Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Last night the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner was held without the presence of Donald Trump.  Emcee Hasan Minhaj held the feet of the administration and the media to the fire and did a great job doing so.

Enjoy.  And think.


Marvin Gaye.

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Harry Belafonte.


Ace Magazines managed to crank out 48 irregularly published issues of this comic book from July 1940 to July 1949.  for the first five and a half years, Super-Mystery Comics focused on superheroes, most notably Magno, the Magnetic Man.  Later issues were more crime oriented and featured a number of series characters.  Five of those series are featured in issue #42:

  • THE UNKNOWN is a ghostly, draped being who -- unseen by others -- acts as an omniscient narrator.  In The Dime of Doom," mad-dog killer Adam First manages to escape the police and is determined to get back at his girlfriend Stella, who had turned him into the cops.  Adam shoots Stella (who is wearing a flimsy, fur-line negligee, by the way), but the dying Stella puts a curse on her lucky dime (Yeah, I know.  Work with me here.), telling Adam that, "The dime will spell...YOUR DOOM!  Cursing you...with my...dying breath...Gahhhh.....!"  Adam, being a crook, is cowardly and superstitious.  He picks up the dime from the floor where Stella had dropped it, determined to get rid of it.  Alas, like the cat in the folk song, the dime came back, and kept coming back every time he tries to get rid of it.  Guess what eventually happens to Adam.
  • BERT AND SUE (no idea what their last name is) are amateur detectives who keep stumbling on to crimes.  In "The Man Nobody Knew," the couple are trying to check into a hotel and seem to be out of luck when the desk girl gets word that painters are finished with room 411 and they can have that room.  (This is another case where you just have to go with it, abandoning any sense of logic.)  They get up to the room, open the door, and out falls a corpse.  The dead man's face has been beaten beyond recognition, his fingerprints wiped off with acid, labels removed from his clothing, and has no identification on him.  To top it off, someone has stolen thirty thousand dollars worth of valuables from the hotel vault.  Among the suspects are the desk girl (who had been flirting with Bert, or maybe Bert was flirting with her; either way, sue is mighty jealous), the bellhop, the hotel detective, and the hotel manager.  Whodunit?
  • MACK MARTIN, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR, whose cases "generally lead to a public murder where everybody and his brother try to get in the act using Mack Martin as the star attraction for a hail of lead by hot trigger fingers."  That should give you a clue that he's a tough private eye.  In "The Case of the Planned Accident," Mack and his Girl Friday, Veronica Lake Gertie, are remarking on how no cases have crossed the door when a case crosses the door.  Beautiful Eleanor Chase claims that her uncle Ralph is being held prisoner at a local sanitarium and that the officials there are trying to kill him.  Long story short, they are.  But why?  And can Mack be immune to the charms of an amorous nurse?  Private eyes of the Forties sure to met a lot of lovely (and sometimes lethal) dames.
  • HURRY-UP HARRIGAN, POLICE REPORTER will do anything to get a scoop.  In "A One-Way Ride," Harrigans tries to hide a mob hit man who is willing to testify against his bosses.  Unfortunately, he doesn't count on a beautiful assassin who knows the difference between a man catching something in his legs and a woman doing the same.  (I know, I know...doesn't make much sense to me either.)
  • MR. RISK and his loyal servant Abdul investigate strange doings at the circus.  Strange, as in a number of unexplained deaths and accidents.  After an acrobat fell to his death when his tightrope was spiked with razor blades, the circus is on the verge of being closed because it is suspected that the owner is buy defective equipment.  (What!?!)  Mr. risk takes a Risk by performing the tightrope act himself.
As I mentioned, logic does not enter into these stories, but one seldom reads old comics for logic.  On the plus side, we learn that the best detectives smoke pipes, not cigarettes.  Also, that women in the late Forties are all beautiful, wear the most current fashions, and have wasp-thin waists.


Friday, April 28, 2017


From 1921, here's Zev Confrey.


Mary Worth by Allen Saunders and Ken Ernst (1963)
Astro Boy, Book 2 by Osamu Tezuka (2002)

A New York real estate/bankrupcy tysoon started his political career by questioning comic strip character Mary Worth's background and demanding to see her birth certificate.  No.  Wait.  I'm thinking of someone else...Better start over.

Ah, Mary Worth...dispenser of common sense and defender of old-fashioned values.  And, yes, there is some disagreement about her origin.  She began, some said, as the title character in Martha Orr's 1932 comic strip Apple Mary, in which a kindly old lady sold apples and gave advice.  As early as 1935, Orr's strip revealed that her character's full name was Mary Worth.  Allen Saunders took over the writing of the strip in 1939 and the title soon changed to Apple Mary:  Mary Worth's Family.  Fairly quickly, Apple Mary title was dropped in favor of the subtitle Mary Worth's Family.  gone was the apple cart and the character shed pounds and age lines to become Mary Worth, the kindly widow of Wall Street tycoon Jack Worth.  King Features, which syndicated the strip, however, apparently wanted to distance itself from the apple cart image, insisting that Mary Worth began in 1938 and was created by Saunders; the character was loosely -- very loosely -- based on the apple seller.  Mary Worth was a "replacement feature," with the only thing in common with Apple Mary was the character's name.  That's their story and they are sticking to it.  Allen Saunders (who should know) has written that the two characters are one and the same.

Whatever her origins, Mary Worth has been going strong ever since.  While selling apples, the strip focused on her.  Under Saunders, the strip became a soap opera with individual story arcs where Mary bided her time in the background, dispensing advice as needed.

I was never a Mary Worth fan and my only first-hand knowledge of the strip comes from this book -- the first to feature her (although have been several other compilations published since).  This Dell paperback contains three story arcs from the late 1950s.  The stories are products of their times.  Young women long for marriage and appear to be in satisfying relationships.  Another woman, usually blonde and attractive, sets her sights on the man in question.  The man takes the bait, devastating the woman who truly loves him.  Mary's advice falls like a gentle rain on the parched landscape of disruptive relationships.  All ends well and Mary moves on to poke her nose into other people's business.

In the first story, glamorous television star Misty Meadows returns to her home town of Jennings, Ohio, as a publicity stunt.  There, she reconnects with her high school flame, Bronk Clay, football star -- although now he is known as Bronson Clay, the dedicated principal of Jennings High School.  Clay is in love with the school's Latin teacher, Elaine Finch, and hopes to marry her.  Misty decides to rekindle the flame.  Clay falls into her trap.  (In the Mary Worth universe, it seems that all men are weak-willed and gullible.)   Mary Worth happens to be visiting the next door neighbor of Misty's aunt   (The aunt is well-known locally for her gooseberry pies and her home made cookies are better than Mary's.  Not that that has anything to do with the story.)  Mary and Misty's aunt try to convince her that life in a small town with Clay would be dull and unfulfilling.  Clay doesn't want to go with misty back to Hollywood because in 26 more years as a high school principal, he will be getting a nifty pension.  Elaine decides that she is willing to marry Clay even though she knows she will always be in Misty's shadow.  (Elaine wants babies, you see, so she can quit being a Latin teacher.)  In the end, everyone comes to their 1950s senses.

(Totally off point here, but I went to high school with a girl named Sue Forbes.  Sue's famikly moved to a house on a street named, you guessed it, Misty Meadows, and for the good part of a year her guidance teacher though her name was Misty Meadows.  "Well, Misty, have you given any thought to college, yet?")

The remaining two arcs for the same pattern of love seemingly lost, then found.  In one, Mary runs into her niece (whom she hasn't seen for twelve years) and finds that the niece's husband had died several years before, leaving her with a young son, now 11.  The niece is now considering remarrying but is afraid that her intended won't get along with the quirky boy.  And there's a smart, good-looking, woman also gunning for the man.  In the other, an interior designer is resigned to never getting married because whenever she appears to be interested in a man, her mother takes violently ill (with the vapors, I assume), so here she is, an old maid at 29, destined to lead a manless life.  Then a rich oil tycoon falls for her and both she and her mother try to dissuade him.

Mary Worth has been parodied many times over the years.  After reading this book, I willing to discount the parodies and consider her more of a murderless Miss Marple, cagy and always interested in the lives of others.

Evidently, Mary Worth has moved with the times, with more issue-oriented stories.  I just don't think I'll be following them.

Astro Boy is a different kettle of fish.  It's a manga comic series (originally called Mighty Atom,  and renamed for a 1963 television series) created by Osamu Tezuka in 1952 and ran until 1968.  Astro Boy is a robot bult in a future Japan by a scientist who was attempting to recreate his own son, who had died suddenly.  After being abandoned by his creator and sold to a circus, Astro Boy is eventually taken in by Ministry of Science head Professor Ochanomizu, who treats the robot as his own family and becomes Astro Boy's legal guardian.  Despite being a robot, Astro Boy has human emotions.  He's also very strong and can fly.

In Astro Boy's Japan, humans and robots appears to make up equal halves of the population and robots are no longer considered the servants of humans.  Instead, they try to coexist peacefully to the benefit of each.  Well, that's the theory.

The Astro Boy manga has reportedly sold 100 million copies.  It has been filmed in both an animated and live action televisions series and has spawned two movies (one a compilation from the live-action television show) and a number of computer games.

I look at Astro Boy and cannot get Bob's Big Boy out of my head,  Go figure.

Dark Horse Comics began publishing Astro Boy's adventures in English in 2002.  Volume 2 of the Dark Horse series reprints two story arcs from the early 1960s as well as a single issue episode from 1963.  In the first story arc, Astro Boy comes to the rescue of Rag, the first robot president of the Country of Gravia, from a gang of evil humans (led by the even more evil Deadcross) attempting to depose him.  In the second, an evil magician tries to blame his crimes on a robot magician.  Again, Astro Boy is on the scene to make things right.  The single episode included in this volume is the one that disturbs me.  A human race car driver, used to winning, has his amazing robot car destroyed ny enemies.  He asks Astro Boy is he could transfer his brain into the car so that he could win the race.  Astro boy agrees but, unknown to the human, his robot sister installs her brain in the car instead.   The human had earlier slapped the sister in anger, which is something you should not do to a female, whether human or robot, IMHO.  (And that's where I lost all sympathy for the character.)  The robot sister no longer exists because she is now a car.

Astro Boy's adventures are told with decent pacing and some wit.  I understand that the editors of the U.S. editions did not attempt to remove content that cold be seen as racially insensitive, felling that such editing would "do little" to end racial and ethnic stereotypes.  Anything that appeared racially insensitive was more a reflection of the times the stories were written than of Tezuka's personal biases.  (I tend to agree in that bowdlerizing, or removing offensive language or scenes in, any piece of literature short-changes the readers' intelligence.)

Astro Boy's universe is utopian in theory, a place where all types are allowed to coexist peacefully and in harmony -- something that is emphasized by the character's sweet and accepting manner.  The fact that some humans cannot get along with robots appears to be a glitch in the system that does not speak for the majority.  That Tezuka's vision began in an age when Japan was not now for scientific achievement is remarkable.  Unlike Mary Worth, there may be more Astro Boy in my future.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Christine Lavin, folk singer-songwriter extraordinaire is a gem.  Her songs often reflect humor and, as often, tackle serious subjects -- sometimes at the same time.

And who else would interrupt her act to do on-stage baton twirling?

"Donald Trump Abortion Punishment Song"

"Nobody's Fat in Aspen"

"Air Conditioner"

"Bald Headed Men"

"What Was I Thinking"

'If You're Drunk You Cannot Buy a Puppy"

"The Canadian Moat Song"

"Cold Pizza for Breakfast"

"When It All goes Wrong, We'll Turn This Ship Around"

"Getting in Touch with My Inner Bitch"

"Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind"

"More Than 1,000,000 Americans (Killed by Guns)"

"No More Holes in the Bottom of the Sea"

"The Star Spangled Bill of Rights"

and -- of course -- baton twriling!


You know, there are days when I feel sorry for those young whippersnappers who didn't grow up with The Kingston Trio.


This week's old-time radio program comes from October 14, 1940.  The Burns and Allen Show began in September 1934 and continued until May 1950, although for its first two years it went under the title The Adventures of Gracie.

In this episode, George is concerned because Gracie is acting strangely.  That is, stranger than normal.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Blind Willie McTell, master of the Piedmont blues style guitar.  This one was recorded under the name Blind Sammie.  McTell used many names over his career, including Georgia Bill. Hotshot Willie, Blind Willie, Barrelhouse Sammy, Pig & Whistle Red, Blind Doogie, Red Hot Willie Glaze, Red Hot Willie, and Eddie McTier.


Overheard in bookstore:

"Do you like Kipling?"

"I don't know.  I've never kipled."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Mark, our oldest grandson, turns 17 today.  That's seventeen years of giving us pure joy, with a little bit of that time, at the start, mixed with anxiety.

It was not the best birth.  We came very close to losing both mother and baby, and there were a few developmental issues during those first years.  Both are thriving very well now, thank you very much.

By the time he was four or five, Mark could recognize and name any dinosaur of shark you could throw at him.  At the same time, his ambition was to be a Power Ranger when he grew up.

The ambition has changed a bit.  He's now very much into sports.  He's a good soccer player and still a fan of Lionel Messi but his focus for the past two years has been on running -- both cross country and track.  I can't count how many 5K and 8K races he's been in, often finishing at the top (or very near it) of his age group.  He's done a number of half marathons and last year completed his first full marathon.  Mark played youth football for one year but did not really enjoy it.  He did enjoy lacrosse and his coach said that if every player played with as much heart as Mark did, they would never lose a game.  Lacrosse, however, soon gave way to soccer.  Since he was very young, fishing with his other grandfather has been very important.

Mark is a smart and accomplished kid with a shy demeanor.  Despite his shyness, he makes friends easily and can develop strong bonds.  He's also darned good-looking and that's drawn the attention of a lot of girls.  He pretends to ignore this attention, but I think he's secretly pleased.

He is a good observer and has a dry sense of humor, something that constantly surprises others because of his air of shyness.

He's just a good, decent kid.  Close to his sister and very tolerant of his little brother.  Loves animals and nature.  Has a solid sense of responsibility (although once in a while his mother might disagree).

If I could describe him in one word, it would be "sweet."  That would be sweet without any negative connotation or meaning.  He's the type of young man that the world needs many more of.

We couldn't be more proud of him.

We love him with every fiber of our being.


Skeeter Davis, the pride of Dry Ridge, Kentucky.


Max Lindner (born Gabreil-Maximilien Leuvielle, 1883-1925), is considered the first international movie star.  The diminutive (5' 2") actor/writer/director was a major influence on Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and other great comedians of the silent era.  He made his first film in 1905 and soon his top-hatted dandy character Max (Chaplin reversed the character to create his Little Tramp) made him loved on both sides of the Atlantic.  By 1912, he was the highest paid entertainer in the world, making a million francs a year.  Drafted into the French Army in World War I, Linder was gassed and suffered ill health afterward, which affected his chances do American films.  Linder felt that many of his films from the 20s were failures but critics felt that this was some of his best work.  Linder dies in 1925 in a suicide pact with his wife.

Max, the Heartbreaker, also known as Max Between Two Fire, starts slow as Max (the dog!) romances two women at the same time, enjoying that the women are battling over him.  Soon, however, the movie moves into frenetic comedy, making it a gem for its -- or any -- time.


Monday, April 24, 2017


The Spencer Davis Group.


  • Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, January 1977 and November 1978.  Two issues from the Ben Bova days.  The first features stories from Alan Skinner (his first, and only, short fiction listing on ISFDb), Bud Sparhawk (his second published SF story), Hayford Pierce (a Chap Foey Rider story), Alison Tellure (her first SF story), Arsen Darnay, Stephen Robinett, and Jack Williamson (a novelette later incorporated in the 1979 novel Brother to Demons, Brother to Gods).  The second has stories from Poul Anderson ("Hunter's Moon," a Medea's World story and the 1979 Hugo winner for Best Novelette), D. C. Poyer, Orson Scott Card (a Worthing Saga story), Lord St. Davids, Tom Sullivan (his first story), and Michael C. Kohn (his only story listed on ISFDb), as well as the conclusion to Spider and Jeanne Robinson's Stardance II,,(which took first place in the Analog Award for best serial or novella for that year, and was later included  in their 1979 novel Stardance) and an article by Joe Haldeman.  The November 1978 Analog was Bova's last issue as editor and he certainly went out on a high note but, then, his entire editorship was a high note.
  • Martin Caidin, The Ragged, Rugged Warriors.  Nonfiction.  "American Curtiss Hawk biplanes against Japanese Zero fighters, jungle air strips barely long enough to get a plane off the ground, sky fighting soldiers of fortune in the shark-faced planes of the Flying Tigers -- this is the epic story of the early air was in the Pacific."
  • Greg Cox, Infinite Crisis. Comic book (Justice League of America) tie-in novel.  "For years, the rift between the Justice League's leaders has been widening -- and their actions have placed the world in jeopardy.  Batman's paranoia has given birth to an army of robotic assassins attacking anyone possessing superpowers.  Wonder Woman has declared herself judge, jury, and executioner, taking a foe's life in an act broadcast on TV worldwide.  And Superman, the most powerful man alive, finds himself powerless to stop the chaos around him.  With the Justice league divided and a super-villain coalition determined to take advantage of the dire situation, ordinary citizens find themselves caught in the crossfire..."
  • Loren Estleman, The Hours of the Virgin.  An Amos Walker mystery.  "An art expert hires Walker to ride shotgun on a blackmail transaction, involving a priceless illuminated manuscript called the Hours of the Virgin.  But when the deal goes down in a porn movie house, so does a hit.  Suddenly Walker is searching for not just some pricey old paper but a gun that could put his former partner's murderer behind bars."
  • "Jack Kilborn" (J. A. Kornrath), Afraid.  Thriller.  "Welcome to Safe Haven, Wisconsin.  Miles from everything, with one road in and out, this peaceful town has never needed a full-time police force.  Until now...A helicopter has crashed near Safe Haven and unleashed something horrifying.  Now this merciless force is about to do what it does best. Isolate.  Terrorize.  Annihilate.  As residents begin dying in a storm of gory violence, Safe Haven's only chance for survival will rest with an aging county sheriff, a firefighter, and a single mom.  And each will have this harrowing thought:  Maybe death hasn't come to their town by accident..."
  • Louis L'Amour, The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour:  The Adventure Stories:  Volume 4.  Forty-five stories.  Despite the confusing title, this is not Volume 4 of L'Amour's adventure stories, rather it's Volume 4 of his Collected Stories and "contains all of his masterful tales of adventure including, for the first time in print in more than seventy years, his first story ever to be published."  The previous owner of this 2006 book used as a bookmark a ticket to the Empire State Building Observatory, dated July 27, 2001.  The amazing things you find tucked into books.
  • Elizabeth Linington, The Proud Man.  Historical novel.  "Shane O'Neill's physical and mental stature was as grand as his dreams, and in hi dreams he saw himself as not only the King of Ireland but -- as husband to Elizabeth -- King of England as well.  Around the fierce, towering figure of the O'Neill one of the most exciting and vivid casts in history assembled to play out the passionate drama of loyalty and betrayal, of battles won or lost, of bloody victory and tragic defeat."  This was Linington's first novel.  She went  to write many more historical novels and (as "Dell Shannon" and "Leslie Egan") some highly regarded police procedurals.
  • Anne McCaffrey, Stitch in Snow.  Romance novel without a dragon in sight.  The snow storm hit Denver's airport just as Dana Jane Lovell did.  While she waited for news of emergency shelter, she pulled out her knitting.  It was what she did when she was feeling blue, and she had been feeling blue a lot lately.  Then she met him:  the riveting attractive Dan Lowell.  He was also marooned by the Blizzard.  The wintry weekend was magical, sheltered from the currents of their busy lives.  Then Dana realized that the currents of Dan's life were dark and powerful -- and that it would be up to her to save him."  My wife liked McCaffrey's romance novels.  I read one but wasn't that impressed.  It's up in the air whether I will actually read this one. 
  • Mel Odom, The Threat from the Sea:  Book III:  The Sea Devil's Eye.  Gaming (Forgotten Realms) tie-in novel.  "Iakhovas has caused more destruction than any other force since the Time of Troubles, but his true objective has been a mystery...until now.  When a young sailor's journey is complete, an aging bard's final song is sung, and a malenti priestess faces her most challenging test, the Threat from the sea concludes in an explosive climax that will set all of Faerun reeling."
  • Christopher J. Priest & Michael Ahn, Green Lantern:  Sleepers, Book Two.  Comic book tie-in novel.  "when the United States enters World War II Alan Scott -- aka Green Lantern -- enlists in the European Theater, he fights as Captain Scott of the Army Corps of Engineers, refusing to use the Lantern's power, succeeding in life-and-death situations through his native wit and intelligence.  And then Malvolio arrives.  Initially enemies, Malvolio and Scott agree to a truce, as each tries to convince the other to come over to his way of seeing things.  But Malvolio is insane.  He's not a Green Lantern, but a power-hungry madman with a GL ring.  He turns the tables on Scott and sends him into the nameless dimension in which Malvolio was imprisoned for centuries.  Hal Jordan, Earth's second Green Lantern, must free Scott and point him toward his destiny.  But by the time Scott has returned to Earth, Malvolio has tracked down an army of humans and made them into his agents.  Scott must now discover the full extent of his powers and use them to defeat both Malvolio and his army of sleeper agents, before they can destroy Earth and every other planet that a Green Lantern calls home."
  • Brian Thomsen, editor, Tales of Ravenloft.  Gaming (Ravenloft) tie-in anthology with 18 stories and a prologue.  "From the dark domains and the files of Dr. Rudolph Van Richten come these new tales of terror featuring your favorite darklords and ladies.  Shudder at the sight of the Headless Horseman.  Scream at the shieks of the wailing banshee.  Cry at the moonlit attacks of the werebeasts.  Shpa\\apeshifting berserkers, manor-bound ghosts, even the vampire Count Strahd Von Zarovich -- they're all here in tales taken straight from the realm of terror itself -- Ravenloft."

Sunday, April 23, 2017


It's today.  Read a book.  Read a book with a child.  Talk about your kids' favorite books with them.  It's more important than you may realize.


Ella Fitzgerald and the Treorchy Male Choir, from The Tom Jones Show, 1970.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


Since today is Earth Day, here's Pete Seeger's full album God Bless the Grass.

Enjoy.  And be an active steward.


From 1955, The Five Keys.  Yes, there are six of them.  Go figure.


The lead story in this newspaper insert featured Will Eisner's The Spirit, an artist and character always worth your time.

But that's not all, folks!

There's also an adventure of Ford Davis' lovely crimefighter Lady Luck, aka society deb Brenda Banks!

But that's still not all, folks!

Rounding out the issue is S. R. Powell's Mr. Mystic (and Chowderhead)!


Friday, April 21, 2017


The Siegel-Schwall Blues Band.


Exiles of Time by Nelson Bond (1948)

Nelson S. Bond (1908-2006) had a pulp career that ranged from the late 1930s to the mid 1950s, writing a number of distinctive stories while remaining lesser known than many of his contemporaries.  Bond's output was spread out, publishing sports stories as well as science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales.  Much of his most popular work was published in Blue Book and escaped the notice of many Sf fans.  Nonetheless, Bond was named a Science Fiction Writers of America Author Emeritus in 1988 and had two posthumous retrospective collections released by Arkham House.

Bond's best-known stories are about Lancelot Biggs, about a spaceman who always manages to come out ahead.  He also wrote the classic tale "Mr. Mergenthwirker's Lobblies," which became a radio series and later a television show.  Among Bond's other series characters were Meg the Priestess, who appeared in three post-holocaust stories in 1939-40), Pat Pending (about a loopy inventor), Squaredeal Sam McGhee (who appeared in a number of tall tales), Horse-Sense Hank (another character who always ends out on top, despite the odds),

Bond wrote three novels in his loosely related Squared Circle trilogy*, where each novel covers one of the three ages before ours -- a concept from Mayan lore.  The first of these was Exiles of Time, which appeared in the May 1940 issue of Blue Book and appeared in book form from Prime Press in 1948.

Exiles of Time is pure pulp adventure.  It begins with an archaeology dig near Petra (in what is now Southern Jordan, but is described as Arabia in the book).  Archaeologist Lance Vidor discovers a site that appears date from at least eight centuries before Christ, fully five centuries older than previous finds from the Nabatean civilization.  More startling was Lance's discovery of a blood red brooch found in an alabaster jar:  the brooch was set in aluminum, millennia before it was produced by modern man.  According to the native legend, the brooch is the Nur-ed-Dam, the Light of Blood, a forbidden item that must return to the inviolable crypt from which it came.  Lance and the other members of the expedition poo-poo the natives' fears. consequently, their workers attack them, killing every member of the expedition except Lance, who has found temporary shelter in the crypt.  Just before his enemies are to break into the crypt, Lance has a falling sensation and blacks out.

He wakes up thousands of years in the past with others who have had the same experience at the exactly the same time.  It turns out that each was holding a blood red gem when they were transported to the past.  They are in a city called Spel on the ancient island of Merou and Merou is actually Mu, the legendary advanced civilization said to have sunk into the ocean in prehistory.  They were brought there by Cal-thor, a scientists who had placed the blood-red stones in different areas around the world.  The gems themselves had the ability to transfer whoever was holding one into the past at a specific time designated by Cal-thor

The eight million or so of Merou are the descendants of a race of Ancient Ones, long-vanished people who had scientific knowledge that has been lost to time.  Cal-thor has discovered that a giant comet will strike the Earth soon, wiping out most of the population.  Since his people do not have the scientific knowledge to avoid this doom, he determine to use the stones to bring back people from the future who would surely have the advanced knowledge to prevent the comet from crashing into Earth.  This finely-honed plan had a fatal flaw:  Civilizations rise and fall, with heights and dips, and the late 1930s era civilization that Cal-thor picked at random was not as advanced as Merou.

The world seemed doomed.  But was it?  Meerou's science, based on what was remembered from the Ancient Ones, was not complete.  There were some things that 20th century science knew that the Merouians did not know.  One of those things was that energy has mass.  Using that knowledge and the Merouian science, Lance and some of the other time travelers are able to devise repellent guns that might shift the comet's orbit.  For the best chance of success, the guns needed to be placed at a specific location -- the land bridge that connected the future England to the future Europe:  the Bifrost Bridge in a land controlled by the Norse (whom Bond calls "Vikings").  Yep.  Unless stopped, the comet will bring about Ragnarok.

To complicate matters, among the accidental time travelers are three murderous gangsters who have plans of their own.  There are adventures, marvels, battles, romance, and a surprise revelation as this super-science story barrels its way along in pure pulp fashion.  A great read for those willing to cast aside critical judgment.

*For those interested, the other two novels in the Squared Circle trilogy are "Gods of the Jungle" (from Amazing Stories, June and July 1942, and reprinted in Bond's 2005 posthumous collection Other Worlds Than Ours,, and 'That Worlds May Live" (from Amazing Stories, April 1943 and printed in form by Wildside Press in 2002.  All three issues of Amazing Stories are available online at Internet Archive.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Here's Mick and the crew.


Yes, the ever optimistic Jiminy Cricket appeared on the radio in this 1947 radio show, explaining what the world might be like in 1960, according to leading economists.  He's aided by Donald Duck and the Seven Dwarfs.  It has to be heard to be believed.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017




A woman carrying her baby boarded a bus and the bus driver exclaimed, "Good Heavens!  That's one ugly baby!"

The woman was highly miffed.  Finding an empty seat, she told the man sitting next to her, "That bus driver is the rudest man I've ever met."

The man said, "I think you should go back and tell him off.  You go ahead and I'll hold your monkey."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


The Earth has orbited the sun once again and it's time to honor Amy, one of the three greatest granddaughters in the world.  That's a bit misleading because every day is a time to honor and appreciate Amy, who brings so much joy to the world.

Let's honor her smile, her devastating wit, her super smarts, her talent, her spot-on opinions, her enthusiasm, and her dedication.  And let's honor the fact that she makes every day better.

Ocean Amy is part fish and loves the water.  It looks as if she will change her major from marine biology to marine chemistry.   I know very little about either but, knowing Amy, she'll be able to make a bigger impact on the world with her choice.

Happy birthday, Amy.  We love you more than you could possibly imagine.


George Harrison.


Linnea Quigley, the shy girl from Davenport, Iowa, who went from working at Jack LaLanne's Health Spa, to a career in film, is one of the best-known "Scream Queens" from the 1980s.  Not content with stopping at the 80s, she has continued to the present day with over 140 film credits.

A cult favorite, Quigley has appeared in Silent Night, Deadly Night, Return of the Living Dead, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4:  The Dream Warriors, Night of the Demons (both the 1998 film and the 2009 remake), and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, along with other memorable or totally forgettable films.

Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout may be the strangest film she has done.  Quigley stars as herself in this combination exercise video, clip show, and horror flick.  Fans who cannot get enough of Quigley will cheer. (Others may get too much of the actress, if you know what I mean.)

Be warned:  This is a fairly sexist film.  There's a lot of girls in skimpy costumes and a few scenes with Ms. Quigley in less than that.  The cleverness of turning B-movie horror film cliches into exercises may make up for that.  (Or not.)

Decide for yourself:

Monday, April 17, 2017


A dear friend of ours does closed captioning throughout the country, but since she lives in the D.C. area, many of her jobs are there.  This past Saturday she captioned the Kennedy Center's Tribute to Pete Seeger,   Performers young and old honored the legacy of the folksinger, social activist, and environmentalist.  Beverly had not really known much about Seeger and his music and came out with a deep appreciation for the man, his character, and his music.  She was amazed how much some of the old songs from the Sixties have taken on a new meaning in today's world.  So...

Thought I'd post this Pete Seeger song.


  • Kevin J. Anderson, Unnatural Acts.  Humorous fantasy, the second book in the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series.  "In the Unnatural Quarter, golems slave away in sweatshops, necromancers sell black-market trinkets to tourists, and the dead rise up -- to work the night shift.  But zombie detective Dam shamble is no ordinary working stiff.  when a local senator and his goons picket a ghostly production of Shakespeare in the Dark -- condemning the troupe's 'unnatural' lifestyles -- Dan smells something rotten.  And if something smells rotten to a zombie, you're in serious trouble..."  I've heard some good things about this series and I;m saving this book for some time when I'm really in the mood for a laugh.
  • Joe R. Lansdale, Hap and Leonard.  Redneck noir collection of  seven stories and two essays about everybody's favorite East Texas tough guys.  Included are the novellas Hyenas, separately published with the short story "The Boy Who Became Invisible" (also included here) by Subterranean Press in 2011, and Dead Aim, also separately published by Subterranean press in 2013.  Two stories and one essay are from the chapbook Veil's Visit:  A taste fo Hap and Leonard by Lansdale and Andrew Vachss (1999), omitting only Vachss' introduction and a further essay by Lansdale.  Of the remaining two stories, one is original to this volume and one is from the George R R. Martin and Gardner Dozois anthology Rogues; the remaing essay is also original to this book.  This book is a tie-in to the Sundance television series Hap and Leonard.  An e-book version, dropping the novellas and two stories while adding two stories and a comic book script of one of the stories dropped, is available as Hap and Leonard Ride Again.  Lansdale is one of the best writers we have in any genre, hands down -- a true American original. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017


John Carnochan, former Detective Chief Superintendent and Head of the Scotland Yard Violence Reduction Unit on an old idea that still works.


For those who celebrate, a very happy and blessed Easter; for those who don't, have a wonderful day.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Hound Dog Talor & The Houserockers, with Little Walter on harmonica, circe 1967.


As some you may know, I am a little bit smitten with a lady named Kitty, and have been for 51 years.  Kitty's maiden name was Keane (pronounced "Kane," not "Keene," as some may think; of course if your are in the branch of the family that went to Australia instead of America, it's pronounced "Kine," because they talk funny).  During high school, there was always some wit who would call her "Kitty Keene, the Teen-Age Queen" as a not-too-bright play on the comic book character Katy Keene (who was originally billed as "America's Pin-Up Queen").  All of which explains my fondness for Katy Keene.  Katy Keene's looks have been described as a comic book version of Betty Page, without the adult trappings and experiences that the real Betty carried with her.  (For the record, my Kitty has always been, and always will be, way cuter than Betty Page.)

Katy Keene was the creation of Bill Woggin to fill a hole in Archie Comics' Wilbur Comics, starting with issue number 5 (Summer 1945).  Katy is (at least, at first) a model/actress/singer with an impish redheaded kid sister (known as "Sis, the Candy Kid") and a slew of boyfriends, most notably the muscle-bound K. O. Kelly and his rich rival Randy van Ronson.  Katy is about 21 years old and Sis is about 7; their parents did not seem to be around

Anyway, Katy bounced around various titles in the Archie Comics line until she got her own magazine in 1949.  The second issue (linked below) gave only a 1950 date.  The comic book lasted for a dozen years, with additional various specials.  Archie comics revived the character from 1983 to the early 90s, then, again, beginning in 2005.  Each revival tweaked the original premise a little.  From 1979 to 1983, there were 18 privately published issues of Katy Keene Fan Magazine, as well as several Katycons

One great appeal to the original comic book was a call to readers to submit dress designs for Katy to wear.  These designs. with credit to the submittors. made their way into the comic book stories.  In this particular issue over 70 (!) reader-submitted designs were used.  Many issues also featured Katy paper dolls and costumes.

Comic Buyer's Guide rate Katy #57 in the it's "100 Sexiest Women in Comic Books" listing.

The stories are typical Archie comic book humorous fare.  In this issue, Katy buys a hat, goes to a masquerade ball, and watches Sis open a lemonade stand -- all while looking fabulous, darhling...


Friday, April 14, 2017


Carolina Cotton, "The Yodeling Blonde Bombshell."


Death of a Glutton by M. C. Beaton (1993)

This week, many of the Forgotten Books crew are concentrating on small-town cops.  The small town I have chosen is the village of Lochdubh in the West Highlands of Scotland, a " weird twisted countryside of mountain, loch, and moorland where the old gods rode the wind" and where "summer usually only lasts six weeks at the best of times in the far north."  The small-town cop, of course is P. C. Hamish MacBeth, a tall, lean, friendly, red-headed young man with a canny mind and a lazy manner.

"M. C. Beaton" is one of seven names that Scottish author Marion Chesney has used to publish well over a hundred thirty novels, many of them romances.  in the mystery field her series about Hamish Macbeth (thirty-four novels and counting) and Agatha Raisin (twenty-seven novels and counting).  Hamish MacBeth spawned a BBC Scotland television series (1995-1997), in which the producers used the character's name and the Lochdubh name and little else, but was nonetheless very popular.  Agatha Raisin also got the television treatment with a pilot in late 2014, followed by a series in 2016.  Chesney's romance writing has been dropped due the pressures of keeping up with the demand for Hamish MacBeth and Agatha Raisin.

Death of a Glutton is the eighth book in the MacBeth series.  By now the regular characters have been pretty well defined.  Hamish has been assisted in solving murders by the beautiful Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, the woman he had been in love with "had she only known it."  Hamish is determined not to be burned again by Priscilla's charms, no matter how innocently he had been burned.  Priscilla is the daughter of Colonel Halburton-Smythe, who had turned their large home into a hotel when he had lost his money.  The hotel is thriving and Halburton-Smythe had recovered the money lost and then some, but he still kept the hotel open, basking in its glory while letting Priscilla and Mr. Johnson, the former manager of a Lochdubh hotel that had gone bankrupt, do all the scut work.  The bane of Hamish's existence is his immediate superior Detective Chief Inspector Blair, who is happily far away in Spain on vacation as the book begins.

Maria Worth runs a successful (and exclusive) marriage agency -- the Checkmate Singles Club.  Maria has decided to pair eight of her clients and has booked a week for them at Haliburton-Smythe's hotel.  The four men and four women do not seem to agree with Maria's judgement, however, forming different pairs than Maria had intended.  At least they seemed matched.  The fly in the ointment is Maria's partner Peta Gore, who was once a rather nice and attractive person, but has since devolved into an obese, bitter, self-deluded woman determined to us Checkmates to find herself a husband.  Peta is a disgusting and selfish glutton.  Watching her eat is simply disgusting.  Maria had thought she was able to bring her clients to Lochdubh without Peta's knowledge, but Peta appeared at the hotel anyway, accompanied by her young, very beautiful (and very shallow) niece, Crystal.  [SPOILER ALERT:  Peta's the one who's going to be murdered already knew that because of the book's title.

Anyway, before long. every one of the eight clients, as well as Maria, have a reason to kill Peta.  So, too, does Crystal, and so, too, does the hotel's chef, who maliciously cooked up a three day dead wild cat* and fed it to Peta.  As for Peta, she was found in an old quarry, suffocated, with an apple jammed into her mouth.

Death of a Glutton is an enjoyable, witty cozy.  The local characters are well drawn, as is this bus driver, commandeered into driving the eight clients on a tour:  "Like most of the natives, he knew very little of the history of Sutherland, but being a true Highlander, he planned to make it up as he went along."  (And like a true Highlander, his talent for fabrication was extreme.)  "Beaton"/Chesney's Highlands rings true and Hamish's attempts to not have romantic feelings about Priscilla are as entertaining as they are in vain.  All in all, a pleasant wat to spend a few hours.

For more small-town cops and other Forgotten books, visit our fearless leader Patti Abbott at pattinase, where she will have compiled all the links for today's FFBs.  (Of course, when you're talking about small town cops, the first name that comes to mind is that of Bill Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes, a series that is unhesitatingly recommended.  I'll be interested to see how many of the FFB crew reviews a Dan Rhodes book today.)

* I read this book on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, I see that Taiwan became the first Asian Country for ban eating cat or dog.  Good for you, Taiwan.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


The Animals.


"Up in the sky!  Look!  It's a bird! It's a plane!  It's Superman!  Yes -- it's Superman, strange visitor from the planet Krypton, who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.  Superman, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, race a speeding bullet to its target, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice."

The wording changed slightly over the years, but the import of the message remains clear -- kids glued to their radios (and later, television) were in for another exciting adventure of the man who wore his underwear on the outside.  And from 1940 through 1951, there were 2088 radio episodes to enjoy,

Bud "Beat the Clock" Collyer starred as the titular costumed hero of Superman, which began humbly as a three-times-a-week, 15-minute, syndicated program from New York City's WOR radio station.  The show would soon change its name to The Adventures of Superman, and would appear on the Mutual Network for seven years before moving to ABC.  Originally, the radio show varied from the comic book, which had debuted only two years earlier.  Krypton was a planet directly opposite Earth's orbit around the Sun, the infant Superman grew to adulthood while journeying to Earth, and emerged from his rocket full grown -- therefore he was never adopted by the Kents, but started his career right off the bat.  The radio show soon shifted to the comic book version of the saga, although the radio show introduced Kryptonite, as wel as characters Perry White and Jimmy Olsen -- features that the comic book adopted.

The link below takes you to the first two episodes of Superman:  "The Baby from Krypton" and "Clark Kent, Reporter," which first aired on February 12 and 14, 1940.

Also included at the link are the first two episodes of the short-lived (May-September 1940) The Blue Beetle radio show, starring Frank Lovejoy.

The original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett ( who was also the Blue Beetle in the radio show), originated in Mystery Men Comics #1 (August 1939) and was drawn by Charles Nicholas from a script that was perhaps written by Will Eisner.  Garrett was a rookie cop who wore a special bulletproof costume and who took "vitamin 2X" to give him super energy.  The Blue Beetle waged war against the forces of crime, assisted by Dr. Franz, a local pharmacist and inventor.  The Blue Beetle had far more success in the comics than on the radio, the radio show lasting only 48 13-minute episodes.  (BB also had a brief comic strip of his own, drawn anonymously by Jack Kirby.)

Enjoy this trip to the past and to childhood heroes of yore.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


The Guess Who.


A dog swallowed a hundred dollar bill, so the family took him to the vet, who suggested that he keep him overnight.  The next morning they called the vet and asked how the dog was doing.  The vet said, "No change."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


From 1967, folksinger Len Chandler.


When it comes to "Jiggle Television," two shows stand out in my mind...Charlie's Angels and Baywatch.  It's hard to go wrong with a television show that emphasized good looking women, especially when most television executives were male.  Of the two, I think Baywatch may have made more money because of its great popularity overseas.  David Hasselhoff was a huge hit in Japan and other countries.  What happens when you have a very popular show based on a simple formula?  If you are a television executive, you make a spin-off that belies everything that made the original show successful.  Thus, we have Baywatch Nights, a two-season, non-jiggle, private eye (vs. crime in the first season, and vs. monsters in the second) misstep.

Hasselhoff stars, again as Mitch Buchanan, the lieutenant in charge of LA County's lifeguards.  But, and this is a big BUT, he now moonlights as a private detective.  Buchanan is joined by Sergeant Garner Ellerbee (Gregory Alan Williams, who played the same role in Baywatch) and Detective Ryan McBride (Angie Harmon).  Ellerbee lasted the first season, while McBride soldiered on for the entire 44 episodes.  Also on board were Lou Rawls, playing Lou Raymond, the owner of the nightclub where Buchanan rented his office -- another character who didn't make it to the second season.  Also in the cast were Edidie Cibrian as Griff Walker and Donna D'Errico as Donna Marco.  D'errico had enough jiggle to slide her character over to Baywatch after Baywatch Nights was cancelled.

So how bad was Baywatch Nights?  Pretty bad.  A ludicrous surmise and lack of jiggle doomed it from the start.  The effort to save the show by trying to copy the successful X-Files formula did not go over.  (Full disclosure:  I really liked the cheesiness of the second season, far more than I liked the first season or its primogenitor, Baywatch.)

Here's the first episode of the revamped second season, "Terror of the Deep," first airing on September 29, 1996.  "Mitch and Griff investigate a sunken freighter where they fight for their lives against an unknown force and realize that the freighter might have been sunk by a New Guinea sea monster according to a woman they found floating in the ocean near sunken wreckage of her sailboat."

Enjoy.  I think.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Doc Watson, one of my favs.


  • John Appleyard, Pensacola:  A City Under 6 Flags.  Historical novel, covering the Pensacola from  1764 to 1920, through the eyes of the Hunter family.  About this 2003 book:  "This book is truly a community project.  After reviewing the text content, the Escambia County* School System requested 3,000 copies for instructional use.  Next, an arrangement was made for the net sales proceeds to go to the ongoing support of the Miracle Camp**, a recently inaugurated service for seriously ill children..Work to ready the book for publication was done by the professional staff of the John Appleyard Agency, whose founder was the author.  Three organizations or individuals provided funding for the project, thus making possible the free distribution to the schools, and the income opportunity for the camp.  Funding Sponsors:  Erik Nickelsen, founder of Miracle Camp; Wachovia National Bank, whose officials strongly support community programs; Dick Appleyard and the John Appleyard Agency, Inc."  At nearly 400 pages of heavy stock and loaded with historical photographs and prints, this vanity project appears to be fairly accurate historically.  Not sure on the merits of the book itself, though.
  • Barbara D'Amato, Jeanne M. Dams, & Mark Zubro, Foolproof.  2009 Thriller.  Personally affected by the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, Brenda Grant and Daniel Henderson "establish a clandestine division that scours international Internet traffic for hints of terrorism.  Days before the upcoming presidential election, the Cairo office transmits a coded warning.  A short time later, one of Brenda's old friends makes an appointment to see her but is killed before she can keep it.  As Brenda and Daniel investigate these events. they uncover a sophisticated plot to hijack the election.  The plan employs cutting-edge electronic balloting software, involves the highest strata of the U.S. government, and threatens democracy worldwide."  People trying to hijack American elections?  Whoda thunk it?
  • Robert Ferrigno, Scavenger Hunt.  Crime novel.  Reporter Jimmy Gage meets Garrett Walsh, "a bad-boy moviemaker in the truest sense.  He's just been released from prison after serving seven years for the murder of a teenaged girl.  But Walsh claims he was framed and is writing a screenplay to prove it.  He wants Jimmy to help him peddle it, sight unseen.  The net time Jimmy sees the director, he's floating facedown in a koi pond and 'The Most Dangerous Screenplay in  Hollywood' has disappeared..."
  • "J. R. Roberts" (Robert J. Randisi), The Gunsmith #90:  Six-Gun Sideshow.  Adult western.  "A fine-looking young lady is brutally butchered before Clint Adams' eyes.  Then some back-shootin' varmints start taking potshots at Buffalo Bill Cody, the West's proudest hero.  The Gunsmith takes this insult right personal and figure on takin' their hides to a wall with some .45 caliber slugs."  Randisi churned out this series with one (or more) books a month to an astounding 400 books while keeping the quality of the series high.  That doesn't even count the hundred or so other books he has written of the thirty-some books he has anthologized.  That man just seems to not know the meaning of "slow down," and we readers are the better for it.

*Escambia County includes Pensacola
** The Miracle Camp is still active and doing good works.

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Online personality, humorist, and performance artist Ze Frank explains nercore comedy and what it can do.


The Roberta Martin singers.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Joan Baez has just announced that she is coming out of retirement because she needs to speak against the policies of the current administration.  Since Donald Trump has put much effort in talking about (or against) immigration, I'd thought I link to a classic Woody Guthrie song.


Red haired Betsy Crane first appeared in Charlton Comic's Teen Secret Diary #11.  The next issue was renamed Nurse Betsy Crane and Betsy became a brunette who would carry the comic book for 16 issues.  Ostensibly, Nurse Betsy Crane was a romance comic book, but Betsy would solve a few mysteries or meet some challenging cases along the way.  Betsy appears to be a super-nurse, well liked by doctors, nurses, and patients.  In this issue, Betsy serves as a duty nurse, an emergency room nurse, and a surgical nurse and the staff neurologist is also a brain surgeon, making me wonder what kind of hospital this is.

The lead story in this issue, "Wall of Fear," focuses on Betsy's relationship with Rusty Corwin, an up and coming boxer who needs brain surgery:

"It is difficult for a man to change his life overnight, especially when the change is forced upon him without choice!  Sometimes the people who are near and dear to him innocently tend only to irritate an already irritating situation!  At times, it takes a stranger with the ability and understanding of a miracle worker to forge a path through this intense wall of fear!  Such a person is Nurse Betsy Crane!"

All well and good, but the story doesn't really deliver on its introduction.  Rusty Corwin enters the ring for a match that will send the victor to challenge the champion.  Both boxers swap light taps, feeling each other out, and suddenly Rusty collapses and cannot be revived.  Taken to the hospital, Rusty cannot be revived that night, although in the morning he is bright, alert, feeling fine, and wanting to go home.  Soon, we find out that Rusty has a "slight pressure on a nerve leading leading directly from the medulla and the rear center of the brain."  A simple fix, as brain surgery goes.  Rusty does not like the idea of an operation that would end his boxing career.  Betsy tells Rusty, "If you walk out, you have less chance of living than if you stay."  Rusty replies, "Okay...I'll Stay."  The operation is a success.  The end.  No muss, no fuss, no drama.  And we close the book on another not very thrilling adventure of Super Nurse!

The back-up story is even worse.  College student Lita Miller is a bubble-headed girl who seems only to exist to please her boyfriend Mell.   Mell offers to take her to a school football game.  The opposing team whose star player is Ted Cole.  Lita, of course, don't know nuttin' 'bout birthin' no babies doesn't know the first thing about football but...anything to please Mell.  At the game Lita sees Ted Cole in action as a far-off figure running and moving with extreme grace.  Although Mell is "the sun and moon and stars" to Lita, she falls instantly in love with Ted and spends days dreaming about him.  When she finally meets Ted and discovers that he is not handsome, the bubble pops and she's ready to spend her life in subservience to Mell.  Ptah!

I guess I just don't understand the teen romance comics.

This one is a fast read.  See if you fell as I do.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Bobby Rydell.


Split Image by Robert B. Parker (2010)

Not really a "Forgotten Book," but perhaps an overlooked one.

And therein lies the rub.

When Robert B. Parker burst onto the publishing scene, he became -- if not instantly, then very soon thereafter -- a admired writer to watch.  His character Spenser was a breathe of fresh air on the P.I. landscape.  His novels were exceedingly readable and gritty, if not too realistic.

That Parker was a passable and sometime irritating writer slowly dawned on many readers.  His books began to appear padded...lots of white space, large type, big margins, short sentences mostly consisting of clipped dialog, scenes that added nothing to the plot but extended the page count well beyond that of a novella.  A Parker novel of 300 pages could be read in less than three hours.  Many readers, enthusiastic at first, gave up on the author.  Luckily there were new readers to come on board, some inspired by the Spenser for Hire television series (1985-1988) and some by the good reputation of his earlier books.

I think his basic problem was that he was too maudlin in his writings.  His books (and many of his characters) espouse a romantic ideal.  Usually this can be a good thing; the classic P.I. in literature is a romantic character, facing seemingly unbeatable odds, titling at windmills, embodying the virues of honor and chivalry.  Parker, however, took this ideal to an extreme.  You have a feeling that his main characters are looking down at you from their exalted height.  Love (as opposed to sex) is something that is approached with the attitude of an overly sensitive teenager.  Women (well, Susan Silverman and some others) are viewed as ultra-perfect Madonnas -- which is one reason why Susan Silverman is one of the most annoying characters in mystery fiction.  Regular secondary characters -- no matter how bad -- look up to the protagonist with admiration and awe.   Some of this was born from Parker's own personal relationships which (IMHO) was magnified in some of the characters he inflicted on us.  This maudlin side of Parker was evinced in full bloom with his 1983 standalone novel Love and Glory, an excretable exercise that truly needed a good editor and/or a paper shredder.

For myself, I managed to stay with Parker until the mid-nineties.  There were too many other bright and shiny things grabbing my attention.  Shortly after that time, Parker began launching other series.  Jesse Stone came in 1997 and Sunny Randall in 1999; western characters Cole and Hitch appeared in 2008; several YA books were also published.

Recently, I've been catching up with Parker's book.  I am torn about this because a part me feels that I'm being played, yet his books are absolute pageturners.. It turns out that Parker, like Dean Koontz (another writer I like despite his faults), can be absolutely addictive.  Go figure.


Split Image is a Jesse Stone novel, the last that Parker published before his death.  Stone is the police chief of Paradise, Massahusetts, a North Shore Massachusetts town.  A former Los Angeles cop, Stone is hung up on his ex-wife (who will sleep with just about anyone to further her career) and is a functional (sometimes, just barely) drunk, but Stone -- like Spenser -- is a man of honor and compassion -- a man who would rather do what's right than what may by in the rule book.  When Stone speaks I hear the voice of Tom Selleck, who has played the character in a number of television movies; for me, that's a good thing.  I like Jesse Stone much more than I like Spenser.

At this point in the series, Stone is having a relationship with Sunny Randall, the detective from one of Spenser's other series.  All three of Parker's contemporary heroes share the same universe and a number of the same characters (cops, thugs, lawyers, and the over-hyped Susan Silverman) can pop up at any time).  Randall is also a flawed character, still in love with her ex-husband who is married to another woman and is the father of a new child.

Two plot threads interweave in Split Image, the body of a thug is found with a bullet in his head.  The dead man worked as muscle for Reggie Galen, a mobster who lives in Paradise.  Nest door to Galen is Knocko Moynihan, another mobster and Reggie's brother-in-law.  Both Reggie and Knocko are supposedly (ha!) no longer involved in criminal enterprises.  Each married a beautiful identical twin who use sexual games as a tool for power.  At the same time, Sunny Randall is hired by the parents of an 18-year-old girl who is living at an odd religious retreat in Paradise.  The parents want Sunny to kidnap the girl and bring her home, but their concern is not for their daughter but their own reputation and standing in society.  Sunny refuses but agrees to talk to the girl to see if she is there at her of her own free will.  The parents hire someone else to kidnap the girl and place her in a phony residential psychiatric hospital, drugged to the limit.  Of course, Sunny has to save the girl.

There are a few more twists in both narratives.  Both Stone and Sunny don't do much.  Things fall neatly into place by the end of the book.  In each instance deus seems to have ex machina-ed its way into the conclusion conveniently.  Stone and Randall spend a lot of time talking bout their personal problems.  In the end (SPOILER!) Stone is pretty much over his ex and Randall is pretty much over her ex and things may become a little brighter for the two.  Both characters (as well as Spencer and Virg and Hitch) have had their series posthumously continued by other writers.  i haven't approached those books yet so it can't say how things turn out for the two.

Split Image is a fast read.  You may want to give it a try.  You may -- like me -- find the damned series addictive.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Ray Charles helped make 1961 memorable with this hit.


Jack Vance's colorful tale (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1950) of an Earth Planetary Affairs representative trying to unravel the mystery at the heart of the beautiful pottery produced on the planet Firsk got its dramatic treatment on the July 28, 1950, episode of Dimension X.  Featuring Karl Weber, Wendall Hall, Raymond Edward Johnson, Luke Appling, and Ed Prentiss, this episode was adapted by Ernest Kinoy.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Stephen Haffner, of Haffner Press, suggested that bloggers use this day to honor Robert Bloch.  Patti Abbott (who has links to over a dozen contributions at, and Todd Mason are among those who rose to the challenge.  My humble piece follows.

One hundred years ago on this date, the writer Robert Bloch (1917-1994) was born in Chicago, where, when he was ten, two formative things occurred:  He saw Lon Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera and began a lifelong love of horror, and he discovered the puilp magazine Weird Tales.  Soon his favorite writer became H. P. Lovecraft.   When he was 17 he wrote a fan letter to Lovecraft and soon began regular correspondence with the writer.  Lovecraft encouraged Bloch's writing and gave him advice on his fiction writing.  Bloch's early published efforts were heavily influenced by Lovecraft and many were set within Lovecraft's Mythos universe.  Bloch and Lovecraft once famously and playfully killed each off in a pair of stories that were published in Weird Tales.

In 1935 Bloch became a member of the Milwaukee Fictioneers, a group of writers who included Stanley G. Weinbaum, Ralph Milne Farley, Raymond A. Palmer, and Gustav Marx.  Marx gave Bloch a job in his advertising company, which perversely allowed Bloch time to write his own fiction.  Bloch also continued his interest in theater (which had developed while he was in high school) and wrote and performed  in his own skits, as well as selling jokes to several radio comics.  He became active in local politics when asked to manage a campaign for a city attorney who was running for mayor.  Bloch and his partner for the campaign , Harold Gauer, formed an unusual, and original campaign, which included the first time ever of dropping balloons from a ceiling, so the next political convention you watch, you'll know who to blame for all those damned balloons.

Bloch moved away from Lovecraftian stories and began to develop a unique style, often walking the thin edge between comedy and horror and relying more on psychological aspects.  He created the Runyonesque character Lefty Feep, often imitated but never equaled, for his friend Raymond Palmer's Fantastic Adventures.  He wrote 39 episodes of the radio horror program Stay Tuned for Terror, often basing the scripts on his own stories, "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," which has become a modern classic.  Bloch's first novels were paperback original crime thrillers, The ScarfSpiderwebThe Kidnapper, and The Will to Kill -- each of which rose far above its contemporaries with its deft use of psychology, and all remain immensely readable today.  It was Bloch's novel Psycho that cemented his reputation.  The Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of that novel opened many doors for Bloch.  He moved to Hollywood and began a long career as a screen and television writer.

Robert Bloch was one of my gateways to reading, as he was for many teen-aged and pre-teen boys (and girls, too, but mostly boys).  His writing style, imagination, and combined sense of humor and shock were perfectly fitted for those insecure years.  His television work -- especially for the Boris Karloff anthology series Thriller, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (an episode of the earlier Alfred Hitchcock Presents was pulled when both network and sponsor felt the ending was too gruesome; the episode, "The Sorceror's Apprentice" was later aired in syndication), Star Trek, and Tales from the Darkside -- were memorable.  His short story collections, starting with his early Arkham House edition of The Opener of the Way, through later pun-filled titles such as Out of the Mouth of Graves, Tales in a Jugular Vein, Fear Today -- Gone Tomorrow, and Such Stuff as Screams are Made Of, to the thick posthumous collections assembled in his honor, contain a plethora of thrill, chills, and smiles.  His story "That Hellbound Train" was the first pure fantasy story to win the science fiction Hugo Award for best short story.  Throughout his career, Bloch kept up his activities in science fiction fandom, penning articles and appreciations and becoming one of the most sought after toastmasters in the field, and publishing several books of his fannish writings.

I don't think anyone has ever said a bad word about Robert Bloch.  He was a kind and supportive man.  In his last months, with the full knowledge that he was dying, he penned an article about his oncoming death for Omni magazine.  It was one of the most powerful pieces I have ever read.  I never met the man, nor have I corresponded with him (in his later years he would answer correspondence with a brief postcard, which was all his writing schedule would allow -- but he would answer), but that Omni article brought me to tears as I realized that I was losing a friend I never met, a man kind enough to sign a book on the west coast sent by a man on the east coast -- something I have always appreciated.

He published 26 novels and hundreds of stories.  These, along with his film, television, and radio work, all the smallest part of his legacy.  His major part was the man himself and the effect he had on his many friends and admirers.




(I've been going through some back issues of The Comedy Bulletin, an Irish monthy newsletter from Dermot Crossley that published hundreds of jokes -- most of them unfunny or dated or cliched.  Here are the first ten from the June 1988 edition.)

- My uncle will do anything to improve his golf score.  He even considered a 'sex change' just so he could use the ladies tees.

- We all worship in our own way.  Mine is saying, 'Oh, God' every time a girl with a great body walks down the beach.

- I did ten deep knee bends today. I hate it when the chemist puts the condoms on the bottom shelf.

- Maybe I did have a little to [sic] much to drink last night -- but I didn't hear any complaints from that lamp post I asked to dance.

- I really shouldn't drink -- it makes my dog jealous when I'm down on all fours and he sees people pet me.

- My hangover is so bad it feels like haemorrhoids from the neck up.

- I don't want to say how much wine (      ) drank last night -- but he did qualify as a Catholic mass.

- Every summer its [sic] the same thing.  My neighbour starts to complain.  Just because my toilet overflows into his swimming pool.

- Times have changed.  My kids are scared to death of the neighbourhood bully, and I keeping telling them, 'You have just got to stand up to her.'

-  Eat, drink and be merry -- for tomorrow you'll have your head in the toilet.

(Sometimes I don't miss the good old days.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


From 1958, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters.


Not that long ago, Africa was really the Dark Continent -- a land of mystery with strange tribe, exotic animals, and unusual customs.  Shot over a period of 14 months (with some staged portions films afterward), Africa Speaks! covers an expedition led by Paul F. Hoefler into what was then the Belgian Congo.  Narrated by Lowell Thomas in a casual -- and to modern ears, condescending and sometimes offensive -- style with some witty remarks that fall flat.  A lot of information and good deal of misinformation here.  These's also a lot of stunning nature photography here.  Africa Speaks! brought a relatively unknown part of the world to movie audiences of the day and fed a demand that also brought a vast number of jungle movies to theaters.  Footage from this movie was used in many of the Bomba the Jungle Boy films.

 The copy linked to below has been edited to 50 minutes from the original 75 minutes.  Still, it's worth a look.

...And this 25 minute version of the expedition includes footage of the Ubangi tribe that was not included in the above:

Monday, April 3, 2017


This one always gets my head a-bobbing.  Deep Purple.


  • Kate Daniel, Baby-sitter's Nightmare.  YA thriller.  "Alice Fleming is trapped in a nightmare.  someone's been breaking into houses all over town, stealing and wrecking furniture.  The victims all had one thing in common:  Alice baby-sat their kids.  The p[olice re ready to lock Alice up, and even her friends are wondering if Alice has a dark side they never knew...The one night Alice cancels a baby-sitting job, and the substitute sitter is murdered. Alice is desperate to find the real killer.  Bur as she follows the killer's trail, is she walking into a dealy trap set just for her?"  Sounds kind of blah, but it only cost me ten cents.
  • "J. V. Lewton" (Stephen Gresham), Just Pretend.  YA horror.  "Sixteen-year-old Clay Brannon has the ability to see things.  Some call it a gift, but Clay calls it a curse.  Especially when he hear's a little girl's voice on a call-ion radio show:  "I pretended a bad man...and he's going to kill me."  Although the phone call is dismissed as a prank, Clay knows what he heard is true.  In his mind he can visualize a little girl at the mercy of a madman who has killed before and will kill again -- unless Clay can find him and stop him in time.  It won't be easy...because Clay has just seen an image of someone else's death.  his own."  The pseudonym is a nod to classic film director Val Lewton.
  • Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Witch.  YA fantasy.  Sunny looks like a West African, but she's an albino and doesn't seem to fit in anywhere.  "Her classmate Orlu and his friend Chichi reveal that they have magical abilities -- and so does she.  Sunny is a 'free agent,' overflowing with latent power.  And she has a lot of catching up to do.  Soon, Sunny's taking a crash course in magical history, spells, juju, shapechanging, and dimensional travel.  Her new world is a secret to hwer family, but it's well worth all the exhaustion and sneaking around.  But...there is a dark side.  Just as she's finding her footing, Sunny, with Orlu, Chichi, and their American friend Sasha, is asked by the magical authorities to help track down a criminal.  Not just a run-of-the-mill bad guy.  A real-life, hard-core serial killer -- with abilities stronger than theirs."
  • Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief.  SF novel, the first in a series featuring Jean le Flambeur, who has had many lives and who has been a thief, confidence man, posthuman mind-burglar, and more.  From ISFDb:  "A breathtaking ride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people who communicate vis shared memory, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as an MMORPG guild."  This book placed third in both the 2011 Locus Best First Novel catagory and the 2011 Campbell Memorial Best Science Fiction Novel catagory, as well as being nominated below the cutoff for the 2011 and 2012 Hugo Best Novel Awards.  (The reason for two Hugo nominations lies in the fact that it was first published in England and the following year in the U.S.)

Sunday, April 2, 2017


The line between STEM and the arts is artificial.  This is something that everyone should recognize.

Makulla Abdullah is now the president of the University of Virginia and has approached this job with a message:  Embracing Opportunities for Excellance.


Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Dino, Desi & Billie.


We start the month of April off with the most exciting comic book news in decades -- the discovery of a previously-unheard-of comic book dating back to 1901!  A brown and fragile copy of Honus Wagner, Boy Detective #1 was found by workmen behind the fireplace bricks of an old house being torn down in Pittsburgh .  Research has shown that the house once belonged to Edmund S. Sterling, who once worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball franchise.  Honus Wagner (1874-1955), of course was the famed shortstop for the Pirates professional baseball team from 1900 to 1917.  He later served as a coach for the team from 1933 to 1951.  Wagner holds the distinction of being the player on the most valuable baseball card ever -- the T206 Honus Wagner card from the American Tobacco company.  With this recent discovery, Wagner undoubedly brings a similar value to the comic book.

The discovery was evidently made some eight months ago, in August 2016, but had been kept secret until experts could verify its age and provenance.  According to the owner of the comic book, Miss Patricia Mae Skelnik, it appears that this was the first of possibly three or more issues of the comic book published.  I should be noted that no other copies of this comic book or of any other issues have year been discovered.  While going through the stored records of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, researchers are "relatively assured" that the Honus Wagner series was planned as a promotional giveaway, capitalizing on the popularity of "The Flying Dutchman," who was a mainstay of the team.

In format, the book resembles many of the dime novels of the era, at least in size.  Rather than a text story, each page contains one illustration with a two- or three-line description below it, forming a continuous narrative.  The storyline follows young Honus hauling slag from a coal mine (in real-life Honus Wagner dropped out of school at age twelve to work with his father and brothers in a coal mine) when he overhears a plot to rob the mine offices.  It turns out that this is just the beginning of an orchestrated plot by rival mine owners to destroy Hiram J. Hornstrung, the owner of the mine where young Honus worked.  Thrill after thrill follows, as Honus manages to retrieve the stolen payroll, save the mine from being blown up, rescue the young daughter of the mine's manager, and finally putting a kibosh on the whole nefarious plot.  Honus uses his wits, his speed, and his daring to save the day, along with a heavy helping of his speed and accuracy in throwing.  Honus is also portrayed as being pure of heart.

The author and artist of this comic book are unknown, although reports are that the artwork is similar to that of Winsor McKay.  Actual copies of the comic book have not been available for examination.  Fans will have to wait until later this year for that thrill.

Skelnik said that Honus Wagner, Boy Detective #1 will be reprinted this November in a deluxe boxed edition from Knopf.

Meanwhile, the search has been intensified to find further issues about the adventures of young Honus.  Perhaps in your attic...