Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, January 31, 2014


The Poker Club by Ed Gorman (1999)

An expansion of his story "Out There in the Darkness," The Poker Club Ed Gorman smack-dab into Cornell Woolrich territory.  Aaron Tyler is a tax lawyer.  Good job, nice home, attractive wife whom he truly loves, two daughters whom he also loves...he has everything he could want.  He also has three friends and a weekly poker game held on a rotating basis at each person's home.  This week the game is at Aaron's house.  His wife and kids are visiting her parents, allowing the guys a bit more freedom to be, well, guys.  The game is held in Aaron's attic so the rest of the house is dark.

There had been a number of robberies in the neighborhood and a neighborhood patrol was formed. Two members of the poker group are part of the patrol:  Neil, a recent widower, and Bill, a gung ho former football player.  Bill is a doctor now and Neil and Curtis, the other member of the poker club, are -- like Aaron -- lawyers.  There has been talk about arming the patrol, something Bill is completely in favor of.

Curtis goes downstairs to use the bathroom and interrupts a burglary.  The other three rush downstairs to find Curtis unconscious on the floor and the burglar in the kitchen with a knife.  Bill also grabs a knife and faces the burglar.  Aaron hears a noise from the porch and realizes there is a second burglar.  He grabs a knife -- lawyers have a goodly supply of large kitchen knives, don't you know? -- and rushes out, only to be knocked down while the second burglar gets away.  But the first one did not get away.  After Aaron gets back inside and checks on Curtis, he finds that Bill and Neil have the burglar has been tied to a post in his cellar.  Aaron wants to call the police but the other two stop him; they want to question the man first and get information on the string of burglaries.  Things get out of hand and Neil and Bill start beating on the guy.

Aaron stops them and, while they are talking, the burglar manages to loosen his bonds and get away.  As he runs up the stairs, Aaron grabs his leg.  The burglar falls, hitting his head, and dies.  Again, Aaron wants to call the police but the others talk him out of it. They had waited too long, the burglar has marks from the beating, legally, they are in deep trouble.  They decide to dispose the body somewhere where it wouldn't be found for weeks.  The best laid plans...

The body is found.  In its back pocket is a piece of paper with Aaron's name and address on it.  The police come calling.  Aaron's family come home and his wife realizes that Aaron is keeping something from her, putting a heavy strain on the marriage.  Members of the poker club are being followed.  Then people begin to die and an attempt was made to kidnap one of Aaron's daughters.  As Aaron fights to keep his marriage, his job, his law license, and his freedom, he gets drawn deeper and deeper into a quagmire partly of his own making.

The suspense and the terror increase through the final pages of this novel.  The Poker Club is a whip-smart, solid book with good characterization and a driving plot.

The Poker Club was made into a very effective film in 2009 starring Jonathan Scheach with a screenplay by Schaech and Cemetery Dance publisher Richard Chizmar.  In 2010, Ramble House published an omnibus volume The Poker Club:  The Novel, the Chapbook and the Screenplay.  (For some reason, this is no longer listed on the Ramble House homepage; it is listed, however, on Amazon.)  Copies of the 2000 paperback of the novel itself are readily available through the usual online channels.  If  you have not read this book yet, you really need to.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


The late Pete Seeger inspired me to buy a banjo.  In the last forty-five years I have almost mastered the C chord.  You see, I  have absolutely no musical talent, a tin ear, a grand mal sense of rhythm, and a singing voice that makes the toughest alley cat run away in fear.  Nonetheless, I cherish my banjo.  The link takes you to bad banjo jokes that might well have been inspired by me.

None of these apply to Pete Seeger.  Rest in peace, Pete, in the comforting knowledge that I have not taken up your mantle.

UPDATE:  My brother (the Evil Genius) just sent me The Canonical List of Banjo Jokes, containing 271 **count 'em** banjo jokes:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


One of my heroes, Pete Seeger, died yesterday.  A man who influenced generations with his music, his humanity, and his courage, Seeger's anti-war, pro-labor activism propelled him along a career that continued well until his nineties.  "We Shall Overcome" and "Turn, Turn, Turn" were probably his best-known songs.  His recordings of Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" and (with The Weavers) of Leadbelly's "Irene, Goodnight" were among his biggest commercial hits.  Seeger's anti-Vietnam War "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" was famously the center of the well-known Smothers Brothers-CBS fued.  Much of Pete Seeger's efforts in his later years were directed to cleaning New York's Hudson River.

Pete Seeger was an ambassador for music.  Music, he felt, was something that could draw people together and could bridge the gaps of misunderstanding and fear. He was ever the teacher, bringing his music to every place possible.  He loved performing for and with children.

One of my own favorite memories is of climbing five flights of staging on a drizzly night during the bicentennial celebration in Concord, Massachusetts, to photograph Seeger performing to an enthralled crowd.  (At the same time, Kitty was with about a dozen people sheltering in a tent while Phil Ochs regaled them with stories and songs.)

 Anyway, I thought I'd pull together some clips of Pete Seeger in tribute.  Here's a young Seeger in a video about banjos:

And Pete, with his wife Toshi, in a video about oil drums:

Coming from a musical family, he sometimes joined his brother Mike and sister Peggy in song:

His public television show, The Rainbow Quest, was a must-see for many of my generation.  In this episode, his guests are the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (Makem was another of my personal heroes) and a young Tom Paxton (another personal hero -- do you detect a trend here?).

Seeger promoted folk music of all types.  Here, in another episode of The Rainbow Quest, he greets the Mamou Cajun Band and also performs several children's songs.

Rest in peace, Pete.  You had a well-lived life.

Monday, January 27, 2014


  • Catherine Asaro, The Last Hawk.  SF novel of the Skolian Empire.
  • Orson Scott Card & Kathryn H. Kidd, Lovelock.  SF.
  • Vera Caspary, Laura.  The classic mystery.
  • Ivan Cat with Darren Sarvari, The Eyes of Light and Darkness.  SF.
  • Lee Arthue Chane, Magebane.  Fantasy.
  • E. Edmunds Claussen, Stories of the Falls of French Creek.  Local history and legends from French Creek, Pennsylvania.
  • Michael Cobley, Seeds of Earth.  SF, Book One of Humanity's Fire.
  • "Fabian of the Yard" (Ex-Superintendent Robert Fabian), London After Dark.  Non-fiction, true crime.
  • David Feintuch, Midshipman's Hope.  Military SF.
  • Terry Goodkind, Blood of the Fold.  Fantasy, a Sword of Truth novel.
  • "E. E. Knight" (Eric E. Frisch), Way of the Wolf.  SF, Book One of The Vampire Earth.
  • A. Lee Martinez, Monster.  Humorous fantasy.
  • Val McDermid, The Wire in the Blood.  Mystery.
  • Walter Mosley, Blonde Faith.  An Easy Rawlins mystery.
  • Mel Odom, Angel:  Bruja and Hunter's League: A Conspiracy Revealed.  A television tie-in novel and a YA historical thriller.
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Choke.  Novel about a conman.
  • Orhan Pamuk, Snow.  Literary novel.  Translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely.
  • John Passarella, Angel:  Monolith.  Television tie-in novel.
  • R. A. Salvatore, The Thousand Orcs.  Fantasy, Book I of the Hunter's Blades trilogy.
  • Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages.  Fantasy, the final volume of the Mistborn trilogy.
  • Alison Sinclair, Blueheart.  SF.
  • Harry Turtledove, The Breath of God.  SF.
  • Marilyn Wallace, The Seduction.  Suspense.
  • Yevgeny Zamyatin, We.  The classic Russian SF novel, translated by Mirra Ginsburg.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


So I said to myself, why not feature a Monday Night Sea Chanty and Pub Sing on Hymn Time?

And I answered myself, sure!

Julian of Norwich was a strange lady.  According to the legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to the medieval anchoress an Julian asked the Blessed Virgin why there had to be so much suffering in the world.  The reply was simple:  All shall be well.

This may well be the key to faith, the knowledge that all shall be well again some day.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Don't be fooled by his demeanor.  Mr. Risk may have a nice home and may relax in a smoking jacket with a white scarf around his neck, but this is one private eye who can use his fists.  He's also a private eye who doesn't need money:  all his fees are donated to various charities.  In the first story in issue #2 (December 1950) of this comic book, Risk befriends a beautiful blonde who had been committed to an asylum by her stepfather, the mysterious "Mr. X" who controls all organized crime in the state.  Risk ends up with a hard-earned five grand to donate to a cerebral palsy fund.  This tale is titled "The Case of the Psycopathic Lady" -- spelling not being a necessary talent for working on this comic book.

Then, in "The Case of the Jinxed Airline," Risk puts off a fishing vacation to investigate sabotage at a small passenger airline.  Risk uncovers a dirty insurance scam and, while meeting gun-toting thugs with his fists, manages to earn a cool thousand bucks to donate to the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund.

A different type of private eye is featured in the third story:  "Kirk Mason, the Tough Dick" looks into the case of  "The Forgetful Chorus Girl."  Mason lives up to his tough dick reputation, facing fire, explosions, and bullets, and ('natch) ends up with the swell-looking babe.

The other crime fighter in this issue is "Poke" Bancroft, special investigator for the District Attorney.  In "Seeds of Destruction," Poke takes on gangster Johnny Turo, whose putting the squeeze on the city's vegetable produce markets.  More danger, more fists, more guns...all leading to Poke's last line in the story:  "The 'Vegetable King's' salad days are over!"

There's also a two-page typed short story, something that all comic books needed to meet postal regulations.  An a nifty ad for the 9-in-1 timepiece of adventure, THE MOST AMAZING SUN WATCH IN THE WORLD!, which not only tells time but changes color to predict the weather.  And...a one-page ad for a suggestively kinky electric spot reducer for (yeah, right) keeping slim at home...just plug in, grasp handle, and apply!  (The boys and girls reading this comic book may not have known what was going on here, but I'm sure dear old Dad did.)

Friday, January 24, 2014


With an Extreme Burning by Bill Pronzini (1994)

I've been going on a Pronzini-athon the past two months and the next book in the pile was this 20-year-old thriller.  (Actually, the book I read was the 2000 Leisure Books reprint retitled The Tormentor And nowhere in the book does the publisher indicate the original title.  Go figure.)

For three weeks, ever since the tragic death of his wife in a car crash, Dix Mallory has been getting crank telephone calls.  No words, just heavy breathing.  Now the caller actually speaks, telling Dix in a disguised voice that his wife had been unfaithful to him the last three months of her life and detailing the trysts she was supposed to have had.  A few days later a box appears on his step.  Inside were his wife's favorite custom-made earrings, the ones she was wearing the night she died.  Now Dix begins to think that his wife's death was nt an accident, but murder.

At the same time his wife's best friend, divorced Francesca Bellini, has been getting similar calls -- just raspy breathing at the beginning and then recently moving on to sexual comments about her 17-year-old daughter Amy.

This cruel game of torment escalates, throwing Dix Mallory and Cecca Bellini together to discover the truth about these calls.  Soon they realize that their tormentor is someone they know, perhaps a close friend.  Then the deaths begin -- supposed accidents but Dix and Cecca know that there is a killer out there and that they are in the killer's sights.

There are suspects aplenty and Pronzini does a good job spreading (and hiding) clues.  I had a pretty good idea who the tormentor was but it was not until the final third of the book that the clue was dropped giving the motive for the acts of terror.  And, frankly, Dix and Cecca were pretty dumb not to figure out who was after them sooner than they actually did.  This is a minor quibble because the basis of the book is the slowly suffocating atmosphere of terror that has engulfed these two.  Everyone around them appears to be hiding something and Dix and Cecca discover that they dare not trust any of their friends.

This one, like many other thrillers, is a book you read just to go along for the ride, and the ride is an enjoyable one for the reader, if not for the main characters.


Thursday, January 23, 2014


What Doesn't Kill Her by Max Allan Collins (2013)

Max Allan Collins revs it up with his latest stand-alone thriller, What Doesn't Kill Her.

Jordan Rivera was sixteen when her parents and her brother were brutally murdered and she was brutally raped and force to pose for pictures with her dead family.  The killer told her she was kept alive so she could "tell" the killer's story.  Jordan refused to do that; in fact, Jordan just refused to speak at all.  For the next ten years, confined to a psychiatric institute, Jordan remained mute.  Then Jordan heard a news report about another family -- a father, mother, and daughter -- who had been slaughtered.  She then spoke her first words in ten years:  "What do I have to do to get the hell out of this place?"

As part of her release, Jordan was required to attend Victims of Violence, a self help group -- the only one of its kind in the city.  There she meets several "victims" whose stories are remarkably close to her own, those whose families have been murdered, leaving only one survivor.  Because some of these murders took place in different cities and because the murders differed in specific details, the possibility of a serial killer was not on the police radar.  But it was on Jordan's.

Jordan joins several members of her group -- including a best-selling thriller writer, a gay computer expert, and a woman whose sister and brother-in-law were killed in a supposed murder-suicide -- join forces to find a diabolical killer and to convince the police that such a killer exists.

Mark Pryor, a newly appointed detective, is one member of the police who believes that there is a serial killer out their.  Ten years ago he was a high school student with a crush on Jordan.  Her tragedy sent him on a quest, which eventually brought him to the city police department.  Mark has found a loose pattern of family killings across much of the country, convincing him that a single killer could be responsible.  But Mark is a rookie detective, most of the cases he has found are not in his jurisdiction, he is relying on gut instinct more than solid proof, and his department is stretched for funds and will not give him credence without some proof.

The killer of Jordan's family is still around, still deadly, and has some special plans for Jordan.

I've made no secret that Collins is one of my favorite writers.  A consummate professional, he always seems to deliver with strong plotting, rapid pacing, and characters you care about.  In What Doesn't Kill Her, he pushed beyond several standard tropes and kept me turning pages at a rapid pace.

This book is another winner.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Free today at, the kindle edition of J. D. Rhoades' great novel Lawyers, Guns and Money.  If you are looking for a superb page-turner, check this one out!


Here's a video from a Nigerian website, proving that you have to be careful what you say.  Also proving that variations on certain jokes are universal.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


The Great Stone Face, Buster Keaton, was born was born Joseph Frank Keaton in 1895 Kansas.  He came from a vaudeville family -- his father was once partners with Harry Houdini in a traveling patent medicine show -- and began performing with his parents when he was three.  A goodly part of the act had Buster taking pratfalls, which led to child abuse charges against his parents; the charges were dismissed when it was proven that Buster was suffered no injury, bruise, or broken bone; he became billed as "The Little Boy Who Couldn't Be Damaged."  The secret, of course, was extensive practice.  Buster learned at a very young age how to take a pratfall -- something that would help define his physical comedy in silent movies.

One of the truly great comics of the silent era, Buster distinguished himself as an actor, producer and director.  Keaton got his start working with Fatty Arbuckle who became a close friend.  With the advent of sound motion pictures, Keaton signed with MGM -- a grave mistake because that studio limited his creative genius and misused his talents.  After a stint in Europe, he returned to Hollywood as a gag writer, writing for the Marx Brothers and Red Skelton, among others.  He later advised Lucille Ball on her television series.

During the 1940's Keaton relaxed a bit an concentrated mainly on character work in feature films.  Television beckoned in the late forties and he starred in a one-off, The Buster Keaton Comedy Show in 1949.  Toward the end of that year, he began The Buster Keaton Show on the then-CBS Los Angeles station KTTV; the show lasted less than four months, closing on April 6, 1950.  Like many early television shows, little has survived -- some isolated clips and this episode, from February 23, 1950.

Later that year, a feature film, The Misadventures of Buster Keaton, was compiled from clips of the show.

Wikipedia notes that Keaton was named the seventh-greatest director by Entertainment Weekly and the 21st greatest male star by the American Film Institute.  Despite Orson Welles' claim that Keaton's The General was "the great comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made,"  The General was voted in 2002 the 15th best film ever made.  My personal opinion?  They still underrated Keaton.

Monday, January 20, 2014


  • Piers Anthony, Xone of Contention.  Fantasy in the Xanth series.
  • Robert G. Barrett, Guns 'n' Ros'e.  [That's supposed to be an accent over the e in Rose, so it refers to the wine -- my wp program lacks a few features.]  An Australian mystery featuring Les Norton.
  • David Bischoff, Space Precinct #1:  The Deity-Father.  Television tie-in novel.
  • Rhys Bowen, Bless the Bride and Evan Only Knows.  A Molly Murphy mystery and a Constable Evan Evans mystery, respectively.
  • "John Boyd" (John Boyd Upchurch), The Pollinators of Eden.  SF.
  • Gary Brandner, Floater.  Horror.
  • Dennis Burges, Graves Gate.  Suspense with paranormal overtones, featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Victor Canning, The Limbo Line.  Spy-guy.
  • Octavus Roy Cohen, Don't Ever Love Me.  Mystery.
  • Desmond Cory, The Nazi Assassins.  A Johnny Fedora spy-guy.
  • "Jocelyn Davey" (Chaim Raphael), The Naked Villany.  An Ambrose Usher mystery.
  • J. P. Donleavy, Meet My Maker the Mad Molecule.  Literary collection of 27 stories and sketches.
  • Tannarive Due, The Living Blood.  Horror.
  • Tom Dulack, The Stigmata of Dr. Constantine.  Novel that may or may not concern the supernatural.
  • James T. Farrell, Father and Son.  The third novel in the Danny O'Neill tetralogy.
  • "Stanton Forbes" (Deloris Forbes), Go to Thy Deathbed.  Mystery.
  • Steve Frazee, Lassie:  The Mystery of Bristlecone Pine.  Juvenile.  A Whitman Authorized TV Adventure.
  • J. F. Gonzalez, Survivor.  Horror.
  • Joan Grant, The Eyes of Horus. A "Far Memory" novel, first published as a historical novel, it was one of seven the author wrote that she later "realized" were reincarnated memories.
  • Simon Hawke, Sons of Glory.  Generational military novel.
  • Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood.  Fantasy.
  • Claude Lalumiere & Marty Halpern, editors, Witpunk.  Basically a SF anthology with 26 stories.
  • William March, Desire and Damnation.  Novel originally titled Come in at the Door.
  • A. A. Marcus, The Widow Gay.  A Pete Hunter mystery.
  • Clare McNally, Somebody Come and Play.  Horror.
  • Marijane Meaker, Shockproof Sidney Skate.  A coming of age novel.  No matter what name she writes under, she's good.
  • Willard Motley, Knock on Any Door.  Novel.  Nick Romano was an altar boy at twelve and died in the electric chair at twenty-one.
  • Patricia Moyes, Dead Men Don't Ski.  A Henry Tibbett mystery.
  • Andrew Neiderman, Brainchild.  Horror.
  • Helen Nielson, False Witness.  Mystery.
  • Frederik Pohl, Martin Harry Greenberg, & Joseph Olander, editors, The Great Science Fiction Series.  SF anthology with 21 stories.
  • "Clarissa Ross" (W. E. D. Ross), Moscow Mists.  Historical romance.
  • James Sallis, Drive.  Crime.
  • Irwin Shaw, The Troubled Air.  Novel.
  • "Dell Shannon" (Elizabeth Linington), First Four by Shannon (omnibus of four mysteries:  Case Pending, The Ace of SpadesExtra Kill, and Knave of Hearts), The Ringer, and Streets of Death.  Luis Mendoza mysteries.
  • Thomas Sterling, The Evil of the Day.  Mystery.
  • "Hampton Stone" (Aaron Marc Stein), The Real Serendipitous Kill.  A Jeremiah X. Gibson mystery.
  • Lisa Unger, Darkness, My Old Friend.  Thriller.
  • Patricia Warrick & Martin Harry Greenberg, editors, The New Awareness:  Religion Through Science Fiction.  SF anthology with 15 stories.
  • Morris L. West, Backlash.  Post WWII novel.
  • Phyllis A. Whitney, Secret of Haunted Mesa.  YA mystery.
  • Sara Woods, Enter Certain Murderers.  Mystery.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


To celebrate the gentleman's 205th birthday, let's raise a glass of amontillado with a black cat by our side and a raven looking over our shoulder whilst dreaming of Lenore.  Or, we could just read one of his stories or poems.


Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has not left this building.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


One of the best western television shows was Have Gun, Will Travel, featuring Richard Boone as Paladin.  As with many television shows, HGWT made a transition to comic books.  Here in issue #8 (Jan-Mar 1961) Paladin helps a retired army colonel in "The Colonel's Story" and helps a damsel in distress in "Man in the Middle."

As a bonus, here's the theme song, sung by Johnny Western:

Friday, January 17, 2014


Shared Tomorrows:  Science Fiction in Collaboration edited by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg (1979)
The Great Science Fiction Series edited by Fredrik Pohl, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Jopseph Olander (1980)

On deck are two anthologies that would give the novice science fiction reader a decent grounding in the field.

First, Shared Tomorrows, offering twelve collaborative stories from some of the better writers of the Forties through the Seventies.  Although few of the stories are what could be considered classics, all are immensely readable and display the variety that the science fiction and fantasy fields can offer:

  • Tiger Ride by James Blish and Damon Knight (1948)
  • Dark Interlude by Mack Reynolds and Fredrik Brown (1950)
  • Beasts of Bourbon by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (1951)
  • Sound Decision by Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg (1956)
  • Gratitude Guaranteed by R. Bretnor and Kris Neville (1953)
  • Mary Celestial by Miriam Allen deFord and Anthony Boucher (1955)
  • The Quaker Cannon by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth (1961)
  • Elementary by Laurence M. Janifer and Michael Kurland (1964)
  • The Loolies Are Here by Ruth Allison and Jane Rice (1966)
  • Murphy's Hall by Poul and Karen Anderson (1971)
  • Faces Forward by Jack Dann and George Zebrowski (1975)
  • Prose Bowl by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg (1979)

In The Great Science Fiction Series, Pohl and his confreres present 21 stories, major and minor (mostly major), from series that every well-read SF fan should be aware of:

  •  Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss (1961) [the Hothouse series]
  • A Little Knowledge by Poul Anderson (1971) [ the Nicholas Van Rijn series]
  • The Talking Stone by Isaac Asimov (1955) [the Wendell Urth series]
  • The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D by J. G. Ballard (1967) [ the Vermillion Sands series]
  • Bridge by James Blish (1952) [ the Cities in Flight series]
  • Surface Tension by James Blish (1952) [the Pantropy series]
  • Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot by "Grendel Briarton" (R. Bretnor) (1980, original to this volume) [the Feghoot series]
  • The Reluctant Orchid by Arthur C. Clarke (1956) [the White Hart series]
  • The Ancestral Amethyst by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (1952) [the Tales from Gavagan's Bar series]
  • Ararat by Zenna Henderson (1952) [the People series]
  • Ballots and Bandits by Keith Laumer (1970) [the Retief series]
  • No Great Magic by Fritz Leiber (1963) [the Change War series]
  • The Smallest Dragonboy by Anne McCaffrey (1973) [the Dragon series]
  • The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey (1961) [the Helva series]
  • A Relic of Empire by Larry Niven (1966) [the Known Space series]
  • Sign of the Wolf by Fred Saberhagen (1965) [the Berserker series]
  • Burden of Proof by Bob Shaw (1967) [the Slow Glass series]
  • The Lifeboat Mutiny by Robert Sheckley (1955) [ the AAA Ace series]
  • Opening Doors by Wilmar H. Shiras (1949) [the In Hiding series] (nota bene:  The H. in her name stands for "House" -- no relation)
  • Aesop by Clifford D. Simak (1947) [the City series]
  • The Game of Rat and Dragon by Cordwainer Smith (1955) [the Instrumentality series]

Good stuff in both books, whether for the SF newbie or the veteran fan who would like to visit with old friends.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Western and young adult author Gordon D. Shirreffs would have celebrated his 100th birthday today.  Leigh Brackett scripted one of my favorite movies, Rio Bravo, from Shirreffs 1956 novel (and then she wrote the novelization of her script).  Wikipedia lists 79 books by Shirreffs; you could do much worse than to pick one up and give it a try.


An unfortunate pregnant woman fell into a coma for ten months.  When she awoke her first concern was for her baby.

"Baby?" said the nurse.  "You had two babies, a girl and a boy, each one healthier than the other.  And you don't have to worry, because your brother was here and he named them for you."

"What!  My idiot brother named my babies!  This is terrible!  What did he name my daughter?"

"Denise," the nurse told her.

"Denise.  Well that's not too bad a name.  What did he name my son?'


Tuesday, January 14, 2014


The Kindle edition of Cool Blue Tomb by Paul Kemprecos is offered free today by Amazon.

From the Amazon site:

A 50-million-dollar salvage operation.  An expert diver dead at the bottom of the sea.  An elegant mermaid in a black Porsche -- and an open invitation to dip into the troubled waters of her marriage.  Cape Cod's Aristotle "Soc" Socarides, part-time fisherman, part-time private eye, is swimming  with the sharks.  Only problem is...he's the bait and blood is beginning to boil to the surface.

Soc didn't think he could get in much deeper, but he'd better think again.  A family debt of honor comes due -- a debt only he can settle -- plunging him into the middle of a lethal search for buried treasure.  Now Soc's about to discover how deadly the Cape's currents can be.  Snarled in a net of smuggling, treachery, and revenge, he's finding out that no matter how down you go, nothing harder to salvage than the truth.

"Absolutely the best private-eye mystery I've read.  I can't wait for the next one."
Best-selling Author, Clive Cussler

Me again:  I'm a big fan of Kemprecos' Aristotle Socarides mysteries.  Check this one out.  you won't be sorry.


I am looking forward to the third season of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch this weekend.  My oldest -- ratfink that she is -- has already seen the first episode, but I don't think she's seen this one yet, so that makes us tied!

The Man Who Disappeared (based on "The Man with the Twisted Lip") was filmed as a pilot episode for a proposed British television series.  For various reasons the series was never developed, although it did give John Longdon (Blackmail and several other early Hitchcock films) a chance to play the Great Detective.  Filling in Doctor Watson's shoes was character actor Campbell Singer, who played Inspector Claude Eustace Teal in one episode of Roger Moore's The Saint.  Rounding out the cast are Hector Ross, Minka Dolega, Beryl Baxter, and Walter Gotell -- of these, the most recognizable is Gotell who played Russian General Gogol in six James bond films, as well as well as a SPECTRE agent in From Russia with Love

This episode was helmed by Richard M. Grey, who evidently had a fairly non-distinquished career as a director -- only three credits on IMDB, of which this was his last.  No scriptwriter was credited.  The show was produced by Viennan-born Rudolph Cartier (born Rudolph Kacser), who had a solid career as a producer, director, and writer (he produced and directed all three Quatermass series for British television, for example).

Anyway, here's a Sherlock to wet your whistle while waiting for this coming Sunday.   

Monday, January 13, 2014


  • Lawrence Alexander, Speak Softly.  A Theodore Roosevelt mystery.
  • Piers Anthony, The Color of Her Panties and Swell Foop.  Humorous fantasies in the Xanth series.
  • Leo Atkins, Dead Run and Dead Beat.  Connor Gibbs mysteries.
  • Holly Black, Valiant:  A Modern Tale of Faerie.  YA fantasy.
  • Gary Braver, Gray Matter.  Thriller.
  • Orson Scott Card, Ender's Shadow.  SF, a companion volume to Ender's Game.
  • William J. Caunitz, One Police Plaza.  Mystery.
  • Robin Cook, Marker.  Medical thriller.
  • Mary Danby, editor, 65 Great Spinechillers and 65 Great Tales of the Supernatural.  Horror anthologies.
  • August Derleth, The Wind Leans West.  Historical novel, part of Derleth's Wisconsin Saga.
  • David Drake, The Sharp End.  Military SF in the Hammer's Slammers series.
  • James W. Hall, Blackwater Sound.  Thriller.
  • Stephen Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell.  Science.  Doctor Hawking explains it all.
  • Terry C. Johnston, Wind Walker.  Western.
  • William W. Johnstone, Breakdown.  Yet another post-apocalyptic novel.
  • Terry Jones, Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic.  Gaming tie-in novel, supposedly written in the nude.  No spam, spam, spam, eggs, spam, and eggs though; probably not even a dead parrot or the Spanish Inquisition.  **sigh**
  • "E. E. Knight" (Eric Frisch), Valentine's Rising.  SF, Book Four of the Vampire Earth series.
  • Mercedes Lackey, Bardic Voices, Book I:  The Lark and the Wren and Bardic Voices, Book III:  The Eagle and the Nightingales (fantasies); also the following Valdemar fantasy novels:  Magic's Promise and Magic's Price (Books Two and Three in the Last Herald Mage sequence), Winds of Fury (Book Three of the Mage Winds sequence), Brightly Burning and By the Sword.
  • Louis L'Amour, The Ferguson Rifle and Passin' Through.  Westerns.
  • Garth Nix, Sabriel.  YA fantasy, winner of the Aurealis Award for Excellence in Australian Science Fiction.
  • Wayne D. Overholser, Nugget City.  Western.
  • Don Pendleton, The Excutioner #32:  Tennessee Smash.  Men's action adventure.
  • Terry Pratchett, The Bromeliad.  The fantasy trilogy -- Truckers, Diggers, and Wings -- in an omnibus volume. 
  • Jack Scaparro, Hocus-Pocus.  Horror.
  • "Dell Shannon" (Elizabeth Linington), Spring of Violence.  A Luis Mendoza mystery.

Friday, January 10, 2014


Night Kills by Ed Gorman (1990)

There are few writers who can entertain as well as Ed Gorman and this early thriller testifies to that.

Frank Brolan is a partner in a small Minneapolis advertising agency that is beginning to reach the big-time.  His partner, Stu Foster, has a talent for landing important clients while Brolan has a gift for the creative side of the business.  The two had been celebrating the signing of an important new client with their staff and afterwards made their way Brolan's house for something to eat, only to find the viciously-hacked body of an attractive woman stuffed into Brolin's freezer.  Brolin recognizes the woman as someone with whom he had a loud public argument with the night before.  Because Brolan has a quick temper and had domestic abuse charges filed against him previously, he is afraid to go to the police.

The dead woman is a hooker named Emma.  Her neighbor and friend, Greg Wagner, is a short, wheelcar-bound man with spina bifida.  Soon, Wagner and Brolan join forces to try to make sense of the murder.  Meanwhile, a teenage hooker named Denise has been picked by a bearded man who drives her to a remote spot and tries to strangle her.  Denise is able to get away but not before lifting the man's wallet, a wallet identifying the attacker as Frank Brolan.  Soon, another hooker is found dead next to one of Brolan's cuff links.

While Brolan, Wagner, and Denise try to understand what is going on, the reader is treated to a knuckle-biting ride.  Gorman carves his characters with scalpel-like precision, their all too human foibles laid bare.  Gorman has always been the poet of the underdog, treating them with love and understanding while sometimes subjecting them to horrific violence.  And the author is not above sly digs at the advertising community, a group he knows all to well.

A darn good book, with only one plot hole that I could find and that (if you close your eyes hard enough and really, truly believe in pixies) could be explained by one character's nature.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014


One year, for his birthday, Dale Evans bought Roy Rogers a fancy new pair of boots.  Roy didn't know how to thank Dale enough for this gift.  I mean, these boots were the fanciest, most beautiful boots on the entire planet -- a pair of boots just suited for the King of the Cowboys.  Bursting with pride, Roy hopped on Trigger for a morning ride over the beautiful western vistas in God's own country.  Things were going along just fine when...with a growl and a snarl, a large mountain lion leaped from a rock and knocked Roy off of Trigger.  There commenced a mighty battle, man vs. cat.  Well, of course Roy won and the mountain lion ran lickety-split for cover, but (alas) not before tearing Roy's new boots to shreds.  There are just enough words in the English language to describe how low Roy was feeling about this.  He just moped and moped.  The next day his ranch hands rode up to him with the body of a very dead mountain lion stretched across a saddle.  The ranch foreman said, "Pardon me, Roy, is this the cat who chewed your new shoes?"

[For this one you can blame Patti Abbott, who posted a certain song on her blog last night.]

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


While most of the nation is locked in a deep freeze, a different kind of cold decided to visit me in Southern Maryland yesterday.  Sore throat, runny nose, headache, voice like Andy Devine gargling on ground glass,sneezing and hacking and coughing and feeling like something the cat would have dragged in if we still had a cat...I went to bed early and slept for twelve hours and now feel worse than ever.  What to do?  What to do?

They say that laughter is the best medicine so I'm willing to give that a try.

Here's a comedy short starring the great Fatty Arbuckle with the also great Buster Keaton (in his first film role, no less) and the versatile Al "Fuzzy" St. John (who happened to  be Fatty Arbuckle's nephew).

And, because laughter is a universal language, I'm sure you won't mind if the title cards are all in French.  Bwahahahahaha!


Monday, January 6, 2014


This post is going to make my fingers fall off!  Right after the holidays is a time to run into some thrift store gold -- at least as far as books are concerned.  Most of these were five for a buck or six for a could I resist?  Happy Epiphany!

  • Jeff Abbott, Black Jack Point and A Kiss Gone Bad.  Whit Mosley/Claudia Salazar mysteries. 
  • Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2007.
  • Robert Asprin, The Cold Cash War (stand-alone SF) and Myth-Nomers and Im-Pervections (a "Myth" fantasy).
  • "James Axler," Deathlands:  Shatterzone (Book I in the Coldfire Project series, written by Nick Pollatta) and three books in the Outlanders series:  Children of the Serpent and Mad God's Wrath (both written by Mark Ellis) and Sunlord (written by Victor Milan).  Men's apocalyptic action adventure.
  • (Colin) Bateman, Mystery Man and Nine Inches.  Mysteries. 
  • James P. Blaylock, 13 Phantasms and Other Stories.  Fantasy collection with 16 stories.
  • Marion Zimmer Braadley,  a buncha Darkover omnibuses:  The Ages of Chaos (containing Stormqueen! and Hawkmistress!), Darkover:  First Contact (containing Darkover Landfall and Two to Conquer), Heritage and Exile (containing The Heritage of Hastur and Sharra's Exile), The Saga of the Renunciates (containing The Shattered ChainThendara House, and City of Sorcery), and A World Divided (containing The Bloody Sun, Star of Danger, and The Winds of Darkover).  Also, the Darkover novel Traitor's Son.  SF.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley & Deborah J. Ross, Zandru's Forge and A Flame in Hali.  Fantasy, Books Two and Three in the Clingfire trilogy set in the Darkover universe.  (Somewhere alone the line, Darkover drifted from a SF series to a fantasy series.)
  • Kenneth Bulmer, Land Beyond the Map, bound with Edmond Hamilton's Fugitive of the Stars.  An Ace SF double.
  • Bill Burchardt. Shotgun Bottom.  Western.
  • P. D. Cacek, Night Prayers.  Horror.
  • Martin Caidin, Encounter Three.  SF.
  • Ramsey Campbell, The Overnight.  Horror (in a bookstore, no less).
  • Joshua Cohen, Witz.  Literary doorstopper fantasy.
  • John Connolly, The Unquiet.  A Charlie Parker mystery.
  • Rick Cook, Wizardry Compiled, Wizardry Consulted, and Wizardry Cursed.  Wiz umwalt fantasies.
  • Thomas H. Cook, The Cloud of Unknowing.  Mystery.
  • Basil Copper, Into the Silence.  Horror.
  • Larry Correia, Monster Hunter International, Monster Hunter Legion, and Monster Hunter Vendetta -- all in the Monster Hunter series, Hard Magic, Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles.  Fantasies.
  • Dan Cushman, Tall Wyoming.  Western.
  • William L. DeAndrea, Five O'Clock Lightning.  Mystery.
  • "Greg Donegan" (Robert Mayer), Assault on Atlantis.  SF/fantasy/thriller.
  • David Drake, In the Stormy Red Sky.  Military SF in the RNC series.
  • Doranna Durgin, Angel:  Impressions.  Television tie-in novel.
  • Gardner Dozois, The Good New Stuff:  Adventure SF in the Grand Tradition.  Anthology with 17 stories from 1977 to 1998.
  • Cliff Farrell, Terror in Eagle Basin.  Western.
  • Raymond E. Feist, A Darkness in Sethanon and Shards of a Broken Crown.  Fantasies in the Midkemia universe.
  • Eric Flint, 1632.  SF novel, the first in the Ring of Fire series.
  • Eric Flint, editor, Grantville Gazette and Grantville Gazette II.  SF anthologies in the Ring of Fire series, the first with five stories and three articles, the second with eight stories and four articles.
  • Eric Flint & Andrew Dennis, 1634:  The Galileo Affair and 1635:  The Cannon Law.  SF novels in the  Ring of Fire series.
  • Alan Dean Foster, Season of the Spellsong (omnibus containing Spellsinger, The Hour of the Gate, and The Day of Dissonance) and Spellsinger's Scherzo (omnibus containing The Moment of the Magician, The Paths of the Perambulator, and The  Time of the Transference).  Fantasy, the first six (of eight) books in the Spellsinger series.
  • Lisa Gardner, The Survivors Club.  Mystery.
  • David Gemmell, The Legend of the Deathwalker and Winter Warriors.  Fantasies in the Drenai universe.
  • Ed Gorman, The Midnight Room and The Silver Scream.  Thrillers.
  • Richard Gilliam, Martin H. Greenberg, & Edward E. Kramer, editors, Grails:  Quests of the Dawn.  Fantasy anthology with 24 stories.
  • Ed Gorman, The Silver Scream.  Thriller.
  • Simon R. Green, Mistworld.  SF.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, editor, Lord of the Fantastic:  Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny.  SF/Fantasy anthology with 23 stories.
  • Martin H. Greenberg, editor, The Mutant Files.  SF anthology with 16 stories.
  • Frank Gruber, Lonesome River, Peace Marshall, and This Gun Is Still.  Westerns.
  • Peter Haining, editor, Knights of Madness.  Humorous fantasy anthology with 24 stories
  • G. A. Henty, Through the Fray:  A Tale of the Luddite Riots.  Boys historical adventure novel.  Henty (1832-1902) wrote 122 popular historical romances for boys.  This book was first published in 1886; this hardcover copy published by A. L. Burt is undated and w poribably published around the turn of the 19th to 20th century. The book is frayed and stained and the spine is slightly damaged but it kept yelling at me, "I'm only 99 cents!  Buy me!"  So I did.
  • William W. Johnstone & J. A. Johnstone, Suicide Mission.  Action adventure.
  • Tabitha King, Pearl.  Novel.
  • Mercedes Lackey, Arrow's Fall (a Valdemar novel), The Robin and the Kestral (Book II in the Bardic Voices series), and The Black Sawn and Sacred Ground (stand-alones).  Fantasies.
  • Richard Laymon, No Sanctuary and Tread Softly.  Horror.
  • Tim Lebbon, Berserk.  Horror.
  • The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1983.
  • Patricia MacDonald, Secret Admirer.  Thriller.
  • Nancy Martin, Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die.  A Blackbird Sisters mystery.
  • Bob Mayer, Area 51:  The Nightstalkers, Book 2: The Book of Truths.  Thriller.
  • Andy McDermott, The Covenant of Genesis, The Pyramid of Doom, and The Secret of Excalibur.  Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase thrillers.
  • Dennis L. McKiernan, Tales of Mithgar.  Fantasy collection with eleven stories.
  • China Mieville, The City and the City.  SF?  Fantasy?  Do I care?
  • Miriam Grace Monfredo, Blackwater Spirits.  A Glynis Tryon mystery. 
  • Andrew Neiderman, Dead Time.  Horror.  Neiderman's the one who's been writing all those V. C. Andrews books.
  • Jo Nesbo, The Devil's Star.  A Harry Hole mystery.  Translated by Don Bartlett.
  • D. B. Newton, Guns of Warbonnet.  Western.
  • Andre Norton, Annals of the Witch World (omnibus of three early Witch World novels:  Witch World, Web of the Witch World, and Year of the Unicorn) and Lavender-Green Magic (a fantasy). 
  • Mel Odom, Omega Blue.  Action adventure.
  • Wayne D. Overholser, Steel to the South and Tough Hand.  Westerns.
  • Kevin F. Owens, Martian Panahon Virus.  SF novel with Filipino characters.  (The author's wife is Filipino.)  Evidently published by a vanity press and signed by the author and inscribed to "Terry,"  which is pretty close to Jerry -- so, why not?
  • Lewis B. Patten, Top Man with a Gun.  Western.
  • Matthew Pearl, The Poe Shadow.  Mystery.
  • Dave Pedneau, A.K.A., A.P.B., B. & E., B.O.L.O., and N.F.D.  Whit Pynchon mysteries.
  • Robert Rankin, The Toyminator.  Fantasy.
  • John Ringo, Queen of Wands.  Fantasy, sequel to Princess of Wands.
  • Edward J. Ruppelt, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.  One of the early (1956) UFO books.
  • Fred Saberhagen, Love Conquers All (SF) and Merlin's Bones (Arthurian fantasy).
  • "Dell Shannon"  (Elizabeth Linington), Appearances of Death, Exploit of Death, and Felony at Random.  Luis Mendoza mysteries.  Shannon/Linington has been criticized for the right wing slant of her novels; as an avowed liberal, I have no problem reading right wing fiction and find much of it engrossing.
  • Gordon D. Shirreffs, Jack of Spades.  Western.
  • "Luke Short" (Frederick D. Glidden), Marauders' Moon and Sunset Graze.  Westerns.
  • Simon Spurrier, Ghost Rider:  Danny Ketch -- Addict.   Graphic novel.  Art by Javier Saltares and inking by Tom Palmer.
  • Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men. Classic SF.
  • Christopher Stasheff, Escape Velocity and The Warlock in Site of Himself, fantasies in the Warlock series, and A Wizard in a Feud, A Wizard in Bedlam, and A Wizard in Chaos, fantasies in the Rogue Wizard series.
  • Mary Stewart, The Spell of Mary Stewart.  Omnibus of three romantic suspense novels:  This Rough Magic, The Ivy Tree, and Wildfire at Midnight.
  • Bernard Taylor, Sweetheart, Sweetheart.  Horror.
  • Trisha Telep, editor, The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance.  The cover blurb says, "Over 25 short stories of hot blood, midnight pleasures, and inhuman passions."  I counted (three times!) and could only come up with 25 stories in this book, not "over 25."  Ah, well.
  • Sheri S. Tepper, The Companions.  SF.
  • Brian M. Thomsen & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Oceans of Magic.  Fantasy anthology with 13 stories.
  • "Peter Tremayne" (Peter Berresford Ellis), The Morgow Rises!  Horror.
  • Lisa Unger, Die for You.  Mystery.
  • Lawrence Watt-Evans & Esther M. Friesner, Split Heirs.  Humorous fantasy.
  • Len Wein, The Untold Legend of the Batman.  Comic book story/graphic novel -- take your pick. Art by Jim Aparo & John Byrne.
  • Robert Weinberg, The Road to Hell.  Gaming (Mage:  The Ascension) tie-in  novel.
  • Robert Weinberg, Stefan Dziemianowicz, & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, 100 Dastardly Little Detective Stories.  Self-explanatory instant remainder.
  • T. M. Wright, Strange Seed.  Horror.
  • Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe.  SF.
  • William Zinsser, On Writing Well.  Nonfiction, Fourth Edition.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Long before there was a television show, there was a Dark Shadows comic book, with nary a Barnabas Collins in sight.

From January 1958:


My brother, who for some reason keeps sending me news about goats, is a year older today.  May his guitar keep on strummin'.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Pete Seeger at 94 -- still following Bob Dylan's words.  A reminder for all of us for 2014.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


2014.  Wow.  Here's wishing everyone happiness, health, and prosperity.  May all your resolutions come to fruition.  (Me?  I don't need resolutions; in my warped little mind, I'm perfect.  So is Kitty.  Our dog, Declan, however needs to make a few solid resolutions.)

And while I have your attention...

Happy birthday to the ever-young Patti Abbott!


Let's start off the year with jokes that scientists like: