Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, February 29, 2016


Sleepy John Estes.


Happy Leap Year Day everyone!
  • Ben Aaronovich, Midnight Riot.  Horror/mystery.  The firsst of five (with a sixth coming in June) books about Peter Grant, a London cop who can speak to the dead.  "Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and godesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a riding tide of magic."
  • Todhunter Ballard, Dark Kill.  Western collection of a novel and a novella.  The novel is Railroad Doctor, which appeared as a four-part serial in Ranch Romances in 1953; the title novella is from a 1956 issue of Western Magazine.  Ballard was a popular mystery and western author with over a thousand magazine credits, more than a hundred novels, and over fifty scriptwriting credits under a variety of names.  A Spur Award winner, Willis Todhunter Ballard was the cousin of mystery legend Rex (Todhunter) Stout.
  • Michael Flynn, In the Country of the Blind.  SF novel,  A revised and updated version of Flynn's 1991 award-winning debut novel.  "In the nineteenth century, a small group of American idealists managed to actually build Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine and use it to develop Cliology, mathematical models thaat could chart the likely course of history.   Soon they were working to alter history's course as they thought best."  This 2001 edition also includes a long, detailed article on Cliology.
  • Frederik Pohl, The Voices of Heaven.  SF novel.  Manic-depressive Barry di Hoa is shanghaied from the good life on the Moon to find himself on a colony planet eighteen light years away.  Throw in some interesting aliens, political shenanigans, and colonists who think suicide is cool and you have the fate of the colony at risk.  Can Barry -- in his manic mode -- stop it?  Pohl was one of the most influential people in the science fiction field, working as an agent, and editor, and a prize-winning author.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Merle Travis doing some pretty good pickin'.


With the success of Mad magazine, which began as a comic book in 1952, a slew of similar satirical comic books flooded the market in the mid-50s:  Nuts, Get Lost, Whack, Riot, Flip. Eh, From Here to Insanity, and Madhouse.  Most of these imitators lasted only one or two issues,  Madhouse lasted for eight.

Madhouse has the distinction of having two issues labeled #1.  The first first issue came in March-April 1954.  Publisher Ajax-Farrell (a.k.a. the Four Star Comics Group) then waited three years before bringing out the second first issue in July 1957.  Both issues had the same cover logo as well as the same art style.  Both issues were labeled "A FARRELL PUBLICATION" but the 1957 issue was also tagged as an Ajax comic.

Why the three-year wait between the two #1 issues?  One possible explanation can be inferred from the appearance of  the Comics Code Authority stamp of approval on the cover of the 1957 issue.  The one copy of the 1954 issue that I have found seems fairly innocuous to me, although one story is missing from the copy.  In that issue, however, is an advertisement for Comfo-Guard, "The Amazing New Menstral Shield" -- something that seems out of place in a kid's comic (as well as something that might put Dr. Wertham's panties in a bunch).  Perhps I'm reading too much into things.

Anyway, Madhouse #1 (the second) is a fast-paced satire magazine with a lot of side gags.  The stories take on psychiatry ("The Inner Cell-fff!"), adventurers ("One-Way Ticket"), neighbors ("Just Plain Bull'), and celebrity ("The Diary of Zoo Zoo Gay Gone").  Sure to please any fourth-grade boy in 1957; just add fart jokes and the issue would please any fourth grade boy of today.

Not as biting as the early Mad, but still interesting.


Friday, February 26, 2016


The Chiffons.


Evening Tales for the Winter, Being a Selection of Wonderful and Supernatural Tales edited by Henry St. Clair (1856)

My forgotten book this week is an expansion of an earlier anthology which was one of the first (if not the first) American collection of supernatural stories.  One of the first supernatural anthologies in English was published in 1812:  Henry Weber's Tales of the East, a collection of oriental romances that Weber compiled while he ws Walter Scott's literary assistant.  This was followed by various collections of Germanic romances from several ddifferent hands.  The tradition continued in an earlier version of Evening Tales for the Winter which appeared in 1835, the two-volume Tales of Terror, or, The Mysteries of Magic, which was subtitled "translated from the Chinese, Turkish, and German."  That book proved to be popular and went through four editions until 1856, when St. Clair added a third volume of stories and published it under the current title.  The actual sources of many of these stories appear to be unknown and very little appears to be of either Chinese or Turkish origin, but it did provide a concentrated collection of thrills for the Nineteenth Century reader and paved the way for other, more ambitious anthologies.

What was a concentrated collection of thrills for the reader of more than a century and a half ago may seem like weak tea to the modern reader and, indeed, many of these tales are dull.  But there is also a spark of adventure in many of them and a frisson of excitement in some of the supernatural tales.  Altthough this book lays claim to an early supernatural collection, many of the stories are of the  mundane world.  All  but three of the stories are anonymously written, most likely for the journals and the magazines of the time.  ISFdB lists the author of all uncredited stories here as St. Clair himself but that is most likely a mistake.

The longest story in the book is also the most confusing.  "The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century" appears to have taken place in the Eighteenth Century.  It begins with a very effective ghost story related by one man to his friend.  The friend then says that he coincidently had an experience that should shed llight on that story, and then relates another effective ghost story that has no connection whatever with the first.  The anonymous author clearly lost control of this tale.  And, though the title promises us an astrologer, none  appears.  There is one wizard, however, and perhaps that is close enough to an astrologer, but the word astrologer never appears in the text and our wizard appears only in the second story related.

The stories:

Volume One

  • The Magic Dice, An Awful Narration
  • The Gored Huntsman 
  • The Nikkur Holl
  • Der Freischutz; or, The Magic Balls (by A. Apel, a translation of an 1810 story)
  • The Story of Judar
  • The Boarwolf
  • The Cavern of Death
  • The Mysterious Bell
  • The Dervvise Alfournan
  • Hassan Assar, or, The History of the Caliph of Bagdat
Volume Two
  • The Astrologet of the Nineteenth Century
  • The Flying Dutchman
  • The Tiger's Cave
  • Peter Rugg, the Missing Man (by William Austin, a classic American tale first printed in 1824)
  • The Haunted Forest
  • The Lonely Man of the Ocean
  • The Hungarian Horse Dealer
  • The Wrecker of St. Agnes
Volume Three
  • Old Adventures
  • Love and Authorship
  • The Magdalen
  • An Old House in the City
  • Nina Dalgarooki
  • Sir Hurry Skurry:  A Character
  • Marie Marnet
  • The Prophecy (by The Rev. H. Cauntner, from The English Annual for 1835)
  • My Two Aunts
Some interesting reading, some dull reading, some good writing, some sloppy writing, a mixed bag indeed.  Recommended for interested in this sort of thing and for its historic value.  The book is readly available online at UPenn's Online Books Page.  Print-on-demand copies are also available from the usual sources

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Eric von Schmidt (1931-2007) was a staple of the folk music revival of the 1960s and a direct influence on such artists as Richard Farina, Tom Rush, and Bob Dylan.

Try these out for size:

-- Fair and Tender Ladies:

-- Joshua Gone Barbados:

-- Champagne Don't Hurt Me, Baby:

-- Envy the Thief:

-- Baby, Let Me Lay It On You:

-- Turtle Beach:

-- Titanic:

-- Wet Birds Fly at Night:

-- Gulf Coast Blues:

-- Nobody Knows you When Your Down and Out (with Rolf Cahn):

-- You Get Old, You Get Wise:

-- Fast Acne (the ultimate teen-age protest song!):

-- Wasn't That a Mighty Storm (with Rolf Cahn):

-- Stewball:


One of my favorite television comedies as a kid was Our Miss Brooks with Eve Arden in the title role as the high school English teacher Connie Brooks infatuated with clueless biology teacher Philip Boynton.

Our Miss Brooks began as a CBS radio series in 1948.  Arden was actually the third actress considered for the role; the first choice had been Shirley Booth, the second, Lucille Ball.  Looking back, it's hard for me to view anyone but Eve Arden in the role.

Gale Gordon played the blustery Principal Conklin, Richard Crenna played the sqeaky-voicedteen-aged Walter Denton, Jane Morgan was the flighty landlady Margaret Davis, and Jeff chandler (later replaced by Robert Rockwell) played the hapless Mr. Boynton.

The radio show lasted through 1957.  The television series with basically the same cast ran from 1952 to 1956.  The final year of the television series moved Miss Brooks and Mr. Conklin to a new school, dropping the other cast regulars.  Luckily, the radio series did not veer from the original format and maintained the cast for another year after the television show died.

Unlike a number of other shows, Our Miss Brooks was FUNNY.  The cast and the conceptblended together perfectly to make comedy magic.

The episode below, "Mr. Boynton Gigolo," first aired on October 23, 1953.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


From the British Invasion, here's Gerry and the Pacemakers.


Everybody's second favorite hillbilly (hey, we've got to give props to Abner Yocum, right?) has had enough of dodging revenoorers and decides to take an offer for free clothes, free food, and $21 a month from Uncle Sam.  Things don't work out quite as Snuffy had planned -- his nemesis, Revenue Agent Cooper, has also enlisted and is now Snuffy's sergeant.

One of Snuffy's hillbilly friends has invented a range finder that could be important to the war.  The invention is stolen by enemy agents and hidden in Snuffy's bag.  Hijinks ensue.

The fish-out-of-water scenario has always played well in military comedies (Private Hargrove, Gomer Pyle, and even Ernie Bilko and Quinton M, for example), and plays extremely well in wartime films.  Nothing an audience likes better than seeing someone get the better of the enemy -- especially when that someone is rather a naive innocence.

Snuffy Smith began as a minor character in Billy DeBeck's Barney Google comic strip.  The strip began in 1919 and proved very popular; Snuffy Smith was introduced to the strip in 1934.  By the end of that decade Snuffy Smith shared title credit with Barney Google.  Barney himself slowly faded into the background by 1954, making only occasional "guest" appearances.

In this film, Snuffy is played by Bud Duncan ("Bud" in a zillion silent shorts and "Casper" in a dozen shorts in 1928-9); Duncan went on to play Snuffy Smith in one more wartime comedy.  Smith's nemesis Sergeant Cooper was played by Edgar Kennedy, a popular character actor with 439 credits (in a 38-year career) on IMdB.  (IMdB also tells us that Kennedy, once a boxer, claimed to go 14 rounds against Jack Dempsey.)  Snuffy Smith's wife Lowizie was played by Sarah Padden (who had small supporting roles in a number of movies, including Anna Karenina, Grand Hotel, and Rebecca od Sunnybrook Farm; she played Joe Palooka's mom in that sereis, and even had an uncredited role in my Overlooked Film of two weeks ago, The Screaming Mimi).  Playing Snuffy's friend is Jimmy Dodd, the future head Mouseketeer from the original Mickey Mouse Club.

Enjoy this quaint, funny film.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Bill Anderson.


  • Bruce Bethke & "Vox Day" (Theodore Beale), Rebel Moon.  Gaming tie-in novel.  In 2069, The United Nations have finally brought about peace on Lunar colonists are not buying into the idea.  Day is the controversial founder of the Rabid Puppies whose hard-right views seem to encompass mysogeny and racial and religous intolerance.  It will be interesting to see whether his philosophie carry over in this book.
  • Emmet G. Coleman, editor, The Temperance Songbook.  Just what the title implies, a collection of temperance songs, many of them written by Coleman.  A reprint of the 1907 edition subtitled "A PEERLESS COLLECTION OF TEMPERANCE SONGS AND HYMNS FOR THE WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN TEMPERANCE UNION, LOYAL TEMPERANCE UNIION, PROHIBITIONISTS, TEMPERANCE PRAISE MEETINGS, MEDAL CONTESTS, ETC."  The first song is "Little Armor-Bearers," which has the note "as sung by Guy and Ethel Coleman, aged 6 and 4 years."  It then moves on to such songs as "Breaking Mother's Heart" and "Crape on the Door of the Licensed Saloon."  Sadly, 1907 was far too early to have included The Chad Mitchell Trio's wonderful "The Song of the Temperance Union."  Hard cheese, that.
  • "Desmond Cory" (Shaun Lloyd McCarthy), Trieste.  A "Johnny Fedora Espionage Assignment."  British and Italian agents believe they have captured the spy who tried to turn Trieste over to the Communists, but Johnny Fedora discovers they have got the wrong man and the diabolical operative is still at large.  The debonair British secret agent Fedora predates James Bond and a number of critics preferred him to Bond.
  • Robert Cowley, editor, What Ifs? of American History.  Speculative essay collection.  Seventeen eminent historians imagine what might have been, from "Might the Mayflower Not Have Sailed?" to 'What If Watergate Were Still Just an Upscale Address?"
  • Doris Miles Disney, The Magic Grandfather.  Mystery novel.  "They had found a Way to live together, those two whose twisted relationship had led to death, revenge and horror.  They seemed almost friendly, sharing the same house, being polite in front of the neighbors."  The MacFadden paperback blurb writer does not believe in the Oxford comma.
  • David Everitt, Rustler's Blood.  Western novel from a writer I'm not familar with.  "To claim the stolen silver, Cajun lee faced a showdown with the Claibourne gang!"
  • Roger Elwood, Bloody Winter.  A thriller in the OSS Chronicles series.  OSS agent Stephen Bartlett must stop a clandestine Nazi scheme to bring the United States to its knees.  Elwood was a "Super-anthologist" who flooded the science fiction market with some good and many mediocre books, and left the field to write Christian thrillers of dubious merit.
  • John Farris, Soon She Will Be Gone.  Psychological thriller.  Sharan Norbeth enters the mysterious world of the billionaire Trevellian family.  Will she become another in a line of beaautiful women to vanish into oblivion?
  • Brian Garfield, The Villiers Touch.  A novel of money, sex, power, and the Wall Street jungle.  Garfield is the author of Death Wish and the Edgar-winning Hopscotch.
  • Ray Garton, Frankenstorm.  Horror.  An experiment out of control is spreading virus and no one is safe.  Garton won the World Horror Convention Grand Master award in 2006.
  • Lee Goldberg, My Gun Has Bullets.  A Charlie Willis mystery.  Willis is an ex-cop turned Hollywood troubleshooter.  The multi-talented Goldberg is an author, screenwriter, producer and publisher (of Brash Books).  It seems everything he touches turns to gold.
  • Roland Green and John F. Carr, Great King's War.  Sciencce fiction, a sequel to H. Beam Piper's Lord Kalan of Otherwhen.  Calvin Morrison of Pennsylvania continues his fight on a parallel Earth.
  • "Emma Lathen" (Mary Jane Latsis and Martha  Hennisart), Murder Without Icing.  A John Putnam Thatcher mystery.  Thatcher's company, Sloan Guaranty Trust, is sponsoring telecasts of the cellar-dwelling New York Huskies hocky team.  Suddenly the huskies have a winning streak and Thatcher is faced with two corpses.
  • H. Beam Piper, The Worlds of H. Beam Piper.  Science fiction collection edited by John F. Carr and containing the last ten known Piper stories that had not previously been available.
  • "Jack Vance" (John Holbrook Vance), The Face and The Book of Dreams.  The fourth and fifth books in the author's Demon Princes series dealing with the vengeance of Kirth Gerson on five evil planet-slayers.  Gerson faced the first three demon princes in books published from 1964 to 1967; it then took another twelve years before eagerly awaited fourth book to appear.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Morgan Spurlock on his quest to get corporate sponsorship for a film about sponsorship.

(If there's any company out there wishing to buy the naming rights for this post, please let me know in a comment below.  I'm cheap.)


The Chuck Wagon Gang,

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Kate Smith may have had God bless America, but she also had several songs that certainly wouldn't be played on the radio today.  This is one of them.

Times (thankfully) were different then.


Patrick Nicolle (1907-1995) was a freelance illustratorwho worked on a number of British periodicals, including The Sun.  Over thee years he drew Robin Hood stories, westerns, historical swashbucklers, air adventure stories, Canadian Mountie stories, and science fiction.

Jak of the Jaguars was a weekly comic that appeared in The Sun.  Jak was a jungle boy who roamed the Amazon with his two jaguars, Tuka and Pika.  He also hooked up with Karina, the beautiful Queen of the Incas.

In the sequence linked below (from The Sun #173-192, 1952), Jack, Karina, and the jaguars find themselves a far distance from their familiar jungle.  Captured by ant-like Martians as zoological specimens, along with other animals, they find themselves caged in a spacehip bound for Mars.  A meteorite strucks the ship, the collision releasing the caged animals and sending the ship plunging into the Martian atmosphere.

Stranded on Mars and armed only with his knife, Jak faces many monstrous creatures to save Karina and the cats.  First there's a giant, octopus-armed, man-eating plant that has grabbed the Inca queen.  Then they jump (literally) into the mouth of a giant dinosaur-ish sea serpent.  Getting away from that, Jak falls into a crevise and into a raging underground stream that brings him to a valley with a giant Martian city.

Yeah, almost everything Martian is giant.

Ther's giant snow birds (with razor-sharp beaks).  There's giant robots, giant bat creatures, giant slug creatures, a giant blind worm, a giant bull-like creature, giant, weird amphibians and get the drift.  There's even a giant magnetic gun.

Any Martian tale worth its salt has to have a number of sentient races.  Here we have the Serflings (the ant-like creatures who have quite a large army), the Droons (cruel humanoids who rule much of the planet), the Branes (giant, egg-headed men), and the Troggs (giant troglodites).

There's the requisite battle in the arena and the escapes and recaptures.   Another spaceship is destroyed, as is a Martian city.

Did I mention the sea of lava?

It's a fast-paced sequence and the artwork is gorgeous.  I'm not sure if Nocolle also did the writing for the strip, but he did a bang-up job on the illustrations.  And no jaguars were harmed in the making of this sequence.


Friday, February 19, 2016


Schoolhouse Rock rocked!


Catastrophes! edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, & Charles G. Waugh (1981)

The thing about Isaac Asimov's anthologies -- especially the ones he edited with Martin H. Greenberg -- is that they are always a good buy.  Thick and meaty, these themed books are jam-packed with great stories from some of the best writers around, along with ones from lesser-known writers.  Even the most jaded reader will find something in these books they have never encountered before.  Case in point:  Catastrophes!, one of several paperback originals that Asimov and Geenberg (along with frequent co-editor Waugh) assembled for Fawcett Books.

Catastrophes! is actually designed to be a companion book to Asimov's nonfiction title A Choice of Catastrophes (1979; reprinted in 1981 by Fawcett).  In that book, Asimov laid out some pretty dire (and all too possible) disaster scenarios that could emperil us.  (For a similar take, see Asimov and Frederik Pohl's Our Angry Earth, a 1991 book dealing with ecological problems and their possible solutions.)  Asimov designed A Choice of Catastrophes to discuss five different levels of disaster He used the same scheme for this anthology, with four stories for each of the five levels.

The contents:

Universe Destroyed:

     - The Last Trump by Isaac Asimov (from Fantastic Universe, June 1955)
     - No Other Gods by Edward Wellen (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1972)
     - The Wine Has Been Open Too Long and the Memoory Has Gone Flat by Harlan Ellison (from Universe 6, edited by Terry Carr, 1976)
     - Stars, Won't You Hide Me? by Ben Bova (from Worlds of Tomorrow, January 1966)

Sun Destroyed:

     - Judgement Day by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. (from Fantastic Universe, April 1958)
     - The Custodian by William Tenn (from If, November 1953)
     - Phoenix by Clark Ashton Smith (from Time to Come:  Science Fiction Stories of the Tomorrow, edited by August Derleth, 1954)
     - Run from the Fire by Harry Harrison (from Epoch, edited by Roger Elwood and Robert Silverberg, 1975)

Earth Destroyed:

     - Requiem by Edmond Hamilton (from Amazing Stories, April 1962)
     - At the Core by Larry Niven (from If, November 1966)
     - A Pail of Air by Fritz Leiber (from Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1951)
     - King of the Hill by Chad Oliver (from Again, Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison, 1972)

Humanity Destroyed:

     - The New Atlantis by Ursula K. Le Guin (from The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg, 1975)
     - History Lesson by Arthur C. Clarke (from Startling Stories, May 1949)
     - Seeds of the Dusk by Raymond Z.Gallun (from Astounding Science-Fiction, June 1938)
     - Dark Benediction by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (from Fantastic Adventures, September 1951)

Civilization Destroyed:

     - Last Night of Summer by Alfred Coppel (from Orbit, No. 4, September-October, 1954)
     - The Store of the Worlds by Robert Sheckley (from Playboy, September 1959)
     - How It Was When the Past Went Away by Robert Silverberg (from Three for Tomorrow, anonymously edited by Robert Silverberg, 1969)
     - Shark Ship by C. M. Kornbluth (from Vanguard Science Fiction, June 1958, as "Reap the Dark Tide")

A great line-up of authors and stories.  It's hard impossible for me to pick my favorite.  Dip anywhere into the volume for good reading.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Gene Pitney had a big hit with the title song from the movie.


The very first episode of Columbia Broadcasting's noted Suspense series, this version of John Dickson Carr's great novel The Burning Court features Charlie Ruggles and Julie Hayden and aired on June 17, 1942.  (Yeah, I know, there had been a "preview episode" of Suspense two years before -- a "pilot" episode, if you will -- but this is the first regular episode.)  "The Burning Court" was directed by Charles Vanda and adapted by Harold Medford.  One source lists the announcer as Barry Kroeger; another lists "The Man in Black," who for many years was played by Joseph Kearns, perhaps best remembered for his last role, that of Mr. Wilson in the early Sixties television show Dennis the Menace.

Suspense had a long run:  two decades on the radio, a television show, and a mystery magazine.

Enjoy this early episode.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The Mugwumps.


Did you hear about the nurse who married her 80-year-old very rich patient?  It's not surprising.  she was a Practical Nurse.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


A classic children's story song from Pete Seeper.


The Range Busters were one of the "Trio Western" B-movie series from Monogram Pictures the other series was the Rough Riders).  The Range Busters were featured in 24 westerns from 1940 to 1943 so you know they were quick and dirty films were low production standards.

Ray "Crash" Corrigan was one of The Three Mesquiteers over at Republic Pictures when he got into a salary dispute.  After making 24 films in that seriTerhunees he left and struck a deal with monogram to make oaters on his Corriganville Movie Ranch.  Corrigan and fellow Three Mesquiteer actor Max "Alibi" Terhune formed two-thirds of the Range Busters; singing cowboy John "Dusty" King completed the trio.  (Actually, that's a base canard.  Terhune also brought his ventriloquist dummy Elmer to the series, kind of playng havoc with the whole trio thing.)  After sixteen films Corrigan left the series for a while over another salary dispute.  He was replaced with stuntman David Sharpe.

Haunted Ranch was the 20th in the series and is a good example of how quickly (and cheaply) these pictures were made.  Halfway through the movie, Sharpe up and enlisted in the Army Air Force and was sent for pilot training.  Rather than reshoot footage, the powers that be just had Sharpe's character enlist in the Spanish American War halfway through the flick, to be replaced by Rex Lease playng Deputy Rex Lease.  To add to the confusion, the three previous flicks had moved the series timelime to the current day before going back to the old west for this film.

Not much haunting going on around here.  Somewhere on ranch is hidden a cache of stolen bullion.  The bad guys, led by Glenn Strange, want it.  The ranch owner has died and left the property to a niece and a nephew who had never met.  On his way to the ranch, the nephew is murdered.  The Range Busters come across the body and Dusty King assumed his identity in order to find out what is going on.  Dusty meets the niece and she is just as cute as a bug's ear.  The baddies hide out in the cellar, making ghostly noises to scare everybody away from the ranch.  Fred "Snowflake" Toones plays the comic Negro foil who doesn't like ghosts.  Dusty sings a song.

A mindless 57 minutes but worth it if you like cheesy westerns with trite plots.  The presence of Glenn Strange is just an added plus.


Monday, February 15, 2016


Publisher Ian Ballantine (1916-1995) was born 100 years ago today.

Ballantine waas a fervid believer in the possibility of paperback printing, the subject of his Master's thesis from the London School of Economics.

He arranged the distribution of Penguin Books in the United States.  He went on to become the first president of Bantam Books, serving from 1945 to 1952 when he and his wife Betty founded Ballantine Books, one of the earliest publishers of science fiction originals, bringing to the publlic some of the biggest names in the burgeoning field.  Ballantine was the offical paperback publisher of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and moved on in the late Sixties/early Seventies to present the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line, both of which did much to inspire the fantasy boom.

Life for many of us would have been quite different if it weren't for Ian Ballantine's vision and leadership.


In honor of President's Day, here's Oscar Brand singing presidential campaign songs from the past, from George Washington to Bill Clinton.



Here's a novelty song from Britisher George Elrick circa 1936.


  • Peter Abrahams, Down the Rabbit Hole.  The first Echo Falls mystery featuring thirteen-year-old Ingrid Levin Hill, an eigth grader whose fictional idol is Sherlock Holmes.  "Ingrid is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or at least her shoes are.  And getting them back will mean getting tangled up in a murder inestigation as complicated as the mysteries solved by her idol."  This paperback edition includes a "deleted scene."  Abrahams has written a number of well-received adult and children's mysteries both as by himself and as by "Spencer Quinn."
  • Michael Cadnum, Seize the Storm.  YA thriller.  On a family sail from California to Hawaii are cousins Martin and Susannah, Susannah's parents, and a crewman.  Their yacht comes  across a drifting powerboat with two dead bodies and a large stash of money.  Suddenly their vacation goes very, very wrong.  Cadnum is a National Book Award winner and prize-winning poet.
  • Colin Cotterill, The Woman Who Wouldn't Die.  The ninth Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery set in Laos.  "Three days after a woman's funeral, she's back in her house as if she'd never been dead aat all -- despite the fact that everyone in the village saw her body burn.  Now she is a clairvoyant, and soon the brother of a dead Lao general enlists her help to uncover the general's remains, which have been lost at the bottom of a rier for many years."  Enter Lao national coroner Dr. Siri.  According to the author's bio, Cotterill has a wife and "six deranged dogs."
  • Deborah LeBlanc, Water Witch.  Horror novel set in the author's native Louisiana.  Dunny has kept her special talents hidden for years but now her powers might be the only thing that can save two missing children.  And the ghosts and spirits of the swamp pale against the powerful evil that has targeted the children, along with anyone who tries to help them.
  • Wayne C. Lee, Sudden Guns.  Western.   On the way to the family ranch, Clint Dane is robbed of $23,000 in gold -- his father's lifetime earnings.  Reaching the ranch he finds his parents dead and his sister missing.  He's sure that his sister's estranged husband, the outlaw Larry Briles, has kidnapped her.  If Dane has had a bad day, that's nothing compared to what's in store for Briles.
  • Tempa Pagel, Here's the Church, There's the Steeple.  An Andy Gammon mystery.  A 200-year-old skeleton is discovered in the ruins of a church steeple in Newburyport, Massahusetts.  Andy, an "outsider" who has married into her husband's community, discovers a silver tankard that has been missing since 1811.  A much fresher corpse shows up.  An arsonist strikes Andy's home and it becomes clear that someone wants long-buried secrets to stay buried.  I picked this one up because of the setting; Kitty and I spent one of the coldest winters on record in poorly heated apartment in Newburyport.  Lovely town, but danged cold.
  • Thomas Perry, Blood Money.  The fifth Jane Whitfield mystery.  Jane is a Native American (Senaca) woman who helps the helpless disappear.  This time Jane is helping a woman whom the mob suspects has the only record of a shady investment worth billions.  A mafioso army is descending on  the city, leaving Jane no means of exit for herself and her client.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


I met Kitty the summer I was nineteen and she was sixteen.  I had seen her earlier walking down the rroad with a cup of coffee in her hand.  She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.  Her family had moved into a house Kenwood Street, one street down from us.  (Kenwood Street was named for my brother Kenny, but that's another story.)  Anyway, that summer she had been hired as a lifeguard aat the local beach where I would hang out.  I was geeky and clumsy and shy but we would talk about things we liked, Marvel comic book characters, folk music, and such.  She was warm and funny and unpredicctable in an endearing way.  I would get lost in her eyes.  Her smile melted my heart.  Her laughter could chase away any dark cloud in my world.  I had fallen totally and completely in like with her.  It wasn't until a few months later that I realized "in like" was actually my shy boy code word for "in love."  This girl -- kind and caring and smart and so passionate about injustuces as only a sixteen-year-old girl can be -- had entered my heart and would never, never leave.  I've heard that passion and love fade after a while as couples settle into a partnership and companionship.  Don't believe it.  It's been fifty years since I first saw her and my love and passion has grown deeper every day.

She is still the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  I look at her and wonder what I had done to be graced with her love.  How could such a wonderful person have fallen for a schlump like me?   We've had our share of ups and downs -- money problems, health problems, and whatnot -- but we remain together, stronger and closer than ever.  I've never been able to afford all the things Kitty deserves but she does not mind.  We each have some wrinkles now and neither of us move as well as we did fifty years ago, but Kitty is still the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and that will always be the case.

We have been so lucky.  Two beautiful daughters.  Three wonderful granddaughters.  Two awesome grandsons.  We each have family left who give us links to the past.  For this month, at least, we are financially secure.

Today is just one Valentine's Day out of 366 Valentine's Days this year.  This happens to be the one we talk about; all the others are celebrated just as sincerely but more quietly.

Today and every other day, I want the world to know how much I love and cherish my wife.

Happy Valentine's Day, Kitty.  I love you.


The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.  Their music is far more inspirational than that of The Five Bland Boys of Mississippi.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


From 1958, a young Jimmy Clanton.


I'm sad to report that Charleton Comics Submarine Attack #20 is weak tea.  The four stories are told quickly and dryly; every opportunity to make a story exciting or interesting seems to be studiously avoided.  Ah, well...

"The Square Peg" is Lt. Shorty Weaver, a recent Annapolis grad.  Shorty dislikes submarines and wants to be assigned to a destroyer  His admiral father has other ideas and asks Shorty to volunteer for submarine duty where Shorty's expertise would be invaluable.  So Shorty relunctantly finds himself serving on a sub under a captain who dislikes his attitude.  While attacking a Japanese ship in an atoll, the captain and the executive are knocked out of service, leaving Shorty in charge of the sub while other Japanese ships are closng in.  Shorty pulls a bluff and saves the sub.  Afterward, he decides he likes submarine service.  Wait. Uh.  How did that happen?  Dunno.

The scene shifts to the North Atlantic in 'The U.S.S. Ice Cube."  A sub is pursing a German tender and they both get locked in the ice, each out of range of the others' guns.  The Germans send men across the ice to blow up the American sub.  The Americans outflank them and send them scurrying back to their ship.  The Americans take the explosives the Germans so kindly left behind when they were fleeing and use them to blow a hole in the ice, allowing the sub to go underwater and get closer to the Germans.  The German boat goes kaboom.  A by-the-numbers plot with absolutely no suspense, sort of like the stories your boring Uncle Alex would drone on about during dreaded family get-togethers.

We move up some years to the present  time -- 1960.  A foreign (foreign being a code word for Russian) sub is lodged offshore in American territorial waters.  To lodge a diplomatic protest would be useless.  The foreign power would just deny everything while their sub goes back to international waters.  The American submarine captain sends frogmen to wrap cable around the lurking sub;s propeller, disabling the sub if it tries to move.  The foreign sub is forced to surface and the Americans have their proof that their territorial waters have been violated.  The foreign sub -- no longer "The Undetected!" -- sails off with their figurative tail between their legs.  That'll larn them!

Finally, in "The Admiral's Shadow," a Japanese admiral is leading a large convey not suspecting that a lone American sub is tagging along directly underneath the admiral's ship.  The sub shadows the convvoy until they have enough information about the strength, direction, and probable destination of the convoy.  The Americans then radio the information, surface, fire enough torpedoes to hobble the admiral's ship, then move back underneath it and wait for reinforcements to destroy the convoy.

It's amazing that -- throughout this issue -- the Americans are always able to fire their weapons just a split second before the enemy can.

All in all, I found this issue to be as boring as day to day llife on a submarine might be.  Perhaps you'll feel differently.  Let's see.

Friday, February 12, 2016


The great Bessie Smith.


Tarzan and the Foreign Legion by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1947)

First off, the book starts off with a note from the author that at the time he decided on novel's setting he was woefully ignorant about Sumatra and the local library in Honolulu had no books on the subject.  (Woeful ignorance about a location had never stopped Burroughs before.)  Nonetheless, Burroughs relied on the knowledge of a humber of persons whom he then thanked.  The important thing -- to me, at least -- was that Burroughs dated the note September 11, 1944, indicating that the book was written during the height of the war in the Pacific even though it was published several years after the war ended.

It also should be noted that Tarzan and the Foreign Legion was the 22nd and last Tarzan  novel published during Burroughs' lifetime.  The jungle swinger had been having adventures since 1912 and was one of the mosr popular characters in world.

So...Sumatra.  Well a jungle is a jungle and Burroughs had used the Africa locale many times as Tarzan fought thee enemy during the first world war.  RAF Colonel John  Clayton was aboard an American B-24 for a reconnaisance and photographic mission over the Japanese-held island when the plane was struck by a Japanese Zero.  The plane's pilot, Captain Jerry (a truly noble name, that) Lucas tries to guide the plane from the anti-aircraft guns along the islands shore.  Knowing they were to crash in the jungle, Jerry orders everyone to parachute off the plane, himself being the last to jump.  Once on the ground, Clayton shucks his clothes, fashions a loincloth from part of his parachute, and takes to the trees in search of survivors.

At least three of the plane's crew have survived:  the nobly-named Jerry, hailing from Oklahoma City, S/Sgt. Joe Bubonovitch, a college-educated zoologist from Brooklyn, and S/Sgt. Tony Rosetti, a poorly educated man from the streets of Chicago.  Bubonovich and Rosetti, besides being fearless fighters and the best of friends, provide the comic relief.  Tarzan leads the crew away from the flaming wreckage to begin a long trek through enemy territory toward the shore where they hope to find a boat and sail to Australia.  Along the way, they rescue Corrie van der Meer, the eightee-year-old daughter of a Dutch planter who had been murdered by the Japanese two years earlier.  Corrie had been hiding from the enemy for two years before Tarzan came along.

Along the way, they encounter a many groups of Japanese soldiers -- each more nasty than the other -- as well as aband of Dutch outlaws who have been terrorizing the natives,  Tarzan fight and kills a tiger, a python, an orangutang, a shark, and Jungle Lord knows what else.  Oh...and he also kills what feels like 93 percent of the Japanese on the island.  There's a complicated love story between the noble-named Jerry and Corrie*, some treacherous natives, some noble natives, and a whole lot of capturing and escaping.  And that's basically the book.  (By the end of the novel, Tarzan's group has contained some Americans, some Dutch, a Chinese, and Indonesian, and the British Jungle Lord, thus the "Foreign Legion.")

By this stage in his career, it appears that Burroughs was merely telephoning it in -- at least as far as Tarzan goes.  ERB was never a great stylist; his strength was in his fast-paced style and his imagination.  His imagination flagged in Tarzan and the Foreign Legion and he satisfied himself with merely moving his players around on a board, encountering and overcoming difficulties as they came.  Villains pop up and are quickly eliminated only to have other villains pop up and be eliminated and so on seemingly ad infinitum.

Several sentences in the book make absolutely no sense to such a degree that they could not be printing errors.

Because of when the book was written, Burroughs' jingoism is at full force.  There are no Japanese in the novel -- only Japs, who are often referred to as monkeymen and as stupid an unintelligent.  Even Tarzan calls the enemy Japs.

Nonetheless, despite the banal plotting and racist imagery, the book moves along quickly and there are enough glimpses of the old Burroughs to make the book readable, although discomforting.

Maybe it would be best for you to skip this one and read some of the earlier Tarzan novels.  This one appears to be for completists only.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Written by Carl Perkins and featured on the B-side of his "Blue Suede Shoes," "Honey
Don't" enjoyed a second life when Ringo Starr made this one a hit for the Beatles.  Here's the best of both worlds -- a 1985 performance featuring both Carl Perkins and Ringo Starr!


William Gargan voiced P.I. Barry Craig for the NBC Radio series' 190 episodes (from 1951 to 1954) -- a role that he was more than qualified for.  Gargan himself had once been a private investigator (and had even been shot once on the job!).  The character of Barry Craig had gone through a few name changes while on the radio:  he was first named Barry Crane, then Barrie Craig, and -- finally -- the more familiar Barry Craig -- and somewhere aloong the line he was Barry Crain.  Craig was a worthy addition to the league of radio private detectives. His beat was New York City and his office was on the third floor of Madison Avenue's Mechantile Building.  Among the writers for the series were detective novelists Frank Kane and John Roebert,  I have no idea who wrote the episode linked below but there is a good chance it was written either by Roebert or Louis Vitters.

A move to television was not in the cards for Barry Craig.  A 1952 pilot starring Gargan and written and directed by Blake Edwards failed

William Gargan's acting career was cut short by throat cancer in 1960.  From that point on until his death he spoke with an artificial speech box and using esophageal speech.  With time and hard work, Gargan was able to speak clearly but could not project his voice, effectively ending his acting career.  He then became one of the leading spokepersons for the American Cancer Society, effectively promoting awareness of cancer and of esophageal speech until his death in 1979.  He was an inspiration for many cancer victims.  Gargan's courage, determination, and willingness to turn a terrible experience into a life lesson for so many makes him one of a few actors I truly admire.

This episode, from March 1, 1953, appears to also known as "Behold a Corpse."  It seems the producers and/or the publicity department gave different titles to some of the episodes.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Donal Leace.


There used to be a street named after Chuck Norris...but it was changed because nobody crosses Chuck Norris and lives.

-- just one of fifty Chuck Norris jokes at

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


You can't get much better than The Kingston Trio.


Advertised as "The Strip-Tease Murder Case." The Screaming Mimi starred both Anita Ekberg and Gypsie Rose Lee!  What more can you ask for?  How about a flick based on a great Fredric Brown novel?


Monday, February 8, 2016


The Who.


No incoming this week.  I've been laid up with the cold from Hell.  It came on suddenly -- when I got from the sofa and went toward the kitchen, as a matter of fact -- and refuses to leave. My once virile and manly body is racked with aches and I am spending almost all my time hacking up my insdes, blowing my nose, and sleeping.  And since that's more information than you ever want to know, I'll go back to bed now.

Next week will be better.  Fingers crossed and nose stuffed.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Ben Goldacre, epidemiologist, takes you tiptoeing through the fertilizer that is bad science.  Amazing how many companies distort the evidence to make claims for their products...Oh.  Wait.  It isn't.


The original Hinson Family with "That I Should Still Go Free."

Saturday, February 6, 2016


The Memphis Jug Band.


Here's your comic book fix for this Saturday, "stories of true love and heartbreak," with a dash of teen-age angst.

With a title like Teen-Age Temptations, the modern reader might expect something hot and spicy, or -- at the very least -- something akin to an old Orrie Hitt paperback.

In the first story Joan has been dating good ol' Fred, a nice guy but a bit of a stick in the mud.  There doesn't seem to be too much spark in the relationship and Joan keeps dreaming of bigger things.  Then along comes Hal, a handsome, smooth talking salesman in town for a few days.Joan's father does not trust Hal, but Joan is smitten -- Hal takes her to fancy places and lavishes attention on her.  Joan's father ships her off to an aunt in Cleveland (Cleveland?  Can there be a more horrible place for Joan?)  Hal follows Joan to Cleveland and convinces her to secretly elope.  The next morning -- after "a night I will never forget" -- Joan is bubbling over with happiness when she and Hal are confronted by an angry redhead.  It's Hal's wife and (gasp!) Joan is in a bigamous relationship.  Hal the cad leaves with his real wife and Joan returns home with her secret shame.  And then Joan begins to think, what if I'm pregnant from that night I will never forget?  To hedge her bets, Joan marries Fred and, although she turns out not to be pregnant, she actually is very happily married.  But while Fred is off on a two-week business trip, up pops Hal the cad, ready to blackmail Joan.  Oh, what to do?  Oh, the angst!

Joan, of course is a dim bulb.  She has a zoftag body that no teen-ager has ever had.  And her clothes are expensive, revealing numbersof the latest fashion.  But her heart is pure and true love will find a way beyond the heartbreak.  Teen-age girls eat this sort of stuff up, or at least they did in 1954.

In "Lonesome for Love," Carol has the perfect boyfriend.  Paul is gay (in the 1954 sense), sophisticated, handsome, and intelligent and -- just as Carol is leaving for a vacation cruise, she accepts an engagement ring.  But things don't go as Carol planned.  On the cruise she meets and falls in love with Randy, a ship's engineeer.  Back home, Carol dumps Paul for Randy.  Randy quits the sea life and goes back to college at night school.  Carol agrees to marry Randy once he graduates, but between a day job, night school, and studying, Randy has little time to see Carol.  Paul gets Carol to see him on a strictly Platonic basis until one night Paul gets drunk and proves himself to be as bad a cad as Hal was in the previous story.  Alas, this is when Randy happens upon them.  Paul tries to conince Randy that Carol has been unfaithful.  Randy walks out.  Carol cries.  Angst ensues.

Question:  Were all girls in 1954 dim bulbs, or just the ones in this comic book?  I'm reminded of what Damon Knight called "idiot" books, one in which the plot is advanced only becaise the hero/heroine is an idiot.  Will there be another dim bulb in the next story?  Let's see.

Well, going by the title "I Was an Alibi Bride," I'd say we're heading into dim bulb territory.  Marlie and Tom are quite the item and everyone's asking when they will marry.  Tom, however, hates the idea of marriage and seems to spend much of his time disparaging both Marlie and the institute of marriage.  (Not only are girls dim b ulbs in 1954, but men are unconscionable cads.)  Marlie decides to trick Tom into proposing.  She's begins a rumor that they are having an affair!  Her friends urge her to get married:  After all, a marriage is much better than an affair, darling!  The rumors get back to Tom, who is shocked, I tell you, shocked!  As an insurance salesman, Tom must have a squeaky clean reputation.  (I gather insurance salesmen were aomewhat akin to priests in 1954.)  Tom decidess the only way to scotch the rumors is to marry Marly, so he does.  And they live happily ever after.  Good.  They deserve each other.  They -- and the story -- left an ugly taste in my mouth.

Escaping her past, Marla arrived in Bayville to start a dancing school in "No Hiding Place."  She rents a house from handsome Dwight Rawlings.  Marla's school is a success and so is her relationship with Dwight.  Soon they are engaged to be married.  The dark cloud appears in the form of a crooked P.I., the man who had falsified photos "proving" Marla's affair with her married producer.  It was a high-profile divorce and, accused as the correspondent in the affair, Marla's career as a ballerina ended.  That was the past she was escaping from.  Crooked P.I. (the cad!) blackmails Marla over her past.  Thing become intolerable and Marla buys a gun, intending to kill the baddie.  As you can guess, all ends well and Marla finds bliss.

Marla is not so much of a dim bulb as one who is afraid to admit her past, even though she had done nothing wrong.  As with Carol and Joan, Marla ends up with a man who is kind and understanding.  The stories indicate that these husbands are also forgiving, although there is really nothing there to forgive.  I find this trait a bit more than condescending.  Oh, well.

No one in this comic book is a teen-ager.  The temptations are not very tempting, IMHO.

Teen-Age Temptations lasted for nine issues (from 1952 to 1954) from St. John Publishing.  St. john also published the romance comics books Adventures in Romance, Cinderella Love, Diary Secrets, Going Steady, Hollywood Confessions, It's Love, Love, Love, Perfect Love, Pictorial Confessions, Pictorial Romances, Romantic Marriages, Teen-Age Romances, True Love Pictorial, and War Time Romances.  Something for every ttoung girl.

Romance comics were very popular from 1947 to 1977, selling as well as many superhero and adventure titles.  The publisher of True Story admitted that romance comics were cutting into his sales.  The sexual revolution and its accompanying cultural shift signalled a slow, slow death knell for the traditional romance comic book, but while they reigned they were avidly read by teen-age and pre-teen girls.  My sister had a pile of them up until age fourteen or fifteen.


Friday, February 5, 2016


The Dave Clark Five.


Captive by The Gordons (1957)

Mildred Gordon and her repetitively named husband Gordon Gordon signed their 19 mystery novels as by "The Gordons."  (Mildred also wrote one book by herself in 1946, four years before the first novel by "The Gordons;"  After Mildred died, Gordon published two further The Gordons books with his second wife, Mary Dorr).  The couple are proably best known today for their book Undercover Cat, which was filmed by Disney as That Darn Cat,

The Gordons met at the University of Arizona.  Among their careers Gordon served as editor for the Tucson Citizen and Mildred was an editor for Arizona Highways, so their ties to the area were strong as is evidenced by my Forgotten Book this week.

Captive takes place in and around the Navajo territory, an area in the Southwest half the size of New England with a population of 80,000 -- Tony Hillerman territory thirteen years before he published his first book.  As with Hillerman's work, Captive embodies the land, its people, and its cultures with respect and admiration.

Two criminals, the older a calm mentor to the violent younger, plan to rob a delivery of more than $60,000 due at various trading posts throughout the territory.  In this time and place there was no need for armored cars; the money was to be delivered by a civilian driver and a Navajo policeman in a private car.  The plan was simple:  fly a helicoptor to an isolated area, stop the car, get the money, then fly to a spot a hundred miles away where their getaway car was stashed and drive away.  Things went south (or Southwest?) when the younger criminal decided it would be better to leave no witnesses.  In a brief blaze of bullets, the two men in the car lay dead and the older criminal is shot in the upper chest.  As they make their getaway they realize that one bullet had hit their fuel tank ant they wouldn't be able to make it to where they had stashed their car.  The helicopter makes as far as an isolated trailer that is used as a schoolhouse.  They take a young teacher captive and use her car to get to their destination.  But the territory is rough and unfamilar; the car crashes and the two criminals and their captive have to walk this beautiful and potentially deadly landscape to make their escape.

Meanwhile, a small number of law officers from the Navajo police, the local sheriff's department and the FBI set out to find the robbers.  The FBI is represented by John Ripley, who is stationed at the Bureau's Santa Fe office.  Ripley, a series character who would also be stationed at Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, during his six-novel career, does not take center stage in the book.  In the book's 28 brief chapters (the book has only 138 pages,) the point of view shifts rapidly back an forth from the hunted to many of the hunters, focusing on their characters and background with laser-like precision.

Captive is a book that can be enjoyed for its fast-paced, exciting narrative, for its obvious respect for the land and its people, and for the exacting depiction of  police work in an area that few us really know.  Gordon Gordon served as a counter-intelligence agent for the FBI during World War II and that experience and that knowledge of law enforcement was put to good use in many of his books.

I mentioned Tony Hillerman earlier.  Let me close with a paragraph from page 67 which struck me:

"Chee, the ten-year-old boy from the Red Mesa trailer school, leaned against the jeep, watching him intently and enviously, his sharp black eyes awed by the radio, and the gold NavajoPolice star on the olivve-green shirt, and most of all by the bulky, broad-shouldered man who moved with such authority.  Chee had thought he would like to be a sheepfarmer, like his grandfather, and then he decided he would become a singer, because a singer had fame and money and people listened to him.  But when Hosteen looked down at him and smiled, his mind was made up.  He would become a captain of police in Law and Order."


Thursday, February 4, 2016


Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz with a blockbuster hit from 1964.


Candy Matson was a private detective in San Francisco whose adventures ran for about 93 episodes, of which perhaps 15 survive.  From its beginnings in 1949 to its demise in 1951, Candy Matson ran through three phone numbers following the name in the title, from Exbrook 2-9994 to YUkon 2-8209 and finally to YUkon 3-8309.  (Whether this is due to the producers having difficulty remembering phone numbers or to Candy having a poor track record paying her telephone bill, I couldn't say.)

The program, airing on NBC Radio West, was created and produced by Monte Masters, a popular San Franciso actor, writer, and producer who had some success in producing for fifteen years before creating Candy Matson.  Originally the show was supposed to be about a male private detective with  Masters as the star, but his mother-in-law convinced him to cast his wife, Natalie Park, as the lead.  Park was a very popular, vivacious blonde actress who had started in local theatre groups.  As the no-nonsense, but charming detective, Park propelled the show into a hit.  The San Francisco Examiner named Candy Matson as its favorite radio program of 1950.  When one episode ended in a cliff-hanger, the studio phone lines began ringing before the final credits; over eighty callers were concerned over Candy's fate.

Candy did have a love interest -- Lieutenant Ray Mallard of the SF Police Department, played by Henry Leff.  More importantly (at least in hindsight) was Candy's best friend, eccentric photographer Rembrandt Watson, played by Jack Thomas.  Although never overtly stated (this was the late Forties/early Fifties after all), there were many veiled hints about Rambrandt's homosexuality.

Candy Matson also benefitted from a cadre of local actors and friends of Masters and Parks, including Jack Webb, William Conrad, and Raymond Burr.  Webb, in particular, appears to have been a strong influence in the show's presentation.  A number of San Francisco area actors supplied a quasi-repertory ensemble for the program.  No matter how many people helped Candy Matson along the way, it was the crisp dialogue that Masters inserted into his scripts and Parks' impeccable portrayal that carried the show.  Also, neither Masters nor Parks were prima donnas -- they encouraged their actors, and particularly Leff and Thomas, to develop their characters as fully as possible.

Ultimately though, a locally produced show airing only west of the Mississippi without a major or permanent sponsor was doomed to failure.  That NBC West kept switching  the show's time slot did not help.

Although this Youtube link states that the program's original air date was December 18, 1950, the actual original airdate was November 26 of that year.  Also please note that the proper -- albeit undocumented -- title to this episode is "San Juan Bautista," rather than "San Juan Batista."  Masters was rigidly scrupulous about accuracy regarding historical points and locations in the San Francisco area; the misspelling crept into (and became embedded in) the Candy Watson archives somewhere along the way.

Nonetheless, enjoy this example of the distaff side of private eye-dom as Candy Matson takes on the case of "San Juan Batista Bautista."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Ed is curtailing his blogging for a while as he undergoes further treatment.  As many of you know, Ed has had treatable but uncurable cancer for many years.  Ed's many. many friends became concerned when he posted this yesterday:

Four and a half hours later, many fears were allayed when he posted this update:

Ed is a man of significant courage, compassion, and integrity.  Nothing but my best thoughts and prayers go out to him.


Our beautiful. talented, smart, and modest* Erin turns 14 today.  When she was born, she marched to the beat of a different drummer, deciding to make her entrance on 2-3-02 instead of 2-2-02 -- a date which Kitty and I (and perhaps her mother) thought would be a cool birthdate.  Aside from that little glitch, Erin has been absolutely perfect to our unbiased, grandparently eyes.  Her mother's eyes, admittedly, roll when she thinks about having her as a teenager for another six years.  Christina really shouldn't worry because by that time she'll be ruling the world.

Our special girl serenades us beautifully on the flute.  She knocks our socks off  with her wonderful (and self-taught) nail designs.  (In Kitty's case, the socks are literally knocked off when Erin designs her toenails).  Someday she will realize that her wondrous headful of curls will be something she will cherish.

So a super-cheery Happy Birthday to you, Erin.  We love you and are very proud of the young woman you have become and the magnificent person you are becoming.

*We know she's modest because she will only admit to being 'awesome," not "awesomely awesome."  She's 14; give her time.


Here's Jimmie Davis, a baker's dozen years before he becameGovernor of Louisiana for the first time.


To liven things up in a small English village it was decided to hold a town-wide spelling bee,  To everyone's surprise, one of the final two contestants was the village blacksmith; the other -- to no one's surprise -- was the town's most learned barrister.  The battle raged well into the night as first one, then the other, correctly spelled each word.  Then, at just a few minutes before midnight, the blacksmith faltered while the barrister spelled the final word.

The winning word?  Auspice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band.  They were a favorite and we used to catch them at Club 47 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  In addition to great music, I remember that Maria Muldaur wore the shortest skirts in creation.


Here's the first Coffin Joe movie and coincidently, Brazil's first horror film.

Coffin Joe was the creation  of Jose Mojica Marins, a Brazilian filmmaker and actor.  A now famous figure in alternative cinema, Coffin Joe is recognizable by his black suit, cape, top hat, and long,long fingernails.  This guy is immoral, murderous and searching for the perfect bride for "the continuiy of the blood."

As Coffin Joe became a cultural staple, his role as a central character became more diffuse and many of the later films were surrealistic bloodbaths of sexploitation.  No so, this one.

Crude though the cinematic techniques might be, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is effective -- albeit cheesy -- cinema.


Monday, February 1, 2016


Harry Belafonte.


A pretty good variety this week; I may have to put all of them atop the teetering Mount TBR.
  • Lou Cameron, How the West Was Won.  Television tie-in novel.  "In agony and triumph, Through sweat and blood, they tamed and claimed a mighty land!"  As noted, this novelization  was based on stories and screenplays by Calvin Clements, Colley Cibber, Howard Fast, William Kelley, John Mantley, Katharyn Michaelian, Jack Miller, and Earl Wallace.  Cameron was a prolific writer with over 300 books published and winning a Spur award.  He created the long-running Longarm series as "Tabor Evans" and was a major contributor to the Renegade series as "Ramsey Thorne."  This book should not be confused with Louis L'Amour's novelization of the same title; the L'Amour book novelized the movie while this book novelized the miniseries.
  • Angela Carter, The War of Dreams.  Literary fantasy, perhaps better known under its original title, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman.  Carter (1940-1992) was named one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 by The Times in 2008.  As an author, a critic, and an editor, she will most likely continue to be read long after you and I are dust.
  • John Creasey, The Toff and the Deadley Parson.  Mystery novel.  The Reverend Ronald Kemp came to London's East End with a very set idea of right and wrong, but soon found his reputation tarnished in this world of thugs and toughs, leaving it to the Toff to get the parson back into a state of grace.  I like Creasey's books and, with over 500 to his credit, I'll probably never get to the end of them.
  • Ron Dee, Blood Lust.  Vampire novel, billed as "a novel  of erotic horror."  The author has also published books as David Darke."
  • "George G. Gilman" (Terry Harkness), Edge #28:  Eve of Evil.  Western novel in the violent adult series.  During a raging snowstorm, Edge finds Joseph and the pregant Maria held in a ghost town by hired killers.  The Christmas connection may be a tad overplayed in this book.
  • Donald Hamilton, The Intriguers.  a Matt Helm thriller -- #14 I believe.  On vacation in Mexico, Helm is shot in the back.  Not a good way to start your vacay, but a great way to start a book.
  • Charles Jackson, The Lost Weekend,  The classic novel of alcoholism.  This is a 1955 Berkley paperback in mint condition.
  • Frances and Richard Lockridge, The Tangled Cord.  A Captain Bill Weigand mystery.  A notorious playboy is killed and a young economist disappears.  As the young man's fiance searches for him, a number of very peculiar people join the hunt.   The Lockridges always produced readable, above-standard mysteries.
  • Steve Niles & Jeff Mariotte, 30 Days of Night:  Immortal Remains.  Graphic novel tie-in original novel.  Vampires are loose in Savannah, Georgia.
  • Richard S. Prather, The Sweet Ride.  A Shell Scott mystery.  "Small town corruption explodes into a dirty case of multiple murder."   As always, there's humor, gunplay, and naked tomatoes girls.
  • Richard Ben Sapir, Quest.  Thriller from the co-creator of Remo Williams, The Destroyer.  A New York cop is drawn into an international web of murder. 
  • Max Shulman The Feather Merchants.  Humor novel.  Does anyone read Max Shulman any more?  In the Sixties, I devoured everything I could find by two unrelated and entirely different Shulmans -- Max and Irving.  This one by Max is about Sergeant Danny Miller's misadventures in the army.  As a bonus, there's the great Eldon Dedini's comic illustrations that graced so many of Shulman's books.
  • Doug J. Swanson, Dreamboat.  A Jack Flippo mystery.  Dallas P.I. (and ex-lawyer) Flippo takes on the case of the "accidental" drowning of a nightclub owner.  Swanson (and Flippo) appeared in just five books between 1994 and 2000.  The author returned in 2014 to publish a non-fiction book about Texas gangster Benny Binnion.  Swanson is a highly regarded investigtive report for the Dallas Morning News.