Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The Ritz Brothers were the poor man's Marx Brothers, or (perhaps) The Three Stooges.  They have their fans and their detractors, but they were very popular in their day.

There are eight million gorilla stories in the naked city.  This is one of them.

Bela Lugosi. Lionel Atwill, Patsy Kelly, and Jimmy, Harry and Al Ritz are featured in this murder mystery/comedy about a fake gorilla and a real gorilla.  I like this one because Lowell-born (as am I) Art Miles played the gorilla (he went on to play a gorilla in at least three other films); IMDB gives Miles 88 film credits, mostly uncredited and mostly in minor roles.  Also featured are Anita Louise (perhaps most recognizable by geezers from her work in the My Friend Flicka television show), Joseph Calleia (usually seen in a bad-guy role), hoofer/comic Wally Vernon, recognizable character actor Paul Harvey, and B-movie star Edward Norris.

     The Gorilla was directed by Allan Dwan (Sands of Iwo Jima, Heidi, and over 400 other features, starting in 1911).  The script was written by Ryan James and Sid Silver from a play by Ralph Spence.

     I like cheesy films and I like gorilla suits.  The combination is just too much for me to resist.  Can you resist this one?

Monday, January 30, 2012


I need a new computer.  This one was in the queue for last Monday, and the computer has been dying five or six times a day.  Grrrr.
  • Jeff Abbott, Fear.  Thriller
  • Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason, The Trinity Paradox.  SF.
  • Chris Baldick, editor, The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales.  Anthology with 37 stories (some familiar, others not), from 1773 to 1991.
  • Craig Shaw Gardner, A Malady of Magicks.  Humorous fantasy, the first in the Ebenezem series.
  • Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu.  TV tie-in.  I'm looking forward to this one.
  • Nancy Holder, Heat.  A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel tie-in novel.
  • Floyd Mahannah, The Golden Widow.  How long has it been since you heard that name?
  • Stefan Petrucha, Nancy Drew, Girl Detective #1:  The Demon of River Heights.  Graphic novel, the first in a long line of them evidently.  Art by Sho Murase.
  • Al Sarrantonio, Horrorween.  Horror.  A fix-up of two stories and Orangefield, an earlier novel.
  • Bruce Sterling, A Good Old-Fashioned Future.  Sf collection of seven stories, one in collaboration with Rudy Rucker.
  • Phaedra Weldon, Revenant.  Fantasy, the fourth book in the Zoe Martinique Investigation series.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I've been reading a lot of Arthur Machen lately, four books in the past few weeks with two more reaching near the top of Mount TBR.  I find this curious because there have been times when I couldn't stand to read a word of his.  My inner reading muse has lots of quirks, fits, and starts.  Most likely, after the next two books, I won't touch Machen for another year or two.  But, who knows?  Whatever devious part of me that reaches for one book and spurns another cannot be predicted to any degree of certitude.  (Looking back on these few sentences I can see Machen affecting me.)

     Whatever.  Here, from his 1924 collection of essays Dog and Duck, is a splash of Machen as he begins to discuss roast goose:

     "The war, I believe, is over.  At all events, I will assume this to be the case, in order that I may speak of Michaelmas goose, and confess that in common with most Englishmen O have certain Teutonic tastes.  In 1918 it was dangerous to admit a liking for Bach or Beethovan; now, I think, things are a little calmer, and I might venture to say that I like apple sauce with roast goose.  As a matter of fact, I do not think that the goose, a very favourite dish on Germany, is served with apple sauce in that country; but the combination is purely Teutonic.  In France, where dwells the true church of cookery, they would shudder at lamb and mint sauce and red current jelly with saddle of mutton and jugged hare.  I know that these things are wrong; but I like them all the same; and they are all German in feeling.  In Germany, as I have read, they serve raspberry jam with roast veal, and English Travellers have been known to denounce the absurdity of the combination, not seeing that it is on all fours with their own saddle of mutton and current jelly.  I say again that these things are wickedness, but I like them very well, and all peoples who have any Teutonic blood in them love such mixtures.  There is the 'Mostarda Soffrafina' of northern Italy; it is fruit -- small pears, if I remember -- pickled in hot sweet sauce.  This they eat in Lombardy with their boiled beef; and from this circumstance, if all the history books in the world had perished, we might infer that the Lombaris were of Teutonic stock.  So, I say, I am for apple sauce with the Michaelmas goose; and, let it be added, for the stuffing of sage and onions, which, so far as I know, is a purely English and a most happy thought.  Here again, we must differ from our masters in cookery, the French.  Walking once in Touraine with a French friend, I sage a bush of sage growing by the roadside.  I told the Frenchman the use to which it was put in England, in relation to the goose, the duck, and the pig.  He nibbled a leaf, and then looked at me with a glance which I had met before in French company."

     I suppose everyone has their own combinations of food that leave others scratching their respective heads.  I know that my wife and children give me that Frenchman glance whenever I make a cheese and jelly sandwich.

Friday, January 27, 2012


The Angry Planet (1945) and The Red Journey Back (1954, also published as SOS from Mars) by John Keir Cross

John Keir Cross (1914-1967) made his living writing and producing radio plays for the BBC, first as an employee and later as a free-lance writer.  In America he is probably best known for his collection The Other Passenger:  18 Strange Stories; nine of those stories were published by Ballantine as Stories from The Other Passenger in 1961 (when Ballantine was publishing a lot of horror with those great Powers covers).

     Cross wrote a couple of novels under the name "Susan Crowley" but the majority of his book work was for juveniles under his own name and that of "Stephen MacFarlane".  Cross and his alter ego MacFarlane cross paths in the two juveniles covered here.  The conceit is that Stephen MacFarlane and John  Keir Cross are cousins, both writers.  MacFarlane, in The Angry Planet, is good friends with reclusive scientist Andrew McGillivray.  McGillivray has inherited some money and is conducting experiments on a type of fuel needed to push rockets into space.  Once the formula is discovered the two make plans for a secret journey to Mars.  (Why Mars? you ask.  Well -- ahem -- as is explained in the story, Mars is the closest planet to Earth.  Why our muddle-headed protagonist believe that, I don't know.  Science may not have been a strong suit among scientist in 1945 maybe, or at least not a strong suit to BBC script writers.  Of course, Mars may be closer than Venus if the latter planet were one the other side of the sun, but this does not seem to be considered.)

     The rocket takes off and soon the two discover three accidental stowaways:  MacFarlane's nephew, 11-year-old Mike Malone, and Mike's first cousins Paul (age 14) and Jacqueline (age 12) Adams.  Unable to turn back, the five of them go to Mars and land safely.  Mars, it turns out, is inhabited by telepathic plants.  One race, calling themselves "The Beautiful People" are mobile, using tentacle-like roots to move around.  The Earthlings soon make good friends with them and are welcomed into their city.  For every yin there's a yang; for The Beautiful People, it is The Terrible Ones -- a race of bloodthirsty [sapthirsty?] plants with an overwhelming desire to eliminate The Beautiful People.  The Terrible People discover the rocket ship and a battle ensues.  The Earthlings soon discover that bullets will  not harm these evil plants.  During the battle one of The Terrible Ones captures Mike and makes off with him.  Even alien plants should realize that it is unwise to kidnap a plucky 11-year-old boy.  After being held captive for a week, Mike escapes in time to warn his friends of an imminent attack designed to wipe out The Beautiful People once and for all.  The attack comes and many plants on both sides are killed, then...Oh, did I mention there were volcanoes on Mars?

     The five Earthlings escape in their rocket after one of their Martian friends sacrifices himself to save Mike.  Unfortunately, they had to leave all evidence of their trip behind them.  They land in a field in France and are soon feted for their unprovable adventure.

     The Angry Planet sold well in England and Cross wrote a very successful radio play from the novel.  In America, the book went through at least four impessions.  So a sequel would be a foregone conclusion.  Still, it took nine years before it was published.  Memory can do funny things over nine years.  Now Paul and Jacqueline are "distant cousins" to Mike, rather than first cousins.  Mars could well still be the closest planet to Earth, although that's not specified in this sequel.

     One year has past and some people are begining to doubt our heroes' veracity.  McGillivray and MacFarlane are fed up with this petty carping and decide to return to Mars in the ultimate attempt to gafiate*.  Once again, they head into space, this time sans stowaways.

     Enter John Keir Cross, who is in Scotland to report on tests being held for a revolutionary airstrip devised by Roderick Mackellar.  The airstrip has a special coating that can amplify certain radio signals, specifically radio signals from Mars...Yep, Stephen MacFarlane is sending signals back to Earth from Mars, and, in a stupendous performance of Coincidence Theatre, manages to communicate with his cousin in a code they had invented when they were children!  The messages are spotty and come in over a period of weeks.  Their rocketship landed near the fabled canals of Mars, but on leaving the ship McGillivray in engulfed by a wide cloud of yellow dust (actually trillions of semi-telepathic seedlings).  To the rescue comes Malu, The Beautiful People warrior who had sacrificed himself at the end of the first book.  He saves McGillivray, now injured and blind, and he and the two earthmen hole up in the ship.

     Most mysterious of all was the final message sent:  "The children...There is only one way in which you can save us...Bring the children -- somehow bring the children!  Paul and Jacqueline and Michael...Ask no questions -- no time, no time to answer; but bring those three to Mars or we are lost...!"


     The three adventurous youths soon make contact with the American scientist Dr. M. B. Kalkenbrenner, a rival of McGillivray's who is building his own spaceship.  Dr. K agrees to go to Mars with the children to rescue the stranded travellers.  Also along for the ride are Katey Hogarth (an actress who would act as a chaperone for the children) and Keith Borrowdale (a young engineering assistant to Mackellar [remember him?  The airstrip guy?] and Katey's fiance).  You can't have a rescue trip to Mars without a stowaway; this time it's Maggie Sherwood, Dr. K's tomboy 12-year-old niece, smuggled aboard by that rascal Mike (purely for impish and non-sexual reasons, mind you).

     So the seven of them go to Mars and face such horrors as the Crawling Canals, the Yellow Dust, The Terrible Ones, and the Living Brains.  They meet tragedy.  They return to Earth.  Huzzah!

     These are typical SF juveniles of their time, those dark ages before the invention of YA.  Yes, you have to abandon your sense of logic.  And, yes, stereotypes abound.  But if you can manage to release your inner 11-year-old and just go along for the ride, these two books can provide a few enjoyable hours.

*gafia = Getting Away From It All, something akin to taking one's ball and bat and going home.


For more Friday's Forgotten Books, with links, visit Patti Abbott at Pattinase.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Bessie Mae Smith was born in 1894 (or 1892, depending on who you listen to) in Chattanooga.  Her early family life is also in question, depending again on who you listen to;  we know her father died while Bessie was very young and that her mother died before she was nine.  Her older sister then took care of Bessie and her siblings.  She began very young (a pre-teen) as a busker, singing and dancing in front of a saloon in the Black section of Chattanooga, while her brother played the guitar.  By 1912 she had joined a travelling troupe as a dancer; the troupe already had a star singer in Ma Rainey and Bessie learned much of her stage presence by watching Rainey.

     She moved slowly up in her profession, making her first recordings in 1923 in Philadelphia, where she had moved.  Her recording "Cemetery Blues" was the first record released by Columbia that was marketed as a "race record."  During the 1920s and into the 1930s, Bessie Smith was the most popular female blues singer in the country.  Her influence in blues, jazz, and the American scene was be immense.

     The Depression and talkies stalled her career until John Hammond signed her in 1933 for his legendary Okeh label.  (Hammond's version of the story differed greatly from Smith's.)  Nevertheless, Bessie Smith has had a stellar career marred only by personal problems.  Smith was a bisexual and her husband left her after one of her affairs was revealed; they never divorced.  Smith later entered into a common-law relationship with an old friend.  He was driving her car one day in 1937 when he tried to pass a slow moving truck just outside Clarksdale, Mississippi.  He  misjudged and the car struck the left side of the truck, ripping the top off the automobile.  Bessie, riding on the passengers side, suffered internal injuries and had her right arm almost severed.  She died at the hospital without regaining consciousness.  In a display of her great popularity, seven to ten thousand mourners attended her funeral that Saturday.

     In 1970, Janis Joplin and one of Smith's housekeepers purchased a stone for the gravesite.  Smith's legal husband had refused to put up a headstone, and had at times pocketed money raised for such a purpose.

     She was the Queen of the Blues.  Her music still has a strong effect on today's listeners.  Not forgotten, but one who should be remembered.

      The link will take you 42 of her songs.  Enjoy.

     For more forgotten music today, go to Scott D. Parker where he will be listing the links.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


...such as this one, surreptitiously sent by my brother:

SUBJECT LINE:  A letter for you from future president NEWT GINGRICH

Dear Newt Gingrich Impersonator --

It has come to our attention that you have frequently been mistaken for Republican candidate for president Newt Gingrich (tm).  Indeed, you have proudly mentioned this in your "web log."

Regardless of your intentions, you are trampling on a valued trademark and must immediately cease and desist all likeness to the former Speaker of the House.  [Your attempt to mimic that role with your obviously invented surname will be the subject of another memo.]

We believe that many (Thousands?  Millions?) women are thrusting themselves on you in an attempt to be wife #4 and First Lady.  This must stop!  The candidate is getting cranky and, in the true GOP spirit, is unwilling to share.

We also have evidence of campaign donations to line the pockets^W^W^W support the candidacy of Mr. Gingrich (tm) being diverted to you.  You must immediately return all donations, bribes, kickbacks and donuts to the campaign.


-- The Campaign for Truth, Honesty and Civil Discourse (tm)

p.s.  We have heard rumors of people who misguidedly dislike Mr. Gingrich (tm), unbelievable as that soumds.  Knowing that you do not have Secret Service protection, we recommend that for personal safety you lay low for a while; at least until this campaign implodes.  And no, your family menagerie will not be able to protect you.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


From Studio 57,  September 3, 1955, here is the first televised show based on a Richard Matheson story.  The script, written by Lawrence Kimble and directed by Richard Irving (both of whom went on to do much better), is not the best, but the story features Peter Lorre and Barbara Hale, which shouold count for something.  The Matheson story, by the way, was "Shipshape Home" (Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1952).

Ladies and Gentlemen, Young Couples Only:

For today's links to other Overlooked Stuff, stop by Todd Mason's Sweet Freedom.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Books, books, glorious books!

  • Anthony, Piers, Unicorn Point.  Fantasy.  Book Six of the Apprentice Adept series.
  • Bayer, William, Wallflower.  A Detective Frank Janek mystery.  Does anyone else remember when Richard Crenna played Janek?  There were seven made-for-television movies, from 1985 to 1994.
  • "Carter, Ashley" [Harry Whittington], Mandingo Master.  Plantation novel about Falconhurst, the South's greatest slave breeding plantation.  Super cheesy, but any Whittington is a good Whittington.
  • Dozois, Gardner, editor, The Year's Best Science Fiction:   Twentieth Annual Edition.  Twenty-five stories from 2002.
  • Farris, John, Solar Eclipse.  Thriller.
  • Garnett, David, Bikini Planet.  SF.  For some reason they couldn't fit the words "Jello Wrestling" into the title.
  • Hautala, Rick, The Mountain King.  Horror.  This is the Leisure edition, which adds three stories to the title novel.
  • Johnston, William, Get Smart!.  TV tie-in.
  • Landesman, Peter, Blood Acre.  "New York Gothic Noir" (well, according to one of the blurbs).
  • MacMillan, Scott, Knights of the Blood.  Fantasy, created by Katherine Kurtz and written by her husband.  Kurtz's name appears first on the cover and spine, and in larger type.  Evidently she did do some minor editing of the novel.
  • "Parrish, P. J." [Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols], Dead of Winter.  A Louis Kincaid mystery.
  • Reed, Philip, Bird Dog.  A Car Noir thriller.
  • Ross Thomas, Chinaman's Chance.  Thriller by a master.  This onje features Artie Wu and Quincy Durant.
  • Sawyer, Robert J., WWW:  Wake.  SF.
  • Willis, Connie, Bellweather.  SF.

Friday, January 20, 2012


The Maracot Deep and Other Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle (1929)

Conan Doyle, of course is hardly forgotten, nor is most of his fiction, from his historical novels to his stories of Brigadier Gerard and about Professor Challenger to his classic tales of Sherlock Holmes.  And, truth to tell, this collection should hardly be considered forgotten -- except for one reason.  More on that later.

     The Maracot Deep, the title novel of this collection, was one of Doyle's last novels.  The Dr. Maracot of the title is a scientist who devised a bathysphere that can go deeper into the ocean than ever before.  Using it descend into a large ocean rift, the machine gets into trouble and Maracot and his crew are rescued by the last Atlanteans, whose forebears survived the sinking of Atlantis 8000 years ago and were able to make a new home undersea.  Of course there are scientific marvels.  And scary beasts. And, because this was written late in the author's life, when he believed in spiritualism, there is a bit of that thrown in when Maracot meets the "Lord of the Dark Face."  All-in-all, this is a pretty engaging fantasy that covers a lot of ground in 189 pages.

     The second and fourth stories in the collection are about Professor George Edward Challenger, the strong-minded protagonist of Doyle's The Lost World and The Poison Belt, who became a shadow of himself when Doyle had the abrasive man turn to spiritualism in The Land of Mist.  "The Disintegration Machine" and "When the World Screamed" deal with a dangerous new machine and the theory that the earth is a living creature moving through space, respectively.  Both are well worth your time.

    Ah, but the third piece in this four-story collection...That's what makes this a truly forgotten book as well as a truly "What the heck were they thinking?" book.  "The Story of Spedegue's Dropper" seems to be very rare (to me, at least; I have not been able to locate it anywhere else).  This is a story about cricket, the English sport leaves me dazed and confused and scatching my head in disbelief.  I understand that a lot of people love the game, follow it religiously, and can even understand what it's all about.  I'm not one of them.  And what the hell is a story about cricket doing in what is essentially a science fiction collection?

     I'll be honest and say that I have read and enjoyed stories about cricket before, but all of those were written by P. G. Wodehouse in his early boy's novels and were written so that I could at least get a glimpse of what the game is about.  But here, alas, is Doyle:

     ...He bowled with splendid vim and courage, but his analysis at the end of the day only showed three wickets for a hundred and forty-two.  Storr, the googlie merchant, had a better showing with four for ninety-six.  Cade's mediums accounted for two wickets, and Moir, the english captain, was run out.  He had made seventy-three first, and Peters, Grieve, and Hanwell raked up sixty-four, fifty-seven, and fifty-one respectively, while nearly everyone was in double figures.  The only exception was "Thomas E. Spedegue, Esq.," to quote the score card, which recorded a blank after his name.


     And there's this:

     ...A fielder was placed on the boundary in line with the stumps, then the versatile Morland proceeded to elaborate those fine tips to slip and tips to fine leg which are admitted now to be the only proper treatment for the dropper.  At the same time Whitelaw took a pace back so as to be level with his wicket and topped the droppers down to the off so that Spedegue had to bring two of his legs across and so disarrange his whole plan of campaign.  The pair put on a ninety for the fifth wicket, and when Whitelaw at last got out, bowled by Hanwell, the score stood at one hundred and thirty.

     And some wonder why England lost her empire.

     Anyway, the story is about an asthmatic, run-of-the-mill, amateur cricket player who develops a new and startling way of delivering the ball and leads England to victory in the Test Match.

     Good luck finding this book.  I managed to borrow the copy I read from the Naval Academy Library in Annapolis.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


From Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird column:

   A December news release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned of the dangers of Campylobacter jejuni bacteris infections on a sheep ranch, but apparently only among workers who used an old-style (19th century) method of castrating the animals.  CDC strongly urged that workers stop biting off the sheep's genitals and instead use modern tools.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


We spotted this on a church billboard while driving in St. Leonard, Maryland:

God Does Not Play Favorites
But the Sign Guy Does


Thanks to ISFDB, I learned that today is the 100th birthday of Ralph L. Finn -- someone I (and probably you) have never heard of. 

     Finn, born in London, authored three apparently completely forgettable SF novels:

  • Time Marches Sideways, published by Hutchinson in 1950.
  • Freaks Against Supermen, published by Gaywood Press (who?*), also in 1950.  This one evidently has to do with a plague, supermen, and undermen.
  • Captive on the Flying Saucers, also published by Gaywood Press, this time in 1951.  The flying saucers are evidently from Venus.
     So, happy birthday to guy I have never heard of, have never met, and will never read!

     If any has ever read any of these books, I'd l,ove to hear from them.    

* Gaywood Press (this also from ISFDB) published only five books between 1950-2:  Freaks Against Supermen (December, 1950); Captive on the Flying Saucers (January, 1951); Space Pirates by Astron del Martia (February, 1951); Dawn of Darkness by Astron del Martia (no month given, 1951); and Interstellar Empire by Astron del Martia (no month given, 1952).  Most likely Gaywood had planned to issue monthly digest-sized sf books, but sales and distribution killed them.  (And, of course, "Astron del Martia" was just one of twenty-three gazillion pen names for John Russell Fearn.)


I don't know how "overlooked" this one is, but there are many reasons to wacth it.

First, it's Karloff and Legosi -- their first on-screen pairing.

Second, look fast and you might see John Carradine (uncredited) as the Cult Organist.

Third, David Manners, who plays Peter, took the title role as Edwin Drood the following year, also had roles in Dracula, The Mummy, The Moonstone, and other favorites, plus he was a distant relative of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Fourth, Jacqueline Wells, who plays Joan, also acted as Julie Bishop, playing the love-struck secretary in the early Bob Cummings television vehicle My Hero.  (When I was very young, Bob Cummings rocked my world in My Hero and Love That Bob.)

Fifth, this was one of Edgar G. Ulmer's early directorial efforts.  He has kind of a cult now.  Some of his opther films were Girls in Chains, Isle of Forgotten Sins, The Man from Planet X, and Daughter of Dr. Jeckyll.

Sixth, Ulmer came up with the story, based (as you probably can guess) on the Edgar Allen Poe Tale, along with Peter Ruric.  Ruric, who did the screenplay, is probably better known today as "Paul Cain," one of the great legends of hard-boiled pulpdom.

Seventh (and this courtesy of a reviewer at IMDB), the Latin incantation Karloff makes at the end of the film invoking Satan includes such fill-in phrases as Cave Canum (Beware of the Dog), In Vino Veritas (In Wine There Is Truth), and Cum Granum Salis (With a Grain of Salt).  Neat, huh?  I don't know why he didn't add Omnia Gallia In Tres Partes Divisit Est.

Eighth, I miss my black cat, Ninja.
So there you have it -- eight great reasons to watch this film.  Luckily, it's this coming Sunday, January 22nd, on TCM at 9:15 p.m.   Also luckily, if you are unable to catch it Sunday night and are unable to record it, here it is:


Todd Mason will have today's links other overlooked movies, television, and what-have-you at Sweet Freedom.  Be there, or be squ---well, you know.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (2011)

Flavia de Luce, the eleven-year-old expert on poisons and occasional observer of corpses, is back for her fourth outing in Alan Bradley's latest mystery.  The time is still 1951 (I believe --the author does not specify this time) and Flavia is still being tormented by her older sisters, which is the least of her problems.  In addition to doubts about her place in her family, Flavia is beginning to doubt the existence of Father Christmas.  Also, as one guest at Buckshaw, the family estate, is about to give birth, Flavia is also beginning to realize that her knowledge of sex and the creation of life is almost nil.  Being a very practical girl, she decides that learning about the birds and the bees can be put off for another time.  Far more importantly -- since it is just days until Christmas -- she decides to embark on her greatest scientific experiment yet:  proving or disproving the exist\ence of Father Christmas.  She is going to set a trap for the old man and hold him captive.

     While this is going on, Flavia's father, unable to pay his bills and on the verge of losing Buckshaw, decides to rent out the estate to a film company looking for a location to shoot a movie.  And what a movie!  Phyllis Wyvern, the biggest name in cinema, will be the star!  Soon after the film crew arrives with all their quirks and egos, it becomes apparent that Phyllis Wyvern, imperious and demanding, has the largest ego of all.  Despite this, she graciously assents to the local vicar's request to stage a fund-raiser for the repair of the church roof by acting out a scene from Romeo and Juliet for the locals.  On the night of the fund-raiser, with half the village present at Buckshaw, a violent blizzard strands them and knocks out the telephone service.  The fund-raiser itself was a smashing success (with only one jarring incident to mar the performance) and the star immediately retired to her room for the night.  While the villagers were asleep wherever they could find a spot to lay down,  Phyllis Wyvern was murdered -- strangled in her room with a length of celluloid film.  Flavia, of course, finds the body.

     I enjoyed this book possibly more than the first three in the series despite several flaws in plotting.  A fuller picture of Flavia is presented here.  Not only is she a likable snoop with a mania for poisons and chemistry, for the first time she really seems to be an eleven -year-old girl.  Her doubts about Father Christmas and her logical attempts to dislodge them show us that, despite her genius, Flavia is just a little girl.  Her observations remain spot-on even if some of her conclusions are not.  Flavia de Luce is one of the most refrreshing characters to appear in recent crime fiction.  The series is part Jane Austen, part Conan Doyle, part Agatha Christie, and part Dorothy L. Sayers.  There a few better ways to spend time than to curl up with a good book.  And Alan Bradley, through Flavia de Luce, has been bringing us some very good books.


It was a quiet week at Lake Wobegone Lariat.  I'm most looking forward to the Sara Gran.

  • Atherton, Nancy, Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil.  Mystery.
  • Stephen R. Donaldson, The Gap Into Vision:  Forbidden Knowledge, The Gap Into Power:  A Dark and Hungry God Arises, and The Gap Into Madness:  Chaos and Order.  SF.  Books 2, 3, and 4 in the Gap series.
  • Alan Dean Foster, The Moment of the Magician, The Paths of the Perambulator, and The Time of the Transference.  Fantasy.  Books 4, 5, and 6 in the Spellsinger saga.
  • Sara Gran, Come Closer.  Horror.
  • Carolyn Hart, Death of the Party.  A Death on Demand mystery.
  • Cameron Judd, Mr. Littlejohn.  Western.
  • P. J. Parrish, Island of Bones.  Suspense
  • Ian Watson, Draco.  Fantasy.  A Warhammer 40,000 novel, book one of the Inquisition War trilogy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012


77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz's latest thriller should have grabbed me, but it didn't.  It took me five or six days to go through 77 Shadow Street while I normally zip through one of his books.  I'm not sure why.

     I am sure it's not because there are no dogs in the book.  (Okay, a couple of dogs were mentioned tangentally in the middle of the book and a golden retreiver -- natch -- appears at the very end, after everything has been wound up.)  And it's not because there is no evil father figure, although the influence of a very evil mother is there.  There is the author's usual contention that the world is a mystical, glorious place for those willing to accept it (after overcoming various evils, natch).  I'm still trying to figure out exactly why the book didn't sing to me.

     77 Shadow Street is the address of the Pendleton, a beaux arts mansion that had been transformed into luxery condos almost four decades ago.  If you are in a dim light, and squinting, and have misplaced your glasses, the word "Pendleton" almost looks like "Perdition."  Perdition it might be, because, every thity-eight years, evil descends on the Pendleton, leaving dead bodies and abducting others.  Only one person has dicovered this pattern:  Silas Kinsley, a retired attorney who has been digging into the building's past as a hobby.  There are a lot of other people living in the Pendleton, including a disgraced former Senator, a successful novelist and her autistic daughter, two very elderly ladies, a former battered wife, an investment consultant, a professional assassin, and a rich conspiracy theorist, as well as the building's superintendent, a receptionist, and the head of the building's security.  Koontz weaves all of them into his mosaic, giving us their backgrounds and histories -- sometimes unneccessarily.

     The novel begins as a horror story.  Ghosts appear, the building morphs, strange and deadly creatures roam, elevators descend thirty floors below the building which should have only one basement floor,  the past, future, and present mesh.  All of which should be exciting, and often is.

     Then, as a means to provide some of the survivors a way to defeat evil, the novels morphs into science fiction -- somewhat unsuccessfully in my view -- and the stakes turn out to be much, much higher than originally thought.  Koontz spends a lot of time with narration; the third-person omniscient view comes down with a heavy hand, methinks -- and maybe it's just me.  Kitty is reading the book now and I'm interested in what her reaction will be.

     Please understand that this is not a bad book.  It is interesting and has a lot of good qualities, but it is hard to stretch a short period of time into 450 pages.  Koontz effectively conveys a sense of wrongness.  He invests us in most of his characters.  I do recommend the book, although with caveats.

     And I found the jacket design to be knock-your-socks-off great.

     I am hoping that his next novel, Odd Apocalypse, due this summer, will restore some of the Koontz magic I found missing in this one.  Meanwhile, I am interested in finding out how others view 77 Shadow Street.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Sadly, we had to give Ninja, our loving and moderately disturbed cat, away today.  Kitty has always been slightly allergic to Ninja, but since we came back to the fur- and dander-infested house after a week away, her allergies went into hyper mode.  Add to that a week of flu/cold/ allegenic bronchitis/possible pneumonia and we had a perfect storm of misery and nebulizer treatments.  So the choice was down to Ninja or my wife -- and, no, I did not say, "Let me think about it."

     I'm a cat person and Kitty is a cat person.  So, as a popular web site would have it:  We has a sad.



While reading Joan Aiken's marvelous posthumous collection The Monkey's Wedding and Other Stories (published last year by Small Beer Press -- get a copy asap), I was again impressed by the author's ability to craft opening sentences to her stories.  Some examples:

     - It was her pearls that caused the first fight between Dan Thomas and Shani Hughes.  ("Model Wife")

     - Miss Dawson was generally wild and haggard-looking, but that Friday morning there was something so strange about her that Miss Pellet at once guessed the worst must have happened.  ("Second Thoughts")

     - Her name was Daisy and she was a smasher, the crispest colleen in Killyclancy.  ("Girl in a Whirl")

     - It was a fatal for Robert Kellaway, magazine illustrator, comfirmed misogynist, and avoider of the female sex when a picture of him appeared in the editorial column of Herself.  (Red-Hot Favorite")

     - The town of Rohun, or Rune, was a dying town, and its inhabitants liked it that way.  ("The Paper Queen")

     - Like large plums fallen soggily to earth, the mayor and corporation of Ryme stood in the garden of Nathaniel Bond's house and looked at the Magnesia Tree. ("The Magnesia Tree")

     - A wave swung high and lazily, with a curve like the white breast of a pouter pigeon, swept little Miss Roe clean off the deck of the elderly immigrant ship where she lay sleeping in the sun, and sucked her back underwater without any noise or commotion; she vanished among sea-thistles, tangled ocean-daisies, foamtips crossing this way and that, and the glitter of fins bright as mica.  ("Honeymaroon")

     - It wasn't till long afterwards that Father told me about his journey home with the harp.  ("Harp Music")

     - The van, which was labeled Modway Television, chugged up a long, steep hill, slipped thankfully into top gear, and ran down through the fringes of beechwood bordering a small star-shaped valley which lay sunk in the top of the downs.  ("The Sale of Midsummer")

     - Paris in the rainy morning:  like a series of triangles cut from pewter.  ("The Helper")

     - Gay and glorious, one day every year, the market square of this little town is, and that's the day in September when the fair comes, and music peals, and roundabouts whirl, and the through-traffic, if it wants to get by, has to give the town a miss and scrape along side lanes past sodden blackberry hedges.  ("Water of Youth")

     - 'The radio is out of order," said Mr. Newberry, putting his head round the kitchen door.  (Spur of the Moment")

     - Hot night.  ("Octopi in the Sky")

     - FAMOUS PICTURE DISCOVERED AFTER FIFTY YEARS:  said the headlines.  ("The Monkey's Wedding")

     - This story was told to me by my Aunt Martha.  ("Wee Robin")

     Each opening sentence makes me want to dive into the story immediately, knowing that something good (perhaps great) lay ahead.  Many of them foreshadow a tale of magic or wimsy.  An opening sentence should nudge you to read further, should make you want to spend the time involved to read the story, and should lead you logically to each succeeding sentence.  Joan Aiken had that special talent for me.

     Which authors usually knock you out with their opening sentences?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


The Woodley Lane Ghost by Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren

     Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren (1825- 1889) was the daughter of the long-time congressman from Ohio, Samuel Finley Vinton.  Following her mother's death she acted as hostess for her father's many social meetings.  When her first husband, Daniel Goddard, died after five years of marriage and leaving her with two children, she began writing to support herself  and eventually published a collection, Idealities, under her pseudonym "Corinne."  At age forty, she married Admiral John Dahlgren.  A well-known Washington socialite, she published such books as Etiquette of Social Life in Washington and The Social-Official Etiquette of the United States, as well as a number of novels and translations.  A fiery anti-suffragist, Mrs. Dahlgren testified before Congress against a proposed sixteenth amendment designed to give voting rights to women, and debated some of the leading feminists of her day.  In 1873 she founded the Washington Literary Society, many of whose meetings were held in her Washington home.

     I can't testify to the virtues of her writing, as this story is the only one of her's that I have read so far.  Judging from this story only, her writing is florid, purple, and maudlin, and she never met a comma she didn't like.  One phrase in the following story seems to describe her style:  "we grow riotous of language."  Although plotting did not seem to be her forte -- and consistency and logic may well have eluded her, I found this story surprisingly interesting.  It comes from her 1899 collection  The Woodley Lane Ghost and Other Stories.

It was the afternoon of the longest day of the year, the 21st of June, and jogging along over the splendid sweep of Massachusetts Avenue, whose picturesque homes are grouped around the statues of historic men, past Thomas Circle, past Scott Cicle, reaching Dupont Circle, then by way of Connecticut Avenue and over the city boundary line, Dr. Rawle's buggy finally turned into that lovely stretch of circling drive, called Woodley Lane.  The doctor was a young man, a newly-married man, just starting into a meagre practice, and quite disposed, while waiting for more patients, to take life as easily as very limited means would permit.  His comely, girlish wife was seated at his side, an embroidered linen lap-robe deftly tucked around her.  Such is the inconsequence of youth that these two were as happy, perhaps more so, than another two who wriled past them in a grand equipage.  In, fact, the foolish doctor was even as content as if he were plodding plodding around town with his hired boy visiting patients and coining dollars.

     "Ah, my Cynthia," said he, "what an Eden Washington would be were it not so detestably healthy.  Why, my sweet moon-flower (a pet name of his, in allusion to her's of Cynthia), with more money, you, too, would bloom forth in a stylish victoria."

     "Pray, dear Rufus," she laughed, cheerily, "don't wish for it, for in such case you would not be my driver."

     "Wise words fallen from fragrant lips," was the approving answer.  Strange how all men, lover and husband alike, are magnetized by the electric stroke of flattery!

     At this moment, turning a sharp corner of the winding road, they perceived an oldish man coming toward them with slow and feeble step.  Although his scanty looks were white, he gave the impression of one rather bending under the weight of a settled sadness than as if oppressed by years.  Notwithstanding his stooping gait, it was evident that he was tall of stature, and his bearing was that of a man concentered upon himself, forced back into a brooding introspection by the strong pressure of a stormy past.  As he tottered on, with eyes fixed upon the ground, all unobservant, a flashing wheel of glittering steel, noiseless and swift, hurtled past them.  There was, as one might hold their breath, a forceful clash, a sudden outcry, a horror-stricken scream from Cynthia, and the doctor with a quick spring stood beside two fallen men.  The reckless bicyclist had struck the ground with such jarring whirl as partially to stun him, but the old man who had been thus ruthlessly run over, lay limp, moaning and helpless.

     "I trust that you are not much hurt, sir," said the doctor, stooping over him, as with careful precision he made an examination.  "Oh, yes, here it is; a compound fracture of the hip, and, it is to be feared, internal injuries."

     Meanwhile, Cynthia ran to the little brook near by, and filling her straw hat with water, poured it over the head of the youthful wheelman, who, reviving, did not pause to thank her, but, picking himself up, as best he could, remounted his wheel and was off, doubtless fearing arrest, should he remain and assist.

     "An imp of Satan," groaned the wounded.  "By the Highest One, the Spirit of Bad has prevailed."

     The doctor looked significantly at his wife, as much as to say, ""Poor man, his mind wanders."

     "Can you tell me where to take you, sir?" inquired the doctor, in a compassionate voice.  "We will lift you as gently as possible into my buggy, and not leave you.  Have courage."

     "Courage," gasped the old man, "comes of force of will.  It is a subtle essence, it penetrates and overcomes, I WILL, to endure -- I will point the way."

     Cynthia helped her husband, and together they succeeded in placing the unfortunate, leaning against and supported by her, in the buggy, the doctor leading the horse very slowly.  The transfer, the motion, were torture to the hurt man, whose pallid brow was bathed with great beaded drops, such was his agony.

     "By Siva!" muttered he, grinding his teeth, "my cycle is closing."

     Cynthia shivered, but she firmly upheld the sufferer amid all his delirious ravings.  Yet, incoherent as were his utterances, he retained sufficient consciousness to point out the way exactly.  By his direction they had turned off from Woodley Lane into the Tenleytown road, when he presently called out:  "Turn in there," and they entered unkempt grounds through a shackly gate.  With what a masteful command over himself, tortured and almost swooning as he was, had he guided their progress.  The doctor, who had had a season of training in the hospital wards, understood the force of will this man had exerteted, saying, as if to himself:  "Most men would lie in the stupor of a dead swoon who had borne this nervous shock and endured his awful pain.  This is no common man."  They were now slowly ascending a hill by a narrow, sepentine and undulating road.  The season, as we have said, was leafy June, and these grounds, neglected as they were, gloried in the majestic growth of a magnificant oak forest.  So entirely was the house hidden by their dark and towering branches that one came on it as a surprise, so unexpectedly, and yet it was a substantial, well-built brick house, of ample proportions.  There was no attempt at architectural lines, except, perhaps, in a square tower that was projected in the center of the house, forming a hall of entrance below, and a small room, as if of observation, above.  Otherwise, the structure was a plain red-brick dwelling of two spacious rooms, one on each side of a wide hall below, and on the second floor were precisely corresponding rooms, with the addition of the tower apartment.  Directly in front of the building was a knoll of horseshoe shape crowned by an immense red Virginia oak.  It stood a very sentinel tree, shooting a skyward shaft some seventy feet, its finely-veined oblong leaves of a vivid green, framed in and screened the house in umbrageous beauty.  As they passed under its protecting boughs, the hurt man, who seemed to have grown very faint during the hard jolting of the winding ascent, instantly revived, as if through some mysterious accession of strength, and uplifting an ardent gaze of yearning tenderness, he extended wide his arms, upraising them as if to embrace the sighing leaves that bent over him.  "I come, I come!" he almost shouted with a fierce eagerness; then as if his very soul had gone forth in the extreme effort, he sank back in a dead swoon of pain.

     There was not a soul to greet them.  No, not even yelping cur, or singing bird.  This strange man, then, lived alone, yes, literally all alone.  The doctor entered the unknown door, and ascending to the tower room brought forth a small mattress, upon which he laid the now insensible form.  As the doctor's fair young wife zealously helped him, he said to her caressingly, "My Cynthia, how good and brave you are."  The momentary glance he had given the tower room amazed him.  It was evident, as he had said, that his patient was no common man.  Here was the den of a natural philosopher, a chemist, an astronomer in fact, a wide student of nature.This was his laboratory, his workshop.  Here, undoubtedly, he performed various experiments with scientific precision, and through his well-planted telescope that pierced a small opening adjusted to its use, the heavens were nightly read.  And what, at that time, was of vital consequence, was the existence of a carefully labeled pharmacy, evidently supplementing extensive investigations in chemistry.

     "It is wonderful, simply wonderful!" said the doctor.  "Here are all the appliances needed for treatment.  Have you rubbed Aladdin's lamp and sent a geni hither, my moon-flower?" queried he.

     "'Tis the Pitris," murmured the patient.  They both started.  He must have heard and measured the doctor's words in his seeming syncope.  Meantime Dr. Rawle made strenuous and successful efforts to revive his patient, preparatory to the more serious operation that he knew must be attempted.  It was not long before the old man spoke again.

     "Do not torture me," he said; "all surgery is useless.  I shall soon be dissolved.  My work in this transition is at an end.  All that now remains is to disintegrate the earth-bound ties.  Leave me -- go quickly, and bring hither one learned in law.  But hearken.  No jugglery, no priestcraft.  Do as you are bid.  Now hasten."

     The doctor looked inquiringly at his wife.  "Do you dare stay, Cynthia, until I come back?" asked he.

     "I dare," said the brave little woman, "but hasten, Rufus, for the night closes in."  Her words were calmly spoken, but her heart beat violently.

     "Daughter of Eve," said the sick man, "you do well -- stay!"


     Some two hours later -- it seemed an endless age to Cynthia, as she watched in profound silence, amid the gathering gloom -- her husband returned, bringing with him his friend, Mr. Albright, a well-known Washington lawyer.  Already the face of the dying man had taken on that ashen hue that precedes approaching dissolution, and the mildew of death had gathered on his humid brow.  But now, as if collecting himself for a last effort, his faculties were clear.

     "You are two men, and strong," said he, "lift me to my Edris.  Be quick!" and he pointed his gaunt finger upward.

     They carried him gently to the mattress and laid it upon the narrow couch in the tower room.  The motion, slight as it was, was exhaustive of a fast ebbing life.  He pointed to a shelf, whispering as he did so, "The nameless amphora.," adding, as it was touched, "Open!"  The doctor silently obeyed, and the delicious perfume of some aromatic volatile essence filled the air.  All felt the subtle and penetrating effect of this exhilarating aroma.

     "Write!  write!" cried the dying man with a momentary force.

     The lawyer wrote as dictated --

     "I, the Java Aleim, being of sound disposing mind, do hearby devise, give, and bequeath all that I possess, both of real estate and personal, to --," he paused and looked impatiently at the doctor -- "Quick, your name!"

     "My name?" muttered the dazed doctor, "my name?"

      The lawyer smiled and wrote "to Rufus Rawle, of the city of Washington, D. C."

     "We must have three signatures to this will," said the lawyer.

     The Java Aleim listened intently for a moment, or rather shrank within himself by some inward act of volition, then gasped --

     "Two men approach!  I hear the footsteps of the Silent Brothers!  Hasten to meet them!"

     Five minutes later and the doctor, who had left the room in a bewildered way, returned with two men, whom he had met at the gate.  They glanced at the Java Adeim, who became so agitated that he drew his breath convulsively; but speedily controlling himself, he took the pen and signed his name.  Then the lawyer and the two men appended their signatures, when, without comment, the two latter disappeared.  Were these sentient, living forms, or were the they merely the astral souls of the Silent Brothers', evoked by one of their number to serve his purpose?  Verily, there were the names, fairly written in the good black ink of the "Indra Rabba" and "Adam Ferio."

     The Brahman, for such as he was, wearily joined his thin hands above his head, then marking his forehead with the sign sacred to Vishnu, his lips moved as if in prayer.  The moribund, fixed and rigid as one in a trance, now spoke rapidly and continuously in a hoarse, cavernous whisper that seemed to issue from his body as from a half-closed vault.

     "My soul escapes, oh, Triad!  The expiatory hour is at hand.  My life has failed in abdignation and the taint of selfishness must be expurged.  Gross emanations have passed like a murky cloud over the spirit, shutting our Nirvana.  I must traverse eons of cyclic arcs ere I can once again reach the ascending cosmic scale.  Oh, woe is me!  I must be absorbed in the universal whole!"

     He paused and seemed to listen, then seizing the triple cord that girded his loins, the invocations were renewed.

     "O, Brahma!  O, Vishnu!  O, Siva! Triad of Triads!  Help my return to nature -- when this aching clod, this husk of the outer shell shall be evolved and absolved into the heart and essence of yon far-speading oak, when my clogged veins shall run upon its deep-reaching roots in rivelets of fire, when with heavy lateral pressure, my pent-up thoughts shall scintillate and strike deep the flinty rocks, taking wide and wider range, pressing down into the biowels of Mother Earth; then, with fierce upspringing power, remount in juicy sap, flushing with incarnadine splendor its autumn leaves, or dropping its purifying tears that fill the sacred viscum's pearly coronals; then, partially released, forming true essence of Virgil's golden bough, I shall rise a fluidic specter of transcendent brightness, permeate the opalescent  moonlit rays -- a glorious astral shape!  Ugh!  The way is blinding dark -- oh, this confusing present -- but the end is luminous -- I know it -- I feel it!"  Partially arousing himself, he fixed his burning eyes upon the three.   "Mystic Triad -- children groping in the outer darkness, heed -- this, my last injunction -- failing which, beware!  Bury with me the seven knotted bamboo rod, the Gurugave -- rest my bones, that they may mingle with the roots of the cabalistic oak that shoots its sacred staff aloft within the triple circle of the horseshoe knoll.  Thus shall my essence be infused in it, and the virtue from out the oak be effused to me, and thus I shall be transformed into a dual life.  But beware!" and his face grew livid and distorted, "violate not this sacred tree, touch it not handle it not!  Let the holy lustration that shall proceed as we two become one in cosmic scale continue undisturbed."  His bony finger, still fixed and rigid like a note of warning, amid convulsive shudderings terrible to behold, with one long outcry of A. U. M., he gave up the ghost.

     Silence and darkness intervened, only broken now and then by the nervous, spasmatic sobs of Cynthia.

     "Poor wife," said the doctor; "the strain was awful."

     The Java Aliem was buried as he had requested.  Did the process of a metempsychosis then and there commence!


     Dr. Rawle found himself suddenly a rich man.  No need now of troubling himself about the health of Washington.  With a pleasant home, that commanded a splendid view, with a goodly store of bonds, securities, and rare coins and curios; and for his wife, gold chains of fine filigree work, filmy taffities embroidered in silver, tortoise shell combs set this plates of gold, and girdles enriched with pearls, sapphires and diamonds; rings and necklaces of ruby, blue topaz, yellow tourmalins, blood stones, cat's eyes, and amethyst; etuis of aquamarine and cinnamon stone, and of various devices to charm a woman's eye.  The doctor loved books, and was an enthusiast in his profession.  There were various works in chemistry and medical books, but others not a few, filled with hieroglyphics and strangely illuminated, besides those of palimpsests covered with secret Arabic symbols bearing evidence of successive ages, and one, most precious of all, and steeped in a musky, dankish odor, inscribed in Candian sanscrit and bound in thick, lacquered ivory boards, encrusted with gems, framing the enigmatic abraxas.  Happily for the doctor, he was a matter-of-fact man, or he surely would have sworn by the Vedas, yielded to the fascination of his surroundings, and become a Buddhist.  As it was he only sighed and said:  "What a pity that I am not an Oriental scholar!"  But already he was to a degree imbued with the influences pressing upon him, smoking a superb tchibouk with amber mouthpiece the while, lazily immersed in vague speculations and day-dreams.

     Now and then his friend the lawyer came to see him, drawn by curiosity he could not resist to revisit a spot of such weird memories.  But Dr. Rawle never left this idlewild of Woodley Lane, nor, strange to say, did Cynthia wish for change.  Was the spirit of the old seer and Brahmin permeating the atmosphere with an oriental repose at the very outset of their occupancy?  Some energy had been displayed in transforming the house into a more cheerful home, and in building a verandah over the front door, whence the superb view could be more fully enjoyed.  They had found the two lower rooms unfurnished, and the one nearest the mystic oak-tree was fitted up as a kitchen, while the room across the hall was pleasantly adorned as a drawing-room and dining-room as well.  Here Cynthia presided, spending happy, quiet hours, quite content, as she imagined, and yet not knowing why or wherefore, subdued and gradually toned into a half-drooping melancholy.

     "How can gladness and sadness be one, dear Rufus?" asked she puzzled to understand herself.

     "'Tis the spirit of the place, pale moon-flower," he answerd, smiling, yet sighing.

     It was strange, but various little mishaps, to trifling to notice, attended the building of that part of the verandah nearest the horseshow knoll.  If so much as a chip fell upon that spot it rebounded, inflicting some hurt, and the mechanic, not knowing why, declared it an unlucky thing to work on that side.

     There came to be a tacit understanding between the doctor and his wife to avoid all allusion to that death-bed scene, and after the verandah was finished it began to be unpleasant to sit upon it on a moonlit night, and even the sun's rays glinted with a sickly glare through the umbrageous screen.  At times there was never a surcease of low, humming, busy sound, a shadowy play of leaves, and the coruscant foliage threw out vivid flashes of light, the blood-red veins became swelled and tinged, tracing mystic energy against the blue of Heaven, and the grand old tree communed with nature, rustling with a sad susurrus.

     "Passing strange," softly said the doctor.

     "Uncanny," whispered Cynthia.

     The first positive discomfort was experienced when, one evening in the early winter, the two Irish domestics, a man and a woman servant, were seated in the kitchen at dusk, their hands folded at the close of a day's work, and they resting in that inert way that marks the repose succeeding manual labor.  The open-mouthed fireplace was all aglow with the hot coals of oak-wood cinders, when, almost imperceptibly at first, the burning mass became astir.  Presently odd and fierce flashes leaped forth from out the incandescent heat, accompanied by the constant popping of exploding fragments, when, as if gaining a rapid aggressive force, a lurid light appeared, out of which sprang forth an impalpable shape that advanced into the room.  Scream after scream called Dr. Rawle and his wife to the scene just as the woman fainted, and the man rushing out, hatless and distracted, never stopped until he reached Swampoodle, crossing himself under the shadow of the Jesuit church in Washington, vociferating all the way, "Spooks! spooks!"  Nor would the woman stay one hour after she was revived, declaring that "a say of holy wather'" was not enough "to clane that fiery divil out."  "It must have been the knotted heart of oak that split and frightened those fools out of their shallow wits," cried the doctor, much irritated.  "Oh, no, Rufus," said Cynthia mildly, "It was a dead bought that fell from the oak.  Katy told me that she had picked it up from off the knoll where it had fallen, and tripped with it in her arms, nearly tumbling into the fire as she threw it on, then it burned savagely into that dreadful mass of coals."

     "Old women's tales, forsooth," muttered the doctor.

     Be that as it may, after this incident, with the freemasonry of signals that exist among the Ishmallites, it was understood that the house was haunted, and no one would hire out to live at that place.  This event also seemed to mark a distinct epoch, as if that baptism of fire had liberated an astral soul.  Henceforth there was a shadowy shade, an indefinable something in that room that took possession.  So the door was closed and the doctor took the key thereof.

     "D--n it," said he, "what's the use of a kitchen, Cynthia, if there's no cook?"

     "Don't swear, Rufus," she shudderingly answered.  "I love to cook, dear.  With our little oil-stove in the drawing-room it's like playing at housekeeping.  Yes, positively, I prefer it, dear.  Then, it is so nice for us to be alone; just we two."

     "Moon-flower, how sweetly you expand!" cried the doctor; enfolding her in his arms and kissing her.

     If a wife wishes to make her husband a radiant lover let her try cooking for him; that is, if she knows how!

     And thus the winter closed in upon these two, who lived in the old house without other occupants.  Dr. Rawle soon became so deeply interested in the occult investigations into which he was led by the books left to him by the Java Aleim that he did not feel the weariness of their solitary life; but it was not so with his wife.  She, poor lady, had entered that strange house a gay and laughing bride, in good health and fine spirits.  It was not long before she moved about silently, growing each day paler and paler, like some tender plant that requires sunshine and wilts in cheerless shade.  She was not unhappy, because she led a life apart from the world, with her husband, for she loved him too fondly to pine for other society, still less did she care for the dissipation of gayety.  But her nervous system had received a serious shock.  The terrifying accident and the harrowing death-bed scene, succeeded by the horror of thast spectral fire, phantasmal as it undoubtedly was, had left an impression, not to be shaken off, that the place was haunted.  She would constantly repeat to herself that it was a mere hallucination, and yet the feeling wore upon her, and she became extremely sensitive to all sounds.  A vague distrust and fear took possession of her.  Upon the eminence where they lived the winter storms oft and again held wildest revelry.  To her morbid imagination the rude blasts had human voices that sighed, moaned, groaned, wailed, howled, and shrieked, and during the blackness of the long winter nights all these voices of nature were a thousand-fold intensified to her acute perceptions.  Oh, how she dreaded the prolonged swirl of the tempest, the swift recurring waves of direful sound of these viewless legions of the air, when her timid soul shrank shrivelled and aghast within its shell.  During that dismal winter they slept in the chamber directly above the now-closed room, which she felt sure had a nightly occupant.  One thing Cynthia became aware of.  Only her ears were opened to these preternatural sounds.  She had, it is true, an increasing consciousness that they might be invoked at any time; but she never heard, or thought she heard, the plaintive sighs, the stealthy tread, nor the slamming of a door she knew was closed, or even, oh, hideous feeling, that she was being breathed upon, unless she was alone, or her husband's spirit locked in sleep.  The something, whatever it was, that had access to that house, had not the force to impress itself upon the stronger organization of the doctor.  At moments she became overwhelmed with a creeping fear, that if she slept, when her willpower was dormant would it not then oppress her. and could not the ghoul live from life and gloat upon her vitality?  All that she had read about the ravening vampire would then recur to her disturbed fancy and affright her.  And thus, month after month, poor Cynthia, half distraught, communed within herself.  At first, whenever she would strive to express her impressions, they were brusquely repelled by her husband as silly dreams, and he thus quite unwittingly condemned this woman, whom he loved, to untold torture.

     But at last the dreary winter passed away, and the budding of spring cast a more cheerful atmosphere upon the gloomy spot.  Then the doctor aroused himself somewhat from the long hibernation over the books from which he had derived sustenance.  Opening his eyes to things around him, he began to notice how wan and thin his wife was.  All the while his love had never abated, but in the strange existence he had led, absorbing thoughts had occupied him.  Had he been dreaming?  He was vexed with himself.  He feared, indeed, he felt sure, that he must have neglected his darling while leading this visionary life.  Like one who has returns from a foreign land, where, deeply interested in the new scenes around him, he, for the moment, forgets loved ones at home, yet rekindles his devotion on his return, so it was with this student of the occult.  Once awakened, he again recognizes all that had made a part of his former life, and he was uneasy about his wife.  "My pale Moon-flower!" he would say tenderly, and Cynthia was revived by this delicate attention, finding relief in tears.  Oh, if man could only understand how inexpressibly it comforts the heart of a woman to cry!  Tears, consoling tears, are the one special, delicious, feminine luxury.  They fertilize and revivify the arid wastes of a woman's heart.  The affectionate care the doctor now bestowed upon his wife was quite oppressive, for he was always thinking what healing influences would be most beneficial.  He besought her to live more in the open air, but such was her morbid dread of passing the tree that she would actually stay indoors from the dread of going out.  Then he began to think seriously of leaving the place, and reproached himself anew for past obliviousness.

     "Better far," thought he, "to go back to the city.  I have been a fool indeed to burrow in the old wizard's den, immersed in the mystical so-called black arts that occupied him, while the very essence of a being dearer than my own life was fading away.  A thousand times rather be the poor man, the struggling young practitioner of a year ago."  With a sigh of regret he pictured to himself the joyessness, the lightheartedness of that time, and in the retrospect, the past months, during nearly a year, seemed to lie in dismal shadow, in unwholesome dreariness, as compared with the sunshine and bright cheeriness of the helpful effort then made.  It's strange that young people never can realize what a bracing, wholesome life those lead who begin with merely a competence, and how much pleasure is involved in the eagerness of pursuit, stimulated by hopes elate of the future.  In youth uncertainty lends a zest to the present, and makes a constant incentive for action.  All the little daily plans that grow out of such situations form, as it were, a series of plots and counterplots of a drama, where no one can foresee the ending.  "I worried then," sadly mused the doctor, "because we were poor; I know now that we were very happy."

     Thus the summer days succeeded each other, finding Cynthia more and more prostrated, and her husband more and more resolute.  Was it the enervating atmosphere in which they lived?  The omened old oak, had the brunt bravely borne, of the wild, wintry winds. fiercely flinging its bared, brawny arms aloft, as one bereft and bestraught; or, sullenly standing aloof, besprent of the vested beauty of its foliage, an image of statuesque despair.  But with the renaissant spring came the mystery of its revivification, when coursing through all its gaunt length of frame mounted the renewing vital sap.  Then the sere, crackling branches put on a semblance of youth, and innumerous tiny leaflets that burgeoned from out its frowning wrinkles thrilled with the joy of new-born living, until the hot embrace of June completed its glorious expansion, and the dull splendor of its resurgence.  Oh, touching symbols of the mysteries of life and death that nature ever and ever exhibits!  Oh, dullard eyes that scan so illy the clear mirror ever so held forth to view!  Yes, a perpetual pafeant is unfolded of birth, growth, maturity, decay, decline to dissolution, out of which the endless circling cycles bring forth fruition.  But in the midst of this great joy of living, drinking in this wine of life, so freely offered, we grow riotous of language, and forget to face our facts solemnly.


     To recall a coincidence of time, it will be remembered that the tragic opening of this story occured on the 21st day of June.  As this anniversary drew near, Cynthia became really ill.  She was in an unceasing state of agitation, so that the doctor grew seriously alarmed.  It was on the eve of that day that Cynthis, weak and prostrated, retired early.  The isolated place was, as usual, very still, and the doctor, wearied with apprehension, also retired and was soon soundly sleeping.  Not so with Cynthia.  Insomnia had become a dreaded condition, and she solaced her waking hours wistfully looking at the handsome face of her sleeping spouse, upon which, even in sleep, a certain sadness rested under the closed lips and expressed itself in the drooping lines along the mouth.  Then it occured to her that if she gazed upon him when his will-power was relaxed, it might infuse some mesmeric state not well for him, so she silently arosed, and impelled by a vague desire she could not resist, gently opened her window and leaned forward.  The young moon, with clear and beaming crescent, drifted lazily on a bed of lightest amber cloudlets, diffusing that faint, mysterious light so grateful to her questioning soul.  Before her stood the mystic oak, now so very near, in its far-spreading branches of vivid green, that were softened and exquisitely tinted by the opalescent rays that shone upon it, so that its splendid noon-tide beauty was etherealized.

     "Oh, translucent image," sighed Cynthia, "art thou in very truth, as the Druids would have thee, a sacfred form to worship -- or," -- and she paused in her unconscious invocation, as if responsive to her call, and effused from out the deep-planted roots of the tree, a mild radiance played with swaying motion, to and fro, over the horse-shoe knoll.  At one moment swinging slowly, hovering with a phosphorescent glow, rising a little, then sinking again as if about to die out, but all the while steadily gaining force to remount higher.

     Eagerly bending toward the witching glimmer, stretching forth her hand in supplication, she adjured the aura, "Oh, elemental, arise; disengage yourself from these painful earth-bound ties!"

     She had scarcely spoken when, as if awaiting the summons to arise, and by it permeated with a force it had hitherto vainly sought, it suddenly streamed upward with a clear and steady flame until it touched the lower sweep of the oak tree branches when, forming instantaneously into definite shape, the aural soul of the Java Adeim stood before her.

     As Cynthia uttered an agonized cry it extended toward her a skeletal arm, with gestures of pleading entreaty; then slowly sinking downward, as if repelled by want of attractive power, and casting upon her a lowering look of fierce hatred, it disappeared just as the doctor was aroused by the shreik of his wife.  In another moment he bore, with tenderest care, her fainting form back to bed.  He had not seen the vision, but he knew what it all meant.

     "This, this is too dreadful!" he cried, in a transport of rage.  "The old demon gave me a true devil's gift, fair to the seeming, illusory in the holding, and fatal in reality.  To-morrow, the anniversary of this cursed existence here, shall witness my return to the busy scenes of the outer world.  I have done with this infernal nonsense.  I shall end it all!"

     "Darling, sweetest, dearest, best!" he implored, "revive, awake!  To-morrow there shall come a new life, for to-morrow shall end it all!"

     "Shall end it all," was the weird warning whispered in his ear.

     The doctor started, then collected himself defiantly.  "This way lies madness," he muttered.  "The time has come to be up and doing.  To-morrow --"


     The morrow of that predestined day, forewarned by the entombed, now dawned.  There are good hours, and there are evil hours, that appear in the horoscope of life, and from the Chaldeans of remote ages to the soothsayers and Buddhists of the present time the starry hosts have been compelled to give up their secrets.  Have they found true interpreters?

     What happened on this recurring 21st day of June -- this day of seven times three and three times seven?  The day found Cynthia too ill to rise. The doctor saw the danger of brain fever, and tried to calm himself and quiet her.

     "Rest to-day, dearest wife," he said to her.  "You need rest. But to-morrow, when you are stronger, we will leave this lonely place.  Forgive me, darling, that I have let you pine away in these dark shadows so long" --

    She made no reply other than to mutter:  "Too late! too late!"

     The doctor sadly returned to the window from whence the night before he had borne his swooning wife.  Through the exquisite screen of the lofty oak, he caught glimpses here and there of a ravishing landscape.  The peerless city of liberty stretched out at his feet in graceful repose, then a vista of the rounded dome of the capitol, or of the sinuous line of the meanding Potomac sparkling in the sunlight, beautified by its island oasis, dotted here and there and encrusted by its gem-like environment of undulating verdure-clad hills.

     "Oh, paradisaical earth! why, why should the trail of the serpent rest on thy fair bosom!  Why should the malign glance of the evil eye empoison thy fairest scenes!" groaned the wretched man.  His mind was filled with the rich imagery of that hidden love, over which he had been listlessly dreaming during the past year.  But he had received a rude awakening, as he at last fully realized the critical condition of his beloved wife.  Cynthia's fever rose as the hot June sun heated the air with its vertical rays, and as the day wore slowly on the doctor saw that she was no better.

     Was it a psychic effect that influenced Mr. Albright and attracted him to such a degree that putting aside a mass of papers claiming his careful attention, he yielded to the power that impelled him to visit his friends?  "It is the anniversary," he thought, "of one of the strangest events I have ever witnessed, and many hidden aspects of life have been laid open to me in the course of the practice of my profession.  I have not seen Rawle for months, for both he and his pretty wife are positively buried."  Thus it came to pass that just as the sun set gorgeous cloud masses transfigured into ethereal shapes, the two friends met, and they walked together in the oak forest, not far distant from the house.  Cynthia continued very ill, too ill to be moved, and the doctor was in a state of agitation and grief too difficult to describe.  It was indeed a welcome relief to grasp the friendly hand of Albright thus unexpectedly extended to him, and to unburthen his heart.  The lawyer listened with that precise and patient attention which was his habit.

     The story of the two apparitions, of the dismal winter, filled with its imaginary terrors, and the frantic fright of the previous night, culmulating in the present delerium of Cynthia, was all told.

     When the doctor had finished, his friend said:  "Of course, Rawle, the weird part, and it is weird, must be all fustion and fancy.  The serious part comes in the effect produced."

     Dr. Rawle was about to reply, "effect produced from a cause" -- but he shrank from making the open avowal.  The bravest men are apt to be moral cowards in the face of ridicule, so he merely said with an assumed assent he did not feel -- "Of course."

     They were silent, but after a moment's pause the doctor remarked:

     "Please excuse me for an instant.  I wish to see if my wife still sleeps."

     Left alone in this lone forest, as the light of day was rapidly yielding to the gathering twilight, even the incredulous lawyer felt a creeping sensation, a thrill of the nerves, that was, to say the least, uncomfortable; but he resolutely battled against the influence, and retired within his triple armor of incredulity, materialism and logical sequence, thus defying the visionary.  For all that, he found the hour that he was thus left alone both tedious and uncomfortable.  But at last the doctor came striding forward.  Cynthia was awake and raving about a bough of the oak that, she declared, had waved over her, assuming the grinning aspect of a death's head.

     "Albright," said Rawle, "I must try the effect of heroic treatment.  I mean to ascend to that deviliish bough and cut it off.  I wish I could destroy the whole infernal tree, root and branch.  We have livedd to long under its deadly upas shade.  I hope, old fellow, that the sudden revulsion when Cynthia sees it crashing down will help her to overcome these diabolical illusions.  Promise me, my dear friend," he added, with emotion, "that while I am doing this thing you will watch over my darling, so that no harm can befall her in some ffrenzied mood."  The obscurity of the early dusk was now giving way to the glimmering pallor of the newly-risen moon as the two friends approached the house.

     Suddenly Albright exclaimed, "Look!"  A flickering, uncertain, shadowy, lambent light played above the grave that these two had dug one year ago that very night.  Then, as if condensing, casting a sickly sheen around, it hovered here and there, at one moment darting upward fiercely, as a thin pillar of fire, then subsiding, trailing along near the ground, gradually sinking, and finally its flamboyant curving line was lost to sight!

     It was a somewhat varied repetition of the phantom flights that had horrified Cynthia, but neither the doctor nor the lawyer had ever before seen a visible shape thus defined from the invisible.  They were students and thinkers, not disposed to accept an illusory semblance, and both men declared that it must be an optical illusion.  But Dr. Rawle was under a strong and fierce excitement on account of the sickness of his wife.  "My God!" groaned he, "what if Cynthia has seen it!"

     He hastened past the horse-shoe knoll, up to her room.  She was still reclinng as he had left her, muttering inarticulate sounds, her hands tightly clasped and her eyelids half open.  It was evident that she had not stirred.  In a few minutes the doctor returned, carrying a saw.

     "Go, watch her, Albright," said he, hoarsely.  "The time has come for me to ascend this accursed tree.  I will lop off these hellish branches.  I will hack and hew" --

     He strode fiercely forward, stamping heavily over the horse shoe knoll.

     "Ha! ha,"! he laughed, strangely moved.  "To molest my Cynthia; mine, with its tricksy images, its impish delusions, its uncanny spectacular shows!"

     He now commences to ascend the gnarled trunk of the knotted oak.  Climbing and clinging to every inequality.  The doctor was a practiced athlete, and this was child's for him.

     Up! up! and the fated branch is reached!  The shrp teeth of the saw had made its first deep, grinding incision, when --

     As Albright entered the room Cynthia had arisen and stood beside the open window, enveloped in a fleecy flowing robe of some light India stuff; a gray cashmere shawl of richest oriental design was carelessly thrown 0ver her fair shoulders, and her wealth of pale, ashen-colored hair, fell, unheeded, in tangled masses, around her person.  Albright, wishing to protect, but not to disturb her, approached with noiseless step.  She did not see him, or, seeing, heeded not.  With the palms of her hands closely pressed against the blue-veined temples, the large orbs of her wide-opened eyes gazing fixedly, she stood in speechless affright.  Albright could not resist the impulse.  He advanced and stood beside her, and he, too, gazed outwardly intently.  The doctor had commenced his work, and with sure and swift motion the pitiless saw ground through the twisted bark.  Already the huge branch swayed and rocked to and fro.  The air was filled with the sharp clicking resonance of the breaking branches; they moved backward and forward; they crackle; they oscillate; they swing; they sway -- when -- "Oh, God! my God!" shrieked Cynthia, for now the flickering light arose from out the grave, the emanation rapidly gathering force, when sheeted with encircling flames, the fierce phantom arose in might and with an awful swirl enveloped the darling iconoclast in its skeleton ribs of furious fire, bearing downward in one crushing mass the crashing bough and the crushed man.

     Cynthia had swooned away, but the horror-stricken Albright heard distinctly, in vibratory sepulchral tones -- "Dead!  All is at an end!"

     And poor Cynthia?

    "Dead!  All is at an end!"


Monday, January 9, 2012


A good mix this week, making Mount TBR almost unscalable.
  • Catherine Aird, Stiff News.  An Inspector Sloan mystery.
  • James Lee Burke, The Convict and Other Stories and To the Bright and Shining Sun.  Two early books from Burke:  the first, a collection of nine stories; the second, a regional novel (Appalachia in the 1960s).
  • Jonathan Carroll, The Wooden Sea.  Fantasy.
  • John Farris, Dragonfly.  Suspense.
  • Louis L'Amour, Crossfire Trail, Ride the Dark Trail, Silver Canyon, and Son of a Wanted Man.  Westerns all.  The second and fourth books are part of the Sackett saga.
  • Dennis Lehane, Darkness, Take My Hand.  A Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro mystery.
  • Brian Lumley, Necroscope V:  Deadspawn.  Horror
  • [Charlie McDade], Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan:  Split Image.  #102 in the long-running men's action series.
  • Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, The California Voodoo Game.  SF, a Dream Park novel.
  • [David North], Don Pendleton's The Executioner:  Tiger Stalk.  This one's #220.
  • [Rich Rainey], Don Pendleton's The Executioner:  Uforce.  And #273.
  • "J. R. Roberts" [James Randisi], The Gunsmith #293:  The Road to Hell.  Adult western.
  • Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, and Stephen Cobert, Wigfield:  The Can-Do Town That Just May Not.  Humor.
  • Dan Simmons, The Terror.  History and horror mix.  *Brrrr*
  • F. Paul Wilson, Implant.  Medical thriller.
  • Gene Wolfe, Calde of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun.  SF, the third and fourth books in The Book of the Long Sun Quartet.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Today marks the 100th birthday of Chas. Addams, the creator of many mordid cartoons in The New Yorker.  Charles -- well, Charles was not like the other children.  His macabre sense of humor may have been honed when he did a stint in the layout department of True Detective; his job included retouching photographs of murder victims to eliminate the blood.  He became a regular contributor to The New Yorker in 1935.  Two years later, he began series of cartoons featuring a very strange family, which later became thought of as The Addams Family.  They were transferred to television as Gomez and Morticia, their children Wednesday and Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Granny, and man(?)servant Lurch, among others.  Television success brought about a rival series, The Munsters, as well as feature films, animated series, and a Broadway play.  Addams received a number of awards in his lifetime, including a special award from the Mystery Writers of America.  Both he and his characters have become engrained in the American culture.  Not bad for a kid from Westfield, New Jersey.  He died in 1988 from a heart attack, was cremated, and his ashes were buried in a pet cemetery on his estate.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Haunts & By-Paths and Other Poems by J. Thorne Smith, Jr. (1919)

At one time, Thorne Smith was one of the most popular writers in the country due to his combining sex and fantasy in such humorous novels as Topper -- a book that is still being read today.  Smith, born in
Annapolis in 1892 and the son of a Navy commodore, enlisted in the Navy in 1917.  While there, he began writing stories about a hapless Navy recruit named Biltmore Oswald; these stories formed his first two novels and brought him some success.  He had ambitions as a poet and, in 1919, he published his third book and only book of poetry, Haunts & By-Paths.  A number of those poems were about the sea and were first published in a magazine for Naval reservists; several were written in a Navy hospital in 1918.

     His poetry could be at times pedestrian and at times moving.  I doubt if much, if any, of it could stand the test of time.  In fact, Smith later dismissed the book, saying he wish he could destropy every copy of it.  Strangely, it has been rumored that he was working on another volume of poetry at the time of his death, although no manuscript has been found.

    Smith's fourth book was Topper, the classic about a hapless banker and the two alcoholic and oversexed ghosts that haunted him.  This was an instant success, due in part to the sexy-for-its-time illustrations and to Smith's mixing of humor and double entendre.  His fifth book, Dream's End, a serious novel with undertones of fantasy, failed spectacularly, so he went back to the well and poured out such humorous fantasies as The Night Life of the Gods, Skin and Bones, The Stray Lamb, The Glorious Pool, and Topper Takes a Trip.  He also wrote several non-fantastic humor novels, a mystery (Did She Fall?), and a juvenile.

     He had a severe case of pneumonia when he was a child and was struck with Spanish influenza as a young man.  This, combined with his serious drinking, may have contributed to his death of a heart attack at age 42.  His final novel, The Passionate Witch, was completed by Norman Matson, made into the Veronica Lake/Frederick March movie I Married a Witch, and was (at least in part) the inspiration for the Broadway play Bell, Book and Candle and the television series Bewitched.

     Typical of most poetry books, Haunts & By-Paths is a slim offering -- 139 pages, with 62 poems.  I found it an interesting read, in part because it had a few hints of his prose style and in part because the passion I found in some of the poems.

     You can decide for yourself.  The link below should get you to the book from Internet Archive.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Found some interesting stuff in Nashua, New Hampshire this week.
  • [Marion Zimmer Bradley, editor], Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine.  Two issues:  #42 (Winter 1999) and #46 (Winter 2000).  Issue 46 was edited by Rachel E. Holman following Bradley's death.
  • David Daniel, Coffin Dust:  Strange Stories.  Horror collection; 23 stories.
  • Ron Fortier and "Chester Hawks", Captain Hazzard:  Curse of the Red Maggot!  Pulp Adventure novel.  Originally written by Paul Chadwick in 1938 under the "Hawks" pseudonym for the short-lived Captain Hazzard pulp magazine, it was rewritten as a Secret Agent X adventure called The Curse of the Crimson Horde.  Fortier took the Secret Agent X story and re-rewrote it as a Captain Hazzard story.
  • "Maxwell Grant", The Shadow #4:  "The Murder Master" & "The Hydra", The Shadow #5:  "The Black Falcon" & "The Salamanders", The Shadow #7:  "The Cobra" & "The Third Shadow", The Shadow #9:  "Lingo" & "Partners of Peril", The Shadow #10:  "The City of Doom" & "The Fifth Face", The Shadow #11:  "Road of Crime" & "Crooks Go Straight", and The Shadow #12"Serpents of Siva" & "The Madrigals Mystery".  Pulp adventure reprints courtesy of Anthony Tollin.  Most of the novels are by Walter B. Gibson.  Tollin does not reprint these chronologically, relying more on themes.  Each volume has also features essays and other goodies.
  • Steve Holland, Sci-Fi Art:  A Graphic History.  There's more of a British slant to this one.  Holland not only covers books and magazines, but alos comic books, anime and manga, movie posters, video games, and toys.  Listed as contributors are Alex Summersby, Steve White, Toby Weidmann, Adrian Faulkner, and Tim Murray.
  • Murray Leinster, The Time Tunnel.  TV tie-in, not be confused with a similarly titled book by Leinster, Time Tunnel.
  • [Shawna McCarthy, editor], Realms of Fantasy Nine issues:  February and June, 1995, December 1996, February, April, and June 1997, and February, April, and October, 1998.
  • "Kenneth Robeson", The Land of Terror.  A Doc Savage pulp novel, number 8 in the Bantam reprints.  As with most of these, this one is by Lester Dent.
  • Wayne Skiver, Prof. Stone:  Volume One:  The Eye of Ra & Other Tales.  Pulpish adventure witha "new" character.  There are six stories in this one.
  • [Unicorn Mystery Book Club], two volumes.  The first contains The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing, The Saint Sees It Through by Leslie Charteris, ...And High Water by Aaron Marc Stein, and A Knife Is Silent by David Kent.  The second contains The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, Obit Delayed by Helen Neilson, Dr. Gatskill's Blue Shoes by Paul Conant, and Heavy, Heavy Hangs by Doris Miles Disney.  Unicorn always seemed to have more unusual titles than Walter Black's Detective Book Club.