Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, March 29, 2013


Dogs, Devils & Demons:  Lore and Legend of the Dog by Louis L. Vine, D.V.M. (1971)

For Patti Abbott's Forgotten Books today, I turn to a vanity press item by a veterinarian from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  A large portion of this book, though, was ghost-written by another resident of Chapel Hill, the great Manly Wade Wellman.

Dogs, Devils & Demons is a fascinating, though often repetitive, compendium of dog lore.  (And, yes, there are a few conclusions here about dogs that I find specious, but remember that this book was written more than forty years ago.)  Vine first gives us anecdotes and legends of dogs as instruments of evil, of good, and of fate -- dogs aligned with the devil as hounds of hell, dogs as symbols of good luck, and dogs as harbingers of death.  One superstition guaranteed to elicit an "ew" is that when "a dog strolls up and urinates on your leg, as though you were a fire plug or an elm tree," good fortune will ensue.

From superstitions we move to "Tain't So Stories" -- a collection of just plain strange stories and beliefs about dogs and their care.  For example:  "A sure cure for worms is to feed the dog ground glass."  That might do the trick, but it will also do in the dog.  "Dogs and human beings can be mated."  Vine reports that a human-canine litter was supposedly born within ten miles of his hospital, but when he begged to be taken to see them, "that's when the subject dies down."

A fever blister can (supposedly) be cured by kissing a dog.  If you bind the tail of your dog about three inches from the root using a cord (and, to be more efficacious, hair from the tail of a horse) and wait four hours before you remove it, the dog will be cured of diarrhea.  If a dog vomits in your house, you will have good luck.  (I must be the luckiest s.o.b. on the planet, then.)  It's also good luck if a yellow dog follows you.

Pity the poor dog.  Among the many superstitions, both current and past, are a number that involve cutting off parts of the animal's tail or wounding the dog in some way.  One cure involved throwing a live puppy into boiling water and using the water as a basis for a medical concoction.  It is amazing -- or, perhaps, not -- how stupid, mean, thoughtless, and cruel man has been over the ages.

I am more of a cat person than a dog person, although I do confess to a great liking for my uber-dumb black lab, Declan.  Declan has only two major purposes in life:  to love unconditionally and to solve the nation's energy crisis by providing an unlimited, never-ending supply of natural gas.  After reading Dogs, Devils & Demons, I find myself both cuddling and appreciating Declan even more.

A very interesting book, although probably not for everyone.


I believe Todd Mason is collecting this week's Forgotten Book links at Sweet Freedom.  Check it out.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


In 1968 singer-songwriter Steve Gillette's first album, the self-titled Steve Gillette, blew me away.  Gillette went on to a stellar career, first as a solo act, then with his wife Cindy Mangsen.

Steve and Cindy (married 1989) are still recording and performing together to sold-out crowds of appreciative fans.

A brief recap of his career can be found at

Here are a few songs from that first album.

2:10 Train:

Back on the Street Again:

Darcy Farrow:

Bells in the Evening:

The Erlking:


Flash fiction in under a hundred words.


There was a lot of hamburger left over from the Sons of Italy picnic, so Geppetto (who always wanted a son) used it to make a little boy.

After three days, the kid was getting on his nerves.

"Go out and play."

Soon Geppetto heard loud voices.

"You stink," said some neighborhood kids.

"Rotten kid," said their mothers.

Then he heard the dogs.

Geppetto let out a sad sigh.  Then he noticed the pile of wood next to his old stove, and smiled.

If at first you don't...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


So this skeleton went into a bar and said, "Give me a beer and a mop."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Coronet Films, an off-shoot of Coronet magazine, was a producer of short instructional social guidance films from 1946 to the early 1970s.  Social guidance meant social conformity and many of Coronets films were directed toward that goal, whether is be keeping quiet in school, respecting your parents, maintaining proper hygiene, or being trustworthy.  With such gems as Let's Play Fair, School Rules:  How They Help Us, The Fun of Making Friends, and Everyday Courtesy, The nation's youth were bombarded (in theory, anyway) into conformity.  I have to assume that the teenagers of sixty years ago and so reacted to this as teenagers of today would -- with snickers and (perhaps) outright derision.  At least, I hope so.

Picture yourself as a teenager in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  An awkward age in an awkward time.  To the rescue comes Coronet Films to guide you through all those squishy thoughts those nasty hormones are giving you.  Imagine:  a whole set of films that lay out what should and should not be done about sex in all its forms.  Thank you, Coronet Films, for doing you such a great favor.

So let's follow a teenager through the twisty dark alleys and by-paths of interacting with the opposite sex:

So you're thinking about the opposite sex.  A lot.  Hold on there, Tiger -- there's a time and place for everything.  First you have to make a plan.  Wouldn't everything go easier if you were popular?  It would if it's 1947.

And before a young teen goes courtin' and sparkin', there's a lot of stuff that has to be learned.  Luckily, teens in 1949 are able to learn the dos and don'ts [sic].  The title mught better be Dating Dos and Dorks.

From 1950, we learn what to do on a date.  Luckily, we have Joel and the bots to help us through those murky waters. 

What makes a great date?  Why, a party where everybody sings The Blue-Tailed Fly, of course.  Evidently, this is as wild as kids got in 1950.

From 1958, we learn how far to go with petting.  (Hint:  not far.)  Teen pregnancy means you can't become a lawyer.  For many people nowadays, that might be a plus.

As far as petting goes -- and smoking, and drinking, and drag racing, and not wearing penny loafers -- you just have to learn to say, "No."  I mean, "Just say no" worked for Nancy Reagan in the 1980s, so it should work in 1951.

Forget about petting.  The cool thing in 1951 is going steady, isn't it.  Aha!  Gotcha!  Think twice, young teenager!

What is love anyway?  How do we know when we are truly in love?  Luckily, the teens of 1950 had this blueprint they could rely on -- saving all that icky, messy finding it out for yourself thing.

Of course, there comes a time (in this case, the time is 1950) when the overly-hormoned teenagers begin to think of marriage.  My personal opinion is that Larry and Sue deserve each other.


Posting has been erratic lately, mainly because of computer problems.  My computer is now in the capable hands of my tech-savvy son-in-law who will a) fix it, or b) give it Last Rites.  In the meantime, he has loaned us one of seventy-two zillion computers -- we are back in business, baby!


The wound-vac is off!  Woot!

On our visit a week ago, Kitty's wounds were so improved that the doctor said the wound-vac was no longer needed.  A visit to the surgeon the next day also gave us good news.  Although we are still going to the wound clinic on a weekly basis, we don't have to follow up with the surgeon for two months.  I suspect we will only have two or three more visits to the wound clinic before she gets a final okay.

Papa divot (the one that was really big) is almost completely healed.  There is still a lot of hard keloid scarring that will have to be broken up over the next few months and Kitty will probably have a permanent dimple just above her knee, but I think dimples are cute. 

Mama divot (the one that had the tunneling that had to be opened) is shrinking like crazy.  Kitty is still packing the wound with medi-honey, but we are very pleased with the progress.

Baby divot has healed long ago.

Now the she doesn't have to carry the wound-vac and its bothersome tubing everywhere with her, Kitty is getting cocky.  She finds herself moving around the house without her walker or her canes.  She has to continually remind herself to be more cautious.  But she's happy and can now sleep in just about any position.

The pain is still there, but it seems to be mostly muscle pain -- something expected for some time to come, especially once she starts regular physical therapy to strengthen her thigh muscles.  Her range of motion (without the PT) is close to perfect.

Last Tuesday, the wound center called the wound-vac people and told them to come and pick it up.  The wound-vac people (of course) never bothered to.  I called them yesterday and made arrangements for the device to be picked up tomorrow.   I wonder if they are going to charge me for that week, especially since their latest bill included almost $500 that had been previously paid.  We all have to try to make a buck somehow, I guess.

With the wound-vac gone, so to is our visiting nurse.   The nurse spent almost all of her last visit telling Kitty how much she would miss her.   Friendly and non-grumpy patients are evidently few and far between.


Grandson Mark was chosen for his middle school festival band, an invitation-only group that played at the all-county festival last week, judged by four professionals from outside the county.  Although not a competition, each band was judged and rated.   Mark's band received the highest possible rating, equivalent to an A+.   I don't know if any of the other bands got the same high rating, but his former music teacher told us that everybody is talking about the band's performance -- I gather they were very impressive.  I know they impressed us and knocked the socks off the few other bands we stayed to hear.

Then, on Saturday, fifth-grader Erin and her friend Chloee (two e's) performed a flute duet in front of a professional critiquer.  This was a volunteer activity that the county music departments offered.  A perfect performance and they received a lot of helpful advice and a celebratory luch at 5 Guys.

It was a pleasure to watch Mark and Erin, as well as the other kids.  They all worked hard and performed well.  I've mentioned before how important I think the arts are in our schools.


The Kangaroo has a new trick.  He can blow raspberries.  Feeding him sweet potatoes is now a challenge.

There is some concern about his development.  He's eight months old now and cannot (will not?) sit up by himself -- something that should have happened at six months.  A child developmental specialist has been examining him and she freely admits he has her puzzled.  He hasn't followed the normal developmental path, nor is he following one that babies born with a drug addiction usually follow.  I am concerned about his future devlopment.  It looks like therapists will be "patterning" him over the next few months.  He's not crawling, either, but hitches himself all over the place and manages to find everything he shouldn't.  He keeps us on our toes. 

In any event, the kangaroo is happy and smiling and loves to laugh.  Kitty is determined that his first word will be "Nana."

He and his sister had to appear at a court hearing yesterday and it appears that Christina will be fostering them through August, at the very least.  The fact that their mother, grandmother, and aunt were recently busted for possession with intent in a raid on their house might have had something to do with this.  Sadly, every generation has its throwaway kids; I hope these two will not be among them.  I applaud Christina and Walt for doing what they can to ensure they are loved and safe, at least for the time the courts allow them.


No matter how long I live and no matter what the future holds for me, I have the knowledge that, at one time in my life, I did something completely, totally right.  That was forty-three years ago today when I married Kitty.  I thought then, and I think now, "I'm the luckiest man on earth."   She is as beautiful today as the day I met her.  She still melts my heart.

Monday, March 18, 2013


    In between cursing my computer (which has been acting so wonky that I have not been able to post regularly) and cursing Blogspot (which is acting wonky probably because of the above) and my new printer (which isn't acting at all -- grrrr), I was actually able to do a bit of book shopping this week.  The ones listed below cost me a total of four bucks so that made me happy.  The fact that it took me fives times as long to get this list posted as it did to shop for the books made me much less so.

  • Patricia Briggs, Bone Crossed.  The fourth outing for shapeshifter/auto mechanic Mercy Thompson.
  • Graham Diamond, Cinnabar (Oriental fantasy) and The Beasts of Hades and The Falcon of Eden (fantasies, volumes 3 and 4 in the Adventures of the Empire Princess series).
  • J. T. Edson, The Fortune Hunters.  A Floating Outfit western.
  • Tabor Evans, Longarm #241:  Longarm and the Colorado Counterfeiters.  Adult western.
  • Colin Forbes, The Janus Man.  Spy novel.
  • Alan Dean Foster, Diuturnity's Dawn.  SF, Book Three of The Founding of the Commonwealth.
  • Christopher Fowler, The Victoria Vanishes.  A Bryant and May/Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery.
  • Brian Garfield, Necessity, bound with A Lovely Day to Die by Celia Fremlin and Root of All Evil by E. X. (Elizabeth) Ferrars.  A Detective Book Club volume from 1984.
  • Heather Graham, Night of the Vampires.  Historical romance with vampires.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, editor, White House Horrors.  Horror anthology with sixteen stories.
  • Laurell L. Hamilton, Cerulean Sins, Circus of the Damned, Guilty Pleasures, The Killing Dance, The Laughing Corpse, and Narcissus in Chains -- all in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, and A Kiss of Shadow, the first in the Meredith Gentry fantasy series.
  • Clare McNally, Somebody Come and Play.  Horror.
  • Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Lady Alicia's Secret.  Regency romance.
  • "Ellis Peters" (Edith Partiger"), Black Is the Color of My True Love's Heart.  A Detective Inspector George Felse mystery.
  • Robert J. Randisi, editor, First Cases, Volume 4.  Mystery anthology with thirteen "first" stories of popular detectives.
  • Craig Thomas, A Hooded Crow.  Spy novel.
  • David Thompson, Wilderness #37:  Perils of the Wind.  Western.
  • Terri Windling, editor, Faery!  Fantasy anthology with twenty-three stories and poems.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


A singing James Bond with leprechauns.  How can you go wrong?

In six parts, here's Walt Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People:

And here are the original stories by Herminie Templeton Kavanagh, as published in Darby O'Gill and the Good People (1903).  Recommended.


Ash by James Herbert (2013)

It's been seven years since best-selling British horror writer James Herbert published his last book.  The wait for his fans has been worth it as Herbert brings back his popular ghost-hunter David Ash (previously seen in Haunted [1988] and The Ghosts of Sleath [1994]) for his long-anticipated third outing in Ash.

Comraich Castle, a remote ancient castle in Scotland, has been repurposed as an asylum for some of the world's most infamous people.  Dictators, despots, war criminals, sexual deviants, murderers, corrupt business barons -- all have found a permanent refuge on the bleak Scottish coast.  For more than a century, the castle's clients have hidden from the world, presumed long dead, but enjoying the luxury that only the very rich can afford.   The castle itself has had a bloody history.  Situated on Ley lines, cursed since the Fourteenth Century, the site of torture, murder, and medical experimentation -- Comraich Castle is balanced on the edge of being infiltrated by demonic forces, and something is posed to tip the balance.

Putrid smells, strange noises, and items flying through the air mark the tipping point.  Then one of the castle's clients, a disgraced billionaire (think Bernie Madoff) is found flayed in his room and cruxified on the wall, held suspended only by his own blood. 

Comrtaich Castle is owned and run by a mysterious and powerful group called the Inner Circle.  For generations, the Inner Circle has controlled governments through blackmail, murder, and (occasionally) mutually satisfactory clandestine dealings.  Wealthy and powerful beyond imagination, the Inner Circle operates secretly and out of the public radar. This group is a British conspiracy theorist's El Dorado.  Herbert interweaves known events and history to implicate much of the British government and its royal family -- from Victoria to the current queen -- in the Inner Circle's doings.  (Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth awarded the author an OBE; evidently that did not innoculate her or her family from the author's pen.)

David Ash, just recovered from the tragic effects of his last case, is tasked with investigating the occurences at the castle, not knowing that once his work was done, the Inner Circle planned to murder him rather than let any possible secrets leave with him.  (That is, of course, if the investigation doesn't kill him.)  Once at the castle, he realizes that things are about to get much worse as the hauntings intensify and the body count climbs.  The dark forces at the castle are beginning to influence the people there, bringing out their most savage instincts and paranoia.  Herbert peppers the book with a homicidal Serbian war criminal, an aged assassin with Parkinson's disease, the mutant, mentally-retarded secret daughter of Adolph Hitler, a mysterious young man with transparent skin, the ghost of the Princess of Wales, giant bat-eating spiders, an army of deadly feral cats, a sexually deviant arch-bishop, incestuous twins, Nazis, a Russian mobster, and number of other unpleasant characters.  Along the way, we also learn who Jack the Ripper was and why he went on his killing spree, as well as the truth about the death of publishing magnate Robert Maxwell.

An entertaining and fast-moving read.  I went through the nearly 700 pages in less than two days.  My one major complaint is that the author verges close to the ridiculous in painting a wide range of plots and conspiracies and in some of the coincidences necessary to move his plot.  While reading about the Inner Circle, I was reminded of John Brunner's 1963 classic short story "The Totally Rich."

Recommended, but you are warned to suspend disbelief.


In honor of St. Patrick's Day, and pay no attention to the advertisement at the beginning of the clip:

Monday, March 11, 2013


  • Diane Carey, Star Trek Challenger:  Gateways, Book Two of Seven:  Chainmail.  Television tie-in.  These Star Trek titles sure can get unwieldy.  The "Gateways" concept was by John D. Ordover & Robert Greenberger.
  • Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves.  Horror novel.  This is the "Remastered Full-Color Edition."
  • Peter David, Star Trek New Frontier:  Gateways, Book Six of Seven:  Cold Wars.  Television tie-in.  (See Diane Carey, above.)
  • "Greg Donegan" (Robert Mayer), Atlantis:   Devil's Sea.  SF techno-thriller, the third in a series.
  • Christie Golden, Star Trek Voyager:  Gateways, Book Five of Seven:  No Man's Land.  Television tie-in.  (See Diane Carey, above.)
  • Robert Greenberger, Star Trek The Next Generation:  Gateways, Book Three of Seven:  Doors Into Chaos.  Television tie-in.  (See Diane Carey, above.)
  • Alex Kava, The  Soul Catcher.  A Maggie O'Dell mystery.
  • Louis L'Amour, The First Fast Draw.  Western.
  • "Jake Logan,"  Slocum #53:  Slocum and the Law.  Part of the long-running adult western series.
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Diary.  Novel.
  • Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment and The Truth.  Discworld novels.
  • J. L. Reasoner, Cossack Three Ponies.  Historical novel/western.  Whoever this J. L. Reasoner is, he writes as well as James L. Reasoner.
  • Ron Renauld, Don Pendleton's The Executioner #181:  Shifting Target.  Men's action adventure.
  • Susan Wright, Star Trek:  Gateways, Book One of Seven:  One Small Step.  Television tie-in.  (See Diane Carey, above.)

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Patti Abbott issued a flash fiction challenge for today:  write a story about a man and a white van.  So here's mine.  As a bonus, I included a second...well, let's be polite and call it a story.  Patti will have the links to other responses to her challenge at her blog pattinase.  Check them out.


The old man had been dead for close to a month before I found out.  I had come home for break and my father told me.  "Mr. Carruthers died last month.  Just keeled over.  Guess how old he was?"  I shrugged.  Eighty-five, ninety...way up there, anyway.  "He was only sixty-seven.  Can you imagine that?  I thought he was much older."

Mr. Carruthers looked much older.  A wisp of a man, he was bent over with arthritis, had a deeply-lined face, and his liver spots rampaged over his thin arms and body like a Mongol horde.  I don't think he owned a decent set of clothes; I never saw him in anything that wasn't worn, frayed, or stained.  I always thought he had cut his own hair --  what little he had of it.  Most of the hair on his head sprouted from his ears.

As unconcerned as he was about his appearance, he was the opposite about his property.  He lived four houses down from us, his house set way back.  His lawn, house, and the fence surrounding his back yard were always immaculate.  I should know.  For four years, from the time I was twelve, I did much of the work for him.  Mowing and trimming in the summer and shoveling in the winter.  By the time I turned sixteen, I was also doing the painting and the gardening.  He paid me well, far better than anyone else in the neighborhood did.  He was surly and cranky and exacting and, because he paid so well, I put up with it.  Besides, I figured he had a right to be mean as he was; you could just tell that every step, every move he made, pained him.

"What about his van?"  I asked.

Dad hurumphed.  "His mystery altar?  Funny thing.  Martin Schroeder" -- Schroeder was a local lawyer, and evidently he was Mr. Carruthers' -- "was telling me that his will specified that the damned thing be destroyed right off.  Junked and crushed with all its contents.  Thing's already a cube of metal.  That's where he died, you know, his heart just blew as he was going into the thing, his body just laying there half in and half out."

The van, an old scratched and rusted white van on blocks, had been the only object in his fenced-in back yard.  Dad was right in calling it his mystery altar.  It had some sort of claim on Mr. Carruthers.  It possessed him in a way I could not understand, although over the years I had developed many theories.

For me, it had begun six years ago, back when I had mowed his lawn for the first time.  It was a hot Saturday afternoon and for the last half hour I had been dreaming about swallowing my body weight in cold Coke.  I had seen the old man go into the van about a quarter hour before.  I had no idea what he was doing in there but he must have been hotter than I was, sealed up in that thing.  Every window in the van was tinted so I couldn't see inside.  I went up to the van but was hesitant to knock, but I wanted to get paid and leave.  To be frank, Mr. Carruthers scared me.  Then I scared myself when I could not hear anything from inside the van.  What if he had collapsed from the heat?  What if he was in trouble?  I knocked on the van door, "I'm done, Mr. Carruthers."  The response was immediate, "Not now!"  Those two words reminded me of a growling dog, protecting a meaty bone from all comers.  I turned and ran home.  Later that evening, Carruthers came to our house and handed me a dirty envelope with my money.

That summer, I learned about the ritual.  Every day, rain or shine, Carruthers spent an hour or so alone in the van.  It didn't take me long to realize that this always happened around two o'clock in the afternoon.  It took me longer to realize that the ritual took place each afternoon at exactly seven minutes past two.  Summer turned to fall and fall turned to winter.  As far as I knew, Mr. Carruthers didn't miss a single day, not even when it was storming.  After the first big winter snow, I had shoveled his walkway and driveway.  (He didn't drive and had no car in his garage, but he insisted the driveway be completely cleared.)  I asked him if he wanted me to shovel a path from his back door to the van and he looked at me strangely.  After a few seconds, he only said, "No, no.  Not necessary."  I found out later that he had walked through the snow to his van that day and every other day.

Carruthers and his van were a frequent dinner topic at our table.  I had laid the mystery before my parents and my father came up with all sorts of imaginative theories for me.  My mother would giggle a little and say to him, "Oh, George."  Anyway, that's how the white van became the mystery altar to our family.

Once, that spring, a cab pulled up and he went off for an appointment somewhere.  After he was out of sight I couldn't resist and I snuck into the van.  I'm not sure what I thought I'd find; my imagination covered the gamut from drugs, alcohol, and porn to a radio set where he would be relaying information to a spy network.  Needless to say, there was nothing of that sort there, just an old chair in the back of the van and a black and white photograph of a woman hung on the van wall.  The photo was old -- not really, really old, but pretty old just the same.  Even at thirteen years old, I could tell that the woman was beautiful, with long flowing hair, a welcome smile, and eyes that seemed to sparkle from the dark walnut frame.  A wife?  Sister?  Girlfriend?  Lost love?  Who knew?  Whoever the woman was, she was important enough to claim him every day for I don't know how long.  I never told Mr. Carruthers that I had seen the photograph and he never gave me the slightest hint about it.

Really, that's about there is to the story.  Except, perhaps, for Alicia Carter.  Alicia was a girl in my class.  I really didn't know her that well.  She was gangly and had unruly hair.  I remember that, despite her large teeth and small jaw, she had kind of a sweet smile.  She was just begining to blossom into adolescence when she was killed when we were fourteen.  She had been riding her bicycle through an intersection when she was hit by a speeding car.  The story (which I later found out to be true) was that she was decapitated.  I felt a little bit of sadness and a little bit of horror, but I was fourteen and my friends and I tried to be blase about it.  Then, coming home from school, Meagan Miers told me that Alicia had had a crush on me.  "She never dared say anything -- you know how she was -- but we all knew," she said.  But I didn't know how she was.  I really didn't know her at all.  I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.  It wasn't quite guilt and it wasn't quite remorse.  It was the sudden realization that someone whom I did not really know had been connected to me and was now gone, that somehow I had lost something important and didn't even know what it was.  Part of me was beginning to realize how interconnected we all are and I didn't like it.  That afternoon and that night I would break out in tears and not really know why.  I must have looked a wreck that day when I was working in Mr. Carruthers' yard.  He came up to me and said, "Hear you lost a friend."  That was all I needed to start sobbing.  He looked at me for a moment with his sharp eyes, then put his bent hand on my shoulder and squeezed it.  "They die.  They all die too damned young," he said.  Then he turned and walked away.

I stopped working for him when I was sixteen and was beginning to help my father out at the store.  I turned my lawn mowing customers and my paper route over to my younger cousin Luke.  He kept it up for four or five months until something else caught his interest.  Once in a while I'd see Mr. Carruthers in his yard and I'd wave and he'd give a curt nod and that was that.  I don't think I had thought of him or his white van for over a year.

And now he was dead and his secrets and the van's secrets had died with him.  I hope it was true that he had died while going into his van.  I hope that when the final blackness overtook him and he fell that a young woman with flowing hair and sparkling eyes was there to catch him.


The doors to the van were open and they had teeth, large sharp teeth as white as the van.  Nothing could be seen inside the van except darkness, although a long skeletal arm reached out from it.  A man reached out to the arm as it helped him inside to the darkness.  Just before he was swallowed by the dark, he turned around and smiled.  The he was gone and the doors closed.

That was the first dream, so vivid and real.  The strange thing was that Mortimer recognized the man in the dream:  it was one of the starters for the Bengals.  That evening, when Mortimer read that the starter had died in a motorcycle accident, he really wasn't sure what to think.

Three days later he had another dream.  Same van, same bony arm, but this time when the person entered that van and turned and smiled at him, he recognized her as a troubled starlet, one that many felt was doomed if she did not kick her habit.  That evening on the news he heard that she had overdosed.

A week and a half later, the person entering the van in his dreams was a well-known United States senator.  Television coverage that night was about his assassination.

Two days later, Mortimer dreamed his Uncle Lee entered the van.  He was expecting his Aunt Dorothy's call when it came that night.

Mortimer tried real hard to dream about his boss The Bastard, but it did not work.  He couldn't control his dreams, but the dreams kept coming on their own.  Politicians, celebrities, neighbors, acquaintances, world figures -- even a Pope; all entered his dreams and all died the following day.

One night the figure entering the van turned around and smiled, and Mortimer saw himself.  Sure that he was going to die, Mortimer spent the day in a funk.  And the night.  The next morning when he found himself still alive he was amazed.

Even more amazing was that Mortimer never had those dreams again.  In fact, Mortimer lived to the ripe old age of ninety-two.  So this is just a story that has no explanation and no reason.  It's a story without rhyme or reason.  Of course, it was strange that when Mortimer died it was because he was hit by a white van.


Give me that old time religion.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Wild West Show! edited by Thomas W. Knowles & Joe R. Lansdale (1994)

Wild West Show! is a follow-up to the editors' 1993 compendium The West That Was.  Once again, Knowles and Lansdale present a fascinating array of articles on all things wesstern

The West of reality, legend, and myth have been conflated to provide a unique American identity, one that is as  close to the truth as it is far from it.  How we view the Old West in art, literature, music, film, and culture is examined, from the old Wild West shows to modern-day rodeos, from Francis Parkman's The Oregon Trail to the dime novels of Ned Buntline, from The Virginian to Hopalong Cassidy and Max Brand, from the paintings of Charles Russell and Frederic Remington to modern day comic books, from William S. Hart to John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, with Gene and Roy caught in the middle of the mix, from native Americans to Negro cowboys, From John Ford to Sam Peckinpah, from the Lone Ranger to the Cisco Kid, with sidekicks, partners, villains, and cowgirls, from the Saturday matinee to Gunsmoke -- it's all here.

Along the way, you learn the towns to avoid, the words that get you into a fight, and the names of the most ridiculous western movies ever.

Twenty-six contributors are listed and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more knowledgable group of students of the Old West:  Jeff Banks, Robert J. Conley. Bill Crider, Scott Cupp, Marylois Dunn, Loren D. Estleman, Max Evans, Joe Fenton, Kristine Fredriksson, Brian Garfield, Ed Gorman, John Hagner, Will Henry, Abraham Hoffman, Thomas W. Knowles, Scott McCullar, Michael Martin Murphy, Bill O'Neal, Bill Pronzini, James N. Reasoner, Cena Golder Richeson, Lee Schultz. thomas Thompson, Dale L. Walker, and L. J. Washburn. 

This is a book for dipping and savoring.

If you ever needed motivation to pick up a paperback western or to catch a Randolph Scott movie on TCM, this is the book that'll do the trick.



For more of today's Forgotten Books, check out Patti Abbott's blog pattinase.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


It's been well over a week since I last posted an update on Kitty's leg.  Bet you thought she would be all cured by now, huh?


I really should have been posting more, but for the past few weeks she has been cranky, recalicitrant, uncooperative, stubborn, refusing to do anything, and just plain defiant.  It's old age, I know, but it's beginning to wear a little bit thin.  What it boils down to is that I am going to have to buy a new computer -- this one is driving me crazy.

Not driving me crazy is my bride.  This has been a particularly rough week for her, though.  The pain in both legs has been acute and her medication has done little to ease it.  (Her right leg has never healed properly from her knee replacement, there being at least three neuromas that we were going to have removed once this last knee replacement was healed.)  On her left leg, the pain in her middle wound (aka Mama Divot) increased, leading her fear that another stitch may have been left indie that had not dissolved.  We started with a new home health agency in an effort to have Kitty's wound-vac replaced on a regular basis.  This, at least, appears to have worked.  She has been able to use the wound-vac continuously for over a week now.  (Yay!)

On Tuesday, it was another trip to the wound center where it was decided to cut open Mama Divot.  The tunneling on this wound had improved slightly, but not enough to satisfy the doctor.  So they Kitty a needle of this shouldn't hurt and opened the wound along the tunneling.  She did not cry or flinch or scream or do anything bad, but when they started slicing she did sorta levitate and her voice rose to that of a mezzo-soprano.  I am very proud of her.  While this was going on I was contemplating to deep meaning of why my loafers had no shoelaces.

A lot of stuff oozed out (I'm told) and the doctor was using what she said was her "melon baller" to help clean the area out.  (The doctor, of course, was lying; she was using a g.d. trowel -- both Kitty and I will attest to this.)

The wound-vac was put back on, and the this shouldn't hurt injection wore off pretty darned quick and we were sent away  for another week.  To be fair, Kitty thinks this might have helped as there  is not as much pressure on the wound now.  Hope so.  We'll see.

The computer is cooperating for the moment as I type this.  Kitty is enjoying a birthday nap while we wait for the visiting nurse to come and change the wound-vac.  The kangaroo is spending the night and is presently crawling all over the place and doing a number on the dog's bowl, one of my shoes, and any electrical cord he cane find.  We missed the big snow storm last night -- actually, we didn't miss it at all!  Hehehehe.  All is right with the world. Until next time.


I was nineteen when I first saw her.  She was taking a walk through the neighborhood, drinking a cup of coffee -- or maybe, tea in a coffee cup.  She had a bounce in her walk that should have slopped the coffee/tea or the brim, but didn't.  She was smiling and that smile took my heart away.  At nineteen, I was the biggest dork on the planet and girls were an abstract pleasure.  I fell in love with that smile and fervently wished for a fair and just universe in which every other male would mysteriously vanish so that she would eventually have to notice me.

I actually met her a few months later and got a good look at her eyes and was lost.  She had the most beautiful eyes in the world.  How can one person be blessed with those eyes and that smile?  Kitty was the most beautiful person I had ever met -- or will ever meet.  Turns out that I wasn't as big a dork as I had thought.  Or, perhaps I was and Kitty was too kind not to talk with me.  One thing led to another and here we are forty-seven years later and I am the luckiest man on earth.

So, happy birthday, my love.  This is going to be the year of motility as your leg completely heals and you are able to smile that wondrous smile far more often.  This is going to be your year of joy and health and accomplishment.  This is going to be just another year where I will love you completely.


Monday, March 4, 2013


  • Roger MacBride Allen, Orphan of Creation.  SF.
  • Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason, Virtual Destruction.  SF.
  • Martin Caidin, The God Machine and The Messiah Stone.  SF both.
  • Troy Denning, The Parched Sea.  Gaming tie-in (Forgotten Realms); Book One of The Harpers)
  • David Drake & Bill Fawcett, editors, Battlestation, Book Two:   Vanguard.  Military Sf anthology with twelve stories plus interludes by Fawcett.
  • John Gardner, Freedy's Book.  Literary fiction with fantasy roots.
  • Michael Laimo, Dead Souls.  Horror.
  • Louis L'Amour, Beyond the Great Snow Mountains.  Collection of ten adventure stories.
  • Graham McNeill, Nightbringer.  Gaming tie-in (Warhammer 40,000).
  • Larry Niven, creator, Man-Kzin Wars VI.  SF collection in the long-running series; contains a novel by Donald Kingsbury and a novella by Mark O. Martin & Gregory Benford.
  • William Rabkin, Psych:  A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste. Television tie-in.
  • Anne Rice, Angel Time.  Christian thriller marking the beginning of the end of her religious period.
  • Kevin Ryan, Van Helsing.  Movie tie-in.
  • Robert Siegel, editor, The Onion:  Dispatches from the Tenth Circle.  Satire.
  • Christopher Stasheff, editor, Dragon's Eye.  Fantasy anthology with a dozen stories about dragons.  Copyrighted by Bill Fawcett & Associates.
  • Karl Edward Wagner, Conan:  The Road of Kings. Heroic fantasy with everyone's favorite mighty thewed barbarian.
  • Don Winslow, Savages.  Crime.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Still Small Voice:  The Biography of Zona Gale by August Derleth (1940)

Zona Gale (1874-1938) was a well-known author and supporter of populist causes in the first part of the Twentieth century.  The first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Gale concentrated most of her work on novels, short stories, and plays about small town life in her native Wisconsin -- more specifically, her hometown of Portage, best known in her works as "Friendship City."  Portage itself was a mere thirty miles upriver from August Derleth's beloved Sauk City, which he transformed to "Sac Prairie."

Derleth himself was a major regional writer and strong supporter of Wisconsin writers and his work was greatly influenced by Gale.  No wonder, then, that his first major work of non-fiction was this biography of this writer whom he had known and admired.  Still Small Voice is a laudatory portrait from its very beginning:

"Once having known her, you could not forget her, could not put from memory the gentle spirit that was hers, the grave tolerance she manifested always, her presence:  her large dark eyes, her small, beautifully-featured face, her quiet voice that could be firm without seeming so, her lovely hands, the infinite grace with which she moved."

Gale was the only child of progressive parents:  her mother, a tolerant and deeply-religious person; her father, intellectual and wise, and while not religious per se, held a strong belief in something greater.  Zona herself was a weak child who had friends and playmates, but was always somewhat apart from most of them and given to introspective fantasies.  In Derleth's portrait, Zona was sensitive to extremes about others, always forgiving. and with an abhorrence of violence of any kind.  She created stories from a very young age, setting some down to paper from the time she learned to write.  Her early work was romantic, portraying only the good side of side of people, and proved to be unsellable by the time she was old enough to submit them for publication.  Still she continued to write in this romantic vein, selling only one piece over a period of ten years.

Zona Gale's epiphany came when she took a good look at her hometown and realized that its people, with their small struggles and quiet lives, were also the stuff of story.  Her stories of Friendship Village, beginning with a series about lovers Pelleas and Etarre, struck a chord with readers and soon these stories were in great demand in a number of major magazines.  These early stories were also highly romaticized and one-dimensional.  It was not until World War I, when some of her neighbors turned against her for her ardent pacificism, that her second major epiphany came:  she had been writing only about "one side of the street" and people were deeper than that; their personalities covered both sides of the street.  Deeply hurt by her rejection, she bore no rancor, but from this came a determination to portray her characters as three-dimensional people and to more deeply explore the small tragedies of ordinary life.

Already a darling of the reading public and of critics, the newly-found maturity in her writing cemented her position as a major writer of the time.  Her 1920 novel Miss Lulu Bett (along with Sinclair Lewis' Main Street) was the best-selling novel of the year and "was compared to Ethan Frome, The Nigger of the Narcissus, Main Street, Nocturne, Java Head, The Red Badge of Courage, Mary Oliver, et al."  Every book an play from Zona's pen heralded a major literary event.

At the same time, Zona's progressive views found their way into a slew of articles on all subjects, from pacifism to women's rights, from education  to the dream of a universal church, from reform of the criminal system to temperance.  (Her strong support of Prohibition was tempered by her acknowledgment that the experiment was highly flawed.)  She wrote many letters and gave speeched in support of her various causes.  Her kind nature led her to a host of charitable donations and made her an easy target for anyone with a sad story; her father acted as a sort of gatekeeper, turning away many of those who would use his daughter.

Her activism and progressive views led her to support Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette, a leader of the progressive wing of the Republican party and to actively campaign for him.  (Derleth himself was reatly enamoured of La Follette, as can be seen by his often referring to the man as "the late, great Senator La Follette" in this book, and -- if memory serves -- in a number of other books that Derleth wrote.)

Derleth also alludes to Zona and her parents as a trinity, a closely-knit trio throughout her mother's life, and as closely-knit a duo until her father's deather at age eighty-eight.  It was only until a few years before her father's death that Zona allowed anyone else to be as close; she was in her fifties when she married William Llywelyn Breese, a widower whom she had known in childhood.  The marriage made her last ten years the happiest she had known.  Derleth glosses over Zona's strong and life-long attachment to her parents and makes no real attempt to dissect the reasons for this.

Derleth does, however, discuss her attraction of mysticism in her later works.  Even in this, Zona Gale, followed her own path.  Zona's mysticism was a gentle one, an extension of her father's awareness of there being something greater.  Her mysticism was one of renewal, of soft hints of colors and nature that provided warmth and comfort.  Resting in her lawn chair, with her eyes closed, Zona could feel the nearness of a friend who had died, or -- as she would have put it -- someone who had gone to the More.  Zona Gale herself went gently into the More in her sixty-fifth year, two days after Christmas.

Still Small Voice is an interesting and positive look at a writer who, despite her great popularity during her lifetime, is all but forgotten today.  Its tone and arrangement also tells us much about its author, Derleth.  The book concludes with a poem by Derleth that had been published several years before as a broadside, and with a thirty-four page unfinished autobiography by Gale as an appendix.


For more of today's Forgotten Books, visit Patti Abbott at pattinase.