Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, March 31, 2017


99 years ago today -- much to Crider's displeasure -- Daylight saving time went into effect in much of the United States for the first time.

Here's the Stones.


The Dark Tower I:  The Gunslinger (revised and expanded edition) by Stephen King (2003)

The Dark Tower, Stephen King's epic fantasy series, was a long time a-coming.  Although it was born in 1970, it really began as a series of stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1978 to 1981,  These five stories were collected as The Gunslinger in 1982.  The series then lay fallow until 1987, when the second book, The Drawing of the Three was released.  four years after that, the third volume, The Waste Lands, was released.  It then took another six years for the fourth volume, Wizard and Glass, to come out in 1997.  Seemingly the author was channeling his inner George R. R. Martin's writing pace.  The Dark Tower series was a labor of love for King and he approached it as such, taking his tine and working on it slowly, in between his other, more popular work. After all, King had all the time in the world...

Then came that day in June 1999 and a distracted driver and his pickup careening down a Maine road.  King's injuries were extensive; he was lucky to be alive.  It was a long recovery and King realized that he didn't have all the time in the world, after all.  He began work on the last three novels in the series.  While doing this, he realized that the first book was somewhat "out of sync" with the rest of the series, and so we have the revised and expanded edition of The Gunslinger.  When this edition was published, the fifth book in the series was due to be published and the remaining two books were completed and just needed revisions.  The final book in the series was published in 2004.  (Since then, King published and eighth book, The Wind Through the Keyhole, containing two novellas that take place chronologically between the fourth and fifth volumes.  There have also been a number of graphic novels by Peter David and Robin Furth that have helped flesh out the series.)

I read the original stories in The Gunsmith when they were first published in F&SF and again when the book originally came out.  I wasn't overly impress: the stories seemed too diffuse and it appeared to me that King was writing the tales with no definitive idea where the series was going.  The Drawing of the Three marked the point where the series really began; it was a well-written, imaginative, fully-formed novel that led, inexorably, to the rest of the series.  And the books kept getting better.  Roland's journey to stop the Walking Man and to save the Dark Tower which holds the universes together.

The revised version of The Gunslinger brings this early work into synergy with the remainder of the series.  Variants of fact and incident that did not agree with the overall opus were corrected and the book meshed much better into the series.  Although King completely rewrote the book from start to finish, there is really only about 35 pages of material that has been added, the inclusion of a few scenes.  It's a much better book.  The series itself has an epic sweep that I find astounding, and is an essential read that anchors much of King's other work.

After years of false starts, The Dark Tower is finally a movie, to be released this July.  Reportedly the movie is partially a sequel to the series.  The fate of Hollywood projects is always an iffy thing, but this movie may (or may not) be a huge blockbuster.  For anyone who wants to catch on the books before the movie is released, The Gunslinger is the place to start.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Frankie Laine (1913-2007) would have been 104 today, March 30.  Although perhaps best known today for his western songs, Laine's repertoire covered the gamut, from musicals to pop standards, from calypso to gospel, and from operetta to romance; it seemed as if there was nothing he couldn't do.  While at Columbia records alone, Laine had 39 hit records.  He performed with many of the great popular singers of his time:  Patti Page, Doris Day, Jo Stafford, The Four Lads,and Johnnie Ray, while hosting such talents as Ella Fitzgerald, Georgia Gibbs, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Shirley MacLaine, Teresa Brewer, and Jack Teagarden.

Laine grew up in Chicago's Little Italy, where his father was once Al Capone's barber.  His wide range of musical interests became evident when his early influences were the very diverse Enrico Caruso and Bessie Smith.  His outspoken opinions on equality had many persons confused as to his race.  Her was a close friend to Nat King Cole and was one of Cole's pall bearers.  He joined Black singers in giving a concert to Martin Luther King's supporters during the Selma to Montgomery march.  He was noted for his charity work, especially with the homeless, the Salvation Army, and Meals on Wheels, and donated much of his time to these and other charities.

His last song, "Taps/My Buddy," was recorded shortly after the September 11 attacks and was dedicated to the firefighters of New York; all profits from that recording are donated in perpetuity to the NYFD.

"That's My Desire"

"That Lucky Old Sun"

"Cool Water"

"Mule Train"

"Gunfight at the O.K. Corral:

"There Must Be a Reason"

"The Cry of the Wild Goose"

"The 3:10 to Yuma"

"North to Alaska"

"Answer Me, My Love"

"The Wayward Wind"


"The Kid's Last Fight"


"Ghost Riders in the Sky"

"Stars Fell on Alabama"

"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"

"Robin Hood/Champion the Wonder Horse"

"I Believe"

and there are so many more...


Philo Vance (that "pain in the pants") goes drilling for murder when he investigates the death of a dentist.  This was radio's third incarnation of S.S. van Dine's famous detective and featured Jackson Beck in the title role.  Purists may be upset that Beck's Vance had little to do with van Dine's character other than the name while others may be pleased that Vance's insufferable personality traits are not evident.

From February 15, 1949:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Lee Mckinley & the Magnetics.


What's the difference between a Texas tornado and a Tennessee divorce?
Not much.  Either way, someone's gonna lose a trailer.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


If you shoot J.R. people may talk about it for a summer, but if you shoot the sheriff or Liberty Valance, they make songs that people will be humming for years.

Here's Gene Pitney.

Monday, March 27, 2017


Jack Mulhall's film career lasted for fifty years, from 1910 to 1959, with 447 credits (including television) on IMDb.  Many of his roles were uncredited, so most people would be excused if they didn't recognize his name.  He had bit roles in such landmark films as Around the World in Eighty Days, The Man with the Golden Arm, My Friend Irma, and The Glass Key.  He starred as Craig Kennedy in the 15-episode serial The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand and he had the title role in this 12-episode serial.

"Burn-em-Up" (sometimes with hyphens, sometimes not) Barnes is a race car driver who comes to the aid of bus line owner Marjorie Temple (Lola Lane, Deadline at Dawn) when a gang of crooks go after supposedly worthless land she owns.  Helping Barnes is his teenaged buddy, Bobby Riley (Frankie Darro,  The Phantom Empire).  Also in the cast was Jason Robards, Sr. (who was billed just as Jason Robarts because his son -- being twelve -- was not yet Jason Robards.)

A lot of cars.  A lot of racing.  A lot of cliffhangers.

Below is the first episode, with links to take you to the remaining eleven episodes.





  • Mike Carey, Vicious Circle.  Fantasy, the second in the Felix Castor series.  'Felix Castor has reluctantly returned to exorcism after a successful case convinces him that he can do some good with his abilities --'good' being a relative term when dealing with the undead.  But his friend Raffi is still possessed, the succubus Juliet still technically has a contract on him, and he's still dirt poor.  doing some consulting for the local cops helps pay the bills, but Castor needs a big private job to fill the hole in his bank account.  That's what he needs.  what he gets is a seemingly insignificant 'missing host' case that inexorably drags him and his loved ones into the middle of a horrific plot to raise one of hell's fiercest demons.  When satanists, stolen spirits, sacrifice farms, and haunted churches all appear on the same police report, the name Felix Castor can't be too far behind..."  I love Carey's comic book work and this ounds really interesting.
  • Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book.  Fantasy.  Thursday Next, the literary detective who works inside books, is forced to work as a Prose Resource Operative for Jurisfiction (the police force inside books) in an effort to save the love of her life, who has been erased by the Goliath Corporation.  There she apprentices to Miss Haversham from Great Expectations, then travels to Poe's "The Raven," and works by Kafka, Austen, and Beatrix Potter.  'Thursday finds herself the target of potentially lethal coincidences, the authenticator of a newly-discovered play by the Bard himself, and the only one who can prevent an unidentifiable pink sludge from engulfing all life on Earth."  This is the second of (thus far) seven books in the series.
  • John Lutz, Mister X.  A Frank Quinn thriller.  "He mutilates his victimes.  Slices their throats. And carves an X into their flesh.  Five years ago, he claimed the lives of six women.  Then the killings abruptly stopped -- no one know why.  Ex-homicide detective Frank Quinn remembers.  which is why he's shocked to see one of the dead women in his office.  Actually, she's the identical twin of the last victim, and she wants Quinn to find her sister's murderer.  But when the cold case heats up, it attacts the media spotlight -- and suddenly the killings start again..."  Lutz is a master of the form and I just haven't been keeping up with his books as I should.  I was a big fan of both his Alo Nudger and Frank Carver series.  Maybe it's time for me to start catching up.
  • Stuart MacBride, Cold Granite.  Mystery, the first in the popular Logan McRae series.  "After a long recuperation from a stab wound, Detective Sergeant Logan McRae's first night back on duty in Aberdeen, Scotland, takes him to the crime scene where the body of a missing boy has been found on a riverbank.  To the horror of even the most experienced cops on the job, all details point to a ritualistic murder -- a serial killer.  The twenty-four hours later, another child goes missing."  This one won the 2006 Barry Award for Best First Novel.  There are now eleven books in the series, which has been called a fine example of Tartan Noir.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


I don't have a hymn for this Sunday, although if you pay attention to the words, this song embodies much of what Christ taught us.  This was the song they played immediately after our wedding ceremony 47 years ago.  This is how each of us felt then.  This is how each of us feel now.  This is part of the commitment that Kitty and I made then, follow now, and will for as long as we live.

Richard & Mimi Farina:


Forty-seven years ago today I married the love of my life.  The ceremony was held in a girl's college dormitory; the champagne reception afterward ran out of champagne -- all in all, an auspicious start to the best 47 years of my life (so far).

Kitty was 16 when I met her.  She was one of those rare people whose inner and outer beauty radiated from like a beacon on a starless night.  I was 19 and smitten, but it did not take long to realize that I was far more than smitten.  What she saw in a goop like me, I'll never know.  More importantly, were the things she didn't see in me -- things that I mistakenly thought were there, the things that held me back.  The day I met her marks the day I began to become a better man.

Four years later we were married.  I had just graduated from college with a useless degree (either English or Comparative Literature; the school never told which and I didn't find out until several years later) and was working as a laborer for my father's construction company.  Kitty was having a difficult time with her classes; that was the year that student protests over Kent State shut her school done for a while, then the anxious bride-to-be faced mid-terms just days before we were married.  Kitty graduated with a teaching degree at a time no teaching jobs were available.

We muddled through.  We each took a succession of scut jobs, some of which help guide us over the years.  Kitty became part of a pilot program designed to close juvenile detention centers in Massachusetts.  We both discovered this was something we were good at and it eventually led to our becoming foster parents for kids with extreme problems.  I briefly ran a used book store until the owner told me on a Monday that I had to buy the business by that Thursday or would be fired.  I discovered I had a flair for writing and worked (also briefly) for a firm writing undergraduate and graduate papers until the state made that business illegal.  I got a job as a stringer for a local paper and soon found myself its editor, then the executive editor for a group of weekly newspapers.  Kitty got a job at a local community college only to discover that her union (which she had to join) had negotiated a deal where new hires would not get a pay raise for three years.

We had kids.  Two of the very best, as a matter of fact.  To help pay for both girls to go on a student exchange to Japan, Kitty began delivering the Boston Globe at three o'clock every morning.  We bought a three family tenement and sold it a few years later with the full knowledge that we were not cut out to be landlords.  We bought a small lot of land from a shady character who had owned a house one the property, insured it, and torched it, then went in and expanded the foundation so that the lot was sold under a grandfather clause that allowed us to build on the expanded foundation.  (The fire chief told me, "I know that sonuvabitch torched the place, but I just can't prove it.").  Building the house on our own took a lot of nights and weekends and an awful lot of beer.  We kept the house for many years until we sold it to help the girls get through college.

Thus we muddled through.  Some low points and a lot of high points.  Some tragedy and loss and a lot of laughter and happiness.  We raised two fantastic women and are now watching our five grandchildren grow into very special people.  (There's a reason why they are called "grands.")

Today, I look back in awe at the fact that I had met someone like Kitty (actually, I'm convinced there is no one like Kitty) and had the great luck to marry her.  Her smile still captivates me.  I can look into her eyes for hours and remain enchanted.  Her warmth, compassion, humor, intelligence, and integrity continue to make me a better person.

I love her with all my being.  She deserves nothing less.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


From Stop the World - I Want to Get Off, here's Anthony Newley.


If you want a Golden Age comic book western hero who is really golden, you don't have to look any further than Roger Parsons, a.k.a. Golden Arrow.  Shortly before World Was I, Dr. Paul Parsons developed a new gas that would revolutionize balloon travel.  (In some way that I cannot fathom, this gas could revolutionize aviation and provide a needed boost for the American military.)  In order to test the gas, Dr. Parsons embarked on a cross-county balloon voyage with his wife and infant son.  While traveling near the town of Prairie gulch, Parsons balloon was shot down on the orders of evil Brand Braddock, who wants the formula for the gas for himself.  (Remember that this was before WWI and we learn that Braddock's ranch house alone cost $3,000,000!  Clearly, the fruits of evil pay off big time!)  Parsons and his wife were killed, but out from the wreckage crawled the infant -- Roger Parsons.  Unfortunately, a mountain lion spotted the infant, clamped him in its jaws, and strolled away to enjoy a tasty meal.

Will the saga of Golden Arrow be ended before it even began?

No!  Because the old prospector Nugget Ned happen on the scene and shot the mountain lion.  With the infant in his arms, Nugget Ned backtracked the mountain lion's trail to the crash site where, hidden, he saw Braddock's men raiding the wreckage.  Instantly nugget Ned knew that Braddock was responsible for the crash and that the infant's life would be worth less than a pig's patootie if he knew the child was alive.  So Nugget Ned did what every respectable old prospector would do:  he vowed to raise the baby himself, in secret.

And so the infant grew up.  And how!  The "healthy outdoors" allowed the boy to gain a great physique.  By age five, he could wrestle and pin a bear cub.  At age seven, he could outrun an antelope.  At ten, his eyesight was better than an eagle's.  The boy became a master of the bow and arrow, able to sever a rattlesnake's head at 100 yards.  At eighteen, he tamed the leader of a pack of wild horses, training him to become the fastest and mightiest horse in the west -- White Wind.  Because Nugget Ned was (I guess) a bit contrary, he had no real use for the gold he dug up; so he let the boy coat his arrowheads with gold.  And Golden Arrow was born!

Because the boy had finally grown up, Bill Parker (the editor/creator/writer of the comic book) gave the old prospector a heart attack, but before dying, Nugget Ned told the boy that his name was Roger Parsons and that Brand Braddock had killed his parents and stolen the valuable gas formula.  And so Golden Arrow goes to reclaim his heritage and face Braddock and his two (equally evil) sons -- Bronk and Brute.

And so we have Golden Arrow's origin story as told in Fawcett's Whiz Comics #2 in February 1940 (the same issue that introduced comic book heroes Captain Marvel, Spy Smasher, Ibis the Invincible, and the somewhat forgotten Lance O'Casey, seafarer).

The original artist for the series was Greg Duncan.  Later artists and writers included Bernie Krigstein and Pete Costanza.  

Golden Arrow had his own erratically scheduled comic book (6 issues spanning seven years) and a few miniature-sized comics, but spent most of his Fawcett career at Whiz Comics, ending with the April 1953 issue (#153).  Fawcett sold its superheroes to DC Comics, leading to speculation that DC's Green Arrow was in part inspired by Golden Arrow.  And that may be true.  Who knows?

The archive linked below carries Golden Arrow's adventures through Whiz Comics #8.  


Friday, March 24, 2017


Dave Mallett has a poet's soul and a voice that can drip like honey.  Here he reminds us, in a song that has great personal meaning to me, that all of nature can come together in a moment of synergy to validate a very special love.


The 7 Cardinal Virtues of Science Fiction edited by Isaac Asimov, Charles G. Waugh, & Martin Harry Greenberg (1981)

This book's title and that of its companion volume, The 7 Deadly Sins of Science Fiction (1982), would have been great titles for critical essays about the field.  As it stands, however, the virtues and sins of SF are a rather diffuse topic for anthologies and makes me think the editors were straining for a theme.  No matter how much they were straining, the stories in this book are pretty good -- even the one that (speaking of straining) I had a hard time finishing.

The stories, and the virtues they reflected:

  • Temperance: "Superiority" by Arthur C. Clarke (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1951)  Greenberg included this well-known short story in at least seven of his anthologies
  • Justice:  "Whosawhatsa?" by Jack Wodhams (from Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact,December 1967; a novelette)
  • Faith:  "Riding the Torch" by Norman Spinrad (from Threads of Time, 1974, edited by Robert Silverberg, an anthology of three novellas)  This one was a Hugo finalist for Best Novella and placed third in the Locus Awards for Best Novella.  This is the one I hard a hard time getting into and I don't know why.  It's a fairly bleak story about a society with a strange aesthetic and about man's place in the universe.-- themes that do not normally deter me.
  • Prudence:  "The Nail and the Oracle" by Theodore Sturgeon (from Playboy, October 1965; a novelette)
  • Fortitude:  "Jean Dupres" by Gordon R. Dickson (from Nova 1, 1970, edited by Harry Harrison; a novelette)  This story was nominated for a Hugo for best short story, placing third.
  • Hope:  "Nuisance Value" by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1957; a novella)
  • Charity:  "The Sons of Prometheus" by Alexei Panshin (from Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, October 1966; a novelette)  This one made the first ballot for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.
  • Love (and the meaning of Charity):  "The Ugly Little Boy" by Isaac Asimov (from Galaxy, September 1958, originally titled "Lastborn")  An expanded version of this novelette was published as Child of Time by Asimov and Robert Silverberg in 1991 in Britain; the U.S. edition was published as The Ugly Little Boy in 1992.
Solid stories all -- including the Spinrad.


An omnibus edition of the Cardinal Virtues and Deadly Sins anthologies appeared as a instant remainder from Bonanza Books:  The Seven Deadly Sins and Cardinal Virtues of Science Fiction, 1982.  Note that "sins" come before "virtues"... I wonder what that says about how marketing works?

Monday, March 20, 2017


I'm taking a few days off to explore St. Augustine.  See you on the other side.


  • Lee Child, The Enemy and The Hard Way.  Jack Reacher thrillers.  I've been catching up on this series, reading about a book a week and still have a while to go.  The Enemy takes us back to 1990 and the case that changed everything for Reacher.  A two-star general is found dead in a motel and Reacher is ordered to control the situation.  Then the general's wife is murdered and Reacher is being set up as the fall guy.  Big mistake.  In The Hard Way, Reacher is trying to a kidnapped woman whose husband happens to be the head of an illegal mercenaries for hire organization.  Things get nasty on both sides but Reacher, stuck in the middle, doesn't know how to quit.A very addictive series.
  • Carl Hiaasen & Bill Montalbano, Trap Line.  Crime novel.  This is the second of three books Hiaasen wrote at the beginning of his career with Montalbano.  These early books are not as outrageous as Hiaasen's solo work, but they should be pretty good. ( A little bit of nostalgia:  I won one of Hiassen's novels back in the Nineties at a book signing in Massachusetts for wearing the "most Florida" outfit.  Now that I'm in Florida, I wish I had kept the outfit.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017


The Silhouettes were basically a "one-hit wonder" group from Philadelphia.  "Get a Job" was originally the B-side of one of their releases, but soared to number one on the charts after being sold in 1957 to Ember Records.  It was the (very) rare instance of an economically-themed doo-wop song soaring to the top of the charts.  Although the Silhouettes continued as a group until 1968, they never had a record to match their first and only hit.

If you're going to have only one hit, this is a pretty good one to have.


From Wikipedia:  "The Eye is a fictional comic book character created by Frank Thomas and published by Centaur Publications.  The character had no origin story, and existed only as a giant, floating, disembodied eye, wreathed in a halo of golden light.  This powerful being was obsessed with the concept of justice, and existed to encourage average people to do what they could to attain it for themselves.  If the obstacles proved too great, The Eye would assist its mortal charges by working miracles.  Time and space meant nothing to The Eye and it existed as a physical embodiment of man's inner consciousness."


Despite what might expect from the above, The Eye was not a product of the mind-altering Sixties.  He (she? it?) first appeared in the December 1939 issue of Keen Detective Funnies and continued for eight issues before moving over to his own short-lived (just two issues) magazine, Detective Eye.

Thomas created a number of golden Age comic book heroes, most of whom faded into obscurity.  Aside from The Eye, his best known character was probably Dell Comics' The Owl.

The Eye may be a footnote in comics history, but I think he (she? it?) is a pretty cool character.

See if you agree.

Friday, March 17, 2017


Here's a few from the late, great Tommy Makem.

"Four Green Fields"

"Gentle Annie"

"Red Is the Rose"


The Moon Metal by Garrett P. Serviss (1900)

Garrett P. Serviss (1851-1929) was a journalist and amateur astronomer who wrote a number of popular books on astronomy and other scientific subjects.  He graduated with a law degree but never practiced law; instead he began a 16-year career at the New York Sun, where he developed a talent for popularizing scientific subjects.  In 1894 Andrew Carnegie asked him to deliver a series of scientific lectures; this led to a long career as a popular speaker, while also contributing articles to leading magazines.  In 1923 he worked with Max Fleischer to produce a short film, The Einstein Theory of Relativity, based on one of his books.  Serviss did not begin to write fiction until he was almost 50 years old, publishing five novel and one magazine serial that never made to book form.  His best-known novels were Edison's Conquest of Mars (yes, that Edison), A Columbus of Space (a science fiction homage to Jules Verge), and The Second Deluge (in which the Earth is inundated by a cloud of water from space and a modern day Noah steps up.)  Hugo Gernsback republished most of Serviss' fiction in early issues of Amazing Stories, which made Serviss very popular among the newly-minted science fiction fans and his works are now considered classics in the field.  (Creaky, but classic).

The Moon Metal, the shortest of his novels (basically a novella) was published by Harper and Brothers in 1900.  (It supposedly had an early publication as a newspaper serial, but that has not been confirmed.)  It was reprinted in All-Story Magazine in 1905; Hugo Gernsback reprinted in Amazing Stories in 1926; and Mary Gnaedinger used it in Famous Fantastic Fiction in 1939.  It was not reprinted in book form until 1972, when FAX Collectors' Editions produced a small print run.  A decade later, Forrest J. Ackerman included it in his The Gernsback Awards:  1926, an attempt to highlight the best stories from that early year in SF history.  It has since been republished by a number of companies and is easily available in E-book or publish-on demand form, as well as being available from Gutenberg and Libravox.

In the not too distant future, a large field of gold has been discovered in Anarctica -- far more gold than had previously been mined on the planet.  Suddenly, the value of gold dropped and the gold standard, for all intents, became worthless.  The financial leaders of the world are stymied; the economy of every country appears to be crashing.  Suddenly there appears the mysterious, satanic-looking Dr. Syx, who claims to have the solution.  Syx says that he has discovered a large amounts of new metal -- rare, beautiful, pliable enough to be used to create jewelry and works of art.  This metal, which he called artemisium, could easily replace gold as the basis of the world's economy.  The financiers are skeptical, but Syx takes them to his mining operations in Wyoming to ease their doubts.  Since much of the process he claimed to be "secret," they saw only what he wanted them to see -- which was enough to convince them.  Soon the world's economy was set straight and Syx was on his way to becoming the wealthiest man in the world.

One young engineer smelled a rat and, after a long investigation, discovered that Syx's entire operation was a phony.  So where did this marvelous new metal come from.  SPOILER ALERT (BUT NOT TOO MUCH OF ONE, GIVEN THE BOOK'S TITLE):  The metal came from the moon.  Syx had devised a ray that, when aimed at the moon, pulled particles of the moon back to Earth.  Those particles were pure artemisium.  (Artemis, of course, was the goddess of the moon.)  END THE NOT TOO MUCH OF A SPOILER ALERT.

Syx's monopoly is broken.  The world's economy is once again in danger.  Steps are taken to save it.  Hurrah.  The end.

The Moon Metal is an interesting book, although certainly not a fast-moving one.  It clunks along in a meandering way and doesn't answer all the questions it raises.  At one point Syx shows the financiers a film of a strange race of people in an alien landscape.  No explanation is ever given.  Are these supposed to be moon people?  People from a different planet? Or what?  And why show the film?  What was most interesting about this film was that it was in color (!) and that the beings filmed moved in a smooth fashion and not in the jerky way people in films from 1900 moved.

And Dr. Syx himself.  Who was he?  There is a vague implication that he might be Satan himself, but this, too, was never explored.

And the moon.  Is is entirely made of artemisium?  It certainly appears so.  Or, perhaps the rays are calibrated only to extract particles of that one metal?

To expect answers to these questions is rather silly.  The Moon Metal is a good example of proto-science fiction, to be read as much for its historic value as for its entertainment.  It's a quick read and I'm glad I had a chance to step back in time and enjoy it.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Who else, but The Archies?


If you are truly old school then you are probably scratching your head at Riverdale.  Where's the goofy, love-struck Archie we know?  Is that really Veronica, Betty, and Jughead?  I mean, they're not like they were when I was a kid.  Archie is 122 years old*, for Heaven's sake!  He can't change now!

Luckily, we can still go back to the good old days (which Bill truly misses) via the old-time radio show Archie Andrews.  The radio program began on May 31, 1943 on the NBC Blue Network, moved to Mutual in 1944, then to NBC Radio the following year, where it stayed until September 5, 1953.

This episode aired on October 29, 1948 and starred Bob Hastings as everybody's favorite redheaded teen.  Future pop singer Gloria Mann is Veronica, Rosemary Rice played Betty, Alice Yourman played Archie's mother, while Art Kohl played Archie's father.  Jughead at various times was played by Hal Stone, Cameron Andrews, and Arnold Stang; I'm not sure which one is featured on this episode.

So, let's trip a trip back to the Riverdale of old, when men were men and teenagers were goofy.


BONUS:  From Mad #12 (June 1954), here's a look at "Starchie" from the usual gang of idiots.

* Archie debut in 1941 and assuming he was sixteen then...well, you do the math.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Lightnin' Hopkins would have been 106 today.  Rolling Stone ranked him at #71 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time -- I would have ranked him higher.  Something I didn't know:  Hopkins was Houston's poet-in-residence for 35 years.


What do you say when you don't want to go to yoga class?
Namaste at home.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Brook Benton's first major hit, "It's Just a Matter of Time," reached #3 on the charts in 1959 and was the singer's first gold record.  The song (co-written by Benton) had originally been meant for Nat King Cole but Benton's writing partner convinced him to record the song himself.  The rest is history.


Sometimes you're just in the mood for a George Zucco flick.  If that's the case, you're in luck!

In The Flying Serpent, Zucco plays archeologist Andrew Forbes, who discovers a living feathered serpent -- the Quetzalcoati of the Aztecs.  But when he gives one of the beast's feathers to his wife, the beast follows her and kills her.  Since Zucco is so good playing a mad scientist, he decides this would be a good way to get back at his enemies -- just give them a feather, then sit back and wait for the bloodbath.  And somewhere in the movie there's Montezuma's fabulous treasure!

Aiding Zucco in this flick are a host of unknown, little known, and familiar (in a "What's his name?  Dunno, but he looks familiar" way) faces:  Ralph Lewis, Hope Kramer, Eddie Acuff, Wheaton Chambers, Henry Hall, Milton (Miltin) Kibbee, Budd Buster (love that name!), and Terry Frost.  Richard Crane (who went on to play the title role in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger) has an uncredited role.  The monster is played by a somewhat undersized, goofy model maneuvered by strings.  (There is some debate whether the strings are visible; some swear they are viewed in every shot, others deny stoutly it.   I suspect these people were watching different prints of the films.)

The Flying Serpent was directed by "Sherman Scott," who was really Sam Newfield, the man who gave us The Terror of Tiny Town, at least nine Lone Rider films, a bunch of Billy the Kid films, and many, many other totally forgettable movies.  John T. Neville provided the script -- which was the last of his 60 credits on IMDb.

The Flying Serpent can be viewed as Bela Lugosi's The Devil Bat-lite.


Monday, March 13, 2017


Wilson Pickett.


Busy, busy week.  Too busy to get any Incoming.  **sigh**

What I did have time to do is check out the Hugo Gernsback-edited Amazing Stories that's available online at Internet Archive.  All 37 issues  from Gernsback (April 1926 to April 1929) are there, along with the one issue of Amazing Stories Annual and the five Gernsback issues of Amazing Stories Quarterly (from Winter 1928 to Winter 1929).

Gernsback relied heavily on reprinted science fiction (excuse me, scientificition) by Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, and others because there were no pulp science fiction writers in 1926; this was a market that Gernsback had to create.  In the 45 issues here, Gernsback published 25 serial novels, as well as four full-length non-serialized novels.  Of those 29 novels, six were originals and 23 were reprints.  (I'm not counting such books as Philip Francis Nowlan's Armageddon 2419 A.D., which was comprised of two novellas from Amazing Stories.)

As interesting as it is to see how many well-known stories were included as serials and full-length novels Gernsback printed, it's also interesting to see those few that sank into science fiction obscurity.

Here are the stories, listed alphabetically by author;

  • Steve Benedict (writing as "Maurius"), The Sixth Glacier* (from Amazing Stories, January and February 1929)
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot (from Amazing Stories, January, February, and March 1927; originally published in 1918)
  • ----------, The Mastermind of Mars* (from Amazing Stories Annual, 1927)
  • Stanton A. Coblentz, The Sunken World* (from Amazing Stories Quarterly, Summer 1928)
  • Hugo Gernsback, Ralph 124C41+ (from Amazing Stories Quarterly, Winter 1929; originally published in 1911)
  • A. Merritt, The Moon Pool (the complete novel, from Amazing Stories, May, June, and July 1927; originally published in 1919)
  • Garrett P, Serviss, A Columbus of Space (from Amazing Stories, August, September, and October 1926; originally published in 1909)
  • ----------, The Second Deluge (from Amazing Stories, November and December 1926 and January 1927; originally published in 1911)
  • E. E. Smith & Lee Hawkins Garby, The Skylark of Space* (from Amazing Stories, August, September, and October 1928)
  • Garret Smith, The Treasure of Tantalus, from Amazing Stories, October and November, 1927; originally published in 1920)
  • Jules Verne, The Master of the World, (from Amazing Stories, February and March 1928
  • ----------, Off on a Comet (from Amazing Stories, April and May 1926; originally published in 1877)
  • ----------, The Purchase of the North Pole (from Amazing Stories, September and October 1926; originally published in 1889)
  • ----------, Robur the Conqueror (from Amazing Stories, December 1927 and January 1928; originally published in 1886)
  • ----------, A Trip to the Center of the Earth (from Amazing Stories, May, June. and July 1926; originally published in 1864)
  • A Hyatt Verrall, Beyond the Pole* (from Amazing Stories, October and November 1926)
  • ----------, Into the Green Prism* (from Amazing Stories, March and April 1929)
  • B. Wallis & Geo. C. Wallis, The World at Bay* (from Amazing Stories, November and December 1928)
  • H. G. Wells, The First Men in the Moon (from Amazing Stories, December 1926 and January and February 1927; originally published in 1900)
  • ----------, The Invisible Man (from Amazing Stories, June and July 1928; originally published in 1897)
  • ----------, The Island of Dr. Moreau (from October and November 1926; originally published in 1890)
  • ----------, A Story of Days to Come (from Amazing Stories, April and May 1928; originally published in 1899)
  • ----------, The War of the Worlds (from Amazing Stories, August and September 1927; originally published in 1897)
  • ----------, When the Sleeper Wakes (from Amazing Stories Quarterly, Winter 1928; originally published in 1899)
  • G. McLeod Winsor, Station X (from Amazing Stories, July, August, and September 1926; originally published in 1919)
I've read sightly more than half of these stories.  How about you?  How many have you read?  And, as I said, all are available online, so maybe you'll want to catch up on some of these science fiction classics.

* Original to the magazine.  And who the heck is Steve Benedict?  (Turns out he had one previous SF story published as "Maurius."  Hee was silent for 21 years until he published four stories under his own name from 1951 to 1954, three of which were published only in amateur journals.  Beyond that, I know nada.)

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Well, actually, this is what happened when James Veitch responded to one spammer.


The great Josh White with his 1935 recording "My Soul Is Gonna to Live with God."


So it's been a strange week.

Tuesday was Kitty's birthday.  Nothing strange about that.  Kitty is one to be celebrated every day, always.  But ever since she was a kid, Kitty had a tendency -- more often than not -- to be sick on holidays.  Her folks used to call her the "Holiday Kid."  So, true to form, she had a cold on Tuesday.  No biggie.

But Wednesday the cold got worse and she started feeling weak and dizzy.  That's a sure sign of incipient bronchitis, something she's prone to every now and then.  So it's off to the E.R. for an x-ray and some antibiotics and Bob's your uncle.

So they ran some tests and they drew some blood.  A little while later they came back, apologizing because the lab had to have messed up with the blood sample, and could they draw some blood a second time?  It's never good when they have to draw your blood a second time.

The lab did not screw up either time.  Kitty's red blood count was seriously low and she was severely anemic.  How anemic?  Well, a decent hemoglobin count is 10.  A good hemoglobin count is 12.  You need a hemoglobin count of 13 to donate blood (which Kitty does as often as she can, and which she did in January).  Her hemoglobin count on Wednesday was 6, well below the criteria for instant hospitalization.  And hospitalize her they did, even though the doctor and the nurses all agreed that she didn't look anemic.

The next morning, the count was down to 5.2.  The doctor explained that each decreasing point was effectively a pint of blood.

Turns out she had a very rare autoimmune disorder that was destroying her red blood cells.  Where it cam from, who knows?  They tested her for various nasty things like lupus, a bunch of cancers, HIV, and Lord knows what else.  Turns out she was very healthy except for destroying her red blood cells.  We were told that what she had was pretty rare.

They gave her a unit of blood to see what would happen.  They hesitated to give more in case the new blood started breaking down also.  The hematologist told us she was going to start treatment with steroids -- which work about 20% if the time.  The fallback plan would be to try a number of other drugs.  The fallback plan to the fallback plan would be to remove Kitty's spleen.

The steroid they would give her was Prednisone -- which gave us some concern.

FLASHBACK TO ALMOST A QUARTER CENTURY AGO:  A elevator door opened.  Kitty walked in.  The elevator wasn't fully there; it had stopped about a foot from floor level.  Kitty took a very bad toss and was pretty well smashed up.  When we took to the nearest medical center, the staff had first thought she had been severely beaten by her husband (me).  While treating her, they gave her Prednisone.  Her reaction to Prednisone was epic.  Confusion, severe weight gain, 36-hour days and 36-hour nights, as well as a bunch of other minor things.  Anyway, Kitty recovered from the fall with just a few lasting effects, but from that time on we have been wary of Prednisone.  END FLASHBACK.

They said they would monitor the Prednisone closely and Kitty said to go ahead.  And it seemed to work.  Her hemoglobin count was 8.2 the next day, dropped to 7.8 that evening, but was close to 9 the following day.

So, yesterday she was released.  And she was happy.  The hospital bed was very uncomfortable with a metal rod across the middle digging into my her back.  I slept in a very uncomfortable reclining chair.    The bright spot over those three and a half days (aside from being with Kitty, that is) is that they had bacon every morning in the hospital cafeteria.

Anyway, we are home. We are happy.  Kitty is healthy (although there will some regular tests over the next few weeks).  And we're back in time to catch The Walking Dead tonight.

Life is good.  Strange, but good.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Vol. 1, No. 1 (September-October 1939)

Mary Gnaedinger (1897-1976), a one-time society reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle, edited what was possibly the most successful reprint pulp magazine of all time, the Munsey corporation's Famous Fantastic Mysteries, drawing from the vast number if back issues of Munsey's magazines, most notably Argosy in its various incarnations.  From 1939 through 1953, there were 82 issues of Famous Fantastic Mysteries published somewhat erratically, especially during the war years.  In addition, she edited two companion reprint magazines:  Fantastic Novels (25 issues from 1940 to 1951, with a gap of seven years between 1941 and 1947) and the short-lived digest A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine (5 issues, 1949-1950).

Pulp fiction magazines were rife during FFM's lifetime, but they were ephemeral.  Most copies were tossed shortly after reading.  For the science fiction and fantasy fan this created a quandary.  In little over a decade, these fans became semi-organized.  They wrote each other, organized clubs, published fanzines, swapped books and magazines, and recommended stories.  Science fiction and fantasy had broken into book publishing only marginally and short stories were seldom collected.  For many fans books and older magazines were just not available.  The was a need and a market and FFM went a long way toward filling both.

The first issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, with its cover proclaiming the authors and stories within, must have provoked excitement for the fan.  Here were legendary authors:  A. Merritt, Ry Cummings, Tod Robbins, J. U. Giesy, and others.  Here were some of the stories that fans talked about in hushed whispers.  And here, emblazoned in scarlet, were one-word descriptions of each story:  AMAZING!  THRILLING!  STRANGE!  ASTOUNDING!  WEIRD!  STARTLING!  EERIE!  And all for just 15 cents!  And each story had the blurb and illustration from its original appearance!

  • A. Merritt - "The Moon Pool" (from All-Story Weekly, June 22, 1918)  "Three times the Moon Door had swung close on the prey of the Moon Dweller.  Could science save the fourth victim from that ancient curse?"  This novella, combined with its sequel "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" comprised Merritt's best-known novel, The Moon Pool (1919).
  • Manly Wade Wellman - "Space Station No. 1" (from Argosy, October 10, 1936)  "A vivid tale of Martian conquest"  Chosen by Wellman to be reprinted in the Leo Margulies and Oscar Friend anthology My Best Science Fiction Story (1949).
  • Tod Robins - "The Wimpus" (from All-Story Weekly, October 25, 1919)  "If you are a militant materialist, with no belief in anything but that which you see with your own eyes or touh with your own hands, this story is not for you.  But, 'There are more strange things hidden away in the sea than ever man heard tell of.'"  That includes the whimpus, a particularly feral mermaid.  This story had been selected for a volume in the legendary Creeps Library,  Nightmares (1919).  Robbins also wrote the source material for two classic creepy films:  Freaks and The Unholy Three.
  • Robert Neal Leath - "Karpen the Jew" (from Argosy, September 3, 1938)  "Around the great table in that impregnable room were gathered the four the ambassadors of the four magnificoes of the world -- and with them, unseen, sat the envoy of an even Greater One"  The one story in the issue I had not heard of.  An interesting blend of magic, pacificism, the Wandering Jew, and Machiavelli.  This was the only American reprinting of the story.
  • Ray Cummings - "The Girl in the Golden Atom" (from All-Story Weekly, March 15, 1919)  "The super-magnifier showed that there was a whole world within the Chemist's ring, and he meant to find out what went on in it."  This novella comprised the first eight chapters of Cummings' The Girl in the Golden Atom (1922); the remainder of the novel was first published as "The People of the Golden Atom" in 1920.  The basis of the story was the theory that other worlds and universes existed in the microcosm, that these worlds were our atoms.  A specious (but entertaining) idea, to be sure, but the story is considered a classic and has been reprinted many times, most recently in Otto Penzler's Big Book of Adventure Stories (2011).
  • Donald Wandrei - "The Witch Makers" (from Argosy, May 2, 1936)  "His body was about to die -- so they put his mind in the body of a panther -- and turned the panther loose"  This story has been reprinted only twice in America -- and the only in Wandrei collections from small press specialty houses:  The Eye and the Finger (Arkham House, 1944) and Don't Dream:  The Collected Horror and Fantasy of Donald Wandrei (Fedogan & Bremer, 1997).
  • J. U. Geisy - "Blind Man's Buff" (from All-Story Weekly, January 24, 1920)  "Now you see it -- now you don't:  Officer McGuiness was not a drinking man; but the vagaries of Professor Zapt were on too many for an honest Irish cop"  Professor Zapt, a slightly mad scientist, appeared in four stories by Giesy from 1915 to 1925.  This story has only been reprinted one time each in Canada and France.  Geisy, a popular writer of the time, is best known in the SF field for his "Palos of the Dog Star Pack" trilogy (magazine serials from 1918 to 1921; first book publications from 1965 to 1966) and for (with co-author Junius B. Smith) a series of 34 stories about occult detective Semi-Duel (1912-1931).
All seven stories are interesting reads.  Some are even good reads.  Begiining with the August 1940 issue, Famous Fantastic Mysteries began reprinting "complete" novels from the Munsey backlog.  Eventually, the magazine began reprinting other novels, including those by Sax Rohmer, Talbot Mundy, and other well-known and lesser-known writers, with issues padded out with more reprints and an occasional original story.  By the time the magazine ended in June of 1953, it was reduced to reprinting the lame Ayn Rand short novel Anthem.  But in between the magazine published some great and -- dare I say it? -- fantastic stories.

All 82 issues of  Famous Fantastic Mysteries can be viewed online at Internet Achive -- as are all 25 issues of Fantastic Novels and three of the five issues of A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine.

To get you started, this link takes you to the September-October 1939 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017


I think we need a new holiday, one to celebrate exceptionalism and wonder, inner beauty and outer beauty, warmth and kindness, empathy and intelligence, beautiful smiles and beautiful eyes, happiness and joy, and the feeling you get when someone completes you.  I think this new holiday should be celebrated today -- March 7.  And it is purely coincidental that it is also Kitty's birthday.  Hmm...what should we call this new holiday?


The Tune Weavers.

For Kitty.


WHAT THIS IS:  An edited version of the first six chapters of the 1940 Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial, then shipped off for television syndication.

WHO'S IN IT:  The usual suspects, including Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe), Dale Arden (Carol Hughes), Dr. Zarkov (Frank Shannon), and Ming the Merciless (Charles Middleton).  Abetted by Don Rowan, Victor Zimmerman (as the embarrassingly named Lt. Thong), Lee Powell, Donald Curtis, Edgar Edwards, and Roland Drew.  If you squint real hard you might also catch Roy Barcroft, Anne Gwynne, William Royal, and other familiar faces in very minor roles.

WHO'S RESPONSIBLE:  Basil Dickey, George H. Plympton, and Barry Shipman wrote the original 1940 screenplay.  Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor were the original directors and Henry McRae produced the serial for Universal Pictures.  The man who edited the film for the 1966 release is unknown, but for the sake of convenience let's call him "Turkey McClipclip."  Hearst Entertainment Productions and Universal Television combined their respective corporate might to bring about Purple Death from Outer Space.

IS THERE A PLOT?:  Well. sure.  Ming the Merciless, living up to his sobriquet,  is spreading dust across Earth that results in death and a purple splotch on the victims' foreheads.  Flash, Dale, and Zarkov are dispatched to save the day, cliffhanger by cliffhanger.

IS THERE A CONCLUSION?:  Well, the film ends.  Did you miss the part where this movie is cobbled from the first six chapters of the serial.


Monday, March 6, 2017


Cartoonist Will Eisner was born on March 6, 1917.  An immense talent.


Ronnie Allen.

(Full disclosure:  I am not now nor have I ever been a juvenile delinquent.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)


I found a new thrift store this week and picked up a number of old paperbacks.
  • Edward S. Aarons, Assignment -- Bangkok, Assignment Black Gold, Assignment Lowlands, Assignment -- Madeline, Assignment -- School for Spies, and Assignment Treason.  Sam Durrell spy novels.  Durrell, a Cajun working for a secret section of the CIA, blazed his way through 42 Gold Medal paperback novels for 21 years, from 1965 to 1976.  Despite his popularity, Durrell never hit the top tier of fictional spies.  Aarons' writing was always competent and readable and his locations exotic and believable, even through the beautiful women who fell for Durell in almost every book were (albeit exotic) seldom believable.  After Aarons' death, another six Sam Durell exploits were published under the name "Will B. Aarons," supposedly the son of Edward S. Aarons.  At first it was believed to be a pseudonym --- the unnamed author or authors "will be Aarons" as he (or they) took up the mantle.  It turns out that Will B. Aarons was a real person:  although he was the brother (and not the son) of Edward S. Aarons, merely lent his name to ghost-writer Lawrence Hall.  The books published under the Will B. Aarons name were not very good. 
  • Raymond Buckland, Cursed in the Act.  The first (of two) Bram Stoker mystery.  "1881.  When the star and owner of the Lyceum, Mr. Henry Irving, is poisoned on Hamlet's opening night, it's up to stage manager Harry Rivers to make sure the show goes on.  Fortunately for Harry, Mr. Irving is able to pull through and walk the boards as planned.  But when his understudy is killed the very next day, Harry's boss, Bram Stoker, becomes convinced that foul play is afoot."
  • Martin Caidin, Boeing 707 .  Non-fiction. Caidin, an aviation, military, and science fiction writer, is probably best known for creating The Six Million Dollar Man and for the near future space disaster novel Marooned.
  • Eleanor Cameron, Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet.  Juvenile SF, the second in the Mushroom Planet series.  Another journey to the  Mushroom Planet, this time accompanied by Tyco Bass's cousin Theodorius, as well as a stowaway determined to discover Mr. Bass's  secrets for his own purposes.  The five-book Mushroom Planet series remains a popular children's series.
  • Lin Carter, The Immortal of World's End.  Science fantasy novel, the third in the Gondwane Epic.  Earth's sun is dying and on the Last continent of the doomed planet, there walks Genelon Silvermane, "the mighty warrior who was intended by his ancient designers to be the world's Last Hero."  Carter, a fan boy turned author and editor, produced a raft of pastiches that honored the author's of his youth.  Often disdained as a mere "imitator," his works deserve a more careful look.
  • "Lee Child" (Jim Grant), Die Trying.  A Jack Reacher thriller, the second in the series.  "Jack Reacher, alone, strolling nowhere.  A Chicago street in bright sunshine.  A young woman struggling on crutches.  He offers her a steady arm.  And turns to see a handgun aimed at his stomach.  Chained in a dark van racing across America, Reacher doesn't know why they've been kidnapped.  The woman claims to be FBI.  She's certainly tough enough.  But at their remote destination, will raw courage be enough to overcome the hopeless odds?"  I've mentioned before how addictive this series is.
  • "Paul Edwards" (house name), John Eagle Expeditor #12:  The Green Goddess.  Men's action adventure novel.  The top secret Expeditor program was created to allow the US to react quickly to "incidents."  John Eagle was the first (and evidently only) Expeditor.  "Was there no limit to which the enemy would go to secure Operation Pig Poke Swap?  From Vermont to Afghanistan, Eagle is on a mission to overtake that limit, then curb it.  But the enemy has discovered a powerful alloy:  a new metal that means instant electricity to those who can mine it.  Only Eagle has the chance to equal this force, and only if he make the Green Goddess in time -- even if it takes an obscene phone call in the night and a camel ride among the lepers..."  There were 14 books in this series, which was packaged by Lyle Kenton Engel.  Among the various writers who used the Edwards house name were Manning Lee Stokes, Robert Lory, and Paul Eiden; Manning Lee Stokes was the author of this episode this episode.
  • Dave J. Garrity, Dragon Hunt.  PI novel.  Garrity was an old army buddy of Mickey Spillane.  when Spillane made it big, Garrity thought, "How hard can it be?"  Spillane helped him publish his first novel.  After a six-year hiatus, during which Garrity kept his day job, he published his third book, Dragon Hunt, from Signet. Spillane's paperback publisher.  A quote from Spillane ("Guts, action...the kind of stuff I like to read.") was prominent on the front cover.  The back cover had a photo of the author with Spillane.  To push the connection even further, Spillane's Mike Hammer makes a guest appearance in this novel.  "Look who's raising cain:  Peter Braid.  That's who.  Colleague and drinking buddy of Mike Hammer.  Here heis in a blood-scattering yard about a really terrifying killer who strikes after a twenty-year absence.  Dragon Hunt has dames and danger, mayhem and metaphor, and a gutty, sudden-sex tempo worthy of Spillane himself.  which may be why Mickey thinks it's the greatest."
  • "George G. Gilman" (Terry Harknett), Edge #26:  Savage Dawn.  Adult western.  The cult classic Edge series proclaimed itself  "The Most Violent Westerns in Print," and I certainly won't argue the point.  "The half-breed Edge is about to settle down for his share of love and happiness in San Parrel, about to ask the beautiful Isabella to marry him,, when six brutal bounty hunters ride into town raising hell.  Their prize captive is the woman of a hated bandit chief and her torture is their amusement.  Hard on the bounty hunters' trail is a thirty-man band of thieves headed by the ruthless Gonzales, who wants his woman back alive.  Once again, Edge has to throw love aside as he pits himself against two violent gangs, hell-bent on destroying each other.  And anyone who gets in their way."
  • "Brett Halliday" (Davis Dresser), One Night with Nora.  A Mike Shayne mystery.  "She thought he was her husband -- that's why she got into bed with him.  But he wasn't.  He was private eye Mike Shayne, innocently asleep in his own apartment -- until this gorgeous doll slipped through the door and made herself delightfully at home.  But who was she?  Or better yet, whose was she?  Shayne woke up to the last question in a hurry.  The lady belonged to Ralph -- and at that moment Ralph was so sound 'asleep' that he wasn't ever going to wake up again.  It was murder and Shayne was in it up to his neck."  The book was first published in 1953, but this copy is from 1969 -- a bit too late to have the woman-as-property motif on the back cover blurb, IMHO.
  • Basil Heater, The Mutilators.  Spy novel.  "In the beginning, the american was in on the game by accident.  By the end, he was in on cold, deliberate purpose.  By that time the O.A.S. had gotten to his girl and had used a knife to rip a secret out of her.  The secret was a shipment of arms destined for Algeria.  Both sides would kill or die to control those guns.  Kill they did -- slowly, by torture.  And die they did, suddenly, by the silenced pistol..."  Fun fact:  Heater was the son of famed radio commentator Gabriel Heater.
  • Elmer Kelton, Other Men's Horses.  Western.  Tasked with captuing Donley Bannistert, a horse trader wanted for murder, young Texas Ranger Andy Pickard is shot by one of Bannister's cohorts.  Strangely, Bannister then saves Andy, and then vanishes.  "This routine assignment gets even more complicated after Andy heals well enough to ride, and follows the trader's young wife, Geneva, hoping she will lead him to her husband.  Near Fort Concho, the Ranger's mission is interrupted when Bannister is shot and left for dead by an outlaw who takes Geneva Hostage and brutally assaults her.  Even after Bannister is apprehended, danger lurks; one of the trader's enemies is determined the ambush the Ranger and his prisoner."  Elmer Kelton was an eight-time Spur Award winner and a three-time Western Heritage Award winner.  He received both the Owen Wister award and the American Cowboy Culture Association awards for lifetime achievement.  Other Men's Horses was one of his last books, published just two months after his death.
  • 'Bliss Lomax" (Harry Sinclair Drago), The Law Busters.  Western.  'Flatten down and begin throwin' lead -- when it cam to fighting and gunplay, that was the one rule Rainbow Ripley and Grumpy Gibbs always followed.  These two troubleshooters had fought every kind of hired gunslinger, but when they go interested in the troubles of redheaded Jeannie Magoffin it looked like they;d bit off more than they could chew.  First, they were saddled with a gone-to-hell shoestring railroad.  Then the Giant D. & P. had them buffaloed -- until Rainbow and grumpy got up a head of steam.  When they did they cleared the track!"  Sopunds like good ol' pulp western action!  Dwight D. Eisenhower once told an interviewer that his two favorite western writers were Bliss Lomax and Will Ermine, not knowing that both were pen names for Harry Sinclair Drago.
  • John D. MacDonald, Clemmie. Suspense novel.  "She was very young.  She was dangerous.  She was a girl who lived too close to the edge of violence.  She was an exhibitionist, a body worshipper, a sensualist.  She was without morals, scruples, ethics.  She was beautiful.  She was CLEMMIE."  The is one of the two JDM novels I had not read.
  • "Neil MacNeil" (W. T. Ballard), 2 Guns for Hire.  A Costaine and McCall mystery.  "That's right, there are two of them. Costaine and McCall by name, investigators by trade.  Lovers of bourbon, bagpipes, and blondes by inclination.  But make no mistake about about Costaine and McCall.  They're no ordinary gumshoes.  They're very high class -- their asking price is $20,000 plus expenses.  when Costaine's face loses its genial smile and McCall puts down his bagpipes -- killer, beware!  The two toughest and deadliest detectives in this business are on the prowl."
  • Dan J. Marlowe, Operation Counterpunch.  An Earl Drake thriller, the twelfth and last in the series.  Drake, "the man with nobody's face," is a bank robber, killer, and part-time tree surgeon turned secret agent. "from the moment Hazel's business manager told Earl Drake that a wealthy Mexican was interested in buying Hazel's ranch, he knew what was coming.  Don Luis Morelos.  The buyer was only a decoy for that millionaire madman.  Morelos had been hunting Drake ever since Earl had ripped off nearly a million dollars from his bank account.  It had been Drake's act of retribution for all the innocent lives Morelos had destroyed.  Drake thought he had gotten away clean.  But now he knew the psychotic Morelos and his army of killers were hot on his trail.  and that this time his target was Hazel."
  • "Wade Miller" (Bob Miller & Bob Wade).  Deadly Weapon.  An Austin Clapp mystery.  "Her name was Shasta Lynn -- a name as phony as the color of her golden hair.  She was big and beautiful, and she knew how to tease when she stripped.   she was so sensational no one noticed that an admirer in the last row wore a knife sticking out of his heart."  To my knowledge this is Miller's only book featuring Clapp as the solo detective; he went on to become a regular character in Miller's six-novel popular series featuring ex-cop Max Thursday.   Also:  Nightmare Cruise (also published as The Sargasso People) , a stand-alone mystery.  "Wade Miller, whose best-selling mysteries have thrilled millions, presents a triple-stunner in suspense:  There's the mystery of the aviator who crashed at sea, yet dared not radio for help.  There's the mystery of the silent yacht, whose captain was a lustful woman and whose passengers included the Grim Reaper.  There's the mystery of the dreadful Sargasso Sea, the scene of that nightmare cruise.  It's a voyage in stark tension!"
  • "Peter Rabe" (Peter Rabinowitsch), A House in Naples and My Lovely Executioner.  In the first book. Charlie's rope was about frayed.  The carabinieri were after him, he had a bullet in his hip and no goddamn passport.  charlie needed a passport bad.  He needed that intricate piece of paper -- signed, sealed, and innocent-looking -- the way only a G.I. in ?Italy could need one.  A G.I. deserter with a sweet fortune in blackmail lire and the carabineire lusting to lay hands on him."  And in the first book, "I held my breath and closed my stinging eyes.  I was glued up against the steal gate.  When they found me, I thought, I'd be dead, flattened out into the seams and around the rivets.  Then there was a strong, cold draft on my face, watering my eyes, freezing me under my wet prison jacket.  The gate was open.  It was too easy.  all around men men were dying and bullets tearing through the stinging, thickened air.  But for me there was a way out -- through the big gate right beside me.  It wasn't wide open, but it was wide open enough....And I didn't want to go."  Rabe was one of the many bright lights in the old Gold Medal line.
  • "Shelley Smith" (Nancy Bodington), The Shrew Is Dead (originally, The Lord Have Mercy).  Mystery.  "Dr. Mansbridge was a busy, popular man until Mrs. Mansbridge dies, suddenly and suspiciously, and the town gossip[s (for lack of anything better to do) began to wonder.  Aloud."
  • Karl Edward Wagner, editor, The Year's Best Horror Stories:  Series XII.  Annual horror anthology, this time with nineteen stories from 1983, including tales by Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, David Drake, Jane Yolen, and Tanith Lee.  A check of the acknowledgements shows that three stories came from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, three from anthologies edited by Charles L. Grant, and four from items edited by Stuart Schiff.  1983 was a good year.
  • Douglass Wallop, The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.  Fantasy baseball novel, the basis of the musical Damn Yankees.  I had this novel many moons ago, but it went walkabout before I could get to it.  Now all I have to do is get a copy of his other fantasy, What has Four Wheels and Flies?, about a time when cars are so automated that dogs can drive them 

Sunday, March 5, 2017


Your feel-good TED talk for today.   Berns, who had progeria, passed away on January 10, 2014, at age 17.  His life lesson is one we should all take to heart.


Johnny Cash sings "Life's Railway to Heaven."

Saturday, March 4, 2017


Thomas Wayne, the younger brother of famed backup musician Luther Perkins, had only one real hit in his career.*   This one isn't it.  Wayne's brief life ended in a car crash when he was 31.

*1958's "Tragedy," recorded with the De-Lons, who were actually three high school girls who Thomas knew and were brought in to sing harmony.


Danny Blaze, big city fireman, lasted for two issues from Charlton Comics Group in 1955.  (The numbering was taken over by Nature Boy, which outlasted Danny Blaze by one issue, after which the numbering (now #6 for those who are counting) was taken over by Li'l Rascal Twins.)  The artwork in this issue -- presumably by Manny Stallman -- ranged from average to good, but it was hampered by a lousy job of color registration, judging by the copy reprinted below.  It sjhouyld be noted that this character has no relation to the Danny Blaze who had a stint as Marvel's Ghost Rider in the 1990s.  (Danny was really Danny Ketch who was really Danny Blaze who was really the brother of the 1970s Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze.  Got it, now?)

As a short-lived character, firefighter Danny Blaze never had the chance to evolve into a three dimensional character.  It's enough to say that he is brave, strong, and resourceful...and the few stories in which he appeared are better than many that came from Charlton.


Friday, March 3, 2017


The Hollies, circa 1972.


The World of Science Fiction 1926-1976:  The History of a Subculture by Lester del Rey (1979)

Science fiction has been the red-headed stepchild of literature for much of its existence as a genre.  Although examples of science fiction had been rife for decades, it emerged as its own distinct field with the April 1926 appearance of Amazing Stories.  Hugo Gernsback, the publisher, was a canny inventor, and innovator who had a penchant for both promotion and bankruptcy.  Gernsback named this new genre scientifiction -- a somewhat logical and unwieldy term that encapsulated the type of story he wanted to promote.  Luckily the term soon evolved to be science fiction.  Gernsback wanted his brainchild to be associated with science, based on the feeling that it would gain more acceptance if people thought it to be educational as well as entertaining.

The first issues of his magazine relied heavily on reprints by H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe, and others since there were not professional science fiction writers.  Soon, though, the mantle was picked up by enthusiastic readers of the magazine.  New writers began to emerge.  Stories tended to be poorly written, awkward, and juvenile -- but they were enthusiastically received by Gernsback audience, many of whom were young.  Science fiction seemed a field just right for socially inept but intelligent young readers.  (Certainly not every reader fit this category, but enough did and were the most vocal and energetic of the genre's fans.)

Lester del Rey was a popular writer in the field, as well as an editor, critic, and someone who had been involved with the publishing end of science fiction.  And he had been a visible fan for much of his life.  When this book was published, del Rey Books was an arm of the Ballantine publishing group of Random House.  Under the auspices of his wife, Judy-Lynn del Rey, del Rey books was a leading publisher of science fiction; del Rey himself was hire to bring out the del Rey Fantasy line.

There were few people as qualified as del Rey to write this science fiction history.  Others had approached the subject with varying degrees of success.  Harry Warner wrote from a deep personal knowledge of fandom.  Sam Moskowitz approached the subject with a somewhat scholarly bent, focusing on particular authors and themes.  Donald A. Wollheim  used a highly personalized (and somewhat opinionated) approach.  Sam Lundwell presented a view from outside the US.  Frederik Pohl, Jack Williamson, and others focused on the impact of the field on their own lives.  James Blish, Damon Knight, Judith Merril, Algis Budys, and others used demanding criteria to dissect the genre.  Del Rey has incorporated most of the above approaches to produce this book.

For del Rey, science fiction seems to evolved in cycles of about twelves years.  He divides them as The Age of Wonder (1926-1937, in which the nascent field began to stand on its own). the Golden Age (1938-1949, with the advent and influence of magazine editor John W. Campbell), The Age of Acceptance (1950-1961, signaled by a glut of new magazine, the rise of the paperback novel, and the emergence of science fiction in television and film), and The Age of Rebellion (1962-1963, which brought in new ideas, new approaches, and a greater concern with contemporary issue).  These cycles are generalized of course and are basically handy only for framing discussion.  Del Rey covers each adequately and entertainingly.

Those who were familiar with del Rey personally know that he was intelligent, fiery, opinionated, and outspoken.  Those last three qualities were toned down for this book, but they are there.  The main problem with this book -- and others like it -- is that there is just too much to cover decently.  It's broad focus, while entertaining, forces the book to rush through too many events, too many instance, and too many facts.  There are many gems to be gleaned from this scattershot approach but the reader is basically dipping his or her toe in a vast ocean.  Then, too, the final section, in which the author tries to gather everything together and look to the future, by necessity lacks a firm focus and now seems outdated.

This is a good book.  A useful book.  I especially appreciated del Rey's inside look on how publishing decisions are made.  There is very little new here for the die-hard science fiction fan, but I'm glad I had a chance to go back four decades to experience once again the wonder and excitement of my favorite field.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Blogger Gerard Vlemmings, 67, whose The Presurfer blog ran for more than 16 years, passed away on February 25, just a few weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

The Presurfer was on of my daily stops, providing me with an eclectic mix of entertainment and information.  I, and many others who rejoiced in Gerard's blog, now face days that are no as bright.  He will be missed.

My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and his many friends.


Car songs seem to be a thing of the past.  I just can't picture that an ode to a Prius or to a defective air bag who have the same sort of beat and enthusiasm as this gem from Ronny & The Daytonas.


One of the first "adult" western series on radio, Hawk Larabee was a short-lived program starring both Elliot Lewis and Barton Yarborough in the title role.  The show began as a 1946 summer replacement for Ann Southern's Maisie (July 5-August 16) with both the character and the show titled Hawk Durango.  The name change came seven episodes and a month and a half later when Hawk returned on October 3.  The show ran until February 7, 1948.

At first, the character's name was Jim Carter, a young man who came to the modern-day desert town of Sundown Wells to find the man who murdered Hawk Durango, young Carter's father.  Carter, played by Elliot Lewis, eventually finds his man, exacts revenge, and decides to stay in Sundown Wells assuming his father's name.  Barton Yarborough played ex-marshal Brazos John.

Fast forward to October.  Now named Hawk Larabee and played by Barton Yarborough, our hero owns Gold Bar House, the local hotel/bar/casino, and is a leading citizen of Sundown Wells.
Posses ride motorcycles, owlhoots adopt 1946 gangster methods, and the western desert still reverberates with old west excitement and adventure.  Yarborough played the lead until the end of December.

After a brief hiatus, Hawk Larabee returned on May 10, 1947, with Barton Yarborough still in the title role.  The show moved to Saturdays on August 2 of that year with Elliot Wells back in the title role.  Yarborough stayed on, this time once again cast as Larabee's friend Brazos John.

All told, there were 59 episodes throughout the various incarnations of the program. Many of the shows are now lost to time.

Enjoy this episode,  "Brazos John's Eastern Bride" (also known as "Susie Kimball Comes West") from August 2, 1946.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Two legendary artists -- John Denver and Cass Elliot -- join their talents on one of Denver's greatest songs.


A rather inept thief ran up to my brother, brandished a gun, and shouted nervously, "Give me all your money or you're geography!"

My brother said, "Do you mean history?"

The thief yelled, "Don't change the subject!"