Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 31, 2019


"The Bacteriological Detective" by Arthur B. Reeve (first published in Cosmopolitan, February 1911; reprinted in Reeve's The Silent Bullet:  The Adventures of Craig Kennedy, Scientific Detective, 1912; later reprinted in Scientific Detective Monthly, February 1930 and in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, September 2003)

Craig Kennedy was America's answer to Sherlock Holmes.  A Columbia university professor aided by his "Watson," roommate and newspaperman Walter Jameson, Kennedy used the latest in scientific knowledge and machinery to solve seemingly unsolvable cases.  He first appeared in "The Case of Helen Bond" in the December 1910 issue of Cosmopolitan.  He made another 81 appearances in that magazine, ending in August 1918.  His adventures continues in many other magazines and many of his later appearances appear to have been ghost-written.  Four collections and 26 novels eventually appeared about the hero, ending in 1936.  Kennedy also appeared in two movie serials and in a 1951 television program, Craig Kennedy, Criminologist.

After gaining fame with the creation of Craig Kennedy, Arthur B. Reeve began writing film scripts in 1914, peaking "in 1919-1920, when his name appeared on seven films, most of them serials, three of them starring Harry Houdini."  When the film industry substantially moved to Hollywood, Reeve remained behind in New York.  Reeve entered a contract with Harry K. Thaw (the man who murdered Stanford White in 1906  and was found not guilty  by reason of insanity) to produce scenarios about fake spiritualism.  Thaw refused to honor the contract, forcing Reeve into bankruptcy.  Reeve was k own as an anti-racketeering advocate, hosting a radio show in the early 1930s.  He also was known to have been a consultant for the FBI.

"The Bacteriological Detective" has Kennedy investigating the mysterious death of millionaire Jim Bisbee, who recently died of typhoid fever in a private hospital.  Bisbee had recently been to his country house when five of his employees were struck with the disease.   A noted germaphobe, Bisbee retreated to his New York apartment, where he came down with typhoid a few days after.

To solve the case, Kennedy used microbiology, as well as the emerging sciences of fingerprinting and handwriting analysis and the practice of immunology.  In a case easily solved by the modern reader, Kennedy's investigation provided ample excitement and wonder for the readers of the time.

Along the way, Reeve bemoans the good old days.  "We [Kennedy and Jameson] had commented on the artificiality of the twentieth century.  No longer did people have homes; they had apartments, I had said.  They didn't fall ill in the good old-fashioned way any more, either -- in fact, they hired special rooms to die in.  They hired hall for funeral services.  It was a wonder they didn't hire graves.  It was all part of out twentieth century break-up of tradition."

An interesting story, quaint and fastly read.  Not everyone's cup of tea, though.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


The Korean War needed a Korean War hero and America got it -- briefly -- in Captain Jet, AMERICA'S WAR ACE!  Captain Jet lasted for only six issues from Ajax-Farrell comics before transforming into Fantastic Fears #7, a horror anthology comic book.  The art for Captain Jet was provided for by the Iger Studio, known for re-purposing earlier comic book art as they did here from World War II comic book art.

Captain Jet appears in three adventures in this issue.  First, he stops the enemy from using poison gas; then, while transporting General Barton and his "doll-faced aide" Linda Parker, Jet's plane is brought down by the enemy who capture all three (SPOILER ALERT!  but not for long); finally, Jet is signalled by an intelligence agent disguised as a saronged native girl.

Besides a number of features and a four-page story about top American war correspondent Ace Reynolds, this issue is chocked-filled with grotesque drawings of Korean villains because that's how american comic books rolled during the Korean War.

Not the greatest comic book of its time but some of the plot points and artwork are pretty good.

Check it out.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Blogging has been sporadic for the last week and will probably continue that way for another two or three weeks.  Two visits to Alabama last week and a planned weekend in Atlanta in a couple of weeks.  Plus, we're spending a lot of time ferrying grandchildren to and from school and appointment.  Our niece will be visiting at the end of the week.  One granddaughter had four wisdom teeth pulled this morning and will need some TLC.  Jack's medication has changed and is not working well so we need to get a handle on that.  And the combination of chemo and Prednisone that Kitty is on for her anemia has swollen her legs painfully.  In the grand scheme of things, these are all minor, but combined make for a hectic few weeks while everything gets sorted out.

Better times are ahead.  In the meantime, I'll blog when I can.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


Bobby Lewis.


Super-Mystery Comics had a spotted run from July 1940 to July 1949, a total of 48 issues.  During World War II, comic books were popular both with kids and with the armed services overseas.  Some of ads in the comic book seem to be targeted to America's fighting forces.  Case in point, the inside from cover of this issue which touts two books:Private Letters of the World's Greatest Lovers and Guide to Intimate Letter Writing (which will allow you to "master the ways of love," and includes a "Personal Directory of intimate love phrases" -- something every lonely doughboy needs).

In this issue enemies of America get their comeuppance from such heroes as Magno the Magnetic Man, Dr. Nemesis, Hap Hazard, The Sword, Mr. Risk, and Paul Revere, Jr..

Magno, the Magnetic Man, should not be confused with other Magnos.  This Magno is a creation of Ace Periodicals and is a playboy adventurer who apparently has no secret identity and no everyday garb.  He has a masterful control of magnetism which also allows him to fly and to be invincible.  He fights enemies of America and is aided by his sidekick Davey a schoolboy who suit gives him some of Magno's powers.  Other Magnos in Comicbookland include Quality Comics' Magno, an elecrtical lineman named Tom Dalton who got superpowers when he got zapped (twice) with 10,000 volts of electricity, and Sandy Laker who is Magno, Man of Magnetism, and who first appeared in British comics in 1971.  (Similarly named comic book characters include Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier's Mangor (who learns super-heroing from reading comic books) and Magneto, arch-enemy of Marvel's X-Men.)  Magno and Davey were the headliners ofdf'frthglbgvb,,,gdrdrdrdrdrdrdrdrcv,l; .e Clown, who is after a formula that appears to transmute metal into gold.  At the end of this adventure we learn that "Magno and Davey put all their spare money into War Bonds and Stamps -- Do you?"

Dr. Nemesis is really Dr. James Bradley, who dons a surgical mask and carries a hypodermic needle to fight crime.  As a skilled surgeon he knows where all the weak points of a body are.  His identity is kept secret, even from his fiance, the lovely nurse Mary Strong.  He appeared in twelve adventures from Ace Periodicals with this issue containing his last appearance.  In this issue Dr. Nemesis battles Japanese Agent X-2 as the evil oriental infects American soldiers with leprosy. This adventure ends with "If you can't give your blood to the Red Cross, the least you can do is buy War Bonds."   This Dr. Nemesis should not be confused with the much-later nemesis of Dr. Who.

Hap Hazard, the red-haired copy boy of the Daily Star, goes on a walk with his girlfriend Arabella and gets sprayed by a skunk, leading him to find two more skunks -- a pair of German spies.  Although not a superhero, Hap handles himself well in situations that are mostly his own fault.

Schoolboy Arthur Lake transformed into The Sword whenever he pulls Excalibur from the stone.  As The Sword he has the strength of "many times ten" men.  One of the neat things about this strip is that whenever Arthur draws Excalibur, his two best friends also transform into superheroes:  Lance Larter becomes The Lancer and Moe Lynn becomes Merlin.  Young Arthur keeps Excalibur hidden in a nearby place for when he needs to transform to battle Nazis and saboteurs.  His arch nemesis is Faye Morgana, head of Nazi operations in the U. S.  In this episode Faye Morgana is joined by bad guys The Goth and The Hun to stir up prejudice against foreign workers at a war factory.  (A completely different Sword from Golden Age comics was Olympic fencing champion Chic Carter in stories published by Quality Comics; Carter did not become the Sword until his 24th appearance in Smash Comics, after which he appeared in fifteen issues of National Comics and eighteen issues of Police Comics.  Quality Comics also had a different Merlin in the person of playboy Jack Kellog, who could cast spells when wearing the original Merlin's cloak.  He appeared in forty-five issues of National Comics, only to be killed in his first adventure for DC after Dc bought out Quality comics stable of characters.)

"The man who knows no fear" is known only as Mr. Risk, who has no powers beyond being a good fighter and a master of disguise.  He is usually accompanied by his faithful servant Abdul.  In a story that does not involve spies or enemy agents, Mr. Risk finds himself against an uncommon criminal, the blackmailing murderer The Cougar.  The Cougar's identity had been discovered by one of his victim's twin sons.  The Cougar -- not knowing which son saw him -- must kill one boy and goes after the other when Mr. Risk steps in.

Paul Revere, Jr., is the son of newspaper columnist Paul Revere, Sr.  Jr. and his friends of the america awake club, Pat Henry and Betsy Ross, stumble on a Nazi plot to sabotage a patriotic waste fat collection program.  (Waste fat can be used in the production of gunpowder to be used against the Axis.)  Jr., Pat, and Betsy spoil the German's plot and discover that the smallest things an ordinary citizen can do add up to a mighty weapon against tyranny.

After reading this issue, you will be wondering how in heck the Axis thought they could beat America.


Friday, May 17, 2019


She got off to a rough start.  Actually, the start was pretty good -- she was healthy, happy, and placid at birth -- but coming out of the gate...

She developed colic.  Not your run-of-the-mill colic, but the kind of colic that had all other colics bow down in fear and trepidation.  And it lasted forever.  Kitty and I would take turns trying to soothe her at night, with each of getting about four hours of sleep if we were lucky.  Kitty's mother told us we just did not know how to handle a colicky baby.  "Let me take her for one night.  I'll show you."  The next day she told us, "I was going to rock her to sleep, but I couldn't find a biog enough rock!"  The pediatricians told us she would grow out of it.  She didn't.  Finally one doctor wrote a prescription for cranky baby drops -- "She doesn't really need it but from the looks of you two, you do."  We were so far gone by the time we got them, we spilled over half the bottle over her.  But the cranky baby drops did the trick.  Within two days, she was sweet and loving and perfect.  Our Mr, Hyde has transformed into Dr. Jekyll.  It was like she was making up for the previous few months.

And she has been perfect ever since.

Up until she began school she was known as Christy.  One day early on (was it kindergarten or first grade?  I can't remember) she came home from school and told us her name was not Christy, it was Christina.  And it's been Christina ever since.  (She still retains the family nickname Bink, but everyone else knows her as Christina.)

She has always been a determined child, something that she has carried  into adulthood.  While attending George Washington University, she went with one of her roommates to check out the schools Taekwondo club; her roomie bailed after  couple of weeks but Christina stayed with it, eventually getting her black belt and becoming president of the club.  It wasn't easy going through the belts.  She would reach a plateau and keep practicing and practicing until suddenly she would leap to another plateau.  That cycle would repeat itself over and over until she became an inspiration for others.

One of her favorite past times was to sit on the steps of the Lincoln Monument with a friend and watch all the different types of people visiting there.  One day a limousine pulled up and a well-dressed man got out, followed by numerous secret service agents.  They asked a secret service agent who the man was and was told,"I can't tell you."  Christina and her friend thought they might be in midst of some big government secret but the agent then continued, "I can't tell you because he's some big politician from an Eastern European country and I can't pronounce his name."  So much for a big government secret.

One of her part-time jobs while in school was at a muffin shop in Crystal City.  At the end of the day there were always a number of muffins thrown out.  Christina would take those muffins and hand them out to the homeless on her way back to the dormitory.

She credits being able to finish school on A-1 Sauce.  You can pour that sucker on anything the school cafeteria dishes out and it becomes edible.

She majored in biology, a subject she loved, and had intended to become a doctor.  While at GW she met many doctors and most of them were unhappy.  Unhappiness was not in her game plan, so becoming a doctor was out.

After graduation she worked for a DC-area  ambulance service.  It was there she met Walt, the man she would marry.  It almost didn't happen because Walt had Greta, a massive rottweiler who scared Christina.  Greta turned out to be a sweetie and the best dog-ever-at-that-time and Christina loved her.  She and Walt later got another rottweiler, Athena, who was the best dog ever.  They also got Grace, a Great Dane, because they felt sorry for her.  Then they got Phantom, a nervous Australian cattle dog, who was skittish but sweet.  Then came Pirate, a Chesapeake Bay retriever who instantly became the best dog in the universe.  Then Acorn, another Chessie, and Duncan, an active little black ball of fur.  Most recently they acquired Happy, a sweet puppy whose name fits her to a tee.  I probably forgot a few dogs along the way.Currently they are down to the last three named.  But I haven't mentioned the goats, which had to be re-homed when they moved to Florida, or the monitor lizard, or the bearded dragon, or the ball pythons, or the turtle, or the hedgehogs, or the four cats -- Willow (now residing with us), Sage, Mint (who managed to sneak outside on day and vanished, probably at the paws of a bear or coyote **sniff**), and Sprout-the-best-kitten-in-the-world.   I mention all the animals because a love of animals and nature is an essential part of Christina.

Christina worked for a while as an assistant in a doctor's office, then moved on to be an emergency room assistant.  The ER doctors were grateful whenever Christina was on duty because they knew everything would run perfectly.  She would take everything in stride, even when the ER was quarantined because of an unknown hemorrhagic threat.  Seemingly cool under pressure, we described her a a duck, swimming smoothly on the surface while paddling like the dickens below the surface.  The thing I am proudest of her during those years was that Christina would sit with dying patients because of her belief that no one should die alone.

She then trained to become a cardio-stenographer, often spotting dangerous situations and keeping patients until a cardiologist could arrive.  For a while she also taught cardio-stenography at her alma mater, George Washington University.  After a few years, wheeling a five hundred pound machine from room to room became a strain on her back.

The transition to sign language interpreter was not an easy one but, as I said, Christina is determined.  She currently is a sign language interpret for a high school girl in the public school system.

In addition to the above, she and Walt run their own cold process soap making business which is becoming very successful -- Cove Lake Soapworks (good stuff, look them up on Etsy).

Christina's biggest accomplishment is her children.  Mark is finishing up his first year of college.  He is quiet and has a great sense of humor.  He also has Christina's determination.  He runs, and runs well.  In addition to many smaller races he has completed two marathons and is prepping for a third this fall.  Erin will be a high school senior in the fall.  If possible, she is a more avid animal lover than Mark.  As a junior she already has enough credits to graduate high school and will be taking more college courses in the fall while remaining a senior.  And Jack.  Jack, now six, is in his own category.  Christina and Walt began fostering him when he was six weeks, immediately after he was released from Children's Hospital after detoxing from the drugs his mother took while carrying him.  They legally adopted him a few years later.  As the newest and youngest Roof, Jack has flourished beyond expectations.  There are still some physical hurdles to navigate and the long-term effects of being a drug addicted newborn are not known.  Jack today, however, is sweet and smart and active.  He reads above his grade level and can dance up a storm.  The patience and guidance Christina has given each of her kids is remarkable.  

By the way, all of her kids are good-looking.  Mark is studiously handsome.  Erin is drop dead gorgeous.  And Jack has striking devil in his eyes good looks.  (Christina and Walt are also tres good-looking.)

The house...the family...the soap business...I don't know how Christina handles it all, but she does.  And does it well.  

That this caring, loving, determined, sweet woman is our daughter amazes us.  We are so proud of her, as we are proud of her sister who has many of the same qualities.  Can there be any doubt that we love her?  I thought not.

Monday, May 13, 2019


R.I.P., Doris.


Openers:   Spring around the Mideastern campus, especially during Easter vacation, is something the Army would invade with weasels, so on this fine Easter of 1949, as with every other year I've been on the Mideastern squad, we had borrowed, for two weeks, the facilities of little Grandon College, in Florida, a state even the Army couldn't spoil.

--  "Bye, Bye, Backfield" by "John Wade Farrell" (John D. MacDonald) (Fifteen Sports Stories, July, 1949)

Weasels?:  I was thrown by that phrase above, "something the Army would invade with weasels."  After a brief check I found that the M28 Weasel was a tracked vehicle (as a tank is tracked) introduced in World War II and designed to operate in snow.  Built by Studebaker, there were seven other types of Weasel beside the M28.  Weasels were also used by the Marines and by the English, French, and Canadian armies.  Because of their capabilities in snow and cold weather, 25 weasels were used in the VIII Winter Olympic Games in 1960 at Squaw Valley, California.

Thus, the Mideastern campus in John D. MacDonald's story was usually snowed in as late as Easter.

It is also nice to know that MacDonald, a resident of the state, felt that even the Army couldn't spoil Florida.  MacDonald evidently never heard of...

Florida Man!:   This one hit pretty close to home.  A 29-year-old Florida man, Erich Reitz,  was shot and killed by his father after he had stabbed both parents multiple times.  Both parents survived.  The incident happened a few streets from where we used to live.  The man was a former police officer in a town near where one of my daughters work.  A decorated former military veteran, he had been hired by the Niceville, Florida, Police Department in 2015 and had had three merit increases during his 2 1/2 years on the department.  He was fired early last year for being "unfit to perform the duties of a police officer" and that he "could no longer have access to a firearm," this following a medical report dated three days before Reitz was fired.  According to his termination letter, Reitz had violated the Florida Moral  Character Code (which means he had lied on his job application) and that he had admitted to providing false testimony during a military court marshal; exactly who was being court marshaled was not stated.  (Reitz received an honorable discharge from the Air Force.  While serving he had received "the Combat readiness Medal with two Oak Leave Clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign medal with one Service Star.")  According to the county sheriff, Reitz was terminated for 'psychological instability."  After being let go from the police department, Reitz worked as a customer service representative at the local Lowe's, where he could well have served me.  And then...

He was hired by the school department (!) as a paraprofessional and assistant wrestling coach at Gulf Breeze High School -- the same high school were my granddaughter Erin attends and where my grandson Mark had graduated last year.  Paraprofessionals in the Florida school system work with disadvantaged children on a one-on-one basis, provide tutoring, or help with classroom management.  Reitz had been a graduate of Gulf Breeze High School and had been on the wrestling team for four years.  A Niceville police officer who had work with Reitz provided a reference, saying that Rietz had been a detective in the department and that he had left the force "voluntarily."  The same reference letter said that Reitz "was one of the most dependable law enforcement officers I had worked with.  He followed instructions and completed assignments in a timely manner.  I felt safe when Erich Reitz was on shift with me."

The question remains, how did this guy get hired by a school department?  School officials would not give details on Reitz's hiring or on their screening process.  One would hope that the school district had contacted the Niceville Police Department, but -- if so -- what happened?  Someone clearly dropped the ball. Oops.

Don't Get Me Wrong:   I have sympathy for all involved.  I have no idea what happened to trigger the attack.  Nor do I know what the family dynamic was.  What I do know is that this was a guy in trouble, and a guy who did not get the help he needed.  I don't now if he sought help or if he even realized he needed help.

There are cracks not only in the hiring process the school district used, but in our society.  Mental health treatment is spottily available and (sadly) often ineffective.  We do not put a premium on caring for the more troubled and least of us.  Perhaps Reitz could not be helped but we do no know that.  I firmly believe that few people are incapable of being helped.

As a society, we have had a long history of dismissing others -- native Americans, immigrants, ethnic groups, those whose sexual makeup differs, those whose political positions differ...all types of people.  I see this disturbing pattern re-emerging and getting stronger as the current administration deliberately pushes the country into further polarization.  It's time for us to yield to our better nature.  It is time for u to remember that we are all co-passengers on spaceship Earth.

Pothole as Superhero:  Last month a Nebraska man suffering from super ventiricular tachycardia was being rushed to a hospital in Omaha.  Omaha has had a rough winter and  bad spring rsulting in what could politely be called a surfeit of potholes.  Over 7000 potholes were repaired between March 29 and April 4; another 6000 or so were patched a week later.

They missed one.

That was the one the ambulance hit -- jarringly.  In fact, it hit the pothole so hard the patient's heart rate was shocked back to normal.

Not a recommended medical procedure, but an effective one. And there's at least one Nebraska man who will never again complain about Omaha's potholes.

Two Goodbyes:  Peggy Lipton, who I remember so well from The Mod Squad (1968-1973), in which undercover cops Pete, Linc, and Julie managed to infiltrate a different school, organization, or business on weekly basis with ease.  Knowing what the job market was in those days, this amazed me.  I often wished I could have their job-getting superpowers.  Lipton went on to be a featured actress in Twin Peaks as Norma Jennings.  Lipton was married to Quincy Jones from 1974 to 1990; the couple and been separated for some four years before the divorce was finalized.  In 2017 she played the mother of the title character in Angie Tribeca, which starred her real-life daughter Rashida Jones as the title character.  I'll always remember Peggy Lipton as the super cool, super lovely hippie Julie Barnes of my youth.  Lipton was 72.

Doris Day died today at 97.  The singer and actress was an American fixture for decades, beginning as a big band singer with Les Brown and His Band of Renown, through a string of films from 1948 to 1968 -- mainly romantic comedies with such stars as Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, James Garner, Frank Sinatra, John Raitt, Clark Gable, Richard Widmark, Gordon MacRae, and Jack Lemmon.  In the early 1960s she was the screen's biggest female star.  She entered (unwillingly*) into series television with The Doris Day Show, which lasted for five seasons, from 1968 to 1973.

(Her son, Terry Melcher, was a singer and recording producer who had once auditioned charles Manson for a record deal, but decided not to sign him.  At the time Melcher was living in a house which was later leased to Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate.  It was rumored that Manson's "family" had gone to the house to kill Melcher and ended up killing a pregnant Tate and four others.  Although Manson evidently knew that Melcher no longer lived at the address, he ordered the murders to "instill fear into" Melcher.)

In later year she devoted herself to animal welfare, a cause that she had held dear since a teenager.

Today's Poem:
"Nature" Is What We See

"Nature" is what we see --
The Hill -- the Afternoon --
Squirrel -- Eclipse -- the Bumble bee --
Nay -- Nature is Heaven --
Nature is what we hear --
The Bobolink -- the Sea --
Thunder -- the Cricket --
Nay -- Nature is Harmony --
Nature is what we know --
Yet have no art to say --
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

-- Emily Dickinson

(posted in light of a U.N. report that a million species
 will soon become extinct due to mankind's actions)


* Her late husband had signed her to the series without her knowledge.  He had also left her broke though bad investments -- something she had been unaware of until his death.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Ray charles.


Thunder Mountain began as a ten-part serial in Collier's from October 22, to December 24, 1932.  It was first published in book form by Harper and Brothers in 1935.  The comic book adaptation was one of many of Zane Grey's best-selling westerns put out by Gold Key Comics in the decades after the author's death.

The three Emerson brothers (Sam, Jake, and Kal) came to the base of Thunder Mountain looking for gold because of a legend told them by an old Indian.  And strike gold they did -- a rich lode that could be worth millions.  Sam keeps guard on their claim while Jake heads to Boise to obtain financial backing for their operation and Kal goes to the nearby town of Salmon to purchase supplies.  In town, Kal comes to the rescue of a young lady being bothered by an over-demanding Cliff Bordon.  The young lady in question is Sydney Blair, who came west with her father looking for a new start.  Kal invites them to go with him back to Thunder Mountain.  When they get there, Kal discovers that a small community had sprung up in the few weeks he had been gone.  Word of their discovery had evidently got out.  Of his brother Sam, there is no trace and Kal is told that a man named Rand Leavitt had laid stake to the claim.

Thunder Mountain (both the novel and the comic book adaptation) is a classic tale of gold, greed, and vengeance.  Grey based his story on historical fact.  Yes, there is a Thunder Mountain, Idaho, and around 1894 three brothers, Lew, Ben, and Dan Caswell came there in search of gold.  Their adventures, as told to Grey by local guide Elmer Keith, formed the kernel of Grey's book.


Friday, May 10, 2019


Bascom Lamar Lunsford with a classic Appalachian tune.


The Vampire Affair  (The Man from U.N.C.L.E. #6) by David McDaniel  (1966)

Among the television shows that helped define the mid- to late-1960s* was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (105 episodes, 1964-1968), a camp and tres spy-guy show about a fictional international agency, the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. and two of its top agents, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

Exploiting the James Bond craze, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was created by Sam Rolfe and Norman Felton, with a minor assist from Bond's creator Ian Fleming.  (Felton had asked Fleming for some concepts for the show.  Fleming came up two:  the names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer -- Dancer became the lead character in the spin-off show The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.)  The show was originally going to be called Ian Fleming's Solo with the emphasis on the title character, but the character of Illya Kuryakin tested so well, he was given a co-starring role.  As the proposed title switched to the familiar one, Sam Rolfe felt that the acronym in the title should remain undefined, allowing viewers to assume the U.N. part stood for United Nations, but potential legal issues quashed that idea.

The New York headquarters for U.N.C.L.E. is hidden behind an nondescript tailor shop.  The head of this operation is Alexander Waverley (played by Leo G. Carroll), who sends Solo and Kuryakin (Robert Vaughan and David McCallum**) on assignments throughout the world, most often to defeat nefarious plots by enemy organization THRUSH***

The influence of the show is strong.  Not only were there films**** (eight of which were mash-ups of the television show), books, comic books, soundtrack albums, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine (and a related magazine featuring April Dancer), board games, action figures, lunch boxes, toy guns, and other tie-ins.  U.N.C.L.E. memorabilia is displayed at the Ronald Reagan, Library, C.I.A headquarters, and museums.  The show also spawned a number of sex-up book series with various spies from O.R.G.Y,  L.U.S.T., S.T.U.D, S.A.D.I.S.T.O. and other such organizations.  The show and its characters have been reference in television, films, and music many time since the 1960's.

David McDaniel (1939-1977) penned seven books in the paperback series, including the "unpublished" final book, fittingly called The Final Affair.*****  McDaniel also wrote a tie-in novel for television's The Prisoner and a stand-alone SF novel, The Arsenal Out of Time.  An active SF fan -- as can be seen by one of the characters he inserted in The Vampire Affair -- McDaniel was also known by his fan name "Ted Johnson."

The Vampire Affair  opens with a lone man running through the dark, fog-enshrouded Transylvania woods, being chased by a pack of something...dogs?  wolves?  what?  In his haste, he trips and injures his ankle.  He drags himself to the trunk of a large tree and, with his back to the tree, counts the bullets in the gun.  He must save the last bullet for himself... 

The man, we learn, is an U.N.C.L.E. agent.  His body has been found in the Transylvanian woods completely drained of blood.  Waverley fears someone is pulling a joke on his, or that there was a mistake in the coding of the message that reached New York.  He sends Napoleon and Illya overseas to find out what really happened.  In Romania, they rescue a man who had been set upon by a mob; the man turns out to be  Zoltan Dracula (Yes.  A descendant of that Dracula) whose family had once owed a large castle in Pokol, the small provincial town in Romania near where the body had been found.  Acting as their guide is the lovely Romanian U.N.C.L.E. agent Hilda Eclary, dressed as one would expect a hip young girl of the time would dress.

Napoleon and Illya head to where the body had been found.  With night closing around them, they cannot find there car.  Suddenly they are being followed by wolves, a pack of about twenty -- something unheard of outside of legends and horror films.  Running for theior lives they find a small empty cave where they can make a stand but they probably do not have enough bullets to kill the entire pack.  From behind them a dark figure appears and mysteriously bids the wolves to depart
and they do.  The man, calling the two agents by name, tells them where their car is and vanishes just as suddenly as he appeared.  Later, going through records, they recognize the man to be a centuries-old descendant of the Dracula family, and a man reputed to be a supernatural being.  There was no record of what had finally happened to this man.

Then, at night, Illya and Zoltan hear screams coming from the hotel's next room which had been given to Hilda Eclary.  Breaking down the door, they find the mysterious man bearing fangs and looming over Hilda's unconscious body.  Illya shoots the man pointblank to no avail.  It is only when two silver knives, crossed to form a crucifix, that the vision backs down and, leaping through a third-floor window, vanishes into the fog.

More wolves.  A labyrinth of dark tunnels under the old castle of Dracula, an ancient, freshly polished empty coffin placed in undisturbed dust.  More hints of the supernatural.  And an American tourist named Forrest J (no period) Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmdom and an expert on vampire lore.  I can't say McDaniel threw in everything but the kitchen sink, because he reserved that for a later novel.******

A fun read, just as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a fun show.

* Other influential television shows that followed were Batman, Dark Shadows, Star Trek, and Laugh-in.  The Sixties were a turbulent time of change and viewers needed to escape into a world far removed from reality.

** Now in his eighties, McCallum plays medical examiner Ducky in the series NCIS.  (Tony Dinozzo:  I wonder whay Ducky looked like when he was younger?  Leroy Jethro Gibbs:  Illya Kuyakin.)

*** In the television series, no one knew what the heck THRUSH stood for, or whether it was an acronym or not.  In one of his entries in the book series, David McDaniel noted the THRUSH stood for the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity -- a title certainly in keeping with the campiness of the television show.

**** The reunion movie Return of the Man deom U.N.C.L.E., filmed fifteen years after the show's close, featured a cameo by James Bond star George Latzenby as a famous spy known as "J.B." who drives an Aston Martin "just like On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

***** Ace editor Terry Carr had planned this, the 24th entry to be the capstone of the series.  McDaniel, however, was several months late in finishing the book and, by the time it was submitted, the television series had been cancelled.  The book was never professionally published but can be found online here:

****** The Rainbow Affair, which includes such characters as The Saint, John Steed, Emma Peel, Willie Garvin (right-hand man to Modesty Blaze), Tommy Hambledon (ace spy created by Manning Cole), Father Brown, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Fu Manchu, and Neddie Seagoon (a character from The Goon Show).

For the curious:
Here are the Ace paperbacks in the series:

#1  The Thousand Coffins Affair by Michael Avallone
#2  The Doomsday Affair by Harry Whittington
#3  The Copenhagen Affair by "John Oram" (John Oram Thomas)
#4  The Dagger Affair by David McDaniel
#5  The Mad Scientist Affair by John T. Phillifent
#6  The Vampire Affair by David McDaniel
#7  The Radioactive Camel Affair by Peter Leslie
#8  The Monster Wheel Affair by David McDaniel
#9  The Diving Dames Affair by Peter Leslie
#10  The Assassination Affair by J. Hunter Holly
#11  The Invisibility Affair by "Thomas Stratton" (Buck Coulson amnd Gene deWeese)
#12  The Mind Twisters Affair by "Thomas Stratton"
#13  The Rainbow Affair by David McDaniel
#14  The Cross of God Affair by "Fredric Davies" (Ron Ellik and Fredric Langley)
#15  The Utopia Affair by David McDaniel
#16  The Splintered Sunglasses Affair by Peter Leslie
#17  The Hollow Crown Affair by David McDaniel
#18  The Unfair Fare Affair by Peter Leslie
#19  The Power Cube Affair by John T. Phillifent
#20  The Corfu Affair by John T. Phillifent
#21  The Thinking Machine Affair by Joel Bernard
#22  The Stone Cold Dead in the Market Affair by John Oram
#23  The Finger in the Sky Affair by Peter Leslie
#24  The Final Affair by David McDaniel (unpublished but available; see footnote above)

Still curious?:
Three YA novels were published by Whitman:

The Affair of the Gunrunner's Gold by Brandon Keith
The Affair of Gentle Saboteur by Brandon Keith
The Calcutta Affair by George S. Elrick

And a juvenile storybook was published by Wonder Books:
The Coin of Diablo Affair by Walter B. Gibson

More curious?  Geez, can't you get enough?:
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Magazine published 24 issues, each with a lead "'novel" credited to house pseudonym "Robert Hart Davis":

"The Howling Teenagers Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, February 1966)
"The Beauty and the Beast Affair" (by Harry Whittington, March 1966)
"The Unspeakable Affair " (by Dennis Lynds, April 1966)
"The World's End Affair" (by John Jakes, May 1966)
"The Vanishing Act Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, June 1966)
"The Ghost Riders Affair" (by Harry Whittington, July 1966)
"The Cat and Mouse Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, August 1966)
"The Brainwash Affair" (by Harry Whittington, September 1966)
"The Moby Dick Affair" (by John Jakes, October 1966)
"The Thrush from THRUSH Affair" (by Harry Whittington, November 1966)
"The Goliath Affair" (by John Jakes, December 1966)
"The Light-Kill Affair (by Harry Whittington, January 1967)
"The Deadly Dark Affair" (by John Jakes, February 1967)
"The Hungry World Affair" (by Talmage Powell, March 1967)
"The Dolls of Death Affair" (by John Jakes, April 1967)
"The Synthetic Storm Affair" (by I. G. Edmonds, May 1967)
"The Ugly Man Affair" (by John Jakes, June 1967)
"The Electronic Frankenstein Affair" (by Frank Belknap Long, July 1967)
"The Genghis Khan Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, August 1967)
"The Man from Yesterday Affair" (by John Jakes, September 1967)
"The Mind-Sweeper Affair" (by Dennis Lynds, October 1967)
"The Volcano Box Affair" (by Richard Curtis, November 1967)
"The Pillars of Salt Affair" (by Bill Pronzini, December 1967)
"The Million monsters Affair" (by I. G. Edmonds, January 1968)

I sure hope you're no longer curious, because I am not going to list The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. books and stories!

Thursday, May 9, 2019


Roy Clark.

For those interested in the words, here's a version by The Limelighters.


Based on Robert W. Chambers' bestselling 1906 novel The Tracer of Lost Persons, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons proved to be one of the longest lasting radio mystery programs, airing 1690 episodes over eighteen years, from October 12, 1937 to April 19, 1955.  It's nearest competitor was Nick Carter, Master Detective, which aired a measly (!) 726 broadcasts.  Less than five dozen episodes are known to have survived.

For the first six years the program ran 15-minute episodes three times a week on the NBC Blue Network.  In December 1943, the show expanded to a weekly half-hour format on Thursday evenings at 7:30.  Eventually, a paucity of missing persons forced Keen to take on more criminous cases as a private eye.

Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons was created for the radio by Frank and Ann Hummert, a prolific and not so discerning couple who had created over 125 separate radio programs. The Hummert's programs were noted for low wages, overworked actors, stilted stereotypes, hasty writing, and a large dose of melodrama. Audiences love them.

 "The Case of the Moonless Night" stars Bennett Kilpack as Mr. Keen and Jim Kelly as Keen's assistant Mike Clancy.  It aired on January 12, 1944 and was the sixth (and earliest surviving) show in the half-hour format.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Johnny Cash.


Judge:  According to the indictment, you shot and killed a California Condor.  How do you plead?

Defendant:  Guilty, your honor.

Judge:  This is a terrible act!  These are endangered birds!  There's hardly any left at all!  Why did you shoot one?

Defendant:  I'm sorry, Judge, but I had to feed my family.  We're very poor  and hadn't eaten for several days.

Judge:  That may be understandable, but it's no excuse for shooting an endangered species.  I have to sentence you to three months in jail.  I hope you use the time to consider how bad a taste of an endangered bird can be.

Defendant:  Actually, your honor, it tastes pretty good -- kinda like a cross between a bald eagle and a whooping crane.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019


The J. Geils Band.


Front Page Detective was a half-hour show from the Dumont Network that ran from July 6, 1951, to September 19, 1952, and then again for the months of October and November 1953.  Maybe.  Some things can get pretty obscure when we're talking about the Dumont Network.  Front Page Detective had 39 or perhaps 46 episodes.  It may or may not have gone into syndication with original programs or with repeats.

What we do know is the show got it's title from the true crime magazine that ran from August 1936 to September 1995.  How much of the television show is actually based on stories from the magazine is anyone's guess.  My guess is little to none.

Edmund Lowe starred in the series as David Chase, a newspaper columnist and amateur detective who helps police solve whatever mystery popped up that week.  Early shows in the series also featured Paula Drew as Chase's girlfriend Sharon Richards and Frank Jenks as Lt. Herman Rodney; George Pembroke had a recurring role as Inspector Andrews.  None of these co-stars appear in "Murder Can't Win,' which aired on September 7, 1951 -- the 22nd episode in the series.

David Chase is on vacation in Los Angeles and is a guest of "civic leader and political big shot" Reilly Jarbo (Lyle Talbot) in Jarbo's private box at the race track when he spies a man (George Barry, played by Al Eben) striking a girl (Gloria Barlowe, played by Dani Sue Nolan) -- something that does not sit well with out hero so he steps in.  Later that day, Chase is walking around the stables when he comes across Gloria, gun in hand and standing over the body of Barry.  Surely the pretty girl did not do it, but who did?

Rounding out the cast as Edward Foster as Benny Cuba, Lennie Bremen as Willie Valentine, and Brooke Hathaway as Trixie Tremaine.  And if you're thinking these are great character names, I think that prolific pulp writer and creator of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, Robert Leslie Bellam can take the credit.  "Murder Can't win" was one of at least six episodes in the series that Bellam wrote, this one with occasional writing partner Herbert Moulton.)  The episode (and the entire series) was directed by Arnold Wester.


Monday, May 6, 2019


From The Chocolate Soldier, Jo Sullivan and Peter Palmer.


Openers:   A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of Madame de Verchouxeux.  He walked mincingly,, for the red heels of his shoes were very high.  A long purple coat, rose-lined, hung from his shoulders and was allowed to fall carelessly back from his dress, revealing a full-skirted coat of purple satin, heavily laced with gold; a waistcoat of flowered silk; faultless small clothes; and a lavish sprinkling of jewels on his cravat and breast.  a three-cornered hat, point-edged, was set upon his powdered wig, and in his hand he carried a long beribboned cane.  It was little enough protection against footpads, although a light dress sword hung at the gentleman's side its hilt was lost in the folds of his cloak, not quickly to be found.  At this late hour, and in this deserted street, it was the height of foolhardiness to walk unattended and flaunting jewels, but the gentleman seemed unaware of his recklessness.  He proceeded languidly on his way,glancing neither to left nor to right,apparently heedless of possible danger.

-- Georgette Heyer, These Old Shades (1926)


  • Raina Telegemeir, Ghosts.  YA graphic novel.  Cat and her sister move to the Northwest coast of California with their parents.  It's hoped that the weather there will be better for Maya, Cat's younger sister, who has cystic fibrosis.  Maya is a happy, active girl who has become better adapted to her disease than Cat has; she is always concerned about what Maya is doing and how it might affect her.  They meet their next-door neighbor Carlos, who is the same age as Cat and who runs a part-time ghost tour of the town.  Cat doesn't believe in ghosts but Maya is eager to see them.  The town is party central for ghosts and the townspeople take great pride in them, making Dia de los Meurtos a major town-wide holiday.  The ghosts are friendly and cheerful and love to interact with the townspeople.  Eisner-winner Telegenmeir has produced a thoughtful, wonderful book about families, love, death, and heritage.  I read half of this last night for a bedtime story for Jack (actually, he read it; I turned the pages) and he loved it too.
  • Charles G. Waugh & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, The Arbor House Celebrity Book of Horror Stories.  Horror anthology with twenty stories, nineteen of them selected* by well-known authors (The remaining story is one by Joyce Carol Oates that is related to her choice, Henry James' Turn of the Screw.)  The "celebrities" are mainly genre writers (Asimov, Bloch, Block, Bradbury, King, Sheckley, Silverberg...among the other celebrities are Walker Percy, Irwin Shaw, Rona Jaffe, and Garson Kanin.  Of the stories selected there are three by Poe, as well as well-known stories by M. R. James, W. W. Jacobs, Richard Matheson, H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Edward Lucas White, and Robert Hitchens.  Still, there's some pretty interesting  lesser-known stories here.

Jo Sullivan Loesser:  Tony-nominated musical theater actress and singer Jo Sullivan passed away last week.  Many years ago, Kitty and I were house managers of a small  Actors Equity theater in Massachusetts and Jo appeared starring in a run of A Little Night Music.  Later her daughter, Emily Loesser, played Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.**  The two also joined to perform their cabaret act at one of our fundraisers.  I did not get to know Jo very well, but she was a nice lady and a fantastic singer.  My memories were mainly of being enthralled nightly by her performance (in a gorgeous red gown), singing "Send in the Clowns."  Magical.  Each night she'd make her entrance again with her usual flair...

For the past fifty years she managed her late husband Frank Loesser's estate, which included the musicals Guys and Dolls, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and The Most Happy Fella.

Jo was 91.

The Come-Back Kid of 2019:  Measles.

As John Oliver would say, How is this still a thing?

Anti-vaxxers have replaced flat earthers as today's stupids.  (Not that flat earthers have completely left the scene.)  

Thankfully, we have not gone beyond the point of herd immunity.  Yet.

And Tyler Too:  William Henry Harrison was the first American president not to complete a full term, dying just 32 days into his presidency. putting the relatively young country into a constitutional crisis.  Does a vice president become president if the current president dies in office?  Today, we'd automatically say yes, but in 1841 it was a different matter.  Article II of the Constitution says that when a president dies and is therefore "unable to discharge the Powers and Duties of said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President."  In other words, the vice president would have the powers and duties of the president's office, but would he actually become president.  While the legal scholars quibble, Tyler would have none of that.  He declared himself president, dismissing the cabinet's decision that he would be "Vice President-Acting President," and was sworn into office as fast as he could, setting the precedent that was later embedded in Amendment 25 to the Constitution.  Thus, on this day 178 years ago, Tyler, at that time 51, became the youngest man to serve as president.  That did not stop his opponents from referring to him as 'his Accidentalness."

Tyler's domestic programs and appointments were continually thwarted by a Whig congress, but his foreign policies fared much better.  An expansionist by nature, Tyler invoked the Monroe Doctrine for Hawaii, effectively keeping the British from interfering with those islands.  Tyler's administration also finalized the border between Maine and Canada, a sore point that almost brought America and Britain to war several times.  His administration also negotiated a treaty with China and Tyler also signed a trade pact with Germany, although his Whig opponents refused to ratify it.  Florida became the 27th state under Tyler's watch.  He also strengthened the Navy, adding many warships.  He ended the Second Seminole war and negotiation a peaceful conclusion to Rhode island's Dorr Rebellion.  Tyler also supported the annexation of Texas and despite heavy opposition managed to sign an annexation bill into law three days before his term ended. 

Tyler's legacy places him as a middling president, with arguing that he was a "hapless and inept chief executive."  Some scholars give him credit for his foreign policy, but a S-Span survey of historians in 2017 has him placed as 37th of our presidents.

Something to Celebrate:  It's a little-known holiday but today is New Beer's Eve, because tomorrow is National Beer Day, marking the anniversary of the enactment of the Cullen-Harrison Act, which soon led to the 21th Amendment (that's the one that repealed Prohibition).  The Cullen-Harrison Act made 3.2 percent beer legal to sell and distribute again.  IMHO, 3.2 beer tastes like dishwater but it's far better than nothing.

Today's Poem:
Abandoned Farmhouse

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for framing, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman loved him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and the canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the field
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child?  Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm -- a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls.  Something went wrong, they say.

-- Ted Kooser

* Not necessarily the first selection, mind you.  Some listed a few stories they liked and the editors had to choose one.  One author could not remember the title or author of his favorite story and his description of the plot was no help in recognizing the tale, so another story was substituted.  Some stories selected were not horror stories per se.  And so it goes...

** Also featuring George, a stray cat adopted by the theater and who was bounced from home to home among the staff.  We had him for one summer.  He was a pretty cool cat.

Sunday, May 5, 2019


What is it?  Well, it's not Mexican Independence Day.  And it's not a day honoring mayonaisse.  and it's not even a major holiday in Mexico...

Let's eat!  Follow the links to 35 great recipes, including tamale pie, shrimp enchiladas, tequila-lime chicken tacos, homemade churros, "best ever" flan, and bulldog margaritas!

Nothing says Cinco de Mayo like mariachi music.  So...

And, of course, there's dancing!

and you can keep the kids busy with crafts.

Finally, ignoring the truly great culture and awe-inspiring beauty of Mexico, my low-rent self celebrates with Wrestling Women vs. Aztec Mummies.


Johnny Cash with a classic.


John Williams.


The premiere issue of Ace Comics' Western Adventures features two stories about Bud Steele, The Cross-Draw Kid.  The Kid was created by Max Elkan and was the featured hero of eight adventures in all six issues of the comic book.  As a boy, bud watched his father gunned down by a bushwacker.  "[S]trapping on his father's guns, he took a vow to rid the west of all killers.  Years of intense practice perfected for him the lightning cross-draw which makes the fastest gunman seem to be slow-dragging his irons."

We first meet the Kid (flaming red hair and broad shoulders) after Patch-Eye (weasel-faced with a receding chin) , a rustler and murderer, is brought before a "hanging judge" who strangely dismissed the case against the villain despite the evidence.  Patch-Eye celebrates at the local saloon, inviting all to drink.  The Kid calmly refuses the offer, irritating the quick to anger killer.  The Kid executes a nifty martial arts move while seated at a chair, wrapping his legs around Patch-Eye's neck and flipping him across the saloon.  Patch-Eye charges at the Kid and the Kid beats the snot out of him.  Later the Kid rescues the judge's daughter who had been kidnapped and used as leverage against the judge.  A final showdown leaves Patch-Eye dead, his gang captured, and the Kid riding into the sunset and laying a harmonica with the judge's thanks for bringing law and order back to the town. 

"Injun Gun-Bait" has the Kid saving the daughter of a miner from a gang of killers determined to stop her from registering her father's mine.  In the last panel the Kid again rides off, playing his harmonica.

In "Double Trouble," Duke Buckland is framed by his enemies and forced to join a gang of bad guys who want to take over the Lazy C ranch.  We just now those silly bad guys will get their comeuppance, that Duke will avoid the law determined to catch him, and that Duke will ride off, leaving the starry-eyed rancher's daughter sighing in disappointment.

"Sheriff Sal" has Sally Starr appointed sheriff of the frontier town of Red Dog.  (The sleepy town is so quiet that no man wants the job, you see.)  When word got out that Red Dog had a gal sheriff, outlaw Nueces Callan the town's bank would be easy pickings for his gang.  The moral of this story is never underestimate the power of a sharp-shooting woman showing a lot of leg and wearing a fashionable red cowboy hat and riding a spirited horse named Big Red.  #womanpower  #didialreadyhashtagwomanpower

Also in this issue, "Sam Bass, the Two Gun Terror of Texas" (a 7-page biography of the real-life outlaw), "Slaughter on the Fourth of July" (the real-life story of outlaws Rattlesnake Jake Fallon and Longhair Owens and their 1884 murderous spree in Lewison, Montana), and a 2-page text story, "The Lost Bonanza" (another true story of the West).

All in all, a pretty impressive issue.  Too bad the title lasted only six issues.



Gene Pitney.

Friday, May 3, 2019


The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer (1957)

Philip Jose Farmer (1918-2009) didn't quite burst on the science fiction scene with his first published story, but it was close.  He actually burst on the scene with his second published story, "The Lovers", which told of a human's affair with an alien.  For the time -- 1952 -- it was a bold departure from the nearly puritan SF that had preceded it.  Imagine.  A story about S-E-X.

Sex has played an important role in Farmer's work, so when his first published novel, The Green Odyssey, appeared and there was a decided lack of expected sex, a number of Farmer's readers were disappointed.  As were some of the critics.  "Here's a disappointment...The story winds up in a blaze of Tom Corbettism...The whole thing is miserably dull and must have been drudgery to write..." (Damon Knight, Infinity November 1957)   "Galaxy's Floyd C. Gale was a little kinder.  "At first glance, this would seem to be a routine space opera...The Farmer boy is big handsome, blond and strong...He is also lazy, cautious to the point of timidity and not very bright...[Farmer] almost makes a mish-mash of the ending, but doesn't."  (January 1958)  Astounding's P. Schuyer Miller (also January 1958) compares The Green Odyssey with his story 'The Lovers', despite the fact that he had never read the earlier story!  "I must be about the only fan now alive who is not either enthralled or appalled by the publication of Philip Jose Farmer's "The Lovers" back in 1952.  The reason's simple:  I've never read it...The book that Shasta promised never appeared*...The Green Odyssey is, therefor, the author's first book in print--and I still don't know what all the shouting is about...'Rollicking science fiction adventure' the blurb calls it:  'uproarious'...'hell-bent'...'swashbuckling'...'sheer fun.'   These it is not, although it could have been.  What was with 'The Lovers' that blew up such a storm?"   Of all the SF critics, Anthony Boucher had a distinctly opposing view:  "Wonderfully lusty and roistering adventure story, with a shrewd hero, a magnificent heroine, and accurately inserted s.f. details -- one of the yer's most entertaining tales."  (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1957)

I'm in Boucher's camp.  I found the book to be an amusing, well thought out satire on the planetary adventure tales that have littered the SF landscape for years, the type of book on which L. Sprague de Camp built his reputation.  Farmer was never all about sex, despite what many of his early fans believed.  Farmer was about having fun.  He played with things that greatly interested him:  pulp novels, popular movies and books, approaches to religion, puns, and (of course) science fiction.

In The Green Odyssey our hero is Alan Green, a marooned spaceman on a distant planet.  About one in four inhabited planets that mankind has discovered have human inhabitants.  (Farmer toys with why this is, but wisely does not tell us.)  Anyway, the planet on which Green crashed is a human, albeit a sort of feudal, one with various religions and a strong belief in witchcraft.  Green had been captured and put to work as a slave, eventually working his way up dogsbody for the local duke.  Green's duties include being a not-so-secret lover to the duchess, something that was tacitly approved by the duke and was common knowledge (nudge nudge wink wink).  Appearances are all -- if the affair became blatantly public, the duke would have to act and Green would be executed, as were a umber of the duchess's former lovers.  Green was also given a wife, a sharp-tongued beauty of a slave who already had four children by three men and soon had her fifth with Green.

The planet was so isolated the thought of another spaceship landing was remote.  The inhbitants of that planet believed they were the only ones in the universe; the thought of someone coming from another planet was ridiculous.  But the impossible happened.  Rumors of two men who claimed to have come from outside and who were held captive as demons in a country across the wide sea; according to local custom, the prisoners would be held for two years before being executed.  This was Green's chance:  if he could escape, somehow free the two captives, he might be able to leave the planet on their spaceship and return to Earth.

But the planet was alien.  The sea was not a sea.  It was a vast thousands-mile-long flat field of grass and was traversed by daring sailors in wheeled windjammers.  This large plain of grass was inhabited by fierce animals, violent natives, pirates, moving mounds of dirt, and rumored monsters.  (If you wanted a large body of water you had the ocean, which was nowhere near the sea of grass.)

Green's plans to escape did not include his wife Amra, nor his children.  His wife would never adapt to Earth life and would be better off remaining where she was, he reasoned.

Green's plan of escape soon went belly up and he found himself a wanted fugitive.  When he finally managed to get aboard a ship and sail way from the city, he found Amra and the five children already aboard.  did he really think that he could leave without them?

And so starts his odyssey, along with its concurrent dangers -- cannibals, pirates, and, um, giant lawnmowers.  Green is a reluctant but likable hero and Amra is kickass.  Great fun all the way!

The Green Odyssey is nowhere near as canonical a Farmer work as his World of Tiers, Riverworld, Dayworld, or Wold Newton novels but that is minor quibbling. 

Highly recommended.

* Farmer won a novel writing contest sponsored by Shasta Books with his book Owe for the Flesh, written in one month in 1952.  Shasta, the contest, the $4000 prize, and the promised publication of the book all vanished when Shasta went belly-up, causing Farmer severe financial hardships and curtailing a full-time writing career for years.   The manuscript was lost, but Farmer reworked the concept as his Riverworld series, beginning in 1966.  A revised version of Owe to the Flesh was discovered years later and published in 1983 under the title River to Eternity.

Thursday, May 2, 2019


This was the Number One song when The Great Gildersleeve first aired.

The Glenn Miller Band with Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, and The Modernaires, from the film Orchestra Wives.

Special bonus:  This clip also has a fantastic dance routine from the Nicholas Brothers.


In radio's first true spin-off series, our hero Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve has left the quiet town of Wistful Vista, where he had been the perfect foil of Fibber McGee, to the town of Summerfield (somewhere in Radioland) to become the town's water commissioner.

Harold Peary (1908-1985) began his radio career in 1923, eventually gaining his own local (San Francisco) show as a singer in The Spanish Serenader.  He moved to Chicago in 1937, and the following year began to play the prototype of his most famous character in the popular show Fibber McGee and Molly; the character had several first names and occupations before he became Throckmorton P. (the P. stood for Philharmonic) Gildersleeve, McGee's neighbor and owner of the Gildersleeve Girlish Girdle Company.  (Incidentally, somewhere along the journey, he lost his wife -- referred to but never seen on Fibber McGee and Molly -- and became a bachelor with guardianship of his niece and nephew, Marjorie and Leroy Forrester,the orphaned children of his late brother-in-law.

The Great Gildersleeve ran on NBC radio from August 31, 1941-June 2, 1954.  Regular characters included Birdie (the black cook and housekeeper, who as the series progressed became more intelligent and the one person who kept the household running as smoothly as possible #letsslowlychangestereotypes), Judge Horace Hooker (neighbor and executor of Gildersleeve's brother-in-law's estate #enemiesatfirstthenfinallyfriends), druggist Richard Q. Peavey, barber Floyd Munson #explain to mewhysomanybarbersarenamedfloydwilltouandyofmayberry), and police chief Donald Gates.

Over the course of the series, Gildersleeve almost got married three times, to Martha Scott, Jeanne Bates, and Kathy Lewis.  Speaking of marriage, niece Marjorie grew up and, during the ninth season, married Walter "Bronco" Thompson, played by Richard Crenna (#explaintomewhysomanyteenageradioboyfriendswerenamedwalterwouldyoumissconniebrooks).

Gildersleeve's far-less-than-perfect secretary Bessie was played by the real-life future Mrs. Harold Peary, Gloria Holiday.

The Great Gildersleeve was most popular during the 1940s. In 1950 Harold Peary tried to move the show to CBS, but the sponsor, Kraft Foods, balked.  Peary had already signed a contracted with CBS which forbade him to star on NBC.  NBC still held the rights to the show and the Gildersleeve name, so Willard Waterman became the new Gildersleeve.  CBS place Peary in a show similar to Gildersleeve with the names changed, but that show lasted only one season.  By 1952, long-time popular characters vanished for months at a time and newer characters were tries out -- most lasting only a month or so.  The show morphed into a one-note bore, concentrating on Gildersleeve's love life.  In 1954, NBC's fall schedule begin with Gildersleeve.  When it finally appeared that November, gone were the original scripts, the live audience, the orchestra, and the thirty-minute format.  In its place was a five-times-a-week, fifteen minute program featuring only Gildersleeve, Leroy, and Birdie.  Sic transit gloria mundi.

During the show's heyday, Peary also starred as Gildersleeeve in four movies from 1942-1944.  Earlier, Peary was featured as Gildersleeve, along with Jim and Marion Jordon as Fibber McGee and Molly, in two films, Look Who's Laughing (1941) and Here We Go Again (1942).  Peary also issued three children's record albums narrating fairy tales "told in his own way by the Great Gildersleeve.  Also as Gildersleeve, Peary released a 78 record of Dr. Suess's Gerald McBoing-Boing.

A 1955 attempt to move The Great Gildersleeve to television with Willard Waterman in the title role lasted only 39 episodes.

At one time The Great Gildersleeve had been one of the brightest comedy programs on radio.

This episode was the show's 51st (out of 551).  Enjoy.