Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, August 31, 2013


March, Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell (2013)

In 1958 a ten-cent comic book titles Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was published by the pacifist group Fellowship of Reconciliation.  It helped explain the role of non-violence and of passive resistance as a pathway to achieving civil rights.  Now, 65 years later and on the fiftieth year following the historic march on Washington, comes this very personal and, at the same time, very universal graphic novel by one of the leaders of that movement.

A year after the appearance of that ten-cent comic book, student John Lewis helped organize sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters, which led to further involvement in the struggle for civil rights.  He was beaten many times and arrested over 40 times.  He was one of the organizers of the March on Washington.  He headed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  He organized voter registration drives.  He led, along with Hosea Williams, the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, in which the marchers were attacked by state troopers; the news reports of that act helped speed the passage of the Voting Rights Act.  He has tirelessly acted on behalf of minorities and the underprivileged in this country and, for the past 26 years had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  His sense of decency, his moral conviction, and his belief that every person, no matter their station, has an innate dignity and worth has made him a true American hero.

March is Lewis' biography.  Book One covers his childhood through the Nashville boycott and the founding of SNCC.  In vivid detail it describes the social conditions and inequalities that existed during Lewis' youth, events that happened long before many today were born -- events to some that are dusty half-remembered, if remembered at all.

The fight for human dignity is an on-going one and we all are morally obliged to continue it.  This book and its sequels, when they arrive, are a good reminder of that.

Highly recommended.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Compound Murder by Bill Crider (2013)

Dan Rhodes has had to face a lot during his long career as sheriff of Blacklin County, Texas:  emus, wild hogs, and mammoths, not to mention various local politicians, his dispatcher, his jailer, Seepy Benton and the sometimes strange people of his county, including various killers.  And in his twentieth full-length outing, it just keeps coming.

As the book opens, Rhodes is in the midst of distrusting a bottle of Mr. PiBB, a most unsatisfactory substitute for his beloved Dr. Pepper, which is no longer being made with real sugar.  Shortly after the unopened bottle is (once again) placed in the refrigerator, Rhodes is called out to the local beauty salon to investigate the theft of a number of wigs and extensions.  There is a good black market for these items (in Texas, anyway; not so much in southern Maryland where I live); the wig theft comes on top of a rash of copper thefts from unattended buildings and pickup truck gate thefts (also popular items on the black market).  Rhodes' morning goes further downhill with the report of a dead body at the local community college.

The dead body belongs to Earl Wellington, an unpopular English teacher at the college.  Wellington's head had been bashed in on the corner of a parking lot dumpster early on the morning.  A few minutes after Rhodes arrives, a car comes screaming out of the parking lot and speeds away.  Rhodes gives chase for several miles before whoever was fleeing runs off the road and crashed into some trees.  In the car is Ike Terrell, a young student who had been accused by the dead teacher of plagiarism.  Also in the car are the stolen wigs.

Terrill is the son of Able Terrill, a man who distrusts anything to  do with the government and who has not left his isolated, fenced-in compound for years.  No one is sure how many people are holed up in the compound and stories about Able and his stash of weapons have been circulating the county.  Hack and Lawson, Rhodes' dispatcher and jailer, begin to draw comparisons to the John Wayne movie Rio Bravo.

Ike is not the only suspect in the murder. It turns out that there are suspects to spare, both from the compound and from the college itself.

Before the case is over, Rhodes is sent to a widow's home to wrestle a wild hog which isn't; Rhodes adopts another animal for his menagerie (this one with a truly noble name); copper thieves shoot at him; and Rhodes breaks (perhaps bends) his diet as usual.

Dan Rhodes is one of the most likable characters in mystery fiction and the Rhodes books are among the most satisfying.  Bill Crider has continually been able to make Rhodes' small-town Texas an important point on the fictional crime map.

Entertaining.  Satisfying.  Highly recommended.


Best Black Magic Stories, edited by John Keir Cross (1960)

Once upon a time British publisher Faber released a number of themed series anthologies.  Mystery writer Edmund Crispin compiled their SF anthologies in Best Science Fiction (Numbers One through Seven), Crispin also did Best Detective Stories, One and Two for Faber.  Brian Aldiss did Best Fantasy Stories;  Dick Francis and John Welcome did a brief series of Best Racing and Chasing Stories, and -- in addition to the book being discussed today -- John Keir Cross edited Faber's
Best Horror Stories One and Two.

Best Black Magic Stories, per the editor's introduction, provides examples of "the practice of those occult sciences which profess to invoke the aid of evil spirits or to make a compact with the Devil."  Many of these thirteen examples are fairly well-known, well-anthologized stories in the horror field, but all are worth approaching for the first or the umpteenth time.

The stories:
  • "The Earlier Service" by Margaret Irwin.  A haunting and "devilish" (hehehe) tale that has been reprinted at least eleven times in major anthologies.
  • "The Lady on the Grey" by John Collier.  A sardonic "Fancy," or perhaps, a "Goodnight," wherein the Devil has the last laugh.
  • "A Room in Leyden" by Richard Barham.  This one first appeared in Barham's pseudonymous 1831 collection The Ingoldsby Legends, as by "Thomas Ingoldsby, Esquire," where it was titled (and usually reprinted as) "A Singular Passage in the Life of the Late Henry Harris, Doctor of Divinity."  A typical and interesting example of the interest in the supernatural in the Nineteenth Century.
  • "Mothering Sunday" by John Keir Cross.  Apparently original to this volume and "a rather oblique kind of white magic."
  • "The Snake" by Dennis Wheatley.  This may be Wheatley's most reprinted short story and the very first short story he ever wrote.  Wheatley based this one on the true-life Major Weir, reputed to be a powerful wizard in East Scotland; Weir was finally executed at Gallowhill in 1670.
  • "The Hill" by R. Ellis Roberts.  A 1923 story that shows time and space have no bounds when it comes to black magic.
  • "Casting the Runes" by M. R James.  A classic.  And still chilling.
  • "More Spinned Against..." by John Wyndham.  A light-hearted look at the subject.
  • "The Haunted and the Haunters" by Lord Lytton.  A classic ghost story that is bordering on being a chestnut, and (as the editor states) has been "anthologized ad nauseum," often reprinted under the title "The House and the Brain."  Cross, however, also felt that it qualified as a black magic story.  First published about 165 years ago, it has not lost it's power.
  • "Homecoming" by Ray Bradbury.   One of Bradbury's stories about the charming and very weird Elliott family.
  • "Couching at the Door" by D. K. Broster.  Another effective tale.  This one has scared me ever since I read it in an old Alfred Hitchcock anthology.
  • "A Way of Thinking" by Theodore Sturgeon.  Sturgeon and voodoo dolls...need I say more?
and, finally,
  • "The Black Mass" by Joris-Karl Huysmans.  A chapter extracted from Huysmans' novel La Bas.
A good selection and a good read.


Today's Forgotten Books links are being collected by Evan Lewis at Davy Crockett's Almanck of Mystery, Adventure and the Wild West.  Check it out.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


This is an important day in history.  No, I don't mean the significant events that took place in Washington fifty years ago -- not that that wasn't important.  It was.  But seventeen years ago today something happened that changed my life for the better:  the emergence of Catherine Delaney Dowd upon the world.

While my daughter Jessie and her husband Mike and Kitty were upstairs at Georgetown University Hospital keeping the OB staff busy, I was downstairs taking care of some clerical information the hospital wanted.   I wasn't gone more than five minutes (I swear) and when I went back upstairs, there was waiting this tiny, little bundle of beauty, all calm and serene and tightly swathed.  That was my first look at my first grandchild and it was amazing.

Ceili had an aura about her.  She seemed to be taking in everything about this new world she was thrust into.  She seemed...pleased.  No fussing.  No crying.  (Unlike her mother when she was a newborn.)  She was just happy to be here, to be healthy and alive.  She was just happy to be.  I fell in love.

For the next seventeen years she has made me proud and joyful.  My world (and yours, believe me) has been made better by her presence in it.  She has gone from the laughing infant who loved to be twirled around as we danced to a beautiful, intelligent, witty, and talented young lady who now sometimes goes by the name "Crashrine" -- a tribute to her first driving lesson.

I no longer get to see her or her sister or her mother on a daily basis because they now live 499 miles (exact -- by my car odometer) away, but I think about her every day.  My birthday wish for this sweet girl is for her happiness, today and all the days to come.

I love you, Ceili.

(And would it hurt to call once in a while?)


The brilliant Canadian writer Robertson Davies would have been one hundred years old today.  It's time to dig out the Depford Trilogy and read it.


Q:  What's the difference between a degree in Art History and a large pizza?
A:  A large pizza can feed a family of four.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Does this flick have anything to recommend it?  YES!  According to one commentator, " does have Ingrid Pitt and a classic Range Rover in it.  Two Stars."  In fact, this was Ingrid Pitt's first movie.  (There were probably earlier movies with a classic Range Rover, however.)

Originally titled El sonido de la muerte and shot in Madrid, this turkey was helmed by Jose Antonio Nieves Conde (1915-2006), about whom I know only what IMDB says about him:  he directed 25 films and has writing credits in 14 films -- including this one.  And he was a Sagittatius, which may or may not be relevant.  The screenplay was by Sam X. Abarbanal, who was a publicist for Republic Studios before moving to Spain in 1963.  Among his the credits was writing and producing the 1950 turkey Prehistoric Women.  Can it be a coincidence that part of his name is "banal?"  And he was an Aries.  Joining Conde and Abarbanal in story credits are Gregorio de Hoyos and Gregg C. Tallas, both Aquarians.

Why does IMDB list zodiac signs?

 The Sound of Horror stars James Philbrook as archeologist  Dr. Peter Asilov.  ("Dr. Asilov."  Hmm.  Good name for a science fiction flick.)  Philbrook was a common face on television in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, having appeared regularly on The New Loretta Young Show and co-starred with James Franciscus in The Investigators.  Asilov is somehow part of a group of treasure seekers exploring a cave in Greece.  What do you when you are in a strange cave?  Why, you set off explosives, of course.  What happens when you set off explosives?  Why, you release an invisible dinosaur, of course.  And what happens when you release an invisible dinosaur?  Why, it gets really ticked off, of course...You can see where this is going.

Beside Ingrid Pitt and the classic Range Rover, the eye candy here includes Soledad Miranda, who went on to be featured in a number of Mario Bravo movies.

Some people love this one and some people hate it, but I'm sure it will be one of the best invisible dinosaur movies you have ever seen.

Monday, August 26, 2013


  • "Alan Burt Akers" (Kenneth Bulmer), Manhounds of Antares.  SF, #6 in the Dray Prescott series.
  • [anonymously edited], Prom Dates from Hell.  Paranormal romance anthology with five stories, including one by Stephanie (Twilight) Meyer.
  • Steve Alten, Meg: Primal Waters.  Big shark thriller.
  • Paul Ashdown & Edward Caudill, The Mosby Myth:  A Confederate Hero in Life and Legend.  Nonfiction, the life and lore of "The Gray Ghost." 
  • Mike Ashley, editor - Historical Whodunits.  Themed mystery anthology with 23 stories.  In a previous life the book was titled The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunits.
  • Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, The  Shapeshifters:  The Kiesha'ra of the Den of Shadows.  Omnibus of five YA fantasies containing Hawksong, Snakecharm, Falcondance, Wolfery, and Wyvernhail.
  • David Balducci, Deliver Us from Evil.  Thriller.
  • Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson, Science Fair.  YA thriller.
  • Josh Bazell, Beat the Reaper.  Comic crime thriller.
  • "M. C. Beaton" (Marion Chesney) - Death of a Bore, Death of a Celebrity, and Death of a Poison Pen.  Hamish Macbeth mysteries.
  • Patricia Briggs, Blood Bound.  A Mercy Thompson, the shapeshifting mechanic, fantasy.
  • Lee Child, editor, First Thrills.  Thriller anthology with 25 stories from the International Thriller Writers, Inc.
  • Clive Cussler & Paul Kemprecos, Fire Ice.  A Kurt Austin adventure.  I consider Cussler an okay writer, but I just love Paul Kemprecos.
  • Richard Deming, Women:  The New Criminals.  Nonfiction from a writer best known for his pulp and paperback work.
  • Michael Dibdin, Thanksgiving.  Novel.
  • John Drake, Flint and Silver.  Adventure, a prequel to R. L. Stevenson's Treasure Island.
  • Diane Duane, Star Trek:  Spock's World and X-Men: Empire's End.  Tie-in novels.
  • Alan Durant, editor, Vampire Stories.  YA horror anthology with 18 stories and extracts.
  • John Farris, You Don't Scare Me.  Horror.
  • Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant, The Office, The Scripts:  Season 2.  Scripts from the six-episode second season of the British comedy.
  • William Gibson & Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine.  Steampunk.
  • Maurice Girodias, editor, The New Olympian Reader.  Anthology of 26 representative pieces published by Olympia Press in the 1960s, including extracts from Barry N. Malzberg's first two novels.  Malzberg (who helped edit the book)provides an introduction and Girondias gives us a lengthy afterward.  It's all pretty daring stuff for its time, I guess.
  • Neil Gaiman, Angels & Visitations.  A miscellany of stories, articles, reviews, poetry and whatnot from the fabulous Mr. G.  This, his first collection, contains 23 items.
  • Pete Hamill, The Guns of Heaven.  Thriller.
  • Virginia Hamilton, Her Stories:  African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales.  YA winner of both the Coretta Scott King Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.  Illustrated by the Dillons.
  • Patricia Highsmith, Nothing That Meets the Eye:  The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith.  Twenty-eight stories dating from 1938 through 1982 from the queen of moral ambiguity.
  • Analdur Indridason, Operation Napoleon.  Thriller translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb.
  • Stuart M. Kaminsky, Midnight Pass and Vengeance.  Lew Fonesca mysteries.
  • C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces:  A Myth Retold.  Fantasy, the story of Cupid and Psyche. 
  • Adrian McKinty, Dead I Well May Be.  Crime by one of the bright new lights in the field.
  • Kathleen Norris, Mystery House.  Mystery, one  of those cheap hardbound reprints from Triangle Books in the early 1940s, complete with a rather wistful dust jacket.  This is the "story on which the nation-wide radio program is based."  Something I did not know.
  • Andre Norton & Jean Rabe, editors, Renaissance Faire.  Fantasy anthology with 15 stories.
  • "Flann O'Brien" (Brian O Nuallain), The Third Policeman.  The classic crime/fantasy/literary novel.  Some people got pretty excited when this book was shown during a scene in one of the early seasons of Lost, hoping that it prefigured some of what was to come on that series.
  • George Pelecanos, editor, D. C. Noir.  Crime anthology with 16 D.C.-centric tales.  Will Akashic Books ever run out of locations for these themed anthologies, or will we eventually see something titled Frostbite Falls Noir?
  • "Ellis Peters" (Edith Pargeter) - Rainbow's End.  An Inspector Felse mystery.
  • Ian Rankin, Resurrection Men.  An Inspector Rebus mystery.
  • Chris Roberson, X-Men:  The Return.  Comic book tie-in novel.
  • Spider & Jeanne Robinson, Starseed. SF, sequel to Stardance.
  • Jonathan Strahan, editor, Best Short Novels 2007.  Eight short novels, published by The Science Fiction Book Club, who figured they didn't need to put the words "Science Fiction" or "SF" in the title because that would just confuse everyone.
  • Marc Sumerak & Chris Kipiniak, Marvel Adventures Spiderman:  Identity Crisis.  Graphic novel collecting issues 37-40 of Marvel Adventures Spiderman.  Art by Ale Garza, David Nakayama, and Ryan Stegman.
  • Stith Thompson, The Folktale.  Nonfiction.
  • Irving Wallace, Amy Wallace, David Wallechinsky, & Sylvia Wallace, The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People.  Dirty little secrets and not-so-secret tales of several hundred well-known people.  Some interesting anecdotes here.  BTW, the Wallaces basically put their names on the book which was mostly edited and written by a large staff.
  • Jess Walter, Over Tumbled Graves.  Mystery.
  • Glenn Yeffith, editor, Seven Seasons of Buffy:  Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer Discuss Their Favorite Television Show.  Twenty-two essays.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013


I mention in yesterday's post that The Eureka Years ended with a representative sample of book reviews written jointly by Anthony Boucher and Mick McComas.  The very first column covered the best book of 1949:
  • What Mad Universe by Fredric Brown
  • The World Below by S. Fowler Wright (As the year's "most notable reissue."  George Kelly covered this one as a FFB yesterday.)
  • Without Sorcery by Theodore Sturgeon
  • The Best Science Fiction Stories:  1949 edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • The Conquest of Space by Chesley Bonestell and Willy Ley (The "most beautiful and informative...volume of factual material...")
  • Honey for the Ghost by Louis Golding (A supernatural novel and, alas, one I have not read.)
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (A "forgotten classic" by the man once known as the Ettrick Shepherd.)
  • The Ghostly Tales of Henry James edited by Leon Edel (Hard to argue with this one.)
  • Gallery of Ghosts by James Reynolds (A collection of "non-fiction ghost stories;"  Reynolds followed this one up with several other influential collections.)
Mention was also given to Jack Williamson's The Humanoids, L. Sprague de Camp's reprinted Lest Darkness Fall, and Shirley Jackson's collection The Lottery.

A very good and catholic (small "c") list.

A longer list covered the best of 1950:

  • Monster Rally by Charles Addams
  • The Best Science Fiction Stories:  1950 edited by Everett Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Brimstone in the Garden by Elizabeth Cadell (Another one I have not read.)
  • Beyond Time and Space edited by August Derleth
  • Ghostly Tales To Be Told edited by Basil Davenport
  • Men Against the Stars edited by Martin Greenberg (the earlier Martin Greenberg; that is, the s.o.b. Greenberg, not the very nice Martin H. Greenberg.)
  • Waldo and Magic, Inc. by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Flying Saucers Are Real by Donald Keyhoe (One of the early -- and more literate -- of the UFOlogy books.)
  • Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber
  • A Spell for Old Bones by Eric Linklater (A collection of stories by the author of the well-known story "Sealskin Trousers;" another book that I have to read.)
  • Through a Glass, Darkly by Helen McCloy (A mystery.)
  • Shadow on the Hearth by Judith Merril
  • Shot in the Dark edited by Judith Merril
  • The Alabaster Hand by A. N. L. Munby (A very effective ghost story collection.)
  • A Gnome There Was by Lewis Padgett (Wherein Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore display their collective genius.)
  • The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon
  • The 13 Clocks by James Thurber
  • The Vintage by Anthony West (A fantasy of hell by the son of H. G. Wells, published in England as On a Dark Night.  Another TBR for me.)
  • The Greater Trumps by Charles Williams (The Tolkien colleague and fellow Inkling, not the Gold Medal author.)
  • The Throne of Saturn by S. Fowler Wright (A collection from Arkham House.)
Another well-selected and varied lot, although I would have think about including the Davenport and the Keyhoe.

Let's take a look at 1951:
  • The Fabulous Wink by Kem Bennett
  • The Innocence of Pastor Muller by Carlo Beuf
  • The Best Science Fiction Stories1950 edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
  • The Devil in Velvet by John Dickson Carr
  • Dance of Death by Jean Charlot (I reviewed this one as a FFB recently.)
  • Prelude to Space by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Spaceships by Jack Coggins and Fletcher Pratt (A beautifully illustrated nonfiction book.)
  • Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier
  • Possible Worlds of Science Fiction  edited by Groff Conklin
  • Rogue Queen by L. Sprague de Camp
  • New Tales of Space and Time edited by Raymond J. Healy
  • The Black Fox by Gerald Heard (A fantasy by the author also known as H. F. Heard.)
  • Between Planets by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Green Hills of Earth by Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Two Novels by L. Ron Hubbard (Boucher and McComas are referring to Fear & Typewriter in the Sky, published in one volume by Gnome Press.)
  • Bullard of the Space Patrol by Malcolm Jameson (And edited by Andre Norton.)
  • Pogo by Walt Kelly
  • The Lost Years by Oscar Lewis (An alternate history novel later included by Boucher in his anthology A Treasury of Great SF.)
  • Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel by Willy Ley (Nonfiction, naturally.)
  • Worlds of Wonder edited by Fletcher Pratt
  • We Always Lie to Strangers by Vance Randolph (Appalachian folktales.)
  • The Great Disciple and Other Stories by W. B. Ready (A collection retelling Irish legends.)
  • Slan by A. E. van Vogt
  • The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams
  • The Disappearance by Philip Wylie (Included by the editors in spite of the author's many, many sins against good writing throughout his career.)
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Another hard to argue with list with a number of works that might have not been familiar (Bennett, Beuf, Charlot, Lewis, Ready, Randolph -- although Ready and Randolph did have some work reprinted in F&SF) with the average reader of the magazine.

1952's best:
  • The Best Science Fiction Stories1952 edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • Lands Beyond by L. Sprague de Camp and Willy Ley (Nonfiction)
  • Cloak of Aesir by John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • The Exploration of Space by Arthur C. Clarke (Nonfiction)
  • Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Invaders of Earth edited by Groff Conklin
  • Chivers' Life of Poe edited by Richard Beale Davis
  • Index to the Science-Fiction Magazines 1926-1950 edited by Donald B. Day
  • In the Name of Science by Martin Gardner (Nonfiction.)
  • Gabriel and the Creatures by Gerald Heard
  • Tomorrow the Stars edited by Robert A. Heinlein (Actually ghost-edited by Frederik Pohl and Judith Merril.)
  • Selected Stories by Franz Kafka
  • I Go Pogo by Walt Kelly (The possum was the editors' preferred candidate for the 1952 presidential election.)
  • Takeoff by Cyril M. Kornbluth
  • Beyond Human Ken edited by Judith Merril
  • Robots Have No Tails by Lewis Padgett (The "Gallagher" series about the inventor who could only invent when he was drunk.)
  • Beyond the End of Time edited by Frederik Pohl
  • Across the Space Frontier edited by Cornellius Ryan (A symposium of articles from Collier's.)
  • City by Clifford D. Simak
  • The Heads of Cerebus by Francis Stevens (A weird story from 1919's The Thrill Book, written by Gertrude Bennett under her better-known pseudonym.)
  • The Long Loud Silence by Wilson Tucker
  • Away and Beyond by A. E. van Vogt
  • Destination:  Universe! by A. E. van Vogt
  • The Weapon Makers by A. E. van Vogt
  • Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
And, finally, from the banner year of 1953:
  • The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  • Best Science Fiction Stories:  1953 edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty
  • The Lights in the Sky Are Stars by Fredric Brown
  • Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Expedition to Earth by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Science-Fiction Adventures in Dimension edited by Groff Conklin
  • The Supernatural Reader edited by Groff and Lucy Conklin
  • Post Mortem by Guy Cullingford
  • Tales to Be Told in the Dark edited by Basil Davenport
  • The Syndic by C. M. Kornbluth
  • The Green Millenium by Fritz Leiber
  • Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore
  • Star Science Fiction Stories edited by Frederik Pohl
  • The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
  • Tales from Gavagan's Bar by Fletcher Pratt and L.Sprague de Camp
  • Satan in the Suburbs by Bertrand Russell
  • More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
  • Children of Wonder edited by William Tenn
  • Out of the Deeps by John Wyndham
This was the first year that Boucher and McComas did not include any nonfiction on their year's best list.  In any given year there are a few standouts, but 1953 brought us more than a few -- even some of the minor novels in any other year could reasonably be considered great.  Novels by Bester, Brown, Clarke, Leiber, Moore, Sturgeon, and Wyndham -- few years were better than this one.

There you have it.  The best books in the genre for 1949-1953.  Some may be tarnished by age, but most hold up remarkably well.  A lot of good reading here for both the avid fan and the curious. 

Friday, August 23, 2013


The Eureka Years:  Boucher and McComas's Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction 1949-1954, edited by Annette Peltz McComas* (1982)

* (Yeah, I'm pretty sure this book has already been covered as a FFB [most likely by Todd Mason, but I'm too lazy a sod to go back and check -- Update:  it was Bill Crider, another man of taste and distinction].  But it's too good a book not to cover again.)

It took four years to get it off the ground and then several issues to determine if it was viable, but the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (as it was soon to be known) remains, nearly sixty-five years later, a vital part of the SF scene.  Patented on the successful formula of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Horror (as it was first envisioned and subtitled "a magazine of weird and fantastic stories") was to be a literate and engaging publication reflecting the two erudite co-editors, Anthony Boucher and J. Francis "Mick" McComas.  The word Horror was soon replaced by Terror, then to be dropped altogether by the time the first issue of The Magazine of Fantasy hit the newsstands in 1949 as a planned quarterly publication.  By the time the second issue came out it was The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and thus it remained all these many years.

The Eureka Years tells of the early times when McComas and Boucher were co-editors of the magazine, before McComas left and Boucher became the sole editor.  The two were truly equals in this venture; joint editorial decisions were mandated -- both had to approve of a story if it was to be included in the magazine.  Both strived heavily to make a story the best it could be -- making suggestions, requesting revisions, and guiding the author to improve his or her story.  They were blunt in explaining how a submission was not working; at the same time they were encouraging and supportive of the authors, both the seasoned professionals and the amateurs who dreamed of making it into print.

Here are twenty-two stories from those early year, along with samples of editorial correspondence with the authors (and others), as well as some ephemera and poems and features from the magazine.  Capping the book off is thirty-seven pages of excerpts from the magazine's Recommended Reading department, where both Boucher and McComas display their unique and sometimes playful critical vision.

And what stories!
  • The Hurkle Is a Happy Beast by Theodore Sturgeon
  • The Exiles by Ray Bradbury
  • Minister Without Portfolio by Mildred Clingerman
  • Elephas Frumenti by L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt
  • Come O, Wagon by Zenna Henderson
  • Of Time and Third Avenue by Alfred Bester
  • Dress of White Silk by Richard Matheson
  • The Boy Next Door by Chad Oliver
  • Not With a Bang by Damon Knight
  • O Ugly Bird! by Manly Wade Wellman
  • Skiametric Morphology and Behaviorism of Ganymedeus Sapiens by Kenneth R. Deardorf
  • Letters to the Editor by Ron Goulart
  • The Other Inauguration by Anthony Boucher
  • When Half-Gods Go by Poul Anderson
  • The Little Movement by Philip K. Dick
  • Flies by Isaac Asimov
  • The Devil and Simon Flagg by Arthur Porges
  • Brave New Word by J. Francis McComas
  • Mousetrap by Ande Norton
  • Cat by R. Bretnor
The Clingerman and Henderson are "first" stories and are indicative of the editors' efforts to bring female writers into the field.  The Goulart and Oliver are also first stories (although, due to the vagarities of publishing, the Oliver was not his first published story) and show the editors' keen eye for young blood.  Here also we have the first Gavagan's Bar story from de Camp and Pratt, the first Silver John story from Wellman, as well as the first People story from Henderson.

And the correspondence!  Some samples:

McComas to Bradbury (on "The Exiles"): "Bierce is completely incredible.  Can you imagine 'Bitter' Bierce saying, 'What will happen to us?  God save us?'  Rather, he would chortle gleefully over the dilemma and enjoy with complete detachment the futilities of both the invaders and the exiles...[nd later] You are, for Ray Bradbury, amazingly inaccurate about Hawthorne."

Bradbury responds: "Sorry about THE EXILES.  You're right about Bierce and Hawthorne.  Put it down to the fact that I've never been a research man in my life, preferring to manufacture my fantasies out of whole cloth."

And Boucher to Barthold "Flos" [Fles] (on Clingerman's "Minister Without Portfolio"):  " doesn't come off well as it might.  A rather slow introduction and it could be cut about in half.  And the ending doesn't seem quite right -- a little too blunt for one thing...Can't make any guarantees until we see how she handles the rewrite; but I'd say the chances were pretty good that we might turn her into beautiful but published."  [Fles had described her as a "beautiful but unpublished girl."]

Boucher to Wellman (on "O Ugly Bird!"):  "...Are silver strings practical and feasible on a guitar?  If your are positive, we'll take your word; if you have any doubts, we'd like to consult Ted Sturgeon, who knows all about guitars."

Wellman replied: "Your letter on how to do the yarn over arrived late Saturday, and I just bowed my neck and did the thing over...Answering your question about the silver strings, I went into that before  ever I wrote.  Silver strings were used before steel strings became good enough.  Silver makes a good harmonious jangle..."

Boucher to Norton (on "Mousetrap"):  "...nice idea, greatly told, but one thing bothers us.  How on earth (or Mars) does Sam know about the puffball action.. I don't see how it can be abstractly deduced...And just incidentally, how come it is Andre and not Andree or Andrea?  It's been bothering me ever since I learned your sex."

Norton to Boucher:  "...I can very easily put in a puff-ball discovery for Sam.  Think I know just where to insert it and how...As to "Andre" -- just a properly ambiguous either sex name to be worn by a female who makes a living writing male adventure stories -- it can be a problem with readers unless one works behind such a smoke screen -- especially when one writes for teen age boys."

And from a rejection letter to a would-be author:  "The trouble is you're trying to hard.  You're too intent on showing off..."

And another:  "...if this magazine has a tabu -- it's one violently against stories wherein the protagonist is dead all the time and doesn't know it!  We get about 5 such a week."

And to an agent:  "...after reading this, A.B. coined the proverb:  One man's turd is another man's turquoise.  This disgusting little piece of scatology is definitely not our turquoise.  McC"

And from the Recommended Reading department, October 1953, come this incisive review:  "Ayn Rand's ANTHEM (Caxton) is also a thesis-novel (or rather a short novelet), using the over-worked them of individual-revolt-against-future-regimented-state to advance the notion that brotherly love and social obligation are a poison and that man's only hope lies in complete selfishness.  The story was published in England in 1938, and Miss Rand implies that a sinister conspiracy of purveyors of brotherhood has prevented its American hardcover publication until now.  One can only regret that the conspiracy broke down."

The Eureka Years is a pure delight.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


People keep saying that I'm too condescending*, but I don't think I am. 

*Condescending means I talk down to people.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Tales of the Unexpected was a British anthology series based (for the first few years, anyway) on the short stories of Roald Dahl, taken from his collections, Tales of the Unexpected, Someone Like You, and Kiss, Kiss.  Dahl introduced the stories himself, a format he would also use in his short-lived US series Way Out.

Here's an episode from April 26, 1980, during the show's second season, "Georgy Porgy."  Directed by Graham Evans and adapted by Robin Chapman, it tells the story of George Duckworth (played by John Alderton), a vicar who likes to imagine all his female parishioners naked, until lovely Julia Roach (played by lovely Joan Collins) comes to his parish.  Julia, unfortunately for George, is what is sometimes referred to as a maneater...

Enjoy this episode, one of the most unexpected of the Unexpected.

Monday, August 19, 2013


  • Michael Barson, editor, Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel:  The Lost Marx Brothers Radio Show.  Radio scripts from the NBC radio that aired as part of its Five Star Theatre series in 1932-3; and it's just two Marx Brothers, Groucho and Chico.
  • Gail Carriger, The Parasol Protectorate.  Steampunk fantasy omnibus containing Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless, all featuring Alexia Tarabotti.
  • David Dodge, The Last Match.  A previously unpublished thriller uncovered by Hard Case Crime.
  • Rose Estes, Master Wolf, The Price of Power, The Demon Hand, and The Name of the Game.  Gaming tie-in novels, Books 3-6 of the Grayhawk Adventures series.
  • Terry Goodkind, Confessor.  Fantasy, the twelfth book in The Sword of Truth series.
  • "Rohmer Zane Grey," King of the Outlaw Horde.  Four western novelettes featuring Zane Grey's Arizona Ames and supposedly written by "his son" but  Rohmer Zane Grey is a house name and at least one -- if not all -- of these four novelettes was penned by Bill Pronzini and Jeffrey Wallman.
  • Gary Gygax, Saga of Old City.  Gaming tie-in novel, Book 1 of the Grayhawk Adventures series.
  • Barbara Hambly, Ishmael.  Star Trek tie-in novel.
  • Nathan Hollander, The Harker File.  Thriller, first in a series featuring an investigative reporter named Harker.
  • William W. Johnstone & J. A. Johnstone, Phoenix Rising:  Firebase Freedom.  2012 right-wing paranoid thriller.  Islamic invaders take over America and "President Ohmshidi" admits that he has always been a Muslim.  Somehow, I can picture this book's base audience.
  • Mercedes Lackey, Diana Tregarde Investigates.  Fantasy omnibus containing Children of the Night, Burning Water, and Jinx High.
  • Tanith Lee, Sounds and Furies.  Collection of seven horror stories.
  • Michael Malone, Handling Sin.  Novel.
  • Annette Peltz McComas, editor, The Eureka Years:  Boucher and McComas's Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, 1949-1954.  F/SF collection with 22 stories, plus accompanying correspondence, poems, articles, and other material detailing the early years of the magazine.  A truly fascinating book.
  • Teresa Moorey, The Fairy Bible:  The Definitive Guide to the World of Fairies.  Reference, sort of.  The author has a very broad interpretation of the word "fairy," methinks.
  • Philip Francis Nowlan, Wings Over Tomorrow:  The Collected Science Fiction of Philip Francis Nowlan.  The original two Buck Rogers stories from when he was just Anthony and not Buck, plus four other SF stories.  The title of the book, BTW, seems to come from an unproduced radio play not included in the book.
  • Robert Reed, Sister Alice.  SF.
  • Al Sarrantonio, Hallows Eve.  Horror.
  • Neal Stephenson, Reamde.  SF.
  • Somtow Sucharitkul, Mallworld.  SF.
  • Judith Tarr, The Isle of Glass.  Fantasy, Volume One of The Hound and the Falcon trilogy.
  • Peter Turnbull, The Man with No Face.  Police procedural featuring Glasgow's P Division.
  • Lawrence Watt-Evans, The Sword of Bheleu.  Fantasy.
  • F. Paul Wilson & Matthew J. Costello, Mirage.  Medical thriller.
  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Midnight Harvest, Night Blooming, and Writ in Blood.  Three Saint-Germain vampire novels.

Kitty went booking with me.  Among the books she picked up were:
  • Tamera Alexander, From a Distance.  Inspirational historical romance.
  • Blanche Wiesen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 2:  The Defining Years 1933-1938.  Biography.
  • Anthony Horowitz, Stormbreaker.  YA, the first Alex Rider adventure.
  • Jonathan Kellerman, The Clinic and Dr. Death.  An Alex Delaware mystery and a stand-alone thriller.
  • Mark Kurlansky, Salt:  A World History.  Nonfiction.
  • "Elizabeth Peters," The Jackal's Head.  Mystery from another writer too soon gone.
  • Kerrilyn Sparks, Eat Prey Love and Sexiest Vampire Alive.  Paranormal romance.
  • John A. Ullman, Fried Fog and Other Cape Cod Yarns.  Thirty-eight of the author's "Apocrypha" columns from The Cape Codder newspaper.  Signed.
And I picked up Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map:  The Story of London's Most terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World because she goes ga-ga over that sort of book.

Friday, August 16, 2013


The Killer by "Chris North" (Ed Gorman) (1995)

Here's a short YA suspense novel that appeared in the mid-90s from HarperPaperbacks, which had been publishing YA suspense and horror novels such as the first Vampire Diary novels from L. J. Smith, the Vampire Twin books by Janice Harrell, and teen thrillers from M. C. Summer, Kate Daniel, Bebe Faas Rice...and movies such as Scream were on the immediate horizon.  In short, the market was there and the publishers were going to fill it.  Fast-moving, by-the-numbers books were what was required and the writers responded.

I don't know if Ed Gorman wrote any other YA thrillers (his wife, Carol, has written several interesting ones), but The Killer, while not transcending the genre, has a number of interesting things to recommend it.  The ins and outs of a small Midwest town and the lasting effects of jealousy and ambition, the silent caste system of the haves and the have-nots, sexual obsession that can start as early as the sixth grade and bloom horribly in later years, that each of us have both good and bad in us, as well as the power to save or be redeemed...all of these are fields that Gorman has mined in many of his works.

Karle Fletcher is a pretty high school student who has found herself in a social limbo since she has started dating Jordan Vedder, an asocial rebel who father is pushing him to go to West Point.  For weeks now, Karle has been getting disturbing and anonymous messages about Jordan.  Mike Conrad, football star and jealous bully, has it out for Jordan, as does a sadistic cop named Hennessy.

Karle stops by Jordan's house one evening to pick him up for a library study date only to fond his house in darkness.  She hears a noise from within the house and sees a figure in black running from the house.  The door, which should have been locked, was not.  Inside, Karle discovers the body of Jordan's father, a knife in his chest.  Behind a desk, bloodied, was Jordan; in the room was a video camera on which his father had taped a violent argument with his son earlier that day.  Jordan, fearing arrest, runs.  Loyal Karle follows.

Suddenly the two are the objects of a massive manhunt with Hennessey dogging their trail, hoping to be the one to find them so he can find an excuse to kill Jordan.  Can Karle and Jordan find the killer in time?

There are secrets, and twists and turns, and a surprise ending all tied up in a satisfying bow.  Gorman excels at nuanced characters and his talents are well on display here.  The Killer is not as polished as many of Ed Gorman's novels and short stories but it is a slam-bang novel designed to please its YA audience.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Back not that many years ago, Kitty got a job offer to be a sky marshal.  The very same day, we learned that she was pregnant with our first child.  Baby trumps sky marshal job any day.  Which brings us to Jessamyn, the most beautiful baby in the history of the world until then and the girl who has given us so much joy and a few gray hairs.

Jessie was a happy baby.  She did -- and still does -- bring joy and light to the world.   Love and pride are words not strong enough to describe our feelings for her.

She was one of the first babies(maybe the first) in our area to be born using the Lamaze method and the OB nurses were not happy with that.  Almost everything about that night has been pushed to the background of my memory because of the one thing that stands shining out from that experience, the one thing I will never forget, no matter how long I live.  At the moment of birth,  the doctor told Kitty that it was a girl.  And Kitty said, "A girl."  Just two words.  Two simple words.  It was the way she said it, the tone of her voice, something that I have been at a loss to describe over the passing years.  I have never heard a human being use that voice, either before or since.  Kitty's voice encapsulated pure joy and radiance, a sense of completeness, a feeling of perfectness -- for her, for me, for the baby, for the universe.  I pray that each person can hear that tone, that voice, if only once in his or her life, so that each person can experience love and awe taken to its utmost human limit.

I know how very fortunate we are to have Jessie and how fortunate we are to have her two beautiful daughters as our grandchildren.  If the only heritage we leave behind is our children, then Kitty and I have done very well.

If possible, we love you more today than on the very first day we met you, Jessie.

Have a fantastic birthday! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Light travels faster than sound.  That's why some people think my brother-in-law is bright until they hear him speak.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Hard to believe, but this little gal is 153 years old today:

(Even harder to believe is that this footage is 120 years old!)

For people of my generation, though, Annie looks exactly like pig-tailed and fringed-clothed actress Gail Davis.  The syndicated television show Annie Oakley ran for 81 episodes from 1954 to 1957.  Annie and her little brother Tagg live in the small western town of Diablo, where in between platonic courtin' and sparkin' with deputy Lofty Craig she scares off all sorts of owlhoots with her shootin'.

Annie's horse is Target; her brother's horse is Pixie -- which raises serious questions about Tagg.  (And who the heck names a kid Tagg, anyway?  It's not like he was a Palin.)  Tagg is played by Jimmy Hawkins who was George Bailey's young child Tommy in It's a Wonderful Life and had a fairly active career as a child actor.  He was about twelve years old when he began hanging out around Diablo; the series ended when Hawkins had a growth spurt.  Annie's boyfriend Lofty Craig has one of those truly inspired geological names like Boggy Marsh or Stony Creek.  Lofty was played by Brad Johnson, who played "Student" in 1951's Bedtime for Bonzo and went on to appear in a swarth of television westerns in the 50s and early 60s.  Stuntman Bob (not the reporter) Woodward appeared in over half the episodes, usually as Stagecoach Driver/Townsman/Lynch Mob Member/Henchman/Posse Member/somebody typically named Ed or Pete or Bill or Woody or Jim or Hank or Vic or Al or Joey or Bart.  I wonder if kids watching ever got confused with this dude who seemed to have so many names?  Probably not.

Quite a few well-known actors appeared on the show, including Slim Pickens, X Brands, Roscoe Ates, Alan Hale, Jr., Fess Parker, Denver Pyle, L. Q. Jones, James Best, Lyle Talbot, and Lee van Cleef.

Gail Davis began her career when she was 22 and soon graduated to westerns starring such icons of the oater as Roy Rogers, Rocky Lane, Monte Hall, Jimmy Wakely, Charles Starrett, and Johnny Mack Brown.  Her super-big break, however, came when she starred with Gene Autry in 1949's Sons of New Mexico.  She and Autry became long-time lovers and he placed her in a number of his movies and television projects, including Annie Oakley, which he produced.  She appeared in multiple episodes of The Range Rider, The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, The Adventures of Kit Carson, Death Valley Days, and (naturally) The Gene Autry ShowIn 1959 she had an uncredited appearance as Annie Oakley in the Bob Hope vehicle Alias Jesse James.   She was posthumously inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

The clip below is episode three of the show's first season and aired on January 23, 1954.  It was directed by Frank McDonald and written by Jack Townley.  And, yes, Bob Woodward was credited as "Posse Member."

Oh.  By the way, the real Annie never slept with Gene Autry.

Monday, August 12, 2013


  • [anonymous editor] - Murder Most Foul.  Mystery anthology with thirty mostly familiar stories.  This is one of those "instant remainder" books from Octopus Books/Treasure Press.
  • [The Beatles] - Live at the BBC.  Twenty-five Beatles songs arranged for piano/vocal with guitar chord boxes.  Since I cannot play any instruments and cats run away when I try to sing, why pick this one up?  Because my darling bride asked me to, that's why.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Firebrand.  Fantasy about the fall of Troy.
  • Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue.  Novel.
  • Jeffrey Cooper, The Nightmare on Elm Street Companion.  Nonfiction.  All Freddy Kreuger, all the time.  This one came out just after the third movie.  (The author also novelized the first three films.) 
  • Diana Gabaldon - Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes.  Books One through Four and Book Six in the historical fantasy Outlanders series.
  • William W. Johnstone, Night Mask and What the Heart Knows.  A horror novel and a romantic novel, respectively.
  • Asa Larsson, Sun Storm.  A Rebecka Martinsson mystery, winner of Sweden's Best First Crime Novel Award.
  • Dudley Pope, Rampage's Diamond.  Historical naval novel, the seventh in the series.
  • "James Rollins" (Jim Czajkowski), Excavation.  Thriller.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


In this sequence of 124 daily strips (actually 123 -- I can't get the first one to work), the pride of Dogpatch travels to New Yawk City, hobnobs with the elite, and finds himself engaged to a society deb much to the chagrin of Daisy Mae.  L'il Abner has to (**gasp**) wear shoes!  Daisy Mae has to fend off suitors!  Mammy throws a punch or two!  And the Scraggs decide to continue a hundred-year-old feud with the Yocums!

Travel back to 1934, when Abner was skinnier and Daisy Mae considerably less zoftig.

(Click on image to enlarge, use arrows to move ahead.)

Friday, August 9, 2013


Today is Jack Vance Day on Friday's Forgotten Books.  Because I am a slacker, I'm not reviewing any of Vance's books today.  What you should do is head over to In Reference to Murder, B.V. Lawson's fantastic blog, where she will be curating this week's links.  (Patti Abbott will return to her grindstone next week.)  Anyway, that's where you will find about a zillion links to reviews of Jack Vance books and stories -- as well as of other books that caught the eyes of your faithful FFBers.

But let's get back to Vance, who is not being reviewed by me.  For those unfamiliar with the man and his work, Jack Vance (a.k.a. John Holbrook Vance, Peter Held, Alan Wade, John Van See, John Holbrook, and occasionally Ellery Queen) was, IMHO, perhaps the greatest stylist since Avram Davidson.  He's won Hugo Awards and a Nebula for his science fiction, a World Fantasy Award. the Jupiter Award, an Edgar for his mystery fiction, and the admiration of readers everywhere.  A Science Fiction Grand Master and a winner of the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award, Vance passed away this past May at age 96.  For those unfamiliar with his work, get off the stick and start reading!

And to help you start reading, here's some stories available free on the web:


  • "Hard Luck Diggings" (Startling Stories, July 1948) *
  • "Sonatoris Shortcut" (Startling Stories, September 1948) *
  • "New Bodies for Old" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1950)
  • The Five Gold Bands (Startling Stories, November 1950)
  • "Overlords of Maxus" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1951)
  • "The Masquerade on Dicantropus" (Starling Stories, September 1951)
  • "The Plagian Siphon" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1951)
  • "Abercrombie Station" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1952) **
  • "Sabotage on Sulfur Planet" (Startling Stories, June 1952)
  • "Chowell's Chickens" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1952) **
  • Big Planet (Startling Stories, September 1952)
  • "The Kokold Warriors" (Thrilling Wonder, October 1952) *
  • "Three-Legged Joe" (Startling Stories, January 1953)
  • The Houses of Iszm (Startling Stories, March 1954) ***
*  Magnus Ridolph stories
** "Abercrombie Station" and "Chowell's Chickens" were combined to form the novel Monsters in Orbit (1965)
*** The Ace Books edition (1964) adds about 8,000 words

At Internet Archive:
  • "Winner Lose All" (Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1951)
  • "Ulward's Retreat" (Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1958)

At Project Gutenberg:
  • "Sjambak" (If, July 1953)

At Baen Books *:
  • "Liane the Wayfarer" (Worlds Beyond, December 1950) * *
* included in The World Turned Upside-Down, edited by David Drake, James Baen, and Eric Flint (Baen Books, 2006)
** a Dying Earth story

And, in audio in two parts at (#272. #273):
  • "The Moon Moth" (Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1961)

Also, Vance's Edgar-winning novel, Man in a Cage, was filmed in 1963as an episode of Boris Karloff's Thriller and is available on Youtube.  The radio show Dimension X aired an adaptation of "The Potters of Firsk" (from Astounding Science Fiction, May 1950), available at Internet Archive.  In 1953 Vance wrote two episodes of Captain video and His Video Rangers ("Black Planet Academy" and "Adventure on Phobus"); if these are available on the internet I have not been able to find them.  Can anybody help?

My discussion of Vance's Bad Ronald (both the book and the 1974 television movie) was published on this blog on May 31.

Here's an interview with Vance that was hosted by Mike Hodel on Hour 25 on November 12, 1976:

And, finally, Vance with ukulele and kazoo!

96 years.  A life well lived.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Presented in three parts, via Youtube:

Part 1:

Part 2:

And just because this one says Part 2, don't believe it:


The local church had a problem.  They had spent a significant amount of money for a new church bell but no one was able to get the bell to ring.  Every able-bodied man in the parish tried pulling on the rope to no avail -- the bell refused to ring.  Finally a young boy offered to ring the bell for five dollars.  The minister was amused by this and told the boy to try.  The boy climbed up the bell tower, ran toward the bell, and hit it (dare I say) head-on whereupon the bell rang out with the most melodic peal the town had ever heard.  A deal was struck immediately:  the boy was hired to run face-first into the bell every Sunday for services.

Everything worked well until one winter day.  The lad ran toward the bell, slipped on a patch of ice, and fell off the tower, plunging to his doom.  A large crowd massed around the victim but -- alas -- it was too late.  "Who was that poor boy?" one on-looker asked.  One of the other on-lookers replied, "I don't know his name, but his face rings a bell."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Where else can you find Ebenezer Scrooge playing a character named Soapy Marx?  Or James Bond's Q as someone called Ferdy Fane?  And an old house with secret passages, a phony psychic, a criminal genius, and a gang out for revenge?  Nowhere else but The Terror, a 1938 potboiler based on the play by Edgar Wallace, one-time king of the British thriller.

Helmed by Richard Bird, an actor who has only one other movie (1938's MEN OF IRELAND) and adapted by William Freshman, perhaps better known -- if at all -- as Lord Hastings in THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL), The Terror is an interesting combination of broad humor and melodramatic thrills ( if not chills).

As far as I can tell, this is a flick you will either love or hate.  Which side will you be on?

Monday, August 5, 2013


  • Piers Anthony, Rings of Ice.  SF.
  • Max Brand, Silvertip's Search and The Streak.  Westerns.
  • Kate Collins, Snipped in the Bud.  Mystery.
  • "Richard Elliott" (Richard Geis & Elton Elliott) - The Master File.  SFnal thriller.
  • William W. Johnstone, The First Mountain Man:  Blood on the Divide.  Western.
  • Louis L'Amour, The Iron Marshal and Lonely on the Mountain.  Westerns.
  • Jerry Pournelle & John F. Carr, editors, Cities in Space.  SF anthology with nine stories, four articles, and three poems.

Friday, August 2, 2013


The Dream Detective by Sax Rohmer (1925)

Moris Klaw is Sax Rohmer's "Dream Detective," the author's contribution to the ranks of psychic detectives.  Klaw's main method of detecting is to sleep wherever the psychic vibrations he needs are -- certainly a unique means of solving crimes  And many of these ten stories involve crimes (in these he aids Inspector Grimsby of New Scotland Yard); the non-criminal adventures often involve difficulties with friends or friends of friends.

As to Klaw, he is old, stooped, and shabbily dressed.  He has a thin, colorless (ahem, I mean colourless) beard, a high, bald brow, and yellowish skin the shade of dirty vellum.  He wears a flat topped bowler and has a spray bottle of verbena hidden in the inside lining of the hat.  He constantly sprays his forehead with the vellum; it refreshes him.

Klaw is a curio dealer whose dusty shop is located at the end of a cul-de-sac on an abandoned street in Wapping.  (When someone enters the shop, a parrot screeches, "Moris Klaw!  Moris Klaw!  The devil's come for you!")  The shop never seems to have customers.  The living quarters behind the shop are completely different from its disreputable front:  large, comfortable rooms filled with ornate and expensive furnishings.   Klaw lives with his daughter (and assistant in his psychic investigations) Isis, a regally beautiful woman dressed in expensive and fashionable clothes and who is secretly longed for by the very proper Grimsby.

Klaw's origins are unknown.  He has travelled extensively to many strange places.  He speaks English well, but his speech patterns indicate that it was not his native language.  (His daughter Isis speaks French fluently and we can assume she was raised there.)  Several stories into the book, we learn that he is the anonymous author of the popular book Psychic Angles.

Klaw's "Watson" is Searles, an author who appears to have a lot of time to spare.  It is Searles who often brings cases to Klaw, either on behalf of Inspector Grimsby or on behalf of one of his many acquaintances. 

To Klaw, thoughts are things, especially the thoughts of a murderer and his victim.  To access those thoughts to his "negative" (his brain, which acts as a photographic negative), Isis brings to the crime scene an "odically sterilized" red cushion on which Klaw sleeps for an hour or so, capturing the thoughts on his negative.  Nature, it seems, does not like to waste anything, be it a person's physical appearance or and event.  In the first quarter of the last century, all this made exciting reading.  Today, not as much.

But it is interesting reading.  Rohmer has always been a clunky but inventive writer worth examining, and if Morris Klaw is not the literary equal of such occult detectives such as Martin Hesselius, John Silence, or Carnacki, he certainly occupies a lower tier belonging to Flaxman Low, Jules de Grandin, Dr. Taverner, and others.


For more of today's Forgotten Books go to sweet freedom.