Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, July 2, 2018


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)


  1. Sorry, but I hate Fourth of July. It's the damn fireworks, their noise, the danger, the fire hazard I DO NOT like loud noises, and they are unavoidable the days before, on and after. Idiots are blowing the stuff off, which sounds like artillery shells, every night. There is terrible fire danger, it's so dry, but they don't care. Thank goodness they're illegal in Portland, but other cities, and Washington are minutes away.

    You don't think Halloween is commercial? It is, my friend. All the holidays are. Everything is. Bah.

    1. I don't do fireworks either, Rick, except on television. Yes, Halloween is commercial, but it also a celebration of the imagination -- which is what I love about it.

      Who would ever suspect you were a curmudgeon? Certainly not those kids you keep chasing off your lawn.

  2. That's a huge amount of incoming books. Good grief!!!

    1. Now all I have to do is find time to read them all!