Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


James Taylor.  

Happy New Year!


A few lines from the warped mind of George Carlin:

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

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

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

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Another great thing about 1962.

John Lee Hooker.


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

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

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

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

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

And to all of you, "Mmwahh!"*

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

Monday, December 29, 2014




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

Saturday, December 27, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Richard and Linda Thompson.


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

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

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

Also in this issue:

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

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


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

Friday, December 26, 2014


Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.


Unfair Exchange - by Marian Babson (1974)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014


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

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


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

Check 'em out.

"Hungarian (Hormonal) Rhapsody"

"Home Is Where the Heart Is"

"The Boob Fairy (Never Came For Me)"

"Viagra (In the Waters)"

"Oh No"

"Dreidl Do Over"

"Diva Nation"

"Unconditional Love"

"Boogie Woogie Santa"

"Elastic Waistbands"

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

Hope these have brightened up your Christmas Day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


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


From Stephen Wright:

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


John Tams & Barry Coope.


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

From 1974.  You better watch out...

Monday, December 22, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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


Who else but Brenda Lee?


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

Sunday, December 21, 2014


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

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

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

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

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


John Denver with Kathy Mattea and Patti Loveless.


Willie Neal Johnson and the Gospel Keynotes.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Mel Torme and Judy Garland.


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

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

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


Friday, December 19, 2014


Susan Boyle.


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

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

Some may ask, "Who is Repairman Jack?"

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

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

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

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

The stories:

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

Repairman Jack fans, rejoice!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Beggars Mantle.  A classic!


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

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

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

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


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

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

Bridget and Colleen, you are forgiven!

We're back, baby!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys.


How about a super-cheesy holiday horror movie?

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

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



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

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

Monday, December 15, 2014


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

Saturday, December 13, 2014


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


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

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


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

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

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

For example:

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

Can it get any better than that?


Friday, December 12, 2014


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


The Darkling by David Kesterton (1982)

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

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014


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

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



Jean-Luc and the Gang.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Bing Crosby.


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

Monday, December 8, 2014


Teresa Brewer.


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

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Gaute Ormasen


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

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

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

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

Friday, December 5, 2014


Ella Fitzgerald.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Nat King Cole.


Just the facts, ma'am.

Ok. Here they are:

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


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


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

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

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

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

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

[Hat tip to The Lounge.]

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Gene Autry.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 1, 2014


Mannheim Steamroller.


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