Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, June 6, 2023


 "Sergeant Shane of the Space Marines" by "John York Cabot" (David Wright O'Brien)  (from Amazing Stories, October 1941)

"Shane made his biggest mistake when he plucked his eyebrows for a girl"  (editorial blurb for "Sergeant Shane of the Space Marines")

Sergeant Shane did have bushy blond eyebrows and he was plucking them at the start of this story because Varda, the Venusian night club singer he fell in love with the night before had complained about them.  Plucking his eyebrows would not be enough to make him handsome; in truth, he was "as ugly as a Venusian mud fence."  He has a build like a weight lifter, and cauliflowered ears, wide shoulders, with long arms ending in big red paws.  To add to this physiogamy, Shane was five feet four inches tall.  He had a habit of falling in love often and not too wisely.

Shane and his friend Corporal Conk go to catch Varna's act.  They socialize with her between sets and have a few drinks, then a few more drinks.  Just when it's time for them to go before their liberty expired, Varna came up to them. frightened about two thuggish men who had been staring at her.  She feared they would follow her home and attack her there.  It is not in the cards for two red-blooded space marines to leave a damsel in distress, so they offer to escort her home.  Along the way, they have a set-to with the two thugs and Shane and Cork leave the thugs unconscious.  Varna takes them to a deserted warehouse, where two other guys pull ray guns on them while Varna securely ties their hands and feet with rope.  Of course it was a trap; space marines are brave and strong and noble, but they really don't have much in the smarts department.  Varna and her two accomplices hustle Shane and Cork into a spaceship and they take off to somewhere in the asteroid belt.

(We never learn exactly why Shane and Cork are kidnapped, only that Varna and her cohorts plan to extract damaging information from them, not realizing that Shane and Cork are just a couple of mooks who have no damaging information.) 

Remember the tweezers?  Shane had them in his pocket and uses them to s-l-o-w-l-y cut through his bonds,  Then Cork does the same.  They capture the ship, subdue the bad guys and head home, expecting a hero's welcome.  Unfortunately, their actions have screwed up an elaborate sting operation that Marine Intelligence had set up.

As with many of the stories in Amazing at the time, this one has editorial footnotes.  One decribes the science fictional metal "parbulium," found only on Venus; a second describes the "Chart Televizors," sort of a futuristic space Mapquest as might be envisioned in the 1940s.  Without these footnotes, the reader might never understand how Shane and Cork get out of their predicament.

David Wright O'Brien (1918-1944) wrote three stories about Sergeant Shane as "John York Cabot" for Amazing; this was the first.  All follow the rather juvenile template that Raymond A. Palmer established for the magazine when he took of its editorship in 1938; sales took pride of place over literary quality as far as Palmer was concerned.  O'Brien was a popular author for Palmer and published almost his entire body of work in either Amazing Stories or its companion magazine Fantastic Adventures.  He published his first sory in 1939.  A good deal of O'Brien's work was space opera and routine adventure, but many of his stories had a sly sense of humor.   The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes that O'Brien could be a "sharp and creative writer."  A nephew of famed Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, he was said to average 50,000 words a month, publishing over 125 stories in his short career, both under his own name and as "John York Cabot," "Bruce Dennis," "Duncan [H.] Fransworth," and "Richard Vardon," as well as under the house pseudonyms "Alexander Blade" and "Clee Garson."  Some of his works were in collaboration with his friend William P. McGivern, with whom he shared an office. O'Brien died in World War II over Berlin on December 11, 1944; he was 26.

The vast majority of O'Brien's work can be found online in various magazines, including the October 1941 issue of Amazing Stories, at the usual sources; you can use his listing on to locate individual issues.


 She is 74 years old today because she will live on forever in my heart.

Monday, June 5, 2023


 I am a sucker for gorilla movies.  More to the point, I am a sucker for cheesy gorilla movies.  And, ultimately, I am a sucker for cheesy gorilla movies with Ray Corrigan in costume.  White Pongo hits the mark on all three counts.

First, let' get the unpleasant suff out of the way.  This is a 1945 Poverty row film, so you know it has racist overtones (and undertones, and smack down the middle tones).  The head porter on the safari is a negro named "Mumbo Jumbo" (Joel Fluellen); let's all slink down in our seats when that comes up, okay?  Not much of a spoiler, but "White Pongo" (whose name is pronounced "White Ponga" throughout the film) is a rare white gorilla, suspected of being the "missing link" between ape and man.  Note that it is a white gorilla, and not a black one.  And there are stereotypical Nazis, but since it's 1945 we'll let that one slide.

Anyway, some scientists and adventurers are on a safari into the Congo (rhymes with Pongp) is serch of this rumored, rare white gorilla.  "Rare" means "hard to find," something that would not apply here if the jamooks on the safari opened their eyes -- Pongo is lurking  in the nearby bushes in almost every scene.  A diary of Fredrick Dierdorf, a murdered anthropologist, convinces the scientists that they are on the trasck of the missing link.  Leading the expedition is Sir Harry Bragdon (Gordon Richards), who brings along his eye candy daughter Pamela (Maris Wrixon) because she is qualified, having been born on a safari ('nuf said).  She is in love (for the moment) with namby-pamby rich snob Clive Carswell.  Also along is heroic bodyguard Geoffrey Bishop (Richard Fraser), who is really an undercover agent trying to suss out evil safari guide Hans Kroegert (Al Eben), whom Bishop suspects murdered Dierdorf.  Kroegert plans to use the safari to locate a hidden gold mine, then murder Bishop and the other safari members.

There's a fight scene between Pongo (the good gorilla) and a black (bad) gorilla.  Pongo smash jungle!

Do we even have to mention that Pongo has the hots (in a purely platonic way) for Pamela?  I though not.

Ray Corrigan, who got a lot of use out of his several gorilla suits, is the star of the movie, IMHO.

White Pongo was one of over 270 films directed by the prolific Sam Neufield.  The story and script were by Raymong L. Schrock, who has 159 writing credits on IMDb.  Look closely and you'll see Milton Kibbee (brother of Guy Kibbee) as Gunderson.

Here's the best way to experience White Pongo:  you'll need a lot of popcorn and a great deal of libations -- and, perhaps, some forgiving friends -- as you watch this one.

Saturday, June 3, 2023


 Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Friday, June 2, 2023


This is a 76-page one-shot, comprising of samples of eighteen of the more popular daily comic strips of 1937 that were published by NEA Service, Chicago Tribune-N. Y. News Syndicate, Publishers Syndicate, and Bell Syndicate, Inc.  Alas, we get only a snapshot of various story arcs, but it should give you a taste of the state of newspaper comics in 1937.

Included are:
  • Tailspin Tommy by Hal Forrest (4 pages)
  • Dan Dunn, Secret Operative 48 by Norman Marsh (4 pages)
  • Freckles and His Friends by Merrill Blosser (4 pages)
  • Nebbs by Sol Hess (4 pages)
  • Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff (4 pages)
  • Apple Mary and Dennie by Martha Orr (4 pages)
  • Alley Oop by V. T. Hamlin (4 pages)
  • Smitty by Walter Berndt (4 pages)
  • Moon Mullins by Frank Willard (4 pages)
  • Gasoline Alley by Frank King (4 pages)
  • The Gumps by Gus Edson (4 pages)
  • Don Winslow of the Navy by Lieut. Comdr. Frank V. Martinek, U.S.N.R. (4 pages)
  • Boots and Her Buddies by Edgar Martin (4 pages)
  • Wash Tubbs by Roy Crane (3 pages)
  • Winnie Winkle by Masrtin Branner (4 pages)
  • Smilin' Jack (when he didn't have that mustache) by Zack Mosley (4 pages)
  • Myra North, Special Nurse by Ray Thompson and Charles Coll (4 pages)
  • Smokey Stover by Bill Holman (4 pages)
You may be familiar with some of these strips, which were published for decades.  How many do you remember?  Any favorites?


 A notice appeared on my blog posts page:  "This post was unpublished because it violates Blogger Community Guidelines.  To republish, please update the content to adhere to guidelines."

First off, they don't tell me what post they "unpublished."  As far as I can tell, they're all there (although the ones for this past week have mysteriously been given the wrong dates.)

Second off, to my knowledge, I have never violated the guideline, vague as they are.

Third off, Grrr.

Has anyone else had a problem like this?

Thursday, June 1, 2023


 The Mouse on Wall Street by Leonard Wibberley  (1969)

If it existed, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick would be an amazing tourist destination.  A mere fifteen square miles in area with a population of some 6000, the pre-industrial Duchy is nestled somewhere in the Northern Alps, abutting both Switzerland and France.  It has three valleys, a river, and a mountain, as well as a large (for a country as small as Grand Fenwick, that is) forest of some five hundred acres.  It has only two resourses:  wine and wool.  The wine, Pinot Grand Fenwick, is revered by connoisseurs throughout the world, and each harvest produces only enough for some 5000 bottles.  The wool, from the wild mountain sheep of the Duchy, and carefully washed in its icy streams, produces a much-prized wool of a delicate shade of cream.  Mail is delivered by a lone postman -- a truculent, fiercely patriotic Frenchman, who drops it off at the Duchy's border when he sees fit.  There are no telephones, no electricity, and no automobiles, but the populace remains relatively happy with their lot.  The economy of the Duchy is amazingly stable; there is no inflation, and income and outgo is carefully balanced.

The kingdom is ruled by the Duchess Gloriana XII, who is not very au courant in understanding the modern world.  She is backed by two Houses of Parliament.  The Upper House is comparible to England's House of Lords, and is seldom mentioned (or consulted).  The Lower House is the democratically-elected House of Freemen.  The two political parties are the Dilutionists (the Loyal Opposition, or the Liberals) and the Anti-Dilutionists -- the parties get their name from their positions on diluting the wine exported.  Although each party holds power at various times, the one most often in power is the Anti-Dilutionists,, lead by Count Mountjoy, the Prime Minister (usually) (and usually called "Bobo'').  The Dilutionists are led by David Bentner.

Grand Fenwick's standing army consists of 20 bowmen and three men-at-arms.  The bowmen carry longbows, being constitutionally restricted to using no weapon more modernn than these.  The men-at-arms are allowed to carry spear and mace.  They all are clad in mail.

In the first book in the series, The Mouse That Roared, Grand Fenwick declares war on the United States and invades New York, knowing that they will be defeated and then receive American foreign aid.  Things don't work out that way because things never work out the way the Duchy plans.  The Fenwickian army does, however, take some prisoners back to Grand Fenwick; one of whom was the physicist Dr. Kokintz, the discoverer of the element quadium and the developer of that most potent atomic weapon, the Q-bomb.  The only working Q-bomb in existence is now resting on a pile of hay in the cellars of the Duchy's castle.  Kokintz, who has a somewhat scattered brain, decided to remain in Grand Fenwick because it was a pleasant and peaceful place to perform his very scattered experiments.

The peace treaty negotiated between the United States and Grand Fenwick was a somewhat complicated one, essentially leaving the Duchy as it was before the invasion.  One minor part of the treaty, however, allowed an American chewing gum manufacturer to produce a Pinot Grand Fenwick flavored chewing gum exclusively for a period of twenty-five years, with the Duchy receiving 40% of the profits annually.  Since the gum never made any profit, the economy of Grand Fenwick remained happily balanced.  Until...

The Surgeon General of the United Stated began to issue dire warnings about the hazards of amoking.  Cigarette sales fell sharply.  To compensate, smokers began chewing gum in large quantities.  Suddenly, Grand Fenwick received a check for one million dollars as their part of the year's profits of the Pinot Grand Fenxick gum.  The citizens of Grand Fenwick went on an unchecked buying spree, purchasing electronic items such as washing machines, without having any electricity or central watrer system -- those things then had to be installed...and paid for.  Inflation ran rampart.  The demands of labor increased.  The cost of living rose drastically, and the average citizen ended up owing what would take three years to pay off.  The entire economy of Grand Fenwick went into a tailspin.

The following year, another check arrived.  For ten million dollars!  Something had to be done to get rid of that unwanted money.  The House of Freemen decided to give the money to Gloriana XII. -- let her sit on it, or get rid of it in such a manner that it would not effect the country's economy.  For news of the outside world, the Duchy received just one copy of the London Times, shared by various government officials and usually arriving three days late (or later, if the French postman was in a snit).  So it happened that Gloriana was browsing through the newspaper when she came to the financial section and had a brilliant idea.  Many people who invest in the stock market lose their shirts, and people who knew nothing of finance were almost guaranteed to lose their money by investing in the stock market.  Since Gloriana knew absoltuely nothing about finance (or little else), if she invested in the stock market, she would be sure to lose all of the unwanted money that had been foisted off on Grand Fenwick.  She closed her eyes and randomly stabbed a needle at the stock indexes to choose a company to invest in.  By luck, it happened to be one of the most worthless companies on the exchange.  She wrote to the Duchy's American broker and instructed him to buy six million dollars worth of shares in the company, then immediately began thinking of more pleasant things.  It took about two weeks for the letter to reach America, but the broker did what was asked and, within four weeks, Gloriana was pleased to hear that she lost some four million dollars thus far on the venture.

In the meantime, an unscrupulous American investor was looking for companies to milk and to give himself a huge tax writeoff.  Mergers happened, and conglomerates conglomerated, and suddenly Gloriana was making money hand over fist despite her best efforts.  Rumors began flooding the market and Gloriana earned more money.  Soon she had close to a billion dollars.  She was proclaimed the smartest investor in the world by the financial papers.  Fears of her demanding that the money be traded for actual gold began, and the economies of many nations began to tumble, as once again, the little duchy had an oversized effect on the world.

In the end, Grand Fenwick is able to dig itself (and the world) out of a cataclysmic crisis and the duchy soon reverted to the picturesque country it had always been -- potionally an amazing tourist destination.

Leonard Wibberley (1915-1983) was an Irish-born reporter and novelist who spent much of his life in America.  He wrote more than one hundred books (some under the name "Patrick O'Connor," and -- as "Leonard Holton" -- eleven mystery novels about clerical detective Father Bredder, the basis for the television series Sarge), but was best known for his five comic novels about the Duchy of Grand Fenwick:  The Mouse That Roared (1955), Beware the Mouse (1958), The Mouse on the Moon (1962), The Mouse on Wall Street (1969), and The Mouse That Saved the West (1981).  The Mouse That Roared and The Mouse on the Moon were both made into popular films (you shouold really watch them).  Other books by 'Wibberley that may be of interest include McGillicuddy McGotham (1956. in which a leprechaun serves as an ambassador to the U.S. seeking the restoration of lost tribal lands to the Little People) and A Feast of Freedom (1964, about the complications that arise when a new nation with primitive dietary habits causes a crisis when it eats the vice-president of the United States).

The Mouse novels and the absurd situations Grand Fenwick finds itself in allowed Wibberley to comment satirically and effectively on contemprorary politics and events.  They are a joy and should be considered essential reading.