Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, June 27, 2013


In May of 2012 Neil Gaiman gave a speech the senior class of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  It wasn't a long speech -- less than twenty minutes -- and much of what he said most of us already know, but it was a damned good speech, an important speech, something each of us should take with us through the rest of our lives.  William Morrow has just published it in book form:  Fantastic Mistakes:  Neil Gaiman's 'Make Good Art' Speech.  You should go out and buy multiple copies now to give to everyone you know who is graduating from high school or college, just a you have done with Dr. Seuss's Oh, The Places You Will Go!

Although Gaiman spoke to students of the arts, his words go far beyond that realm.  Each of us, through our individual talents and experiences, are works of art.  Art in progress, perhaps, but art.  In our lives, in our work, in all our endeavors, we owe it to ourselves and others to make good art.  no matter what the circumstances, make good art.  If your leg is crushed the eaten by a mutated boa constrictor (Gaiman posits), then make good art.  And (he  continues) if somebody on the internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before, then make good art.  good days, bad days, ho-hum days -- make good art.

You  are the artist and your life is the canvas.  Why would you want to make bad art?

I'm going to cheat here, because here is Gaiman making the speech:

but buy the book anyway.  It's that good.  It's that important.  It's advice you don't want to lose.

And give a copy of this book, along with the Dr. Seuss book, to your favorite graduates.  (And while you are at it, toss in a copy of Ben Shahn's 1957 book The Shape of Content.  It's another good 'un.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Why don't blind people like to sky dive?  Because it scares the dog.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


The announcement of Richard Matheson's death was a shock.  Although he was 87, he died far too early with far too many more stories to tell. 

From Boris Karloff's Thriller, December 11, 1961, here's Richard Matheson's adaptation of August Derleth and Mark Schorer's story "The Return of Andrew Bentley."

From IMDB, here's a list of Matheson's television credits.  Note: many of these were written by Matheson based on his short stories, but if IMDB didn't mention this, neither did I.

1955 - Studio 57, "Young Couples Only."  Original story.
1958 - Now Is Tomorrow.  TV movie written by Matheson.
1959 - Buckskin, "Act of Faith."  Written by Matheson and Charles Beaumont.
         - Wanted:  Dead or Alive, "The Healing Woman."  Written by Charles Beaumont; story
           by Matheson and Beaumont.
         - The Twilight Zone, "And When the Sky Was Opened."  Written by Rod Serling based on a
           story by Matheson.
1960 - The Twilight Zone, "Third from the Sun."  Written by Rod Serling based on the story by
         - __________, "The Last Flight," Written by Matheson.
         - __________, "A World of Difference."  Written by Matheson.
         - __________, "A World of His Own."  Written by  Matheson.
         - __________, "Nick of Time."  Written by Matheson.
         - Have Gun - Will Travel, "The Lady on the Wall."  Written by Matheson and Charles
         - Bourbon Street Beat, "Target of Hate."  Written by Matheson and William L. Stuart; story by
         - Cheyenne, "Home Is the Brave."  Written by Matheson; story by George Waggner.
         - Lawman, "Thirty Minutes."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Yawkey."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Samson the Great."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Cornered."  Written by Matheson.
1961 - The Twilight Zone, "The Invaders."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Once Upon a Time."  Written by Matheson.
          - Lawman, "Homecoming."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "The Actor."  Written by Matheson.
         - Thriller, "The Return of Andrew Bentley."  Written by Matheson from the story by August
           Derleth and Mark Schorer.
1962 - The Twilight Zone, "Little Girl Lost."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Young Man's Fancy." Written by Matheson.
         - Combat!, "Forgotten Front."  Written by Matheson under the name "Logan Swanson"; story
           by Jerome Coopersmith.  (The premiere episode of this series.)
         - The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "Ride the Nightmare."  Written by Matheson from his novel.
         - The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "The Thirty-First of February."  Written by Matheson under the
           name "Logan Swanson", from the novel by Julian Symons.
1963 - The Twilight Zone, "Mute."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Death Ship."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Steel."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."
1964 - The Twilight Zone, "Night Call."  Written by Matheson.
           __________, "Spur of the Moment."  Written by Matheson.
1966 - Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre, "Time of Flight."  Written by Matheson.
         - Star Trek, "The Enemy Within."  Written by Matheson.
         - The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., "The Atlantis Affair."  Written by Matheson.
1968 - Late Night Horror, "No Such Thing as a Vampire."  Written by Hugh Leonard from
           Matheson's short story.
         - Journey to the Unknown, "Girl of My Dreams."  Written by Robert Bloch and Michael J.
           Bird; story by Matheson.
1969 - "It's Alive!"  Television movie; no writer credited.  Evidently this turkey was based on an
           uncredited Matheson story.
1971 - Duel.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson from his story.
         - Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "Big Surprise" [a segment from the November 10 episode].
           Written by Matheson from his short story.
1972 - The Night Stalker.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson from a story by Jeff Rice.  IMDB
           lists Max Hodge as an uncredited writer.
         - Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "The Funeral" [ a segment from the January 5 episode].
           Written by Matheson from his short story.
         - Circle of Fear, "The New House."  Written by Matheson from a short story by Elizabeth M.
           Walter.  Matheson is also listed as the developer for the first 22 episodes of this series.
           Beginning with episode 15 (January 15, 1973) the series was renamed Ghost Story.
1973 - The Night Strangler.  Written by Matheson from characters created by Jeff Rice.  (I believe
           the story was by Rice, although IMDB does not mention this.)
         - Dying Room Only.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson from his short story.
1974 - Scream of the Wolf.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson from a story by David Case.
         - Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson.
         - The Morning After.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson from the novel by Jack B.
         - The Stranger Within.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson from his short story.
1975 - Trilogy of Terror.  Television movie based on three stories by Matheson.  The episodes are 
           titled  "Julie," "Millicent and Therese," and "Amelia."  The first two were scripted by
           William  F. Nolan; the last by Matheson.
1977 - The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson.
         - Dead of Night.  Television movie written by Matheson based on three stories:  "Second 
           Chance" by Jack Finney and "No Such Thing as a Vampire" and "Bobby," both by Matheson.
1979 - Racconti di fantascienza [Italian television show], "L'esame."  From a story by Matheson.
1980 - The Martian Chronicles.  Three-episode mini-series written by Matheson from the stories of
           Ray Bradbury.
1986 - The Twilight Zone, "Button, Button" [a segment from the March 7 episode].  Written by
           Matheson under the name Logan Swanson, from his short story.
         - Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories, "The Doll."  Written by Matheson.
         - ___________, "One for the Books."  Written by Matheson from his short story.
1987 - Steven Spileberg's Amazing Stories, "Miss Stardust."  Written by Thomas Szolloli and
           Richard Christian Matheson from a story by Richard Matheson.
1990 - The Dreamer of Oz.  Television movie.  Written by Matheson; story by Matheson and
           David Kirschner.
1994 - The Twilight Zone:  Rod Serling's Lost Classics.  Television movie.  Written by Rod Serling
           and Matheson; story by Serling.
1996 - The Outer Limits, "First Anniversary."  Written by Jon Cooksey and Ali Marie Matheson
           from a story by Matheson (credited here as "Richard Matheson Sr.")
         - Trilogy of Terror II.  Television movie.  One segment ("Prey") was written by Matheson from
           his story.  (The other two segments were written by William F. Nolan and Dan Curtis.)
2005 - Masters of Horror, "Dance of the Dead."  Written by Matheson from his story.
2010 - Family Guy, "The Splendid Source."  Written by Mark Hentemann from Matheson's story.

Monday, June 24, 2013


  • Joe Abercrombie - The Blade Itself.  Fantasy; Book One of The First Law.
  • Kevin J. Anderson - The Edge of the World and The Map of All Things.  Fantasy; the first two volumes in the Terra Incognita series.
  • Alan Bomack - Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan:  Terminal Velocity. Men's action adventure.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley - Exile's Song.  SF; a Darkover novel.
  • Carleton Carpenter - Cat Got Your Tongue?, The Peabody Experiment, and Stumped.  Mysteries.  Interesting trivia:  Carpenter, an actor/composer/magician/author, earned a gold record way back when for his duet with Debbie Reynolds, Aba Dabba Honeymoon.
  • Jeffrey A. Carver - Dragon Rigger.  Sf/fantasy mash-up.
  • Michael Chabon - Manhood for Amateurs:  The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son.  Non-fiction; thirty-nine essays.
  • C. J. Cherryh - Downbelow Station, The Faded Sun:  Kutath, and The Faded Sun:  Shon'jir.  SF novels.
  • Glen Cook - Lord of the Silent Kingdom and The Tyranny of the Night.  Fantasy novels in the Instrumentalities of the Night series.
  • Troy Denning - The Obsidian Oracle.  Gaming (Dark Sun) tie-in novel; Book 4 of the Prism Pentad. 
  • "Robert Doherty" (Robert Mayer) - Area 51:  The Truth.  SF thriller, the seventh (I believe) in the Area 51 series.  From the back cover blurb, I expect credulity will be stretched.
  • Tannarive Due - The Living Blood.  Horror.
  • Margaret Erskine - Harriet Farewell. An Inspector Finch mystery.
  • Elizabeth Forrest - Killjoy.  Horror.
  • Alan Dean Foster - ...Who Needs Enemies?  SF collection with twelve stories.
  • Ray Garton - Pieces of Hate.  Horror collection with nine stories.
  • William Gibson - Zero History.  SF.
  • Jeremiah Healy - Turnabout.   Mystery.
  • Frank Herbert & Brian Herbert - Man of Two Worlds.  SF.
  • William W. Johnstone - The Devil's Heart.  Horror.
  • Paul S. Kemp - Resurrection.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel; Book VI in R. A. Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen series.
  • Katherine Kerr - The Bristling Wood, Daggerspell, Darkspell, Days of Blood and Fire, The Dragon Revenant, and A Time of Exile.  Fantasy novels in the Deverry and the Westlands series.
  • Richard A. Knaak - Land of the Minotaurs (Volume IV of The Lost Histories) and The Seventh Sentinel (Volume 3 of the Defenders of Magic trilogy).  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in novels.
  • Sergei Lukyanenko - Night Watch, Twilight Watch, and Day Watch.  The Russian horror trilogy.  Translated by Andrew Bromfield.
  • Dixie Lee McKeone - Tales of Uncle Trapspringer.  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in novel.
  • Michael Moorcock - The Best of Michael Moorcock.  SF/fantasy collection from the always-inventive, always-interesting Moorcock.  Seventeen stories.  Edited by John Davey with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer.
  • Andrew Neiderman - The Immortals.  Horror.
  • Douglas Niles - The Last Thane (Chaos War series) and Winterheim (Volume Three in the Icewall Trilogy).  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in novels.
  • Andre Norton & A.C. Crispin - Gryphon's Eyrie and Songsmith.  One fantasy and one SF.
  • Dan Parkinson - The Swordsheath Scroll.  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in novel; Volume Three in the Dwarven Nations trilogy.
  • [READ Magazine] - Read If You Dare.  Anthology celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the literature magazine published for middle and senior high school students -- with twelve stories, many fantasy and horror.
  • Michael Romkey - I, Vampire.  Horror.
  • Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson - Eye in the Pyramid.  Part 1 of the Illuminatus! trilogy at the intersection of Conspiracy and SF.  Great fun.
  • Kevin Stein - Brothers Majere.  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in novel; Volume Three of the Dragonlance Preludes series.
  • Peter Straub - Sides.  Non-fiction collection with thirty-five pieces, including nineteen reviews/commentaries of Straub books by "Putney Tyson Ridge."
  • Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman - War of the Twins and Test of the Twins.  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in novels; Volumes II and III in the DragonLance Legends series.
  • Connie Willis & Cynthia Felice - Water Witch.  SF.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


From the magnificent site The Golden Age, a Woody Woodpecker story from the January 1950 issue of Walter Lantz New Funnies.

Friday, June 21, 2013



The Chronicles of Lucius Leffing by Joseph Payne Brennan (1977)

There have been many occult detectives in literature:  Algernon Blackwood's John Silence, William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki, Kate and Hesketh Pritchard's Flaxman Low, Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin, J. U. Giesy's Semi-Dual, Sax Rohmer's Morris Klaw, Dion Fortune's Dr. Taverner, Manly Wade Wellman's John Thunstone, Margery Lawrence's Miles Pennoyer, Rick Kennett's Ernie Pine, James Herbert's David Ash...I could go on.  One of my favorites is Joseph Payne Brennan's understated Lucius Leffing of 7 Autumn Lane, New Haven.

It's hard to explain why.  The vast majority of his thirty-nine recorded cases have absolutely nothing to do with the occult.  Leffing himself is a gentile antiquarian with a taste for sarsaparilla, root beer, and good cognac (no, not mixed together, heaven forfend!).  His investigative technique seems to be to ask a few innocuous questions and then to sit for a day (or two, or three) and mull things over in his mind.  His conclusions seem conveniently strained an are occasionally wrong.  He works out of his home and has a hard time eking out a living; he often works pro bono with the New Haven homicide department.  Leffing's Watson is Brennan himself; the author injects enough of himself into the stories to make them more interesting.  Brennan -- as Watson -- can be brilliantly intuitive or maddingly obtuse, depending on the story.  Leffing's adventures are leisurely and often undramatic.  Action is seldom called for.  Vital clues are often mentioned only after the case is solved.  Yet there is something about Leffing and Brennan's writing that draws me.

A librarian at Yale University for over 40 years, Brennan began publishing in 1940 with a poem.  He eventually wrote well over a thousand poems and published as number of poetry collections.  He also created and edited the small poetry Journal ESSENCE which produced 47 issues over a period of 28 years.  His first prose publication was a western short story; he went on to write over two dozen westerns for the pulps.  Brennan began writing horror fiction in the early fifties.  A number of his stories in that field are recognized classics.  He created his own publishing house, Macabre Press, and edited the fiction magazine MACABRE for 23 issues.

The Chronicles of Lucius Leffing contains eight stories, including several from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine, with only the final being occult in nature.  In his introduction to the book, Frank Belknap Long quotes editor Leo Margulies on one of Brennan's stories, "They seldom write stories like this any more, Frank.  Leisurely and scholarly in style and utterly splendid from beginning to end."  Despite the faults mentioned above I found all of the stories in this book to be "utterly splendid from beginning to end."  In particular, I enjoyed "Mem'ries," in which Brennan relates to Leffing some of problems he has with his poetry magazine ESSENCE, never realizing the dangers of rejecting a manuscript.

To my knowledge, all of the Leffing stories have been published in these three collections and one short novel:

The Casebook of Lucius Leffing (1973)
The Chronicles of Lucius Leffing (1977)
The Adventures of Lucius Leffing (1990)
Act of Providence (with Donald M. Grant, 1979)

(Leffing also made a cameo appearance in the story "In the Very Stones" which was reprinted in his collection Scream at Midnight (1963).)

The four Leffing books were all published in limited print runs and are difficult to find inexpensively.  I read all four volumes over the years via interlibrary loan.  You may find it worth your while to do the same.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


From February 2, 1950, the first episode of the long-running quiz show What's My Line?, featuring panelists psychiatrist Richard Hoffman, poet Louis Untermeyer, columnist Dorothy Kilgallan, an former New Jersey governor Howard Hoffman.  The long-time moderator was John Cameron Daly.  The very first contestant on the show walked away $25 richer -- those were simpler times.

And here Steve Allen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf, and Dorothy Kilgallan, try to guess the occupation of a nudist camp owner.

And here Dick Tracy creator, cartoonist Chester Gould, tries to stump the panel.

And this clip could be called "The Case of Erle Stanley Gardner."

And, for a walk on the wild side, here's a very surreal Salvador Dali.

A great show, and always fun.

Monday, June 17, 2013


  • Stephen E. Ambrose, Crazy Horse and Custer:  The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors.  Non-fiction.
  • Mike Ashley, editor, The Best of British SF 1.  SF anthology with eighteen stories.
  • A. A. Attanasio - The Serpent and the Grail.  Arthurian fantasy.
  • Esmahan Aykol, Baksheesh.  A Kati Hirshel Istanbul mystery.
  • John Barnes, Orbital Resonance.  SF.
  • Dan Brown, Infernal.  The latest Robert Langdon mega-bestseller, this time dealing with codes (go figure) and Dante.  I was not impressed by any in the series and absolutely hated the last one, but I paid seventeen cents (including tax) for the book, so what the hell?
  • Orson Scott Card, Ender in Exile.  SF, the direct sequel to Ender's Game.
  • Lin Carter, Darya of the Bronze Age. Fantasy, fourth in the Eric of Zanthodon series.
  • Dennis Cooper, Horror Hospital Unplugged.  An acid trip of a graphic novel with gay themes.  Art by Keith Mayerson.
  • Michael Cox & R. A. Gilbert, editors, The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories.  Thirty- five stories, many very familiar, with a helpful appendix (a "select chronological conspectus") listing books of that period containing ghost stories.
  • Brian D'Amato, In the Court of the Sun.  Time travel/Mayan Apocalypse thriller , the first of a trilogy.  It took D'Amato seventeen years to produce this, his second novel; too long, much too long following Beauty.  D'Amato is a sculptor, so we should just be thankful he squeezes the time in to write.
  • L. Sprague de Camp, The Golden Wind.  Historical novel set in the First Century B.C.
  • "Asa Drake" (C. Dean Andersson) - Werebeasts of Hel.  Fantasy, third in the series.
  • "D. B. Drumm," Traveler #2:  Kingdom Come, #6:  Border War, and #7:  The Road Ghost.  Post-apocalyptic men's action adventure.  The first two were ghosted by John Shirley; the third by Ed Naha.
  • "Wesley Ellis," Lone Star and the Kansas Wolves.  Adult western.  This is #4 in a series that lasted for 153 books.  "Ellis" is a house name that has been used by at least six authors; not sure who did this one.
  • Trish Gallagher, Ghosts & Haunted Houses of Maryland.  I checked; my house is not listed.
  • David Gerrold, A Day for Damnation.  SF; Book 2 in The War Against the Chtorr.  This is a revised edition.
  • "George G. Gilman" (Terry Harknett), Edge #6:  Red River and #31:  The Guilty Ones.  Adult westerns.
  • Ed Greenwood, Elminster in Myth Drannor and The Temptation of Elminster.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novels.
  • Herbert Harris, editor, John Creasey's Crime Collection 1987.  An anthology of sixteen stories by members of the Crime Writer's Association.  This is the 21st annual anthology edited by Harris, following Creasey's own John Creasey's Mystery Bedside Book, which had run for six years.
  • David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer, editors, Year's Best SF 9.  SF anthology with twenty stories.
  • Roy Hazelwood & Stephen G. Michaud, Dark Dreams.  Hazelwood is a former FBI profiler.  This book was a nominee for the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.
  • Douglas Hirt, Deadwood.  Western.
  • Tony Hillerman & Rosemary Herbert, editors, A New Omnibus of Crime. Mystery anthology with twenty-seven stories; Sue Grafton and Jeffery Deaver, contributing editors.  Marking the 75th anniversary of the Dorothy L. Sayers-edited Omnibus of Crime, this book collects some of the best stories of our time.  (Note that the Sayers volume -- one of three published from 1929 to 1934 -- was originally titled Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror; The Omnibus of Crime title was for the slightly altered American versions [1929-1935].  Sayers, of course, had a large section of weird and fantasy stories in her anthologies, while Hillerman and Herbert do not.)
  • James P. Hogan, The Multiplex Man.  SF, winner of the Prometheus Award.
  • Nancy Holder, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Chosen.  Television tie-in novel.  This one novelizes the entire seventh (and final) season of the show.  This particular copy does not list Holder's name anywhere on the book.
  • Kyle Hollingshead, Across the Border.  Western.
  • John R. Holt, When We Dead Awaken.  Horror.
  • David Ignatius, Bloodmoney, Body of Lies, and The Increment.  Spy guys, all.
  • Robert Jordan, Conan the Unconquered.  Sword and sorcery pastiche.  It's not Robert E. Howard but, then, it's not Lin Carter.
  • William H. Keith, Jr., Bolo Brigade.  SF novel continuing Keith Laumer's Bolo series.
  • Damon Knight, editor, Orbit 12.  SF anthology with either eleven or fourteen stories, depending on how you count 'em.
  • Manfred Lurker, Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons.  Non-fiction.  Many entries, not much detail.
  • Roosevelt Mallory, Radcliff:  New Jersey Showdown.  Blaxplotation men's action adventure novel.  The fourth (and final?) book in the series from Holloway House.
  • George R. R. Martin, editor, Wild Cards #18:  Busted Flush.  SF "mosaic novel" by nine authors.
  • Peter McCurtin, The Assassin #1:  Manhattan Massacre.  Men's action adventure novel.
  • Andy McDermott, Return to Atlantis.  A Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase thriller.
  • Dennis L. McKiernan, The Iron Tower.  Fantasy.  A Mithgar omnibus containing The Dark Tide, Shadows of Doom, and The Darkest Day.
  • Gina McKinnon, 500 Essential Cult Books:  The Ultimate Guide.  Non-fiction.  I've only read about 100 of them, and -- sad to say -- a number of the more obvious ones (Catcher in the Rye, 1984, On the Road, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.) I've never gotten around to.
  • Marcia Muller, Dead Midnight.  A Sharon McCone mystery.
  • Francis M. Nevins, Jr. & Martin Harry Greenberg, editors, Hitchcock in Prime Time.  Mystery anthology with twenty stories that were adapted for the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
  • Steve Niles, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend.  Graphic novel version of the classic fantasy novel.  Art by Elman Brown.
  • Kristina Ohlsson, Unwanted.  Scandinavian mystery featuring investigative analyst Frederika Bergman.  The back cover blurb says this is an award-winning mystery, but damned if I can figure out what award.  Can anyone help?
  • Byron Priess, John Betancourt, & Keith R. A. DeCandido, editors, The Ultimate Dragon.  Fantasy anthology with nineteen stories.
  • David Robbins, Bluff City (a Ralph Compton novel).  Western.
  • "James Rollins" (James Czajkowski), Blood Line.  A Sigma Force thriller.
  • John Saul, Black Lightning, The God Project, Nightshade, and The Presence.  Horror novels.
  • David J. Skal, The Monster Show:  A Cultural History of Horror.  Non-fiction.  Revised edition.
  • Olen Steinhauer, The Tourist.  Spy guy.
  • "Peggy Swenson"  (Richard E. Geis) - Snow Bound.  Adult novel.  Geis (who passed away recently) was the Hugo-winning editor of Science Fiction Review and The Alien Critic.  Almost all of his professional writing was done in the adult fields.  "Swenson" was a pen-name used mainly for lesbian novels.
  • Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Dragons of Autumn Twilight and Dragons of Winter Night.  Gaming (DragonLance) tie-in novels.
  • J. N. Williamson & John Maclay, Wards of Armageddon.  Thriller.
  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Michael  for the Millennium.  Supposed non-fiction, the fourth book about Michael, a collective spirit guide.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


On this Father's Day, I am thinking about

My father, a man who lived his life with kindness and laughter, who taught me to be responsible, and who loved chicken, popcorn, and ice cream.

Kitty's father, who was so important to all his grandchildren, and who loved the water (and ice cream).

Walt, Christina's husband, who actually loves his kids more than the dogs or the goats, who always has a mound of projects to work on, and who has a sweet tooth but won't eat ice cream when it's too hot outside.

Michael, Jessie's husband, who left us far too early, and Jessie, who is now both father and mother to her two girls.

And so many other fathers I have known -- some still with us, some not.  All those who have been there -- sometimes befuddled, sometimes wise -- for their children, I salute you.  And those who are unthinking, cruel, selfish, those who brutalize, terrify and abuse their children, those who shirk their responsibilities, I have only pity -- you are missing one of the greatest joys life has to offer.

And on this day, I am thinking about the lost, lonely, frightened and hurt children.  I hope that somehow, someway, you are able to overcome this and find love, laughter, and safety in your lives


A little bit of blues and gospel from the fabulous Staples Singers:

Friday, June 14, 2013


Moon Missing by Edward Sorel (1962)

Cartoonist/illustrator Edward Sorel has been a gadfly for most of his career, skewering (most often) the conservative right and organized religion.  His distinctive style was evident in 60s magazine such as Ramparts, The Realist, Monocle, and The Atlantic.  Later, he had a long association with National Lampoon, The New Yorker, and Penthouse.

In Moon Missing Sorel details the political and social ramifications when the moon went missing for three months during the early Sixties.  We never learn why the moon went, or how, nor do we know why the moon bothered to return after a three-month walkabout.

Sorel gives us a day-by-day account of the affair:

"NEW YORK, April 4--This morning, at about 1:46 A.M., the moon suddenly disappeared.  Informed sources believe that not only is the moon no longer visible but, in point of fact, it is "no longer there."...

NEW YORK, April 6--Americans have greeted reports of this new crisis with an attitude of watchful waiting.  They appeared calm but resolute, and determined to keep the vanished moon free from foreign domination."...

NEW YORK, April 10--A once-inspired Irving Berlin announced his retirement today.  He gave no reason for this decision."...

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 12--The United States Army successfully sent a satellite into orbit this morning to televise information on the moon's whereabouts.  Through an electronic failure of unknown cause the monitor picked up instead a rerun of "Father Knows Best."...

And so it goes.  Over the intervening days, we see West Germany sending volunteer after volunteer into to space to find the moon, even though after twenty-three tries, the ranks of volunteers have diminished -- no one objects because the West Germans are not using dogs or monkeys.  Cardinal Cushing is convinced that the missing moon is proof positive that the Copernican theory is incorrect.   U.N. Secretary General U Thant admits that the nations of Upper Cooga, Sahooli, and Southern Nakari, which had been admitted to the United Nations two years before, never really existed and was actually a hoax perpetrated by three Harlem businessmen.  Adolph Hitler is found alive and living in Montgomery, Alabama, under the name Yancy Schmidt.  Van Cliburn knocks it out of the park during a concert where he plays "Moonlight Sonata," "Clair de Lune," and "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain."

Moon Missing is a funny, satiric look at the early Sixties, greatly enhanced by Sorel's drawings.  I loved it.

Here's a taste of some of Sorel's other work:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Take Eric Ambler, Carol Reed, Peter Ustinov, David Niven, Stanley Holloway, William Hartnell, Leo Genn,  and Tessie O'Shea, mix them all together and what have you got?  A classic World War II film.

The movie, BTW, had its origins in an army training film, The New Lot, written by Ustinov and Ambler.

Monday, June 10, 2013


  • Rick Boyer, The Greatest Stories Never Told.  Brief book with 100 oddities from history presented by the History Channel.
  • Walter Mosley, When the Thrill Is Gone.  A Leonid McGill mystery, uncorrected proof.
  • Terry Pratchett, Making Money.  Fantasy, a Discworld novel.
  • Jory Sherman, The Baron Brand.  Western, third in the Barons series.
  • Patricia Wentworth, Latter End.  A Miss Silver mystery.
  • Hugh Young, C.B.E., My Forty Years at the Yard.  Memoir of a former Commander C.I.D. at New Scotland Yard.  The forty years covers April 1913 through January 1954.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Giant in Gray:  A Biography of Wade Hampton of South Carolina by Manly Wade Wellman (1949)

I'm about half-way through this well-researched biography of the Civil War general and I'm enjoying it very much, but it is slow reading.  The amount of detail, especially concerning Civil War tactics and battles and the confusing fact that there were four members in the family named Wade Hampton, have me going back to make sure I've got it right.  Wellman, a proud Southerner, has written a number of books -- both non-fiction and fiction -- about  the war and this one, IMHO, stands well with my own favorite of his, Rebel Yell.

Wade Hampton, the third of his name, was an astute businessman, farmer and statesman, and was, at one time, probably the richest person in the South, with vast holdings in South Carolina and Mississippi.  An expert equestrian and hunter, Hampton was a man of courage; his regular bear hunts often ended mano a oso with Hampton facing the bear with only a hunting knife; it's estimated that he killed 80 bears that way, only rarely receiving wounds in return.  Despite owning over 1000 slaves, Hampton pushed for bans on any additional slave trafficking.  He felt secession from the union would be a foolish move and pushed to find some middle ground that might appease both sides.  Yet when war broke out, this strong son of the South resigned his seat in the South Carolina senate and volunteered his service to the Confederacy.

With a commission as a colonel, Hampton formed a regiment (using his own funds to by rifles and guns from England for his troops) and faced his first major battle at Manassas.  Hampton came onto the field to find two Southern regiments in full retreat.  Hampton's regiment stood their ground, both delaying and surprising the Union army while also saving the retreating armies from destruction.  Throughout the war -- which saw the destruction of his home and property, the death of one son, and five battlefield wounds -- Hampton's courage, leadership skills, and tactical genius did much for the Confederacy's cause.  Indeed, Wellman contends, the could quite possibly have gone the other way if some of Hampton's plans had not be vetoed by superior officers.

**!!SPOILER ALERT!!** The South lost.

Following the war Hampton faced faced financial ruin.  Once one of the richest men in the South, he was now one of the poorest.  But that challenge paled in comparison with that of reconciling the North and the South.  Reluctant at first, Hampton entered the political arena, first serving as Governor, then as Senator, earning the respect of both the North and South.

Wellman in unabashed in his reverence for Hampton.  Hampton embodied all the attributes that Wellman found in his beloved South:  courage, discipline, honesty, humility, athleticism, loyalty, intelligence, and so many more.  Several times throughout this biography Wellman stated that he had tried to find something negative about Hampton's character, or about this action or that, but that he was unable to:  Hampton was revered and respected.  Which, to my mind, leaves this biography to be taken with a grain of salt.  But if Hampton was even half the man that Wellman portrays, he would have been on of the greatest men of the 19th century.

Fascinating reading.  Recommended.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Today is National Yo-Yo Day, a time to celebrate that frustrating toy I could never get to work.  The yo-yo was popularized in America by Philippino √©migr√© Pedro Flores, who manufactured and produced the toy that was popular in the Philippines when he was a child.  Flores also named (and trademarked) the toy:  yo-yo.  Flores was bought out by entrepreneur Donald Duncan yo-yo, who then controlled the yo-yo market until 1965 when the trademark ran out and other manufacturer began producing plastic yo-yos instead of the wooden ones that Duncan lathe-produced.

At one time, I seriously considered marketing the World's Most Difficult Yo-yo: a brick with a long string.  I may yet.

So let us raise a glass to all those childhood toys that never worked the way they should have.  The Slinkies that did not slink for you although they did for everyone else.  Those magic x-ray glasses that never let you peep into the girl's locker room.  The jig-saw puzzles that were missing some of the key pieces.  The Erector set with bolts that never tightened properly so that whatever built built collapsed immediately.  The chemistry kit that refused to make deadly poisons.  Those brine shrimp that never ever resembled sea monkeys and were way too dumb to build those underwater cities.  Oh, childhood is full of disappointments.  Luckily, none of these few failures scarred my childhood in any great degree.

Anyway, here's a Yo Yo I can get behind:

On a completely different note, today is also the birthday of Gary U.S. Bonds:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Jesus was getting very worried about the terrible drug problem on earth, so he sent his apostles back to earth for a few days to investigate the problem and report back to him.

A few days later, there was a knock on his door.  "It's Simon Peter and I brought some Columbia marijuana."  And Jesus bade Simon Peter to enter.

A few minutes later, there was another knock on the door. "It's Andrew, Lord, and I have brought back some cocaine from Bolivia for you to study."  And Jesus bade Andrew to enter.

Another knock came.  "Lord, it's James and I have brought back some crystal meth from New York City."  And Jesus bade James to enter.

It wasn't long before there was another knock on the door.  Jesus called out, "Who is it?"  "It's Judas, Lord."  "Enter, Judas, and tell me what you have brought me."   "FBI!  This is a raid!"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Stay the heck away from Florida!

Yes, it's been a bad week for llamas in Florida.  First, police tasered a llama in Florida.  (They claimed it was to protect the llama and the public, but what red-blooded Florida cop would pass up a chance to tase an innocent beast?)  Now comes word that four llamas were involved in a traffic accident, resulting in one of the llamas being taken away in a stretcher.

Each and every llama in Florida must be thinking, "Alpaca my bags and leave this state."

That is, right after they think, "Don't tase me, bro!"


So we tried to watch the HBO movie Behind the Candelabra the other day and gave up rather quickly.  Be honest now, have you watched it to the end?  If you did, did they give you a medal or bonus points or extra air mails or something?  Anything?  A certificate of valor, at the very least?

But it got me thinking.  My old (and I do mean old) babysitter, Minnie Brown, loved The Liberace Show.   (She also loved Bud Collier's Beat the Clock and Jack Webb's Dragnet.  Life was much simpler then.)  As a result, I got to see a lot of Mr. Glitter when I was a kid and his show was actually pretty entertaining, IMHO.

Judge for yourself.  From 1955:

Monday, June 3, 2013


  • Eugene B. Block, Great Train Robberies of the West.  Non-fiction.  Covers robberies from 1870 to 1933.
  • Octavia E. Butler, Fledgling.  SF/fantasy about a vampire and so much more.  The last novel from Butler.
  • Ralph Cotton, Gunfight at Cold Devil and Ride to Hell's Gate.  Westerns.
  • "Dirk Fletcher" (Chet Cunningham), Spur:  Colorado Cutie/Texas Tease.  A "Double Edition" containing two novels in the adult western series.
  • W. Michael Gear, Long Ride Home.  Western.
  • Heather Graham, Night of the Blackbird.  Romantic suspense.
  • Marquis James, The Raven.  Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Sam Houston.
  • William W. Johnstone with J. A. Johnstone, Savage Texas.  Western.  The first in yet another series.
  • Pat Murphy, The Wild Girls.  YA novel.
  • Orlando Rigoni, Massacre Ranch.  Western.
  • "Luke Short" (Frederick Glidden), And the Wind Blows Free.  Western.  An "unforgettable novel of Old West as it was, of the whang-leather, whip-cord tough men who made it, and the fiery women they loved."  Whang leather? Really?
  • Giles Tippette, Sixkiller.  Western.
  • "Gary Troup" (Lawrence Shames), Bad Twin.  Television tie-in novel.  Supposedly Troup's final novel before disappearing on Oceanic Flight 185.
  • "John Vail" (Robert Carse), Hold Back the Sun.  Adventure.  A Gold Medal original in pretty bad condition.
  • Will Vaus, The Professor of Narnia:  The C. S. Lewis Story.  YA Christian biography.  Autographed.
  • Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Elven Star.  Fantasy, Volume 2 of The Death Gate Cycle.
  • Joseph A. West, Blood on the Gallows.  A "Ralph Compton" western featuring former detective John McBride.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


At last night's concert it came to me again that a hymn can be many things -- words of praise, a song of hope and new beginnings, an expression of joy, a prayer, a celebration of life, or even a call to action.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Kitty and I are heading off to College Park, Maryland, tonight for the World Folk Music Association's benefit concert for the Madison House Autistic Foundation.  We always enjoy WFMA's concerts -- fantastic music, great people, and good food.  Tonight's concert should be no different, with five of the best acts in the business.

Buskin and Batteau.  David Buskin has been writing and performing since the late 1960s.  For several years he was the opening act for Mary Travers.  His songs have been recorded by Johnny Mathis, Robert Flack, Judy Collins, Tom Rush, Peter, Paul and Mary, among others.  He has also inflicted numerous advertising jungle upon the American public -- including ones  for NBC, Amtrak, Burger King, and the U.S. Postal Service.  David is also a member of the folk trio Modern Man, a group that attempts to bridge the gap "between The Three Tenors and the Three Stooges."  Robin Batteau has won an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Clio Award, and has been nominated for an Oscar.  He is the creator of the "I'm Lovin' It" jingle for McDonald's, the "This Is Beer" jingle for Budweiser, and the 'Heartbeat of America" jingle for Chevrolet.  He joined David Buskin in the early 1970s and they performed together until 1992; after thirteen years apart, they reformed as a duo and have been bringing their unique style to audiences since then.

Mack Bailey.  Four eight years, from 2004 to 2012, Mack Bailey was a member of the seminal folk group The Limelighters, providing a classically trained tenor voice to the group.  And for eighteen years, he has been a member of The Hard Travelers, a renowned folk group that has been around even longer than The Limelighters -- if only by a few months.  Add to that his solo career and his career performing  with his wife Rachel Levy, it's easy to understand why Mack Bailey is one of the busiest performers on the folk music scene.

Christine Lavin.  There are not enough words to describe the multi-talented Christine Lavin, although a few of the are "warm," "funny," "open," and "caring."  The legendary Dave van Ronk was the one who convinced her to make a career in music (and he gave her guitar lessons, as well).  She was a founding member of the Four Bitchin' Babes folk group.  She also lays claim to having written the longest song title in the world: "Regretting what I Said to You When You Called Me 11:00 on a Friday Morning to Tell Me That at 1:00 Friday Afternoon Your Gonna Leave Your Office, Go Downstairs, Hail a Cab to Go Out to the Airport to Catch a Plane to Go Skiing in the Alps for Two Weeks, Not That I Wanted to Go with You, I Wasn't Able to Leave Town, I'm Not a Very Good Skier, I Couldn't Expect You to Pay My Way, But After Going Out with You for Three Years I DON'T Like Surprises!!  Subtitled: A Musical Apology."  A cheerleader in her youth, Lavin often ends her show by baton twirling; she has been known to sponsor knitting and crafts sessions with audience members before her show.

Tom Paxton is a national treasure and holder of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  He
has written and performed thousands of songs over the past half century and has been recorded by hundreds of artists.  Seems like you can't throw a stick without hitting a Tom Paxton song.  He rightly deserves all the acclaim he has received.

Noel Paul Stookey is the "Paul" in Peter, Paul and Mary.  He is the man who created "Puff, the Magic Dragon," "The Wedding Song (There Is Love)," and countless others.  I've seen him become a wild man on stage when performing with Peter Yarrow -- doing everything he can to break his friend up.  He is simply one of the best in the business.  Little know fact:  he and Tom Paxton were roommates when both were starting out in New York City.

Here's some samples of what we may hear tonight:

Buskin and Batteau - "Guinevere"

Mack Bailey - "The Wings That Fly Us Home"

Christine Lavin - "What Was I Thinking?"

Tom Paxton - "I Miss My Friends Tonight"

Noel Paul Stookey - "In These Times"

The Madison House Autistic Foundation is a group that addresses the social, educational, and economic needs of autistic adults.  To learn more about Madison House, go to their website  All proceeds from the concert goes to Madison House and all performers have donated their talents for this concert.