Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas.


Stan Laurel takes on the two title roles in this 20-minute Joe Rock production directed by Scott Pembroke and Joe Rock.  The titles were by Tay Gernett but the title and plot of this comedy came from someplace else.  Wonder where?.

Supporting Stan Laurel are Julie Leonard, Sid Crossley, Dot Farley, and Pete the dog.  (Pete the dog really leaped to fame ad buster Brown's dog Tige and as the mascot of The Little Rascals.  Poor Pete was poisoned and died in 1930; one of his offspring took on his roles; later various unrelated dogs "became" Pete.  The circle around Pete's eye was originally provided by Max Factor.)

Take a look at the genius of Stan Laurel before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy.

Monday, July 30, 2018


Martina McBride.


Openers:  Everyone in trade and a good many who are not have heard of Werner's Agency, the Solvency Inquiry Agency for all British trade.  Its business is to know the financial condition of all wholesale and retail firms, from Rothchild's to the smallest sweetstuff shop in Whitechapel.  I do not say that every firm figures on its books, but by methods of secret inquiry it can discover the status of any firm or individual.  It is the great safeguard to British trade and prevents much fraudulent dealing.

Of this agency I, Dixon Druce, was appointed manager in 1890.  Since then I have met queer people and seen strange sights, for men do curious things for money in this world.

-- "Madame Sara" by L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace, from The Strand Magazine, October 1902; reprinted in The Sorceress of the Strand, 1903

July Incoming:

  • Robert Adams, Pamela Crippen Adams, & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Phantom Regiments (1990).  Fantasy/horror anthology with 14 stories.
  • Neal Barrett, Jr., The Gates of Time (1970), bound with Dwellers of the Deep (1970) by "K. M. O'Donnell" (Barry N. Malzberg).  Ace SF Double.  Early SF novels by two vastly underrated writers. 
  • Caleb Carr, The Italian Secretary (2005).  A Sherlock Holmes mystery.
  • "CLAMP" (Satsuki Igarashi, Mick Nikoi, Mokana Apapa, & Nanase Ohkawa), xxxHOLIC, Volume 2 (2003).  Manga, translated and adapted by Bill Flanagan.  I came across six manga for a quarter apiece this past Saturday and thought I'd give them a try.  CLAMP is a consortium of four women who began in fan comics and have now become one of the most famous manga creators in the United States.  The xxxHOLIC series is intertwine with another series, Toubasa; this book directly follows Toubasa, Volume 2.
  • Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, editors, Magicats II (1991).  Fantasy anthology with 12 stories.  Cats are very popular in genre fiction.  there's more anthologies listed below.
  • John DeChancie, Castle War! (1990), Castle Murders (1991), and Castle Dreams (1992).  Books four, five, and six in the Castle Perilous series.  Humorous fantasy.  Castle Perilous has 144,000 doorways leading to strange, "inverted" worlds.
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Mission to Universe (1965).  SF adventure.  Benjamin Shore, commander of Earth's first starship goes against orders and heads to the heart of the galaxy to find habitable worlds.  What he finds is an ancient race that has driven all other races from the galactic center.  Also, Invaders! (1985) and The Man from Earth (1983), two collections with eight and ten stories respectively.
  • Martin H. Greenberg & Janet Pack, editors, Magic Tails (2005).  Fantasy anthology with more cats (!), plus other animals with tails.  Fourteen original stories/tales/tails.
  • Michael Goss & George Behe, Lost at Sea:  Ghost Ships and Other Mysteries (1994).  Nonfiction combined with folklore.  This one relies heavily on fact but strays into legend when applicable.
  • "Michael Gregorio" (Michael G. Jacob & Daniela De Gregorio), A Visible Darkness (2009).  Mystery, the third featuring Hanno Stiffeniis, a Napoleon-era magistrate in Prussia.  Someone is murdering young girls and the French occupiers wand Stiffeniis to find out who.
  • Kazume Kawahara, High School Debut, Volumes 7 & 9 (both 2003).  More manga.  Translated by Gemma Collinge.
  • Richard A. Knakk, Warcraft, The Sunwell Trilogy, Volume 3:  Ghostlands (2007).  Manga with art by Jae-Hwan Kim.  A tie-in to the best-selling (and seemingly neverending) gaming franchise.
  • Keith Laumer, creator, Bill Fawcett, editor, Bolos, Book 4:  Last Stand (1997).  Shared world SF anthology based on a concept by Laumer.  Nine stories and an essay.
  •  Ian McDonald, Speaking in Tongues (1992).  SF collection with eleven stories.
  • John Morressy, The Questing of Kedrigen (1987), Kedrigern in Wanderland (1988), and A Remembrance for Kedrigern (1990).  Humorous fantasy novels about the Wizard Kendrigern, a lazy and cowardly expert in counterspells.  These are, respectively,  the second, third, and fifth books in the series.
  • Andre Norton & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Catfantastic (1989) and Catfantastic II (1991).  Two more cat anthologies with fifteen and eighteen stories, respectively.
  • Jerry Pournelle, creator, and "With the editorial assistance of John F. Carr and Roland Green," Warworld, Volume 1:  The Burning Eye (1988).  Shared world military SF anthology in the CoDominium universe, with nine stories by Baen Books regulars.
  • Eric Protter, editor, A Harvest of Horrors (1980).  Horror anthology with nineteen stories, about half fairly familiar.
  • Christopher Rice, The Snow Garden (2001).  Thriller.  Rice's sophomore novel.
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Devil's Churn (1996).  Horror novel.
  • Natsuki Takaya, Fruits Baskets, Volume 12 (2002).  Still yet another manga.  Each member of the Sohma family is cursed by the vengeful spirit of an animal from the Chinese zodiac.  Translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley.
  • Leslie H. Whitten, Moon of the Wolf (1967).  Horror novel, also published as Death of a Nurse.  Does anyone remember the 1972 TV movie, starring David Janssen, Barbara Rush, and Bradford Dillman?
  • "Woo" (Kang-Woo Lee), Rebirth, Volume 21 (2006).  The last of the six mangas I picked up this month, this one with a vampire theme.  Translated by Jennifer Hahm.
  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, A Baroque Fable (1986).  Humorous fantasy.  If it ain't baroque, don't fix it.
How Florida Can Kill You:  Let me count the ways/People pass from this Earthly plane/There must be a zillion in my state/And most involve great pain.

The Sunshine State is the hurricane capitol of America (80 deaths in 2017), but is also the country's lightning capitol (6 dead this far).  And we have gators (25 deaths that we know of) since 1948) and shark attacks (31 last year but so far -- fingers crossed -- no deaths since 2010).  We have six species of venomous snakes (you can find all six in Tampa Bay),   Raccoons are the number one carriers of rabies, followed by bats in second place; a woman in Sun City Center was bitten by a rabid bat this month.  Rabid otters terrorized kayakers early this year.  In 2010, a 96-year-old man was attacked by a rapid otter.  Bill Crider would have been proud to know that Texas leads the way in wild pig attacks, but Florida comes in a number 2.  Near Ocala, rhesus macaque monkeys carry the deadly herpes B virus.  and there's the brown widow, red widow, and black widow spider, as well as the brown recluse and the deadlier Chilean recluse spider which have been reported in Florida.  (I don't like spiders.  Hate 'em, hate' em, hate 'em.)  Did I mention the giant African land snail which carries the parasitic rat lungworm?

Plants in Florida are also out to get you.  There's the chinaberry tree, the poisonous mistletoe berries, and the deadly seeds of the rosary pea.  Think it's safe to go in the water?  Besides shark attacks,there's the Vibrio vulnaficus, a bacteria found in shellfish, a deadly bacteria (24 dead since 2016).  You don't have to eat them undercooked or raw in a restaurant either, you can get it swimming in warm ocean water if you have an open wound.  Ciguatera is a neurotoxin found in grouper, red snapper, barracuda, and hogfish.  If the brain eating Naegleria fowleria ameoba crawls up your nose you will be dead in a week.  Jumping fish, such as sturgeon, stingrays, and needlefish have killed unsuspecting boaters.  

Think twice before digging a hole in the beach sand -- at least seven people have died from "recreational sand collapse."  Rip currents have killed sixteen people this year, and we have another five months to go.  Sinkholes?  Florida's got them and they can (and do) gobbled up people.  Florida is hot and as it gets hotter heat related deaths will increase -- by 2050, it is predicted that we will have at least 100 'danger days" where the heat index will top 104 degrees.  Theme parks are supposed to be safe.  Hah!  They can be deadly for those with a pre-existing medical conditions and, times, for just about anyone else.

Florida is also a Stand Your Ground state so you are at risk if some yahoo decides you are a threat.  Gun violence appears to be a sport in this state.  Multiple shootings at schools and nightclubs here make national news but our legislature is in the pocket of the NRA.  Domestic violence, drug-related violence, and gang-related violence can claim innocent and not-so-innocent lives.

And then there are the usual cases of heart disease, cancer, overdoses, suicides, and accidents.  And then, there's Florida Man and Florida Woman.

Florida may be God's Waiting Room, but for many the wait can be unexpectedly short.  So come on down and enjoy the beauty and the bounty of Florida...while you can.

Question:  Who is the most inept lawyer in the world, Michael Cohan or Rudy Giuliani?  Defend you conclusions.

Today:  It's National Lasagna Day, National Lipstick Day, and National Chicken Wing Day.  I suggest you celebrate by eating only two of the three.

Happy Birthday!:  Celebrated Broadway actress Barbara Harris was born on this day in 1935.  In her honor, here's celebrated Off- Broadway actress Barbara Harris and cast performing Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Moon of Alabama" from Mahaggony:

Confession:  I have been somewhat lax in posting on this blog over the past few weeks but I promise to try to be more active.  Perhaps a lax-active will help?

Today's Poem:


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen in snow.

-- Langston Hughes

Sunday, July 29, 2018


Sixty years ago today, President Dwight Eisenhower sign into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act which authorized the creation of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Authority).  The act, strangely (?) passed by Congress in a hurry after the Soviet launch of Sputnik, replacing the outmoded National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

(And, yes, I know that NASA did not officially begin until October 1, 1958, but I'm still saying happy birthday today.)

Some of NASA's original goals:

  • To expand human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space
  • To improve the usefulness, performance, speed, safety, and efficiency of aeronautical and space vehicles
  • To develop and operate vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies, and living organisms through space
  • To preserve the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautic and space science and technology and using such for the peaceful conduct of activities within and outside the atmosphere*
  • To make available to national defense agencies discoveries that have a military value and significance, and to direct and control non-military aeronautical and space activities, as well as information that may have value to such defense agencies
  • To cooperate with other nations or groups of nations
  • To provide the most effective utilization of scientific and engineering resources of the United States and to prevent unnecessary duplication of effort, facilities, and equipment

From these simple goals came one of mankind's greatest achievements.  We landed on the moon.  We explored the solar systems.  We have looked deep into space.  We have gotten an ever-expanding vision of the universe.  We have made great strides in medicine, technology, weather prediction, communication, and so on.  Life is much better because of NASA.

But the public can be as fickle as the politicians.  The space program had become routine; it no longer had that special pizzazz.  Also, terrible accidents stunted the public's desire or space exploration.  There more politically expedient ways to spend large mounts of money.  Forget that space research and exploration my be mankind's best hope for survival.

The pendulum appears to be swinging once again in NASA's favor.  At least I hope so.

Just to remind you of some of the marvels, mystery, and beauty that NASA has given us, check out the link below.

*  Emphasis mine.


Jim Reeves, probably my father's favorite singer.

Saturday, July 28, 2018


I'm of two minds about this Australian cartoon collection from the early Fifties.  Racist in some ways, it reflects some of the attitude of the time.  Yet much of it presents a universal view of mankind.  Whites are skewered as well as the aborigines.  Some of the jokes are mere chestnuts and could be applied to any race or time.  Much of it is funny.

The artwork is great, although the cartoonist (Eric Jolliffe) takes a sexist approach in his portrayal of aboriginal women.  They are all beautiful, curvy, and topless in great detail.  Often described as a "bush cartoonist," Jolliffe created the comic strips Saltbush Bill, Sandy Blight, and Witchetty's TribeWitchetty's Tribe appeared in Pix Magazine (a general interest publication).

Anyway, I thought this collection worth posting.  Let me know if you agree.

Friday, July 27, 2018


Luke Gordon.


Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?   A Report to the Congress of Mars by Alan Dunn (1960)

Alan Dunn (1900-1975) was one of The New Yorker's most popular and prolific cartoonists, with nine covers and nearly 2000 cartoons published there over a span of  47 years.  From 1931 to 1970 he published eight books and illustrated several others.  According to Wikipedia, one of Dunn's cartoons inspired the Fermi paradox.

Is There Intelligent Life on Earth? is a combination of text and cartoons, each supporting and adding to the other.  The humor is dated but the pointed satire is not.  Sadly, at the beginning of the book, Dunn opts for cutesy names.  The Martian explorers are called Koko, Polo, and Kolumbo.  There's the garden planet Florus, "inhabited only by intelligent vegetation, where the flowers have learned to talk" ("All he ever thiks about is pollination" "I warn you, it's no bed of roses"  "How'd he ever get to be top tuber if she...").  Other planets include Fornica ("with its exploding population"), Blotto ("where they discovered atomic energy too soon"), Slopp ("were we dispose of our radioactive waste and garbage"), and the edible planets of Fuj and Spud.

Mars, itself had the misfortune of once (1,001,959 years ago) being populated by organic beings.  Then, in their factory city of Detroyt, a far-thinking robot created an army of mechanical beings capable of original thought.  The result was not pretty for the organic beings (who had no replaceable parts).  Within a year, only robots were left.  The end result was a budding communist-like state where each individual was redesigned to perform a certain function and to be happy with it.

Fast forward to the present time (well, 1960).  The Martians have noted several UFOs in solar orbit that appear to have come from Earth.  Of course they know that the possibility of life on Earth is remote because of the thick layer of pollution that surrounds the planet.  Our three intrepid explorers are sent to determine if life exists in the third planet from the sun and, if so, is it intelligent?

Using invisibility, Koko, Polo, and Kolumbo set about observing Earthmen.  What they conclude is invariably wrong-headed. but allows Dunn to skewer humanity with his own sharp observations.  War, politics, sex, entertainment, traffic, drinking, art, pollution, personal rivalry, medicine, beauty, advertising -- they're all there, observed through the cock eyes of the Martian trio and vision of the cartoonist.

Is There Intelligent Life on Earth? is a short book -- 118 pages -- and a fast read.  Don't make the error of zipping through it, though.  Pay no attention to the cutesy bits, but look a bit deeper into the glorious satire.  Take some time with think, to smile, to enjoy.

As to the answer to the question posed in the title, recent events make one tempted to say no.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


I like banjo music.  Don't hate me.

Banjo music makes be happy.  It's hard to be a grump when a banjo is strumming.

Let me make another confession.  I have no musical talent whatever; I have a hard time playing the car radio.  Compared to my ear, a simple tin ear would be made of a valuable metal.  I can't sing.  When I was a kid, my piano teacher managed to convince my parents to stop throwing their money away.  In the fourth grade, my attempt at the trombone resulted only in every off-tune fart noise that ever existed in the universe.  I have no sense of rhythm, can't carry a tune, and what the hell is a minor key, anyway?

But I do love banjo music.

So...a half a century ago (or thereabouts) I bought me a banjo, which I still have collecting dust in a closet.  After several months of hard work, I could play a C chord.  I was never able to learn anything more and I've forgotten how to play that chord.  But because I had a banjo, a couple of fellows I worked with started calling me Eddie Peabody.


Eddie Peabody (1902-1970) was known as the King of the Banjo.  He was regard as the greatest banjo player of his time.  He had been a well-known act in vaudeville and when sound recording became popular, he took the leap into the "talkies."  In the Thirties, he toured Europe, and during World War II he became an entertainment officer for the Navy with the rank of commander; he played to servicemen in conflict zones, giving them a little "touch of home."  After the war came record deals and cabarets.  Until the arrival of Earl Scruggs and bluegrass, Eddie Peabody was the epitome of banjo playing.  He continued playing (and promoting the banjo) right to the end.  In 1970 he had a stroke during his act at a supper club and died the following morning.

Take a listen to this master of the banjo.

Baby Face:

Alabama Jubilee:

My Little Gypsy Sweetheart:

St. Louis Blues:

Tiger Rag:

After You've Gone:

You Don't Like It, Not Much!

Piccolo Pete:


Smoke Gets In Your Eyes:


Rhapsody in Blue:

Professor Peabody's Banjo School (1942; a short film):

Sweet Leilani, Sweet Aloha, Song of the Islands:

Stars and Stripes Forever:


Richard Benson, "The Avenger," first appeared in September 1939, headlining in his own pulp magazine from Street and Smith, publisher of the successful Doc Savage and The Shadow pulp magazines.  Benson was a wealthy adventurer who gave up a life of risk for domestic bliss until his wife and child were killed in an airplane crash -- the horror of which left Benson with a horribly contorted face (at least for his early adventures).  For twenty-four novel-length adventure, through to September 1942, the Avenger battled some of the most dangerous criminals the world had ever seen.  The stories, appearing under the house name "Kenneth Robeson," which had been used by Lester Dent to create (and write most of the adventures) of the Shadow, were written by pulpster Paul Ernst.  After Paperback Library had reprinted all twenty-four novels in the early Seventies, author Ron Goulart was commissioned to write an additional twelve novels as "Robeson."

The Avenger made its way to the radio waves on July 18, 1941 on New York City's WHN.  Evidently the program ended on November 3, 1942.  Because the program was syndicated, it aired erratically and was often preempted and episodes were rebroadcast.  It's estimated that about twenty-six episodes were ever produced; at least twenty-three of these episodes survive.  The show continued to air on various stations at least until 1945.  Two sources on the internet that carry the episode below
give the air date as 1945 (June 15 in one case; November 1 in the other).

Despite The Avenger's confusing radio history, it's a pleasure to listen to one of the great pulp heroes strut his stuff.

I think you'll like this one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


The Oriole Terrace Orchestra.  This one was a hit the year my mother was born.


"What do we want?"
"When do we want them?"

Sunday, July 22, 2018


Craig Johnson, who authors the Walt Longmire mystery series, needs no introduction.  So I won't give him one.



The Famous Davis Sisters.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


Tales of Wells Fargo was one of three television western series created by mystery/western author Frank Gruber.  It ran for sis seasons, from 1957 to 1962 (201 episodes!) and Starred Dale Robertson as Wells Fargo Agent Jim Hardie.

If there was a successful television series at that time, there had to be a comic book -- usually from Dell Publishing.

So here we are.


Friday, July 20, 2018


The Spencer Davis Group.


The Green Eyes of Bast by Sax Rohmer (1920)

Arthur Henry Ward (or, perhaps, Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward; I'm unclear on the details) was born in Birmingham, England, in 1883.  Somewhere along the line he styled himself as Arthur Sarsfield Ward, and later as the much better known "Sax Rohmer."  After trying his hand at civil service, banking, jouralism, and gas industries, he published his first short story in 1903.  He then went on to a fairly successful career writing songs, monologues, and sketches for the musical theater Some under the Rohmer by-line).  His first book, Pause (1910), was published anonymously and contained various comic sketches.  His second was a ghost-written biography of music hall performer Harry Relph, known as "Little Tich."  Then, in 1912, he began publishing stories about the character who would make Rohmer a household name about an evil scientific genius known as Docior Fu-Manchu (the hyphen was soon eliminated).

Rohmer was all about his image and it is hard to differentiate between the man and his image.  He was interested in foreign lands and many of his tales took place in Egypt or in China.  He was a student of the occult, writing one nonfiction book about it -- The Romance of Sorcery (1914) -- and was a member of The Hermetic Oder of the Golden Dawn and claimed (perhaps spuriously) to be a Rosicrucian.  Yet, he was buried in a Catholic cemetery.  Rohmer may not have been the first to write luirid tales of the "yellow menace," but he certainly popularized the theme.

His writing career spanned until the late 1950s.  He went from writing for popular Victorian magazines to publishing paperback originals for Gold Medal  Along the way he created many characters from Fu Manchu and Sir Denis Nayland-Smith to Fu's female counterpart Sumuru, as well as detectives Red Kerry, Paul Hartley, Gaston Max, and Moris Klaw.

The Green Eyes of Bast is one of Rohmer's standalone thrillers.  Supposedly talented (though he seems a bit dim-witted) reporter Addison is walking in London one night when he meets up with a policeman who has been asked to check if the garage at a certain house has been locked.  Since Addison knows where the house is located and is fairly certain that the house has been empty for a year, he agrees to show the policeman where it is.  The home is indeed unoccupied and the garage is empty, except for a large packing case.  When Addison goes home, he thinks he sees a figure with glowing green eyes outside his house.

The next, his editor sends him to the docks where the body of Sir Marcus Cloverly has been found in a crate.  The crate in which Marcus Cloverly's body was found was the same crate Addison had seen the night before in the garage.  Found with the body was an ancient green Egyptian carving of a cat.

Detective-Inspector Gatton enlists Addison's aid.  First,because Addison was somewhat knowledgeable about Egypt and also because Addison knew the Coverly family. He and Sir Marcus's son Eric had been vying for the affections of beautiful  Isabel Merlin, who had just recently became engaged to Eric Cloverly.

Addison soon finds himself rebuffed in his attempt to speak to Sir Marcus's estranged widow.  A mysterious Egyptian doctor, Damar Greefe, refuses Addison, claiming that Mrs. Coverly is too ill to see anyone.  The plot begins to gain speed.  Addison meets a strange woman with strange green eyes.  Figures and drawings of cat begin to appear.  Eric Coverly is found dead.  Dr. Greefe's large Nubian assistant begins to trail Addison.  The Coverly estate, where the widow was supposed to be, is found to be long unoccupied.  A rocket with poison gas is fired into Addison's room at the local tavern.  A huge fire destroys the Coverly estate as Greefe and the Nubian escape.  The one remaining Coverly, a nephew, is murdered.

Spoiler Alert!  The mysterious woman with the cat-like green eyes is the daughter of Sir Marcus, a hybrid of sorts, part human and part cat, who one month in every year reverts to her feral cat-like nature -- complete with claws and fangs.  Sir Marcus thought the child died at birth, by she was secreted away and raised by Dr. Greefe, who was doing a study on hybrids.  Greefe also invented a virulent poison gas used to kill Sir Marcus and Eric and in the attempt to kill Addison.  In order to keep the cat-woman's existence a secret, the Coverly family had to be eliminated.  In the end, all is solved except the cat-woman escapes, leaving the door open for a sequel that was never written.  End Spoiler Alert.

Ludicrous, yes.  But the story is well-paced and well-presented, ranking it among some of the better novels by Rohmer.  If you like Fu Manchu or any of Rohmer's other characters, this one is for you.

I fear reading this book may have started a Sax Rohmer reading binge.  I have over a dozen of his books hanging around somewhere.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


The Stones.


Mention Red Ryder and most people (my age anyway) will think about the Daisy Red Ryder Air Rifle -- the one that was featured in Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story.  But there is much more to Red Ryder.  You betchum.

Red Ryder was created by Fred Harman, first in a series of short stories.  (I have no idea what the stories were titled, nor where or when they were published -- if they were published at all.  There is no listing on Fiction Mags Index for instance.)  In 1938, Harman and Stephen Slesinger brought Red Ryder to the comic strips, lasting until 1965.  A series of 28 movie serials and films featuring the character appeared from 1940 through 1950 from two studios.  The Red Ryder radio show began in 1942, initially airing three nights a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m.)  The show lasted until 1951, when radio began to give way to television.  Alas for Red Ryder, the two pilots produced did not lead to a series.

He fared much better in comic books.  Beginning in 1940, Red Ryder appeared in various comics books, as well as his own title through 1957.  Since then he has been reprinted in 7 languages and unauthorized translations have appeared in 30 languages.  From 1954 to 1984, Red Ryder Enterprises authorized  474 editions of Red Ryder comics in 21 countries.

Then there were all the tie-ins...the Daisy rifles already mentioned, "toys, novelties, gifts, accesories, sporting goods, and rugged outdoor, work, and play clothing," as well as school supplies, lunch kits, and Red Ryder character hardware.  The Red Ryder marketing machine expanded throughout North America to Europe, Latin America, Egypt, India, and Japan.  J. C. Penney stores had a special section called the Red Ryder Corral, which not only sold the products, but also held educational and sportsmanship contests, personal; appearances, and special events.

At one time Red Ryder was more popular than the Lone Ranger.  It should be noted that neither western hero ever shot anyone; when a gun was fired to was to knock the neer-do-well's weapon out of his hand.

The radio episode linked below aired on April 26, 1942.  Reed Hadley played the title role and Horace Murphy and Arthur Q. Bryan played Red's sidekicks.  Red Ryder's Indian companion/ward Little Beaver was played by either Tommy Cook or Frank Breser (They alternated the role during 1942).


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Today's theme must be purple.  Here's Sheb Wooley.


Pay no attention to that 1966 date.  This film is merely a cobbled together, highly edited version of 1940's twelve-part serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.  There's Buster Crabbe as Flash, Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless, Frank Shannon as Dr. Zarkov, and Carol Hughes as Dale Arden.

Ming, up to his old tricks, is spreading the Purple Death over Earth by way of deadly dust.  Flash, Dale, and Zarkov head off to the planet Mongo to foil mean old Ming.  Complications ensue.

Sometimes you need something completely mindless.  I'd much rather watch this than this week's follies de Trump.


Monday, July 16, 2018


William Shatner.

Forgive me.


Openers:  The heel of the stiletto caught on the straps of the black lace bra she had dropped a few moments earlier.  She kicked it out of the way without looking.  It skittered across the stage.
-- Jonny Porkpie, The Corpse Wore Pasties, 2009

I've Been Reading:  My list of weekly reading has moved from here (Ta-da!  Look, it's gone!  As if it were magic!) to the comments section of Rick Robinson's blog Tip the Wink each Monday.  Check it out.

Political Ads:  As I type this, the television is on, tuned into an Alabama station (a local fox affiliate).  An amazing ad for the Republican candidate for Attorney General just aired.  The gist of the ad (delivered with the force of a heavy hammer) is that the candidate is a Republican...and his opponent is not.  He's a Democrat.  He's running as a Democrat.  He voted on some of things Nancy Pelosi voted on.  If Democrats get in they will vote for (gasp!) abortion.  He does not support (cue sounds of angels) President Trump.  He even had an Obama sticker on his car!  Don't be fooled -- he's not a Republican, he's a Democrat!  I am a Republican.  He isn't.

What happened to the concept of running on the issues?  (Actually, in Alabama, not being a Republican is an issue.)

This ad was followed immediately by one from the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, a woman named Twinkle* (not a stripper name).  She stands with President Trump.  I can imagine what Trump says about her name.

*  Italics mine.

Happy Birthday:  Today is the 228th anniversary of the establishment of Washington, DC, as the capitol of our country via the Residency Act of 1790.  

Congress itself was established in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified.  During the second session of the First United States Congress, it passed The Residency Act, which provided that a permanent capitol be set on the banks of the Potomac and authorized George Washington to establish a committee to make it so.  The act also set the date of 1800 for the new capitol to be ready. 

At the time, the Federal Government was based in New York City.  The act designated Philadelphia as the temporary capitol until the new one was ready.  Philadelphia has been the fledgling country's capitol city until 1783, when riots forced the Continental Congress to flee to Princeton, New Jersey.  The capitol then moved to Annapolis, and then Trenton, and finally to New York.

Many cities had vied to become the capitol city...Williamsburg, Virginia; Wilmington, Delaware; Kingston, New York; Germantown, Reading, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Nottingham Township, New Jersey, As Well as Philadelphia, New York City, Princeton, and Annapolis.  The Southern states did not want the capitol to be in the North and the Northern states did not want it to be in the South.  At one time, it was suggested that the United States have two capitols -- one in the North and one in the South.

Other Birthdays:

     Joshua Reynolds, artist, born 1723
     Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, born 1821
     Shoeless Joe Jackson, baseball player, born 1887
     Ginger Rogers, actress, singer, and dancer, born 1911
     Robert Sheckley, science fiction author and editor, born 1928
     Charles Ray Hatcher, serial killer who confessed to 16 murders from 1962 to 1982, born 1929
     Michael Flatley, dancer whose feet were on fire, born 1958
     Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, born 1968
     Jack!, incredible grandson, born 2012

You Should Always Listen to Mother:  Evidently, 91-year-old Anna Mae Blessing's son was making noise about placing her in an assisted living facility.  The Maricopa county resident did not like the idea. After mulling things over for several days, and fearing her 71-year-old son would actually do it, she pulled out a gun and shot him.  Multiple times.  After killing her son, she turned the gun on his girlfriend.  This is where Anna's finely honed plan went awry.  The women struggled and the girlfriend managed to get the gun from Anna.  Plan B of Anna's finely honed plan then went into effect:.  Anna pulled out a second gun.  Alas for Anna, the girlfriend also managed to get that gun away from Anna.  Anna, it seems will now be going to an assisted living facility -- not the one she had feared, but the one with bars.

Not To Be Undone:  Florida Man goes out with a bang.  Palm Beach Garden resident 71-year-old Alan J. Abrahamson's body was discovered early one January morning.  He had been shot in the chest during an early morning walk.  His wallet was missing, as was his watch and money he usually carried in a binder clip.  A search revealed no gun, no shell casing, and no suspects.  It took a while to work out what happened.  Abrahamson, despite an outward perfect life, had been thinking of suicide since (at least) 2009, as well as ways to avoid a suicide verdict from his insurance company.  The gun he used to kill himself was tied to a weather balloon, which, released after his death, would float out to sea.  He had surreptitiously obtained a gun and hollow point bullets, as well as a weather balloon and a helium tank.  He also figured the amount of helium needed to lift the gun.  What he did not think to do was to destroy his phone -- when the police were finally able to get it unlocked, the entire plan was right in front of them.

Today:  Trump meets with Putin (ho showed up fashionably late).  Vlad brought his wish list.

A Poem by e. e. cummings:


if i believe
in death be sure
of this
it is

because you have loved me,
moon and sunset
stars and flowers
gold crescendo and silver muting

of seatides 
i trusted not,
          one night
when in my fingers

drooped your shining body
when my heart
sang between your perfect 

darkness and beauty of stars
was on my mouth petals danced
against my eyes
and down

the singing reaches of 
my soul
the green-

greeting pale-
departing irrevocable
i knew thee death.

          and when
i have offered up each fragrant
night, when all my days
shall have before a certain

face become
          from the ashes
thou wilt rise and thou 
wilt come to her and brush

the mischief from her eyes and fold
mouth the new
flower with

thy unimaginable
wings, where dwells the breath
of all persisting stars

Sunday, July 15, 2018


In honor of:

1) Alan Johnson.  Johnson choreographed the "Putting on the Ritz" tap dance for Young Frankenstein.  He died recently at age 81.


2) Tomorrow's Putin-Trump summit.



Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Today is Kitty's mother's birthday.  Were she alive, Eileen would still be eight days older than dirt.

We had an interesting relationship. Eileen and I.  She felt I was never good enough for her daughter (she was right). 

Eileen was a complex person.  There was a lot of tragedy and uncertainty in her early life.  Her father died early.  Her mother committed suicide.  Eileen was then raised by her aunt and uncle.  Her uncle was a jolly rogue who sometimes played in vaudeville and sometimes hung out with criminals.  He was also an avid gambler so financial security was out of the question.  Her aunt had some problems of her own, mainly bipolar.  Yet both loved her and tried the best they could to give her a secure home.  Eileen's fiance was killed in World War II and she eventually married Kitty's father only to find herself in a trailer in Georgia with an infant while Harold went to college. 

Eileen was a paradox.  She could be as tight-fisted with money as Scrooge or Silas Marner, yet she could also be generous to a fault.  She liked people but was perhaps* a sociophobe and avoided gatherings.  She hid behind a gruff exterior but had a heart of gold.  In her last few years, she even admitted that I was a pretty good guy.  (All her other three children had divorced; Kitty and I are still going strong after 48 years.)

Eileen was never the hippest cat around.  Her lack of knowledge of late Sixties-early Seventies popular culture was a constant source of amusement for her kids.  (Emerson, Lake & Palmer?  Aren't they the two boys from Canada?)  Social graces were never her forte, either.  I'm sure she thought she was using her indoor voice when she would blurt out loud comments about other customers in a restaurant.  (Look at that man eating alone over there -- doesn't he have any friends?  Look at that fat lady over there -- she should be having that for dessert!)

But she gave the world Kitty and I'll forever be in her debt.

She took us out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant once.  She had seen a coupon for a Chinese restaurant earlier that week and decided to use it.  Unfortunately the restaurant she took us to was not the same restaurant that had the coupon.  In fact, the two restaurants had completely different menus.  Nonetheless, she insisted that the coupon be honored.  They specially prepared something not on their menu for her -- and at the price she insisted on.  Kitty and I never dared enter that restaurant again.

Every year since Eileen's passing we have had Chinese on her birthday and we will again tonight.

As I said, she was a complex person but, then, we all are.  Underneath it all Eileen was a smart, funny, caring and kind person.

I miss her.


Here's Willie.


"He visits the Earth as a Special Correspondant and Makes Wireless Observations in His Notebook."

Move over, Buck Rogers!  Here is the true first science fiction comic strip -- A. D. Condo's Mr. Skygack from Mars, which first appeared in in October 1907 in the Chicago Day Book newspaper.  The strip (single panels, really) was syndicated in Scripps newspapers; there was no set schedule for the strip and an individual panel could appear at any time over the period of a week (or so) in a Scripp newspaper.  The strip ran irregularly:  it would skip days and, once, it skipped an entire month.  In all, about 400 panels were published by the time Mr. Skygack, from Mars ended in July 1913...

...But that was not the end of Mr. Skygack!  He made guest appearances in another A. D. Condo strip, the ethnic-based Osgar und Adolph, in 1914 and perhaps later.  (Condo is best known for his classic The Outbursts of Everett True, 1905-1927.)

Mr. Skygack's notes on human behavior wildly misinterprets common scenes, yet somehow manages to provide an insight into how we act.

As a big plus, his observations are funny.


Friday, July 13, 2018


The Plague of Silence by John Creasey (1948)

This was mt first draft of this review:


I realized that the above review was lacking in detail, so I tried again with this second draft:

Speak up, dammit!  I can't hear you.

I felt that review lacked a certain je ne sais quoi, so once again I leaped into the breech for the last time:

John Creasey (1908-1973) was a prolific and influential British crime and thriller novelist who wrote over 600 novels under 28 pseudonyms.  Not the most accomplished writer, Creasey was, at least, an entertaining writer in the mode of Edgar Wallace and E. Phillips Oppenheim.  Creasey was basically a pulp writer like Stephen Francis or John Russell Fearn.  His plots were often outlandish and peopled with cardboard characters.  (Slightly off-topic:  In one of his thirty westerns, Creasey supposedly knew so little of his topic that he had a coyote flying above the western skies.  Creasey himself helped perpetuate the story, although that scene never appeared in any of his westerns.  It perhaps was in an early draft, or perhaps it was made of whole cloth and Creassey just liked telling the story.)

As I said, Creasey was entertaining.  His books should not be avoided.  He could rise above mediocrity, as he did in the very good series he wrote about Inspector George Gideon (published as by "J. J. Marric") and in many of the books in his Inspector Roger "Handsome" West series.  For outlandishness and inventiveness, one need only to turn his long-running series (thirty-two books published between 1942 and 1979) about Dr. Palfrey and his Z5 organization.

Z5 in a not-so-secret international organization that deals with individual threats against the world.  Its 502 members (soon to be reduced in The Plague of Silence) have absolute loyalty to the organization and its leader, Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Pafrey.  The threats they face tend to be super-science ones that could obliterate most of the planet -- most of evident in the book titles:  The Flood, The Drought, The Famine, The Inferno, The Sleep, The Smog, The Whirlwind, and so many more. 

The plague in this novel starts with a tightness in the throat, advances to an inability to speak, followed by complete paralysis and death.  It started in the small English village of Conne where a young wife and mother was stricken and died a few days later  The two doctors called to her home are soon murdered, as are a neighboring family who happened to be on the scene.  The woman's husband was also killed.  That's enough to come to the interest of Palfrey and Z5.  One of the murdered doctors was a Z5 agent.  Soon Z5 agents around the world are being stricken with this silent plague.

Palfrey sends his agent Matt Stone, a young American from Phoenix, to investigate what is happening in Conne.  Accompanying Matt is an aloof female agent who is stricken with the plague within hours of arriving in the village.

Turns out the plague is transmitted by mosquitoes which have been altered into killing machines by some sort of living dust particles.  With the mosquitoes deliberately breed by the millions and transported by unknown means to cities and towns marked for destruction.  Palfrey and Stone have their work cut out for them -- especially when both are stricken with the deadly plague.

To complicate things, are an international cabal led by a madman under the guise of attempting to rid the world of weapons.  Most members of the cabal are gulled by the madman whose real aim is world domination.

It's B-movie Saturday morning cinema and Palfrey is a character without depth.  The plots are fantastic and the large organizations of heroes and villains are totally unrealistic.  But who cares?  Sometimes B-movie Saturday morning cinema can be fun.

If you have not encountered Palfry and Z5 before, you have a lot of books to choose from.  You make like them.  Just don't read too many in a row or your brain may atrophy.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Another cat post in my effort to appease Willow, the amazing belated birthday feline.

This time, there's an Australian twist from the definitely-not-Australian-named Tex Morton.


I've been having computer problems the last few days.  Among other things I missed posting was a shout-out to our grand-cat (and current resident) Willow, who turned thirteen yesterday.

Willow is cuddly, disdainful, imperious, and loving.  Of course she is -- she's a cat.

Anyway, apologies to Willow.  To make up for it, here's an old-time radio cat story from a program that I know absolutely nothing about, Supernaturally Yours.

Enjoy.  (I'm not sure if Willow will.)

Sunday, July 8, 2018


In 1915, author Mary Roberts Rinehart published a popular account of her vacation in Glacier National Park.

One hundred years later, Chris Peterson recreated Rinehart's 300-mile horseback trek -- this time, however, the trip was made on foot.  Peterson chronicled his journry in Through Glacier Park, 1915-2015:  A Centennial Celebration of a Classic Journey.

Some things change and some things remain eternal.



CeCe Winans.

Saturday, July 7, 2018


Let's take it back to the Sixties with Barbara Lewis.


From UK Comic Wiki:  "The Kinema Comic was a weekly anthology published by Amalgamated Press from 1920 to 1932, edited by Fred Cordwell.  It incorporated Cheerio in 1920.  Like its stablemate Film Fun it was comprised of strips about film personalities."

The first issue was dated April 24, 1920.  I don't now the end date of the publication, but it appears  651 issues were published.  Individual copies rarely come on the market.  Marginally less rare are bound volumes containing a year's worth (or half a year's worth) of issues.

The film personalities featured in this ten-page excerpt are Larry Semon (with his "Playful Pranks"), Louise Fazenda ("the laughable larks of a lovable little lady"), Slim Summerville ("the thin chap who causes fat chuckles"), Ford Sterling ("Jolly old Ford!  Merry old Ford!  To miss the Ford you can't af-ford!"), Baby Marie Osmond (not the "Donnie &" girl, but "The Komical Kiddie of the Kinema.  Some Kid -- and no kid!"), Snub Pollard ("the only 'Snub' that everybody enjoys"), Polly Moran ("The Winsome Wonder of the Wild and Woolly West"), and Chester Conklin ("One of the funniest filberts on the films").

How many of those names do you recognize?


Friday, July 6, 2018


Ella Jenkins.


A Darkness in My Soul by Dean R. Koontz (1972)

The year is 2004, thirty-two years after the book was published, and the world has significantly changed -- and not for the better.  America and Russia are allies, China and Japan are our enemies.  Was is on the horizon and the potential weapons are horrifying.  Artificial Creation (AC) has spent years trying to produce a superhuman, after having created their first and only success in Simeon Kelly, now a twenty-year-old esper, capable of entering others' minds.  For eleven years, Simeon has been working as a contract employee AC, a.k.a., the Government.  The first nine years of his life were spent as AC property until the Supreme Court allowed him his personhood.

Now Simeon discovers that he was not AC's only success.  There is the withered and distorted three-year-old with no given name -- only called the Child.  The Child is much more powerful than Simeon.  With a mind unlike any other in history, the Child is a genius to the nth power.  He is able to imagine devastating weapons -- weapons that could (ha!) make war obsolete, as well as keeping America and its allies as top dogs on the world stage.  But the Child is still only three, and has a three-year-old's stubbornness.  He holds back important details of each weapon from his handlers.

Simeon is called to enter the Child's mind and retrieve those details.  Simeon does not realize four things.  First, the Child hates everyone; second the Child is completely insane; third, the Child believes himself to be God (and he may well be); and last, the Child is being held prisoner by his own subconscious.  After two failed and harrowing attempts, Simeon finally reaches the Child's subconscious, only to find that there is no way out of the subconscious back to the Child's conscius brain.  He is trapped in a phantasmagorical-- seemingly infinite -- landscape composed of myths, monsters, hatred, and fear.

This is an early science fiction work by Koontz, perhaps his eighth SF novel in four years.  He published his first story in 1966, his first SF story in 1967, and his first SF novel in 1968.  Duting his early career, Koontz was trying to find his way, writing books as fast as he could, many under a slew of pseudonyms and in a number of genres -- mystery, crime, suspense, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, horror, softcore sex*, and mainstream.  He began to find his voice with Demon Seed (1973), became much more assured with Night Chills (1976 -- a book whose theme he revised with his current Jan Hawk series) and with The Key to Midnight (1979, as by 'Leigh Nichols").  His position as a best-selling and popular novelist was secured with Watchers (1987).  He now consistently hits the best-seller lists.  Somewhere along the way he dropped his middle initial from his by-line.

I've mentioned before of my love/hate relationship with Koontz's books.  They can be sentimentally maudlin, the protagonists preternaturally noble, the universe perversely fickle while also being grandly beneficial -- and dogs are noble while fathers are not.  But he does know how to build a story, how to move things along at a breath-taking pace, and how to make you believe the immensity of the evil his characters face.  In other words, he is a frustrating, but damned good, read.

His early work, such as this, is readable but forgettable.  Here he takes a somewhat standard trope (an esper entering someone else's brain) and tries to run with it.  It's a little bit herky-jerky, sometimes giving us too many details, sometimes too little.  Characters are not fleshed out.  (Simeon himself is poorly portrayed; at times he is an emotional midget but Koontz does little with that except for a few (very few) ham-fisted references.  Koontz also clunkily channels Dante and the lryics of Bob Dylan.

A Darkness in My Soul flows roughly.  (John Brunner handled the theme with much more grace in 1964's The Whole Man.)   It is a journeyman's work from when Koontz was a journeyman -- nothing more, nothing less.  You won't go too wrong if you read it, although I can only recommend it for Dean Koontz completists.

* Ah, Koontz and his softcore career.  He now denies it, saying that his identity was stolen by someone he had worked professional with and that identity thief submitted articles and letters to various fanzines under the Koontz name.  He also denied writing some 30 books of erotica that have been attributed to him.  Koontz stated that he knew nothing about this until the neer-do-well confessed it to him in 1991.  Yet in 1981 he admitted that he had written "some pornography" and his biographer Katherine Ramsland in 1997 identified one of these titles.  Koontz has also dropped mention of two counterculture nonfiction books published by Aware Press (which may or may not be associated with Cameo Library, publisher of many of the disputed books) because (he claimed) that an editorial scythe cut through the books, changing up to 60% of each books.  Koontz has stated that he will reveal the name of the identity thief when he publishes his memoirs.  (It should be noted that Koontz quickly and loudly proclaimed the names of persons who have plagiarized his work.)

Thursday, July 5, 2018


For some unexplained reason, this was a #1 hit song in 1964.

Also, for some unexplained reason, I thought it fitting to follow my last post with this one.

Here are the Shangri-Las.


From September 15, 1941, Ronald Coleman and Donald Crisp take us on a journey to Shangri-La in the first radio version of James Hilton's best-selling novel.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Eric Andersen:

Phil Ochs:

Woody Guthrie:

And Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops:


My neighbor told me his brother-in-law was pretty dumb.  Just that morning he swallowed an entire box of firecrackers.

"Wow," I said.  "Is he all right?"

"He was at last report."

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


From 1954, The Sons of the Pioneers.


Back in the day, Black films (also known as "race" films) -- featuring all Black actors and produced for Black audiences who were not allowed into white theaters -- were the province of Black production companies that ranked several notches below Hollywood's Poverty Row; one such company was Dixie National Pictures, Inc., which came up with this gem in 1942.

Mantan Moreland, the under-rated (and sometimes mocked) comic actor, and F. E. Miller, a Tony-nominated "seminal" figure in the development of African-American musical theater, play Washington and Jefferson, two hobos down on their luck.  Then, Washington (Moreland) has some luck with dice, winning cash, a car, and a chauffeur (!).  This is parlayed into a old sanitarium fronting for a gambling den -- but with the sanitarium comes the restless ghosts of its past residents.

Lucky Ghost has also appeared under the title Lady Luck and has been reviewed as (unfortunately) Mantan Sees a Ghost.  Despite some approbation from today's politically correct viewers, Lucky Ghost remains both charming and funny, and displays some great talent in its "ALL STAR COLORED CAST."

Lucky Ghost was directed by "William X. Crowley" -- one of the many names used by the prolific William Beaudine, who directed between 300 and 500 films, as well as hundreds of television shows, in a career that lasted over 60 years.  Lex Neal (who died at age 46 two years before the film was released) and Vernon Smith (who has 67 writing credits from 1924 to 1942 on IMDb) are credited with the story -- Lucky Ghost was the last full film for both writers.

Enjoy this "Thriller-Diller Laff Sensation Feature!"

Monday, July 2, 2018


The Dixieland Jug Blowers.


Openers:  This is my great-aunt Grisela's story.  She told me how she learned to be a witch -- I suppose you could call it that -- from the old lady, Mrs. Polaner.  And she passed the information on to me.  It was one one of the many occasions when she was trying to teach me embroidery.
-- Joan Aiken, "He" (from A Touch of Chill, Gollancz, 1979)

June Incoming:

  • Brian Ball, The Space Guardians.  SF TV tie-in novel, third in the Space:  1999 series.
  • Jason Blum, editor, The Blum House of Nightmares:  Haunted City.  Horror anthology with seventeen stories.
  • Frank Bonham, The Last Mustang.  Western collection of eight stories; edited by Bill Pronzini.
  • Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse.  Seven lectures from Harvard University's Charles Elliott Norton Lectures, 1967-68; edited by Calin-Andru Milhailesco.
  • "John Boyd" (Boyd Upchurch), The Rakehells of Heaven.  SF novel.
  • Walter R. Brooks, Freddie the Magician.  juvenile, another adventure of the incomparable Freddie the Pig.
  • Caleb Carr, The Legend of Broken.  Fantasy novel.
  • Wesley Chu, Time Salvages.  SF novel, the first in the series.
  • Jane Waters Cooper, Beat of an Island Drum.  Local interest miscellany about Pensacola Beach, Florida.  This may be signed; if so, the author had terrible handwriting and only used her first name.
  • Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos, Lost City.  Thriller novel in the NUMA Files series.  I can take Cussler or leave him but, as I've mentioned before, I am a big fan of Paul Kemprecos.
  • "Nick Cutter" (Craig Davidson), The Deep.  SF thriller.
  • Lionel Davidson, The Rose of Tibet.  Thriller.
  • J. Jefferson Farjeon, The Z Murders.  Mystery novel, one of many Golden Age classics that Martin Edwards has selected for reprint by the British Mystery Library.
  • Christa Faust, Hunt Beyond the Frozen Fire.  Pulp-ish adventure novel in the Gideon Hunt series created by Charles Ardai.  Only six books (by six different authors) in the series were published, all under the house name "Gideon Hunt," before Hardcase Crime and this series lost its distributor; Titan Books came to the rescue and carried on the Hardcase Crime series (yay-de-yay!) as well as reissuing the Gideon Hunt books under each author's name.  Will there ever be any more Gideon Hunt novels in the future?  I wish I could answer that question.
  • Karen Joy Fowler, Black Glass.  Collection of fifteen stories, many fantasy.
  • Patrick Neilson Hayden, editor, New Skies.  SF anthology with seventeen stories.
  • Joe L. Hensley, Song of Corpus Juris.  A Donald Robak mystery, the third in the series.  Hensley (lawyer, prosecutor, judge, state assemblyman, and mystery and SF author) is sadly becoming a forgotten author, I fear.
  • Alex Kava, Off the Grid.  Mystery collection with five stories, four of which feature Maggie O'Dell.
  • Elmer Kelton, The Day the Cowboys Quit, Llano River, Long Way to Texas, and The Time It Never Rained.  Four western novels by a master.
  • John Lutz, Slaughter and Twist.  Frank Quinn mysteries, both.
  • Patricia Moyes, The Curious Affair of the Third Dog and Night Ferry to Death.  Two Inspector Henry Tibbett mysteries.
  • Marcia Muller, Time of the Wolves.  Western collection with ten stories.
  • Andrew J. Offutt, The Galactic Rejects, a SF novel, and Shadows Out of Hell, a sword and sorcery novel, the second in the War of the Gods on Earth series.
  • Nancy Pickard, The Scent of Rain and Lightning.  Stand-alone mystery novel.
  • Jean Rabe & Brian M. Thomsen, editors, Furry Fantastic.  Fantasy anthology with eighteen stories about dogs, cats, and other fur-bearing animals.  Martin H. Greenberg's Tekno Books is included in the copyright notice.
  • Joan Spicci Saberhagan & Robert E. Vardeman, editors, Fred Saberhagan:  Golden Reflections.  SF tribute anthology that includes Saberhagan's 1979 novel The Mask of the Sun and seven original stories set in the same fictional universe by various authors.
  • Lisa Scottoline, Look Again.  Thriller.
  • "Dell Shannon" (Elizabeth Linington), Felony File.  Police procedural featuring Lieutenant Luis Mendoza.  (See below.)
  • Robert Silverberg, Sunrise on Mercury.  SF collection with thirteen stories.  This is the 1983 UK collection and should be confused with the 1975 similarly named US collection; there are only three stories in common between the two collections.
  • Charles Harry Whidbee, Outer Banks Mysteries and Seaside Stories.  Non-fiction.  Whidbee was apparently the go-to person for Outer Banks folklore.
I've Been Reading:  Bill Pronzini's Give-a-Damn Jones is a multi-viewpoint western about a travelling typesetter.  Pronzini's westerns are every bit as good as his mysteries.  (Back in the day, Pronzini wrote a short story of the same title.  I don't know if this novel is an expansion of that story or a different tale featuring the same character.)  August Derleth's Shadow in the Glass, part of his Wisconsin Saga, is a biographical novel about the first governor of the state of Wisconsin.  A very readable story spanning fifty years, incorporating many historical figures from other of derleth's Wisconsin Saga novels.  Felony File by "Del Shannon" (the prolific Elizabeth Linington) is one of her Luis Mendoza police procedurals and was my FFB this week.  I also read two versions of Joan Aiken's A Touch of Chill  (UK edition, 1979, with 15 stories, and US edition, 1980, also with 15 stories -- only eight stories overlap the two volumes).  Aiken's stories are consistently strange, unexpected, and entertaining.  Finally, I read Sleep No More, a collection of six "murderous" stories by P. D. James.  I may be in the minority here, but I prefer her occasional short stories to her novels.

Currently I'm reading The Woman in the Woods, the latest Charlie Parker thriller from John Connolly.  Parker faces his most dangerous opponent yet and the stakes have never been higher.  In the chute is a small book of Ursula LeGuin interviews and perhaps a few more Joan Aiken collections.

The First Six Months:  By my calculations, I read 134 books during the first half of 2018.  This number is approximate because some of those books were omnibuses containing more than one previously published book.  I'm not sure, but I may be a bit behind my reading from 2017.

Independence Day:  The Fourth of July has always been my second favorite holiday, following Halloween and just ahead of Thanksgiving.  (Sorry, Christmas, but you come in fourth.  Not that fond of commercialism.)

July Fourth has always been about family as well as a celebration of freedom.  When I was a kid, everyone who end up at my grandfather's house.  My father was one of nine, so there was always an abundance of laughter as a zillion cousins laughed and frolicked and the grown-ups got caught up.  There was always watermelon -- watermelon can make any occasion special.  My grandfather also had a two-seater outhouse in the shed and we thought that was neat.

My hometown had a large celebration with a major parade and booths on the town common.  People lined up chairs along the parade route days in advance and thousands came from out of town to join the celebration.  Every year we bought chances for a homemade quilt from the town's historical society and every year someone else won it.  The booths all belonged to local organizations; there was no commercialism.  Some years, there was a dunking booth with a number of the town's leading citizens waiting to be drenched.  One year, Kitty and I ran a booth for the local fife and drum corps -- the only all-girl f&d corps in the country.  We were told the idea was not to make a profit but to get the name of the corps out there, so we priced out popcorn at a quarter a box and were kept continuously busy.  (Some parents were upset that we broke even and did not make a profit, but that wasn't our brief.)  Often on the night of the 3rd, there would be a concert by the town's police band.  The Fourth of July celebration was an opportunity for old friends to meet up -- you couldn't walk more than five yards without seeing someone you knew.  Pre-parade there was a road race sponsored by the local Elks lodge.  A few hours after the morning parade, we'd begin to break the booths down, clearing the town common by one o'clock. 

Then it was off to a family cook-out at my Aunt Edna's, in later years at my parents' house.  Family, of course, does not limit itself to relatives.  Hamburgers, hot dogs (my cousin Ann always liked hers burnt to a cinder), homemade chocolate cake, hunting for golf balls (my folks lived next to a golf course), trying to fly kites, sometimes attempting croquet, laughing, reminiscing, enjoying each other's company.

This, to me, was one of the great benefits of the freedom our country stood for.  A day to celebrate our country with family and friends in a relaxed and meaningful way.

I know there are many people in America who are not a blessed as I or my family.  For may there is a struggle for life, for freedom from fear, for acceptance, and for the basic human dignity we should all share.  In this age of Trump and his "Peter Principle" cabinet, this struggle is getting more intense.  I read this week that one poll has thirty percent of Americans believing a civil war will soon come.  I have more faith than that.  There will always be some percentage of the population gulled, but I firmly believe that truth will out.  "There is nothing wrong with America, that Americans cannot fix."

Amen.  And enjoy your Fourth.

Sixteen Years Ago:  Steve Fossett became the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon.

This Week's Poem:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics -- each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat -- the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench -- the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter's song -- the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother -- or of the young wife at work -- or of the girl sewing or washing --
Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day --
At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

-- Walt Whitman, "I Hear America Singing" (1867 version)

Sunday, July 1, 2018


A world without Harlan Ellison?  Unthinkable!  But it has now happened.

Opinionated, fierce, kind, vicious, reasonable, wrong-headed, quirky, egomaniac, tilter at windmills, feminist, chauvinist, defender of the oppressed, tweaker of conscience, writer in windows, genius, bearer of grudges, dreamer, winner of awards, friend to many, enemy to many...he is legend.  Above all, Harlan was a gifted, talented, one-of-a-kind story-teller.  A diminutive giant.

From a 1976 episode of the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, here's Harlan on why television is made for morons:

From the documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth, he's a brief rant about paying the writer:

And here, Ellison is interviewed by Stefan Runicki and talks about just about everything:

Here he remembers the March on Selma with MLK:

Ellison shares some funny author stories:

The story of Harlan Eliison's James Cameron's Terminator:

Ellison on The Simpsons:

Finally, here's Harlan Ellison narrating his acclaimed short story "I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream":


George, Jones, Ralph Stanley, and Vince Gill combine their talents on this country hymn.