Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Al Martino, via Germany.


This is a film whose title is based on a Jules Verne book.  Alas, no movie was made to go along with the title.  It seems that following the success of the Richard Matheson-scripted Master of the World, American International Pictures picked up the rights to Verne's In the Year 2889.  Things happened and things did not happen, including that second Verne Film.

Six years later, AIP decided to remake their 1955 film Day the World Ended* and and cut-rate director Larry Buchanan (the poor man's Ed Wood) was selected to helm.  But, gee, wouldn't audiences get confused between the 1955 film and its 1967 remake?  But, hey, we've got this neat Jules Verne title we've never used!  Why not tack that one onto the new film?  No one would know, would they?

So we have a Jules Verne title over a non-Jules Verne movie that is almost word-for-word and scene for scene as as cheesy but fairly popular 50s flick.

Anyway, In the Year 2889  was released as a made-for-television movie with an aging Paul Peterson as star.  Peterson has been one the original Mickey Mouse Club mouseketeers until fired (alleged by Big Walt himself) after punching a casting director in the stomach.  Peterson became a household name when he was cast, when he was twelve, as Jeff Stone in The Donna Reed Show.  This led to a minor (and brief) recording career (his TDRS castmate, Shelley Fabares, proed to have much longer staying power).  When TDRS ended after eight seasons, audiences had a hard time picturing "Jeff Stone" as an adult.  As his career slid downhill, so did his first marriage when his wife left him for actor Bill Bixby.  At the urging of Mickey Rooney, Peterson left Hollywood and entered college.  He then wrote 16 fairly popular men's adventure novels, and ran a limosine service for a decade.  Today, he is well-respected as an advocate for current and former child actors, earning him the sobriquet of "the patron saint of former child actors."

Also included in the cast:
  • Quinn O'Hara, a Scottish-born actress who enjoyed an active career from the Sixties through the Nineties, including brief (but regular) minor parts on Dallas and Trapper John, M.D.  She played Sinistra in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.
  • Charla Doherty, whose first credited role was in one episode of The Donna Reed Show; her last credited role was this one -- bookending her career with Paul Peterson.  Doherty's main acting career lasted about six years, including 15 episodes of Days of Our Lives.  Sadly, she died at age 41 of pancreatis brought on by acute alcoholism.  Despite her demons, she active in feeding the homeless.
  • Neil Fletcher.  Who he?  Nine credits in low budget SF/horror programmers, including playing the Secretary of Defense in Mars Needs Women. another Larry Buchanan stinker.
  • Hugh Feagin.  Also who he?  This was his first credited role.  His thirteen other credits included roles as Gimp Murphy, Shopkeeper, Farm Husband, Doctor, Police Officer, Tommy, Nick, and Jim.
  • Max Anderson.  Another who  he?  He played "Officer" in High Yellow, "Witness" in The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, and who knows what in Beauty and the Cave, Common Law Wife, The Student Teachers, and Ruby and Oswald.  (Three of these films were Larry Buchanan?  Can you guess which ones?)
  • Billy Thurman, a character actor who specialized in gruff roles, often a cop or a redneck.  Like Max Anderson, he played "Witness" in The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald.  (One of this film was a Larry Buchanan.  Can you gue...oh, never mind.)
  • Byron Lord, not to be confused with Lord Byron.  This guy had roles in such immortal classics as Co-ed Fever, Party Girls, Sands of Ecstasy, The Sex Shuffle, Scarlet Negligee, and Ready for Anything!  Do I detect a theme?
With a cast like that, how can you go wrong?


* Not to be confused with the 2001 television movie The Day the World Ended.  Neither title has anything to do with the 1930 novel by Sax Rohmer.

Monday, December 28, 2015


Cheryl Wheeler.


  • Mike Carey, Vicious Circle.  A Felix Castor fantasy thriller.  A missing ghost case drags Castor "and his loved ones into the middle of a horrific plot to raise oneof hell's fiercest demons."  Carey earned his chops writing comic books and I am a big fan of his Lucifer series based on the Neil Gaiman character.  This book sounds like a good 'un.
  • Edward Mandell House (no relation), Philip Dru:  Aministrator.  Noted political novel from 1912 about the military overthrow of the U.S. government, beginning in 1920.  Colonel House is perhaps best known as a confidant and advisor to President Woodrow Wilson.  According to the back cover blurbs on this edition, the book "copyrighted fascism" before Mussolini and has had "a greater impact on American government than the Communist Manafesto, Mein Kampf, or any other tract of politcal extremism."  This book is the second of only three published by Roger Welch University Press (the first was a book by Welch and the third was a book extrapolated from a Czechoslovakian Communist party strategy paper from the early Fifties which planned a totalitarian takeover of a democracy) .  Roger Welch, of course was the founder of the John Birch Society, and Roger Welch University was an online univeristy founded in 2005 (two decades after Welch's death) to grant an associates degree in liberal arts.  As of 2010, the university was listed as being "inactive."  Just as well, says I, having no taste for political bovine excrement extremism.
  • "M. E. Kerr" (Marijane Meaker) The Books of Fell.  YA omnibus of three novels:  Fell, Fell Back, and Fell Down.  Meaker's YA books have won just about every award possible in that genre.  Mystery readers may best know her for the paperback thrillers  published as "Vin Packer."  Among her many collectible books are those exploring lesbianism published in the Fifites and Sixties as by "Ann Aldrich."  Whatever name she uses, whatever genre she writes in, she's noted for complex characters, complex situations, and lucid prose.
  • Tim Lebbon, Fears Unknown.  Horror collection of four novellas. two of which won the British Fantasy Award.  Good stuff.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Michael Cooney.

JOE PALOOKA #3 (1944)

It's Boxing Day.  What else would I post?

Friday, December 25, 2015


Since it's Christmas and since this is Kitty's favorite...

This post has been brought to you by the Christmas Overkill Department.  And, yes, it is Deb-worthy.


Mark Kilby Stands Alone by "Robert Caine Frazer" (John Creasey) (1962)

I don't think anyone could ever call John Creasey a great writer but he was a pretty good one.  I've read perhaps one-tenth of his more than 600 books and have never been disappointed.  As has been said before, sometimes you're not in the mood for steak; sometimes you just have to have a good hamburger.  Well, that's Creasey.  His best work, arguably, was the Commander George Gideon series (written under his J. J. Marric pseudonym) and, again arguably, some of the novels in his long-running Inspector Roger West series.  Other people may have their own nominees -- Lord knows there's enough to choose from.

His Mark Kilby series is one of his shorter ones -- six novels published by Pocket Books from 1959 to 1962.  To my knowledge this is the only Creasey series to first appear as U.S. paperback originals.  Mark Kilby Stands Alone was the penultimate book in the series.

Kilby is an ex-MI5 agent who moved to America after his wife and son were killed.  There, he began working for the Regal Investment Security Corporation (R.I.S.C.), perhaps the wealthiest private financial grooup in the world.  As their major troubleshooter, Kilby has unlimited resources.  His weapons of choice are spring-loaded flexible knives he has hidden on his person.  He is resourceful and fearless.  Need I mention that he's incredibly handsome?  Although not loathe to killing, he has a high moral code and sense of duty.  And he reverse tithes, keeping only ten percent of his earnings and giving the rest to charity.  Someone this too-good-to-be-true should really grate on the reader, no?  Yet I really liked the character; in many ways he reminded me of Leslie Charteris' The Saint.

About the story.  With the death of her uncle, Elizabeth Saxon inherits the Saxon Gold and Silver Mining Company in Nevada.  In recent years the mines have been played out, but a recent discovery of a vein of gold and raised the company's hopes.  Elizabeth leaves her job as a London travel agent and prepares to sail to America to take over the reins of the company.  But someone doesn't want her to do this.  Liz has an uncomfortable feeling that she's being watched.  Minutes after being ensconced aboard the ocean liner, she answers a knock on the door.  Opening it, a man lunges toward her with a knife.  Kilby (who had been hiding in the shower, naturally) disarms the man.  He learns that the would-be killer was working for a powerful mobster named Cellini.  We learn that R.I.S.C. had invested a sizable sum with Liz's uncle  to finance expansion of the mines and that the company anticipated further investment but, with the murder of the uncle, the mine had been closed off by armed guards, allowing no outsiders access.  Thus Kilby's great concern for Liz's life.

With us so far?  Good, because things begin to speed up from here.  A woman who was mistaken for Liz is murdered.  Kilby goes into Cellini's heavily guarded lair and kidnaps the mobster's mistress.  Said mistress falls in love with Kilby. (Liz, by the way, had already fallen for him.  He's just that kind of guy.)  Kilby allows himself to be taken by Cellini's men.  A hooker with a heart of gold falls for Kilby.  Another escape.  Bloodshed.  Many people try to kill Kilby.  A final showdown at the Nevada mines.  A big secret revealed.  R.I.S.C.'s investment is saved.  So is the girl.  So is another girl.  Well, two out three ain't bad.  The end.

A fast-paced, fun read.  Nothing major...just a darned good way to spend a few hours.  Kilby, as is the case with many of Creasey's characters, threatens to become habit forming.


Patti Abbott, our Fearless Forgotten Books leader is taking a few well-deserved weeks off.  Todd Mason, over at his Sweet Freedom blog, will be collecting the links this week, and the next, and the next.  Patti will be back to keep the Forgotten Books gang in line on January 15 for Richard s. prather week.


Whatever beliefs you may or may not hold, I sincerely wish each of you a meaningful and joyous day.  May all good things follow you thoughout the new year.  Peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Jo (the Jo was either for Jocinta or Josephine; accounts differ) Stafford (1917-2008) was one of the most successful pop singers of the mid-Twentieth  century.  Her recording of "You Belong to Me" was a huge hit in 1952.  By 1955, she had more record sales than any other female singer.  She was the lead singer for The Pied Pipers when Tommy Dorsey hired them for his orchestra, where Stafford became a solo vocalist.  Her work with the USO during World War II brought her the nickname "GI Jo."

The link below takes you to more than 150 recordings, including some with Frank Sinatra, Gordon Macrae, Gene Autry, Frankie Laine, Dick Haymes, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bing Crosby, among others.  The link is set up so you can pick and choose the numbers you want to hear.  Sample a few songs from this great talent and you find yourself listening to many more.


Au contraire, Simon Templar, I think he might be.  Well maybe not on this Christmas Eve 1950 radio episode.

Enjoy. ( I'm sure you're on the real Santa's list of good boys and girls.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Don't know about Georgia, but it's a rainy night in Florida.

Here's Brook Benton.


Hey, kids!  It's real important to buy U.S. Savings Stamps!  Don't believe me?  Just ask Superman!  Oh, wait...Superman is busy saving Lois from kidnappers.  Gee, I hope he saves Miss Lane in time tell to all us kids at Jimmy Olsen's old school all about U. S. Savings Stamps and how neat they are!



Anyway, the whole gang is here:  George Reeves, Noel Neille, Jack Larson, and John Hamilton.  They're joined by Tristam Coffin as Principal Garwood and and Billy Nelson as the burglar/kidnapper Blinky.  (Question of the day:  How evil can a villain named Blink be?  Discuss.  this will count for ten percent of your final grade.)

This 18-minute short was co-produced by Superman, Inc. and the U. S. Department of the Treasury.e

This promotional film was never shown as part of the Adventures of Superman television show but still has the distinction of being the last episode filmed in black and white.  It also happens to be the only relic of that show to be in the public domain.

Enjoy this campy piece of history.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Johnny Rivers.


Once again a week with no incoming.  Next week does not look promising either; company's coming in for the next ten days and, as for one gives me books because the odds are that I already have what they would give.

Oh, well.  So, instead of an incoming post today, enjoy this 1912 cartoon from Winsor McCay, the man who gave us Little Nemo, Gertie the Dinosaur, and Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend.

Sunday, December 20, 2015



I don't know when I will see the new Star Wars movie, but it won't be anytime soon.  I no longer see movies in theaters.  Too much noise.  Too much talking.  Too much rudeness.  And stay off my lawn.

But I am a fan of Star Wars (in a limited way).   I am also a Batman fan (again, in a limited way).  So why not celebrate the new movie by combining the two?



The Sons of the Pioneers.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


From 1935, Connie Boswell.


With the death of actor Al Markim late last month, my thoughts turned to Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, the television series that helped informed my childhood and the one in which Markim portrayed Astro the Venusian in all 58 episodes that aired from 1951 to 1955.

Tom Corbett had a lengthy inception before being born on television.  Tom was the brain child of writer Joseph Greene, the first glimmering of the space cadet was in a proposed comic book, circa 1945.  When that idea did not get anywhere, Greene worked on a radio script tentatively titled "Space Academy."  This drew the attention of Rockhill Studios, which worked with Greene to develop the script into a television show.  Robert A. Heinlein, in 1948, published his juvenile SF novel Space Cadet, and it was felt that "Space Cadet" would be a far more commercial title than "Space Academy, so the rights to the words "Space Cadet" were purchased from Heinlein.  (For many years now, it has been hinted that the Tom Corbett series and character were based on that Heinlein novel, but only those two words directly came from the noted SF writer.  There are, however,,a number of similarities between Corbett and Heinlein's book.  Coincidence? )  By 1949, Tom Ranger and the Space Cadets (Tom Ranger being the original name for Corbett) was developed as a syndicated newspaper comic strip -- but again, nothing came of it.

By 1950, however, CBS used the unpublished strip and, changing the name of the character, premiered Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.  A year later, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet began a run as a newspaper comic strip.  Betwen 1952 and 1954, Greene wrote the Dell comic book based on the character.  Also in 1952, Grossett & Dunlap began published a series of Tom Corbett novels by the pseudonymous "Carey Rockwell," who may or may not have been Greene, who otherwise may or may not have had input in the writing and/or editing of the series.*  There were eight Tom Corbett novels in the series, which listed Willy Ley as "scientific advisor."  The television show, meanwhile, moved to ABC** and ABC also aired a short-lived Tom Corbett  radio show.  The show moved to the Dupont Network for its fourth season and to NBC for its fifth and final season.

Tom Corbett's popularity with kids of the early Fifties ushered in a tsunami of promotional items.  There was a musical recording, original cast records of the Cadets' adventures, a View-Master program, a lunch box, a pocket watch, coloring books, a pop-up book, Marx toys, Pep cereal tie-ins, and so on and so on.

So, who were Tom and the Cadets?  Tom is a cadet at the Space Academy, training for a career inthe Solar Corps.  Fellow cadets Astro and Roger Manning join Tom in his adventures, many of which are aboard the training ship Polaris and on nearby planets...and distant star systems.  Heady stuff for a child of the Fifties.

On television and radio, Tom was played by Frankie Thomas, Jr., Astro (as noted above) by Al Markim, and Roger Manning by Jan Merlin.  In 1954, Merlin was replaced by Jack Grimes, playing Cadet T. J. Thistle.  Semi-regular cast members included Ed Bryce as Captain Steve Strong and Carter Blake as Commander Arkwright.  Frank Sutton, who went on to become Gomer Pyle's Sergeant Carter, appeared in six episodes as Eric Raddison.  Other familiar faces included Tom Poston (uncredited) and chimpanzee J. Fred Muggs.

Back to the comic books.  Dell Comics dropped the title after issue #11 in 1954, after which Prize Comics picked up the option, publishing the issue linked below -- the first of three from Prize.  This issue has a cover by Marvin Stein and interior art by Stein and Mork Meskin; at least two of the stories were scripted by Greene.

In this issue, Tom and his pals find themseles on an experimental spaceship in "The Spaceship of Doom," encounter a strange being in the Venusian swamps in "Octopus Tree," and try to mediate a dispute in "The Spaceways of Peril."


* Another theory has Richard Jessup as the man behind the "Carey Rockwell" name.

** For some reason, the show's run on ABC was interrupted mid-stream with a three-month sojourn to NBC before bouncing back to ABC.

Friday, December 18, 2015


The Beau Brummels.


Ralph 124C41+:  A Romance of the Year 2660 by Hugo Gernsback (1925)

What can one say about Hugo Gernsback that has not already been said, either in vitriol or in admiration?

Gernsback, born in Luxemburg in 1884, transplanted to the United States in 1904, was a pioneer in popularizing both electronics and science fiction -- which he originally called "scientifiction."  Inventor, publisher, dreadful writer, meretricious businessman, crook and scoundrel, Gernsback was the man whose name is used for the most coveted awards in science fiction.  Gernsback is also the one whom H. P. Lovecraft unaffectionately dubbed "Hugo the Rat."

Gernsback had a thirst for science and a strong interest in radio electronics.  He made his first real money importing radio parts from Europe and selling them in America.  To help popularize amateur radio, he began publishing Modern Electronics in 1908, essentially a combination of a radio and electronics catalogue and a magazine.  He founded the Wireless Association of America, a group for amateur radio enthusiasts.  He owned a radio station, WRNY New York.  In 1913 he founded Electrical Experimenter, which later became Science and Invention.  He used these magazines to publish early scientifiction stories, some of his own. In 1926 he published Amazing Stories, the first professional science fiction magazine.  Through this magazine, he encouraged the founding of science fiction fandom.

Throughout his lifetime, Gernsback edited or published 56 magazines, beginning with Modern Electronics and ending with Sexology.  High flying business practices, bankrupcies (some perhaps engineered by Gernsback), a willingness to skim money from the top while avoiding bill collectors,and a pile of lawsuits marked Gernsback's career.  Despite the negative, one thing stands out: Gernsback was deeply interested in science, in science education, and the positive role that science held for mankind's future.

He was supposed to have remarked that, for him, the perfect science fiction story would be three-quarters fiction and one-quarter science.  He missed that ratio in his most famous work of science fiction; Ralph 124C 41+ comes down with equal parts plot and scientific explanation.  First published as a twelve-part serial beginning with the April 1911 issue of Modern Electronics and published in book form in 1925, Ralph 124C 41+ was described by Brian Aldiss as a "tadry illiterate tale" and by Lester del Rey as "simply dreadful."  The Enclopedias of Science Fiction statess that the book is "usually noted only for its inept writing and lengthy catalogue of scientific [p]redictions."

Gee, can't we give the guy a little respect?

Well. perhaps.

I know the book is only read today for its curiosity value and because of its place in the history of the field, but there is something more to it than that.

Ralph 124C 41+ is basically a love story with (as the late James Baen might say) with rivets.  Ralph is one of the world's greatest scientists.  The plus symbol at the end of his name is an honor given to only ten people -- the greatest of the great.  Through a mixup in communications he finds himself talking (in New York) to Alice 212B 423 (in Ventalp, Switzerland).  Alice is a beautiful, personable girl and Ralph finds himself at ease talking with her.  Because of Ralph's awesome responsibilities, he has never before given much thought to the opposite sex; it's clear that Ralph may be seeing the error of his ways, though.  Suddenly, there is a loud rumble in the background.  An avalanche!  somehow it's detemined that there is only fifteen minutes will crush Alice's house along with her poor innocent body.

What to do?  Well, if it were anyone but Ralph 124C 41+, one would just wait to hear the sickening crunch.  But Ralph is made of sterner stuff.  Thinking quickly, he tells Alice to hie herself to the roof and attach "the Communico mastpiece to the very base of the power mast, and point the former to the avalanche.  Then move the directoscope exactly West-by-South, and point the antenna of the power mast East-by North."  Ralph then rushes to his lab puts some stuff together, fiddles with some knobs, and sends an ultrafrequency wave into the ether, and somehow (after several pages of scientific exposition theater) manages to melt the avalanche just before it would have pulverized Alice, house and all.  Easy peasy.  All in a day's fifteen minutes' work for a genius like Ralph.

The next day, Alice and her father show up at Ralph's door to thank him.  They had taken the inaugural voyage of the new subAtlantic tunnel from Brest to New York.  (Alice's father was an engineer who work on the superspeed tunnel and was able to get them on that highly-prized first trip.)
  Ralph spends the next few days escorting Alice around New York, showing her the amazing scientific sights and explaining them to her in detail.  Her father accompanies her as a chaperone but conveniently disappears so the couple can talk, stare in each other's eyes, canoodle, or whatever.

Ralph and Alice are in love and the whole country celebrates.  The great Ralph 124C 41+ has a girlfriend.  Whoop whoop.  Actually, there are two who are not celebrating -- two people who harbor lusting thoughts for Alice.  One is Fernand, an unscupulous inventor with a mean streak, the other is Llysanorh' (yes, the apostrophe belongs there), who is an influential Martian.  Llysanorh' knows his love is in vein because of strict laws against interbreeding.

In between the many heavy scientific and didactic explanations of the wonders (a number of which were invented by Ralph) of the 27th century and Gernsback's predictions for the future (some of which -- if you squint real hard in a dim light -- have come sort of true), Alice is kidnapped and the chase is one through space toward Venus, then through space toward Mars, as Ralph masterfully creates a comet and finally must conquer death itself to win back his true love.

Despite all the creakiness and terrible prose, this is actually a fairly readable novel.

Of most interst, however, are the scientific details and extrapolations.  Gernsback did use as much current informtion as possible in detailing his marvels and some of the information is passe or has been superceded.  Everything is presented in a positive light.  Gernsback never considered any of the negative aspects of his scientific, social, or political wonders -- things that might jump out of the page and slap a modern reader across the face.

In the twenty-first century, we have learned there's no such thing as a free lunch and that both positivve and negative effects should be well though out ahead of time.  And when I say "we have learned." sadly, I don't include politicians.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.


From February 12, 1947, an episode of The Adventures of Ellery Queen with guest "sleuth" Jose Ferrer.

Ellery Queen first hit the radio waves as a detective in 1939.  The show went through a number of cast changes, networks, and sponsors over the years.  This episode was on NBC Radio and sponsored by Anacin.  Lawrence Dobkin played Ellery, Bill Smith played Inspector Queen, and Charlotte Keane* played Nikki Porter.  The script was by Manfred Lee and Tom Everitt.

The Green Gorillas of the title are a gang of juvenile deinquents run by a self-styled Fagin -- that is, until Ellery intervenes.


* Not Kitty's aunt.  That Charlotte Keane is in her late eighties and is alive and well in Coeur d"Alene.  A wonderful person.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Jefferson Airplane.  (Kitty likes this one.)


So a duck walks into a bar and asks the bartender. "Got any bread?"

The bartender tells him, "No."

And the duck asks again, "Got any bread?"

'I already told you, no."

Then the duck asks a third time, "Got any bread?""

This goes on a half dozen more times and finally the bartender loses his cool and yells, "Look, if you ask me if I have any bread, I'm oging to take your @#$%^& bill and nail it to the bar!"

The duck thinks for a minute, then asks, "Got any nails?"

The bartender explodes.  "No!"

"Got any bread?"

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Famed British comedian Arthur Askey sings this Oscar-nominated song, first performed by Pinto Colvig in the 1939 animated movie Gullivver's Travels.


Popeye as Gulliver?

No, thank goodness, although that was the original plan for this animated feature from Max and David Fleischer.  That concept was deep-sixed for the decision to "rotoscope" the title character. ("Rotoscoping" was a process invented by Max Fleischer in which a live model is photographed and the photographs are then traced over for both motion and details thus giving a more realiztic appearance to the animation.)  The man who provided the model (and voice) of Lemuel Gulliver was a radio announcer named Sam Parker.  Parker ironically won the part through a radio contest.  Parker's only other film credits would be as a voiceover in two shorts during the early Forties.

Billed as Swift's "immortal fantasy," Gulliver's Travels overlooks much a Dean Swift's satire, although it does have an anti-war sensibility that was unusual for its day.

The movie was the Fleishers' response to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Preiously their sudio had concentrated on short features (Popeye, Betty Boop, Superman, and others).

The artwork is exquisite, the music is good (one song was nominated for an Oscar), and the whole movie sheer pleasure for animation buffs.

You're in for a treat.  Enjoy.

Monday, December 14, 2015


Big Mama Thornton.


  • "Max Brand" (Frederick Faust), The Gentle Desperado.  Western fix-up novel from three stories first piublished in Western Story Magazine in 1927 under the name "George Owen Baxter."
  • Swanee Ballman, Tamarind.  Christian thriller.  A stranger file a motion to remove the cross from the water tower in a small Florida town.  Bad things happen.  I normally don't give this type of book a second glance but I was intrigued by the cover painting by Andy Davenport. Will the coer be the only decent thing about the book?  Time will tell.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the Foreign Legion.  A late in the series addition, and oneof the very few I have not read.  (I had a copy many moonsago but it went walkabout.)  An American bomber crashes in Sumatra and one of the passengers -- guess who? -- rips off his clothes, dons a loinclothe and goes out to face the jungle.  Joined by allies from different nations, Tarzan takes on the Japanese occupiers.
  • Jackson Cole" (house name), Border Hell.  A Ranger Jim Hatfield western.  Hatfield was createdin 1936 by A. Leslie Scott writing as "Jackson Cole" for Ned Pines' Texas Rangers pulp  magazine.  Scott moved onto paperback novels in the early Fifties, both writing and re-writing Hatfield stories.  Since new Hatfield stories were also appearing in Pines' publications, Scott then changed the character's name and continued to write the paperbacks. Other authors of the Hatfield stories hiding under the "Jackson Cole" pen name were Tom Curry, Peter Germano, Charles Heckleman, and probably others I am unaware of.  Border Hell was published as a 1952 paperback; I don't know if it had appeared in a magazine before.  This time Hatfield faces a killer gang in Corpus Christie.
  • "E. J. Copperman" (Jeff Cohen), An Uninvited Ghost.  The second book in the Haunted  Guesthouse mystery series.  Alison Kirby helps the resident gumshoe ghost at her guesthouse on the occasional case.  This time Alison has to deal with a reality TV crew while trying to catch a killer.
  • Nelson De Mille*. Ryker #2:  The Hammer of God.  Best-selling author DeMille began his novelist's career with three books about NYPD cop Joe Ryker**, a hero who will do anything -- legal or not -- to get his man.  (The remaining four books in the series were credited to "Edson T. Hamill" -- almost certainly a pseudonym -- who may or may not have been DeMille.  The series was later rewritten -- by whom? you might well ask -- and published as by "Jack Cannon.")  Anyway, in this book Ryker goes after a homicidal monk.
  • Judy-Lynn del Rey, editor. Stellar #7.  SF anthology with nine stories.  The final volume of a distinquished anthology series.
  • Martin H. Greenberg & Jim C. Hines, editors, Heroes in Training.  Fantasy anthology with 13 stories about would-be heroes.
  • John Masefield, The Midnight Folk.  Classic children's fantasy by the one-time Poet Laureate of England.  Young Kay Harker is introduced to the Midnight Folk by his black cat, Nibbins.  He soon learns of a plot by evil witches to steal the lost treasure of the Harker family.
  • Bruce McAllister, Dream Baby.  Vietnam era novel with fantasy overtones.
  • "Dean McElwain" (house name),  Preacher's Law:  Widow Maker/Trail of Death.  Omnibus volume of the first two western novels in the seven-book series..  "McElwain" is credited with the first five books in the series, while Barry Myers wrote the final two.  [Despite an anonymous internet claim that "McElwain" was a real person [the anonymous writer's grandfather, who died in 1989], the fifth book in the series has been credited to David Robbins; I have no idea who really wrote the first four books.)  Jeremy Preacher, late of Mosby's Raiders, returns home to find his plantation destroyed, his parents murdered, and his sister raped and murdered.  He seeks vengeance.
  • Andre Norton, creator, Tales of the Witch World.  Fantasy anthology of 17 stories set in (or based on) Norton's Witch World.  Witch World started out as science fiction, then morphed into fantasy as the series grew.
  • E. Hoffman Price, The Devil Wives of Li Fong.  Oriental fantasy novel from one of the great pulp writers.  Poor Li Fong doesn't suspect that his two wives are actually spirit-demons.
  • "Luke Sharp" (Frederick Glidden), The Rustlers.  Western novel, "a smashing tale of cruelty and hate, rustlers and outlaws, death and vengeance."  Originally published as Sunset Graze.
  • Tom Rob Smith, The Farm.  Psychological thriller.  Is Daniel's mother really mad, or is she telling the truth and his father involved in a criminal conspiracy?
  • Dennis Wheatley, The Rape of Venice.  A Roger Brook historical novel.  It's 1796 and Roger, on a mission for Prime Minister William Pitt, becomes involved with "a seance, a duel, a shipwreck, cannibals, slavery, kidnapping, the violation of a harem, and a desperate assault against a walled city."  Phew!
  • Connie Willis, Passage.  SF novel of near-death expiences and obsession.
  • Richard Wormser, Ride a Northbound Horse.  YA western.  Cav is determined to join the cattle drive and proe that a boy has a place in a cowboy's world.  Wormser (1908-1997) was a prolific author of pulp, detective, western, stories. as well as movie and television tie-in novels.
  • T. M. Wright, Boundaries.  Horror novel.  When David's twin Anne is murdered, he tries to contact her spirit to discover her murderer.  The murderer, however, has different -- and deadlier -- ideas.  The author passed away this Halloween from Parkinson's disease.  He was 68.   Another writer taken much too soon.

* For the most part DeMille's name is presented without a space.  On the cover and title page of this book De Mille is spaced.

** Actually DeMille may have begun his career as "Robert Novak," author of the Supercop Joe Blaze series; some of the Ryker books may have begun life as a Joe Blaze novel.  Or not.  It's all ery confusing.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Today is the centennial birthday of Kenneth Millar, a.k.a. Ross MacDonald, the creator of Lew Archer,  To celebrate, check out this 1975 episode of Writers in America interview and profile.


A TED talk by Georgine Getty about the intersection of Christmas and homelessness.


Peter, Paul & Mary (and friends).

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Australian Stan Stafford sings the theme song from the 1958 Glenn Ford/Jack Lemmon film Cowboy.
  This version was released by Melbourne's W&G record label.


Napoleon and Uncle Elby was a syndicated comic strip created by Clifford McBride.  The character of Elby, based on McBride's uncle (a Wisconsin lumberman) was introduced in various features that McBride drew from 1927 to 1932; Elby's dog Napoleon was soon added  to the strips.  In 1932 Napoleon began its run as a daily strip.  A Sunday strip was added in 1933, and the name of the strip was changed to Napoleon and Uncle Elby the following year.  The strip ran until 1961.

Napoleon was a large, clumsy, good-hearted mut with a happy-go-lucky attitude.  Uncle Elby was an overweight, older bachelor who patiently put up with Napoleon's antics.  The gentle humor and distinctive artwork made the strip highlly popular.  Hardcover reprint books began to appear, followed by a Big Little Book.  The strip was reprinted in Eastern Color Printing's Famous Funnies, eventually leading to the one-shot comic book linked below.

Comic historian Don Markstein credits the technique used on Napoleon's facial expressions as a direct influence on Bob Clampett's Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent.

The sole issue of Napoleon and Uncle Elby reprinted 64 of the Sunday strips.


Friday, December 11, 2015


Jack Bruse, Ginger Baker, and Eric Clapton -- The Cream!


The Murder of Ann Avery by Henry Kuttner (1956)

In the two years before his death (at age 42, dammit!) in 1958, Henry Kuttner wrote four mystery novels about psychoanalyst Michael Gray.  These four paperback books from Pocket Books remained out of reach for most of Kuttner fans for over half a century (wwith the exception of one hardcover reprint of the final novel, Murder of a Wife, from Garland in 1983) until Haffner Press released all four in an omnibus volume, The Michael Gray Mysteries this year.  (Well,  not really.  An outfit called Diversion Books books released The Michael Gray Novels in an e-Book format last year.)  The Haffner edition also credits Kuttner's wife and often uncredited collaborator, Catherine L. Moore, as co-author.

I came across The Murder of Ann Avery (the second in the series) in one of a gazillion boxes of books I moved into our new house and decided it was past time that I read it.  The paperback was issued under Pocket Books' "Permabooks" line.  Don't believe it.  There was nothing permanent about this book -- the physical copy anyway.  The old glue gave way and the book book fell to pieces before I got to chapter 5.  The remainder of the novel was read carefully -- very carefully.

Ann Avery, a beautiful housewife in her thirties, has been brutally murdered,  Eddie Udall, a teenage delinquent accused of the murder, went on the run but was soon caught.  According to the police, Eddie, thinking noone was at the Avery home, entered the house intent on robbery and was surprised by Ann Avery.  Eddie has a record of violence and is currently on probation.  He worked part-time at her husband's movie theatre tand had an opportunity to make a copy of his house keys. He was seen  leaving the house on the night of the murder.  When caught, he had one of Ann's rings in his posession.  The switchblade he was known to have carried was missing and Ann's fatal wounds seemed to have been inflicted by a switchblade.  (When the switchblade is finally found, it has type B blood on it -- Ann's blood type.  A muck-raking newspaper columnist is proclaiming Eddie guilty and public pressure is on city officials to act quickly on the case.

Michael Gray is unexpectedly thrust into the case.  The psychiatrist originally named by the Court has taken ill and the Court wants a professional opinion as to whether Eddie should be tried as a juvenile.  Against his better judgment, Michael agrees to interview Eddie.

Eddie is uncooperative and defiant.  Michael honestly does not know whether Eddie is guilty so he begins to dig further.  Key people in the case appear to be withholding evidence.  Eddie's foster parents seem convinced of his guilt but are ready to forgive him.  Eddie's former girlfriend, now a drug addict, tried to contact him about something important on the night of the murder.   Eddie's birth mother, a hopeless drunk, is trying to sell information so she can leave the coutry.  Ann's husband (ad Eddie's boss) is a mean-spirited and possessive bully.  Eddie's favorite teacher is suddenly spending money well beyond a teacher's salary.  Eddie's former friend is now the leader of a teen-age gang.  Juvenile delinquency, drug trafficking, violence, and adultery swirl around the case and Michael finds himself threatened by a mysterious person with an unknown agenda.

A good psychological mystery that, despite telegraphing a major plot point, satisfies.  Michael Gray is an interesting and unusual character.

Check out the Haffner omnibus for this and the other three mysteries in the series.  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


From 1941, Ray Noble and His Orchestra, with vocals by Snooky Lanson,


"The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged.  His skin is sun-dyed brown,  The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked.  People call them both 'the Six Shooter'."

That's how announcer Hal Gibney imtroduced the NBC radio drama The Six Shooter, which featured Jimmy Stewart as drifting cowboy Britt Ponset, from September 20, 1953 to June 24, 1954.  The show was an attempt to relive the pre-television days when radio drama ruled the airwaves, explaining the use of a major star such as Stewart. ( An interesting sidebar to the show:  Chesterfield cigarettes really, really, really wanted to sponsor The Six Shooter but Stewart refused, believing that cigarettes were not compatable with his public persona.)

Predictably, the show did not last on the radio, but it made the transition to television, although somewhat tinkered.  The star was now John Payne.  His character was renamed Vint Bonner. And the title was now The Restless Gun.  The Six Shooter creator Frank Burt remained as show consultant throughout the run of The Restless Gun.

The episode linked below, "Britt Ponset's Christmas Carol," aired on December 20, 1953.  this episode was the basis of a 1957 Christmas episode on  G.E. Theater titled "The Trail to Christmas."  Additionally, the original episode was syndicated (with other OTR Christmas shows) and was rebroadcast on a number of stations in December 1994.

Enjoy this holiday blast from the past.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Who else but The Platters?


I think all cats go to Heaven.  Where else would the angels get the strings for their harps?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


The fabulous Peggy Lee.


This episode of Car 54, Where Are You?, which aired on Christmas Eve 1961, is a different from the rest of the series.  This time, we have a series of Christmas sketches written into the show, included several parodies of Gilbert and Sullivan.  Regulars (and semi-regulars) Fred Gwynne, Joe E. Ross, Paul Reed, Alice  Ghostley, Carl Ballantine, Al Lewis, Mickey Deems and Nipsy Russell.  Creator Nat Hiken's (The Phil Silvers Show) gift for assembling a talented cast is evident here.


Monday, December 7, 2015


Today marks the 100th birthdayof the incredibly talented Leigh Brackett.

As Queen of the Space Opera, Brackett took us to exotic planets, both far and near.  From Mars and Venus to Skaith, her planetary romances combined lush imagery with Edgar Rice Burroughs sensibilities.  Not satisfied with that, she also went on to write mature science fiction such as The Long Tomorrow and The Big Jump.  Her friendship and influence on such writers as Ray Bradbury had an impact on science fiction that is often overlooked.  She was married to writer Edmond Hamilton for 31 years until his death.

Her first novel happened to be a mystery, No Good from a Corpse, a hard-boiled mystery in the Raymond Chandler vein.  Her output in that field included five well-regarded novels (including one ghost-written for actor George Sanders) and a handful of excellent stories.

Her 1963 western Follow the Free Wind won a Spur award for best novel.

As a screenwriter, Brackett's credits are impressive:  The Big Sleep (with William Faulkner), Rio Bravo (Brackett also wrote the novelization), Hatari!, El Dorado, Rio Lobo, The Long Goodbye, and The Empire Strikes Back, among others.

Although she never broached feminism in her work, Leigh Brackett can be consider a female pioneer in several genres.

Her work remains immensely readable and enjoyable.

The link below will take you to one of her stories, "The Shadows," from the February 1952 issue of Startling Stories.  Enjoy.


Clarence "Frogman" Henry.

(Not too sure what the girl in her underwear is doing bookending this song.)


Some old westerns this week, plus a mystery novel by a writer who had her own mystery,
  • "Brett Austin" (Lee Floren), Rawhide Summons.  Western.  Rawhide Hinton summons his friend Sam Blanding to help him on his cattle ranch on California's San Rosita Island.  The two face a new kind of war with sheepmen -- a war where the cattle are rustled by boat and one where "Spanish love and hate were quick and hot."  This one is a 1950 paperback  reprint of a 1947 book.  Floren wrote some 300 books under 19 names during his career.  Rawhide Summons was the first of 20 books written under the Brett Austin pseudonym.
  • "John Benteen" (Ben Haas), Fargo:  The Wildcatters.  Western, the fifth in the series.  There were 23 or 24 books in the series, all but three written by Haas.  "Fargo kills but he isn't a killer.  He doesn't make a big thing out of it.  It's a job.  And he's good at it."
  • "Max Brand"  (Frederick Faust), The Bells of San Filipo, Bull Hunter, Golden Lightning, and The Longhorn Feud.  Westerns all. The first concerns a hidden stash of silver uncovered when an earthquake rips through a California ghost town; it was first published as a serial in Western Story Magazine in 1926.  The title character in Bull Hunter goes after a killer who had gunned down his uncle; this one first appeared in a 1921 Street & Smith magazine, don't know which one (can anyone help?).  In Golden Lightning, Lefty Bill Ranger is sent from Alaska to California to locate two men, not realizing that they were marked for death; from a 1931 Street & Smith magazine (again, I don't know which one).  The Longhorn Feud began with an argument over a steer and escalated to a battle that left fifteen men dead with more sure to die.  I don't know if this one had a magazine appearance before its 1933 book publication.
  • Joseph Gage, A Score to Settle, bound with Ray Hogan's Hangman's Valley.  An Ace Double western.  The first is "a novel of gold-hungry men and of a gunfighter who kept his back guarded and his hand close to his holster."  Hangman's Valley tells of a man framed for the death of a "hanging" judge's son.
  • Holly Roth, Too Many Doctors,  A CID Inspector Richard Medford mystery.  Roth, a former model, wrote 13 mystery novels (including four as "P. G. Ballard" and one as "P. J. Merrill"). Too Many Doctors (first published as Operation Doctors) is about a woman who falls off a boat and loses her memory.  Two years after this book was published, Roth fell off a yacht in the Mediterranean; her body was never recovered and her death remains shrouded in mystery.  She was 48.
  • Bertrand Shurtleff, Long Lash.  A teenage "Northern."  A pair of Alaskan gold prospectors are set upon by some neer-do-wells.  Heroic dogs strut their stuff.  And there are Mounties.  This 1949 paperback is one of the short-lived Pocket Book, Jr. line.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


David Christian covers it all, from the Big Bang to the internet in this TED Talk.


The Kingston Trio.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


From Paint Your Wagon, Lee Marvin.


Talk about your product placement!

Captain Tootsie was an advertising gimmick for Tootsie Roll candy.  Created by C. C. Beck and Pete Constanza, two of the creators of Captain Marvel, this candy shill appeared in one-page spreads in various comic books during the Forties and early Fifties.

From Jon Morris' The League of Regrettable Superheroes (Quirk Books, 2015):  "(H)e's Captain Tootsie, defender of justice, hero to children, advertising mascot for the delicious chewy taste of Tootsie Rolls!"

And:  "Aided by his friends in the Secret Legion (an organization of children who probably palled around with him for the easy availablity of Tootsie Roll treats). Tootsie found himself fighting mad scientist, crooks, gangsterss, wild bears, and alien inasions in equal measure.  Powering his fight against crime:  a steady stream of chewy, chocolatey Tootsie Roll candies, energy-providing sugar bursts that sent Cap on a spree of general do-goodery."

If that's not enough, Morris adds that Captain Tootsie's "single page adventures took the opportunity to teach a little science, social customs, and even survivalism to the kids who consumed his intermittent adventures like so many paper-wrapped parcels of gummy goodness...[the escapades] reminded kids to stay away from sharp ledges...and taught them how sniper rifles work.  Valuable information!"

Is it no wonder that Captain Tootsie got his own comic book?

After reading Jon Morris' description of this amazing superhero, I had to check it our for myself.  And, upon checking it out, I just had to inflict you with it.

In this, the first issue, Captain Tootsie and his Secret Legion (Rollo, Fisty, and Fatso) travel to Venus, mess around with a rebellion, run into Venusian spiders, and then return to Earth.  Filler material  incudes comic adventures of Prospector Pete and of Tookie the teenage babysitter.

Strangely, The Adventures of Captain Tootsie and the Secret Legion lasted only two issues.  Go figure.

(Somewhere, Bazooka Joe is thinking, "There but for fortune...")

Brace yourselves for this.

Friday, December 4, 2015


The Kinks.


The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1904)

The other day I picked up a graphic novel version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. adapted by the talented Eric Shanower and drawn by the equally talented Skottie Young.  I have to confess that when I read L. Frank Baum's original novel back in the day I was less than impressed -- enough so that I never read any other books in the series.  I found the graphic novel delightful, however, and  wondered if I had misjudged Baum.  With that in mind, I tackled the second book in Baum's Oz series, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and found it (sorry!) to be marvelous.

At the end of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow was installed as the ruler of the Emerald City of Oz while Nick Chopper (the Tin Woodsman) ruled the Winkies in the land of the West.  As The Marvelous Land of Oz opens, we meet Tip, a young boy being raised by a mean witch named Old Mombi.  As a joke, Tip builds a pumpkin man to scare Old Mombi when she returns from meeting with an old sorceror, where she has tricked the sorceror into giving her a small powdered amount of the elixir of life.  Mombi is mad at Tip for playing a trick on her;  she uses the powder to bring Jack Pumpkinhead to life and -- since Jack can do all the menial and dirty chores that Tip had been doing -- decides to turn Tip into a marble statue for her garden.

Tip steals the remaining magic elixir and, with Jack, escapes from Mombi.  They decide to go to the Emerald City to meet the scarecrow.  Along the way, Jack uses the powder to animate a sawhorse to make the trip easier for Jack.  The three arrive at the Emerald City just as General Jinjur and her rebellious army of girls conquer the city.  (Their plan is to loot the city to buy pretty dresses and to have the men do all the women's work while they laze around and eat green chocolates.  Baum was not the most enlightened of authors.)

Tip, Jack, and the Scarecrow escape on the Sawhorse and make their way to the land of the Winkies to ask the Tin Woodsman for help.  The five then set off again for the Emerald City, figuring that the Woodsman's sharp ax will frighten Jinjur's army into submission.  Along the way they are joined by Mr. H. M. (Highly Magnified) Woggle-Bug, T. E. (Thoroughly Educated).  Arriving the Emerald City, our dauntless heroes find themselves trapped in the place, their only escape is to use the last of the elixir of life to animate a creature made of the mounted head of an animal called the Gump, two sofas tied together, four large leaves from a palm tree, and a broom.  The Gump Thing flies them from the Emerald City and our stalwart heroes head to seek the help of glinda the Good Witch.

Ah, but General Jinjur enlists the help of Old Mombi, who uses her magic in an effort to prevent Tip & Co. from reaching Glinda.  Despite Mombi's best efforts, you just know she's going to fail.

Now, here comes some logic:  1) General Jinjur usurped power from the Scarecrow, 2) the Scarecrow was named ruler by the previous ruler, the Wizard of Oz, but 3) the Wizard stole the throne from the former king, Pastoria, 4) so Pastoria should be the rightful ruler of the Emerald City but 5) although Pastoria is long-dead, the crown should go his daughter Ozma but 6) Ozma was stolen as a baby and nobody knows where she is and 6) the Wizard's old record books indicate that maybe, just maybe, Old Mombi holds the key to the puzzle.

*************SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILER ALERT!*************

It turns out that Princess Ozma is really...Tip!

Yep.  Old Mombi had taken the baby princess and, using magic, turned her into a boy named Tip.  Tip (go figure) does not take the news well but, on reflection, decides that he will try being a girl and see how it works out.  More magic, and Tip becomes Ozma again, and Ozma rules wisely.  The end.

Phew!  What a head trip!  Maybe Baum was more enlightened than I thought.

Uh, Not really.  I'm sure a lot of dissertations can be written (and probably) were on gender identity in this book, Baum still seems pretty hidebound and well-grounded in the sexual steroetypes of his time.  The gender-switching seems to be more of a Hail Mary pass used Baum painted himself into a corner.  (Baum also had to mollify a large number of female readers.)

But, then again, I could be wrong.

But what I'm not wrong about, though, is the humor, wit, and imagination that permeates the story.  Political correctness aside, The Marvelous Land of Oz is a joy.

I see more Oz novels in my future.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


From 1958, The Elegants doo-wop their little hearts out.


Who knows what fear lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow does.  And, it appears, so does Orson Welles.  Welles, of course, played the mysterious figure in the episode below.  The famous catchprase, however, was voiced by Frank Readick (with an assist from a water glass to create the echo effect).

The Shadow began on the Mutual Radio Network on September 24, 1937; the last episode aired on December 26, 1954.  Welles played the lead in the show for about a year, to be replaced by Bill Johnstone for fie years, then by Bret Morrison, John Archer, and Steve Courtleigh, in succession.

"The Hospital Murders" was the 47th show in the series, airing on August 14, 1938.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Anita Baker.


Here's an hour-long adaptation by Ira Levin of Mac Hyman's best-selling book No Time for Sergeants.  Airing live on The U.S. Steel Hour on March 15, 1955, No Time for Sergeants starred Andy Griffith in his first television role; Griffith had previously gained attention for his monologue "What It Was, Was Football," the recording of which reached number 9 on the charts.  Ira Levin expanded his hour-long script into a full musical which appeared on Broadway in October of that year, again starring Griffith as naive country boy Will Stockdale.  The 1958 film version of the play teamed Griffith with Don Knotts.  No Time for Sergeants was the direct inspiration for the Jim Nabors television series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Andy Griffith's film debut was in the 1957 drama A Face in the Crowd.  A 1960 appearanceon Danny Thomas' Make Room for Daddy as a small-town sheriff served as a pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, which introduced the world to the bucolic town of Mayberry.  Griffith tried a number of television series following The Andy Griffith Show (including the short-lived Salvage 1, a show which I was very fond of) before the success of of 1986' Matlock.  Griffith was a far more versatile talent than many people give him credit for.

This first version of No Time for Sergeants also features Harry Clark as Will Stockdale's nemesis Sergeant King.  That same year, Clark landed the role of Msgt. Stanley Sowiki in The Phil Silvers Show (aka Sergeant Bilko); Clark appeared in 19 episodes before his early death in February 1956 at age 49.

The appeal of No Time for Sergeants, as well as the appeal of Andy Griffith, has not diminished with age.