Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, June 29, 2012


Journal of the Gun Years by Richard Matheson (1991)

Matheson's storied career covers a lot of ground:  television, movies, mystery, suspense, fantasy, science fiction, horror, war, metaphysics, and -- of course -- westerns.  Before the appearance of this novel, however, few realized that Matheson had an interest in the West, although he had previously published stories and had written scripts in the genre.  Journal of the Gun Years brings out all of the author's strengths:  tight plotting, vivid atmosphere, mythic elements, suspense, and pitch perfect characterization.

    Journal of the Gun Years opens with the death of the book's protagonist, shot at age 31.  Clay Halser's legend as a Western hero equalled that of Wild Bill Hickock  Instead of the young, handsome, cocksure Halser of the past, he is now looking old, tired, haggard, and dishevelled.  Clay is called out by a young man and, when his gun misfires, is fatally shot.  The witness to this is Frank Leslie, a friend and reporter who had chronicled Halser's life over the past dozen years.  Halser had left behind a stack of jounals, which -- edited by Halser, who adds some commentary to flesh out the tale -- make up the book.

     Halser's first journal was one he took off the body of a Confederate soldier.  At nineteen, Halser finds himself facing nineteen rebel soldiers.  All fear leaves him then as he quickly fires his rifle again and again, killing eleven men and causing a rout that led to a Union victory.  Halser is unwounded, somehow protected from the enemy fire.  This event led to positive newspaper coverage and to Clay's determination to lead an exciting life.

     But an exciting life was not in his immediate future.  When he goes home to his mother's farm, it's a life of boredom and drudgery for Clay, who is the support for his nagging mother and his six younger siblings.  He finds himself engaged to a local girl and wonders how he can ever have the exciting life he wants.  Fate intervenes when the son of an important businessman pulls a knife on Clay during a card game.  Clay kills the man in self defense, but realizes that the dead man's father's wrath is enough to railroad him to jail and worse.  Clay Halser flees, heading west to his destiny.

     Clay has both pride and a quick temper, a combination he tries to keep in check.  When he rides shotgun on a stagecoach he receives an arrow in his leg during an attack by Sioux Indians.  While his valor and skilled shooting during the attack draws more attention to Clay, his wound curtails his stagecoach job.  The company places him as an assistant at one of their way station while he recovers.  There is little recovery for him there, however; his boss is a large, bullying, sadistic homosexual/pederast who overworks and tortures Clay, allowing no time for the leg to heal.  The boss viciously attacks Clay with a whip -- an attack that will blind him at best, kill him at worse.  Clay is forced to kill the man.  Although the act was clearly self defense and there were many witnesses willing to testify to that, Clay is arrested, rushed to trial, sentenced to hang, and finds himself sharing the jail with a sociopathic, amoral murderer.

     Breaking out of jail, Clay follows his destiny throughout the west, taming towns, fighting range wars, and building a reputation that is enhanced to mythic proportions by the press and by the yellowbacks supposedly based on his true adventures.  Along the way many people die and Clay begins to believe his own press.

     In Clay Halser, Matheson gives us a deeply flawed person who, in his own mind, at least, tries to do the right thing.  Part hero, part outlaw, part bully, part peacemaker -- Clay Halser is an American tragedy whose character maps out his ultimate destiny.  As we Halser's career, we also gain an insightful look at a fascinating time and place.

     Journal of the Gun Years went on to win a best novel Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.

     Highly recommended.


Todd Mason is filling in for Patti Abbott this week, collecting today's links at his indispensible blog sweetfreedom.  Stop by for more of Friday's Forgotten Books.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Hah!  I lied!  He's not forgotten!

But every now and then you need a little Belafonte.

Jaimaica Farewell:

John Henry:


Banana Boat Song:

Try to Remember:

Jump in the Line:

Man Smart, Woman Smarter:

Mr. Bojangles:

Mama Look a Boo Boo (with the Great Nat King Cole):

Run and Coca-Cola:

Forever Youg:

Danny Boy:


Island in the Sun:

Hava Naguila (with Danny Kaye):

Give Us Our Land (with Miriam Makeba):

Skin to Skin (with Nana mouskouri):

Zombie Jamboree:

The problem with Belafonte, I fear, is that once you start, it's hard to stop.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


(954 years ago Siward invaded Scotland and defeated MacBeth, which is enough of a reason for me to post a Shakespearean joke.)

Shakespeare walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Hey, you're not allowed in here!  You're bard!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Amazing Adventures of the Temp, Episode 1  (2003)

What happens when a superhero is unvailable, like when he gets zapped by an overdose of kryptonite?

     You call in a temp, of course, and if that temp happens to be The Temp who happens to have the hots for Lois Lane, so much the better.

     This short film was produced by the Lieberman Bros., who have created a number of "Brick Films" -- short, stop motion animated films using Legos, an area of film-making I did not realize was so popular.  Several hundred can be found on Internet Archive.  As for the Lieberman Bros., their website  is no longer active so I can't tell you anything about them.  Nor can I tell you if The Temp had any other adventures aside from a short trailer (38 seconds or so) for this film.  The Temp evidently came from a comic book the brothers had written three years before; no idea if the comic book was ever published.

     Without further ado (or much knowledge), enjoy the first (and possibly only) adventure of The Temp!

For the links to today's Overlooked Lego-less Stuff, stop by Sweet Freedom.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Basically genre stuff this week.
  • Greg Bear, Heads.  SF
  • Ben Bova, Triumph.  Alternate world SF.
  • Leigh Clark, Evil Recarnate.  Horror.
  • Stephen R. Donaldson, The Man Who Risked His Partner.  Mystery.  Revised version of a novel originally published as by "Reed Stephens."
  • Glen Ebisch, Ghosts from the Past.  A Roaming New England mystery.
  • Raymond E. Feist, Shadow of a Dark Queen. Fantasy.  Book One of The Serpentwar Saga.
  • "Robin Hobb" (a.k.a. "Megan Lindholm"), Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny.  Fantasy.  The Liveship Traders Trilogy.
  • Edward D. Hoch, editor, Best Detective Stories of the Year -- 1980:  34th Annual Collection.  A dozen of the best stories from 1979. 
  • William W. Johnstone with Fred Austen, The Last Gunfighter:  Savage Country.  Western.
  • Mercedes Lackey, Burning Water.  Fantasy.  A Diana Tregarde Investigation.
  • Mercedes Lackey & Ru Emerson, Fortress of Frost and Fire.  Gaming (The Bard's Tale) tie-in.
  • Louis L'Amour, The Broken Gun and Son of a Wanted Man.  Westerns.
  • Ursala K. Le Guin, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea.  Fantasy collection with eight stories.
  • Paul Levine, Trial & Error.  Legal thriller, fourth in the Solomon and Lord series.
  • Jeff Long, Year Zero.  Thriller.
  • Christine Matthews, editor, Deadly Housewives.  Mystery anthology with fourteen stories. 
  • Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey, Dragon's Kin.  SF.  Another Pern adventure.
  • Thomas F. Monteleone, editor, Borderlands 2.Horror anthology with twenty-one stories and the world's most unreadable cover.
  • Mark Nykanen, The Bone Parade.  Thriller.
  • Dennis O'Neil, Justice League of America:  Green Lantern:  Hero's Quest.  Comic book tie-in novel.
  • Lewis B. Pattern, Death Rides a Black Horse.  Western.
  • David J. Schow, Bullets of Rain.  Thriller.
  • Sandy Silverthorne & John Warner, One-Minute Mysteries and Brain Teasers.  Kitty threw this one in the cart.  I know she's smart (smarter than me, for sure), so I assume she wants me to exercise the little gray cells a bit more.
  • Eleanor Sullivan, editor, Alfred Hitchcock's Tales to Keep You Spellbound.  The hardcover edition of the first in the long-running series of Alfred Hitchcock's Anthologies that AHMM publisher Davis Publications issued.  This one, from 1976, has thirty stories published from 1958 to 1969.
  • Bari Wood, The Basement.  Horror.
  • Douglas P. Wojtowicz, Don Pendleton's Stony Man:  Splintered Sky.  Men's adventure.  Number 97 in the series.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


It's not often you get a well-known hymn set to the tune of another well-known song about a well-known house of prostitution...

But it works.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Jack Williams has never achieved the fame he deserves as a folk singer, but that doesn't seem to bother him.

     From a recent e-mail from The World Folk Music Association:  "Avoiding the compromises of the commercial music industry during his 50+ year professional career, Jack prefers touring under the radar, playing concerts, large and small, week in and week out, from the sheer love of music and performing.  Playing for more than 50 house concerts each year, Jack enjoys the intimacy of that venue most of all, with a more personal connection to his listeners.  From acclaimed appearances at the Newport, Boston, Philadelphia, Kerrville and the New Bedford SummerFest Folk Festivals, his musicianship, songs, stories and commanding presence have established him as an uncommonly inspiring and influential performer."

     Here's a sample:

     Jack has scheduled a house concert in my neck of the woods for July 7th.  I can't make that one, so in consolation I've been listening to some of his music.  When he comes to your area (and he will), don't miss out.  The link to his home page shows his upcoming schedule (29 weekend concerts in New Mexico, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Texas and Florida --and that 's just to the end of this year) and offers a number of free songs for your listening pleasure.  Check him out:

Friday, June 22, 2012


Shot In the Dark (1950)
Beyond Human Ken (1952)
Tomorrow the Stars (1952)
Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time (1954)
Human? (1954)
Galaxy of Ghouls (1955)

Her first science fiction story, That Only a Mother (1948), is an acknowledged classic.  Her first novel, Shadow on the Hearth (1950), was a well-received depiction of life after an atomic war but was not reprinted in the United States for 58 years.  Her only other solo science fiction novel has only seen print in paperback editions -- the last in 1968.  She was an incisive critic, an active promoter of science fiction, and was designated an Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library is the premier research center of its kind.  She was not the first person to edit an annual series of the best science fiction and fantasy (that honor jointly belongs to E. F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty), but her Year's Best SF series (1956-1968, with a lapse of one year in 1967) was the most influential of her time, stretching the boundaries of the field, ever experimenting, always reflecting the mood of the times.  But before her annual best series, Judith Merril showed her editorial chops with six well-regarded anthologies, mixing science fiction and fantasy.  (For this Forgotten Books post, I will refer to both science fiction and fantasy under the generic term SF.)

     The first, Shot in the Dark, had its only edition published by Bantam Books.  Its twenty-two stories (and one poem) mixed popular authors such as James Thurber, Edison Marshall, and Stephen Vincent Benet with some of the best SF authors of the postwar era; this mixture helped give credence that science fiction had (at least, in part) grown up.  Contents were:
  • Margery Allingham, He was Asking After You (1946)
  • Isaac Asimov, Strange Playfellow (1940)
  • Stephen Vincent Benet, Nightmare Number Three (poem, 1935)
  • Anthony Boucher, Mr. Lupescu (1945)
  • Leigh Brackett, The Halfling (1943)
  • Ray Bradbury, Mars Is Heaven! (1948)
  • Fredric Brown, Knock (1948)
  • R. Austin Freeman, The Bronze Parrot (1924)
  • Robert Heinlein, Genlemen, Be Seated (1948)
  • Gerald Kersh, Voices in the Dust (1947)
  • Murray Leinster, The Day of the Deepies (1947)
  • Jack London, The Shadow and the Flash (1903)
  • "James MacCreigh" (Frederik Pohl), A Hitch in Time (1947)
  • Edison Tesla Marshall, Who Is Charles Avison? (1916)
  • "Lewis Padgett" (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), The Dark Angel (1946)
  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845)
  • "Hugh Raymond" (John B. Michel), Spokesman for Terra (1941)
  • Alexander Samalman, Life on the Moon (1946)
  • Theodore Sturgeon, The Sky Was Full of Ships (1947)
  • William Tenn, Brooklyn Project (1948)
  • James Thurber, Interview with a Lemming (1941)
  • H. G. Wells, The Star (1897)
  • Philip Wylie, Blunder (1946)
     The mixture of authors is interesting.  Allingham and Freeman were both mystery authors.  London and Marshall are best-known for theoir adventure stories.  Only nine of the authors were well-known in the SF field when the book was published (and even then, Boucher, Brown, and Brackett had each published more mystery novels than SF).  John Michel was a member of the fan group The Futurians (as were Merril and Pohl) and had a short career before his untimely death.  Samalman was to become an editor of three SF magazines within a few years.

     Merril's sophomore anthology, Beyond Human Ken, featured stories about "other life" (a broad catagory that includes extraterrestials, mutants, earthly monsters, robots, and the supernatural) and was published in hardcover by Random House.  Fifteen [marked *] of the twenty-one stories were reprinted in the 1953 Grayson & Grayson British hardcover, while twelve [marked #] of the twenty-one were reprinted in the 1954 Pennant Books paperback, Selections from Beyond Human Ken.  As with her first anthology, Merril included only stories that had not been previously reprinted in another SF anthology; unlike the first, Merril concentrates on stories from the previous fifteen years by (with one exception) popular SF writers.  The contents:
  • Stephen Vincent Benet, The Angel Was a Yankee (1940) *
  • James Blish, Solar Plexus (1941) * #
  • Anthony Boucher, The Compleat Werewolf (1942) #
  • John Christopher, Socrates (1951) * #
  • Mark Clifton, What Have I Done? (1952) * #
  • Roger Dee, Unwelcome Tenant (1950) *
  • Lester del Rey, Helen O'Loy (1938) *
  • H. B. Fyfe, Afterthought (1951)
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Our Fair City (1949) * #
  • Malcolm Jameson, Pride (1942) * #
  • Fritz Leiber, The Foxholes of Mars (1952)
  • Murray Leinster, The Wabbler (1942) * #
  • Katherine MacLean, The Fittest (1951)
  • Laurance Manning, Good-Bye, Ilha! (1952) * #
  • Kris Neville, Underground Movement (1952)
  • "Lewis Padgett" (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), A Gnome There Was (1941)
  • Arthur Porges, The Fly (1952) *
  • Eric Frank Russell, The Glass Eye (1949) * #
  • "Idris Seabright" (Margaret St. Clair), The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles (1951) * #
  • Theodore Sturgeon, The Perfect Host (1948) * #
  • William Tenn, The House Dutiful (1948) * #
     In her third anthology, Tomorrow, the Stars, contained fourteen stories was credited solely to Robert A. Heinlein's editorship, although it has been an open secret it was edited by Merril and her then-husband Frederik Pohl.  According to reaserch done by Bill Patterson, it was a bit more complicated than that. Patterson feels that the bulk of the editing was done by Merril (who did the bulk of the work) and Heinlein (who oversaw the selections), with Doubleday house editors Walter Bradbury and Truman Talley making minor corrections to the manuscripts; Frederik Pohl (to Patterson's memory) did little, if any, work on the book.  Pohl, no slouch in editing, almost certainly worked closely with Merril.  As I said, it seems common knowledge that this book was a Merril/Pohl ghost collaboration, with Heinlein having minimal imput.  This was certainly her most popular anthology; it has gone through fifteen editions in paperback.  Anyway, the contents:
  • Isaac Asimov, Green Patches (1950)
  • Lester del Rey, The Monster (1951)
  • Jack Finney, I'm Scared (1951)
  • C. M. Kornbluth, The Silly Season (1950)
  • Henry Kuttner (with C. L. Moore, uncredited), Absalom (1946)
  • Fritz Leiber, Appointment in Tomorrow (1951)
  • Murray Leinster, Keyhole (1951)
  • Judith Merril, Survival Ship (1951)
  • William Morrison, The Sack (1950)
  • John Reese, Rainmaker (1949)
  • Eric Frank Russell, Jay Score (1941)
  • William Tenn, Betelgeuse Bridge (1951)
  • Bob (Wilson) Tucker, The Tourist Trade (1951)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, The Report on the Barnhouse Effect (1950)
     The one unfamiliar name in the table of contents of Tomorrow, the Stars is John Reese.  ISFDB lists only four stories by Reese, from 1935 to 1965 --one each in Doctor Death, Saturday Evening Post, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and Playboy.  All the other authors were very familiar to science fiction and fantasy readers.

    1954 saw the publication of two Merril anthologies.  Beyond the Barriers of Space and Time contained nineteen stories, all dealing with some type of extrasensory power.  Both American and British hardcovers were also republished as book club selections; there were no paperback editions.  Here are the stories:
  • Isaac Asimov, Belief (1953)
  • Anthony Boucher, The Ghost of Me (1942)
  • Ray Bradbury, The Veldt (1950)
  • Rhoda Broughton, Behold It Was a Dream (1872)
  • Bill Brown, Medicine Dancer (1953)
  • Agatha Christie, The Last Seance (1926)
  • Mark Clifton and Alex Apostolides, Crazy Joey (1953)
  • Theodore Cogswell, The Wall Around the World (1953)
  • John Collier, Interpretation of a Dream (1951)
  • "J. J. Coupling" (John R. Pierce), Mr. Kinkaid's Pasts (1953)
  • Philip K. Dick, The Golden Man (1954)
  • J. C. Furnas, The Laocoon Complex (1937)
  • "David Grinnell" (Donald A. Wollheim), Malice Aforethought (1952)
  • Katherine MacLean, Defense Mechanism (1949)
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., Wolf Pack (1953)
  • Peter Phillips, The Warning (1953)
  • Robert Sheckley, Operating Instructions (1953)
  • Will Thompson, No One Believed Me (1948)
  • John Wyndham, Perforce to Dream (1954)
     Rhoda Broughton was a popular 19th century author and the neice of J. Sheridan le Fanu.  J. C. Furnas, who wrote for the slicks, has only two stories listed in ISFDB; The Laocoon Complex  has since been published in four other SF anthologies.  Will Thompson's story, originally from SEP, is his only story listed in ISFDB.  All the other writers were well-known SF authors.

     Human? was a theme anthology that saw only one printing -- as a paperback from Lion Books.  Fourteen stories and one poem, as follows:
  • Isaac Asimov, Liar! (1941)
  • Algis Budys, Riya's Foundling (1953)
  • John Collier, Rope Enough (1939)
  • August Derleth, "Who Shall I Say Is Calling?" (1952)
  • L. Sprague de Camp, The Gnarly Man (1939)
  • Graham Doar, Who Knows His Brother (1952)
  • Fritz Leiber, Smoke Ghost (1942)
  • John D. MacDonald, The Big Contest (1950)
  • don marquis, ghosts (poem, 1927)
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., Crucifixus Etiam (1953)
  • Chad Oliver, The Boy Next Door (1951)
  • Eric Frank Russell, Take a Seat (1952)
  • "Idris Seabright" (Margaret St. Clair), An Egg a Month from All Over (1952)
  • Theodore Sturgeon, The Ultimate Egoist (1941)
  • H. G. Wells, The Temptation of Harringay (1895)
     To my knowledge, Graham Doar published only five SF stories over a span of five years.  Archy the poetic cockroach could not type upper case letters, thus the lower case "don marquis" and "ghosts."

     Judith Merril's final anthology before she embarked on her Year's Best collections was Galaxy of Ghouls, another paperback from Lion Library.  It was reprinted in 1959 and in 1961 under the title Off the Beaten Orbit.  This time the content is all science fantasy.  The fifteen stories were:
  • Jerome Bixby and Joe E. Dean, Share Alike (1953)
  • Anthony Boucher, The Ambassadors (1952)
  • Ray Bradbury, Homecoming (1946)
  • Fredric Brown, Blood (1955)
  • Leslie Charteris, Fish Story (1953)
  • Bruce Elliott, Wolves Don't Cry (1954)
  • Fritz Leiber, The Night He Cries (1953)
  • Walter M. Miller, Jr., The Triflin' Man (1955)
  • Richard Parker, The Wheelbarrow Boy (1950)
  • Arthur Porges, Mop-Up (1953)
  • J. B. Priestley, The Demon King (1931)
  • Robert Sheckley, Proof of the Pudding (1952)
  • Clifford D. Simak, Desertion (1944)
  • William Tenn, Child's Play (1947)
  • Manl;y Wade Wellman, O Ugly Bird! (1951)
     J. B. Priestley was a well-known novelist and playwright who often used time as a motif.  Richard Parker was tha author of a numberof juvenile SF novels. The Charteris story is one of his rare non-Simon "The Saint" Templar stories.

     These six anthologies provide solid reading and highlight Merril's discrimination and willingness to expand the field's boundaries.  One hundred five stories and two poems, many now far more familiar than when Merril first published them.  Although over a dozen of these stories were published earlier, the bulk of them were from the "Golden Age" SF and later.  (The "Golden Age," in this case, began in 1938 with the editorship of John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction.)  Many of the stories from the 1950s came from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which emphasized literary quality.

     Following her annual Best SF series, Merril edited only three adiditional anthologies -- a best of the Best SF series, an anthology of new-wave SF, and the first volume of Tesseracts, a long-running anthology of Canadian SF.

     A quick check of Abebooks shows that many of Merril's early anthologies are available, beginning at $5 or less.

    For more of today's Forgotten Books, see pattinase, where Patti Abbott will have the links and more reviews.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


A guy walks into a bar and he's carrying a piece of asphalt.  He says to the bartender, "I'll have a shot of whiskey and one for the road."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


     He was standing in a Haitian graveyard with a frightened girl.  A frightened Italian was rooted near-by, making throat-sounds like whimpering.  A frightened Negro, a frightened blonde and a frightened college professor were parked in a frightened Model T under the cemetery arch.  Two frightened men were arguing in violent whispers off in the fog; and the only one present who wasn't frightened was the little old lady jaunty aganst the tombstone -- uncaring because she was dead!
          -- Theodore Roscoe, Z Is for Zombie (1937)

     They just don't write them like that any more.  "Frightened Model T;" hah!


By most accounts, this is a turkey; or, so proclaimed because a number of viewers felt this should have been noir.  Or, if it was noir, it wasn't noir enough.  Or something.  But there are some interesting things about this flick.

     Inner Sanctum began as a book imprint of Simon & Schuster in 1930.  Although not restricted to mysteries and thrillers, it was in that field that imprint made its name.    In 1940 NBC licensed the name from S&S.  (S&S is currently using Inner Sanctum as the name of its blog.)   Inner Sanctum Mystery, complete with squeaking door intro, ran as a radio program for almost a dozen years from January 1941 to  October 1952 for a total of 526 episodes.  Created and produced by Himan Brown, the anthology series was first hosted by Raymond Johnson ("Your host, Raymond...Pleasant dreeeams, hmmm."); Paul McGrath took over as host in 1945.

     Universal Studios produced six Inner Sanctum movies featuring Lon Chaney, Jr., from 1943 to 1945.

     Inner Sanctum became a television sereis in 1954.  Again hosted by Paul McGrath, the show lasted for 40 episodes.  A quick check at IMDB shows that at least two of the episodes were written by mystery author John Roeburt, another two episodes were based on stories by DeMaupassant, and one additional episode was based on an Edgar Wallace story.

     Nestled between the six Universal movies and the television show was our movie, released in 1948 by M.R.S. Pictures.  Directed by Lew Landers (The Raven, The Return of the Vampire, Seven Keys to Baldpate) and written by radio scribe Jerome T. Gollard (Duffy's Tavern, The Shadow), The movie did without the creaking door and the host, relying rather on a [SPOILER!] framing story featuring Fritz Leiber, Sr.  (Leiber, of course, was the Shakespearean actor and father of writer Fritz Leiber.)

     After accidently killing his fiance, Harold Dunlap finds his way out of a strange town is prevented by a flood.  Dunlap finds shelter to boarding house where he discovers a boy who may have witnessed the killing lives.  And there's a blonde at the boarding house who wants to leave, and she doessn't care what type of man she leaves with.

     Charles Russell plays Dunlap.  Russell's acting career in films lasted less than a decade with seventeen films to his credit.  He may be best remembered as radio's original Johnny Dollar in Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

     Mary Beth Hughes (The Ox-Bow Incident, The Lady Confesses, The Great Flamarion) had an interesting career as the hard-boiled blonde in films, including this one -- even though she was a redhead.  Many MST3K fans probably remember her from I Accuse My Parents, which was justly trashed by Crow and Tom Servo.  Married five times, in the eary Fifties she became the first famous weather-girl for a Los Angeles television station.  She segued into a career as a nightclub singer.  As jobs dried up, she was a Sprint telemarketer and a receptionist for a plactic surgeon.

     Child actor Dale Belding played Mike Bennett, the boy who witnessed the murder.  I couldn't find much about him, although he went to play (uncredited) Danny Kettle in three Ma and Pa Kettle movies.

      In addition to Leiber, other supporting players included Billy House (no relation), a heavy-set performer whom the Disney studio used as a model for Doc in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and as a fat pirate in Peter Pan.  Also in the cast were veteran actor Roscoe Ates (perhaps best known as Soapy Jones in many Eddie Dean westerns), Lee Patrick (who played Henrietta Topper in television's Topper), Nana Bryant (another veteran actress, who interestingly -- to me, anyway -- was featured in the 1937 Nero Wolfe mystery The League of Frightened Men), Eddie Parks (whose career consisted of many, many uncredited parts, including one in an episode of My Little Margie -- but not the episode I featured last week as an Overlooked television show), and Eve Miller (in her second credited role; she went on to appear as a supporting actress in many television shows in the Fifties).

     So buckle your set belt and brace yourself as you board a low-budget train that will take you to the Inner Sanctum

And, if that's not enough, here's a link to eight of the radio episodes:


     For more of this week's Overlooked Films go to Sweet Freedom where Todd will have all the links.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Happy 70th Birthday Paul McCartney!

     Lance Wilder, who's worked on The Simpson's for years, posted this on FaceBook:

     "A Very Happy 70th Birthday to Sir Paul McCartney!!!  It is still just a great highlite of my years on The Simpsons to have been part of the episodes with Sir Paul & Linda, Ringo and George....Peace, Love and Joy to you Sir Paul from your fans from The Simpsons!"

     To which, I can only add this message to Sir Paul:  "Don't have a cow, man!"


It is well-known that my daughter Christina, brilliant though she may be, is clueless.  That's why Walt had to work extra hard to woo her, but Walt has worked hard all his life.  He has brought her happiness and joy and many animals, along with two wonderful kids.  While working full-time, he earned his college degree and a number of fancy computer initials behind his name, and he has just aced his first foray into graduate school.

     Walt has a fantastic sense of humor, a low tolerence for fools, and a love for all things outdoors.  He lives on the "caveman diet" -- nothing processed -- and has managed to make very tasty meals.  For his birthday today he asked Mark and Erin to make dinner for him; they made pizza, french fries, and a vanilla cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert -- about as far away from caveman as you can get.  It was the best meal he ever had.

     As you can tell, Walt is a great father as well as a great husband.  We're glad he's having a fantastic day!


In 'The Eyrie", the letters column in Weird Tales magazine for January, 1943, there is among the listings of 68 new members of "The Weird Tales Club" this:

     "Hugh Hefner, 1922 N. New England Avenue, Chicago, Ill."

    Hef would have been sixteen and bunnyless at the time.

    Persons who sent in an SASE would receive an official membership card that they could proudly carry.  I wonder if Hef still has his?

     There's no great reason for this post.  I just thought it was interesting.


I started the week off getting a lot of gaming tie-in novels and ended with some SF, mysteries, and children's books.
  • Sherman Alexie, War Dances.  Eleven stories and twelve poems from the National Book winner.
  • Piers Anthony and Clifford A. Pickover, Spider Wars.  Crustacean-oriented fantasy.
  • Gerald Earl Bailey, Sword of the Nurlingas.  Heroic fantasy, the first book of The Saga of Thorgrim.
  • James Baen, editor, The Best from Galaxy, Vol. IV.  SF anthology of ten stories from 1975-6.
  • John Blackburn, A Wreath of Roses,  Cold war thriller.  Blackburn was one of the better British mystery/thriller/"menace" witers of the Fifties and Sixties.  The cover of this 1966 Lancer paperback proclaims "SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE."  Well, perhaps not, at least there is no indication of it on IMDB.
  • L. M. Boston, The Children of Green Knowe.  Classic children's fantasy book, the first in the series.
  • Brigid Brophy, Michael Levey, and Charles Osborne, Fifty Works of English Literature We Could Do Without.  The title page adds an asterisk to the word English, and adds "and American."  Interesting concept, guaranteed to provoke an argument, starting with the Forward:  "We have...excluded translations. That is why the Bible is not listed."  Among those listed, however, are Hamlet, Beowulf, Jane Eyre, Huckleberry Finn, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and (I can hear George Kelley raging now) Trollope's The Warden.
  • Orson Scott Card, Wyrms.  SF.
  • A, Bertram Chandler, John Grimes:  Reserve Commodore.  An omnibus from the Science Fiction Book Club, including three Grimes novels and six uncollected Grimes short stories.  The novels are The Last Amazon, The Wild Ones, and Catch the Star Winds, books 14-16 according to the series' inner chronology. Chandler has always been a favorite.
  • "K. C. Constantine" (Carl Kosak), Saving Room for Dessert.  A Rocksburg mystery novel.  I love his use of language.
  • Mildred Davis, The Third Half.  Mystery.  The author would be a great subject for Friday's Forgotten Books some week.
  • [Detective Book Club], Omnibus volume with Jimmy the Kid by Donald E. Westlake (a Dortmunder novel as well as a bad Gary Coleman film), The Brownstone House by Rae Foley (whom see below), and The Olmec Head by David Westheimer (crime novel by the author of Von Ryan's Express and My Sweet Charlie).
  • David Drake, The Military Dimension, eleven military SF stories, and Starliner, a SF novel.
  • Malcolm Edwards and Robert Holdstock, Tour of the Universe.  Coffee table SF art book, the conceit is indicated in the subtitle:  "The Journey of a Lifetime:  The Recorded Diaries of Leio Scott and Caroline Luranski."
  • Dean Feldmeyer, Cut-Through Valley.  A Dan Thompson mystery involving (to start) the murder of a rabbit hunting beagle.  I enjoyed the first Dan Thompson book and I'm looking forward to this one.
  • Rae Foley, Curtain Call (also published as It's Murder, Mr. Potter).  A "romantic  mystery by another "Forgotten" author.
  • William R. Forstchen, Magic the Gathering:  Arena.  Gaming tie-in novel
  • Alan Dean Foster, Sentenced to Prism.  SF.
  • Craig Shaw Gardner, Back to the Future Part III.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Julian Gloag, Lost and Found.  Thriller.
  • Christie Golden, Instrument of Fate.  Fantasy
  • Glen Grant, McDougal's Honolulu Mysteries:  Case Studies from the Life of a Honolulu Detective.  Supposedly a collection of oral reminences of a Honolulu private detective, some which may blur into fantasy.
  • Tim Hallinan, Teenage Ghost Stories, Volume 1.  Slim paperback put out by Tiger Beat.  In the front matter is advertised The Donny Osmond Mystery, "Catch the greatest mystery ever as Donny Osmond disappears right in the middle of a lunch date!  Join Debbie Preston and Jay, Alan, Wayne and Merrill Osmond as they search Hollywood for the missing Donny."  The greatest mystery ever!  Gosh, I need to get one real soon!
  • Nancy Holder, Emerald Fire.  So shoot me, it's a romance -- Loveswept #173, to be exact.  I enjoy Holder's writing.
  • William Johnson with J. A. Johnson, Home Invasion.  Paranoid thriller.  Those danged liberals use the town of Home, Texas, to strike down the Second Amendment.  The Texans don't go gently into that unarmed night...and Mexican drug cartels really want those arms.  If you cheered at Red Dawn, you'll love this, but if you ever given a good look at the Second Amendment, you'll take this with a grain of salt.
  • David C. Knight, Best True Ghost Stories of the 20th Century.  Speaking of a grain of salt, consider the word "True" in the title.
  • Mercedes Lackey, editor, Sword of Ice and Other Tales of Valdemar.  Shared world fantasy anthology with eighteen stories.
  • Mercedes Lackey & Josepha Sherman, The Bard's Tale: Castle of  Deception.  Gaming tie-in fantasy novel.
  • Holly Lisle, Curse of the Black Heron.  Gaming (The Bard's Tale) tie-in fantasy novel.
  • Holly Lisle and Aaron Allston, A Bard's Tale:  Wrath of Princes.  Gaming tie-in fantasy novel.
  • Holly Lisle & Chris Guin, Mall, Mayhem and Magic.  Fantasy novel, evidently written by Guin from an outline by Lisle.
  • John Lutz, In for the Kill.  A Frank Quinn mystery novel.
  • George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind.  Classic children's fantasy.
  • Hubert Monteilhet, Andromache; or, The Inadvertent Murder.  Mystery.  Translated from the French by Patricia Allen Dreyfus.
  • Andre Norton, Search for the Star Stones.  SF omnibus of two novels:  The Zero Stone and Uncharted Stars.
  • T. V. Olsen, McGivern.  Western.
  • Otto Penzler, editor, Murder Is My Raquet.  Fourteen tennis-related crime stories.
  • Frederik Pohl, Mining the Oort.  Sf novel from one of the true greats.  Pohl is 92 now and still going strong.  I recommend that everyone check out his blog, The Way the Future Blogs, which includes some fascinating memories and some feisty opinion.
  • Robert J. Sawyer, FlashForward.  SF novel.  Winner of the Aurora, the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award.  Remember the short-lived TV series based on this book?  I was bummed when they cancelled it.
  • S. E. Schlosser, reteller (?), Spooky Maryland:  Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore.  Stories evidently told to the author by local Marylanders.
  • Mark Shepherd, Elvendude and Spiritride, shared world (created by Mercedes Lackey) fantasy novels, and A Bard's Tale:  Escape from Roksamur.  A gaming tie-in fantasy novel.
  • Josepha Sherman, The Bard's Tale:  The Chaos Gate.  A gaming tie-in fantasy novel.
  • Josepha Sherman, editor, Lammas Night.  Eighteen stories in a shared world fantasy anthology, based on a supernatural ballad written by Mercedes Lackey. 
  • Susan Shwartz & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Sisters in Fantasy 2.  Fantasy anthology with twenty-three stories.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith, First Lensman and Gray Lensman.  Classic space Opera.
  • "James Tiptree, Jr." (Alice Sheldon), Brightness Falls from the Air.  Tiptree was one of the brightest lights in science fiction; this was her last novel.
  • Tom Tierney, Royal Family of Britain Paper Dolls.  I picked this one up for Kitty who is fascinated with English history and the royal family.  This one has paper dolls of the young Elizabeth and Philip, following the royal couple through the years to the early 1990s, so Diana and Fergie and young Wills and Harry are represented -- but  no paper Nazi costume for Harry, alas.
  • Daoma Winston, Seminar in Evil.  A mystery/novel of menace by another "Forgotten" writer.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Patti Abbott issued a drabble challenge for today.  For those not in the know, a drabble is a story of exactly 100 words, as can be seen every Saturday at Rob Kitchin's blog, The View from the Blue House ( see for a sample).  Composing a drabble is harder than one may think and few people are as talented as Rob, but what the hell, here's my effort.  Patti should have links to others who have took up the challege at her blog, Pattinase.


A copperhead in the small overgrown gulley by our house bit our dog and Dad had just taken him to the vet when Debs drove up.  We were hitting a rough patch with her la-di-dah ways since she got her license.  She's older than me.  Big deal.  And Traci said I made a pass at her.

So pretty soon we both were yelling when her phone rang.  I grabbed it from her.  I have a temper.  Sue me.

That's really mature, she said.

Not really, I thought.  I threw the phone into the gulley and watched her go after it.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Anyone with half a brain should have figured this out in the beginning.

And this item will never be in the "Huh, didn't know that" column.

And, in this story, let's substitute the word "may" for "a slightly better chance than a snowball in hell." 
as John Goodman's character in Matinee said, "I'm in the wrong business."

But at least there is some good, solid, hard-hitting news that everyone can use today -- just in time for Father's Day.


Sophomore Slumps:  Disasterous Second Movies, Albums, Singles, Books, and Other Stuff by Christopher Golden (1995)

Christopher Golden won a Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers of America for his first nonfiction book, Cut!:  Horror Writers on Horror Film (1992).  He went on to a very solid career with adult and YA dark fantasy, horror, and thrillers novels, media tie-ins, comics, anthologies, and further nonfiction.  By the time Sophomore Slumps came out, he had already published the first two books in the Peter Octavian/Shadows series as well as two solid YA thrillers.

     As the subtitle clearly indicates, the book focuses on sophomore efforts in a number of fields that either sucked or fell far short of expectations.  The book is divided into five parts:  Movie Stars, Film Directors, Musical Acts, TV Stars, and Authors.  It was released as an 8 1/2" by 5 1/2" paperback by Citadel Press.  From the back cover blurb:  "[T]he Sophomore Slump -- the follow up phenomenal successes with stupendous and often career-threatening flops...Filled with bad timing, bad judgment, bad movies, and more..."  How ironic that this book was Golden's Sophomore Slump.

     It was based on a cute idea should have worked but the idea was not developed.  The criteria for inclusion was sometimes vague and often erratic.  This "meticulously researched" book does detail sales figures and chart placements/ratings pretty well, but the book was poorly edited and poorly proofread at best.   The boners in facts should have been caught.  Sentences should have been strengthened to clarify Golden's meaning.  The whole book reads as a first draft.  And the abysmal book design did not help.

     Fully one-third of the book is taken up by movie stars -- twenty-five of them -- from (alphabetically) Jennifer Beals to Patrick Swayze.  (Beals went from Flashdance to The Bride; Swayze from Red Dawn to Grandview, U.S.A.)  Golden does not restrict himself to an actor's first movie; he starts from the actor's first big starring movie and then moves to a turkey or a poorly-performing flick.  He tries to ignore ensemble movies such as The Outsiders, which featured Swayze before he filmed Red Dawn.  Carrie Fisher did not technically have a Sophomore Slump because her second movie after Star Wars was The Empire Strikes Back; her "Sophomore Slump" involved moving from Princess Leia to Under the Rainbow

     Moving on to film directors, ten are covered, from Emile Ardolino to Steven Soderberg (Ardolino moved from Dirty Dancing to Chances Are -- a much better film, says Golden, but a flop -- and Soderberg went from sex, lies & videotape to Kafka).  Throughout the musical acts section, Golden ridicules the Starlight Vocal Band while covering twenty-four singers and groups from The Animals to Stevie Wonder.  The twenty-one TV stars considered includes Valerie Bertinelli, Redd Foxx, James Garner, Jim Nabors, and Adam West.  Only six authors are considered in the final short (seventeen pages) section:  William Peter Blatty, Jay McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz, Mario Puzo, and Anne Rice; it's as if Golden ran out of steam, or (perhaps) filled the page count his contract required.

     The book is filled with a lot of interesting and sometimes humorous facts, but the selection of people covered seems random.  It's interesting to look back from a seventeen-year viewpoint to see how people did or did not rebound.  The book remains a sort of time capsule from 1995, but when you open up a time capsule most of what you find inside is not very exciting.

     According to the acknowledgements, the idea for the book came from Golden's editor.  Golden himself is billed as senior editor of Flux magazine (which was a short-lived -- seven issues -- journal focusing on music and comic books; Golden covered the comic books) and the author of two novels (the Peter Octavian/Shadow books mentioned above); no mention made of the award-winning Cut!  Just as well.  There's no mention of this book in the bibliography on Golden's website.  As is the case of many Sophomore Slumps, it is best to just forget about it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Today would have been my father-in-law's (mumble mumble) birthday.  Harold was one of eight children born to a shoe-worker in Rockland, Massachusetts.  The family was kind of amazing.  Harold's older brother Bob came down with polio when he was twelve; his parents were told he would never come out of his iron lung but he did, his parents were then told he would spend the rest of his lilfe in a wheelchair but he didn't, then his parents were told he would never walk but with leg braces and crutches he moved around just fine -- he had a long career as a draftsman for Raytheon, drove his own (adapted) car, and did just about any handyman chore that needed to be done; Bob passed away a few years ago while in his nineties.  Harold's baby brother Don has spent his adult life in Coere d'Alene, and still plows his and his neighbors' driveways while in his nineties. Don still remembers fondly how Harold worked during school to get money to buy Don a bicycle, something Don never expected he would ever own. Older brother Jerry worked for the local post office and a small local supermarkeet chain; well-repected in town, he was a stalwart of the local Catholic Church and was still serving as an altar boy (can the term boy be used here?) well into his nineties.  Harold's baby sister Claire was born with Down Syndrome at a time when such children seldom made it to adulthood.  Her parents were told to institutionalize her but they didn't; they were told she could never learn or hold a job, but they taught her to read and write and she worked he entire adult life.  Claire was in her early forties when kidney disease took her but she lived far longer and far better than anyone other than her parents had expected.  She was a sweetheart and we loved her and are grateful that she had a chance to fall in love with Jessie when our little girl was a baby. Sister Mary adopted two children and raised her grandson.  Sister Eleanor raised her two children to adulthood while separated from her husband as he coped with illnesses gained during the war;  once he was cured, he came back; Eleanor never gave up faith -- or her smile.  Sister Ruth had a chance at marriage, but gave it up because she knew she had to take care of Claire.  Ruth was the caregiver of the family, watching out for her mother, for Claire, and for Bob. The three sisters are still living independently (again) in their nineties.This is just a long way to say that in Harold's family problems were meant to be faced and overcome.

      When World War II came, Harold and his cousin Eddie dropped out of high school to join the Navy.  Each had a different reason to fail the Navy physical, so they switched records and conned their way into the service.  Harold was sent to the Pacific on a destroyer as an electrician's mate.  His war stories were always the funny ones and he scrupulously avoided any other ones.  He loved the story about the hot night when a general alarm  was sounded.  Because of the heat, many of the men slept out on deck.  One, startled awake by the alarm and perhaps not realizing where he was, started running toward where he thought his station was and run right off the ship.  Later in the war, the ship took a big hit which tore out most of the ship's midsection.  It still floated but was out of power so Harold was sent down below to fix the electrical wires, which were spitting sparks and needed splicing, and get the pumps working; Harold had to work for days with live wires while standing waist deep in water the whole time.  The ship slowly made its to port and Harold received a Bronze Star -- something he was very proud of but did not show around very much.

     While he was on leave he asked Eileen to marry him.  She wisely said she would just as soon as the was was over.  In her heart he knew that would be some time coming but, dammitall, the War ended two weeks later.  Harold was happy and Eileen was flabbergasted.  We have some very dark film of the wedding and it's hard to make anyone out.  The reception film was even darker, but the reception hall was next to a used car lot, so there were some clear pictures from outside the reception hall.  Those in our generation teased Harold and Eileen for getting married in a used car lot.

    Anyway, married life started.  Somewhere along the beginning of their marriage, they were kicked out of the San Francisco Ballet because Harold hooted at one of the male dancers (I think the poor guy may have fallen/danced into the orchestra pit).  Out of the Navy, with the GI bill in hand, Harold and Eileen moved to a small trailer in Atlanta so Harold could study at Georgia Tech.  He opened up a Sunday morning newspaper stand outside one of the largest Catholic Churches in Atlanta and was able to make enough each week to provide for his family, which now included Kitty and her older brother Michael.  He had a chance to make even more money running bootleg liquor but Eileen put her foot down.  Shortly before graduation, Harold was called into the Dean's office and told that he not going to be allowed to graduate because they had just discovered he had never completed high school, and hinted that Harold had lied on his original application.  Harold told them that he had not lied on his application, showing them the application where it stated that he had attended high school and that nowhere on the application did he say he had graduated or had listed a year of graduation.  The school was over a barrel and Harold graduated as an electrical engineer.

     Harold worked as a rocket engineer, working for companies providing contract services (mainly) to the Air Force.  The family bounced up and down the country, depending on where the contracts were.  Often they could not tell anyone what Harold did for work (Kitty loved to make up the most outrageous and implausible stories about her father) and often they did not know where he worked.  There were times when they had to get in touch with Harold for emergencies; they called a blind number and said they needed to speak to him and he would  call back  from a secure number hours later.  On some evenings during one summer spent at a motel at Cocoa Beach, Harold would wake the kids up anytime between two and four in the morning, saying  that it was a beautiful night for a walk on the beach.  Sonofagun if during those walks they viewed the launching of several rockets from Cape Canaveral, including the original Gemini. How lucky that Harold decided to take the kids for a walk on just those nights.

       Just weeks before Kitty and I were to be married, Harold was laid off from whatever company he had been working for at the time.  Neither he nor Eileen told us, not wanting to spoil the wedding.  This was in 1970 when engineering jobs and contracts were dying off at as rapid pace.  Many engineers facing unemployment for the first time in their lives committed suicide.  Harold took a different route.  Though he had been mainly working as a rocket engineer, he had a solid background in electrical engineering that could be useful in a number of fields.  He ended up at a small audiology company as a jack of all trades -- repairing and designing hearing aids, building soundproof chambers for doctors offices and for hospitals. and  consulting for hospitals for the deaf.

     After a few years of this, the government decided that many of their suppliers were discriminating against older workers, and there were a rush to hire older engineers.  If there were two things Harold was it was older and an engineer.  In the meantime Harold had been learning computers, that new-fangled technology that was beginning to find its way into homes and offices throughout the country.  I had gotten him a pretty good one (for the day) when I worked at Digital Computer.  With his experience, knowlege, common sense, and new computer skills he was able to work until his retirement.

     Retirement meant summers at Cape Cod and winters in Florida.  Harold loved the water, boats, good conversation, puttering areound the house, and just watching people go by.  When he was in his early eighties, he was stricken with pancreatic cancer.  But he was an Irishman and you can't kill them with a stick.  So he cheated the odds and beat the cancer once, but  it came back and he beat it a second, but that the damned villain came back a third time and by then Harold was just too tired.  He had a good life and he had been able to smile and cluck over his kids and grandkids and his two great-grandkids.  Sadly, he died just a few week before his first great grandson was born.  Harold passed and Mark was born; the circle continues.  He would have been tickled pink with Mark and there's a chance that he is still watching now, laughing like crazy over the antics of Mark and his younger sister and of Connor, the "surpirse" grandson who joined the family two years after Harold died. 

     If Harold is watching us, he must be very proud of his family.  Some of us have made some stupid mistakes along the way, but we each bounce back and try harder.  Harold's grandchildren ase universally smart and talented and are already at working making the world a better place.  Harold's great-children are amazing, funny, and bright.  Harold left a damned good legacy.  May each of us do the same.

     While he lived in Massachusetts, Harold had a summer ritual of going to Kimball Farms in Westford for a icecream dinner for him and the family.  Kimball's has great home-made ice cream with large servings and their sundaes and banana splits can make a full meal.  My family also tried to make it up to Kimball's for dinner several times a summer.  Their banana splits are my favorite.  They use a large banana boat -- not one of those dinky things you may find at chain ice cream stores-- which allows them to use a really big banana.  (At other places I have gone to the bananas can be the size of fingerling potatoes.  Ptah!)  Three huge scoops of ice cream -- chocloate, strawberry and vanilla -- each type of ice cream slathered with a specific sauce,  hot fudge on the chocholate, strawberry sauce (though occasionally they use marshmellow sauce here) over the strawberry ice cream, and pineapple sauce over the vanilla ice cream, all topprd with a heavy layer of whipped cream, sprinkled with nuts and cherries.  Just from the heft of the dessert you know you have something special in your hands. Many people just cannot finish the complete banana split.

     Although we are in Southern Maryland, we still honor Harold's brithday with an ice cream orgy.  Burt's Fifties Diner on Route 5 in Charles County serves up some mean ice cream.  Jessie and her kids are in Massachusetts, so they will probably go to Kimball's.  Perhaps her cousins Dennis and April and Sarah will also be along to toast the maker of the feast with ice cream.

     And perhaps Harold will be watching all of us from somewhere.   And as we eat, every bite will remind us of a talented, kind, generous, intelligent, and good-hearted man.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


As I write this 86-year-old Jerry Lewis has been hospitalized for a blood sugar problem.  Since I am not from France and because I have some French blood in me, I am of two minds about Lewis.  At one time he and Dean Martin were the hottest, hippest comedy act going and Lewis first solo movies were a smorgasborg of really funny gags.  IMHO, Lewis lost a lot of his edge later in his career and he could evidently be a very difficult person to deal with, but his work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association is truly praiseworthy.  As with all of us, there are good and bad parts.  My thoughts go out to him during this health crisis and I wish him the very best.

Anyway, here's a really funny bit that works for me from the Martin and Lewis movie Artists and Models:

And, as much as I have disliked most of Lewis's later acting, I thought he was very good during his run on an arc in the television show Wiseguy.

Do have any favorite Jerry Lewis movies?  Which ones do you feel fall flat, if any?


A pirate walks into a bar after being off at sea for a year.

The bartender recognizes his old customer, pours him some grog, and asks, "How are you doing, Captain?"

The pirate lifts his drink and says, "Fine.  I'm doing just fine."

The bartender seems a bit surprised at this.  "Forgive me for saying this, Captain, but since I last saw you, you've gotten a wooden leg."

"Aar," the pirate says, "me leg was blown off by a cannon ball, so I was fitted with this wooden leg, but I'm fine, just fine."

"And you have a hook for a hand..."

"Aar, it happened in the heat of battle during a sword fight.  The blighter chopped off my hand, but the doctor gave me this here hook, so I'm fine, just fine."

"And you're wearing an eyepatch..."

"Aar, I used ta have two good eyes but then I happened ta looked and a seagull pooped right in my eye."

The bartender stares at the pirate in wonder.  "Seagull poop made you lose an eye?"

"Well, I wasn't really used ta the hook."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


My Little Margie was Margie Albright (Gale Storm), the 21-year-old daughter of Vern Albright (Charles Farrell), with whom she shared an apartment.  Vern, a widower and member of an investment firm, has his hands full with his impressionable and often mad-cap daughter.  Margie's co-horts in mayhem usually included her boyfriend Freddy and her oft-married neighbor Mrs. Odetts.  The show was one of several domestic situation comedies that aired following the success of I Love Lucy; in fact, My Little Margie began as a summer replacement for I Love Lucy.

     In a very unusual move, the show -- with the same leads -- also appeared at the same time with original episodes on CBS radio.  It continued on CBS radio even after the television show moved from CBS to NBC in its third season.

     Gale Storm (born Josephine Cottle, 1922-2009) was still a teenager when she landed a one-year contract with RKO.  Her first role was in Tom Brown's School Days; she then did several low-budget pictures and sang in a number of shorts.  She moved to Monogram Studios where she appeared in about three dozen pictures and became one of the studios biggest stars.  This led to a number of television appearances and, in 1952, her role in My Little Margie.  At the same time her recording career began.  Her debut record, a cover of I Hear You Knockin', was a hit -- the first of many and led to a stage and nightclub career.  For personal reasons, Storm stopped recording after only two years.  Her star power led to another popular comedy series, The Gale Storm Show (also shown as Oh! Susannah) where she played a cruise director.  That show also featured Zasu Pitts and Roy Roberts in supporting roles.

     Charles Farrell (1901-1990) was a silent film star often linked on-screen with Janet Gaynor as his love interest.  Both segued to talkies and Farrell had a popular movie career that began to slow down in the early Fifties, when he moved to television and My Little Margie.  After that show, he appeared in the short-lived Charles Farrell Show, another sitcom, this time playing the owner of a small motel.  He was also an important supporter of the city of Palm Springs and served as its mayor for seven years duing the 1950s.

     Gertrude W. Hoffman (born Eliza Gertrude Wesselhoeft, 1871-1968) played Mrs. Odetts (my favorite character from the series).  Although born in Germany, she was raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and married Ralph Hoffman, an ornithologist and teacher of natural history.  Her husband died in 1932 from a fall while on a scientific expedition.  The following year she began a thirty-year career in films. A talented character actress she appeared in such films as Foreign Correspondent, The War of the  Worlds, and Not As a Stranger.  As Mrs. Odetts, she only appeared in twenty-five of the one hundred twenty-six of the show's episodes.

     My Little Margie was created by Frank Fox, who had previously written for The Colgate Comedy Hour, and was produced by Roland Reed TV productions and was filmed at Hal Roach Studio.  The series ran from June 16, 1952 to August 24, 1955.

     From September 22, 1954, "Star of Khyber":

     And the link below should take you to four of the twenty-three radio broadcasts known to still exist.  Please  note that the role of Mrs. Odetts was played by Vera Felton on the radio series.

     My Little Margie also made it to the comic books.  This llnk shows some of the covers:

     As Charles Farrell stated at the end of every show, "Well, that's my little Margie."


     For more of today's Overlooked Film, Television, and A/V, stop by My Little Todd Mason's great blog Sweet Freedom, where Todd will have an evergrowing list of links as well as his own insights,

Monday, June 11, 2012


Heavy this week on fantasy -- the Jennifer Robison 12-volume pile covering two series looks intimidating all at once.  (I may never get to the fart and pus book unless I am called to give a public reading; that should ensure no reinvite.  Bwahahahahaha!)
  • Joan Aiken, Beware the Bouquet.  Mystery/thriller marketed as a Gothic.  Published in the U.K. as Trouble with Product X.
  • Steve Alten, Meg:  Hell's Aqaurium.  Horror; one of a series about megalodons muching on people.
  • Robert Asprin, M.Y.T.H. Inc. Link.  Fantasy.  Yeah, I know I got this book in an omnibus a few weeks ago, but this is the Starblaze edition.  That counts for something, doesn't it?
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley and Paul Edwin Zimmer, Hunters of the Red Moon.  SD.
  • Gardner Dozois, editor, The Year's Best Science Fiction:  Seventeenth Annual Collection.  Twenty-seven stories from 1999.
  • David G. Hartwell, editor, Year's Best SF 2.  SF anthology with 20 stories from 1996.
  • Raymond J. Martinez, Mysterious Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen and Folk Tales Along the Mississippi.  A 1956 compilation of articles published by Hope Publications in New Orleans (which may or may not be the author's self-publishing house) and illustrated with photographs and incredibly racist drawings.
  • Joy Masoff. Oh Yuck!  The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty.  Maggots, poop, pus, snot, and everything gross.  Perfect for a twelve-year-old boy, right?  Mark said it was too gross, even for him.  Oh, well.
  • Janet Morris, editor, Masters in Hell.  Shared world anthology with nine stories famous people in Hell.
  • T. Jefferson Parker, Little Saigon.  Thriller.
  • Jennifer Robinson, Shape-Changers, The Song of Homana, Legacy of the Sword, Track of the White Wolf, A Pride of Princes, Daughter of the Lion, Flight of the Raven, and ATapestry of Lions.  Eight-book fantasy series Chronicles of the Cheysuli, first intended as a single book, then a trilogy, and fnally an octet.  Also Sword Dancer, Sword-Singer, Sword-Maker, and Sword-Breaker, a four-part fantasy series.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


The new blogger keeps trying my patience.  I've spent the last five days trying to make it work.  For me, it eats up three-quarters of the tool bar, allows me to put in a headline but doesn't allow me to write the body of the post, and refuses to allow me change or correct any previous drafts I had done.  And don't get me going on the "Having problems?  Try Google Chrome" fiasco.  Udders on a bull, I'm telling you.  Ptah!  I'm done with it.

     I finally managed to circumvent everything and get the old, unimproved, often reliable Blogger back, so regular posting should start again tomorrow.

    In the meantime I see that I've missed participating in the annual naked bike ride in Madrid once again.  Just as well.  That would be an image you would not want in your head.  I don't know what my excuse for not participating next will be, but I'm sure I'll come up with a good one.

Monday, June 4, 2012


  • "William Arden" (Dennis Lynds), The Three Investigators #10:  The Mystery of the Singing Cave.  Juvenile mystery.  This edition drops all mention of Alfred Hitchcock.  Arden/Lynds went on to write a dozen more in the original series; other authors were M. V. Carey and Marc Brandel.  Arden also wrote one book in a follow-up series.
  • Rober Arthur, The Three Investigators #1: The Secret of Terror Castle, #2:  The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, #4:  The Mystery of the Green Ghost, #5:  The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure, and #11:  The Mystery of the Talking Skull.  Juvenile mysteries, again sans Alfred Hitchcock.  And, yes, the Arden book (#10) was published before Arthur's Talking Skull (#11), the last book in the series written by its creator.
  • Orson Scott Card, Pastwatch:  The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.  SF.  Many hate Card because of his politics, but he has written some good stuff (but not, IMHO, the Ender series). I like his Alvin Maker series and some of his short fiction, so I'm willing to give this one a try.
  • Tom Coffey, The Serpent Club. Thriller.
  • Jeffrey Deaver, The Vanished Man.  A Lincoln Rhyme mystery.
  • Annie Dillard, The Writing Life.  Memoir, advice, wisdom.
  • Loup Durand, Daddy.  WWII thriller.  Translated from the French by John Maxwell Brownjohn.
  • Ron Ely, Fast Beach.  The second Jake Sands mystery by the former television Tarzan.
  • Linda Fairstein, The Bone Vault.  An Alexandra Cooper mystery.
  • Geary Gravel, Might andMagic, Book One:  The Dreamwright.  The first in a gaming tie-in trilogy.
  • Andrew M. Greeley and Michael Cassutt, editors, Sacred Visions.  Anthology with a dozen religious-themed (specifically Catholic) SF stories.
  • James Neal Harvey, By Reason of Insanity.  Thriller.
  • William W. Johnstone, Cat's Eye and Return of the Mountain Man.  A horror novel and a western.  Guess which is which.
  • Jonathan  Kellerman, Theconspiracy Club.  A mystery with a psycholist who is not Alex Delaware.
  • William Lasher, Fatal Flaw.  Legal thriller.
  • Jonathan Letham, Motherless Brooklyn.  Literary detective novel, greeted by some liteterary critics as if that was a strange thing.
  • Bentley Little, The Association.  Can a book about a homeowner's association be anything but horror?
  • Graham Masterton, Manitou Blood.  Horror.
  • Steve Perry, The 97th Step.  SF.
  • Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Quicksilver.  Technothriller.  The Pentagon held hostage; published two years before 9-11.
  • Lisa Scottoline, Daddy's Girl.  Thriller.
  • Wilbur Smith, Assegai.  Historical thriller.  Daring-do in WWI British East Africa.
  • Kathy Hogan Trocheck, Heart Trouble.  The fifth Callahan Garrity mystery.

Friday, June 1, 2012


Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar (1952)

Today is Margaret Millar Day for your merry little band of Friday's Forgotten Books bloggers.  Millar, of course, was a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, author of over two dozen books, including a memoir and a posthumous collection of short stories.  Most readers today recognize her (if at all) as the wife of Kenneth Millar ("Ross MacDonald," the creator of PI Lew Archer), not realizing that she crafted some of the best mystery novels of the Twentieth Century.

     Vanish in an Instant was her thirteenth book, and began as a suspense novel, quickly moved into a murder mystery, and by the fourth chapter morphed into a psychological study of dependency -- both physical and emotional -- all the while keeping the reader quickly turning pages.

     We begin with the rich and imperious Mrs. Hamilton and her newly hired companion, Alice Dwyer, arriving in the University town of Arbana, some twenty miles west of Detroit.  Mrs. Hamilton's married daughter Virginia is being held in the brutal murder of Claude Margolis, the man believed to be her lover.  Virginia was found, drunk and covered in blood, wandering through the snow a quarter mile from the murder scene.  Virginia's husband, Paul Barkeley, has hired local lawyer Eric Meecham to defend his wife.  Virginia, however, refuses to speak to Meecham -- or anyone else --until her mother arrives.  Even then, it appears almost certain that Virginia is guilty.

     Then comes a strange-looking, soft-spoken man who readily confesses to the murder.  Earl Loftus is dying of leukemia, and his confession has the ring of truth and is so detailed that the police cannot ignore it.  Knowing that he was dying, Loftus decided to do the world a favor and "rid the world of someone it would be better off without, some incorrigible criminal, perhaps, or a dangerous politician.  But when  the time and the opportunity came. it was Margolis.  I wish it could have been someone more important.  Margolis was very third-rate."

     With the confession, Virginia was released and Meecham's involvement in the case should have been over.  Meecham, however, was persuaded by Loftus to bring some letters and his about $700 in savings to his mother.  Before Meecham could act on the request, Loftus committed suicide, hanging himself in his hospital room.

     Meecham then begins a search for understanding Loftus and his crime, leading to revelations both expected and unexpected.  With scapal-like clarity, Millar lays bear the destructive dependencies of almost every character in the book, bringing the novel and its puzzle to a logical and satisfying conclusion.

     Millar proves herself once again to be one of the best mystery and suspense novelists of her time.



Need more of a Margaret Millar fix?  Stop by pattinase for links to more of today's Forgotten Books written by Millar and others.