Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, July 8, 2019


Openers:  You wonder why I limp, effendi?  You are too considerate to ask, of course, but I, whom Allah, in his infinite goodness and mercy, has already permitted two years beyond man's allotted three score and ten, have learned to read the thoughts of people by their expressions.  Serving as a dragoman sharpens the wits.

-- "The Man Who Limped" by Otis Adelbert Kline (Oriental Stories, October-November 1930)

The Header to the Above Story:  "The strange and disagreeable adventure of Hamed the Attar and how he overcame his perverse hatred of women"

Who can resist that story now?

  • Edward S. Aarons, Assignment Budapest.  A Sam Durrell spy-guy adventure.  His mission this time:  "Find Ilona before the secret police torture and violate her beautiful body."  Nice work if you can find it.
  • Peter Brandvold, Blood at Sundown.  A Lou Prophet, Bounty Hunter western.  "Lou Prophet and the deadly Louisa Bonaventure have torn a bloody swath across Dakota territory in search of the Griff Hatchley gang.  When they finally catch up to them, an epic blizzard threatens to turn the Dakota prairie into a frozen hell.  To bag their prey before the storm hits, Prophet and Louisa split up -- and take separate paths towards damnation.  Prophet's course takes him into a town packed to the gills with the deadliest outlaws that roamed the frontier, while Louisa gets caught in Sundown, a one-horse town where an hatchet-wielding maniac threatens to paint Main Street red.  When spring's thaw comes, they'll find a city of corpses beneath the snow."  Mean Pete always packs his tales with plenty of action and thrills.
  • John Creasey, The Smog.  A Dr. Palfrey adventure.  "No one knew what happened.  It was a soft, warm day like any other in an English village.  The children were at school, the men at work, the sun high and clear in the sky.  No one noticed the first wisp of yellowish fog spewing out of the ground...just as none of the busy citizens of a thriving American city speeding along in their cars noticed it...until it was too late."  Palfrey has saved the world a zillion times from a zillion different disasters; it's always fun to be along with him when he does it.
  • Lester del Rey, Pstalemate.  Del Rey's last major science fiction novel.  "A young man finds he has extraordinary talents.  then he discovers others have them, too -- though few as powerful as his.  And then comes an appalling discovery:  he finds that if he cannot master these psi powers he will certainly go mad.  And no one has ever mastered them."  
  • Crawford Kilian, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy.  A non-fiction how-to.   Kilian broke into science fiction with a short story published as a chapbook in 1968.  He wrote eleven novels and five non-fiction works from 1978 to 1995 and published this book in 1998.  since the he published two additional how-to books on writing.  A retired college professor, he had published hundreds of articles on different subjects.  My copy is the second edition and was supposed to have come with a CR-ROM but since I picked it up at a thrift shop, the CD-ROM was missing.  Oh, well.
  • Richard Laymon, No Sanctuary.  Horror novel.  "Rick would do anything for his girlfriend, Bert.  He'd even spend his vacation in the wilderness with her, hiking the trails around Fern Lake, even though it's the last place on Earth he wants to be.  But Rick would follow Beth to hell and back -- which is just what he's about to do."  The late, lamented Richard Laymon could always provide chills.
  • Chad Oliver, The Shores of a Distant Sea.  SF novel.  'The sun dropped low in the East African sky as the rust-colored dust formed an ageless patina, covering the landscape of the dead.  As he had  many times before, Royce Crawford watched the lions stalk onto the valley floor.  Suddenly, Royce heard something unusual -- a faint, bizarre whistling, otherworldly, out of time and place.  On the horizon, an arc of white appeared and curved downward toward the earth.  The predators scattered.  Then there was nothing.  The fading sun lost its warmth.  Whatever it was, Royce knew, had come down near the settlement.  As he ran toward his jeep one thought raced through his mind:  AN UNKNOWN EVIL FORCE HELD THE LIVING IN A DEATH GRIP."  A book by Oliver is always a treat.
  • Howard Rigsby, The Tulip Tree.  Suspense novel, published in paperback in the Sixties as a "Gothic" -- the kind with a lovely woman running from a dark mansion on the cover.  "...a big house mellowed by age with a superstitious woman, an inquisitive husband, a grotesque native have a very interesting story of suspense, evil demons, haunted spirits...masterfully written." -- Pittsburgh Press  (I'm always leery of cover blurbs with a lot of ellipses.)
  • Raina Telgermeier, Smile.  YA graphic novel, based on Telermeier's childhood experiences after one front tooth was knocked out and the other driven into her gum from an accident when she was eleven.  Told with warmth, wit, and awareness, the story covers four years, taking the author through some of the most awkward ages a child can experience.  Sounds like a minor work, but Telgermeier's magic shines through, making this a remarkable and eventually uplifting story.  I am quickly becoming a big fan of Raina Telgermeier.
  • J. N. Williamson, Bloodlines.  Horror novel.  "Marshall Madison disappeared the night his wife committed suicide.  She had seen the horrible things Madison had done to their con, Thad, and couldn't deal with the knowledge that their daughter, Caroline, would be next.  Caroline was taken in by a kind, hardworking family, and Thad ran off to live by his wits on the streets of New York.  But Madison means to make good on his promise to come for his children.  As he gets closer and closer, the trail of bodies in his wake gets longer and longer.  No one will keep him from his flesh and blood."

Soapy Smith:  Today marks the 121st anniversary of the death of Soapy Smith, whose reputation as a "Robin Hood" of crime conceals the true nature of this criminal.  Born to a well-to-do Georgia family in 1860, the end of the Civil War meant the end of the Smith family's fortune.  The family moved to Texas where 1876, where young Jefferson Randolph Smith witnessed the shooting of outlaw Sam Bass and where he started his career as a con man.  Smith's specialty was the fast con -- three-card monte and similar rigged games of chance.  Smith eventually ran three different criminal empires, first in Denver, then in the booming town of Creede, Colorado, and finally in the gold rush town of Sagway (or Saguay), Alaska.  Saloons, gambling dens, high end cons, and political corruption and bribery helped pave the way for his hold on each of the three communities.  He operated openly and -- thanks to well circulated graft -- without much hindrance.  Smith also cemented his reputation among the populace with his sparing use of charity -- paying for church buildings, helping the poor, and paying for the burial of "unfortunate" prostitutes, for example.

He got the name Soapy through one of his most famous early cons.  He would set up a stand to sell soap.  In full view of his audience he wold take money (mainly dollars bills but sometimes a hundred dollar bill), wrap it around the soap, then place the soap wrapper over the whole shebang.  The audience then thought they saw him mix the moneyed soap with ordinary bars.  This slight of hand trick was augmented by shills in the crowd who would "discover" a dollar bill in a bar they had just "bought."  The name Soapy followed him the rest of his life.

Following his death in a shootout with a vigilante committee determined to recover gold that smith had fleeced from a new visitor to Sagway, Smith's legend grew as a Robin Hood-type figure, the antihero who is an outlaw because of circumstances and is really a friend of the down-trodden.  There are annual celebrations of Smith in both Alaska and Hollywood and there is a Soapy Smith preservation Trust.  Smith has been portrayed many times on television and in films, almost always as a likable, well-meaning con man -- his reputation as a man quick to anger and quick to violence forgotten.

Unko:  Poop is a big thing in Japan.  The country that gave us Hello Kitty now has a popular museum dedicated to poop.  The museum opened in March and attracted 100,000 visitors in its first month.  The link gives you the poop lowdown on what's happening at the museum.

Mama D's Diner:  A restaurant in North Little Rock has added a special item for couples to its menu.  The "My girlfriend's not hungry" option adds extra french fries and a choice of two extra chicken wings or three fried cheese sticks to your entree -- all for just $4.95.  Somewhere in Arkansas there is a marketing genius.

Today's Poem:
Summer Morn in New Hampshire

Yesterday it poured, and all night long
I could not sleep; the rain unceasing beat
Upon the shingled roof like a weird song,
Upon the grass like running children's feet.
And down the mountains by the dark cloud kissed,
Like a strange shape in a filmy veiling dressed,
Slid slowly, silently, the wraith-like mist,
And nestled soft against the earth's wet breast.

But lo, there was a miracle at dawn!
The still air stirred at touch of faint breeze,
The sun a sheet of gold bequeathed the lawn,
The songsters twittered in the rustling trees,
And all things were transfigured in the day,
But me whom radiant beauty could not move;
For you, more wonderful, were far away,
And I was blind with hunger for your love.

-- Claude McKay


  1. I have the NESFA volume of Chad Oliver stories but have yet to crack it. Must do.

    1. Oliver was a fantastic writer, Rick, and deserves a spot much higher on the science fiction pantheon.

  2. I rarely seem to buy books other than ebooks. No bookstores near me anymore.