Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, November 30, 2015


Marty Robbins was born to sing this type of song.


Another week passes with my not buying any books.  I'm still looking for decent places to buy books.

However...Walt just dropped off 23 of the banker's boxes of books that were stored in his garage.  What an amazing feeling!  It's like being reunited with old friends.  Actually it IS a reunion with old friends.  More boxes will be coming over the next few weeks until the enttire house is bursting with old friends!  And I will be gleefully chortling and lovingly caressing each and every one of them.

What?  You mean you don't lovingly caress your old friends?  What is wrong with you?

Sunday, November 29, 2015


This past week we gave thanks.  Over the next few weeks many of us will be talking about peace on earth.  This is the time of year when we should be showing our better side.  Why, o why then are so many people showing us their irrational and bigoted side?

As always, John Oliver sets things straight.


"I'll Fly Away" done by The Charlie Daniels Band.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


My friend Beverly's fave from high school.


Want to know about electricty?  Want to know "How the Magic Is Born...and How It Travels?"  If   you are a dim bulb like Johnny Powers, you probably do.  Luckily Johnny's big brother Ed is a scientist with his own lab so he can explain it all to Johnny.  (Ed, by the way, is a former football star so you know it's cool to be a scientist.)

This comic book -- the first of at least eight that General Electric sponsored as giveways btween 1946 and 1950 -- starts the discussion off with the generation of electricity.

At the end of this issue, Ed tells Johnny that he has "learned a lot!  But...No man knows all about electricty.  There's an ocean of unknown facts ahead of us.,,and we've just about got our feet wet in the water."

Er, really don't want to get your feet wet in the water when you're messing around with electricity.  Just saying'.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Here's Arlo.


Diamonds Are Forever by Eric Flint & Ryk E. Spoor (2004)

Nope, this isn't the James Bond novel, it's a fantasy novel that was included the Baen omnibus Mountain Magic.  (The omnibus also included David Drake's 1991 collection Old Nathan and Henry Kuttner's delightful Hogben stories -- at least in print form: the electronic version dropped the Kuttner stories and substituted Manly Wade Wellman's 1998 collection John the Balladeer due to restrictions from the Kuttner estate.  As you probably realize, Mountain Magic is an omnibus of Appalachian fantasy stories)

Clint Slade is the first person from his Kentucky family to graduate college.  A geologist and computer scientist, Clint moved to New York where he met and fell for Jodi Goldman, an acoustical engineer.  Jodi is a non-religious 6'2" amazon who often lapses into Yiddish phrases in her New York City accent.  (NYC has ownership of a  zillion accents; it's never specified which one Jodi has.)  When the book opens, Clint is telephoning his mother to inform her that he and Jodi are engaged.  Mama Slade (who is one not to be denied) insists that Clint bring his fiancee to meet the family.

So it's off to the woods of Kentucky.  Turns out the Slades are well-to-do and live in a large rambling house filled with all the latest gadgets and gimmicks.  It also turns out that the Slades are hiding a secret.  Their compound is surrounded by an electrified fence...all the windows in the house are covered with steel shutters at night...every member in the family (including Clint) carry a crowbar with them.

The original Slade house was built in the early nineteenth century by Winston Slade, who happened to discover a network of caves on the property.  While exploring the caves, Winston stumbles upon a network of pools, each with rounds pebbles at the bottom.  Winston recognizes the pebbles as uncut diamonds.  Scooping up a bunch of them, he is interrupted by...something.  He escapes and the diamonds provide the foundation of his family's wealth.  Over the years, Slades have gone back  to the pool to replenish their wealth.

The creatures in the caves are kobolds, which (as a boy) Clint called nomes after the creatures in the Oz books.  There was a time when they interacted with humans but that time is long past with only dim memories remaining.  Whatever cataclysm happened to separate the races, it also separated the various tribes/clans of nomes with the different groups warring at each other.  The nomes are a crystaline life form which are part of an intertwined life essence of the earth.  The diamonds that the Slades had been purloining over the centuries are important in providing strength to the nomes; when cut and polished they lose their life essence.

Clint and Joni form a detente with the nomes, only to discover that an invading army of nomes are determined to destroy the local tribe and to set off a chain of earthquakes that would level a four-state area.  Without the diamonds that the Slades have taken, the good nomes are defenseless.  It's up to Clint and Joni to come up behind the invaders via a complicated series of tunnels from the Mammoth Cave.

The Slades are a typical family of "capable" people a la John W. Campbell, although they appear to lack a moral compass until Joni presses the issue.  Joni is probably the most Campbellesque character in a story that would fit semi-comfortably in Campbell's old Unknown Worlds magazine.

That, I fear, is the problem with the novel.  It reads as if it was designed to mimic an Unknown Worlds novel but the authors lack the skill (and Campbell's editorial touch) to pull it off.  Efforts to provide humor are misguided and Joni's frequent lapses into Yiddish are just plain irritating in the most twee way possible.  The effort to provide a semi-rational explanation of the fantasy element also misfires.

Diamonds Are Forever ends up being a mindless time-waster -- not something to be avoided at all costs, but more of a "well, there's nothing else to read tonight, so what the heck" type of book.  The biggest shame is that it's packaged with much better stories by David Drake and/or Henry Kuttner/Manly Wade Wellman.  They deserve better.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Our new internet service is not cooperating.  Took me several hours to link here.  Still not able to set up links on this page.  Grrr.

More later.  (I hope.)

Friday, November 20, 2015


Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies (1947)

This week many of the Friday Forgotten Book bloggers are posting about crime-themed holiday books.  Sorry, but my choice doesn't have a crime but it does has a courtroom scene and (to stretch a point) a mystery of sorts.  Miracle on 34th Street was one of the first holiday books I ever read so please indluge me.  The book is certainly worthy of notice.

Most people are familiar with the 1947 film starring Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, and the delightful Edmund Gwenn; many are also familiar with the many remakes for film and television, as well as the stage and  musical versions.  Not that many people realize that the film was based on a story by Valentine Davies or that Davies expanded the story into a novel to coincide with the movie's release.

I'm trying to remember when I read the book, perhaps in elementary school.  I'm fairly certain I got it from the Scholastic Book Club, the same place I got a copy of Robb White's The Secret Sea and James E. Gunn and Jack Williamson's Star Bridge, so it probably waS around 1956 or 1957.  I'm pretty sure the copy I read was a Pocket Books edition, most likely the 1952 because I wouldn't have been interested in such "juvenile fare" by the time the 1959 edition came out.  (Both editions seemed to have the same cover painting, one quite different from that in my memory, but one's memory can play tricks now, can't it?)

I needn't go into the plot.  If you've seen the movie (and I know you have) you've seen the book.  And I'm sure you all know there really is a Santa Claus.  What interested me most at that age was learning that a favorite movie could be read as a book, and -- in some cases -- a favorite book could be turned into a movie; something that struck home even more when I read Fred Gibson's Old Yeller.  I think that's about when I became enamoured with the power of words, expanding my world from The Hardy Boys to the true marvels of the power of story.  Anyway, that's why Miracle on 34th Street holds such a special memory for me.

I'm willing to bet the story holds up today.  There are a number of copies available from the internet and probably from many libraries.  Give it a try.  Maybe a little bit of its magic will rub off on you.

For more holiday-themed, mainly criminous books and a wide assortment of other "Forgotten Books," visit Patti Abbott's blog at pattinase.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


The Cherokee Cowboys were country singer Ray Price's band.  Here they perfrom an instrumental of Bob Willis' "Silver Lake Blues"


From July 21, 1955, here's a half hour show based on Stephen Vincent Benet's poem "The Revolt of the Machines," also known as "Nightmare Number Three.""

X Minus One was a science fiction anthology series that ran from April 1955 to the beginning of January 1958 on NBC radio.  The show began as a revival of the network's 1950-1 series Dimension X.   The first fifteen episodes (which included this one, the eleventh) were rewrites of shows that appeared on the first series.  The remaining shows were written by NBC staffers and were based on published science fiction stories by such writers as Ray Bradbury, Murray Leinster, William Tenn, Robert A. Heinlein, Nelson S. Bond, Isaac Asimov, H. Beam Piper, James E. Gunn, Clifford D. Simak, L. Sprague de Camp, Fredric Brown, Fritz Leiber,and  Philip K. Dick.  Many of the episodes of 1955 were based on (and promoted as) stories published in John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction; from 1956, the stories were taken from Galaxy Science Fiction.

"Nightmare" was adapted by George Lefferts and starred John Gibson, Joyce Gordon, Louis van Rooten, Joe Julian, and Santos Ortega.  Fred Collins was the announcer.

Can machines unite to revolt against their human masters?  Listen, and see.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny.


I'm such a romantic.  I just bought my wife a refrigerator.  I can't wait to see her face light up when she opens it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Pulpster and writing instructor Dwight V. Swain (1915-1992) would have reached his century mark today. For the pulps he wrote SF, western, mystery, and adventure stories.  His books on writing were standard texts for years.   Swain was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Fall of Fame in 2013.

The link takes you to Swain's 1942  story "Henry Horn's X-Ray Eye Glasses"


Here a very brief trip back to 1966 with music written by a young John Williams.


From IMDb:  "A young alien (David Love) falls for a pretty teenage Earth girl (Dawn Anderson)  and they team up to try to stop the plans of his invading cohorts, who intend to use Earth as a food-breeding ground for giant lobsters from their planet.  The invaders, who arrive in a flying saucer, carry deadly ray guns that turn Earth-people into skeletons."

Do you really need to know more than that?

David Love, who has the lead in this cinematic mish-mash, has only one other credit on IMDb -- a short released five years earlier.  He does, however, have a credit as a production assistant on Teenagers from Outer Space under the name C. R. Kaltenthaler.  This teenage alien was 25 when the film was released.

Dawn Anderson (also known as Dawn Bender) strained her acting chops playing the teenage ingenue; she also was 25 when the film was released.  This was also her last film role.  Of her seven other film appearances (starting when she was two), five were uncredited while a sixth was edited out.

The writer/producer/director/composer/editor/cinematographer/special effects wizard/miscellaneous crew member of this turkey was Tom Graeff, who was modest enough to cast himself as Betty's (Dawn Anderson) boy friend.  He probably did not want everyone to think this flick was a one-man rodeo so he cast himself under the name "Tom Lockyear."  This was the last (and in some cases, only) film where he served as either director, producer, composer, actor, cinematographer, special effects maven, or miscellaneous crewman.  He did edit one other movie, 1965's execrable The Wizard of Mars. To cheap his way out while producing Teenagers from Outer Space, he cons his way into shooting at an elderly lady's home (rather than paying for studio time) by pretending to be a UCLA student shooting a student film.  Despite playing a teenager, Graeff was 30 when the film was released.

Playing Thor, one of the invading aliens, was Bryan Grant, one of the film's "production assistants" -- code word for investor -- as "Bryan G. Peterson."  When the film (duh) bombed, he sued Graeff for damages.  Other "production assistants" in the cast were Graeff, Love (as "C. R. Kalenthaler"), Ursula Hanson, who played the uncredited Hilda and in real life was Grant's wife, as "Ursula Pearson," and Gene Sterling who had a cameo role as "The Leader."

The film was distributed by Warner Brothers, who needed a cheapo to pair with another of their films for a drive-in double header.  Evidently Teenagers from Outer Space the cheapest movie that Warner Brothers ever released.  Surprised?  You shouldn't be.

So, sit back and revel in the cheese that is Teenagers from Outer Space.

Monday, November 16, 2015


From 1962, Jimmy Evans.


  • Burt Arthur, Gunsmoke in Nevada.  Western.  "Johnny Canavan was two hundred pounds of fighting man --one hundred pounds in each fist."  
  • "Spencer Dean" (Prentice Winchell), Murder After a Fashion.  Mystery featuring department store detective Don Cadee.  Cadee is asked to provide pirate-proof protection for an upcoming display of French gowns.  Interesting premise but in real life something very hard to do.  (A neightbor of Kitty's when she was young used to go  to the Paris fashions shows and draw the designs on napkins to be smuggled out to a knock-off dress company.)  Winchell was a prolific writer  for the radio.  Besides the Dean pseudonym, he also wrote as Stewart Sterling, Jay de Bekker, and Dexter St. Clair.  For the pulps he wrote some of the Black Bat stories, many of the Dan Fowler stories, and (under the house name Grant Stockbridge some of The Spider novels.  Winchell was also on of the primary writers for The Shadow radio show.
  • Hal Dresner, The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books.  Comic novel.  Dresner, who has written for television and the movies was once part of a hardy gang of young writers -- along with Lawrence Block, Darion Zimmer Bradley, and others -- who wrote soft-core porn novels for William Hamling's Nightstand Books  This book came from that experience. ( Both Block and Westlake wrote similar books.)  For an interesting look at Greenleaf and Hamlin's publishing empire, see Todd Mason's blog post for November 13th at Sweet Freedom (at
  • Steve Frazee, The Outcasts.  Television tie-in novel based on the 1968-9 western series starring Don Murray and Otis young.  An ex-Confederate officer and a former slave who fought for the Union team up as bounty hunters.
  • Donald Hamilton, The Poisoners.  A Matt Helm espionage novel.  Need I say more?
  • L. P. Holmes, Rustler's Moon.  Western.  Only Hugh Yeager "could stop the bloodbath that was about to engulf the town and the vast Double A rangeland."  Holmes also wrote as Matt Stuart.
  • Ray Hogan, A Bullet for Mr. Texas.  A Shawn Starbuck western.  'Starbuck came to Hagerman's ranch, 'Hash Knife,' following the trail of his lost brother, Ben, but he stayed to become a hired bullet catcher for the tyrant."  Hogan wrote at least two dozen Shawn Starbuck novels.
  • Hans Holzer, Window Into the Past:  Exploring History Through ESP.  Another book of total bushwah.  I can't help myself; I'm addicted to this sort of junk.
  • Velda Johnston, Deveron Hall/ "Whit Masterson" (Robert Wade), Hunter of the Blood/ "M. K. Wren" (Martha Kaye Renfroe), Oh, Bury Me Not.  A Detective Book Club omnibus.   Johnston was a popular writer of romantic suspense with some three dozen novels (some as by "Veronica Jason") to her credit.  Masterton was one of the two major joint pseudomyns (the other being "Wade Miller") of Wade and Robert Miller; Wade continued writing under both pseudonyms after Miller's death.  The Wren is the third mystery about Conan Flagg, a former intelligence agent and current bookstore owner in Oregon.
  • Harold Q. Masur, The Last Gamble.  A Scott Jordan mystery.  Jordan was a popular character from 1947 through the Sixties and beyond.  Masur also ghost-wrote a mystery novel for opera singer Helen Traubel and was one of the anonymous editors of several Alfred Hitchcock anthologies in the 1970s.
  • James McClure, The Blood of an Englishman.  A Tromp Kramer and Micki Zondi mystery.  Kramer is an Afrikaner police detective and Zondi is his Bantu police sergeant  in this highly acclaimed series.
  • Lewis B. Patten, Six Ways of Dying.  Western.  The Doniphan "outfit was engaged in a bloody range war, and the bitter hatred of one of the brothers erupted in all its fury against the rival bunch -- and against his own father."  Patten published over 100 westerns, some as by "Lewis Ford" and others (in collaboration with Wayne Overholster) as by "Lee Leighton" and "Joseph Wayne."
  • J. B. Priestley, The Old Dark House.  The classic mystery and the basis of James Whale's 1932 comedy horror film starring Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, and Charles Laughton,  The novvel was originally published in England under the title Benighted.  The copy I picked up was in terrible condition -- waterstained, torn, and pure-dee ugly. Oh, well.
  • Qui Xiaolong, When Red Is Black.  Mystery, the third in the series featuring Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanai Police Bureau.  Qui was in the United States in 1989 when the Tiananmen Square protests; he stayed in the US because he feared reprisal from the Chinese Communist party.  His mysteries are also commentaries on Chinese society.
  • Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop, The Texas-Israeli War:  1999.  SF post-apocalyptic novel..  This was Saunders' only novel and Waldrop's first published book.   Anything by Waldrop is worth reading and this one is especially recommended for Texas-philes and for Israeli-philes.
  • "Jonas Ward" (William R. Cox), Buchanan's Gamble.  Western.  The Buchanan series of western novels were created by William Ard under the "Jonas Ward" pen name.  After Ard's death, Robert Silverberg completed the unfinished sixth manuscript in the series; Brian Garfield wrote the seventh Buchanan book; William R. Cox wrote the final sixteen books in the series.  Buchanan's Gamble was Cox's third outing as "Jonas Ward.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Raymond F. Jones, journeyman science fiction writer, would have been 100 years old today.

Jones was born in Salt Lake City on November 15, 1915.  His first story, "Test of the Gods" appeared in the September 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.  Jones published another 21 stories that decade but really reached his stride during, publishing some three dozen stories and eight books.  His first novel Renaissance (1951; also published as Man of Two Worlds) was an accomplished and highly readable parallel worlds story.  The following year saw his fix-up novel This Island Earth, which was the basis of the popular 1954 movie.  1951 also brought the first of Jones' three novels for the Winston Adventures in Science Fiction series, Son of the Stars, followed by a sequel, Planet of Light, in 1963 and by standalone The Year When Stardust Fell in 1958.

The quality and vigor of his writing fell off during the 70s, although he did publish three paperback originals for Roger Elwood's short-lived Laser Books line.  His last novel was 1978's Weeping May Tarry, an expansion of Lester del Rey's classic novella "For I Am a Jealous People;" although the novel was completely written by Jones it was published as by "Rayond F. Jones and Lester del Rey."

Jones never made it to the top tier of science fiction writers but his work remains well-plotted, thoughtful, and certainly worth looking up.  He died in Sandy, Utah, in 1994 at age 89.

Here's a link to Jones' short story "The Colonists" from the June 1954 issue of IF Worlds of Science Fiction:


The fabulous Robert Honeysucker singing the Negro spiritual "Gwinter Sing All Along da Way."

Friday, November 13, 2015


Yes, it's true.  After nearly three months of sponging living off the kindness of strangers relatives, we now have our own home.   Not that it's been easy.

We were close to buying a house a few weeks ago but a few things revealed by a home inspection deterred us.  Then we were all set to put a bid in on a nice house that needed a lot of sweat equity, when the owners of the very first house we looked at phoned our agent, asking if we would buying it at a reduced price.  We said yes and submitted the paperwork that day.  They promised a fast turnaround.  Evidently the owners were an equity group, most probably an amateur equity group because they really didn't know what they were doing and kept forgetting to send some of the proper paperwork.  We were scheduled to close last Friday, but they didn't have their act together.  We were rescheduled to close this past Monday, but ditto.  Then they said they would close on Wednesday, forgetting it was a holiday.  Thursday closing had to be put off because some of their paperwork was missing.  This morning, shortly before noon, we got the phone call and everything was a go for 3:00 this afternoon.

So we bought a house.  Interestingly, we didn't get any keys.  The equity group didn't provide any but we're able to jimmy the back door to get in.  And yes, we're changing all the locks to something secure, pronto.

It's a comfortable house, 10-years-old, in a good neighborhood, with a bit more room than we had in Southern Maryland.  The yard is small and maintenance-free.

Now it's just a matter of moving our stuff in and figuring out what we have to buy,  When we moved to Florida we assumed we would be going into an apartment so we shed an awful lot of stuff -- some of which we will now have to reacquire.  On the bright side, Kitty likes to shop.

Our rambling days look to be over.

Let the good times roll!


Bob Eberly with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.


The Frosted Death by "Kenneth Robeson" (Paul Ernst) (1972)

Attempting to capitalize on the success of Doc Savage, publishers Street & Smith created the last of the major pulp heroes, Richard Benson -- The Avenger.  Benson was a wealthy adenturer who made his millions through various exploits around the world.  Deciding to retire from his active, globe-trotting life, Benson married and pursued a career as an industrial engineer.  His plans came to a halt when his wife and young daughter were killed in an airplane crash.  The shock of their deaths turned Benson's skin and hair white and paralyzed his face,  Benson vowed vengeance on the criminals who caused the crash, and on all criminals everywhere.  Fortunately, he had the resources to do so.  Aided by his friends Fergus "Mac" MacMurdie, a chemist whose family had also been destroyed by criminals, and Algernon Heathcote "Smitty" Smith, a giant negro electronics expert who often assumes a Stepin Fetchit persona to confuse the underworld, Benson forms Justice, Inc. to help forfill his war on crime.

All twenty-four original Avenger novels were written by pulp writer Paul Ernst and appeared under the house name "Kenneth Robeson," allowing Street & Smith to bill them as having been written by the author of Doc Savage.  Street & Smith hired Lester Dent (creator of Doc Savage) and Walter B. Gibson (creator of The Shadow) to help Ernst formulate the character.  The Avenger magazine premiered on September 1, 1939 featuring the full-length novel "Justice, Inc." and ran for thirteen monthly issues (skipping August 1940) before becoming a bimonthly publication for the final eleven issues.  (A half dozen short stories featuring The Avenger were then published from 1942 to 1944 in Stret & Smith's magazines Clues Detective and The Shadow; these were all written by Emile C. Tepperman.)

Thus ended the saga of The Avenger for nearly thirty years when Warner Paperback Library reprinted all of Ernst's magazine novels and hired writer and pulp expert Ron Goulart to continue the series for another twelve novels under the "Kenneth Robeson" pseudonym.

Ernst's Avenger never recieved the popularity Street & Smith had hoped for.  He arrived during a glut of pulp heroes (Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Phantom Detectice, Operator #5, G-8, The Spider, and so on, including many heroes who failed to gel).  As a Johnny Come Lately hero, despite well-worked plots and decent writing, The Avenger just failed to get traction.  Efforts were made following the first twelve issues* to revamp the hero by eliminating Benson's frozen face.  (One of the neatest things about the Avenger's paralyzed face was that, although immobile, it was extremely plastic, allowing him to mold his fave to look like anyone he wanted.  Alas, this ability was also written out.) Too little, too late. As I noted above, Richard Benson was the last of the major pulp heroes.

The Frosted Death was the fifth book in the series, originally published in The Avenger January 1, 1940 issue.  The "Death" was was a laboratory created white mold that clung to flesh and propagated wildly, quickly covering the victim's entire body.  The mold would burrow into every pore of the victim, eventually causing a painful death by apphyxiation.  conact with the skin meant certain doom -- there was no cure.  Who would create such a terrible thing?  The venal partner of a downtown chemical company, that's who.  And why?  To sell to a certain unnamed European country bent on conquest, that's why.  Because the country is not named, for the sake of convenience let us call it "Schmazi Schmermany."

Naturally, the Frosted Death is accidently released in the city.  And, just as naturally, The Avenger is on the case.  And you know that Mac (being a chemical genius) would come up with a cure.  But Mac and Smitty are kidnapped, along with the cure, by agents of Schmazi Schmermany and are taken to the desolate New England coast where a Scmazi Schmermany submarine awaits delivery of massive amounts of the Frosted Death.  One of the neat things about the Frosted Death is, if introduced in the nasal cavity, it travels to the brain, rendering the victim a mindless zombie for the next few days before the mold kills them.  Of course the Schmazi Schmermany baddies insert the mold up the unsuspecting noses of Mac and Smitty.

The Avenger, working alone, must finad and destroy the Frosted Death factory, destroy the submarine and all the Schmazis, rescue Mac and Smitty, put paid to the venal chemical company executive, and stop the Frosted Death in its tracks.  Can he do it?  You betcha.

As with stories of that time and ilk, there is some moral amibiguity that might disturb the modern reader.  On the plus side, the overt racism often found in these tales is completely missing.  All in all, a fast, enjoyable, pulpish read.

*Explaining the missing August 1940 issue:  time was needed to revise manuscripts already written but not yet published,

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


My go-to song for Veteran's Day, this time sung by The High Kings.

May your day be thoughtful and grateful in remembrance of those to whom we owe so much.


A teacher was talking to her class about flags.  She had a book titled Flags of the World and she opened it up to show the class various flags.  She turned the page to the American flag and asked the class if they knew which country had  that flag.  Susie raised her hand, stood up beside her desk, and said, "Our country."

"Very good, Susie,"  the teacher told her.  "Now can you tell me the name of our country?"

Susie nodded vigorously and said, "Tis of thee."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Ron Condon and Josh White, Jr. perform Tom Paxton's children's song.  I'm sure that rumors of this song wafting from Bill Crider's house in Alvin, Texas, at odd hours of the day and night are greatly exaggerated.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Here's an interesting film starring Hattie Helen Gould Beck. Who's she?  I hear you say.  You may know her better as burlesque star Sally Rand, the woman who brought the fan dance to a red-blooded male public.  A one-time circus performer, she did stage work and landed some film roles in the 1920s.  In 1927 she joined Cecil B. DeMille's company where DeMille renamed her "Sally Rand."  Her career was going well until the advent of sound when her pronounced lisp became a disadvantage.  Switching gears, Sally carved out a notch fo herself as an exotic dancer.  Her Lady Godiva routine at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair brought her a few indecent exposure charges (she was arrested four times in a single day!), as well as ever-lasting fame.  A few years later she gifted the world with the bubble dance.  One of her four husbands was Tod Robbins, the writer of The Unholy Three (filmed twice, once in 1925 and once in 1930, starring Lon Chaney in both films) and of the story "Spurs" (filmed as the classic movie Freaks).  Her liteary influence has extended to both Robert A. Heinlein  (who modeled several of his characters on her) and Max Allan Collins (whose character Nathan Heller romances her).  Football coaches at the University of Delaware named a football play after her.

In Sunset Murder Case, the last of her 26 films, Sally plays a young woman who goes undecover as a stripper to find the killer of her policeman father.  I think it's safe to say that the film was not noted for its mystery content (nor, I fear, for great acting).  Still it's a fun flick that you may enjoy.


Frank Crumit...remember him?


Once again, no new books have entered the House house.  Withdrawal pains are setting in.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


The actual Paleolithic Era diet was not today's trendy Paleo diet.  Who knew?  Another interesting TED Talk, this one from Christina Warinner, an expert on ancient diets.


Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis is in the building.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Cab Calloway.


In the 1950s if there was a popular television show there was a corresponding comic book, and few shows were more popular than The Jackie Gleason Show.  Drawn in a comic style unusual for its time, The Great One's comic book featured many of Gleason's characters, from The Honeymooners (where we never get a full view of Norton's face -- predating Wilson, the neightbor from Home Improvement) to The Poor Soul, and from Reginald van Gleason the III to Rudy the Repairman, and to Stanley R. Sogg presenting Mother Fletcher's products (predating Stephen Colbert's Prescott Pharmaceuticals).

With this particular issue all I can say is, Where's Joe the Bartender?


Friday, November 6, 2015


Today is a very special day for the House family.  I know this is a very special day because my brother Kenny actually got a haircut.  And because my very favorite niece is getting married.

Well, let me clarify.  I have five nieces and each is my very favorite.  This particular very favorite niece is my brother's oldest daughter, Lizzie.

Lizzie is beautiful.  She must get her looks from her mother and -- much as it pains me to admit it -- her father.  (My brother is a Peter Fonda look-alike; I started out as a David Selby -- remember him?  Quentin Collins from the old Dark Shadows television show -- look-alike but somewhere along the way morphed into a Newt Gingrich look-like while my brother started out Peter Fonda-ish and morphed into even more Peter Fonda-ish.)  Anyway, Lizzie is beautiful.  And to top it off, this very favorite niece is one of the nicest, sweetest persons to ever walked this earth.  Smart, talented, lively, and kind, with all the attributes of a Boy Scout oath without having to pass that particular physical.

There are so many superlatives I can give her.  Why, then, why, when I think of her the first things that come to mind are her smile and her laughter?  Lizzie has always seemed to me to be sublimely happy.  That's a quality that is much rarer than you might think.  Most people, taking a cursory look at the world around them might be given to some despair.  Take a look at your neighbors -- the ones next door and the ones down your street.  Sure, they have happy times but the also have despairing times.  They are unable to see beyond the surface to reveal the glory that is all around us, the intrinsic beauty of the universe and the glorious wonder that comes from life.  Lizzie, I think, sees that in spades.  She has that rare talent of seeing beyond things to seeing the joy inside.  At least, I believe she has that gift because she has that smile.  That smile that can wipe away bad times and reveal a shining, glorious light.  That is just one of her many gifts to the world and is the one I think of first whenever I think of her.

My brother is most likely very anxious today.  Although Lizzie has been on her own for a few years now, until now he has been her protector, her daddy.  And now Lizzie will have a new person assuming that role and Kenny will have to take one step into the background.  (Understand that Lizzie is a very capable woman who does not need protecting, but also understand that fathers like to delude themselves that they are there to protect their little girls, no matter how old they get.)  And Lizzie's new most important person is Steve, a man I have never met.  And although I have never met Steve, I know him well because I have faith in Lizzie, in her judgment, and in her future.

Kitty and I have been married for forty-five years; Kenny and Carmen for thirty-five.  If we could leap forward thirty-five or forty-five years, I'd lay good money that we will find Lizzie and Steve still happy,  Still smiling.  Still laughing


No it's not an alternate universe.  Those surfer guys really are delivering a paean to root beer.


In For the Kill by John Lutz (2007)

It's been at least a decade since I read anything by John Lutz, although I used to read his stuff regularly.  I loved his stories aboout private eye Alo Nudger and I thought  his books about Fred Carver were even better.  Once Lutz ended both of those series he began publishing bigger and thicker books and I put off reading them because something brighter and shinier always came along.  Big mistake.

Those bigger and thicker books made Lutz a paperback bestseller.  Ten of them are about former NYPD homicide detective Frank Quinn.  In For the Kill is the second in the series.

While on the force, Quinn and his teammates Pearl and Fedderman developed a reputation for catching serial killers.  Now the team has left the force:  Quinn living quietly in his modest New York apartment, Pearl -- Quinn's former lover -- has moved across town and is working as a bank guard, and Fedderman has retired to Florida.  When a particularly nasty serial killer starts killing single women and dismembering them, Quinn's former supervisor asks him to reassemble the team.  Fedderman, bored and realizing he detests golf, agrees immediateely.  It takes the third victim being killed in Pearl's old apartment to bring her on board.  They soon realize the killer is taunting them -- the initial's of the victem's last name spell out Q-U-I-N-N.

To complicate things, Quinn's teenaged daughter runs away from her mother and stepfather and travels cross country to live with Quinn.   Quinn, still in love with Pearl, discovers she's having an affair with a suspect in the case.  And we learn in flashbacks that the killer -- dubbed The Butcher by the press -- had been a nine-year-old in the Florida swamps where his mother killed men for their Social Security checks, dismembered the bodies, and had the killer help her toss the parts to hungry alligators.

The few plot holes (and there are a couple) are glossed over by the break-neck pace of the writing and the finely honed characters.

A worthy thriller and an indication that I have to catch up on reading John Lutz.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


A very young Bob Dylan.


How many gorillas does it take to change a lightbulb?

Just one, but ir will probably take at least a truckload of lightbulbs.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


From a later version of Li'l Abner, here's Leslie Parrish (voiced by Imogene Lynn)  and Stubby Kaye.


Based on what was then a six-year-old, highly popular comic strip, Li'l Abner was not the best movie ever.  The biting satire of the strip was just not suitabe for Hollywood at the time.  What does remain, however, are many of the delightful denizens of Dogpatch, as well as a number of tropes from Al Capp's comic strip.

The plot?  Simple.  Li'l Abner tries to avoid getting married on Sadie Hawkins Day.

Abner is played by Jeff York, who was born Granville Owen Scofield and who acted as "Granville Owen" in his early career.  (Li'l Abner was part of his early career, shortly after he played Pat Ryan in Terry and the Pirates.)  York is probably best known as a Disney player in such roles as Mike Fink, Bud Searcy in Old Yeller, and as Joe Crane in both The Saga of Andy Burnett and Zorro; York also starred with Roger Moore and Dorothy Provine in the 1959-1960 series The Alaskans.

The volupuous Daisy Mae was played by B-movie blonde Martha O'Driscoll. Her twelve-year film career ended at age 25 when she married her second husband, a wealthy Chicago businessman.  From then on, she spent almost 50 years involved in her husband's businesses and in civic-minded activities.

For me the greatest pleasure of this film is watching the minor characters played by some of the greats:  Buster Keaton (and for one line, his sister Louise), Chester Conklin, Al ("Fuzzy") St. John, Edgar Buchanan, Mickey Daniels, Doodles Weaver,  and others.  And, of course, there are the characters themselves:  Earthquake McGoon, Hairless Joe, Lonesome Polecat, Cornelius Cornpone, Wendy Wilecat, Granny Scraggs, Abijah Gooch, Mayor Gurgle, Marryin' Sam, Cicero Grunts, Barney Bargrease, Hannibal Hoops, Joe Smithpan, and so many others.

BTW, the theme song was written by Milton Berle.

Consider this one Dogpatch lite and enjoy.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Kate Smith.


For my birthday, Kitty and I drove to Fort Walton to check out a used book store.  We actually found two and I picked up a few intereesting things.

  • Kingsley Amis, The Riverside Villas Murder.  A "classic armchair mystery" with a fourteen-year-old hero.  Peter Furneaux is more interested in investigating the mysteries of sex rather than the death of the wet man with the bleeding head wound.  Amis was the first person to write an authorized James Bond novel (Dr. Sun as by "Robert Markham") wing the death of Ian Fleming.
  • Ben Bova, editor, Analog Annual.  SF anthology by then-Analog editor Bova.  Three stories, one article, and a full length-novel (Fighting Madness by 1975 Campbell winner P.J. Plauger) in what was meant to be an annual series.  The best laid plans, etc, etc,..this was the only Analog Annual , although two years later Bova did edit Analog Yearbook, whichalso lasted only the one year.
  • [Boys' Life], The Boys' Life Book of Mystery Stories.  YA mystery anthology with ten stories from the magazine from 1950 to 1961.  I picked this one up mainly because three of the stories were by Hugh B. Cave and two were by Gordon D. Sherriffs.
  • A. Bertram Chandler, Matilda's Stepchildren.  A John Grimes SF novel.  Now the owner of a deep-space pinnance, Grimes is hired to take a muckraking reporter to the pleasure planet New Venusberg. not realizing that also on the planet was a person who vowed vengeance against the reporter.  Chandler was an Australian sea captain and John Grimes has been described -- not inreasonably -- as Hornblower in space.  A great writer and a fun series.
  • Kathleen Ann Goonan, The Bones of Time.  SF novel.  In a near future Hawaii, the bones of King Kamehameha may hold the secret to cloning, time travel, and alternate universes.  A riff on nanotech provides the bones (no pun  intended) for Goonan's second novel.
  • [Flash Gordon], Flash Gordon Book Two:  War of the Citadels.  Anonymous comic strip tie-in novel.  Flash, Dale, and Zarkov stumble on a plot that threatens the entire universe.
  • "Rex Gordon" (Stanley Bennett Hough), First Through Time  SF novel.  The top-secret synchronotron took accurate pictures of the future and the future was a disaster.  Now an astronaut trained for the first flight into space must now travel across time to save the future.  Also published as The Time Factor.
  • James Herbert, The Rats.  Horror novel, the first in Herbert's Rats trilogy.  I think it's about some type of rodent.
  • Bernhardt J. Hurwood, Haunted Houses.  Collection of 28 supposed true stories about haunted houses. Published for the YA market.
  • Damon Knight, editor, Orbit 7.  SF anthology with a dozen original stories.
  • Jonathan Maberry, The Dragon Factory.  Horror novel.  Joe Ledger and the DMS (Department of Military Sciences) go up against two foes at one time:  a group creating transgenic monsters to create genetically enhanced mercenaries, and a group continuing Josef Mengele's plan for creating a Nazi master race.
  • Dean McLaughlin, The Fury from Earth.  SF novel.  The laws of physics are toppled when a super weapon triggers an interplantary war.
  • Austin Mitchelson & Nicholas Utechin, Hellbirds.  A Sherlock Holmes mystery with possible SF overtones.  It's 1914 and Holmes and Watson encounter a deadly flock of birds loosed by a German master spy.  A sequel to The Earthquake Machine.
  • Thomas F. Monteleone, Fantasma.  Horror novel.  A Mafia blood fued is fought on one side with guns and explosives, on the other with deadly magic.
  • "Kenneth Robeson" (Paul Ernst), The Frosted Death.  Pulp novel.  Richard Benson -- The Avenger -- tries to stop the Frodsted Death -- a white powder, like snow, the covers a human body, bringing death.  This is the Avenger's fifth outing, first published in 1940.
  • James H. Schmitz, Legacy.  SF novel in the Hub series.  The millennia-old machines known as plasmoids were supposedly created by the long-vanished Masters of the Old Galaxy.  The plasmoids, long inactive, have suddenly come to life and the man who discovered them has disappeared.  That man's closest associate Trigger Argee, who may possibly be the deadliest woman in the Hub, sets out to find him.  Originally published as A Tale of Two Clocks.
  • David C. Smith, The Eyes of Night.  Horror novel. the second (and last) book in The Fair Rules of Evil Series.  Smith is probably best known for his heroic fantasy novels, including six about the Robert E. Howard character Red Sonya, co-written with Richard L. Tierney.
  • D. A. Stern, Black Dawn.  Horror novel.  L.A. is burning and in the center of the flames rises a dark god.
  • Melanie Tem, The Deceiver.  Horror novel.  The devil is in the details, and for the Harkness family that expression is literally true.  Tem, who passed away earlier this year, was one of the most effective horror writers of the past thirty years.
  • Frederic Tuten, Tintin in the New World.  Georges Remi's comic book hero Tintin is reimagined in this highly acclaimed literary fantasy.
  • F. Paul Wilson, Sims.  SF/horror novel.  A powerful corporation genetically creates a human-simian hybrid and the corporation has a hidden agenda.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


I fell back (as the pundits would say)
     And got another hour's sleep today.
And for the next few days?  I know darned well
     My circadian rhythms are shot to hell.


The Old Time Gospel Hour Quartet.