Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, October 31, 2011


What's your favorite horror story?  Do you go for ghosts, vampires, monsters, serial killers, zombies, or something else?  Do you like your stories humorous or creepy?  Do you decorate your home on Halloween?  Wear a bizarre costume?  Act scared when you open the door to trick or treaters?

Do you enjoy that chill that settles in your spine when you read Stephen King or Ramsey Campell or H. P. Lovecraft or Richard Matheson?  Or is Casper the Friendly Ghost more your cup of tea?

Here are three classic stories for your Halloween reading pleasure:


A good mix of authors this week.  Borden Chase was a respected author and scriptwriter (often for westerns); he also placed himself in the annals of strangeness when he married the daughter of his first wife.  Mignon Eberhart was an MWA Grand Master and was presented a Lifetime Achievement Agatha; she wrote 59 books in 59 years and passed away at age 97.   W. D. Gaglioni's first novel, Wolf's Trap, was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award.  Best-selling author Alex Kava has sold over three million copies of her suspense novels, one of which was chosen for the One Book One Nebraska Reads program in 2006.  Alexander Laing wrote the classic mystery novel The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck and a number of nonfiction books about the sea and sailing.  Brian Lumley is one of England's greatest horror writers; he has received the Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Horror Writers Association and the World Fantasy Convention.  John Lutz has won the Edgar Award and twice won the Shamus Award; one of his best-selling novels was filmed as Single White Female.  Marcus Pelegrimas writes the popular Skinners series and, under another name, has written westerns, including some in the best-selling "Ralph Compton" series.  I'm looking forward to reading each of thesse books.
  • Borden Chase, Red River.  Western, originally published in The Saturday Evening Post as The Chisholm Trail and in book form as Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail.
  • Mignon G. Eberhart, Run Scared.  Mystery.
  • W. D. Gagliani, Wolf's Gambit.  Werewolf novel.
  • Alex Kava, At the Stroke of Madness.  A Maggie O'Dell mystery.
  • Alexander Laing, The Sea Witch.  Historical novel about the age of sail.
  • Brian Lumley, Necroscope II:  Vamphyri!  Horror novel.
  • John Lutz, Serial.  A Frank Quinn mystery.
  • Marcus Pelegrimas, Skinners, Book 1: Blood Blade.  Horror novel.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Protect and Defend by Jack Valenti (ghost-written by Max Allan Collins) (1992)

"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America."

     Clem Barkley is the Appointments Secretary to Donald Kells, the President of the United States, and is one of the president's most loyal advisors.  Loyalty, however, appears to be in short supply in Washington.  The Vice-President, Bill Rawlins, is planning to challenge the President for the Democratic nomination.  The economy is in turmoil.  America's standing in the world is tarnished.  President Kells' poll number are dropping to historical lows.  The President's distrust of the United Soviet Conferation of Republics (the USCR -- which replaced the USSR with the collapse of Communism) is being viewed as war-mongering.  Top players in the Democratic Party are secretly planning to dump Kells in favor of Rawlins.  A planned meeting to sooth relations with the new Chinese government has just been derailed by a well-timed leak from the White House.  Could things get worse for the President?

     Of course they can.  The White House leak is traced to a member of Clem's staff who had inadvertently made an innocuous comment to a broadcaster which allowed someone to connect the dots on the President's plan.  Before Clem could find out to whom the information had been passed, the broadcaster had been killed -- by two Bulgarian assassins.  The assassins, in turn, were murdered before officials could find out who had hired them.

     On the other side of the world, Viktor Zinyakin, head of the reinvigored KBG, is quietly pulling strings to oust the American President.  Among his unknowing dupes is the Vice President.  Zinyakin is acting without the knowledge of the Executive President of the USCR and is planning a major shift in the balance of power.  He has made secret alliances with players in Germany to bring back the Third Reich, forming a triumverate with Japan for no less a purpose than to gain control of the world.   As the chessplayer in this solitary game moves his pieces, it falls to Clem and FBI agent Toni Georgihu to follow a trial of death and deception as they try to understand what is happening the the country.

     What no one but Zinyakin knows is that there is a mole deep inside the White House, someone who could play a major role in the impending crisis.

     Jack Valenti, of course, was Special Assistant to President Johnson.  He later became a powerful lobbyist as president of the Motion Picture Association of America.  He was someone who knew the ins and outs of Washington, and the many nonfictional politicians and newsmen in this novel.  Max Allan Collins, in addition to being one of the most talented writers in the mystery field, is well-known for his strict attention to historical detail.  Together they have crafted a thriller that, with minor alterations, could have been written today.

     Protect and Defend is the real goods, both entertaining and informative.

     For more Forgotten Books, go to Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


As part of his explantion for his support of preserving Romania's forests, England's Prince Charles revealed that he was related to Vlad the Impaler.  Well, that explains everything, doesn't it?


Stalwarts of the Washington, D. C. folk music scene, Doris Justis and Sean McGhee have been perfroming as Side by Side for 27 years.  They were brought together by a love of John Denver's music and have expanded their repertoire considerably since then, covering the gamut of folk and popular music.  They have been long connected with Dick Cerri's Music Americana radio show and have performed at all of The World Folk Music Association's annual concerts (26 of them to date, I believe).  Doris Justis was instrumental in reuniting the original Chad Mitchell Trio, and Side By Side shared the stage with them in a joint celebration of the Trio's fiftieth anniversary and Side by Side's twenty-fifth anniversary.   Doris is currently in the midst of producing a John Denver tribute scheduled for 2012.

     Both singers have a lot of fingers in the musical pie.  Doris also performs as a solo act and with one or two other singers and lead the Northern Virginia Ethical Society's choir; Sean is also a member of several groups, so both performers are apt to show up anywhere in the D. C. area.  Doris has a lilting soprano voice and Sean's tenor flows like honey.  The two voices meld together in perfect harmony.  Add to that Sean's virtuosity on both the six- and twelve-string guitars, their warm sense of humor, and their respect for their material and their audience, Side by side is a winning combination in anybody's book.

     We caught them in concert two weeks ago.  The venue was a coffee house located in the basement of an assisted living facility serving mainly the physically and mentally disabled.  Over half the audience were residents of the facility and their appreciation of and enthusiasm for the performance was contagious.  It's hard to pick a standout for that evening, but when Sean decided at the spur of the moment to do Death in Venice, a long, complicated, pun-laden song which they had not played in over two years, was memorable -- as was Sean's not quite PC lyrics he added to the John Denver/Bill Danoff song Country Roads.  It was a great evening of laughter, sing-alongs, and powerful songs such as The Potter's Wheel (one of their most requested songs).

     All of the following videos are from a gig at Baldwin's Station in Sykesville, Maryland.  The video and the sound are not the best, but they will give you an inkling or the group.  With that in mind, here's the duo doing Eric Anderson's Thirsty Boots:

     And a song written by Doris, Rainbow Bridge:

     And here they channel their inner Beatles:

      Sean's mastery of the twelve string adds to the power of The Bells of Rhymney:

     Friends with You:

     And a John Denver song:

     For anyone interested, here's a link to Doris' home page:

     Last week we attended a concert by Gordon Bok at the Calvert Marine Museum.  Bok, a native of Maine, has long been one of the premier performers of maritime songs.  A sailor and a woodcarver, Bok has been on the folk music scene for over forty years.  His smooth baritone voice adds to the authenticity of his songs.  He has well over a thousand songs in his repertoire.

     The audience that night were not tilting to the young side.  Most had been enjoying Gordon Bok's music for many years.  One woman had him sign a copy of his first album (issued in 1965 and produced by Noel Paul Stookey) during intermission; I was a bit jealous -- my copy of that album went walkabout years ago.

     Another magical evening.

     Here's Dark Old Waters:

     And Stormy Weather:

     And George's River:

      For many years, Bok sang with Ann Mayo Muir and Ed Trickett.  Here they sing Hymn Song with Ed Trickett taking lead vocal.

      The Last Kennebek Log Drive:

      Here's another from Bok, Mayo and Trickett, with Ann Mayo Muir taking the lead:

      The trio does Living on the River:

     Here's a jumpy video from a workshop with Bok doing instrumentals from Yaqi Indian melodies:

     Despite his many albums, there's very little of Gordon Bok on the web, although there are many covers.  But I'm not going to link to any of the covers.  Instead, on a completely unrelated subject, here's The Fabulous G-Strings:


For more forgotten music, check out Scott D. Parker.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Headstone by Ken Bruen

Let me tell you about my friend George.  Do you remember Joe Btfsplk?  The L'il Abner character who led a jinxed life?  Wherever Joe went there was a black storm cloud floating above his head.  Well, that's George.  George was a very handy friend because no matter what bad things were going on in my life, things were worse for George.  If I had a problem at work, George was fired.  If I was cursing some difficult home repair project, George's house would burn down.  If my wife and I had a minor argument, George's wife would kick him out of the house.  George was my barometer, my lock on reality, my itcouldbeworselookatGeorge guy.  Finally, one day when I was feeling ill, George died, one-upping me to the very end.

     One thing about Jack Taylor, the protagonist of Ken Bruen's most popular series, you know his life is far worse that yours.  Jack Taylor is my friend George to the fourth power.   In his most previous outing Jack had to deal with the devil (the only touch of fantasy in this long-running, gritty series) and what small victories he had came at a cost.  I felt it couldn't get much worse for Jack; then I read Headstone.

     Headstone is the name a small group of psychopaths had given themselves.  Their mission, to violently rid Dublin of defectives -- the mentally retarded, the acoholics, the druggies, the gays and lesbians, basically anyone they felt like targeting.  Among the targets were the priest Malachi, who bitterly hates Jack, and Ridge, the lesbian Garda who has an uneasy relationship with Jack.  Other targets are Jack's friend Stuart and Jack himself.

     Meanwhile, Jack spirals downward as old deeds come back to haunt him.  Jack continues to try to redeem himself but his efforts make him complicit in even worse events.  Jack has had beatings before, leaving him lame and partially deaf, but now Headstone has left him maimed and bleeding.  Headstone is also responsible for removing the only chance at happiness that Jack has had in years.  Before the novel ends, Headstone is about to commit the most horrendous slaughter that Jack could imagine and attempting to stop them could cost Jack his life.

     At his core, Jack is a noble person, but his life is riddled with the corpses of those who were dear to him, often as a result of Jack's actions.  Taylor's Ireland is infused with despair and corruption with drink, drugs, and violence often the only release available.  Taylor wanders through it all, Job-like, and the reader can only hope that eventually he will find redemption -- but redemption is a hopeless goal.

     Bruen's prose sings and soars above the morally bankrupt background of the story.  At times both lyrical and desperate, Headstone is one more coup for one of Ireland's best writers.  Pure genius.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


It's Halloween week, which means it's time for an especially cheesy program this week.

     First up, let's have a couple of cartoons.  The first is a 1944 parody of Sherlock Holmes (with "Hairlock Combs" and his assistant "Gotsome") as our hero goes searching for missing dinosaur bones.  It was directed by Howard Swift and written by John McLeish; McLeish also provided the voice for "Combs":

     The second cartoon seems to be a 2006 tribute to Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Does anyone have any more information on it?

     Before the main program, here's a trailer from the 1953 classic of badness (and I mean that not in a good way), Robot Monster.  Directed by Phil Tucker, with costumes by Ihavenobudgetbutifyousquintyoureyesrealgooditstilllookslaughable, this movie represents the nadir of star George Nader:

      Our first feature is from 1943 and was recently seen on TCM and stars the great George Zucco in a dual role, abetted by the also-great-but-not-as-good-as-he-was-when-he-played-Renfield-a-dozen-years-earlier-in-Dracula Dwight Frye.  Frye here plays a character named Zolarr; if the name sounds familiar, that's because it's one letter short from the astrologer.

     Our second feature is one of the worst pictures ever made.  Written and directed by Tom Graeff, the movie starred his boyfriend, David Love.  Love's love interest was played by Dawn Bender, although she went by Dawn Anderson in this film.  That's right, this is a Love Bender movie.  For a fairly obvious reason, the romantic spark just isn't there.  On the other hand, romantic sparks weren't really de rigeur in 1959 schlock teen horror flicks.

     I know you've suffered a lot if you've watched this far.  So to make up for it, here's a fairly effective chiller from director Alex Nicol and writer John Nheuburt.  It features journeymen actors John hudson, Peggy Webber, and Russ Conway; all three were familiar faces of the time (1958) -- probably the most familiar face was that of Conway who had recurring roles in Richard Diamond and Men in Space and played Fenton Hardy in The Hardy Boys Mysteries

     Have a delightfully wonderful Halloween!  And don't forget to check out more Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

Monday, October 24, 2011


A good mix this week.
  • Arthur Byron Cover, J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars, Book 1:  Born in Fire.  SF novel based on the graphic novel series.
  • Jay Bonansinga, Perfect Victim.  Thriller.
  • Matthew J. Costello, Child's Play 3.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Richard Dalby, editor, Mystery for Christmas.  Anthology with 23 stories. 
  • Greg Egan, Quarantine.  SF.  Egan's debut novel.
  • [Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine].  November 1977 and October 1979 issues.
  • James Ellroy, editor.  The Best American Mystery Stories 2002.  Twenty stories in this one.  Otto Penzler, as usual, serves as series editor. 
  • John Farris, Solar Eclipse.  Thriller.
  • Phylis R. Fenner, editor, Midnight Prowlers:  Stories of Cats and Their Enslaved Owners.  YA anthology with ten stories by well-known writers.  This copy signed with inscription by the editor.
  • Susan M. Garrett, Forever Knight:  Imitations of Mortality.  TV tie-in novel.
  • Christopher Golden, Stephen R. Bissette, and Thomas E. Sniegoski, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  The Monster Book.  A nonfiction guide to the television show.
  • Heather Graham, Dust to Dust.  Horror; Book 1 of The Prophecy.
  • Devin Grayson, Smallville:  City.  Television tie-in novel.
  • Simon Hawke, Batman:  To Stalk a Specter.  Comic book tie-in novel.
  • Brian Hodge, Hellboy:  On Earth as It Is in Hell.  Comic book tie-in novel.
  • Maxim Jakubowski, editor, The Mammoth Book of Vintage Whodunnits.  Twenty-seven short stories dating from 1834 to 1935.
  • Peter James, Possession.  Horror.  According to the author's blurb, this book "is the result of his own experiences with the supernatural."
  • Stuart M. Kaminsky, The Big Silence and Lieberman's Law.  Both mysteries featuring Chicago PD detective Abe Lieberman.
  • "Robin Karl" [R. Karl Largent], Amityville:  The Nightmare Continues.  One more milking of the horror meme.
  • Louis L'Amour, The Sixth Shotgun.  Western collection of two stories, plus an informative 47-page forward by Jon Tuska.
  • "Jeffrey Lord", Blade:  (#2) The Jade Warrior; (#8) Undying World; (#10) Ice Dragon; (#11) Dimension of Dreams; (#17) The Mountains of Brega; (#19) Looters of Tharn; (#22) The Forests of Gleor; (#24) The Dragons of Englor; (#28) Wizard of Rentoro; (#33) Killer Plants of Binaark.  There were 37 books in the series.  Of those listed above, the first two were written by Manning Lee Stokes.  The other eight were written by Roland J. Green.
  • Marjorie M. Liu, X-Men:  Dark Mirror.  Comic Book tie-in novel.
  • Ellen MacGregor and Dora Pantell, Miss Pickerell on the Trail.  One of a zillion adventures of Miss Pickerell (of Square Toe Farm) written after MacGregor's death.  A quick glimpse through the book makes me wonder, where's Miss Pickerell's pet cow?  The cow has been on many an adventure but seems to be completely lacking in this book.  Has an anti-cow agenda begun?  Hope not.
  • Cort Martin, Bolt #24:  Rawhide Jezebel.  Adult western.  Jory Sherman wrote a lot of these, so perhaps this one?
  • T. Chris Martindale, Nightblood.  Horror.
  • Neil McAleer, Arthur C. Clarke:  The Authorized Biography.  Clarke's life to 1992.
  • Christopher Moore, Coyote Blue.  Fantasy based on American Indian myth.
  • James Morrow, The Last Witchfinder.  Historical/picaresque novel.
  • Warren Murphy and James Mullaney, The New Destroyer:  Guardian Angel, Choke Hold, and Dead Reckoning.  The first three books in the series reboot -- but not actually a reboot, but more of a step backwards, ignoring the last dozen or so books:  i.e., those ghosted by Tim Somheil.  Sadly, the new series lasted for only one more novel.
  • Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir, creators, The Destroyer #144:  Holy Mother.  Written by Tim Somheil.  The next to last of the original series and one of which Murphy and Mullaney have chosen to ignore (see above).
  • Mel Odom, Vertical Limit.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Thomas Perry, Vanishing Act.  A Jane Whitefield mystery.
  • Ian Rankin, Let It Bleed.  A John Rebus mystery.
  • Kenneth Robeson, The Spook Legion.  Number 18 in the Bantam Doc Savage reprint series, originally published in Doc Savage Magazine in April, 1935.  As is most often the case, lester Dent is the man behind the mask this time.
  • John Saul, Nathaniel.  Horror.
  • Wm. Mark Simmons, One Foot in the Grave.  Fantasy.  Vampires, witches, and werewolves, oh my!
  • Louise Simonson, Batman:  Gotham Knight.  Novelization of the animated movie.
  • Dana Stabenow, editor, Wild Crimes.  Mystery anthology.  Eleven stories.
  • Bruce Sterling, Holy Fire.  SF.
  • Theodore Sturgeon & Don Ward, Sturgeon's West.  Collection of Sturgeon's western stories; three out of the seven stories were cowritten by Ward.
  • Mark Upton, Dark Summer.  Horror.
  • Graham Watkins, The Fire Within.  Horror.
  • Robert Westall, Ghost Abbey.  YA horror.

Friday, October 21, 2011


The Education of Uncle Paul by Algernon Blackwood (1909)

     Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) is probably best known for his horror short stories, including two of the best ever written, "The Willows" and "The Wendigo", as well as the six adventures of John Silence, one of the early "psychic detectives" in literature.  Blackwood moved from England to Canada when he was twenty, staying there for almost two decades; these years seem to have formed much of his personality.  He had two sides to his personality.  One was a extraordinary love of and appreciation for the outdoors; the other embodied his interest in the occult.  He was a member of the Ghost Club, a paranormal research society.  The two halves of his personality merged into his interest in mysticism.  He dabbled in Roscrucianism and Buddhism and the Cabala and was a member of one branch of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  It is through nature that one can expand one's consciousness and get a better perception of reality, he felt -- or, at least this was the theory behind a number of his novels and stories, including the one at hand.

     The Education of Uncle Paul was the second novel that Blackwood published.  Uncle Paul is Paul Rivers, a man who left England when he was 25 for America, where he soon found a solitary, outdoor job with a large lumber corporation.  While he was gone, his best friend in England married Paul's sister.  Now, after twenty years in America,  he gets word of two important happenings:  first, that his brother-in-law has died and, second, that an aunt has also passed away and has left him a comfortable bequest.  Taking a year's leave of absence, Paul returns to England to settle affairs and to check on his sister and her four young children.

     Paul had led a lonely and isolated life, mostly in the woods, while in America.  Because of that, he had never really "grown up"; rather, he had a childlike innocence and vivid imagination.  His study of the forest and of nature had helped him get closer to the reality (or, perhaps, the uber-reality) of the universe.  The question that has plagued him all his life was, Is Reality God, or is God Reality?  To approach the answer, his inner being had to remain a child in both innocence and imagination.  To return to England in this state of mind would lead to ridicule and ostracism from the adult world, he felt.  To compensate, he determined to "act" adult and stifled his childlike sense of wonder.  He discovers, however that, by doing this, he really is not a part of either world.

     To complicate matters, his nephew and two older nieces are completely in touch with nature and with their many pets.  Slowly the trio work on Paul, eventually allowing him initiation and entry into their "lodge."  Suddenly, Paul feels a type of completeness.  With the help of his eldest niece, Nixie, he is able to have "aventures" -- he can give visible shape and form to the wind, for example, and can share dreams with the children and their pets.  Of course, this is all done through imagination.  Or is it?

     The Education of Uncle Paul is an interesting, albeit slow-moving, book.  The one disturbing aspect to the modern reader will be the relationship between Paul and Nixie.  Nixie is not given an age, although one supposes her to be (roughly) between eleven and thirteen.  She appears to be much wiser and older in many ways.  Hints of a sexual attraction (and perhaps relationship) between the two seem to overt to ignore.  I'm sure this was not Blackwood's intention; in fact, this type of avuncular relationship (she climbs on his knees, bounces up and down, gives him kisses, and sometimes enters his bedroom) appears common in fiction from that time.  And Blackwood himself appears to have been an ascetic.  So, I'm probably a dirty-minded old man who is too influenced by what we know can happen around us in the 21st Century.  But, as the father of two daughters and the grandfather of three, damned if that relationship didn't bother me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Declan Burke, the man who brings you all things Irish, has just been nominated for the Irish Book award for Absolute Zero Cool, which is something I call absolute cool.  Congratulations to him.

     And if you have never read his blog, you're missing out on some really great stuff.


All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

Okay, so it's not all the earth thrown into the sky, but it's most of Oklahoma plus a goodly part of Texas, and Kansas and Nebraska.

Joe Lansdale's recent novel takes place during the Dust Bowl days of the Depression.  The dust has been blowing around Jack Catcher's Oklahoma home for so long that he can tell where the dust is coming from just by its color:  red dust is from Oklahoma, white dust comes up from Texas, while darker dust journeys down from Kansas or (perhaps) Nebraska.  Wherever it comes from, there's too much of it, killing people and animals and farms.  When the story opens, it has just killed young Jack's mother from the "dirty pneumonia".  His father, weakened by the cumulative effects of the dust itself and of its consequences, finds he cannot take any more and hangs himself, leaving a note apologizing to his son.

     With the dust storms still blowing, Jack has to bury his parents and to try to figure out what to do afterwards.  In the distance, he sees two figures slogging through the dust toward him.  It's Jane Lewis, a girl about his age, and her little brother Tony.  Their father had just died when a tractor turned over on him and their rickety house had collapsed in the last dust storm.  Now alone (their mother had run off with a Bible salesman a while ago) with no shelter, the pair started hiking only to run into more dust storms.  They had found a spot under a bridge that protected them from one storm, and waded through dust holding onto fence wire during another.

     The only way out of the Dust Bowl, they figured, was to steal a car from Old Man Turpin and head to East Texas where Jane said she had relatives.  It wasn't really stealing because Turpin was dead; he had plain given up and sat on his porch in a rocking chair and let the dust cover him.  Turpin was friendless, had no family, and his car was only two years old.  For the young trio, this was a no-brainer.

     This boils down to a quest story:  three kids looking for a home, a safe haven.  What they find may not be what any of them expect.  Along the way, they meet up with outlaws, violent death, hoboes, and the varied characters of a traveling carnival.  Jack also experiences love for the first (and maybe last) time.  What Lansdale has given us in this novel is an evocation of a specific moment in our past, a time when the best and worst parts of our nature were on open display.

     Those who have read Lansdale's earlier work know that Lansdale isn't merely a writer; he's too damned good for that.  He is also too damned good to be considered a mere author.  What Lansdale is is a storyteller.  It's a tradition that goes back to to a time when people huddled in a cave before a fire, being enthralled and captivated by tales wild and wondrous, stories that somehow speak to basic truths.  Lansdale is our shaman, witch doctor, soothsayer, magician, priest, healer, sorcerer...he speaks to the inner core of our being, taking us on a dangerous, unexpected, and totally satisfying ride.

     Here's a link (courtesy of Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine) of Lansdale reading from the book:

     And, also from Bill's blog, here's Lansdale talking about the origins of the book:

     Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The Phantom, "The Ghost Who Walks", is one of the most enduring comic strip/book characters.  The Phantom was created by Lee Falk (born Leon Harrison Gross) in 1936 at the request of King Features Syndicate, which wanted to build on the success of Falk's comic strip Mandrake the Magician.  (Mandrake had come on the scene in 1934.)  Drawing on the legends and stories that had impressed him as a child, he created the story of The Phantom, the 21st in a line of hero crime fighters who dated back to the 16th century.  Each Phantom, masked and anonymous, was replaced by the next generation, giving rise to a superstition by the natives of the Phantom's adopted homeland, the fictional kingdom of Bengalia, that the original Phantom lived on.

     Two cool things about The Phantom:  he was the first costumed hero to wear a skin-tight outfit, and he was the first masked hero whose pupils were not seen.  There were many other cool things about this guy, but these two continue to influence costumed comic heroes to this day.

     The 1943 serial starred Tom Tyler, a western movie star who also played Captain Marvel in a 1941 serial.  Jeanne Bates played Diana Palmer, the Phantom's love interest.  Bates had appeared in a Boston Blackie film and had been a victim of Bela Lugosi in a vampire flick earlier that same year; she was probably best known as series regular Nurse Wills on TV's Ben Casey.  Ace the Wonder Dog displayed his (I'm assuming his, but movie dogs are often gender-benders) acting chops playing Devil, The Phantom's mountain wolf.  As usual, the Hollywood hills starred as Africa.

     Directed by B. Reeves Eason, who began in silents and went on to direct the burning of Atlanta scene in Gone with the Wind, and scripted by Morgan Cox, Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker, and Sherman M. Lowe, The Phantom also based two of the fifteen episodes on one of Falk's comic strip stories.

     A two-disc DVD of this serial was released in 2001 with a commentary for Chapter One by Max Allan Collins.


     A few final thoughts.  Avon Books published fifteen Phantom novels in the Seventies, two of which were written by Basil Copper and six by Ron Goulart.  Falk evidently wanted Alfred Bester to contribute the series (Bester contributed to the strip during WWII) but Bester refused, suggesting Goulart for the job.  Since 2002, Moonstone Books has produced graphic novels, comic books, and prose anthologies about The Phantom.  Last August, Dynamite Entertainment began issuing The Last Phantom, featuring the 22nd Phantom.  The Ghost Who Walks is still walking!


     For more Overlooked Films, etc., go to Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom blog where our benevolent ruler will supply links to other great stuff.

Monday, October 17, 2011


It's been a mighty slow week here at Lake Woebegone/Mt. Idy/Southern Maryland.  Between what we think are spider bites that became seriously infected and a recalcitrant computer and various mandatory soccer games (my grandaughter Erin, age 9, is becoming a whiz -- he said proudly), I only bought six books.  On the bright side, those six are pretty darned good ones.

  • Eleanor Taylor Bland, See No Evil.  The sixth case for police detective Marti MacAllister.  I was lucky enough to meet Eleanor three times.  She was a beautiful, talented, and gracious person.  She will be missed.
  • Dorothy Salisbury Davis, The Habit of Fear.  Mystery novel by an MWA Grandmaster.  (She got the award in 1985, preceded by John le Carre and followed by Ed McBain.)  It's a pity that much of her work isn't readily available.
  • Lois Duncan, editor, Night Terrors:  Stories of Shadow and Substance.  YA mystery/supernatural anthology with eleven stories, each by a master of the field.
  • Tim Powers, Declare.  The World Fantasy Award winning novel.
  • A. Hyatt Verrall, In the Wake of Buccaneers.  Nonfiction, first published in 1923.  Verrill (1871-1954) was an archeologist and explorer who wrote a number of popular books on archeology, past civilizations, buried treasure, exploration, natural history, and (of course) pirates.  From 1926 to 1935 Verrill wrote quite a few science fiction stories for the early pulps.
  • Kate Wilhelm, Seven Kinds of Death.  The fifth Charlie Meiklejohn and Constance Leidl mystery.  Another author who never fails to deliver.

     Looking over this short list, I realize (sadly) that two of the authors had to deal with violent tragedies in their own lives.  Eleanor Taylor Bland's nephew died mysteriously while in police custody --  I don't believe a satisfactory answer was ever given.  Lois Duncan's 18-year-old daughter was shot to death in 1989; I believe the case remains unsolved.  Both deaths affected me very much.  That two promising, nice kids never had a chance to reach their potential is something that should lessen each of us.  The senseless death of young people has always sickened me -- whether it be by violent crime, accident, acts of war, starvation, or disease.  I hope it always will.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Self-Portrait:  Ceaselessly Into the Past by Ross Macdonald, edited by Ralph B. Sipper (1981)

This thin book is as close to an autobiography of Kenneth Millar ("Ross Macdonald") as we are going to get.  Millar was born in Los Gatos, California in 1915 of Canadian parents and thus was born an American citizen -- something that his mother repeated taught him as a catechism throughout his youth in Canada.  As a result, Millar always felt displaced, neither a Canadian nor an American.  Adding to his sense of loss was the desertion of his father when Millar was three or four (he hints at both ages in the various places) and the not so gentile poverty he and his mother faced during his childhood years.  Bounced from home to home and place to place, Millar calculated he had lived in fifty places by the time he graduated high school.

     This upbringing is a key to understanding both the writer and the man -- at least, as far as the pieces in this collection would have us believe.  (And who are we to dispute them?)  As anyone who has read the Lew Archer novels knows, the key to the mystery often lies in family secrets and relationships that go back for generations.  Only when one is confronted with the past can order be brought to the mystery, the novel, and the characters.

     Self-Portrait:  Ceaselessly Into the Past contains 21 short pieces -- articles, essays, speeches, an interview, introductions and forwards, and a snippet from Millar's notebooks -- each revealing some aspect of his personality and/or his approach to writing.  Because these are culled from various places and various years (from 1952 to 1979) there is a lot of repetition, none of which is really bothersome.  Millar was too good a writer for that.

      Here he lays out his major themes:  identity, the impact of the past, a love for the sea and the environment, empathy for the underdog, the importance of character, and so on.  He explains the meaning of the detective story in today's world and traces the development of the detective story from old narratives to its gothic origins to Dickens and Collins to van Dine, Sayers, and Christie to Hammett and Chandler and beyond.  The detective novel, like the detective writer, is a changing thing, Millar tells us:  constantly changing, constantly growing.

     There's a lot to digest in these 129 pages.  If you are hankering for an intimate conversation with one of the Twentieth Century's best authors, look no further.  Recommended.


     As usual, Patti Abbott provides the links to other Friday's Forgotten Books on her fantastic blog Pattinase.  Be there or be square.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


     The American dream, me in my car, top down, Highway 66, times I so wanted to get right under the skin of the very soil and the the Irish in me would whisper,
     "The Marlboro man died of cancer."

     -- Ken Bruen, American Skin

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Charles Beaumont was a unique talent.  A master of the short story, Beaumont produced stunning stories for Playboy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, among others.  As a television writer he is probably best known for his work on The Twilight Zone, but he also contributed to many other television shows, including Steve Canyon and One Step Beyond (one episode of which -- "The Captain's Guests" -- was an earlier Overlooked choice of mine).  In films he wrote the marvelous 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, and co-wrote The Mask of the Red Death and Burn, Witch, Burn; he even wrote the gloriously cheesy Queen of Outer SpaceHe produced only two novels in his short lifetime:  one a co-written Gold Medal paperback under a pseudonym, the other was The Intruder, a penetrating look at race relations in the South.

     Beaumont wrote the script for the film based on his book.  The Intruder has also been released under the titles of I Hate Your Guts! and Shame (the title given the Internet Archive version I've linked below).  The director, Roger Corman, later said that it was the only movie he made that lost money and blamed its failure on William Shatner's performance in the lead role.  (But, hey, any movie with the Shat has gotta go on the must-watch list, right?)

     Included in the cast was Beaumont himself as Mr. Paton.  Also appearing was Beaumont's sometime collaborator William F. Nolan, playing Bart Carey, and Nolan's Logan's Run collaborator, George Clayton Johnson, as Phil West.  And according to IMDB, June Foray (the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel himself) might -- just might -- have provided the voice of the Old Hotel Clerk.  Did I mention Shat?

     All this...and it's a pretty darned good movie.  Take a look;

     Did I mention Shat? 


     For more Overlooked stuff, don't overlook Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom blog.  Our host always has links to lotsa goodies.

Monday, October 10, 2011


A lot of horror this week.  What can I say?  they were a quarter a pop.
  • Michael Falconer Anderson, The Unholy.  Horror.
  • Greg Benford and George Zebrowski, editors, Skylife:  Space Habitats in Story and Science.  SF anthology with 14 stories and articles, along with an informative introduction.
  • Lynn Biederstadt, Sleep.  Horror.
  • Lisa W. Cantrell, The Manse and Torments.  Horror.  A Stoker Award winning novel and its sequel.
  • Nick Carter, Checkmate in Rio.  Number three in the Nick Carter, Killmaster series.
  • Michael Cecilione, Deathscape.  Horror.
  • Matthew J. Costello, Wurm.  Horror.
  • Sean Costello, Captain Quad.  Horror
  • Dorothy Salisbury Davis, editor, Crime Without Murder.  Anthology with 25 stories; the 25th anthology from the Mystery Writers of America.
  • L. Sprague de Camp and Catherine Crook de Camp, editors, 3000 Years of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  YA anthology with eleven stories, excepts, and an abridgement.
  • Giancarlo De Cataldo, editor, Crimini.  Italian crime fiction anthology with nine stories.  Translated by Andrew Brown.
  • [Detective Book Club] Another Woman's House by Mignon Eberhart, Cheer for the Dead by Eli Colter, and Shadow for a Lady by J. Lane Linklater.  Another one of their 3-in-1 editions.  I picked this up because I remembered the name Eli Colter from the old Weird Tales.
  • "Jean DeWeese" (Gene DeWeese), The Doll with Opal Eyes.  Horror.
  • Gregory A. Douglas, The Unholy Smile.  Horror.
  • Elizabeth Ergas, Devil's Gate.  Horror.
  • Margaret Erskine, The Silver Ladies.  Mystery.  Ah, the whim of the marketplace...this paperback (from Ace) is labeled "An Inspector Finch Gothic."
  • Ken Eulo, The House of Caine.  Horror.
  • "Tabor Evans" (house name, but all of these were written by James Reasoner), Longarm and the Six-Gun Senorita (#272), Longarm and the Yukon Queen (#277), Longarm and the Bank Robber's Daughter (#301), Longarm and the Hell Riders (345), and Longarm and the Outlaw Empress (Longarm Giant Novel).  Adult westerns.
  • Keith Ferrario, Deadly Friend.  Horror.
  • Eric Flint, editor, The Best of Jim Baen's Universe 2006.  SF anthology with 25 stories from the online magazine, along with four articles in remembrance of Baen who had dies that year.  (I remember Baen as the young, eager, smiling,  newly-appointed editor of Galaxy, running around a convention floor lining up authors and artists for the magazine.)  A CD is included in this edition.
  • Steven Ray Fulgham, A Whisper of Wings.  Horror
  • Liz Fulton, The Palm Dome. Horror.
  • Roland Green, Wandor's Flight.  Sword and Sorcery novel.  Number 4 in the series.
  • Kathryn Meyer Griffith, Witches.  Horror.
  • Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner, editors, Many Bloody Returns.  Vampires and birthdays, oh my!  Thirteen stories.
  • Marilyn Harris, The Conjurers.  Horror.
  • Steve Harris, The Eyes of the Beast.  Horror.
  • John Hart, Down River.  An Edgar winner.
  • Rick Hautala, Cold Whispers, Moondeath, and Winter Wake.  Horror.
  • James Herbert, The Secret of Crickley Hall.  Horror.
  • Dale Hoover, 65mm.  Horror.
  • Robert Hoskins, editor, Infinity 5.  The final book in this SF anthology series.
  • Paul Huson, The Keepsake.  Horror.
  • Shaun Hutson, Slugs.  Horror.
  • "William Irish", Waltz Into Darkness.  Mystery.
  • Ruby Jean Jensen, Pendulum.  Horror.
  • Richard Jessup, Threat.  Thriller.
  • William W. Johnstone, The Devil's Kiss.  Horror.
  • Stephen Jones, editor, The Dead That Walk.  Zombie anthology.  Twenty-four stories.
  • Nick Kamin, The Herod Men, bound with John Rackham, Dark Planet.  Ace SF Double.
  • Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan, editors, Hellbound Hearts.  Horror anthology of 21 stories based on Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart, which was the basis of the Hellraiser films.
  • Ronald Kelly, Moon of the Werewolf.  Horror.
  • Harry Adam Knight, Carnosaur.  Horror.  The other Jurassic Park.
  • Robert N. Lee and David T. Wilbanks, editors, Damned Nation.  Horror anthology.  Twenty-two stories.
  • J.-M. & Randy L'Officier, editors, Tales of the Shadowmen:  Volume 1:  The Modern Babylon, Volume 2:  Gentlemen of the Night, Volume 3:  Danse Macabre, Volume 4:  Lords of Terror, Volume 5:  The Vampires of Paris, Volume 6:  Grand Guignol, and Volume 7:  Femmes Fetales.  Annual literary horror/SF/mystery mash-ups featuring heroes, villains, and bit players from pulp stories, comics, movies, and television.   This is the complete series to date.
  • C. C. MacApp, Prisoners of the Sky.  SF.
  • Graham Masterton, Trauma.  Horror.
  • Abigail McDaniels, The Uprising.  Horror.
  • Clare McNally, Ghost House Revenge and What About the Baby?  Horror. 
  • Catherine Montrose, The Wendigo Border.  Horror.
  • Billie Sue Mosiman, Malachi's Moon and Craven Moon.  Numbers two and three in the Vampire Nations series.  Copyright pages also list Marty Greenberg's Tekno Books.
  • Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir (and vice versa), The Destroyer #3:  Chinese Puzzle and #89:  Dark Horse.  Men's adventure.
  • Michael O'Rourke, The Undine.  Horror.
  • Alexei Panshin, Masque World.  The third in Panshin's Anthony Villiers series.  SF with a Georgette Heyer influence.
  • Maureen Pusti, Neighbors.  Horror.
  • Stanley Richards, editor, Best Mystery and Suspense Plays of the Modern Theatre.  Ten noted plays.
  • David Robbins, The Wrath.  Horror.
  • Garyn G. Roberts, editor, The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Doorstopper textbook (over 1100 pages) with 87 stories, one article, and seven appendices.  One appendix is a 26 page (small type listing) of  cornerstone studies and anthologies; a casual glance had me scratching my head.  According to this, the good Marty Greenberg and the bad one are the same person, books are credited to the wrong people, co-editors are both listed and missing in the same section, renamed paperback derivatives of anthologies are considered as completely different books, important books are missing, many listings of series anthologies are cut short while others are complete, and single-author collections are considered as anthologies while some anthologies are not.  Based on this, get the book for the stories and take everything else with a grain of salt.
  • Clarissa Ross, Satan's Whispers.  Horror.
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Facade.  Horror.
  • Alan K. Russell, editor, Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Two.  Forty-six mystery stories from the original illustrated magazines.
  • Hank Phillippi Ryan, Face Time.  A charlotte McNally mystery.
  • Robert D. San Souci, Emergence.  Horror.
  • Al Sarrantonio, House Haunted.  Horror.
  • John Saul, Shadows and When the Wind Blows.  Horror novels from a master of the children-in danger school.
  • Darrell Schweitzer and Martin H. Greenberg (the good Marty), editors, Full Moon City.  Werewolf anthology.  Fifteen stories.
  • Carol Serling, editor, Return to the Twilight Zone.  Eighteen original stories and one "classic" (by Rod Serling) in this SF/fantasy anthology.
  • Richard Setlowe, The Experiment.  Thriller.
  • Sarah R. Shaber, editor, Tar Heel Dead:  Tales of Mystery and Mayhem from North Carolina.  Eighteen stories.
  • Alan Ross Shrader, Satan's Chance.  Horror.
  • David J. Skal, Antibodies.  SF.  An "Isaac Asimov Presents" book.
  • David Vanmeter Smith, Trinity Grove.  Horror.
  • George Harmon Smith, Bayou Boy.  Juvenile.  Smith (not to be confused with SF's George O. Smith) was a prolific writer who produced a lot of science fiction, adult novels, romances, and "swamp novels".
  • Duffy Stein, The Owlsfane Horror.  Horror.
  • J. I. M. Stewart, The Gaudy.  The first novel in the Oxford quintet by an author better known by some as "Michael Innes", classic mystery author.
  • Peter Straub, editor, American Fantastic Tales:  Volume 2, Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940 to Now.  Forty-two stories.  A Library of America edition.
  • Bernard Taylor, The Godsend.  Horror.  A classic.
  • Melanie Tem, Prodigal.  Horror.
  • John Tigges, The Curse.  Horror.
  • Peter Tremayne, Zombies!  Horror.
  • Lisa Tuttle, Familiar Spirit.  Horror.
  • Steve Vance, Shapes.  Horror.
  • Patricia Wallace, Thrills.  Horror.
  • Tim Waggoner, Dead Street.  A Matt Richter, Private Eye/Zombie novel.
  • Melvin Weiser, The Trespasser.  Horror.
  • James White, The Aliens Among Us.  Collection of seven SF stories, many set in Sector General universe.
  • Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin, Danny Dunn on the Ocean Floor.  Juvenile SF.
  • Philip Wylie, Generation of Vipers.  Nonfiction.  It was controversial at one time.
  • Anthony E. Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski, Level 26:  Dark Origins.  Interactive thriller.  Zuiker is the creator of the CSI television franchise; Swierczynski is a well-known crime and comic book writer.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I promised/threatened to reprint a short story by "Quincy Germaine"which was the pen-name used by Caroline Wright, a neighbor and family friend when I was a kid.  I don't make threats promises idly, so here it is.  This one is from American Cookery, November 1915.  Be nice to me, or I may reprint another.

                     THE MIRACLE-MAID

by Quincy Germaine

"When mother says salad and Henrietta custard, and Ned must have omelet, and father demands cake, and the hens won't lay, will you tell me how to accomplish the miracle?"

     Rose's voice was answered in the empty kitchen whence the maid-of-all-work had recently fled.  The speaker was as hot as the humid day outside, and in her straight blue apron with her curly hair concealed by a severe dusting-cap looked almost anything but the daughter of the house.  She surveyed the untidy scene disconsolately for a moment, then took a broom from the closet and began to wield it with a fury calculated to bring on a fever.  But by the time the room was swept and its tables cleared of breakfast dishes, her excitement had abated.  She sank down in a rocking chair by the window for a moment of futile reflection.

     It was the first week of the Gerard family vacation, supposed to be for the purposes of recuperation and idleness.  The one efficient maid they had brought out from the city had endured the pleasures of country living for five days.  That morning she had departed without warning just two hours before Henrietta's guests were due.  Not quite thirty minutes later Mrs. Gerard had been summoned by the telephone to a sick neighbor four miles away.  She had been driven off in one direction by her husband, while her son went in the other to meet and delay his sister's arriving friends. Henrietta had undertaken to set the rooms in order upstairs, so Rose was alone in the kitchen with a problem that defied all solution.

     "In the city with stores around every corner we never need an egg,"  she reflected gloomily.  "Out here everything seems to depend on hens.  Drat 'em!" 

     No reassuring sounds came from the hen-yard as the moments passed.  Nervously she ran over the possibilities of the ice-box and pantry, but always she came up against the dire necessity presented by the combination of expected guests and inconsiderate fowls.

     "I'd like to wring their necks!  Mayonnaise, two; custard, three; cake, three; and -- Gracious, how many for the omelet?  It's a foolish meal anyhow, all eggs!  They'll be sick!"

     She rose from her chair and crossed the long kitchen to the pantry.  In jerking open the ice-chest doorshe managed to strike her head a blow that brought the tears to her eyes.  Though cold meat, fruit, and vegetables confronted her, she propped her head on her fist and wept.

     Bathed in a flood of woe and thoroughly enjoying the misery, she did not turn round when presently she heard a step behind her.  She thought it was Henrietta, when a man's voice said:

     "Here are your eggs, and fresh butter."

     Rose recognized the voice.  It was the last straw on the load of exasperation.  Her knees gave way beneath the burden and she sank limply to the floor.  Though she did not look up, she knew exactly how the intruder looked.

     He was tall, with smiling brown eyes and handsome teeth.  He always wore khaki, and his hair and tanned skin were the same color.  He was not merely an egg-and-butter man either, but one who had come originally, as they had, to spend his vacations in the country and had fallen under the spell of rural living.  He was a bachelor, too, and distinctly eligible from the society point-of-view.  Furthermore, he had asked her to marry him, more than once in the six years of their acquaintance.  She knew that he would never ask her again now that he had seen her thus, -- hot and dirty and drenched in tears.  She bowed her head still lower and sobbed afresh.

     But the egg-and-butter man was of an enquiring type of mind.  After a moment he came over to where she crouched, picked her up without an effort, and in an equally matter-of-fact way carried her to the sink where he washed her face and dried it in her apron.  Then he put her in the rocking-chair and stood over her till she looked at him.

     "What's the matter?" he demanded then.

     She told him and tears welled up again in the telling.

     "Well," he said, "here are the eggs."

     She looked at the box and back at him.

     "Two dozen!  Dick, I could kiss you!"

     "You may," he answered gravely.  "Thirty cents' worth to the dozen."

     "Now we'll see this little party through," he added.  "What do say to my being butler, just for style?"

     Rose nodded with shining eyes, as she began the mayonnaise.

     "Did anyone see you come?" she asked.

     "Never a soul.  I couldn't get in the front door.  That's why I came round to the back."

     "That's the proper door when you come to see the maid," she retorted.  "Just you keep out of sight.  Miss Henrietta's very strict about my having followers till my work's done!"

     "But I'm on this job, too, till after lunch.  Can I have a white shirt and coat of Ned's?"

     "Out in the laundry, I think.  Go and look while I mix the cake."

     The egg-and-butter man went out.  The butler returned.  He laid the table while she made the custard, and vanished dutifully when Henrietta, -- as the guests were sighted down the road -- came to the kitchen to see how Rose was progressing.

     "What will we do with them this afternoon?" she questioned desperately, as she turned to go.  "Ned has driven them all around before bringing them over."

     "Everything is arranged," said Rose.  "Just get out of my kitchen now, and keep your head during luncheon."

     Henrietta went.  She did not like her sister's tone, but she knew that only a miracle could save the day and she wondered despairingly what would be forthcoming.  Her greeting to the guests when they drove up with Ned was gay, though perhaps hysterical.The Bostwick girls were rather formal friends, and she dreaded the necessity of apologizing.  The reappearance of her mother and father, however, distracted her mind from the need of excuses and they were all in the dining-room before she recollected what she had intended to say.

     The butler stood behind her mother's chair.  Henrietta saw her father's eyebrows rise as he glanced at the man.  Her heart sank when Ned hastily emptied his glass by a single gulp.  Furtively she met her mother's eyes.  In them, beneath amusement, was an unmistakable command.

     "Rose was sorry not to be in for luncheon," she said to the nearest guest, "but she'll be with us this afternoon."

     "I'm glad she's not off visiting," was the reply.  "Mrs. Gerard, this is the dearest place!  The simple life for mine!" and the meal proceeded tranquilly.

     The omelet was an enormous fluff set in a garniture that no chef could invent from the limited resources of a kitchen conservatory; the salad under its golden dressing was an old-fashioned bouquet.  The cake and custard proclaimed at once to unaccustomed palates that real fresh milk and new-laid eggs are luxuries unknown to the city-bred.  And the hand that served and removed the dainty, flowered plates did not mar the culinary achievement by a single slip.

     Across the gorgeous irises that formed the center-piece, the Bostwick girls, while listening to Henrietta's account of the simplicity of this vacation life and to Ned's laughing comments on the terrible death of congenial friends, exchanged glances that in the course of time cost their father the price of the nearest available farm.

     When the luncheon was at and end and they had been on the shaded piazza an hour and more, as conversation began to flag, Ned raised the question of plans for the afternoon.  All sounds from the dining-room had ceased, and likewise a murmer of running water from above.

     "I was waiting for Rose," said Henrietta.  "I'll go in and see if she has come."

     She went upstairs and down the long hall to her sister's room.  The door was closed, and she hesitated to knock for fear of breaking in on a deserved rest.  But to a timid tap a wide-awake voice called "Come!", and she burst open the door amazedly.

     Rose, cool and very much preoccupied, stood before the mirror dressed in white.  She was trying the effect of different hats.  She did not even glance at Henrietta.

     "Rose," begged the latter after a moment or two of silence, "are you coming down?  The Bostwicks are getting bored and there's nothing on earth to do."

     "If they can wait another half-hour, there's a wedding for them to attend over at the old meeting-house."


     "Your butler and your maid."

     Henrietta sank on the bed with a gasp.

     "But Dick's a farmer!  You said it would take a miracle to make you marry him!"

     "It did," returned Rose composedly.

     "Out here in the country all the time!  What will you do?"

     Rose decided on a lace hat trimmed with tiny pink blossoms under the brim.

     "What will I do?" she repeated with a little smile.  "Give me something harder to answer, why don't you?  I made a luncheon out of nothing at all; from the empty air I supplied a butler to serve it properly.  Now I'm offering to entertain your guests in a way that will surely surprise them.  Go downstairs and hunt for another miracle somebody would like to have performed."

Friday, October 7, 2011


                       HAPPY 80th ANNIVERSARY!

The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy:  Dailies & Sundays, Volumes One-Ten (2007-2010)

Is there a more iconic policeman than Dick Tracy?  Tracy is one of the most recognizable fictional creations in the world; he's right up there with Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and Mickey Mouse.  The creation of artist Chester Gould, Dick Tracy made his debut on October 4, 1931, making this week the strong-jawed cop's 80th anniversary.  Let's celebrate.

     For several years now IDW Publishing has been releasing marvelous books with the complete newspaper comic strips in published order.  Eleven volumes (each containing about 500 strips) have been published so far, taking Tracy's exploits to September 26, 1948.  I've read the first ten; number eleven is in the queue.

     In the beginning, it was organized crime that provided the villains in the comic strip.  Henchmen of crime boss Big Boy (modeled on Al Capone) murder the father of Tess Trueheart, Tracy's girlfriend.  Big Boy is one of the few villains who got off easy:  he was sent to prison -- most of Gould's villains die, often in horrible ways.

     As the strip progresses, Gould gets more sure of himself, mixing larger stories featuring master criminals and spies with stories of minor crimes.  Tracy goes after murderers and dognappers, bicycle thieves and madmen -- all with the same determination and focus.  The focus of the strip began to include humor and personal relationships.  Tracy may be a fearsome cop, but he's a complete jerk at romance.  At one point, Tess is so disgusted that she marries someone else!  Of course, her husband turns out to be a villain and soon meets his gruesome fate.  All record of the marriage is expunged and Tess comes to Tracy on her knees (literally) begging forgiveness.

     It's the above attitude (among others) that may put off today's reader.  There is a strong conservative tendency and 1930s sensibility that runs throughout the strip.  The law must be held above all others, even if it means stretching legalities.  Tracy can kill the bad guys without remorse.  In one scene, Tracy thinks a villain is hiding in a shed, so (in a just-in-case mode)  he riddles the shed with machine gun bullets without checking to see who is in the shed. 

     But Tracy also has a heart and shows sympathy for some of the crooks he catches.  When  Brilliant, the blind scientific genius, vows to take vengeance on Diet Smith, the industrialist he blames for the death of his parents, Tracy senses some good in the young man.  He takes Brilliant to Smith's hospital room.  Brilliant pulls out a gun and shoots several times into the hospital bed.  Realizing what he has just done, Brilliant collapses in remorse.  Tracy tells Brilliant that he had merely fired into an empty bed; Tracy had had Smith moved to the room next door.  This was something you had to get out of your system, he told the young man, now you can get on with your life.

     The Dick Tracy strips were also known for using the latest technical and scientific advances in crime prevention.  Laboratory procedures are well-explained.  In the 1940s, the strip sometimes ventured into science fiction land.  Villain Yogee Yamma used a mind-controlling gas to steal thousands and to evade the police.  Brilliant created the famous wrist radio that was soon to be used solely by the police.  He also created a light that would blind people for eight minutes.  An underwater battle tank was developed by a gang that was about to sell it to an enemy country.  (This SF trend would continue and culminate in the discovery of the moon people late in Gould's career.)

     Gould's drawings looked crude, his characters stiff.  In reality, the drawings were quite sophisticated and worked for the purposes of the strip.  Gould's attention to detail help propel the plots.  A few simple character strokes could speak volumes.  And -- course -- his style helped to create some memorable and bizarre villians...Steve "The Tramp", "Stooge" Viller, The Blank, Yogee Yamma, Little Face, The Mole, BB Eyes, Pruneface and Mrs. Pruneface, Flattop, The Brow, Shakey, Measles, Itchy, Breathless Mahoney, Mumbles, Nilon Hose, Gargles, and many others.  For a while Gould used an old conceit of spelling names in reverse for his characters:  John Lavir, Mr. Natnus, Nuremoh, Mr. Kroywen, Junky Doolb, Jerome Trohs, Mr. Toirtap...(Yawn!  Good characters, dreadful names.  I'm reminded of an Emily Loring character who was alway refered to as "B. Ware, the Widow".)

      Life was not easy for Tracy or his pals.  Tracy was shot numerous times and often left at death's door.  His right hand was crushed in a vise.  He was chained and left to starve.  Villains devised elaborate and hopefully fatal traps for him.  When he wasn't falling into these traps, he often found himself trapped by circumstances about to be gassed or drowned.  His young protege, Junior, had his body shattered when run over by a truck.  Diet Smith took two in the chest.  Tess Trueheart is chased by a murderous villain.

     A lot happens in these first ten books.  Remember, though, that the strips were designed to be read daily.  There was often a lot of repetition to keep both daily and Sunday only readers up to speed.  This slows the action down only somewhat.  Gould managed to keep a fast pace that is sustained in the collected strips.  The 1940s strips show Gould at his best.  So far.

     The tenth volume in the series is a real gem for two reasons.  First, it features the wooing of Gravel Gertie by B. O. Plenty and their eventual marriage.  It's my opinion that B. O. Plenty is one of the best characters Gould created.  And speaking of great characters, this volume also introduces Themesong, a tough-as-nails, independent seven-year-old girl who takes no guff from Tracy or anyone.  She's the type of kid Little Orphan Annie (no creampuff herself) could only hope to be.

     Each volume in the series features an introduction by consulting editor Max Allan Collins, who took over the writing of the strip when Gould retired.  Also, each book features an article on Tracyania -- toys, ties-ins, radio shows, popularity, and so on.  These are great books and I hope the series continues through to Gould's retirement in 1977.

     Bring on Volume Eleven!


     For more Forgotten Books this week, go to Pattinase.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Sesame Street is about to introduce a new muppet.  Her name is Lily and she's pink.  She'd also poverty-stricken and hungry.

The iconic children's television show is about to tackle the question of child hunger with a one-hour special.  The are estimated to be 17 million children who are underfed in America, almost ten million of them under the age of six.

What is happening to this country?  Some politicians are claiming we have the best health care in the world.  We don't -- we were 37th out of 191 countries in the World Health Organization's 2000 ranking, just behind Costa Rica and just ahead of Slovenia, and yet we spent the highest cost per person for health care of any nation.  (WHO no longer does these listings; they are just to cumbersome to compile.  I believe, however, we've fallen even lower since 2000.)

For low infant mortality rates, the U.S. ranks a WTFing number 46.  Slovenia, whose health care is just one notch below ours, ranked 19th.  Using the average infant mortality rate of the 15 years from 1995 to 2010, the U.S. comes in at 34th place.  No matter what system you use, we don't come out very well.

I still believe that we are the richest country in the world, a country that has the potential for the greatest opportunities, and a country that can and should demonstrate its compassion.  So what's going wrong?  Our political system is broken and we appear to be led by special interests that excel in blurring political and social realities.

Sesame Street has always been a utopian landscape, but a distinctly American utopian landscape -- one where our ideals have been put into action.  I applaud the show for taking up this cause and bringing it to the attention of parents but part of me remains doubtful.  Many of the people behind our problems and many of those not willing to tackle our problems were children of Sesame Street.   Obviously, many of the lessons that the show taught went right over their heads.

All I can say is, "Give 'em hell, Lily!"


Two of my favorites from the fifties.


They scare me.  Cows or the Olsen Twins?  You decide.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I am so weak.  Thus, when I came across a sale with paperbacks for ten cents and hardcovers for twenty, well...Did I mention that I am weak?
  • Lloyd Alexander, Time Cat:  The Remarkable journeys of Jason and Gareth.  Juvenile fantasy.
  • Sherman Alexie, The Toughest Indian in the World.  Collection of nine short stories.
  • Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January 1993, May 1993, October 1999, and January 2000.
  • [anonymously edited], Thrillers.  Instant remainder with 32 mystery and horror stories.  Althoug there is no indication in the book, this is an abridged edition of The World's Best Mystery Stories (Melbourne:  United Press, 1935), which contained 43 stories, and of Second Century of Thrillers  (London:  Daily Express, ca. 1936), which contained two stories less than the Austalian edition.  Mostly familiar tales.
  • Roderick Anscombe, The Secret Life of Laszlo, Count Dracula.  Horror novel.  A psychological approach to the Dracula mythos.
  • Robert Arthur, The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy.  Juvenile mystery in The Three Investigators series Arthur created for Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye, Myth-Told Tales.  Collection of nine fantasy stories in the Skeeve and Aahz saga.
  • Otto Binder, Planets:  Other Worlds of Our Solar System bound with Lester del Rey, Space Flight:  The Coming Exploration of the Universe.  Juvenile nonfiction.
  • David Bischoff, Star Fall.  SF.
  • Cara Black, Murder in Belleville.  An Aimee Leduc mystery.
  • Carter Brown, A Good Year for Dwarfs?  I thought I had read every Carter Brown that Signet published but this one passed right by me.  In this one, Rick Holman tangles with the porn film world.
  • Algis Budrys, editor, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume XVIII.  Seventeen illustrated stories and five articles in this 2002 editionfrom the contest that will not end.
  • Michael Cadnum, Ghostwright.  Horror.
  • Martin Caidin, Cyborg.  SF.  This book was the basis of The Six Million Dollar Man television series.  Times have changed.  Today it would be:  "We have six million dollars.  We can rebuild him...or we could buy a cup of coffee."
  • Lee Child, Gone Tomorrow, The Hard Way, and One Shot.  Jack Reacher novels.  I picked them up now because I fear that soon the paperbacks will have Tom Cruise on the covers.
  • Dale Colter, The Regulator:  Payback.  Number ten in the Western series.
  • Susan Rogers Cooper, The Man in the Green Chevy.  A Milt Kovac mystery.
  • Richard Cowper, The Road to Corlay.  Fantasy containing a novella and the title novel.
  • Lonnie Cruise, Fifty-Seven Heaven.  A Kitty Bloodworth mystery.
  • Elizabeth Daly, Unexpected Night.  A Henry Gamage mystery.  I've always liked Henry.
  • Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, editors, A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales.  YA fantasy anthology with thirteen stories.
  • Jeffrey Deaver, editor, A Hot and Sultry Night for Crime.  MWA anthology with 20 stories.
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Mission to Universe.  SF.  This is the revised 1977 edition.
  • Gordon Eklund, The Starless WorldStar Trek novel.
  • Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 1, 1981 and April 1999.
  • James Ellroy, Destination:  Morgue.  Collection of twelve articles and stories.
  • Ellen Erlanger, Isaac Asimov:  Scientist and Storyteller.  Brief juvenile biography of Asimov, about forty-pages long with almost thirty photographs.  This one is part of "The Achievers" series of biographies.
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction, October/November 2007.
  • Philip Jose Farmer, Dayworld.  SF.
  • Bill Fawcett, editor.  Bolos Book 5:  Old Guard and Bolos 6:  Cold Steel.  Two anthologies in a series created by Keith Laumer.  The first has four novellas; the second, two novels.  Fawcett goes uncredited on the covers.
  • Alan Dean Foster, Nor Crystal TearsOrphan Star and Shadowkeep.  The first is an SF novel of the human-Thranx Commonwealth, the second is a Flinx and Pip adventure, and the third is a fantasy gaming tie-in.
  • Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett, editors, Hottest Blood.  Horror anthology, third in the Hot Blood series.  Twenty stories.
  • Nick Gevers, editor, Extraordinary Engines.  According to the cover, "The Definitive Steampunk Anthology."  Who am I to argue?  Twelve stories.
  • Michael Gilbert, The Empty House.  Mystery.
  • Donald Goines, Inner City Hoodlum.  Black crime novel.
  • Christopher Golden, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  The Lost Slayer, Part Two:  Dark Times, Part Three:  King of the Dead, and Part Four:  Original Sins.  Alkternate world Buffy.  Noe I have to find Part One.
  • Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Child of the Hunt.  Buffy v. the dark faerie.
  • Roland Green, Wandor's Journey.  Sword and Sorcery, sequel to Wandor's Ride.
  • Joel Hammil, Trident.  Horror.
  • Jack Hanson, Wildgun:  Oregon Trail.  Number eight in the western series.
  • Joseph Hanson, Jack of Hearts.  Novel.
  • David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, editors, Year's Best SF 7.  Nineteen stories.  Why did they drop Cramer's name from the coer and the spine?
  • Rick Hautala, Little Brothers.  Another one from that well-known horror writer from Maine...uh, the other one.
  • Nancy Holder, Daughter of the Flames and Saving Grace:  Cry Me a River.  The first is a fantasy/romance.  Perhaps a bit steamy:  it's from Silhouette Bombshell.  The second is a TV tie-in.
  • Fred Hoyle & Geoffrey Hoyle, The Inferno.  SF.
  • John H. Ingram, True Ghost Stories.  Reprint of the 1886 edition, covering haunted houses and castles in Great Britain.
  • Ruby Jean Jenson, Smoke. Horror.
  • William W. Johnstone, Blood Bond:  San Angelo Showdown, Blood Valley, and Wolfsbane.  The first two are westerns; the third, horror.
  • William W. Johnstone with Fred Austin, Revenge of Eagles and Vengeance Is Mine.  The first is Book Ten in the MacCallister Saga.  The second appears to be a thriller with a radical right-wing bent about the dangers of illegal immigration.
  • Stuart M. Kaminsky, Denial.  A Lew Fonesca mystery.
  • Colin Kapp, Search for the Sun.  SF.  The first in the Cageworld series.
  • William H. Keith, Jr., Bolo Strike.  Sf novel in a series created by Keith Laumer.
  • Dennis Lehane, Moonlight Mile.  A Kenzie and Gennero mystery.
  • Donna Leon, Uniform Justice.  A Commissario Brunetti mystery.
  • Bentley Little, The Return.  Horror.
  • Frances and Richard Lockridge, The Judge Is Reversed and The Long Skeleton.  Mr. and Mrs. North solve two more.
  • Jake Logan, Slocum and the Bad-News Brothers (#302), Slocum and the Teton Temptress (#310), Slocum and the Deadwood Deal (#314), Slocum and the Sulfer Valley Widows (#320), and The Gunman and the Greenhorn (a Slocum Giant Novel).  Adult westerns.
  • John Lutz, Urge to Kill.  A Frank Quinn mystery.
  • John Lutz and David August, Final Seconds.  Mystery.  August is a pseudonym for David Linzee.
  • T. J. MacGregor, Kill Flash.  A Quin and McCleary mystery.
  • Henning Mankill, Firewall.  A Wallander mystery.
  • Graham Masterton, A Terrible Beauty.  Horror.
  • Sandra Miesel, Dreamrider.  Fantasy.
  • Elizabeth E. and Thomas F. Monteleone, editors, From the Borderlands:  Stories of Madness and Terror (Borderlands 5).  Horror anthology.  Twenty-five stories.
  • David Morrell, The Spy Who Came for Christmas.  Holiday thriller.
  • Warren Murphy, The Destroyer #49:  Skin Deep.  Adult adventure.  Although not list on the cover, Richard Sapir is also named in the copyright notice.
  • Francis M. Nevins, Jr., Publish and Perish.  A Loren Mensing mystery.
  • Andre Norton, Red Hart Magic.  YA fantasy
  • Andre Norton & Jean Rabe, editors, Renaissance Faire.  Fantasy anthology with 15 stories.  Martin H. Greenberg's Techno Books is included in the copyright.
  • Peter O'Donnell, The Night of the Morningstar.  Modesty Blaise!
  • Andrew J. Offutt, The Galctic Rejects.  YA SF.
  • Ellis Peters, Flight of a Witch and A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs.  Both Inspector Felse mysteries.
  • Caleb Pirtle III, Last Deadly Lie.  Horror.
  • E. Hoffman Price, Operation Misfit.  SF.
  • Kathryn Ptacek, editor, Women of Darkness.  Twenty horror stories from women writers chosen by the Gila Queen.
  • Robert Rankin, They Came and Ate Us -- Armageddon II:  The B-Movie.  Humorous SF.
  • Marilyn Ross, Ghost Ship of Fog Island.  Gothic.  Yes, the cover has a beautiful young woman in a nightgown fleeing a dark castle-like house with only one light coming from the stone turrett.
  • John Saul, The God Project and The Unwanted.  Horror novels.
  • "Andrew Shaw", The Unashamed.  Sixties sleeze from William Hamling's Corinth Publishing.  This one is copyrighted 1973, so the chances of the author being Lawrence Block are practically nil.
  • Luke Short, Paper Sheriff.  Western.
  • Guy N. Smith, Entombed.   Horror novel from the prolific British writer.  No giant crabs this time.
  • L. Neil Smith, The Lando Calrissian Adventures.  Onibus of three novels in the Star Wars universe:  Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu, Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Oseon, and Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of Thonboka.
  • S. M. Sterling and David Drake, The Steel:  Book IV of The General.  Military SF.
  • Dan Streib, Hark #5:  California Shakedown.  Men's adventure.
  • David Thompson, Wilderness #26:  Blood Feud.  Western.
  • John Tigges, Kiss Not the Child.  Horror (and probably good advice).
  • Jack Webb (not the TV guy), The Naked Angel.  A Father Shanley and Sammy Golden mystery.
  • Jack Williamson, Mazeway.  SF.
  • Robert Charles Wilson, A Hidden Place and Spin.  SF novels.  Spin took the Hugo for best SF novel.
  • Gene Wolfe, Starwater Strains:  New Science Fiction Stories.  Twenty-five stories from 1985 to 2004.
  • T. M. Wright, Sleepeasy.  Horror
  • Sharon Zukowski, Dancing in the Dark.  A Blaine Stewart mystery.