Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

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.


Lou Cagell, a top detective in New York Police Department, worked the waterfront.  Crimes in, on, and about the water were his meat.  The radio series Crime on the Waterfront, however, was not the audience's meat.  Radio in 1949 was inundated with crime and detective programs.  With so much competition, this series -- along with Lou Cagell -- was washed up.

Here's the March 1, 1949 episode from this short-lived series:  "The Heiress Cruise."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Eddie Cochran.


A priest was sent to a remote parish in Alaska.  One day the Bishop dropped in to see how he was doing.  The Bishop said, "I know it's very remote here.  How are you handling things?"

The priest said, "To tell you the truth, without my rosary and the two glasses of wine I drink every day I think I'd go crazy.  Speaking of which, would you like a glass of wine?"

"That would be very nice, thank you."

The priest called out, "Rosary, bring us two glasses of wine!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Also known as "The Flowers of the Forest" and "Willie McBride," this powerful song is my go-to song for Veteran's Day.

This version is by Liam Clancy.

Listen, and remember.


We shot a rocket into the air.
It picked up a hitchhiker; I know not where:
A block of ice
That was not nice,
Freezing things without a care.

On August 8, 1952, Tales of Tomorrow present this little yarn that happened to include a young actor in one of his first film roles, a guy named Paul Newman.  I guess acting didn't work out for him because I heard he eventually go into the salad dressing line.  (Out of the four credited actors in this episode, Newman came in fourth, so that salad dressing fallback was a pretty good idea.)

Edmon Ryan took the lead as Major Dozier. an air force base commander who must deal with a congressional appropriations investigation and that mysterious block of ice brought back by a space probe and that freezes everything around it.  Ryan has nearly a hundred credits on IMDb from1936 to 1970, concentrating mainly on television during the Fifties and Sixties.

Dozier's congressional nemesis, Congressman Burns, was played by Raymond Bailey, best known as Milton Drysdale, the banker on The Beverley Hillbillies.  Bailey also had regular roles on Margie, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, MSister Eileen.  This episode was Bailey's first television appearance following 13 years of mostly uncredited work in the movies.

Also in the cast was Michael Gorrin.  This was his first television role under that name; as Michael Goldstein he appeared in two films in the late 1930s.

Don Medford directed this and 36 other episodes of Tales of Tomorrow.  Medford had a long career in television, directing multiple episodes of Baretta, Dynasty, The F.B.I., and many other popular shows.  The episode was written by E. H. Frank, who turns out to be a mystery.  This is the only credit Frank has on IMDb and, so it is possible that Frank was a pseudonym.  Unlike many episodes of Tales of Tomorrow, "Ice from Space" appears not to have been adapted from a previously published story.


Monday, November 10, 2014


George Harrison.


  • Forrest J. Ackerman, editor, Expanded Science Fiction Worlds of Forrest J. Ackerman & Friends PLUS.  SF anthology with 31 stories/articles/whatnots.
  • Alice & Claude Askew, Aylmer Vance, Ghost-Seer.  Horror collection with eight stories from the Edwardian era about a supernatural detective.
  • Linwood Barclay, A Tap on the Window.  Thriller.
  • Ben Bova, Moonrise.  SF, the first book in the Moonwar series.
  • Jack L, Chalker, The Messiah Choice.  SF/fantasy mash-up.
  • Judd Cole, Wild Bill #7:  Point Rider.  Western.
  • Groff Conklin, editor, Elsewhere and Elsewhen and Seven Come Infinity.  SF anthologies with nine and (who knew?) seven stories, respectively.
  • David Drake, Loose Cannon:  The Tom Kelly Novels.  SF omnibus containing Skyripper and Fortress.
  • Barry Eisler, The Last Assassin.  A John Rain thriller.
  • Linda Fairstein, Hell Gate.  An Alexandra Cooper mystery.
  • Leo Frankowski & Dave Grossman, The War with Earth.  SF.
  • Jackson Gregory, Powder Smoke.  Western.
  • Lee Harding, The Fallen Spaceman.  SF novella.  Published as a Weekly Reader Book with Illustrations by John and Ian Schoenherr.
  • Alfred Hitchcock, editor, 14 Suspense Stories to Play Russian Roulette By.  Mystery anthology with 14 stories.  This one is a reprint of 1945's Suspense with one story removed and one story added.
  • Hugh Holton, Presumed Dead.  The acclaimed first novel by a writer who was a Commander in the Chicago Police Department.
  • William W. Johnstone & J. A. Johnstone, The Last Gunfighter:  Killing Ground.  Western.  Johnstone's character continues beyond the author's death by "a carefully selected writer."
  • D, F, Jones, Colossus and the Crab.  SF, the final volume in the Colossus trilogy,
  • Cameron Judd, The Overmountain Men.  Frontier novel.  Kentucky from 1757-1777.
  • Tom Kratman, A State of Disobedience.  Military SF.
  • Victoria Laurie, What a Ghoul Wants.  A Ghost Hunter mystery.
  • R. Stephen Lemler, The Elocutioner's Tale.  SF collection of 25 linked tales told by members of a group therapy program, all of whom believe they've been abducted by aliens.  SIGNED.
  • Bliss Lomax, Stranger with a Gun.  Western.
  • Brian Lumley, Maze of Worlds.  Horror.
  • Henning Mankell, Faceless Killers.  The first Kurt Wallander mystery.  
  • Jeff Mariotte, Witchseason: Winter.  YA fantasy novel, the third in the series.
  • Val McDermid, Killing the Shadows.  Mystery.
  • R. M. Meluch, Tour of the Merrimack #1:  The Myriad.  Military SF.
  • Earl Murray, South of Eden.  Western marketed as Americana; based on a true story.
  • Ann Parker, Leaden Skies:  A Silver Rush Mystery.  Historical mystery, the third in a series.  Colorado in 1880.
  • Jason Pinter, The Mark.  A Henry Parker thriller, the author's debut novel.
  • Mack Reynolds & Dean Ing, Trojan Orbit.  SF.  Reynolds did the first draft before he died; Ing polished it.
  • "James Rollins" (Jim Czajkowski), The Devil Colony.  A Sigma Force thriller.
  • "Dana Fuller Ross" (James Reasoner), Expedition!  Volume 2 in the Wagons West Frontier Trilogy.
  • Fred Saberhagen, Berserker Blue Death.  SF novel in the  Berserker series.
  • [Sabrina the Teenage Witch], Millennium Madness.  Television tie-in YA anthology with twelve stories.
  • William Sleator, The Beasties.  YA horror.
  • Wallace Stroby, The Heartbreak Lounge.  A State Trooper Henry Rane mystery.
  • Sheri S. Tepper, The Gate to Women's Country.  SF.
  • Sean Williams & Shane Dix, Emergence:  The Dying Light.  SF, the second in the Emergence series.
  • John Brunner, The Great Steamboat Race.  Historical novel.  Brunner was best known for his science fiction, including the Hugo-winning Stand on Zanzibar.  He also wrote fantasies, mysteries, thrillers, poetry, and songs.  Despite major acclaim within the SF field, he never really broke out of the SF "ghetto."  A major (still-unpublished) novel was tanked due to the ineptitude of its prospective publisher.  The Great Steamboat Race was Brunner's second try at a major mainstream novel.  Based on the well-known 1870 race between the Mississippi steamboats Natchez and the Rob't E. Lee, the novel is one of the best books Brunner wrote and he sure wrote a lot of great books.  For reasons beyond my understanding, this was not the break-out book that Brunner had hoped for.  This 1983 568-page Ballantine trade paperback was never reprinted to my knowledge; it never made it to hardcover.  So when I came across a copy for 50 cents at a thrift store, I scooped it up, figuring that someone out there might be interested.  The first one who lets me know in the comments that he/she wants it will get it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


"A Vampire" ("Un Vampiro") by Luigi Capuana is a classic horror tale written in 1907 (or, perhaps written in 1906 and published in 1907 -- sources are contradictory).  It has been reprinted a number of times over the years, most recently in Otto Penzler's The Vampire Archives.

Here is the LibriVox recording, translated and read by Erin O'Roake:

And, for those who prefer the print version:


Texas gospel singer and musician Washington Phillips (1880-1954) recorded 18 songs for Columbia Records between 1927 and 1929.  Sixteen of those recordings survive.  Considered one of the progenaters of American gospel music, his gospel songs were often sermons cast in music.  His music has been recorded by Ry Cooder, Ralph Stanley, Phish, and many others.  One of his songs was featured in the recent film We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Here's "Denomination Blues, Part 1."

Saturday, November 8, 2014


According to Zorro, the Gay Blade, you just can't find a decent Mariachi band in New York City.  So I guess we'll just have to go down to Guadalajara for this song from Mariachi Neuvo Tecalitan.


Although the indicia indicates that this comic book was published by Headline Publications, this was one of the Prize Comics line produced by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.  Black Magic began in with the October-November 1950 issue and closed with issue #50, dated November-December 1961, after which it was completely reimagined and renamed Cool Cat, which mercifully lasted for only three issues.

Judging from this issue, the Black Magic title is ill-used.  None of the four stories present really touch on horror or the supernatural, although McGuffins abound.
  • "The Intruders" are men who have tried to colonize the moon.  After some 200 years, they realize they are fighting a losing battle against the moon-men -- they must swallow their pride and abandon the moon to the natives.  Who  the natives are provides the twist.
  • In "Flight," Willie Grant seems destined to a life of failure.  Hoping to change his downward spiral, Willie stows aboard a freighter heading to Central America.  Willie's luck seems to have traveled with him because the ship sinks on the second day at sea.  He survives and is washed ashore on a tropical island.  Rescued by a brother and sister team who own a sugar plantation. Willie soon becomes a full partner in the enterprise but, once destined to failure, can Willie avoid it now?
  • "The Valley of Forever" is a type of Shangrala located in the middle of the Arctic.  John Evans stumbles upon the peaceful valley where people can live for 500 years according to Philip Kent, who had found the valley earlier.  Evans doesn't believe any of this and is determined to leave the valley.  An Eskimo guide is assigned to lead Evans back to his real world.  Once there, Evans realizes that he will be spending a lifetime trying to again find the Valley of Forever.
  • Caleb Winslow is a failed writer; his rented typewriter has just been repossessed.  He needs another "Writing Machine" and managed to get another -- one that had been used by al very close in style very successful (and recently deceased) writer.  Winslow's writing career takes off with best-seller after best-seller, all very close in style to that of the deceased writer.  Upset at rumors that a haunted typewriter is producing the books rather than him, Winslow destroys the typewriter.  Suddenly Winslow cannot write a word.  Was it truly a haunted or magic machine?  (Hint, hint:  McGuffin.)
One cool thing about Black Magic:  Jack Kirby claimed that the idea for Spider-Man originated ina character he and Simon created for this comic, "The Silver Spider."  The character, alas and alack,  never made it into story form.

I have no idea who wrote or drew the stories in issue #40, by the cover was the work of well-known artist and inker George Klein, who worked on Black Magic in its later years.  Klein may be best known as an inker for DC's Superman family (Superboy, Superman, Legion of Superheroes, etc.) and as the uncredited inker for Jack Kirby's pencil in Fantastic Four #1.

In any event, enjoy this issue.

Friday, November 7, 2014


From 1901, English music hall great Dan Leno.  Leno (1860-1904) was born George W. Galvin and began his career at age 3, performing in his parents' music hall act, and made his first solo appearance when he was nine.  During the 1880s and 1890s he was one of the highest paid comedians in the world.  After performing for Edward VII Leno became known as the "King's Jester."  Leno's career began to be affected by his alcoholism, which caused some mental aberrations, which was compounded by anger at not being considered for serious roles.  A breakdown in 1902 led to a commitment to an asylum and a further decline after he was released, leading to his early death ate age 43.

In 1994, Leno became a main character in Peter Ackroyd's murder mystery Dan Leno and the Limehouse Goblin.

In the song and sketch below, Leno performs one of his most popular acts.


The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume III:  Killdozer! by Theodore Sturgeon, edited by Paul Williams (1996)

Sometimes you just forget how great a writer was.  Once a writer dies and his work stops appearing, his work may go into a little lock box in your mind, the one labeled, "I enjoyed this," and end up in a pile of other lock boxes, eventually gathering dust and being pushed toward the rear to make room for other, newer lock boxes.  Mention the author's name and you might respond, "Yeah, he was great," but a part of you forgets just how great.

Case in point:  Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985).  It's been a while since I read any of his stories.  Silly, stupid me.

Killdozer! gives us fifteen stories that Sturgeon wrote between 1941 and 1946, beginning with "Blabbermouth" and ending with "Mewhu's Jet."  There has never been another writer quite like Sturgeon; his optimism. his humanity, his open love, his power with words and emotions, all put him in a separate class.  I am thankful that the late Paul Williams started the ball rolling in providing a permanent home for all of Sturgeon's stories.  Included in the fifteen stories in this book are three previously unpublished stories (Williams mistakenly said four, correcting that mistake in the next volume), the original ending of "Killdozer," an unpublished alternate ending of "Mewhu's Jet." and several stories that took years to appear in print.  The stories covered in Killdozer! mark the end of Sturgeon's early career and the beginning of his more mature phase.  Here are stories that I had read and loved in Without Sorcery, Caviar, Beyond, A Way Home, and other Sturgeon collections.  Here are some stories that remind you just how great a writer Sturgeon was.

The line-up:

  • Blabbermouth (Amazing Stories, February 1947)
  • Medusa (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1942)
  • Ghost of a Chance (as "The Green-Eyed Girl," Unknown Worlds, June 1943)
  • The Bones (with James H. Beard, Unknown Worlds, August 1943)
  • The Hag Saleen (with James H. Beard, Unknown Worlds, December 1942)
  • Killdozer! (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944; this version has the slightly updated ending the author wrote for the story's inclusion in 1959's Aliens 4; the original magazine ending is included in the Story Notes)
  • Abreaction (Weird Tales, July 1948)
  • Poor Yorick! (previously unpublished)
  • Crossfire (previously unpublished)
  • Noon Gun (Playboy, September 1963)
  • Bulldozer Is a Noun (previously unpublished)
  • August Sixth, 1945 (Paul Williams mistakenly thought this was an unpublished story and included it in this volume.  It was actually a letter in the Brass Tacks column in Astounding Science Fiction, December 1945.  The error was acknowledged in Volume IV of the series, Thunder and Roses.)
  • The Chromiun Helmet (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1946)
  • Memorial (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1946)
  • Mewhu's Jet (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1946; including in the Story Notes is a previously unpublished ending to the story)
In addition, there's a Foreword by Robert Silverberg, and Afterward by Robert A. Heinlein, and copious story note by Paul Williams.

It was great to spend time with some old friends, which is what many of these stories are.

A fine book.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


From September 1917, this is one of the earliest (and, perhaps, the earliest) known recordings of W. C. Handy's "The St. Louis Blues."  The recording group, with the very unfortunate name Ciro's Coon Club Orchestra, was an African-American band that played at Ciro's Club in London (at the corner of Orange Street and Charing Cross Road) during World War I.  Members of the orchestra were Ferdie Allen (banjoline), S. Edwards (bass), Seth Jones (vocals), Vance Lowry (banjo), Harry Pollard (drums), and Walter Kildare (piano).  The orchestra recorded 29 songs from August 1916 through September 1917.


Written by Arch Obeler, Chicken Heart is arguably one of the most famous episodes of the Lights Out radio program, if only for an episode of The Life and Loves of Dobie Gillis and an early Bill Cosby sketch.

Lights Out began as a 15-minute program on WENR in January.  Originally conceived to provide scary programs in serial format, by April the show was expanded to a 30-minute length.  The show was dropped in January 1935 but was brought back a few weeks later by popular demand.  In April, Lights Out premiered on NBC radio airing over the years at various times on Wednesday nights.  The show had been the brainchild of Wyllis Cooper who wrote close to 120 episodes before he left the program in 1936.

Cooper was replaced that June by the now legendary Arch Obeler, who chocked, thrilled, and outraged audiences until he left in 1938 to pursue other opportunities.  The show was cancelled the following year.  Then, in 1942, Obeler needed money, so he re-launched the show on CBS for the 1942-43 season.  Lights Out was revived at least four more times on radio ending in 1947, having made the transition to television the year before.  In one form or another the television show ran unto 1952.  An attempt to bring the show back through a television movie in the Seventies flopped.

From March 10, 1937 and featuring Hans Conreid as Dr. Calvin and some superb sound effects, here is Chicken Heart:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


A pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page in a 1957 Skiffle Band.


This guy walks into a bar carrying a large piece of asphalt and says, "Bartender, give me a drink...and one more for the road!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


It's ELECTION DAY!  Vote early!  Vote often!  Vote for whichever distorted sound bite from either party rings your bell, but vote for my guy!  If you're not voting for my guy, remember:  Election Day is Wednesday!

Familie Roser, with Kerry L. Dooley.


Starring Herbert Prior, Mabel Trunnell, and Augustus Phillips, The Haunted Bedroom is a short film from the Edison Company. 

Lizette, a poor embroideress, wishes to marry Jean, but Jean's father demands a dowry of 10,000 francs.  After working for a year, Lizette has only been able to save 2000 francs.  Love seems doomed until her brother, a gambler, vows to turn her hard-earned money into a suitable dowry.

Lizette's brother wins the money at cards but manages to attract the attention of neer-do-wells determined to take the dowry.  He escapes and hides the money in his room at the inn.  But gambling and escaping from thugs is not for the faint of heart and, alas, he has a very weak heart.  He dies in a scene that puts the hiss in histrionics, leaving Lizette both dowry-less and Jean-less.

The brother's spirit haunts the room and protects the hidden money until he is able to enter the dreams of a visiting Englishman and reveal the hiding place.  Will the Englishman keep the money or will he give to Lizette?  And why is the Englishman walking around France carry a golf bag?  And what confidences are Lizette revealing when she talks to a small bird in a cage?  And does the bird in the cage symbolize Lizette's dowry-less condition?  Only one of these questions will be answered in the not very surprising conclusion.

This copy of the film is of poor quality, there is the irritating sound of the projector clacking through all 17 minutes of the film, the story is uninspired, and the haunting itself is milder than mild.  Oh well, if people could sit through Ishtar or Howard the Duck, I'm certain you can sit through this.

Monday, November 3, 2014


Alan Price Set.


  • John Creasey, Battle for Inspector West, Death in Cold Print, Death of an Assassin (also published as A Prince for Inspector West), Doorway to Death (also published as Find Inspector West and The Trouble at Saxby's), Give a Man a Gun (also published as A Gun for Inspector West), Go Away to Murder (also published as Inspector West Leaves Town), Inspector West Regrets, Murder, London - Miami, Murder Makes Haste (also published as The Gelignite Gang, The Night of the Watchman, and Inspector West Makes Haste), A Splinter of Glass, and Sport for Inspector West (also published as Inspector West Kicks Off).  Inspector Roger "Handsome" West mysteries all.  Also, Days of Danger, Death Stands By, The Terror Trap, and Thunder in Europe  -- all featuring Gordon Craigie, head of the British Secret Service's Department Z.  Every once in a while I go on a John Creasey reading binge and these will hold me in good stead for the next one.  Since Creasey wrote over 600 books under 28 names, these reading binges will go on for a long, long time.
  • Mary Daheim, Holy Terrors.  A Bed-and-Breakfast mystery.
  • Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, editors, Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers.  Erotic horror anthology with 22 stories.
  • Lindsey Davis, Saturnalia.  A Marcus Didius Fallco historical mystery.
  • Ted Dekker, The Priest's Graveyard.  Thriller.
  • Ray Hogan, The Texas Brigade.  Western.
  • Paul Johnson, Maps of Hell.  A Matt Wells thriller.
  • Phillip Margolin, Sleeping Beauty.  Thriller.
  • Maxine McArthur, Time Future.  SF novel.  Winner of the 1999 George Turner Prize for best unpublished Australian science fiction novel.  Unpublished no more.
  • "Barbara Michaels" (Barbara Mertz), Stitches in Time.  Paranormal romantic suspense.
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Pygmy.  Spy novel?  Crime?  Thriller?  Black humor?  Coming of age?  A hard-to-label novel.
  • Ian Rankin, Dead Souls.  A John Rebus mystery. 
  • "Kenneth Robeson" (Lester Dent), The Ghost Legion and Quest for Qui.  These are numbers 3 and 4 in the hardcover Golden Press "Superhero Adventure" series of Doc Savage novels published in the mid-Seventies and marketed for kids.
  • Al Sarrantonio, West Texas.  Western.
  • O. F. Snelling,  007 James Bond:  A Report.  Non-fiction attempt to cash in on the Bond-mania of the 60s.  This thin (127 page) paperback was published just before Fleming's You Only Live Twice came out.
  • Troy Soos, The Cincinnati Red Stalkings, Hanging Curve, Hunting a Detroit Tiger, and Murder at Ebbets Field.  All Mickey Rawlings baseball mysteries.  A fascinating series set in the Twenties.  Soos knows baseball and he knows how to write.  Home runs, methinks.
  • Sarah Weinman, editor, Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives:  Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense.  One of the most distinguished mystery anthologies of 2013, containing 14 stories by an amazing roster of writers.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Bobby Rydell.


When I was a kid, my sister would read this kind of comic book whenever she wasn't reading (and re-reading, and re-re-reading) Walter Farley's Black Stallion books. This was, I believe, the standard regiment for young girls in the Fifties.  I tried to read one of her comics books once.  No cowboys.  No Indians.  No monsters.  No superheroes.  Not even any funny talking animals!  Just a bunch of kissy stuff with girls in fanciful than they should have been able to afford clothes and handsome guys who end up being tamed by aforesaid girls.  This was certainly not my idea of a decent comic book.  And still they charged ten cents.  Ten cents for this crap!  Girls.  I couldn't figure them out.  (Still can't.)

This might actually have been a comic book that my sister had.  I wouldn't put it past her.

Girls back then were much different from girls now.  They had a subservient role.  Keep the house clean, cook the yummy meals for hubby, keep up the good looks, pop out a buncha babies, have no independent thoughts.  In other words, girls were expected to grow up and be Stepford wives.  It was a very unenlightened time.

That was the perception of the Fifties.  All too often, perception and reality merge.

Anyway, we have this romance comic with a photographed cover featuring May Wynn and Robert Francis in The Caine Mutiny.  What that has to do with what's inside the book I'll never know.  Robert Francis has a slack-jawed idiot gaze that makes me wonder who wiped the drool from his mouth before the photo was taken.  May Wynn is staring desperately off to the side as if to say, "What am I doing with this jamook?"  The did little to inspire me to go further.

But further go I did.  There were four stories:

  • "I Was a Pick-Up Girl"
  • "He Was Going  to Marry My Best Friend!"
  • Mister Cupid, and 
  • Was I Too Good?
If that was enough estrogen-ladened angst, there was also an advice column by someone going under the name of "Crystal Ball."  Mr./Ms. Ball specialized in interpreting dreams.

So let's travel back to the good ol' days of the mid-Fifties when men were men and women were stereotyped.

Enjoy.  Maybe.