Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, October 21, 2019


Openers:  A scream, rending the stillness of an Indian night, is  not unusual.  The scream which stopped Chowkander King on that mysterious by-street of Delhi, where a man is wise to move on, and mind his own business; that turned his face toward a forbidding-looking doorway, and sent his feet, a second later, flying up a narrow, winding staircase more forbidding than the doorway -- that scream pulsed with mortal pain and terror.

"Four Doomed Men" by "Geoffrey Vace" (Oriental Stories, Summer 1931)

For a long while I though "Geoffrey Vace" was a pseudonym for Hugh B. Cave, one of the most prolific of pulp fiction writers, and I was right.  And, perhaps, I was wrong.  According to fThe FictionMags Index, Vace was a pen name for Geoffrey Cave, the brother of Hugh, and that Hugh sometimes borrowed the name from his brother.  FictionMags lists Geoffrey Cave as the author of this story and other other two Chowkander King stories from Oriental Stories and, after its name change, The Magic Carpet Magazine; ISFDb lists Hugh as the author of this story.  You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Chowkander King was a Secret Service agent with British Indian Intelligence during England's rule of India.  He is fast-thinking, fast with his fists and his service revolver, and has a dogged sense of justice.  There are very few secrets that are kept from this Secret Service professional; he appears to know players in the cat and mouse game of fomenting a Sikh rebellion.  His deductions, though, are more of instinct than logic and the raid pace of his adventures -- like with all good pulp stories -- leave little room for the reader to consider plausibility.  As readers, we are just along for the thrill ride.

Whether the author is Geoffrey or Hugh, the story is in the classic pulp mode.  and that's good enough for me.


  • "Ann Bannon," Odd Girl Out.  Ann Weldy (b. 1932) wrote six classic lesbian pulp novels under the name "Ann Bannon," earning her the title of the "Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction."  Odd Girl Out was the "first novel in The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, the classic 1950s love stories from the Queen of Lesbian Fiction."  In the early Fifties, Gold Medal books had published Women's Barrack, a lesbian novel by Tereska Torres, fictionalizing some of her experiences in the Free French Forces.  It was an immediate hit and led Gold Medal to begin publishing lesbian novels by "Vin Packer" (Marijane Meaker).  After reading Packer's Spring Fire, Weldy (married at the time) began her first novel in an attempt to come to grips with her sexuality.  Packer took Weldy under her wing, introducing her to Gold Medal editor Dick Carroll, resulting in the publication of Odd Girl Out.  Weldy stopped writing after her sixth book was published and went on to a career in academia, totally unaware that her novels were adopted by the burgeoning lesbian movement.  "Odd Girl Our begins the saga of Laura, off on her own at college, appallingly shy and terminally polite.  Laura meets Beth, whose brash straightforwardness and friendly attitude take the younder woman by storm, leaading to an equally stormy affair..." (Metro Times)  "Little did Bannon know that her stories would become legends, inspiring countless fledgling dykes to the Village, dog-eared copies of her books in hand, to find their own Beebos and Lauras and others who shred the love they dared not name."  (San Francisco Bay Guardian)
  • John Farris, King Windom.  "King Windom's blazing sermons can cleanse a hundred sinning souls in a single night.  He can heal with the merest touch of his hand -- until his powers fail him, until earthly flames consume his church.  But these flames are no match for the fire in King's soul...With his eyes set upon Heaven,  King cannot see the Devil's work on either hand...a woman whose love is becoming obsession, and a preacher whose jealousy verges on madness..Even the hand of the Lord may not be enough to save King Windom from the damnation of Hell."  Farris is the best-selling author of such thrillers as When Michael Calls and the Harrison High novels and of science fiction thrillers as "The Fury" series, as well as a slew of Southern Gothic horror novels.

11,000 Virgins:  399 years ago today the Portuguese explorer Joao Alvares Fagundes discovered the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Known officially as the Collectivti d'outre-mer de Saint-Pierre-et-Maquelon (Overseas Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Maquelon), the islands -- a self-governing territory -- are the only part of New France to remain under the control of France.  Fagundes' original name for the islands was the Islands of 11,000 Virgins.  My first thought on reading this was, he counted?  

But no, Fagundes named the islands in honor of St. Ursula, whose feast day is October 21.  According to legend, Ursula was a fourth century British princess who was sent, along with 11,000 holy virgins, by her father to marry a pagan king in Breton.  A miraculous storm brought Ursula to Gaul from southwestern Britain in a single day; when she landed she declared that she would take pilgrimage to Rome before her marriage.  She persuaded Pope Cyriarcus (not found in the papal records, although there was a Pope Sincius around that time) to join her pilgrimage.  At Cologne, they were beset by Huns, who beheaded the virgins and killed Ursula with an arrow.  That's the story.  There is some record of virgins being killed on that site at some time.  It took some 600 years before Ursula was named was attached as one of the slain virgins.  Anyway, back to Saint Pierre and Maquelon.

The islands were evidently uninhabited when Fagundes arrived, although they were probably visited by the Mi'kmaq, who hunted and fished in the area.  Jacques Cartier claimed the islands for the king of France in 1536.  By 1670, there were a total of four permanent residents in the islands.  The same year, the islands were annexed to New France.  By 1691, the islands could claim 22 residents.  The British Navy, however, continually harassed the French settlers.  The islands were again uninhabited by the early 1700s and were given to England in 1713 by the Treaty of Ultrecht, whereupon British and American settlers began to arrive.  The Treaty of Paris returned the islands to France in 1763.  Since the French sided with the Americans in our Revolutionary War, Britain invaded the colony in 1778, sending the now-2000 settlers back to France.  In 1793 Britain invaded again and tried to create their own settlement on the islands.  France stopped that and the islands went back to France in 1802 with the Treaty of Amiens.  Treaties are not worth much -- the British reoccupied the islands the next year.  In 1814 the Treaty of Paris gave them back to France, but Britain reoccupied the islands once again.  Everything on the island had been razed or destroyed by this time.   The islands were resettled in 1816 and by the mid-century, they began to flourish due to an increase in the fishing trade.  The colonists considered joining the United States in 1903 but I'm not sure how serious that idea was.  During World War II, Charles de Gaulle seized the islands from Vichy France.  In 1958 Saint Pierre and Miquelon were offered a choice:  become a self-governing state of France, or remain a territory.  They chose to stay a territory.  They officially became an overseas territory in 1946, an overseas department in 1976, and a territorial collectivity in 1985.  That's a heck of a lot of history for two small islands with a combined population of barely over 6000 -- some 5000 less than the number of virgins for which it was named.

Purple Nails:  It was a minor car crash, but two responding Utah firefighters are getting major kudos for their quick action.  No, they did not save anyone, but North Davis Fire District Chief Allen Hadley and Captain Kevin Lloyd went above and beyond as they tried to comfort a crying and screaming young girl whose mother had just been taken off by an ambulance.  How to calm the girl?  By letting her paint their nail with purple polish, of course.  Their quick thinking and quick action in this situation is not unexpected -- both are fathers of young girls after all.  Check out their pretty new nails:

Meanwhile, in Florida:  Someone should tell television news reporter Steve Barrett of WFTV News that reporters are supposed to report the news, not become it.

Keep the Good News Coming:
In these times of political greed, expediency, and horror it is important to realize that there is still wonder and beauty and kindness all round us and none of us have to look far to find it.

"Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in human character and goodness.  People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness."  -- Anne Frank

Today's Poem:
To the Rain

Mother rain, manifold, measureless,
falling on fallow, on field and forest,
on house-roof, low hovel, high tower,
downwelling waters all-washing, wider
than cities, softer than sisterhood, vaster
than countrysides, calming, recalling:
return to us, teaching our troubled
souls in your ceaseless descent
to fall, to be fellow, to feel to the root,
to sink in, to heal, to sweeten the sea.

-- Ursula K. Le Guin

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