Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Some of you may not believe this, but there was a time when neither Dick Clark nor Ryan Seacrest celebrated a Rockin' New Year.  Instead, many Americans rang out the old and rang in the new with Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.  (Or, with a flick of the channel, Xavier Cugat with his coochie-coochie-coochie wife Charo.)

Let's party like it's 1957!

Monday, December 30, 2013


  • Jack Adrian, Deathlands:  Pilgrimage to Hell.  Apocalyptic men's adventure novel, first in a series.  This one was co-written (and uncredited) with Lawrence James.  All other books in the series were published under the house name "James Axler."
  • Piers Anthony, Var the Stick.  SF, second in a series.
  • "James Axler," Deathlands:  Homeward Bound, Red Equinox, Time Nomads, Chill Factor, Shockscape, Cold Asylum, Genesis Echo, Shadowfall, Ground Zero, Emerald Fire, and Bloodlines.  (All written by Lawrence James.)  Bitter Fruit (by Mel Odom), Demons of Eden (by Mark Ellis), Watersleep (by Terry Collins), Pandora's Redoubt (by Nick Pollata), Rat King and Separation (both by Andy Boot), and Vengeance Trail (by Victor Milan).  Apocalyptic men's adventure novels in the Deathlands series.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Forbidden Circle (omnibus containing The Spell Sword and The Forbidden Tower), The Shadow Matrix, and To Save A World (omnibus containing The World Wreckers and The Planet Savers).  SF novels in the Darkover series.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley & Deborah J. Ross, The Fall of Neskaya.  Another Darkover novel, Book One in the Clingfire trilogy. 
  • Susan Coon, Rahne.  Fantasy.
  • Peter David, Fable:  The Balverine Order.  Gaming tie-in novel.
  • Jane Gaskell, Atlan, The City, The Dragon, The Serpent, and Some Summer Lands.  Fantasy, all five volumes in the Atlan sequence.  (Originally a quartet, the original edition of The Serpent was later broken into two volumes:  The Serpent and The Dragon.)  Gaskell is the great-great-great-great niece of Mrs. (Elizabeth) Gaskell, the 19th century author of Cranford.
  • Ed Gorman, Cold Blue Midnight, Night Kills,  and Runner in the Dark. Thrillers.
  • Heather Graham, The Night Is Watching.  Paranormal romance/mystery.
  • David G. Hartwell, editor, Year's Best SF 2.  Anthology with 20 SF stories from 1996.
  • C. J. Henderson, Brooklyn Knight.  Fantasy featuring Professor Piers Knight.
  • Peter James, Dead Simple. The first Detective Inspector Roy Grace mystery.
  • Terry C. Johnson, Carry the Wind, On-Eyed Dream, and Ride the Moon Down.  Westerns.
  • Laurie R. King, Justice Hall.  A Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery.
  • Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad.  SF collection of fifteen stories by the great Polish writer.  Translated by Michael Kandel.
  • Peter Leslie (ghostwriter), Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan The Executioner:  #125 Dead Man's Tale.  Men's action adventure novel.
  • Stephen Mertz (ghostwriter), Mack Bolan The Executioner:  #48 The Libya Connection and #52 Tuscany Terror. Men's action adventure continuing the numbering of The Executioner series after a switch to a new publisher.  Billed as "Based on the character created by Don Pendleton."
  • Raymond Obstfeld (ghostwriter), Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan The Executioner:  #57 Flesh Wounds and #93 The Fire Eaters.  Men's action adventure.
  • Don Pendleton, The Executioner:  #1 War Against the Mafia, #2 Death Squad, #11 California Hit, #12 Boston Blitz, #13 Washington I.O.U., #17 Jersey Guns, #18 Texas Storm, #19 Detroit Deathwatch, #20 New Orleans Knockout, #24 Canadian Crisis, #26 Acapulco Rampage, #34 Terrible Tuesday, and #36 Thermal Thursday.  Men's action adventure novels.
  • "Jim Peterson," The Executioner:  #16 Sicilian Slaughter.  Men's action adventure; this was written during a legal dispute between Don Pendleton and Pinnacle books; Pendleton felt this one could be considered part of the series.
  • Chris Pierson, Blades of the Tiger.  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in novel, Volume One of the Taladas Trilogy.
  • Joanna Russ, And Chaos Died.  SF.  A classic.
  • Fred Saberhagen, The Veils of Azlaroc.  SF.
  • Kirk Sanson (ghostwriter), Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan The Executioner:  #128 Sudan Slaughter.  Men's action adventure novel.  Hard to believe that there are over 700 books in this and Executioner-related series.
  • Dan Simmons, Flashback.  SF/thriller.
  • Robert Westall, Blitzcat.  YA fantasy.
  • Ian Whates, editor, Solaris Rising:  The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction.  SF anthology with 19 stories.
  • Richard S. Wheeler,  Skye's West:  Bannack.  Western, the second in a series by one of the best.
  • Randy Wayne White, Hunter's Moon.  A Doc Ford thriller.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


The Blind Boys of Alabama with Mavis Staples!

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Journey with me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear paranoia.  (As opposed to those thrilling days of current year paranoia.)  In the early Fifties you just could not trust the Russkies.  America had to be ever alert.  Schoolchildren had to learn to duck and cover.  Backyard bomb shelters were just a few years away.  Ah...the good old days!

Atomic War! was the comic book to speak directly to those fears.  Issue number One was dated November 1952 and detailed how those dastardly Russians launched a sneak attack, destroying both New York City and Detroit.  (Detroit?  Does that mean there is no Edsel in our future?).  Fear not.  This issue also announced a contest for America's kiddies to win money for letters telling the editors how they've succeeded at outlining "the dangers, the horror and utter futility of WAR!"  Yes, evidently people paid for good reviews in 1952.

Halcyon times.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Head Games by Christopher Golden (2000)

One of my favorite YA series is the Body of Evidence featuring Jenna Blake, a college student working part-time as an assistant to a Massachusetts medical examiner.  The series began with Jenna, a freshman at Somerset University starting work for Dr. Walter Slickowski, one of the top MEs in the country.  Slickowski, a paraplegic who has lost the use of his legs, has adapted his work area to accommodate his handicap, soon has Jenna doing much more than clerical work.  Jenna's curiosity and quick mind soon involve her in some of the strange deaths that come across Slick's autopsy table, including the murder of her best friend early in her freshman semester.

Head Games, the fifth book in the series, begins two days before Christmas.  The smashed body Jim Kershak, the mayor of Somerset is found near the City Hall, where he had presumably jumped off the roof.  The mayor's death has hit Slick hard; Kershak had been a close friend and Slick had even dated Kershak's sister some years before.  The mayor, it turns out,  was not a suicide; he had been dead for hours before someone threw his body from the roof of City Hall.

Shaken, Jenna returns home to start her Christmas break.  She soon finds that some things have changed.  She and her high school friends are moving into adulthood and, although they are still close, their lives had begun to move on.  Even Jenna's home town has changed slightly and Jenna realizes that her college friends has more in common with her than her high school friends.

While Slick and the Somerset police are trying to discover the truth about Kershak's death, one county away in Jenna's home town, someone has been breaking into homes --not taking anything, but leaving something wrapped under the Christmas trees.

Following a Christmas Eve party, one of Jenna's high school friends returns home and butchers his sleeping family.  On Christmas night, another high school friend bludgeons his family.  Both young murderers were found in catatonic states. Jenna is convinced that someone controlled her friends, but who?  And how?

I found this entire series to entirely engaging.  The characters are well-drawn and believable.  Golden has managed the difficult task of integrating the younger and older characters to make a seamless whole.  The mysteries are puzzling, the deaths bizarre, and the reader never knows from book to book whether the mystery will be tinged with fantasy.  A solid series I recommend without hesitation.

The Body of Evidence series consists of ten paperbacks published by Pocket:
  • Body Bags (1999)
  • Thief of Hearts (1999)
  • Soul Survivor (1999)
  • Meets the Eye (2000)
  • Head Games (2000)
  • Skin Deep (2000, written with Rick Haulata)
  • Burning Bones (2001, written with Rick Hautala)
  • Brain Trust (2001, written with Rick Hautala)
  • Last Breath (2004, written with Rick Hautala)
  • Throat Culture (2005, written with Rick Hautala)

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Folksinger/songwriter David Mallett is perhaps best known for "The Garden Song," an often-covered ode to nature.   Pete Seeger once introduced the song as having been written by an old Maine farmer, not realizing that Mallett was a fresh young talent.  No Matter, the song is a classic.

Here he is performing the song with kindergartners from Kennebunk, Maine:

This is one of the first songs we heard him sing.  Half-way through the song, Kitty turned to me and said, "His voice is like honey."

Here's a few more from an incredible talent.

Mallett is one of the artists I listen to at this time of year.  A perfect way to close out one year and to greet another.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


My mother would put things off until he last minute.  One year, she was expecting the entire family and extended family for Christmas dinner.  True to form, she went out the day before Christmas to buy a turkey and could not find one that would be large enough to feed everyone.  She asked the butcher, "Do these turkeys get any bigger?"  The butcher answered, "Of course not, maam.  They're dead."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Although Republic Pictures is perhaps best known for its B westerns, the film studio did produce films in other genres.  Unfortunately, those films tended to be a few grades below the studio's typical B level.  Case in point, The Mandarin Mystery.

The second of two films based on Ellery Queen novels, The Mandarin Mystery (1936) took four screenwriters to beat the stuffing out of Queen's book The Chinese Orange Mystery, turning the film into more of a comedy than anything else.  Yes, there are murders, but the mystery/detection part of the novel seems to have vanished completely.

Directed by Ralph Staub, the movie featured a cast of unknowns with Eddie Quillan as Ellery.  Francis M. Nevins wrote, "Ellery was played by Eddie Quillan, a vaudeville hoofer type whose oafish smirks and incessant wisecracking suggest that he landed the part on the basis of his initials."

Consider this my Christmas present to you.

Monday, December 23, 2013


  • Mark Anthony, Beyond the Pale.  Fantasy, Book One of The Last Rune.
  • Piers Anthony, With a Tangled Skein.  Fantasy Book, Three of Incarnations of Immortality.
  • Kelley Armstrong, Dime Store Magic.  Romance/horror novel, part of the Women of Otherworld series.
  • John Barth, The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor and Sabbatical.  Novels.
  • Stephen Baxter, Moonseed.  SF.
  • James R. Benn,  Blood Alone.  A Billy Boyle World War II mystery.
  • Lawrence Block, All the Flowers Are Dying.  Mystery, a Matt Scudder novel.
  • Johnny D. Boggs, Walk Proud, Stand Tall.  Western.
  • Poppy Z. Brite, Wordwood.  Horror collection with twelve stories.
  • Michael Bynes, The Sacred Bones.  Thriller.
  • Orson Scott Card, The Lost Gate and Wyrms.  Fantasies.
  • Hugh B. Cave, The Dawning.  Horror novel from a pulp master.
  • C. J. Cherryh, The Dreamstone.  Fantasy.
  • Ralph Compton, The Autumn of the Gun.  Western.
  • Michael Connelly, City of Bones.  A Harry Bosch mystery.
  • John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things.  Fantasy.
  • Dennis Deitz, The Greenbrier Ghost and Other Strange Stories.  West Virginia folklore.
  • James Ellroy, editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2002.  Anthology with 20 stories.
  • Steven Erikson, Dust of Dreams.  Fantasy, part of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.
  • John Farris, writing as "Steve Brackeen,"  Baby Moll.  Crime novel from a very young Farris.
  • Robert Ferrigno, Dead Silent.  Mystery.
  • Jim Fisher, Ten Percent of Nothing:  The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell.  Non-fiction study of Dorothy Deering, con artist extraordinaire and literary agent.
  • Tana French, The Likeness.  Mystery.
  • James Alan Gardner, Trapped.  SF.
  • Elizabeth George, editor, A Moment on the Edge:  100 Years of Crime Stories by Women.  Anthology with 26 stories.  Originally published as Crime from the Mind of a Woman:  A Collection of Women Crime Writers of the Century.
  • Laura Ann Gilman, Curse in the Dark.  Fantasy.
  • Sephera Giron, House of Pain.  Horror.
  • Ed Gorman, Night of Shadows and Shadow Games.  An Anna Toland western and a thriller.  Gorman is always a treat.
  • Simon R. Green, Daemons Are Forever.  Urban fantasy featuring Eddie Drood.
  • Steve Harriman, Sleeper.  Horror.  There's something lurking beneath the Pentagon!
  • Nancy Holder & Jeff Mariotte, Unseen:  Door to Alternity.  Television tie-in novel.  A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel crossover; the second book in a trilogy.
  • James Byron Huggins, Hunter.  Horror.
  • Arnaldur Indridason, Operation Napoleon.  Thriller.  Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb.
  • Charlee Jacob, This Symbiotic Fascination.  Horror.
  • William W. Johnstone, Ordeal.  Thriller.
  • William W. Johnstone with J. A. Johnstone, Phoenix Rising, Phoenix Rising:  Day of Judgment, and Phoenix Rising:  Firebase Freedom.  Post-apocalyptic novels with a rightest slant.  Us vs. Islam.
  • Richard Kadrey, Kill the Dead.  Fantasy, a Sandman Slim novel.
  • "Alexander Kent" (Douglas Reeman), With All Dispatch.  Historical sea novel featuring Richard Bolitho.
  • Katherine Kerr, The Bristling Wood.  Fantasy set in Kerr's kingdom of Deverry.
  • Hideyuki Kikuchi, Vampire Hunter D:  Demon Deathchase.  Fantasy, the third in the series.  Translated from the Japanese by Kevin Leahy.
  • J. Robert King, editor, The Dragons of Magic Anthology.  Gaming (Magic:  The Gathering) tie-in anthology with twelve stories.
  • Jeffery D. Kooistra, Dyksta's War.  SF.
  • Louis L'Amour, Down the Long Hills, The Iron Marshal, Silver Canyon, and Under the Sweetwater Rim.  Westerns.  Also, Sitka, a Northwestern, and Buckskin Run and Long Ride Home, western collections with eight stories each.  I probably already have some of these but I haven't rebuilt my online catalog yet an these were 20 cents each, so what the hey.
  • Geoffrey Landis, Mars Crossing.  SF.
  • James Lovegrove, The Age of Ra and The Age of Zeus.  SF(?)/fantasy(?), the first two books in the Pantheon trilogy.
  • Eric Van Lustbader, Shan, a Jake Maroc thriller, and The Sunset Warrior, a fantasy.
  • George MacDonald, Phantases and Lilith.  Omnibus volume of the two classic fantasiesYeah, these are available online, but holding a real book is more fun.  Also, see Richard H. Reis, below.
  • Manuela Dunn Mascetti, Vampire:  The Complete Guide to the World of the Undead.  Coffee table book.
  • Anne McCaffrey & Todd McCaffrey, Dragon's Fire and Dragon's Kin.  SF in the Pern sequence.
  • Peter McCurtain, The Exterminator.  Movie tie-in novel with photos of Christopher George blowing up things, Eighties-style.
  • Walter Mosley with Katrina Kenison, editors, The Best American Short Stories 2003.  Anthology with
  • Shirley Rousseau Murphy, Nightpool.  Fantasy.
  • Yvonne Navarro, Hellboy.  Movie (based on the comic book) tie-in novel.
  • Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, Footfall.  SF.
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor.  Novel.
  • S. M. Peters, Ghost Ocean.  Steampunk.
  • Dorothy Porter, The Monkey's Mask.  An "erotic murder mystery."
  • Ian Rankin, Tooth and Nail.  A John Rebus mystery.
  • "Daniel Ransom" (Ed Gorman), The Serpent's Kiss.  Thriller.  Have I mentioned that I love Gorman's writing?
  • Thomas M. Reid, The Temple of Elemental Evil.  Gaming (Greyhawk) tie-in novel.
  • Richard H. Reis, George MacDonald.  Literary study of MacDonald (1824-1905), number 119 in Twayne's English Authors Series.
  • Nancy Rhyne, Tales of the South Carolina Low Country.  Folklore.
  • Paul Richards, The Unblessed.  Horror.
  • Peter Robinson, In a Dry Season. An Alan Banks mystery.
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Fantasy Life.  Fantasy novel set in Rusch's Seavy County, Oregon.
  • Hanks Searls, The Big X.  Aviation novel that bordered on SF when it was first published in 1959.
  • John Skipp & Craig Spector, The Scream.  Splatter-punk.
  • James V. Smith, Jr.,  Beastmaker.  Horror.
  • Lewis Spence, The Myths of the North American Indians.  Non-fiction.
  • S. M. Stirling,  T2:  The Future War and T2:  Infiltrator.  Movie franchise tie-in novel.
  • Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism:  A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness.  An exploration of the field by one of the more important apologists of mysticism.  First published in 1911 when mysticism and spiritualism was all the rage.
  • Nicola Upson. An Expert in Murder.  A Josephine Tey mystery.
  • Joan D. Vinge, Cowboys & Aliens.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Angus Wells, The Guardian.  Fantasy.
  • Gene Wolfe, The Knight.  Fantasy, Book One of The Wizard Knight.
  • Patricia C. Wrede, Snow White and Rose Red.  Fantasy in the Fairy Tale series created by Terri Windling.
  • T. M. Wright, A Manhattan Ghost Story.  Horror.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


This afternoon, we are off to celebrate a Tuba Christmas.  This is the 40th anniversary of Tuba Christmas, which is now celebrated across the country.  Our Tuba Christmas in Southern Maryland  is much smaller than the one shown below (usually 30-40 players), but it is a proud and enjoyable tradition.

Enjoy the New York City Tuba Christmas that took place last week at Rockefeller Center.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


I hope you all have been good little boys and girls this year, because you know who is keeping a list and he'll be heading out Tuesday evening...Well, that is, if he gets back from Wonderland.  Perhaps you should check it out for yourself.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Innocence by Dean Koontz (2013)

Take one young man who was kicked out of his house by his mother went he was eight, was left to forage in the woods, and then spent the next eighteen years living underground hiding from humanity, then add an eighteen-year-old girl who cannot be touched and who has spent the last five years off the grid, and you have an interesting Beauty and the Beast scenario that could only have been dreamed of by Dean Koontz.

Addison Goodheart has a horrifying deformity, not explicitly described but one that disgusts and repels any who see his face, driving them to violence.  A true innocent in the world, the boy Addison makes it into the city, hiding by day and roaming by night until he meets the man he calls Father, another deformed outcast.  Father takes the boy underground, through the water mains and sewers to an abandoned three-room lair where he lives.  There, Father and Addison live comfortably, though sparcely, venturing out only at night until an encounter with two policemen following a snow storm leaves Father dead.  For the next eight years, Addison endures a lonely existence; one of his occasional joys is visiting the city library while it is silent at night, entering through a secret entrance.

One night there, Addison encounters a girl running from a man in the library. The girl is Gwyneth, who has spent the last five years off the grid, hiding from this man, a savage and sadistic pederast who had murdered her father when  she was thirteen.  Gwen, now eighteen, is incredibly wealthy and uses that wealth to stay hidden from her pursuer.  Gwen, although world-wise, is another innocent who has been hiding a young girl who had been beaten and left to drown and has been in a coma ever since.  Gwen is convinced that this girl is important and needs to be protected.

So that's the set-up.  Addison, a man so deformed that anyone who sees his face wants to kill him, and Gwen, a girl who can't stand to be touched, and a powerful deviant who will go to any lengths to possess and then destroy her.  Add in some fog creatures and some radiant insubstantial beings that only Addison can see, some bloody deaths, along with an apocalyptic threat, good dogs, Koonzian father figures, and a mysterious other-worldly purpose to the world.  Mix everything up in a compelling narrative which doles out the backstory in dribs and drabs.  End up with a totally unexpected but carefully planned turn in the narrative and you end up with an interesting and unsatisfying book.

Yes.  Unsatisfying.  In the way that we found Bobby Ewing in the shower and realized that the entire past season was a dream.  In the way that bad science fiction stories end with the protagonists turning out to be Adam and Eve or with the world blowing up/being hit by a comet because the author had written himself into a corner.  In the way that the solution to a puzzling mystery story relies on something that you were not told.  In the way that you open a Christmas present as a kid and find that it's underwear.  In a way that twelve bad guys in a spaghetti western run into town to kill the hero and the hero kills eleven bad guys for the happy ending because the director lost count of how many bad guys there were.  That kind of unsatisfying.

But, as I also said, the book is compelling.  Koontz make you want to turn the page, and the next page, and the next...  This book has been called a major departure for Koontz and, in a way, it is.  And, in a way, it is standard-issue Koontz.  Take your pick.

The world is divided into three camps:  those who like Koontz's books;  those who don't; and those -- like me -- keep reading them even though their flaws and their predictability keep beating them over the head.

I'll be on board for the next book.  And I'll most likely enjoy it.  And I will most likely be kicking myself for enjoying it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Last Christmas I went back to my home town to visit relatives.  One morning, feeling hungry, I stopped in at the local diner for breakfast.  I scanned the menu and ordered the eggs benedict.  When the waitress came back with my order it was on a shiny hubcap.  What's this? I asked.  She told me, "There's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise."


Alfred Bester (1913-1987), the man who gave us The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, would have celebrated his 100th birthday today. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Looking for a truly terrible holiday film?  Forget the Lifetime and Hallmark channels.  You can even forget SANTA CLAUS VERSUS THE MARTIANS.  No, if you really want to get to the bottom of the Christmas dreck pile you really must view the 1959 Mexican film SANTA CLAUS VS. THE DEVIL, better known as SANTA CLAUS.  This flick has everything:  dancing devils, racist and cultural stereotypes (African children in leopard skin breechcloths and with bones in their hair, Cuban and Asian children brandishing rifles), good versus evil, abysmal production values, and stilted acting.  This film is so bad that it received the MST3K treatment.

I'll not bother you with details about the cast -- you won't know who they are, anyway.

Will the devil destroy Christmas and sway the boys and girls of the world to the naughty list?

Without further ado, here's the movie that will make you appreciate such holiday turkeys as SANTA JUNIOR, THE SANTA INCIDENT, MOONLIGHT AND MISTLETOE, HATS OFF TO CHRISTMAS!, THE SANTA SWITCH, SURVIVING CHRISTMAS, FINDING CHRISTMAS, THE NAUGHTY LIST, and even David Hasselhoff's acting chops in THE CHRISTMAS CONSULTANT.

Monday, December 16, 2013


  • Basil Copper, Blood on the Moon, Dark Entry, and Impact.  Three more Mike Faraday mysteries.
  • Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio, editors, Stories, All-New Tales.  A multi-genre anthology with 27 stories.  This one's a winner.
  • Diana Henstell, Friend.  Horror.
  • Ruby Jean Jensen, Best Friends, Home Sweet Home, and Victoria.  Horror novels.
  • Stephanie Kegan, The Baby.  Horror.
  • "Marilyn Ross" (W. E. D. Ross), Loch Sinister.  Gothic.
  • Mike Stone, Allison's Baby.  Horror.
  • Patricia Wallace, Only Child and Twice Blessed.  Horror novels.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


We just came back from a holiday concert.  This was one of the songs the eleven-person a capella group sang.  I hope it puts you in the holiday mood.


Never let it be said that Jerry's House of Everything is not educational.  Science and math just ooze out of every post like roaches in a kitchen.  Fer instance, didja know that coalbins may soon become extinct?  For reals.  That's just one of the many things I learned from this comic.

Enjoy this brain blast from the year I was born.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Burgade's Crossing by Bill Pronzini (2003)

I've been reading a lot of Bill Pronzini's stories lately and, while doing so, have developed a greater appreciation for his characters Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon.  The time is the 1890s; the scene, San Francisco and just about anywhere else.  John Quincannon is a former secret service agent, the son of the owner of a detective agency that rivaled the Pinkerton's.  Sabina Carpenter is a former Pinkerton herself, the young widow of another Pinkerton agent.  In 1893 the two pooled their talents to form the private detective agency of Carpenter and Quincannon.

The ongoing theme in the stories is Quincannon's desire for his partner and her determination to have their relationship remain strictly professional.  Quincannon is a man with a large ego and an appetite for women, drink, and danger.  For the sake of Sabina, he has forgone the first two.  What began as simple lust for his partner has become love but, in his bull-headed way, he never expresses it so.  For her part, Sabina on occasion will display affection for Quincannon while remaining insistent that her private life remain hers.  Her influence over her partner is strong:  once in a while she is even able to convince the tight-fisted Scot to waive the agency fee.  The fact that Quincannon would agree (under vocal protests, mind you) is evidence of how far he has fallen for his partner.

Quincannon and Sabina are good detectives, able to solve the most impossible of crimes.  Sabina, Quincannon sometimes admits, is as good -- and sometimes a better -- detective as he is.  Burgade's Crossing collects eight stories in the series, four from the short-lived Louis L'Amour Western Magazine, one from EQMM, one from the anthology Crime at Christmas, one apparently original, and one reprinted from Carpenter and Quincannon, Professional Detective Services, an earlier collection.  The stories cover a lot of ground, from a river ferry to a gambling parlor, and from counterfeiting to a Chinatown tong war.  Good, fast, enjoyable reading that reminds me of Edward D. Hoch in its variety, strong plotting, rich detail, fair play detection, and solid characters.

Pronzini and his wife Marcia Muller have just published a new Carpenter and Quincannon novel, The Spook Lights Affair.  I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


1945.  The queen returns to the Netherlands.  The funeral of David Lloyd George.  A six-engine seaplane is tested.  Americans press on into Germany, releasing American prisoners.  I love the old newsreels.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Things get banned for all sorts of reasons, and some for no reason at all.  Cartoons are just as apt to be banned as any other media.  Here's a collection of six "banned" cartoons, some because of stereotyping, some for political reasons (I guess), and some for who knows what.

So here's Bugs, Donald, the Road Runner, Droopy, Foghorn Leghorn, and (!) Louis Armstrong.  See if you can figure out why each was banned.

Okay, the Louis Armstrong one was a given.

Monday, December 9, 2013


  • Kelley Armstrong, Made To Be Broken.  Paranormal romance, part of the Women of the Otherworld series.
  • Nevada Barr, Blind Descent, Borderline, Endangered Species, High Country, Hunting Season, and A Superior Death.  Anna Pigeon mysteries.
  • Johnny D. Boggs, Camp Ford.  Western.
  • Kate Carlisle, Homicide in Hardcover and Murder Under Cover.  Mysteries in the Bibliophile Mystery series. Copyright by Kathleen Beaver, so the Carlisle name looks like a good choice.
  • Harlan Coburn, The Woods.  Thriller.
  • Thomas H. Cook, The Fate of Katherine Carr.  Mystery.
  • Basil Copper, The Caligari Complex, Heavy Iron, and House Dick.  A Mike Faraday P.I. mysteries.
  • Emma Donoghue, Room.  Psychological literary novel.
  • John Hardin, The Devil's Tramping Ground and Other North Carolina Mystery Stories.  Folklore.
  • James D. Horan, The Authentic West:  The Outlaws.  Nonfiction coffee table book.  Since I drink coffee and I have a table, this one was a no-brainer.
  • L. Ron Hubbard, Ron:  Writer:  Literary CorrespondenceLetters & Journals and Ron:  Writer:  The Shaping of Popular Fiction.  Contrary to Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Hubbard was a serviceable hack writer who produced a few very good stories.  The Ron series is Bridge Publications' (that is to say, the Church of Scientology's) attempt to convince people that  Hubbard was a polymath and the end-all and be-all rather than a slick charlatan who was trying to live down his many inconsistent accounts of himself.  Oh well, these slick little coffee table (see comment on James D. Horan, above) were 20 cents each and had a lot of pretty pictures.  The Correspondence volume is the most interesting, and includes to and from letters from various editors (including John W. Campbell), writers (including Robert A. Heinlein), and fans.  The cynic in me is convinced that the letters were selected to put Hubbard in the best light possible.  And, this volume has a 71-page (!!!) glossary which informs us (among others things) that "drop in (on)" means "to pay an informal visit or call" and that "Oklahoma" is "a state in the south central United States, north of the state of Texas."  Sweet Mother of God, what is the I.Q. level of their intended audience?
  • Joe R. Lansdale, Red Range.  Graphic novel...a western, actually.  But since it's Lansdale, there's a dinosaur, a hidden land, and a bunch of strangely pigmented conquistadors.  Artwork by Sam Glanzman.  Signed by Lansdale.
  • Patricia Moyes, Johnny Underground.  A Henry Tibbett mystery.
  • "Christopher Pike" (Kevin McFadden), Remember Me.  YA horror omnibus containing Remember Me, The Return, and The Last Story.
  • Edward Rowe Snow, Disaster at Sea.  Omnibus volume containing Marine Mysteries and Dramatic Disasters of New England, Sea Disasters and Inland Catastrophes, and Pirates, Shipwrecks and Historic Chronicles.  Snow (1902-1982) was a popular historian who was an authority on New England lore and maritime history.  When I was young, he was a popular guests on Boston's radio talk shows, his stories of ghosts and hidden treasure in New England fascinated me.  He was such a presence in New England, it was hard to believe there would be a time without him.
  • S. M. Stirling, Island in the Sea of Time.  SF/time travel/alternate history novel of the "Change."  Nantucket Island has somehow been transferred 1250 B.C. -- not good news for the island's boutique shops.
  • Blair Underwood, with Tanarive Due & Steven Barnes, Casanegra.  A Tennyson Hardwick mystery.  This one is evidently "action-packed" with "steamy scenes between the sheets."  Oh, my!
  • Randy Wayne White ("writing as Randy Striker"), Cuban Death-Lift, The Deadlier Sex, and Grand Cayman Slam.  Action/adventure novels featuring former Navy SEAL Dusky MacMorgan, first published in the early Eighties and republished with the author's own name from 2007-9.
  • Jane Yolen, Sword of the Rightful King.  YA Arthurian novel.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Western Picture Stories may have been the first western themed comic book produced.  The 67 page comic was put out by Centaur Publishing (Comics Magazine Company) beginning with the February 1937 issue.  One very familiar name in this issue was Will Eisner, called "Bill Eisner" on the table of contents and "William Eisner" on the story itself.

Contents (roughly in this order) are:

  • "Treachery on the Trail" by H. Mulheim
  • "Windy Park's Kettle of Gold," a tall tale by Victor J. Dowling
  • "Blood and Iron" by H. David & W. M. (Bill) Allison
  • "A Tense Moment," a two page centerfold by Rodney Thompson
  • "Weapons of the West," a text article by Milt Wilcox
  • "Guns of Revenge" by Arthur Pinajian
  • "Top Hand," a "Wild Tex" Martin story by Will Eisner
  • "A Killer's Conscience," a very silly story by G. G. Lewis
  • "Famous Frontiersmen:  Buffalo Bill" by R. A. Burley
  • "The Lucifer Trail," a Tex Maverick story by Matt Wilcox; Tex Maverick, of course, is a "happy-go-lucky, quick-shootin' wandering young cowpoke"
  • "Tracks in the Snow," a Northwestern by H. L. Hastings
  • "Punchers," a western illustration by Bill Allison
Fair warning:  This link starts about 17 pages into the comic book with "Guns of Revenge," then follows the comic book in order through to page 49, after which comes the comic's cover and the first few stories in the book.  So, to get the original feel of the comic, start at page 50.

Saddle up, pardner!

Friday, December 6, 2013



Red Range by Joe R, Lansdale (1999)
Pigeons from Hell by Joe R. Lansdale (2009)

On hand are two graphic novels by hisownself, Joe R. Lansdale, who has put his East Texas stamp on the genre.

First up, Red Range, a wild western adventure illustrated by Sam Glanzman.  We open with the Klan terrorizing a family of Black ranchers...the father has been tied to a porch post, his eyes gouged out with sticks, his genitals set on fire; his wife, beaten and raped; his young son thrown down a well.  This group of sadistic racists is led by Batiste, a hulking man who just oozes evil.  Suddenly a rifle shot rings out and three of the Klan members are felled by a single bullet.  A masked rider comes roaring forth, both guns blazing, and more Klansmen die.  The rider heads off and, from behind a rock, kills a few more baddies with a well-aimed Sharps rifle.  Back on his horse, he shoots a few more.  The surviving Klansmen scatter, leaving Batiste alone.  Batiste then flees in fear.  The rider then manages to rescue the boy from the well.

The masked rider is Red Mask, a black man named Caleb Range who has sworn vengeance on the Klan after Batiste killed his wife and son for daring to own some land and to try to farm it; Caleb had even gone so far as to go into a store to buy things as if he were a white person.  Batiste had Caleb wrapped in barbed wire and dragged behind a horse, and then threw him off a cliff to finish him off.  Caleb, however, was made of sterner stuff, surviving even after a hungry bear had pulled his body from a river.

While Caleb and the boy, Turon, hide out in a cave, Batiste has gathered some more men and hired a tracker to hunt down the Red Mask.  That was not a great idea.  Many of Batiste's gang are killed and Caleb and Turon escape across the badlands on a single horse.  Batiste and his crew follow.  Caleb and Turon are forced to make a stand by a riverbank after Caleb's horse dies of exhaustion.  Batiste's men reach them as it begins to rain like stink.  More of Batiste's men die before the Red Mask's guns as Caleb and Turon are swept away in a raging river.  The rain has weakened the bank, a tumultuous flood then sweeps Batiste and a cohort away, down the river and over a large waterfall.

Then things get really strange.  There's a hidden underground world, dinosaurs, some Black conquistadors, a graveyard of ancient ships, and more than a smidgeon of violence.  Hey, it's Lansdale, after all...

The book ends with the promise of another adventure, "The Pirates of Fireworld," coming soon.  As far as I can tell, though, the Red Mask's adventures never made it to a second volume.  Too bad -- Lansdale, Glanzman, and Caleb Range were a winning combination.

The second book under consideration is an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's classic short story, "Pigeons from Hell," with artwork by Nathan Fox (his first solo effort at a comic book).  Lansdale has taken Howard's tale and updated and expanded it.

Janet and Clare Blassenville, descendants of slaves, have inherited what is left of the Blassenville Plantation, located in a swamps of Louisiana.  The plantation was the sight of many atrocities against slaves and was abandoned shortly after the Civil War.   Anna, a slave and a hoodoo woman, placed a curse on the place in retribution for the murder of her baby by Diedra Blassenville, a daughter of the estate.  As the curse worked its way through her family, Diedra was the only one left until she herself vanished.  The plantation was left to the lase remaining slave in the Blassenville will; it has stayed in the slave's family ever since, even though no one ever approached the place.

Janet and Clare, along with friends Sally, Billy, and Jason, decided to travel to inspect the property.  The house is in terrible condition, rotting through, surrounded by pigeons.  (In the old legends, pigeons are harbingers of death, of course.)  Even though it is the middle of summer in Louisiana, inside the old house it is cold, bone cold.  As they explore the house, they find a large mound of dead pigeons in one room on the second floor.  They decide to leave but as they go down the stairs, Billy steps on a rotten part and falls through, breaking his leg.  The other four carry him to the car and race to get him to a hospital.  A deer jumps in front of the car, forcing them to swerve, landing in a lake.  They manage to get out before the car sinks, but now they are alone and wet in the dark of night, with a severely injured Billy, and the only place for shelter is the Blassenville plantation.  But there are pigeons there...and the curse.

Shadows of dead slaves rise from an old graveyard, forming to create a great shadow wolf.  An that's outside the house.  Inside the house is the thing that Anna summoned years ago when she cursed the plantation, the shadow in the corn.

In the house, Jason is separated from the others.  They hear him scream.  It's a dead Jason who comes down the stairs, his head split open by an axe.  Jason attacks  them, but the girls get away, Clare and Janet in one direction, Sally in another; injured Billy is  not as lucky.  Running, the Clare and Janet stumble upon a lone lawman, hunting the swamp for a jail escapee.  He doesn't believe the girls' story one bit, but Clare and Janet insist on going back to the house to find Sally.  The lawman -- and his gun -- accompany them.

Then -- this is Lansdale, remember -- things get a bit weirder.  They meet up with Alcebee, the sentinel who stops the evil from spreading beyond the plantation.  Alcebee is getting old (really old, he's a hundred fifty-year-old former slave) and weak.  Soon he won't have the strength to hold back the evil.  There's a snake of fire, a search for the heart of a sorceress, more ghosts, a confrontation with the shadow in the corn, and lotsa blood.  Did I mention the dead ghouls?

This is not your daddy's Robert E. Howard, kiddies.  But Lansdale does manage to stay true to Howard's vision while giving it his own twist.  Nathan Fox captures Lansdale's take on the story quite well.  The book also includes some background information from Lansdale, a perspective on the story from Howard scholar Mark Finn, and a look into how Fox approach the artwork, as well as full color samples of related art from five other artists.

Lansdale is at home with the comic book form and these two books stand well with his novels and short stories.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Just before dawn on April 18, 1906, an estimated 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit San Francisco and parts of Northern California -- one of the worst natural disasters in our country's history.  Over 3000 people died, most of them in the city.  The quake, aftershocks, and resulting fires destroyed 80% of San Francisco.

Sometimes it is hard to imagine such devastation. especially for an event that occurred over a century ago.

Here are some newsreels from that time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


David Hasselhoff's career was in a major slump.  He thought about all he could to revive his career and decided that the first was to rebrand himself.  He called his agent and said, "From now on, professionally, I want to be known only as Hoff."

His agent was cool with that.  "Sure," he agreed, "no hassle."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


From November 14, 1954, an episode of G.E. True Theater:  "I'm a Fool," based on a short story by Sherwood Anderson.  Eddie Albert narrates a coming of age story about a boy (James Dean) and a girl (Natalie Wood) and the consequences of a lie.  Rounding out the cast were Roy Glenn (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?), Eve March (The Curse of the Cat People), Leon Tyler (Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow -- we can't all be in classic films), Gloria Castillo in her first role (she then jumped to The Night of the Hunter), and Fiona Hale (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).  The weakest link seems to be the Gipper, Ronald Reagan, who served as the series host.

The 30 minute episode was adapted by Arnold Schulman and directed by Don Medford., giving us such films as Funny Lady, Goodbye, Columbus, The Night They Raided Minsky's, and Cimmarron, as well as a number of television shows.  Schulman was a noted scriptwriter  Medford spent his directing career in television working on ten television movies and over 60 television shows, most notably Dynasty, Baretta, The F.B.I., and Tales of Tomorrow, as well as 20 other episodes of G.E. True Theater; he helmed only three theatrical features, including Sidney Poitier's The Organization and a remix of early The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I'm A Fool was remade in 1977 as a television movie staring Ron Howard and Amy Irving.

G.E. True Theater began as General Electric Theater, first projected as a summer radio replacement for The Bing Crosby Program in 1953, then began airing on CBS television on February first, 1953.  The show ran until May 27, 1962.  It's long-time host, Ronald Reagan, began his run in late September, 1954, and hosted until 1962 when General Electric fired him because of political comments he made about the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Reagan's son Michael eventually claimed that then Attorney General Bobby Kennedy pressured G.E. into firing Reagan.  (Reagan eventually found work in another field, or so I've heard.)  The show died in 1962 and was replaced by G.E. True, hosted by Jack Webb.

The anthology series had an estimated 209 episodes, all but one were adaptations, however IMDB lists Reagan as host for 261 episodes.  Go figure.

No matter.  A young James Dean and a young Natalie Wood...a pretty great combo, don't you think?

Monday, December 2, 2013


OK, so I am a Luddite.  I know nothing about computers, or any sort of technology for that matter.  I am the first to admit that I am clumsy, inept, and without a scintilla of talent.  (The one exception being that I happen to be a universal sex symbol, or so I have often told myself.)  I can't sing and the closest thing to a musical instrument that I can play is a radio (and that not too well).  My drawing is such that even stick figures drawn by a three-year-old laugh at me.  My mechanical ability is limited to knowing that an automobile has (or should have) a go pedal and a stop pedal. 

So, computers and blogging?   Pfffft!

But I am trying.  With the help of my daughter, you are now viewing my new, improved blog.  Unfortunately, after giving me a solid tutorial, she hurried back to Massachusetts, leaving me with newly acquired knowledge leaking slowly out of my brain.

In essence, this post is a plea to treat me kindly while I try to work out a zillion and one tweaks.

Yep.  In the words of that great philosopher Yoda, a pity post this one is.


  • Stephen R. Donaldson, Fatal Revenant.  Fantasy, Book Two of the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.
  • J.-K. Huysmans, The Damned (La-Bas).  Decadent novel, the classic black magic/Satanism novel first published in 1891; also published as Down There.  Translated with an introduction and notes by Terry Hale.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving!


I'm thankful today for a feisty old woman who was not afraid to speak to power.

Many people remember Malvina Reynolds for her work as Kate on Sesame Street in the early Seventies.

Some remember her as the composer of such popular songs as "Turn Around" and "Morningtown Ride."

Others drifted to her music after Pete Seeger made a hit of her "Little Boxes."

I remember her best as a political activist who fought for the underdog, the environment, and common sense.

The link below takes you to her album Malvina Reynolds...Sings the Truth.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


My aunt is bringing over her homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner; my uncle is bringing over his blatant racism.


How to cook a turkey that'll have your guests talking for weeks:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


A George Burns/Gracie Allen Thanksgiving, 1936 radio style:

Certainly things can't be more confusing four years later:

Poor George and Gracie! Their 1948 turkey swallowed a wedding ring:

By 1950, they were able to celebrate Thanksgiving on television:

I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, November 25, 2013


  • William Peter Blatty, Dimiter.  Thriller.
  • James Lee Burke, Swan Peak.  A Dave Robicheaux mystery.
  • Lincoln Child, Deep Storm.  Thriller.
  • Heather Graham, The Séance.  Paranormal thriller.
  • Laurell Hamilton, Flirt. An Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novel.
  • "John Twelve Hawks," The Golden City.  SF, the third book in the Fourth Realm trilogy.
  • Louis L'Amour, Borden Chantry, Bowdrie, and The Iron Marshall.  Westerns all.  Plus, Long Ride Home, a western collection with eight stories. And then there's The Daybreakers, Lonely on the Mountain, Mohave Crossing, and Mustang Man, four books in the Sacketts series.
  • Noel M. Loomis, Heading West.  Western collection with nine stories.  The introduction is by Bill Pronzini, making me wonder if this is one of the many single-author western collections that Pronzini edited.  Does anyone know?
  • Frederick Manfred, King of Spades.  Western.
  • Andrew P. Mayer, The Falling Machine.  Steampunk, Book One of The Society of Steam.
  • Steven Saylor, Roma.  Historical novel from the author of the Gordanius the Finder mystery series.
  • Charles Stross, Rule 34.  SF.
  • Ralph E. Vaughan, Sherlock Holmes:  The Coils of Time & Other Stories.  A short novel and seven short stories.  The title story is revised and expanded from the chapbook Sherlock Holmes in the Coils of Time originally published by Gary Lovisi's Gryphon Books.  When Hurricane Sandy flooded the warehouse of Gryphon Books (also known as Gary's Brooklyn basement), all copies of the many wonderful Gryphon Books were destroyed and Gary did not have the funds to reprint them.  Vaughn then revised and reformatted the story, added some new work, and...voila!...this book.  In the meantime, Gary is hard at work producing more fantastic works for Gryphon.  If you have a chance to support Gryphon Books, please do so.  (Gary also has some great books available from Fender Tucker's equally wonderful Ramble House.  Hint, hint.)  En of unsolicited commercial message.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Captain Steve Savage #2, December 1951

Avon Comics first ran their Captain Steve Savage comic book in January 1950.  Savage was a U.S. Air Force Captain running dangerous missions over Korea; the comic book was likely meant to be a one-shot since there was a near two-year time lag before the second issue.

Issue #2 was titled Captain Steve Savage and His Jet Fighters and featured a three-part story with episodes "Perilous Mission Over Korea," "The Choquin Massacre," and "The Death Gamble," with pencils by Louis Raveilli.  Also in the issue was a story featuring private eye Mike Strong, "The Mystery of the Empty Graves!"

Issue #2 also had a two-page text story, "Danger No. 5!," featuring Leslie Charteris' modern-day Robin Hood Simon Templar, the Saint.  Comic books often used text stories as fillers, but this one seems unusual.  Other issues of Captain Steve Savage used war and adventure tales as such filler, but nothing using a well-known fictional character such as the Saint.

Avon Comics also published The Saint comic book, beginning in 1947.  The comic stories were authorized but not written by Charteris.  (Charteris did write The Saint comic strip from 1948 to 1961; many of those continuities were published in comic book form, but none in the Avon Comics series.)  On at least one occasion The Saint comic book printed a two-page text story about the Saint that tied into that particular issue.  But a Saint story in another comic book?  It may have been a filler intended for The Saint comic book that did not fit in that book.  (The comic book ended in March of 1952, just a few months later.  Avon may have had enough material to fill the last issues and this story was an orphan.)  Or the story may not have been authorized by Charteris and the publisher snuck it into another book.  Your guess is as good as mine.

No writing credit is given for the story and the author is certainly not Charteris.  But it is a small and curious piece of Saint history.

Anyway, here is Captain Steve Savage, private eye Mike Strong, and Simon Templar -- 1951 vintage.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Great Detective Stories About Doctors edited by Groff Conklin and Noah D. Fabricant, M.D. (1963)

Back in the Sixties, Collier Books, which was best known for books on science, began publishing science fiction.  They didn't publish much SF but they reprinted titles numerous times over the year until the Seventies when their SF line shifted to the juvenile market.  (Through that entire time, they had a cover designer who should have been horsewhipped.)  Also in the early Sixties, the publisher had their Collier Mystery Classics line (selected by Anthony Boucher) as well as other mysteries.  The mystery and the science fiction lines crossed with the publication of two anthologies, Great Science Fiction Stories About Doctors and its companion book Great Detective Stories About Doctors, both edited by pioneering SF anthologist Groff Conklin and Noah D. Fabricant.

Great Detective Stories About Doctors presents seventeen stories (most actually are detective stories;  one, I suppose, if you squint in a dimly lit room, maybe -- just maybe, can be called a mystery story) from the turn of the last century to 1960, from mostly well-known writers in the mystery field and elsewhere.  (Of the seventeen authors, there was only one whose name I did not recognize.)  With only three exceptions, the editors refrained from including tales that may have been familiar to the dedicated mystery reader.  Of those, one was a lesser known Sherlock Holmes tale narrated by the Great Detective himself, one a story by Ben Hecht that had been reprinted several times, and the third, a 1924 story by Anthony Wynne that has been called a classic.  I doubt few of today's readers have read all three.

Anyway, the stories:

  • Murder at the Grand Babylon Hotel - Arnold Bennett
  • Murder in a Motel - Lawrence G. Blochman
  • The Doctor Takes a Case - George Harmon Coxe
  • The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier - Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Gifts of Oblivion - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • The Testimony of Dr. Farnsworth - Francis Leo Golden
  • Miracle of the Fifteen Murderers - Ben Hecht
  • The Grave Grass Quivers - MacKinley Kantor
  • The Eye - Gerald Kersh
  • The Seven Good Hunters - Rufus King
  • The Head - Manuel Komroff
  • The Other Side of the Curtain - Helen McCloy
  • The Memorial hour - Wade Miller
  • The Man in the White Mask - Alan E. Nourse
  • The Mirrored Room - Alan Rinehart
  • The Cyprian Bees - Anthony Wynne
  • A Busman's Holiday - Francis Brett Young

An impressive line-up, with (I'm sure) some writers who are forgotten today and really shouldn't be.  Unlike with most anthologies, all the stories are good.  I mean, real good.  And varied.  Something you don't often see, especially in a theme anthology.

Recommended.  But, alas, despite being reprinted five time, copies appear hard to get.  Abebooks lists only three copies available, with prices ranging from $40 to $68.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Count me in as a big Smothers Brothers fan.   They were on television the other night and I was reminded of just how good they are.  Here's a few samples.

With the Boston Pops, "Boil That Cabbage Down"

From the Judy Garland Show, "I Talk to the Trees" and "Dance, Boatman. Dance"

And a medley with Donovan and Peter, Paul and Mary


From the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, "Red River Valley"

"CrabsWalk Sideways"

I am also a great Jack Benny fan, so here's the Jack Benny show from April 16, 1965 with the Smothers Brothers

Hope these got you smiling.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


A man called the hospital:  "Help, my wife is having a baby!"

The nurse who answered the phone said, "Relax, sir.  Now, is this her first baby?"

"No.  This is her husband."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013



Fear in the Night (1947)

Cornell Woolrich's classic noir story "Nightmare" was first filmed by Maxwell Shane as Fear in the Night in 1947.  The story was also filmed at least twice for television as episodes in Suspense (1950) and in Lights Out (1952).  In 1956, Shane revisited the story, this time filming it as Nightmare with Edward G. Robinson, Kevin McCarthy, and Connie Russell.

Shane directed few films, but wrote many for the screen, including Tokyo Rose, I Cover Big Town, The Mummy's Hand, and both versions of this Woolrich story.  For radio, he wrote many episodes of Big Town; for television, he wrote for M Squad and The Virginian, as well as the teleplay for John Holbrook Vance's Edgar-winning novel The Man in the Cage.

Fear in the Night stared Paul Kelly, a versatile actor with many character roles (Mr. and Mrs. North, Tarzan's New York Adventure, The President Vanishes, Murder with Pictures, etc.) to his credit.  Joining Kelly was a differently spelled Kelley -- a pre-Star Trek DeForest Kelley in his first full-length feature; Kelley went on a long and storied career and appeared in such films as The Law and Jake Wade, Gunfight at OK Corral, and Raintree County before voyaging on the starship Enterprise.  Joining the two Kell(e)ys was veteran Ann Doran, who -- according to IMDB -- appeared in over 500 motion pictures and over 1000 television shows, in many of which she was uncredited.  (Doran started as an uncredited child actress in many silent films; uncredited because she did not want her father to know she was acting.)  Among the movies Doran appeared in were The Snake Pit, The People Against O'Hara, and The Eddie Cantor Story.

And what can be said about Woolrich save that he was one of the great writers of noir in the Twentieth Century.  "Rear Window," The Phantom Lady, The Bride Wore Black, Deadline at Dawn, I Married a Dead Man, "After Dinner Story," "Three O'Clock," Rendezvous in Black...the list goes on and on.

About Fear in the Night, let's just say, be careful what you dream of.


Monday, November 18, 2013


  • Anonymous editor, Halo:  Evolutions.  Gaming tie-in anthology with eight stories.  The cover copy says these are essential tales of the Halo universe.  Volume 1.
  • Piers Anthony & Alfred Tella, The Willing Spirit.  Fantasy.
  • Gail Carriger, Soulless.  Steampunk fantasy, the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series.
  • Eric Van Lustbader, Blood Trust.  A Jack McClure/Alli Carson thriller.
  • Mark Summer, The Prodigal Sorcerer.  Gaming (Magic:  The Gathering) tie-in novel.
  • Tad Williams & Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Child of an Ancient City.  Fantasy. Big type, lotsa white space -- wonder who they think they're fooling?

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Adventures Into the Unknown was the first continuous horror comic book, paving the way for the EC horror comics.  It ran for 174 issues, drawing its last breath in 1967.

Many of the stories in issue #1, dated Fall 1948, were written by Lovecraft protégé Frank Belknap Long, including a 7-page adaptation of Horace Walpole's 1768 seminal gothic novel The Castle of Otranto.

Those with weak stomachs and nervous bladders are advised not to click on the link for there live ghosts and werewolves, zombies and curses, ancient secrets and evil entities...

Friday, November 15, 2013


Battle on Mercury by "Erik van Lhin" (Lester del Rey) (1953)

The John C. Winston Company's "Adventures in SF" series was a staple of my childhood.  These sometimes well-written, often exciting, and usually scientifically accurate for its time juveniles were influenced by Robert A. Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo and well aimed for a market a step or two above that of the pulp magazines.  When I was young, I thought there had to be hundreds of books in this series, but there were only 34 -- or 35, depending on how you count.  Less than three dozen books over a period of ten years.  But what books:  early novels by Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, Milton Lesser, Raymond F. Jones, Ben Bova, Donald A. Wollheim, and Lester del Rey!

My understanding is that many books in this line were based on concepts by Lester del Rey and Milton Lesser, which is probably the reason why so many of the books were written by one or the other.

Del Rey published books here under his own name and under the pseudonyms "Philip St. John," "Kenneth Wright," and, with Battle on Merecury, "Erik van Lhin."

Humans had colonized the twilight belt of Mercury, that small area that bounds the planet's hot side and cold side.  One of the smaller colonies is the Sigma dome, now threatened by a immense solar storm.  A ship containing needed fuel and that was supposed to evacuate Sigma has crashed, leaving the tiny colony at the mercy of the solar storm and with only enough  power to last a few weeks.

17-year-old Dick Rogers had wanted to be an engineer but missed out on a chance to study engineering on Earth due to politics an nepotism.  Dick has a pet -- a wispie, a creature of pure electricity that he had rescued while exploring the hot side.  Wispies feed on energy, making them feared by the colonists.  Wispies can easily drain vital machinery of power and are typically destroyed by the colonists whenever possible.  Dick has to keep his pet wispie, Johnny Quicksilver, away from his fellow colonists.  Also native to the planet are a type of large wispie, called Demons, which are destructive and cannot be controlled the way that Dick seems to control Johnny Quicksilver.  Also rumored to be native to the planet are silicones, giant amorphous silicon creatures said to be unfriendly to humans.

Johnny Quicksilver has been acting strangely.  Dick, after many months, has finally repaired a derelict robot that he had named Pete.  Johnny darts into Pete's head and seems to control him.  Suddenly Pete head out to the hot side, indicating that Dick should follow.  Although unsure whether he should trust Johnny (because so little is known about wispies), Johnny follows, coming onto a wrecked tractor owned by Hotside Charlie, an old miner who has been roaming Mercury for forty years.  Dick revives Charlie and, using almost all his strength, manages to bring Charlie back to Sigma.  Charlie is the bearer of bad news, telling the colony that he had seen the supply ship crash.  The people of Sigma are stranded, unable to communicate with the larger colonies because of the solar storm an about to run out of power.

An attempt is made to repair Charlie's tractor is somewhat successful and an attempt to repair the supply ship ultimately fails.  Dick has faith in Johnny Quicksilver and is sure that Johnny knows the best way to reach the Twilight Relay Station, where they might be able to send a message.  Dick and Charlie follow the wispie in Charlie's tractor hoping to reach the relay station.  It's a hard trek, with many dangers, and the pair will have to use all their wits to survive the hostile terrain.  Along the way they discover the secrets behind the wispies and the Demons and have to contend with legendary silicones.

A good juvenile -- actually today it would be called a YA -- in which the author piles obstacle upon obstacle for Dick and  Charlie.

And, just for your information, here are the titles in the Adventures in SF series:

  • Earthbound by Milton Lesser (1952)  Lesser is better known as Stephen Marlowe, a name  he legally adopted.
  • Find the Feathered Serpent by "Evan Hunter" (1952).   Although under his Hunter pseudonym, this was before S. A. Lombino legally changed his name to Evan Hunter.
  • Five Against Venus by "Philip Latham"  (1952).  The author was astronomer Robert S. Richardson.
  • Islands in the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke (1952).  Previously published in England; this is the first U.S. publication.
  • Marooned on Mars by Lester del Rey (1952).  Winner of the 1951 Boy's Award for Teen-Age Fiction.
  • Mists of Time by Chad Oliver (1952).
  • Rocket Jockey by "Philip St. John" (Lester del Rey) (1952).  The 1955 British edition was titled Rocket Pilot.
  • Son of the Stars by Raymond F. Jones (1952).  The first book in the Clonar series.
  • Sons of the Ocean Deeps by Bryce Walton (1952).
  • Vault of the Ages by Poul Anderson (1952).
  • Attack from Atlantis by Lester del Rey (1953).
  • Battle on Mercury by "Erik van Lhin" (Lester del Rey) (1953).
  • Danger:  Dinosaurs! by "Richard Marston" (Evan Hunter) (1953).
  • Missing Men of Saturn by "Philip Latham" (Robert S. Richardson) (1953).
  • The Mysterious Planet by "Kenneth Wright" (Lester del Rey) (1953).
  • The Mystery of the Third Mine by Robert (A.) W. Lowndes (1953).
  • Planet of Light by Raymond F. Jones (1953).  The second book in the Clonar series.
  • Rocket to Luna by "Richard Marsten" (Evan Hunter) (1953).
  • The Star Seekers by Milton Lesser (1953).
  • Vandals of the Void by Jack Vance (1953).
  • Rockets to Nowhere by "Philip St. John" (Lester del Rey) (1954).
  • The Secret of Saturn's Rings by Donald A. Wollheim (1954).
  • Step to the Stars by Lester del Rey (1954). The first book in the Jim Stanley series.
  • Trouble on Titan by Alan E. Nourse (1954).
  • The World at Bay by Paul Capon (1954).  First published in 1953 in England.
  • The Year After Tomorrow edited by Lester del Rey, Cecile Matschat, and Carl Carmer (1954).  Matschat was the editor of the Adventures in SF series; Carmer was the consulting editor.
  • The Ant Men by "Eric North" (1955).  North was a pseudonym for Australian writer Bernard Charles Cronin.
  • Secret of the Martian Moons by Donald A.Wollheim (1955).
  • The Lost Planet by Paul V. Dallas (1956).
  • Mission  to the Moon by Lester del Rey (1956).  The second book in the Jim Stanley series.
  • Rockets Through Space by Lester del Rey (1957).  This is the "iffy" book in the series, a non-fiction "Special Companion Book" for the series.
  • The Year When Stardust Fell by Raymond F. Jones (1958).
  • The Secret of the Ninth Planet by Donald A. Wollheim (1959).
  • The Star Conquerors by Ben Bova (1959).
  • Stadium Beyond the Stars by Milton Lesser (1960).
  • Moon of Mutiny by Lester del Rey (1961).  The third book in the Jim Stanley series.
  • Spacemen, Go Home by Milton Lesser (1961).

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks (2013)

Being a long-time P. G. Wodehouse fan (I've read all the books, I mean ALL -- even The Globe By-the-Way Book and William Tell Told Again), I really wanted to like this book.  And, in a way, I did.  But...

The book is touted as "an homage to P.G. Wodehouse" and I have no doubt the author tried.  There are many clever lines.  The book at times comes close to Wodehouse's meticulous and seemingly easy plotting.  Many of Wodehouse's characters are mentioned in passing.  As a homage, though, it fails miserably.

Peregrine "Woody" Beeching comes calling at Bertie Wooster's home to seek the advice of Jeeves, manservant and problem-solver extraordinaire.  Woody is in love with pretty Amelia Hackworth, but Amelia has broken off their engagement because of Woody's innocent flirtations with some local maidens.  Amelia's father, Sir Henry Hackworth, is in financial straights and may be forced to sell his estate, Melbury Hall, to a private school.  Sir Henry's ward, Georgiana Meadowes, may hold the key to Sir Henry's salvation by way of her engagement to travel writer Rupert Venables, who's family is rolling in it.  Georgiana, however, was also the girl Bertie had squired that summer while both were spending time on the Cote d'Azur.

Enough exposition.

Jeeves advises Woody to let time heal Amelia's anger and to avoid flirting with other girls.  He also suggested that Woody return to Melbury and to play on Sir Henry's cricket team during an important upcoming match, the theory being that such an avid sportswoman as Woody said Amelia is would not doubt be impressed by Woody's natural skill on the cricket field.

Shortly thereafter, Bertie receives news that his dreaded Aunt Agatha is coming for a visit while her home is undergoing repairs.  Worse yet, Aunt Agatha would be bringing the doubly detested young Thomas in tow.  Jeeves, ever ready to solve Bertie's problems, suggested that they vacate the home and leave it to Agatha, while Bertie and he get lodgings near Melbury Hall so that Bertie could help Woody win back the love of Amelia.  Right-ho.

The best laid plans and so forth.  While in town, Jeeves meets Woody on the street just as Sir Henry was coming along.  Woody panicked and, knowing the Sir Henry was snobbishly impressed by social standing, introduced Jeeves as Lord Etringham, a friend of his family.  Sir Henry immediately invited Jeeves Lord Etringham to the Hall.  And because Bertie's reputation is less than sterling, it fell on him to act as Lord Etringham's manservant Wilburforce.

A classic Wodehouse situation is thus set up and false identities are assumed in order that true love will triumph, with a number of bumps and misunderstandings along the way.

So what went wrong?  Well, first, Wodehouse's book are set in an unspecified past that is timeless.  Faulks sets this novel after World War I and makes the date obvious by the use of a few historical references.  And then, there's the cricket game that takes up an important chapter.  Wodehouse never wrote about a cricket game in any of his humorous novels in such detail, in part because there is little room for humor during a cricket match and in part because it would be too alien to his American audience.  (Wodehouse did go into detail with cricket matches in his schoolboy books, but that's a different animal altogether.)  And Jeeves is portrayed as fallible; he makes a mistake.  Not only that, but we are given some of Jeeves' background (!), as well as a detailed floor-by-floor description of the Drones Club.  And Bertie -- genial, dim-witted Bertie -- is portrayed as a sort of uber-Bertie; the jokes coming fast and furious, too much so.  Not every cast member from the Jeeves books is mentioned a lot of them are, each mentioned along with a plot point from previous books.  It's as if Faulks wants us to know he has done his homework.  And although true love wins out in the end and all problems are resolved, Faulks ends the book by putting Jeeves and Bertie in a distinctly unWodehousian situation.  Ptah!

In his author's note at the start of the book, Faulks admits that Jeeves and the Wedding Bells is not true Wodehouse.  He deliberately did not try to imitate Wodehouse, nor did he want to make the book a parody.  Thus this book is a homage, intended to give readers unfamiliar with Wodehouse a sense of what his Jeeves books sound like.  For those readers familiar with Wodehouse, Faulks has "tried to provide a nostalgic variation."  As a homage, alas, this book is weak tea.

Yet I enjoyed the book.  Sort of.  There were enough bits here and there that rang of Wodehouse, enough to please me.  The novel in toto, though, serves to remind us that there was only one Wodehouse and we shall never see his like again.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Well, no.  I mean I was born in Lowell because that's where the nearest hospital was, but I was raised on a small farm the next town over.  But when I was very young, our town did not have a supermarket, or a grocery store, or much of anything, really, except a cranberry bog.  So we were in Lowell a lot.  Kitty and I were married in Lowell and out first apartment and our first house were in Lowell, both of our girls were born in Lowell -- nearby hospital, remember?

James Whistler was born in Lowell, a fact he tried to bury.  Davy Crockett once visited Lowell, and Edgar Allan Poe once did some courting there.  Lowell was the home of Jack Kerouac...he, Bette Davis, mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias, actor Michael Ansara, crime writer Dan J. Marlowe, and the Ray half of Bob and Ray were all born in Lowell.  The United States Industrial Revolution began in Lowell.  CVS pharmacies started in Lowell, as did Moxie, the first mass-produced soft drink produced in America (remember Moxie? it tastes like sarsaparilla with an onion thrown in it), and Father John's Medicine.  Game manufacturer Milton Bradley and entertainer Ed McMahon grew up in Lowell.  And remember that Mark Wahlberg movie The Fighter?  Yep, Micky Ward is a Lowell boy.

My daughter Jessie sent us the link to this song and it brought back many memories or places and people no longer with us.  We ate at Elliott's and the Owl Diner, we shopped at Mammoth Mart, we ate at the first McDonald's (but preferred Kelly's which had opened earlier and had ten cent hamburgers, five cent hot dogs, and -- gack! -- clam fritters), we skated at the Hi-Hat roller rink, partied at Prince Spaghettiville, worked at Jordan Marsh (which had taken over the Bon Marche), filmed the Lowell Folk Festival for local television, worked for the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, and volunteered at Boarding House Park.  I once sent former presidential candidate Paul Tsongas on an errand to get plastic trash bags, and spent a night in the Lowell City Jail for paying a parking ticket (don't ask).

So let me share some of my memories with you.  The song was written by Michael Noonan and sung by Kevin G. Moore.



I asked the gym instructor if he could teach me some routines.

He said, "How flexible are you?"

I said, "I can't make Tuesdays."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Tiger Fangs (1943)

When I was a kid, I loved Frank Buck's book Bring 'Em Back Alive!  Of course, this was at a time when our elementary school social studies books were hopelessly outdated and laughingly (I now realize) jingoistic about Africa and its people.  My knowledge of that continent was based on the Frank Buck, Clive Beatty, Tarzan, and Bomba movies -- as well as Saturday morning serials -- shown on television.  (Sorry, no Jungle Jim -- even to my unsophisticated mind, that show was b-o-r-i-n-g.)  The jungle was a place of mystery and adventure, of wild uncivilized men and wild beasts, of stunt men in gorilla suits and dangerous pits filled with crocodiles.  Great stuff!

For today's Overlooked Film, I've chosen Sam Newfield's Tiger Fangs, starring Frank Buck as Frank Buck!  Frank has to thwart evil Nazis and Japanese as they try to destroy the rubber industry in Malaysia.  The Nazis (in the form of the evil Dr. Lang and his assistant Henry Gratz) have been drugging tigers, turning them into maneaters.  This pre-PETA plan has to be stopped and Frank Buck is just the man to do it.   Assisting Frank Buck are the beautiful biologist Linda MacCardle, Peter Jeremy, and Geoffrey MacCardle.  Lots of animals, including some African animals (from stock footage) who really have no right being in Malaysia.

June Duprez (The Four Feathers, The Thief of Bagdad) played Linda MacCardle.  Duprez, an English actress, came to America following the fame she received in The Thief of Bagdad, but found few roles because of the high salary her agent demanded.  She left Hollywood in 1946 and retired from full-time acting in 1948.  She died in 1984 at age 66.

The actor playing Peter Jeremy is one of my favorites, the great Duncan Renaldo, Mr. Cisco Kid himself.  Born (probably) in Romania and orphaned, Renaldo came to America on a Brazilian coal ship which then caught fire at a Maryland pier and stranded him.  He made his living as a portrait painter (Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt bought one of his paintings), but was later arrested as an illegal immigrant.  He spent a year in jail because no one knew what his nationality was, then he was released after being signed to a contract and being vouched for by Republic Pictures; eventually he received a pardon from FDR.  Renaldo was typecast as a Latin in many B-movie programmers.  For a while he was one of the Three Mesquiteers.  In 1945, he was cast as the Cisco Kid and the rest is history.

J. Farrell MacDonald (1875-1952) was cast in the role of Geoffrey MacCardle.  MacDonald was a versatile character actor who appeared in hundreds of films (IMDB lists over 330 credits from 1911 through 1951).  Not much appears to be known about German-born Arno Frey who played the evil Dr. Lang.  Frey has 102 roles listed on IMDB, many of them uncredited, many as unnamed German characters.  265 pound actor Dan Seymour's weight and dark looks made him the perfect Hollywood heavy, and a good fit as Dr. Lang's assistant Henry Gratz.  Seymour appeared in many of the classic films of the 40s:  Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, Key Largo, and Johnny Bedelia among them.  Seymour was a good friend of director Fritz Lang and was named executor of his estate.

Director Sam Newfield directed hundreds of low budget movies beginning in 1926 and moved to television (Ramar of the Jungle, Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans, Tugboat Annie).  Interestingly, B-movie producer Fred Olen Ray has also used Sam Newfield, Sherman Scott, and Peter Stewart as pseudonyms (Scott and Stewart were both used by Newfield as pseudonymns).  Tiger Fangs was written by Arthur St. Claire, who penned 21 other movies in the 40s and had credits for five others -- nothing major, just entertaining B-movies.  The movie was produced by PRC Pictures, a bargain basement production company owned by Sam Newfield and his brother Sigmund Neufeld.