Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


My wife swears that only 10% of men will go to Heaven.  Much more than that, she says, and it would be Hell.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Masquerade Party was a game show that went through various incarnations from 1952 through 1974, for a total of eight season.  A panel of four celebrities tried to guess the identity of another celebrity disguised with heavy make-up and costume.   The mystery guests played for money (one dollar for every minute the panel is stumped) to go to charity.  Bud Collyer was the original host, followed by Douglas Edwards in 1953.  Peter Donald took over from 1954 to 1956, then Eddie Bracken (1957), Robert Q. Lewis (briefly in 1958), and Bert Parks (1958 to 1960).  The show was revived in 1974 with a pre-Family Feud Richard Dawson for one season before it succumbed to poor ratings.

Only a few of the early episodes exist -- one each from 1955, 1957, and 1959.  The clip below is from 1955, when Peter Donald was host.  Donald was a British-born actor who had a solid career in radio (a regular on Fred Allen's Allen's Alley and host of the popular panel show Can You Top This?), moved to television in the late Forties, and was a fairly regular face on television in the Fifties (hosting game shows and making comedy and dramatic appearances).

The panel this time around included actor and band leader Bobby Sherwood, pneumatic (42"-23"-39"*) actress and personality Dagmar, poet Ogden Nash, and actress and novelist Ilka Chase.  Among those wearing disguises in this episode are legendary boxer Archie Moore and restaurateur Toots Shor.  The sponsor was Esquire shoe polish so all of the mystery guests walked off a bunch of shoe polish, which must have pleased them no end.

If the show's allotted time ran out during a segment, everything came to a halt and the mystery guest and his/her costume returned the next week to finish the segment.  In this episode, time ran out six seconds (!) into the segment and we never find out who the mystery guest was (evidently it was Name That Tune host George DeWitt).

Host Donald proclaimed that Masquerade Party was the most exciting show on television.  Things were much simpler then.

So, from 1955, prepare to be excited**:

* Those large bullet-shaped things that appeared on the front of several makes of automobile in the Fifties were called "Dagmar Bumps."  Wonder why?  And "Dagmar's Twin 40s" was the nickname for the twin 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns used on planes during the Korean War.  Curious.  I just mention this because I want you to keep abreast of all things cultural in the Fifties.

** None of the original commercials are included in this clip.  Instead modern day commercials are slipped in.  It's sneaky and I apologize for this.  We all must suffer for art.

Monday, July 29, 2013


  • Piers Anthony, Currant Events.  Fantasy.  A Xanth novel.
  • Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad.  Atwood's take on Penelope, wife of Odysseus. 
  • Gwendoline Butler, Coffin's Ghost.  A Commander John Coffin mystery.
  • Bruce Campbell, Make Love -- The Bruce Campbell Way.  A novel by the most famous chin in Hollywood.
  • Ted Edwards, X-Files Confidential.  Compendium on the first four seasons of the television series.
  • Mark Gatiss, The Vesuvius Club.  A Lucifer Box novel, part mystery, part spy-guy, part really strange.
  • Seth Grahame-Smith, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  Horror.  I wasn't very impressed with the movie.
  • Lisa Jackson, "Beverly Barton" (Beverly Beaver), & Wendy Corsi Staub - Most Likely to Die.  Thriller written in three parts.
  • Susan Kandel, Dial H for Hitchcock.  Mystery.  The fifth outing for Cece Caruso, lover of vintage clothing and biography of mystery writers.  The earlier novels dealt with Erle Stanley Gardner, "Carolyn Keene," Dashiell Hammett, and Agatha Christie; although Hitch was not a mystery writer, per se, he's still fair game for this series.
  • Elmer Kelton, writing as "Lee McElroy," Joe Pepper.  Western.
  • "Christopher Pike" (Kevin Christopher McFadden), Thirst No. 1.  YA supernatural omnibus containing The Last Vampire, Black Blood, and Red Dice.
  • Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, & Kate Elliott, The Golden Key.  Fantasy novel.
  • Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.  Children's collection with nine stories.
  • Peter Spiegelman, Black Maps.  PI novel featuring John March.
  • Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins, Complex 90.  Mike Hammer heats up the Cold War when he takes on the Soviet Union.  Forty-five bodies later, he's back on U.S. soil.  That's when things get really dangerous.  I read this one as soon as I got it.  Great story! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Hmmm.  A fairly reliable source reports that today is the mumble-mumble-th birthday of  the Sage of Alvin, Texas.  He hasn't made mention of this on his blog, so I am assuming a) that senility has set in, or b) he's busy chasing those darned kids off his lawn.  In any case, here's wishing him a glorious day with enough Doctor Pepper (the kind with real sugar) to keep him going for another year and long beyond.


Friday, July 26, 2013


Kudos to Bush 41 for shaving his head.  There are few things a politician (or an ex-politician in this case) does that garner my respect.  This was one of them.


The Invading Asteroid by Manly Wade Wellman (1932)

Okay, so it's a pretty big stretch to call this a book -- it's only 23 pages, after all.  But Wellman bibliographies list this as a book so who am I to argue.   Beginning in 1929, Amazing Stories editor Hugo Gernsback began issuing a series of chapbooks containing from one to two science fiction stories; The Invading Asteroid was the fifteenth of the eighteen chapbooks issued.

The time is 2675 and Earth is experiencing a lull in its war with Mars, which is currently on the opposite side of the sun -- the distance making attacks almost impossible.  Three young cadets in the  Terrestrial League's space force, anxious to experience flight without a supervising officer, use this quiet time to "borrow" an unarmed fighting ship to go for a joy ride.  Twenty hours away from Earth, they are attacked by an armed Martian scout ship.  The "almost impossible" has become very possible.  Using their sneaky Earthly wiles, the trio capture the ship and its pilot, a young Martian named Yaxa.  It turns out that Yaxa came from an "asteroid" that is heading towards Earth.

The asteroid, of course, is a hollow construct carrying two thousand armed Martian ships and six hundred thousand Martian warriors, sneaking up to take Earth unawares.  Thanks to our plucky threesome Earth, however, is aware and our heroes suddenly become instrumental in thwarting the attack.

Since this was first published in 1932, and science fiction for the most part was pretty crude, there's not much nuance or logical plotting in the story -- just slam-bang pulp action.  And that's all right with me.  It's not top-notch Wellman, but it's an interesting part of his literary past.

Pulpville Press reissued a number of these chapbooks, two to a volume, a few years ago.  The volume containing The Invading Asteroid also contains The Girl from Mars by Jack Williamson and Miles J. Breuer, which was the first in the Gernsback chapbook series.  (The Williamson-Breuer story has a strange illustration by Frank R. Paul in which a girl in the background appears to have a goose growing out of her neck.  Go figure.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


My girlfriend's dyslexic.  She made me a dessert the other day and it jumped off the table.  She misread the recipe and made a lemming meringue pie.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Now that England has a new royal with the advent of Baby Boy Cambridge, it's time to give serious consideration to a name for the baby.  My choice?  Skeezix.  My distant second choice would be Banbridge, 'cuz Banbridge Cambridge sounds fairly cool.

What do you think Bill and Kathy should name their kid?

UPDATE, 7/24/13:  Skeezix has been named, but not Skeezix.  The royal baby is George (for George Kelley, I presume) Alexander (for the ragtime band) Louis (for one half of a great song).  May he live long and prosper.


Erle Stanley Gardner's most famous creation was lawyer Perry Mason, but many readers preferred the private eye team of big, brassy, bulldozing Bertha Cool and her partner, the diminutive, cagey ex-lawyer Donald Lam.  Mason, of course, was also featured in movies, a long-running television series, a short-running television series, a long list of television movies, comic books, and a radio show (which eventually morphed into the soap opera The Edge of Night).  And poor Donald and Bertha?  A mere 29 books, one episode in a radio program in 1946 (featuring Frank Sinatra [!] as Donald Lam), one 1955 episode of the television anthology series Climax! (With Art Carney and Jane Darwell as Donald Lam and Bertha Cool), and the item below, a pilot for a television series that never came to fruition.

Cool and Lam was a 1958 joint production between CBS and Gardner's Paisano Production.  I don't know if it ever aired -- at least, I can't find a air date.  Gardner evidently had high hopes for this one; he inserted himself into the opening, telling the audience how proud he was of this production and how he felt the stars were just perfect for the roles.  The executive producer was Gail Patrick Jackson, who was the executive producer of the Perry Mason series.  The director was none other than Jaques Tourneur (alas, beyond his glory days).  The teleplay was by Edmund Hartmann, longtime script writer for Bob Hope.  And the actors?

Oh, yes.  The actors.

Well, Donald Lam was played by 5' 2" thoroughbred jockey Billy Pearson in one of his (thankfully) very few acting jobs.  The only worst piece of casting would have been to place Glenn Strange in the role, IMHO.  Pearson capped off his brief acting career in a Perry Mason episode. playing -- what else? -- a jockey.

Also miscast was the talented Benay Venuta as Bertha Cool.  At least she towered over Billy Pearson.  Venuta may be best known as the person who replaced Ethel Merman in the original Broadway production of Anything Goes.  (She later rejoined Merman in a production of Annie Get Your Gun.)

Also in the cast are Maggie Mahoney (a.k.a., Margaret Field, Sally's mother), Don Megowan (who also appeared in "The Bigger They Come" -- the Cool and Lam episode of Climax!), Sheila Bromley (a former Miss California who had a habit of often changing her name during her long acting career), Judith Bess Jones (who never acted again -- at least, as far as IMDB is concerned), the single-named Movita (better known as Movita Castenada; she played Ana in Knott's Landing), Allison Hayes (THE 50-Foot Woman [!]), actor-stuntman Alex Sharp, and John Mitchum, Robert's brother an a regular on Riverboat and F Troop).  Not surprisingly, many of the actors did a number of appearances on Perry Mason.

Without further ado, from 1958, the (failed) pilot episode of Cool and Lam:

Monday, July 22, 2013


  • Isaac Asimov, Patricia S. Warrick, & Martin H. Greenberg, editors - Machines That Think.  SF  anthology with 29 stories.
  • Ramsey Campbell - Solomon Kane.  Movie tie-in novelIf the movie and this novelization ever made it to Southern Maryland, I missed it.
  • Terry Carr, editor - Universe 13.  Original SF anthology in this long-running series.  Seven stories by some of the best in the business.  Anything with Carr's name on it is worth your time.
  • Thomas M. Disch & Charles Naylor, editors - Strangeness.  Fantasy anthology with 16 "curious" stories.  That fact that all three anthologies on this week's list were edited by those who are no longer with us just makes me want to say, "Dammit!"
  • John Farris -You Don't Scare Me.  Horror.
  • Donald Hamilton - The Ravagers, The Removers, The Shadowers, The Silencers, and The Wrecking Crew.  Five Matt Helm adventures for 99 cents each -- couldn't pass that up.
  • Tom Holt - Nothing But Blue Skies.  Fantasy featuring a Chinese water dragon working as a British estate-agent and a mob of livid weathermen.  Sounds interesting, eh?

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Long before Dennis the Menace there was Outcault's Buster Brown.  By the time I was  kid he was living in a shoe (with his dog Tige; he lives there, too!).  Serves the kid right for wearing that outfit.

From 1904:


Another one that's not really a hymn, but my brother sung it yesterday at my sister's memorial service and it worked.  Besides, it's Vera Lynn.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Dance of Death by Jean Charlot (1951)

Jean Charlot (1898-1979) was a French-American painter and illustrator, winner of the 1954 Caldecott Medal for When Will the World Be Mine?  He spent a number of years in Mexico and was greatly influenced by that country's art.  Indeed, Mexican art and sensibility infuse the fifty drawings in this slim book.  The book itself is dedicated to Jose Guadalupe Posada, "Mexican Maste of the Theme."

The theme is Death, personified by a crude skeleton figure. aristocrat, a politician  Each drawing is accompanied by a sardonic comment by Death as he meets various doomed people.  (Actually, that's a canard; a few drawings have comments by the soon-to-die.)  And who does Death meet?  A wounded knight, an aristocrat, a politician, an invalid, a nudist, an x-ray doctor, a pugilist, a hermit, a prisoner, a strong man, Hamlet's Yorick, an executioner, a housewife, an undertaker, an atomic physicist, an artist, a fisherman, a pessimist, an optimist, a businessman, a coquette, a gravedigger, a thinker, a dentist, a swooning maiden, a schoolmaster, a miser, a dowager, a cynic, a traveler, an astronomer, a confirmed bachelor, a neglected spinster, a gigolo, a mathematician, a waiter, a fan dancer, a surgeon, a poet, a holy man, a cartoonist, a child, and -- inevitably -- himself.

Anthony Boucher, reviewing the book in the April 1952 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, found it to be "superlative macabre humor in a welcome modernization of a great ancient art-form."  Boucher, as usual, was spot-on.

As I said, this is a slim book.  It can be read in less than ten minutes.   Or, if you are wise, it could be studied for hours.


Thursday, July 18, 2013


I Love Galesburg in the Springtime by Jack Finney (1962)

Jack Finney is best remembered, if at all, as the author of The Body Snatchers, filmed multiple times as Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Other movies based on Finney's novels include 5 Against the House, Assault on a Queen, House of Numbers, Good Neighbor Sam, and Maxie (from the novel Marion's Wall).  One of his best books, Time and Again, was certainly a major influence on Richard Matheson's Bid Time Return, aka Somewhere in Time.

Finney's short stories were marvelously-crafted gems, some of which were collected in two books:  The Third Level (1957) and this one.  (A collection of selections from both books was published in 1986 as About Time.)  Galesburg has never been reprinted in this country.  What a shame.

The ten stories (mainly fantasy) in this volume come from the "slicks" of the 50s and early 60s:

  • "I Love Galesburg in the Springtime" (from McCall's, April 1960)
  • Love, Your Magic Spell is Everywhere (from McCall's, as "The Man with the Magic Glasses,"  [month?] 1962)
  • Where the Cluetts Are (from McCall's, January 1962)
  • Hey, Look at Me! (from Playboy,  September 1962)
  • A Possible Candidate for the Presidency (from Collier's, as "Tiger Tamer," [month?] 1952)
  • Prison Legend (from Saturday Evening Post, as "Seven Days to Live", January 10, 1959)
  • The Face in the Photo (from Saturday Evening Post, as "Time Has No Boundaries," October 13, 1952)
  • The Intrepid Aeronaut (from McCall's, as "An Old Tune," [month?] 1961)
  • The Coin Collector (from Saturday Evening Post, as "The Other Wife," January 30, 1960)
  • The Love Letter (from Saturday Evening Post, August 1, 1959)
Great stuff.

This link should take you to some of the stories (plus one other) in this collection.  Check it out.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


When we were kids and my mother was recovering from an operation, my brother gave her the nickname "Scoots" from the way she shuffled from room to room.  The name stuck with us kids. My father called her "Peg," from the song "Peg o' my Heart."  Her birth name was (most unfortunately) "Millard." a name that supposedly honored her parents, MILdred and BernARD (get it?).  Her middle name was Harriet and that's the name she went by, although with two ts and an e:  Harriette.  To her grandkids, she was "Mimi," a name she felt more dignified than "Grandma" or "Nana" -- no one told her it sounded like a French courtesan.  Whatever her name, she would have been 91 today.

Like Kitty's mother, she was basically orphaned at a young age.  Although Kitty's mother lost both parents, my mother lost only her father, in a major gas explosion and fire when she was seven years old.  Her mother, who was a bit scatterbrained, could not cope and decided to take my mother and her baby sister to Florida to start a new life.  Her mother (Harriette's grandmother and my great-grandmother) put the kibosh on part of that plan, keeping Harriette while Mildred took the baby South.   My great-grandmother, whom I loved dearly, was a fairly strict, albeit liberated lady of the time, an educator, and one of (if not the) first female members on our local School board.  So Harriette grew up in a stable environment, loved and cared for by her grandmother, uncles, and her step-grandfather (a kind and sweet man with a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush).

She was a popular girl with a fine singing voice and a talent for the piano.  After high school, she studied nursing for a while, but gave it up when she married my father at age 19.  My father was working on a farm, and that was their home (and mine, while growing up).  She ended up with three kids -- my sister, myself, and my brother.  Between my sister and myself, she suffered three miscarriages due to incompatible Rh factors -- something that was not well-known at the time.  (I was the first Rh baby to survive in our area -- something I am very grateful of.  My younger brother was so ill that the hospital sent him home to die; the stubborn bugger fooled them all and thrived.) 

Times were hard, but never very hard.  The farm closed when I was nine and my father concentrated on his burgeoning construction business, and things got better.   My mother remained a stay-at-home housewife.

I have often criticized my mother's cooking.  Truth to tell, she could boil the hell out of everything and meat came out a uniform grayish brown and toast was often burnt.  ("Charcoal is good for your digestive system.")  But my mother was a wonder when it came to certain desserts:  her apple pies had the flakiest crust, her chocolate cake was to die for, and her sour cream cake and pineapple upside-down cake were wonders.  I never dared to get her recipes because I would have eaten myself to obesity -- not that I'm doing a bad job of that on my own.

After my father died, she was lost for quite a while.  Eventually she started seeing a friend, recently widowed, and they were together for two decades.   They ended up getting a shih-Tzu, a rat-like animal with the undignified name of Muffin, and the three of them voyaged into old age together.

My mother was not a person of the world.  She had no political views and little sense of money.  The one thing she did have was a strong sense of friendship, something that would occasionally keep her from the truth.  She believed in her friends and would form opinions based on what they said.  When the teenaged son of one of her friends killed a ten-year-old boy while speeding, her sympathy went to her friend and her son; while acknowledging the sad event, she never fully realized or appreciated that the boy's family had been destroyed.  This was a unique occurrence, however, and the majority of my mother's friends were one of her most positive assets.

She was a child of the Depression and it marked her, as it marked so many other persons in so many other ways, throughout her life.  Looking back, I see that she was fearful of the world and coped the best way that she could.  I wish that she had been more able to tap the inner strength that lay just below her surface.  I wish that she was capable of fully viewing the world the way that we -- her children -- were taught, as a place of wonder and delight and beauty.

She did a yeoman's job of raising us.  I had the independence of going my own way and I will be ever thankful to her for that.


What's the last thing that goes through a bug's mind when he hits the windshield?  His rear end.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


We're off to Massachusetts to attend a memorial service for my sister later in the week, so blogging will be light for a while.  I do have a few things in the queue to take the blog through Friday, but comments and additional blogging will be very dependent on available time and internet service.

Have a great week and try to keep cool.

See you on the other side.


For your edification today, we present a Spanish horror flick starring those two icons of Spanish horror:  Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  In this 1972 near-cult classic, Senor Lee discovers a body frozen in the ice of Manchuria (a region, I believe, of Northeast Spain) which he believes to be the missing link.  Said Senor Lee take the Trans-Siberia Express to bring said link back to civilization (Costa del Sol, perhaps?).  Aboard the train is old friend Senor Cushing.  Link thaws.  Passengers die.  Senor Telly Savalas pops up.

It's no Don Quixote, but Spanish horror flicks seldom are.


Monday, July 15, 2013


Hard to believe, but the Kangaroo is 1 year old today.  He's been with us (that is, with Christina and her family) since he was six weeks old and should remain until October at the very least.

So much depends on state courts and the social service system and decisions seem to be made on incomplete, conflicting, and inaccurate information -- that's when decisions are not being made on sheer wish-power.  The Kangaroo's birth mother is now pregnant with her fourth child (from four different fathers) and has some legal issues to face.  There doesn't seem to be any responsible adults in any of the families involved.  The birth mother is 23 (I believe) with no marketable (legal) skills.  The chances are pretty good that she will up with custody of the Kangaroo, as well as her other children, sometime in the future.

In the meantime, the Kangaroo is still experiencing problems arising from being born drug-addicted.  His developmental path is delayed and, although he is active and engaged, he is not gaining weight the way he should.  Christina and we are working on these issues, helping him with patterning, and providing stimuli.  He has a chance of becoming a normal kid.

A chance.

No telling what the future will hold for the Kangaroo, but for the moment he is loved and safe.  I hope that he will be loved and safe for many birthdays to come, wherever he might be.


  • David Alexander, The Murder of Whistler's Brother.  A Bart Hardin mystery.
  • William Bastone, Daniel Green & Barbara Glauber, creators, The Smoking Gun.  Compilation  of documents revealed on
  • "M. C. Beaton" (Marian Chesney), Death of a Cad, Death of a Prankster, and Death of a Snob.  Hamish Macbeth mysteries.
  • "Benjamin Black" (John Banville), The Lemur.  A Quirke mystery.
  • Holly Black, Ironside and Tithe.  YA fantasies.
  • Ray Bradbury, Driving Blind.  Fantasy collection of 21 stories. 
  • Harlan Coben, The Final Detail. Thriller.
  • Philip R. Craig, Vineyard Deceit.  A J. W. Jackson mystery, first published as The Double Minded Man and now repackaged as a "Martha's Vineyard Mystery."
  • Alzina Stone Dale & Barbara Sloan Hendershott , A Mystery Reader's Walking Guide:  England.  My feet hurt just thinking about this one.
  • Richard Deming, Dragnet.  Television tie-in collection of eight "case histories."  This is on of those YA Whitman Authorized TV editions that were popular in the 1950s -- in this case, 1957.
  • Matthew B. J. Delany, Jinn.  Supernatural thriller.
  • Carole Nelson Douglas, Femme Fatale.  An Irene Adler mystery.
  • Paul W. Fairman, Five Knucklebones.  YA historical adventure.  Fairman, who would write just about anything for hire, was the founding editor of If and editor of Amazing Stories, Fantastic, and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.  He may be best known today for writing the Sherlock Holmes section of Ellery Queen's A Study in Terror.
  • Raymond E. Feist, A Darkness at Sethanon, Exile's Return, Magician:  Master, and Silverthorn.  Fantasies.
  • [The Graphic Artists Guild], Directory of Illustration 16.  Doorstop of an art book showcasing the talents of Guild members.  976 full color glossy pages covering multitude of catagories.  Some beautiful pieces here.
  • "Robin Hobb"  (Megan Lindholm), Assassin's Quest and Forest Mage.  Fantasies.
  • Philip Kerr, The One from the Other.  A Bernie Gunther novel, the first since Kerr's Berlin Trilogy.
  • "Pepper" Langley, I Remember:  Recollections of "Pepper" Langley -- Growing Up in Solomons.  Local history.  Langley, master carver, boat builder, boat racer, and letterer, born in 1915, recounts his life in Southern Maryland.  In 1970, he helped found the Calvert Marine Museum; 28 years later, the Museum published this book based on oral interviews with Melvin A. Conant.  This copy signed by both Langley and Conant.
  • Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Seville Communion.  Mystery.
  • Daniel Pool, Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Letters:  The Rows and Romances of England's Great Victorian Novelists.  Non-fiction.  I'm a sucker for this type of snarky thing.
  • Charles Stross, The Hidden Family.  SF.
  • Brad Thor, The Last Patriot and The Lions of Lucerne.  Thrillers.
  • Betty Webb, Terence Faherty, Nancy Baker Jacobs, and Jonathan Harrington, Desperate Journeys.  Thriller.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Today would have been my mother-in-law's 90th birthday.  I'm sure she thought that she would be around to enjoy the day.  I would have bet money on the same thing; she was a tough and determined lady.  Sadly, she passed away almost ten years ago.

For the longest time she resented my marrying Kitty.  I was that "damned South Chelmsford farmer" rather than "one of those engineers from Tech."  She sincerely believed that Kitty deserved someone much better than me.  Can't say that I disagreed with that and I have been ever so thankful that Kitty did disagree.  For the last three years of her life she lived with us; we had bought a house and set up separate living quarters so she could maintain her independence.  She actually told Kitty once that I was a "pretty good guy."  She would never allow herself to say it to me, though.

Some years ago, in their infinite wisdom and desire for more money, the Hallmark people created a National Mothers-in-law Day (or some such thing).  The morning of that first day, Eileen was our doorstep demanding, "Where's my card?"

When I was dating Kitty, Eileen discovered that one of her son's friends, one of seven children with a single mother, could not afford decent underwear.  My father had a small construction business and Eileen insisted I talk my father into hiring the boy for the summer so he could have some money.   Underneath her gruff exterior, she had a good heart.  At times, she hid it well.

She was a solitary person for the most part.  Her father had been affluent but dies of a sudden heart attack.  Her mother then committed suicide when Eileen was nine.  Eileen was raised by an uncle with a gambling problem and had a financially insecure childhood.   Nonetheless she was a happy and popular teenager.  Her high school boyfriend died during the war.  Later she married Kitty's father and they had a sometimes happy, sometimes turbulent marriage.  In her last few years, Eileen blossomed, renewing old friendships and opening new ones.

For the last year of her life Eileen was on hospice, and made good friends with the workers who came to the house regularly.  Eileen passed away just after 3:00 on a Monday morning.  At 8:00 one of the hospice workers drove up, not knowing that Eileen had died.  When I told her that Eileen had passed away, the worker broke down in tears -- something that seldom happens with hospice workers.

Eileen loved a bargain.  She once saw an advertisement for a special at a Chinese restaurant and decided to treat Kitty and me.  Only one problem:  she took us to a completely different Chinese restaurant.  Our poor waiter was very confused as Eileen insisted on the meal advertised by another restaurant and at the advertised price.  As I said, Eileen was a determined woman and she got her meal and her price.  The waiter was glad to see her leave and neither he nor Eileen noticed Kitty and I slinking down and trying to hide underneath the table.

For Eileen's eightieth birthday, we ordered Chinese takeout.  Now, every year on Eileen's birthday we try to go to a Chinese restaurant in honor of the grand old lady.  Sometimes we even consider ordering from another restaurants menu.

A few times during the last years of her life, we've had to take her to the hospital.  Christina at that time was working at the hospital in the emergency room and had to explain to the nurses and the doctors that her grandmother was a difficult person in the best of times, and that these were not the best of times.   The medical staff took this in stride and actually admired Eileen.

We have the Kangaroo today while Christina packs her family for a trip to Massachusetts tomorrow.  And I'm halfway through painting the bedroom before we follow her on Tuesday or Wednesday, so we may not have a chance for Chinese today, but we will sometime this week.  And when we do, we'll be thinking of that tough woman who never wanted anyone to think that she had a soft heat.

And while we are thinking of her, I'll realize just how much I miss her.


So it may not be an honest-to-goodness hymn, but if it's good enough for Lake Woebegone, it's good enough for Jerry's House of Everything.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


This past week we've been taking two of our grandkids to a boat camp in the far hinterlands of Southern Maryland.  On the way, I noticed a couple of signs for businesses that tickled me:

  • for a trailer park: PREFABRICATED HOME PARK

  • for a place that sells crab pots and crab traps:  CRUSTACIAN CAPTURING DEVICES

Innovative marketing, for sure.


My brother's comment on PREFABRICATED HOME PARK:  "That's to fool the tornados."  A wise man, my brother.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Let's Talk by Evan Hunter, a.k.a. Ed McBain (2005)

For this week's Forgotten Book I have chosen one that is more in the "little known" than in the "forgotten" territory.  Let's Talk was one of Evan Hunter's last books, published in 2005, the year of his death, in Great Britain only, and was only one of two non-fiction books Hunter ever published.  (The other was Me and Hitch, a brief 1997 memoir on working with Alfred Hitchcock on the movies The Birds and Marnie.)

As the cover of Let's Talk explains, the book is a "Story of Cancer and Love."  In October of 1992, Hunter visited an ENT specialist about a case of swimmer's ear that had been bothering him.  After examining him, the doctor asked how long Hunter had had the sore throat.  He hadn't realized had had a sore throat until the doctor posed the question.  Thinking back, Hunter said a couple of months.  The doctor had noticed a suspicious area on his vocal cords, eventually sending Hunter for a biopsy.

The biopsy came back showing no evidence of cancer, but did show a "moderate squamous dysplasia" -- pre-cancerous cells -- which was completely excised.  Three months later, Hunter's voice changed.  Then followed a series of examinations and treatments over the next few years and, although Hunter's vocal condition continued to worsen, each time showed no cancer.

At the same time, Hunter's twenty-two year marriage (his second) was falling apart.  (The author dodges the reasons for this, but he hints in one sentence that his extra-marital affairs were one of the main reasons.)  In 1995, at a book store signing, he met Dragica (Dina) Dimitrijevic, a Serbian acting coach who was more than two decades his junior.  Hunter fell in love.  Six months later,  he separated from his wife.  Two days earlier he had agreed to  have radiation treatments on his (still non-cancerous) vocal cords in order to improve his voice.

You have to understand the importance Evan Hunter placed on his voice.  As a prolific and popular author, his book sales depended a great deal on his publicity tours -- interviews, public readings, and television and radio appearances -- all of which would be greatly curtailed if his voice condition worsened.

The book follows two threads:  first, Hunter's eventual cancer diagnosis, removal of his larynx, and the consequences of that act; second, Hunter's relationship, eventual marriage to, and life with Dina.  Tying both threads together is the turbulence involved with both.  At times humorous, and at times self-pitying, Let's Talk is an honest look at the simultaneous forces of illness and love -- least as honest a look as Hunter is willing to tell us.  A fast and interesting read, especially for those who have enjoyed either Hunter, McBain, or both.

It should be noted that Hunter's wife wrote about half the book, detailing the time from her point of view.  She refused to have her name on the cover and title page, as Hunter explained in his dedication.  Orion, the book's publisher, credited the book to "Evan Hunter, a.k.a. Ed McBain," presumably because the two names are not generally known to many readers.  (I don't know how true this is, especially in Great Britain, but I do know that McBain is much known than Hunter -- something Hunter mentions several times in the book.)  

Why this book was not published in the US remains a mystery to me.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Today would have been Cordwainer Smith's 100th birthday.  Smith, of course, was the best known pen name of Paul Anthony Myron Linebarger, a political scholar and the godson of Sun Yat-sen and a confidante of Chiang Kai-shek, and the author of some of the most glorious science fiction ever written.

Here's his classic story The Game of Rat and Dragon.  (It's in an annoying format.  Sorry.)

For the many hours of reading pleasure you have given us, Mr. Smith, thank you.


     Early settlers were mostly Pennsylvania Dutch with names like Hite, Allstadt and Wager.  Workmen at the armory included many Irishmen.  There was good-natured violence between these groups:  on St. Patrick's Day the Germans paraded with effigies of the saint, and the Irish assailed them with fists and clods.  On St. Michael's Day the Irish turned out with a highly insulting figure of Germany's national saint necklaced in sauerkraut, and the Germans gleefully sallied out to riot.

-- from Harper's Ferry:  Prize of War by Manly Wade Wellman (McNally of Charlotte, 1960)

Good-natured violence, eh?  Sometimes the good ol' days aren't quite so good.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


A horse walks into a bar and the bartender greets him, "Hey."  The horse says, "Sure."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


From September 15, 1949, here's the first episode of The Lone Ranger:  Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, with Glenn Strange as Butch Cavendish.  What?  No bird on Tonto's head?  Blasphemy!

Monday, July 8, 2013


  • Judy Alter, Mattie.  Western.
  • Loren L. Coleman, Legends of Kern, Volume I: Blood of Wolves.  Franchise (Age of Conan Hyborian Adventures) tie-in novel.
  • Wes Craven, Fountain Society.  Horror.
  • Janet Morgan, Agatha Christie.  Biography.
  • David Morell, The Protector.  Thriller.
  • Jack Pearl, The Space Eagle:  Operation Star Voyage.  Children's SF.
  • Les Roberts, The Cleveland Local.  A Milan Jacovich Mystery.
  • Dan Schmidt. Silent Scream.  Horror.
  • David L. Schow, The Kill Rift.  Horror.
  • Lisa Scottoline, Look Again.  Thriller.
  • Thomas E. Sniegnoski, The Fallen 1.  Fantasy omnibus containing The Fallen and Leviathan.
  • Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.  YA adventure, the third in the series.
  • Whitley Strieber, Unholy Fire.  Horror.
  • Harry Turtledove, The Great War:  Breakthroughs.  Alternate history SF.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013


One of my favorite holidays, but one that I approach with open eyes.  Our history has been a checkered one, marred at times by greed, bigotry, ignorance, and stupidity.  It's also a glorious history lived by many decent people who have tried to make the promise of our country a reality.  As we relax and celebrate with family and friends today, let us all be grateful for the beauty and bounty that surround us and remember that freedom -- freedom from oppression, freedom from poverty, freedom from fear, freedom from discrimination, freedom to make the world a far better place for our children -- is a hard-fought cause.

Have a blessed, safe, and joyous day, one and all!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


In a comment on my post yesterday, Patti Abbott wrote, "I wonder if anyone remembers Philip Wylie."  Some of his fiction is currently in print from University Press Bison Books, one mystery is available from Fender Tucker's Ramble House, and Bill Pronzini recently collected five mystery novellas for Crippen & Landru -- all worthwhile endeavors, but none with the publishing numbers Wylie enjoyed in his heyday.

Wylie (1902-1971) was an extremely popular writer and social critic whose influence can be seen in much of the Twentieth Century's popular culture.  His 1942 essay collection Generation of Vipers popularized the term "Momism," a perceived American obsession with motherhood.

In a situation much like that of Cleve Cartmill, John W. Campbell, and Astounding Science Fiction, Wylie was investigate by federal authorities for a story that posited the use of Uranium-235 in the building of an atomic bomb -- months before the first a-bomb test; but unlike Cartmill, et al., Wylie was placed under house arrest.  (Wylie later acted as an advisor to the chairman of The Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy.)

Wylie's 1931 book The Murderer Invisible formed half the basis of James Whale's 1933 film The Invisible Man.  Wylie's contribution was uncredited; the other guy's (some Britisher named H. G. Wells) was not.

Wylie's 1930 novel Gladiator was a major inspiration for Superman.

His 1933 novel, co-written with Edwin Balmer, When Worlds Collide was the inspiration for Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon.

An avid deep-sea fisherman, Wylie wrote 37  stories about charter boat captain Crunch Adams and his mate Des Smith for (mainly) The Saturday Evening Post.  The stories were collected in at least five books and inspired the 1955 television series Crunch and Des, starring Forrest Tucker and Sandy Kenyon.  The Crunch and Des stories are thought to be an inspiration for John D. McDonald's Travis McGee.  (Just as Wylie's 1932 novel The Savage Gentleman is thought to be an inspiration for Doc Savage.)

An article Wylie wrote for SEP popularized the hobby of orchid-raising.  (Yes, Nero Wolfe was there long before this, but Wylie helped bring the hobby to the general public, not just those who had a greenhouse on the roof of a brownstone.)

A well-publicized episode of television's The Name of the Game titled LA:  2017, had Wylie envisioning a dystopian government following a world-wide environment disaster.  (I didn't think much of that episode (too strained and predictable), but the image of a geriatric audience rocking to a geriatric band in a secret (read forbidden) underground club still sticks with me -- more so lately, when I attend a concert.)  Wylie later novelized that episode as Los Angeles:  A.D. 2017.

IMDB lists 22 titles credited to Wylie, from 1932's Island of Lost Souls to a new version of When Worlds Collide currently in development.  Add to this his (at least) 39 books and hundreds of stories and articles, you have an author, dated perhaps, but who should not be overlooked.

Speaking of dated...

Starring Charlie Ruggles, Lionel Atwell, Gail Patrick, and Randolph Scott, from 1933, here's Murders in the Zoo:

For more of this week's Overlooked Films and Television, visit Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

Monday, July 1, 2013


  • Catherine Aird, Parting Breath.  A C. D. Sloan mystery.
  • Marvin H. Albert, The V.I.P.s.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • W.T. Ballard, Murder Las Vegas Style.  Crime novel.
  • Pierre Bayard, Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong.  Non-fiction.
  • "John Boyd" (Boyd Upchurch), The Girl with the Jade Green Eyes.  SF.
  • "Carter Brown" (Alan G. Yates), The Iron Maiden, Night Wheeler, and The Seven Sirens.  Mystery novels featuring Larry Baker, Al Wheeler, and Randy Roberts, respectively.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign and The Vor Game.  SF novels in the Vorkosigan series.  And The Spirit Ring, a fantasy.
  • "Jonathan Burke" (John Burke), Goodbye, Gillian.  Romantic mystery originally published as The Weekend Girls.
  • Alan Caillou, Terror in Rio.  Men's adventure novel, second in The Private Army of Colonel Tobin series.
  • Jeffrey Caine, The Constant Gardener:  The Shooting Script.  Based on the John le Carre novel.
  • Scott Ciencin, Tantras.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel.  Book II in the Avatar series.
  • Greg Cox, 52 and Final Crisis.  Comic book tie-in novels.
  • John Creasey, Alibi and The Toff at Buntlin's.  Mysteries, the first with Roger West and the second with the Toff.
  • Chet Cunningham, The Specialists:  Deadly Strike.  Men's action adventure, third in the series.
  • Elaine Cunningham, Daughter of the Drow.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel.  Book 1 in the Starlight & Shadows series.
  • Lionel Davidson, The Sun Chemist.  Thriller.
  • Carol Davis & Esther D. Reese,   Quantum Leap:  Mirror's Edge.  Television tie-in novel.
  • Erik Scott de Bie, Depths of Madness.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel in The Dungeons series.
  • Peter Dickinson, The Ropemaker.  YA fantasy.
  • "Robert Doherty" (Robert Mayer), Area 51.  Thriller.
  • Paul W. Fairman, The Partridge Family #4:  The Ghost of Graveyard Hill. Television tie-in novel.
  • Julius Fast, The League of Grey-Eyed Women.  SF.
  • Alan Dean Foster, The Metrognome & Other Stories.  SF/fantasy collection with fifteen stories.
  • Esther Friesner, New York by Knight.  Fantasy.
  • Roger Fuller, Ordeal.  Television (The Defenders) tie-in novel.
  • Neil Gaiman, American Gods.  Fantasy.
  • Christopher Golden, The Borderkind.  Fantasy, the second book of the Veil.
  • James Gunn, Kampus. SF.
  • Carolyn Haines, Revenant.  Horror.
  • Donald Hamilton, The Intimidators.  Spy guy.  Matt Helm #15.
  • "Leonard Holton" (Leonard Wibberly), A Pact with Satan.  A Father Bredder mystery.
  • Michael Jahn, Murder on the Waterfront.  A Bill Donovan mystery.
  • Richard Jessup, A Quiet Voyage Home.  Novel.
  • Langdon Jones & Michael Moorcock, editors, The New Nature of the Catastrophe. SF collection of Jerry Cornelius stories by Moorcock and Others.  Twenty-eight stories, a fourteen-part comic story, and some odds and ends.
  • Melanie Kent, Quantum Leap:  Heat Wave.  Television tie-in novel.
  • "Paul Kenyon" (Donald Moffitt), The Baroness:  Death Is a Ruby Light.  Spy girl.  Number three in the series.
  • Hideyki Kikuchi, Vampire Hunter D:  The Stuff of Dreams.  Horor.
  • Elmore Leonard, Three-Ten to Yuma.  Western collection culled from The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard.  Seven stories.
  • Jeff Lindsay, Dexter Is Delicious.  Crime novel with everyone's favorite serial killer.
  • Edgar Lustgarten, One More Unfortunate.  Mystery; number 28 in the Dell Great Mystery Library.
  • Giles A. Lutz, The Hardy Breed.  Western.
  • Jonathan Maberry, Bad Moon Rising.  Horror.
  • Ken MacLeod, Newton's Wake.  SF.
  • Cynthia Manson & Charles Ardai, editors, High Adventure.  Mystery/SF anthology with twenty-seven stories, mainly from the Davis magazines:  EQMM, AHMM, Asimov's, and Analog.
  • Lee McKeone, Ghoster.  SF.
  • John Mortimer, "selector," Famous Trials.  Nonfiction.  Nine selections from the Famous Trials series edited by Harry Hodge & James H. Hodge
  • "P. T. Olemy," The Clones.  SF.  An obvious pseudonym, but for whom?
  • Edith Pargeter, The Eighth Champion of Christiandom.  WWII novel.
  • "Simon Quinn" (Martin Cruz Smith) - The Human Factor.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • "Spencer Quinn" (Peter Abrahams), Dog On It.  Mystery, the first in the Chet and Bernie series.
  • Anne Rice, Called Out of Darkness:  A Spiritual Confession.  Autobiography about how she found her way back to Christ.  Written before she quit Christianity and became a secular humanist.
  • Stephen Robinett, Projections.  SF collection with nine stories.  An Analog book.
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Paloma.  SF novel in the Retrieval Artist series.
  • Fred Saberhagen, The Golden People.  SF novel, a major expansion of the 1964 edition.
  • R. A. Salvatore, Exile.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel.  Book two of the Dark Elf trilogy.
  • Gordon F. Sander, Serling:  The Rise and Twilight of Television's Last Angry Man.  Biography.
  • John Saul, House of Reckoning.  Horror.
  • "Sandy Schofield" (Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch), Quantum Leap:  Loch Ness Leap.  Television tie-in novel.
  • Sharon Shinn, The Shape-Changer's Wife.  Fantasy.
  • Chris Stratton, Emergency!  Television tie-in novel.
  • "V. A. Stuart" (Vivian Stuart) - Hazard's Command.  Historical/nautical/war novel, third in the series.
  • Louis Untermeyer, editor, A Treasury of Ribaldry, Volume 1.  antology with many poems, snippets, stories, and aphorisms.
  • Jack Vance, Lyonesse:  Suldrum's Garden.  Fantasy.
  • William D. Westervelt, Hawaiian Legends of Ghosts and Ghost-Gods.  Folklore.
  • Kaye Wilhelm, Sleight of Hand.  A Barbara Holloway mystery.
  • Connie Willis, editor, Nebula Awards 33.  SF anthology with eighteen stories, poems, articles, and excepts.
  • David Wilson, McCloud #4:  The Corpse Maker.  Television tie-in novel.
  • Marv Wolfman, Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Comic book tie-in novel.
  • T. M. Wright, The Eyes of the Carp.  Horror, number 15 in the Cemetery Dance Novella Series.
  • Philip Wylie, The Smuggled Atom Bomb.  Thriller.