Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, June 23, 2024


 From 1913, Homer Rodeheaver.

Friday, June 21, 2024


People familiar with this blog know that I am not a fan of the historic Wild Bill Hickok (he was a murderous s.o.b.), but that does not deter me from enjoying stories about his fictional persona, whether on television, films, books, or comic books.

This issue features four stories; only one is about the title character: "The War of the Medicine Men."  Frontier scout Johnny Barker is hired to take a census of the Indians of the Plains, but the Sioux and the Cheyenne take offense at this idea, believing that the white soldier were robbing them of good medicine.  Soon, Johnny is fleeing for his life on a wounded pony.  The blood-thirsty Cheyenne soon have Johnny trapped, but off in the distance is "a slim white man with blazing eyes and ivory handled Colt revolvers at his waist."  Wild Bill spurs his mare. Black Nell, into action.  Each shot from Wild Bill's gun salys an Indian, allowing he and Johnny to escape.  Wild Bill manages to make it to Fort Leavenworth with the badly wounded Johnny.  There, he worries about a possible Indian war.  Meanwhile, a Cheyenne medicine man, White Buffalo, is searching for a way to bring war to the soldiers.  He stuns a grazing buffalo, and while it is unconscious, White Buffalo paints the beast white.  Now that he has a sacred albino buffalo, the medicine man can convince his tribe that the Great Spirit wants them to kill the white man.  Can Wild Bill stop this nefarious plot?

Next up:  We have Chief Black Hack in "The Black Hawk Indian Tomahawk War."   This is not the Black Hawk I am familiar with from August Derleth's historical novels and nonfiction about the Black Hawk War.

This is followed by an eight-page illustrated biography of General Charles John Freemont:  "Explorer, soldier, surveyor, and Indian fighter, -- his life was one big adventure -- and he lived it to the hilt!"

Finall, we have "Kit West and the Prince of Pioneers."  Kit, a female, is taking wagons of supplies from Lexington, Kentucky, to the Missouri settlements, when she and her companion Hank are stopped by a strange-looking, dandified man.  He declares himself to be Prince Rudolph of Mordovia, and demands to speak to the officer in command.  It does not settle well with the prince when he finds that Kit is the one in command.  He says he wishes to help fight the Indians so he will be taking over command at once.  Kit laughs at him and drives on.  The prince swallows his pride and joins the group as a mere rifleman, which does not stop him from constantly complaining along the way.  The wagon caravan keeps getting into trouble -- within two days, five wagons have broken down -- could the axles have been deliberately broken?  The next week a rash of food poisoning hits the group.  Then scouting parties are slaughtered by Indians, but the Prince always manages to escape unharmed.  Is he the cause for all the trouble and heartache, or is he merely an innocent fool?

All in all, a decent issue.  Note, however, that the cover illustration has absolutely nothing to do with anything inside.



 Atlantis Endgame by Andre Norton and Sherwood Smith  (2002)

Last week I reviewed Key Out of Time, the fourth and supposedly final book in Andre Norton's Time Traders series.  That book ended ten thousand years in the past on an alien planet with 
Time Agents Ross Murdoch and Gordon Ashe, along with a Polynesian girl and her two telepathic dolphins abandoned with no way of getting home and with no way of knowing whether their actions have prevented the extinction of intelligent life on that planet.  Well, sometimes it's good to keep readers hanging, although every reader knows in their heart that good will prevail, even if the heroes have to forge new lives in the past.

Every reader also knows that you can't keep a good series down.  So...

Thirty-one years after the publication of Key Out of Time, Norton returned to the Time Traders franchise with Firehand, co-authored by P. M. Griffin.  (Many late-in-their-career authors resort to co-writers; it's any one's guess how much of these works were actually written by the original authors.)  Two other Time Traders novels followed:  Echoes in Time (1999) and Atlantis Endgame (2002(, both co-authored by Sherwood Smith (who had also continued Norton's popular Solar Queen series, which had ended in 1969).

Since I have not read either Firehand or Echoes in Time I have no idea how the hell Murdoch and Ashe managed to get off that ten-thousand-year-ago planet, but get off it they they did.  The two are older now.  Ashe is mostly stuck to an administrative desk job and longs for the action of the past.  (Play on words here, he-he-he.)  Murdock is married to a fellow Time Agent, the very capable Eveleen Riordan; their marriage looks like it's in for the long haul..  Decades ago, Ashe had studied with young archaeologist Linnea Edel.  Ashe effectively vanished after he was secretly recruited as a Time Agent.  Linnea married, quit work to raise a family, widowed, remained in occasional contact with her children who had moved to different areas of the country, and began working again in her chosen field.  She was never able to find out what had happened to Ashe until now.  Exactly how she found Ashe and how she knew (or at least gleaned) that Ashe was with the Time Traders is never explained.  (Things that are difficult to explain for an author are often best left unsaid.)

While working on a site at Thera, the very top of a massive undersea volcano volcano near Crete,   Linnea unearthed a gold earring under eighty feet of volcanic ash which dates back to approximately the 1620s B.C.  The earring had a modern jeweler's mark on it.  The earring was an exact match to a pair that Eveleen's father had given her on her 21st birthday --it was the same earring.  Thankfully, no bodies or remains were discovered near the earring, but there could be no denying that the Tame Agents had been on Thera some 3600 years before.

Sometime around 1620 B.C. there was a massive volcanic eruption, blowing thirty to fifty cubic miles of land into dust and causing a tsunami that took out all the ports along the Aegean; the black cloud from the explosion ruined crops in China and left traces in tree rings as far away as California.  Krakatoa was just a child's firecracker compared to this explosion.  There was no evidence of massive death; any population must have evacuated before the explosion.  A relics such as the Antikythera mechanism hints at an advanced civilization, but exactly how that civilization vanished is unknown..  This could have been the source of the legend of Atlantis.

Suspicion falls onto the Baldies, a mysterious intergalactic race that seems intent on eliminating all other races.  Could they have placed a large thermonuclear device to cause the volcanic eruption?  If the civilization of Thera had not been destroyed, it is possible that the Industrial Age could have come a thousand years earlier.  Who knows how advanced humanity might have been today?  It's time (another pun, he-he-he) for the Time traders go go back to just before the explosion to investigate.  Going on this mission are Murdoch, Eveleen, Ashe, Linnea (although not a Time Agent, she is the closest thing thay have to an expert on that era), and two Greek Time Agents (to do the heavy lifting).

The ancient island is called Kalliste.  It is a major port of a Minoan-based civilization.  Its language is un know, but because it is a major port, various other languages, including forms of ancient Egyptian and ancient Greek, can be used.  There is a single religion, accessed through an oracle and a group of priestesses who are devout believers and who show none of the hypocrisy that many other religions do.  The volcano has been showing some activity, occasionally scattering small rocks like rain, minor quakes move the earth, the air is cloudy and foul, poison gases leak from open chasms, and the populace is wondering what they might have done to offend the gods; a number of citizens have already left the area.  Yet many of the people go about their daily business, doing their best to ignore the danger around them. 

It doesn't take long to discover that the Baldies are there, but what their purpose and exact plan is remains unknown.  The Time Agents cannot prevent the explosion -- their one sacred duty is to maintain the time line, but perhaps they can help spur an evacuation.  But how?

But there's another spanner in the works:  a second alien race is present in Kalliste -- a race that Murdock -- who is the only human who has encountered one personally -- calls the Fur Faces.  It's a race that appears to be from the Time Agents' future.  What are they doing here?  Are they working with the Baldies?  Are they working against the Time Agents?

The Fur Faces offer to work with the Time Agents, claiming they are the enemies of the Baldies.  The Baldies, they claim, are trying to prevent the volcanic explosion because this will lead not to an age of progress as the Time Agents posited, but to a world of stagnation where mankind will never advanced far enough to reach the stars.  Who to believe and what to do?

And exactly when will the volcano blow (if it does)?  And will our heroes have enough time to get the heck out of Dodge?

In the meantime, there are also hints of a potential romance between Linnea and Ashe, just because...

An interesting book with perhaps just a bit too much historical background and detail to drag down the main plot.  Still worth a read but Norton had done better in her early days.

Thursday, June 20, 2024


 [Cue Th William Tell Overture]

[Add a hearty "Hi -Yo, Silver!"]

Get ready, gang, for another exciting adventure of The Lone Ranger.

Hard to believe, I know, but during all the years The Lone Ranger was on the radio (2956 episodes, beginning in 1933) and on television (221 episodes, from 1949 to 1957), the Lone Ranger never once realized that "Kemo sabe" was the Indian phrase for "I need a raise." *

Any way, let's go back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. (Actually, thrilling day -- December 17, 1937, to be exact.)

In this episode Earle Grasser plays the masked man; Tonto was played by John Todd.


* Who can forget the immortal words of Lyle Lovett in "If I Had a Boat"?

     Mystery masked man was smart

     He got himself a Tonto

    'Cuz Tonto did the dirty work for free

     But Tonto he was smarter

     One day said, "Kemo sabe

     "Kiss my ass.  I bought a boat.  I'm going out to sea."

Tuesday, June 18, 2024


In the Heart of Fire by Dean Koontz  (an Amazon Original Stories ebook. 2019)

This story (actually a novelette, or perhaps a novella) is the first in a series of ten original ebooks about a nameless clairvoyant who fights evil.  Nameless (as he is called -- no relation to the Bill Pronzini detective) has no memory of his life prior to the last two years, nor, perhaps, does he know his own name.  He is a tool for a powerful unseen organization that has a technology far beyond what we know today -- a technology that allows him to know and to track really evil people.  Even Nameless's contact, known to Nameless only as Ace of Diamonds, could be a man, or a woman, or a machine.  Ace is the one who lays the groundwork for Nameless's missions and provides him with the high-tech equipment he needs.

I mentioned that nameless is a clairvoyant.  He can see into the past or into the future, visions that he can't control.  Often these visions are with him as an observer; sometimes these visions actually place him at the scene; in very rare instances, these visions have Nameless entering the head of the person committing evil, feeling what that person feels when committing heinous acts; Nameless fears that someday it will be this last kind of vision that will destroy his sanity and whatever innocence he might have left.

In this story, Nameless is sent to the small Texas town of Worstead, the hunting grounds of a sheriff who is a tone-cold murderer and a pedophile.  (Think Jim Thomson's Lou Ford, only far more psychotic.)  Sheriff Russell Soakes is the scion of a powerful local family.  He is well-liked and has been in office for years.  With a few exception, Soakes choses his victims from people passing through on the interstate, ones with no other family and ones that would not be missed.  Families who are traveling with young daughters.  Soakes has this thing about young girls -- he really likes them, and likes them in the worse possible manner.  Soakes has a large tract of property far from town, and Soakes has a bulldozer; he buries his victims alive in their cars so there is no trace of them anywhere.  When I say victim, I don't include the young girls; those he saves for special treatment.  He has been doing this for at least seventeen years and no one in the community has ever been the wiser.

Soakes has now set his sights on young Seraphina Demeter, the 10-year-old daughter of a young widow.  Seraphina's mother, Jennifer, is beginning to have suspicions about the way Soakes is acting around her daughter.  She tries to distance herself from Soakes and lets Soakes know about her suspicions.  Soakes warns her to be quiet, because accidents could happen and Seraphina would become an orphan and placed at the mercy of the state and Soakes has powerful contacts throughout the state.

It's a cat and muse game between Soakes and Nameless and Nameless is playing on Soakes's home court.  Despite the odds, things turn out terribly (and deservedly) had for Soakes.

A violent, scary, otherworldly story that one might expect from Koontz.  Nameless, as flawed both he and his actions might be, is an instrument of the light.  This one may be too visceral for some readers.

Nameless appears in two series of ebook original stories.  I have only read this first one, so I can't say whether this series concludes Nameless's quest, wrapping things up in a fine little bow.

Nameless:  Season One
  • In the Heart of Fire
  • Photographing the Dead
  • The Praying Mantis Bride
  • Red Rain
  • The Mercy of Snakes
  • Memories of Tomorrow
Nameless:  Season Two
  • The Lost City of the Soul
  • Gentle Is the Angel of Death
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Light Has Weight But Darkness Does Not
  • Corkscrew
  • Zero In


Foley, Alabama, is about an hour's drive from our house.  They have a Tanger's Factory Outlet there with a large mess of stores that interest me not at all, but Kitty always had a good time there, especially at the Vera Bradley outlet store.  Both girls and our granddaughters also like the place  -- lots of shoe stores and a place that sells rubber chickens for dogs, as well as a place where you can get fudge.  So we take a family trip out there serval times a year.  (Foley also has a pretty neat used book store [yea!], and OWA ( a large amusement park and entertainment complex [meh]), and a Lambert's restaurant (family dining where the waiters throw rolls at the customers from across the room  -- the food is okay and kids love the idea of catching dinner rolls on the fly).  But the main attraction for my family is the outlet mall.

So why am I telling you all this?  Because before we get to Foley we go through a small town called Elberta.  The main drag in Elberta is Route 98 and the downtown section takes up just a couple of blocks.  There, on the left, as you go through to Foley, is the Road Kill Cafe -- an unassuming hole in the wall that never seemed to be open.  This made us wonder if the place was permanently closed, but, over the years, there it was -- unchanged --every time we drove through.  We got curious and eventually Christina looked it up on the internet.  The Road Kill Cafe was a going concern but it was only open from 10 to 12:30; the internet didn't give her much more information than that.  With a name like that, and armed with the knowledge that it was actually in business, we just had to try it out.  So...

Road trip.

We got there at 10:30, frustratingly later than we had intended (slow-pokey drivers and an unexpected traffic jam for no reason we could discern slowed us down).  Christina, myself, Amy, Erin and Trey.  Walt stayed home to get Jack to whatever summer thing he had scheduled, Jessie had to work, and something came up and Mark needed to be somewhere later that morning.  The five of us entered the cafe, fully expecting to met Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.  Au contraire.

It turned out the Road Kill Cafe was a buffet-style restaurant (who knew?)and the place was packed.  A waitress cornered us as we came in and took our drink orders (sweet tea or soft drink).  We managed to find a table.  The food was good old Southern cooking, and plenty of it.  Porkchops smothered in gravy, fried chicken, cut green beans with bacon, mashed potatoes, some sort of Spanish rice, sweet corn, spinach, black-eyed peas, and a large salad bar, which included potato salad and cole slaw.  Everything was delicious.  People kept coming into the cafe and customers kept going back for seconds; I watched one man build a mountain of mashed potatoes on his plate, nothing else, just mashed potatoes; he seemed very happy.  For dessert, there were two kinds of cake and some soft serve ice cream; the ice cream was delicious, although it tended to melt fast -- you can't have everything.  The buffet menu changes daily, and the cafe remains open until 1 pm on Sundays, for the church crowd.

There were customers of all ages there, but the majority seemed to be the entire over-55 population of Elberta.  (The population of Elberta was 1,498 according to the 2010 census, by the way.)The Road Kill Cafe was the morning meeting place for the town.  Everybody seemed to know everybody else and everybody was super-friendly.  The restaurant staff made you feel at home.   There were pictures on the wall of the local youth teams the Cafe supports.

The cost?  About fifteen bucks a head.  Before you pay, each diner has to pick a token out of a cloth bag; if you get a special token, your meal is discounted.  People over ninety years of age eat free -- there were two nonagenarians chomping down at on table.

After we left, we hit the factory outlet for a bit.  On the return home, about 1:30, parking spaces in from of the cafe were empty and the place once again looked deserted.

I highly recommend this place.  Great food and a great community feel.  the only drawback was that the seats on the chairs were pretty well stained -- something I did not notice until it was pointed out to me.  On the place side, I was not hungry for the rest of the day, eating nothing else until my 6:00 a.m. bowl of corn flakes this morning.

Now for another point of view.

While we were there, Amy texted her mother.  The conversation was as follows:

AMY:  What in the holy southern hell have we done.  

I don't think this is an experience, AJ [AJ is the family name for Jessie; it stands for "Aunt Jessie"], you will be remiss in not having. is a buffet.  The seats are disturbingly stained.  The food partially congealed. amalgamus [sic] and unlabeled in a way that is confusing and deeply southern  The staff is very nice.  Pop [that's me] has created an abomination of a food-touching plate [Amy does not like to have her food touched] that consists of, to the naked eye, shredded loose cheddar cheese, several types of olives, gravy (??), and fried chicken,  Bink [Christina -- another family name] tried to imitate someone holding several plates in their hands (like waiters do) but did not accompany the gesture with words.  Erin was under the impression Bink was about to lead the table in prayer.  This resulted in much giggling.  I am looking forward to the blackberry frozen yogurt.

JESSIE:  [smiley face emoji] tp " is a buffet.  the seats are disturbingly s..."

I am so glad you went because your updates are keeping me entertained during this zoom call.  [Jessie's work involved numerous boring zoom calls about budgets]

AMY: [some sort of other emoji but I'm not sure what it represents because I am old] to "I am so glad you went because your update are keep..."

The corn muffin was yummy.  the gravy (//) is surprisingly good.  We completely lost Trey to the food, he has gone nonverbal and tapped into deep southern roots in the way Nana [Kitty] began to turn feral in McGuire's [an Irish restaurant in Pensacola] the first time.  the staff is SUPER nice.  There seem [sic] to be regulars and they know them by name.

JESSIE:  Oh, I would have loved to have been there for the giggles.

AMY:  Pop has cleared his plate with a speed and gusto rarely known to the common man.  Bink says she did not know if he like [sic] it but he certainly ate it.

To paint a word picture, the atmosphere is very "Methodist Church Basement After the Service Core".  This might be why Erin thought Bink was going to led the family in prayer.  I am having flashbacks.

We are pleasantly pleased by the actual food. Erin and I say that we would eat here again.  Pop is freeloading and is neck deep in a slice of unlabled cake [it was a spice cake; a little bit dry but very tasty].  We have yet to discover where the possum on the menu is.  [evidently an in-joke amongst the staff.]

Bink is wearing a skirt and the seats are, as mentioned earlier, distressingly stained in the kind of all over portion of the chair.  she is perched with about one sixteenth of a butt cheek on her chair.

Strange parting ritual:  we all picked a poker chip out of a crown royal bag.  Not sure what for but none of us won anyway.

CHRISTINA [later]:  A lady is holding the tiniest, fluffiest black kitten in T.J. Maxx.


And that was our Road Kill adventure.  I'd go back.

Monday, June 17, 2024


Ogden Nash may not have been far off the mark when he wrote, "Philo Vance needs a kick in the pants."  And Raymond Chandler wrote that Vance was "the most asinine character in detective fiction."  The monocle wearing, know everything, supercilious Vance was the very popular detective in a series of novels by S. S. van Dine, marking a transition in the detective story to the (almost) modern era.  (The early Ellery Queen, for instance, was a Vance clone.)  Vance appeared in twelve novels; towards the end, his popularity began to fade as most mature works and more mature characters began to appear.

Vance appeared in fifteen films between 1929 and 1947.  Four of the first five films starred William Powel; the third film, The Bishop Murder Case, featured Basil Rathbone in the leading role.

A man nicknamed "Cock Robin" is found with an arrow in his heart at an archery range.  Next to the body is a chess piece, a bishop.  More murders follow, each accompanied by a nursery rhyme.  It's up to Philo Vance to unravel the mystery.

Also staring Leila Hyams and Roland Young.  Look closely and you may spot noted screenwriter (Dark Passage, The Petrified Forest, An Affair to Remember) and film director (Destination Tokyo, Broken Arrow, 3:10 to Yuma) Delmer Daves in a minor acting role.

Scripted by Lenore J, Coffee and directed by David Burton (stage direction) and Nick Grinde (screen direction).

Enjoy matching wits with one of the most irritating detectives in history.