Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, December 31, 2017


An interesting STEM Talk by Ros Gleadow, who leads the Plant Ecophysiology and Cyanogenesis Groups and is the coordinator of the core undergraduate science program at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.


Fro 1968, The Blackwood Brothers, introduced by Johnny Cash.

Saturday, December 30, 2017


Today is Rudyard Kipling's 153rd birthday.

Overheard at a party:

Q:  Do you like Kipling?

A:  I don't know.  I've never kippled.


Peabo Bryson.


There are Captain Atoms and there are Captain Atoms.  This one comes from a Chicago outfit called Nation-Wide Publishing Corporation, which managed to publish a total of 64 comics from 1950 to 1954 -- seven or eight of them about Captain Atom.  With issue #2, the title was shortened to just Captain Atom.  The comic sold for a nickle at a time when most comics were a dime; perhaps this dictated the smaller size (5' by 7-1/4") than is typical for comic books.  The Grand Comics Database lists 7 issues of the comic book, ending in 1951, with a separate listing as a comic book (#nn) for a single story "Secret of the Columbian Jungle" in 1952 (the story is actually one included in issue #1 and was reprinted three years later).  There is no indication of who either wrote or drew Captain Atom.

Who is this Captain Atom?  It seems he's just a smart dude in a funky costume -- boots, blue Speedo, white undershirt, and a red pullover with an emblem that looks like a ringed Saturn and blazing yellow lightning neckline.  With the exception of young Jeff, everyone else wears regular garb; Jeff wears a miniature of Captain Atom's costume.  Also, Captain Atom doesn't have a day-to-day moniker.  It's just Captain Atom.  Probably that was the name on his birth certificate.

From page 2 (inside front cover):


"At 21 years, the scientific and inventive achievements of young Captain Atom, athlete, adventurer, scholar and outstanding American -- have been so remarkable that they have brought him world-wide fame and recognition.  It is Captain Atom's belief -- and he has proven it time and time again -- the a thorough knowledge of the sciences can furnish man with inventions capable of solving most any problem, no matter how large or small, inventions for safety, world peace, world happiness.

"At the present time, Captain Atom's amazing career is being sponsored by Professor King, world traveler and adventurer in his fifties, whose business interests take him from one corner of the globe to the other.  Among his many other activities, Captain Atom acts as pilot for the professor's custom-built luxury turbojet airliner.  The Captain's personality and scientific talents have already won great affection for him in the hearts of the professor's traveling family:  Mrs. King whose passion for the unique and whose glib tongue often gets the "family" into serious trouble; the twelve-year-old twins, Jeff and Carol, who were adopted by the professor when their parents were killed in an tragic accident; Jill Jordan, beautiful girl of nineteen, who acts as nurse and governess for the children -- and Rusty McQuigg, freckled-faced, bright young fellow of 25 who assists the Captain as co-pilot, navigator and radio man.

"As our first story opens, we find Captain Atom and his group on a flight into Northern Spain.  As they are just passing over the famous Pyrenees Mountains and are slightly ahead of schedule -- a fact the prompts Mrs. King to make a suggestion that soon will have serious consequences for all of them....."

Notwithstanding the fact that whoever wrote the above needs a remedial English I course, we should be aware that, according to the words emblazoned on the cover, ALL APPROVED ADVENTURE STORIES -- ALL BASED ON SCIENTIFIC FACTS AND THEORIES! -- another bit that should be taken with a grain of salt.

In addition to their adventure in the Pyrenees, this issue has two Captain Atom graphic stories and a two-page text tale of the Captain.  The back cover lists six of the amazing inventions that Captain atom uses in this issue.


Friday, December 29, 2017


John Fogerty.


The Mousetrap and Other Plays by Agatha Christie (1978)

Eight of Dame Agatha's murderous plays are included in this collection.

The title play (based on Christie's short story "Three Blind Mice," which, in turn, was based on a short 1947 radio play) opened on London's West End in 1952 and has been running continuously ever since -- over 27,000 performances!  It is the longest running initial run of any play in history.  Thater-goers are asked not to reveal the twist ending.  Per Agatha Christie's instructions, only one other production of the play is allowed to be performed each year and the short story "Three Blind Mice" is not allowed to be published in England until the play has been closed for six months (although it has been published in the United States in the collection Three Blind Mice and Other 1950, two years before the play opened.  The Mousetrtap was based on the real-life case of Dennis O'Neill, who died at the hands of abusive foster parents in 1945.

Ten Little Indians (1943), is a classic Christie story that was adapted from her 1939 novel.  The play, like the novel, had the (unfortunate) original title of Ten Little Niggers; it was later changed to And Then There None; and finally to the present title.  Christie altered the ending for the play.

Witness for the Prosecution (1953) is based on 1925 story "Traitor Hands."  The story got its present title in Christie's 1933 British collection The Hound of Death; it appeared in the United States in the 1948 collection Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories.  The story is perhaps best known for the 1957 film version with Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, and Elsa Lanchester.  The play won the New York Drama Critics circle Award as best foreign play.

Three of the plays are based on Hecule Poirot novels, although the stage adaptations omit the little Belgian and his magnificent gray cells.   Appointment with Death (1945) is based on Christie's 1935 mystery and takes place in Jerusalem and a traveler's camp in Petra.  The character of Miss Price was created by Joan Hickson, who would go to play Christie's Miss Marple 39 years later.  The Hollow (1951) is adapted from her 1946 novel and deals with the murder of a self-centered doctor during a weekend party on an estate; an unintentional death closes the play. Go Back for Murder (1960) comes from the 1942 novel Five Little Pigs (U.S. title Murder in Retrospect).  In the play, Poirot is replaced by a young lawyer, Justin Fogg.

Towards Zero (1956) is based on Christie's 1944 novel -- the last of three to featured Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard and concerns the murder of Lady Tressilian and a fiendish plot to destroy another.

The one original play in the collection is Verdict (1958).  Unusual for a Christie play, the murder actually takes place onstage.  Dame Agatha said, "I still think it is the best play I have written with the exception of Witness for the Prosecution."

It's interesting to see how the author manages to make to transformation from novel or short story to the stage.  All eight plays make for enjoyable reading.  Christie still remains the queen of them all.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


It's hard to believe that this marks the 4000th post on this blog.  If memory serves -- and it fails me often -- Jerry's House of Everything began sometime during the Millard Fillmore administration (sadly, it was the last to have a Whig president, but after his term in office, Mr. Fillmore switched to the Know Nothing party -- a party I believe still occupies the White House).

It so happens that this post coincides with my monthly Underappreciated Music as sponsored (that's the word, no matter much I wanted the word to be "underwritten') by the great Todd Mason.  This month, rather than featuring a musical artist, I thought I would write a few words about WFMA -- the World Folk Music Association.

WFMA began in 1982 when Dick Cerri, long-time host of the popular radio program Music Americana, and singer song-writer Tom Paxton agreed there was a need to keep people interested in folk music in touch with the folk music scene.  WFMA is committed to promoting contemporary and traditional folk music.  Today the Washington, DC-based WFMU is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that keeps the light of folk music burning brightly.  Cerri used his radio show to promote the organization and to sponsor concerts throughout the area.  Somewhere along the line, a young woman named Doris Justis came aboard as Cerri's assistant.  Doris also happened to a very talented singer as well as a huge folk music enthusiast.  At Cerri's urging, Doris Justis partnered with Sean McGhee to form the folk duo Side by Side, which became WFMA' s "house band" for over a quarter century.  Doris was also the person responsible for getting the 60s folk group The Chad Mitchell Trio to reunite in 2005.  For 25 years, WFMA's annual benefit concert brought together many of folk music's brightest stars.  Many of their concerts were dedicated to such important artists as Odetta, Tommy Makem, Tom Paxton, Oscar Brand, Tom Rowe, Ronnie cox, The Brothers Four, John Denver, The Kingston Trio, David Mallett, John Steward, Kate Wolf,, Steve Goodman, and others.  Currently WFMA sponsors a series of monthly showcases at thePositano Restaurant in Bethesda, MD, usually featuring three acts, both old and new, from around the country.  They have also sponsored house concerts and benefit concerts for charity.  All this in addition to being a guide to the best folk music venues throughout the United States.

Here's a few samples from their concerts.  The video on some are not the best and many of the concerts were not recorded or were not available, but I hope you can see how wonderful these performances were.  I attended many of them while I was in the D.C. area and have fond memories.  (Who knows?  I may be in some of the audience shots.)

Highlights of the 20th Annual Benefit Concert in 2005

Highlights from the Tom Paxton Tribute, 2008:

The Limelighters after the WFMA after party, 2011:

Jane Olivor, "The Water Is Wide":

Side by Side, "The Flower That Shattered the Stone":

Buskin and Batteau, "Boy with a Violin":

Kensington Station, "Whiskey in the Jar":

Mack Bailey, "This Old Guitar":

Side by Side Aloha Farewll Concert, 2015, with guests Bill Danoff, Tom Paxton, and The Chad Mitchell Trio:

Tommy Makem's "The Winds Are Singing Freedom" from a  concert shortly after Makem's death:

Although this clip isn't from a WFMA concert, I could hardly end without a baton twirling exhibition from singer/songwriter Christine Lavin, which she often performed on the WFMA stage:

Great times.  Great music.  If you ever in the D.C. area, check out WFMA's website.


For some New Year's is a phony holiday; for others, time to revel; and for still others, a time to reflect on the past year and to look to the new year with hope.  Whichever side you fall on, I am hoping that 2018 will bring you peace, health, and joy.  Sadly that didn't work out for the characters in this radio show from 70 years ago.

"New Year's Nightmare" aired on January 5, 1947 on the Mutual Radio Network's The Mysterious Traveler and featured Stuart Brady, Louise Pitts, Hester Sondergaard, and Nat Pollen

The Mysterious Traveler began on December 5, 1943, the brain child of writers Robert J. Arthur, Jr. (yes, the same guy who created The Three Investigators juvenile series for Alfred Hitchcock) and David Kogan.  The show was produced by Sherman "Jock" MacGregor, who -- along with Arthur and Kogan -- shared director's duties.  (Arthur and Kogan wrote and directed this episode.)  The Mysterious Traveler himself was voiced by Maurice Tarplin.  

In order to protect young children's ears from violence and crime on the airwaves, the National Association of Broadcasters imposed a "voluntary curfew" that forced The Mysterious Traveler and similar shows to be aired after 9:30 pm Eastern time from 1948 on.

From The Digital Deli Too website:

"The Mysterious Traveler eventually found itself up against an even more daunting body than the National Association of Broadcasters and their programming guidelines.  Both Robert Arthur, Jr., and David Kogan were activist member's of the Radio Writers' Guild, a popular writer's union that was deemed subversive by the infamous House Un-American Activities Committees (HUAC) between 1945 and 1954.  This was by no means unusual for the era.  The HUAC systematically attacked most significant collective bargaining organization of the era for their union and organizing activities, which the predominantly right-wing Republicans in control of Congress at the time, [sic] deemed a threat to Big Business in any form.  The larger, older unions manages to weather the scrutiny of the HUAC.  It was predominantly the smaller artists' and trade unions that the HUAC seemed most successful at bullying throughout the era -- with the Hollywood moguls' full support.

"Arthur and Kogan's very visible lobbying, organizing and picketing efforts on behalf of the Radio Writers' Guld during the late 1940s and early 1950s ultimately brought the HUAC down on Radio  station WOR and the Mutual Broadcasting System.  Both WOR and MBS predictably caved under the innuendos and allegations of the HUAC and terminated The Mysterious Traveler at the arc of its success.  while simply a road-bump to MBS, the blacklisting of one of Radio's greatest effectively ended their Radio writing careers with the cancellation of The Mysterious Traveler."

The show's last appearance was on September 16, 1952.  Arthur and Kogan had produced 303 scripts for the series and had garnered the authors Edgar Awards in both 1950 and 1953.

Enjoy...and welcome to 2018!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


It's Marlene Dietrich's 116th birthday today.


When I was a kid, I wanted to ask God for a bike but my parents told me that God doesn't work that way.  So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017



Have a great Boxing Day!


This week's forgotten movie is a nifty little B-movie starring John Miljin (The Ten Commandments, The Fallen Sparrow, The Ghost Walks), who spent much of his career playing archetypal villains, as Bill Holt, a famous detective on vacation.  Holt has decided to write a memoir of his adventures but is having a hard time because of constant interruptions.  He rents a house in a posh neighborhood where no one knows who he is so he can concentrate on writing.  He brings along his assistant who immediately lets it be known who Holt really is.  Soon, the neighbors are trying to see him, leading him to be inviting to a party on a swanky estate.  In best Jessica Fletcher-style, there is a murder, blackmail, gangsters, and a beautiful girl.

Also featured in the accomplished cast are Irene Ware (Night Life of the Gods, Chandu the Magician, The Raven), Iris Adrian (Road to Zanzibar, Shake Hands with Murder, Lady of Burlesque), James Burtis (The Case of the Howling Dog, Charlie Chan's Courage, The Lady from Nowhere), Noel Madison (Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery, The House of Rothschild, Destination Unknown), Oscar Apfel (Fifty Roads to Town, Jim Hanvey, Detective, Cappy Ricks Returns), Barry Norton (Dracula -- the Spanish version, The Sea Fiend, Lady for a Day), Harry Holman (The Bride Came C.O.D., Meet John Doe, Million Dollar Baby), and Betty Blythe (She, The Spanish Cape Mystery, The Queen of Sheba).

Murder at Glen Athol is one of those rare B-movies that manages to rise above it's budget.  Billed as "The most intriguing baffler of them all," it's a fun way to spend sixty-seven minutes of your time.


Monday, December 25, 2017


My favorite Christmas song from one of my favorite groups.

With this, let me add my own hope that each of you have a wonderful Christmas and that the coming year bring you health, peace, and happiness.  For those who do not celebrate Christmas, the wish remains the same for today and throughout 2018.


  • Joe R. Lansdale, Blood and Lemonade.  The latest Hap and Leonard book from Lansdale, a "mosaic novel" drawn from fourteen stories about the early adventures of our favorite East Texans.  The stories, some of them original to this book and others revised, are "Parable of the Stick," "Tire Fire," "Not Our Kind," "Down by the Riverside," "Short Night," "The Boy Who Became Invisible," "Blood and Lemonade," "In the River of the Dead," "Stopping for Coffee," "Apollo Red," "Coach Whip," "The Bottom of the World," "Squirrel Hunt," and "The Oak and the Pond."  I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Who was the most notorious murder from your state?  Here's a list of what one writer believes they should be.  There are a few favorites here -- Jeffrey Dahlmer, the Manson Family, Eric Robert Rudolph, Marie LaLaurie, Jeffrey MacDonald (although a lot of people consider him innocent), Charlie Starkweather, and Dylann Roof.  (No murderer is name for Colorado; victims are named in this case because the murderer is unknown.  If that's part of the criteria, why not include Jimmy Hoffa's killer[s] for Michigan?)

Most of those listed committed fairly recent crimes and many seem to have achieved local notoriety only recently.  There's no Billy the Kid, or Bloody Benders, or Aileen Wournos, or Lee Harvey Oswald listed here.  In fairness, the District of Columbia is not listed so the exclusion of John Wilkes Booth can be excused.

Who do you feel is the most notorious murderer from your state?


Barbara Mandrell.

Saturday, December 23, 2017


Herman's Hermits.


Australian comic book The Invisible Avenger began publication with the January 1950 issue and lasted until August 1952, for a total of 28 issues.  There are only three issues available at and this is the earliest and evidently the last to feature the title character.  Starting with issue #12, the title changed to Invisible Avenger Comics and featured such heroes as The Blue Ghost, Secret Service Agent K-7, and Cometman.  In the beginning, the comic book featured running stories to be continued in the next issue.  It then moved to a single story per issue.  Shortly before the title folded, it carried several stories, all about crime and criminals.

So who is The Invisible Avenger?  I don't know.

There was a comic book character, Buzz Allen, The Invisible Avenger, who appeared in the first three (and perhaps only) issues of Hugo Gernsback's Superworld Comics (circa 1940), the creation of 23-year-old Charles Hornig, early science fiction fan and one-time editor of Gernsback's Wonder Stories.  This is not The Invisible Avenger of the Australian comic books.

The Invisible Avenger is an unseen villain who threatens civilization.  According to the first panel in this issue, he is an evil Chinese.  (Shades of Fu Manchu!)  Also in the first panel, a hero named Morgan put paid to the villain with a well-timed punch, leaving him to perish in flames.  Evidently, in the previous issue The Invisible Avenger defeated five hundred robots belonging to Dr. Faustulus and infected Faustulus and Major Nollan with an unknown element which destroys human tissue.  The two have only minutes left to live when Morgan attacks the baddie with a lucky punch.  ("Take that - you rat!" says Morgan.  "AWWWWW!" replies the defeated Invisible.)

Faustulus and Nollan don't die, although they are pretty sick.  Faustulus has only three robots left and one of them -- SOMOS Number 330 -- flies to the burning building and rescues the three survivors.  The trio are flown to another of Faustulus' creations -- a flying boat, "the strangest vessel ever built." (It goes 500 knots an hour and is crewed by the three remaining robots.)  Soon the vessel goes zooming through the air with no stated destination, and travels for three days and two nights and then hits a cyclone.  The storm knocks out the vessels controls.  The lightning strikes and the vessel crashed into the ocean, taking Major Nollan and the three robots to a briny fate.

With no land in sight, Faustulus and Morgan hang onto a plank floating from the wreckage.  Eventually they drift to a tropical island. where they hear native drums.  ("There must be savages hereabout.")  Natives there are and they are pygmies and they have spears.  Taking the two captive, they lead them on a long trek to a staircase leading down to a large grotto, leading them to their hidden village.  The main hut is decorated with thousands of skulls, leading Morgan to conclude that they are in the hands of cannibals.

Morgan and Faustulus try to escape but are soon captured and brought to the chief, a fat man with a large ring through his nose and a top hat.  There's a huge totem in the center of the village with a door leading into it.  The natives are scared of the totem and whatever is inside it.

The natives fatten our heroes up, furthering their belief that they are to be eaten.  Another escape attempt and another capture.  In the end the two are pushed into the giant totem, which has a staircase leading up to another door.  The two get ready to open the door to their fate and...

...the end.

What!  Well the story must have been continued in the next issue, right?  Wrong!  Issue # 12 begins the adventures of Secret Service Agent K-7.

We never find out what happened to Faustus and Morgan, nor do we discover what the totem holds that is so terrifying.  We have an ending of sorts, though.  The last sentence in the story reads, "As Morgan and Dr. Faustulus await their fate, they glory in the fact that they have succeeded in breaking the power of The Invisible Avenger who was burned to death in his headquarters."  (See panel one on the first page.  I guess the rest of this issue was inconsequential.  Ptah!)

Perhaps you can make more sense out of this than I did.  Perhaps not.

Give it a try.

Friday, December 22, 2017


Al Dexter and His Troopers.


Roads by Seabury Quinn (1938, 1948)

Seabury Quinn (1889-1969) was the most popular author in the Weird Tales stable, outperforming such luminaries as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith.  He is remembered today mostly for his occult detective stories featuring Jules de Grandin, the feisty and cocky over-written hero of more than 90 stories of mad scientists, monsters, and supernatural horror, but he also wrote a number of other fantastic stories, along with non-fiction works about mortuary jurisprudence.  (Quinn was a lawyer specializing in the subject.  In addition he was for years the editor of a trade journal, Casket and Sunnyside, and published articles in The American Funeral Director and other trade journals.  A series of stories that he wrote under the name "Jerome Burke" was published a few years ago in the three-volume This I Remember:  Memoirs of a Funeral Director.)

Aside from the de Grandin stories, Quinn's most noted work was "Roads," a novelette first published in the January 1938 issue of Weird Tales.  That same year it was published as a 47-page chapbook by Conrad H. Ruppert, a science fiction fanzine publisher who had earlier released a memorial volume of stories by Stanley G. Weinbaum.  In 1948, Arkham House released ...Roads (note the addition of ellipses in the title) in a beautiful limited edition featuring eight illustrations and cover art by Virgil Finley; this edition remains a highly sought-after collector's item.  In 1965, Leo Margulies edited a seven story anthology of stories from Weird Tales, Worlds of Weird, which brought "Roads" to a much larger audience; the Margulies anthology has been reprinted twice since then.  The story also appeared in the 2012 anthology A Cosmic Christmas, edited by Hank Davis.  In 2005, a facsimile of the Arkham House edition appeared from Red Jacket Press.

So what is the story about?

Santa Claus.

SF historian Sam Moskowitz once called ...Roads "the greatest adult Christmas story written by an American."  (Moskowitz knew SF but he was no literary critic.  Nonetheless, this was an indication of how popular the story had become.)

From a goodreads review:

"Divided into three sections, Quinn's tale begins in the days of the Roman Empire, where the mighty gladiator Claus -- a barbarian from the frozen Northland -- has just finished his term of service in the province of Judea.  On his journey back to his homeland, Claus chances upon a poor family under attack and saves them from a murderous band of soldiers.  With this selfless act, his life is changed forever.  Claus goes on to travel further than he ever could have imagined.  Crossing from one end of the Empire to the other and back again, he eventually outlives the power of Rome and the dark ages that follow it, and witnesses the rise of new civilizations on its former lands.  Immune to the effects of time, Claus accumulates the wisdom of many lifetimes before discovering the final road he is destined to follow -- a path that will lead him to his true calling, and fulfill a promise made to one very special child on behalf of all the children in the world."

Sounds pretty hokey, huh?  But in Quinn's hands it becomes a moving and powerful story, a perfect tale to read aloud on Christmas Eve.  I first read the story in the Margulies anthology in 1965 and it has stuck with me ever since.

Find out for yourself.  The link below takes you to the January 1938 issue of Weird Tales.  The story begins on page 30.  As a bonus, this issue also has stories by Dorothy Quick, Edmond Hamilton, David H. Keller and others, including Part One of a serial by "Gans T. field" (Manly Wade Wellman) and a classic reprint from Nathaniel Hawthorne.


Thursday, December 21, 2017


A great song from Patsy Cline.


From December 24, 1939, a Christmas adventure of The Shadow.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Here's a big hit from 1956 by Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps


A elderly Jewish woman won $30,000,000 in the lottery.  She went to her rabbi to tell him the good news and the rabbi asked her what she was going to do with such a fortune.

"Well, first" she said, "I'm going to keep $10,000,000 for myself so I can live whatever years I have left in luxury.  Then I'm going to give $10,000,000 to the synagogue to be used for building improvements and to establish a youth program."

The rabbi nodded approvingly.  "You deserve a little luxury after all your hard years, and I know the congregation will be very appreciative of the $10,000,000 donation.  But what will you do with the remaining $10,000,000?"

"I'm going to have a large gold statue of Adolph Hitler built."

The rabbi was shocked.  "Why would you want to honor the worst man in history with a statue?"

The old lady rolled up her sleeve.  "Because that son of a bitch gave me the winning numbers."

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Dionne Warwick.


If you are looking for a warm, uplifting Christmas movie, this isn't it.  This is actually one of the worst Christmas movies ever made -- easily beating such non-classics as Santa Claus Versus the Martians or Santa Claus Versus the Zombies.  As a matter of fact, as a Mexican film, it even out-rots 1964's Wrestling Women Versus the Aztec Mummy.

If you have seen the MST3K presentation of this film, in which mike and the bots actually make this thing almost entertaining, you don't have to click on the link.

For all others, you have been warned!

And Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 18, 2017


Don and Phil.


  • Lance Parkin, Magic Words:  The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore.  Biography of the comic book icon, published in 2013.  "For over three decade comics fans and creators have regarded Alan Moore as a titan of the form.  With works such as V for Vendetta, Watchmen and From Hell, he has repeatedly staked out new territory, attracting literary plaudits and a mainstream audience far removed from his underground origins.  His place in popular culture is now such that major Hollywood players vie to adapt his books for cinema.  Yet Moore's journey from the hippie Arts Labs to the bestseller lists was far from preordained.  A principled eccentric, who has lived his whole life in one English town, he has been embroiled in fierce feuds with some of the entertainment industry's biggest corporations.  And just when he could have made millions ploughing a golden rut he turned to performance art, writing erotica, and the occult.  Now as Alan Moore hits sixty, it's time to go in search of this extraordinary gentleman, and follow the peculiar path taken by a writer quite unlike any other."  AS Moore himself put it on the front cover of this book, "Belongs on the bookshelf of any halfway decent criminal profiler."

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Brother Guy Consolmagno, the Detroit-born Vatican astronomer, is a self-described science fiction freak, a Jesuit, a graduate of MIT, a former Peace Corps volunteer, and the author of several books, including Would You Baptize an Extra-terrestial?

Here's a fascinating interview conducted by STEM-Talk co-host tom Jones.


From the Roy Rogers radio show.

Friday, December 15, 2017


Bill Crider -- author, educator, bon vivant, all-around good guy, and (?) music-maker.  Hire he is with The Fabulous G-Strings.

"Don't Fence Me In"  That's Bill on the end, trying to ignore his many groupies.

"Hard, Ain't It Hard"  But it wasn't that hard for Bill to keep time.

"The Workshop Song"  The tune is familiar.

"Side by Side"  Sort of.

"We Work at the ACC"  The joys of Alvin Community College.

"Grade-O"  Belafonte approved, I'm sure.


One day Bill Crider found an abandoned kitten and, being Bill, he brought him home.  The next day he happened to find two more, litter mates of the first kitten.  Bill brought those two also.  Thus began the legend of the VBKs (Very Bad Kittens) -- Gilligan, Keanu, and Ginger Tom.

We need more animal (and people) rescuers in the world.

Bill, being Bill, has shared the VBKs with us via Youtube videos.  Here are ten of them.

Please note the VBK's eyes he as he becomes possessed:



first it was the thin mint melee...

The blowsy woman with the bottled red hair kept beating the smaller man with a box of Thin Mints.  The man, the manager of the meat department, appeared close to tears as his large opponent sat on top of his thin body and continued the assault.

"Bill, isn't that Janice Perkins?"

"I think you're right, Judy," Bill replied, as spittle began to spew from the redhead's mouth.  Janice Perkins was an assistant librarian at the Alvin public library.  "I've never seen her so upset.  Normally, she's just a kind, gentle woman."  It was only a few days ago that the woman had set aside the latest Joe R. Lansdale for him.  Tony, the store manager had just come on the scene and tried to pull Janice from the man; he got a fast-moving elbow slammed into his cheek for his efforts.

"Hey!  Don't pick on that lady!" a voice cried out.  Suddenly a can of peanuts bounced off Tony's head.

Suddenly it seems as everyone got involved.  All sorts of products from the candy and snack aisle were thrown around.  Punches were thrown, followed by more punches and a few kicks.  Loreta Swann, the minister's wife, was trying to beat a pimply-faced teenager with a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, seemingly unaware that potato chips made a poor weapon.  The teenager countered with a knee to her stomach.  A foil pack of juice drink burst as someone stepped on it and an elderly man slipped on the sugary liquid and landed on his posterior, knocking over a display of Good & Plenty.  A young mother was using her shopping cart to ram people, swing it from left to right as her toddler swung back and forth in the child seat, laughing happily.

"We'd better get out of here, Bill" Judy said.

"You have never been more right, dear."

Leaving their cart behind, the two made their way to the exit.  In the parking lot they could the sound of approaching sirens.

Judy said, "I wonder what started that."

Bill shrugged, thinking of the case of Dr. Pepper they had left in the cart.

"It is certainly out of character for quiet little Alvin."

Later that day, they heard that two persons, including Janice Perkins, had been arrested and seven persons had been treated for minor injuries.  Leroy Decker, the meat manager, had been admitted to the hospital.  The "Gentle" librarian had manged to stuff almost three-quarters of the battered thin mints box down his throat.


gators, we've got gators...

The next morning, Bill went for his morning run.  The Texas air was sweet with the smell of spring.  The sky was clear and the rising sun promised a good day.

Often when he ran, Bill would try to figure out where his next book was going.  As he ran past the Dairy Queen, Bill knew that he had to have Sheriff Dan stop at the DQ in the next chapter.  But would it be for a clue, or just for a tasty treat?  Bill didn't know, but he never really knew where his books were going until he got there.  His fingers on the keyboard seemed to do most of the plotting for him.

He jogged up the slight incline of Bowie Street.  He heard a slight rustling from the empty lot on his right.  Emerging from the tall weeds was an alligator, its jaws opened wide, heading right at him.  It was followed by two more barreling right at him.

Bill was not a fast runner.  He ran because he enjoyed it.

A motivated alligator can move pretty fast.  It was useless to try to outrun the three beasts.  Each gator was at least eight feet long.  That's eight feet of hungry, angry motivation apiece.

Bill turned to face the crocodilians.  He took a deep breath and ran at the charging monsters.

He swooped down, right hand along the pavement until it reached the under the jaw of the leading gator. His mighty right arm lifted, bringing the gator with it.  His powerful left fist then collided with the gator's midsection and the beast flew through the air, landing some thirty yards away.

Bill quickly leaped, soaring over the two remaining gators.  He landed behind them and, turning swiftly, grabbed each by the tail.  The gators spun over his head like helicopter blades.  He release one, then the other, and the two arced through the air to land near their companion.  Defeat and fear registered in their lizards brains as the three began to lumber back into the tall weeds.

Bill brushed off some dirt on his sleeve as he looked around.  No one in sight.  Good.  His secret was safe.

As he finished his run, he saw his neighbor, Si Nicklebury, reaching for the morning paper.  "Be careful today, Si.  There's gators about."

The old man looked confused.  "Goiters?"


wherein the secret to his powers is revealed...

It all began on one hot day in the late Fifties when a gangly kid with Coke bottle glasses and a predilection for real Doctor Pepper (made with real sugar) was walking home in Mexia, Texas, enjoying his favorite drink while he ambled to the Crider manse.

"Hey, Four-eyes!"

Bill turned just in time to see his nemesis, Butchie LeFevre, the town bully, jostle his bottle of Doctor Pepper.  The drink splashed in his face, clouded his glasses, and ran down his shirt.  Bill came close to tears.  He expected such a thing from Butchie and usually tried to avoid him, but on this day, when it was so hot and the Doctor Pepper was so refreshing, he had let his guard down.

It is not certain that the other thing had anything to do with what happened to Bill, but that day the sun experienced massive solar flares, spewing out some fairly esoteric atoms with the giant flame.  In Mexia, there was a sudden blast of light, temporarily blinding Bill through his thick glasses.  It is presumed that this powerful ray of light, connecting with the film of Doctor Pepper on Bill's glasses, then filtered through to his eyes and thus to his brain, was the source of Bill's powers.  I muyst mention, however, that continued (and secret) government experiments to reproduce these exact circumstances have proved futile.

By the time Bill's sight returned, Butchie was already halfway down the block, laughing to himself...

And Bill had changed!

The slim lad had no idea that something had changed him.  He felt only a desire to go home, change his shirt, wash up, and settle down to watch American Bandstand.  In his rush, he slammed the front door behind him, tearing the door off its hinges and shattering the door frame.

"Golly!  What happened?"  he asked himself.  Bill was confused.

His sister chanted, 'Billy's in trouble! Billy's in trouble!"

"Hush now, Francie.  I didn't do that.  It must have been a strong gust of wind."  Bill tried to settle the door back in place.  Failing, he thought that his sister might be right.  He was in trouble.  His parents, however, did not blame Bill but were mystified as to what had happened.  The wind explanation seemed implausible, as did Bill's brother's theory that it could have been wild boars.

From that day, Bill became more and more aware of his powers.  He had super-strength.  His brain power increased significantly.  He could play the guitar -- not well, but much better than before. He still was not a speedy runner.  For reasons of his own Bill hid his new powers from his family and his friends.  (In retrospect, Bill admitted that he was extraordinarily shy in his younger days.)  Bill also vowed to use his powers only for good and never use them to harm any living thing.

Over the next few years, Bill quietly used his powers to fulfill that vow.  Numerous people and pets were rescued, often anonymously.  Two small burglaries were foiled.  A toddler who wandered away from home was found.  Dead cars and trucks were pushed to the breakdown lane.  Bill's grades, never that bad, improved.  Becoming more confident, Bill's circle of friends widened.  There was the train wreck with the chemical spill.  Then there was the church picnic where Bill's anonymity was erased.

The picnic was well underway when the driver of an eighteen-wheel truck suffered a fatal heart attack and the truck began to hurtle toward the crown.  Luckily, Bill was on hand.  He leaped in front of the truck, stretched out his arms, and his mighty thews managed to stop the eighteen-wheeler.  This happened while the pastor was saying grace, so most of those attending the picnic had their heads bowed and did not see Bill in action, but a few had.  Bill said the truck's front wheels must have hit a hole in the ground or a ditch and stopped before it was able to hit him.  Rumors began.  Most people didn't believe them, but there were a few who kept repeating them.

Somehow the rumors spread and reached a secret government agency, which investigated and then approached Bill clandestinely.  That was how Bill began to work for the government, embarking on sporadic secret missions that required his special talents.  Eventually Bill led an elite team of troubleshooters that included the following agents:

     - Seepy, a mathematical genius who actually believed his code name derived from his initials, C. P., although others knew better;

     - Ivy, a military strategist whose code name actually was derived from his initials;

     - Hack, a cab driver and former race car and stunt driver who had a need for speed and action;

     - and Lawton, an expert lock picker; no door is a barrier to his skill.

Together they form the BIGFOOT Squad, a crack team of experts occasionally called from their day jobs to meet deadly threats all over the world.  They gave themselves the name because both Hack and Lawton have big feet (Hack, a size 12, and Lawton, a size 13) and BIGFOOT sounded much better than BIGFEET.

Little did Bill realize that the BIGFOOT Squad would be called on the day he encountered the angry alligators on his morning run.

will the persecution never end?

After exchanging somewhat confused pleasantries with Mr. Nicklebury, Bill jogged up his driveway where Judy awaited holding a cup of coffee for him.  "You have a visitor, Bill."

"Oh?"  Bill took the cup.

"I left him the back yard, eating bugs."  One thing that could be said about Judy, nothing phased her.

Bill made his way to the back.

"Billsss!"  The creature was well over seven-foot tall, with brownish-green scales, five rows of sharp teeth, a tongue that could flick out eighteen inches or more, and a musk that could stop the hordes from Taras Bulba in their tracks.  It finished chewing on a June bug.  "Mys old friendsss!"  The reptile stretched out its arms and sheathed its claws to embrace Bill.

"Sss-gak!  It's good to see you!  What brought you to Texas?"

"Sads story, Billss.  Us need your help.  Lisstens to mys tale of woes.  Us gives Peru updates."

A little bit of explanation is needed here.  Several years earlier. Bill and the BIGFOOT Squad were summoned to Peru to investigate some mysterious (and possibly catastrophic) events.  Eventually they found themselves in the steep, hidden tunnels under the ancient city of Manchu Piccu, which led them to the Grssnck, the underground kingdom of the Reptile-Men.  This ancient race had successfully hid in peace from man for thousands of years.  A small number of the scientifically advanced Reptile-Men, under the leadership of the mad manicurist  Ptth-ths, had decided that they should rule the surface of the planet, enjoying the warmth of the sun rather than the heat of and underground volcano that had sustained the Grssnck for millennia.  The Bigfoot squad had easily overcome the rebels, thus saving Grssnck from being bombed out of existence easily-reactive American government of that time, earning the undying friendship of Grssnck's king, Sss-gak.  The most difficult task Bill and his friends faced was to extricate Seepy from the clutches of one of Sss-gak's offspring, Sss-grl, who had fallen in love with Seepy.  The fact that the Reptile-Men were all hermaphrodites confused things further.

Nonetheless, with the rebels imprisoned in Grssnck, Bill and Sss-gak became fast friends, exchanging postcards and best holiday wishes.  Bill unfailingly received a Christmas card every year from Sss-gak while he sent Blsskna greetings to the reptile king on that holy holiday; often Bill would include and old paperback, knowing how much Sss-gak enjoyed westerns.  How those various messages passed from one to the other is a highly classified government secret.

Due to obvious circumstances, Bill and Sss-gak's friendship was limited to correspondence only.  Since their original encounter, the two had never met face-to-face.  Until now.  Something very dire must have happened!

Bill slowly settled himself in a lawn chair.  "Tell me."

"Ptth-ths has escaped!  And, dear Billss, he has vowed vengeances on yous and the Uniting Statess!  I haves come to warns youss!  Pluss theres iss the dangerss of yous preisdentss whos secretly tweetss bombss droppings on Peru very soons!"

Just then, a picnic table exploded in a bright flash of destruction!

Dang it!   Bill thought, as he grabbed his reptilian friend and dropped to the ground. That's the third table destroyed this month.  Judy is going to kill me.  I really should try to keep my address secret.  Bill had often been the target of disgruntled madmen, criminals, and deposed rulers.

Bill turned to where the blast had come from and caught a glimpse of a scaly, disfigured barbed tail disappearing around a fence.  "That's Ptth-ths!  I'd recognize that tail anywhere!"  Bill cried.

Judy stood by the back door.  "Not another table, Bill!"

if that's the case, sir, you're free to go...

Bill took after the reptilian rebel but by the time he got to the street, Ptth-ths had disappeared.

Returning to his back yard, Bill helped dust off Sss-gak.  "Are you okay, my friend?"

"Yess, Bills.  I fears Ptth-ths will make goods on his threatss.  Yous in dangers, Bills."

"Don't worry about that.  I can take care of myself.  Have you any idea what Ptth-thk will try next?"

The Grssnck king slowly turned bluish -- an indication of reptilian fear and worry.  "Ssadlys, Ptth-ths escapeds with the mosts dire weapons.  The Agrreso-Rays.  This weaponss can make anyones aggresives, evens mens, Grssnckies, and animalss!"  Is mosts dangerouss!"

"That may explain the Thin Mint melee last night and the alligators this morning.  Ptth-ths must be stopped before he can cause real damage!  Come, my friend, let me call the BIGFOOT Squad!"

Sss-gak put a scaly appendage on Bill's arm.  "There iss nos times!  Ptth-ths wills act fasts!  Firsts Alvins, thens Americas!"

"You're right!  Let's go!"

When they got to the street, Si Nicklebury was beating a neighbor's car with a shovel.  "Tried to leave the neighborhood without waving hello, did you!"  Thump!  Thump!  The shovel pounded two more times.  You need some manners you young whippersnapper!"  Inside the car, a young pimple-faced teen was quivering with fear.  Bill recognized the youth as Jared, the boy who had delivered the morning paper until he had handed the route to his younger brother two years ago.

A police car had pulled up and Officer Opie got out.  He took the shovel from the old man.  "What's going on?"

Si ranted, "This ungracious thug was about to leave the neighborhood without waving hello!  Damned discourteous, I say!"  He tried to get the shovel back from the policeman.  "Plus, I think he's been on my lawn!"

There nothing more sacred to an Alviner than his lawn.  Officer Opie put his arm around Si Nicklebury.  "Si, let's go into the house and see is we can work this thing out."  He turned to the boy, "Jared, you'd better move on.  And watch out for other people's lawn in the future!"

Jared, who had wet himself during the attack, said "Yessir," and drove off.

"I bet that Aggreso-Ray hit poor old Si," Bill said.


texas leads with whey...

Bill began to search the town.  He had no weapons save his great strength and intelligence; he felt his guitar playing ability would not be of use in this hunt.  Sss-gak, because of his distinct appearance, went back to Bill's to avoid being seen.  He spent the rest of the day eating bugs in the back yards and politely refusing Judy's offers for a nice glass of sweet tea.

Where would Ptth-ths hide?  Someplace dark and warm, Bill figured, but where?

Quickly, he discounted some of the most likely places.  Alberta Frick's Museum of Mold?  No, too many visitors this time of day.  The dugout at the Nolan Ryan Baseball-eum.  No, again too many people.  The Alvin nuclear power plant.  No, it had been closed and sealed since what has been termed "that unfortunate event."  The Toyotathon?  No, the large reptile could not fit behind the wheel.

A Cheese World truck rode past Bill.  Cheese World!  The newest and biggest business in Alvin!  Home of the world's largest cheese wheel!  And home of the biggest vat of whey in the country (and perhaps the world; North Korea has claimed to have the biggest vat of whey but refuses to allow inspectors to verify the claim)!  Whey, of course, is the protein-rich liquid by-product of cheese making.  The production of whey demanded a warm environment.

The adventure thus ended quickly.  Outside the giant Cheese World building, there were two large doors, one marked "Cheese enter," the other, "Enter this whey."  Bill took the latter door, only to met a sizzling blast blast that bored a two-foot hole to his right.

"Do not moves, my enemies!  I wantss to enjoys this momentss!"  Ptth-ths approach Bill carefully.  Placing the muzzle of his ray gun to Bill's head, the reptile rebel led him to the center of a large room dominated by the maybe world's largest vat of whey. 

"Yous to dies slowlys, awfullys!"  Ptth-ths came close to chortling, something reptiles are not adept of doing.

"Bill!  Move quickly!"  The sound startled Ptth-ths enough that Bill was able to scurry away from him.  There, the left of the large vat, stood Judy with her hands on a large lever.  Dainty as she was, Judy managed to pull the lever.  The vat tilted.  Gallons of whey began to spill, rushing to the reptile and washing over him.

Suddenly, Sss-gak was next to his drenched enemy, binding him with rope.  Sss-gak was wearing (tightly) one of Bill's trench coats and an old porkpie hat, a outfit that did little to disguise him.

"Is wills take hims backs to Grssnck.  Hes will never escapess agains!  Iss promisess!  Thank yous, Billss!"

Bill put his arms around Judy.  "Don't thank me, Sss-gak.  Thank Judy.  She's my secret weapon and the very best part of me."

Judy looked up at Bill, "And don't you forget it, Bucko."


Today is Bill Crider Day on the internet, as decreed (to unilateral acclaim) by our fearless leader Patti Abbot.  Bill is a man loved by all of us for his talent, his kindness, his decency, his knowledge, and his love of Doctor Pepper with pure cane sugar.  Earlier this month he posted that his cancer had reached the stage where his doctor suggested he go into hospice.  While we all hope a miracle will happen, it was felt that we should honor Bill while he is able to see it.  For reviews, reminiscences, tributes, and tales told out of school about Bill and his body of work, please check for links; check several times today because tributes will be pouring in.

Since I have already read all of Bill's novels with the exception of a few published under house names, I'd thought I would read a Crider short story I had not encountered before.  Turns out it's "The Marching Madman," a tale about The Spider, Master of Men.  Richhard Wentworth, a.k.a. The Spider, was a pulp magazine hero in the mold of Doc Savage and The Shadow.  His adventures began in Volume 1, Number 1, October 1933, of his own magazine -- The Spider -- published by Popular Publications.  The character was created by Popular's co-founder Harry Steeger and the first two "complete full-length novels" were authored by R. T. M. Scott.  From issue #3 on, all of The Spider's adventures were written under the house name "Grant Stackbridge."  Norvill Page wrote the vast majority of these; others authors to The Spider stories included Wayne Rogers, Emile Tepperman, and Prentice Winchell.

Although the Spider's original adventures -- usually involving a bizarre and violent threat to the country -- ended after 118 adventures, in December 1943, his legacy has been carried by various paperback reprints, two fifteen-reel movie serials, comic books and graphic novels, and by one original anthology of 19 stories, The Spider Chronicles (Moonstone Books, 2007).  That's where I found 'The Marching Madmen," Bill Crider's wonderful homage to The Spider and to the pulp magazines of the past.

In the banquet room of the best hotel on South Park Avenue, New York City's elite gathered to honor Dr. Martin Riley for his many contributions to the city's hospitals.  Along with many important politicos and business and civic leaders were Richard Wentworth and his lovely fiance, Nita Van Sloan.  the fete was being held despite threats from the mysterious Dr. Dionysus, who vowed that all the city leaders would die if his ransom demands were not met.  Already the city's fire chief had been murdered horribly by a "maniac who had simply taken the chief's head in his huge hands and popped his spine like a rotten stick."

Wentworth suspects that Dr. Dionysus will strike this gathering.  He makes an excuse to leave and exits the room as Richard Wentworth, but leaves the hotel as The Spider.  Blocks from the hotel was Bellevue Hospital, home of many madmen.  The madmen have escaped the hospital and were marching blindly toward the hotel, controlled in some way by the equally mad Dr. Dionysus.  wherever the madmen marched, there was a swarth of destruction.  They were unstoppable, swarming over a police cordon, almost impervious to bullets.

How can The Spider stop this murderous tide of death?  Can he expose the man behind the Dr. Dionysus persona?  And will he be able to protect his secret identity?

You guessed it.  The answer to all three is yes.  To find out how, you will have to read the story for yourself.

Bill Crider captured the essence of the pulp days in just thirteen pages.  The story is a winner. 

Be sure to check out more about Bill and his writing at Patti's blog.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


From 1954, Elvis got the entire nation all shook up.


Consider this a precursor to American BandstandYour Hit Parade ran for 24 years, 1935 to 1955, as a 60 minute NBC program, later to be shortened to half an hour.  (From 1936 to 1937 it appeared simultaneously on NBC and CBS radio.)

This episode, from May 29, 1948, stars Frank Sinatra, who had first starred on the program in 1943.  Sinatra's regular gig ended in December 1944 when he was fired for messing up the words to number one hit "Don't Fence Me In;" he had missed a cue and in the middle of the song said it had too many words.  Sinatra was rehired in 1947 and was with the show  until 1949.

Song of the songs covered in this episode are "Baby Face," "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle," "Now Is the Hour," and -- at number one -- "Nature Boy."


Wednesday, December 13, 2017


The Five Stairsteps.


My brother was fired from his job at the bank on his very first day.  A woman asked him to check her balance so he pushed her over.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones.


This interesting low-budget film from small company Invincible Pictures stars Reginald Denny as a playwright and reluctant detective when two producers of his play are murdered.  Evelyn Brent, Jack La Rue, Inez Courtney, and Hugh Marlowe are in the top credited cast.

I liked the film, but reviewers are mixed on IMDb.  Thus:

"A wise cracking little thriller that's actually much better than it's title."

"WONDERFULLY enjoyable, entertaining and clever classic 'whodunit'...has literally got everything from a complicated plot with LOTS of suspects, a pretty unusual murder method, and some QUITE suspenseful moments, to the most funny and original wisecracks and the most hilarious characters."

"No one can dream up a dumber murder method (but they did)...but then surprisingly, it became enjoyable."

"A mostly static, dull, over-talkative, and ultimately disappointing movie.  I couldn't make sense of the garrulous plot...a shame to see Evelyn Brent wasted...a chatterbox like Inez Courtney and a tepid hero like Reginald Denny...One incredibly boring scene [with] the lackluster Denny...I thought would never end."

Well, you can't please everyone.

This one was directed by Phil Rosen (Charlie Chan in the Secret Service, Captain Tugboat Annie, The Shadow Returns) from a script by Arthur T. Horman (The Lone Wolf in Paris, Buck Privates, Captains of the Clouds).


Monday, December 11, 2017


Danny O'Keefe.


  • Ursula Curtiss, The House on Plymouth Street and Other Stories.  Collection of thirteen mystery stories.  Curtiss came from a writing family; her mother was mystery novelist Helen Reilly and her sister was mystery novelist Mary McMullen, who provides a warm and interesting look at Curtiss in the books introduction.  Curtiss is somewhat of a forgotten writer, although her books have gotten positive reviews lately from Sergio at Tipping My Fedora, John Norris at Pretty Sinister Books, and others.
  • "Michael Innes" (J. I. M. Stewart), Lament for a Maker.  Mystery novel, the third featuring Sir John Appleby.  In addition to being an academic, contemporary novelist, and literary critic, Stewart published nearly fifty mystery novels and collections under his Innes pseudonym from 1936 to 1987, thirty-five of which featured Appleby, who began as a Detective Inspector at Scotland Yard and rose to Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.  From the Crime Fiction Lover blog:  "The third novel by Innes is a remarkable combination of gothic horror and literary thriller with an obvious debt to Robert Louis Stevenson.  Set in a fictional district of Scottish hamlets, it begins like a 1930s version of Trainspotting with a local shoemaker's account in an authentic dialect of the bizarre events that have occurred during a snowbound Christmas.  The mad recluse Ranald Guthrie, the laird of Erchany, has fallen from the ramparts of his castle on a stormy winter night.  A crime appears to have been committed but few will mourn the passing of the miserly laird, who was in thrall to a clannish feud going back centuries."
  • Mel Odom, Paid in Blood, Blood Evidence, and Blood Lines.  The three novels in Odom's NCIS:  Crime Scene series.  These are not television tie-ins, but are original novels featuring NCIS Commander Will Coburn.  In the first:  "An NCIS agent is found murdered in North Carolina...A U.S. Marine with ties to the South Korean black market is assassinated in Chinhae...Columbian cocaine is discovered in Moscow...And old Soviet nuclear missiles have gone missing."  In the second, "A serial killer stalks a quiet North Carolina community...A sixteen-year-old has been savagely killed...A dead soldier is linked to a seventeen-year-old murder case...And a high-powered politician may be involved."  And in the third:  "An NCIS agent is shot taking down a suspect...Two fathers fight to protect their sons..And somewhere in the jungles of Vietnam, a U.S. soldier lies in a forty-year-old grave."  The publisher of this series, Tyndale House, is known for religious nonfiction and fiction, often from a conservative Christian viewpoint; their biggest sellers have been the Left Behind series.
  • Edgar Wallace, The Forger.  Mystery novel, circa 1927.  "Newly married to a man she did not love, Jane Leith is plunge headlong into a nightmare of murder and madness.  What was the secret of her husband's immense fortune?  Was he 'The Clever One' who kept the banks and the police of the world guessing with his brilliant Forgeries?  Or was he a homicidal maniac?"  Wallace, of course, wrote a gazillion thrillers during the first third of the last century.  His work now is dated and. at times. quaintly readable.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


Weather has been acting strangely lately.  Here in Pensacola, it snowed last night.  Maybe fifty flakes (I didn't count).  One enterprising person was actually able to catch a snowflake in a jar for the Pensacola Museum of Ain't That Weird, but by the time he got there the sneaky snowflake had managed to escape, leaving behind only a small trace of snowflake pee.

Here's a BBC documentary on strange weather phenomena.



Oya, with one of my favorites.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Once upon a time, The Dave Clark Five were almost as big as The Beatles.

NICKEL COMICS #1 (MAY 17, 1940)

A nickel!  Wow!  For that price you can buy two copies -- one for each hand -- rather than one of those elite, just-for-the-over-privileged-1%, ten-cent comics!  (Or, alternatively since Nickel Comics was scheduled for fortnightly* publication,you can get both issues for the same thin dime.)

Every comic has to have their designated superheroes, right?  So this first issues has some origin stories.

Jim Barr's father -- an honest and fearless police sergeant -- was gunned down by gangsters, leaving his young son to vow to become a police officer like his father and fight crime.  In preparation the young lad spends his time studying "scientific criminology" and ballistics -- earning him the nickname "Bullet."  Jim then spends several years working on hid pet theory that criminal behavior is caused by a germ (or toxin); working tirelessly to develop an anti-toxin for his "crime cure."**

Finally old enough to take the police exam, Jim is humiliated to learn that he failed:  too short, too skinny, bad marksmanship --the years working in a lab had "taken their toll."  Jim does get a job as a civilian laboratory criminologist for the police department.  In his spare time,he continued to try to create his "crime cure."  He finally tests his serum on himself and is disappointed to find it did not work.  SPOILER ALERT!  But it did work!  END SPOILER ALERT!  When Jim wakes up the next morning, his body had altered!  "Overnight the serum has destroyed all the germs and toxins in Jim's body.  Thus released from the poisons which sap other men's strength, Jim's muscles and nerves develop with amazing speed.  His chest deepens, he grows taller and heavier and his body grows hard and strong as steel.  The serum had done its work."  Jim had become the most powerful man on Earth.

Realizing that this power cannot fall into the hands of criminals, Jim destroys his work.  Wearing over-sized clothes to disguise his new body, Jim returns to work.  When a killer holds the police at bay with a truckload of dynamite, Jim decides that he could do something to honor his father -- he could become a costumed crime-fighter who can strike fear into the hearts of evil-doers.  The serum had also increased his brain power, so Jim could easily make and design a bullet-shaped helmet that als served as a "gravity-regulator."    Clad in knee-high black boots, yellow jodhpurs, a black belt as wide as a sizable tire, a red short sleeve shirt  with a vee-neck front that reached just above the navel, two wide golden bracelets (one for each wrist), and his bullet helmet, Jim Barr is transferred into...BULLETMAN!  All this was done in done for Jim, in his new persona, to catch the killer who had stymied the police for hours.  Then he did even more stuff.  Phew!

But wait!  This was not the only origin story in this issue.  On Africa's Gold Coast, Bushmen attack Dr. Wilbur Dale and his wife and their twin infant sons.  A faithful servant is able to flee with one of the young boys, Bill, saving him while leaving his twin Stephen and his parents to die.  The baby is then shipped to America where his dead father's lawyer serves as his guardian.  When Bill is 22, rumors come to him about a huge white man called  living in Africa's interior called Sti-Vah.  So, off Bill goes to Africa in hopes that his brother had survived and that this is him.  In Africa, he gets a companion called Dagoo, a pygmy, and together they travel to an unexplored part of the continents where they encounter savage ape-men and gint animals (snakes and elephants and gorillas, oh my!).  At last they meet Stephen, who is now the ruler of a tribe of giant natives, only to have the village attacked by Arab slavers.   Captured by the slavers, the two now face new dangers as the legend of THE JUNGLE TWINS is born.

This issue also introduces us to Warlock the Wizard (a white "white" as in good, not white as in Caucasian...although he surely is.  This is 1940, after all.) and his wise raven Hugin.  Warlock has a golden staff topped by a clenched hand.  When Warlock shouts the word of power (it's "ABRAXAS," but don't tell anyone) the hand leaves the staff, grows to a huge size, and obeys Warlocks commands -- usually about saving innocents and smashing bad men.  The word of power also does other nifty things (basically anything the script calls for) to help save the day. This tme, Warlock faces off against Baron Garth, Lord of Evil and a black magician ("black" as in evil, not Negro, cause the Baron is also a Caucasian.  This is 1940, after all.), who has beautiful Joan Scott in his clutches.  Monsters and magic galore happen.  I also have to mention that it's cool that Hugin (the bird) is the one who tells Warlock that someone needs saving.

And all in color for a nickel!  Brought to you by the same folks who bring you Mechanix Illustrated.


* Actually, the publishers (Fawcett)said "bimonthly,"which used to mean every two months but has now been corrupted by (IMHO) yahoos who also use it to mean twice a month, so you you now hear bimonthly, you don't know if they mean once every two months or twice a month.  Yes, like the Oxford comma or double-spacing after a sentence-ending period, this is a pet peeve of mine.  Actually, the publishers said this "bimonthly" comic book would appear every other Friday.  In my book, this means fortnightly.  So not only is Fawcett's bimonthly not like your grandparents' bimonthly, t'ain't anyone's bimonthly.  Ptah!

** Yes, this is a quack theory, bordering on super-quack.  But we've seen a lot of them in our time, haven't we?

Friday, December 8, 2017


Duane Eddy.


Tarzan and the Madman by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1964)

The last complete Tarzan novel (the 23rd) to be published by Edger Rice Burroughs came fourteen years after the author's death.  There's a reason for that.

Tarzan and the Madman was actually written in 1941 but was shelved by the author when "Pearl Harbor and the war drew Edgar Rice Burroughs away from his writing due to a more active career as a war correspondent."  The manuscript lingered, forgotten, in the author's files until discovered by Burroughs' son Hubert.  Perhaps it should have stayed there.

It's not that the book isn't an enjoyable read.  It has a lot of the expected Burroughs touches that one looks for in a Tarzan novel -- a lost city, a woman in peril, various characters wandering through the jungle missing each other at every available opportunity, dangers galore, the whole civilization versus nature thing, a sly sense of often self-deprecating humor, and a hero with superhuman abilities.  It's just that the book is a bit...odd.  There's just no there there.

It reads (and probably is) like a first draft, perhaps abandoned until the author could get a clearer grasp on what he wanted to say and how to say it.  With 33 chapters, each averaging less than five pages, there is a lot that is not fleshed out and plot points that seem to be thrown in willy-nilly after the fact.  One does not expect three-dimensional characters from Burroughs; likewise, one does not want to encounter one-dimensional or no-dimensional characters.  One of the villains in the piece is introduced as an opinionated Bolshevik for a couple of paragraphs and for the rest of the book this aspect of the book is completely ignored.  Another villain is described as a "rotter," as if that one word early in the novel is enough to describe his character.  Neither villain, by the way, is very villain-y.

The two main warring factions in the book are poorly described.  Their attempts at war are deliberately laughable and are designed to maintain a status quo, allowing Burroughs to pontificate on the absurdity of war.  He then hints on the necessity of war. 

The word "fascist" appears only once in the book as we are told that all fascists are gullible.

Tarzan himself is unconvincing and, at times, very unTarzan-like.

The heroine is captured and recaptured and captured again by various groups.  I lost count after the seventh times she was captured.

The love triangle in the story comes to a quick end when one of the suitors is killed by a giant ape, quickly, as if the author suddenly tired of the gent.

Scenes that should have taken paragraphs if not pages are skimmed over with a single sentence
The book ends not with a bang, but with a deus-ex-talkedy-talk in which everything is explained in a fast and unconvincing manner.

The plot?  A man claiming to be Tarzan has been kidnapping native women and children.  The real Tarzan discovers this and is determined to track down and kill this imposter who has sullied his name.
The false Tarzan has been taking the kidnapped ones to a lost city in the jungle for human sacrifices, and that's when he doesn't throw them to a captive group of hungry lions.  He is awkwardly referred to a "the man who thought he was Tarzan" through out the book.

The lost city is inhabited by Portuguese descendants of followers of Christoforo de Gama (brother of famed explorer Vasco de Gama), thought to have been destroyed by Moslems 400 years ago.  The Portuguese then bred with natives as their culture declined and their Christian religion degraded to an unrecognizable state.  The city is cut off from the rest of Africa by a tribe of cannibals.  The king, a descendant of de Gama, and the high priest have been using the false Tarzan for their own ends.  Their only neighbors are in a nearby city of Moslems (who had also interbred and degraded), ruled by the cruel Sultan Ali.

King de Gama has sent the false Tarzan to capture a white woman -- any white woman.  The woman he captures is Sandra Pickerall, the daughter of the rich owner of Pickerall's Ale.  (Sandra is the one who spends the rest of the book being captured  by oh so many different people [and apes].)  there is a reward for the return of Sandra and another reward for the killing of Tarzan, who supposedly kidnapped her.  Sandra and the reward bring together many of the cast of characters -- good and bad -- whom we follow throughout the book.

Tarzan and the Madman is an entertaining, if hurried and jerky, read.  It would have been much better if Burroughs has got around  to making it much more coherent.  As it stands it is an ill-deserved capstone to a noted series.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


The Moody Blues.


From April 19, 1939, Chester Morris stars in this episode of The Silver Theater (brought to you by International Silver).  The Silver Theater ran from 1937 to 1947, presenting 232 dramatic programs.  (This was in addition to 23 variety shows that ran on The Silver Theater Summer Show in 1941, which was hosted by Ed Sullivan.)

Dave Sherman has inherited a huge fortune from his father, including the Lazy B ranch in Medicine Bow, Wyoming.  With his new-fund wealth, Dave heads east to achieve one of his personal goals:  to meet real New York City gangsters.  Connie Banister (Glenda Farrell), the daughter of a New York banker friend of Dave's father, introduces Dave to some of her friends, pretending they are gangsters.  Conrad Nagel hosts this comedy written by Paul Franklin.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis.


Never try to explain a pun to a kleptomaniac.  They take things literally.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Judy Garland & Gene Kelly, from 1942's For Me and My Gal.


From 1933, here's Popeye's theatrical cartoon debut, the first of 280 cartoons Popeye adventures filmed from 1933 to 1957.  Popeye began as a character in E. C. Segar's already popular Thimble Theatre comic strip and soon took over the strip.  According to Wikipedia, by the 1930s there was "hardly a newspaper reader in the Depression-era that did not know his name."  But animated cartoon characters, led by Mickey Mouse, proved to be very successful, King Features signed an agreement with Fleischer Studios to produce animated adventures of Popeye and the other Thimble Theatre characters.

In this first cartoon of the series, Popeye has just got shore leave.  Waiting for him is Olive Oyl.  A number of other sailors try to pick up Olive -- including Bluto -- but she only has eyes for Popeye.  Popeye and Olive head to a carnival, followed by Bluto, who tries to impress Olive by winning games of skill and strength.  He, however, is always outshone by Popeye.  Finally, he kidnaps Olive and, since she won't marry him, ties her to the railroad tracks.  Popeye (and a can of spinach) comes to the rescue.

This first cartoon introduces the Popeye the Sailor Man song, as well as the "Sailor's Hornpipe" theme song.

Popeye is voiced by Billy Costello, who reportedly became too big for his britches after the success of the first cartoons, and was replaced the more popular Jack Mercer.  Olive Oyl (and Betty Boop) is voiced by Bonnie Poe, later to be replaced by Mae Questal and her Zasu Pitts imitation.  Bluto is voiced by William Pennell.

Several things set this cartoon apart.  First, it also features Fleischer's popular Betty Boop.  Betty is a carnival dancer and Popeye goes on stage to join her.  Betty is also topless and dark-skinned -- a parody of Josephine Baker -- so I imagine this cartoon was seldom shown on Saturday morning children's TV.

Speaking of dark-skinned, one of the carnival games Popeye and Bluto play is African Dodger, in which the goal is to hit a Negro with a ball.  A disgustingly popular carnival game from America's past, this led in some cases to brain damage and blindness, and occasionally death.  One of many blots on our cultural past.  At the end of this clip, there is a brief description of this horrifying game.

Monday, December 4, 2017


Jeni LeGon, Bill Robinson, & Fats Waller 1935's Hooray for Love.


If last week was a drought, this week is a deluge:
  • Timothy B. Benford, The Ardennes Tapes.  Thriller/horror.  "Christmas Eve, 1944.  The Ardennes Forest was thick with blood as the Battle of the Bulge raged on.  But in the midst of combat, two hundred troops -- Americans and Germans alike -- abruptly ceased fighting, uniting to face one common -- and unspeakable -- enemy...Only two men survived.  Noe, four decades later, one still lives, institutionalized and unable -- or unwilling -- to speak.  Suddenly, he begins to rant, shieking in terror about the unmentionable horrors of Ardennes...Pray that somebody listens!'
  • J. T. Edson, Ranch War.  Western.  "It seems when a lady's called 'Calamity,' chaos follows wherever she goes -- even to the most peaceful railroad town of Mulrooney, Kansas.  Martha Jane Canary's always been free as the prairie wind, tied to no place or person, so she never expected to inherit a hardscrabble ranch that other folks have been working.  She might have ignored the legal summons to claim her property...if someone hadn't tried to kill her first.  Now, whether she wants the spread or not, Jane's going to fight for what's hers -- taking on bushwackers, crooked lawyers...and a woman with a greedy heart, and a plan to steal Jane's land with bullets and brutality,  But Calamity's got an ally -- a baby-face Texas gun called the Ysabel Kid -- not o mention stony courage, a strong and sure whip hand...and a mule-stubborn willingness to lay down her life for what's right."  This book was published in England as White Stallion, Red Mare.  Edson was a British writer who published 137 books, mostly westerns, many of which were about the Floating Outfit, of which the Ysobel Kid was a member.  Calamity Jane, a historical figure, also appeared in a number of his books.  The author, whose political and racial beliefs were evidently far to the right of Attila the Hun, has fallen out of favor in recent years.
  • P. N. Elrod, editor, Dark and Stormy Knights.  Urban fantasy anthology.  "They're the shadowy defenders of humanity -- modern-day knights committing the darkest of deeds for all the right reasons.  In this all-star collection, nine of today's hottest urban fantasy authors bring us thrilling, all-new stories of the supernatural brimming with magic, mystery, and mayhem."  Presented alphabetically, the authors are Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Shannon K. Butcher, Rachel Caine, P. N. Elrod, Deidre Knight, Vicki Petterson, Lilith Saintcrow, and Carrie Vaughn.
  • James Ellroy, guest editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2002.  Mystery anthology.  Twenty mystery and suspense stories from 2001 chosen from a longer list compiled by series editor Otto Penzler.  Authors are John Biguenet, Michael Connelly, Thomas H. Cook, Sean Doolittle, Michael Downs, Brendan DuBois, David Edgerly Gates, Joe Gores, James Grady, Clark Howard, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Malone, Fred Melton, Annette Meyers, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert B. Parker, F. X. O'Toole, Daniel Waterman, and Scott Wolven.  Six of the stories are reprinted from anthologies edited by Penzler (three from Murderer's Row and three from Murder on the Ropes), while another three are from The Mysterious Press Anniversary Anthology, which has a forward by Penzler (who was the founder of Mysterious Press).  EQMM, AHMM, and Playboy each have one story represented.
  • Alan Dean Foster, Flinx's Folly.  SF novel, the ninth published in the Pip and Flinx series, and the eighth chronologically; The Pip and Flinx series is a subset of the much larger Humanx Commonwealth series.  "It's a good thingFlinx is no stranger to trouble, because he's swimming in it.  After surviving an attack by a new gang of assailants, Flinx is spirited away and enlisted in a battle against an extra-galactic threat.  Hidden behind the Great Emptiness, in a place where it seems matter and energy have never been, thee is only evil.  Pure evil that is approaching him, accelerating.  This terrifying high-stakes adventure through perilous new realms will rocket Flinx into the very heart of danger -- and into the arms of the only woman he's ever loved.  As he and Pip bravely travel to a place where no man or mini-drag has gone before, Flinx discovers he has a few more friends than he thought -- and far more enemies than he ever imagined."
  • David Gerrold, The Galactic WhirlpoolStar Trek television tie-in  novel.  "Beyond the realm of the Federation, beyond the edge of the galaxy, a lost colony of humans in space drifts inexorably toward the galactic whirlpool.  Kirk blazes new star trails to these strange people, isolated for centuries.  Unless he can convince them that the Enterprise crew members are not 'demons,' they will be sucked into a churning one-way tunnel of doom!"  Gerrold, a well-known SF writer, got his start by creating the tribbles for Star Trek.
  • Paul Johnson, The Nameless Dead.  Thriller.  "Crime writer Matt Wells hasn't had much time for a career of late -- he's been too busy fighting for his life.  And now he can' trust anyone, not even himself.  His thoughts are not his own -- his subconscious has been infiltrated and a single word can trigger hidden orders buried deep within Matt's memory, turning him into a killing machine.  The FBI aims him at the man responsible for his conditioning:  an architect of Nazi revival and devotee of the Antichurch of Lucifer Triumphant.  This man Took Matt's life away and must pay.  Even in a nation rife with antigovernment paranoia and conspiracy theories, nobody could believe the things Matt has seen.  In a nation infected with trained assassins and ritual murderers, only he can piece together the truth and save the U.S. from impending disaster."
  • Scott Nicholson, The Harvest.  Horror.  "AS THE SEASON TURNS...Nestled deep in the Southern Appalachian Mountains is the town of Windshake.  Living among the populace of good ol' boy moonshiners and God-fearing folk are psychologist Tamara Leon and her family.  All her life Tamara has been plagued by dark dreams and visions.  She calls them 'Gloomies.'  They have an uncanny way of foreshadowing tragic events to come -- and her instincts tell her something unnatural is happening....SOMETHING WICKED GROWS  Because a new presence has taken up residence in Windshake.  It feeds off everything in its path, consuming life to fuel its malevolent purpose.  Its evil can be seen in the eyes if it converts as they proceed to spread its influence from neighbor to neighbor.  And its hunger will not be sated until it has remade Windshake in its own image..." 
  • Joyce Carol Oates, guest editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2005.  Mystery and suspense anthology with twenty stories from 2004 chosen from a list provided by series editor Otto Penzler.  Authors this time out are Richard Burgin, Louise Erdrich, Daniel Handler, George V. Higgins, Edward P. Jones, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Tim McLoughlin, Lou Manfredo, David Means, Kent Nelson, Daniel Orozco, David Rachel, Joseph Raiche, John Sayles, Sam Shaw, Oz Spies, Scott Turow, and Scott Wolven.  Most of the stories here are reprinted from mainstream and small press magazines.  Only two stories came from genre sources:  one from EQMM and one from the website; another two came from Akashic Books Brooklyn Noir anthology.
  • Ann Perry, editor, A Century of British Mystery and Suspense.  Mystery and suspense anthology with 32 stories first published in the 20th century.  Many of the older standby authors are represented (Doyle, Chesterton, Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham), along with a number of noted authors from the mid-century (Michael Gilbert, Nicholas Blake, Patricia Moyes, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Ferrars, Ian Fleming) and beyond (Ruth Rendell, Ann Perry, Frances Fyfield, Robert Barnard, Simon Brett, Antonia Fraser, Reginald Hill, Peter Lovesey).  There's even a story by John Dickson Carr, who, though not a Brit, certainly wished he could have been one.  A very good collection of both the familiar and the unfamiliar.
  • Robert J. Randisi, Texas Bluff.  Western, the third in The Gamblers series.  "Professional gambler Ty Butler knows he should keep moving to stay ahead of the killers who wiped out his family and are now gunning for him.  But when a serious card player finds a challenging game in an honest house, he wants to stay a while.  For Butler, a certain gambling hall is paradise -- though the emporium's notorious owner, Little Luke Short can't seem to steer clear of Hell's Half Acre, a corrupt and festering boil in the middle of Fort Worth.  Short's been waging an on-going war with a crooked kingin, and now he's making it Ty's fight as well.  The stakes get higher when the criminal is murdered and the law comes running for Little Luke.  But Ty Butler recognizes a bluff when he sees one -- not to mention the unmistakable hand of a hired killer.  He may end up taking a bullet, but he's not cashing out of this game until real justice is done."  It's amazing how the extremely prolific Randisi (over 500 books and more than 30 anthologies) maintains a high quality in his writing.
  • Ruth Rendell, The Babes in the Woods and End in Tears.  Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford mysteries, the 19th and 20th novels in the series, respectively.  In the first book, as floods threaten "both the town of Kingsmarkham and his own home and no end to the rain in sight, Chief Inspector Wexford already has his hands full when he learns that two local teenagers have gone missing with their sitter, Joanna Troy.  Their hysterical mother is convinced that all three have drowned, and as the hours stretch into days Wexford suspects a case of kidnapping, perhaps connected with an unusual sect called the Church of the Good Gospel.  But when the sitter's smashed-up car is found at the bottom of a local quarry -- occupied by a battered corpse -- the investigation takes on a very different turn."  As for the second book, "When Mavis Ambrose is killed by a falling chunk of concrete, the police have no reason to suspect mischief.  However, the bludgeoning of the young and gorgeous Amber Marshalson that follows is clearly murder.  In the midst of the hottest summer onrecord, Inspector Wexford is called to investigate.  He discovers the two cases might be linked, and that amber was at the scene of Mavis's death.  When a third body is found. the case takes a disturbing and unexpected turn.  The deeper Wexford digs, the darker the realities become, and what he finds leaves him feeling lost in a world absent of morals."  I enjoy Rendell's Inspector Wexford series far more than her psychological crimes novels.  Not sure why.
  • Dan Simmons, Darwin's Blade.  Standalone mystery novel.  "A series of high-speed fatal car wrecks -- accidents that seem as if they may have been stages -- is leading Darwin Minor down a dangerous road.  A reluctant expert on violent ways to die, he sifts clues from wreckage the way a brilliant coroner extracts damning information from a victim's corpse.  But the deeper he digs, the more enemies he seems to make, and the wider the conspiracy seems to grow.  Before long, he'll find himself relying on deadly resources of his own in order to save his life -- and those of untold others."  Simmons writes big, fat books, and writes them brilliantly.  I absolutely have to make time to read more by him.
  • Jack Williamson, Firechild.  SF novel.  "Alphamega:  child of one man's unlimited imagination, the product of genetic manipulation experiments to create new life forms.  The only survivor of a fiery assault by Bioscience Alert, God's watchdogs who have named all scientific research the devil's handiwork.  to the U.S. government, she is a menace -- a plague carrier to be destroyed on sight.  But to Sax Belcraft, she is the only link to his lost brother.  And to Panchito Torres, who knows her best, she is an angel come to Earth, able to heal with a touch.  Alphamega.  What is she...and what will she become?"  Williamson had a sixty-nine-year career as a popular and influential science fiction writer published his last novel the year before he died at age 98.  I have enjoyed everything I have read by him, and he seemed to get only better with age.