Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Clyde McPhatter.


Here's one stanza of a "bad joke song" from Garrison Keiller:

One morning, the devil came to church,
In a burst of smoke and flame,
He ran up and down the aisle.
He said, "Beezlebub is my name.
I am evil incarnate,
The objects of all your fears!"
The old man said, "You don't scare me at all,
Been married to your sister for 48 years."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Gene Vincent


James Fenimore Cooper's classic tale of Natty Bumpo, Chingachgook, and Uncas has been filmed nine times in America alone and at least three times in Germany.  There may have been other foreign adaptations as well.  In addition, The Last of the Mohicans has been  adapted for a television series, a miniseries, a television movie, and an animated series, as well as two two-part radio series and an opera.  It has been the basis of several comic books and one manga.  The story has been firmly embedded in our culture.

Cooper's book -- the second in his "Leatherstocking" series -- is considered to be the first great american novel.  The 1920 film version linked below is the second adaptation of the novel (the first was in 1912 and starred James Cruze) and has been selected for preservation by the National film Registry and has been deemed "culturally significant" by The Library of Congress.

This version stars Harry Lorraine as Natty "Hawkeye" Bumpo, Theodore Lorch as Chief great Serpent (Chingachgook), Alan Roscoe as Uncas, and the great Wallace Beery as the evil Magua.  Barbara Bedford and Lillian Hall are the imperiled sisters, Cora and Alice Munro.  The film was directed by Maurice Tourneur and Clarence Brown, with a scenario by Robert Dillon.

Travel back to 1757 and the upper New York frontier and enjoy this great film.

Monday, May 29, 2017


It's a day of reflection.  A day to honor those who truly deserve it.  A day to count your blessings and to remember how we got them.  It's also a day for cookouts, for family, and for friends.

However you celebrate, I hope you have a very meaningful Memorial Day.

Here's my go-to song for this day.  Sometimes it's called "The Green Fields of France" and sometimes its called "No Man's Land" and sometimes it's just called "Willie McBride."  No matter the name, it's a powerful song.


  • Larry Beinhart, How to Write a Mystery.  Nonfiction.  'drawing on advice and examples from a host of the best names in mystery writing -- from Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane to Scott Turow and Thomas Harris -- plus some of his own prime plots, Larry Beinhart introduces you to your most indispensable partners in crime:  Character, plot, and procedure..."  I have not read any of Beinhart's work but I do have some of his books buried somewhere.  Books on writing by genre authors are always fun to read.  This one is from 1996.
  • James P. Blaylock, The Aylesford Skull .  A Langdon St. Ives steampunk fantasy.  "It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives, brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer, is at home in Aylesford with his family.  A few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay, the crew murdered and pitched overboard.  In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull.  The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives.  When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and the vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race into London in pursuit..."
  • Harlan Coben, Fool Me Once.  Thriller.  "Former special-ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work:  her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya's husband, Joe -- who was brutally murdered two weeks earlier.  the provocative question at the heart of the mystery:  Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to?  To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about ther husband -- and herself."
  • Andre Norton, Steel Magic.  YA fantasy.  "Sara, Greg, and Eric Lowry are exploring the woods near their uncle's Hudson Valley estate when they are magically transported to the land of Avalon.  there they meet Huon, Warden of the West.  When he tells them that the forces of darkness have stolen the three talismans that protect Avalon -- King Arthur's sword; Merlin's ring; and Huon's horn -- the children set off on a quest to find the three tokens of power.  For Avalon stands as a wall between the Dark and the mortal world.  and if Avalon falls, so does Earth..."  Norton's "Magic" are an interesting series of seven standalone fantasties (this was the first) with only the titles to link them.   I don't know if there is any relation between this book and Norton's 1951 novel Huon of the Horn.
  • Stephen Payne, Teen-Age Stories of the West.  Collection of fourteen western stories from various sources, 1927 to 1946.  From the introduction by Leo Margulies:  "...[O]ut of the marvelous well of his memories and the inspiration of the mountains come stories that are so real.  They are more than entertainment.  They are a little bit of the real story of our country...This volume contains the best of all the stories Steve Payne has written."
  • Robert B. Parker, Now & Then and School Days.  Spenser mysteries.  In the first, Spenser investigates a cheating wife, and "a couple of days later all hell breaks loose and three people are dead."  It turns out that the wife's former lover is the leader of a group that funds terrorists and, when Spenser starts stirring the hornet's nest, he decides to get to Spenser through Susan.  big mistake.  In the second, a Massachusetts boy is accused of mass murder, his socially prominent grandmother, who hires Spenser to investigate, is convinced of his innocence.  But Spenser isn't convinced of anything -- except that there's trouble ahead."   
  • R. L. Stine, editor, Fear.  YA anthology with "13 stories of suspense and horror" from Heather Graham, F. Paul Wilson, Walter Sorrells, James Rollins, and others.  This one was evidently a project from The International Thriller Writers. who donated 50% of the royalties to Reading Is Fundamental.
  • Minette Walters, The Devil's Feather.  Thriller.  'Foreign correspondent Connie Burns is hunting a British mercenary that she believes is responsible for the rape and murder of five women in Sierre Leone in 2002.  Two years later she finds him training Iraqi police in Baghdad.  Connie is determined to expose her crimes, but then she is kidnapped and released after three days of unspeakable torture.  Silently, she returns to London and attempts to isolate herself, but it soon becomes apparent that the horrors of the world and her own nightmarish past aren't so easy to escape."  Walters is always a great read.
  • Elizabeth Warren, This Fight is Our Fight:  The Battle to Save America's Middle Class.  What can I say about Senator Elizabeth Warren, the scrappy, outspoken, rational champion of working families and the middle class?  Just that she still is continuing to persist.  This one was a gift from our friends Beverly and her daughter Wynter.  Beverly is one of the country's premier close captioners and is based outside of D.C.  She has done captioning for President Obama and a host of political names, as well as for some of the leading scientific and professional societies throughout America and often captions for the Kennedy Center.  She recently captioned for Senator Warren and had this book signed for us.  Wynter is a genius with language, a seasoned traveler, and an aspiring writer.  They are both very special to us and this book is also very special to us -- not the least reason being that Kitty wants to be Elizabeth Warren when she grows up.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


Wes Moore, army veteran and author of The Other Wes Moore, delivers a TED Talk about how to talk -- and how to listen -- to veterans.


Here's a piece for this weekend from John Williams.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


Little Richard


Soldiers of fortune are romantic figures who belie the reality of the "profession."  But for young boys in the 50s a soldier of fortune was a glamorous guy with a strong moral code.  SoFs were also glamorized in the 1955-1957 television series Soldiers of Fortune with John Russell and chick Chandler.  Soldiers of fortune had been around in the comic books for many years -- Siegel and Shuster created "Henri Duval of France, Famed Soldier of Fortune" in 1935.  And,,of course, there were Roy Cane's "Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy," Milton Caniff's "Terry and the Pirates," Caniff's "Steve Canyon," and many others assumed the soldier of fortune role.

Soldiers of Fortune #2 brings you such adventurers as Ace Carter -- Adventurer, Captain Crossbones, Lance Lawson -- Soldier of Fortune, and real life soldier of fortune Sir Alexander Mackenzie.  Famed science fiction cover artist contributes two one-page stories about historical figures -- the first, James Bowie, and the second, doctor and pirate Thomas Dover.  Other artists in this issue are Ogden Whitney, Frank Bolle, Ed Moline, Paul Gattuso, and Charles Sultan.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Back in the days when Roy Rogers was Leonard Slye, he entered a radio show singing contest and, a few days later, received an offer to join a group called The Rocky Mountaineers.  That was in the Spring of 1931.  By that Fall, Slye was the head of the group and needed a yodeler/tenor for the act.  A young Canadian named Bob Nolan answered the ad and Slye hired him on the spot.  Nolan did not stay with the Rocky Mountaineers for long and was replaced by Tim Spencer.  Old-time music acts tended to shift personnel rapidly.  By the spring of 1932, Slye, Spencer, and another member left the Mountaineers to form their own trio, which sank without a trace.  Slye and Spencer, together or singly, joined a number of short-lived acts, with Slye eventually joining a popular radio act, Jack LeFevre and his Texas Outlaws.

In early 1933, Slye, Nolan, and Spencer formed The Pioneer Trio.  The next year, fiddle player and bass singer Hugo Farr was added to the group, now called The Pioneers.  One radio announcer, saying that they were too young to be pioneers, began calling the group The Sons of the Pioneers.  The name stuck.

In 1935, the group was signed by Columbia Picture to sing on its Charles Starrett western films.  Two years later Slye received an acting offer from Republic Pictures.  Slye left The Sons of the Pioneers and was rechristened Roy Rogers.  Columbia;'s Starrett western group was disbanded in 1941 and The Sons of the Pioneers moved over to Republic to join Roy Rogers.

The sons of the Pioneers are still going strong.  Over the years, there have been 43 official members of the group including Pat Brady (whom Roy Rogers tagged to replace him when he left the group and who ended up being Roy's television sidekick), Ken curtis (Gunsmoke's Festus, and the vocalist who filled the void between Frank Sinatra's and Dick Haymes' stints with the Tommy Dorsey Band), and Shug Fisher (the singer-songwriter-actor-comedian who replaced Pat Brady when Brady was drafted in World War II; Fisher later was to have recurring roles on television's Ripcord, Gunsmoke, and The Beverly Hillbillies).    Current members of The Sons of the Pioneers are Tommy Naille, Ken Lattimore, Randy Rudd, Mark Abbott, and Justin Branum.

Here's a baker's dozen of their songs.  Smooth, easy listening.  Enjoy.

Tumbling Tumbleweeds:

Cool Clear Water

Ghost Riders in the Sky


Dwelling in Beulah Land

Wagon Wheels

When It's Springtime in the Rockies

Red River Valley

O Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie

Ride Away

Blue Prairie

Blue Shadows on the Trail

Along the Santa Fe Trail


John P. Marquand's famous Japanese detective Mr. I. A. Moto made it to the radio airwaves on May 20, 1951.  Taking the title role was veteran actor James Monks.  Over his career, Monk appeared in some 500 radio productions, often while also appearing on stage (He had a forty year stage career, including 639 performances opposite Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame.)  Monks very effectively mirrored the voice of Peter Lorre, who starred in Mr. Moto's popular movie adventures.

Mr. Moto did not have a regular sponsor -- something for which NBC Radio had short shrift.  After the first thirteen episodes, NBC lowered the show's budget and replaced announcer Fred Collins with the less talented Ray Barrett.  Producer Carol Irwin gave way to her associate producer.  Spot promotional ads for the show began to disappear, as did releases for the print media.  The show was dropped after just 23 episodes -- indicative of NBC's cutthroat approach.  Many experts believe that, had Mr. Moto been allowed to continue for just a few more shows, it would easily have found a regular sponsor.

The eighth episode of the show (linked below), "Project 77," was first aired on July 8, 1951 and was written and directed by Harry W. Junkin.  Features actors included Bill Smith, Connie Lemke, Bill Lipton, Scott Tennyson, and Ian Martin.

Enjoy this episode of the international detective who fights the evils of communism throughout the world.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Spanky and Our Gang.


Adventures into the Unknown has the distinction of being the first ongoing horror comic title.  It lasted for 167 issues from Fall 1948 to August 1967.  I remember reading a lot of issues when I was a kid.

Issue #1 is a Pre-Code dandy and has five --count 'em, five -- stories scripted by Frank Belknap Long.  (Long was a good friend of H. P. Lovecraft and had a seven-decade distinguished career writing in the horror field.  He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Horror Writers Association and the World Fantasy convention.)  Notable in this issue is Long's 7-page adaptation of Horace Walpole's classic gothic novel The Castle of Otranto.


Friday, May 19, 2017


Wanna dance?  Martha and the Vandellas do.


The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop (1954)

Douglass Wallop (1920-1985) received some critical attention with his first novel Night Light, a nuanced story of man trying to understand his daughter's murderer.  It was his second novel, however, that made his reputation.  The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant transferred the Faust theme to the world of professional baseball and became a best-seller.  The following year, Wallop and George Abbott adapted the book into the Tony Award-winning (seven of them for the original run, plus two other nominations)  musical Damn Yankees.  In 1958, it was a major film release from Warner Brothers, garnering a number of award nominations.

The time is the 1960s and in the world of baseball no one can touch the Yankees, who have won the pennant for so many consecutive years that it was understood that they will keep doing so into the far future.  This does not sit well with Joe Boyd, a die-hard Washington Senators fan.  Joe is in his fifties.  He's out of shape, his children have left the nest, and his relationship with his wife is strained.  Joe and his wife have more or less gone their separate ways -- she can't understand his fixation with baseball and he can't understand her interests -- yet, in his unhappy way, he still loves her.  One day after another humiliating loss by the Senators, Joe off-handedly remarks that we would sell his soul for a winning season for his team.  He should known better.

Joe soon meets the mysterious Mr. Applegate, a smooth talker who lights his cigarettes without any matches.  Applegate offers Joe the opportunity to take the Senators all the way to the pennant.  Joe, who is in the real estate business, begins negotiations -- the result being that Joe can get his wish on a trial basis but that he can opt out on a certain date; if he doesn't, then the deal is permanent and his soul belongs to the devil.

Applegate transforms Joe into Joe Hardy, a twenty-one-year-old baseball phenom.  Joe tries out for the Senators and wins a spot on the last-place team.  He hits one, two, sometimes three home runs a game and his fielding is incredible.  The Senators begin a steady move up the League, even beating the Yankees every time the two play.

Pre-Joe Hardy, the Senators' biggest draw was Roscoe Ent, a former vaudeville comic and terrible pitcher whose antics liven up the fan's spirits.  The Senators were all that Roscoe had going for him and he realized that, with the popularity of Joe Hardy, his days om the team were numbered.  Roscoe quits the team and begins a downward spiral.  Joe feels guilty about Roscoe, he also feels guilty about his new-found talents.  Joe knows that it is not fair to use supernatural means to upset the natural order of things.  And Joe misses his wife and looks forward to the day he can void his contract and return to her.

On the other hand, the Senators are winning.  And that's a good thing for all those Yankee-hating baseball fans out there.

Applegate introduce Joe to Lola, the most beautiful woman in the world in an effort to distract Joe from missing his wife.  Lola, it turns out was another of Applegate's "clients."  She, too, had argued for an opt-out portion on her contract but, despite her best efforts, Applegate sure that she did not  opt out when the time came.  One way or another, Applegate always wins.  And, much to her surprise, Lola falls for Joe and she's perfectly willing to wait until Applegate claims his soul to have him.

Anthony Boucher ho-hummed this book, saying it was "just another Pact-with-the-Devil story, somewhat brightened by its Major League baseball setting."  My reaction is more kind.  The story itself is ordinary but the characters are well-nuanced and the author's love of baseball shines through.

I was a little bit irritated to find myself humming "Whatever Lola Wants" while reading the book, however.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Hoyt Axton.


The Clock was a half-hour suspense program narrated by Father Time himself.  The U.S. version ran for 82 episodes in the U.S. (November 3, 1946 to May 23, 1948) on ABC radio.  Beginning in 1955 the series ran in Australia for 52 episodes using the U.S. scripts but with completely different actors and a completely different feel.  The American version of the show was narrated by veteran radio actor William Conrad (and occasionally, Charles Webster).  The majority of the episodes were produced in New York but for the last thirteen, the show shifted to Hollywood.  Rather than using original scripts, these last thirteen recycled scripts from Suspense and The Whistler.

The episode linked here, "Nicky," aired on March 4, 1948, and starred the popular, real-life radio couple Cathy and Elliott Lewis.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I've mentioned before about the love, admiration, and respect that I have for my daughters, both of whom have turned into remarkable adults despite having me as their father.  Today, let me brag about my youngest daughter, Christina, as she celebrates her birthday.

Where to begin?  With the smart and determined three-year-old who never of a game of Memory and who could easily zip through a Find the Word puzzle?  The preschooler who was both so calm and concerned during a medical emergency?  The girl who wouldn't speak to me for three days because I send her doll down an escalator unescorted?  (You had to have been there.)  The one who wanted to be a mailbox for Halloween?  Or the thirteen-year-old who designed her own strikingly beautiful cat costume which left everyone flabbergasted?  The girl who would regale us with stories about dissecting a cat for her biology class?  The girl who, from the time she was ten, helped us at the local equity theater, earning the respect of the actors and our audiences alike?  (While in high school, she would invariably get a crush on one actor in each play, and invariably that actor would turn out to be gay -- one of the perils of theater life.)  The mischievous girl who could pull a trick on her high school dean with a straight face?   The studious girl who struggled with high school German, and later, with college organic chemistry (and let us never forget the Summer of Physics)?  That girl.

She went to George Washington University.  As a freshman she tagged along with a roommate who was interested in the school's Tae Kwon Do club but did not want to go alone.  The girl soon dropped out, but there was something about the sport that interested Christina.  Christina stayed with it but it wasn't easy.  She would hit a plateau but would stay working with determination until, suddenly, she would take a large step forward and eventually hit another plateau.  This cycle continued, but she won the respect of everyone there.  She eventually won her black belt and was elected president of the club.

One of her roommates, Heather, was a very light-skinned African-American.  On day Heather was telling Christina about how her high school guidance counselor that is she marked "other" under race in her application, that would increase her chances of getting into college.  Christina was puzzled, "Why would you do that?"  "Christina, I'm Black!"  "You are?" "Yes.  You've met my mother.  You've met my brothers.  I'm Black."  It wasn't that Christina was clueless, but that she did not see color.  That was never anything important to her

In college, she worked part-time in a coffee and muffin shop in Pentagon City.  At the end of each day, she would take a bag of Muffins that were to be thrown away and give them to the homeless on her way back to the dormitory.  One man burst into tears.  "My kids will appreciate this," he told her.

After college, he began working for an ambulance company, which is where she met her husband, Walt.  From the ambulance company, she went to work for an OB-GYN, and then to the emergency room as an emergency tech as Fairfax Hospital.  There, the doctors said that they always checked to see if Christina was working their shift.  If she was, they knew that everything would run smoothly and they could concentrate on their patients.  And it was there that Christina would sit with dying patients because nobody should die alone.

Christina was also volunteering for the local rescue squad, where she became an EMT and a paramedic. eventually serving as the squad's lieutenant.  Once she and her partner responded to a call and met an elderly man whose wife had collapsed.  He was in tears, 'I'm afraid she's dead."  Christina's partner said, "dead we can handle" as they brought the heartbeat back.

Christina studied to be an echocardiologist and worked at a number of hospitals and medical offices in Virginia, Maryland, and Florida.  Often she would catch something that others had missed, allowing some patients to get treatment they might otherwise have not given.  For a time, she was also an adjunct teacher at George Washington University.

Constantly bending over, shifting patients, and lugging around a 500 pound sonograph machine can have a physical effect, so Christina began another career shift and studied to be a sign language interpreter.  Currently she's working with a deaf girl in a local junior high school while taking other assignments as they come up.

As far as family life goes, she married Walt and they had two wonderful children, Mark and Erin.  Christina has wonderful pregnancies and terrible births.  With Mark we came dangerously close to losing both her and the baby.  Erin's birth was also very difficult.  Mark's facial muscles were damaged during his birth and it took years of therapy to overcome the results of that trauma.  Despite her difficult birth, Erin turned out fine.

Both kids are now active, strong, intelligent, and good-looking.  They are decent, well-liked, and kind-hearted.  Christina and Walt have done a wonderful job as parents.

Christina really wanted another child.  She and Walt began fostering.  The Kangaroo came along.  He had been born to an addicted mother and spent the first six weeks of his like at Children;s Hospital detoxing, then went immediately into Christina and Walt's care.  The Kangaroo's birth mother had visitation rights and the State's plan was to eventually reunite the two, but she kept going in and out of jail until finally she gave up her rights to the child.  Jack Harold Roof was officially adopted into our family.  He has had a lot of medical problems that have been overcome and there will be more in the future.  Jack will turn five in two months.  He's bright, active, loving, and well-liked by everyone in his pre-school,   Christina is an ace at parenting, just as she is with everything else.  (Although she will be the first to tell you that that isn't true.  But what the heck does she know, huh?)

They live in a house chock full with kids and animals (three dogs, three cats, a ball python, a tortoise, a bearded lizard, and a giant South American tegu -- the two hedgehogs sadly passed away) and noise.  They make soap in their spare time (Cove Lake Soapworks.  Fantastic stuff.  Check it out on Etsy.)  This past month, Christina was seriously considering buying a zoo, but the numbers didn't work out.  What they did buy is a boat because the Gulf of Mexico beckons.

I can't help but admire all the things Christina has done and the things she will do.  My family makes me proud and Christina is just one reason why.

Happy birthday, my darling.  We love you and your family very much.


Fred Neil's take on a classic song.


How many cats can you fit into a blender?

According to the police report, four.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


A great instrumental from The Velvet Underground.


How about a little suspense thriller for a warm May day?  This one stars Terry Moore, Robert Beatty, and William Sylvester from a book written by Francis Durbridge.  It was released in Britain under the title Portrait of Alison.


Monday, May 15, 2017


Today is the International Day of Families.  Go celebrate.

Here's Sister Sledge


  • Julian Symons, Something Like a Love Affair.  Suspense novel.  "There are times when Judith Lassiter feels content, perhaps even happy.  She is content to be married to a well-heeled architect who graciously remembers  their fifteenth anniversary with fifteen red roses.  She is content with Green Diamonds, the house her husband designed, the envy of their acquaintances.  She is content with her life in the torn of Wyfleet, content with her financial status, even content with her appearance.  The why does Judith write herself imaginary love letters in the solitude of her bedroom?  Why does she take on a very real lover several years her junior?  Why does she believe she can redeem her life only by taking another's, employing the unlady-like recourse of a professional hit man?"  The multi-talented Symons is always a pleasure.
  • Robert Weinberg, Stefan Dziemianowicz, & Martin H. Greenberg, editors - 100 Dastardly Little Detective Stories.  Mystery anthology, an "instant remainder" from Barnes & Noble.   Almost half the stories (46, my my count) come from Argosy Communication pulps from 1934-1952; 11 others by are Bill Pronzini under various names; and eight are by Edward D. Hoch (also under various names).  A good "dipping into" anthology.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


My mother and Kitty's mother, although completely different personalities, were similar in many ways.  Both grew up under tragic circumstances and coped the best that they could.  As adults, they were flawed but both had their goodness shining through.

Kitty's goodness needs no explanation.  She disagrees with me but, IMHO, she is the perfect wife, mother, and person.

Our two daughters are both excellent mothers and our grandkids are better than any other grandchildren ever.  You may disagree with this superlative but you would be wrong.

Today is the day we celebrate mothers although the most grateful of us celebrate them every day.

Here's to the mothers in your life.  You are lucky to have them.

Mothers can come in all shapes and conditions -- some good, some bad, some ugly, so here's a few light-hearted salutes.

The good:

The bad:

And the ugly:


George Jones with one for today.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


From the 1934 motion picture Joe Palooka, here's Jimmy Durante.


Cartoonist Ham Fisher created the immortal Joe Palooka (then called Joe the Dumbbell) in 1920 [Some sources say 1921] but was unable to get anyone interested in the character.  It took a decade to get the McNaught Syndicate to carry the strip beginning on April 19, 1930.  It son became a major hit,   In 1948 it was one of the five most popular newspaper strips.

Joe was a good-natured, clean cut galoot.  He had a strong moral code and really did not like to fight, making him a natural for comicbookdom's heavyweight champion.  Joe's looks changed as often as the real-life heavyweight championship did -- Fisher would use the features of whoever was the champion at the time for his character, a tradition that hit a brick wall when Joe Louis became champ.  From that point on, Joe Palooka remained a blond, strong-jawed character with a massive upper body.

Regular characters in the comic strip included Joe's manager Knobby Walsh, his girlfriend Ann Howe (shortly after this issue appeared, Joe and Ann were married in a highly publicized comic strip wedding),  the massive blacksmith Humphrey Pennyweather, Joe's black valet/future sparring partner Smokey ( stereotype of the times), and Joe's World War II buddy Jerry Leemy.  (Despite having the honored and dignified name of Jerry, this character was portrayed as a dumb and over-confident comic foil.)

Joe Palooka spawned a short-lived radio series, twelve feature length films, nine film shorts, a television series, and a slew of comic books and merchandising items.  Near to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania -- Ham Fisher's hometown -- is Joe Palooka Mountain, named in 1980 after the creation of a local boy who made good.

Fisher, who had a troubled life, committing suicide in 1955. Nearly thirty years later, Joe Palooka, the comic strip was cancelled on November 14, 1984, after its circulation dropped to 182 papers (at one time, the strip appeared in 790 papers worldwide).   Fisher's character live on, though, as a symbol of the American character.

The Harvey Comics Joe Palooka would run a continuous story (of sorts) from issue to issue, with the concluding pages of the main story setting up the first pages of the story in the next issue.

In this issue, Knobby has been framed for murder and is on the run from a night club racketeer and his hoodlums.  As this is resolved, Joe goes searching for Ann, who is missing.  To be continued in the next issue.

This issues also has a number of sports fillers.


Friday, May 12, 2017


The Fortunes.


The Time Tunnel by Murray Leinster (1967)

First, let me explain what this book is not.  It is not Leinster's 1964 novel Time Tunnel.  Nor is it the  1956 novel Tunnel Through Time, published as by Lester del Rey but written by Paul W. Fairman from an outline by del Rey -- Donald H. Tuck's The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy mistakenly credited that book to Leinster.

What this book is is the first (of two) tie-in novels Leinster wrote based on the Irwin Allen 1966-7 television series The Time Tunnel.  Leinster was the major pen name of Will F. Jenkins, who had a long career in both the pulps and the slicks.  Although Leinster was dubbed "The Dean of Science Fiction," he was equally comfortable in a number of genres -- science fiction, mystery, western, adventure, historical, and love.  Leinster seldom wrote tie-in novels.  Previous to this novel, he had written only one tie-in novel, Dallas, based on the 1950 Gary Cooper/Ruth Roman western.  Leinster also published the 1960 "novel" Men Into Space, which was actually a collection of short stories based on the 1959 William Lundigan television series.  Leinster followed The Time Tunnel with a sequel Timeslip! (also 1967); he followed these up with a three-book series (1968-1960) based on another Irwin Allen show, Land of the Giants (1968-1970)

Full disclosure:  My personal opinion of Irwin Allen as a television producer is pretty low.  I am not a fan of The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, or Lost in Space.  Allen's television credits belong in the same moldy box as Aaron Spelling's; both made a lot of money on lousy shows.

That being said, Leinster's novel is not Allen's television show!  The basic premise is the same.  A costly and secret scientific project in time travel is threatened with closure by an influential senator who believes the whole project is hogwash.  Two men, Tony Newman and Doug Phillips, are sent back in time where they encounter various historic events and people.

The television show has the two first landing on the Titanic.  Leinster ditched that somewhat time-worn scenario, instead having his heroes landing in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, just before its devastating flood.  Ignoring advice from his superiors, Tony tries to warn the populace of the impending danger -- to no avail.  He and Doug do manage to save an eight-year-old girl, though, and she turns out to be a direct ancestor of the senator trying to close the project.

This gives them a circular conundrum.  Were the two destined to go back in time to save the girl?   Are all their actions in the past preordained?  If they had not gone back in time would history have changed?  Those questions are still with them as their 20th century colleagues try to bring them back.  Something goes wrong and they find themselves in 1874 Kansas, just outside the trading post of Adobe Wells, where the Indian chief Quanah Parker is about to lead over a thousand warriors to destroy the post and kill everyone there.

Leinster mined a lot of historical detail to make both scenarios as realistic as possible.  The book reads well and is as mature as the television show is juvenile.  An exciting tale that is much better than its origins and the book cover would make one think.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Cannonball Adderley and Bill Evans performing Evans' classic jazz standard.


The FBI -- our nation's premier law enforcement agency -- has been in the news for the past few days.  The agency has had a checkered career.  J. Edgar Hoover, director from 1924 to 1972, did much to transform a moribund agency to modern (and often controversial) crime fighting force.  Hoover's grandstanding and behind the scenes machinations created a number of problematic and often hidden excesses.  No matter what your opinion of him, Hoover was a master at public relations and during most of his tenure he was able to maintain the Bureau's high public image.  

Hoover would lend his imprematur to various entertainment outlets to ensure a favorable image for the FBI.  Case in point:  ABC radio's crime drama This is Your FBI, to which he gave his endorsement and (supposedly) opened past files of the agency to producer/director Jerry Devine to be adapted for the program.  Hoover called the show "the finest dramatic program on the air."

Running from April 6, 1945 to January 30, 1953, This is Your FBI produced 409 half-hour shows with Stacy Harris starring as (fictional) FBI agent Jim Taylor.  Frank Lovejoy served as the show's narrator during its first year.  

Week after week we learned that FBI = good, crime/criminals = bad, as wass the case with this episode, "The Friendly Killer," which first aired on June 21, 1945.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017


You've gotta love Darlene Love.


A jumper cable went into a bar,  The bartender said grudgingly, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything!"

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch, here's The Four Tops.


It's the second week in May, so what can be more fitting than to feature a film that has two "Mays"?

The Lady from Chungking is a World War II propaganda programmer, the third film produced by Alexander-Stern Productions, a short-lived (1942-1945) B-movie company.  The movie is lifted from its low-budget status by a great performance from its star, the first of our "Mays" -- Anna May Wong.  Wong plays  Kwan Mei, the leader of the resistance in a rural china village during the Japanese occupation.  When American airmen are shot down near her village, Kwan Mei plans to rescue them, but when a Japanese general (character actor Harold Huber, second billed in this film) enters the town, Kwan Mei realized that something big is about to go down.  She has to use her impressive skills to get close to the general to find out what.  

Third billing in this flick goes to our second of our "Mays" -- Mae Clarke, perhaps best known for her grapefruit scene with James Cagney in The Public Enemy.  Clarke plays Lavara, a cynical Russian cafe singer -- sadly, a role that does not make much use of her considerable talents.  Rick Vailin and Paul Bryar play the downed American pilots and Ludwig Donath is the German cafe owner Hans Gruber (definitely not the Alan Richman Hans Gruber from Die Hard!). 

The Lady from Chungking was directed by active B-movie director William Nigh with a script by Sam Robins (The Lone Rider and the Bandit, Bowery Blitzkreig) from a story by Milton Raison (Bombs Over Burma, Girl from Rio).


Monday, May 8, 2017


Otis Gibbs.  I heard him singing this one yesterday afternoon on public radio's Mountain Stage and I just had to post this.  Sputnik has become one of my heroes.


  • Brian Keene, Rising.  Horror novel.  "Nothing stays dead for long.  The dead are returning to life, intelligent, determined...and very hungry.  Escape seems impossible for Jim Thurmond, one of the few left alive in this nightmare world.  but Jim's young son is also alive and in grave danger hundreds of miles away.  Despite astronomical odds, Jim vows to find him -- or die trying."  Keene is one of the bright lights in contemporary horror.
  • Don Pendleton, The Guns of Terra 10.  Science fiction novel from the creator of Mack Bolan, the Executioner.  "Bones crunched and blood flowed as cries of alarm and pain filled the domehut.  Then Whaleman was moving fast through the doorway, out into the darkened compound.  Stars twinkled at him through the sweet atmosphere, urging him onward.  Unreality enveloped him.  Several times he fell on the uneven surface, and once he ran at full speed into a low-hanging branch.  but he kept going without any thoughts of where or why.  a long-dormant instinct in Zach Whaleman had risen in response to his original need, a very human and entirely 'natural' response of a life-mechanism in a survival situation."  Pendleton's SF, whether under his own name or as "Dan Britain," will never win any awards, but his pulpish style keeps the plots moving.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


This was the show that never aired on CBS.


Marion Williams.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


Today is Jimmy Dale Gilmore's birthday.  Celebrate!


Brit Reid, the great-nephew of the Lone Ranger, assumed the guise of The Green Hornet to fioght for justice and the American way and began his adventures in the late Thirties on the radio.  The character was created by Fran Striker (who has been credited with creating the Lone Ranger) and George W. Trendle.  He emerged in comics books with Helnit Comics' Green Hornet #1 (December 1940).  The issue linked below -- #6 -- was the last in the series.  After a few months, the character returned, this time from Harvey Comics with issue #7.  After various changes of publishers, the Green Hornet continues his adventures today.

As most people know, the Green Hornet is the secret identity of Britt Reid, editor (sometimes reporter/sometimes owner -- depending on which version you consult) of a large city newspaper.  He is aided by his sometimes sidekick/sometimes servant, the sometimes Japanese/sometimes Filapino Kato (always Bruce Lee in my pre-programmed mind).  He has a sleek, powerful car called Black Beauty and uses a special gun that shoots sleeping gas.  Villains fear him.

The early comic books may have cannibalized earlier radio scripts for their stories, although that has not been definitely proven.  The stories and the art are rather simplistic.  A banner across the first story credits, "CARTOONS BY BERT WHITLOCK ASSOCIATES" -- whether the banner applies to the first story only or the entire issue, I can't say.

In the four stories in this issue, the Green Hornet  faces a murderous gang determined to make a land grab, comes across a criminal whose weapon of choice is a whip, battles an evil animal trainer and his vicious ape, and stops foreign agents from stealing a secret formula that makes explosives much stronger.

Also packed into this 68-page issue are a number of other comic book heroes and characters:

  • Don Manly, Ace Detective and Former All-American, stepping in when the fix is in in the fight game
  • "Mastermind" M'Ginty, comic relief, this time helping a ghost get over its fear of humans
  • "Snapper" Swift, Ace Cameraman, with a special lens that can photograph through anything
  • "Cannonball" Cannon, former circus "flying projectile," now in the Army Air Corps
  • Mister Twister, a former actor now with the FBI, who takes the guise of an old man with a twisted cane
  • Zingara the Great -- a.k.a. Lance Powell, archeologist -- who has discovered the power of hypnosis and mental suggestion from an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph; and
  • Angel, a wiseass little kid who fills out a one-page story with one of the oldest jokes known to mankind
An interesting issue.

Friday, May 5, 2017


It's Cinco de Mayo, baby!


Weird Tales, that venerable magazine which ran from 1923 to 2014 -- often in later years in fits and starts and in various forms -- is looked at fondly by fans of pulp horror fiction.  In its pages over the years were stories by H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Seabury Quinn, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, E. Hoffman Price, Otis Adelbert Kline, David H. Keller, Arthur K. Burks, Frank Belknap Long, Joseph Payne Brennan and -- in later years -- Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, F. Paul Wilson, and many others near and dear to fans of the macabre.  Weird Tales was a magazine that legends were made of.

One thing that should be understood from the start:  Weird Tales published a lot of crap.  It was a low-paying market and, often, a long delayed paying market.  Many of its stories were just plain lurid and excessive.  Its most popular author in its first incarnation was Seabury Quinn, who produced (among other tales) an astonishing 93 stories about his occult detective Jules de Grandin.  In one memorable tale, de Grandin comes across a misogynistic mad doctor who kept prisoner once-beautiful women whom he removed all the bones from their bodies so they just lumps of pulsating flesh.  (Eww!)

Copies of Weird Tales are expensive to attain, although many have been republished in facsimile form, they remain elusive and out of reach for many fans, who have to make do with various anthologies and collections that have mined the magazine for their contents.  Now many of the issues are available online through the Internet Archive web site.  By my rough finger count last night, their have been 266 separate issues of Weird Tales published in its various forms.  Internet Archive has available 207 of them.

Let me go through a brief rundown of the publishing history of Weird Tales, indicating which issues are now available for the curious and/or devoted.

The magazine started in March 1923 under the editorship of Edwin Baird and was published by The Rural Publishing Company.  It was not strictly a horror magazine but published any sort of "weird" fiction, which often included science fiction and contes cruel.  The first story in the first issue was Anthony Rud's "Ooze," often reprinted because of its status as the first tale ever published in Weird Tales.  Internet Archive (IA) has published this story separately, but does not have the rest of the issue.  Baird's editorship lasted for eleven issues.

  • 1923 - 9 issues published, none reprinted by IA
  • 1924 - 7 issues published, none reprinted by IA
Baird's editorship ended with the May-June-July 1924 issue.  Farnsworth Wright began editor with the next issue, dated November 1924, and now published by Popular Fiction Publishing Co.
  • 1925 - 12 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
  • 1926 - 12 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
  • 1927 - 12 issues published; 7 reprinted by IA
  • 1928 - 12 issues published; 3 reprinted by IA
  • 1929 - 12 issues published; 8 reprinted by IA
  • 1930 - 12 issues published; 10 reprinted by IA
  • 1931 - 12 issues published; 4 reprinted by IA
  • 1932 - 12 issues published; 7 reprinted by IA
  • 1933 - 12 issues published; 9 reprinted by IA
  • 1934 - 12 issues published; 8 reprinted by IA
  • 1935 - 12 issues published; 10 reprinted by IA
  • 1936 - 11 issues published; 10 reprinted by IA
  • 1937 - 12 issues published; 10 reprinted by IA
  • 1938 - 12 issues published; 12 reprinted by IA
  • 1939 - 11 issues published; 9 reprinted by IA
With the November 1939 issue, Weird Tales became its own publisher.  Wright would be listed as editor for four issues published by Weird Tales.
  • 1940 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
In 1940, Weird Tales switched to a bimonthly schedule.  Dorothy McIlwraith took over as editor with the May issue.
  • 1941 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1942 - 6 issued published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1943 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1944 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1945 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1946 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1947 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1948 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1949 - 6 issues published; 5 reprinted by IA
  • 1950 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1951 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1952 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
  • 1953 - 6 issues published; 6 reprinted by IA
Beginning with the September 1953 issues, the magazine once again switched publishers.  It was now published by Short Stories, Inc. 
  • 1954 - 5 issues published; 5 reprinted by IA
The magazine closed with the September 1954 issue.  

In 1973, Leo Margulies acquired the rights to the Weird Tales name and began publishing a short-lived run edited by Sam Moskowitz.  Again, the publisher was listed as Weird Tales.
  • 1974 - 3 issues published; 3 reprinted by IA
  • 1975 - 1 issue published; 1 reprinted by IA
In 1975 Robert Weinberg and Victor Dirks bought the rights to the Weird Tales name.  In 1981, they licensed the name to Lin Carter, who edited another short-lived run in a mass market paperback format issued by Lancer Books.
  • 1975 - 3 issues published 3 reprinted by IA
  • 1976 - 1 issue published; 1 issue reprinted by IA
The Zebra publications failed.  Weinberg and Dirks then licensed the title to Belleraphon Network, owned by Brian Forbes.  Thus began another short-lived incarnation, this time edited by Gordon m. D. Garb.
  • 1984 - 1 issue published; 1 reprinted by IA
  • 1985 - 1 issue published; 1 reprinted by IA
The Bellerophon issues were poorly funded and poorly distributed.  Original issues are rare.  In 1988 George Scithers took up the mantle via his publishing company, Terminus.  Scithers was editor, with Darrell Schweitzer and Jophn Betancourt serving as assistant editors.  A number of the Terminus issues were also published in hardcover.
  • 1988 - 5 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
  • 1989 - 4 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
  • 1990 - 4 issues published; 2 reprinted by IA
In 1991, Schweitzer took over the editorship.
  • 1991 - 4 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
  • 1992 - 2 issues published; 2 reprinted by IA
  • 1993 - 1 issue published; 1 reprinted by IA
  • 1994 - 1 issue published; none reprinted by IA
With the spring 1994 issue, the license to the Weird Tales expired.  The magazine changed its name to Worlds of Fantasy & Horror and soldiered on.
  • 1994 - 1 issue published
  • 1995 - 1 issue published
  • 1996 - 1 issue published
In 1998, the Weird Tales title resumed with Scithers and Schweitzer as editors.  The first issue was a joint publishing venture betwee Terminus and DNA Publications, after which DNA publications became the sole publisher.
  • 1998 - 2 issues published; 2 reprinted by IA
  • 1999 - 4 issues published; 2 reprinted by IA
  • 2000 - 4 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
With the Fall 2000 issue, Terminus again joined DNA Publications as publisher.
  • 2001 - 4 issues published; none reprinted by IA
  • 2002 - 4 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
  • 2003 - 3 issues published; none reprinted by IA
For the September/October 2003 issue only, Wildside Press joined in as another co-publisher.
  • 2004 - 3 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
Now it gets confusing.  For the first and third 2004 issues, DNA Publications, Wildside Press, and Terminus were published; for the second 2004 issue, only DNA Publications and Wildside Press were.
  • 2005 - 1 issue published; 1 reprinted by IA
In 2005, Wildside  is listed as the sole publisher and John Betancourt joined Scithers and Schweitzer as editor.
  • 2006 - 5 issues published; 1 reprinted by IA
Wildside Press is listed as the sole publisher of the second 2006 issue; Wildside and Terminus as co-publishers for the other four issues.  After 2006, no further issues have been reprinted by IA.
  • 2007 - 5 issues published
Stephen H. Segal became editor for the three middle issues of 2007 and Ann VanderMeer began her run as editor with the fifth 2007 issue.  Wildside was the publisher for the first two 2007 issues.  Wildside and Terminus co-published the remaining three 2007 issues.  Wildside became sole published beginning with the first 2008 issue.
  • 2008 - 5 issues published 
  • 2009 - 2 issues published
  • 2010 - 2 issues published
Stephen H. Segal was editor for the second 2010 issue.
  • 2011 - 2 issues published
In 2011, Nth Dimension Media became publisher.  VanderMeer returned to edit the first two 2011 issues, after which Marvin Kaye took over the editorial reins.
  • 2012 - 2 issues published
  • 2013 - 1 issue published
  • 2014 - 1 issue published
With the Spring 2014 issue, Weird Tales ended its long run.  But the magazine has been dubbed 'the magazine that never dies."  Will it reemerge from the ashes some time in the future?  Your guess is as good as mine.

About 80% of the total issues are now available on Internet Archive.  The Archive also has complete runs of Galaxy and If, as well as many issues of F&SF, Amazing, Astounding/Analog, Wonder Stories, and many other SF magazines.  They have a few scattered issues of various western, mystery, love, sports, and general pulps.  Internet Archive is continuing to add magazines, books, films, and recording to their inventory.  I hope that the future may see major runs of other pulp genres.

In the meantime, enjoy the many pulps available.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


Johnny Winter, with Rick Derringer.


Cosmo Topper, the staid banker whose life was upended by the happy-go-lucky ghosts of George and Marion Kirby (and the their ghost dog, Neil), made it to radio after the success of of the character in three movies based on the characters created by Thorne Smith.  Fifteen episodes were aired on NBC as the summer 1945 replacement for The Dinah Shore.  (Thirteen episodes had originally been planned but the show was such a success that two more episodes were added and placed in the time slot for final two weeks of  The Burns and Allen Program's summer hiatus, and airing just before Dinah Shore when her show returned.)

And who should play Cosmo Topper?  None other than Roland Young, who starred as the character in all three movies.  (The fact that Young was also a regular on The Dinah Shore Show gave the replacement series a sense of continuity.)

Paul Mann and Frances Chaney played the ghosts of George and Marion Kerby.  Hope Emerson was cast as Malvina Topper, Cosmo's stern and impatient wife.  The smart and witty scripts were written by Stanley Wolf.  Kirby Hawks directed, and Ron Rawson served as the show's announcer.

For some reason lost to time, this great show was not renewed by NBC for the fall season.  Cosmo Topper would not return for eight years, when Leo G. Carroll portrayed him for two season in the CBS television program Topper from 1953 to 1955.

It's interesting to note that General Foods was the sponsor of the program, most notably with Maxwell House Coffee and Post Toasties cereal.  Thorne Smith, who created the characters in two popular novels, was a descendant of Don Jose Maxwell (his mother was Maxwell's granddaughter), for whom Maxwell House Coffee was named.

The link below takes you to three of the radio episodes:  "Topper and the Psychiatrist" (a.k.a "Malvina Hires a Psychiatrist"), July 5, 1945;  "Topper's Mother in Law Visits (a.k.a. "Malvina's Mother Visits") August 30, 1945; and "Topper and the Spiritualist" (a.k.a. "Rajah"), September 6, 1945.  The last is one of the added episodes and is an hour long.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017


The Doobie Brothers.


I enjoy crosswords but have become so good that I finish them in record time.  This has gotten me really down because the real fun is in mulling over the clues.  I explained to my analyst that I was getting depressed because I finish my crosswords too soon.  He told me not get 2 down.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


A classic from The Band.


An oddball wife.  A staid but loving husband.  Misunderstandings.  Some physical comedy.  Mix well and you have the template for many television comedies of the Fifties.  It worked for George and Gracie.  It worked for Lucy and Ricky.  And it certainly worked for Joan and Bradley.

I Married Joan was a popular NBC comedy that ran from 1952 to 1955 for a total of 98 half hour episodes.  First slated against against Arthur Godfrey and His Friends, the show soared in popularity when the public turned against Godfrey for his on-air firing of Julius LaRosa.  During its third season I Married Joan was opposite a new show called Disneyland.  The resulting drop in ratings led to its cancellation.  It then went into syndication (strangely, it became the property of CBS Paramount.)

The "Joan" of the title was played by Joan Davis (1912-1961), a well-liked veteran comedienne who worked in vaudeville, films, and radio prior to the series.  Joan was married to local judge Bradley Stevens, played by Jim Backus (1913-1989), best known today for his role of Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island and as the voice of the myopic Mr. Magoo.   During the show's second season, Joan was helped in her antics in several episodes by her sister Beverly (played by Davis' real-life daughter Beverly Wills).

Joan Davis continued an active career in television under her untimely death (of a heart attack) at age 48.  (Her daughter Beverly died two years later, age 30, in a house fire that also claimed Beverly's grandmother and her two sons.)

The episode linked below -- the show's pilot -- recounts how Bradley Stevens met his future wife, then a newly minted airline hostess.  The show then segues to Joan's efforts to hide a fur coat from her husband.  Filled with fifties' sensibilities, the pilot remains warm and funny.


Monday, May 1, 2017


John McCutcheon.  Wonderful talent.  Wonderful song.


  • Stephen Jones, editor, Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth.  Lovecraftian horror anthology with twelve stories, eight of them original to this book.  An impressive author lineup, with H. P. Lovecraft (of course, with a discarded draft of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"), John Glasby, Richard A. Lupoff, Basil Copper, Kim Newman, Paul McAuley, GHugh B. Cave, Steve Rasnic Tem, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Ramsey Campbell, Michael Marshal Smith, and Brian Lumley.  Originally published by small press Fedogan & Bremer, now reprinted by Titan Books.