishing industy, as well as the buying public, perhaps they should be.

Donald E. Westlake could be a sly boots.  He is at his sly-est and bootiest here with this over the top farce that had become a hard-to-find camp classic.  Luckily, Open Road Media has made it available to the public after nearly half a century.

So, back to the question:  "Can a bad book ever be a good book?"  The answer is still an overwelming "No!"  But it can, in the hands of a master like Westlake, be a hell of a lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Once again, let's join Reed Hadley as Red Ryder and Frank Breese as Little Beaver as they ride again for justice, this time facing against a gang that wants the Barton Ranch -- and are willing to use force if necessary.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023


"The Stone That the Builders Rejected" by Avam Davidson  (previously unpublished and likely written in the mid-1950s; the original manuscript title was "Caretaker;" a hand-written note changed the title to "A Very Old Custom;" under the current title, it had been purchased for Harlan Ellison's legendary and still unpublished anthology The Last Dangerous Visions* but was eventually returned to Davidson's estate; it was finally published in Volume 1 of AD100:  100 Years of Avram Davidson; 100 Unpublished or Uncollected Stories ((2023).

A short, sharp story.   Joe Gilson was broke, a stranger in town, and down on his luck.  Employment agencies were of no use -- they wanted their nut up front before they paid applicants for any work done, in fear job applicants would skip town before giving the agencies their due.  So there was Joe, in the cheapest and dingiest bar in the cheapest and dingiest part of town. counting his nickles in hopes that he had fifty cents to cover a meat loaf sandwich (35 cents) and a "big short beer" (15 cents), when he met Burry, Jack, and Valdo, three friendly construction workers (who did not seem to be fairies).  They took pity on Joe and brought them to their work site, where Benny, their boss, was upset about a story in the papers about an office building under construction in Omaha that had collaped. killing three men and injuring seven, two of the not expected to survive.  Benny as well as Joe's three new friends were upset that the construction workers were foolish enough not to take proper precautions.

Joe goes to work for the crew, all of whom treat Joe as a new member of the family.  Joe did not even have to join the union until he had been working there for thirty days, so he could save a little money ahead.  Jack and Valdo shared a large apartment with an extra room for Joe until he could get a place of his own.  Burry's wife cooked a large meal for them and served plenty of wine.  Joe felt he was the luckiest guy on Earth.  Later, Jack and Valdo took Joe to a place that was not a bar and was run by a woman named Mary.

Sometimes if things appear to be too good to be true, they probably aren't.  Ah. Joe...

Avram Davidson (1923-1993) was one of the truly great and sadly underacknowledged writers of the twentieth century.  He began his writing career as a Talmudic scholar aroun 1950 and his first stories were published in Commentary and in other Jewish intellectual magazines.  Although he had been active in science fiction fandom since his early teens, he burst onto the professional science fiction and fantasy scene with "My Boyfriend's Name is Jello" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1952), the first of many challenging and often unclassifiable stories over his career.  Davidson has won the Hugo, Edgar, World Fantasy (three times), and Ellery Queen Awards, as well as being given a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.  Davidson also served as editor for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and ghost-wrote two highly acclaimed novels as "Ellery Queen."

Davidson's Adventures in Unhistory is a collection of highly researched, digressive, articles about the hidden corners of history and legend, and are a joy to read, as are his stories about Dr. Eszterhazy. an erudite Sherlock Holmes figure in the fictional county of Sythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, the waning fourth-largest empire in Europe, and his tales of Jack Limekiller, a Candaian ex-pat living in a mysterious and imaginary Central American country, and his stories about Vergil Magnus, a medieval magician based on the poet Vergil.  No matter where you dip into Avram Davidson's works, you'll find a rich, rewarding, and often twisty tale, embued with literacy, slyness. and wit.  Unfortunately, Davidson's love of exploring new ideas led to the abandonment of many planned and begun  series -- it was as if, with the best of intentions, he..."Squirrel!"

Critic John Clute's observation in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that Davidson "is perhaps sf's most explicitly literary author" can easily extend to his many other genres.

* Sometimes listed as "The Stone Which the Builders Rejected."  The Last Dangerous Visions may soon be published if all goes well with the Ellison estate, and will include many of the stories Ellison originally bought for the anthology, and will include many newer stories;  I don't know of anything by Davidson** will be included in the final version.

**Davidson did collaborate with Ellison on at least one published story, "Up Christopher to Madness" (Knight, November 1965; included in Ellison's 1971 collection Partners in Wonder).  A proposed collaborative crime novel, Don't Speak of Rope, died -- perhaps thankfully -- aborning, although Ellison listed it as a forthcoming novel for several years before all mention of the book was dropped.  I know I can't be the only person who wished that novel had born fruit.

Monday, September 11, 2023


Today is the birthday of ubiquitous child actor Dickie Moore (1925-2015), the kid who gave Shirley Temple her first ion-screen kiss (in Miss Annie Rooney, 1941).  Moore made his screen debut at the age of 18 months; by the time he was ten he had appeared in 52 films.  Before he aged out as a chld and youth actor in the Fifties, he appeard in over 100 films, including Blonde Venus, So Big, Gabriel Over the White House, The Story of Louis Pasteur, Sergeant York, Out of the Past, and in eight Our Gang comedies.  Following his acting career, Moore taught, wrote books on acting, edited Equity News, and produced industrial films.  In 1966, he founded Dick moore Associates, a public relations firm, which he ran for 44 years.  His third wife was actress Jane Powell (married 1988 until his death).  He died of dementia iat age 89.

Moore played the title character in Oliver Twist.  Also featured were Irving Pichel as Fagin, William "Stage" Boyd" as Sykes, Doris Lloyd as Nancy Sykes, and Sonny Ray as The Artful Dodger.  The film was directed by Willam J. Cowen from a script by Elizabeth Meehan.  

"You can consider yourself at home, consider yourself one of the family," as you watch this non-musical version of the Charles Dickens classic.



 Openers:  The white-painted fruit steamer steamed out between the forts and turned toward the south.  She only touched at Bahia del Toro to drop the mail on her downward trip, though on her return toward the north she paused to take on a portion of her cargo.  The Stars and Stripes at her masthead fluttered brightly in the golden sunshine of midday, and the same sunshine made the sea seem bluer, and the palms greener and vividly alive.  Half a dozen small launches that had clustered about the white ship scattered and made for different points along the waterfront of the city.

El Senor Beckwith was seated in a great cane chair on the veranda of the white house that sprawled over the hillside.  He looked at the ship and heaved a sigh.  It was not a wistful sigh, nor was there pathos concealed anywhere about it.  The sigh was a sign of the satisfaction that filled him.  He sat at ease, puffing a long black cigar.  At his elbow a glass tinkled musically when he moved.  His huge frame, now clad in spotless white duck, was eloquent of content.  Only his left thumb, bandgaed and in splints, gave the cumbrance of the wrppings.  It was a souvenir of the incident that caused his sensation of complete satisfaction.  Conway had broken that thumb in his last struggle, two weeks before.  Conway was dead.

-- "The Gallery Gods" by "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins)  (first published in Argosy All-Story Weekly, August 21, 1920; reprinted in in Leinster's The Runaway Skyscraper and Other Tales from the Pulps, 2007; in The Murray Leinster Megapack, 2012 [ also published as The First Murray Leinster Megapack, 2015]; and in The Second Murray Leinster Megapack, 2015)

Regular readers of this blog (both of them) know that I am a big fan of Murray Leinster.  I am also a big fan of Will F. Jenkins and of William Fitzgerald.  (I would probably also be a big fan of Jean farquar, Pepe Gomez, Joe Gregg, Kenny Kenmare, Louisa Carter Lee, Florinda Martel, and Rafaele Yborra, but I haven't read his work under those pseudonyms.)  Leinster/Jenkins published well over a thousand science fiction, western, mystery, romance, adventure, horror, and mainstream stories over his career.  He was extremely readable.

Minor Leinster.  But even minor Leonster eas heads above many of his competitors.

Incoming:  There's a lot of Lee Goldberg and F. Paul Wilson books this week, probably because I like both authors.

  • Kevin J. Anderson, Janet Berliner, Matthew J, Costello, & E, Paul Wilson, The Artifact.  Thriller.  "Six adrenalin junkies who call themselves the Daredevils Club hold the fate of the world in their hands.  In an ancient undersea cavern, one of them, oil man Frik von Alman, discovers a set of stones that are unlike anything else on Earth.  Fitted together, the stones form an object that promises limitless free energy for the world."
  • Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg, Pros and Cons and The Shell Game.  Two novellas in the Fox and O'Hare series.  Evanovich teamed with Goldberg to write the first five books in the best-selling series; two other novels followed, one written with Peter Evanovich and one with Steve Hamilton.
  • Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Troubled Trustee.  A Perry Mason mystery.  "Investment counselor Kerry Dutton has his hands full as trustee for Desere Ellis, a young woman with a talent for spending money.  To protect her interests, Dutton performed some 'creative accounting,' and multiplied that modest fund several times over.  Yet now that trust is expiring, he fears his financial finagling will brand him as an embezzler -- and destroy him in the eyes of the woman he loves.  Romance isn't Perry Mason's forte, but the lawyer agrees to help with Dutton's money mix-up.  True to its reputation as the root of all evil, the controversial capital soon yields murder." A late in the series novel marred slightly by Gardner's conservative and somewhat crankypants "Hey, you kids get off my lawn!" attitude.  I read this one over the weekend, completing my read of all 57 novels and four short stories in the series; this is the only one of Gardner's many novels and non-fiction books that I had read.  Not to worry, though, there are still a slew of short story collections ahead of me.
  • Lee Goldberg, Fast Track.  A racing novel based on Goldberg's film Fast Track:  No Limits.  Also, Three Ways to Die, a collection of three novellas; Ella Clah:  The Pilot Script, with William Rabkin, based on Aimee & David Thurlo's Navajo police detective; and Dame Edna:  Detective, a film script written for the late Barry Humphries' Dame Edna Everage character (Humphries died in April and I have no idea of the status of the film, but there is no mention of it on Humphries IMDb page).
  • Steve Hockensmith, Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  Horror/literary mash-up, the prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
  • J. A. Konrath, Ann Voss Peterson, & F. Paul Wilson, The Fix.  Nov ella, the seventh in the Code Name: Chandler series about a female spy for a secret government agency.  F. Paul Wilson was brought along for this entry because Chandler meets up with Repairman Jack and the two have to scramble to save the city from terrorists.
  • "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins), The Runaway Skyscraper and Other Stories. A mixed collection of eight science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and adventure stories first published in various pulps from 1919 to 1931.  See Openers, above.
  • Sarah Pinborough and F. Paul Wilson, A Necessary End.  Thriller.  "Set against a worldwide apocalypse, it takes the eteranl struggle between faith and reason and makes it real.  LIFE CAME OUT OF AFRICA...But now it's death's turn...It spreads like a plague but it's not a disease."  the book was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award.
  • Daniel Stashower, The Floating Lady Mystery.  A Harry Houdini mystery.  "In turn-of-the-century New York City, struggling young performer Harry Houdini is working for the renowned magician Kellar.  One night his master's astonishing illusion The Floating Lady goes horribly wrong, with Kellar's levitating assistant apparently plunging to her death.  Houdini, along with his wife Bess and brother Dash, must solve the mystery and figure out how the young lady died from from a drowning rather than a fatal fall."
  • F. Paul Wilson, Ephemerata V5.0:  The Odds and Ends of a Writing Life.  Miscellany.  Introductions, forewords, afterwords, reviews, obituaries, rants, guest blogs, and whathaveyou.  Over 100 pieces in all.  Also, The Last Christmas:  A Repairman Jack Novel, taking place in late December between Ground Zero and Fatal Error.  Jack is convinced "to take on a missing-person fix.  As usual, nothing is as it seems, and the missing person isn't exactly a person.  In fact, it's like nothing anyone has ever seen.  And in the middle of this, the mysterious Madame Medici hires him to safeguard a valuable object.  Simple, right?  Not even close."

Earworm:   Sometimes you get an earworm that just won't let go.  It happened to me this weekend and I thought I would inflict  it on you.

"Creole Belle" was written as a cakewalk song in 1901 by J. Bodewell Lampe and George Sidney.  It was transformed and popularized by Mississippi John  Hurt, who first recorded it in 1963.; his stamp pm the song was so powerful that many now consider the song to have beenwritten by Lampe, Sidney, and Hurt.  

There are far worse earworms.

Mississippi John Hurt.

Taj Mahal.

Jim Kweskin.

Stefan Grossman.

Doc & Merle Watson.

Bodenwald Lamp.

Hans Theessink.

Bob La Beau.

Arlo Guthrie.

Dan Zanes & Elizabeth Mitchell.

The Beanshakers.

Nils Falk.

Elijah Wald.

Toots & Littlefield.

Michael Cooney.

Tarzan and the Devil Ogre:  The first original Tarzan comic book was dated February 1947 and was issue #134 of Dell Comics Four Color Comics.  It was drawn by Jesse Marsh, who would improve his depiction of the Jungle Lord over the years.  Tarzan returned to Four Color Comics for issue #161 before getting his own title in the January-February 1948 issue of Tarzan.

Enjoy this first comic adventure of Tarzan.