Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, August 31, 2019


From 1973, Roxy Music with a somewhat creepy song.


Everett True is a middle-aged, bald, stout man with a premanent frown on his face.  He is quick-tempered and easily upset by life's little irritants -- rudeness, cruelty to animals, self-centeredness, impositions, stupitity, and the unthinking people you meet every day.  Whenever he encounters such an affront to his sensibilities he has an outburst, sometimes in the form of of a rant but more often in a physical attack, amusing any by-standers who wished they could have done the same.  True's outbursts were every man's wish fantasy fulfilled.

He began his career as a two-panel newspaper comic strip (syndicated by the Newspaper Enterprise Association) on July 22, 1905.  The strip was created by A.C. Condo and J. W. Raper, with Condo doing the artwork; I'm not sure what Raper's contribution was because I suspect Condo also wrote the strip.  (Condo created several other strips including Mr. Skygak, from Mars [1907-1912], considered the first science fiction comioc strip.)  The original title of the Everett True comic strip was A Chapter from the Career of Mr. Everett True, but was soon changed to The Outbursts of Everett True.  The strip ran until January 13, 1927, when it Condo's health problems led his to stop it.  During its lifetime the comic strip was the syndicate's most popular feature.

The first book collection of Everett True's ill-tempered adventures was published in 1907 and can be found at the link below.



Friday, August 30, 2019


How long has it been since I posted a car song?  Here's Michael Z. Gordan & The Routers.


A Long Time Dead by Micky Spillane & Max Allan Collins (2016)
Quarry in the Black by Max Allan Collins (2016)
Quarry's Climax by Max Allan Collins (2017)
Fate of the Union by Max Allan Collins with Mtthew V. Clemens (2015)
Executive Order by Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens (2017)
Better Dead by Max Allan Collins (2016)
Men's Adventure Magazines with text by Max Allan Collins and George Hagenaur (2008)

Over the past week and a half I read seven books by Max Allan Collins.  Collins, a MWA Grand Master and recipient of the PWA Life Achievement Award, is certainly not a "forgotten" author and his books have been well-received, but the sumbitch writes so much that many (like me) find it hard to catch up and sometimes a book will fall through the cracks.  I can't keep count, but I think he's pubished over 150 books -- and that doesn't count video games, mystery jigsaw puzzles, comic books, and anthologies.  (He also writes and directs independent films and is a musician -- his 60s revival band Cruisin' has been inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and has opened for some of the biggest names in rock.)

About the headline above:  Since this review covers a number of his books, I felt that Max Allan Collins deserved a collective title.  "Murder" had already been taken by crows; "Collection" would be confusing because only a small amount of his books are collections; "Cacophony"?  That's just not right.  Anyway, I settled on "Contagion" because that's what his writing is:  contagious.  You can't eat just one Lays potato chip.  Likewise, you can't read just one Collins if there are others laying around.  His finely-honed, swift-moving prose grabs you and doesn't let go until the end and you find yourself searching for more.

Now, on to the books in question.

Collins was a long-time friend of writer Mickey Spillane as well as a longer-time admirer of his work.  Before Spillane's death, they edited four crime anthologies together, and collaborated on comic books and several films.  Shortly before Spillane's death, he asked Collins if he would finish his work in progress, The Killing Bone.  Spillane also asked his wife to give any unfinished work to Collins -- "He'll know what to do."  Collins took the incomplete manuscripts, notes, and fragments and carefully constructed a number of books and short stories from them, with more to come.  A Long Time Dead collects the eight Mike Hammer stories that resulted in this posthumous collaboration:

  • "The Big Switch"  Donald Dilbert, known by many as "Dopey Dilldocks," was not the smartest kid on the block.  He was just an innocuous messenger who happened to be found guilty of murder and sentenced to die.  Shortly before his execution date he asked to see Mike Hammer and told him the he had been framed.  Hammer has less than two days to stop the execution and deliver justice Hammer-style.  This story was selected for The Best Crime and Mystery Stories of 2009.
  • "Fallout" A 2006 Scribe Award winning story.  Hammer, suffering from insomnia, had taken to long walks at night, following the same route each time -- a route that would take him past the site where he happened to see a hooker hit and killed by a runaway driver a month before.  During the month that followed there had been three "incidents" that could have been attempts on Hammer's life.  Then the night-time building guard where Hammer had his office was murdered...
  • "A Long Time Dead" Nominated for the CWA Dagger Award, a Thriller Award, and a PWA Shamus Award, this story was selected for Best American Mystery Stories of 2011.  Grant Kratch, sadistic killer of at least three dozen women, had been executed.  He was dead.  He was really dead.  So why did Mike Hammer see him getting into a New York City taxi when the serial killer was supposed to be long gone?
  • "Grave Matter"  Bill Reynolds, auto mechanic turned war hero, came back missing an arm and a leg.  His wife left him and he could not get work at any garage; his new prosthetics worked well, but not well enough to be an auto mechanic.  The last time Hammer saw him, Reynolds was feeling good  and was about to start work as a handyman at an estate upstate in a town named Hopeful -- the town's name being a good omen perhaps.  Or perhaps not.  Reynolds' body, spine broken, was found in the city park.  Local police did not investigate, saying he had probably been hit by a car.  In standard B-movie horror fashion, Reynolds had been hired by a beautiful and reclusive scientist working in unnatural waters and attended only by a large, thuggish mute.  Hammer, on the way to investigate, ran his car into a ditch during a violent storm and had to find refuge in the creepy mansion.  Cue eerie music.
  • "So Long, Chief"  2014 winner of both the Shamus and the Scribe Awards, and nominated for an Edgar.  Forty-three years ago, a newly promoted police detective turned Hammer's life around.  Hammer was a young kid then and running numbers for the mob.  The cop who made Hammer take a different path ended up as police chief, retiring before Hammer began his brief career as a cop.  Now the Chief was dying and Hammer came to pay his respects.  The dying man gives Hmmer a key without telling him what it opens.  Then, with maybe a day or so left to him, the Chief is murdered in his hospital bed.
  • "A Dangerous Cat"  The neighbors across the way from Hammer had moved and had left their cat behind.  The cat, being very cat-like,  adopted Hammer.  Coming home, Hammer is greeted in the hallway by the cat, but Hammer knew that the cat had been locked in his apartment when he left.  This was the third odd thing that had happened to Hammer in recent days.  First a car had tried to run him down, then he had been winged by a bullet from a barroom brawl, and now someone had broken into his apartment.  Instict had Hammer calling his friend Pat Chambers to get a bomb-smelling dog to his apartment.  The dog narrowed in on eight sticks of dynamite.  Who is after Hammer this time and why?  The story ends with a five-word sentence that is the essence of Mickey Spillane.
  • "It's in the Book"  Don Nicholas Giraldi, head of one of New York's Mafia families, has died.  Rumor had it that the Don had kept a hand-written ledger of every transaction and every deal he had ever made.  Hammer is hired by a U.S. senator to find the book, which could not only incriminate himself but also the president.  The Don's nephew also wants the book.  Hammer, of course, quickly finds the journal and outfoxes the mafia, collecting a fee from both the mafia and the senator.  The story ends with a fitting and surprising twist.
  • "Skin"  Hammer spots a dog on the side of the road, body stetched out, pointing toward some bushes, teeth bared.  Hammer stops his car and takes a look.  There's a mangled body in the bushes.  "If it weren't for the hand lying next to the carnage wreaked on a human body, you would have thought it was road kill that half a dozen vehicles had rolled over."  Turns out that the area has had a spate of graverobbing over the past few years, always beautiful women who had died young, two or three a year.  But this body was a man and the fingerprints on the severed hand cameback as those of Victor King, a famous Broadway producer who had vanished the month before.  The hand was King's but the body wasn't -- and the body was fresh.  Hammer meets up with a pretty young newscaster and a homicidal maniac with a skinning machine.  This story takes place in the late nineties.  (All eight stories are presented in chronological order according to Hammer's timeline, from the 60s to the 90s.)  Hammer may be older, perhaps slower, but he remains the engine of justice he has always been.
Collins has taken Spillane's fragments and notes and produce stories true to Spillane's legacy.  Perhaps too well.  Although trying to do justice to Spillane's style, some of the stories (IMHO) read better than Spillane himself.

Quarry, the hitman protagonist of Max Allan Collins' longest-running series, has been around since 1976's The Broker (republished as Quarry), in which the returning Vietnam vet arrives home a day early, only to catch his wife in bed with her lover.  Quarry crushed the lover beneath a car and soon got an offer to be an assassin for a mysterious middleman known as the Broker.  Quarry has been the subject of a movie and of a television show and was lately the subject of a graphic novel, Quarry's War.  In Quarry in the Black, he is still working for the Broker  He and his sometime partner (the Broker's hitmen always work in pairs) are sent to Ferguson, Missouri, to dispatch a Black civil rights leader, thought to be the next Martin Luther King, Jr.  The target is linked to Eugene McCarthy's run for the White House.  Quarry usually doesn't do racial or political assassinations, but he is assured that the hit is due to the target's drug dealing.  But now Quarry has to face a couple of Nazi country boys, the St. Louis mob, and a KKK Klavern, learning that his target has never dealt drugs.  Quarry has to maneuver these various obstacles and figure out a way not to kill his target.  The Quarry books are fast and violent and  have a lot of graphic sex and this one is no different in that regard.

In Quarry's Climax, the titular anti-hero's assignment is not to kill someone, but rather to save someone from assassination.  The Broker had been contacted about an assignment to kill a pornographer based in Memphis.  The Broker turns down the assignment because he has a financial interest in the target's strip club and "adult" (think gynocology) magazine.  Knowing that someone else is certain to take up the contract, the Broker sends Quarry and his some-time partner Boyd to Memphis to prevent the hit from taking place.  It's not enough to take out the other team; Quarry must also figure out who ordered the hit in the first place and eliminate that threat also.  More violence.  More sex.  And more great action-packed reading.

In 2014 Collins and his frequent collaborator Matthew V. Clemens released Supreme Justice, the first in a trilogy of thrillers focused on the three branches of American government.  This first volume concentrated on a plot against the Supreme Court.  It was followed up by 2014's Fate of the Union, dealing with the legislative branch.  One of the main characters in the trilogy was Joe Reeder, a former Secret Service Agent who had been assigned to presidential protection.  Reeder had taken a bullet saving the president, becoming a national hero.  His career ended when he openly criticized that president, whose policies Reeder hated.  Reeder became a private investigator in D.C.  The other main character was FBI Special Agent Patti Rogers.

Reeder is straight, divorced with a college-age daughter and is a liberal.  Rogers is a mild conservative, possibly gay, possibly bi, and some years younger than Reeder.  There is no romance among them, in case you were wondering, but there is a strong affection between the two and they work well together.

A retired colleague of Reeder's is dead of a suspected suicide, but Reeder is not convinced.  Meanwhile Rogers is heading a special task force looking into a series of possibly related murders seemingly random victims, killed months apart, each killed by a double tap to the head. The cases begin to converge with hints of a vast conspiracy against the heart of the government and a plot to blow up Congress and the Senate.  Reeder, Rogers, and her team face almost impossible odds as they race to stop the greatest threat the country has ever faced.

Another character in the trilogy was Miguel Altuve, an FBI computer wizard.  Altuve is known as "Miggie."  I mention this because the actor Miguel "Miggie" Ferrar was a close friend of Max Allan Collins and I suspect Collins "Tuckerized" his friend in this trilogy.  "Miggie" has an even greater role in the final book in the trilogy, which was published the year Ferrar died.

One character introduced in Fate of the Union was Kevin Lockwood, who as "Virginia Plain" was a successful drag queen.  By the final book in the trilogy, Kevin and Rogers are dating.

The trilogy closes out with Executive Order, which focuses on the executive branch.  The Secretary of the Interior has died from an allergic reaction to sesame "accidently" included in her sandwich.  Reeder, who had known and dated the secretary after his divorce, thinks it was murder.  The country's economy is doing poorly and there are federal budgets cuts looming -- on the chopping block is Rogers' FBI team.  To avoid this, she needs a headline-grabbing case to keep the pencil pushers of her back and to retain her team.  Reeder suggests that she look in the the Interior Secretary's death.

In Azbekistan, four CIA agents have been sent, against the president's orders, to scope out a planned Russian invasion.  Somehow the invasion began sooner than their intelligence had said it would and all four were killed by Russian soldiers.  Hardliners are demanding action and WWIII appears to be on the horizon.  At home, several government agents have been killed.  It's all a part of a large plot hatched by powerful members of the same group that was behind the plot in the previous book -- the group that Reeder and Rogers thought had been destroyed.  This time they plan to place one of their own in the presidency by eliminating the president, vice president, and cabinet.  This organization's tentacles extend everywhere and Reeder and Rogers soon find themselves wanted by law officials.  As the tension ratchets up, all the pair have to do is get past the ultra-high security at Camp David and save the president. 

The Reeder/Rogers books are pure high-tension suspense, reminescent of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels set on a larger stage.

Perhaps Collins' most signature character is Nathan Heller, who started as a private eye in Chicago in the thirties and eventually ended up connected with some of the most famous cases of the twentieth century.  His cases have involved notorious gangsters (Nitti, Ma Barker, Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Jack Ruby), politicians (Anton Cernak, Huey Long, the Kennedys), famous personalilties (Amelia Earhart, Marilyn Monroe, Sally Rand, Barney Ross, Charles Lindburgh, Bill Veeck), and such events as the Roswell UFO case and the murder of Harry Oakes.  All of the Heller stories are based on actual events and are thoroughy researched, allowing Collins to come up with plausible alternative solutions and surprise twists.

(A timeline of Heller's life written by Bill slankhard was printed this week on Collins official web site.  It makes intersting reading and you can find it here:

Better Dead is the latest Nate Heller novel.  (A new novel, Do No Harm, will be published in March.)  Heller is hired by Dashiell Hammett, representing a group of leftist writers and Hollywood personalities, to find evidence that would exonerate Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.  It's a Hail Mary pass, as the two accused spies are due to be executed the following month.  Columnist Drew Pearson, who put Heller in touch with Hammett, has agreed to pick Heller's expense in exchange for a news story. Meanwhile, Heller has a tenuous relationship with paranoid, Red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy, having done some work for the Senator.  McCarthy's legal aide is the unscupulous Roy Cohn, who happened to be the person who railroaded the Rosenbergs to a death sentence.  (Incidently, Cohn went on to nurture a young Donald Trump, teaching The Donald his take-no-prisoners and never-admit-you're-wrong-never-apologize philosophy.)  Cohn uses his power to force gangster Frank Costello to warn Heller off the Rosenberg case.  A young staffer working for Cohn is Bobby Kennedy, who admires Heller because of occasional work he had done for the family -- including erasing much of the evidence of Jack Kennedy's brief, ill-timed first marriage.  McCarthy thinks the CIA is riddled with communists who are trying to sabotage his mission and wants Heller to see what the CIA has on him that it can use for blackmail.  He also hires Heller to investigate Hammett and his friends.  Heller interviews the Rosenbergs and finds them personable.  He then interviews Ethel Rosenberg's brother, who supposedly had smuggled information about the atomic bomb for the Russians and who had accused his sister and Julius of being spies to save himself from a deth sentence.  The Rosenberg's had an incompetent lawyer and a farce of a trial with much of the evidence being manufactured by Cohn.  The common feeling is that Ethel Rosenberg, accused only of typing up some notes, will never be executed and that she is sitting on Death Row in an effort to intimidate her husband into telling all.

And that's just the first third of the novel.

McCarthy wants Heller to interview a scientist about the CIA.  The scientist tells Heller about mind control activities and about CIA poisons and LSD experiments.  Later the scientist goes missing and Heller tries to find him.  Meanwhile Heller meets Bettie Page and manages to save from testifying before Estes Kefauver's senate committee.  The CIA misdoings lead to murder.

As with Sacco and Vanzetti, people are widely divided on the guilt or innocence of the Rosenbergs.  Whether guilty or innocent, it is clear that their treatment went far beyond reasonable bounds.  Collins skillfully covers the pros and cons in this matter.

Nathan Heller's career takes him on the fringe of history.  He's an important, albeit minor, character in many of the events that shaped the country and its culture over the last century.  Because of the detail Collins includes, reading a Heller novel is like reading a history text, although more interesting, more fun, with more detail on individuals involved and with the violence and sex left in.

Speaking of textbooks, Men's Adventure Magazines is a hefty coffee table book about the size and weight of a college physics text.  It includes hundreds of full color pictures of covers and cover paintings of the men's "sweat" magazines of the 50s and 60s -- Male, Man's Action, Man to Man, True Men, Epic, Fury, and Real Action, to name just a few.  All images were taken from the Rich Oberg Collection.  These magazines, containing what purported to be true stories, focused on blood, babes, and beasts -- outrageous and oft-times xenophobic stories with such titles as "The Promiscuous Redhead of Torture Island," "I Saw Blood Lusty Congo Cannibals Butcher White Hostages and Eat The Alive!," "Wrestling to Death with a Wounded Leopard," "The Hill Ran Red with Blood," "Those Slimy Rodents Are Eating My Flesh," "Death Orgy of the Doomed Vice Queens," "Hi-Jacked Yank Skipper Who Smashed a Dominican Red Ring," "Sex-Slave to the Jungle Japs," "Devil Dog Dan Was the Toughest S.O.B. of Them All!,"  "Secrets of the Nazi Horror Castle," and the immortal "Weasels Ripped My Flesh."  The covers usually features bare-chested manly men, cleavage-showing, well-endowed female beauties in distress, leering Nazis or Japs or Africans or Viet Cong or what have you, blazing guns focused on the enemy (be they soldiers, sadists, ships, or planes), mean-assed animals with a grudge against humans, rough seas, hot sands, jungle huts, battlefields, and Nazi labs.  These covers were coll, man, and designed to attract the male reader.  The stories, of course, were usually not true, and those that were had little to do with the cover illos.

Collins and his long-time researcher George Hagenaur provide the text -- what little there is of it.  It seems like there's much more than is really there because it is repeated in German and in French and is printed in teeny tinny type which, to my old eyes, is about the size of  pimple on a protozoa.  Nonetheless, their text is interesting, informative, and entertaining.  That said, it's the art that makes the book truly worthwhile.  Think the polar opposite of the old Playboy excuse, "I buy it for the aricles, not the pictures."

So.  Seven books over a period of about ten days.  All of them winners.  All of them highly recommended.  Few authors have shown more consistancy over so many themes and genres as Max Allan Collins.

P.S.  I don't want to think that this all of Collins that I have read this year.  Earlier I read his graphic novel Quarry's War, his throughly researched non-fiction book Scarface and the Untouchable (written with A. Brad Schwartz; they're working on a sequel now), his latest Mike Hammer novel Murder, My Love (bylined with Mickey Spillane), his western novel The Bloody Spur (based on characters created by Spillane in an unproduced movie script for John Wayne), and Antiques Ho-Ho-Ho Homicide ( a collection of three novelettes in the Trash 'n' Treasures mystery series he writes with his wife Barbara Collins under the joint pseudonym "Barbara Allen").  And there\'s still plenty left for me to read.

As I said, the sumbitch writes a lot.

And well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


The Moody Blues.


My wife keeps getting on my back because of my poor sense of direction.  Finally I had enough, so I packed my bags and right.


Twenty-three years ago I took on a new role.  No longer was I just a husband and father, for the first time I was a grandfather.  I think this was a role I was ready for all my life.  Catherine Delaney Dowd was a quiet and serene newborn, swaddled so tightly I was amazed at the nurses' skills.  From the get-go she was a happy baby -- just happy to be here, just happy to be.  This beautiful child melted our hearts and became part of us forever.  I was willing to call her Laney, for a cherished cousin of mine who had passed away way too early.  But everyone else was determined to call her Cayley, a "combination of her first and middle names.  But nobody settled on the "proper" to spell the name, so she was variously Cayley, Caylee, Kayley, Kaylee, and probably a  dozen other riffs on the name.  (Proper name spelling has become very creative.  Just read a list the names of recent high school graduates in you community.)  Somewhere along the line, she settled for Ceili (an Irish word for dance) and although she has moved on from that spelling, I haven't.  Lately she has been going by Della, taken from her middle name, but for me she always be Ceili.

The smiling, laughing child took a backseat to a fearful one after she watched her father die from a sudden heart attack when she was nine.  That trauma will probably remain with her for the rest of her life, but she has built upon it to become a righteous warrior, compassionately and fiercely defending the underdog and the ones who are marginalized by society.  She has also grown up to have a wicked sense of humor (wonder where that came from).  She's super smart and knows more about history than I do and even than Kitty (a history major) does.  She's a fangirl and knows everything about The Lord of the Rings, Marvel movies and comics, and just about every cultural phenomena of the last two decades.  She is personable and has gained respect from everyone she has worked with.  Each time I see her, I think there's a huge balloon has  just appeared over my head saying, "I'm so proud."

To say that we love her underestimates our feelings.

Happy  birthday, pretty girl.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


The Who.


Mark Sheldon (Robert Wilcox) is an undercover agent for the Department of Justice investigating Stephen Daniel (Peter Lorre), the owner of a private island who uses convict labor to mine diamonds.  Sheldon, falsely "convicted" of murder, is sent to the island as (under the convincing alias of "Mr. Smith") a laborer to expose the cruel conditions of the island.  Lorre uses a cat-of-nine-tails to keep order among the convicts and is suspected of murdering at least one of them.  It's implied that he also used his whip to keep his wife (Rochelle Hudson) in line.  Sheldon falls in love with the wife Lorraine and together they plot their escape from the island.

It's all standard B-movie fare, but Lorre's performance elevates the film.

Wilcox was a contract player for Universal and led an unhappy life.  He felt underused and typecast in "cops and robber" roles.  His second wife was actress Diana Barrymore and their marriage was plagued by alcoholism, infidelity, public fights, and frequent encounters with the law for domestic disturbances.  The marriage ended with his death at age 45 in 1955.  He was found dead of a heart attack by a porter in a Pullman birth at the Rochester (NY) train station during a trip to his home town.

Rochelle Williams started in films when she was fourteen.  She was fifteen when signed by RKO, which added a couple of years to her age because it was felt (rightly) audiences would cringe at a 15-year-old in romantic roles.  She went from ingenue to lead actress to character player in her career and was in three films that were nominated for an Oscar.  She dropped out of Hollywood in 1955 after playing Natalie Wood's mother in Rebel Without a Cause only to return briefly in 1963.  In her later years she found success in Palm Springs real estate.  She was married (and divorced) four times.  She died at age 56 from pneumonia brought on by a liver disease.

Island of Doomed Men was directed by Charles Barton, who had a busy career directing B-movies, first at Paramount, then Columbia, and then to Universal where he gained a reputation for comedy films (of which Island of Doomed Men was definitely not one).  In 1951 he moved to directing television directing Amos and Andy (78 episodes), then moving on to other popular family shows:  The Great Gildersleeve, Zorro, Dennis the Menace, Petticoat Junction, and Family Affair among them.

Robert Hardy Andrews (Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Girl's Town, Tarzan Goes to India) wrote the original screenplay.


Monday, August 26, 2019


Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers.  (The Beatles, contrary to the title on this clip, did not perform on this song.)


Openers:  The only important society in existence today is the EFC -- The Eclectic
but Comprehensive Fraternity for the perpetuation of Gratitude towards Lesser Lights.  Its founders were William Lemming, of Lemming and Orton. print-sellers; Alexander Hay McKnight, of Ellis and McKnight, provision-merchants; Robert Keede, MRCP, physician, surgeon and accoucheur; Lewis Holroyd Burges, tobacconist and cigar-importer -- all of the south-eastern postal districts -- and its zealous, hard-working, but unappreciated secretary.  The meetings are usually ar Mr Lemmings's little place in Berkshire, where he raises pigs,

-- "Fairy Kist" by Rudyard Kipling, from MacLean's, September 15, 1927

One word in the paragraph above sounded familiar but for the life of me I couldn't come up with a definition.  It turns out an accoucheur is a male mid-wife, or obstetrician.  If I use this word in a sentence four more times today, it will be mine to keep.


  • Chad Oliver, The Wolf Is My Brother.  Western novel. a Golden Spur award winner in 1967.  "Comanche chief Fox Claw has seen the savagery of the white man.  They have ravaged his land, slaughtered his buffalo and now senselessly murdered the young brave he loved as a son.  The is nothing else Fax Clae can do.  He must kill the white man.  He must buirn them from his sacrd land.  Colonel Bill Curtis of the Twelfth Cavalry respects the proud Clomanch nation.  But why must his own people kill the defenseless, violate their women, massacre their young?  He shares Fox Claw's anger.  But Colonel Curtis also knows his duty and his destiny:  destriy Fox Claw...or be destroyed by him"  Oliver was a a well-respected anthorpologist and educator and the author of some of the best anthropolgical science fiction novels ever written.   The Plains Indians were one of his major research subjects, which helped give his western novels empathy and realism.
  • Thomas Tessier, Wicked Things.  Horror novel.  "The small town of Winship seems so perfect...on the surface.  But as investigator Jack Carlson is finding out, appearances can be deceiving.  He's looking into a rash of deaths in the town, but the more he pokes behinds the picture-postcard facade, the more frightened he becomes.  How could someone disappear in an opoen meadow, as if swallowed by the earth?  Why does the ground seem to glow in spots? Why is no one able to stop the gangs of young thugs who roam the street at will?  Local residents are afraid to answer his questions -- with good cause.  They know that Winship's tranquil exterior hides some truly...WICKED THINGS."

Florida Man = Florida Fan:  People here in the Land of Crazy just love their football and -- just perhaps -- don't love certain types of music.  That may be why a Universtiry of Miami Hurricanes fan assaulted the Florida Gators Universoty of Florida Gators band director after the Hurricanes lost to the Gators (24-20, if you're interested) before a sell-out season opener crowd Saturday evening.  The band director, Jay Watkins, was grabbed from behind in a chokehold and was thrown to the ground.  Watkins had a few bumps and scrapes but soon was back on the bus to Gainesville.  He declined to press charges against his assailant which was all to the good because we do not know who the assailant was -- no description was given in the police report.  No student band members were injured during the assault, but a woman was so upset that she suffered a nosebleed.  At lest this Southern belle did not have the vapors.

Delayed Rection:  A Chicago woman is suing former basketball star Scotty Pippen for expenses some 26 years after the fact.  The woman, Chyvette Valentine, said the she had an affair with Pippen from 1987 to 1993 and that she would travel on her own dime to see Pippen whenever the Chicago Bulls played out of town, paying thousands of dollars on hotels, car rentals, food, and parking.  Since the suit is in small claims court, she is asking $9,999 -- the largest amount allowed in small claims, although she says she had spent much more.

Ms. Valentine also said that she did not know Pippen was married and had an infant when they first hooked up.  When she saw bottles of formula at his house, Pippen told her they were for his sister.  Pippen told her the truth in 1988 (on Valentines Day, because nothing says "I love you" more than fessing up to being married), but they still continued the relationship for another five years.

This rises a number of questions, most of then pertaining to Ms. Valentine.  Why wait for over two and a half decades before suing?   And since she was a willing participant in the affair, why does she feel she is entitled to these "expenses"?  Did she keep receipts for these expenses?  If she has a lawyer, did she find him in the Yellow Pages under "Incompetent"?  And as for Pippen, he evidently had a baby when this thing started, but only married the mother the following year, in 1988 -- the year he told Valentine we was married and had a child.  That said, he's still a cheating sleazeball.

Speaking of Sleazeballs:  A Union County, North Carolina, man turned himself in after killing his 15-year-old daughter this weekend.  The daughter, who lived with her mother, usually visited her father, Joshua Lee Burgess, on weekends.  Burgess strangled the girl and then slit her throat.  Because Burgess is white and the girl was bi-racial, some are suspecting the murder was racially motivated.  Consider, however, Burgess was also charged with statutory rape, first degree statutory sex offense, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree degree sexual expoitation of a minor, I tend to believe Burgess was not racially motivated but that he is just a worthless piece of protoplasm who abused and killed a child.  I am not a believer in the death penalty but there are times when this belief is sorely strained.

Let's Cleanse Our Palate With Some Good News:

  • A Cambridge University scientist may be on the verge of curing multiple sclerosis.  MS occurs when the body's immune cells attack the protective layer around nerves.  Dr. Sue Metcalfe has discovered a switch within the immune cell that can be "reset" to its normal activity.  Her promising studies may not only cure MS but could perhaps rstore cells already damaged by the illness.
  • Sgt. Seth Craven flew from Afghanistan to the United States ro witness the birth of his son.  When he landed in Philadelphia, however, a storm caused his final flight to Charleston, West Virginia, to be delayed several times.  All rental cars had been taken so Craven could not drive the final leg of his trip.  Enter Charlene Vickers, a fellow airline passenger from the Philadelphia area whose car was parked in the airport lot.  Hearing of Craven's distress, she offered to drive him to Charleston, an eight-hour drive.  Craven didn't even stop to pick up his luggage.  He hopped in the car with this total stranger.  They made it Craven's house by midnight and the next morning he was at his wife's side when son Cooper was born the next morning.  The only thing Vickers asked for was that a picture of the baby be sent to her.  Random kindness can men a lot.
  • Two Indonesian high school teenagers, "Anggina Rafitri and Aysa Aurealya Maharani decided to test the claims of a local traditional medicine by developing a treatment extracted from the native Bajakah tree.  Two weeks after performing a study on a rat with cancerous tumors, the rat was cancer-free."  The girls have given new hope that this disease (breast cancer in the case of the rat) can have a swift-acting cure.  It's a long way from curing a rat to curing a human, but doctors and politicians alike are hopeful.   Kudos to both girls for their scientific curiosity and their empathy.
  • Researchers at the University of Adelaide have developed a carbon nanospring magnet that can dissolve microplastic polluting the water without harming microorganism.  A big step toward eliminating a major environmental health hazard.  It's early days but there is a chance that these dissolved micropollutants can he used as food to spur algae growth.
  • Another act of random kindness:
  • Some Webster Grove (Missouri) firefighters returning from a call noticed an elderly woman struggling to get her wheelchair across her front lawn.  A team of firefighters return to the woman's home the next weekend and spent their days off building a concrete walkwal and ramp to her front door.  Said one person, "That's what it's all about!  Neighbors helping neighbors.  Job well done, guys!"
  • We still don't own Greenland.
  • And a recent study from the University of Sussex and Aarhus university show that Europe has the potential of providing enough wind energy to meet the needs of the entire world.  Hmm.  I sincerely hope they're right.

Today's Poem:

What is life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And star as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts and grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich the smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

--  W. H. Davies

Saturday, August 24, 2019


Bobby Hebb.  I saw him in the way back when when he opened for the Beatles.  Poor guy, while singing this song he dropped the mic.  Despite having a deer in the headlights look, he handled it well, dancing around the stage before he picked up the mic, making it look like it was part of the act.


The Phantom Lady started out as a sexy female superhero first appeared in Quality Comics Police Comics #1, August 1941.  She was Sandra Knight, the daughter of a U.S. senator.  She used a "black light" projector that confused her enemies and made her invisible.  More importantly, she wore a one piece suit (I want to say bathing suit) and a green cape.  The skimpy outfit was not intended to attract amle buyers of the comic book.  Nope.  It was to distract her male foes.  (Right.) The Phantom Lady was a knockout.  She was created by the Eisner & Iger Studio, who also created Plastic Man in the same issue.  She appeared in monthly up to issue #23 and also in three issues of Feature Comics.

Once the Phantom Lady's run at Quality Comics ended, what had become the Iger Studio sold the character to Fox Feature Syndicate.  Whether Iger owned the copyright to the character was a murky question, but Fox Feature ran with it giving her her own title beginning with Phantom Lady #13, taking over the numbering of Wotalife Comics.  And they sexed her up again.  Now the Phantom Lady wore a low-cute, cleavage-bearing, short-skirted outfit.  (Dr. Frederic Wertham used the cover of Phantom Lady #17 for his infamous book Seduction of the Innocent, which attempted to show that comic books were corrupting the  morals of the nation's youth, leading to the mid-50s campaign against comics and the establkishment of the Comics Code.  Wertham, despite being the party pooper that he was, also described the Phantom Lady's bosom as "headlights.)  Fox Feature's Phantom Lady run lasted for eleven issue of her titular (See?  I can do it too, Wertham!) title as well as ten guest spots in All-Top Comics.  And that was it for Fox Feature; the Phantom Lady moved to Star Publications which used reprints until they, too, went out of business.

By the time the Phantom Lady moved to Ajax-Farrell, Dr. Wertham had done his dirty work and Phantom Lady's cleavage was covered and her skirt was replaced with shorts.  She then bounced around to Charlton Comics and I. W. Publications until DC Comics claimed the character in the early 70s.  DC played with the character a lot, placing her in various comic book universes, changing her name and hair color several times, and giving her a wobbly origin.  She became Dee Tyler and was killed and then resurrected, then became Stormy Knight, and then Jennifer Knight.  Various versions and homages to the character appeared in from numerous publishers and artists.  Alan Moore used a riff on the character in Watchman, Alex Ross based his version of the character on popular model Betty Page, a further version had the character as a lesbian, and Paragon Publications reimagined her as the Blue Bulleteer, giving her a Vampirella-like costume that was even more revealing than the Fox Features costume.  And the legend lives on...

In the first story in issue #18, drawn by Matt Baker, Sandra Knight's fiance is approached to finance a treasure hunt, retrieving a cache of gold from a sunken galleon off Skull Island (not Kong's Skull Island).  It's a scam, of course, and one of the scammers is murdered on the island.  Sandra dons her Phantom Lady skimpy costumes and runs into a strange "ghost pirate" warning her off the island.  The scam is revealed and the other scammer is then shot dead by the ghost pirate.  Lured by the thought of sunken treasure, two other crooks come to the island and force Matt to dive to the wreck.  While Matt is underwater, the ghost comes and kills the two baddies.  The Phantom captures the ghost pirate, who was really an escapee from a lunatic asylum, but can she save Matt from a wtery death?  Do we even have to ask that question.

In her second adventure, Sandra buys a painting from a sidewalk artist.  As she leaves with the painting, a laundry van pulls up and the artist is forced into it by gunpoint and all his remaining paintings are taken.  The man behind the lidnapping and heist is Ambrose Bell -- an obese, wheel-chair bound "collector" who intends to make the poor artist a household name.  Then, of course, he'll kill him, making the paintings he has stolen extremely valuable.  Bell's undoing happens when he is invited to a party thrown by Sandra's father, who is also an avid art collector.  Sandra finds out that Bell is known as the "laundry king" and get suspicious.  As Phantom Lady she sneaks to Bell's mansion and discovers one of the stolen paintings on display there.  She discovers that Bell is planning to kill the artist, so the artist is rescued, one of Bell's flunky's is knocked out, and Bell pulls a gun on her, not reckoning on the Phantom Lady's "black ray."

After a two-page text story about adventure in the jungle, the Phantom Lady returns to narrate a truw story about Irene Shroeder who, with her boyfriend, went on a three-week interstate robbing and murdering spree from West Virginia to Arizona.

Lovers of 'good girl art" will appreciate this issue.


Friday, August 23, 2019


If you had been around in 1922, you might have heard this popular song from Trixie Smith.


"The Death Chair" by L. T. Meade & Robert Eustace (from The Strand Magazine, July 1899)

Elizabeth Thomasina Meade (1844-1914) was best known as a prolific and popular author of more than 300 books, about half of which were stories for girls.  The L. T. in her writing name stood for Lillie Thomas.  She was also the founding editor of the girls' magazine Atlanta, a successor to Every Girl's Magazine; she edited the magazine for all but five years of its existence, with the quality of the magazine falling sharply after her departure.  Meade was also a strong supporter of the feminist movement and her stories and her magazine proved to be a good conduit for her views.

Devotees of mystery fiction, however, know her as the author and co-author of a number of seminal works in the detective genre:  Stories from the Diary of a Doctor (three volumes), A Master of Mysteries, The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings, and The Sorceress of the Strand.  Wikipedia lists 66 volumes of her mysteries, although (because of the vagarities of Wikipedia) I cannot vouch how many of this number are true mysteries.  At least eleven of her mystery books were co-written with Robert Eustace, about whom little is known.  Eustace, whose real name was Robert Eustace Barton, was evidently a terrible writer but a good plotter and, as a medical doctor, was a good source of medical and scientific background. In addition to collaborating with Meade he also worked with Edgar Jepson (The Tea-Life) and with Drothy L. Sayers (The Documents in the Case)

"The Death Chair" was the first of six stories about The Sanctuary Club that were published in The Strand Magazine in the last half of 1899 and were published in book form the following year.  (It is erronously reported in The Enclopedia of Science Fiction that this series was written by Meade and Clifford Halifax, another of Meade's frequent co-authors, rather than with Eustace.)  The Strand's policy was not to print serials, but it often published series of stories linked by a specific character in this manner before they achieved book publication; such was the case with Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series, Arthur Morrison's Martin Hewitt series, Agatha Christie's The Labours of Hercules (only eleven of the twelve "labours," however; the last would have to wait for book publication), and others.

The Sanctuary Club was an inprobably creation, suited far more to fiction than reality.  It was created by Paul Cato and his friend Henry Chetwynd, both doctors.  A large inheritance (very large) came to Cato when he was forty and allowed him to make a dream of his reality.  He built a large (very large) mansion on sprawling acreage and he and Chetwynd started The Sanctuary Club, open to all of both sexes who would afford the fifty-pound entry fee and the annual subscription of ten pounds; in addition, every member of the club must be a "victim of disease in one of its many forms.  The primary object of the club was to cure malacies that were in any way curable without sending to patients out of England."  (None of this take a rest in the mountains, or at sea, or in the quiet woods, or in a dry climate.  If necessary, the Club had the resources to create such climates on their own.)   The Club's resources also provided the latest in medical research.  Those with minor maladies could come in for consultation; those with more serious maladies were residents of the Club.  By the end of the first year of the club, there were nearly three hundred resident.  I did mention the place was large (very large), didn't I?

"The Death Chair" is concerned with three patients, none of them residents.  Lady Helen Trevor, is beautiful, rich, popular, and loved by her husband.  She suffers from "an extraordinary kind of nervousness. which, without ever approaching the borderland of the insane, cause her sleepless nights and days of apprehension and misery."  (In other words, she most probably had some form of anxiety.)  She happens to own the Catalini Casket, a unique jewel-encrusted box that had been in her husband's family, which he gace to her with the promise that she would never part with it.  
The box is coveted by Senor Don Santos, a Club member who lived in a large mansion near Wimbleton.  Don Santos' medical issues are not revealed, however, he is prone of bursts of anger and Chetwynd -- who does not like or trust the man -- feels he is suffering from incipient anxiety.  The third patient is John Ingram, a poor man whose Club membership was paid by Chetwynd, who had teken a great liking to the young man.  Ingram suffers from "paroxysms of neauralgic anxiety" and is not the smartest kid on the block, but he is personable and is devoted to his mother.  Ingrim's biggest wish is to be rich enough to have his mother live with him so he could give her the best care possible.  One day, the three wre in a intense discussion about the Catalini Casket.  A few days later all three left the Club, citing its praises and vowing to return again.

Later that year, Ingrim burst into Cato's consultation room so excited with news that he must tell someone.  Since his mentor Chetwynd was away that someone was Cato.  Ingrim said that had earned 350 pounds in one day, acting as an agent and that he felt sure he would be getting more commissions.  He could now afford to care for his mother properly.  As to what or whom he was an agent for, Ingrim wouldn't say.  Joyful at his good luck, Ingrim left.

Shrtly after, Chetwynd returned and Cato informed him of Ingram's visit.  Chetwynd fears that Don Santos is involved in the affair.  "Senor Don Santos was far too friendly with Ingram when the were both here.  I distrust the man throughly.  The is no doubt that on some points he is insane -- he is also unscryupulous, and to attain his ends would stop at nothing," Chetwynd said.

The next morning Ingram was found dead, his battered body lyng some three hudred yards from Don Santos' mansion.  The ground around the body was completely undisturbed with no sign of anyone else being present.  The damage done to Ingrim was so extensive that it could not have been dome by a human, although it was difficult to imagine what kind of beast would do this.   One theory was that he had fallen off a hot air balloon, but this idea was soon abandoned.  Chetwynd is convinced that Don Santos is involved in the young man's death.  Afraid that Chetwynd might do something rash, Cato gives Don Santos a visit.

Don Santos admits the Ingram was acting as his agent.  A rare pearl necklace was being auctioned off at Christie's, and Santo told Ingram to spend up to 7000 pounds to obtain it.  He had telegramed Don Santos the day before that he had got the necklace and would deliver it that evening.  According to Don Santos, Ingram never appeared.  The necklace had not been found on Ingram's body, giving officials theft as a motive for the murder.  Who killed Ingram and how, and what happened to the necklace remained mysteries.

About half a year later, Cato is approached by Ingram's mother.  She is convinced Don Santos murdered her son.  She also said that Ingram borrowed the 7000 pounds to make the bid, knowing that he would ber reimbursed by Don Santos but, not having the necklace, Don Santos refused to pay Ingram's debt.  It remained to Ingram's mother to pay off the debt using all of her resources.  She now lives on a very small stipend.  She told Cato that she knew her son had made it to Don Santos' mansion because she had dreamt it -- a very vivid dream of the two of them on Don Santos' second floor veranda.  Cato agrees to go to Don Santos to see if such a veranda exists to plead the old woman's case for the 7000 pounds.

The veranda on the second floor did exist.  How did Mrs. Ingrim know that? 

In any event we learn that Lady Helen has agreed to "sell" the Catalini Casket to Don Santos.  It seems her brother had racked up a 5000-pound debt that had to be paid off.  Lady Helen's husband refused to give her the money and so she turned to Don Santos.  Don Santos agreed to give her the money in exchange for the casket, which he would hold as collateral until Lady Helen could repay him.  Don Santos is convinced that Lady Helen will never repay the loan and that he will permanent custody of the casket.  Cato agrees to being the middleman in this exchange.  He brings the casket to Don Santos and expects to leave with a check of 5000 pounds, not realizing what Don Santos' true intentions were.

Of course his intentions were murder, but how?  And can Cato save himself and solve the mystery of Ingram's death?  Of course he can.  There are five more episodes to come in the series.

A somewhat complicated story with a somewhat fantastic solution, but one that remains as readable today as it did 120 years ago.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Count Basie with one of his top hits from 1937.


Johnny Dollar, "the man with the action-packed expense account," was a free-lance insurance investigator -- a job that allowed him to come across to come across murder and various crimes on a weekly basis.  Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar ran from February 18, 1949 to September 30, 1962 on CBS Radio with a year-long hiatus in 1955 for a total of 809 episodes, 90% of which exist today.

Johnny was first played by movie actor Charles Russell (The Late George Apley, Give My Regards to Broadway, Inner Sanctum) who was replaced in 1950 by Edmond O'Brien (D.O.A., The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Seven Days in May), who was then replaced in 1952 by John Lund (A Foreign Affair. To Each His Own, High Society), who carried the role through 1954.  Dick Powell had played Johnny in the audition show in 1948 but bowed out to pursue other roles.  (When Powell auditioned the show was called Yours Truly, Lloyd London -- the name changed by the time Powell did the audition show from fears of a legal brouhaha with a certain British insurance giant.

The show was revived in September 1955 with a new lead and a new director.  The director was Jack Johnstone, a radio veteran whose career would include directing The Adventures of Superman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Crime Doctor, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, and episodes of CBS Radio Workshop, Hollywood Star Playhouse, and Hollywood Star Time, among many others.
Johnstone changed the format of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar from a weekly half-hour show to a fifteen minute, five times a week show, allowing 75 minutes for each weekly arc.  To maintain consistency, Jackstone also mandated that all five episodes of a weekly show be recorded in one take.  (This format lasted until November 2, 1956, after which iT returned to a half-hour weekly format.)

And the new Johnny Dollar?  He was Bob Bailey, who had a long career in radio, beginning with 1936's Mortimer Gooch.  Bailey also had roles in That Brewster Boy, Meet Corliss Archer, and the title role in detective series Let George Do It.  Bailey made the role of Johnny Dollar his own with nearly 500 episodes.  After Bailey left the program, it floundered on for an addition two years -- with two different actors, Bob Readick and Mandel Kramer -- until it died in 1962.  (There was one additional Johnny Dollar, Gerald Mohr, who took the role for the 1955 audition show, as Powell had done in 1948.)

"The Primrose Matter" first aired October 8-12, 1956.


Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

And, wrapping things up, Part Five:

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


This song by Chicory Tip topped the British charts in August 1972.


The doctor asked his patient if she had been sleeping by an open window as he had recommended.
"I certainly have," she answered.
"And is the bronchitis gone now?
"Not really, the only things gone are my laptop and my cellphone."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


From 1976, Wild Cherry.


Shotgun Slade took a slightly different twist from other television western series.  Beginning in 1959, Scott Brady took the title role not as a lawman, or vigilante, or bounty hunter, or a traveling cowboy who just happens to meet up with people in trouble, or a roving gambler.  Nope.  Shotgun Slade was an honest-to-goodness P.I. -- perhaps the first western private detective to hit the small screen in a series.  (Was he the first?  I really don't know.  If anyone clarify this, please let me know.)
Slade's weapon of choice is also a bit different:  a specially adapted shotgun with an upper barrel and a lower barrel.  The lower barrel fires normal 12 gauge shotgun shells, but the upper barrel fires .32 caliber rifle bullets; whether firing closeup or at a distance, Slade is able to shoot accurately using this weapon and fie! on carrying six-guns.  The music for the series was also a bit off-beat.  No Marty Robbins ballads, no folky guitars, no riffs on western standards; Shotgun Slade featured a cool jazz score.

The show was one of three televisions shows (the others were Tales of Wells Fargo and The Texan) created by one-time pulpster Frank Gruber.  In addition to his pulpwork, Gruber wrote a number of successful detective and western novels and, beginning in 1942, Gruber moved to Hollywood, eventually selling 65 movie scripts and hundreds of television scripts.

In the episode linked below, "The Charcoal Bullet" (from July 1, 1960), a drunken sketch artist is a witness to a bank robbery.  Can he draw sketches of the robbers before they get to him?

"The Charcoal Bullet" was scripted by the show's producer, Robert Dietrich, from a story by Dietrich and James Bloodworth, and was directed by Sidney Salkow.


Monday, August 19, 2019


Poet, novelist, historian, raconteur...Carl Sandburg was also a collector and singer of American folk songs.  He recorded this one sometime around 1958.


Openers:  The evening before his wedding Ronny Huckaby was killed by the chickens.  It wasn't an easy thing for them to do.  Chickens are inadequately equipped for murder, and Ronny, who had turned twenty-two a month earlier, was strong and healthy.  (He was also handsome, hung, and quite the local stallion, which did not affect the outcome one way or the other.)  But the chickens managed.  Through perserverance, dogged determination, a certain cavalier disregard for their own safety, and a great deal of surprise, they managed.

-- Tom Reamy, "M Is for the Million Things" (from New Voices 4:  The John W. Campbell Nominees, edited by George R. R. Martin, 1981)

The ultra-talented Reamy (1935-1977) died from a hert attack at age 42, the author of thirteen critically-acclained stories and one novel.  A collection of eleven of thos thirteen stories, San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories, was posthumously published in 1979; the twelfth story was published as noted above, and the thirteenth story was sold to Harlan Ellison's never-to-be-published-(at-least-not-yet) The Last Dangerous Visions.  The novel, Blind Voices, reputedly lacking a final rewrite from Reamy, was posthumously published in 1978 and was well received by critics and fans alike (and remains one of my personal favorites).  Reamy was a major talent gone much too soon.  If you have not read his stories and his novel, what the heck are you waiting for?

Countries for Sale:  So Trump wants to buy Greenland.  H\e's not the first U.S. president to suggest  this.  After World War II Truman proposed buying it for defensive and political reasons.  Denmark did not want to sell, and the world went on just fine as the imagined reasons for buying Greenland faded with time.  The United States currently maintains a military base on the island.  (Buying territory from Denmark had been a thing in the past -- that's how we obtained the American Virgin Islands in 1917.)

Anyway, Denmark does not want to sell, has no reason to sell, and Greenlanders are scoffing at the idea.  And why would Trump think it was a good idea?  Well, it would certainly fit into his ego to go down in history as an expansionist president.  And the political concerns -- having control of such a large area strategically placed near the Arctic Circle may add weight to ocean mining claims under the Arctic.  And then there are the resources.  As global warming continues -- something Trump is accelerating and, despite his denials, knows is happening -- more and more of Greenland will be exposed as the ice sheets melt, revealing a lot of potential riches for the country which controls them.  And if America owns them, I'm sure Trump will try to figure out a way to get a cut of the action.  With Trump's proven lack of business acumen, however, any business plan he develops will almost certainly be a disaster.

Plus, imagine Greenland as an American territory under Trump.  Ask Puerto Rico how that has turned out for them.

Samlesbury Witches:  As English witch trials go, the one against three women from Samlesbury, a village in Lancashire, is one of the most famous ones.  Today is the 407th anniversary of that trial.

Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley, and Ellen Bierley were accused of withcraft by a fourteen-year-old girl, Grace Sowerbutts.  (If anyone ever had an apt name, it was Grace Sowerbutts, although being English, the name could well have been pronounced Chumley or something like that.  The English are funny that way.  I digress.)  Young Grace was the grandaughter of Jennet Bierley and the niece of Ellen Bierly.  Grace stoutly claimed that Jennet and Ellen had the power to change hemselve into dogs and, among the instances of instances of years of haunting and vexing the young girl, they had flown her to the top of a haystack by her hair.  Among the charges Grace laid out were child murder and cannibalism, claiming that the two women stole a baby to suck its blood, and that, after the child was buried, the two disinterred it in order to cook it and eat it.  Grace also said that her grandmother and her aunt, along with Jane Southworth, regularly attneded sabbats each Thursday and Sunday where they met with four black demons with whom they danced and had sex,  I'm not sure which was the worse sins at the time, dancing or having sex.

Caught up in the witch hunting frenzy of the time, a local JP began investigating the Samiesbury area, eventually bring charges against eight women, three of whom went to trial for witchcraft.  There is no prize for guessing which three.

Lancashire at the time was considered the back of the beyond, a wild territory still held in great part by (**gasp!**) Catholics.  Since the ascension of Elizabeth I, Catholic priests had been forces into hiding, although in such a lawless territory as Lancashire was, masses were still being held, usually in secret.  In 1612, the year of the trial, with James I on the throne, it had become illegal not to attend Church of England services.  The Reformation and its aftermath had split many english families.  In Samiesbury the Southworth family was headed by Sir John Southworth an avowed Catholic.  His son John joined the Church of England and was promptly disinherited.  The remaining Southworths remained Catholic with at least one son, Christopher, becoming a Jesuit priest.  Jane Southworth, married to the disinherited son, had been a widow for only a few months when she was accused of withcraft.  It did not help her case when it was revealed that Sir John refused to even pass by her house, fearing that she would kill him.

Things did not look good for the accused, but then Grace Sowerbutts was taken aside for further questioning where she freely admitted that all her accusations were lies.  Grace, a Catholic, had been coached on her entire testimony by Christopher Southworth, the Jesuit priest.  The trial was laid bare as a papist plot against three members of the Church of England.  The trio were released.

The trial gained noteriety when Thomas Potts, the clerk to the Lancanster Assizes, was order to write an account of the proceedings, The Wondefull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, which was published after trial judge Sir Edward Bromley discreetly edited it.  Bromley was hoping to be promoted to a circuit nearer London and hoped this might impress King James.  (It worked.  Bromley was promoted to the Midlands Circuit in 1616;  Potts was also favored by King James, who named him breeder and trainer of the king's hounds in 1615.)

William Harrison Ainsworth, the well-known nineteenth century novelist, mined the trial for his 1849 novel The Lancashire Witches, the best and most popular of his thirty novels and the oly novel of Ainsworth's that has remained continuously in print since its first publication.

Musical Interlude:

Florida Man:  Ah, the dog days of summer, especially this summer with its record heat.  Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night August heat shall stay Florida Man from his appointed weirdness.

  •  In Belleair Bluffs, 22-year-old David Murray Biggs was having a days-long argument with 24-year-old Darius Johnson.  Biggs eventually won the argument by driving to Johnson's house and shooting him.  When officials arrested Biggs for murder, they did not say what the argument was about.  My theory?  They were arguing about the most effective way to kill someone dead.
  • In Panellis Park, Ty Kelley added himself to the "People of Walmart" meme by taking a $6.98 bottle of wine and shoving it down his pants.  Since cheap Walmart wine doesn't travel well he took it into the men's room, where he chugged it down.  I'm not sure whether the wine was a red or a white.  What does go best with the ambiance of a public bathroom?   Perhaps he will meet David Murray Biggs in jail and they will argue the question...
  • In Vero Beach, Carlos Gullen was arrested by sheriff's deputies for smoking pot.  Guillen stated he had been attending a church convention about four milles from where he was arrested.  The pot, he said, was to prepare for the coming of Jesus.  This explanation may be explained by the half-empty bottle of Hennessy cognac next to him in the passenger seat.  The story, as reported online by the very anti-religion "Friendly Atheist," ends with, "Needless to say, if he's waiting for Jesus, Guillen -- like all Christians -- will be staring at a watch for a very long time.  As they say, He was nailed to a cross, not a boomerang."  Ouch!
  • I'll leve this one to your imagination.  The headline reads, "Half-Naked Florida Man Walks Goat in the Rain."  The half that wasn't naked was covered by bright yellow underpants.  The location was Highway 231 just North of Panama City.  And Florida Man wasn't really walking.  "He had a strut with a bit of sashay."
  • In Jacksonville last week, Florida Man Robby Stratton carried an alligator into a liquor store and chased customers with it.  It may not surprise you to know that this week Stratton said he has no memory of the incident (which was caught on tape, by the way).  Alcohol may have been involved.

Today's Poem:

I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.

And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.

They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them.
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaine river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees 
with their women and children
and a keg of beer
and an accordion.

-- Carl Sandburg

Saturday, August 17, 2019


Arthur Alexander.


No shaded nuances here.  Union good, Confederacy bad -- not that they are referred to as the Confederacy, rather here they are "traitors," treasonous and evil.

Here are twenty-six pages -- including front and back cover -- mainly devoted to army leaders of both sides.  Again, Union good, other side Bad.  The only exception is Stonewall Jackson, whom the author seems to admire.

Let's tke a look at a couple of letters:

  • M stands for McCLELLAN   a Major General in the Federal Army.  At one time he was Commander-in-Chief of the whole Federal forces; he is now in command of the army of Virginia.  He is a brave and gallant soldier, and one of the most popular officers in the country.
  • Q stands for QUARTER!  which the rebels say we shall not have.  Quarter is not to be expected of men, who fight under a Black Flag, and instead of tsking care of our ounded soldiers, amuse themselves by killing them.
...and so it goes.

An interesting, quick read, as well as a fascinating look at was propaganda from a century and a half ago.

Also, please note there is not a single reference to slavery.

At the top of each page is an illustration (presumably from other "alphabet" books) that has absolutely nothing to do with this book.  These illos seem to have been thrown in willy-nilly.

BTW, the publisher (Sampson & Farrar, Boston) hedged its bets on the back cover with ads for both The Game of the Rebellion and The Game of the Union, "The two most interesting Games ever published."

Check it out:

Friday, August 16, 2019


So someone (no names please) in the White House wants to buy Greenland from Denmark.  That's probably why I've been humming this song all day yesterday.

This version is by Judy Collins and Theodore Bikel.


Ten of Us:  Original Stories and Sketches by S. B. (Sigmund Bowman) Alexander (1887)

From the introduction:

     "A party of young people agreed to hold weekly meetings at each other's homes, to discuss, among themselves, various topics of interest.
     "One evening, quite a lively debate upon the merits and demerits of Psychic, Mesmerism, animal Magnetism, Spiritualism, or whatever else the mysterious power may be called, arose and was hotly contested by both sides.
     "The works of Hugh Conway, R. L. Stevenson, H. Rider Haggard and others were quoted during the argument and the mention of books switched the conversation into a new channel, viz -- The want of originality in the generality of modern American fiction.
     "The cut and dried, blood and thunder mawkishly sentimental styles were all treated to a scathing criticism and several well-known writers were spoken of in anything but flattering terms.
     "Finally someone said, 'Although none of present claim any great literary ability, yet I think, if we were to apply ourselves, we could write something much more original than nine-tenths of the books now offered to the reading public.'
     "There were a dozen or more who cried, 'Indeed we could.'  'Suppose you try it, then,' said a voice in the back of the room.
     "The speaker was the father of the young man at whose house we met, and had shown great interest in our discussion.  'If,' he continued, 'you young people will write the stories, I will give a prize of one hundred dollars for the best one, and let you award yourselves,  by vote.'"

And so we have the conceit for this collection.  These fictional young men wrote their stories and, unable to decide among themselves which was best, decided to publish what they considered the ten best and let the reader decide.

The stories:

  • "The Modern Mephistopheles"  A student of Goethe travels to a German castle where Faust was said to have lived and there conjures up Mephistopheles.  Sadly (?) the demon is somewhat of a weakened state because more people are believing in Civilization, Enlightenment, Rationalism, and Bob Ingersoll (a well-known agnostic of the time) than in he.  As the cock crowed in the morning, Mephistopheles goes to grab the student but cannot because the student is a Rationalist.  The student wakes up.  Was this a dream?
  • "Behind the Scenes"  An advertisement for one hundred extras for a Boston opera product of "L'Africaine" has drawn a group of Harvard students to apply as a lark.  Mayhem ensues as the over-eager students add a bit of realism and enthusiasm to a battle scene.  Things go downhill from there.
  • "Out of the Sea"  Doctors have recommended that young Ned, exhausted from overwork, take a long rest on a sea voyage.  Ned's father offers his yacht and insists that Ned's good friend (the narrator) join Ned.  As the yacht heads toward the Azores a might storm arises and blows the ship off course.   The passengers and crew find themselves stuck in a mass of seaweed off the coast of an unknown island.  On the island they discover large ancient ruins covered in seaweed.  While there, an earthquake destroys the ruins and begins to sink the strange island, which -- as you can guess -- is Atlantis.
  • "Love and Creed"  When Percy and and Mildred were married, Miss Pratt predicted that Mildred will find nothing but unhappiness.  That was because Miss Pratt, "a sour old maid" and highly religious, knew that Percy was --(gasp!) -- an agnostic!  But the couple had a very happy marriage and bore a very happy son.  Mildred stopped going to church of her own will, although she remained a Christian, and she and Percy agreed not to saddle their child with religion until he was old enough to understand, then both parents would calmly explain their opposing views to the boy and let him decide.  When the boy was five, Miss Pratt decided that enough was enough and tried to inculcate the child with her view of God and religion.  This led to a discussion of viewpoints that bored me.  In the end the child falls in a river and he and Percy nearly drown because the story needed some action happening somewhere.
  • "A Dual Life"  Daniel, the son of a poor cobbler, has made friends with Vera, the squire's daughter.  Together they travel the Land of Fancy where, as an adult Daniel narrates from his room in the madhouse, he is the rightful Prince of the Land of Fancy and Vera is his Princess.  For Daniel this is a real place and he goes there often to escape the horrors of his life.  The squire puts the kibosh on the children's innocent flirtation and Vera is sent away, eventually to return with a husband.  Daniel, for his part, married a slatternly drunkard who, in his alternate reality is Vera.  The real Vera dies, then Daniel is accused of killing his wife.  But Daniel knows he is innocent because he left his wife to go with Vera into the Land of Fancy.
  • "Society, vs:  Societies"  When Mr. Vernon moved to a small town after spending much of his life in New York Society, all the eligible women flocked to him.  He wanted to teach them the manners and customs of polite society but in that he failed.  Disgusted he avoided the women and began to hang out with the young men, whom he greatly impressed.  Vernon formed a very successful Bachelor's Club with the young men, to the point where the women were ignored and for some two years there hadn't been a marriage in the town.  The women got together and formed their own club to strike back at the men.  Things got smoothed over and the bachelors -- including Vernon -- soon found themselves wed in this "the biter bit" tale.
  • "The Living Dead"  A young doctor is called to a neighboring house by a woman who said her tenant has had a serious accident.  The tenant, an incredibly old man, was dead -- a large picture frame had fallen and struck his head, but there was no blood from the injury as would have been expected.  The tenant had been with the woman for decades and, for at least twenty years, lay in the bed comatose, being spoon-fed soup and milk by his landlady.  His only possession was a small box.  When the undertakers came to collect the body the next morning, it had putrefied and decayed.  A manuscript in the box indicated that the dead man was 175 years old and, in his youth while working with an alchemist, he had ingested the elixir of life, making him immortal save from accident.  The elixir, however, only kept his mind young while his body continued to age with all the infirmities man is prone to.
  • "The Talisman:  A Fairy Tale for Grown Up Children"  Rolf, the son of a poor woodcutter, has fallen in love with the baron's daughter, whom he had seen just once when they stopped to ask for some water.  When his father died, he left Rolf with only a magic pen, warning him never to loose it.  The baron has proclaimed that his daughter would be given to whomever presented him with a certain talisman of power, but neither the baron nor anyone else knew what the talisman was, only that it had great power.  Told by a hermit that the greatest power on earth was knowledge, Rolf began to study and became one of the most learned men in the world.  But knowledge was not the talisman the baron sought.  Eventually Rolf did find the talisman and marry the baron's daughter.  And what was the talisman?  You will have to read this shaggy dog story to find out.
  • "The Mystery of Death"  An odd little story about a professed spiritualist who, in hopes that he might divine some message, was called to the deathbed of a man unable to communicate.
  • "The Little Model"  A little morality story about the double standard between men and women.  Artist Joe Hall convinces a pretty girl to pose innocently for him and tried to take things a bit further only to rebuffed.  It is for Joe's betterment that he has been denied.  Ho hum.

And that's it.  Ten stories, told in ten different voices, with ten different subjects.  A fast read and, for the most part, an entertaining one.  The reader is left with a question:  which story should be considered the best.

Which would you pick?

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Gilbert O'Sullivan, with the number one song the week Jessamyn was born.


The Philo Vance in the books by S. S. Van Dine may well need a "kick in the pance," as Ogden Nash succinctly put it, but the radio Philo Vance basically took the character's name and little else.

Jackson Beck plays the sleuth as he takes the case of a murdered dentist.



She's a great daughter, a wonderful mother, a brave ass-kicking cancer survivor, a truly good person, possessing a kind heart.

Words cannot express how proud we are.  Words cannot express how much we love her.

You're More Than Awesome

You're more than awesome
You are one of a kind
Your personality blossoms
And your bright soul is not confined

Your smile is beautiful
Your hope is bright
Your spirit is lovable
You shine through with your light.

Sometimes you'll forget these things
When your life gets tough 
You'll feel as if you're tied up in strings
You'll feel like your life is rough

But when you get to that point
When you can't remember all the good
When you're being torn part joint by joint
Look back at this and remember what you should

You're perfect in every way
You are the light in the dark
Your spirit is yellow not gray
And you are the start of a hopeful spark

You're more than awesome
You're one of a kind
You're beautiful like a blossom
And your soul is not confined

-- Noel S. Williams

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Jim Kweskin.


A dead hooker.  A ring that was part of a stolen -- and now missing -- Nazi horde.  A beautiful but treacherous babe.  And maybe just more than a smattering of violence.

Mike Hammer is on the case.

Robert Bray (who had been acting since 1946, mainly in B westerns and television oaters) plays the tough guy detective, and strangely leads the credits as "introducing robert bray as 'mike hammer'."  Bray may be best known as forest ranger Corey Stuart, who took ownership of Lassie in Season 11 after Timmy and his family moved to Australia; as Stuart Bray lasted until Season 15 when he was not quite killed off when badly injured in a forest fire -- Corey Stuart went to the hospital never to be heard from again (a fate, sans hospital, that also fell to Richie Cunningham's older brother and many other television unwanteds) and Lassie became the ward of his "godfathers," two younger rangers.

I see I'm going off topic here.

Pamela Duncan plays Velda.  She played the damsels in distress in two Roger Corman low-budget horror flicks the same year.  For most of the 50s, she appeared in a ton of television westerns as eye candy.

The role of police Captain Pat Chambers fell to Booth Colman (as Booth Coleman), a journeyman film, television, and stage actor perhaps best known as Zaius on the series Planet of the Apes.

Also featured were Whitney Blake, Donald Randolph, Jan Cheney, and Genie Coree.  Victor Saville and George white directed from a script by Richard Collins and Richard Powell; Powell also provided the screen story from Mickey Spillane's novel.

Not as heralded as Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly, but this still remains a pretty solid flick in the Mike Hammer canon.


Monday, August 12, 2019


B. B. King.


Openers:  He and Big Mama Thornton were taking a break backstage when it happened.  The dance floor was covered with Mexican and black people, a big haze of cigarette and reefer smoke floating over their heads in the spotlights.  White people were up in the balcony, mostly low-rider badasses wearing pegged drapes and needle-nose stomps and girls who could do the dirty bop and manage to look bored while they put your flopper on autopilot.  Then we hear it, one shot, pow, like a small firecracker.  Johnny's dressing room was partly opened and I swear I saw blood fly by across the wall, just before people started running in all directions.

-- James Lee Burke, "The Night Johnny Ace Died" (Esquire, March 2007)

Epstein:  He's gone and I can't say I'll miss him but I'm sorry he's dead.  There are too many unanswered questions, too many unsubstantiated links, too many victims who may never have a chance of healing.  And now the crazies are coming out of the woodwork with their conspiracy theories.  Trump retweeted the idea that the "Clinton Crime Cabal" -- whatever that is -- engineered Epstein's death.  Other are positing that Trump was behind the so-called suicide.  I'm sure there are many other theories out there, with many others still to come.  For the moment, though, let's apply Occam's Razor and assume that the pedophile's death is what it seems, the suicide of a very sick man, and stick with that until and unless an investigation proves otherwise.  Epstein may be dead but the various investigations surrounding his activities are not.

The "Glorious Twelfth":  That's what today is known as in England because...wait for marks the start of the grouse shooting season.  Grouse are medium-sized birds found in the heather moorlands of Great Britain and Ireland.  Heather moorlands are rare and 75% of them are located in the British Isles.  One method of managing/increasing the grouse population if through controlled burning.  Patches of the moorland are burned at different times, allowing new shoots to grow and sustain the bird population; because patches are burned at different time, the length of the new shoots will vary from patch to patch.  This method of grouse management is a two-edged sword.  By sustaining the grouse population, the heather moorlands are less likely to be taken over by development, and proponents say the controlled burning provides a variety of habitats for other wild species.  On the other hand (and it's a pretty big other hand), the burning appears to have a negative effect on the moorland environment, the water table beneath it, and downstream rivers.  The burning reduces the ability of peat to retain water needed for plant growth and resistance to acid rain.  The rivers have a lower concentration of calcium and a lower pH and the catch basins have a higher concentration  of silica, manganese, aluminum, and iron.  Studies are underway to determine the best ways of grouse management.

One way of management is to shoot the bloody birds out of the air.  Thus we have the birding parties we so often see in British film and television.  How many of these birds end up in a pot I can't say, but shooting animals for mere sport is something I can't agree with.  And don't get me started on fox hunting.

On another note, our National Park Service leases land in our national parks to farmers for cattle grazing.  Some farmers are upset because elk are also using the leased land for grazing, blatantly munching on grass that belongs to their cows!  On hearing the complaints of the farmers, the Park Service is (or is about to) authorizing elk hunts to eliminate the problem.  Either something is very wrong here or I am misunderstanding the mission of the Park Service.

I'm Old:  The Teen Choice Awards were held and I'll be damned if I recognize the majority of names of the singers and actors.  Or the songs.  Or the television shows.  Or the movies.  But then, I really didn't recognize many of them when I was a teenager.  And to be completely honest, popular music was much much MUCH better when I was a teen, right?

Raining Cats and Dogs and...:  In California a "Humboldt County Sheriff's patrol vehicle was struck by a falling bear while traveling north on highway 96 last week.  The vehicle caught fire after striking an embankment and the deputy escaped the vehicle without serious injury.  Don't worry, the bear also fled the scene."   The vehicle was destroyed, along with half an acre of vegetation.  Rumors that the bear wore a necktie and hat and was carrying a pic-a-nic basket have not been authenticated.

California May Have Falling Bears, But Florida Will Not Be Outdone:  A Port Charlotte toilet exploded this week and Taco Bell food was not to blame.  Marylou Ward said that her only toilet was destroyed when lightning hit her septic tank and caused the porcelain throne to explode into hundreds of pieces.  Ms. Ward, although she needs to replace both septic tank and toilet, said she was relieved that toilet was not in use at the time.  All Floridians with indoor plumbing are cautioned to be afraid, be very afraid.

How Did I Miss This One?:   Oklahoma Man was arrested on June 26 in Guthrie (about 30 miles outside of Oklahoma City) in a stolen car.  In the car with him was a live rattlesnake, a canister of uranium (!), and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey.  And there was a gun in the console and Oklahoma Man (better known as Stephen Jennings) was driving on a suspended license.  It turns out that you can buy uranium from Amazon.  Who knew?

Today's Poem:
Beat!   Beat!  Drums!

Beat!  beat!  drums! -- blow!  bugles!  blow!
Through the windows -- through doors -- burst like a ruthless force.
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying,
Leave not the bridegroom quiet -- no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums -- so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat!  beat!  drums! -- blow!  bugles!  blow!
Over the traffic of cities -- over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
As beds are prepared at night for sleepers in houses?  no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers' bargains by day -- no brokers or speculators -- would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking?  would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums -- you bugles wilder blow.

Beat!  beat!  drums! -- blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parlay -- stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid -- mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums -- so loud you bugles  blow.

-- Walt Whitman