Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, May 23, 2022

OVERLOOKED TELEVISION: YOUR SHOW TIME: THE MUMMY'S FOOT (FEBRUARY 11, 1949)

Your Show Time was an early television effort to bring famous literary short stories to the small screen.  It ran for 26 half-hour episodes from January 21 to July 15, 1949 -- a total of 26 episodes adapting tales from such authors as Guy de Maupassant, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Each episode was introduced by "The Bookshop Man," played by Arthur Shields doing his best Barry Fitzgerald imitation.

The fourth episode of the show featured Theophile Gautier's horror story "The Mummy's Foot" (originally "Le Pied de momie," published in Le Musee des familles, September 1840).  In this version, Peter Renault is a young playwright who is writing a show about ancient Egyptian times.  Unfortunately he gets a little too "wrapped up" in his subject.

Herbert Anderson (1917-1994), in his first television role, stars as Renault.  Anderson had a 35-year career in films and television.  He began doing bit parts in films, but after "The Mummy's Foot" spent most of the rest of his career in television -- most notably as Herbert Mitchell, the father in Dennis the Menace (1959-1963).

Rounding out the cast were J. Edward Bromberg, Peggy Dow, Phyllis Coates, and Hank Henry.

This episode was produced by Louis Lantz and directed by Sobey Martin, from an adaptation by Stanley Rubin.

Enjpy.


https://archive.org/details/YourShowTimeTheMummysFoot


Sunday, May 22, 2022

BITS & PIECES

 Openers:   I returned from the city about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life.  I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it.  If anyone had told me a year ago if I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact.  The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick.  I couldn't get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as that of soda-water that has been standing in the sun.  "Richard Hannay," I kept telling myself, "you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you jad better climb out."

It made me bite my lip to think of the places I had been building up those last years in Buluwayn.  I had got my pile -- not one of the big ones, but good enough for me; and I had figured out all kinds of ways of enjoying myself.  My father had brought me out from Scotland at the age of six, and I had never been home since; so England was a sort of Arabian Nights for me, and I counted on stopping there for the rest of my days.

But from the first I was disappointed with it.  In about a week I was tired of seeing sights, and in less than a month I had had enough of restaurants and theatre and race-meetings.  I had no real pal to about with, which probably explains things.  Plenty of people invited me to their houses, but they didn't seem much interested in me.  they would fling me a question or two about South Africa, and then get on to their own affairs.  A lot of Imperialist ladies asked me to tea to meet someone from New Zealand and editors from Vancouver, and that was the dismalest business of all.  Here was I, thirty-seven years old, sound in wind and limb, with enough money to have a good time, yawning my head off all day.  I had just about settled to clear out nd get back to the veld, for I was the best bored man in the United Kingdom.

The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan  (1915; first published as a serial in Blackwood's Magazine in their July, August, and September issues as by "H de V.")


Be careful what you wish for, Richard Hannay.  Within a few paragraphs you be pushed into an adventure that will have you running for your life over the hill and moor of Scotland, chased by both police and anarchists plotting to destabilize Europe.  As a character, I found Hannay to be a mixed blessing, at times shrewd and daring, and at other times of be a dim bulb.  The book I found also to be a bit off-putting because of at least one character's racist and anti-Semitic.  But the book has a lot going for it.  It is a classic adventure-espionage novel, a "shocker," as the author described it.  In 2003, the book was listed as one of the UK's best-loved novels by the BBC.

Most of us are familiar with the story from Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film starring Robert Donat.  In 1938, Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air adapted the book for their fourth episode, not getting the notoriety as their adaptation of that H. G. Wells novel later in the year. Other radio adaptations include episodes of the Lux Radio Theater (1937, with Robert Montgomery), Philip Morris Playhouse (1943, with Herbert Marshall), The Hour of Mystery (1946, with David Niven), the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Stage Series (1947). Studio One (1948, with Glenn Ford), Suspense (1952, with Herbert Marshall [again]), eight BBC adaptations, and  three BBC solo readings.   There have also been at least three audiobook versions of the novel.  Another version of the book, starring Kenneth More as Hannay, was released in 1959, followed by a 1978 version starring Robert Powell, and a television film staring Rupert Penry-Jones in 2008. Currently filming is a Netflix television mini-series with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead.  A theatrical adaptation of the novel was staged in 1995, and rewritten in 2005; it became the fifth longest running play Piccadilly's Criterion Theatre; it moved to Broadway in 2008 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two.   (The London show won an Oliver, and the Broadway show also received a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.  A 2014 BBC radio documentary focused on the novel's impact at home and abroad.

I have not seen every version of The Thirty-nine Steps, but a good number of them do not follow the book and have different ides of what the "thirty-nine steps" are.  Much of this can be laid to Mr. Hitchcock. who threw out most of the novel when he made his film.

Richard Hannay was too a character to waste on just one book.  Buchan used him as a major character in Greenmantle (1916), Mr. Standfast (1919), The Three Hostages (1924), and The Island of Sheep (1936), and as a minor character in The Courts of the Morning (1929) and Sick Heart River (1940).  Hannay also appears as a member of The Runagates Club (1926), a collection of twelve stories; another member of that club is Sir Edward Leithen, a major character in five of Buchan's novels, including Sick Heart River.  

Hannay was also the title character in the 1998-1999 television series featuring Robert Powell in the title role.  He was also featured in a 1952 six-episode series, The Three Hostages, with Patrick Barr as Hannay, and in a 1997 television movie of The Three Hostages, with Barry Foster as Hannay.


John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir (1875-1940) carried on dual careers as an author and as a politician and diplomate.  As an author, he wrote 28 popular novels, 43 non-fiction books (many of which were histories, including one book of 24 volumes), eleven biographies, four poetry collections, and five short story collections, along with editing 14 anthologies.  On the political side (following periods as a barrister and a publisher), Buchan was the private secretary to the  High Commissioner of Southern Africa, a lieutenant colonel in the intelligence corps and director of intelligence during World War I, reporting to prime minister David Lloyd George, s Unionist member of Parliament, King George V's Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, and the 15th Governor-General of Canada.  

On February 6, 1940, Buchan suffered a stroke and injured his head as he fell.  Two surgeries failed to save him and he died on February 11,  His time spent in Canada and his clear devotion to the Canadian people endeared him to much of the populace. He was given a state funeral in Ottawa and his ashes were then shipped to England for burial.




Incoming:

  • Richard Brister, The Shoot-out at Sentinel Peak, with Tangled Trail by Roy Manning.  An Ace Double western.  The Brister:  "The storm broke in Sentinel the day Cleve McNary's neighbor Will Ruscher, spilled out his life's blood on the town street.  Will's H-on-a-Rail ranch was just a two-bit building between two giant neighbors, but it had one thing of real value in that arid valley -- a darned good waterhole.  Cleve could have used that water himself but he wasn't the kind of coyote that would buy something with lead that he couldn't get with silver.  On the other hand, he couldn't stand with holstered pistols while another man got away with murder."  And the Manning:  (from the Mobile Press Register) "Tex Tevis, the hero of this story, had built a small homestead with his brother, and they found themselves in a peck of trouble with the big cattle ranchers.  Six-guns blazed on the range and when the smoke of the fighting was cleared, Tex's brother was dead, their home burned.  Tex swore revenge and in his hatred he became a renegade and a social outcast..."
  • "Barry Cord" (Peter B. Germano), Concho Valley (abridged), with My Brother the Gunman by William Heuman.  An Ace Double western.  About Concho Valley:  "Lon Winters hightailed it into Concho Valley to find out what was holding up his pard, Frank Santree.  Lon was shocked to discover that Frank had  just been strung up as a rustler of Diamond T beef.  Lon knew that Frank was no rustler.  And when he tried to get to the truth of the whole mess, he stepped plumb into the middle of a strange kind of range war.  He knew that there was double-dealing going on, but by the time he figured out the rules of the deadly game, he'd already been slipped the ace of spades.  And then Lon knew that his guns had better be the fastest in Concho Valley or he'd be joining his partner darned quick."  And the Heuman:  "Carmody, when Cass Malone left it to join the Union Army, was a sleepy Kansas cattle-town.  When he came back six years later, he found it had become a booming railhead, run ruthlessly by one Frank Wymore, a hardbitten hombre who knew what he wanted and how to get it.  It didn't take Cass long to figure out how Wymore managed to stay alive in a town where he'd turned every decent man against him.  Chief on his payroll was a pack of hired gunslingers, ready to answer any complaints with a bullet in the back.  But Cass's worst discovery was that his own kid brother was number one gunman in the crowd.  Then there was no choice left for Cass Malone.  He had to pit himself against his own flesh and blood, or settle for a coward's grave in Boot Hill."
  • "Barry Cord" (Peter B. Germano), Mesquite Johnny (abridged), with A Time for Guns by Rod Patterson.  An Ace Double western.  The Cord:  "Johnny Delaney was a kid they called 'the orphan,' but from the hell he raised he could have been the devil's own offspring.  Fast, furious, and fearless, he was also still beardless.  And there was nothing he wanted more than to be thought of as a full-grown man.  That's why he saddled up to look for his pal who had disappeared over in Ladrone.  He needed to prove himself a man once and for all.  But once in the thick of the bushwacking and double-dealing of that cattle-rustlers' paradise, Johnny found out there was something even harder than growing a man's beard.  That would be to get out of Ladrone alive!"  About the Patterson:  "Clay Harper knew that his life wasn't worth the skin of a new-born calf after the way he had bucked his old rival, Lee Carmody.  Therefore he had nothing to lose by opposing Lee's big Sultana outfit and stopping it from taking over the range.  But Lee didn't know how dirty the fight would get and how many other people's lives it would involve.  He hadn't anticipated wholesale murder, nor that his wife would run out on him, nor, finally, that his son might ecome a key pawn in the deadly struggle."
  • John Creasey, Murder, London-Australia.  A Superintendent Roger West mystery.  "Superintendent Roger West's newest case begins with the strangling of an Australian girl in a London boarding house.  Then a man dies suddenly at London Airport -- and like the girl he was a passenger on S.S. Kookaburra.  West and his Scotland Yard colleagues discover enough to suspect that every passenger on that recent voyage of the Kookaburra is in danger of death.  As they dig deeper, the danger becomes even greater, threatening the Australian Blue Flag fleet of ships.  The complex -- and perilous -- job of solving this elaborate crime takes Roger West from London to Australia."  Creasey's books are like crack to me and Roger West is one of his greatest characters.
  • "Evan Evans" (Frederick Faust, also known as "Max Brand"), Outlaw's Code.  Yep, another western.  "His name was Lawrence Grey -- Texas called him Rinky Dink -- South of the Border he was Don Diablo.  But by any other name he was equally deadly.  He was fair-haired, with a pink and white complexion and a charming smile.  Women loved him, and on both sides of the law, men got out of the way for Rinky Dink.  He never broke a promise.  He never forgot an enemy or a friend.  What he wanted, he took...a girl, a horse, a million in gold."
  • Frank Gruber, Outlaw.  Another western, making them more than 83 % of this week's incoming.  " 'Twenty-five thousand, dead or alive!'  That's how bad the banks and the railroads wanted Jim Chapman, terror of the border states, the first man who ever robbed a bank in broad daylight, or held up a U. S. mail train and gutted it of its gold.  Frank Gruber, the great western author, has written this powerful, full-bodied novel of Jim Chapman, Confederate veteran, world-famed outlaw, in the bloodiest, most violent days in the whole raw history of America's frontier."



Unless, of course, you are Clifton Chenier, the great zydeco innovator.  Chenier himself was inspired by the recording of Amadie (or Amede) Ardoin.

(For those who are interested, here's an early recording of Ardoin, "Les Blues de Voyage"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJePDKmNcrw

(And a 1955 recording by Clifton Chenier, "Ay Tete Fee"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnUA5AZCD2w)

In essence, an accordion is a musical instrument that uses hand-pumped bellows and and two keyboard to sound free reeds (small metal tongues that vibrate when air is pushed past them.  The earliest precursor to the accordion may be the cheng, or sheng, which appeared in China around 3000 BC.  The story goes that the emperor Huang Ti sent a scholar to the western mountain regions of his kingdom to find a way to reproduce the song of the phoenix bird.  The scholar returned with the cheng, the first known instrument to use the free vibrating reed principle.  Later instruments to use this principle arose in Egypt and Greece and played a part in many beliefs.

During the 12th and 13th centuries an instrument called the portative as popular in England.  This had a small keyboard bellows and reed pipes and was strapped onto the player.  Around 1770, the cheng made its way to Russia, and the across Europe.  Another precursor to the accordion was the regal, also known as the Bible regal because of its common use in  churches.  Its popularity faded because of its tendency to go out of tune rather quickly, although it was often used in madrigal groups from the 15th to 18th centuries.

The first true accordion was made in 1822 by the German instrument maker  Christian Friedrich Buschmann (who is questionably credited with also inventing the harmonica), who called his instrument the Handaoline, and had it patented.  In 1828, Cyrill Demian made modification to Buschmann's Handaoline, named the new instrument the accordion, and had it patented.  Demian is widely credited for not only naming, but also creating, the first modern accordion.  Since the there have been many changes and variations of the accordion.

Among the more well-known accordion players are Lawrence Welk, Myron Floren, Loreena McKennit, and Bruce Hornsby.  Bring the generous kind of guy I am, I won't hold their choice of instrument against these folks...well, maybe Lawrence Welk.





On This Day:  April 23 was a busy day in history.  Joan of Arc was captured (1439); Savonarola was burned at the stake (1498); Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon was nullified (1533); South Carolina becomes the eighth state (1788); the declaration of the Bab announced that he was a prophet, eventually becoming the forerunner of the Baha'i faith -- today is a holy day for Baha'is (2844); Mexican president Mariano Paredes unofficially declares was on the United States (1846); the North-West Mounted Police was founded (1873); the New York Public Library was dedicated (1911); Italy joined the Allies in World War I (1915); Bonnie and Clyde were killed by police (1934); Heinrich Himmler committed suicide (1945); Tibetans signed The Seventeen Point Agreement with China (1951); Eunice Kennedy married Sargent Shriver (1953); "I Get Around" by the Beach Boys was a number one hit (1964); the Java programming language was introduced (1995); the Good Friday Agreement is reached with Northern Ireland (1997); and there have been way too many bombings, shootings, killings, and natural disasters.

Birthday wishes go out to Mayan king K'inich Kan Bahlam II (b. 635), Philip I of France (b. 1962), Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (b. 1707), Franz Mesmer (b. 1734), Eads Bridge designer James Buchanan Eads (b. 1820), General Ambrose Burnside (b. 1824), actor Douglas Fairbanks (b. 1883), actor Herbert Marshall, who played Richard Hannay -- see above (b. 1890), author Par Lagerkvist (b. 1891), author Scott O'Dell (b. 1898), Goodnight Moon lady Margaret Wise Brown (b. 1910). Scatman Crothers (also 1910). bandleader Artie Shaw (also 1910 -- it was a good year for talent), singers Helen O'Connell (b. 1920) and Rosemary Clooney (b. 1928), sexy actress Joan Collins (b. 1933), chess genius Anatoly Karpov (b. 1951), Marvelous Marvin Hagler (b. 1954), actor and game show host Drew Carey (b. 1958), and singer-songwriter and occasional SYFY movie actress Jewel (b. 1974).

On on this day in history, we bid a fond (or not-so fond) farewell to Pope Urban I (d. 230), antipope Benedict XIII (d. 1423), Italian friar Gerolamo Savonarola (d. 1498), pirate William Kidd (d. 1701), legendary frontiersman Kit Carson (d. 1868), the above-mentioned Bonnie and Clyde (d. 1934), rich guy John D. Rockefeller (d. 1937), the above-mentioned baddie Heinrich Himmler (d. 1945), actor and singer George Jessel, who once tried to molest Shirley Temple until she kicked him in the groin (d. 1981), Australian activist and last speaker of the Gaagudju language Big Bill Neidjle (d. 2002), golfer Sam Snead (d. 2002), folk singer, activist, and the man who gave us the story of "Moose Turd Pie" Utah Phillips (d. 2008), comedian Anne Meara (d. 2015), James Bond and Simon Templar and Beau Maverick actor Roger Moore (d. 2017), The Very Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle (d. 2021), and (again) too many people from bombings, shootings, killings, and natural disasters.

And if you want to go wild and celebrate, today is International Turtle Day (and which for those who are picky, excludes Christina's Sebastian, who is a tortoise -- but who would be so callous to omit sweet, sweet Sebastian?).  It is also Lucky Penny Day, National Taffy Day, and World Crohn's and Colitis Day.  As mentioned above, Baha'is are celebrating Declaration of the Bab Day.  And don't forget International Day to End Obstetric Fistula and Victoria Day.  We also in the  National Backyard Games Week, Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, National Safe Boating Week. National Tire Safety Week, and World Schizophrenia Awareness Week.  For those who are interested we are smack day in the middle of the 2022 Cannes International Film Festival.

If you were born on this date you are a Gemini and your birth flower can be either the lily of the valley or the hawthorn.  Your birthstone is the emerald, which supposedly gives the owner foresight, good fortune and youth.





The Wackadoodle Wave:   And then there's this:  Abroted fetuses are being burned in Washington, DC to provide electricity.  Don't believe it?  But it must be true because that was the testimony of anti-abortion activist Catherine Glenn Foster, the president of Americans Right to Life before a House judiciary committee meeting on the access to abortion, and we all know that testimony before a House Committee has to truthful, right?  Do I need mention that Ms. Foster was requested to appear before the committee by Republican members?

Which brings me to this interesting article from The Atlantic by David A. Graham.  It's worth a look.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/republican-congressional-candidates-2022-midterm-elections/629733/

And do we even have to mention Jewish Space lasers?





Nijinsky:  Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) was one of the world's greatest ballet dancers.  His grace, athleticism, and artistry, along with his sensitive interpretations and his ability to seemingly defy gravity in Grande Jete made him one of the most famous figures in the Ballets Russes and around the world.  Very little film exists of his work, but here's a short clip from a reconstruction of a 1909 performance of Le Pavillon D'Armide, when the Nijinsky was only twenty and had recently been named premier dancer of the Ballets Russes.  The clip was apparently mainly reconstructed from still photographs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy1Gwgn7RSQ






Florida Man:   Florida Man has not been in hibernation over the past few weeks.  Here's some examples.
  • Florida Man Jean Barreto, 26, is lucky to be alive after a Florida Man Osceola County deputy fired at him with a taser.  Unfortunately Barreto was fueling his motorcycle at the time nd was covered with gasoline -- he received third degree burns over 75% of his body..  Barreto is being charged with fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement, reckless driving. and resisting an officer without violence; the unnamed sheriff's deputy is being charged with culpable negligence and (I assume) gross stupidity.
  • Florida Man Adam Smith, 35, has been arrested over a series of lewd video calls he made to unsuspecting strangers in 2021.  (When I say "lewd," I mean he was masturbating.)  Smith had previously been arrested in 2019 for pulling his car up to a woman and gratifying himself in the same manner.  Although Smith is said to be a Tennessee native, two of the obscene calls he made came from a Sarasota, Florida, number -- which makes him a Florida Man in my book.
  • West Palm Beach Florida Man Jamie Avery, 28, has been accused of trying to set a child on fire in a New York City office building.  Police found Avery and another suspect trying to start fires in the building.  Police also found a one-year-old child covered in flammable liquid at the scene/
  • Florida Man Michael Justin Rowe, 32, was arrested for trying to steal $800 in small change from a machine in an Englewood laundromat using a sledge hammer.  Rowe was wearing a gorilla mask.  Also arrested in the simian-themed heist was Taylor Marie Farrell, 34; it is not known whether she is a Florida Woman.
  • Florida Man and Polk Country Deputy Austin Moates was arrested on charges of child abuse.  Moates had responded to an incidence of bullying at a local school.  Moates took the two children home, spoke to their mother, nd then proceeded to spank each child "with his hand for their behavior."  Moates the told the children to go to their rooms.  One did but the other refused.  That's when Moates grabbed the girl by the neck and forced her upstairs.  According to the girl, Moates "choked my neck and he squeezed my neck and carried me up the stairs and he wanted me to die."  When a person noted the red marks on the child's neck and asked if Moates was responsible, the deputy denied it, saying "what are you talking about," and that he did not see any red marks, and if the marks were there, the girl probably did it herself.  Sometimes Florida Men say the stupidest things.






Good News:
  •  Scuba divers recover 12 tons of trash from Lake Tahoe, including engagement rings and wallets     https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/clean-up-of-lake-tahoe-recovers-52k-pounds/
  • An otter spotted in the Detroit River may be the first sighting in 100 years      https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/an-otter-spotted-in-detroit-river-may-be-first-sighting-in-100-years/
  • Students create edible tortilla tape to keep your wrap wrapped     https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/students-create-edible-tortilla-tape-to-keep-your-wraps-wrapped/
  • The number of greater one-horned rhinos reaches a new high     https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/number-of-greater-one-horned-rhinos-reaches-new-high/
  • Island is finally rid of 300,000 rats        https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/howe-island-eradicates-kills-300000-rats-now-everything-is-blooming/
  • anonymous donor pays of entire debt for an entire 3033 class in Texas      https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/anonymous-donor-pays-student-debt-for-2022-wiley-college-class/
  • Plants have been grown in lunar soil for the first time ever      https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/plants-have-been-grown-in-lunar-soil-for-the-first-time-ever/




A One-Liner from Steven Wright:  I bought some powdered water but I don't know what to add,






Today's Poem:
May

I cannot tell you how it was,
But this I know: it came to pass
Upon a bright and sunny day,
When May was young; oh, pleasant May!
And yet the poppies were not born
Between the blades of tender corn;
The last egg had not hatched as yet, 
Nor any bird forgone its mate.

I cannot tell you what it was,
But this I know:  it did but pass.
It passed away with sunny May,
Like all sweet things it passed away,
And left me old, and cold, and gray.

-- Christina Rossetti

Saturday, May 21, 2022

HYMN TIME

 Sam Cooke with The Soul Stirrers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsuqH1Ca060&list=PLSQ9_a7EjS7dLf94hg_G6VbH_nyVB1l0o

Friday, May 20, 2022

THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF MR. SATAN (FEBRUARY- NOVEMBER 1940)

 Dudley Bradshaw, a wealthy young playboy, has a secret identity.  He's Mr. Satan, a costumed hero, international detective, and soldier of fortune.  He had no superpowers, no sidekick -- just a purple devil's costume from a Fancy Dress costume shop (the costume also included a long yellow cape).   His brief comic book run was in the first nine issues of MLJ Comics Zip Comics, where he served -- along with Kalthar (King of the Jungle), Miracle Man, Capt. Valor, and others -- as a backup feature to the adventures of Charles Biro's Steel Sterling, Man of Steel.

Mr. Satan was created by writer Abner Sundell and artist Ed Ashe.  The pair created most of Mr. Satan's none adventures as well as other features for MLJ.

Mr. Satan has no backstory.  Why he decided to get gussied up in that get-up remains a mystery, as does why he chose such a poor costumed hero moniker.  His adventures -- six pages per issue -- are quickly told, with no suspense, little mystery, and even less depth.  He remains one of the few MLJ comic book heroes was was not picked up later by one of the comic book publishers of the 60s.

The 1940 Mr. Satan should not be conflated with the much more popular Mr. Satan from Dragon Ball.


For your edification, here the complete Dudley Bradshaw oeuvre:


https://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=82522&comicpage=&b=i


Thursday, May 19, 2022

FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF PRIVATE EYE STORIES

 The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories (revised edition), edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg (2004)


Who doesn't love a good private eye?  The hard-boiled PI begin in the May 1923 issue of Black Mask with Carroll John Daly's "Three Gun Terry."  A month later Black Mask published Daly's first Race Williams mystery, "Knights of the Open Palm" in that magazines infamous special "KKK issue."  Three months later Dashiell Hammett published his first Continental Op story.  And the floodgates were opened.

Today, PIs are both hard-boiled and soft-boiled, reflective and instinctive, male and female, straight and gay, and some have physical of mental disabilities.  The field covers a broad range of careers; while many are actually licensed PIs, many others are not.   The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories is mainly concerned with real private eyes, although Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder (an  unlicensed private eye) and Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter (an insurance investigator) are included in the mix.  

Pronzini and Greenberg have selected tales about some of the greatest and most popular private eyes of all time.  The only significant omissions seem to be Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.  (Two other early PIs -- Carroll John Daly's Race Williams and Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner -- were included in the first edition of this book in 1998, but were dropped for this edition.)  Still, according to Kevin Burnett Smith's The Thrilling Detective website, this volume is "possibly the single best anthology of private eye ever...Recommended.  HEARTILY."

Some of the stories may be familiar but most are not.

The contents:

  • Raymond Chandler, "Wrong Pigeon"  (Philip Marlowe)
  • Fredric Brown, "Before She Kills"  (Ed and Am Hunter)
  • Howard Browne, "So Dark for April"  (Paul Pine)
  • William Campbell Gault, "Stolen Star"  (Joe Puma)
  • Ross MacDonald, "Guilt Edged Blonde"  (Lew Archer)
  • Henry Kane, "Suicide Is Scandalous"  (Peter Chambers)
  • Richard S,. Prather, "Dead Giveaway"  (Shell Scott)
  • Joseph Hansen, "Surf"  (Dave Brandstetter)
  • Michael Collins, "A Reason to Die"  (Dan Fortune)
  • Ed McBain, "Death Flight"  (Milt Davis)
  • Stephen Marlowe, "Wanted -- Dead and Alive"  (Chester Drum)
  • Edward D. Hoch, "The Other Eye"  (Al Darlan)
  • Stuart M. Kaminsky, "Busted Blossoms"  (Toby Peters)
  • Lawrence Block, "Out of the Window"  (Matt Scudder)
  • John Lutz, "Ride the Lightning"  (Alo Nudger)
  • Sue Grafton, "She Didn't Come Home"  (Kinsey Millhone)
  • Edward Gorman, "The Reason Why"  (Jack Dwyer)
  • Stephen Greenleaf. "Iris"  (John Marshall Tanner)
  • Bill Pronzini, "Skeleton Rattle Your Moldy Leg"  (Nameless Detective)
  • Marcia Muller, "The Broken Men"  (Sharon McCone)
  • Arthur Lyons, "Trouble in Paradise"  (Jacob Asch)
  • Max Allan Collins, "The Strawberry Teardrop"  (Nate Heller)
  • Robert J. Randisi, The Nickel Derby"  (Henry Po)
  • Loren D. Estleman, "Greektown"  (Amos Walker)

Wow.

It's impossible for me to pick out a favorite.  Brown, MacDonald, Block, Lutz, Gorman, Greenleaf, and Collins all have stories that just sing to me.  All the other tales are more than worthwhile.

To steal a line from above:  "Recommended.  HEARTILY."

Who's your favorite fictional PI?

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

MYSTERY HOUSE: A NEW LEASE ON DEATH (AUGUST 19, 1945)

 In a real-life example of Mickey and Judy deciding to put on a show in somebody's barn, Dan and Barbara Glenn, owners of the real-life Mystery House Publishing Company decide to preview books they were considering publishing as radio plays, with the company's staff pitching in by writing the adaptations, acting all the roles, doing the sound effects.

At least that's how the legend goes.  In reality it is not known whether the publishing company or the Glenns actually existed.

The radio show reportedly began in 1929 and ran through 1951, but not continuously.  Recording are rare -- about 32 episodes survive, most from the mid-Forties.

(It should be noted that there was a Mystery House publishing company from 1940 to 1948 as an imprint of Arcadia House.  Authors included Frank Gruber (as "Stephen Gould"), "Anthony Gilbert," Barry Perowne, Peter Cheney, "E. C. R. Lorac," William G. Bogart, William Gray Beyer, Sydney Horler, Sam Merwin, Jr., Oscar J. Friend (as "Owen Fox Jerome"), John Roebert, Frank Kane, Amelia Reynolds Long, along with a host of lesser writers.  They published over seventy books for the library trade during this period.  Samuel Curl, the publisher, went bankrupt in 1948 and sold Arcadia House to Phoenix press.  Curl managed to reorganize in 1950 and later entered into a partnership with Thomas Bouregy to form Bouregy & Curl.  Curl issued thirteen books under the Mystery House imprint from 1952 to 1956 when Curl ran out of money, dissolved his partnership with Bouregy, and exited publishing.  All Mystery House Books from 1957 to 1959 were published by Bouregy.  At no time during this entire period was there any mention of the Glenns and no book issued under any of the titles used in the Mystery House radio program.)

Anyway, here's the earliest episode of Mystery House that I could find online.

Enjoy.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7YkLEoAkSQ&t=111s


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY: THE DIAMONDS OF SHOMAR'S QUEEN

 "The Diamonds of Shomar's Queen" by Charles J. Mansford, B.A.  (first published in The Straand Magazine, July 1892; collected in Shafts from an Eastern Quiver by C. J. Mansford, 1893)


Frank Denviers and Harold Derwent are a pair of English tourists and adventurers who, accompanied by their daring and faithful servant Hassan, undergo "as many hairbreadth escapes and other adventures by sea and land as can well be packed into a volume of less than three hundred pages."  The twelve stories about the trio were published monthly in The Strand Magazine from July 1892 through June 1883.  "The Diamonds of Shomar's Queen" is the first tale in the series which takes its flavor from Conan Doyle and Rider Haggard.

As we open, Hassan has just told the Englishmen a fabulous tale about a deserted city of marble and a rare diamond that they feel might have been embellished with a bit of fancy.  Hassan has his faults (he's a bit light-fingered but Arabs tend to consider that a cardinal virtue, according to Derwent) but he has always been completely honest with his masters.  (These tales suffer from the jingoism that was prevalent in England at the time; take that as you will.)

More than two thousand years ago a great king named Shomar ruled in Arabia.  Shomar was used to accolades and kowtowing from his courtiers. but there was one courtier -- a prince -- who did not show Shamar the deference he felt was his due.  The king was very unhappy.  Because the prince was very popular, he did not dare to have him killed.  What to do?

Then there were rumors of an uprising inn a distant part of the kingdom.  Taking advantage of this, Shomar accused the prince of instigating the rebellion and exiled the prince.  The prince, his daughter, and a few followers left the royal city, never to be seen there again.  Eventually the prince founded his own city, Metra -- a marble city rising from a mighty ravine, a city of beauty and wealth that soon attracted many others.  There the prince ruled until his death, after which his daughter, the Princess Idaliah, ruled.  Idaliah was a woman of great beauty and many princes pursued her in hopes of winning her heart.  Idaliah, however, was in love with a poor mountaineer, with whom she met during the early days of her father's exile.

Word of Metra and its beautiful ruler eventually made its way back to Shomar's palace.  Shomar travelled to Metra to see for himself and was impressed with the beautiful city and even more impressed with the beautiful woman who ruled it.  He asked Idaliah to marry him and she refused, saying her heart belonged to another.  Asked if her lover should die, would she then consider marrying him, Idaliah plainly said that if her lover should die she, too, would die.  Shamar exited after giving the Princess a fabulous diamond necklace and began plotting the mountaineer's death.   Well, son of a gun, the mountaineer had an "accident" and fell of the cliff into the ravine and died.  When his battered body was brought to the palace and placed before her throne, Idaliah to one look and the corpse and died.

Shomar, horrified that his evil deed had led to the Princess's death, ordered the city emptied and sealed.  He appointed the oldest woman of a nearby tribe to guard the city.  Since then, the oldesst crone of every generation served to guard and protect the city and the bodies of Idaliah and her lover, which remained as they were when death eased Idaliah's broken heart.  Shomar, meanwhile, declared that his people were to consider the dead princess his queen.  And so it was for more than two thousand years.

Oh.  Did I mention that Idaliah was wearing the diamond necklace when she died.

That's the story Hassan told and the three set out to find the city of Metra and to see if the tale of the diamond necklace was true.  It was.  Surprisingly, the bodies were as intact as they day they died, the Princess Idaliah as beautiful as ever.  And, as Denviers held back the old crone/guardian, Derwent took the necklace from the lovely corpse.  As he did so Idaliah's body crumbled to dust.

Not much happens then.  They leave the city with the necklace, became rich, and went on to other adventures.

The remaining eleven episodes of Shafts from an Eastern Quiver as printed in The Strand Magazine are:

  • The Jasper Vale of the Falling Star  (August1892)
  • The Black Horsemen of Nisha the Seer  (September 1892)
  • Darak, the Scorn of the Afghans  (October 1892)
  • The Sword-Hilt of the Idol at Delhi  (November 1892)
  • The Hindu Fakir of the Silent City  (December 1892)
  • Margarita, the Bond Queen of the Wandering Dhahs  (January 1893)
  • The Masked Ruler of the Black Wreckers  (February 1893)
  • Maw-Sayah:  The Keeper of the Great Burman Nat  (March 1893)
  • The Hunted Tribe of Three Hundred Peaks  (April 1893)
  • In Quest of the Lost Galleon  (May 1893)
  • The Daughter of Lovetski the Lost  (June 1893)



Charles John Jodrell Mansford (1863-1943) was a British educator and author.  Shafts from an Estern Quiver was his first book.  Others were Under the Naga Banner (1896, about the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant), A Bride's Experiment:  A Story of Australian Bush Life (1896), Bully, Fag, and Hero:  or, In Playground and Schoolroom (1897), The Adventures of Mark Paton and Other Stories (1898), Fags and the King (1909), Sword of Scarlet (1925?), Prefect and Fag (undated, but perhaps 1926), and The Great Green Serpent (1926. a lost race novel).  


He was the son of a tailor and the youngest of five brothers.  His elder brothers became, respectively a hatter (who became destitute and spent time in a workhouse), a laborer (well, actually a labourer...British you know), a carpenter, and a postman.  Charles, who may have conjured up his two middle names, somehow managed to graduate from the University of London, eventually becoming Headmaster at Grace, Lady Manners, Grammar School in Bakewell, Derbyshire, from 1896 to 1902; his wife Louisa served as honorary Headmistress to the girls at the co-educational school.  For 1902 to 1919, Mansford was Headmaster of Dartford Grammar School.  At Dartford, Mansford completely revised the school's curriculum to meet twentieth century standards; enrollment increased, two major additions were added, and the staffing was greatly improved.  He also championed (unsuccessfully) for equal opportunity and equal pay for female teachers; this may have been due to the influence of his wife who had been educated by Frances Mary Buss, a pioneer in women's education.

Mansford's literary career began in 1881 when he worked as a publisher's assistant.  It can assumed that this offered him entry to the popular magazines such as The Strand.  His literary endeavors seemed to be divided by adventure stories for the magazines and boys' school stories for the book and juvenile market.  He had great success in both but his imperialist sensibilities and his chronicles of schoolboy bullying and antisemitism do not wear well with today's readers.

Personally, Mansford was an opportunist and a snob, eager to erase any knowledge of his lower class background.  Working to advance his social standing, he joined the Freemasons, applied for The Freedom of the City of London, and was elected a Fellow of  the Chemical Society (allowing him to append FCS to his name) -- all to give the impression that he was on the same status level as his students.  Mansford was baptized a Catholic -- a fact he kept hidden -- and espoused the Church of England.  Being fifty years old during World War I, Mansford was deemed too old to fight.  Rather, he established an Officer Training Corps at Dartford and assumed the title "Captain;" he maintained that title for the rest of his life.

Charles and Louisa's one child, Isobel Grace, married a Dartford pupil, Geoffrey Noakes.  Noakes emigrated to America in 1920 and Isobel, along with Charles and Louisa, followed in 1921, settling in Fresno, California.  Charles and Louisa eventually separated and, at least by 1934, Charles was once again settled in England.  In March of 1934, Charles made a new will, cutting out entirely his wife and daughter; instead giving his entire estate to Dorothy Kate Rider, a woman some thirty years younger than Mansford.  According to the 1939 census, they lived at the same address.  She referred to him as her "uncle".  He wasn't.  She was also listed on various documents as a "Dispenser (medical)" or as a "cashier."  Her exact relationship with Mansford is not known.  It was 9:30 on a Monday morning, January 18, 1943, when Mansford went to visit a shop and stepped in front of a taxicab.  He died later that day at the hospital.  He was 79.

His estranged wife and daughter enjoyed a much longer life.  Louisa passed away at age 96; Isobel lived to age 101.


All issues from July 1892 to June 1893 of The Strand Magazine, as well as Shafts from an Eastern Quiver are available to  be read online.