Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, August 1, 2019


Over the past week or so, I read or finished a number of books that would qualify as "Forgotten Books," so rather than focus on just one title I thought I'd give brief reviews this weekmof some of them.  Please understand that a number of these books are collections that I have dipped into in the past and have only just finished.

  • "William Arden" (Dennis Lynds), Secret of the Crooked Cat (1970).  The thirteenth book in the YA Three Investigators series and the third written by Lynds as "William Arden."  The series was created by Robert Arthur and was a tie-in to many books published as by film director and television personality Alfred Hitchcock; many of the books were originally presented with the tagline "Alfred Hitchcock Presents The Three Investigators in..." with introductions by "Hitchcock" and having the director appear in (usually) the closing chapter of each book.  (In later books Hitchcock is replaced by fictional writer Hector Sebastian).  The Three Investigators are Jupiter Jones (one-time child film star known as "Baby Fatso," now living with his aunt and uncle who own a junkyard), Pete Crenshaw (the athlete of the trio and the son of a movie special effects technician), and Bob Andrews (the de facto research expert, the son of a newspaper writer).  All three boys are of an unrevealed age, most like between 13 and 14.  In The Crooked Cat, the trio investigate strange goings-on at a visiting carnival -- a case that is more convoluted than many of the earlier ones in the series and one with more action and danger.  There is a large fan base for this series which relies on unusual puzzles, interesting deductions, and the interplay of the three plucky main characters.  I liked this one, as I have for most in the series which eventually ran to 43 books.

  • Tom Boardman, Jr., editor, SF Horizons 1 (1968).  An SF anthology with ten stories:

          - James Blish & Norman L. Knight, "The Shipwrecked Hotel" (from Galaxy Magazine, August 1965; later incorporated into the 1967 novel A Torrent of Faces; the story received a nomination for a 1966 Nebula Award)
          - Mack Reynolds, "Subversive" (from Analog Science Fact ->Science Fiction, December 1962)
          - Brian W. Aldiss, "Comic Inferno" (from Galaxy Magazine, February 1963)
          - Damon Knight, "The Big Pat Boom" (from Galaxy Magazine, December 1963)
          - David I. Masson, "The Transfinite Choice" (from New Worlds, August 1966)
          - Fritz Leiber, "Game for Motel Room" (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1963)
          - Isaac Asimov, "My Son, the Physicist!" (from Scientific American, February 1962)
          - Thom Keyes, "Period of Gestation" (from Science Fantasy, September 1964)
          - "Seaton McKettrig" (Randall Garrett), "...After a Few Words..." (from Analog Science Fact->Science Fiction, October 1962)

Tom Boardman entered the family publishing business (T.V. Boardman) in 1948 and stayed on as managing director when the company was sold in 1954.  Boardman later was the SF adviser for four other British publishing houses and served as business manager for the short-lived Aldiss/Harrison critical magazine SF Horizons.  This anthology was evidently planned as a fiction series to complement the by-then deceased critical magazine; sadly there was no SF Horizons 2.  This is a good solid anthology with a variety of stories.  The one that has stuck in my  mind since reading it in its original appearance is the one by Damon Knight, in which Earthmen are surprised when aliens find an economic value in cow pats.

  • Tom Boardman, Jr., editor,  The Unfriendly Future (1965).  Another Sf anthology from Boardman, this one with six stories:

          - Mack Reynolds, "Russkies, Go Home!" (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1960)
          - "Will Worthington" (Will Mohler), "The Food Goes in the Top" (from Science Fantasy #48, August 1961)
          - Brain W. Aldiss, "Danger:  Religion!" (from Science Fantasy, October 1962, as "Matrix")
          - Harry Harrison, "Rescue Operation" (from Analog Science Fact->Science Fiction, December 1964)
          - Terry Pratchett, "The Hades Business" (from Science Fantasy, August 1963)
          - Jay Williams, "The Seed of Violence" (from Fantastic Universe, November 1958, as "Seed of Violence")

Another solid collection with Mack Reynolds offering a political/economic story that marked much of his work from that time and a bright contribution written by a fifteen-year-old Terry Pratchett  The other four stories are also worthy.

  • H. J. Campbell, editor, Authentic Book of Space (1954).  A mixed-bag science fiction/science fact collection, often erroneously reported to contain five short stories and a wide variety of articles on space and space travel.  In fact, there only three short stories in the book:
          - William F. Temple, "Explorers of Mars" (original to this volume)
          - Mary Dogge, "The Blue Cloud" (original to this volume)

          - Leslie A. Croutch, Playmate (original to this volume)

As the book is clearly aimed at the juvenile market, so are all three stories -- with the Dogge and the Croutch being vignettes.  Also included is a comic book story by "Jon J. Deegan" (Robert George
Sharp) -- "Old Growler:  Spaceship Number 2213," which may be an adaptation of Deegan's story of the same title from Science Fiction Fortnightly #4, February 15, 1951.  There is also a crossword puzzle, instructions on how to make a toy rocket with balsa wood, possible future newspaper stories, an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke and articles by H. J. Campbell, William F. Temple, Ken Bulmer, E. C. Tubb, David McIlwain ("Charles Eric Maine"), Forrest J. Ackerman, Harry Harper, and Frank Wilson.  Virtually all of the contributors were associated with The British Interplanetary Society. There's also a lot of filler items discussing various aspects of astronomy.  As can be suspected from the publication date, some of the science and facts are valid while a good deal has been supplanted by time.  Donald H. Tuck called the volume a "good value for its price," and it was.  Nowadays, it's basically for nostalgia fans and the curious.

  • John Carnell, editor, Gateway to the Stars (1955).  Sf anthology with nine stories:
          - J. T. McIntosh, "Stitch in Time" (from Science-Fantasy, Vol. 2, #5, Autumn 1952, as by "J. T. M'Intosh")
          - "Alan Barclay" (George B. Tait), "Only an Echo" (from New Worlds Science Fiction #22, April 1954; the first story in the Jacko series)
          - "John Christopher" (Samuel Youd), "Conspiracy" (from Authentic Science Fiction Monthly #53, January 1955)
          - Eugene Lees, "The Stranger from Space" (from Science Fantasy, Vol. 3, #7, March 1954; as by "Gene Lees") 
          - "John Benyon" (John Wyndham Benyon Harris), "Never on Mars" (from Fantastic Universe, January 1954, as by "John Wyndham")
          - James White, "Assisted Passage" (from New Worlds #19, Janaury 1953; the first of three stories in the Allen sequence)
          - Peter Hawkins, "Circus" (from Science-Fantasy, Vol. 2, #5, Autumn 1952)
          - E. C. Tubb, "Unfortunate Purchase" (from Science Fantasy, Vol. 3, #7, March 1954)
          - Lan Wright, "Operation Exodus" (from New Worlds #13, January 1952)

Perhaps more than anyone else, British science fiction in the 1950s and early 1960s was shaped by John Carnell (and by American reprints).  Carnell edited three influential magazines:  New Worlds, Science Fantasy, and Scince Fiction Adventures, as well as the first 21 volumes of New Writings in SF.  Many of the major British science fiction writers of the time were nurtured by Carnell and his taste, in the main, was excellent.  It is always enjoyable to dip into a Carnell-edited book or magazine.  It's hard to pick a favorite from this book; Tubb's story is wry, the Hawkin's is poignant, the White is...well, White.  Benyon/Wyndham, Wright, and Christopher are always a joy, and the Barclay got me hooked on the Jacko series of six stories.  There is also an introduction by Isaac Asimov.

  • Peter Haining, editor, The Nightmare Reader, Volume One (1976).  The paperback edition of the first half of Haining's 1973 anthology The Nightmare Reader, containing thirteen stories or excerpts:
          - Matthew Gregory Lewis, "The Midnight Embrace" (first published in 1796)
          - Mary Shelley, 'The Transformation" (from The Keepsake for 1831, 1830)
          - Washington Irving, "The Bold Dragoon" (from Tales of a Traveller, as by "Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.", 1824, as "The Bold Dragoon; or, The Adventure of My Grandfather," part of the Strange Stories by a Nervous Gentleman sequence)
          - Thomas de Quincy, "Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow" (first published in 1821)
          - Edward Bulwer-Lytton, "The Magician" (an excerpt from Asmodeus at Large, 1833)
          - Edgar Allan Poe, "Berenice" (from Southern Literary Messenger, March 1835 as "Berenice -- A Tale")
          - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, "A Drunkard's Dream" (from Dublin University Magazine, August 1838; part of The Purcell Papers sequence)
          - Charles Fenno Hoffman, "The Man in the Reservoir" (from Graham's Lady's and Gentlemen's Magazine, August 1842, as "Ben Blower's Story"; also known as "The Boiler")
          - Lafcadio Hearn, "Halcedama" (from Connecticut Commercial, September 5, 1875)
          - Madame Blavatsky (Helena P. Blavatsky), "The Ensouled Violin" (from Nightmare Tales, 1892, as by "H. P. Blavatsky")
          - Ambrose Bierce, "Visions of the Night" (from the San Francisco Examiner, July 24, 1887)
          - Arthur Machen, "The Soldier's Rest" (from the London Evening News, October 20, 1914)
          - Lord Dunsany, "The Bureau d'Exchange de Maux" (from The Smart Set, January 1915)

Haining has always been a problematic anthologist.  He often gets his facts wrong.  He does try to include unfamiliar stories in his reprint anthologies, but sometimes those stories are all but unreadable, as I found the de Quincy and Bulwer-Lytton stories here.  The Fenno tale has been underservedly reprinted several time, IMHO -- it's basically meaningless.  Hearn's reportage here is well-written but rather indigestable.  Supposedly this collection is about man's darkest psychological fears as evinced by nightmares but many of the tales go off the mark.  Still, there are some good -- albeit familiar -- stories by Poe, Machen, Dunsany, Le Fanu, and Blavatsky.  Best to get the complete anthology; the second half has more modern, more readable stories.

  • J. S. Le Fanu, Best Ghost Stories of J. S. Le Fanu (1964; edited by E. F. Bleiler).  Collection of  sixteen stories:
          - "Squire Toby's Will:  A Ghost Story" (from Temple Bar, January 1868, as "Squire Toby's Will")
          - "Schalken the Painter" (revised from Dublin University Magazine, May 1839, as "Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter"; this story has been reprinted in more than 25 anthologies.)
          - "Madame Crowl's Ghost" (from All the Year Round, December 31, 1870; this story was incorporated in Le Fanu's 1871 novel The Strange Adventure in the Life of Miss Laura Mildmay.)
          - "The Haunted Baronet" (from Belgravia, in four parts, from July to October 1870)
          - "Green Tea" (from All the Year Round, in four parts, from October 23 to November 13, 1869; a Martin Hesselius story)
          - "The Familiar" (from Le Fanu's collection In a Glass, Darkly, 1872; a Martin Hesselius story; this is a minor revision of "The Watcher," from Dublin University Magazine, November 1847)
          - "Mr. Justice Harbottle" (from Belgravia, January 1872, as "The Haunted House in Westminster;" a Martin Hesselius story; this is a heavy revised version of  "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances on Aungier Street," Dublin University Magazine, December 1853)
          - "Carmilla" (from The Dark Blue, in four parts, from December 1871 to March 1872; a Martin Hesselius story; also published as "Blood and Roses," "Carmilla:  A Tragic Love Story," "Carmilla:  A Vampire Tale," "Carmilla:  The Vampire Lovers," and "Vampire Lovers")
          - "The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh" (from Dublin University Magazine, March 1838; a story in The Purcell Papers sequence)
          - "An Account of Some Strange Doings on Aungier Street" (see "Mr. Justice Harbottle," above)
         - "The Dead Sexton" (from Once a Week, Christmas 1871)
         - "Ghost Stories of the Tiled House" (an excerpt from The House by the Churchyard, 1863)
         - "The White Cat of Drumgunniol" (from All the Year Round, April 1870; also published as "The White Cat")
         - "An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House" (from Dublin University Magazine, October 1862; also published as "A Haunted House")
         - "Sir Dominick's Bargain" (from All the Year Round, July 6, 1872; also published as "Sir Dominic Sarsfield" and "a Legend of Dunoran;" this is a revision of "The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh," see above)
         - "Ultor de Lacy" (from Dublin University Magazine, December 1961 as " Ultor de Lacy:  A Legend of Cappercullen")

What's to say?  So many classic stories by one of the most important writers of the supernatural -- "Camilla," "Green Tea," 'Schalken the Painter," "Mr. Justice Harbottle," "Squire Toby's Will," and more.  Le Fanu has influenced writers for well more than a century, from M. R. James to Stephen King.  If you read only one Le Fanu collection in your lifetime, it should be this one.

  • Michael Moorcock, editor, The Best SF Stories from New Worlds 4 (1969).  SF anthology with eleven stories and one poem:
          - B. J. (Barrington) Bayley, "The Ship of Disaster" (from New Worlds SF, June 1965)
          - Fritz Leiber, "The Square Root of the Brain" (from New Worlds #179, February 1968)
          - Harvey Jacobs, "In Seclusion" (from New Worlds #179, February 1968)
          - Langdon Jones, "Transcient" (from New Worlds SF, December 1965)
          - D. M. Thomas, "The Head-Rape" (poem, from New Worlds #180, March 1968)
          - Brian Aldiss, "The Source" (from New Worlds SF, August 1965)
          - Thom Keyes, "Period of Gestation" (from Science Fantasy, September-October 1964)
          - Hilary Bailey, "Dr. Gelabius" (from New Worlds #181, April 1968)
          - Joel Zoss, "The Valve Transcript" (from New Worlds #181, April 1968)
          - Thomas M. Disch, "Linda and Daniel and Spike" (from New Worlds #178, December 1967, as "Linda & Daniel & Spike")
          - John Sladek, 'Masterson and the Clerks" (from New Worlds Speculative Fiction #175, September 1967)

Moorcock took over the helm of New Worlds from John Carnell in 1964, slowly transforming it into the poster child of SF's "New Wave" of literary and experimental fiction, as exemplified by J. G. Ballard, Brian Aldiss, Langdon Jones, and others, causing a schism among many science fiction readers.  There was little that was new about the "New Wave," but it was a turn away from the more traditional type of SF many readers were comfortable with.  Here, Moorcock brings us a mix of stories representing both the quality and the direction of the magazine.  Bayley was a ffequent collaborator of Moorcock's, while Bailey was Moorcock's wife at the time.  Thomas was mainly a poet who went on to write The White Hotel, a novel about the Holocast.  Aldiss plays with tropes writing with a nod to Karl Jung.  America was well represented here with four stories (from Jacobs, Leiber, Disch, and Sladek), two of which were my favorites -- 'The Square Root of the Brain" and "Masterson and the Clerks."  The story by Keyes, while not appearing in New Worlds, is from its companion magazine.  A great collection, IMHO.

  • Sax Rohmer, The Secret of Holm Peel and Other Strange Stories (1970).  A posthumous collection of eight stories (one weird) by the creator of Dr. Fu Manchu:
          - "The Secret of Holm Peel" (from Cassell's, December 1912)
          - "The Owl Hoots Twice" (from Collier's, February 14, 1948)
          - "A House Possessed" (from The New Magazine, December 1912)
          - "The Eyes of Fu Manchu" (from This Week, in two parts, October 6 and 13, 1957; a Dr. Fu Manchu story [go figure])
          - "The Mystery of the Marsh Hole" (from Pearson's Magazine, April 1905; as by "A. Sarfield Ward" -- Rohmer's real name)
          - "Bazarada" (apparantly original to this book; Rohmer published A Salute to Bazarada and Other Stories in 1939, but whether this story is connected to any in that collection is not known [by me, at least] -- can anyone shed any light here?)
          - "For Love of Mistress Mary" (from Short Stories Illustrated, May 30, 1914, as "Black Roger")
          - "Brother Wing Commanders" (from Chamber's Journal, June 1942)

I hate to say it, but every story in this book should have remained buried.  All are clunky, slap-dash, and (frankly) boring and none do any favors to Rohmer's reputation.  The only fantasy, "A House Possessed," reads as if it were edited by a ten-year-old.  Even Fu Manchu is a yawn, and a stereotypical yawn at that.  This one is for completists only.

  • "Nick West" (Kin Platt), The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon (1970).  A Three Investigators YA mystery, the fourteenth in the series and the first written by Platt.  Alfred Hitchcock recommends out heroes to a fellow movie director who has lost his dog.  It turns out there have been five other dogs missing from the neighborhood recently.  The boys' client also claims he has seen in the distance a dragon, one that coughed!  This was the poorest entry in the series that I have read.  It's still readable but disappointing when compared to others in the series.  An idiot plot propelled only because the characters are acting like idiots.  I was not happy with this one.

  • Amabel Williams-Ellis & Mably Owen, editors, Out of This World 5 (1962).  SF anthology with eight stories:
          - Francis G. Rayer, "Sands Our Abode"  (from New Worlds Science Fiction #84, June 1959)
          - Lloyd Biggle, Jr.,  "Round Trip to Esidarap" (from If, November 1960, as "Esidarap Ot Pirt Dnuor")
          - Isaac Asimov, "Living Space" (from Science Fiction Stories, May 1956)
          - James White, "The Apprentice" (from New Worlds Science Fiction #99, October 1960)
          - Evelyn E. Smith, "Baxbr" (from Time to Come:  Science Fiction Stories of Tomorrow, edited by August Derleth, 1953, as "BAXBR/DAXBR;" also known as "DAXBR/BAXBR")
          - "John Wyndham" (John Benyon Harris), "Dumb Martian" (from Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1952)
          - Arthur C. Clarke, "Who's There?" (from New Worlds Science Fiction #77, November 1958; also published as "The Haunter Spacesuit" and as "The Haunted Space Suit")
          - Zenna Henderson, "Ararat" (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1952; the first story in The People series)

The Out of This World series stretched to ten volumes, with the last two edited by Williams-Ellis and Michael Pearson, and aimed at teen-age readers somewhat new to science fiction.  The eight stories here ranged from the humorous to the adventurous, all of them quite good.  Standouts included the stories by White, Smith, Wyndham, and Henderson.

  • Amabel Williams-Ellis & Mably Owen, editors, Out of This World 5 (1965).  SF anthology with eight stories:
          - Damon Knight, "Four in One" (from Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1953)
          - Philip High, "Bottomless Pit" (from New Worlds Science Fiction, March 1963)
          - E. B. White, "The Hour of Letdown" (from The New Yorker, December 22, 1951)
          - "John Christopher" (Samuel Youd), "Colonial" (from Astounding Science Fiction, April 1949, as by 'Christopher Youd;" a Max Larkin story)
          - John Brunner, "Badman" (from New Worlds Science Fiction, #92, March 1960)
          - Con Pederson, "Pushover Planet" (from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1963)
          - Vadim Okhotnikov, "The Fiction Machines" (originally published in Russia in 1947; translated by Doris Johnson and appeared in Russian Science Fiction, edited by Robert Magidoff, 1963)
          - "William Tenn" (Philip Klass), "Winthrop Was Stubborn" (from Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1957, as "Time Waits for Winthrop")

Another solid anthology.  The story by White has been reprinted often,  both inside the genre and out.  For the first time, the series has a story originally from out of the English-speaking world.  Stand-outs include the tales from Knight, White, and Tenn.

There you have it, books that (for the most part) have been unjustly forgotten even though many of the individual stories have not been.


  1. Thanks! The first OUT OF THIS WORLD cited was apparently 3, though currently typo'd as 5 above...have to wonder how much of the AUTHENTIC book, perhaps only the short stories, were submitted originally for or sent to AUTHENTIC SF, Campbell's magazine.

  2. I beats me how you manage to fins all those Three Investigators books. I've looked and looked...

    I remember the Harrison story from Analog, that's about it.