Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 28, 2012


The House of the Wolf by Basil Copper (1983)

In his second novel for Arkham Books, Basil Copper takes to the small Hungarian village of Lugos, which is dominated by Castle Homolky.  The castle is also known as the House of the Wolf, referring to an episode in the shrouded past where an ancestor (Ivan the Bold, or the Wolf of the Mountains) of the current Count slaughtered an entire village for falling behind on their rents; at the same spot as the massacre, Ivan and two of his companions were ravaged by a pack of over two dozen wolves.

American professor John Coleridge travels to the castle at the request of the current Count Homolky.   Coleridge is a folklorist whose specialty is lycanthropy and he has just attended a conference in Pest; he and other experts are arriving to give a private symposium on their varied studies at the request of Homolky, who is also a student of esoteric folklore.  Arriving late on a winter's evening to the castle, Coleridge encounters a group of villagers carrying a body:  a local man has been savagely killed by a wolf and he is not the first to die in a similar manner.

Coleridge is greeted by his host who, along with his wife, his mother, and his beautiful daughter, welcome him warmly.  Getting his host to one side, Coleridge tells him of the local death and  Holmolky cautions him not to mention the incident  to anyone in the castle.

The House of the Wolf is told at a leisurely pace as we meet the other members of the symposium, among them Raglan, a young doctor who is obviously as interested in young Nadia Homolky as he is in the symposium, Menlow, a scientist, Abercrombie, the giant Scot doctor who studies vampirism, and Sullivan, who may or may not be an enemy from the past with a vededda against the Homolkys.  In a similar leisurely manner, we are given to understand the size of the castle, with its many floors, hallways, passages, turrets, spires, outbuildings, basements, and sub-basements -- a virtual rabbit's warren that brings to mind Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast.  The castle is only partially electrified, leaving much of it in a dark, smoky, Gothic atmosphere.

The following morning, Nadia Homolky confides in Coleridge.  Something was at her bedroom door the night before, scratching, then padding off down the corridor.  Coleridge investigates and finds evidence that a large animal had been there.  He discovers a clump of hair and discretely asks Menlow to analyze the sample.  Menlow reports that the hair is that of a wolf, but that it is growing out of a patch of human skin.

Things begin to happen at a disjointed pace.  A large black wolf, seemingly impervious to bullets, continues to terrorize the village.  Another large wolf with a gray back haunts the castle and come near to killing Coleridge twice.  Medlow is not  so lucky, however; he is torn to pieces and the sample he had analyzed is missing.  The count calls for a hunt to destroy the black wolf.  Coleridge and Abercrombie are uncharacteristically attacked by a large pack of wolves at an area known as The Place of the Skulls, a gypsy is ripped apart by a bear, the castle becomes isolated by a fierce storm, a member of the symposium is found hanged, then his body disappears, another person is wounded by a wolf and still another person is killed in her room.  And one person reads about the events in Copper's previous Arkham House novel in a weeks-old copy of the Times.

As I said, the book is somewhat disjointed and pretty slow in the beginning.  The pace picks up towards the middle and some plot holes can almost be ignored by the reader.  The question throughout the book is simply whether these events are natural, supernatural, or in the control of some villain.   With all the trapping of a Hammer horror flick from the Sixties, The House of the Wolf is great fun for a noncritical reader.  At the very least, Copper gets an "A" for "Atmosphere."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


From Harry Harrison's introduction to Decade The 50s, an anthology of science fiction that he and Brian W. Aldiss edited in 1976:

"Anthony Boucher had an equally distinct personality.  He was a man of great wit and charm and who could tell a good joke and write a fine story.  And he was an experienced editor, having beem at the helm of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for a good number of years, as well as editing with J. Francis McComas what is perhaps the all-time best SF anthology, Tales of Time and Space."

Boucher was a great editor, but Harrison is thinking (I assume) of Clayton Rawson at EQMM and Raymond J. Healy for Tales of Time and Space, which was actually Adventures in Time and Space.  Harrison should have known better, and so should the books copy editors.


So my dog may not be as dumb as I thought he was.  I asked him how much was fifteen minus fifteen and he said nothing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


This week's Overlooked Film is one I haven't seen yet, something that will be remedied later this week when TCM shows this 1954 crime film on Thursday, September 27, at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

Why am I psyched over a movie I haven't seen?  And a movie that got only a 5.4 rating (out of 10) on IMDB, to boot?  You can blame it on IMDB itself.  Listed under the writing credits for this flick is W. R. Burnett, a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and the guy who created LITTLE CAESAR, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, and HIGH SIERRA.  IMDB also lists as a writer Charles Bennett, who adapted THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS, SABOTAGE, SECRET AGENT, and FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT for Alfred Hitchcock as well as writing the original version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO  MUCH and providing the source material for BLACKMAIL.

And there's more.  Giving the writing credits for DANGEROUS MISSION, IMDB also said "and 3 more credits."  If you follow that link, you will find out that two of the additional writing credits
(screenplay and story) go to Horace McCoy, the great writer who gave us THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY?  Yep, this movie is pulp/noir heaven.

The director of this masterpiece was Louis King, a veteran director of B programmers (Boston Blackie, Charlie Chan, Buck Jones westerns, etc.) and of the Disney television "Swamp Fox" episodes.  The movie was produced by Mr. Disaster himself, Irwin Allen.

The film features Victor Mature, Piper Laurie, William Bendix, Vincent Price, and a young (blink, and you might miss him) Dennis Weaver.  Not a bad cast, although I have never been too fond of Victor Mature.

The plot?  Again, from IMDB:  A young women flees to Montana rather than testify in mob killing.  She finds work in a gift shop at Glacier National Park where she attracts the attention of two vacationers, not realizing that one is a hired killer after her and the other is a cop trying to protect her.

How good is this flick?  Reviews on IMDB are not encouraging:

"The picture was never meant to win an Academy Award...remember that this film was  produced in the 1950's and actors needed to find WORK."


"...(I)t presents a square dance interrupted by an avalanche, a battle with a live wire, a first-rate forest fire, a stirring chase and a climatic battle on the glacier..."


"Did the State of Montana invest a huge chunk of money in Dangerous Mission?...this mash-note to mountain lodges and dude ranches..."


"The serious flaws include the disjointed story line...and stupid subplot...Add in some silly dubbed dialog during noisy scenes and the usually great William Bendix given some incredibally stupid lines."


[Comparing this movie to a 1936 Gene Autry oater]  "...(E)ven Gene Autry was more animated than Victor Mature.  Come to think of it, so was Glacier National Park."

So, have I whetted your appetite?  Is this a good movie, or a movie so bad that it's good, or a movie so bad that it's bad?  I am going to find out Thursday.  Will you?


Todd Mason, our fearless leader, will have all  of today's links for Overlooked Films and/or A/V at his blog sweetfreedom.  Check it out.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Don't call him Frank Jr.  He hates that.

Beside, he changed his name to Brian.

Frank Sr?  Oh, Brian hates his guts, although it wasn't always like that.

Frank Jr. was six when his parents split up ever so civilly.  Frank Jr. stayed with his mother in the big house while Frank Sr. ended up in a condo a few miles away.  The couple remained extremely cordial to each other and Frank Jr. got to spend weekends with his father.  Holidays were divided evenly between his parents and Frank Sr. never forgot a birthday.  As the years passed, Frank Sr. was seen at his son's Pop Warner football games.  (Of course, by that time he was dating a woman whose daughter was one of the Pop Warner cheerleaders.)

Weekends with his father were fun.  They often went to the park where Frank Jr. ran around madly, playing with other boys and girls.  Sometimes they went with whatever woman Frank Sr. was dating at the time.  Most of these women had children Frank Jr.'s age or younger; surprisingly, they were all girls -- never boys.  One of these young girls had a strange, frightened jackrabbit look about her whenever Frank Sr. got too near her.  Frank Jr. thought nothing of this other than the girl seemed a little odd.  What the hell, Frank Jr. was a kid.  What did he know?

When Frank Jr. was thirteen, the girl next door, eleven-year-old Nancy Woznic, disappeared.  Nancy was a freckle faced stringbean with dark hair, a wide grin, and long coltish legs.  Sometimes she hung around with Frank Jr. but he didn't mind that too much because Nancy could throw a ball, had a wicked sense of humor, and could swear much better than Frank Jr.  Anyway, Nancy was walking from school and never made it home.  This was on a Wednesday.  By nightfall, officals were searching the area and, by the next day, search parties were combing nearby woods, checking abandoned buildings, and looking in closed-up swimming pools.  By Thursday evening, parents throughout the town were beginning to panic and were starting to keep deliberate eyes on their own children.

Even though his parents had been divorced for seven years, Frank Jr. never heard them argue.  Not once.  Not until late that Thursday night.  The shouting woke Frank Jr.  He sat up in bed, confused.  Then came his mother's scream and a gushy thump that he could hear all the way to his bedroom.  He rushed downstairs, he slid on a large pool of blood and almost fell over his mother's body.  Well, the body was his mother's  But the head...the head was this gory distorted thing.  The front door was wide open and Frank Jr. could see his father's car as it screamed down the road..

It took three days for police to catch Frank Sr., sleeping in the back seat of his Cadillac on a dirtpath well into the woods.  Frank Sr. offered no resistance.  His face was unshaven, his clothes still spattered with dried blood.  Police had gone through his condo and his office and found things which sickened them on his computers and locked in suitcases.  Suffice it to say that there photos of a number of little girls, including Nancy Woznic, and the photos were no where near as pretty as the little girls had once been.  And there were souveniers, lots of them.  There also were books and videos, hateful ones directed against certain races, almost all religions, homosexuals, and women -- along  with a number of tomes dealing with satanism, human sacrifice, and witchcraft.  Police also found a storage locker rented under an assumed name; the locker held all sorts of weapons, many of them of the cutting kind -- these had blood traces on them which later identified some of his victims.

Surprisingly, no one in town told reporters that Frank Sr. seemed like "such a nice man."  Most of their remarks were along the lines of, "I thought there was something a little bit strange about him."

Four days after Frank Sr. was arrested, a hiker found Nancy's body -- actually most of Nancy's body; parts were never recovered.  Nancy's mother screamed and screamed and had to be sedated and she was the never the same after that.

With no other relatives, Frank Jr. went into the foster care system.  Now, here are any number of wonderful foster families out there and there are a few that could not be describe as wonderful by the wildest stretch of the imagination.  Frank Jr. was not placed with a wonderful foster family.  He also had to continue going to the same high school he had started just a month earlier.  There were several boys in the school who had young relatives that were also victims of Frank Sr.  Of course, Frank Jr. had the exact same name as his hated father.  The boy was a constant reminder of the evil that had recently stalked the area.  Frank Jr.'s high school experience was not one about which you could wax nostalgic.  He was shunned, spat upon, beaten, a despised.  Not a happy childhood.  As soon as he was legally able to, Frank Jr. took off on his own.  He legally changed his name to one that he had randomly picked out of an old city phone book.  As Brian, he went out into the world with a heavy heart and hatred for his father.

And Frank Sr.?  He was officially connected to thirty-seven murders, and suspected in several more.  He went to trial, was found guilty and was sentenced to be executed.  Good riddance, I say.

Our legal system does not want to condemn an innocent man, or -- if it does, it wants to do it properly -- so there are such thimgs as appeals, and Frank Sr.'s lawyers (all pro bono, anti-death penalty lawyers, mind you) milked the system for as long as possible.  Now, after nine years in jail, Frank Sr. was going to be executed.

Meanwhile, Frank Jr. -- excuse me, Brian -- Brain was in a strange city and in a strange bar, just one of many cities and bars he had travelled to, drinking beer (about all he could really afford), and getting a gentle buzz on.  "Soon," he thought, "soon it will be all over.  The bastard's going to die today.  No more delays, just let him get what's coming to him."  Perhaps then Brian would be able to shake off the last vestige of Frank Jr. that remained inside of him.  Another beer.  A slightly larger buzz on.

Meanwhile in prison, Frank Sr. had a quiet, confident smile as they shaved his head.

Frank Jr. noticed a woman at a nearby table.  Kind of cute. He swung his stool around an was about to make his move when some guy joined the woman.  She was smiling and had obviously expected the man.  Oh, well. Frank Jr. swung back to the bar and reached for his beer.

Frank Sr. said some nasty things to the prison chaplain.  The chaplain had heard them all before, but never as vehemently as this.  Now Frank Sr. was mumbling some words the chaplain could not understand, a language the chaplain had never heard before.

The beer was having more of an effect on Frank Jr.  What the hell?  It's a night for celebrating.  Frank Jr. signalled for another one.

They walk Frank Sr. down a corridor.  He goes seemingly willingly, still mumbling something.

The room begins to spin and blur for Frank Jr. as he swallows more beer.

The chair is just ahead of Frank Sr.  He sits and they begin to strap him in.

Spinning.  Jesus, is this room spinning!  Frank Jr. closes his eyes.

And opens them when someone places a wet sponge on his bald head.  He tries to complain but his mouth is gagged.  He tries to get up but something is holding him down.

Frank Jr. will never have to resent being Frank Jr. again.  Because he is now Frank Sr.

Then the pain --the sharp, blistering pain -- hit every nerve ending in his body.

Frank Sr. swung his bar stool around and saw the woman and the man in deep conversation at the table.  Nice.  Frank Sr. wondered if she had a daughter.


This is my response to Patti Abbott's most recent flash fiction challenge.   Patti asked for a story, under a thousand words, any type, any style, revolving around the words "Frank Jr."  For more (and certainly better) responses to her challenge, please go to Patti's blog pattinase.  Among those who usually answer Patti's flash fiction challenges are a number of superlative writers, as well as the others who are just pretty damn good.


  • Piers Anthony, Hard Sell (SF fix-up novel), Mercycle (fantasy), Phaze Doubt (fantasy; Book Seven of the Apprentice Adept series), and Virtual Mode (fantasy; Book One in thee Mode series).
  • Piers Anthony and Robert E. Margroff, Chimera's Copper.  Fantasy. 
  • Colin Bateman, Belfast Confidential (a Dan Starkey mystery) and Murphy's Law (a Martin Murphy mystery).  Two by the Irish author who sometimes published by his last name only.
  • Cara Black, Murder in the Bastille.  An Aimee Leduc mystery.
  • Marc Cerasini, AVP:  Alien vs. Predator.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe's Fury.  Historical adventure.  This time Sharpe is at the Battle of Barrosa, March 1811.
  • J. T. Crawford, Skipjack!  A novel about the Chesapeake Bay.  Signed by the author.
  • Peter Dickinson, The Ropemaker.  YA fantasy.
  • Diane Duane, The Door Into Summer.  Fantasy
  • Alan Dean Foster, Cat-A-Lyst (standalone SF) and Chorus Skating (eighthin the Spellsinger fantasy series).
  • Craig Shaw Gardner, A Malady of Magicks and A Night in the Netherhells (the first and third volumes in the Ebenzum trilogy) and A Difficulty with Dwarves, An Excess of Enchantments, and A Disagreement with Death (the three volumes in The Ballad of Wuntvor trilogy).  Fantasies all.
  • E. J. Hart, Ain't It Hell:  Bill Peyto's "Mountain Journal."  "Historical fiction," a biography of Ebenezer William Peyto (1869-1943) told in journal form.  Peyto was a noted explorer and guide in the Canadian Rockies and was one of the first national park rangers in Canada.
  • L. P. Hartley,  The Complete Short Stories of L. P. Hartley.  Omnibus containg the short novel Simonetta Perkins and the collections The Travelling Grave, The White Wand, Two for the River, and Mrs. Carteret Receives.  Don't believe the book's title; omitted are the collections Night fears and Other Stories (1924) and The Killing Bottle (1932) -- although some stories from both volumes are included here.
  • "Evan Innes" (Hugh Zachery), The Return.  Volume 4 in the America 2040 SF series.
  • Dorothy M. Johnson, The Bloody Bozeman:  The Perilous Trail to Montana's Gold.  Non-fiction; part of the American Trails series.
  • David Lapham, Ghosts of St. Augustine.  Local lore.
  • Keith Laumer, The Return of Retief.  SF.
  • Patricia MacDonald, Lost Innocents.  Thriller.
  • Lynn Mason, Alias:  Recruited.  Television tie-in novel.
  • Ardath Mayhar, Runes of the Lyre.  Fantasy.
  • Sean McKeever, Fantastic Four:  All for One.  Graphic novel, aimed at the juvenile market.  Tells the origin of the F4 and their encounters with the Mole Man, the Skrull, and others.  Art by Makoto Nakatsuka; Girihiru, Joe Dodd with Derek Fridolfs, & Alitha Martiez with David Newbold.
  • Patricia McKillip, Heir of Sea and Fire.  Fantasy, sequel to The Riddle-Master of Hed.
  • Jill M. Morgan and Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Till Death Do Us Part.  Eighteen mystery stories by husband/wife writing teams.
  • Robert Newman, The Case of the Baker Street Irregular.  YA mystery.
  • "Ellis Peters" (Edith Parteger), Holiday with Violence.  Mystery.
  • R. A. Salvatore, The Demon Apostle.  The concluding volume of the DemonWars fantasy trilogy.
  • John Seelye, editor, Stories of the Old West:  Tales of the Mining Camp, Calvary Troop, & Cattle Ranch.  Anthology with fifty stories.
  • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume 2:  Dragons of Winter Night and Dragonlance Chronicles, Volume 3:  Dragons of the Spring Dawning.  Gaming tie-in novels.
  • Stuart Woods, Orchid Blues (a Holly Barker thriller) and Swimming to Catalina (a Stone Barrington thriller).

Sunday, September 23, 2012


So Christina and Walt are fostering this baby and we get to watch him while they are at work or school.  This is a good thing because he's a good baby and needs (and likes) a lot of cuddling.  Since he's only two-months-old and doesn't understand a thing we are saying, Kitty has decided to call him Jack.  And since the records we have do not list a middle name, Kitty then decided to call him Jack Patrick.  Well, if Kitty can give the kid two names, I figure I can give him a last name.  Jack Patrick is a strong, virile name and he needs a strong, virile last name to with it.  So we are calling him Jack Patrick Kangaroo.  Christina remains unsure about this, but what the heck.

Because he has spent fifty per cent of his little life in the hospital detoxing, Jack Patrick Kangaroo was never circumsized.  (Maybe you can make sense out of that last sentence but I can't.  Anyway, that's the reason Children's Services gave us.)  So Friday, it's arranged, and Jack Patrick Kangaroo goes to have this done,  (By a doctor who, it turns out, does not accept the insurance Children's Services has for Jack Patrick Kangaroo.  So why was the appointment scheduled with this guy?  Who knows?  Anyway, Christina ended up paying for the procedure out of her own pocket.)  We met Christina at the doctor's office just after Christina finished work, and Kitty went in with Christina and Jack Patrick Kangaroo to have the procedure done.  All went well and Jack Patrick Kangaroo is still a smiling, happy baby.

And I started calling Kitty "bris-Kit."

Sometimes I'm bad.


Saturday, September 22, 2012


Today is the first day of fall.  Leaves turn, cider is warmed, people look forward to high school football games, and to Halloween, and to Thanksgiving.  There's a special crispness in the air that I love.

So, Happy Autumnal Equinox, everyone!

Friday, September 21, 2012


Busy, busy, busy. No Forgotten Book this Friday, though.

All is not lost!  Patti Abbott will have links to scads of them at her blog, pattinase.

In the meantime, I have to try to figure out this new version of Blogger works.  Thus far, it isn't working very well.  (Seems every time someone tries to improve something, they mess it up.  Or is that just me being an old fogey?)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Some psychiatry students from all over the country were attending a class on emotional extremes. 

To start the class, the professor asked a student from Iowa, "What is the opposite of joy?"

Without hesitation, the student said, "Sorrow."

The professor then asked a student from Michigan, "What is the opposite of sadness?"

"Elation," she answered.

Then the professor turned to a student from Texas, "And what is the opposite of woe?"

The Texan thought for a minute, and replied, "I believe that would be giddy-up."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


This could be the most beautiful song Stephen Foster ever wrote.


Before there were Rocky and Bullwinkle, there were Crusader Rabbit and Rags the Tiger.

And what better location to use to warp the minds of a generation of children?  Why, Texas, of course.

Here's the first fifteen episodes of Jay Ward's early masterpiece.

As always, if you mosey on over to Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom, you'll find all of today's links for the Tuesday Overlooked Film and/or AV cornucopia.

Monday, September 17, 2012


The quietest week ever.  Blame it on a baby that needed some cuddling.
  • John Connolly, The Burning Soul.  A Charlie Parker thriller.
  • Nancy Holder with Jeff Marriote and Maryelizabeth Hart, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  The Watcher's Guide, Volume 2.  The second "official companion" to the Buffyverse, covering Seasons Three and Four.
  • Paul Kupperberg, World of Krypton:  The Home of Superman.  Graphic novel covering a three-issue origin mini-series.  Art by Howard Chaykin, Murphy anderson, and Frank Chiaramonte; edited by E. Nelson Bridwell.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Morgan Robertson (1861-1915) was an American author who often wrote stories about the sea.  He is pretty much forgotten today, except for his story "The Wreck of The Titan," which eerily predicted the sinking of an unsinkable ship when it hits an iceberg.  The story was published fourteen years before the sinking of the Titanic.  Thus, this story often comes up when people are having a "do you know what's really odd?" conversation, along with choice bits gleaned from the writings of Charles Fort.

Well, do you know what's really odd?  This little snippet I found in "The Slumber of a Soul," a story piublished in Robertson's 1898 collection Spun Yarn and reprinted the same year in his Three Laws and the Golden Rule.  The story itself is a pure melodrama about blackade running and smuggling from the time of the Civil War until 1895.  And in 1895, the smuggling ship Avon is sailing off the coast of Florida:

"The following midnight found her well past Cape Canaveral, and here, after answering a rocket from shore..."

I doubt if Robertson realized that in little over a half century from when he wrote those words, a much different type of rocket would begin launching from that shore, and that, within twenty years, it would launch men to the moon.  Still, this little squib from the guy who "predicted" the sinking of the Titanic is interesting.  And, really odd.


Saturday, September 15, 2012


It's amazing what happens when you follow a thread to its illogical conclusion.

I used the bing web search to link to, a weekly must-stop for me.  Listed under "related searches" is Hotlocalstrippers / San Luis Obispo.  I'm not sure if this related search was targeted to me or was targeted in general to my search for  I suspect the latter because I don't think I'd go three blocks, much less three thousand miles, in search of hot local strippers.

So, being evil, I clicked on to Hotlocalstrippers / San Luis Obispo.    The first website that came up on that search was Hilton Family Hotels.  Well, I thought, huh?  Just huh?

Since I am a firm believer in the scientific method, I tried this several times.  For the first three times I ended up at the Hilton.  The fourth time, Hilton Family Hotels was relegated to an ad column on the right side of the screen.   Oh, bing, you tease!

Still, I am far more interested in Age of Aces, Airship 27 Productions, Altus Press, and Anthony Tollin's Sanctum Books than I am in hot other-side-of-the-continent strippers.  Somebody at bing evidently feels otherwise.


If you click on to the Amazon Kindle releases for Mysteries and Thrillers, then choose the option "publication date, " you'll get a list of books Amazon will be publishing beginning with the ones with the furthest publishing date.  Hmmm.  So I did:

  • Donald E. Westlake, The Busy Body.  Kindle release date: January 1, 2036
  • Ellery Queen, Calamity Town.  Kindle release date:  January 1, 2036
  • Donald E. Westlake, Good Behavior.  Kindle release date:  January 1, 2036
  • Donald E. Westlake, The Hot Rock.  Kindle release date:  Janaury 1, 1936...
And the list goes on and on because there are 70,392 books in the Kindle Mystery and Thriller catagory as of this morning.

And all of these books which are going to be published some 23 years and a few months in the future are available for pre-order!   Because that's what the wise consumer will do, I guess.

Anyway, kudos to Amazon for planning so far ahead in their quest for global domination.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison

SF Grand Master Harry Harrison passed away last month at age 82.  George Kelley recently looked at his retrospective collection 50 in 50; I thought I'd take an opportunity to look at one of his most popular characters, Slippery Jim deGriz, also know as James Bolivar deGriz, and better known by legions of fans as The Stainless Steel Rat.

DeGriz is a galactic thief, a con-man, and a scoundrel.  He's smart and resourceful and he can find his way out of any trap.  He doesn't mind long odds.  He prefers action, taking the fight directly to the enemy.  Slippery Jim doesn't like killing, but he'll do it when necessary.  He blithely explains his actions away:

"Of all the varied forms of crime, bank robbery is the most satisfactory to both the individual and to society.  The individual of course gets a lot of money, that goes without saying, and he benefits society by putting large amounts of cash back into circulation.  The economy is stimulated, small businessmen prosper, people read about the crime with great interest, and the police have a chance to exercise their various skills.  Good for all.  Though I have heard foolish people complain that it hurts the bank.  This is arrant nonsense.  All banks are insured, so they lose nothing, while the sums involved are miniscule in the overall operations of the insuring firm, where the most that might happen is that a microscopically smaller dividend will be paid at the end of the year.  Little enough price to pay for all the good caused."

(See what just happened there?  Slippery Jim just solved our current economic crisis!  Politicians of both parties please take note.)

The Stainless Steel Rat has, unfortunately been coopted into the Special Corps, a sort of galactic law enforcement/troubleshooting outfit.  Also drafted into the Special Corps is his one true love, the murderous sociopath Angelina -- a woman as skilled as she is beautiful.  Luckily, the Special Corps burrowed into Angelina's brain and inserted a conscience, an act that causes her some distress.  By the second book in the series, The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge, Jim and Angelina are married and the parents of new-born twins, James and Bolivar.

The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World is the third book in the series (which would eventually cover eleven novels and one "choice your own path" novel) and starts off with all reality disappearing.  It turns out that an unknown villain is erasing the timelines of the Special Corps and everyone connected with it.  By the end of chapter two, everyone that Jim has known -- including Angelina and his children -- has never existed and Jim has to follow the time threads to thirty-two thousand five hundred and ninety-eight years to the a long-destroyed planet called Dirt (or Earth, or something) and to the planet's local time of 1975.  And did I mention that there's no way for him to return to his own time -- if it still existed, that is?

Jim finds himself outside of Chicago, enlists a biker outlaw with a B-movie gangster vocabulary, and robs a bank.  He then heads to New York for a confrontation with the villain, known only as He.  Once the villain's operations in 1975 have been destroyed, Jim has to travel further back into time to 1807 England for another encounter with He.  This England, however, is one that has been conquered by Napoleon.  Is he in an alternate reality or a time loop or something else?  It may not matter because He is about to destroy everything there also.  There is plenty of action and derring-do, a soupcon of humor, more than a dash of paradox, and another twenty-thousand-year time trip, and some Martians.  And explosions.  lots and lots of explosions.

If this sounds as if it's Saturday afternoon matinee stuff, it is.  It's a wild roller coaster ride with more than a few dei ex machina.  It's fun and confusing and logical and illogical.  It's a romp that makes clear why The Stainless Steel Rat was one of Harrison's most enduring chacters.


Thursday, September 13, 2012


This Maine-based folk group has been around since 1975.  When member Tom Rowe passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2004, remaining members Chuck and Steve Romanoff continued as a group without replacing him, changing Schooner Fare as a duet rather than a trio.  Although Tom Rowe was irreplacable, Schooner Fare continues to provide a similar sound and continues to bring in fans throughout the world.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This is a film that should be overlooked, except that it stars Ray "Crash" Corrigan, who for a few years was one of The Three Mesquiteers.  Also featured was Lorraine Miller, a much prettier product of Flint, Michagan, than Michael Moore.

The White Gorilla seems to exist only to put Corrigan in a gorilla suit.  Oh, and to use a lot of archive footage.

From 1945:


How can I not post these today?

The victims, the survivors, the rescuers...they will not be forgotten.  And those throughout the world who grieved along with us...bless you for your kinship.

Monday, September 10, 2012


  • Robert Adams, Martin H. Greenberg, & Pamela Crippen Adams, editors. Robert Adams' Book of Alternate Worlds.  In this world, at least, the anthology has nine stories, a number of them classics.
  • "Victor Appleton"(I'm not sure who the author/s is/are in this fifth series of Swift adventures) , Tom Swift, Young Inventor #2:  The Robot Olympics.  Juvenile SF. This latest series ran from 2006-7 for a total of six volumes.   Hard to believe but the original Tom Swift saw the light of day over a century ago.
  • "William Arden" (Dennis Lynds), The Three Investigators #10:  The Mystery of the Moaning Cave.  Juvenile mystery.  This was the first in the series by Lynds, and this edition has eliminated all mention of Alfred Hitchcock except for some very small print on the copyright page  And Alfred Hitchcock & The Three Investigators #12:  The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow.  The second in the series by Lynds.  (#11 was the last written by Robert Arthur, who had recently passed away.)
  • Robert Arthur, Alfred Hitchcock & The Three Investigators #5:  The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure and #7:  The Mystery of the Fiery Eye.  Juvenile mysteries.
  • Pierre Audemars, The Crown of Night.  A Monsieur Pinard mystery.  Despite the sound of his name, the fact that the book takes place in France, and that the detective is a member of the Surete, Audmars was British.
  • Chuck Bainbridge, The Hard Corps #6:  An American Nightmare.  Men's adventure novel.  I believe their were eight volumes in the series.  I don't know if Bainbridge was a real person or a house name; can anyone help me out?
  • Kemp P. Battle, compiler, Great American Folklore:  Legends, Tales, Ballads, and Superstitions from All Across America.  I'm a sucker for this kind of book.
  • Steven Brust, Jhereg.  Fantasy in the Adventures of Vlad Taltos series.  This copy was signed by Brust.
  • Steven Coonts, Saucer.  Thriller with an SF background.
  • Jack Cummings, The Rough Rider.  Western,
  • Richie Tankersley Cusick, The Lifeguard and Trick or Treat.  YA horror.
  • Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, editors, The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales.  YA fantasy anthology with 26 stories and poems.
  • Helen Eustis, The Fool Killer.  Suspense.  This edition was repacked as a YA historical.
  • John Farris, Happy Anniversary, Harrison High.  Farris first hit the best-seller list Harrison High in 1959; this is the fourth of five follow-ups.
  • Eric Flint and David Drake, The Tide of Victory.   The fifth book in the Belarius serius, featuring everyone's favorite 6th Cenury general.
  • David Gemmell, Legend, The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend, and The Legend of Deathwalker.  Fantasy.  Three in the Drenai Saga.
  • Charlaine Harris, A Bone to Pick.  An Aurora Teagarden mystery.
  • Rick Hautala, Dark Silence.  Horror.
  • "Jack Hild" (William Baetz this time), The Barrabas Fix.  Number 27 in the Soldiers of Barrabas men's adventure series.
  • Ray Hogan, Rebel Ghost.  Marketed as a western, this is a novel about Confederate Major John Mosby (1833-1916), the "Gray Ghost."  When I lived in Manassas, Virginia, I saw a photograph (circa 1905) of Mosby and several other cronies chewing the fat on the porch of a general store.  He looked unassuming.  Can't always tell a book by its cover.
  • Ruby Jean Jenson, Night Thunder.  Horror.
  • Jeff Lindsay,  Darkly Dreaming Dexter.  Everyone's favorite serial killer with a conscience.
  • T. Jefferson Parker, The Blue Hour. A Merci Rayburn thriller.
  • R. A. Salvatore, The Icewind Dale Trilogy.  Fantasy omnibus containing The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, and The Halfling's Gem.
  • Peter Sellers, editor. Arthur Ellis Awards:  An Anthology of Prize-Winning Crime & Mystery Fiction.  The Arthur Ellis Awards are the Crime Writers of Canada's version of the Edgars.  This anthology reprints the first twelve winners (from 1988 through 1999) in the Best Short Story catagory, along with a framing story by Ed Hoch which deals with a mystery at the annual Arthur Ellis Awards banquet.  An index of all the winning and nominated works (including novels, first novels, non-fiction, and juveniles) through 1999 will give you a lot of great suggestions for your TBR pile.
  • Norman Sprinrad, Russian Spring.   SF.  Begun before and published just after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • George Holbert Tucker, Virginia Supernatural Tales:  Ghosts, Witches and Eerie Doings.  Thirty-five folk tales and legends.
  • A. E. van Vogt and Kevin J. Anderson, Slan & Slan Hunter.  Omnibus of van Vogt's original classic SF novel and Anderson's completion of van Vogt's draft for a sequel.
  • Walter Wagerin, Jr., The Book of Sorrows.  Talking animal fantasy.
  • Nick West, Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators #14:  The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon.  Juvenile mystery.
  • J. N. Williamson, Affinity.  Horror.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Earlier this year I reviewed the touching juvenile fantasy Dog in the Sky by Norman Corwin (I believe as a Friday Forgotten Book, but don't hold me to it).  The book was based on a 1941 radio play that Corwin wrote called The Odyssey of Runyon Jones.   For those who are interested, here is a recording of that play:

And Corwin's script:


Friday, September 7, 2012


Bad Karma by Dave Zeltserman (2009)

After the incidents in Bad Thoughts (2007), Bill Shannon has left the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police department (minus two fingers) and has relocated to Boulder, Colorado, to try to rebuild his life.  He has reconnected with his ex-wife, done some occasional private investigating, and has begun practicing meditation and exploring the meaning of his dreams.  After five years, he has finally stopped having nightmares about serial killer Charlie Winters.

Shannon is hired to investigate the brutal murders of two college students.  The mother of the dead boy is suing the owner owner of the apartment building where the killings took place for five million dollars, claiming that negligence in maintaining a lock to the apartment allowed the murder to take place.  For three months, the Boulder police have been unable to make any progress in the case.  The owner of the apartment building hopes that Shannon will be able to find the killer and be able to deflect the lawsuit.

Shannon has also been contacted by the mother of a girl who has joined a cult called the True Light.  She had been unable to contact her daughter and wanted to make sure the girl was safe and hoped to get her out of the cult.  It turned out the cult was using a storefront yoga studio near the college to recruit new members.  After being rebuffed at the yoga studio, Shannon visited the cult's remote compound where several thugs -- including two Russian mobsters -- try to dissuade him from investigating the cult.  What were Russian mobsters doing with a small-time religious cult?

In the meantime, while investigating the murders, Shannon discovers that the dead boy had been buying his mother expensive items, but there is no indication of where he got the money for this came.  Shannon also begins to uncover some ugly facts about the dead girl's past.

Five years earlier, Shannon had an out-of-body experience while being tortured by Charlie Winters; he credits that experience with saving his life.  Since then he has been trying to push himself to another out-of-body experience by focusing on meditation and "vivid" dreaming.  These dreams have been sending him hints and warnings about the two cases on hand. 

Shannon believes in this, as does his ex-wife (a homeopathic practicioner) and his friend and mentor, Eli.  This gives the book a new-age feel that was a bit off-putting for me.  Despite that (and the fact that I was able to easily foresee a couple of key plot points) I soon became invested in the book through its strong characterization, fast-moving plot, solid writing, and love of the Boston Red Sox.  An enjoyable read from the get-go.

Zeltserman has only written two books about Bill Shannon.  I hope he finds time to write more.


Thursday, September 6, 2012


Christinaand Walt  have been on call as a foster parent for several years now.  Their current foster child, a six-year-old girl, is being placed with a suitable family member tomorrow.  But, instead of a respite they thought they would have, Social Services has placed a six-week old baby with them.  Without revealing too much about the child, I can say that his mother is unmarried, in rehab, and has an outstaning warrant against her.  And it turns out that the man who claimed to be the baby's father isn't.  The infant was just released after four weeks in the hospital for multiple drug addictions.

Christina and Walt work and both go to school, so Kitty and I provide day care.  I've asked myself, what the hell are we doing?  All the time muttering that I'm too old for this.  Then I take a look at this child who had nothing to do with the situation he was born into.  I see how Christina cares for the baby.  I see Mark and Erin learning the importance of doing what one can to help make the world a little bit better.  I see Kitty holding and rocking the child, singing to him.  And I am rocking and holding the baby and soothing him.  Our dog and Christina's dogs are instinctively protective of his young life.  We all make sure that he receives the vital human touch that is so necessary.  We also make sure that he gets his tummy time and aural and visual stimulation.  In the grand scheme of things this may not be much, but it's what we can do.

The baby is sometimes cranky, and who can blame him?  But he has been smiling at us.  That smile means everything.  I suddenly know that I am not too old for this, that Christina and her family -- and we -- are doing something worthwhile.  We are a small, but vital, cog in a long line of people -- from the doctors and staff that treated a new-born's addiction to the social workers who are working above and beyond their paychecks -- who are trying to ensure this child gets a decent break.

We have no idea how long this baby will be with Christina, but he is part of our family now.  And that's a good thing.


Victor Gischler writes some of the best crime fiction around, making it look so easy.  Here, in just four sentences, he nails a character:

"Baby Sister was family, but she was also a loose cannon.  Baby Sister frightened Nikki sometimes.  There was something in the sighteen-year-old hellion that delighted in pain and cruely.  Baby Sister was the reason they'd given up on family pets"  -- Shotgun Opera (2006)

Gischler wraps the character up and ties a bow on it.  And he makes you want to keep on reading well into the night.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


She was only a bootlegger but he loved her still.

(This reminds me of the old vaudeville line, "She had freckles on her but she was nice.")

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


For my money the best mystery/horror anthology series on television was Thriller, the 1960-62 program hosted by Boris Karloff.  For 67 episodes Thriller brought together great stories and great acting to send a collective chill up America's back.

Cornell Woolrich, Robert Bloch, Margaret Millar, William O'Farrell, Evelyn Berkmann, Charlotte Armstrong, Dolores Hitchens, John D. MacDonald, Fredric Brown, Jack Vance, Alan Caillou, Lionel White, Philip MacDonald, Wilkie Collins, Nelson S. Bond, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, Harold Lawlor, Robert Arthur, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Allan Poe, Cynthia Asquith, Henry Kuttner, Margaret St. Clair, Hugh Walpole, John Creasey, Joseph Payne Brennan, and August Derleth...all provided source material for Thriller.  All writers whose work I have enjoyed.  It's as if the show was singing directly to me.  And the scripts by Bloch, Arthur, Charles Beaumont, Philip MacDonald, John Tomelin, and so many other others were just great.

Could anyone who has seen the Pigeons from Hell episode forget it?  Or The Hungry Glass?  Or Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper?

Only one episode from the series seems to be in the public domain, The Return of Andrew Bentley from December 11, 1961, adapted by Richard Matheson from the story by August Derleth and Mark Schorer, and directed by and starring John Newland, who is best known as the host of television's One Step Beyond.   Starring with Newland are Antoinette Bower, Philip Bourneuf, Oscar Beregi, Ken Renard, Terence de Marney, Reggie Nalder, and Tom Hennesy.

Enjoy.  And shiver.

For more of today's Overlooked Films/Television/Whatnot, drop by Sweet Freedom where Todd Mason will have all the links.

Monday, September 3, 2012


  • Dafydd ab Hugh an Brad Linaweaver, Doom:  Knee-Deep in the Dead.  Gaming tie-in novel.
  • Piers Anthony, Steppe.  SF.
  • Piers Anthony, James Richey, and Alan Riggs, Quest for the Fallen Star.  Fantasy.
  • Don Bendell, Chief of Scouts.  Western and/or historical novel.  Take your pick.
  • David Brin and Gregory Benford, Heart of the Comet.  Hard SF.  The authors' names are reversed on the title page (Benford, the Brin) but Brin's name gets the lead on the copyright notice.
  • "John & Emery Bonett" (John & Felicity Coulson), Better Dead.  Mystery.
  • Martin Caidin, Fork-Tailed Devil:  The P38.  Nonfiction, about the World War II fighter plane.
  • Orson Scott Card, Songmaster.  SF novel, winner of the Edmond Hamilton-Leigh Brackett Memorial award.
  • Thomas H. Cook, Peril.  Suspense.
  • Joseph W. Crosley, The Book of Navy Songs.  Just what the title says.  I put this under Crosley's name because the copyright is in his name and the United States Naval Institute; Crosley did the original 1926 arrangements.  The title page states the book is collected and edited by The Trident Society of the United States Naval Academy.  This is the 1955 revised edition.
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Troy Denning, and Cory Glaberson, Combat Command:  In the World of Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai:  Dorsai's Command.  Role-playing SF adventure.
  • Howard Fast, Departure and Other Stories.  Nineteen stories.
  • Gherbod Fleming, Brujah.  Horror, a Vampire Clan novel.  Is this a gaming tie-in book?  Dunno, but maybe.
  • Eric Flint and David Drake, Fortune's Stroke.  SF.  A Belarius novel.Steven Gould, Wildside.  YA SF.
  • Susan Hill, Howard's End Is on the Landing.  Nonfiction on books and reading.
  • Winston Graham, Night Without Stars.  Mystery.  The cover painting on this 1951 paperback shows a woman with an unbuttoned blouse, an African mask, a bottle of liquor (or beer, or Hershey's syrup -- hard to tell), and a menacing guy in the background who looks a lot like Broderick Crawford.  Cool.
  • William Horwood, Duncton Wood.  Best-selling talking animal fantasy with moles.
  • Diana Wynne Jones, The Pinhoe Egg.  YA fantasy in the Chrestomanci series.
  • Nancy Kress, Beggars in Spain.  SF novel, expanded from the Hugo and Nebula-winning novelette.
  • Ellen Jushner, Delia Sherman, and Donald G. Keller, editors, The Horns of Elfland.  Fantasy anthology, combining music  and magic.  Fifteen stories.
  • R. A. Lafferty, Aurelia.  SF novel.  Nobody wrote or ever will write by Lafferty.  This 1982 Starblaze Edition notes that the book was edited by (back when she was) Hank Stine.
  • Sterling E. Lanier, Hiero Desteen.  SF omnibus containing Hiero's Journey and The Unforsaken Hiero.  Post-apocalyptic SF novels.
  • John Le Carre, The Mission Song.  Thriller by the king of spy-guy novels.
  • Edward Lee,  Infernal Angel.  Horror.
  • Stephen Leigh, Ray Bradbury Presents:  Dinosaur Planet.  SF, the second novel in a series based on a Bradbury story.
  • Elliot S. Maggin, Superman:  Last Son of Krypton.  Comic book tie-in novel.
  • Larry Niven, creator, Man-Kzin Wars II and Man-Kzin Wars III.  Two SF anthologies in the franchise world created by Niven.  Three and two stories/novellas, respectively.
  • Lillian O'Donell, Cop Without a Shield.  A Norah Mulcahaney mystery.
  • Douglas Preston & Lincoon Child, Gideon's Sword.  Thriller.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, The Whimsical Christian.  Eighteen religious essays.
  • David Weber, The Short Victorius War.  A Honor Harriington SF military novel.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Well, Monday is Labor Day, the spirital if not the chronological end of summer, and because I am a lazy git, I am forced to revise my Summer 1912 Bucket List.

  • I had planned to do a great deal of travel to many, many exotic places (Tierra del Fuego, Ulan Bator, Kuala Lumpur, the Islets of Langerhans, Washington DC, i.e.).  Now I am going to settle for traveling to the bathroom many, many times.
  • I now hope to write the Great American Sentence.
  • This was the summer I was going to learn to play the twelve-string guitar.  Now I'm going to try to learn to play the radio and tune it to an oldies station.
  • The next new BIG computer application will not be designed by me, alas.  The time I would have spent creating it was spent slicing watermelon.  I really love watermelon.  I could use the next less-than-two days to design that application but -- dammit -- there's a sale on watermelon this weekend.
  • This was the summer I was going to lose the excess weight.  I could still lose over a hundred pounds by Labor Day, but only if I misplace my wife.  Ain't gonna happen.  Instead, my diet is going to be an excess "wait."
  • As some of you may know, we got an eight-year-old dog this summer.  My aim was to try to teach this old dog new tricks by the end of the summer.  The only trick-learning was on my part:  the dog taught me to leave the room whenever he passes gas.  I may still be able to teach him the trick of not passing gas, but I doubt it.  He's pretty set in his ways.
  • I had also hoped to learn a new language this summer.  Well, at least my wife has learned new language from me when the dog passes gas.
  • All was not a loss.  Items that never made it on my Summer 2012 Bucket List were sky diving, swimming with ravenous sharks, trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, climbing Mount Everest, riding a maddened tiger, and partying with Linsey Lohan.  I am happy to report that I did not do any of those things.

Perhaps the summer worked out pretty well, after all.  And, there's always next summer.