Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Every time I hear this beautiful song, I miss Mary even more.


Three of the best singers.  Ever.


My wife was a Cape Cod Girl.  The most beautiful one, in fact.


Woke up this morning and turned on the tv.  Watched the news and the talking heads and I thought, WWMD?

     Malvina Reynolds, the sweet white-haired granny lady with the heart of a tiger, would brook no nonsense or posturing.  The fact that some of those fouling the air in our nation's capitol probably grew up listening to her on Sesame Street is a tragic betrayal.  They should ask themselves WWMD and just be quiet.

Friday, July 29, 2011


The Man Who Mastered Time by Ray Cummings (1929)

Ray Cummings (1887-1957) was been viewed as "one of the founding fathers of the pulp science fiction genre".  According to Wikipedia, Cummings "worked with Thomas Edison as a personal assistant and technical writer from 1914-1919...(h)is (writing)career resulted in some 750 novels and short stories ."  Although most noted for his science fiction, Cummings was also a popular writer in the detective pulps.  During the 1940s, Cummings wote for Timely Comics, contributing stories about Captain America, Submariner, and the Human Torch.  

     The Man Who Mastered Time falls into his rather loose Matter, Space and Time series, which postulates that matter, space and time are interlinked and that one cannet exist without the others.  (His most famous work in the series was The Girl in the Golden Atom, in which the atoms themselves are individual worlds.)  First published in Argosy as a five-part serial beginning in July, 1919, The Man Who Mastered Time suffers somewhat from the writing conventions of that time, but the story still pulses with adventure, romance, and invention.  A willingness to suspend disbelief is all that is needed to enjoy this novel.

     The story starts with exposition, as Loto, a man of twenty, explains to family friends that he and his father had been experimenting two years earlier with the fluorescene in a Crookes tube when they accidently created a ray that could see through time, showing them a distant ice age future where a figure was on a sled pulled by dog-like creatures that were as big as horses.   The sled stopped at a low, oval building where Loto could also see a beautiful girl; it soon became obvious that the girl was a slave or a captive and Loto vowed to save her.  It took Loto two years but the young man had perfected a space-time machine -- an airplane of sorts -- that could move through both space and time.  He said goodbye to his friends, climbed into the plane, and vanished.

     Loto returned about twenty-eight hours later.  He had used his invention to travel over forty-five thousand years into the future.  He had viewed many changes in the New York landscape, watching the city grow and die, viewing an alien invasion and occupation that lasted thousands of years, the contours of the land changing, winter overtaking everything as a new ice age formed, the planet being abandoned by the aliens and most of the human race, the sun turning into a small red ball.  Loto realized he had traveled too far in the future.  He retreated and searched until he finally found the dwelling he had been seeking.  He refined his search to a point where the girl who had fascinated him was in the dwelling -- it was twenty-eight thousand years into his future.

     Loto's attempts to recue the girl failed, and he was captured and placed under a type of house arrest.  His captor was the brutal Toroh.  Despite the decline in civilization, Toroh had a number of advanced weapons which kept Loto at bay.  The girl was Azeela, the daughter of the leading Scientist of  Anglese, a country covering what was left of the southeastern part of the United States and the northern part of the Caribbean Sea.  The country had three rigid strata of society:  the Arans, which were the hereditary rulers; the Bas, the manual workers who were viewed as serfs or chattel; and the Scientists, the intellectuals who keep things running and provided a balance between the other two groups.  The Scientists, however, were not innovators --society had devolved to far for that; the Scientists spent their time trying to recreate inventions and science of long-past generations.  Toroh had been an Anglese who was banished for trying to overturn the government.  Exiled, he went to the frozen land of the Noths, gathering an army of barbarians for an eventual assault on Anglese.  He had kidnapped Azeela in an attempt to force her father Fahn to cooperate with him.

     Eventually Loto and Azeela escaped, find Loto's hidden plane, and go to Anglese, where Azeela is reunited with her family.  Loto throws his lot with the Anglese, and returns to his own timeline for additional fuel and supplies and to let his family and friends know of his plans.  Soon he is gone, leaving a note to the effect that if he does not return in thirty days, his friends can come look for him; he will leave a signal in the future so they will be able to find him.  Loto does not return.  His father and his friends must construct another space-time machine to search for him.

     Some months later the plane is ready.  Loto's father and George, Loto's best friend, set off to find him.  They arrive in the future and find Loto safe, but the situation in Anglese is dire.  Toroh has spies everywhere, urging the Bas to revolt, and the degenerate Arans refused to capitulate.  Civil war is sure to begin soon, allowing Toroh a chance to invade with his Noth army and conquer the land.  In the meantime, George has fallen in love with Dee, Azeela's younger sister.  Toroh discovers Loto's secret -- that he is from the past and that he has his machine hidden.   As civil war erupts, Fahn and his Scientists take control of the country in an attempt to halt hostilities.  In the confusion, Azeela is once again kidnapped.  George and Dee discover that Toroh wants Azeela to show him how to operate the space-time machine so that he can travel to the past and get invincible weapons.  George and Dee race to the second space-time machine to stop them, but are too late.

     The Man Who Mastered Time is a fast and enjoyable read.  The fact that it creaks in some places is more than made up for with its convoluted plot and its sheer inventiveness.  It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed it.


     For more Forgotten Books on this Friday, please go visit our Head Honcho Honcha Honchess Patti Abbott at Pattinase.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


One of the most enjoyable shows I remember from when I was a kid was The Ford Show, a variety show hosted by Tennessee Ernie Ford on NBC from 1956 to 1961.  (Interestingly, the show's name came not from the host, but from the show's sponsor.)  Born Ernest Jennings Ford in Bristol, Tennessee in 1919, his folksy persona and baritone/bass voice combined to make him a star in country, gospel, and pop music.  Ford's personal life was less idyllic than his persona revealed.  A troubled alcoholic, he continued drinking even after being told he had damaged his liver.  Ford died in 1991, 364 days after he had been inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Among other honors, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom and three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Posthumously, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

The Ford show was noted for ending each episode with a gospel song -- something unheard of for the time but Ford had insisted and the network allowed him to do it.  Ford's "hillbilly" style, combined with his signature phrase "Bless your pea-pickin' heart!", made him known to millions as The Ol' Pea-Picker.

Here he is, singing one of his best-known tunes, a cover of Merle Travis's Sixteen Tons:

And a moving version of the classic Shenandoah:

Another Merle Travis classic, Dark as a Dungeon:

And here's Ernie with Johnny Cash:

And the Everley Brothers:

And the Ol' Pea-Picker does Shotgun Boogie:

And we can't forget his gospel work.  He he is with the great Odetta:

And there will be Peace in the Valley:

And Just a Little Talk with Jesus:

And this should be familiar to everyone:

One of Tennessee Ernie Ford's most popular and frequent guests was the young country singer Mollie Bee.  Here they are with Merle Travis:

I could go on and on with his music.  Bless your little pea-pickin' hearts!


For more Forgotten Music, check out Scott D. Parker's blog today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Two minutes ago, my wife turned to me asked, "Am I losing my grip on English?"

     I get that question from a lot.

     This time it was because of a CNN newscaster misused words, saying "promoted" when she should have said "prompted". 

     This has become a common practice among newscasters on all networks, both the ones where the attractive female newscasters wear a modesty panel with their blouses and those where they reveal cleavage and thighs.  Male newscasters also do this as often as the females, I know, but they seem to be getting outnumbered.  Political pundits of all stripes don't count because their inanities are so overt one doesn't pay much attention to their English gaffes.

    The dumbing down of America continues.  Our previous president has set a high bar; news organizations seem intent on reaching it.


So the space shuttles have shut.  Beancounters have had their misguided way.  But I still have hope that the human spirit will prevail and that someday we'll be dancing on the moon.

In the meantime, here's a 1935 cartoon from Max Fleischer:

Monday, July 25, 2011


This week, my bride takes center stage.  When there is a sign at a library book sale that states fill a bag for a dollar, no one can do a better job than Kitty:

  • Leonard Cohen, Stranger Music:  Selected Poems and Songs.  This one is not from the library bag; bought to replace a tattered copy.
  • Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner.  The only other one not from the library bag; a stranger on the sidewalk gave it to Kitty.  Go figure.
  • Lisa Jackson, Absolute Fear, Almost Dead, Chosen to Die, Cold Blooded, Fatal Burn, Hot Blooded, Left to Die, Malice, Running Scared, Whispers, and Without Mercy.  Thrillers all.
  • Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air.  Non-fiction.
  • James Patterson and Peter de Jonge, Beach Road.  Mystery/summer beach read.
  • Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht, and Jennifer Worick, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook:  Dating & Sex.  I hope she's not trying to tell me something.
  • John Sanford, Eyes of Prey.  A Lucas Davenport thriller.
  • Stuart Woods, Cold Paradise, Dark Harbor, Fresh Disasters (two copies -- when you're filling a bag, you can get confused), and Iron Orchid.  All but the last are Stone Barrington novels, the last features Holly Barker.
     And I got to put four books in the bag:

  • (Garrett Dylan, ghost writer), Don Pendleton's The Executioner:  Shadow Hunt.  Men's adventure novel; #392 in the series.
  • Ru Emerson, Against the Giants.  Fantasy gaming tie-in.
  • (Travis Morgan, ghost writer), Don Pendleton's The Executioner:  Stand Down.  Men's adventure novel; #393 in the series.
  • Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Star Trek:  The Next Generation:  Invasion!:  The Soldiers of Fear.  Book two in a series that began with the original Star Trek and will conclude in books in the Deep Space Nine and Voyager series.
     Also finding their way to our doorstep this past week were:
  • Iain Banks, Complicity.  Thriller.
  • John Connolly, The Killing Kind.  A Charlie Parker mystery.
  • Rick Hautala, Impulse.  Suspense.
  • Sergei Lukyanenko, Nightwatch, Daywatch, and Twilight Watch.  Russian horror trilogy.  Translated by Andrew Bromfield.
  • Rebecca Pawel, The Summer Snow.  A Carlos Tejada Alonso y Leon mystery.
  • S. D. Perry, Resident Evil:  Code:  Veronica.  Horror/gaming tie-in.
  • Tom Piccirilli, Headstone City.  Horror novel.
  • Robert Poe, Return to the House of Usher.  The author is supposedly a descendant (from the wrong side of the sheets) of Edgar Allan Poe.  Also, "based on the notes and nonfiction writings of Edgar Allan Poe."
  • Art Spiegelman, Maus:  A Survivor's Tale II: And Here My Troubles Began.  Graphic Novel.
  • [Star Trek], The Star Trek Scriptbooks:  Book One:  The Q Chronicles.  Eleven scripts from various Star Trek series featuring the alien Q.
  • "Jonas Ward", Buchanan's Manhunt.  Western, the 19th in the Buchanan series.  I believe the author is William R. Cox, following creator William Ard and fill-ins Robert Silverberg and Brian Garfield.
  • Gene Wolfe, In Green's Jungles.  Science fiction.  The second volume of The Book of the Short Sun.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Amy Winehouse dead at age 27.


I came across something interesting the other day while reading Mysteries of Time and Space:  The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei (Night Shade Books, 2002):  the possibility that Bram Stoker had help in writing Dracula and other novels.

     From a letter by Lovecraft to Wandrei, dated January 29, 1927:

     Have you read anything of Stoker's aside from "Dracula"?  "The Jewel of Seven Stars" is [pretty fair, but " The Lair of the White Worm" is absolutely the most amorphous & infantile mess I've ever seen between cloth covers; & that in spite of a magnificent idea which one would ordinarily deem well-nigh fool-proof.  Stoker was absolutely devoid of a sense of form, & could not write a coherent tale to save his life.  Everything of his went through the hands of a re-writer, (exc ept, perhaps, the "White Worm") & it is curious to note that one of our circle of amateur journalists -- an old lady named Mrs. Miniter -- had a chance to revise the 'Dracula" MS (which was a fiendish mess!) before its publication, but turned it downbecause Stoker refused to pay the price which the difficulty of the work impelled her to charge.  Stoker had a brilliantly fantastic mind, but was unable to shape the images he created.

     In a footnote, Mrs. Miniter is is identified as "Edith (Dowe) Miniter (1869-1934), an amateur journalist ans author of a professionnally published novel, Our Natupski Neighbors (1916).  This account of her involvement with Dracula has not been confirmed."

     On February 7th of the same year, Wandrei  wrote to HPL:  "I have only read "Dracula" by Stoker, which certainly has enough flaws even though it was revised."

     And on April 19th, HPL wrote.:

     Stoker had creative genius but no sense of form.  He couldn't write any decent connected novel without extensive help & revision.  Have you seen that pitiful mess "The Lair of the White Worm"?  Poor Bram makes a fizzle of a truly magnificent horror idea which I'd ordinarily consider almost fool-proof.  Do you know his "Jewel of Seven Stars"?  That is much better.

     I don't remember reading anything before by Lovecraft making this claim, and don't remember anyone claiming that Stoker's work was heavily revised.  Why would Stoker (or his agents) go Miniter, an American, with an offer of a revision job?  Of course, some well-known names have used revisionists and ghost writers (Lovecraft himself did revision work for Harry Houdini), and the worlds of amateur and professional writing often intersected.  Lovecraft's claim seems centered on Stoker's novels, making no mention of his shorter works -- many of which were very good.  Remember, too, that Lovecraft's idea of revision often meant scrapping the entire original work and creating a piece based on the original idea.  How heavily would Stoker's writing need to be revised, if at all?

     I just don't know.  Is the claim true?  Did Stoker rely on other writers for his novels?  Or, was he just repeating some gossip  that he had heard?  Anyone with knowledge or opinions please jump in.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Elliot Handler, the co-founder (with his wife Ruth) of Mattel, died last night at age 95.  Handler's wife created an iconic doll in the 1950s which Handler named "Barbie" in honor of their daughter Barbara.  Over the years, Barbie has been unable to hold a job and has had many careers, from nurse to (I believe -- I'm not really up on these things) astronaut.  Nevertheless, she has been able to afford such items as luxury cars and a number of expensive houses.  She has starred in a number of movies and has appeared in quite a few books, none of which seem to appeal to any girl over the age of five.  Some experts believe that she was a precursor to Paris Hilton, famous only for being famous.

     Long a cash cow for the Handlers' company, Barbie's dismorphic appearance may be one of the causes behind a number of cases of anorexia and bulemia over a period spanning seven decades.  Barbie was also well-known for her several close disfunctional friends, including on-again/off-again boyfriend Ken who stoicly maintained a positive demeanor and clenched grin when it was revealed to the world (and also to Barbie, evidently) that he had no genitals.  Another close ally was Barbie's girlfriend Skipper, who could make her breasts grow by twisting her arm -- a trick that evidently resulted in a number of middle school injuries.

     Rest easy, Mr. Handler.  You knew not what you wrought.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


My wife has been catching up on (and I have been along for the ride)  Supernatural on TNT.  They're showing two episodes a day and it's a lot of fun watching Sam and Dean tackle all sorts of spooky things each week.  Just this morning Lucifer has come to destroy Earth and the boys start taking out the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  The show often takes a tongue in cheek attitude -- welcome, considering how bleak some of these evil critters and story line can be.  There is one thing about the series that we absolutely love:  the bad motel rooms.

    Traveling around the country, Sam and/or Dean land in truly terrible cheap motels, a different one each time.  The wallpaper, the furniture, the decorations -- all truly cheesy.  The set designer must have sent his minions to every 1950s, 60s, and 70s cheap motel in the country, photographing the bad decor for reference.

     The motel rooms have become an important character in the series, as important to the show as silence was to Tod Browning's Dracula.   I think the motel rooms should get third billing, after Sam and Dean  and before Bobby and the angel.

      What's the cheesiest motel you have stayed in?  For me it was The Harry Smith Motel on Route 1 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


My selection this week for Todd Mason's Overlooked Films is the 1967 groaner Hotrods to Hell, a by-the-books made-for-TV movie featuring Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain.  But with best-laid plans, etc., etc., the movie was instead given a theatrical release.

     Jim Anderson Ward Cleaver Tom Phillips (Andrews) is a devoted family man with wife (Crain), an obnoxious (IMHO) young son (12-year old Tim Stafford, now acting as Jeffrey Bryon), and a shallow (again, IMHO) teenage daughter (Laurie Mock, whose last credit om IMDB was a the Third Nude in 1971's Dirty Harry) with big breasts and some junk in the trunk and poofed-up hair.  A salesman with a New England route, Tom is driving home for Christmas when his car is hit by a drunk driver.  Tom survives, but his job is gone and medical bills have wiped out his savings.  After several months of recuperation, Tom's wife and his brother convince him to move to the California desert where Tom's brother has arranged for Tom to buy a motel.  There's a new highway coming through (ka-ching!) and Tom needs a quiet place to complete his recuperation, so this appears to be a good deal.

     What comes next is a cinematic sermon on the virtues of safe driving.  Tom is emotionally shattered by the accident, afraid to get behind the wheel.  With his wife driving, the family heads out to California.  Some fifty miles from their destination, they are run off the road by hotrodding teenagers.  The teens, all from good families ('natch), care only for kicks, speed, booze, and danger.  The hotrodding gang continues to terrorize Tom and his family until they reach their destination.  One punk girl throws an unopened (unopened!  blasphemy!) can of Schlitz from the speeding car and almost hits Tom's son.  These teenagers are beginning to get on Tom's nerves; hope they don't go onto his lawn.

      The leader of the gang is Duke (Paul Bertoya, far older than the seventeen-year old he was portraying); among the others in the gang are his girlfriend (I doubt if Duke would use that term) Gloria (22-year old Mimsy Farmer) and Ernie (22-year old Gene Kirkwood, who would move onto bigger things as a producer).  In a bit of non-serendipity, the gang has been using the motel that Tom has bought for illegal parties.

     Will Tom be able to defeat the hotrodding gang?  Will the wayward youths discover the error of their ways?  Will California's roads ever be safe again?  Will Tom's infatuated daughter Tina be seduced by that neer-do-well Duke?  Will anyone in the cast recover their acting chops?  Will this movie save the musical careers of Mickey Rooney, Jr. and His Combo?  (No kidding, they do three songs.)

     Produced by Sam Katzman (The Fastest Gun AliveGet Yourself a College Girl, Hootenanny Hoot, Jungle Moon Man, and so many more), directed by John Brahm  (The Undying Monster, The Lodger, Hangover Square, The Brasher Doubloon, etc.), written by Robert E. Kent (who wrote a lot of  movies for Katzman, plus such classics as Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, The Falcon's Adventure, Philo Vance Returns, and Flying G-men), and based on a Saturday Evening Post story by Alex Gaby -- it's hard to understand why the critics didn't take to the film.

     This is a so-bad-it's-almost-good cult flick.  And it has its fans, some of whom considerate it a laugh-a-minute-film.  (I'm glad there are people out there with taste as bad as mine.)  In fact, there's a web site devoted to the movie:


      Hotrods to Hell shows up once in a while on the Turner Classic Movie channel, which is where I watched it.  Here's a clip from TCM:


     For more Overlooked Films, see Sweet Freedom.

Monday, July 18, 2011


                  ****this is late, I know, but Blogger has decided it doesn't like me****

Despite what you may infer by the following, I did not clean the thrift store out of books.  I actually left a zillion and a half Danielle Steele's and a copy of A Woman's Guide to Yeast Infections.  And then on Friday we drove the hundred miles or so to our "local" used book store here I loaded up on books (mainly anthologies, most for under a buck) and Kitty found the free box.  I've listed the books I got on that trip in color.

  • Brian Aldiss, editor, Galactic Empires, Volume One.  Science fiction anthology of fourteen stories.
  • Kevin J. Anderson, A Forest of Stars.  Sf novel, Book 2 of The Saga of the Seven Suns.
  • Kevin J. Anderson, editor, Blood Lite II:  Overbite.  A Horror Writers Association anthology.  Thirty-one stories.
  • Poul Anderson, War of the Gods.  Fantasy.
  • Lou Aronica, Amy Stout, and Betsy Mitchell, editors, Full Spectrum 3.  Science fiction anthology with twenty-three stories.
  • Robert Arthur, The Three Investigators in The Mystery of the Green Ghost.  Juvenile mystery.
  • Mike Ashley, editor, The Chronicles of the Round Table (twenty-four Arthurian fantasies) and Classical Whodunnits (twenty historical mystery stories, focussing on ancient Greece and Rome).
  • Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Isaac Asimov Presents:  The Best Science Fiction Firsts (twelve stories), Isaac Asimov Presents:  The Best Science Fiction of the 19th Century (fifteen stories), and The Mammoth Book of Fantastic Science fiction:  Short Novels of the 1970s.  Ten novellas.
  • David Balducci, True Blue.  Thriller.
  • M. A. R. Barker, The Man of Gold.  Fantasy .
  • John Barnes, Patton's Spaceship.  SF, a Timeline Wars novel.
  • George Baxt, The Affair at Royalties and A Queer Kind of Death.  Mysteries, the first a British country house mystery and the second the first Pharoah Love mystery.
  • Greg Bear, Quantico.  SF/thriller.James R. Benn, Evil for Evil.  Historical mystery, the fourth Billy Boyle mystery.
  • Lawrence Block, editor, Blood on Their Hands.  An MWA anthology with nineteen stories.
  • Peter Burden, News of the World?  Fake sheikhs & Royal Trappings.  Nonfiction.  A muck-raking expose of the muckraking Rupert Murdock's media empire, focussing on a certain newspaper that has been in the news lately.  Dirty tricks galore.
  • Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.  Memoir.
  • Bruce Campbell, Make Love*  [*the Bruce Campbell Way].  The famous chin and B movie actor wrote a novel.
  • Orson Scott Card, editor, Masterpieces:  The Best Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century.  Twenty-seven familiar stories.
  • Terry Carr, editor, Universe 4.  Eight science fiction stories.
  • Paul Chafe, Genesis.  Generational spaceship SF novel.
  • G. H. Chettle, OBE, FSA, with additions by John Charlton, MVO, FSA, Hamptom Court Palace.  Non-fiction, an illustrated history and guide to the castle.  Published by the British Government.
  • Arthur C. Clarke, How the World Was One:  Beyond the Global Village.  Nonfiction.  The story of global communication.
  • Manning Coles, Now or Never.  Mystery with spy guy Tommy Hambleton.
  • Ralph Compton, Sixguns and Double Eagles.  Western.
  • Joshua Corin, While Galileo Preys.  Thiller, an Esme Stuart novel.
  • Barbara D'Amato, White Male Infant.  Mystery.  It's been way to long since I read a book by this author.
  • Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Wizards:  Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy.  Eighteen stories.
  • Gardner Dozois, editor, One Million A. D.  Science fiction anthology with six novellas.  Also The Year's Best Science Fiction, Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection (twenty-eight stories from 2006) and The Year's Best Science Fiction, Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection (thirty-two stories from 2007).
  • David Drake, creator (this means editor), Foreign Legions.  Six novellas set in the world of Drake's novel Ranks of Bronze.
  • Thomas Easton, editor, Gedanken Fictions:  Stories on Themes in Science, Technology, and Society.  Science fiction anthology with nineteen stories.
  • Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, August 2011.  Kindly Bill Crider gave a nod to this blog in this issue's Blog Bytes column:  "[E]ach Monday he [That's me, folks!] lists the books that he's received the previous week.  He usually has so many that it makes me feel almost a piker by comparison."  I hope this week's lengthy post won't strain his eyesight.  BTW, Kindly Bill is always kindly -- unless he catches you on his lawn!
  • Ken Follett, Jackdaws.  WWII thriller.
  • Jonathan Frakes and Dean Wesley Smith, The Abductors:  Conspiracy.  Science fiction.
  • Esther Friesner, editor, Witch Way to the Mall.  Fantasy anthology produced with Martin Greenberg's Teckno Books.  Twenty-one stories.
  • Jason Goodwin, The Janissary Tree.  Historical mystery, the first featuring the eunuch detective Yashim.  Winner of the 2007 Edgar for Best Novel.
  • Heather Graham, The Death Dealer and Nightwalker.  Paranormal mysteries.
  • Temple Grandin and Margaret M.Scariano, Emergence:  Labeled Autistic.  Memoir, showing how limiting some labels can be and, in the author's case, cannot be.
  • Thomas Greanias, The Atlantis Prophecy.  Conspiracy thriller, second in the Conrad Yeats series.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, editor, Lord of the Fantastic:  Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny.  Tribute anthology of twenty-three sf/fantasy stories.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Carol-Lynn Waugh, editors, More Holmes for the Holidays.  Eleven Sherlockian Christmas mystery stories.
  • Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff, editors, Far Frontiers.  Thirteen science fiction stories about exploration.
  • Zane Grey, Cabin Gulch.  A western, naturally.  A censored version was previously published as The Border Legion; this is the fully restored edition.
  • Gary Gygax, Sea of Death.  Gaming tie-in/fantasy novel in the Gord the Rogue series.
  • Donald Hamilton, The Ambushers.  A Matt Helm spy guy novel, number seventeen in the series.
  • M. John Harrison, Light.  SF novel, winner of the James Tiptree Jr. Award.
  • Donald Harstad, Eleven Days.  Thriller.
  • Patrick Nielson Hayden, editor, New Skies:  An Anthology of Today's Science Fiction.  Seventeen stories packaged for a YA audience.
  • James Herbert, Others.  Horror novel.
  • Philip E. High, Twin Planets.  Science fiction novel.  
  • James P. Hogan, Voyage from Yesteryear.  SF novel.
  • Nancy Holder, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  The Book of Fours.  TV tie-in novel.
  • Leslie Horvitz, Causes Unknown.  Thriller,  Another conspiracy, oh my!
  • Rich Horton, editor, Science Fiction:  The Best of the Year, 2006 Edition and The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2010 Edition.  Fifteen stories from 2005 and thirty stories from 2009, respectively.
  • Geoffrey Household, The Third Hour.  Adventure/thriller.  Household's first novel.
  • Robert E. Howard, Marchers of Valhalla.  Fantasy collection of eight stories.  This is a Berkley paperback with a nifty Frazetta wraparound cover; the cover is replicated in a full color fold-out poster.  Introduction by Fritz Leiber.  Scuffed on edges, some wear on the spine, and a fold on the upper right front cover, but still a pretty good copy.  I had read this before, but I couldn't leave this one on the shelf -- I mean, it was 35 cents, sheesh.  I'll gladly give it to the first person who e-mails me with their address ( sorry, U.S. only) at
  • L. Ron Hubbard, Mission Earth, Volumes 1 (The Invaders Plan), 5 (Fortune of Fear), 6 (Death Quest), 7 (Voyage of Vengeanc), 8 (Disaster), and 10 (The Doomed Planet).  Six volumes in the SF series.
  • L. Ron Hubbard (?), The Dynamics of Life and Scientology: A History of Man (formerly, What to Audit).  B*llsh*t.
  • Maxim Jakubowski, editor, The Best British Mysteries 2005.  Actually, it's twenty-eight stories from 2003.
  • Michio Kaku, Parallel Worlds:  A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos.  Nifty non-fiction.
  • Marvin Kaye, editor, Forbidden Planets.  Science fiction collection of eight novellas.
  • Damon Knight, The World and Thorinn.  Fix-up sf novel from three stories originally published in Galaxy in 1968 although not published in novel form until 1981.
  • J. A. Konrath, Cherry Bomb.  Mystery, the sixth book in the Jack Daniels series.
  • Edward E. Kramer, editor, Dark Destiny:  Proprietors of Fate.  Gaming tie-in anthology with twenty-one stories.
  • Geoffrey A. Landis, Mars Crossing.  SF novel.  Locus Award winner for best first novel; Nebula nominee for best novel.
  • Joe R. Lansdale, editor, Crucified Dreams.  Urban horror anthology containing nineteen stories.
  • Richard Laymon, Body Rides.  Horror.
  • Donna Leon, Dressed for Death.  Mystery, a Commissario Brunetti novel.
  • Denise Little, editor, A Constellation of Cats.  Fantasy/SF anthology with thirteen stories.  According to the copyright notice, this appears to hasve been produced by Martin Greenberg's Teckno Books.
  • George Mann, editor, The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction.  Sixteen stories.
  • Cynthia Manson, editor, Mystery Menagerie (sixteen stories) and Women of Mystery (sixteen stories).  Collections from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.
  • Cynthia Manson and Charles Ardai, editors, New England Crime Chowder.  Sixteen mysteries.
  • Anna Mantzaris, 1001 Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know.  Non-fiction.  There's a lot of things I knew and a lot I didn't want to know.  Oh, well.
  • Jeff Mariotte, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  The Xander Years, Vol. 2.  TV tie-in, novelizing three episodes.
  • Christine Matthews, editor, Deadly Housewives.  Thirteen stories of domestic un-bliss from women mystery writers.
  • Willis E. McNelly and Leon E. Stover, editors, Above the Human Landscape:  A Social Science Fiction Anthology.  Twenty-seven stories and three essays.
  • Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan, Popular Writing in America:  The Interaction of Style and Audience.  Non-fiction, with examples from advertising, the press, magazines, best sellers, classics, and scripts.  A great book to dip into.
  • Skye Kathleen Moody, Medusa.  A Venus Diamond mystery.
  • John Mortimer, The First Rumpole Omnibus.  Contians Rumpole of the Bailey (collection, six stories), The Trials of Rumpole (collection, six stories), and Rumpole's Return (novel).
  • Lloyd Motz and Jefferson Hane Weaver, The Story of Physics.  Non-fiction.  Another cool book.
  • Warren Murphy, The Destroyer #57:  Date with Death.  Murphy gets sole cover credit here, although Sapir is also listed in the copyright notice.
  • Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir, The Destroyer #64:  The Last Alchemist and #65: Lost Yesterday.  Men's adventure novels.
  • Eric Nyland, Halo:  First Strike.  Gaming tie-in.
  • Joyce Carol Oates, editor, The Oxford Book of American Short Stories.  Look!  It's both an anthology and a doorstop!
  • Maxine O'Callaghan, Set-Up.  Mystery in the Delilah West series.  Another underappreciated writer.
  • P. J. Parrish, South of HellMystery/thriller.
  • Steve Perry, The Man Who Never Missed.  SF novel.
  • Junius Podrug, Harold Robbin's The Shroud.  Novel based on "a rich heritage of novel ideas and works in progress" left behind by Harold Robbins.  Don't know if this book came from an idea or a work in progress.  This one has to with a shroud that supposedly was buried with Christ.
  • H. Beam Piper with Michael Kurland, First Cycle.  Incomplete science fiction novel left behind after Piper's death, finished and poplished by Kurland.
  • Tim Pratt, editor, Sympathy for the Devil.  Horror anthology with thirty-five stories, along with  a canto from Dante.
  • Byron Preiss, John Betancourt, & Keith R. A. DeCandido, editors, The Ultimate Alien.  A themed SF anthology; fifteen stories.
  • Douglas Preston, Blasphemy.  Thriller.
  • David Pringle, editor, The Best of Interzone.  Twenty-nine stories from the first fifteen years of the British science fiction magazine.
  • Chet Raymo, Skeptics and True Believers:  The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Religion.  Non-fiction by one of our best writers of popular science.
  • J. H. Riddell, Night Shivers.  Collection of fifteen of Mrs. Riddell's Victorian ghost stories, selected by David Stuart Davies.
  • Chris Robinson, editor, Adventure, Vol. 1.  Seventeen stories of adventure:  Science fiction, mystery, horror, and western.
  • Lucia St. Clair Robinson, Walk In My Soul.  Historical novel/western.
  • John Ringo, When the Devil Dances.  SF novel, part of the Posleen War series.
  • "Dana Fuller Ross",  Outpost!  Volume 3 of the Wagons West*The Frontier Trilogy.  A book packaged by Book Creations Inc., an outfit founded by Lyle Kenyon Engel.  This one has James Reasoner lurking behind the Dana Fuller Ross house name.
  • "Marilyn Ross", Shorecliff.  Gothic/supernatural novel from the prolific Dan Ross.  Yes, there's a woman standing in the moonlight with a castle in the background.  And, yes, there's a single light on in the castle.  But, no, she doesn't seem to be running from it.
  • Hank Phillippi Ryan, Prime Time.  Mystery novel featuring television reporter Charlotte McNally.
  • Jessica Amanda Salmonson, editor, Heroic Visions.  Ten sword and sorcery tales.
  • Pamela Sargent, editor, Women of Wonder, The Classic Years:  Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s.  An essential collection of twenty-one stories.
  • John Saul, The Devil's Labyrinth.  Horror.
  • Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones.  Literary fantasy/mystery novel.
  • John Shirley, Aliens:  Steel Egg.  Movie tie-in.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith, Spacehounds of IPC.  Classic space opera circa 1931.
  • S. M. Stirling, Dies the Fire and The Protector's War.  Two SF novels in the Change series.
  • S. M. Stirling, editor, Drakas!  SF anthology with twelve stories.
  • Darwin Teilhet, The Mission of Jeffery Tolamy.  Historical novel.
  • Harry Turtledove, Ruled Britannia.  Alternate history SF novel by a master of the form.
  • Harry Turtledove, editor, Alternate Generals.  Science fiction anthology of sixteen stories.
  • "Barbara Vine" [Ruth Rendell], The Brimstone Wedding.  Psychological mystery novel.
  • Sean Wallace, editor, Best New Fantasy.  Anthology with sixteen stories.  Editorial asssistance provided by Roland Green.
  • Patricia S. Warrick, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Science Fiction:  The Science Fiction Research Association Anthology.  Twenty-six stories chosen by members of the SFRA, with critical commentary.
  • James Webb, Fields of Fire.  Vietnam War novel by the former Secretary of the Navy, now U.S. Senator, soon to be best-selling author again.
  • Irvine Welsh.  Trainspotting.  The novel that became the famous film.
  • Ted White, The Secret of the Maurauder Satellite.  Young adult science fiction novel.
  • Robert Anton Wilson, The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, Volume 1:  The Earth Will Shake and Volume 2:  The Widow's Son.  Fantasy.
  • Robin Wilson, editor, Paragons:  Twelve Master Science Fiction Writers Ply Their Craft.  Includes an informative appendix by Bruce Sterling.
  • R. D. Wingfield, Hard Frost.  Mystery novel featuring Inspector Frost.
  • John C. Wright, Null-A Continuum.  A sequel to A. E. van Vogt's classic SF novel The World of Null-A.
  • Roger Zelazny, Changling.  Science fiction novel.
     Kitty was looking for just one specific poetry collection but could not find it.  However, she did find the box labeled FREE BOOKS and picked up twice her bodyweight in books that might interest various family members and friends.  Some of the books she got were:

  • Christopher P. Baker, Mi Moto Fidel:  Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba.  Travel.
  • Ann Coulter, The Church of Liberalism.  Bitter invective and hateful twaddle.
  • Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker:  Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design.  Nonfiction.
  • Kathleen DeMarco, Cranberry Queen.  Novel.
  • Lori Foster, Just a Hint -- Clint.  Chick lit.
  • Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, Skinny Bitch.  Diet advice.
  • Gregory J. P. Godek, 1001 Ways to Be Romantic.  Advice I might need.
  • Lisa Hilton, AthenaisThe Life of Louis XIV's Mistress, The Real Queen of France.  Biography.
  • Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's School Days.  The classic children's book, best known now for the introduction of the character Flashman, later usurped for a series of very popular novels by George MacDonald Fraser.
  • Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun:  At Home in Italy.  Memoir.
  • Anne McCaffrey, The Dolphins of Pern.  Science fiction, the thirteenth book in the series.
  • Sarah Grace McCandless, The Girl I Wanted to Be.  Young adult novel.
  • Marsha Mehran, Pomegranite Soup.  Novel.
  • Mitali Perkins, The No-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen (The Sunita Experiment).  YA novel.
  • Jane Porter, Flirting with Forty.  Chick lit.
  • Pamela Ribon, Why Girls Are Weird.  Chick lit.  The title sounds like something my eleven year-old grandson would say.
  • Dal Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.  Novel.
  • Jen Sincero, Don't Sleep with Your Drummer.  Novel.
  • The Smithsonian Institute in association with National Geographic, Forces of Change:  A New View of Nature.  Photo essays.
  • Rory Stewart, The Places In Between.  Travel/memoir.
  • Susan Wales and Robin Shope, The Chase.  Religious fiction/thriller.
     And I have been lax in listing in listing the books sent my way by my talented, super-smart, wonderful neice.  Some that came in were:

  • Harlan Coburn, Caught.  Thriller.
  • Trevor Hoyle, The Last Gasp.  Science fiction.
  • Kathy Reichs, Devil Bones.  A Temperance Brennan mystery.
  • Mary Roach, Bonk:  The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.  Nonfiction.
  • Jessie Sholl, Dirty Secret:  A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding.  Memoir.
Phew!  I think I'm done.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


R. I. P. Googie Withers, the Australian actress who played Blanche in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, has passed away at age 94.  Her film career lasted from 1930 to 1996.  Among her television appearances were two episodes of Boney, an Australian show (from the Arthur Updike mystery series) that ran for two seasons in the early 1970s, and played the prison governess for two seasons on Within These Walls, another Aussie 70s show, this time about a womens prison.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Things got away from us yesterday because of all the pandemonium at Casa Casa.  It wasn't until late in the day that I realized it was Bastille Day, which also happens to be the birthday of my mother-in-law.  She would have been 88.

     She didn't have the easiest life.  Her parents were well-to-do, but her father died of a heart attack back in the days when high cholesterol counts were a sign of success.  Her mother, bereft, commited suicide when Eileen was nine.  After some squabbling among the families, during which time I understand she was placed in the New England Home for Little Wanderers, she was went to live with an maternal aunt and her kindly and rougish husband.  Frank had an interesting past; he had been in vaudeville, had owned a used car lot, had run a restaurant and served as its cook, and seemed to be familiar with a number of unsavory people (a kind term for gangsters).  And Frank was a gambler.  Eileen spent her growing years in an uncertain economic environment.

     My father-in-law caught Eileen on the rebound -- her fiance had been killed in World War II.  Eileen agreed to marry my father-in-law "once the war is over", not realizing that the war would end in only few weeks.  A few years later found her living in a trailer in Georgia with two kids as her husband attended Georgia Tech and made a little extra money by selling newspapers.  (He had a chance to make much more money by running moonshine, but Eileen nixed that idea.)

     With an engineer for a husband, she moved up and down the East Coast, going wherever the work would take them.  Often, she would not even bother to unpack most of the boxes, knowing the family would move again in a few months.  Basically unsecure, she became a socialphobe and would bring Kitty with her as a buffer to any functions or meetings she had to attend.  (From age nine or so, Kitty learned by necessity how to carry on an adult conversation.)  Due to the economic ups and downs she had as a child, Eileen had also become parsimonious, making Scrooge McDuck look like an amateur.  Toward the end of her life, when Eileen had a number of medical issues, my daughter had to explained to a nurse that Eileen could be difficult in the best of times and that these were not the best of times.

     But, behind her hard shell, Eileen had an inner sense of decency that she would sometimes show unexpectedly.  When she learned that one of her sons' teenage friends didn't even have enough money for decent underwear, she talked my father into giving the boy a job.  During the last ten years of her life, she was finally able to reach out and make good friends, sharing joys and supporting them during sorrows. She even told Kitty that I was a good man -- something she would never say to my face.  Eileen passed away early on a Monday morning.  (We had bought a house that would provide easy access for her and gave her the ground floor so that we could take care of her for the last three years of her life.)  By eight o'clock that morning, the hospice housekeeper had arrived and I had to tell her that Eileen had died.  The woman broke down in tears.  Eileen had been her favorite client and had spent the three mornings a week talking with her, listening, and sharing -- something that did not often happen with the housekeeper's clients.

     Once Eileen decided to take us out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  She had seen a special advertised n the newspaper that intrigued her.  So off we went to a Chinese restaurant, Eileen bringing the advertisement in tow.  Naturally, the restaurant was not the one that had placed the advertisement but that didn't phase Eileen.  While we crawled under the table in embarrassment, Eileen showed our waiter the advertisement and told him that's what she wanted and at that price.  When the waiter told her that they didn't serve that particular specialty, Eileen pointed to the newspaper.  "But it's advertised," she said.  Eileen ended up with the meal she wanted and at the price she wanted and the waiter and the kitchen staff ended up with severe headaches.  So it is that each year we celebrate Eileen's birthday with Chinese food.

     However, we usually order from the correct menu.


John Carstairs:  Space Detective by Frank Belknap Long (1949)

First off, I have to admit that this book takes a huge hunk of willing suspension of disbelief.  That said, there remains a lot of coolness here.

     The John Carstairs series started out as seven stories published in Thrilling Wonder Stories from 1941 to 1943.  Five of the seven are included in this book.  Taking up the last half of the book is a short novel, The Hollow World, which appeared in Startling Stories in 1945.  Only one of the eight stories has ever been anthologized:  Plants Must Slay, which appeared in the somewhat rare, digest-sized paperback The Saint's Choice of Impossible Crimes edited by Leslie Charteris in 1945.  (Caution:  Completely extraneous comment veering away from main topic ahead.  At one time, there were rumors that TSCOIM had been ghost-edited by Theodore Sturgeon.  I'm pretty sure that claim has been debunked.  Does anyone know for sure?  Now back to your regularly scheduled review.)

     John Carstairs as a space detective does very little detecting.  In fact he is a botonist, the curator of the Interplanetary Botonical Gardens at some time in the future.  He is young (28) and a leader in the field.  He's made the IBG into one of the world's greatest attractions, expanding it over the past ten years to cover a full two square mile.  (That willing suspension of disbelief I mentioned?  Here's an example.  He would have been 18 when appointed to this position.  Pfui!  Pulp writers seldom had time to check their work for consistency.)  Carstairs does have an avocation and that is helping his friend Inspector McGuire in solving homicides.   He does this by using plants found throughout the solar system.

     It just so happens that, sometime in the future, it will be discovered that within every atom there exists a little sun.  Keep suspending that disbelief.  And these little suns give off radiation that can stay in place for some hours, so if a person stays in the same place for a five minutes or so, or if a person is highly excited (huh?), those little tiny radiations take the form -- albeit invisible -- of the person in every detail.  Of course, those little radiations also take the form of one's clothes; we don't want any nekked invisible forms around in our more strait-laced pulps.  Okay.  It happened that Carstairs came across very tiny interplanetary plants that eat radiation.  If one throws the tiny plants around a crime scene, one can get a 3-D replica of the criminal or the victim.  Voila!  Case solved.  Sometimes.
    Through out the solar system there are an awful lot of perambulating plants, most of which are deadly and some of which are minimally intelligent.  Carstairs has also discovered a fern that has developed a defense mechanism of detecting any walking plant from a distance of ten miles or so; the fern will point in the direction of the enemy plant as a magnet would point to the north, completely disregarding any solid objects between it and its moving enemy.  A neat trick for tracing an escaped killer plant.

     Also in the future, new planets have been discoved beyond Pluto.  These planets don't have names, just numbers, such as Planet 10, Planet 11, and so on.  It seems that these planets are so cold and harsh and devoid of fauna that their discovers did not want to put their names on the planets.  Right.  But these do seem to be great spot for flora.  The outer planets are so distant that few persons have traveled to the furthest ones.  And botony seems to be the preferred science of the future.  Botonists are the future's heroes; they are da bomb.  Every exploratory ship has a botonist, no matter how small the crew.

     Did I mention that there was a love interest?  Vera Dorn, Carstair's young, red-headed secretary/assistant/fiancee.  She's a woman who states her own mind and often crosses swords with her boss/fiance.  As the number two person in the cast, she sadly fades into the background in many of the stories.

    The short novel (it would have made a great half of an old Ace double) that ends the book shows some unfortunate slap-dash writing, making me wonder if Long ever bothered to do a second draft of The Hollow World.  Flashbacks appear in odd places when they should have been incorporated into the main flow of the story.  A particularly dreadful plant devours a man and is termed a "cannibal".  Pivotal scenes are glossed over.  Plot points are hurried.  And so it goes.

     For me, the great thing about these stories is the sheer inventiveness of the many vegetative creatures that Long has created.  Their diversity is stunning.  As a writer, Long could blow both hot and cold, bhere's far more heat here than cold IHO.   This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you like pulp -- and to heck with a lot of logic -- give this one a try.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


He was the king of the wild frontier and kids from all across America loved him.  Forget about hula hoops, pet rocks, and furbies -- coonskin caps were it!

     Fess Parker was Davy Crockett to millions of kids in the 50s.  We followed his adventures (as imagined by the Disney studio) with a loyalty that knew no bounds.  We sang his song.  We named our toy rifles Old Betsy.  We traveled with him as he fought indians, and when he went to Washington, and then to the Alamo, where some of us sat in disbelief as we saw Davy, all alone, swinging his rifle against the Mexican hordes with the flag of Texas superimposed on the background, then fadeout.

     Davy returned for two more adventures, fighting the river pirates and meeting Mike Fink, but the real action was with the original three episodes.  Davy was our hero and he stood head and shoulders above such johnniecomelatelies as Elfago Baca, Texas John Slaughter, and Andy Burnett.

     And we collected the trading cards.  Topps put out two sets.  The first was printed on white or gray stock, the second was on green stock.  Each card had a picture from the show and was backed with a paragraph of text; when you had the whole set, you had the complete story.  I don't know of anyone who actually traded the cards; some were so hard to get, you would never trade them, others were so numerous no one wanted to trade for them.  We ended up flipping for the extra cards.  The one whose card traveled farthest won.  Soon your pile of extra cards would be large enough to swallow Cleveland, or you would have lost all your extra cards and have to wait until you bought enough packs to replenish your stock.

     The cards were sold in packs for a penny or a nickel.  Each pack had a stick of gum, a dust-coated pink concoction that was usually hard as a rock and would make your cheeks jut out like chipmunk when you got the whole thing in your mouth -- chewing gum, not bubble gum.

     For those sad souls too young to remember the 50s, this link will take you to images of the first set:

     And here's the second set:

     For those who like to sing along, here's THE BALLAD OF DAVY CROCKETT:

     Just in case you forgot, here's part one of the series:

     And part two:

     And part three:

     Part four:

     And part five:

    And part six:

      And that's it.  Before you go, just remember one thing:  Be sure you're right, then go ahead.

Monday, July 11, 2011


A few days ago, Ed Gorman published a list of ten current celebrities he could live without.  Here's Ed's list:

     Ed may like to say he's cranky, but people in the know say he's a sweetheart.  Me, however, I took the gold in cranky in the last four Olympics -- and that was on a full stomach.  So following in the footsteps of the Ed, here's my humble, albeit venomous, list.
  • MICHELLE BACHMAN.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  It's a given.  The mini-Palin doesn't seem to be as mean-spirited as the original, but she actually seems denser and -- unlike Palin -- she really seems to believe what she is saying.  Recently Chris Wallace backed down and apologized to Bachman for asking her how she reacted to being called a flake.  For that, Wallace would have made the list if there weren't so many other worthy contenders.
  • SYLVIO BERLUSCONI.  What a tool.  There's a lot of American politicians who could take his spot for various escapades of hanky-panky, but Signore B is supposedly running a country that could well be the next to spread jitters in the world economy.  I think it was Tom Paxton who wrote a song intended for inspiring politicians, "Zip It Up!"
  • ERIC CANTOR.  Sticking with politicians, how about the boy who took his toys and huffed out of budget negotiations?  Speaker Boehner is willing to deal (although he foolishly wants to take it down to the wire), but Cantor and his ilk would rather see everything go down the toilet if everything doesn't go their way.  Despite doom and gloomers and the threat that raising taxes kills jobs, the historical evidence says the complete opposite.
  • GRETCHEN CARLSON.  A Fox & Friends empty talking head.  She makes Steve Doocy look Einstein.
  • KEVIN COSNER.  Here's one who's not a politician.  There's nothing appealing about the guy and his movies are terrible.  Two exceptions:  Field of Dreams, which owed more to the source material than Cosner, and The Big Chill, where every scene with Cosner was cut out.
  • TOM CRUISE.  Here's a guy who keeps marrying them younger.  With actually counting, I think there's 18 years between each of his wives.  The guy's talent has been entirely overshadowed/diminished by his ego.  And he totally screwed up the Mission:  Impossible mythos by making Phelps a villain.  Shame, shame, Tom!  I won't even go into the whole Scientology thing.
  • RUPERT MURDOCH.  Pure slime.
  • MY NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS.  Not the ones on the left, the ones on the right.  Since we've moved in, the house has been rented.  First was guy with the prison tear-drop tattoo who would come to our door at night and offer to sell us food stamps.  Then came the guy who raised pit bulls to be sold for fighting.  Then came the family that wouldn't talk, although the ten-year old boy was nice even if he did a lousy job shoveling my driveway.  Then came the family we couldn't count, because we had no idea how many lived there; the mother sent a young daughter over one night to borrow ten dollars for a taxi to take a child to the emergency room.  I never saw the ten dollars and I never saw the taxi.  For the last week they lived there, she'd send a bunch of kids with empty bottles and pails for water.  Then they were gone and all their furniture was on the side of the road.  The house is empty now and is for sale, although the house is trashed and the asking price is too high.  So whoever comes next, I'm pretty sure I can live without you.
  • JERRY SEINFELD.  A lot of people would add him to their own list.  He's not funny.  His show could be funny at times, but he wasn't.  And, A Bee Movie, really?  And his wife puts a dollop of vegetables into her baking so the kids will eat veggies.  Again, really?  First she doesn't add enough to offset the other crap she puts in.  And, second, you're the damned parent -- why are you teaching your kids to hate vegetables?
  • PETE WENTZ.  Now here's a guy who was married to Ashlee Simpson and had Joe Simpson as a father-in-law.  Normally someone in that position would have my sympathy.  But before he married Ashlee, he was asked what he thought was the best thing in the world.  He answered, "My girlfriend's vagina."  Classy, Pete, really classy.  And Ashlee still married him, for a while at least.  Classy, Ashlee, classy.
     Who woulod make your list?


Ten books I want to read:
  • Nightmare Need by Joseph Payne Brennan.  A poetry collection published by Arkham House.  I enjoy Brennan's poetry almost as much as I do his fiction.  Someday I'll get my hands on this one.
  • White Fire by John Ravenor Bullen.  Supposedly this book was one of three edited by H. P. Lovecraft, although I suspect Lovecraft did more selecting than editing.  This one was published by Paul Cook's Recluse Press in 1927.  (The other two books that HPL edited were The Poetical Works of Jonathan E. Hogg [available online] and Eugene B. Kuntz's Thoughts and Pieces, published in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1932.)
  • The Great Mirror by Arthur J. Burks.  An SF novel published as a Swan paperback in London in 1952.  It originally appeared in a 1942 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly.  Some of Burks's pulp work is currently being reprinted; a lot more should be.
  • The Mystery Scene Reader edited by Ed Gorman.  This one's a tribute to John D. MacDonald.  I tried to get a copy about ten years ago and failed.  Ed's recent mention of this one in his blog has put it back near the top of my list.
  • The Television Detective by David H. Keller.  I don't think I'll ever get to this one.  It was a 16 page mimeo edition put out by the Los Angeles Science Fiction League in 1938 and was issued as Volume One, Number 1 of the fan magazine MIKROS.  Keller was a very uneven writer, but I'd really like to check this out.
  • The Year of the Sex Olympics and Other TV Plays by Nigel Kneale.  Kneale was a respected writer of television and screen plays best known for the Quatermass series and for his collection of short stories Tomato Cane and Other StoriesTOTSO  contains the title play (1967), The Road (1963), and The Stone Tape (1972), all written for British television.
  • Consider Your Verdict:  Ten Coroner's Cases for You to Solve by "Tally Mason" (August Derleth).  An early and gimmicky book by Derleth.  I wouldn't care if the "sealed" section had been opened or not.
  • Sex Gang by "Paul Merchant" (Harlan Ellison).  The legendary collection from a soft-core publisher Nightstand Books.  Bill Crider in his blog today noted that Ellison has (at last!) authorized a new edition.  It is to be retitled Pulling a Train and will include additional stories.  The publisher will be Kicks Books, an outfit co-run by Miriam Linna.  Frabjous day!
  • Absolute Power by Ray Russell.  A horror novel from an underappreciated master.  John Maclay put this one out almost 20 years ago in a very limited printing.  Another gottahave.
  • A Double Life by Manly Wade Wellman.  Novelization of the 1947 Ronald Coleman/Shelley Winters movie written by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon.  The film, a riff on Othello, won a best actor Oscar for Coleman and a best music Oscar; director George Cukor and writers Kanin and Gordon also got Oscars nods but didn't take home the bacon.  Wellman's novelization was published as a digest-sized paperback by Falcon.  One of the very few books by Wellman that I have not already read.
     So that's ten books.  I could add a zillion more.  Two that didn't make it were The Complete Adventures of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn (a three-volume, 93-story collection concerning the popular psychic detective fron Weird Tales) and The Complete Adventures of the Park Avenue Hunt Club by Judson P. Philips (a two-volume compilation of the 36 stories from the detective pulps; Philips is also well-known by his pseudonym "Hugh Pentecost"), both published by the brilliant Battered Silicon Dispatch Box.

     I can dream, can't I?


That's going to be my name as blogging get to be (even more) haphazard for the next five weeks or so.

     My daughter is taking an immersion course at Gallaudet University for the next month plus.  This entails a two-hour trip each way (more in bad weather) during the weekdays and full weekends working as an echo tech at the hospital.  My son-in-law has been having a hellacious time at work; getting called in at all hours and working 80 hour weeks.  So Kitty and I are taking up the slack with the grandkids with full-time sitting and five- or six-night sleepovers a week and swim team practice with at least two meets a week all over Southern Maryland.  And other activities such as the Sharkfest held this past weekend.

     Something has to give, and it won't be the grandkids.  (They're too much fun.) 

     I'll be blogging when I can, perhaps as often as usual -- but I can't guarantee it.


Slow week.  Must be the heat.
  • A. A. Attanasio, Kingdom of the Grail.  Historical novel.
  • Christopher Moore, Fool.  Novel.  "This is a bawdy tale.  Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as nontraditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank."  Yes, sports fans, it's Moore vs. Shakespeare.
  • R. C. Zaehner, editor, Encyclopedia of the World's Religions.  Reference.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


"It isn't wealth that's trickling down on us from the fatcats."  Kevin Burton Smith

Friday, July 8, 2011


The Room in the Dragon Volant by J. Sheridan le Fanu (1872)

This short novel, also published as The Inn of the Flying Dragon, is one of the lesser-known works by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, the Irish writer and editor whose influence on supernatural and mystery fiction is immense.  The story occupies the entire second volume and a portion of the third volume of his collection In a Glass Darkly.  (The other stories in the book are Green Tea, The Familiar, Mr. Justice Harbottle, and Camilla -- classics all and well worth your time.)  All the stories in this collection feature the occult detective Dr. Martin Hesselius, albeit in the instance of Dragon he is used merely as a framing device.

      Richard Beckett, a young and naive Englishman on his way to Paris in 1815, happens upon a carriage that had almost overturned.  He helps right the carriage and notices a veiled woman within but could not catch her features.  He did, however, receive the grateful appreciation of the old gentleman whose carriage this was.   Beckett is strangely taken with the mysterious woman and, with a romantic impulse follows the carriage to an inn.  The old gentleman, he learns, is the Compte de St. Alyre, a miserly and mean-spirited man.  The mystery woman is his very young wife whose beauty is the exact opposite of her elderly husband.  Beckett also learns that the young woman is unhappy and that the Compte has married her for her fortune.
Beckett also meets, and gains the confidence of the Marquis d'Hommeville who is travelling under a pseudomyn on a political mission of grave importance.

     Things come to a head at the Dragon Volant, an inn where Beckett is given a "cursed" room.  Three times in the past, lodgers had vanished from with the room while it was completely locked.  So, there you have it:  a locked room, murder, political intrique, a damsel in distress, an evil old man, battles, a romantic young hero -- what more can you ask for?

     While not as well-known as Le Fanu's major mystery novel Uncle Silas, The Room in the Dragon Volant remains a highly readable, highly interesting example of his work.  Recommended.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Jack:  Secret Vengeance by F. Paul Wilson

I came late to the Repairman Jack novels but found myself instantly hooked.  In short order, I devoured first eleven books in the series as well as Wilson's novels in The Adversary Cycle.  Then came the slow and impatient wait for the author to publish more of this literary crack cocaine.  As Wilson began reaching the end of this series, some angel of God must have told him that I went to bed each night muttering, "More Jack.  More Jack..."  Wilson announced that he was writing a trilogy of young adult novels that would take Jack back to his beginnings as a fourteen year old boy living on the outskirts of the New Jersey Pine barrens.  Jack:  Secret Vengeance is the final book in that trilogy.  After this, there is only the penultimate Jack novel The Dark at the End and a greatly revised Nightworld, which will cap both Jack's saga as well as The Adversary Cycle.

     The concept behind the books is The Secret History of the World.  It seems that there has been an ongoing cosmic clash between two forces, one evil and the other disinterested.  It's a type of chess game with entire worlds as pawns  The adult Jack is drawn into this battle little by little until he is one of the main players in the war.

     None of this is really known to young Jack, although he has witnessed some strange things in the Pine Barrens.  His friend Louise (Weezy) is formulating a theory that there is a secret history of which most people are unaware.  Mrs. Clavering, a nice but somewhat odd woman who has a three-legged dog, appears at strange times.  Near Jack's home lies the Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order, a mysterious lodge whose title "ancient" is not lip service.  A Piney girl named Saree seems to have strange powers.

     At the start of the book, Weezy has had a big-time crush on Carson Toliver, a handsome and very popular senior, the star of the high school football team.  The crush went south during the one time Weezy was in Toliver's car with him and Toliver attacked her.  Weezy managed to get away, virginity intact, but Toliver began to claim otherwise.  Soon it seemed the entire school  was calling her "easy Weezy".  Weezy is so embarrassed that she is staying home from school, refusing to leave her room. 

     Jack has a sense of justice and of loyalty.  Toliver must suffer for what has has done to his friend.  Weezy must be purged of her feelings of shame and embarassment.   Jack hatches a plan to destroy Toliver's image. He finds ways to get into the other's school locker a begins leaving things.  But when Toliver opens the locker each time, there are additional -- strange -- items that Jack had not placed there.  Odd things continue to occur in the Barrens.

     Along the way, Jack continues to discover things about himself that will form the adult Repairman Jack and, for the first time, meets his future friend Abe.  Although each book came read on its own, it's better to read the Young Jack series in order.  Since I was familiar with Repairman Jack, it was a pleasure to pipck up the threads in these books that would lead to the adult series.  Highly recommended.

     I have heard rumors that Wilson might write a series of novels depicting an "older" young Jack.  I certainly hope so.  With only two books left to read, I really need to see more Jack crack in the future


Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Second Reading, Notable and Neglected Books Revisited by Jonathan Yardley

During the seven years between 2003 and 2010, Jonathan Yardley published 97 occasional articles under the title Second Reading in The Washington Post in which he discussed "notable and/or neglected books" that he felt deserved reconsideration.  Sixty of those second looks are now collected in his latest book Second Reading, Notable and Neglected Books Revisited.

     As with his Post colleague Michael Dirda, Yardley has a wide range of tastes, although he comes across as more elitist than Dirda.  He praises John D. MacDonald's Travis Magee while dismissing MacDonald's earlier paperback originals.  He prefers the earlier Pogo to the more popular and more political later Pogo.  He offhandedly dismissed pulp fiction, something that should never be done with such a sweeping brush.  Yet each little essay is worth reading for his insights and well-defended opinions.  Robert Lewis Taylor, for example, has "an ability to discriminate between material that provides illumination and material that provides padding", a quality that allows Taylor's small biography W. C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes to stand out against much larger biographies of Fields.

     This is a book to be sampled, with a nibble here and a nibble there until the entire work is devoured.  It's a fascinating book -- albeit less immediate and satisfying to me than Patti Abbot's long-running series of Friday's Forgotten Books, though there is some overlap between the two.

     To pique your interest, these are the books covered:

  • H. M. Pulham, Esq. by John P. Marquand
  • W. C. Fields:  His Follies and Fortunes by Robert Lewis Taylor
  • The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Reveille in Washington by Margaret Leech
  • The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, translated by Robert Graves
  • Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  • The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald
  • The Woman Within by Ellen Glasgow
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  • Paper Tiger by Stanley Woodward
  • The Reivers by William Faulkner
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Someone Like You by Roald Dahl
  • The Long Season by Jim Brosnan
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Housebreaker of Shady Hill by John Cheever
  • The Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse
  • The Sketch Book by Washington Irving
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Crazy Salad by Nora Ephron
  • A New Life by Bernard Malamud
  • Cyrano by Edmund Rostand, translated by Brian Hooker
  • The House on Coliseum Street by Shirley Ann Grau
  • Pogo by Walt Kelly
  • The Habit of Being:  The Letters of Flannery O'Connor edited by Sally Fitzgerald
  • The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Sachmo:  My Life in New Orleans by Louis Armstrong
  • The Autobiography of Ben Franklin
  • Look At Me by Anita Brookner
  • Beat to Quarters by C. S. Forester
  • The Fathers by Alan Tate
  • Sula by Toni Morrison
  • The Revolt of Mamie Stover by William Bradford Huie
  • The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty
  • Fanny Hill by John Cleland
  • Poets in Their Youth by Eileen Simpson
  • The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Morte d'Urban by J. F. Powers
  • I Was Dancing by Edwin O'Connor
  • Only Yesterday by Fredericl Lewis Allen
  • Slouching Towards Bethleham by Joan Didion
  • Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron
  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
  • The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss
  • The Shooting Party by Isobel Colgate
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White
  • Act One by Moss Hart
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Newspaper Days by H. L. Mencken
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
  •  Pomp and Circumstance by Noel Coward
  • The Bridge Over San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor
     In an afterward, Yardley lists the remaining 37 Second Reading columns, along with a link to finding them online:
  • About Three Bricks Shy of a Load by Roy Blount, Jr.
  • And Then We Heard the Thunder by John Oliver Killens
  • Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara
  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  • Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbraith, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbraith Carey
  • The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler
  • Cockfighter by Charles Willeford
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Dale Loves Sophie to Death by Robb Foreman Dew
  • The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
  • The Earl of Louisaina by A. J. Liebling
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Generation of Vipers by Philip Wylie
  • Giant by Edna Ferber
  • Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwim
  • The Heart Is a Lonely hunter by Carson McCullers
  • Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford
  • My Young Years by Arthur Rubenstein
  • Never Love a Stanger by Harold Robbins
  • No Left Turns  by Joseph L. Schott
  • Office Politics by Wilfred Sheed
  • The Ox-Bow  Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  • Penrod and Sam by Booth Tarkington
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman
  • Scott Fitzgerald by Andrew Turnbull
  • The Second Happiest Day by John Phillips
  • The Spawning Room and My Moby Dick by William Humphrey
  • St. Urban's Horseman by Mordecai Richler
  • The Stardust Road by Hoagy Carmichael
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Veeck -- As in Wreck by Bill Veeck with Ed Linn
  • Victory by Joseph Conrad
  • The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglas Wallop
     There you have it.  Ninety-seven columns.  Ninety-eight books.  Some fiction, some non-fiction, a smattering of mysteries and fantasies, even a western (two, if you count Giant), some adventure, some romance, nary a science fiction, and a few books I had never heard of.  How many have you read?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


We all know the story of Captain Marvel.  Created to be a Superman clone in the comic books, young Billy Batson has only to say the magic word "shazam" and he transforms into the superhero.  A perfect fantasy for any young boy.  Pretty soon, the Batson family became part of the mythos, starting with Mary Marvel.  And then the Captain and Billy went on hiatus due to an infringement suit from Superman's posse.  Later, he would appear in many incarnations, including a stint with Marvel comics and a graphic novel reboot by Jeff Smith.

     I never caught any serials at the movie houses -- they were passe by the time I came around -- but they were resurrected and played and replayed on television.  My favorite was Gene Autry's The Phantom Empire.  My local stations never played The Adventures of Captain Marvel, or if they did, I missed it.  Too bad.  It would have been something I would have loved.

    The twelve-episode serial stared Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel.  Tyler was a fairly popular star in the silents, mainly westerns.  He had a number of small roles in other films once the talkies came about, but again his main forte was B westerns.  His best known roles were probably as Frank James in I Shot Jesse James, as Kharis in The Mummy's Hand, and as the Ghost-Who-Walks in another comic-driven film The PhantomDuring the early Fifties Tyler appeared in small roles on television shows -- again mainly westerns:  The Range Rider, Wild Bill Hickok, Sky King, The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, The Roy Rogers Show, The Gene Autry Show, Cowboy G-Men, and Steve Donovan, Western Marshal.  Tyler died in 1954 at the age of 50.

     Playing Billy Batson was Frank Coghlan, Jr., a child star who began his career in 1920 when he was four years old.  Through the silent era and into the early talkies Coghlan appeared in over forty films as "Junior Coughlin", along with a number of uncredited roles in other films.  But Coghlan's heyday was in his youth; his later career consisted of bit parts and uncredited roles.  Interestingly, IMDB lists his last work as a small role in a 1974 episode of Shazam!  Coghlan passed way less than two years ago at age 93.

     The link below will bring you to all twelve episode of The Adventures of Captain Marvel.  So grab some popcorn, sit back, relax, and become a kid again.


     For more Overlooked Film, check out the blog of our organizer Todd Mason, Sweet Freedom.