Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, August 31, 2012


Australia's Gina Rinehart is vieing for the title of World's Wrongest Woman.  Current title holder Michelle Bachman is rumored to be shaking in her boots stilettos Jimmy Chos.


Hauntings and Horrors:  Ten Grisly Tales edited by Alden H. Norton (1969)

Before releasing nine anthologies of horror and of science fiction stories (from 1966 to 1973), Alden H. Norton was best known as an editor for the lower-tiered Popular Publications in the 1940s.  He served a three-year stint (from 1941 through 1943) as editor of Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories.  He rose to become the editorial director of 27 of Popular's magazines and green-lit publication of A. Merritt's Fantasy and the resurrection of Fantastic Novels.  Norton had the chops to select lesser-known, yet interesting, stories by important writers in the field.  Someone who also had the same chops was SF historian and fan Sam Moskowitz, who ghost-edited five of Norton's anthologies and received a co-editor's credit on the last four.  Moskowitz also provided the introduction and stories notes to Hauntings and Horrors, the fifrth anthology to be published under the Norton name.  I don't know if Moskowitz did the actual editing of this book, though.

Hauntings and Horrors presents ten stories that were otherwise unavailable to the average reader forty-three years ago:

  • The Maker of Moons by Robert W. Chambers was the lead novelet in a 1896 collection of the same title and had never been anthologized before its appearance in Hauntings and Horrors although the story had been reprinted in a chapbook by small-press Shroud Publcations in 1954.  The story combines sorcery and the counterfeiting (of gold!) in upstate New York forests.
  • The Delusion of Ralph Penwyn by Julian Hawthorne (son of Nathaniel) is a 1909 story of a haunted artist.  Julian, although prolific, seldom wrote as well as his father.  This story is included in the 1997 Ash-tress edition of The Rose of Death and Other Mysterious Delusions; I don't believe it is available online.
  • It Burns Me Up! by Ray Bradbury was an early effort for Dime Mystery, a story told from the point of view of a corpse.  It had never been previously reprinted and appeared in a single printing in Bradbury's 1984 collection A Memory of Murder
  • The Temple by H. P. Lovecraft is a minor story from Weird Tales.  It combines Lovecraft's effectiveness with his unfortunate tendency to stereotype.  It had been previously published in Lovecraft's virtually unattainable The Outsider and Others and later in his Dagon and Other Macabre Tales.
  • Head Man by Robert Bloch, from 15 Mystery Stories, is an example of Bloch's ghoulish humor.  It had been republished three years earlier in Bloch's paperback collection Chamber of Horrors.
  • The Albatross by William Hope Hodgson, from 1911, was one of the writer's weird sea stories.  It's next reprinting would be in 1975's Out of the Storm:  Uncollected Fantasies ( a Hodgson collection assembled by Moskowitz).
  • A Prophecy of Monsters by Clark Ashton Smith was a brief 1954 story from F&SF that had never been reprinted before.  Under the title Monsters in the Night, it was reprinted in Smith's 1970 collection Other Dimensions.
  • Over the Absinthe Bottle by W. C. Morrow first appeared under the title The Pale Dice-Thrower in a 1893 issue of The Argonaut and was included in Morrow's The Ape, the Idiot, and Other People four years later.  In 1933 it was a Weird Tales classic reprint; four years after that, The Book Club of California published it as the inaugural volume of a series of pamphlets by California authors.
  • No. 252 rue M. Le Prince is one of a handful of classic horror stories penned by architect Ralph Adams Cram and published in his 1895 book Black Spirits and White:   A Book of Ghost Stories.  It has previously been reprinted only once in America and once in Great Britain.
  • The Soul of Mozart by the little-known W. E. P. French came from a 1902 The Cosmopolitan.  Reincarnation and music combine in this story that has now become a classic of the genre.

The fact that these ten stories are, for the most part, well-known and available today speaks well for their selection in 1969.  Hauntings and Horrors has never been reprinted after its initial appearance as a Berkley Medallion paperback.  It and all the others that appeared under the Norton name cry to be reissued.


Thursday, August 30, 2012


"Rhodes went to Wal-Mart before going back by the jail.  He wanted to have a look at the jewelry counter because someone had told him once that a man couldn't go wrong if he gave jewelry as a gift.  Rhodes wasn't sure that was true, but he couldn't think of anything else to get for Ivy.  She might have been dropping subtle hints for months, but if she had, he hadn't caught them.  He wasn't good at subtle hints.  He needed something more blatant, like a direct statement, and there hadn't been anything like that."

--"The Empty Manger" by Bill Crider (2001)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


A doctor, an engineer, and a free-lance writer were at the Pearly Gates and Saint Peter wanted to know why they should go on through.

The doctor said that he had healed many people in his career.  Saint Peter looked up the doctor's name in his book, frowned, and told the doctor, "It says here that you've also sinned a lot in your life.  Sorry, but you have go downstairs."

The engineer went on and on about all the great engineering projects he had designed throughout the world.  Saint Peter looked up the engineer's name in his book, frowned, and said,  "Yes, but it says here that every project you worked on helped to destroy the environment.  You're going to have to go downstairs with the doctor."

The free-lance writer started by saying, "Well, I'm a free-lance writer..."

"Say no more!"  Saint Peter said.  "You've already been through Hell.  Welcome to Heaven!"

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Ceii turned sixteen today.  Wow.  It seems like yesterday when her mother turned sixteen.  I guess I'm getting old.

Ceili, though, embodies that old commercial slogan, you're not getting older, you're getting better.  She's a young woman now, and one that I am so very proud of.  It goes without saying that Ceili is beautiful, but I'm going to say it anyway:  Ceili is beautiful.  Her beauty from within matches her beauty without.  She is a sweet, funny, caring, talented girl, whip-smart and independent.

I first met her just a few minutes after she was born.  She melted my heart then.  My heart still melts every time I see her smile.  From day one, she made me remember an important lesson I had sometimes put aside.  Ceili, you see, was happy.  You could tell.  She was happy to be here.  She was happy to be.  As a baby, as a toddler, as a child, now as a young woman -- she brings a sense of joy to the world and to those around her.

She can be stubborn (she is her mother's child and her grandparents' granddaughter after all), but she also loyal and giving.  There is not a single bit of malice in her (something she specifically inherited from her mother and from Kitty).  If there is any person in the world you would want in your corner, it's Ceili.

I wish her, with all my love, a wondrous day today.  I know she's going to have a wonderful life, just as I know she has helped make my life so wonderful.


Here's a silent film from 1914 and written by L. Frank Baum from his book Queen Zixi of  Iz.

Two young children, Fluff and Bud, live with their father, a ferry man on the Vinegar River, until their father drowns.  They, and their pet donkey Nickodemus, are taken in by their Aunt Rivette, who decides to transport the entire family to Nole, the capitol city of Noland.  With her father dead and her having to leave her home, Fluff is probably the most unhappy girl in the kingdom.  Coincidently, the fairies of Oz have just woven a magic cloak that would grant the wearer one wish; the Fairy Messenger is sent to find an unhappy person to whom the cloak should be given.  Of course, Fluff ends up with the cloak and she wishes that she be happy once again.

The king of Noland has just died, leaving no issue.  When such a situation happens, according to Law #67476, the 47th person to enter the East Gate of the City after sunrise will named the supreme ruler of Noland.  Number 47 happens to be Bud, who is made king, while Fluff is named a princess.  The first thing the two do is empty the royal treasury to buy toys.

Nickodemus, meanwhile, didn't really care for Noland, so he runs away, only to be captured by robbers.  The crafty donkey manages to escape, and meets a number of animals in the woods, including a rather ill-tempered zoop (looks like a second cousin to the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys to me), the Lazy Lion (which IMDB has decreed to be the Cowardly Lion), and a friendly crow.  The crow convinces Nickodemus and the other animals to band together and attack the robbers.  They do so and rescue Little Mary, a young girl who had been stolen by the robbers.  After returning Little Mary to her parents, Nickodemus begins to miss his friends Fluff and Bud.  And so the donkey heads back to Nole.

Meanwhile in the nearby kingdom of Ix, the beautiful Queen Zixi hears about Fluff's magic cloak.  Beautiful Zixi might be, but she's also 683 years old and under a curse -- any mirror will reflect her true age.   Zixi disguises herself as a maid and steals the cloak.  This is ill-timed for Noland because the country is then invaded by the Rolly Rogues, a rather silly band of creatures who are fond of soup.

Juvenile and silly and designed -- as were Baum's books -- for very young children.  Yet The Magic Cloak of Oz has a great deal of charm and invention.  Acting chops go to Fred Woodward as the donkey Nickodemus.  Woodward also played various animals in The Scarecrow of Oz and The Patchwork Girl of Oz, both also released in 1914.  His few other recorded roles were also as animals, notably Hank the Mule.  Twelve-year-old Mildred Harris (1901-1944) played Fluff.  Harris had begun her movie career two years earlier and appeared in a number of silent films; most of her appearances in talkies were uncredited.  Violet MacMillan (1895-1953) played Fluff's younger brother Bud.  A strange bit of casting there -- athough shorter than Mildred Harris, she was noticably more developed than Harris.  MacMillan had played a Munchkin boy earlier that year in The Patchwork Girl of Oz and, later that year, played Dorothy in The New Wizard of Oz.  She evidently stopped acting around 1920.

I have not gone back to check, but I thought I saw [**attention:  Bill Crider**] an alligator among the animals marching against the robbers at about minute 22 of the film.  Towards the end of the film, there was also a boxy-looking, robot-looking animal fighting the Rolly Rascals -- a poor animal costume or maybe a Tin Man?  Who knows.

Anyway, I found the movie to be a lot of fun.  So much was thrown into the film that a lot of minor plot points were either unresolved and unexplained.  And, of course, the kids never faced any consequences for spending the country's entire wealth on toys.


Todd Mason will have all of the links to the rest of today's Overlooked Films & Whatnot at his blog, Sweet Freedom.

Monday, August 27, 2012


  • Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason, Ill Wind.  SF.
  • "Victor Appleton II" (house name), Four books in the Tom Swift Jr. series:  Tom Swift and His Megascope Space Prober (#20), Tom Swift and His Repelatron Skyway (#22), Tom Swift and His Polart-Ray Dynasphere (#25), and Tom Swift and His Subocean Geotron (#27).  All four of these were written by Jim Lawrence, who wrote 24 of the 33 books in  the series.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, City of Sorcery.  Fantasy, a Darkover novel.  Bradley adds a note that this novel was inspired by Talbot Mundy's 1926 book The Devil's Guard
  • Don Coldsmith, The Traveler.  Western in the Spanish Bit series.
  • "Paula Fairman," River of Passion.  Historic romance.  Despite the similarity in names, this is not a pseudonym for SF/mystery author Paul W. Fairman; rather, this was written by Robert Vaughan (not the actor) under one of his 35 pseudonyms.
  • Steven Gould, Jumper:  Griffin's Story.  YA SF movie tie-in novel.  Gould wrote this to be consistent with the movie made from his novels Jumper and Reflex.
  • William W. Johnstone, The Last of the Dog Team.  Men's Adventure.
  • Tanith Lee, Red Unicorn.  YA fantasy, sequel to Black Unicorn and Gold Unicorn.
  • Gregory McGuire, Seven Spiders Spinning.  Juvenile fantasy.  I  don't like spiders.  Hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em.  Stomp those suckers flat, I say.
  • "Jack McKinney" (joint pseudonym of Brian Daley and James Lucerno), Robotech First Generation #1:  Genesis.  Gaming tie-in novel.
  • James A. Moore, Writ in Blood.  Horror.
  • David Morrell, The Spy Who Came for Christmas.  Thriller.
  • Barbara Neely, Blanche Among the Talented Tenth.  Mystery.
  • Jack Olsen, Night Watch.  Thriller.
  • John Shirley, Constantine.  Movie tie-in novel.  Based on characters in the Hellblazer graphjic novels.
  • Joan Slonczewski, A Door Into Ocean.  SF.
  • Wen Spencer, A Brother's Price.  SF.
  • Bruse Sterling, Holy Fire.  SF.
  • Patricia Telep, editor, The Mammoth Book of Special Ops Romance.  Don't know why the hell I picked this one up.  Twenty stories.
  • Harry Turtledove, Darkness Descending.  Alternate World War II fantasy novel.
  • Gore Vidal, The American Presidency, Dreaming War:  Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, and Perpetua; War for Perpetual peace:  How We Got To Be So Hated.  Essays.  When Vidal died recently, I realized it had been years since I had read anything by him so I picked these essays that were designed to be provocative.
  • Gerald Walker, Cruising.  Thriller.
  • Pamela West, Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper.  Historical mystery, but not by Robert Bloch.
  • Leonard Wibberley, The Mouse on the Moon.  The Duchy of Grand Fenwick!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen by Bill Crider

There are a few absolute certainties in my life...the sun will rise in the east, my love for my family will never diminish, cats are smarter than dogs but they just won't deign to prove it, and I will never be able to overcome my gene for snarkiness.  Also certain is that I will gobble up the latest Dan Rhodes mystery by Bill Crider.  Rhodes is the sheriff of Blacklin County, Texas, and Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen is the nineteenth novel in the series and it's a corker.

Lynn Ashton, a beautician working at the Beauty Shack, is found dead in the shop, battered by her hairdryer.  Lynn had a reputation for dating married men, although specifics were missing from the rumor mill.  Suspicion, however, is immediately thrown to two Hispanic vagrants who are living in a vacant building across the street from the Beauty Shack.  The vagrants appear to have some connection with a nearby "reclaimation center" (a fancy term for a junkyard) whose owners are hidden by layers of shell companies.  Rhodes discovers the body of an antique shop owner, shot through the head; the victim happened to be the last person to have an appointment with Lynn Ashton.

Rhodes is a smart and decent man, patient with the minutia of his life and of small town living.  His wife wants him to stick to his diet but he often stops by the local Dairy Queen.  He loves his dogs more than he does the cat.  He insists that he is nothing like Sage Barton, the fictional adventure hero who happens to be modeled on Rhodes, but secretly he enjoys the comparison.  He sometimes gets his own back at his dispatcher and his jailer (both of whom love to gossip and to draw their stories -- and, at times, information about current cases -- out).  He patiently deals with feral hogs and pregnant goats and whatever else may be bothering the citizens of Blacklin County.  He's respectful to those who deserve his respect and politic to others.  He's not apt to jump to conclusions about people or about his cases.  He has an instinctive feeling when he's missing something that he should remember about the case.

Bill Crider has always presented a fairly-clued mystery.  His easy style is well-fitted to the rural mysteries Dan Rhodes encounters.  But Crider offers something more -- a spot-on depiction of small-town life with its day to day concerns.  The town of Clearview has fallen on hard times.  The downtown section has all but been abandoned for the big box stores near a major highway.  Main Street itself is crumbling.  Businesses that once were bustling are now struggling to survive; many other businesses have gone belly-up.  Times have changed and many of the residents feel this change is for the worse.  (Heck, they are even not making Dr. Pepper with real sugar any more.)  Rhodes can sympathize with those feelings, but he also realizes every age is nostalgic for the times of its youth.  Times may not be worse, just different.  Crider works his magic in a way to make today's hard times an additional and important character in the book.

Because of this, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen takes a slightly darker tone than many of the previous novels in the series, but Rhodes is still Rhodes and Blacklin County is still populated with many of the well-drawn characters we have met before in the series.  There are in-jokes and references (Chen Shuan martial arts, Ray Slater, "alcohol was involved," and others), comments on old paperback books and electronic publishing, the state of newspapers, and references to television shows, westerns, and popular singers.

Make no mistake about it, Bill Crider is a major writer.  He is also a deceptive writer.  He makes it all look so damned easy, but he has taken the rural cozy mystery and has elevated it to provide a snapshot of where we are today as a people.  And he makes the whole thing highly enjoyable.

Definitely recommended.


A three-fer from Big Bill:

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Cartoonist Ted Key (Theodore Keyser, 1912-2008) would have been one hundred years old today.  Key was the creator of Hazel, the savvy outspoken housemaid who appeared in single panel cartoons beginning in 1943.  Hazel appeared regularly in The Saturday Evening Post until the magazine folded in 1969.  Hazel then moved to an original daily newspaper feature for the King syndicate until Key retired in 1993; from that point on, the syndicate continued the cartoon with daily reprints.  Hazel began a four-year run on national television in 1961 with Shirley Booth in the title role.

Key also created the Peabody's Improbable History segment for Jay Ward's classic The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show

Key wrote three films for the Disney studios:  Million Dollar Duck (1971), Gus (1976), and The Cat from Outer Space (1978).  (Million Dollar Duck has the distinction of being only one of three films that critic Gene Siskel walked out of during his professional career.  Oh, well.)

Among Ted Key's books is 1960's The Biggest Dog in the World (filmed as Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World, 1973), which was published two years before Norman Bridwellfirst drew the sketch that became Clifford, The Big Red Dog.  Hmmm.


I realized the other day that my children -- rightly or wrongly -- had never seen a game of donkey ball.  The same for my graandchildren.  When I was a kid, donkey ball was a popular fund raiser for our local fire department, but that was long ago and far away.

I'm sure that some of you are wondering what the heck is donkey ball?  Donkey ball is a softball game with donkeys.  It can be played on any flat field.  Each player had a donkey.  If player got a hit, he had to hop on his donkey and try to ride it to base; if a player caught a ball, he had to get on his donkey before he could throw it.  The fact that the players were all local people who you knew and the fact that the donkeys were unpredictable and often uncooperative made the game fun.  Donkey ball began to be popular around 1930 and was very popular for the next few decades.

Donkey ball is still around, although many places have banned it.  A quick check of the internet shows that at least three major companies still provide donkeys for fundraisers in much of the United States -- usually in small towns, often in the mid-West and the South.  (A word to the wise:  when googling "donkey ball," do not make the search word plural.)  These company also sponsor donkey basketball (usually played in a school gym, with a band of teenagers shovel ready.) and donkey races.

There are a number of ethical concerns about the game.  Donkeys can usually carry more weight on their backs than horses, but there's a limit.  Local players can often be heavy and are not experienced riders.  In theory, players are not supposed to hit their mounts.  And (also in theory) the safety and the proper treatment of the animals is paramount.  (Some doubt may be cast there.)   There have also been accusations that food and water may be withheld from the animals before a game to help prevent what comes naturally; I can vouch that food and water did not seem to be withheld in the games I saw.  All of this concerns me now, but when I was ten-years-old neither I nor anyone else involved that I knew -- either as a spectator or a participant -- had that on our radar.

Sometimes our memories of the good old days are tinged with a dollop of guilt.
From 1935, here's a Pete Smith documentary on the "sport":

Friday, August 24, 2012


Jerry Nelson, the voice of the Count on SESAME STREET, has died.  He helped generations learn to count and in my mind I am still counting:  one cookie...two cookies...three cookies!  Ah-ha-haha!


The Black Mask Murders by William F. Nolan (1994)

In his anthology and study of Black Mask magazine The Black Mask Boys (1985), William F. Nolan focused on eight of the magazine's most famous writers:  Carroll John Daly, Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner, Raoul Whitfield, Feederick Nebel, Paul Cain, and Raymond Chandler.  The most famous of this eight (Hammett, Gardner, and Chandler) became the protagonists of Nolan's Black Mask Boys mystery series, beginning in 1985 with the publication of this novel.

The narrator of The Black Mask Boys is Hammett.  The time is 1935 and the place is Los Angeles.  Dash Hammett is living the cushy life as a Hollywood scriptwriter, or, he would be if  he didn't blow through the money as fast as at came in.  Now Dash is hired to develop a gangster scenario for sexy star Sylvia Vane.  Sylvia (it turns out) is in the hooks to a big-time gangster for a $50,000 gambling debt.  She asks Dash to intervene, dangling the promise of a romantic evening.  Dash, a former Pinkerton, happily accepts Sylvia's offer.  What he gets out of the deal, though, is a knock on the head and a drop in the ocean.  Saved from drowning by a passing fisherman, he soons finds himself out of a job and stumbling onto Sylvia's corpse.

Soon after Sylvia's murder hit the papers, Dash got a telephone call from Joe ("Cap") Shaw, his old editor at Black Mask magazine, with a startling admission.  Before she was an actress and under a different name, Sylvia had been Shaw's lover in New York...and she had a daughter by Shaw.  Shaw asks Dash to meet him in New York because Shaw needs his help desperately.  In New York Shaw shows Dash a letter threatening the daughter's life in exchange for the "Cat's Eye," a cursed jewel that (after a nine hundred year history) that had come down to Shaw's family.

The Cat's Eye...the stuff that dreams are made of...something that has brought death and sorrow with it over many years...a jewel beyond price, imbedded in the eye socket of a skull that was looted during the crusades...sound vaguely familiar?  The Dashiell Hammett in this book had used it as the basis of the Maltese Falcon in his famous novel.  (In real life, Hammett evidently used something similar that belonged to a fellow Pinkerton agent in the 1920s.)

Dash recognizes the writing on the letter as that of Tony Richetti, the gangster who had left him to die in the ocean shortly before Sylvia's murder.  Dash agrees to carry the Cat's Eye back to Los Angeles to the drop off point.  At the drop off, however, he gets another knock on the head, waking up to find the mysterious artifact gone.  With friend and fellow writer Erle Stanley Gardner at the helm, and accompanied by Raymond Chandler, Dash motors out to Rachetti's gambling boat (which is moored just outside the three-mile limit), hoping to find and rescue Shaw's daughter.  As they approach the gaambiling boat, there is a loud explosion and a fire, presumably the work of a gangland rival.  Using the fire as a distraction, Dash and Chandler discover the bodies of Rachetti and a young girl.  They were too late.

From that point the bodies begin to pile up, and Hammett, Chandler, and Gardner are continually drawn into the deadly legacy of the Cat's Eye.  Along the way, we are introduce to a number of real-world luminaries of the time:  Carroll John Daly, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ben Hecht, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Corwin, Max Brand, and a fifteen-year-old autograph hound named Ray Bradbury, among others.  We are also treated some of the inside gossip of Hollywood at the time.  And there are some "Tuckerizations" (so named after Wilson  "Bob" Tucker, who was known for inserting some of his real-world friends into his fiction);  Among those I caught were Ernie Bulow, Jack McLay, and a L.A. police lieutenant named Etchison.

Nolan weaves together many of his interests that he has touched upon in some of his other books  (Hollywood, automobiles, the pulps -- and he has written biographies of Hammett, Bradbury, and Hemingway), all of which adds authenticity.  The Black Mask Murders is a breezy, fast-moving book that blends fact and fiction and brings back the flavor and the personality of the time.  

And, yes, I did figure out the solution, but not until close to the end -- a red herring did its early work well.  Recommended.

Nolan followed this book with The Marble Orchard (1996, with Chandler narrating) and Sharks Never Sleep (1998, featuring Gardner as the narrator).  More, following the same progression of narrators, were hinted at but never published.  Too bad.


As usual, our fearless leader Patti Abbott will have the links to all of today's Forgotten Books, as well as a few reviews, at her blog pattinase.

(SHOUT OUT DEPT.  Patti's daughter Megan Abbott's latest book Dare Me has been optioned by Karen Rosenfelt, the producer of The Devil Wears Prada.  Congratulations to Megan, one of the most talented and insightful authors working today!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Poor Lassie became obsolete the day Timmy got a cell phone.

"Dad?  I've fallen down the stupid well again."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Tales of Tomorrow was an early television effort to bring adult science fiction to the medium.  Eighty-five episodes were filmed beginning on August 3, 1951.  The very first episode was a live telecast of Theodore Sturgeon's story And the Sky Was Full of Ships, retitled Verdict from Space and with a script by Sturgeon.  The episode was directed by Leonard Valente and featured Len McCallister, Martin Brendt, William Lally, Bernard Lenrow, and Watson White.    (Interestingly, the technical director appears to be Walter Kubilius, someone science fiction writer and one-time Futurian.)

The previous year, Sturgeon had adapted the story for a proposed radio show Beyond Tomorrow that may or may not have been aired.  Only three episodes were taped, along with a preview show.  What was cool here is that the host of the show was none other John W. Campbell, Jr., the legendary editor of Astounding Science Fiction.  Episode One adapted a Robart A. Heinlein story; Episode Three a story by Graham Doar; in between was Sturgeon's story.  From the radio show Beyond Tomorrow, here's another version written by Sturgeon, titled  Incident at Switchpath.  (Also included at the link are three episodes from the radio show Exploring Tomorrow.  These episode include Liar [from an Isaac Asimove story], Mimic [scripted by Robert Silverberg from his novel Invaders from Earth], and The Trouble with Robots [ also known as New Transylvania or The Hunting Lodge, from Randall Garrett's story, The Hunting Lodge].  Exploring Tomorrow was also hosted by John W. Campbell. Jr.) )

Incident at Switchpath was directed by Mitchell Grayson and features Bret Morrison (who also played The Shadow for ten years on radio) and Michael O'Day.

The source story was originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in June 1947.  It's been reprinted in Judith Merril's Shot in the Dark (1950), in Damon Knight's The Shape of Things (1965), and in Helen Tono's S-F Yearbook #1 (1967), as well as (under the title The Cave of History) in both George W. Earley's Encounter with Aliens (1968) and Peter Haining's The Ancient Mysteries Reader (1975).  It has also been included in  the collections The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon (1972) and Thunder and Roses:  the Collected Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume IV (1997).  But nothing beats reading the story in its original pulp appearance, so here's the June 1947 issue of TWS, with  the original magazine version of The Sky Was Full of Ships.  (As a bonus, this issue has three stories by "Murray Leinster" -- as "Leinster," as "William Fitzgerald," and under his real name, Will F. Jenkins -- and stories by Federik Pohl [as "James McCreigh"], Henry Kuttner [as "Hudson Hastings"], and Jerry Shelton.  And in the Letters column this issue are letters from future writers Marion E. Zimmer [pre-"Bradley"] and Lin Carter, as well as from well-known fans Rick Sneary and Redd Boggs, among others.)

For more Overlooked Stuff for today, check out Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom, where he will have all the links.

Monday, August 20, 2012


  • Robert Adams, The Seven Magical Jewels of Ireland.  SF novel, #2 in the Castaways in Time series.
  • "Nick Carter" (Dennis Lynds this time), Killmaster #194:  The Mayan Connection.  Men's action adventure.  Lynds was also "Michael Collins" (he of the Dan Fortune PI novels), "William Arden" (he of the Kane Jackson novels and fourteen of The Three Investigator juvenile books), one of the later "Maxwell Grant"s (with ten novels about the Shadow), and "Carl Dekker," and "Mark Sandler," and "John Crowe," and probably others. 
  • Marc Ceransini, 24 Declassified:  Operation Hell Gate. Television tie-in, the first in the series.  Sucks to be Jack Bauer.
  • C. J. Cherryh, Fortress in the Eye of Time and Fortress of Eagles, the first two books in a fantasy series, and The Morgaine Saga, an omnibus volume containing the SF novels Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan, and Fires of Azeroth.
  • Ralph Cotton, Ralph Compton's The Shadow of a Noose.  Western, the second book in a trilogy (that's what the cover says, anyway; there's now four books in this "trilogy"), following Death Rides a Chesnut Mare.
  • Jeffrey Deaver, Roadside Crosses.  A Kathryn Dance thriller.
  • [Detective Book Club], two omnibus volumes.  The first contains Sow Death, Reap Death by "Hugh Pentecost" (Judson Phillips), about the "mod" PR man Julian Quist, Done in Daggers by Sara Woods, a Barrister Antony Maitland mystery, and The Golden Sabre by John Cleary.  The second volume contains The Devil's Novice by "Ellis Peters" (Edith Parteger), a Brother Cadfael novel, Killed on the Ice by William L. deAndrea, a Matt Cobb mystery, and The Company of Saints by Evelyn Anthony, a Davina Graham spy-gal book.
  • "Greg Donegan" (Robert Mayer), Atlantis:  Bermuda Triangle.  Thriller.
  • John Farris, Nightfall.  Horror.
  • Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk Is Cleaned Out.  Television tie-in.  Would it be bad of me to say the readers find these books "obsessive"?
  • Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars.  This edition adds a bonus story, "Under the Weather."
  • Deborah LeBlanc, Water Witch.  Horror.
  • Paul Levinson, Borrowed Tides.  SF.
  • Hunter Morgan, She'll Never Know.  Romantic Suspense.
  • Mary Doria Russell, A Thread of Grace.  Novel.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Biff Elliott, who starred as the tough-guy P.I. Mike Hammer in the 1953 film I, The Jury, passed away Wednesday at age 89.  He was born Leon Shalek in Lynn, Massacusetts, the son of a former semi-pro baseball player.  A talented boxer as a youth, he was slated to appear in the New England Regional championships until his mother found out and put a stop to his nascent boxing career.  Following a stint in the Army during World War II, he set out to be a writer; failing that, he turned to acting.  Among his other movie credits were Kotch, The Enemy Below, and the Lemmon-Matthau version of The Front Page, as well as the Mamie Van Doren vehicle The Navy vs. Night Monsters.  Among his many television credits were episodes of Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Planet of the Apes, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

But for many of us, he will always be Mike Hammer.


Ninety-two years ago today the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, given women the vote and moving us closer to a more perfect union.

She wasn't around ninety-two years ago but, at eighty-seven, Betty Hazell certainly appreciates what happened only a few years before she was born:

You can hum either song when you go to vote in November.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Soviet Science Fiction, edited anonymously and translated by Violet L. Dutt (1962)

My choice this week has an interesting background.  It was originally published in 1961 as A Visitor From Outer Space by Foreign Languages Publishing House; the book's spine (according to ISFDB) said only "Science Fiction Stories by Soviet Writers."  It was then published under the Soviet Science Fiction title by Collier Books (has any paperback publisher had worse cover design?) proclaiming a new introduction by Isaac Asimov, leading some biographers and libraries to state that Asimov was the editor.  The Collier editions (there were four of them from 1962 to 1971) eliminated the authors' biography and -- in a fit of mercy -- the footnotes to the story A Visitor From Outer Space; the footnotes were actually longer than the story and supported an odd theory about the 1908 Siberian Tungus meteor [?] strike.  There may have been other excisions from the book that I am not aware of.  The cover of the 1962 Collier edition I read has the tag lline "Striking Tales of Outer Space" on the front cover and "Life in outer space, Russian style" on the back cover.  Hmm.  Only one of the six stories in the anthology is an outer space story however

The six stories in this anthology were among the first Soviet science fiction stories to appear in the West.  For the most part they could have been written by writers from any country; there doesn't seem to be any heavy-handed Soviet inprint on any of them-- there's a universality about them.  Sadly, they are also creaky and clunky.  They could have been used as filler material in science fiction magazines of the Twenties and early thirtiies.

The book opens with the novella Hoity-Toity (1930) by Alexander Beliaev (The book gives the author's name as A. Belayev).  The title character is an amazingly intelligent circus elephant who insists he is a man.  Through a long and twisty narration we learn that the elephant has had a man's brain transplanted in its skull.  The man had been an assistant of Russian professor Wagner who, for some reason, kept his brain in a jar fed with nutrients that enabled the brain to grow in size.  When Ring (the assistant/brain in a jar) expressed a desire to once again have a body, only an elephant's skull was large enough to contain him.  From an interesting introduction, the story rapidly devolves into an African tale. 

Beliaev (1884-1942) wrote at least eight stories about Professor Wagner from 1926 to 1936 which were collected in a Russian volume in 1988.  At least three of Beliaev's novels and three other short stories (including a Professor Wagner story) have appeared in English.

Spontaneous Reflex (1958) by brothers Arkady (1925-1991) and Boris (b. 1933) Strugatsky is a story about a robot gone rogue.  Think Asimov without the Three Laws and a bit confusing.  Unlike the robot, the story goes nowhere.  The brothers are arguably the best-known and most popular Soviet-era science fiction writers with over twenty-five books published, the most famous being Roadside Picnic.  The vast majority of theeir work has been published in English.

A Visitor from Outer Space (1951) and The Martian (1958) both by Alexander Kazantsev (1906-2002).  Both take place on the Georgy Sedov, a Russian ship exploring the polar region and both are (for lack of a better description) club  tales, stories told to other crew members.  The first posits that the Tungus explosion in Siberia was caused by the destruction of a spaceship flying above the site.  The second has an oddly-shaped person waiting since 1908 to get back to his home planet Mars, hoping to use Earth technology to save his people.  Neither story made much sense to me.  Kazantsev was an UFOlogist who was evidently very popular in Russia.  Only one of his science fiction novels and one collection of non-genre stories about the arctic have been published in English.

Infra Draconis (1958) by Georgy Gurevich (1917-1998) is the only outer space story in the batch and it's a fairly interesting one.  At a time when the average life span is well over a hundred years old, a retired space hero and five explorers embark on a thirteen year flight to find theoretic "dark stars," planets just beyond the solar system that are heated from within rather from the sun.  The first they find is an icebound planet not suitable for human habitation.  There is another "dark star" a year's journey away from that and they head for that, only to find out that the planet is covered entirely with water.  The captain decides that he will take a bathysphere into the planet's depths while the remaining crew will take  the long voyage back to Earth to report on their findings.  The captain's descent into the ocean world is reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke's story A Meeting with Medusa.  Gurevich was a bulding engineer; as far as I can tell, this is his only work to appear in English.

Finally, we have Professor Bern's Awakening (1956) by Vladimir Savchenko.  The title character is convinced mankind is doomed, so he puts himself into a cryogenic state for thirteen thousand years to prove himself right.  At this point the reader has to say, "Huh?"  Bern awakens in the future and is soon killed by a beast.  Dying, he's convinced he was right about mankind's fate.  But -- ha, ha! -- it turns out he was in some future nature preserve.  This one could have been a third-rate Twilight Zone episode.  Vladimir Savchenko (not to be confused with the later Ukraininan football player) was a Ukrainian writer and electronics engineer whose only novel in English was also published by Collier Books.

Soviet Science Fiction was not the best showcase for Russian SF writers but it did presage a slow trickle of similar, but better, anthologies.  I don't know if it truly reflected Russian science fiction of the time, but it probably reflected what the Soviets thought would appeal to an English-speaking audience.  At this in this book Americans are not portrayed as evil (as they would be in some Soviet SF novels) and mankind is often portrayed as striving for peace and progress.  Recommended only for the curious, the completists, and those who like their stories clunky.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Paul Bishop's blog Bish's Beat is one of my daily stops.  His last two posts really knocked me out:

Here's the Talbot-Lago t23 Teardrop coupe.  I want one!  (I probaly can't fit into it, but I want one!):

And there are the newly-designed e-Book covers for his Detective Fey Croaker series.  Wow.  Just wow!  David Foster did a fantastic design -- dare I say, near perfect? -- job.  Congrats all around.

And if you haven't been checking out Bish's Beat, where the heck have you been?




It's been a week since we welcome our new housemate and it seems to be working out.  I've always been more of a cat (felix purrus) person, but I really do like most animals.  So when Kitty's cat (felix sneezus) allergy grew to an unexceptable level, it was time to investigate a different type of animal and that meant a dog.  Let's face it:  a fish was out of the question (you can't make a pet out of something that was meant to be fried).  Ditto a rabbit (nature designed them to bring chocolate eggs, not to fetch, roll over, or pee in the neighbor's garden).  A snake?  Forgettaboutit.  Llamas, pigs or goats would be nice, but they are seldom housebroken and our property owners association forbids them.  Chickens?  Fresh eggs would be nice, but see above re: housebroken, property owners association, and animals meant to be fried.  Thus, a dog.

Now, we had dogs when I was a kid (Teddy, whom I don't really remember, and Polly, a half-Newfoundland half-Saint Bernard who would go into the woods on a hot summer day and laze in a stream, coming back out of the woods once she -- and the day -- had cooled, frightening passers-by who mistook her for a bear) and Kitty also had dogs (Dinny, a black cocker spaniel, and then Yancy -- yes, she named him for Yancy Derringer -- a large, protective German Shepherd with an instinctive dislike for men, especially men who came near Kitty -- worse luck for me).  When our kids were growing up, we had Molly (a Black Lab pup who was just too active for us) and McGillicuddy (a snaggle-toothed Pekinese who thought he was smarter than we were and might have been right).

So last week we rescued Declan from the shelter, an eight-year-old neutered Black Lab (canis stupiditus).  Declan had been to the shelter before and had been adopted.  The adoptor snuck back to the shelter at night and left the Declan in an outdoor cage.   When the shelter contacted him, he refused to take the dog back.  There didn't seem to be anything wrong with Declan and I expect the owner had reasons that had nothing to do with the dog (expenses, maybe?  lost job, maybe?  moving, maybe?  Who knows?)

Declan is a sweet dog.  Housebroken.  (Yea!)  Gentle.  (Yea!)  Great with kids.  (Yea!)  Sometimes will sit on command.  (We're working on it.)   Really, really, really loves us.  (He's not smart enough to pull this off if it was an act.)  Can't understand why I'll fill his water dish four or five times a day and won't do the same for his food bowl.  (Canis stupiditus, remember?)   Is not a barker.  (Well, barking at squirrels, passing dogs, people coming up the steps, and invisible air monsters don't really count.)  Does not like vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, or the dishwasher.  (They could be in league with the invisible air monsters, you know?)  Likes to sleep.  (We're sympatico, he and I.)   Does not pull on the leash.  (Squirrels, passing dogs, and invisible air monsters an obvious exception.)  Is going to need some work on learning to heel.  (I need the exercise.)  Does not answer to his name.  (He's convinced his name is the sound of Old Roy pouring into his food bowl -- canis stupiditus, remember?)

It's been an interesting week.  I'm looking forward to many more.

Welcome, Declan.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


August 15th is a good day to be born.  You share a birthday with Napoleon, Sir Walter Scott, Rose Marie, Linda Ellerbee, Princess Anne...and, most important of all, Jessamyn.  A perfect baby, a perfect little girl, a perfect person.

Everyone is proud of their children, but we were convinced that Jessie was prettier, smarter, and sweeter than any other child, ever.  Her laugh is infectious.  Her smile will melt your heart.  Her kindness, her empathy, her ability to cope with any adversity, her courage -- I'd match Jessie against anyone I know.

I've written on this blog about her before, and about some of problems life has thrown at her as the widowed mother of two teenagers. The hardest job in the world is to raise a good person.  Kitty and I have done that, and Jessie is now doing that with both Ceili and Amy.  I am so proud of her and I will love her until the day I die.

Happy birthday, Sweetheart.  I love you.


Everyone was surprised when Old John, a long-time widower well into his nineties, married a beautiful and sexy eighteen-year-old girl.  More than a few of his friends were smirking at the idea.  One even dared ask him how the wedding night went.

"Well," he said, "on the wedding night two of my sons carried me in to the bedroom and lifted me onto the bed.  Then they went out and closed the door.  Next morning, six of my sons came in and lifted me off the bed."

"Six of them?" asked the friend.

Old John gave a wink and said, "Well, I was fightin' them."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Isn't it too noisy here?  Let's have some quiet.

No plot and terrible photography, but this clip is of the great Mark Twain at his Connecticut home, 1909.

And it isn't the season, but here's Thomas Edison's take on The Night Before Christmas, 1908.

A Trip to the Planets, a 1925 silent educational film from Germany with English titles added.

A Napoleonic chase film from 1904, courtesy of Mr. Edison.  Not much happens, but some of the photography is interesting.  In two parts.

Before Mickey Mouse, there was Oswald Rabbit.  In 1927, Oswald met the Mechanical Cow.  (Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't have to censor Clarabelle Cow because of her udders?  In any event, this mechanical cow has what appears to be non-mechanical udders.)

And, from 1913, the archvillain Fantomas appears in the French film A l'Ombre de la Guillotine (In the Shadow of the Guillotine).

For more Overlooked Films, visit Todd Mason over at sweetfreedom.

Monday, August 13, 2012



  • Jan Adkins, Young Zorro:  The Iron Brand.  Once upon a time there was a bold renegade who carved a Z with his blade.  This one is based on Isabelle Allende's novel Zorro, rather than Johnston McCully's Zorro.  BTW, this one is bylined Diego Vega, "as told to" Jan Adkins.
  • Lloyd Alexander, Westmark.  YA fantasy.
  • Robert Asprin, Sweet Myth-tery of Life.  Number ten in the humorous fantasy series.
  • Michael Bishop, Unicorn Mountain.  Fantasy
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lythande.  Collection of five heroic fantasy stories in the shared-world universe of Thieves' World, with a bonus story by Vonda McIntyre.
  • Reginald Bretnor, editor, Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow.  Fifteen articles by top science fiction writers of the Seventies; a follow-up to Bretnor's 1953 symposium Modern Science Fiction:  Its Meaning and Its Future.
  • Ramsey Campbell, The Nameless.  Horror.
  • Hal Cannon, editor, Cowboy Poetry:  A Gathering.  I'm sad to say that I don't know much about cowboy poetry and that the only poets in this book that I've heard of are S. Omar Barker and Baxter Black, but this collection seems like a gem.
  • George C. Chesbro, Dark Chant in a Crimson Key.  A Mongo mystery novel.
  • James Crumley, The Right Madness.  A C. W. Sughrue mystery.  This copy is a 2005 ARC.
  • Gordon R. Dickson with Roland Green, Jamie the Red.  Another fantasy in the Thieves' World universe.
  • Carole Nelson Douglas, editor, Midnight Louie's Pet Detectives.  Mystery anthology with seventeen stories.
  • David Drake and Bill Fawcett, editors, Battlestation:  Book Two:  Vanguard.  Anthology with twelve military SF stories.
  • Bill Eidson, The Mayday.  A Jack Merchant & Sarah Ballard thriller published under the Kate's Mystery Books imprint.  I've never gone wrong with any of Kate's suggestions.
  • Peter Berresford Ellis, Celtic Myths and Legends.  Nonfiction.  Ellis, a Celtic authority, is also mystery writer "Peter Tremayne."
  • Michael Gilbert, The Killing of Katie Steelstock.  Mystery.
  • Martin H. Greenberg (with others), editor, Murder Most, an omnibus collection of three anthologies:  Murder Most Romantic (edited by Greenberg and Denise Little, twelve stories), Murder Most Medieval (edited by Greenberg and John Helfers, thirteen stories), and Murder Most Divine (edited by Ralph McInerny and Greenberg, eighteen stories).
  • "Alfred Hitchcock", editor, Alfred Hitchcock's Skull Session. Fourteen stories from Alfed Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.
  • Ruby Jean Jensen, Death Stone.  Horror.
  • Cameron Judd, The Treasure of Jericho Mountain.  Western.
  • Garry Kilworth, Attica.  YA fantasy.
  • Victor C. Klein, New Orleans Ghosts.  Collection of ghostly legends from the Big Easy.  Interestingly, the previous owner left a bookmark -- a photo of Anne Rice's house in the Garden District of New Orleans.
  • Louis L'Amour, Sitka.  Northwestern.
  • Tanith Lee, Piratica II:  Return to Parrot Island. YA fantasy wherein buckles are swashed.
  • Patricia MacDonald, Mother's Day.  Suspense.
  • "Michael Marshall" (Michael Marshall Smith), Blood of Angels. Horror novel, the conclusion to The Straw Men trilogy.
  • Douglas R. Mason, Eight Against Utopia.  SF.  Originally titled, From Carthage Then I Came.
  • Barbara Neely, Blanche on the Lam.  Mystery.
  • Sara Paretsky, editor, Sisters on the Case.  Twenty stories to celebrate twenty years of Sisters in Crime.
  • T. Jefferson Parker, California Girl.  Mystery, an Edgar-winning novel.
  • Stewart Robb, translator and "interpreter", Prophecies on World Events by Nostradamus.  Quackery.
  • "J. R. Roberts" (Robert Randisi), The Gunsmith #260:  Faces of the Dead.  Adult western.  I truly believe that Randisi does not sleep.
  • Greg Rucka, Critical Space.  Suspense, an Atticus Kodiak thriller.
  • Fed Saberhagen, Berserker's Planet and The Lost Swords:  The Second Triad (containing The Fourth Book of Swords:  Farslayer's Story, The Fifth Book of Swords:  Coinspinner's Story, and The Sixth Book of Swords:  Mindsword's Story).  Books from two of Saberhagan's most popular series.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith with Stephen Goldin, The Family D'Alembert Series #2:  Stranglers' Moon.  SF, written by Golden and copyrighted by Smith's widow.
  • Ian Wallace, The World Asunder.  SF, with one of the worst cover paintings ever.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Tales for a Rainy Night edited by David Alexander (1962)

Not much time to post something for today's Forgotten Books.  We just rescued an eight-year-old Black Lab from the animal shelter and most of our time will be spent getting to know one another.  It seems to be working out and he is a sweet dog, but for today's post, I'm going to reach back in memory to pluck out a book I read years ago.

     David Alexander (1907-1973) published fifteen mystery novel from 1951 to 1962, many of which were reprinted by Bantam Books during those two decades.  One non-series novel, The Madhouse in Washington Square (1958), was nominated for an Edgar award.  Alexander is best known for his series of eight novels featuring Broadway columnist Bret Hardin; other series characters were Tommy Twotoes and Terry Rooke (Twotoes was a penguin fancier, Rooke a private detective), Marty Land (a Broadway lawyer), and Lieutenant Romano (who was usually featured with Bret Hardin but soloed in one book).  Alexander also produced a respected collection of short stories, Hangman's Dozen (1961).  In his later years, Alexander returned to his first love as a horse racing as a columnist and nonfiction author.

    Alexander's plots were unusual (murder in a flea circus, a mad ventriloquist, a card-carrying homicidal maniac, etc.) so it's no wonder that this anthology is crammed with eighteen unusual crime stories covering the gamut from detection to humor to horror.

     The Mystery Writers of America used to issue an annual anthology edited by a different member each year and containing short stories by active members; each editor seems to have been given complete autonomy over the volume, its theme (if any), and its tone.  (The MWA anthologies still continue, I believe, but not on an annual basis.  [Please let me know if I'm wrong about this.])  Tales for a Rainy Night was the fourteenth in the series.

     Check out the table of contents.  I'veincluded the original publication information, when known.
  • Robert by Stanley Ellin (Sleuth Mystery Magazine, October 1958)
  • The Human Chair by Edogawa Rampo, the influential Japanese mystery author (originally published in 1925 in Japan -- a classic)
  • Pressure by Morris Hershman (Manhunt, February 1958, as by "Arnold English")
  • The Murder of George Washington by Richard M. Gordon (originally published in 1959, in EQMM, if I recall correctly)
  • The Widow of Ephesus by Margaret Manners (originally published in 1958)
  • Lost Leader by Michael Gilbert (Argosy [UK], November 1957, as "The Merry Band")
  • Doctor's Orders by John F. Suter (EQMM, May 1959)
  • Walking Alone by Miriam Allen deFord (EQMM, October 1957)
  • The Twenty Friends of William Shaw by Raymond E. Banks (Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine, March 1960)
  • Inspector's Lunch by Donald A. Yates (originally published in Britain in 1955; The Saint Mystery Magazine, May 1959)
  • Reflection on Murder by Nedra Tyre (originally published in 1958)
  • West Riding in Maryland by Maurice Procter (originally published in 1956)
  • The Pink Caterpillar by Anthony Boucher (Adventure Magazine, February 1945)
  • Flash Attachment by "Dell Shannon" (Elizabeth Linington) (original publication?)
  • Death and the Compass by Jorge Luis Borges (English translation [by Donald A. Yates?] original to this volume?)
  • Have You Lost Your Head? by Joseph Commings (original publication?)
  • The Child Watcher by Ernest Harrison (EQMM, October 1958)
  • View From the Terrace by Mike Marmer (Cosmopolitan, December 1960)
     Some of the above authors are familiar to today's reader (Boucher, Borges, Ellin), many more should be (Commings, Shannon, Proctor, Tyre).  Hershman is (thankfully) still with us.  Yates is a well-known scholar and translator.   Gilbert was one of England's brightest detection writers.  Some of Commings' pulp stories were recently collected by Crippen & Landru.  Gordon published a baker's dozen of ingenious stories and poems in EQMM that I still remember fondly.  Suter may be best remembered for his series of "Uncle Abner" detective pastiches.  DeFord is not best known for her Dr. Sam:Johnson stories, because she didn't write them; Lillian de la Torre did.  (I had a brain fart when I wrote that mistake)  DeFord wrote mysteries, SF, and true crime (winning an Edgar in that last catagory); she was also once an assistant to Charles Fort, investigating "impossible" occurances.  Banks was also a popular writer of SF and mysteries.  Marmer I keep confusing with Arnold Marmor.  Manners wrote a number of notable short stories in the field.  I don't know anything about Harrison.

     What I do know is the each story in this book is a tiny gem -- I remember wishing this book were much longer.  Alexander did a fantastic job on his sole etitorial stint.  Copies are readily and cheaply available from on-line sellers.  Recommended.


      For more of today's Friday's Forgotten Books, go to where Patti Abbott will have more reviews and the links.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz (2012)

I still have not figured out why I am a Dean Koontz fan.  His books can be manipulative and his themes repetative.  Somehow they work for me.  His character Odd Thomas, fry cook extraordinaire and defender of the innocent, rings looud and clear.

     The rambling narrative of the book reflects Odd's talent of psychic magnetism.  Odd can find just about anything or anyone; he places an image in his mind and begins walking in any direction, his subconscience eventually leading him to the object or person he was seeking.  As he narrates this book, Odd slowly discovers his purpose within its framework.  And Odd himself tells us that his writer friend Ozzie Boone has told him to keep his stories light for, if he did not, his adventures might be to horrible to read.  These to factors combined may be off-putting for some readers but, as I said, they work for me.

     Odd Apocalyse starts soon after the events in the preceding book in the series, Odd Hours.  Odd and Annamaria, the strange pregnant woman he met in Odd Hours, are stating in the guest house on Noah Wolflaw's vast estate, Roseland.  Wolflaw has an undefinable fasciniation for Annamaria.  Roseland, built in the 1920's by a newpaper mogul who had switched to producing silent films, has an unusaul aura about it.  The house and grounds are both in perfect condition and remain so, even though there is no evidence of anyone maintaining the property.  The half a dozen members of the estate's staff seem to go through the motions of their duties without ever performing them.

     A woman's ghost tries to communicate with Odd.  She is a beautiful nightgowned blonde on a black stallion, a bloodied gunshot wound plaining visible over her heart.  Odd can see ghosts of the lingering dead -- those who, for some reason, cannot travel on.  The ghosts, however, are always silent and Odd's task is to find out what they want from him.  Slowly he learns that the ghost had been Noah Wolflaw's wife and that her ten-year old son is in danger.

     Soon reality is shifting around Odd.  People -- not ghosts -- appear and vanish without warning.  Night comes at midday.  Giant, mutated, deadly hog-like creatures invade the estate.  Leathery bat-like monsters swarm the sky.  Odd stumbles upon dead women, thirty-five of them, all appranetly freshly dead, visciously slain and laid out nude in obscene poses, the last -- the only one not nude, is of the ghostly woman who rode the black stallion.  In a deserted room, he finds the ten-year-old boy who has been held a prisoner for eighty-five years while remaininig in a boy's body.  And Odd meets the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock and the energy (can't really call him a ghost) of Nikolai Tesla.

     True to the book's title, there is an apocalyse coming -- or perhaps has already come.

     This adventure will take Odd to the darkest part of his soul and may change him permanently.

     Odd Apocalypse is the fifth book in the series, following Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, Brother Odd, and Odd Hours.  The penultimate book in the series, Deeply Odd, will be published on March 12, 2013.  Koontz has also written a three-part adventure, Odd Interlude, available only as e-Books.  In addition, Koontzhas published three graphic novels about the character:  In Odd We Trust (writen with and drawn by Queenie Chan), Odd Is on Our Side (written with Fred van Lente and drawn by Chan), and House of Odd (written with van Lente and drawn by Chan).  On Koontz's website there is "Odd Passenger" (a  four-part web-episode), some trailers and a video bio of Odd Thomas.  To my kowledge that is all Koontz has written/sponsored thus far about the character.

    With only two more novels to go, I will deeply miss Koontz's gentle fry-cook.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


From Up-To-Date Minstrel Jokes, compiled by H. H. Wheeler (1902).  This one was one of the least offensive, even though it gives a tacit nod to racism and abuse. (In this instance times have changed for the better.)

Tambo.--Did you see that lady I was walking down the street with to-day?
Int.--I certainly did.
Tambo.--That's my best girl.  Did you see that black silk dress she had on?
Tambo.--I gave her that.
Int.--Did you?
Tambo.--Did you see those solitaire diamonds she had in her ears?
Tambo.--They cost me three hundred dollars.  I gave her them.
Int. (with surprise)--Did you?
Tambo.--She's very pretty--nice black eyes hasn't she?  Did you notice those black eyes?
Int.--I should I did.
Tambo.--I gave her them.
Int.--Did you?
Tambo.--And of course you saw that little baby she had?
Int.--Yes, a very pretty child.
Tambo.--That belongs to her sister.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Watch 'em now!


Crimes at the Dark House (1940)

Loosely -- very loosely -- based on Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, this movie hung around for three years before being released.

The culprits behind this gem were Director George King (THE DEMON BARBER OF  FLEET STREET, SEXTON BLAKE AND THE HOODED TERROR) and scriptwriter Edward Dryhurst (THE FRIGHTENED LADY, THE NIGHT INVADER).  The star of the movie is none other than Tod Slaughter, the King of the villainous hams.  Who else could have played Sweeney Todd in three different films (THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, BOTHERED BY A BEARD, and PUZZLE CORNER NO. 14)?

This was the fifth time The Woman in White was filmed.  I suspect more people prefer the 1948 sixth version to this one.  Let's face it, Hay Petrie as Dr. Isador Fosco here can't hold a candle to Sidney Greenstreet's deliciously oily Count Fosco in the 1948 version.

 Aesthetics aside, this one is a fun romp.  Bad flicks quite often are.

Monday, August 6, 2012


It's my understanding that today is Todd Mason's birthday.  If that is true, Happy Birthday, Todd!  If it is not true, the Happy Unbirthday, Todd!  Either way, I think we should all celebrate Todd.


A quiet book week where I spent more great family time than I did book buying time.
  • [anonymously edited], Warcraft Archive.  Gaming tie-in omnibus with four novels:  Day of the Dragon by Richard A. Knaak, Lord of the Clans by Christie Golden, The Last Guardian by Jeff Grubb, and Of Blood and Honor by Chris Metzen.  (That last is more of a novella, if you're really picky about classifications.  But, to be fair, it was previously published only as an e-Book and they can be any size as long as you put an e- before the Book.)  These were evidently the first four Warcraft tie-ins.   
  • Paul Fairman, That Girl.  Television tie-in from 1971.  Fairman was the founding editor of If Science Fiction and the one time editor of Amazing and Fantastic, author of a number of tie-in novels and others, and a ghost writer for Ellery Queen and Lester del Rey.
  • Dean James. Posted to Death.  A Simon-Kirby Jones mystery.
  • Walt Kelly, Impollutable Pogo.  Classic, classic, classic.
  • Jeffrey Marks, editor, Canine Crimes.  Collection of fifteen dog mysteries.
  • Fletcher Pratt, A Compact History of the United States Navy.  Nonfiction.  In addition to his well-known work in fantasy and science fiction, Pratt was a respected populizer of military and Civil War history.
  • Georges Simenon, Maigret's Failure.  Translation of Un Echec de Maigret by Daphne Woodward.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


If a hymn is a song of faith, this one (originally from Russia) certainly qualifies.

I first heard this from Pete Seeger and more lately from John McCutcheon.  It wasn't until I just checked on Youtube that I realized how popular the song was with kindergarteners.  (**headslaps self for not realizing the blatently obvious**)  I picked this version because the kids carried the tune through in eight different languages.  There are also links to many other versions here.

BTW, this one is for my friend Beverly and her daughter Wynter.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I've run into a reference to 10.30 to Folkstone Express, a Sax Rohmer novel supposedly published by Lloyds (London) sometime around 1915, but I have not been able to find anything to show this book actually exists.  Is this a phantom book?

Any help would be appreciated.


Glancing over the megamountain and over my wish list, I find a lot of mysteries and fantasy.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Some of the books on Mount TBR:
  • Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor.
  • Marvin Albert, Clayburn.  (as "Al Conroy")
  • Grant Allen, Miss Cayley's Adventures.
  • __________, Hilda Wade (completed by Arthur Conan Doyle)
  • Charlotte Armstrong, The Black-Eyed Stranger.
  • Robert Arthur, Somebody's Walking on My Grave.
  • J. G. Ballard, Crash.
  • R. H. Benson, A Mirror of Shalott.
  • John Blackburn, A Scent of New-Mown Hay.
  • Lawrence Block, Random Walk.
  • Charles Brockden Brown, Weiland.
  • Arthur J. Burks, Look Behind You!
  • John Dickson Carr, Papa la-Bas.
  • Agatha Christie, Anknaton.
  • Basil Copper, The House of the Wolf.
  • Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost.
  • Walter de la Mare, The Return.
  • August Deleth, The Hills Stand Watch.
  • Thomas M. Disch, Clara Reeve (as "Leonie Hargrave")
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Mystery of Cloomber.
  • H. F. Heard, The Lost Cavern.
  • Edward D. Hoch, The Transvection Machine
  • William Hope Hodgson, The Voice of the Ocean.
  • Shirley Jackson, Hangsaman.
  • J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Uncle Silas.
  • Stiuart Palmer, The Riddles of Hildegarde Withers.
  • Bill Pronzini, Six-Gun in Cheek.
  • G. W. M. Reynolds, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf.
  • Anne Rice, The Witching Hour.
  • Craig Rice, Telefair.
  • James Malcolm Rymer, Varney the Vampire.
  • Henry Slesar, Enter Murderers.
  • Bram Stoker, The Lady of the Shroud.
  • Rex Stout, Red Threads.
  • Theodore Sturgeon, The Rare Breed.

Some of the books I hope to add to Mount TBR over the next year:
  • Robert Aickman, The Collected Strange Stories of Robert Aickman. (2 volumes)
  • Margery Allingham, Darings of the Red Rose.
  • Gertrude Atherton, The Foghorn.
  • Charles Beaumont, A Touch of the Creature.
  • Ben Benson, The Burning Fuse.
  • E. F. Benson, Sea-Mist.  (Volume 5 of his collected weird stories)
  • Charles Birkin, Devil's Spawn.
  • Algernon Blackwood, The Magic Mirror.
  • Anthony Boucher, Ellery Queen:  A Double Profile.
  • Ray Bradbury, It Came from Outer Space.
  • Joseph Payne Brennan, The Chronicles of Lucius Leffing.
  • Fredric Brown, The Pickled Punks.
  • A. M. Burrage, Intruders.
  • Hugh B. Cave, Murgunstrumm and Others.
  • R. Chetwynd-Hayes, The Psychic Detective.
  • Max Allan Collins, Target Lancer.
  • Ivan Cook, The Return of Arthur Conan Doyle.  (Supposedly a posthumous work "channeled" by the spirit of ACD)
  • Basil Copper, The Dark Mirror.
  • Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Half in Shadow.  (Consul paperback edition)
  • William R. Cox, Luke Short and His Era.
  • John Creasey, Gideon's Men. (as "J. J. Marric")
  • Bill Crider, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen.  (Can't wait!)
  • "Deanna Dwyer"  (Dean Koontz), Children of the Storm.
  • Harlan Ellison, Harlan Ellison's Movie.
  • Jack Finney, I Love Galesburg in the Springtime.
  • Neil Gaiman, Black Orchid.
  • Ed Gorman, Cages.
  • Parnell Hall, The Wrong Gun.  (as "J. P. Hailey")
  • Edward Heron-Allen, The Collected Strange Papers of Christopher Blayre.
  • Joan Hess, Future Tense.
  • Carl Jacobi, East of Samarinda.
  • Rick Jennett, The Relunctant Ghost-Hunter.
  • __________ and A. F. Kidd, 472 Cheyne Walk:  Carnacki:  The Untold Stories.
  • Gerald Kersh, The Horrible Dummy.
  • Joe R. Lansdale, Atomic Chili.
  • Marjorie Lawrence, Number 7, Queer Street.  (British edition)
  • Frank Belknap Long, The Darkling Tide:  Previously Uncollected Poetry.
  • Arthur Machen, The Secret of the Sangraal.
  • Francis M. Nevins and Ray Stanich, The Sound of Detection:  Ellery Queen's Adventures in Radio.
  • William F. Nolan, Rio Renegades.  (as 'Terance Duncan")
  • Hugh Pentecost, The Complete Adventures of the Park Avenue Hunt Club.  (2 volumes)
  • Ellery Queen, The Adventure of the Murdered Moths.
  • Seabury Quinn, The Collected Jules de Grandin.  (3 volumes)
  • James Reasoner, Texas Wind.
  • Ray Russell, Absolute Power.
  • F. Paul Wilson, Nightworld.  (revised edition)