Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, April 30, 2016


The Sons of the Pioneers.


The Mask of Dr. Fu Manchu was a one-shot comic book from Avon Publications and labeled "An Avon Fantasy Classic."

As you know, Fu Manchu was the scientific arch-criminal who embodied the so-called "yellow menace" that embued the pulp magazines and popular culture of the time.  Created by Sax Rohmer, Fu Manchu first began his war against the western world in The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu in 1913 and continued in another dozen novels by Rohmer, ending with Emperor Fu Manchu in 1959.  Fu Manchu has also appeared in four novels authorized after Rohmer's death in 1959 -- two by Cay Van Ash and two by William Patrick Maynard.  Fu Manchu has also seen life in films, radio, television, recordings, comic strips, and comic books and has been a cultural touchpoint for over a century.

Despite some (pretty heavy-handed) similarities to Rohmer's 1932 novel The Mask of Fu Manchu, the comic book appears to be an original story both written and drawn by comics legend Wally Wood.  The story of Nayland Smith's battle against the oriental mastermind covers most of the comic book, with an adventure of newspaper photographer Flash Harper filling out the issue.

From the teaser on the inside front cover:

"THRILL!  As Sir Denis Nayland Smith foils Fu Manchu's plot to steal the mask of "El Mokkana" and sacred sword that would unite a fanatic horde in revolt!

"FOLLOW Dr. Fu Manchu in his nefarious scheme to trade the lovely Rima Barton for the sacred relics!

"MEET the enchanting Fah Lo See, Fu Manchu's daughter, whose kiss enslaves Rima's fiance Shan Greville!

"SEE Denis Nayland Smith's attempt to take the golden mask to England, and Fu Manchu's try at modern-day piracy!"

That's a lot of exclamation points!  Is the story worthy of it?  Click the link and see.

Friday, April 29, 2016


The late, great Jim Croce.


Earth's Last Citadel by C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner (1964)

The husband/wife team of Kuttner and Moore (or in this case, the wife/husband team of Moore & Kuttner) were seamless in their many collaborations.  Bibliographers are unable to come up with a definite list of who wrote what under their many pseudonyms.  Both were talented writers in their own right and both churned out  number of classic stories for the pulps, although Kuttner in particular was not adverse to producing sub-par tales if the market called for it.

My Forgotten Book this week began as a four-part serial in Argosy in 1943 and was reprinted in the July 1950 issue of Fantastic Novels,  Donald A. Wollheim published it as a paperback in 1964 from Ace, which reprinted it in 1977 and in 1983.

Army Intelligence officer Alan Drake is tasked with smuggling scientist Colin Douglas out of Tunisia while being pursued by two determined Third Reich agents -- red-headed Karen Martin and ruthless Mike Smith, neither one blessed with a Nazified name.  The German agents catch up with them on the Tunisian coast just as Alan and Colin stumble across a large meteor that had crashed the night before.  Of course it's not a meteor; it's a space ship.  Suddenly all four go into a robot-like trance and as a door appears on the side of the ship, they enter it.  The ship then buries itself in the sand.

Fast forward a billion years or so.  Alan wakes up with vague memories of a strange presence that would occasionally be watching him.  The others soon awaken and the whole Nazi vs. Allies thing starts up again...until they exit the ship and find themselves on a dying world pursued by the amorphous presence that had been on the ship with them.  This thing, which they dub the Light-Wearer, is a sort of psychic vampire, leeding off the energy of living things.  It is a member of an alien race that had invaded Earth and destroyed the human race, keeping only a few as "pets."  They performed all sorts of genetic and biological experiment on these remaining humans, creating a number of weird races.  Then, over millions of years, the alien race died out, leaving a number of of eerily designed citadels.  By the time the four Twentieth Century humans arrive, only one citadel remains.

Also remaining are two human races:  the ethereal Carcasillians who occupy the citadel and are ruled by Flande, a megalomaniacal psychic, and the savage Teresi, a small band of maybe a hundred who appear to be humanity's last hope.  The Carcasillians are immortal in a way, taking their immortality in chunks by renewing themselves in a fountain that is powered by a mysterious source.  As a final battle looms between the Carcasillians and the Teresi, and as the Light-Wearer waits in the wings to destroy what remains of humanity, Alan must find a way to save the human race as well as the lovely Evaya, the Carcasillian he loves.

Pure pulp that moves along at a thundering speed, with plot holes aplenty and an A. Merritt sensability.  They just don't do this type of thing this well anymore.  I loved it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Josh White (1914-1969) was the man of many firsts.

From his wikipedia page:  "White was in many senses a trailblazer:  popular country bluesman in the early 1930s, responsible for introducing a mass white audience to folk-blues in the 1940s, and the first black singer-guitarist to star in Hollywood films and on Broadway.  On one hand he was famous for his civil rights songs, which made him a favorite of the Roosevelts, and on the other he was known for his sexy stage persona (a first for a black male artist).  He was the first black singer to give a White House command performance (1941), to perform in previously segregated hotels (1942), to get a million-selling record ("One Meatball", 1944), and the first to make a solo concert tour of America (1945).  He was also the first folk and blues artist to perform in a nightclub, the first to tour internationally, and (along with Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie) the first to be honored with a US postage stamp.  White and Libby Holman became the first mixed race male and female artists to perform together, record together and tour together in previously segregated venues across the United States."

And he could sing.

I never got to see him in person but I did see his son, Josh White, Jr., in concert.  It was the week after White's death and it was his son's first performance since his father passed.  A great show.


"While the Blood Runs Warm in Your Veins"

"You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To"

"Lord, I Want to Die Easy"

"There's a Man Goin' Around Taking Names"

"Bad Depression Blues"

"Crying Blues"

"Four and Twenty Elders"

"So Sweet, So Sweet"

"This Heart of Mine"

"No More Ball and Chain"

"Mean Mistreater Mama"

"On My Way"

"One Meatball"

And here's "One Meatball" done by Josh White, Jr.


Join Jack, Doc, and Reggie as they encounter one of their most mysterious cases.  As if an ancient temple in the Central American jungle wasn't enough, there had to be floating vampires and a seven-year-old stowaway!

I Love a Mystery was created by Carleton E. Morse, who had already had an outstanding success with One Man's Family.  ILAM began as a fifteen-minute afternoon serial on NBC West Coast on January 16, 1939.  By October it had graduated to the full NBC Network and the following year grew to a half-hour format.  The show later appeared on the CBS and the Mutual Networks.  Most episodes have not survived.

Temple of Vampires was a twenty-episode adventure that first ran from January 22 through February 16, 1940.  It was rebroadcasted (with a different cast) in August 1944.  The link below is mainly from the 1944 version.  Russell Thornson plays Jack Packard, Jim Boles plays, Doc Long, and Tony Randall, plays Reggie York; they are backed up by Mercedes McCambridge as Sunny Richards and Sara Bussell as Hermie, the young stowaway.  (Episodes 8 to 15 of this serial have been recreated by KALW's Old Radio Show in 1989 with Frank Knight, Pat Franklin, Nicky Emmanuel, and Rosemary Lever.)


Here are the first ten episodes.

And the last ten.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Lou Reed..


A dog walks into  bar, goes at the bartender and says, "Hello, I am a talking dog.  I'm the only talking dog in the world.  I am unique in the annals of history.  Not only can I talk, but I am learned and erudite,  Surely that entitles me to a free drink."

The bartender looks the dog over, pauses for a few seconds, and says, "Sure.  The toilet's the first door on the left."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


The Mills Brothers.


This serial is better than the recent Batman/Superman mash-up.

'Nuf said.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Our grandson Mark turns 16 today.

Mark is a handsome boy and, although he won't admit it (or -- perhaps -- even know it) girls go all a-twitter over this shy young man.

He's into running and has competed in a number of long distance races, including several half marathons, and has done well in all.  He's also heavily into soccer and, while in Maryland, refereed a number of youth games.

He's not anywhere near as much into driving.  He has his learner's permit and his mother is patiently teaching him how to drive.  He has actually **gasp!** driven in traffic.  (He's driven to our house once and last night drove to the YMCA one town over.)

Lying underneath his quiet demeanor is a sense of humor that can knock you out.  He's a sharp observer of everything.  He's well-liked and he blushes easily.

Frlom the day he was born, mark has brought joy into our lives.  We could not be prouder of him nor love him more.


It's been a while since I featured a song by Hawkshaw Hawkins.


Today would have been the 100th birthday of lengendary mystery writer Dorothy Salisbury Davis, who had passed away two years ago at the age of 98.

She was nominated for an Edgar eight times, served as President of the Mystery Writers of America, and was named a Grand Master by MWA in 1985.  She was also instrumental in starting Sisters in Crime.  Among her many books were A Gentleman Called, The Judas Cat, A Gentle Murderer, The Clay Hand, and Where the Dark Streets Go.  All of her books are worthwhile and are highly recommended.

Here's an article about Davis that Sarah Weinman wrote a few years ago:


  • Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston, Invasive Procedures.  Medical thriller/sceince fiction.  "The Healers move in secrecy through the city streets.  They bring a deadly promiseto the poor of Los Angeles.  They can cure the incurable diseases -- Parkinsin's, sickle cell -- and they ask for nothing in return.  but the genetic therapy techniques they are using as so targeted that what will cure one can. and will, bring sertain painful death to anyone else exposed."
  • Thomas F. Monteleone, Eyes of the Virgin.  Thriller.  "The eyes of the virgin mother gaze out of the piece of the stained glass, their expression wise and protectie.  From time to time, the Virgin "blinks," and words appear in the glass -- cryptic prophecies which the vatican decodes and discloses, Carefully."  Monteleone is a crackerjack at this sort of thing.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Niko Everett, the founder of Girls for Change, introduces young people to someone they really should meet -- themselves.


Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Phil Coulter.

DOLL MAN 21 (MARCH 1949)

When it comes to shrinking comic book heroes, Will Eisner's Doll Man led the way, putting the kibosh on bad guys two decades before Antman or the Atom.

Research chemist Darrel Dane creates a formula that allows him to concentrate his atoms at will, shrinking him to a six-inch powerhouse.  After rescuing his fiance from a blackmailer, Dane decides to fight fight crime.  His fiance, reporter Martha Roberts, sews a red and blue costume for the new superhero and we're off to the races.

About that costume:  it's a sleeveless, one-piece blue leotard that fits not too tight, but just tight enough to emphasize Doll Man's pecs and abs and bulges (if you know what I mean).  The outfit has a wide spread collar (red) and an attached cape (ditto red).  Dollman wears a narrow belt with a golden buckle.  He has red boots, kind of like mukluks (maybe, I'm no fashion maven) with the shaft of each boot folded over on itself -- not the most practical footwear for a superhero.  The really cool thing is, when Darrel Dane wishes himself down to Doll Man size, his street clothes disappear and he's automatically wearing his costume, and vice versa when he returns to his normal size.  How Martha Roberts manages to sew that ability into the costume escapes me.  Doll Man does not wear a mask, so his identity is out there for anyone to suss, although the only two people who know Doll Man's secret identity are Martha and her father, Dr. Roberts -- I'm sure this can be explained away by the use of a Jedi mind trick, but why bother?

Doll Man ("the world's mightiest mite") made his debut in Feature Comics #27 (December 1939) from Quality Comics and remained the the lead story of that title through 1949.  He was given his ownquarterly comic book in 1941, which ran for 47 issues through 1953, after which Doll Man disappeared from the comic book scene for 20 years.  Quality comics went belly-up in 1956 and DC Comics got the rights to Quality's characters.  In October, 1973, Doll Man and some other Quality characters were revived as the Freedom Fighters, a group of superheroes on (surprise, surprise) Earth-X, a parallel world where Germany had won World War II.  As a DC superhero, Doll Man was little used and, last anyone heard of, his alter ego Darrel Dane had been confined to a mental institution.  It's seems the years of being compressed to a six-inch size damaged his brain and left him mentally unstable -- a sad ending. DC Comics gave Doll Man little respect (pun intended).

In this issue, Doll Man comes against a gun the shoots poison bullets, a gang of kidnappers who dump their human cargo into the ocean, an another vicious gang of kidnappers who target a little girl.
Asa bonus we get a tale of Torchy, the zaftig blonde with the wasp waist; this time around Torchy gets hyponitzed and is compelled to steal.


Friday, April 22, 2016


Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen.


The Big Book of Adventure Stories edited by Otto Penzler (2011)

Yes, you're right.  This is not really a forgotten book.  But it is a fantastic book loaded with great stories, many by writers unjustly forgotten.

Over the past few years, Penzler has compiled a number of large themed doorstop anthologies (The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories, The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulp, The Vampire Archives, The Big Book of Ghost Stories, The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Stories, among others) -- measuring nearly a thousand pages or more and containing a wide variety of mainly unfamiliar stories.

The Big Book of Adventure Stories contains forty-two stories, covering 874 pages of double column small type -- enough excitement to keep the reader up into the wee hours for many nights. Here are The Cisco Kid and Hopalong Cassidy, Tarzan and Sheena, Bulldog Drummond and The Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro and Allan Quatermain, and so many more...

It's hard to pick favorites, but I'm leaning toward toward two stories by George F. Worts, a mainstay of the pulps -- one a Peter the Brazen story under the pseudonym "Loring Brent," the other a tale of Singapore Sammy under Worts' real name.

Here's the line-up:

Sword and Sorcery

  • "The Golden Snare" by Farnham Bishop & Arthur Gilchrist Brodeau [a Lady Fulvia story]
  • "The Devil in Iron" by Robert E. Howard [a Conan story]
  • "The Mighty Manslayer" by Harold Lamb [a Khlit the Cossack story]
  • "The Seven Black Priests" by Fritz Leiber [a Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story]
Meglomania Rules
  • "The Master Magician" by "Loring Brent" (George F. Worts) [a Peter the Brazen story]
  • "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Cornell
  • "The Man Who Would Be King" by Rudyard Kipling
  • "The Wings of Kali" by "Grant Stockbridge" (Norvell Page) [a Richard Wentworth "The Spider" story]
Man Versus Nature
  • "The White Silence" by Jack London
  • "Sredni Vashtur" by "Saki" (H. H. Munro)
  • "The Seed from the Sepulcher" by Clark Ashton Smith
  • "Leiningen versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson
  • "The Sea Raiders" by H. G. Wells
Island Paradise
  • "Hell Cay" by Lester Dent [first publication]
  • "Off the Mangrove Coast" by Louis L'Amour
  • "The Golden Anaconda" by Elmer Brown Mason [a Wandering Smith story]
  • "Shanghai Jim" by Frank L. Packard
  • "The Python Pit" by George F. Worts [a Singapore Sammy story]
Sand and Sun
  • "The Soul of a Turk" by "Achmed Abdullah" (Alexander Nicholayevitch Romanoff)
  • "Pease Waits at Marokee" by H. Bedford-Jones
  • "Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye" by "Gabriel Hunt" (Charles Ardai) [a Gabiel Hunt extract from Hunt Though the Cradle of Fear]
  • "The Soul of a Regiment" by "Talbot Mundy" (William Lancaster Gribbon)
  • "Snake-Head" by Theodore Roscoe (a Thibault Corday story)
  • "Suicide Patrol" by Georges Surdez
  • "A Gentleman of Color" by P. C. Wren [a Geste Brothers story]
Something Feels Funny
  • "After King Kong Fell" by Philip Jose Farmer
  • "Moonlight Sonata" by Alexander Woolcott
Go West, Young Man
  • "The Caballo's Way" by "O. Henry" (William Sidney Porter) [a the Cisco Kid story]
  • "Zorro Deals with Treason" by Johnston McCulley [a Zorro story]
  • "Hopalong's Hop" by Clarence E. Mulford [a Hopalong Cassidy story]
Future Shock
  • "The Girl in the Golden Atom" by Ray Cummings [a Golden Atom story]
  • "To Serve Man" by Damon Knight
  • "Armageddon -- 2419 A.D." by Philip Francis Nowlan [an Anthony "Buck" Rogers story]
I Spy
  • "Women in Love" by Geoffrey Household
  • "MacHinery and the Cauliflowers" by Alistair MacLean
  • "Wheels within Wheels" by H. C. McNeile [a Bulldog Drummond story]
  • "A Question of Passports" by Baroness Orczy [a Scarlet Pimpernel story]
  • "Intelligence" by Rafael Sabatini
Yellow Peril
  • "The Copper Bowl" by George Fielding Eliot
  • "The Hand of the Mandarin Quong" by "Sax Rohmer" (Arthur Sarsfield Ward)
In Darkest Africa
  • "The Green Wildebeest" by John Buchan [a Richard Hannay story]
  • "The Slave  Brand of Sleman bin Ali" by "James Anson Buck" (house name; author not known) [a Sheena, Queen of the Jungle story]
  • "Fire" by L. Patrick Green [an Aubrey St. John Major story]
  • "Hunter Quatermain's Story" by H. Rider Haggard [an Allan Quatermain story]
  • "Bosambo of Monrovia" by Edgar Wallace [a Sanders of the River story]
  • "Black Cargo" by Cornell Woolrich
  • Tarzan the Terrible by Edgar Rice Burroughs [a Tarzan novel]
A few familiar stories, some familiar characters, some unfamiliar faces, and a goldmine of great reading!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016


A little bit of calypso from Lord Kitchener.


A drunk staggered into church and sat down in the confessional...and says nothing.  The priest, trying to urge the man to speak, clears his throat.  Still the man is quiet.  The priest then tries to get his attention by saying, "Ahem."  No response.  Fearing the man may have fallen asleep, the priest then knocks loudly three times on the wall of the confessional and finally got a response from the man.  "No use knocking, buddy.  There ain't no paper in this one, either."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Bobby Vinton, the "Polish Prince."


Sexton Blake is arguaby the most famous British detective few Americans have heard of.  At first designed to parrot (and rival) Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, the character has appeared in more than 4000 stories written by more than 200 authors.  His first adventure was published in the December 20, 1893 issue of The Halfpenny Marvel by Harry Blyth under the pseudonym "Hal Meredith."  The popular character was soon appearing in many periodicals, including Union Jack, Penny Pictorial, and The Boys' Friend.  It was in The Boys' Friend in 1905 that the character began appearing in longer (up to 60.000 words) adventures.  Ten years later The Sexton Blake Library began, publishing two to four novels a month from 1915 through 1964.  Among those who contributed to the Sexton Blake saga were John Creasey, Michael Moorcock, and Jack Trevor Story.  As a detective, Blake kept up with the times, moving from the Holmes model to a more slam-bang action hero.

Despite his huge popularity in Britain (books, annuals, children's books,films, stage plays, radio, television, comic strips, and even a 78 RPM record album), Sexton Blake did not fare well in America.  Only a few of the books were published here and most people have no idea who this iconic hero is.

Blake was featured in at least 21 silent films and five sound motion pictures, of which The Echo Murders was the next to last.

Director John Harlow also adapted the screenplay "from one of the famous Sexton Blake Stories published exclusively by the Amalgamated Press Limited, London."  Harlow also wrote and directed the earlier Meet Sexton Blake, as well as two films in the popular Old Mother Riley series.

There's action a-plenty (although not as much believability) in this tale of the murder of a mine owner which leads Blake to a Nazi plot to take over England.

Blake is played by David Farrar, who played the character in two earlier films.  Farrar's most notable role came in 1947's Black Narcissus.  He retired in 1967 following the death of his wife of 47 years.  Also featured in the movie were Dennis Price (I'm All Right Jack, Tunes of Glory, A High Wind in Jamaica, and twenty episodes as Jeeves in The World of Wooster), Pamela Stirling (La Marseillaise, The Divided Heart). and Julien Mitchell (The Last Journey, The Sea Hawk, Hobson's Choice).


Monday, April 18, 2016


Ray Bolger, from Where's Charly?


Our second grandchild turns 18 today.  (I can't say Number 2 Grandchild because all five of them are number 1 in my heart.)

Sweet and snarky Amy is one of the natural wonders of the world.  Unlike the sterotypical blonde, my lovely girl is smart as a whip.  She is a woman of unwavering principles and does not suffer fools gladly.  (She is also a person of great restraint, as can be seen by her recent encounter with Sprint customer service...but that's a story for another time.

I have forgiven her for moving to Massachusetts with her mother and sister six years ago, thereby depriving me of being served my morning coffee with a sweet smile.

Shortly after Amy graduates from high school this June, she and her mother will be moving to the Pensacola area, where Amy will be studying marine biology and we will have all our kids and grandkids in the same area.  (Which is as it should be, I think.)

And Amy may once again deliver me my morning coffee.  (Again, as it should be.)

Until we see her then, may she have a wonderful birthday as she begins her journey of knocking it out of the park as an adult.

Sometimes it's hard for me to fully comprehend how lucky we are.  We love her with every fiber of our being and always will.


Just one book this week.
  • Michael Swanwick, The Dragons of Babel.  Fantasy novel, the sequel to The Iron Dragon's Daughter.  "A war-dragon of Babel crashes in the idyllic fields of a postindustrialized Faerie and, dragging himself into the nearest vvillag, declares himself king and makes young Will his lieutenant.Nightly, he inades the young fey's brain to get a measure of what his subjects think."  Eventually will is forced from the village and his adventurees really begin.  This one came in second place in the 2009 Locus poll for fantasy novel.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Maz Jobrani delivered this humorous TED Talk in Doha, Qatar.  Under the skin, we all like to laugh.


Alison Krauss performing at the Grand Ole Opry.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Freddy Fender.


Here's a real treat!

From Wikipedia:

     "It Rhymes with Lust is a book, originally published in 1950, considered one of the most notable precursors of the graphic novel.  Called a "picture novel" on the cover and published by comic book and magazine company St. John Publications, it was written by Arnold Drake and Leslie Waller (together using the pseudonym "Drake Waller") with black-and-white art by Matt Baker and inker Ray Oswin.

     "According to Drake, he and Waller created the concept of "picture novels" in 1949 while in college in New York City, conceiving 'a more developed comic book -- a deliberate bridge between comic books and book books...What we planned was a series of picture novels that were, essentially, action, mystery, western and romance novels on paper.'  Armed with a two-page sample of an example story, One Man Too Many!, Drake and Waller convinced Archer St. John of St. john Publications to launch a line of mass market paperbacks containing original comic works that would appeal to the general public.

     "It Rhymes with Lust is an adult-oriented story, influenced by film noir and pulp fiction, that depicts life in a steel town and stars a manipulative woman named Rust.  Comics writer-artist Michael T. Gilbert wrote in liner notes for [the] 2006 reprinting in The Comics Journal that it 'reads like a B-movie pot-boiler, bubbling oer with greed, sex, and political corruption".  The cover tag line reads:  'She was greedy, heartless and calculating.  She knew what she wanted and was ready to sacrifice anything to get it.'

     "St. John published a second book in the line, the mystery novel The Case of the Winking Buddha, by pulp novelist Manning Lee Stokes and illustrator Charles Raab.  Neither book sold especially well, and the line was quietly cancelled.

     "It Rhymes with Lust was reprinted in its entirity in the 30th-anniversary issue (#277) of The Comics Journal.  In March 2007 Dark Horse Books (Dark Horse Comics' book publishing arm) published a softcover reprint with a new afterward by Drake."

Now, It Rhymes with Lust is available online.


Friday, April 15, 2016


Harry Nilsson.


UFO Abductions in Gulf Breeze by Ed Walters & Frances Walters (1994)

Gulf Breeze, Florida, is located on the western end of a long, narrow pennisula which runs parallel to the city of Pensacola and is located three miles south of Pensacola across the Pensacola Bay.  We moved here a little over six months ago.  The people are friendly, the weather is warm, and I haven't seen a single UFO since I moved here.  So I was a little surprised when I came across this book.  Nonetheless, I felt obligated to read it and now feel obligated to foist this review on you as my Forgotten Book this week.

Gulf Breeze is (or was) an epicenter of UFO activity in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Hundreds of people reported sightings during that time.  The floodgates of reports began with a respected local building contractor named Ed Walters.  Walters claimed he saw and photographed a UFO over his suburban neighborhood on November 11, 1987.  This was the first of many sightings he, and then his wife Frances, saw over Gulf Breeze during the next few years.  Walters reported the incident anonymously to the local newspaper and soon others in Gulf Breeze were claiming they had seen UFOs -- some dating as far back as the 1940s.  Many of these incidences were recorded in Ed and Frances Walters first book The Gulf Breeze Sightings (1990).

One thing that bothered Ed Walters was a period of "missing time" he had experienced during one of his encounters with a UFO.  Believing that hypnosis might provide more information on his experiences, he contacted Dan Overlade, a psychologist in Pensacola who specialized in clinical hypnosis.  The results of Walters sessions with Overlade form the bulk of this book.  Briefly, it turns out that, from the age of eleven, Walters had been abducted by aliens every eight years.  (Walters grew up in Jacksonville, so not all the abductions took place in Gulf Breeze.)

That's Walters' story and he's sticking to it.

The hypnosis brought back a lot of memories, some of which (Walters says) may be real and some of which may be false.  Being followed home by a menacing giant black dog.  Experiences as a black man, a half-breed Indian, and as a young boy in Nicaragua whose family was being slaughtered by Sandanistas.  Rescuing two children and being chased down a giant corridor by large lizards (which were frozen by a blue light seconds before they would have torn him to shreds.  Naked, hairless, sexless aliens -- one of whom Walters sensed was female because it had very small breasts maybe.  Another older alien, sick and perhaps dying, with white hair.  Small (young?) aliens sucking memories from him by way of tubes attached to his head.  (One memory of he and his wife making love after skinny dipping in a Costa Rican stream.  TMI!  TMI!)  Strange disjointed conversations with aliens.  A repeated momory of the word "tamacuari" and the number "7670," only later to find out that Tamacuari is a 7670-foot tall mountain in a remote area of Venezuala.

Frances Walters and their two children had seen (separately and on different occasions) four large gry fingers through the top of their window, evidently hanging down from the eave of their home.

A fifteen-year-old girlfriend of their daughter was in hysterics after the FBI stormed into her house one night and arrested and handcuffed her mother and herself.  Evidently six servicemen had deserted their overseas posts unpon finding out some disturbing news about UFOs and some of the six had stayed with the girl's mother.

For a while in the early Nineties, dozens of UFO researchers and enthusiasts would camp out near the end of the Bay Bridge or at the shore of the Naval Live Oaks Park two miles away to watch and photograph the almost nightly appearance of UFOs.  By June of one year, sixty-five sightings had been reported.  A crew from ABC television caught the UFOs on film (as did a crew from Japanese television).   Why this never made it on ABC as an actual news story is not explained.

Yeah, after a while some of the things related in the book got to be a bit too much.

At the time Gulf Breeze was a small community of about 6000 people.  Ed and Frances were respected members of the community.  Ed had a reputable business, headed several committees for the Chamber of Commerce, and was a member of the town's planning Commission.  Frances was active in the PTA (as president, I believe).  Both were active in local activities, much of which was focused on youth.  They tried not to drawn attention to themselves and had presented much of their findings anonymously until their names were released.  They moved down the street to a new house and began to have unlisted phone numbers.

They blame a lot of their troubles on "debunkers" -- people who for unknown reasons do everything they can to cast doubt and ridicule on those who report UFOs.  In the case of the Walters, these debunkers supposedly used fraud, robbery, and libel in an effort to discredit Ed and Frances.  For Ed, this seemed to spring from a vast cover-up, perhaps instituted by the government.  He uses part of the book to explain away some of the allegations, including the discovery of a model of the UFO found in the attic of his former home.  Frances uses her part of the book to explain that she and her husband are good, honest people, well-respected with no reason to institute a fraud.

The Gulf Breeze UFOs have sharply divided people between those who insist it was a real phenomenon and thos who claim it was a hoax.  Ed Walters went on to write a third book, coauthored by a UFO supporter.  I have no idea what happened to the Walters family; they appear to have disappeared with out a trace.  MUFON (the Mutual Unidentied Flying Objects Network) strongly supported the Walters for a number of years with claims of scientific authenticity of their photographs later backed away from that claim declaring that at least some of the photographs were hoaxes.  I don't know when the UFO sightings stopped, but the interest in the Gulf Breeze sighting faded.  Not only have I not seen a UFO here (or anywhere), but I have never heard anyone locally talk about them.

The area, by the way, is the home of the Pensacola Naval Air Station (home of the Blue Angels) and Elgin Air Force Base.  Little is made of that in the book.

One estimate is that Walters made upwards of $400,000 from the incidents.

Go figure.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Freddy Fender.


From Suspense comes the two-part radio adaptation of Donovan's Brain, featuring Orson Welles.

This story of a scientist who manages to keep the brain of a meglomaniac millionaire alive after a plane crash first appeared as a 1942 novel by Curt Siodmak, who was noted for having invented much of today's popular werewolf lore when he wrote the original script for Universal Studios The Wolfman.  The novel became a cult classic and was adapted three times for the movies:  The Lady and the Monster (1943), Donovan's Brain (1953), and The Brain (1962).  When a recording of this 1944 radio version was released as an album, it won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album.

Donovan's Brain first aired on Suspense on May 18 (Part One) and May 25, 1944 (Part Two).  Produced and directed by William Spier, it featured (in addition to Welles) Hans Conreid, Jerry Hausner, John McIntire, and Jeanette Nolan.  This two-parter was Suspense's first foray into science fiction.  (A second version airing as an hour-long episode on Suspense on February 7, 1947, starred McIntire, Nolan, William Johnstone, and Wally Maher.)

The influence of Donovan's Brain in popular culture is wide-spread, from Star Trek ("Spock's Brain") to Dr. Who ("The Brain of Morbius') to The Simpsons ("The Treehouse of Horror IX").  References to it appeared in DC Comics ("The Brain," a recurring villain), Wonder Woman (an episode called "Gault's Brain"), a Beastie Boys song ("Dropping Names"), and stories by Larry Nien and by Stephen King among others.  Siomak also wrote a sequel of sorts to Donovan's Brain, 1968's Hauser's Memory.

The author, Curt Siodmak, was a fascinating character.  Born in the Jewish section of Krakow in 1902, Siodmak moved to Germany where he received a degree in mathematics.  He began writing novels and invested the money he made in a film which was co-directed by his brother, Robert Siodmak, and Edgar G. Ulmer, with a screenplay co-written by Billy Wilder.  Talk about your screen legends!

More books, stories, and screenplays followed, including F.P.1 Antwortet Nicht (F.P.1 Doesn't Answer) (1932), which became a popular movie featuring Peter Lorre.

After hearing an anti-Semetic rant from Joseph Goebbels, Siodmak emigrated to England, then -- in 1937 -- to the United States, where he became noted for his horror and science fiction work in the movies:  The Invisible Man Returns, Black Friday, I Walked with a Zombie, Son of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, The Beast with Five Fingers, Tarzan and the Magic Fountain,  Bride of the Gorilla, The Magnetic Monster, and many others.  Siodmak credited his success to Adolph Hitler -- saying, in effect, "If it wasn't for that son of a bitch, I never would have left Germany."  So many of the films that formed my childhood came from Curt Siodmak's imagination that I'm tempted to repeat a line from anonther, completely different, movie:  "Thank you, Adolph!"

Enjoy the original tale of a disembodied brain that can control others.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Manfred Mann.


It was the height of the French Reolution anf three men were scheduled to be guillotined that day:  a priest, a politician, and an engineer.

The priest was first.  He knelt down and was saying a prayer as the executioner released the blade, which swooshed down mightily...and stopped about halfway.  Stunned, the executioner declared, "This must be a sign from God.  This man must go free!" And so the priest was released.

Next was the politician.  He knelt before Madame guillotine as the executioner released the blade.  Swoosh!  And the blade again stopped halfway.  The crowd was in awe as the executioner proclaimed. "God's grace has extended to this man!  He, too, must go free!"  And the politician was released.

Finally, the engineer was brought up.  He turned to the executioner and said, "You know, if you tighten that bolt, this thing will work."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Kay Starr.


There was a time in Hollywood if you owned a gorilla suit you were able to have steady employment.  Ray Corrigan made good use of his gorilla suit in about a jillion jungle movies, but for this movie the question remains -- did he actually own a white gorilla suit, or was it borrowed?

File this film under 'We Don't Need No Stinkin' Science."  When the dying Gunderson (Milton Kibbee) emerges from the jungle with a tale of a white gorilla (or white pongo -- pronounced for some reason "ponga"), a local scientist declares this must be the missing link between ape and man.  It's immediately decided that a group will head into the jungle in search of the fabulous beast in order to capture it and bring it to civilization.  This whole plan has the atmosphere of Mickey and Judy saying, "Let's put on a show!"

Unknown to the members of the expedition, their safari guide (played by Al Eben) is a suspected murderer -- causing policeman Geoffrey Bishop (Richard Fraser) to go undercover with the expedition.  Of course the lovely Pamela Bragdon (Maris Wrixon), daughter of expedition leader Sir Harry Bragdon (Gordon Richards), becomes smitten with Bishop, much to the chagrin of Mr. Stuck-Up-Face, total bounder Clive Carswell (Michael Dyne).  Predictably, White Pongo becomes smitten with Pamela.  Complications ensue.

Typical of low-budget jungle movies of the time, racism abounds.  The skin tone of the native women is many shades lighter than that of the native men.  The name of the expedition's porter is Mumbo Jumbo (played by Joel Fluellen, who deserved better).  The film just spits white man's burden.

Filmed in the deepest, darkest recesses of the Los Angeles County Arboretun & Botanical Garden in Arcadia, California, White Pongo is not the worst of its ilk.  Sadly, it's also not the best --  by a long shot.

Directed by Sam Newfield and written by Richard Schrock (why do I want to substitute and "l" for the "r" in that name?), White Pongo rated 2.8 stars on IMDb.  (In comparison, Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda racked up 4.1 stars.  You hae been warned.)

Enjoy. I guess.

Monday, April 11, 2016


When this was recorded it was called "hillbilly music."  From 1927, here's The Hillbillies.


  • Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason, Ill Wind. Science fiction novel.  An untested "designer microbe" is used to break up the largest oil spill in history.  Too bad it also dissolves every piece of plastic in the world.  That can't be good.
  • Christopher Fowler, Bryant and May off the Rails.  Mystery, the eighth book in the Bryanay series.  The titular heroes, members of the British Peculiar Crimes Unit, are after "Mr. Fox," an enigmatic criminal who escaped from a losked room and murdered one of their best and brightest.  Their quarry leads them deep below London into the darkest recesses of the London underground and to a nmadness that is driving a man to murder.
  • David G. Hartwell, editor, Year's Best SF 6.  Twenty-seven stories culled from the year 2000.  Thirteen of the stories were from genre magazines, ten from other magazines (incuding seven from Nature!), and six from original anthologies.  The usual suspects are present.  In fact, there's only one name on the contents page I was not familiar with.
  • Seymour Shubin, Witness to Myself.  An orignal novel for the Hard Case Crime imprint.  "Fifteen years ago, teenager Alan Benning jogged of a beach -- and into a nightmare.  Because what awaited him in that Cape Cod woods was an unspeakable temptation, a moment of panic, and a brutal memory that would haunt him for the rest of his life."  Shubin was a poet and the author of a dozen crime and mystery novels.  I've only read one of his books previously, the powerful, Edgar-nominated The Captain, which convinced me that Shubin can deliver the goods.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I'll be the first to admit that this post is unfair and that there are many good people in Mississippi.


Mississippi's newly signed "religious freedom" law brought to mind this biting and bitter song from an earlier time.

While I hold no truck with hatred, bigotry, religious intolerance and the like, I am usually hesitant to use this blog for a personal rant.

So I'm going to let Phil Ochs do it.


The Bessemer Sunset Four.

Saturday, April 9, 2016


Hoyt Axton.


Luke Short's Six Gun Ranch is a full-length comic book adaptaion of Short's story "Gunsmoke Graze," serialized in 1940 in Street & Smith's Western Story and published in book form as Raw Land that same year.*  This was the first of at least seven of Short's stories to be adapted into single-issue comic books by Dell Publishing.

Luke Short (this version, anyway) was the pen name of Frederick D. Glidden (1908-1975), a former journalist who began publishing western stories in 1935 and went on to become one of the most popular authors in that genre.  (The earlier Luke Short, 1854-1893, was a famous western gambler, gunfighter, saloon owner, and sports promoter.  For more information on him, check out William R. Cox's Luke Short and His Era:  A Biography of One of the Old West's Most Famous Gamblers, Doubleday, 1961.  I assume Glidden knew of Short when he adopteed the pen name but, as far as I know, this has not been confirmed.)  Glidden's older brother Jonathan was also a popular western author under the pen name "Peter Dawson."

Will Danning returns after ten years to the town of Yellow Knife to buy the old Harkins ranch where Will had worked as a teenager.  Harkins had been accused of rustling by Case, a neighboring rancher and had been killed.  Since then, the ranch has been deserted.  Poor grass and scarce water made the place a poor investment, so why would Danning want it?  And who is the mysterious foreman that Danning had hired?

Shortly after arriving in town, Danning has a run-in with Pres Milo, Case's shifty assistant.  For reasons of his own, Milo wants the old Harkins property and threatens to burn  down the bunkhouse.  Case's beautiful daughter Becky tells Danning she doesn't know why her father keeps Milo on -- it's almost as is he was afraid of the unlikable man.

Six Gun Ranch is a fast-moving tale of greed, secrets, treachery, and gun play.  I don't know who adapted Short's story for this comic book (perhaps Short himself) but the tale is well-told and holds up well.


* The others:  "King Colt" (comic book published in 1955; from the 1937 novel), "Brand of Empire" (1956, from the 1937 novel,), "Bounty Guns" (1956, from the 1939 novel), "Savage Range" (1957, from the 1938 novel), "Trumpets West" (1957, from the 1959 novel Trumpets West!), "Top Gun" (1958, from the story "Test Pit").  (There may have been an eighth comic book adaptation, but I have never the time nor inclination to look it up.)

Friday, April 8, 2016


Rolf Harris singing the greatest song ever (IMHO) from British comedians and songwriters Flanders and Swann.  I believe Harris may have added a few lines to the original.


"Indian Sign" by Robert Bloch (1943)

To wrap up a celebration of Robert Bloch's 99th birthday week, let's look at a rare bit of Bloch-iana, a western story by the author of Psycho.

Most people familiar with Robert Bloch's writing wou.ld be hard-pressed to consider him an author of westerns.  They probably would be right.  Out of hundreds of stories, Bloch wrote only two westerns -- neither of which ever appeared in a Robert Bloch collection.  "Indian Sign," first published in West magazine in January 1943 is a gimmick story, but one which could only be told as a western.

Johnny Marsh, a half-breed Kiowa considered to be somewhat slow by the whites in the area, comes across a man leaning over the freshly-killed body of another man.   Johnny subdues the man, taking him and the corpse into town for the sheriff.  The man Johnny has captured produces documents showing to be Rex Blinn, the new Indian agent, who has come to have the Kiowa chief sign a treaty ceding right to mostof the tribe's lands.  Blinn said the dead man had waylaid him and was shot in self-defense.  Johnny feels low about his but wonders why Blinn, who has become cheerfully friendly with Johnny, originally called Johnny a "dirty Indian."

As I said, this is a  gimmick story, one of "the biter bit" kind.  Certainly it is not prime Bloch, nor a great western, but it's an entertaining (albeit forgettable) western tale.

"Indian Sign" has been reprinted only once that I know of -- in the second (and last) issue of Robert M. Price's small-press magazine Pulse Pounding Adventure Stories, December 1987.  The link below will take you to that issue so you can read this rare tale yourself.


Thursday, April 7, 2016


From 1908, here's George M. Cohan.


As mentioned in an earlier post, this week marks the 99th birthday of Robert Bloch.  Bloch was one of the gateway authors who gave me a life-long love of reading.  I still love the work of the author who said, "I have the heart of a little boy.  I keep it in a jar on my desk."

From the May 13, 1950, Dimension X,  here's a radio adapation by George Lefferts of Robert Bloch's story "Almost Human."


Wednesday, April 6, 2016


The great Mac Wiseman with this classic tear-jerker.


What do you get when you mix human DNA with goat DNA?

Kicked out of the petting zoo.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Roy Orbison, one of the greats.


In honor of Robert Bloch's 99th birthday today, here's a 1961 episode from Alfred Hitchcocks Presents with  teleplay by Bloch based on his story.


Monday, April 4, 2016


Marty Robbins.


  • Kevin J. Anderson, Janet Berliner, Matthew J. Costello, & F. Paul Wilson, Artifact.  Collaborative thriller.  "Six adrenaline junkies who call themselves the Daredevils Club hold the fate of the world in their hands.  In an ancient undersea cavern, one of them, oil man Frik van Alman, discovers a set of stones that are unlike anything else on Earth.  Fitted together, the stones form an object that promises limitless free energy for the world."  The guy's name is Frik.  Seriously?
  • "Jonathan Aycliffe" (Dennis MacEoin), The Vanishment.  Horror novel.  "From the moment they enter Peetherick House, Sarah feels the dark menace surround them and knows they should leae at once.  But Peter thinks it's just nerves and dismisses Sarah's fears -- until she disappears without a trace.  Suddenly Peter can see the shadowy figures in the night and hear a child's weeping, but the nightmare has only begun."  As Aycliffe, the author has produced nine very effective horror novels and under the name "Daniel Eastman" he writes best-selling international thrillers (seventeen by my last count).  Under his own name he is a respected expert on Islam and the Middle East.
  • John Connolly, Dark Hollow.  The second Charlie Parker thriller.  I'm becoming a big fan of this series.  [Sadly, all six libraries in the county library system here is geared more toward Danielle Steele and against books more than five years old.  They allow you to have (or to have on order) only fifteen books at a time (in Southern Maryland, the limit was 75) and do not offer internet library loans.  Most of the older books I'm interested in are not available and they don't carry newer books by Crider, Gorman, Lansdale, Pronzini, Max Allan Collins, and many others.  But then, many of the books they list in their catalog have the notation "unavailable."  All of which leads up to this:  this flipping book is not available from my local libraries.  Grrr.  End of rant.]
  • Lois Duncan, editor, Trapped:  Cages of Mind and Body.  YA anthology with 13 original stories.  The authors were left to interpret the theme "Trapped" any way they wishes, so we'e got a bit of fantasy, a bit of suspense, a bit of humor, and a bit of romance.
  • Ben Elton, Gridlock.  Humorous thriller, if there is such a thing.  "Gridlock is when a city dies.  Killed in the name of freedom,  Killed in the name of oil and steel.  Choked on carbon monocide and strangled with a pair of fluffy dice...Deborah and Geoffrey know, but they have transport problems of their own, and anyway, whoever it was that murdered the city can just as easily murder them."  Elton is a popular Brritish comedian, playwright, director, and author.  This was his second novel; his fourth, Popcorn, won the CWA Gold Dagger Award in 1996.  I read Popcorn shortly after it won the Gold Dagger and I was less than impressed; it left me wondering what the CWA was thinking.  On the very likely chance that my critical judgement about that novel was flawed, I decided to give this one a chance.  Someday real soon now.  Really.
  • Mel Gilden,Tubular Android Superheroes.  The third Zoot Marlowe SF novel.  "When Zoot Marlowe -- a four-foot alien with a two-foot nose for trouble -- returned to Earth with his grampa Zamp, he found Whipper Will and the other surfer dudes being strongarmed by Whipper's father, Iron Will. It ed thaat daad wanted whipper to build a better android, one that didn't fall apart after six months, and Iron Will would stop at nothing to get hold of Whipper's special genius."  And, yes, there ar saber-tooth and tyrannosaurus androids.
  • James Herbert, Domain.  Horror novel, the third in the Rats sequence.  The rats have survived a nuclear holocaust, but so have some humans.  Hmm, wonder who will win this one?
  • Marvin Kaye, editor, The Ultimate Halloween.  Horror anthology with seventeen stories.  And who doesn't love Halloween?  Except for some of the people in these stories, of course.
  • Kurt Mahr, Perry Rhodan #45:  Unknown Sector:  Milky Way.  SF, part of the long-running US reprints of the much longer-running German juvenile adventure series.  The US books were edited by Forrest J. Ackerman and translated by Wendayne Ackerman and contain the typical 4SJ extras.
  • Kim Newman, The Quorum.  A "Deal with the Devil" type of novel.  "In 1961, Derek Leech emerges fully formed from the polluted Thames, destined to found a global media empire of pop music, Hollywood movie studios, newspapers, publishers and television."  Newman is always innovative and interesting.
  • Donald A. Wollheim & Arthur W. Saha, editors, The 1986 Annual World's Best SF.  SF anthology in this long-running series.  Ten stories by Jayge Carr, C. J. Cherryh, J. Brian Clarke, Garner Dozois (with Jack Dann and Michael Swanwick), Harlan Ellison, Frederik Pohl, Lucius Shepard, Robert Silverberg, Ian Watson, and Connie Willis.  Darned good lineup.
  • Philip Wylie, Experiment in Crime.  Crime/suspense novella.  Originally published in book form as part of Three To Be Read, a 1951 collection of stories first published in The Saturday Evening Post.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Michael Shermer appllies a healthy dose of skepticism to the onslaught of weird beliefs.  The next time I think I see an UFO or the image of the Virgin Mary in my cheese sandwich, I try to remember to play this video once more.


Aretha Franklin sings a classic.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


On the inside front cover of the issue of Six-Gun Heroes covered in the post below is an advertisement for 96 SMASH HITS for JUST $3.49!  Here's one of those 96.


Six-Gun Heroes was a long-running western anthology that first began with an undated issue in 1950 from Fawcett.  The first five issues chronicled the adventures  of Hopalong Cassidy, Smiley Burnette, and Rocky Lane.  Issue number 6 added Lash Larue to the line-up   By issue 18,.Smiley Burnette -- a sidekick who really couldn't be called a "six-gun hero" -- was dropped in favor of Monte Hale. With issue 24, Charlton comics took over publication of the title and added Tex Ritter to the mix.  Charlton would soon drop the photo covers in favor of line art and begin moving the book into new territory.  The next issue would drop Hoppy (who had been the main focus of the comic book since its inception) from the cover.  Issue 26 added Rod Cameron. Tom Mix came on for ten issues beginning with number 27.  Issue 38 began an emphasis on television, rather than movie, characters.  Top billing went to Jingles, the Andy Devine character, followed by Wild Bill Hickok.  Jingles remained on the cover for the next five issues, when he and Wild Bill were replaced by Bill Williams' Kit Carson, who had the cover spotlight for only two issues.  Issue 46 returned to a cover line-up a various characters:  Annie Oakley, Lash Larue, Jesse James, and a non-television, non-Jingles Wild Bill Hickok.  Presumably because Jesse was an outlaw rather than a hero, he was dropped two issues late in favor of Wyatt Earp.  Issue 58 introduced a new (non-film,non-television) character:  The Gunmaster.  The Gunmaster was Clay Boone, an itinerant gunsmith who donned the mask and costume of The Gunmaster when trouble called.  The superhero-ish Gunsmith would eventually have his own comic book  The Hunmaster would soon have his own "boy wonder" sidekick, bulltet the gun boy.The advent of The Gunmaster soon pushed Lash Larue to the sidelines.  An improbale "six-gun hero" was the wild horse Black Fury, whose adventures were chronicled in his own comic book, as well as fillers in other Charlton titles, including this one.  The Gunmaster, Annie, and Wyatt stayed with Six-Gun Heroes until issue 83, when the title folded (of sorts) in 1965.

I say "of sorts" because the numbering continued in June 1966 with a new title, The Gunmaster, which ran for five issues until a newer title, Judomaster, took over the numbering with issue 89, running until December  1967's issue 98.  To confuse matters more, The Gunmaster returned for a single issue in October 1967 (after a year and a half hiatus) as issue 89, the same issue number given to the June 1966 inaugural issue of Judomaster.  Phew!

The September 1963 issue of Six-Gun Heroes linked below features The Gunmaster, Annie Oakley, and Wyatt Earp.

Wyatt Earp matches wits against Sharpe Dodson, a gambler who never loses at cards, in "The Big Gamble."  Townspeople of Dodge City have lost a lot of money to Dodson and they turn to Wyatt for help before the situation escalates into violence.  Trouble is. Dodson seems to be winning fair and square and Wyatt can do nothing about it.  Or can he?

In "Squaw for a Warrior," the Cheyenne Indian White Wolf decides to take Annie Oakley as his squaw.  Annie's Aunt Martha has been thinking it was high time Annie settled down and got married.  Annie has two suitors -- Johnny Temple and Cliff Hinton -- but Annie's not impressed with their fancified ways of courting; she's looking for a man who can does things better than she can.  Nonetheless, Annie feels she has to decide between the two swains.  A local rancher asks Annie to help round-up his herd of cattle because marauding Cheyenne are rumored to be in the area.  Annie gets Johnny and Cliff to go with them as a way to test their mettle and help her choose between the to.  Of course, the three get captured by the Cheyenne and of course the warrior White Wolf devlops a hankering for the pretty blonde girl.  To prove who is the best mate for Annie, a riding and shooting contest is held between the three men.  White Wolf wins and goes to take his prize, not knowing that Annie can outride and outshoot the best of them.

And finally, The Gunmaster enters "The Castle of Hate."  Juan Rodrigues Valdes has set up his own little fiefdom in the southwest, ruling over it with an iron fist.  Rumors of "Valdesia" are just begining to come to the small town where The Gunmaster lives, when Valdes and his army seize the town, taking what they want, and riding off with their spoils and with the beautiful and spunky redhead, Nancy.  The Gunmaster heads out to save Nancy and, along the way, joins up and inspires the down-trodden peops to revolt against Valdes.  Bang!  Bang!  Bang!  Blam!  Blam!  Blam!  The army destroyed and the peons take Valdez's loot and go back to Mexico to buy small little ranches for themselves.  Nancy is saved.  And Valdez?  Seems he escaped.  Hmm, could he return for a future confrontation with The Gunmaster?


Friday, April 1, 2016


Just a good time song from The Lovin' Spoonful (and a musical typewriter).


Death Takes the Stage by Agatha Christie (1942)

I'm starting off April with a book which, if not truly forgotten, had until now been as rare as it was legendary.  Death Takes the Stage is one of the three initial offerings to be published by the newly-formed Puzzled Press in May.

In his introduction to that edition, Quincy Germaine recalls the strange history behind the book and how, shortly after the publication of the novel, Dame Agatha herself purchased all available copies of the book and refused to have the book reprinted.  Speculations about Christie's reasons abound.  Did she think it was inferior to her other work? (Surely not, The plotting and the characterization are superb and the solution itself was as logical and as ingenious as Christie had ever produced.)  Did one or more of her characters come too close to their real-life counterparts, bringing a threat of libel?  (Perhaps.  There has been some discussion on whom Audrey Glynn and Sir Malcolm Bassett might have been based upon.)  Had the author intended this book to be the swan song for her little Belgian detective?  (Perhaps.  We know Christie had tired of that "fussy little man" and at times said she was sorry she ever created him.)  Could the book have somehow revealed the true story of the author's famous "disappearance" years before?  (Very doubtful.  I couldn't find anything to support tht in the ext.)  The wildest speculation was that the book itself took a plot point from the story and somehow contained coded military secrets intended for the third Reich.  (That explanation, certain to be popular among conspiracy theorists, is a bit too much, don't you think?)  Whatever the reasons, Agatha Christie disavowed this fine novel; ther's not a single mention of it in her autobiography.

As to the book itself, it's a corker.  Colonel Hastings is in town to celebrate Poirot's first anniversary, having served the year before as his friend's best man.  Poirot's wife, the noted stage actress Angelina Wyndham-Gillis, is in the early stages of pregnancy and has announced her pending retirement.  That night will be her final performance in the lead of Ariadne Oliver's long-running play.  Before the performance, however, the play's director, Sir Malcolm Bassett is found dead at center stage, poisoned and laid out with a copy of a playbill from a play he had directed early in his career placed open across his face.

Suspects abound, including Poirot's wife.  There's Sir Malcolm's effeminate assistant, Reggie Hamilton, who knew more about Sir Malcolm than is healthy.  There's Audrey Glynn, Angelina's understudy and the one designated to take over her role.  And Audrey's troubled fifteen-year-old son who has a history of deliquency and gang violence.  We can't forget Hugo Drax, the millionaire backer of the play whose political views are suspect.  The stage manager Jocko Harris has some hidden secrets in his past and was always nervous around the victim.  There are also two shadowy men who have been seen lurking outside the theatre each night for the past two week's.  finally, there's Thomas and Glynis McBride, the twins who own the McBride Theatrical Agency -- a pair whose ethics are questionable at the very least.

Sir Malcolm's death is only the first.  Two more victims fall to the murderer, then Angelina is savagly aattacked.  Poirot himself is caught in a bomb explosion and from his hospital bed must use those little gray cells before any more harm can come to his wife and to his future happiness.

I'm not really giving anything away when I say the key to the whole affair is an old nursery rhyme that is intergral to Whippoorwill, the play whose playbill covered the face of the first victim.

In all her later books, Christie never again mentioned Poirot's marriage, his wife, or her pregnancy.  It was part of Poiirot's legacy she did not wish to revisit.  For almost three-quarters of a century, this part of her detective's history has remained hidden.  Now this sublimely well-written novel will be available to her legion of fans.  It is certainly a reason to celebrate.

However, I doubt we will ever solve the mystery behind this mystery.