Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, June 30, 2019


Salvo Montalbano, Andrea Camilleri's popular detective has been a hit both on the written page and the small screen.  Montlbano has been featured in 26 novels, with a 27th and final novel yet to be published; 24 of the books have been translated from Italian into English.  There have also been nine collections of stories, only two of which have appeared in English.  Since 1999, 13 seasons of the Italian-produced Inspector Montalbano -- 34 episodes total -- have been filmed; three more episodes are scheduled to be filmed in 2020 for Season 14.  A prequel series, Young Montalbano appeared in 2012 with six episodes; a second season with an additional six episodes was aired in 2015.  The critical reception to Young Montalbano was mixed, although viewers did get a look at Sicily's most famous detective with a full head of hair.

MHz Networks produced this look at the process of translating Camilleri's Montalbano from page to screen.



Jimmie Davis.

Saturday, June 29, 2019


The 2003 Amy Winehouse version.


Charleton Comics' Judomaster was created by Joe Gill (script) and Frank McLaughlin (art) for Special War Series #4 (November 1965), its final issue.  The character then went into a six-month Limbo.

In the time-honored tradition of never let a numbering sequence go to waste,  Charleton's original Six-Gun Heroes was retitled Gunmaster, which was then retitled Judomaster, beginning with issue #89.  This time Frank McLaughlin took over both the scripting and artwork and would continue to do so until issue #98 (December 1967).  Judomaster, along with most of Charleton's superhero lineup, ended up being sold to DC Comics, where he was killed by Bane in Infinite Crisis #7.  Judomaster was re-imagined in 2007 as a female, Sonia Sato by Gail Simone, who appeared in Birds of Prey #100.  She then began a brief stint with the Justice Society of America the following year  Although the character spoke perfectly good English in Birds of Prey, her language skills reverted to a clumsy and stilted English in Justice Society of Ameria.

Judomaster's sidekick in the Charleton comic was Tiger, who became first his instructor and then a villain (sometimes known as Avatar) in the DC comics.

Back to the original Judomaster.  He was World War II Sergeant Hadley "Rip" Jagger, who rescued the daughter of a Pacific island chieftain and was rewarded by being taught judo -- probably the last thing I would think of doing if my kid were rescued.  Somewhere along the way he also learned karate and jiu-jitso.

In Judomaster #89, Jagger faces his greatest challenge yet (not saying much -- this was his second outing) in Bonzo, The Mountain Storm, a giant Sumo wrestler.  Jagger has been ordered to infiltrate a Japanese prisoner camp and rescue Captain Brian Miller, who has information the Japs -- yes, "Japs" (even though the story was written in 1966, it takes place during WWII, remember?)

In a 36-page comic book, the story takes up only 20 of those pages.  The rest is ads, a one-page text story and a three-page feature on self-defense.  Ads were Charleton's friends

Have fun with this one.

Friday, June 28, 2019


Traditional Scottish folk singer Jean Redpath (1937-2014) would have been 82 years old today.

Here she is singing three Scottish songs:  "The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie," "Willie's Rare," and "The Fife Overgate."


Demons of the Night and Other Early Tales by Seabury Quinn, edited by Gene Christie (2009)

Seabury Quinn (1889-1969)  was not a great writer but, like many of his contemporaries, he was a highly effective one.  So much so that he became the most popular writer to appear in the legendary magazine Weird Tales.  Best known for his 93 tales featuring occult detective Dr. Jules de Grandin, Quinn was a Washington, D.C., based attorney, teacher of medical jurisprudence, and editor of a mortuary trade magazine.  His first story was published in 1918 in Detective Story Magazine, preceded by his first article  (in Picture Magazine) the year before.  Both are included in this collection.  Also included are two long-lost stories romance stories from Young's Magazine.

The contents:

  • "Demons of the Night" from Detective Story Magazine, March 19, 1918.  Quinn's first published fiction, a vampire/ghost story based on a popular urban myth.
  • "Was She Mad?" from Detective Story Magazine, June 25, 1918.  A young woman hired as a secretary at an isolated manor is slated to be the next meal for her deranged employer.
  • "The Stone Image" from The Thrill Book, May 1, 1919.  A precursor to the Jules de Grandin stories, this features an early version of de Grandin's companion Dr. Towbridge and his Irish housekeeper Nora McGinnis and is set in New York State rather than New Jersey.
  • "Painted Gold" from Young's Magazine, May 1919.  A Southern gentleman lawyer joins the war effort and is stationed in New York where he meets a woman who by all rights should be far below his station because she uses makeup and lipstick.  Predictabkle.
  • "The Cloth of Madness" from Young's Magazine, January 1920; reprinted in Weird Tales, May 1929.  A weird story of vengeance.
  • "Romance Unawares" from Young's Magazine, September 1920.  Best friends since childhood, everyone wonders when David and Gertrude would get married, an idea they find ludicrous because they are only best friends, right?
  • "Ravished Shrines" from Real Detective Tales, July 1925.  Major Sturdevant, a government "secret agent," investigates when religious relics and memorabilia are stolen in both England and America.  Turns out it's a plot by Russian Communist revolutionaries to discredit religion.  I'm sure it made sense at the time.  Strudevant was featured in a series of 24 stories under the heading of Washington Nights Entertainments.
  • "Out of the Land of Egypt" from Real Detective Tales, August 1926.  Major Sturdevant's friend and "Watson," reporter Frank Loomis of the Clarion-Call, is mistakenly taken for a rendezvous with an Egyptian criminal.  Sturdevant must stop the criminal and rescue one of his people, a beautiful spy.
  • "In the Fog" from Real Detective Tales, February 1927.  Professor Harvey Forrester, an anthropologist and the hero of a dozen stories, spies a girl pleading for help from the window of a passing car.
  • "The Black Widow" from Real Detective Tales, January 1928.  Professor Forrester's colleague Janson is found dead next to an unwrapped mummy that had been secreted out of Egypt.
  • "The Law of the Movies" from Motion Picture Magazine, December 1917.  Quinn's first article in which he rips apart the film industry for using unusable, illogical, and nonexistent law as plot devices in movies.  Cute, but nothing has stopped the film industry from using major plot holes over the following century.
  • "Seabury Grandin Quinn -- A Bibliography of the Written Works" by Gene Christie.  Probably the most complete bibliography of Quinn to date.  It excludes one reference work, An Encyclopedic Law Glossary for Funeral Directors and Embalmers (1940) and has some incomplete information for five of the Dr. Forrester stories.   
A minor collection but an interesting one, of interest to Quinn fans and those who want to check out his literary beginnings.  Be warned that the stories are dated and tinged with the xenophobia of the time and with a touch of male chauvinism.  Check out "The Stone Image" for its influence on the Jules de Grandin stories, "Romance Unawares" for its deft handling of an old chestnut, "The Black Widow" for its similarity to Quinn's later and better tales, and (of course) Christie's Bibliography.   

Thursday, June 27, 2019


One of my favorite record albums over the years (yes, you young whippersnapper, there used to be record albums!) is the cast recording of 1963's A Kurt Weill Cabaret with Will Holt and Martha Schlamme.  Holt was a folk singer in the 1950, best known for "Sinner Man" and "Lemon Tree," for which he wrote the English lyrics.  He transitioned to musical theater in the Sixties, writing, co-writing, and performing in various musicals during the last four decades of the Twentieth century.  Martha Schlamme was an Austrian-born singer and actress who made her debut as a teenager in a British internment camp (her family had escaped to England where they were interned as "enemy aliens") in a German language production of As You Like It.  At age 25 she emigrated to the
United States and began a long career singing folk and popular songs in multiple languages.  among her roles as a stage actress was that of Golde in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway.

Holt and Schlamme captured Weill's haunting music perfectly on this record.

Threepenny Opera:
  • The Ballad of the Easy Life (instrumental only)
  • The Barbara Song
  • Mack the Knife
  • Tango Ballade
  • Pirate Jenny
  • Survival Song (also sung in the second act before "Lost in the Stars")
Le Roi d'Aquataine:
  • Le Roi d'Aquataine
Der Silbersee:
  • Caesar's Death
Lady in the Dark:
  • The Saga of Jenny
Knickerbocker Holiday:
  • September Song
Happy End:
  • Mandalay Song
  • Surabaya Johnny
  • Bilbao Song
Lost in the Stars:
  • Lost in the Stars



Donald Crisp and John Loder star in this adaption of Rupert Croft-Cooke's "Banquo's Chair," in which an unusual method is used to gain a confession from a murderer.

This twisted little thriller was directed by Ted Bliss, from an adaptation by Sigmund Miller.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Cannon's Jug Stompers.


The marriage of poor Kim Kardashian
Was krushed like a kar in a krashian.
     Her Kris kried, "Not fair!
     Why kan't I keep my share?"
But Kardashain fell klean out of fashian.

          -- Salman Rushdie

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Eddie Floyd, appearing on Where the Action Is in the mid-60s.


In this World War II spy thriller, Robert Donat stars as British Captain Terence Stevenson, who is pulled from his job of defusing unexploded bombs  and is flown into Romania to find a German factory that is developing a new type of poison gas.  Stevenson assumes the identity of Captain Jan Tartu, a fascist soldier whom the Germans do not know has been killed.  Traveling to Czechoslovakia, Stevenson must steal the formula for the gas and destroy the enemy factory.  Unfortunately, his contact has been killed and he finds himself alone in unfamiliar territory, not knowing who he can trust.

Despite the fact that the script (by John lee Mahin and Howard Emmet Rogers) "is so full of hioles that it could be used as a sieve," The New York Times found it "exciting" and "fun," citing Donat's vigorous performance.   

Directed by Harold S. Bucquet, this propaganda film also stars Valarie Hobson, Glynis Johns, Walter Rilla, Phyllis Morris, and Martin Miller.


Monday, June 24, 2019


Fleetwood Mac.


Openers:  There is a sort of legend abut Corporal George Orbach.  More than one man of his outfit has summed him up as the only person he ever met who didn't know what fear was.  They have a good many pat explanations, the way men will when they have nothing to do between patrols but pin labels on one another.  "A born killer" is a favorite.  A lieutenant called it "a suicidal complex."  This particular phrase did not take with the men.  A handful of sleeping pills, a loaded .32, they figure, and he could die in bed without scurvy, without frostbite, and without Migs.

-- "Born Killer" by Dorothy Salisbury Davis (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 1953)


  • J. L. Bourne, Day by Day Armageddon.  Zombie novel, the first of four novels in the series.  "Sporadic news reports indicate chaos and violence spreading throughout U.S. cities.  an unknown evil is sweeping the planet.  The dead are rising to claim the Earth as the new dominant species in the food chain."  From small press publisher Permuted Press.
  • Jon Ajvide Lindqvist, Handling the Undead.  Zombie novel.  "The power grid has gone crazy.  Electric appliances won't stay switched off, and everyone has a blinding headache.  Then the shocking news beaks -- in the morgue and cemeteries, the newly dead are waking up.  What deadly price will grieving families have to pay for the chance to see their loved ones just one more time?"  Lindqvist previously put a new spin on vampires with Let the Right One In; now he does the same with zombies.  Translated by Ebba Segerberg.
  • David Moody, Autumn:  Purification.  Zombie novel.  Noticing a trend here?  The final book in the Autumn trilogy even though three additional books in the series have been published.  "Trapped between the military and the dead, the survivors carve out a fragile and uncertain existence.  In a moment of madness their safety and security is jeapordised.  Surrounded by relentless hordes of bodies they run blindly through a harsh and lifeless world."  From small press publisher Infected Books.
  • Alan Moore, Voice of the Fire.  Moore's first novel.  From Wikipedia:  "The story follows the lives of twelve people who lived in the same area of England over a period of 6000 years, and how their lives link to one another.  Each chapter carries the reader forward in time, but circles around the center of Northhampton, drawing in historical events and touchstones, before seguing into metafictional narrative in the closing chapter, as the author himself directly comments upon the previous chapter's ambiguous closing line, before relating a personal (;possibly fictional) anecdote about Northhampton which relates a personal experience of local myth, and features a personal appearance by his daughter and son-in-law, the writers Leah Moore and John Reppion. Throughout, the image of fire sparks resonate between the tales, while Moore finds a different voice for each character -- though most are inherently duplicitous in some manner, leading to a further commentary on the disparity between myth and reality, and which is more likely to endure over time."   The edition I have includes fourteen full color plates by Jose Villarrubia.  Moore is best known for his graphic novels V for Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Batman:  The Killing Joke, and Lost Girls.  He marches to the beat of a different drummer.
  • Z. A. Recht, Thunder and Ashes.  Yet another zombie novel, the second in the Morningstar Strain trilogy.  "A lot can change in three months:  wars can be decided, nations can be forged,,,or entire species can be brought to the brink of annihilation.  The Morningstar Virus, an incredibly virulent disease, has swept the face of the planer, infecting billions.  Its hosts rampage, attacking anything that remains uninfected.  Even death can't stop the virus -- its victims as cannibalistic shamblers."  Another book from small press publisher Permuted Press.  The author died (at age 26) the year after this book was published; the final book in the trilogy was published three year after the author's death -- it may have been completed by Thom Brannon, who is listed as co-author on the French edition, though not on the American edition.  

A Trump Tent:  Over the past weeks, a Trump tent has appeared sporadically on the site of a closed gas station a couple of blocks from where I live.  The tent is festooned with flags and large banners proclaiming "Trump 2020."  There are t-shirts and (presumably) other paraphernalia.  Noticeably lacking on all the banners and t-shirts is the name "Pence."  I suppose they are just covering their bases.  Pence, who believes that God has singled him out to one day be president, appears to be in a shaky position vis-a-vis 2020.  It's interesting to note that here in the middle of solid Trump Country there has been absolutely no traffic stopping at the Trump tent.   Compare that to the long lines of vendors of Trump merchandise outside the Pensacola Bay Center whenever Trump has a campaign rally there -- something that he has done frequently.

In the meantime, Trump's antics and criminal behavior seems to be catching up with him.  The Iran crisis...the horrid treatment of minors at the border...the stonewalling of his people before the House Judiciary Committee...the lies...the corruption...and the even more lies.  Impeachment seems to be closer.  When it does come, I hope enough evidence has been compiled that it is a slam dunk and even the Senate Republicans will be hard-pressed to defend him.

Speaking of Senate Republicans:  Is there anyone who has abused his position more than Mitch McConnell?  He appears to have met his match in Jon Stewart, who passionately pleaded for the 9-11 first responders.  McConnell made the mistake of poo-pooing Stewart's remarks and Stewart tore him a new one.  Good show, Jon.

And the Flood Gates Opened:  Seventy-two years ago today Kenneth Arnold made the first widely reported UFO sighting.  Arnold, a businessman and an experienced pilot, claimed he saw nine unusual objects flying in tandem in the skies near Ranier, Washington.  The objects "shaped like a pie plate" had an odd motion "like a fish flipping in the sun."  The press soon dubbed these objects "flying saucers;" Arnold said that one of the objects resembled a crescent or flying wing.  Soon there were sightings all over the place and the saucer craze had begun.

Arnold wrote several articles on at least one book (THE COMING OF THE SAUCERS, 1952, with Raymond Palmer, the SF wunderkind who never met a conspiracy he did not like) and several articles, one of which (from Palmer's Fate magazine, Spring 1948) is here:

They're Here?:  A former manager of the DOD Threat Assessment Program says the UFOs are real:

Pardon me while I leave the room to scoff.

Another Conspiracy Theory Smashed:  Despite popular opinion, Walter Cronkite was not the second highest mountain in the Andes.

Today's Poem:
A Bit of Science

What!  Photograph in colors?  'Tis a dream
And he who dreams it is not overwise,
If colors are vibration they but seem,
And have no being.  But if Tyndall lies,
Why, come,  then -- photograph my lady's eyes.
Nay, friend, you can't.  the splendor of their blue,
As on my own beclouded orbs they rest,
To naught by vibratory's motion due,
As heart, head, limbs, and all I am attest.
How could her eyes, at rest themselves, be making
In me so uncontrollable a shaking?

-- Ambrose Bierce

Sunday, June 23, 2019


The legendary science fiction author and editor of Astounding/Analog in a fascinating interview by 17-year-old Fred Lerner.

This half-hour interview was archived by the FANAC Fan History Project.

Enjoy this interview with the man who helped shape science fiction for decades.


The Chuck Wagon Gang.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


Ray Bradbury would have been 99 today.  Rachel Bloom honors (?) the writer in this 2010 video.  Supposedly, when shown this on his 90th birthday, Bradbury "was charmed by the whole thing."

Bloom, a former intern for Seth Myers, won a Golden Globe and a Critics' Choice Award for her work on the television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend This video was nominated for a Hugo for Best Dramatic presentation.



The Black Terror was, to cite don Markstein, one of the "1940's long underwear guys," clad in black with gold trim and with a skull and crossbones emblazoned on his chest.  The costume resembles that of the much later Punisher from Marvel Comics, except The Black Terror had a cape and a teeny tiny mask that did nothing to hide his face; in true Clark Kent style, when The Black Terror took off his glasses no one recognized him.  Because he first appeared in May 1942 (in Exciting Comics #9), this superhero was white  -- a 2011 version of him, dubbed "The Blackest Terror," had him African-American.

The Black Terror was created by Richard E. Hughes and was originally drawn by D. (for either David or Don, toss a coin) Gabrielson.  Later artists included Sheldon Moldoff, George Tuska, and the team of Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin.  Later writers are not know, save for Patricia Highsmith, who penned some episodes before she began writing novels.  (Sorry, I don't know which episodes Highsmith wrote.)

The Black Terror's secret iden tity was Bob Benton, a pharmacist who invented something called "formic ethers" while he was trying to develop a pick-me-up.  The formic ethers gave him superpowers of strength and limited invulnerabilty.  One supposes he adopted the name The Black Terror because no one would buy a comic book titled Bob Benton, Pharmacist.  Benton's assistant at the pharmacy became his costumed kid side-kick Tim.  Often lurking around the pharmacy was Benton's love interest, the pretty Jean Starr, the secretary to the town's mayor. The Black Terror and Tim (collectively known as the "Terror Twins") fought spies, saboteurs, and crooks with equal vigor.  They were featured in three of Better Publications comic:  Exciting Comics, The Black Terror, and America's Best Comics.  All three titles were cancelled in 1949 and Better Publications (and the many companies that were under its umbrella) bit the dust a few years later.

The Black Terror went into public domain and has since been revived/revisited/reimagined by fifteen different companies since 1983.

In Exciting Comics #50, The Black Terror takes the lead story as he investigates the supposed death of a well-known hypnotist.  Witnesses and suspects have been hypnotized by a huge pair of disembodied eyes.  Gangsters are trying to stop anyone from looking into the hypnotist's so-called death.  A helicopter is used to knock The Black terror out.  (You had to have been there.)  Things reach a peak when a bridge is blown up, sending The Black Terror and Tim's car hurtling through the air only to crash through the roof of the gang's hideout.

One perhaps prophetic take from this story takes place on the tale's fifth page, as the Terror goes after two gunmen:

Bad guy:  WOW!  HE IS FAST!   The Black Terror (delivering a knock-out punch):  FAST AND FURIOUS, THUG!

The Black terror isn't the only one to be featured in this issue.  There are also stories about Crash Carter, Air Cadet, The Crime Crushers, The American Eagle, and Sergeant Bill King, along with three text stories, one of which is signed by prolific pulpster Donald Bayne Hobart.  And there's neat cover art by Alex Schomburg!


Friday, June 21, 2019


It's the first day of summer!  Here to remind you is Jerry Keller.


Murder of a Wife by Henry Kuttner (1958)

After reading and reviewing Kuttner's collection Three by Kuttner last week I was in the mood for another book by him.  Luckily Murder of a Wife, the last of his four mysteries featuring San Francisco psychoanalyst Michael Gray, was near the top of mount TBR.

Kuttner, who died much too soon in 1958, had directed much of his energies to mystery novels in his last years, even as he was studying for a Master's degree when he had his fatal heart attack.  Murder of a Wife appeared in March 1958 (just one month after the author died) in a paperback edition from Permabooks -- its only paperback appearance.  It was reprinted in 1983 as part of Garland Books "50 Classics of Crime Fiction, 1950-1975" series, selected by Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor.  The Michael Gray Mysteries, an omnibus containing all four Michael Gray mysteries, is forthcoming from Haffner Press.  Only eight copies of the Permabook edition are available from Abebooks, from $24.95 to $133.00; none of the Garland Press edition is available.  The Haffner Press omnibus credits Kuttner's wife C. L. Moore as co-author; this is probably true, but I don't know is she had any input on Murder of a Wife.

So much for the publishing background.  Now on to the story.

We open with the beautiful Karen Champion being attacked in her bedroom by her estranged husband.  Or do we?  Karen is a pathological liar with a history of making wild claims.  The police do not believe her.

As a favor to Karen's doctor, an old friend of Michael Gray's, Gray agrees to try to get  sense of whether Karen is telling the truth this time.  This leads him and his police captain friend Harry Zucker into a complicated case that ends with a viscous double murder.

Karen claims her safety lies only in having her violent husband declared insane.  Dennis Champion is the senior partner in CQD -- Champion-Quigley Developments -- with a 51% ownership stake.  The remaining 49% is owned by Roger and Joyce Quigley, a married couple who are also pushing to have Dennis Champion declared insane so they could gain control of the company.  Dennis Champion has hired Ira Fenn, a sleazy (and blackmailing) private detective who tries to bribe Gray into declaring that Karen champion is insane.


To complicate things, Karen has struck up a friendship with Oliver Albano, a mob-connected thug.  Albano wants the friendship to develop into an affair but has not had any luck so far.  Karen and Albano were introduced by Joyce Quigley, who had been having a torrid affair with Albano.  Albano had been seen threatening Perry Brand, a quack doctor who has been milking his clients with phony cures.  One of Brand's clients is Susan Turk, the wife of CQD's business developer Wesley Turk;  Susan had been surretiptiously cleaning out the Turk's various accounts (including some $20,000 from a safe deposit) to pay for Brand's "treatments."  Brand was also being blackmailed by Fenn.

Did I say, phew?

The key to the mystery is Karen's pathological lying, as well as "blank" memories from her past.  And who is the mysterious "Judy," of whom Karen denies having and knowledge?

Murder of a Wife is a solid psychological mystery with a hard-boiled flavor, set very much in the late fifties.  There is an irritating (and somewhat illogical) interplay between Gray and his friend Zucker, as well as a mild sexist late-Fifties attitude, much these are minor quibbles.  As with the previous three books in this series, Murder of a Wife is a winner and a solid reminder of what could have been a long-running, popular series, save for Kuttner's death.

My recommendation:  Scoop up the Haffner Press omnibus.  It's available for pre-order and worth every penny of the $45.00 price tag.  You can't go wrong.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


Happy Birthday, Lionel Richie!


Another radio case for Ellery Queen -- and this time it's personal.  His secretary, Nikki Porter, is the suspect in the murder of a bank robber as the loot from a train robbery goes missing from her train compartment.  Nikki can't explain what had happened before she stepped off the train because she has...(wait for it)...AMNESIA!...(rim shot here)

Written by Manfred B. Lee (one half of the "Ellery Queen" partnership) and Kendall F. Crossen (prolific pulpster who created Buddhist superhero The Green Lama, as well as insurance investigator Milo March), "Nikki Porter, Suspect" first aired on March 5, 1947, with Broadway star Alfred Drake as the guest armchair detective.

Seven-and-a-half years latter, the show was restaged in Australia using Austalian actors, including Charles Tingwell, who played Ellery.  This time the guest armchair detective was Gypsy Rose Lee.  The Australian version was recorded at the Palladium Theater in Sydney and aired on November 19, 1954.  It is this version that is linked below.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Patti Page, from 1951.


Before he was Silky Harris on The Alaskans, and before he was Beau Maverick on Maverick, and before he was Simon Templar in The Saint, and before he was Lord Brett Sinclair on The Persuaders, and before he was 007 in the James Bond films, Roger Moore was Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe in the 39 episodes of the syndicated series Ivanhoe.

Ivanhoe was a joint production of Screen Gems Television and England's Sydney Box Productions.  Plans were to sell the pilot to ABC so cast and crew headed to Los Angeles to film the pilot.  But ABC did not bite so the remaining 38 episodes were filmed in England.  Interestingly, the pilot had been shot in color but after ABC rejected it, it was televised in black and white, fitting for a syndicated show of the time.

As a series, Ivanhoe soon leaves Sir Walter Scott's novel in the dust.  Wilfred (usually referred to as Ivanhoe) is soon stripped of his title and becomes a roving knight bringing justice to bad Prince John's England.  He is aided by peasant leader/servant Gurth (Robert Brown) and, for a while, by Gurth's son Bart -- who is soon dropped from the series, only to remain in the opening where he blows a horn and yells "Ivanho-o-oe."  Lady Rowena appears only in the pilot episode.

(Robert Brown and Moore remained friends and Moore arranged for Brown to play James Bond's M for his last two films; Brown continued in that role after Moore left the franchise.)

linked below is the pilot episode for the series, "Freeing the Serfs."


Sunday, June 16, 2019


Openers:   They were almost two hundred, men in khaki trotting up a bare slope blasted by an ardent sun.  Divided, they formed sections and combat groups, united, they composed a company of the French Foreign Legion.  From the crests came a continuous crackling of detonations, a fusillade that swelled furiously, sank into unexpected lulls.  There were other sounds nearer, subtle and  murderous, musical and insidious, a thousand sinister voices whispering.

"You -- you -- for you!"

-- "Affair of Honor" by George Surdez (Adventure, April 1937).  Surdez was a master of the Foreign Legion adventure story, something you don't see much of nowadays.

This Day in Dracula History:  Times were tough in the fifteenth century.  So were many of the rulers.  Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, was no slouch in the toughness department, but so was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II.  The Ottomans had levied a tax against non-Muslims which Vlad refused to pay.  In 1459, Pope Pius II called for a crusade against the Ottomans.  The idea fizzled and the only leader to show enthusiasm for the crusade was Vlad, who was a good friend of the Pope.  Knowing there was a lack of support for the Pope's crusade, Mehmed went on the offensive, easily conquering several cities.  In 1460, Mehmed captured Vlad's only ally, Hungary's Mihaly Szilagya, killing Szilagya's men and them sawing Szilagya in half in what could be considered to be a modern day magic trick gone horribly wrong.

Mehmed sent envoys asking Vlad for the late taxes and, in addition, 1000 boys who would be trained as janissaries.  Vlad killed the envoys.  Mehmed then sent his people into Vlad's territory to do some recruiting.  Vlad impaled them.  In 1461, Memed asked Vlad to meet him in Constantinople to iron out their differences.  Vlad refused.  Mehmed then sent and envoy with a thousand troops to "negotiate" with Vlad.  (By negotiate I mean to capture Vlad and bring him to Constantinople.)  Vlad's army boxed in the "negotiators" and wiped them out using hand cannons -- making Vlad perhaps the first crusader to use gunpowder in such a deadly way.  Then Vlad got serious and began waging a systematic war, first slaughtering any Turks as well as any possible supporters in his territory, then crossing the Danube to Bulgaria and impaling Turks.  Turks were also burned in their homes or were beheaded in battle.  Mehmed then sent his Grand Vizier with 18,000 soldiers to raze a Wallachian port, only to be soundly defeated by Vlad and losing 10,000 of the 18,000. Like I said, the fifteenth century was a tough time.

After Vlad's latest victory, many Turks became afraid of Vlad and left the area for safer climes.  Mehmed decided it was time to take control of things himself.  Mehmed assembled a force of some 250,000 - 300,000 men; Vlad's forces were estimated to be about half that.  As Mehmed entered Vlad's territory, Vlad put forth a scorched earth policy, moving populations from towns into the mountains, then burning the villages and poisoning the water.  As Mehmed advanced he found only ruins.  Vlad also sent the ill to infiltrate Mehmed's forces -- bringing with them leprosy, tuberculosis, and the plague.  The plague was particularly effective and spread through the Ottoman troops. 

The on June 17, 1462, Vlad directly attacked Mehmed's camp in an attempt to capture or kill the Ottoman ruler.  Only bad intelligence saved Mehmed; Vlad personally attacked what he thought was Mehmed's tent but it turned out to be that of two of Mehmed's viziers.  After the failed attempt on his life, Mehmet brought his troops to Wallachia's capitol city of Targoviste only to find a few soldiers manning the city.  Leaving Targoziste, Mehmed came upon some 23,000 impaled Turks.  Perhaps to save face, Mehmet sailed to the Danube port city of Braila and burned it to the ground, before retreating back to his own country.  Both Mehmed and Vlad claimed victory.

Happy Birthday, M. C. Escher:  "Want to hear a joke/" the bartender says as M. C. Escher walks into a bar.  As M. C. Escher walks into a bar, the bartender says, 'Want to hear a joke?"

Florida Man:  He's been busy:

-- Two Bradenton brothers were upset over a practical joke played on them by a woman.  One brother hit the woman with a hamburger, punched her twice in the face, and bit her neck in response.  The other brother left the room, returned with a gun, and threatened to kill her.  Geez, guys.  Can't you take a joke?

-- A Charlotte County deputy resigned after tests indicated that he showed up drunk at a children's event.  The man and his wife had gone out celebrating their anniversary the night before.  Evidently they celebrated a lot because his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit the next morning at the children's event.

-- It's not a party unless the police show up.  In Pasco County, this Florida Man's family arguments often become violent.  Florida Man merely did what many of us want to do -- he shot his  Amazon Alexa.  When his wife expressed displeasure, he begin to hit her.  A ten-year-old girl then called the police.  When the police came, Florida Man began firing at them, probably thinking they were a new form of Amazon Alexa.  Two officers and Florida Man were shot, although it's unclear whether Florida was shot by police of whether the wound was self-inflicted.

-- A Palm Bay man has admitted to stealing pool floats in order to have sex with them.  At least thirteen cases of float theft have been reported and police found about 75 pools floats at the accused home.  He told police he had sex with the pool floats so he wouldn't have to rape women.  Considerate guy, that Florida Man.

-- "Keith Byrne cut off a car in traffic.  He got out of his car (with a gun) in an effort to apologize (with a gun).  Before he could a passenger got out of the cut-off car and shot him square in the chest.

"The mortally wounded Byrne, 41, was also prepared to fight back.  With his own gun, he fired two shots at 22-year-old Andre Sinclair, and Sinclair died of his injuries at the hospital two days later.  Byne died on the scene."

Perhaps both will receive a Darwin Award.

-- A couple were swimming in a pool when they were joined by an alligator.  The male (hitherto known as Florida Man) "hauled ass" out of the pool, leaving his girlfriend as the alligator charged at her.  The event was caught on camera:

-- A fifty-year-old Florida Man was smoking crack cocaine when he was involved in a hit-and-run in Miami.  A police chase ensued that led all way to the Florida Keys.  along the way, Florida Man ingested 20 rocks of crack cocaine, some of which was still in his throat when he crashed his car into a cement abutment.  Somewhere along the way his tires had blown out.  He told police there was a woman in his vehicle but none was found.

-- And Florid T-Rex terrrorizes Tampa!

Today's Poem:
A Prouder Man Than You

If you fancy that your people came from better stock than mine,
If you hint of better breeding by a word or by a sign,
If you're proud because of fortune or the clever things you do --
Then I'll play no second fiddle:  I'm a prouder man than you!
If you think that your profession has the more gentility,
And that you are condescending to be seen along with me;
If you notice that I'm shabby while your clothes are spruce and new --
You have only got to hint it:  I'm a prouder man than you!
If you have a swell companion when you see me on the street,
And you think that I'm too common for your toney friend to meet,
So that I, in passing closely, fail to come within your view --
Then be blind to me forever:  I'm a prouder man than you!
If your character be blameless, if your outward past be clean,
While 'tis known my antecedents are not what they should have been,
Do not risk contamination; save your name whate'er you do --
'Birds o' feather fly together':  I'm a prouder bird than you!
Keep your patronage for others!  Gold and station cannot hide
Friendship that can laugh at fortune, friendship that can conquer pride!
Offer this as to an equal -- let me see that you are true' 
And my wall of pride is shattered:  I am not so proud as you!

-- Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

(Lawson was one of the best-known Australian poets of the colonial period and has been called Australia's greatest writer of short stories.)


This article claims to point out 20 of the worst fathers in history.  Actually, there are many who are far worse than these, and several of those listed are fictional.  Nonetheless, it's hard to argue that most of these dear old dads are not a waste of protoplasm. 

I'm just lucky that my own father was a caring, wonderful good man.

Who would you nominate for the Worst Father List?


For Father's Day...

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Ruby and the Romantics.



Yep, it's the Green Hornet, great-nephew of the Lone Ranger and champion of justice.

We open with the "strange tale of two people, caught in the web of a tragic killing...into which is woven the the hand of the laughing killer, THE CLOWN...and the cunning of THE GREEN HORNET...when he smashes the case of THE ONE-EYED MONKEY!"  At the end of the tale, The Clown gets away to fight The Green Hornet another day, but the Hornet is able to free an innocent man from death row.

Then, West Point cadet Gary Blakely dons the (ridiculous) costume of The Spirit of '76 to battle America's enemies in Major Ralston's tale of a torpedoed boat, a nest of Nazis, and a battle with a wild jaguar in the jungles of Brazil as The Spirit of '76 fights to save his girl friend and her brother.

Next up, tough guy Mike Lancer (a prototype from Mike Hammer) stars in "The Syndicate of Death," a six-pager written by Mickey Spillane.  Wall Street executives are being murdered and Mike Lancer notices a similarity between the murders and the work of the supposedly late Marty the Rat.  But Marty the Rat wasn't dead -- at last not until Mike Lancer got hold of him.  Before he died, Marty the Rat named "Cropper" Langwell as the man behind the Syndicate of Death and Wall street big  wig Claridge as the man putting the hit on his colleagues.  Bodies pile up as Mike kills his way to the conclusion, saving the father of Mike's beautiful client.  (The somewhat crude artwork by Harry Sahle shows that Mike Lancer does not sport Mike Hammer's trademark porkpie hat.  Don't know if that was Spillane's decision or Sahle's.)

The Blond (note the spelling) Bomber is actress Honey Blake, who cracks a Nazi spy gang run by Little Adolf while filming a movie in "Sabotage on Parade."

Then, The Green Hornet returns in "The Career of Farmer Filcher."  Filcher is the country gangster chief who runs a city slicker gang.  The Hornet's alter ego, publisher Britt Reid, is frustrated because there is no direct evidence indicating Filcher as the crime mastermind.  The Green Hornet, however, is determined to put Farmer Filcher behind bars.

The modern day Robin Hood (Dr. Fairbanks) and His Gang (including Friar Tuck and Big John) tackle with a murderous gang who have targeted recently released a gangster in an attempt to gain stolen loot.  Some comic book heroes strain credibility.

The Zebra is an ex-con who has donned his striped prison shirt, tight shorts,calf-length boots, yellow gauntlets,  a mask, and a red cape to fight the baddies.  Of course The Zebra (a.k.a. John Doyle) had been framed.  The Zebra goes against a gangland kidnapper trying to ransom a child for the bad guy's brother's freedom.

Also included in this issue are acouple of text stories and a six-page comic story featuring The Mighty Midgets, a group of very small army guys -- Please do not confuse with the title characters of the 1998 film SMALL SOLDIERS.


Friday, June 14, 2019


Today is Flag Day.  And that means it's also my father-in-law's birthday.  He would have been 98 or 99.  (I'm not good with numbers larger than the total of my fingers and Kitty's taking a nap so I can't ask her.)

Harold was always proud to share his birthday with Flag Day.  He would have been far less proud had he known he shared his birthday with Donald Trump.  Harold held no truck with liars, bullies, or bigots.

Harold was one of eight children in a first generation Irish-American Catholic family.  His father was  factory worker; his mother was a saint.  (Harold's father was one of three brothers who suspiciously left Ireland in a hurry -- one to America, one to Canada, and one to Australia.  Hmm.)  Harold's older brother Bob came down with polio at age twelve.  When she was told that Bob would never get out of an iron long, their mother said no.  Bob got out of the iron lung.  When told that Bob would never get out of  wheelchair, their mother said no.  Bob got out of the wheelchair.  When told that Bob would never walk, their mother said no.  Bob walked, albeit with crutches and leg braces.  And Bob began a long career with Raytheon as a draftsman.  And Bob drove a specially modified car.  And Bob built a garage and workshop by himself and shingled his home, moving slowly up and down a ladder.  Bob never let his disability get the better of him because his mother said no.  That's the type of family Harold grew up in.  (Harold's younger sister Clare had Down Syndrome.  In those days it was an early death sentence.  Well-meaning folks suggested that Clare be placed in a group home.  Her mother said no.  Clare stayed at home.  She held a job and lived to the ripe old age of 43 when pancreatic cancer got her, far outlasting the medical opinion of the time.  Clare was a real sweetheart and I am lucky I got to know her and love her during the last years of her life.)

Harold was a hero to his younger brother Don because Harold saved money from doing odd chores and bought Don a bicycle as a surprise.  Don is in his nineties now and still recalls Harold's generosity.

Harold was in high school when World War II broke out.  He and his cousin Eddie dropped out of school to join the Navy.  They got in by switching their records during certain parts of their physicals.  Harold said he was Eddie for a part of the physical they knew Eddie would fail and Eddie pretended to be Harold during another part of the physical.

Harold served on the destroyer Leutze in the Pacific theater.  In April 1945, the Leutze was hit by a kamikaze plane which almost severed its fantail and left a gaping hole in its port quarter.  Casualties included seven missing crewmen, one dead, and thirty wounded.  Harold was dispatched to the ship's hull to try to restore its electrical system, working in dark quarters while waist-deep in water.  The ship miraculous did not sink and managed  to limp to port.  Harold received the bronze star.

While in the service, Harold had proposed to Eileen, who really did not want to get married so soon.  Thus, Eileen told Harold she would marry him when the war ended.and darned if the war didn't end a few months later.  We have an old and very dark video of their wedding reception, held in a nice restaurant; the restaurant happened to be near a used car lot and the most visible part of the footage had the wedding party exiting near the car lot.  We would use that video to claim that they got married in a used car lot.  Eileen did not think that was funny but Harold would just laugh. 

After the service and newly married, Harold enrolled at Georgia Tech.  He and Eileen (and soon, two young children -- Kitty and her older brother Michael) settled down in a trailer.  Harold would earn money selling Sunday newspapers outside a large church after services.  He had an opportunity to make real money running moonshine but Eileen put a kibosh on that idea.  Sometime before graduation, officials at Georgia Tech discovered that Harold had never finished high school and threatened to expel him for lying on his application.  Harold had them produce the application and showed that he never claimed to be a high school graduate on the application, only that he had attended Rockland High School on the dates he had listed.   Harold stayed and graduated with an engineering degree.

Harold began a long career working on projects through companies contracting with the Air Force, often on hush-hush stuff dealing with rockets.  Many times, his family did not know where he worked and could only contact him during emergencies and through an intermediary.  This allowed Kitty and her three brothers to make up all sorts of stories about what he did, the more outrageous the stories the better.  Once, when Harold was working at Cape Canaveral,  he woke up all the kids at three in the morning, telling them it was a great time to take a walk.  While on this "walk" they just 'happened" to watch the launch of the original Gemini rocket.

Harold was a gentle, easy-going, and methodical man with a great sense of humor.  Until someone tried to take advantage of him, that is.  That's when you would see what the phrase "getting one's Irish up" meant.

Harold died of pancreatic cancer at age 80, after having seemingly beating that evil beast twice.  The saddest part of that is that he had one grandson and two great-grandkids born after his death, three people deprived of ever knowing him.  He would have gotten a kick from all three -- Mark, Erin, and Connor -- and they, I'm sure would have loved him.

Harold loved to take the family to Kimball's Ice Cream Stand  in Westford, Massachusetts, where the servings are so large they make a full meal by themselves.  Every year on Flag Day we go out and splurge on ice cream for dinner in honor of a wonderful man.  Ice cream has never tasted better


Billy Murray, known as "The Denver Nightingale," was one of the most popular singers of the early twentieth century.  It's estimated that he recorded from 6000 to 10,000 songs over a forty-five year career.  Here's his 1906 recording of "You're a Grand Old Rag" -- soon to be changed to "You're a Grand Old Flag."  (It took a while to find this particular one on Youtube -- most of the 1906 Youtube clips start with an ad from Lara "Mrs. Waste of Protoplasm" Trump, aka Mrs. Eric Trump, in which she co-opts the song to shill for her father-in-law.  Ptah!)

Enjoy this Trump-less version.

And have a happy and meaningful holiday.


Kuttner Times Three by Henry Kuttner (1988)

A slim, fan-produced booklet of three rare stories by Henry Kuttner assembled by Virgil Utter in a limited run of 200 typed copies to mark the 30th anniversary of Kuttner's death, Kuttner Times Three has long been a difficult volume to obtain.  Until this week.  It is now available online at Internet Archive and Kuttner fans should definitely check it out.

Kuttner (1915-1958) was one of the most popular and prolific writers of pulp science fiction and fantasy, publishing stories under at least two dozen names.  Much of his early work was slap-dashed
and formulaic but his later stories included many absolute gems, especially after his marriage to fellow writer Catherine {C. L.} Moore.  Moore was his frequent collaborator (often uncredited) and their partnership often produced stories so seamless that no one could tell what parts were written by Kuttner and what parts by Moore.  Kuttner (an Moore) have enjoyed a resurgence lately, with massive retrospection collections from Haffner Press and Centipede Press, including an omnibus of the four Michael Grey mysteries originally published by Permabooks (1956-8).  Kuttner died way to early at age 43 -- about six weeks before fellow SF great C. M. Kornbluth died at age 34.  (I'm always struck by how many of my favorite authors die long before their time...Stanley G. Weinbaum, Charles Beaumont, Tom Reamy, and so many more.)

Back to Kuttner Times Three.  The first story, "The Old Army Game," comes from Thrilling Adventures, November 1941 and is actually the first story in Kuttner's Hogben series.  The Hogbens are a strange hillbilly family of mutants, steeped in corn likker and feudin' and somewhat at odds with modern civilization.  Consider this story a try-out for the four  tales that followed it.  More of a tall tale than a SF or fantasy story, "The Old Army Game" follows in the tradition of Robert E. Howard's Breckinridge Elkins or Pike Bearfield stories.  Young Huet Hogben (twenty-two, but not yet reached his full growth being only just a mite over six feet tall) has been drafted.  His army buddy's Grandpa Eliphalet has developed a new alloy that will improve America's war planes and the Nazis are out to get the formula.  Huet does not want to interfere because his Maw always told him not to get mixed up in other folks' feudin', but when Nazis rudely threaten Huet's hidden still, well, that's going just too far.  Six years after this story was published, Kuttner returned to the Hogbens with the first of four (far more refined and overtly fantastical} stories that firmly established the series as a fan favorite.  "The Old Army Game" had not b.een reprinted before this booklet and has only been reprinted one other time, in the Borderland Press 2013 collection The Hogben Chronicles.

The other Hogben tales, all published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, are:  "Exit the Professor" (October 1947; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited); "Pile of Trouble" (April 1948); "See You Later" (June 1949; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited); and "Cold War" (October 1949; with co-author C. L. Moore uncredited).

The second story in this collection is "Bamboo Death" (Thrilling Mystery, June 1936) which Utter in his introduction claims to be Kuttner's second published story.  "The Graveyard Rats," often pointed out as Kuttner's first published story appeared in the March 1936 issue of Weird Tales, but -- according to ISFDb -- Kuttner's first story was, in fact, "The Monkey Wrench" (Jungle Stories, August 1931, as by "Bertram W. Williams").   "Bamboo Death" was actually Kuttner's third published story.  Update:  Not so.  See Stephen Haffner's response below.

Young Joan Masson has inherited her uncle's Florida estate, located deep in the Everglades.  With her friend/maybe-fiance Lee Dean, Joan travels to the run-down, Southern Gothic-y estate, only to discover that the hulking, brain-damaged Quentin has had the run of the place for years.  Joan's uncle, who never approached the estate had imported Indian bamboo plants so that Quentin could perform his "experiments" in an effort to produce immortality, a la the Fountain of Youth.  Quentin has constructed bamboo cages to torture animals of all sorts.  (Since bamboo can grow an inch an hour, animals are placed on bamboos shoots topped with sharp metallic needles which soon grow to pierce the bodies.  Makes no sense to me -- or to anyone, other than the sadistic, mad Quentin.)  You can see where this is going.  The story could easily have been printed in any issue of Terror Tales or Dime Detective.  "Bamboo Death" has been reprinted in the Haffner Preess edition of Terror in the House:  The Early Kuttner, Volume One (2010).

The final story in this booklet, "The Wolf of Aragon," comes from the July 1941 issue of Thrilling Adventures.  Juan Vasquez, the son of full-blooded Aztec woman and  a conquistador who had bequeathed his ranchero in old Mexico to Juan, is due to be wed when he received a summons from Ixtal, a giant native said to be born in the time of Montezuma.  Because he is half-Aztec, Ixtal said, Juan must marry an Aztec girl rather than his betrothed Spanish senorita.  Juan refuses to forsake his beloved Rosita.  Ixtal predicts dire consequences will come from that decision.   Then..."Fromthe blood-stained chaos of Europe came the Wold of Aragon.  A renegade and a killer, driven across continents by outraged kings, Don Diego of Aragon went yelling and slaying into the New World.  Plundr and murder followed his steed's hoofbeats."  Don Diego's murderous trail soon crossed Juan's ranchero, leaving Rosita's crushed body behind.  Juan sets out for vengeance, hoping that he might be aided by the Feathered Serpent of his ancestors.

All three tales are very minor ones and I loved them all.

I'm glad they are finally available to Kuttner fans.  Check it out.

Saturday, June 1, 2019


Closeup and Comedy was a syndicated newspaper comic strip that brought the glitter and glamour of Hollywood right to your kitchen table and/or your living room chair, giving interesting "facts" (or fictions crated by Hollywood agents) about many of the stars of the day.

Here is the inside dope on 210 stars, many of whom are forgotten today.

How many do you know?