Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


James Taylor.  

Happy New Year!


A few lines from the warped mind of George Carlin:

Last night I played a blank tape at full blast.  The mime next door went nuts.

Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zig-zag?

Why is a man who invests all your money called a broker?

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Another great thing about 1962.

John Lee Hooker.


How do you ring in an Overlooked New Year?  Gut Lombardo?  Too stiff and wishy-washy.  Xavier Cugat?  Too much coochie-coochie.  Dick Clark?  He stopped rocking in the 60s.  Ryan Seacrest?  Come on, give me a break!

But Dinah?  She can be a keeper.  Talented and with a sense of humor.  And her guests on December 31, 1961 included Ginger Rogers, George Burns, and Nat King Cole.  1962 looks pretty bright with these folks ushering it in.

Of course 1962 did give us the Cuban missile crisis and the death of Marilyn Monroe and riots in Mississippi when James Meredith wanted to enroll at Ole Miss, as well as the first Wal-Mart and the first Kmart (which might or might not have been a good thing, depending on your viewpoint).  On the plus side, the Beatles released their first recording, Sean Connery became Bond, James Bond, Johnny Carson took over the Tonight Show while the Dick van Dyke Show made us laugh, To Kill a Mockingbird made all want to be like Gregory Peck (actually Atticus Finch), the European Space Agency was formed, Telstar was launched, and Mariner 2's journey to Venus was the first planetary probe.  1962 also receives bouquets and/or brickbats for introducing the silicon breast implant.

On a personal note, I began to discover girls.  My appreciation of the non-Y chromosome gender has never flagged in the ensuing years.  Yes, I owe a lot to 1962.

So let's celebrate the coming of 1962 and the going of 1961 with Dinah and the gang.

And to all of you, "Mmwahh!"*

*That's the sound of Dinah smacking kisses at you.  Or at least the best I can do.

Monday, December 29, 2014




  • Stephen J. Cannell, Final Victim.  Thriller.
  • Richie Tankersley Cusick, Spirit Walk.  YA supernatural omnibus containing the novels Walk of the Spirits and Shadow Mirror.
  • Frederick Forsyth, The Cobra.  Thriller.
  • Brian Freeman, The Watcher.  Thriller.
  • Jo Nesbo, Cockroaches.  The second Harry Hole mystery.  Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.
  • John Scalzi, Fuzzy Nation.  SF.  A rebooting/reimagining of H. Beam Piper's classic novel Little Fuzzy.
  • Michael A. Stackpole, Star Wars:  X-Wing:  Rogue Squadron, Star Wars:  X-Wing:  The Krytos Trap, and Star Wars:  X-Wing:  The Bacta War.  Movie franchise tie-ins.  Books 1, 3, and 4 in the series.  Someday I may even get Book 2.
  • Cate Tiernan, Balefire.  YA fantasy omnibus containing A Chalice of Wind, A Circle of Ashes, A Feather of Stone, and A Necklace of Water.
  • Joseph A. West, Gunsmoke:  The Day of the Gunfighter.  Radio/television tie-in novel.  (Probably more television than radio because the foreword is by James Arness.)

Saturday, December 27, 2014


With only a few days left before 2015, let me recommend two great books for mystery and thriller fans.

Riders on the Storm by Ed Gorman (Pegasus Books, 2014)

Just about anything Ed Gorman writes will get a big heads up from me, but Riders on the Storm is something really special.  This is (supposedly) the last Sam McCain book.  The McCain series has taken us from 1957 to 1971 in ten novels, each detailing its time period with heart-breaking accuracy.  McCain, a young lawyer from the wrong side of the tracks in Black River Falls, Iowa, supplemented his living as a private investigator, mostly for Judge Esme Whitney.  The judge is not present here and neither is Cliffie Sykes, the bumbling, mean-spirited sheriff who harbored a grudge against McCain.  This is a major indication that Black River Falls (as well as the nation) is undergoing a sea-change.  The Viet Nam war is raging and its effects are being felt back home.  McCain himself had enlisted and was seriously injured in an accident, although he never left the country during his short enlistment.  After many operations and months of rehab, McCain returns to Black River Falls to practice law.  He has finally hooked up with an old girlfriend who is divorced with two young daughters whom McCain adores.  Things are looking good.

But the town itself is being split between those who support the war and those who oppose it.  A right-wing war veteran named Steve Donovan is being groomed for a Congressional seat and another veteran who has been traumatized by what he had done in Viet Nam clash, the traumatized veteran is brutally beaten by Donovan. The injured man, Will Cullen, and his wife are friends with McCain.  When Donovan's murdered body shows up, Cullen is found nearby sleeping, with the bloodied murder weapon next to him.  It didn't help that Cullen confessed to the murder.  To find the truth, McCain must wade through an ocean of secret manners, mores, hopes, fears, greed, and insecurities that a country faces when its people are both war-weary and war-rabid.

Gorman is at his best when he writes of the pain and loneliness that is at the heart of all of us and this is Gorman at his best.

Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins (Thomas & Mercer, 2014)

From the all-too-well-remembered past, we go to the very near future.  A few years from now, America has become a conservative nation.  Roe v. Wade has been overturned.  Prayer is now allowed in public schools, and thanks to the Sedition Act, anyone who criticizes the Government can be arrested -- all of this was made possible by the most conservative Supreme Court in history, its six Conservatives outvoting the only three liberal judges.  Surprisingly, America has its second Black president, a politically savvy liberal who managed to win over a conservative sitting Vice President.  Even more surprising was the possibility this man might win a second term.

When the most conservative Associate Justice is shot in what appears to be a bungled robbery,  a joint task force is set up to investigate.  Former Secret Service agent Joe Reeder, who was once seriously injured saving a president's life and is now running a successful security business, is contacted by an old FBI friend and is sent security tape of the incident.  Reeder notices something odd that could make this an assassination rather than a random incident.  Reeder is tasked to consult with the joint operations.  The more he learns, the more he realizes that the task force is being guided to certain conclusions by someone adept at pulling strings.  The another conservative judge is murdered, this time through a definite assassination.  Was someone trying to change the makeup of the Supreme Court through violence?  Or was there a deeper purpose?  The twists and turns in Reeder's mental game against his unknown adversary come rapidly.

Max Allan Collins is another professional who gets just about everything right.  This novel, the first in a projected trilogy, further cements him as a must-read author.


Richard and Linda Thompson.


Big Shot Comics was a kitchen sink anthology series that ran for over nine years by Columbia Comics in the 1940s, utilizing reprinted newspaper strips from the McNaught Sydicate as well as original material.  This issue introduced the superhero Skyman from writer Gardner Fox and artist Ogden Whitney.  In the introductory story we never learn who Skyman is, but it appears that he doesn't have any superpowers.  What he does have is great athletic ability, a penchant for inventing marvelous weapons, superb piloting skills, and a heck of a lot of cash.  Because every costumed hero needs a nifty costume, Skyman has shiny high black boots, tight white pants with a super high curved waistline, a blue belt with a gold buckle, a tight long-sleeved red shirt with golden cuffs, a big circular "propeller" symbol mid-chest, a long flowing blue cape with a blue cowl shaped like an airman's helmet, and rectangular goggles through which Skyman's eyes cannot be seen.  I think that qualifies as a nifty costume.  To go with the nifty costume, Columbia included some nifty hype; the cover of Big Shot Comics #1 proclaimed "The outstanding comic character of the year, THE SKYMAN!"   To add to the hype, the cover depicts Skyman swinging from the sky, stasimatic in hand, as he swoops down toward a speeding car to rescue a kidnapped Dixie Dugan while Joe Palooka watches in amazement!

So in his introductory story, Skyman zaps a saboteur flying a nearby plane.  He recovers evidence of detailed plots designed to get America into the war.  Following a radio signal from the saboteur, he arrives at the hideout of Dawes, a flunky for the head of the sabotage ring -- the evil Red Signet.  He then zaps Dawes and a pretty girl who happened to be there with his stasimatic.  (For those not in the know, the stasimatic is a gun invented by Skyman that does not kill -- it just stops the flow of blood.*)  (BTW, Skyman has a great way of delivering the neer-do-wells he captures to the authorities.  He ties them up, puts a parachute on them, and drops them from his plane while flying over a military base.)  Returning to the hideout after tossing Dawes out of the plane, Skyman discovers that the girl had regained consciousness and has fled, thus proving to him that the girl was part of the sabotage plot.  Hopping into his trusty plane, Skyman searches the roads until he spots the girl in her convertible.  He follows the girl's car with his plane.  She never suspects a thing.  The girl leads him to the Red Signet.  Skyman zaps them, ties them up, and tosses them from his plane to the military authorities.  The end.

Alas for Columbia Comics, Skyman just was not very popular among readers.  He soon faded from the top spot in the comic book and then slowly faded from sight to make way for other characters.

Also in this issue:

  • Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka mistakenly believes he has married a woman.  He heads off to find some work and earn some money but neglects to tell anyone he is leaving.  To make thing interesting he also loses his eyesight.  I sure hope all this is resolved in issue #2.
  • Radio broadcaster Tony Trent dons a grotesque mask to become "The Face," and breaks up a racket that is stealing relief funds.  (The cads!)
  • The popular newspaper strip character Dixie Dugan is featured in three humorous one page episodes
  • Good Deed Dottie finds unique ways to do a good deed each day
  • Tom Kerry, the two-fisted District Attorney, goes against The Weasel and his gang of fur thieves
  • Marvelo, the Monarch of Magicians, could be a cousin to Zatara [both magicians were created by Fred Gardineer], with a little bit of Mandrake and Dr. Strange tossed in.  Coming to America with his flunky assistant Lothar Zee, Marvelo immediately has a run-in with gangster "Big Shot" Bonnet.  Luckily, all Marvelo needs to do is say the magic word --no, not "please" or "thank you," but "KALORA" -- and all sorts of magicky things happen
  • H. J. Tuthill's The Bungle Family pops up with a two-page newspaper reprint
  • Also fresh from the newspaper comics pages is Charlie Chan (more the movie character than the original book character) solving the murder of Norda Noll
  • Jibby Jones had been around for five years before appearing in this issue.  He was a lad who delighted in finding ways around his father's rules
  • Ogden Whitney's Rocky Ryan, a free-lance adventurer made his debut in this issue.  In this story, Rocky arrives at a British fort in northern India only to discover that "Bhanghi Si's On the Warpath"
  • Spy-Master (a.k.a. Jeff Cardiff) turned out to be an evolving character.  Two issues later, the character becomes Spy Chief; a dozen issues after that, he dons a costume to become the mysterious Cloak.  In Big shot Comics #1, Spy-Master must find and stop a detonator ray

That's a lot of stories to pack into one ten cent comic book, and I haven't mentioned some of the other features.


* Normal rules of science (and its consequences) don't seem to have any effect in Skyman's special little universe.

Friday, December 26, 2014


Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.


Unfair Exchange - by Marian Babson (1974)

You can't really blame Zita Fulbridge for acquiescing to her husband's first wife -- Caroline has a way of steamrolling over people to get what she wants.  What Caroline wanted was for Zita to look after her nine-year-old daughter from an even earlier marriage for a few weeks while Caroline sails off on her current boyfriend's yacht.  What is implied (although Caroline never said it) was that Caroline's wealthy boyfriend was going to pop the question during the voyage.  It happened that Zita's husband had just left London on a business trip to New York for three weeks, the same three weeks that Caroline wants Zita to watch over the girl.  Zita's first instinct was to refuse, but did I mention Caroline's steamrolling technique?

Zita felt sorry for Fanny, the girl.  She had been living with her father, an American, but he had been assigned to a job in India and had shipped Fanny off to her mother while he made arrangements for housing and schooling in India.  No sooner had Fanny arrived in London than she was turfed off to Zita, a complete stranger.  Zita had hoped to make the best of it but soon discovered that Fanny was an obnoxious little horror.

And there was this sense that Zita and Fanny were being followed.  And the stranger in the shadows watching her house.  And those phone calls with no one on the other end.  Finally, of course, Zita gets kidnapped.  Then Zita learns that Caroline was not on a Mediterranean cruise with her boyfriend -- she had been holed up in hiding on a small boat on a canal just outside London.  And Caroline's beau?  He's a Brazilian gangster with no intention of leaving his wife.  And there was the dead man whose body seemed to pop up wherever Zita went.  Doing a favor for Caroline was very dangerous business.

Unfair Exchange, an early book by the author, is a fast, enjoyable read with enough twists to overcome a well-worn theme.  Babson, a New Englander who lives in England, has a light touch on darker materials.  I've read several dozen of her novels and have never been disappointed.  Even her latest novels, which all seem to have the word "Cat" in the titles, are worth reading.  If you are in the mood for a cozy-ish, sometimes thriller-ish sort of read, Babson is for you.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


This is my favorite Christmas carol.  Its simplicity and beauty speaks to the real meaning of the holiday.  Here it is done by the man who wrote it, the great John Jacob Niles.

Kitty and I wish all of you the very best on this day.


Four Bitchin' Babes is a female folk group that was started by Christine Lavin in 1990 and originally featured Lavin, Patti Larkin, Sally Fingerett, and Megon McDonough.  The membership has rotated over the years and has included Julie Gold, Debi Smith, Camille West, Suzzy Roche, Nancy Moran, and Deidre Flint, with occasional stand-ins by artists such as Janis Ian, Mary Travers, and Cheryl Wheeler.  No matter what the makeup of the groups, the Babes have always come through with sharp, entertaining music, often with a sly satirical twist.

Check 'em out.

"Hungarian (Hormonal) Rhapsody"

"Home Is Where the Heart Is"

"The Boob Fairy (Never Came For Me)"

"Viagra (In the Waters)"

"Oh No"

"Dreidl Do Over"

"Diva Nation"

"Unconditional Love"

"Boogie Woogie Santa"

"Elastic Waistbands"

"Bald Headed Men" (by Christine Lavin and Six Bitchin' Babes!)

Hope these have brightened up your Christmas Day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


This is Kitty's top, A number one, mostest favorite Christmas carol off all time, done this time by Joan Baez.  A perfect song for Christmas Eve.


From Stephen Wright:

I'm addicted to placebos...I'd quit but it wouldn't matter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


John Tams & Barry Coope.


'Tis the season.  Here's something for those of you tired of A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street or an old taped Andy Williams Christmas special.

From 1974.  You better watch out...

Monday, December 22, 2014


I just found out that we will become grandparents for the fifth time.  We are lucky enough to have four fantastic grandchildren and now a fifth on January 5th.  That's the scheduled date for Christina and Walt to legally adopt the Kangaroo.  Whoot!

The Kangaroo is now two and a half.  Christina and Walt have been fostering him since he was six weeks old.  His birth mother was a drug addict and his birth father is unknown (five men had been DNA tested but none were the father); she has three other children by three different fathers -- one of those children was also born drug-addicted.  The Kangaroo spent the first six week of his life in the hospital detoxing.

It's been a long haul. The Kangaroo (who will soon have the legal name of Jack) has had a slow developmental curve because of the drugs.  He is not able to eat solid food and has been prone to unexpected violent vomiting and is not able to speak clearly.  Part of the problem appears to be physical; we're working on training him to use his tongue properly.  There is evidently some malfunction with his kidney, whether it is a major problem or what its cause is has yet to be determined.

On the plus side, the Kangaroo is bright and active, with a winning personality.  Christina and Walt have worked hard with him and the advances the Kangaroo has made are astounding.  Mark and Erin love their brother and are constantly teaching him tricks.  We can't go anywhere with the Kangaroo without people oohing and aahing over him -- he is just a friendly, loving, and sweet kid and it shows wherever he goes.  More problems will probably come to light over the next few years, but everyone will handle them as they arise.  For a kid who was handed the short end of the stick when he was born, the Kangaroo Jack has a bright future ahead of him.

So, January 5th is the day we become grandparents again and we couldn't be more proud.  Of Jack.  Of Christina.  Of Walt.  Of  Mark.  Of  Erin.  A family like that is practically unbeatable.

And, yes, there will be a party.  A helluva party!


Who else but Brenda Lee?


  • Louisa May Alcott, A Modern Mephistopheles.  Novel.  "Vanity, greed, lust, deception, hypnosis, homoeroticism, and drugs."  Not Little Women, by gum!
  • Kendall Almenico & Tess Hottenroth, Whoogles.  Subtitled "Can a  Dog Make a Woman Pregnant?"...and Hundreds of Other Searches That Make You Ask "Who Would Google That?"  Yep, it's a collection of real-life Google search suggestions.
  • "V. C. Andrews" (not the dead V. C. Andrews, but Andrew Neiderman hiding behind her registered name), Orphans, Secrets in the Attic, and Twilight's Child.  Gothic-y disfunctional family sagas.  The first is an omnibus of four novels in the Orphans miniseries:  Butterfly, Crystal, Brooke, and Raven.  The second is the first book in the Secrets series.  The last is the third book in the Cutler Family series.
  • Piers Anthony, The Dastard.  Fantasy in the Xanth series.
  • Iain M. Banks, Look to Windward.  SF novel in the Culture series.
  • James Lee Burke, In the Moon of Red Ponies.  a Billy Bob Holland mystery.
  • Martin Caidin, Indiana Jones and the Sky Pirates and Indiana Jones and the White Witch,  Movie franchise tie-in novels.
  • Michael Dibdin, Blood Rain.  An Aurelio Zen mystery.
  • Kathleen O'Neal Gear, It Sleeps in Me and It Wakes in Me, the first two books in the Black Falcon Nation series about ancient indigenous tribe on the Florida Panhandle, and Sand in the Wind, about a woman torn between a Cavalry officer and a Cheyenne warrior.
  • Kathleen O'Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear (she gets first billing on these), People of the Lightning, People of the Masks, People of the Raven, and People of the Silence. all part of the Saga of Prehistoric North America.  Also, The Summoning God and Bone Walker, Books II and II of the Anasazi Mysteries.
  • W. Michael Gear, Long Ride Home.  Western.
  • W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O'Neal Gear (he gets first billing on these), People of the Earth, People of the Fire, People of the Moon, People of the River, and People of the Wolf.  More in the Saga of Prehistoric North America.
  • Joe Gores, Glass Tiger.  Thriller. 
  • Maureen Hancock, The Medium Next Door:  Adventures of a Real-Life Ghost Whisperer.  Autobiography.  I remain skeptical.
  • Kathe Koja, Kissing the Bee.  YA novel.
  • Jane Langton, Murder at Montecello.  A Homer Kelly mystery.  (Many moons ago, my sister-in-law said that I reminded her of Homer Kelly.  I never realized that Homer Kelly was so handsome and macho.)
  • Robin Bruce Lockhart, Reilly:  The First Man.  Non-fiction.  Sequel to Reilly:  Ace of Spies, which was filmed for the PBS Mystery series.
  • Eric Van Lustbader, Dark Homecoming, Father Night, and The Testament, stand-alone thrillers.  Also, two spy-guys:  Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Dominion and The Bourne Imperative.  And, finally, a fantasy:  The Ring of Five Dragons.
  • Rob MacGregor, Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants, Indiana Jones and the Genesis Deluge, Indiana Jones and the Genesis Deluge, Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi, Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils, and Indiana Jones and the Unicorn's Legacy.  Movie franchise tie-ins.
  • Scott MacKay, Omnifix.  SF.
  • Anne McCaffrey, All the Weyrs of Pern.  SF novel in the Dragonriders of Pern series.
  • Max McCoy - Indiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs, Indiana Jones and the Hollow Earth, Indiana Jones and the Philosopher's Stone, and Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx.  Movie franchise tie-ins.
  • "Ellis Peters" (Edith Pargeter), The Raven in the Foregate.  A Brother Cadfael mystery.
  • Terry Philips, Murder at the Altar:  A Historical Novel.  The assassination of an Armenian Archbishop on Christmas Day, 1933.  Signed.
  • Terry Pratchett, Nation.  A non-Discworld fantasy.
  • Matthew Reilly, Six Sacred Stones.  A Jack West, Jr. thriller.
  • "James Rollins" (Jim Czajkowski), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Movie franchise tie-in.
  • R. A. Salvatore, The Lone Drow.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in; Book II of the Hunter's Blade trilogy.
  • "Michael Stanley" (Michael Sears & Stanley Trollip), The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu.  A Detective Kubu mystery, the second in the series.
  • "Cate Tiernan" (Gabrielle Charbonnet),  Sweep, Volume I and Volume II.  Ya fantasy omnibuses containg the first six novels in the Sweep series:  Book of Shadows, The Coven, Blood Witch, Dark Magick, Awakening, and Snowbound.
  • Robert van Gulik, The Chinese Nail Murders.  A Judge Dee mystery.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


This afternoon we're off to the annual Tuba Christmas on Solomons Island, Maryland.

There are Tuba Christmases being performed all across the country each year where tuba players young and old gather to celebrate the season.  Our friend Nadiri (age 14) played at the Tuba Christmas at the Kennedy Center earlier this month and our grandson's best friend (also 14) will probably be playing at today's concert.

If there is one near you, I urge you to go.  It's a good time.

Here's last year's Tuba Christmas at New York's Rockefeller Center.

Update:  After feasting on homemade chili, cornbread, and peppermint brownies, we made our way to the Tuba Christmas.  Over 53 (they lost count) tuba, euphonium, and sousaphone players from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Colorado (!) showed up to play for an audience of (my guess) 700-800 people.  The players -- those that wanted to reveal their age -- ranged from 11 to 72.   One 19-year-old girl said that this was her tenth annual turn at playing this Tuba Christmas.  One player had played in the second Tuba Christmas ever, back in 1975.  There are now over 270 Tuba Christmases celebrated throughout the country.  Good time, good feelings, good people.


John Denver with Kathy Mattea and Patti Loveless.


Willie Neal Johnson and the Gospel Keynotes.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Mel Torme and Judy Garland.


Just in time for Christmas, here's a little story from the Woodward & Lothrop Toy Department circa 1947.  Woody's, as it was known, was one of Washington D.C.'s best known department stores -- alas, no longer with us.

Join the unfinished toys in the quest to help Santa and to save Christmas.

The book was written and illustrated by Oskar Lebeck, who was instrumental in establishing Dell Comics.  It was printed by K. K. Publications, Inc. of Poughkeepsie, New York.  I assume the book was sold as a Christmas promotion to various retailers, including Woodward & Lothrop.


Friday, December 19, 2014


Susan Boyle.


Quick Fixes:  Tales of Repairman Jack by F. Paul Wilson (2011)

Not a forgotten book, but not a commonly available one either.  Quick Fixes is a collection of nine stories that F. Paul Wilson assembled as an e-Book and made available as a print on demand book from CreateSpace.  This is a book for completists who want to read all the short stories Wilson wrote about Repairman Jack.

Some may ask, "Who is Repairman Jack?"

Well, Repairman Jack is an urban mercenary who was the focus of the second volume of Wilson's Adversary series, The Tomb, and was a character in the sixth and concluding book in that series, Nightworld.  As Wilson explains in the forward to this book, he was working on his fourth medical thriller and was becoming bored with it.  He had an idea for a techothriller and decided to rework the book and to use Jack as the main character.  To please the publisher, he made Jack's client a doctor so the book could sorta qualify as a medical history.  That was when Jack took over Wilson's life.

There are fifteen books in the Repairman Jack series, including The Tomb but not including two separate versions of Nightworld (Wilson had to rewrite Nightworld to smooth out inconsistencies between the Repairman Jack series and the Adversary series since Repairman Jack was substantially a subset of the other series.)  There is also a trilogy about Jack as a young teen and another trilogy that spanned the gap in Jack's life between teenager and urban mercenary.  Sometime in the future, I understand, there may be some Repairman Jack graphic novels.

Over the length of the saga, Jack becomes first a pawn, then a major player, in a cosmic war in which Earth is an insignificant prize.  The War is between two entities, one of which is entirely evil and the other is basically apathetic about the fate of this world.  Very little of the Adversary saga is present in these stories, though;  here Jack is facing mostly mundane threats as he "fixes" situations for his clients.

But Jack is anything but mundane.  He is a completely off-the-grid white knight, with a small group of friends and an urge to set things right.  Jack is also a Libertarian's ideal.  (Wilson is a staunch Libertarian; if you're not, don't let that worry you;  you can easily love this series while disagreeing with its Libertarian underpinnings.  I did and do.)

The stories:

- A Day in the Life (1989, from Stalkers, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg)
- The Last Rakosh (1990, from the 1990 World Fantasy convention Program Book; the story was incorporated into the Repairman Jack novel All the Rage)
- Home Repairs (1991, from Cold Blood, edited by Richard Chizmar; the story was incorporated into the Repairman Jack novel Conspiracies)
- The Long Way Home (1992, from Dark at Heart, edited by Joe and Karen Lansdale)
- The Wringer (1996, from Night Screams, edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg; the story was incorporated into the Repairman Jack novel Fatal Error)
- Interlude at Duane's (2006, from Thriller, edited by James Patterson)
- Do-Gooder (2006, from a one-page broadsheet issued by Lavendier Books)
- Recalled (2009, from the Richard Matheson tribute anthology He Is Legend, edited by Christopher Conlon)
- Piney Power (2010, from the young-adult thriller anthology Fear:  13 Stories of Suspense and Horror, edited by R. L. Stine)

Repairman Jack fans, rejoice!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Beggars Mantle.  A classic!


So last week we got two kittens as a result of my youngest's evil idea.  The evil idea was that Pop needs a cat for Christmas.  I have always been a cat person (and, yes, I still love my dog Declan) but the house has been cat-less for several years.  So Christina and her daughter Erin and Kitty bundled me off to the animal shelter to get me a Christmas cat.

Well, in one cage they had two black kittens -- identical sisters.  And they were cute and playful and cuddly and all things kittens should be.  How could I pick up just one and split up a beautiful pair?  So I got two kittens.  Kitty named them Bridget and Colleen (black Irish cats, I guess) and we got a blue collar for Bridget and a purple collar for Colleen and we were in business.  (Christina and Erin also ended up with two kittens -- something Christina vowed she would not do, but Christina already had three dogs, three goats, three reptiles, three kids, and just one cat, so things just balanced out.)

Within a day Declan became acclimated to these strange furry things.  They run to his food dish (not theirs) when I fill it up and Declan gracefully allows them to eat from his dish before he digs in.  The Christmas tree has been knocked over three times, the dining room curtains torn down I don't know how many times, Christmas decorations have mysteriously appeared in my shoes, one of my hearing aids went walkabout several times (appearing in various strange places), I found Bridget proudly scanning her empire from the top of a wreath hanging on our living room wall, and now we have a doubly fine layer of cat hair added to the already fine layer of dog hair that has permeated our house.

That's okay, they are sweet animals and I forgive them.


Yesterday, Kitty got up from the computer without shutting it off.  Suddenly the warm keyboard sprouted cats as if they were magic beans.  They pressed all sorts of warm keys and rolled their tiny little bodies all over the keyboard.  How they did it, I don't know, but suddenly all screen images and the cursor were upside down.  Moving an upside down cursor over an upside down screen is a talent that we severely lack.  But we tried.  Understand, also, that we are technological Luddites and it is a miracle every time we are able to turn the computer on.  But we tried to fix it.  We pushed buttons and awkwardly moved the upside down cursor and clicked and cursed (actually, I cursed; Kitty doesn't) to no avail.

So we were computer-less for over twenty-four hours until son-in-law Walt (he of great computer knowledge and many initials after his name) showed up.  We showed him our problem and he laughed and said, "Well, that's something I've never seen before."  While wondering what the cats did to cause this, Walt pressed a few buttons and fixed the d*mned thing in less than a minute.

Bridget and Colleen, you are forgiven!

We're back, baby!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys.


How about a super-cheesy holiday horror movie?

This one has a great cast.  Douglas Smith, Emilie de Raven, Robert Culp, Dave Thomas, Saul Rubinik, Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan, and Fran Drescher, with professional wrestler turned actor Bill Goldberg as Santa.

Written and directed by David Steiman (his only effort in both), Santa is really a demon who had lost a bet with an angel.  After many years of being a good Santa, he has finally reerted back to his demonic, murderous way.  Cheesy dialogue, jiggling cleavages, and inventive deaths...What more could you want?



Computer problems prevented me from posting a Christmas song yesterday, so I thought this one would be fitting because my computer was silent last night.

Here's The Temptations with their take on a classic.

Monday, December 15, 2014


  • Patricia Briggs, Moon Called.  Fantasy novel, fifth in a series about Mercy Thompson, werewolf and auto mechanic.
  • Charles Bukowski, Septuagenarian Stew:  Stories and Poems.  Collection of 20 stories and 79 poems from the cult literary figure.
  • Trudi Carnavan, The Magicians' Guild, The Novice, and The High Lord.  Fantasy, The Black Magician trilogy.
  • Lee Child, A Wanted Man.  Thriller.  Jack Reacher hitchhikes a ride to murder and conspiracy.
  • Troy Denning, The Verdant Passage.  Gaming (Dark Sun) tie-in novel.
  • P. N. Elrod, editor, My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding.  Paranormal romance anthology with nine stories.
  • Alan Furst, The World at Night.  Spy novel.
  • Sharon Green, The Far Side of Forever.  Fantasy.
  • Carolyn Hart, Dare to Die.  A Death On Demand mystery.
  • Mo Hayder, Pig Island.  Thriller.  Is there Satanism on this remote Scottish isle?
  • Gregg Hurwitz, Do No Harm.  Thriller.  Murder at the UCLA Medical Center.
  • Nathan F. Leopold, Jr., Life Plus 99 Years.  Autobiography covering Leopold's prison life.  Yes, this is the Leopold from the famous Leopold-Loeb murder case.  Leopold and Loeb, then eighteen and nineteen, murdered fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks as a so-called intellectual exercise.  The case became a national sensation and was called at the time "the crime of the century."  There's also a 13-page introduction by Erle Stanley Gardner.
  • Jeff Mariotte, Witch Season:  Summer & Fall.  Omnibus of the first two YA fantasy novels in the quartet.
  • Ridley Pearson, Parallel Lies.  Thriller.  A disgraced ex-cop versus a suspected terrorist.  With trains.
  • Don Samson, editor, Teen-Age Aviation Stories.  Anthology of 18 YA flying stories.  I grabbed this one because it contained two stories by Richard Sale.
  • Thomas E. Sniegoski, The Fallen.  YA fantasy.  Evidently it was made into an ABC Family original movie.  Never saw it.
  • Julia Spencer-Fleming, To Darkness and To Death.  A Claire Fergusson/Russ van Alstyne mystery.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


The Chad Mitchell Trio.;_ylt=A2KLqIXGW4xUrGoAu4L7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTByZ2N0cmxpBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDMg--?p=the+virgin+mary+had+a+baby+boy+song+chad+mitchell&vid=88fb1145f4e1d584ca7469c30f98464b&l=3%3A09&


Here's a well-drawn western comic book with a masked hero and his jingoistic Indian companion.  No, not the Lone Ranger, but...The Rider!

[We'll pause for just a moment so you can applaud.]


[All set, now?  Okay, let's continue.]

The Rider's mask is pretty cool.  It's basically a piece of black cloth draped over his entire face, with holes cut out for his eyes.  The thing is there's nothing holding the bottom of this "mask" in place, so when he rides or fights, or if it's a windy day, the mask should furl up to reveal his face.  But it doesn't!  How neat is that?  That's a superpower I have never come across before.

You might enjoy the stereotypical cheap western dialog.  It's a hoot.

For example:

     Beautiful Dark-Haired Western Maiden With Impossible Barbie Doll-Like Body:  "Rider, be careful!  Quick!  H-he's drawing on you!"
     Noble Masked Hero Who Just Rescued Said BD-HWMWIBD-LB:  "Durned if he ain't, at that!  Plumb foolish of Mr. Crunch to do that!"
    (Then he draws and shoots the gun out of the villain's hand.)

Can it get any better than that?


Friday, December 12, 2014


Food Court Flash Mob - Burnsville, Minnesaota, December 18, 2010


The Darkling by David Kesterton (1982)

The Darkling, Kesterton's only novel, was one of the few books published by the legendary Arkham House from a slushpile.  In the far future the world seems to be slowly dying.  In the distant past there were two seasons.  Now there are six:  Spring, Bloom, Advent, Terror, Eve, and Umbra; during the last three, humanity hides in caves to avoid the darklings -- giant flying creatures who feast on humans.  Mankind has devolved to a few small tribes, scattered in the north.  One northman, Maradek, who has almost reached his maturity,  has a vision about his missing father, Afurad.   Afurad left the tribe six months ago to get a new bride from a neighboring tribe, never returned and is presumed dead.  Maradek's vision told him that his father was alive and had got his bride who was now pregnant with the Great One, a savior who would rescue the world from the Terror and the deadly beasts who appear during that season.

Maradek sets out on a quest to find his father to bring him and the Great One home.  Spring has not yet arrived and monsters roam the land as he begins his journey.  He travels through a strange and terrible world, finding himself allied with an old plainsman, Zher-Geer, and his "servant," Kinit -- a telepathic Unique, the only of its kind. 

The Darkling is a strange book, at first reading like William Hope Hodgson, then like Edgar
Rice Burroughs, and finally like a mash-up of Jack Vance, A. E. van Vogt, and Planet Stories.  The book is quite an accomplishment for a first novel.  I really liked it and, if you go for this sort of thing, I think you will, too.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


A Canticle for Liebowitz, the 1959 novel by Walter M. Miller, Jr., is one of the most powerful science fiction stories ever written.

Here's a fifteen-part, full cast radio adaptation from WHA Radio and Wisconsin Public Radio in association with NPR.



Jean-Luc and the Gang.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Bing Crosby.


Three statisticians went hunting and came across a ten-point buck.  One statistician aims his rifle and fires, missing the buck by ten feet to the left.  Another statistician fires his rifle and misses the buck by ten feet to the right.  The third statistician jumps up and down, excited and yelling, "We got him!"

Monday, December 8, 2014


Teresa Brewer.


  • Jonathan Barnes, The Somnambulilst.  Mystery novel with fantasy overtones, or, perhaps, a fantasy novel with mystery overtones.
  • Alan Campbell, Iron Angel.  Fantasy.
  • John L. Cook, Armor at Fulda Gap.  Military SF, dubbed "A Visual Novel of the War of Tomorrow," includes diagrams, photographs, blueprints, and battle plans.  It all seems a bit much for me and all these illustrations will surely distract from the reading.
  • Timothy Dorsey, The Riptide Ultra-Glide.  A whacky Florida mystery.
  • "Quinn Fawcett" (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro & Bill Fawcett), Against the Brotherhood and Embassy Row.  Mycroft Holmes mysteries.  The book jacket carries on the conceit that Quinn Fawcett is a single person, a Knights Templar of the Scottish Order.
  • A. Finnis, editor, The Cat-Dogs and Other Tales of Horror.  YA horror anthology with six stories.  Finnis, methinks, is a pseudonym.
  • "Robert Galbraith" (J. K. Rowling), The Silkworm.  The second Cormoran Strike mystery novel.
  • Ann Granger, Candle for a Corpse, Cold in the Earth, and A Season for Murder.  Cozy mysteries in the Mitchell and Markby series set in the Cotswolds.  How can you go wrong with murder in the Cotswolds?  One of my favorite murder locales.
  • Richard A. Lupoff, The Forever City.  SF.
  • Nancy Springer, I Am Mordred:  A Tale from Camelot.  An award-winning YA fantasy.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Gaute Ormasen


Every has heard of The Human Torch but few people remember Wildfire, Princess of Flames her other persona, Wildfire was Carol Martin, nee Vance, a stunning redhead who was granted power over fire when the God of Fire saw that she was unafraid of flames.  (This was when a raging forest fire killed her father and threatened her -- the God of Fire has a pretty screwed up sense of right and wrong.)  Anyway, Wildfire is quite the babe.  She wears knee-length stiletto boots, tight shorts and uses a bandana for a bra that displays, just occasionally, a hint of nipple.  She can control fire and make it do her bidding.  (Fire evidently understands the English language.  Who knew?)  Oh, and she can fly.

Wildfire began her brief career in August 1941 in Smash Comics published by Quality and blazed her way through adventure for thirteen consecutive issues, guided by the steady hands of creators Jim Mooney and Bob Turner.  Both Nazis and ne'er-do-wells were her meat.

Comics legend Roy Thomas, then at D.C. Comics, wanted to resurrect Wildfire in the early 80s, but DC already had a character named Wildfire at the time and rather than cause confusion, Thomas created Firebrand, a Wildfire-ish clone.

So, let's travel back to the days of Nazis and gangsters for all thirteen of Firebrand's adventures, courtesy of the Wildfire Collection from Heaven4Heroes Archive 1: COMICS

Friday, December 5, 2014


Ella Fitzgerald.


Pile:  Petals from St. Klaed's Computer by Brian W. Aldiss, illustrations by Mike Wilks (1979)

Here's a curiosity.  An oversized, heavily intricate, beautiful saga.  An allegory/fantasy/fable told as a long, sweeping poem.  Another what-will-he-do-next book from the ever-inventive Brian W. Aldiss.  A tale of a fantastic city and its gigantic clockwork computer and the city's (and the computer's) dark, mirror-image counterpart. And...well, my words don't do it justice.

The city is Pile, the creation of British artist Mike Wilks.  Pile the book was the brain child of Wilks.  The city is an immense architectural hodge-podge of towering buildings squeezed together over a vast landscape.  Wilks' black and white details the city and the warring armies of the many princes of Pile lovingly.  To this phantasmagoria, Aldiss added his epic and witty poem.  Here's a sample:

     Dreamers whose gaudy plans miscarried,
     Schemers whose tawdry plans were harried,
     Men who remained for life unmarried,
     Moralists meek (with some rather scary one), police officers, fiddlers, philosophers sly,
     Octogenarians, grey vegetarians, astronomers with a cast in one eye,
     Antiquarians, bald ones and hairy ones, scientists, prelate, and medics of not,
     Mathematicians and monks with positions, physicians and fellows and learners by rote,
     Alchemists who turned their coat,
     Masons mounting stone a mile high,
     All these helped to build the Pile high,
     Helped it bloat,
     Helped take Heaven by the throat.

Scart, one of the city's princes, journey through the city to the computer of St. Klaed with its many gears meshing to solve the Cosmic Code.  Scart, however, is not interested in metaphysics; he has more pressing problems with the many princes vying for power.  He asks that his enemies by destroyed by whatever means necessary.  The computer agrees to do it as the city begins to crumble under its own weight.  Scart is taken captive by emissaries from the city of Elip, the mirror-image Pile, and is paraded past loathsome creatures to their mirror-image computer Dealk.  Scarp then finds himself expelled from this unEdenlike Eden to a world of color and potential.

A simple enough story, elegantly told in thirty pages.  Well worth a couple of hours of your in time to revel in the words and the artwork.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Nat King Cole.


Just the facts, ma'am.

Ok. Here they are:

From OTRCAT.Com:  "The Jack Webb Show (1946) a madcap comedy-variety show.  It was one of Jack Webb's earliest efforts.  The routines were packed with absurd one-liners and nonstop silliness as well as traditional jazz in roaring Dixieland backup by Phil Bovero and 'eight retards known as the Raggedaires.'"

This was Webb's first radio show after leaving the Army Air Force.  Recorded at San Francisco's KGO radio, it appeared on ABC radio network on Wednesday nights at 9:30

Join the madness with these two episodes from April 10 and 17, 1946.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


The Minions.  (Apologies for all the Minion extras on this short clip.)


(I can safely relate this one because my mother was a Unitarian.)

(And my father was a Congregationalist, and thus I was raised a Baptist because it was the nearest church within walking distance.)

Ahem.  How many Unitarians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

In response to that question, the Unitarians have issued the following Statement:

"We choose to not make a statement either in favor or against the need for a lightbulb; however, if in your own journey you have found that lightbulbs work for you, that is fine.  you are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your lightbulb, and present it next month at our annual lightbulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of lightbulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid ways to luminescence.

[Hat tip to The Lounge.]

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Gene Autry.

(I'm going to try to post a Christmas song each day until THE DAY.  Real life may interfere with my best intentions, though.)


Poor Cornell Woolrich.  He had hoped to become the next F. Scott Fitzgerald.  His first book, Cover Charge (1926), was a Jazz Age novel written in the style of his idol.  Then followed another, similar novel.  And then Woolrich was off for a disappointing stint in Hollywood, where he wrote titles for two Thelma Todd movies and the dialogue for a third.  While there, his second novel, Children of the Ritz, was made into a low budget film with no input from Woolrich.  He wrote four more mainstream novels, the last being Manhattan Love Story (1932), which had some noir-ish elements.  In true Hollywood style, this was also filmed -- with a slight title change -- without Woolrich's input.  In fact, the title was about the only thing in this movie that was Woolrich's.  The script, "suggested" [my emphasis] by Woolrich's novel, was transformed into a B movie romcom starring Robert Armstrong (King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game) and Dixie Lee (Mrs. Bing Crosby).  It's enough to make a grown man cry, or, least in Woolrich's case, make him flee Hollywood and move back to New York to his domineering mother and to begin to write stories for the crime and mystery pulps.  The mainstream novel career of Cornell Woolrich was over.

The movie involves two rich sisters who were left penniless by a sticky-fingered business manager.  They discover that they owe their chauffeur and maid back wages and, unable to pay, allow the former employees to stay in their luxury apartment in lieu of the back wages.  No longer employed as servants, the two (Armstrong and Nydia Westman) do not feel obligated to act as servants.  One of the sisters (Dixie Lee), desperate to earn some money, tries out for a chorus line, only to discover that it is a burlesque.  At least this gives Lee a chance to show off her singing chops.  In true romcom style [SPOILER ALERT!], all ends well in the flick.

This somewhat disjointed but entertaining film was directed by Leonard Fields (who directed only four movies in his career) and scripted by David Silverstein (who has 24 writing credits, 1932-1944, according to IMDb -- nothing major) and Fields.

Armstrong and Dixie Lee carry the movie, as expected, making the run-of-the-mill plotter a bit more enjoyable.

Watch.  And see how much of Woolrich is "suggested" by this film. LoveSong

Monday, December 1, 2014


Mannheim Steamroller.


A slooooow week.
  • Lawrence Block, One Night Stands and Lost Weekends.  Mystery/crime omnibus containing the collections One Night Stands (1999) and The Lost Cases of Ed London (2001)

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Clarence "Frogman" Henry.

MICKEY FINN #10 (1947)

Truth to tell, I read the Mickey Finn comic strip regularly when I was (much, much) younger and I don't remember much about it.  What I do remember is the character of Uncle Phil -- which would be natural because by the time I started reading comic strips Uncle Phil had become the main focus of the strip.

Mickey Finn was created by cartoonist Lank Leonard in 1936.  The strip ran for 40 years, closing in 1976, and reprints from the strip ran from 1936 to 1947 in various anthology comic books:  Famous Funnies, Feature FunniesFeature Comics, and Big Shot.  The character had its own comic book from 1943 to 1949, published first by Eastman Color and then by Columbia.  It ran for 15 undated issues, so its publishing schedule was a bit erratic.  There were also two issues of Mickey Finn from Headline comics in 1952.

Mickey Finn was a small city policeman and the strip was basically Dick Tracy light.  "During most of the strip's run, Mickey sauntered about in a police uniform, just a big, friendly guy, there to help out," according to  Mickey lived with his widowed mother and her brother, Uncle Phil, who's blustery character provided comic relief.  His long-time girlfriend is Kitty Kelly (or, in this issue at least, her name was changed to Kitty King).  By this issue, Mickey has risen to the rank of Sergeant (he would later be promoted to detective.) and his partner and best friend was Tom Collins.

Mickey Finn #10 begins with the birth of Tom's son, then switches gears to a new class of police recruits.  Mickey is assigned to mentor one of the recruits --Willie Muff, the totally incompetent son of a political boss (it's an election year, you see).  While seeking notorious jewel thief Bangor Benny, Willie's ineptitude and cowardice put Tom in danger and Mickey on suspension.  All's well that ends well, and the story is tied up with a neat little bow.  Well, almost.  Because the comic book consists of daily reprints, there are a few loose threads which I assume would be gathered in the next issue.

Mickey is a clean-cut, likable character.  I think you'll enjoy him.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


My college friend Chris could be moody.  Usually when that happened he would write poetry; sometimes -- not often -- he would rip urinals of the walls in men's rooms in various bars, then he would go back to the bar and drinking flaming shots while glaring at everyone there.  Needless to say, his coping skills needed some work.

My coping skills, however, were finely honed.  When I was in a bad mood (which was not often) I would put my copy of Clark Kessinger, Country Fiddler on the record player and turn the volume way, way up.  Thus, everyone in my dormitory could share my misery.  This is not to say that Kessinger's music is painful; it isn't.  Kessinger was a world-class fiddler and a large influence on old time music.  But "Turkey in the Straw" played full blast at 3:00 am is not everyone's cup of tea.

Judge for yourselves:


There's a lot to be thankful for this year:  family, friends, health...all the usuals.  We have a lot of problems but they still can be solved, says my very optimistic self.

After the meal, after the football games, why not settle down to some old-time radio?

Here is one hundred OTR Thanksgiving specials to choose from, with my sincere wishes for a pleasant and meaningful holiday:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Brian Hyland.  I probably had this television on back in 1962.


So this photon goes to the big city to attend a convention.  When he registers at his hotel they ask, "Do you have any bags to check?"  "No," he says, "I'm traveling light."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Johnny Ray made a career from tears.  Here he is with the Four Lads with the flip side of 1951's "Cry," one of the few examples of double-sided hit songs.


Here's an odd one -- a short-lived bowling show hosted by Milton Berle!  Yep, professional bowlers square off and Berle offers some time-worn jokes.  PLUS, each week, Berle welcomed a special guest who had little or nothing with bowling.

This reincarnation of Jackpot Bowling ran from September 19, 1960 to March 13, 1961 on the NBC network.  An earlier incarnation ran on NBC from January 9, 1959 to June 24, 1961 with a revolving door of hosts:  Leo Durocher (for only two episodes), sports broadcaster Mel Allen through April 3, 1959, former basketball player Bud Palmer from April 10 to October 1959, then Mel Allen again through April when Bud Palmer returned for the last few shows.

On January 23, 1961, Berle's special guests were The Ritz Brothers.  Harry Ritz bowled himself down the lane and got a strike.  (I hadn't realized they were still around in 1961, but evidently the act lasted through the late 1960s although brother Al passed away in 1965.)

Monday, November 24, 2014


Jim Kweskin & Geoff Muldaur.  These two bring me back to great memories at Club 47 in Harvard Square.


  • [Anonymous editor], Prom Nights from Hell.  Collection of five paranormal romance novellas.  Also, True Tales of the Old West.  Remainder book anthology of 29 articles from magazines dated from 1888 to 1909.
  • Nick Bantock, The Golden Mean.  Novel in form of postcards and glued-in letters; the third book in the Griffin & Sabine trilogy.
  • Ben Bova, Millennium.  SF novel in which Bova looks forward to the Millenium from the vantage point of 1976.  Part of the Chet Kinsman saga.
  • Ragan Butler, Captain Nash and the Wroth Inheritance. First in the Captain George Nash mystery series.  Nash is billed as "England's first Private Detective," circa 1771.
  • Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects.  Mystery.
  • R. A. foster, editor, The Oxford History of Ireland.  Non-fiction
  • Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner, editors, Many Bloody Returns.  Vampire anthology with thirteen stories with a birthday theme.
  • Alan Moore, Voice of the Fire.  The debut novel of one of the greatest names in graphic novels.
  • Jill Pascoe, Arizona's Haunted History.  Folklore.
  • Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law.  Fantasy novel in the Mistborn series.
  • H. Allen Smith, How to Write Without Knowing Nothing.  Non-fiction.  Smith would certainly be a good candidate for a Friday Forgotten Book post.
  • F. J. Stimson, King Noanett:  A Story of Old Virginia & Massachusetts Bay.  Historical fiction, dated 1896.
  • Frank Thompson, King Arthur.  Movie tie-in novel.
  • Pamela West, Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper.  Well-researched mystery.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Rhymes, & Reason:  Or, Mirth & Morality for the Young:  A Selection of Poetic Pieces Mainly Humorous [edited] by Clara Hall (1832 or 1833)

A collection of 28 poems to make you glad you were not young in the 1830s.  If you question the quality of the mirth or the quality of the morality, you are welcome to join me sniggering in the back room.


Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has not left the building.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Ferlin Husky.


First world problems.  We've got them:

  • She's in love with one man but bound to another
  • They get married but they are broke so they have to live uncomfortably with her relatives
  • The new bride has a bad boy brother who may wreck her husband's political career
  • Her romance is one-sided
If that's not enough, this comic book has a "Personal Problem" column:

  • My girlfriend's sister is sabotaging our relationship
  • My girl is 18; is she too young to marry?
  • I'm fat
  • My boyfriend is always broke
  • I'm unpopular because my boss favors me
  • Should I marry my girl after I graduate from high school or should I go to college?
The personal problems don't stop there.  There's the advertisements:

  • Pimples?  Blackheads?  Acne?
  • Don't be skinny!
  • Float fat right out of your body!
Sheesh!  Suck it up, people, and get a life.  (I can say that because none of these are my personal problems.)

Of course, they didn't in 1956 and they don't now.  Some things are universal.  That's why they have romance comics, confession magazines, Harlequin romances, ads that will make your life infinitely better if you would just buy our product...

For the life of me, I don't know why they don't spice up the romance comics with a superhero or two, or an ax murderer, or a vampire, or a secret Nazi cabal, or something.  That's probably why these comics were not aimed at me.

They were aimed at my sister who might have had this issue.  Or, maybe she had grown out of that phase by 1956.

Enjoy.  Maybe.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Buried among the ads printed in the 1911 book Little Tich is one for Francis & Day's 30th Annual, a collection of 24 of "the latest  successful songs & ballads" ("Words and Music with Pianoforte Accompaniments complete").  Among the songs listed (for obsolescence, it turns out) are such gems as "Put on Your Tat-Ta, Little Girlie," 'Down in the Jungle," "There's a Little Black Cupid in the Moon," "I'm Setting the Village on Fire"...and this one.

Let's go back to 1910 and listen to Harry Champion sing this toe-tapper.


Little Tich:  A Book of Travels (and Wanderings) by Little Tich (Harry Relph) (1911)

Before Fu Manchu, before the Dream Detective, before the Golden Scorpion, Sax Rohmer wrote songs, sketches and jokes for the English music hall.  Many of those songs and jokes (and perhaps sketches) were written for Rohmer's good friend Harry Relph, who was world-famous as the performer Little Tich.  Many sources indicate that Rohmer ghost-wrote this book for his friend.  That he was involved in the book is clear; many parts of this "autobiography" reference Rohmer and indicate that he was (at the very least) consulted on the book.  How much of the book was edited or ghost-written by him is open to question, but Little Tich until recently had been a very hard-to-get volume for the Rohmer collector.

It was published in 1911 by Greening & Co., a London publisher with whom Rohmer had worked before.  The slim paperbound book looked to be a very popular one but, as if sometimes the case with the chancy enterprise of publishing, Greening & Co. went out of business shortly after publishing Little Tich.  Cheap paperbound books circa 1911 have a short shelf life -- few copies survived and those that did commanded steep prices, sometimes over a thousand dollars.  Seven years ago, A & B Treebooks of Baileyton, Georgia, reissued the book in an affordable print-on-demand edition; an edition that included the book's original illustrations and advertisements.

The question rises:  Was this effort worthwhile?

Yes and no.

Times and tastes change.  The humor that made a late nineteenth/early twentieth century comic famous can wear a little thin in the twenty-first century.  A thin (112 pages), heavily illustrated book with 21 chapters makes for fast reading.  There is little structure to the book; it is basically a compendium of anecdotes -- many supposedly true -- from Little Tich's career as he travels and performs throughout Europe, America, and Australia.  As he tells these stories of his travels, he also wanders off the point.  Much of the humor comes from bringing up a subject then going off on a tangent, often never returning to the original subject.  There's humor that's based on his then-and-now -- what may have been funny in 1911 leaves the contemporary reader puzzled because the frame of reference is gone.  There's evasive humor also.  For example, in giving his background, we learn that Little Tich was definitely born (to the best of his recollection).  There is little jingoism here, thankfully -- a few lines about Blacks and American Indians that fit the stereotypes of the time.

The basic problem, I think, with the book is that it is a book.  The stories, jokes, and anecdotes here are best if told, not read.  I can picture Little Tich telling these tales from the stage to great laughter.  The words on a page are a poor substitute for that.  There is humor and clever wordplay but the essence of Little Tich is missing because the physical presence of Little Tich is missing.

I'm glad I finally had a chance to read this book, something I've been wanting to do for over a quarter century, and, taken for what it is, I enjoyed it.  It just isn't everyone's cup of tea, I fear.

For those interested, here's a couple of clips of Little Tich.  The first shows the comic with his trademark size 28 shoes.

And a recording of one of his sketches, "The Gas Inspector."

And a song (with accompanying story), "King Ki Ki."

And, finally, his interpretation of a famed "serpentine" dancer of the time, Loie Fuller.  (I guess it knocked the socks off the audience back in the day.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Cowboy Copas.


T Man was a CBS summer replacement radio program that ran for nine episodes in 1950 featuring Dennis O'Keefe as a Treasury Agent Steve Larsen.  Three years earlier O'Keefe had starred in the film T Men (that time O'Keefe's character was named Dan O'Brien), which made him a natural for this series.  Over the summer, the show had appearances by William Conrad, Paul Frees, Virginia Gregg, and others.  Despite being a serious crime show, T Man had a light touch that was popular with audiences.

An unrelated 1956 Australian* syndicated series, T Men, featured Gordon Glenwright as agent Jack Ketch.**  According to that show, "This is a great country, it takes a lot of money to run and keep it running.  That's why we have taxesTaxes are scaled so everyone pays a fair share of the costs according to his or her true income or profit.  Let one citizen evade his lawful tax, and you, the honest taxpayer, get slugged a little more next year to make up for Mr. Smartypants."***

* So it's an Australian show about the American treasury Department.  You have a problem with that?
** Great name, huh?  The original Jack Ketch was an infamous English executioner in the 1680's, whose name had been conflated over the years to refer to Satan.
*** Take that, Tea Party!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


George Burns.

(Actually I don't.  When I was eighteen I was composed of equal parts hormones and stupidity and nothing else.)


How do you keep two flute players in tune?

Shoot one of them.

Hat tip to Prairie Home Companion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Hank Ballard & The Midnighters.

 Ballard, born John Henry Kendricks, would have been 87 today.   Ballard wrote and first recorded "The Twist," later a mega-hit with Chubby Checker's 1960 cover.  "Finger Poppin' Time" was a Grammy nominee.

(BTW, Ballard's cousin Flo was one of The Supremes.)


Sometimes you just have to go for the schlock.

And for masked Mexican wrestlers.


Monday, November 17, 2014


Buckwheat Zydeco.


  • Lynn Abbey, Unicorn and Dragon.  Fantasy omnibus containing the novels Unicorn and Dragon and Conquest.
  • Roderick Anscombe, The Interview Room.  Thriller.
  • Piers Anthony & Julie Brady, Dream a Little Dream.  Fantasy based on a serial dream over the course of a year by Brady.
  • John Apostolou & Martin H. Greenberg, editor, The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories.  SF anthology with 13 stories.
  • Robert Arthur, The Mystery of the Talking Skull.  YA mystery, #11 in The Three Investigator series.
  • Isaac Asimov & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories:  18 (1956).  SF anthology of 15 stories -- good 'uns.
  • Robert Asprin & Peter J. Heck, Phule Me Twice.  Humorous SF, the fourth in the Phule series.
  • J. G. Ballard, The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard.  Ninety-eight SF/Fantasy/literary stories by one of the best.
  • Lou Cameron, Sky Riders.  Movie tie-in.  I never heard of the film but, according to IMDb, it sank without a trace shortly after its 1976 release.  A shame, because it had a decent cast:  James Coburn, Robert Culp, Susannah York, Charles Aznavour...
  • John Carnell, editor, New Writings in SF 21.  SF anthology with eight stories, the 21st and last in the venerable British series that Carnell edited before his death.  Kenneth Bulmer then took over editorship of the series for an additional eight volumes, ending in 1977.
  • Terry Carr, editor, Universe 12.  SF anthology of nine original stories with a stellar lineup.
  • Bryan Cholfin, editor, The Best of Crank!.  Anthology of 17 SF/fantasy stories from the sadly missed magazine.
  • Arthur C.Clarke, The Snows of Olympus:  A Garden on Mars.  Non-fiction.
  • Patricia Cornwell, Blow Fly.  A Kay Scapretta mystery
  • F. Marion Crawford, Khaled.  Oriental fantasy, this one from the old Ballantine Adult Fantasy line edited by Lin Carter.
  • Clive Cussler & Paul Kemprecos, The Navigator.  A Kurt Austin adventure from The NUMA Files.
  • [HR Giger],  HR Giger.  Art book with commentary by various people.  Part of the Taschen Icons series with text printed in English, German, and French.
  • Peter Haining, editor, Time Travelers.  SF anthology with 24 stories.  Originally published as Timescapes:  Stories of Time Travel.
  • Laurence James, Rack #4:  Planet of the Blind.  Space opera.
  • H. R. F. Keating, Whodunit?  A Guide to Crime, Suspense & Spy Fiction.  Non-fiction.
  • James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel, editors, Nebula Awards Showcase 2012.  SF anthology with sixteen stories, poems and excepts from 2010.
  • "Gregory Kern" (E. C. Tubb), Cap Kennedy #6:  Seetee Alert!  more space opera.
  • Owen King & John McNally, editors, Who Can Save Us Now?.  Fantasy anthology of 22 stories about superheroes.
  • Gini Koch, Alien in the Family.  SF novel.  The perils of being engaged to a member of the Alpha Centauri Royal Family.
  • "Little Tich" (Harry Relph), Little Tich:  A Book of Travels (and Wanderings). Little Tich was a popular London music hall comedian.  The book was edited/ghost-written by Sax Rohmer (he of Doctor Fu Manchu and oriental thrillers); the extent of Rohmer's involvement is not known.  Rohmer was a close friend of Harry Relph's and wrote songs and sketches before turning to the novels and stories that made him famous.  This book was printed as a paperbound volume in 1911, shortly before the publisher went out of business.  This book was exceeding hard to get until it finally became available to in 2007 in a print-on-demand edition.
  • Ted Malone, Ted Malone's Scrapbook:  Favorite Selections from "Between the Bookends".  Anthology/collection of poems and articles from Good Housekeeping.
  • Alberto Manguel & Gianni Guadalupi, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.  Non-fiction, a nifty reference book.  This is the 2010 updated and expanded edition.
  • George R. R. Martin, editor,  Wild Cards, Volume Six:  Ace in the Hole.  SF, a "mosaic novel" with contribution by five writers.  Melinda Snodgrass, assistant editor.
  • Rick Mofina, The Burning Edge.  Thriller.
  • Michael Moorcock, The Skayling Tree:  The Albino in America.  Sword and Sorcery novel. Ulric and Oona von Beck and Elric of Melnibone join forces to save the multiverse.
  • Andre Norton & Robert Adams, editors, Magic in Ithkar 2.  Fantasy anthology with 13 stories.
  • J. O'Barr & Ed Kramer, editors, The Crow:  Shattered Lives & Broken Dreams.  Comic book (and many other things) tie-in anthology of 29 stories and poems.
  • Louis Pauwels & Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians.  New age-y stuff (did they have that term in 1960?); also appeared as The Dawn of Magic.  Translated from the French by Rollo Myers.
  • David Pringle, editor, The Best of Interzone.  Collection of 29 stories from the British Sf magazine.
  • Jean  Rabe & Martin H. Greenberg, editor, Hot & Steamy:  Tales of Steampunk Romance.  SF anthology with 16 stories.
  • Robert J. Randisi, editor, Greatest Hits.  Crime fiction anthology with 15 stories.
  • "John Sandford" (John Camp), Hidden Prey.  A Lucas Davenport thriller.
  • Nancy Springer, Chance & Other Gestures of the Hand of Fate.  Fantasy collection, containing the two-part title novella, seven stories, and three poems.
  • W. T. Stead, Real Ghost Stories.  Reprint of the 1921 edition of this collection of supposedly true ghosts stories.
  • Judith Tarr, Daughter of Lir, Lady of Horses, and White Mare's Daughter.  Historical fantasies from the dawn of history.
  • Aimee & David Thurlo, Wind Spirit.  An Ella Clah mystery.
  • Howard Waldrop, Going Home Again.  SF/fantasy collection with nine stories.
  • Ted White, Spawn of the Death Machine.  SF.  White was (IMHO) the second-best editor of Amazing and Fantastic (after Cele G. Lalli); he went on  to edit Heavy Metal.
  • "Jack Yeovil" (Kim Newman), Route 666.  Gaming (Dark Future) tie-in novel.
  • Anthony E. Zuiker & Duane Swierczynski, Dark Prophecy.  A Level 26/Steve Dark thriller.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


The Chad Mitchell Trio.  The name evokes memories of a special musical era when they, The Kingston Trio, The Limelighters, and others were household names.  Especially in my house.

Tonight we'll be heading to their final concert.  They will be performing one more time on a 2015 cruise that had been booked some time ago, but tonight will be the last time to see them in concert.

Joe Frazier, a member of the group from the beginning, passed away last year.  Ron Greenstein, a backup musician for the Trio since 2009, has been filling in for Joe during their recent performances.  It's been a fantastic ride for the Chad Mitchell over the past 55 years.  They were one of the most popular folk groups of the Sixties.  By the end of that decade, Chad Mitchell had left to pursue a career as a cabaret singer, and was replaced by some unknown kid named John Denver.  In 1986, Doris Justis, a mainstay of the World Folk Music Association and one half of the folk group Side B,y Side, talked the trio into reuniting.  Despite their individual careers (Mitchell was still performing, Mike Kobluk was running a recreational arts program on the West Coast, and Joe Frazier had become an Episcopal priest), the Trio began performing again to the delight of their many fans.

Joining them tonight will be Side By Side, who have appeared on stage with The Chad Mitchell Trio many times.  The two groups appeared together during a special anniversary concert five years ago, celebrating the Trio's 50th anniversary and Side By Side's 25th anniversary.  Also appearing will be noted singer/songwriter Tom Paxton, who was actually a member of the group for about one week, and The Gateway Singers, another popular Sixties folk group who had appeared with the Trio many times.

It's going to be a fun night, and I'm thankful that we will be able to see them one final time.

It will also be a chance to honor Joe Frazier's memory.   Father Joe, in addition to being very talented, was a warm and inspiring man who had the ability to make anyone with whom he spoke feel very special.

Here's The Chad Mitchell Trio doing a beautiful song written by Mitchell:

Here's The Mitchell Trio with John Denver doing one of Eric Anderson's great songs:


With a name like Monty Hall, he could only be a marine.  There's no indication of this, but I'd bet his middle name was Zuma.

Monty Hall, a recent college graduate, enlists in the marines.  At boot camp, he becomes friends with Tex and Canarsie.  It takes ten detailed pages to turn the raw recruits into fighting leathernecks, but now they are ready and eager to fight in Korea.

And fight they do.  In the second story, "The Devil's Mask," Monty is now a sergeant leading his men (including Tex and Canarsie) behind enemy lines when they rescue an elderly monk.  The enemy has taken and desecrated a holy temple, commanding the high ground and controlling much of the area around the shrine.  Monty and his leathernecks cannot attack and destroy the site because the enemy has captured a number of monks and are using them as human shields.  Luckily Monty had spent two summers at a ranch and knew how to lasso -- well, it makes some sense in the story.  Everything works out fine after Monty pulls a trick on the very superstitious enemy.

In 'The City of Flame," Monty, Tex, and Canarsie are stuck behind enemy lines in a burning city.  As they try to get back to their unit, they rescue what they thought was a child from a sniper.  It was no child, but a bundled-up dancehall girl named Katie.  Burdened with a civilian (or is she a spy?), they once more try to get out of the city but the only bridge to safety is destroyed seconds before they reach it.

All three Monty Hall stories were drawn by Mel Keeler.  There is not as much jingoism as I had expected in these tales.  The North Koreans are evil -- at least the commanding officers are; some of the ground troops seem to be far less so.  The South Koreans are noble, honest people and Monty, his men, and the whole U. N. force are just trying to make it so these quiet people could go back to their peaceful lives.

And then there's Pinup Pete, drawn by Jack Sparling.  Pete takes up the last six pages of the comic book.  Pete is one marine who knows the finer things in life.  Women.  And his wall can attest to that; it's covered with pin-ups of gorgeous girls and Pete devotes a page to each one.  This feature is basically an excuse for Sparling to show off his Good Girl Art, vintage 1951.

All in all, not a bad issue.

Friday, November 14, 2014


The Gateway Singers, a Sixties folk group.  They'll be one of several acts we are going to see this Saturday, so I thought I'd get in the mood.


The Three Investigators #11:  The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Robert Arthur (1969; revised, 1984)

The Three Investigators -- Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews -- are boys living in Rocky Beach, a small town located near Los Angeles.  Their headquarters, a small trailer hidden by piles of junk, are in a salvage yard owned by Jupiter's aunt and uncle.  (What's cool is that they enter their headquarters though a two-foot wide pipe tunnel which leads to the floor of the trailer.  And the trailer contains their investigating equipment.)

The series began as part of Random House's "Alfred Hitchcock" line.  Hitchcock would supposedly write a small introduction to each book and would be referenced in the text.  As time went on and thirty books in the series were published, Hitchcock was replaced in revised and future editions with Hector Sebastian, mystery author.  There were 43 books in the original series, created by Robert Arthur.  Arthur, who ghosted edited many of the Hitchcock anthologies (both adult and juvenile) wrote ten books in the series, numbers 1-9 and this book, number 11.  Thirteen additional books were written by Dennis Lynds under his "William Arden" pseudonym.  Later authors were M. V. Carey and Marc Brandel.  The series then morphed into The Crimebusters.  (I suppose the marketing department thought this name would resonate better with their YA audience,)  There were eleven Crimebusters books, written by "Arden," Brandel, G. H. Stone, William McCay, Peter Legaris, and Megan and H. William Stine.  The Three Investigators also appeared in four "Find-Your-Fate" bod-oks, written by the Stines, Carey, and Rose Estes.  Also published was The Three Investigators' Book of Mystery Puzzles, written by Barbara McCall.  In addition to all the above, a 44th book in the original series and two additional books in the Crimebusters series were evidently written and never published.  At least two books were made into movies, but a planned television show apparently never made it off the ground.

And then there's the fan fiction.  Oh, yeah, These three kids have their own fan sites and newsletters and whatnot.  There are a lot of Three Investigator aficionados out there.

What about the talking skull?

Jupiter reads about an upcoming auction of unclaimed luggage from several area hotels.  He attends the auction with Pete and Bob and decides to bid on a beat-up, old locked trunk, which he buys for one dollar.  After the auction, an old woman offers him twenty-five, then thirty dollars for the trunk. Jupiter refuses and takes the trunk back to the salvage yard where he hopes to open the trunk without damaging the lock.  That night, burglars enter the salvage yard in an attempt to steal the trunk.  The following day, a magician named Maximilian the Mystic offers Jupiter a hundred dollars for the trunk.  The  trunk, it seems, had been the property of another magician, The Great Gulliver, who had disappeared six years ago.  Jupiter still does not want to sell.

Finally the boys manage to get the trunk open.  It contains costumes, some magician props, and a skull.  The skull was from Gulliver's greatest trick; supposedly it talked.  The boys didn't believe this until they heard the skull sneeze.

The mystery deepens when the skull talks to Jupiter that night.  A dying convict, a missing $50,000, a hidden letter, a band of Gypsies complete with a fortune teller, a gang of thugs, a smooth con man, a disappearing house, and a magician's trunk that keeps disappearing and reappearing add to the mystery.

This is only book in the series that I've read, but it's easy to see why they were popular.  Written in an easy style, The Mystery of the Talking Skull moves along quickly with enough  McGuffins to fill a magician's trunk.  There's no real violence.  And Jupiter, although he's the brains of the trio (Pete is the brawn and Bob is the researcher), is a dim bulb at times, allowing the young reader to stay ahead of him now and then.  Everything is explained and tied up in a neat little bow by book's end.

This is not the greatest kid's series to come down the pike, but it seems to be a fairly good one.  I'll probably read the others by Arthur and, maybe, the ones by Dennis Lynds.

You can decide for yourself.  The link below will get you  to the first chapter.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


From the 1916 musical revue The Bing Boys Are Here, the original recording by George Robey and Violet Loraine.  The song, written by Clifford Grey and Nat D. Ayer, has been going strong for 98 years.  The Bing Boys Are Here ran at the Alhambra Theatre in London from April 19, 1916, through February 24, 1917 -- a total of 378 performances.  It was replaced with The Bing Girls Are There, with a different cast; running through to February, 1918, when it, in turn, was replaced by The Bing Boys on Broadway.  In total the three Bing reviews ran to over a thousand shows during the last two years of World War I and beyond, making it one of the most important shows of the London stage during that time.  The Bing Boys Are Here also included some much less memorable tunes such as "The Kipling Walk," "Another Drink Won' Do Us Much Harm," "Ragging the Dog." "Yula Hicki Wicki Yacki Dula," and "The Kiss Trot Dance."  They just don't write them lilke that any more.