Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, November 18, 2019


Openers:  The little poodle's name was Gigi.

It huddled close to the body of the dead woman.  Occasionally it shivered uncomfortably, although the temperature inside the house was a comfortable seventy-one.  Now and again, the poodle would whine for a few minutes; sometimes it turned its head to lick the woman's still arm.  It would not lick her face because there was too much blood on it.

-- Clark Howard, Love's Blood (1993)

"The Shocking True Story of a Teenager Who Would Do Anything for the Older Man She Loved -- Even Kill Her Whole Family"  The teenager was Patricia Ann Columbo, who slaughtered her Elk Grove Village, Illinois, family in May 1976.  Writer Clark Howard first met her in a maximum security in January 1991 as he was researching a book on the crime.  Slowly over the next two years, the details of the crime emerged.

Howard (1932-2016) was the author of sixteen novels, six non-fiction books of true crime, three short story collections, and over two hundred uncollected short stories.  He won the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, five Ellery Queen Reader awards, the Derringer award, and has been nominated for Anthony, Shamus, and Spur Awards.  His stories have been adapted for film and television.  Howard's original screenplay Last of the Good Guys was a featured CBS Movie of the Week and his non-fiction book Six Against the Rock was also a television movie.  His writing is marked by a deep insight into human nature.

Born in Ripley, Tennessee, Clark Howard spent his less-than-idyllic youth on the streets of Chicago.
He detailed part of that time on the opening pages of Love's Blood:

Chicago periodically drew me back to its concrete bosom.  I hadn't lived there for nearly twenty years, but every once in a while I had to go back and prowl its lower West Side streets like a specter in a graveyard.  Maybe it was because it was between the ages of eight and fourteen I had spent a hundred years on those streets searching for an ex-convict father who was already dead; or because my mother had overdosed on heroin there; or because my earliest real friends had been street kids like myself and had all been sucked into the sump of killings, crime, prison, drugs, alcohol -- and I had not.  My only "time" had been done in a euphemistically named "state training school"  for boys -- read reformatory -- and my only killing had been sanctioned by the Marine Corps.  I had long ago made my own break from my own prison. and it had been successful,  the other kids hadn't escaped.  Maybe that was what drew me back now and then.  Wondering:  why me?

Howard enlisted in the Marines at age seventeen.  He admitted the discipline and sense of purpose there turned his life around.  Serving as a rocket launcher gunner, he was one of eight who survived the battle of the high ground north of Punchbowl in Korea.  Discharged at age twenty, he attended journalism school at Northwestern University but left after one semester when a professor declared his writing "undisciplined and of no commercial value."  By that time, he had already sold two stories to New York magazines.

A major rediscovery of Clark Howard is long overdue.


  • Kevin J. Anderson, Hair Raising.  A Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novel, fourth in the series.  "The fur really flies when a serial scalper stalks the supernatural citizens of the Unnatural Quarter, targeting werewolves -- and what's sadder than a chrome-domed lycanthrope?  Zombie P.I. Dam Shamble is on the case, trying to stop an all-out gang war between full-time and full-moon werewolves.  As he combs through the tangled clues to hunt down the bald facts, things get hairy fast.  Shamble lurches through a loony landscape of voodoo tattoo artists, illicit cockatrice fights, body builders assembling make-your-own-human kits, and perhaps scariest of all, crazed fans in town for the Worldwide Horror Convention.  Yet the reign of hair-raising terror grows longer.  If Shamble can't snip this off at the roots, the whole world could end up howling mad."  
  • Mike Ashley, editor, The Mammoth Book of Dickensian Whodunnits.  Mystery anthology with 22 original stories by Robert Barnard, Charles Todd, Peter Tremayne, Martin Edwards, Edward Marston, and others.  "Charles Dickens's works and his unforgettable characters are still read around the world.  But just what became of Oliver Twist or David Copperfield or young Pip in Great Expectations?  And what really happened to Edwin Drood?  Was the case ever solved?  Here are more than 20 specially commissioned new murder mysteries based on characters and incidents in Dickens's fiction, as well as his own life.  All major works are represented including Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House, Hard Times, Great Expectations, and, of course, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Even Dickens himself turns a hand to investigating, plus we meet up with contemporaries Mrs Gaskell. S Baring Gould, and Edgar Allan Poe."
  • Peter Brandvold, Once Late with a .38.  A Sheriff Ben Stillman western from Mean Pete hinmself.  "Sheriff Ben Stillman has enough of a hard time keeping the peace in the town of Clantick without having to worry about the likes of Matt Parrish.  Since his father died, Matt has been responsible for the Circle P Ranch -- and his hotheaded streak has been responsible for a lot of trouble with other ranchers...including his future father-in-law, Tom Suthern.  Despite failing health and loss of profits, Tom refuses to sell his spread to Matt, even if he is marrying his daughter.  So when Matt is discovered in the presence of Tom's bullet-riddled corpse, people naturally assume he murdered the old man.  Now it's up to Ben Stillman to protect Matt from a trigger-happy posse and find the real killer -- before it's too late..."  For fast-paced western action, you can't go wrong with Bandvold.
  • D. M. Devine, My Brother's Killer.  Mystery novel.  "Oliver Barnett is found murdered in his office.  The investigation into the crime reveals a man that his younger brother, Simon, does not recognize -- a callous blackmailer.  But was this the reason for his violent death?  Simon sets out to clear his brother's name, and to demonstrate the innocence of the woman he once loved."  This is the first of thirteen mystery novels written by Devine (1920-1980), the last seven appearing as by "Dominic Devine."  His books were well-written and superbly plotted.  Agatha Christie was a fan of Devine's throughout his writing career; she had nominated this book as winner of the Don's Detective Novel Competition held by Collins Crime club in 1961.  Unfortunately, Devine was a university administrator and not a don, so the book was disqualified, yet the contest kick-started his career and it was published by Collins Crime Club.
  • Clark Howard, Love's Blood.  True crime.  See above.
  • [Eleanor Sullivan, editor] Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May 1973, October 1984, and January 1985 issues.  Thrift store finds.  Includes stories by Isaac Asimov, William Bankier, Lawrence G. Blockman, Christianna Brand, Mary Higgins Clark, Miriam Allen deFord, Robert L. Fish, Celia Fremlin, Michael Harrison, Edward D. Hoch, James Holding, H. R. F. Keating, Patricia McGerr, Robert P. Mills, Francis M. Nevins, Jr, Shannon O'Cork, Josh Pachter, and Janwillem van de Wetering, among others.  Plus the usual features and the second part of an EQMM Author Photo Quiz.  This magazine has always been a bargain since its inception in 1941.

Getting Your Thanksgiving Freak On:  With the holiday less than two weeks away, it's time to start thinking about what to serve for your Thanksgiving Day meal.  Should you stick with the traditional but tasty meal that your family has always had?  Or perhaps it's time to think out of the box?  Here's a couple of ideas.

If Thanksgiving means turkey to you and yours, this Bourbon Glazed Turkey is a unique twist on a holiday favorite.

If your family and friends like things hot, how about trying Oyster Kimchi Stuffing?  This recipe takes a bit of preparation but the results are amazing.

How about something a little different for your spuds this year?  Mashed Potato Mushroom Caps might just fill the bill.

Sweet potatoes are a staple on many the Thanksgiving table.  For reasons I can't understand, people tend to serve them candies or topped with marshmallow or something equally repulsive.  Instead of trying to drown the wonderful flavor or sweet potatoes, why not just enhance it with these Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potatoes?

For another interesting variation for your table, try Cornbread with Dried Tomato and Basil.

Add the flavors of the season with this after-dinner treat:  Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding.  And don't forget the sweet bourbon sauce.

If you listen to NPR, then you are already familiar with Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish.  "It sounds terrible but it tastes terrific," Susan Stamberg says of her mother-in-law's now famous recipe (which she lifted from a 1959 New York Times clipping of Craig Clairborne's Cranberry Relish).  It is a must-try.

Thanksgiving is about gratitude, family, and friends.  Some of the above ideas may add to your enjoyment and appreciation of the day.

Impeachment:  I'm not going to go into it this week.  You know what's going on, who's saying what, who's denying what, who's accusing who, how both sides are trying to spin, and you've probably made up your mind on which side you are.

Florida Man:

  • Florida Man called Dade City 911 to report his roommate has stolen his weed.  Florida Man was insistent and kept calling.  Again and again.  Over and over.  A Dade City deputy finally had to post a message on Twitter:  Stop calling.
  • Newly official Mar-a-Largo Florida Man retweets son Eric's promo of their DC hotel, infuriating his former ethics chief.
  • Florida Man and registered sex offender Brian Sherman of Orlando has been arrested for fondling a "Disney Princess" at Walt Disney World.  The Magic Kingdom has suddenly lost its magic.
  • Fourteen-year-old Florida Girl has been charged with slapping a man dressed as Donald Trump at a Haunted house in Collier County.  Also, Florida Man Matthias Ajple of Indian River County was arrested after spitting on a  man and slapping off his MAGA hat.  The resistance is beginning to take things a little too far, my friends.
  • Florida Man Sandy Lamar Graham, Jr, turned himself in to police after hitting three banks in three hours.  He robbed the first two and attempted to rob the third.  He did not make the Guinness Book of Records because there was not an official to view his hat trick.
  • Naked Florida Man is all over the place.  In Fort Lauderdale he beat and killed a peeping tom who was spying on him and his girlfriend.  In Delray Beach he jumped aboard a yacht to steal a flag.  And in Cape Coral he was caught smashing the windows and doors of plumbing businesses.  None of these incidents provide an image I want seared into my brain.
  • In Polk County, Florida Man Andy Sigears was arrested for drunk Segway driving.  Sigear and the nearly two bottles of wine inside him rode into incoming traffic on the wrong side of the road.  It might have been bad luck or just bad judgement that he did it in front of a county sheriff substation. 

There Is Also...Wait for It...Good News!:
There is wonder and kindness and good all around us.  All we need to to do is to take the time to appreciate it.

Today's Poem:
[You are coming to me in the rain]

You are coming to me in the rain
a self confessed illusionist
with the weather in attendance like a well-trained pet
your long hair webs about your neck
skin shows warm through flimsy cotton

in your eyes I see what I've been longing for
our fingers hardly touch; it's time enough however
for a life's experience to slip away
for you to lose a paralysing charge
so this theatre-piece of vein and muscle falls apart
the juggler's mid-thrown fan of bones comes
clattering down

I'm left with nothing but my skin to hold me up

-- Rodney Hall

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