Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 18, 2020


 The Captain and Tennille.


 The Magigals Mystery by "Maxwell Grant" (Walter B. Gibson), 1949

Chicago may have been the town Billy sunday couldn't put down but can it stand up to The Shadow?

After reading a Shadow adventure for last week's Forgotten Book (The Freak Show Murders, which see), I decide to continue with a couple more.  The Magigals Mystery takes near the very end of The Shadow magazines run -- this one is from issue #323 (Winter 1949) and there would be only two additional issues before the pulp closed.  Talk about going pout on a high note.  This one is the best adventure of The Shadow that I have read, a story written with enthusiasm and love.  The reason?  The background is the world of magicians and magic, a world that encompasses the author's greatest interest.

Gibson was a professional magician and a magic junkie.  He was a friend, a co-author, and a ghostwriter for many of the most famous magicians of the Twentieth century -- Houdini, Thurston, Raymond, Blackstone, and Dunniger.  Gibson received a literary fellowship from the Academy of Magical Arts in 1971 and was inducted into the Magicians' Hall of Fame in 1976.  In 1979 he was awarded the Academy of Magical Arts' Masters Fellowship. 

Gibson became interested in magic when he was nine years old and had a solo magic act when he was in high school and lter when he was on college at Colgate.  While in college he began writing tricks for different magic magazines.  The year before he graduated, Gibson joined the Society of American Magicians; his membership cared (#586) was signed by then-president Harry Houdini, who later became a good friend.  The year after he graduated, Gibson published his first book, After Dinner Tricks; he would go on to write more than a hundred books on magic and related subjects.  The book led to a gig performing magic tricks on radio station WIP in Philadelphia -- something not as easy as it may sound.  In 1925, he opened a short-lived magic shop in Philly.  He toured with noted magicians and continued producing books, articles, and publicity about the world of magic and its practitioners.  He introduced the Chinese Linking Rings trick to America and created the well-known Nickles to Dimes trick.  He also began writing fiction.

Gibson was approached to create stories about a mysterious radio character known as The Shadow.  At the time The Shadow was used only to introduce episodes of The Detective Story Hour, tales based on stories that had appeared in the Street and Smith magazine.  Soon, people began asking for "that Shadow magazine" at newstands with such regularity that the publisher decided to create one.  Gibson's pen name came from the last names of two dealers in magical paraphernalia; the name Cranston -- soon to become The Shadow's best-known alter ego alter ego -- came from the name of a theater owner in Scotland, which Gibson had found while going through Houdini's notes.  Gibson had churned out the first four Shadow adventures when he was called by Thurston to go to Bermuda for three weeks to handle publicity for a tour -- the fifth Shadow adventure was written in whatever spare time Gibson could take away from those duties.

Gibson loved to include magic in his stories and he made sure that any escape trick or magical trick that The Shadow did was as authentic as possible.  Many professional tricks made their way into The Shadow saga.  In at least one case, a trick that Gibson had created (the Tire Trick) for one of his stories was adapted and used by Blackstone and became a cornerstone of his act -- a trick still performed by Blackstone, Jr.

So, what about The Magigals Mystery?  The "Magigals" were a loose-based national group of female magicians who decided to throw a convention in Chicago.  Underestimating their own popularity, over 500 Magigals showed up for the convention to find there weren't enough hotel rooms to hold them all.  The women decided to drive out the staid guests at the Hotel Harbison with magic pranks.  Collapsing skeletons, room lights magically going on and off at odd hours, floating electric light bulbs, an invasion of rabbits and doves in the corridors and elevators, and phone calls from quacking ducks were enough to do the trick, and as each guest left, a Magigal was their to take his room.  One guest who did not leave was Lamont Cranston, who had been foisted upon the Chicago police at the request of Cranston's friend, New York City Police Commissioner Weston.  Chicago had had eight suicides in the past three days, all committed in different ways, but all involving men from out of town -- unrelated, well-to-do, apparently healthy men with no discernable reason to take their own lives -- and all evidence pointed to these deaths being actual suicided.  The evening Cranston arrived, there was a ninth suicide.

The Chicago police were firmly convinced that all deaths were suicides.  There was no motive and no commonality between the victims...nothing that could point to murder.  Until Cranston discovered that each man was an amateur magician.

Back to the Magigals and the Hotel Harbison.  A shop in the store displayed a crystal skull.  Perfectly see-through and made of a hard substance, the skull had the ability to move itself back and forth.  Although their appeared no mechanical device attaching the jaw to the skull, the skull could count;  when one held fingers in front of its garnet-embedded eyes, the jaw would open and close, clicking the exact number of times as the fingers held before it.  The skull had been recently sold to an unnamed buyer and awaited delivery.  Many of the Magigals were fascinated by the skull until attention was diverted by a famous and very handsome Hollywood magician named John Halifax.  Soon, all the women were swooning over Halifax, who had come to speak at the convention.  All women save one:  Verity Joyce, whose attention remained steadfast on the crystal skull.

Later that day, The Shadow discovers that the skull had been stolen.  He also discovers that "Verity Joyce" does not exist -- she is really Gail Tyburn, the estranged wife of local  millionaire and bigwig Lester Tyburn.  Tyburn has allowed his wife to use his estate to hold a large charity event.  Although his estate is outside city limits, he wants Police Inspector Rick Smedley to provide extra protection.  The recent suicides had all been very public and Tyburn is afraid that someone will decide to off himself at the function and bring bad publicity to the charity.  Did I mention that Tyburn has not seen his wife for several days?

In the meantime, Cranston, an amateur magician himself, takes some time off to visit Chicago's Magicians' Round Table,  a regular gathering of professional and amateur magicians at a local restaurant -- a place for the men and women (but no women today; they're all at the Magigals convention) to talk about their trade and its lore.  Cranston is introduced to those present (many of them real-life personalities).  There is Chick Schoke, Dorny Dornfield, Monk Watson, Larry Acuri, Doc Tarbell. Milbourne Christopher, Theo "Okito" Bamberg, Al Plough (editor of The Linking Ring), Walt Gibson (who was editor of Conjurors) -- yeah, Gibson threw himself into the crowd, Bill Sachs (magic columnist for Billboard), Rufus Steele (an expert on gambling devices), Johnny Platt, and Dai Vernon.  John Mulholland, editor of Sphinx, was running late.  (Try to guess how many are real people and colleagues of Gibson.)  Cranston proceeded to woe these magicians with paraphernalia found amongst the suicide victims -- one of a kind items that were most likely created by the reclusive and "untraceable" magician Professor Sedley Marsh.

The so-called suicides, the eerie crystal skull, the Magigals, the non-existent Verity Joyce, the mysterious Professor, the Hollywood magician, a gang of ruthless killers, and magic, magic, magic!  How does this all come together?  That's for the Shadow to know and you to find out.

A truly fun outing.  Alongside the mystery, danger, and outrageous plot plot, you can almost feel Gibson'd joy as he typed out this adventure.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


 We are fine.  Unscathed, even.  Well a piece of debris hit an outside faucet, breaking the handle and, in doing so, turned on the water.  I'm not sure how long it had been running before I found it and turned it off; I'll probably find out when the water bill comes in.  We lost neither our electrical power or our internet.

Christina had four window shutters torn off and an uncounted number of roof shingles.  she may need a completely new roof.  Water leaked down from the ceiling into Erin's bedroom.  Water also came in through some of the front windows.  Her back yard was flooded.  Trees came down in her neighborhood but her property was saved from that.  She lost her power for a while and the freezer in  her garage blew something -- some food may have been lost.  She has no internet at the house but can access it on her phone.

In Pensacola, Jessie's neighborhood was completely blocked off  by fallen trees and two large trees from neighboring properties fell into her back yard.  She lost power yesterday and has not gotten it back yet, so a lot of food will be ruined.  For some reason her cell phone is not working, although Amy's is.  Her neighborhood had some fallen trees and some mailboxes took to the air, but there was no major damage to life, limb, or property.

Areas of Pensacola -- including the downtown are -- were flooded.  It will be a while before there are full damage estimates.  The Pensacola Bay Bridge (a.k.a. The Three-Mile Bridge) from Pensacola to Gulf Breeze is closed.  A section of it is now missing.  This is a new bridge; the first half opened this spring and is temporarily used for traffic going both ways while the other half of the project is under construction.  I have heard that up to eight barges broke loose and slammed into the bridge.  At least one crane toppled onto the bridge and drone footage shows some small chunks missing from the side of the bridge.  This bridge was the only direct access we had to Pensacola.


 In the 1981 film version of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun, Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith enter into a singing catfight, in which Daphne Castle (Smith) tries to ruin Alena Stuart Marshall's (Rigg) rendition of this Cole Porter classic.

A lovely and entertaining piece of film with two great actors.

Rest in peace, Diana Rigg.


 I don't know if the groundhog saw his shadow in 1949, but he may have listened to this program on .

Jewel thief and safecracker Boston Blackie was created in "The Price of Principle" (The American Magazine, July 1914), the first of twenty-three short stories by Jack Boyle (19228-1928) that were continued to 1920; the first four stories in the series were published as by "No. 6066."  While working as a newspaper reporter, Boyle became addicted to cocaine and began a slide into crime.  He was jailed for writing bad checks, then imprisoned for robbery at San Quentin, where he began writing his Boston Blackie stories.  Five years after his release, he cannibalized some of the stories to produce his lone novel about the character, Boston Blackie.

Boston Blackie became a detective for the movies, radio, and television.  From 1918 through 1949 there were twenty-five Boston Blackie movies released, the most popular being those starring Chester Morris, beginning in 1941.

Morris then took the character to radio in 1944 as a summer replacement for Amos 'n' Andy.  The show was revived in 1945 for syndication to the Mutual and other networks with Richard Lollmer in the title role.  More than 200 episodes were produced before the program ended in 1950.

From 1951 to 1953, Boston Blackie became a syndicated television show with Kent Taylor as Blackie.

In this episode, Mary Wesley (Jan Miner) asks Blackie to get her cousin's song published.  As you can glean from the title, things go wrong.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020


 In honor of a certain storm.

And this is what we've been going through:


 My brother thinks he's so smart.  The other day he told me that onions were the only food that can make you cry.  So I threw a coconut at him.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


 The Stone Poneys with Linda Ronstadt.


Vincent Price made his television debut on Robert Montgomery Presents in this adaptation of Keith Winter's 1935 play The Ringmaster, in the role of Peter Hammond, a former stage actor who suffered a crippling injury early in his career.  Now he owns and runs a British seaside inn, Red Roof, where he tries to manipulate the lives of his wife (Anna Lee) and guests -- with disastrous results.  Also in the cast are Robert Coote, John Merivale, Sarah Burton, Adrienne Corri, Betty Sinclair, Mary Lou Taylor, and Stuart Burge.

The program was produced by Montgomery and directed by Vincent J. Donahue, from an adaptation of Winter's play by Alvin Sapinsley.

Robert Montgomery Presents, an anthology show, ran from January 30, 1950 to June 24, 1957 -- a total of  317 episodes.  Between October 1950 and March 1951, the show alternated with Musical Comedy Time, after which it alternated with Somerset Maugham TV Theater through December 1951.  The program has been known by several titles, including Lucky Strike Theater, Montgomery's Summer Stock, and The Robert Montgomery Summer Theater.  When "The Ringmaster" aired, the program had the clumsy title Robert Montgomery Presents The Johnson's Wax Program (guess who was the sponsor then?).

The author of the source play, Keith Winter (1906-1983), was best known for his 1933 Broadway play The Rats of Norway.  The following year he wrote The Shining Hour, which was made into a film in 1938, then televised in at least four different versions in the 1950s.  He also wrote the screenplay for Above Suspicion (1943) and contributed to The Red Shoes (1948).

Enjoy this blast from the past.

Monday, September 14, 2020


 Fats Waller.


September 11 Openers:  On  an otherwise ordinary evening in May, a week before his twenty-ninth birthday, Jonathan Hughes met his fate, coming from another time, another year, another life.

His fate was unrecognizable at first, of course, and boarded the train at the same hour, in Pennsylvania Station, and sat with Hughes for the dinnertime journey across Long Island.  It was the newspaper held by his fate disguised as an older man that caused Jonathan Hughes to stare and finally say:

"Sir, pardon me, your New York Times seems different from mine.  The typeface on you front page seems more modern.  Is that a later edition?"

-- Ray Bradbury, "A Touch of Petulance" (first published in Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, 1980)

Early in career, the legendary writer broke into the crime genre with a number of stories for the detective pulps, such as Detective Tales, Dime Mystery, and Detective Book Magazine.  Often overshadowed by his early fantasy and science fiction stories, these efforts have mainly laid undiscovered, some appearing on occasion in various collections of his work, others languishing.  In 1984, Dell issued a slim paperback containing fifteen of these early tales, a Memory of Murder; that book has never been reprinted in English.

Now, Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai, Bradbury literary agent Michael Congdon, and Jonathan R. Eller, the director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University's School of Liberal Arts to select twenty of Bradbury's best crime and suspense stories, from his early pulp days to his later tales of the 1950s and 1960s.  The result:  A major new collection, Killer, Come Back to Me, issued this August from Hard Case Crime.

Understand that for the Bradbury fanatic, most of these stories have appeared over the years in Bradbury collections.  Six of them. plus Bradbury's introduction (presented here as an afterward), appeared in A Memory of Murder.  A (very) few have not appeared before in a Bradbury collection.  But...

They are here!  In one glorious collection!  Kaloo! Kalay!

To my mind, Bradbury's early stories have a raw strength about them.  There is nothing sentimental here, just a series of hard punches to the gut.  His later stories -- more evocative, more sensitive -- can often be just a little bit too sacarrine, or twee, for me.  But Bradbury in this collection?  He is a master, a genius, just beginning to feel his way through the literary landscape.  In these tales you can see that he is a force to be reckoned with.

  • "The Talking Box:  Ray bradbury's Crime Fiction" (an introduction by Jonathan R. Eller)
  • "A Touch of Petulance" (from Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, 1984; reprinted in Bradbury's The Toynbee Collector, 1988)
  • "The Screaming Woman" (from Today (The Philadelphia Inquirer), May 27, 1951; reprinted in Bradbury's S is for Space, 1966, in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980, in A Medicine for Melancholy and Other Stories, 1998, and in Summer Morning, Summer Night, 2007)
  • "The Trunk Lady" (from Detective Tales, September 1944; reprinted in A Memory of Murder, 1984)
  • " 'I'm Not So Dumb!' " (from Detective Tales, February 1943; reprinted in A Memory of Murder, 1984)
  • "Killer, Come Back to Me!" (from Detective Tales, July 1944; not included in a previou Bradbury collection)
  • "Dead Men Rise Up Never" (from Dime Mystery, July 1945 [the copyright page mistakenly gives the month as May]; reprinted in A Memory of Murder, 1984)
  • "Where Everything Ends" (an original short story included in Subterranean Press's Where Everything Ends, 2009, a collection of Bradbury's three mystery novels [Death Is a Lonely Business, A Graveyard for Lunatics, and Let's All Kill Constance, plus this story, which was the source text for Death Is a Lonely Business)
  • "Corpse Carnival" (from Dime Mystery, July 1945, under the pseudonym D. R. Banet; reprinted in A Memory of Murder, 1984)
  • "And So Died Riabouchinska" (from The Saint Detective Magazine, June-July 1953; reprinted in Bradbury's The Machineries of Joy, 1964, and in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980)
  • "Yesterday I Lived!" (from Flynn's Detective Fiction, August 1944; reprinted in A Memory of 
    , 1984)
  • "The Town Where No One Got Off" (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, October 1958; reprinted in A Medicine for Melancholy, 1959, in Bradbury's Twice Twenty-Two, 1966, and in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980)
  • "The Whole Town's Sleeping" (from McCall's Magazine, September 1950; incorporated into the novel Dandelion Wine, and reprinted in Bradbury Stories:  One Hundred of His Most Celebrated Stories, 2003)
  • "At Midnight , In the Month of June" (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, June 1954, as a sequel to "The Whole Town's Sleeping," written at the request of Frederick Dannay [the magazine editorial half of "Ellery Queen;" reprinted in The Toynbee Convector, 1988, in Bradbury Stories:  One Hundred of His Most Celebrated Tales, 2003, and in Summer Morning, Summer Night, 2007)
  • "The Smiling People" (from Weird Tales, May 1946; reprinted in Dark Carnival, 1947, and in Bradbury Stories:  One Hundred of His Most Celebrated Tales, 2003)
  • "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl" (from Detective Book Magazine, Spring 1949, under the title "Touch and Go;" reprinted in reprinted in Bradbury's The Golden Apples of the Sun, in The Vintage Bradbury, 1965, in Twice Twenty-Two, 1966, in Bradbury Stories:  One Hundred of His Most Celebrated Tales, 2003, and in Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories, 2005)
  • 'The Small Assassin" (from Dime Mystery, November 1946; reprinted in Dark Carnival, 1947, in The October Country, 1955, in The Vintage Bradbury, 1965, in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980, and in A Memory of Murder, 1984,)
  • "Marionettes, Inc." (from Startling Stories, March 1949; reprinted in The Illustrated Man, 1951, in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980, and in Bradbury's collection Marionettes, Inc., 2009; the story has been reprinted at least once under the title "No Strings Attached")
  • "Punishment Without Crime" (from Other Worlds, March 1950, reprinted in Bradbury's Long After Midnight, 1976, in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980, and I Sing the Body Electric! and Other Stories, 1998)
  • "Some Live Like Lazarus" (from Playboy, December 1960; reprinted in The Machineries of Joy, 1964, and in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980,)
  • "The Utterly Perfect Murder" (from Playboy, August 1971, under the title "My Perfect Murder;" reprinted in Long after Midnight, 1976, in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, 1980, and in I Sing the Body Electric! and Other Stories, 1998)
  • "Hammett?  Chandler?  Not to Worry!" (Bradbury's introduction to A Memory of Murder, 1984, used here as a postscript)
It's a joy to have all of these great stories under one cover.

  • Ramsey Campbell, The Last Voice They Hear.  Suspense novel.  "Geoff is happily married with a young son who is the delight of his life.  A famous, successful investigative journalist, he is in the middle of a publicity tour when a voice on the phone plunges him into the darkest part of his past, and into a deadly present.  The voice is that of geoff's long-lost brother, Ben...When they were small, Ben devised tortured puzzles for his borther to solve.  Now Ben is offering Geoff a new set of clues with a terrible secret at their core.  Someone is killing happily married couples...If Geoff fails, his son may pay the proce -- but if he succeeds, will he find that his brother has become a killer?"  Campbell, one of the best living horror writers, turns his hand to a suspense novel that is not far removed from horror.
  • Blake Crouch, Good Behavior, three interlinked novellas that formed the basis of the TNT television show Good Behavior, featuring burglar Letty Dobesh.  "While on the job, she overhears a man hiring a hit many to kill his wife.  Letty may or may not be winning any morality awards, but even she has limits."  Crouch, also the creator of Wayward Pines, has been producing interesting novels since his first, Desert Places, in 2004.
  • Samuel R. Delany, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.  Two long-ish personal essays about Times Square, one about the Square pre-1985, when it was a wide-open place of peep shows, street hustlers, and adult movie houses. the other about the sanitized (read safe) Times Square that has lost its vital personality.  Published as part of New York University's Sexual Cultures:  New Directions from the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies program.  Delany is always stretching the boundaries of literature, whether in fact or in fiction.
  • Erle Stanley, Gardner, The D.A. Calls It Murder.  Gardner's first Doug Selby mystery.  Selby investigates the death of a clergyman at the Madison Hotel.  Although signs point to suicide, Selby suspects foul play.  This 1937 novel harks back to Gardner's pulp roots.  This edition was published by The Franklin Library (part of the Franklin Mint), and is a handsome volume with 70-pound acid-free archival standard paper made especially for the publisher, with Granjon  typeface and a Aurora Grotesk display face, a specially designed cover panel, and a specially commissioned frontispiece by David Tamura.  In other words, this is a purty edition, made to look like a collector's item.
  • Charlotte MacLeod, Had She But Known:  A Biography of Mary Roberts Rinehart.  For a half century, Rinehart was the best-known, best-loved, and best-paid writer america had ever known, and the author of over fifty books.  charlotte MacLeod was best known for her cozy mystery series about Peter Shandy of the Balaclava Agricultural College and about Sarah and Max Kelling.  As "Alisha Craig" she wrote two series, one about RCMP Madoc Rhys and one about the Lobelia Falls Grub-and-Stakers Gardening and Roving Club.  She has been honored with a Nero Award, five American Mystery Awards, Life Achievement Awards from both Bouchercon XXIII and from Malice Domestic, as well as multiple nominations for both the Edgar and Anthony Awards.
  • Eleanor Sullivan, editor, Alfred Hitchcock:  Tales of Terror.  An instant remainder book containing 58 stories from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine from 1956 to 1976.  Among the usual suspects are Robert Bloch, Bill Pronzini, Lawrence Block, Nelson DeMille, John Lutz, Brian Garfield, Jack Ritchie, Henry Slesar, William P. McGivern, Edward D. Hoch, Margaret Maron, Helen Neilson, Hal ellson, harold Q. Masur, Arthur Porges, and August Derleth.  Prime pickings for those who love the mystery short story.

9-11:  Nineteen years ago all of our lives changed.  The change had been coming for a while except few of us realized it, but with the destruction of the two towers, the attack on the Pentagon, and the innocent bodies strewn across the Pennsylvania landscape, the world moved to a darker, more insecure place.  Sadly, we are still in that place.  For a brief moment after the attacks the world had come together, but George Bush and a bunch of neo-cons squandered that opportunity.  I think about what might have been often had our resolve and determination not been replaced by fear and xenophobia.  I can trace that thread all the way to today's disfunction.

We had just returned from a trip to Cape Cod the day before, driving through New York City.  We came home to find our cat Maggie -- the best cat in the world, ever -- sick and dying, curled up in our bathroom sink.  What happened to her, we didn't know.  I suspect she had been poisoned, perhaps she had ingested some antifreeze somehow.  She grew worse through the night and we made the painful choice of putting her to sleep.  The next morning, September 11, we drove her to the local animal shelter, arriving early, not knowing when they opened.  We went to a fast food joint for coffee while we waited for nine o'clock to come.  That's when we heard on the radio about the attack on one of the towers.  At first it seemed like a terrible accident rather than a terrorist attack.  There was no indication of the death toll yet, but we knew it had to be in the thousands.   Nine o'clock came and we took Maggie to the shelter to be put down.  There we heard about the second tower and the shit became real.  Then the attack on the Pentagon and the plane went down in Stoneycreek Township and in one morning the world completely turned.

Among all that horror I wept.  Not for the innocent victims, but for the damn cat.

Mother Nature:  The West Coast is burning and people are dying.  Hurricane Sally has targeted Louisiana and the possible toll is unknown.  My thoughts are with Rick in Portland and with Deb in Louisiana and with all the others affected by both disasters.  The last I heard (last night), our particular part of the Florida Panhandle will be getting anywhere from 2 to 15 inches of rain.  I'm glad they can predict things so accurately.

Carol:  Ed Emshwiller (1925-1990) was a noted science fiction illustrator and a pioneering experimental film maker.  The five-time Hugo award-winning artist and inductee into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame often used his wife, the ever-beautiful Carol (1921-2019), as a model.  (He also used Bill Griffith, a neighborhood boy who went on to create the comic strip Zippy, and Griffith's father as models for the cover of the September 1957 Original Science Fiction.)  Most of Emshwiller's magazine science fiction artwork was signed "Emsh," while his book covers were signed by his full name.  His wife Carol went on to become an acclaimed author and two-time Nebula Award winner; she was awarded a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2005.

Here is a brief film by Ed Emshwiller made as a tribute to his wife.  It's title, naturally, is "Carol Emshwiller."

McKinley:  Today marks the 119th anniversary of the death of President William McKinley, eight days after being shot twice in the stomach by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz.  Many feel that McKinley died of sepsis and gangrene caused by unsanitary conditions and poor medical treatment.  McKinley was seceded by Theodore Roosevelt.  As president, McKinley oversaw the victory of the Spanish-American War (bringing Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines as U.S. territories), raised protective tariffs, maintained the gold standard, annexed the Republic of Hawaii, and expanded American influence overseas, while also disappointing many of his followers by his lackluster approach to racial relations.

I grew up on a farm in Massachusetts that was owned by a man who was young when McKinley was assassinated.  The day of McKinley's death, he was paid a dollar by a McKinley follower to ring the local church bell in honor of the late president.  The bell was rung for over an hour.  He never tired of telling me that story.

John Gould:  Today is also the 216th  birthday of English ornithologist and bird artist John Gould.  He is considered the father of bird study in Australia and his work played a role in Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.  The link takes you to some of his amazing paintings.

Old Wishes:  Per NPR:  The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores had a unique idea to help them cope financially with the pandemic.  They drained a large waterfall at the site and recovered over 100 gallons of coins tossed in  by people making a wish.  Once the coins are cleaned they will be used to offset the aquariums expenses incurred during a six month (and counting) closure.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Rovester Ingram did not take it kindly when an elderly man asked him to socially distance at a Winter Park gas station because he wasn't wearing a protective mask.  Ingrim complied -- if by complying you mean beating the old man, kicking him in the head, and spitting on him.  The victim received serious injuries, including broken bones.  Perhaps the victim did not preface his request with a "Please."
  • In a surprising rare event, an unnamed Florida woman was attacked by an alligator while she was trimming trees near a North Fort Myers lake.  The 10-foot gator reportedly lay in ambush for her.  The victim was taken to a local hospital and was stated to be in stable condition with wounds to both legs.  Actual alligator attacks on people in Florida are rare.  The alligator was relocated and did not give officials a motive.
  • Lee County Florida Man Gene Sweetaple, 65,  has been arrested for attempting to steal a trolley while the driver was on a break.  A police officer repeatedly tried to get Sweetwater to come down from the trolley, only to be met with statements like, "I'm going to dive the trolley," and 'Say please."
  • In Fort Myers, three Florida "Bathing Suit Burglars" filled a hot tub at the Brookshire Bath and Tennis Club with soap, causing several hundred dollars in damages.  No one has been arrested and the culprits have not come clean.
  • Florida Man and former New York Jets wide receiver Josh Bellamy, 31, has been arrested for being part of a $24 million fraud scheme to receive illegal loans intended for COVID-19 relief.  He allegedly received over $1.2 million from the Paycheck Prevention Program, spending over $100,000 of the money on luxury items.  Bellamy was signed to a two-year five-million dollar contract with the Jets last year.  He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and was released by the Jets last week.
  • The FBI is searching for Dade County Florida Man Yoelvis Denis Hernandez, 42, for stealing a $3 million dollar shipment of ventilators which were intended to assist El Salvador in their response to COVID-19.  Hernandez is believes to be hiding out somewhere in South Florida.  Multiple rewards have been posted for his arrest and conviction so it is safe to assume that Hernandez -- despite having so many ventilators -- is not breathing easily.

The Good Stuff:
  • Two-thirds of Americans believe they have become a better person this year
  • Landscaping pros have been giving free lawn care for health care workers to relieve their stress
  • McDonald's to use reusable, returnable coffee cups
  • Cancer survivor becomes the first woman to complete a grueling triathlon covering 330 miles in five days
  • Boy donates 22,000 diapers to single mothers using the proceeds from nis lemonade stand
  • Hungarian scientist wins 1 million euro prize for groundbreaking research that could eventually restore sight in blindness
  • Chrissy Teigen asked teachers for their wish lists and then fulfilled them by the dozens
  • Woman designs sturdy cardboard beds for overrun hospitals in India -- and her proud family sells them at cost

Today's Poem:
Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

-- Emily Bronte

Sunday, September 13, 2020


 A vexing case in the annals of murder, the "Green Bicycle" affair may be a case when the culprit got awat with murder.

Twenty-one-year old Bella Wright, a girl of "good looks and of good character," was bicycling to her uncle's home in Gauby.  Bella Wright often bicycled that summer around the villages in the area to run errands or to call on friends and acquaintances, as well as bicycling to her work on the late shift at a rubber factory.  On the way to see her uncle she met Ronald Light, who was also bicycling and asked him if he had a spanner so she could tighten a loose bolt on her bicycle.  Light reportedly did what he could and offered to bicycle with her to her uncle's house.  While he waited outside, she told her uncle that she had just met him and that he seemed to pose no threat.  The uncle had a natural dislike to the man, but did not know his name, only the he rode a green bicycle.

Bella's body was found half an hour after she had left her uncle's home.  Bloodied, lying beside her bicycle, and shot at least once under the left eye.  A call went out to identified the man on the green bicycle.  No one came forward.  In November of that year, a coal barge happened to snag the frame of a green bicycle.  The area was dredged and other pieces of the bicycle were found.  The serial numbers had been filed off the frame and the seat but a faint number was found on the inside of the fork.  This led to Light, who was arrested on March 4, 1920, at Dean Close School in Chettenham, where he had been hired as a mathematics teacher two months before.

Light's background was questionable, to say the least.  At the age of 17 he had been expelled from school for lifting a girl's dress over her head.  He also tried to seduce a 15-year-old girl and admitted to indulging in improper conduct with an 8-year-old girl.  At age 28 he was fired from a job as draftsman for setting fire to a cabinet and for drawing indecent graffiti in a bathroom.  Later, he was fired from a firm for setting fire to the haystacks.  In 1915 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers; a bit over a year later he resigned his commision "at the request of a superior officer."  He then became a gunner in the Royal Artillery and was court-marshalled in 1917 for forging orders.  Light was demobbed in 1919, officially suffering from shell shock and a deaf ear, and was sent home to undergo psychiatric treatment.

Light's background, the fact that he was seen with Bella Wright a half hour before her body was found, and the fact that he did not come forward, even after admitting he read about the murder in the nespaper a few days after the body was discovered, all combined to make him appear guilty.  Oh, and he also dismantled his distinctive-looking bicycle, sanded off the serial numbers, and threw the parts and his empty holster and ammunition into a canal.

After a highly publicized trial Light was found not guilty, mainly because of his attorney's assertion that there was no motive.  Criminologist and students of true crime are divided on this case.  H. R. Wakefield, in his 1930 book The Green Bicycle Case argued that Light was innocent.  In 1993's The Green Bicycle Murder, author Christine Wendy East argued that Light was guilty and that the contemporary class structure had helped his release.  (Light was from a wealthy family and Wright was the first of seven born to an illiterate agricultural worker.)  Others wondered if the death was the result of an accident, a bullet going off while Light was showing the girl his gun, perhaps.  Three days after Light was acquitted, the Leicester Superintendent of Police wrote a note claiming that Light had confessed to Wright's accidental death; the validity of this not has been questioned.

So.  Did he do it?  Did he get away with murder?  That seems to be the opinion of the piece below:


 Jim Reeves.

Saturday, September 12, 2020


 Peaches and Herb.


 "Patrick Kelly was originally an ace fighter pilot in World War II who fought in the Pacific Theater under General Stilwell, as a member of the Avenger Corps.  He was from Brooklyn.  He was later transported to the future, where he explored the galaxy and continued to defend freedom as a rocket pilot.  He was called to another planet where he became the Keeper of the Flame of Democracy, the flame being a mystic energy felt by the free people of the universe.  Kelly was accompanied in his adventures by his World War II gunner Punchy (originally called Wacky) who was a former Brooklyn cab driver, and a beautiful nurse named Sue Andrews (she was later replaced by a girl name Diana).  Kelly's enemies included Indus, Vengo and Diablo, who was determined to extinguish the Flame of Democracy."  []

Rocket Kelly first appeared in The Bounce #10 (dated Fall, 1944, but published in 1945), first with a two-page intro, "It Happened to Me," in which Kelly is fighting a number of Japanese (that's not the word they used) planes and outflying and outsmarting them all.  The next page begins the first full Rocket Kelly story, "Atom World of Selura."  He's now in the the future -- no explanation given -- piloting a rocket ship with Wacky, Sue Andrews, and the dwarf Sibio aboard.  Rocket Kelley appeared in five issues of The Bouncer and at least one issue of Everybody's Comics before starring in his own title; perhaps some of the back story was revealed there.  Perhaps not.

Kelly was created and drawn by Ted Small.  Who or what was Ted Small?  Dunno.  A brief jaunt through the internet revealed nothing.  If anyone has any information, please let me know.

Issue #1 features two Rocket Kelly stories.  The first, "When Mountains Trembled," has Rocket and the crew back on Earth and somewhat in the present.  Don't ask, 'cuz they didn't tell.  Rocket's father is concerned because he has not heard from his eccentric inventor friend Professor Maynor, whose laboratory is located on top of Bleak Mountain somewhere in Asia.  Flying to Bleak Muntai, Rocket and pals discover the Professor's body, guarded by his distraught pet ape.  Maynor has been shot and his scientific instruments have been smashed!  Punchy takes some photographs and discovers the last thing Maynor saw -- recorded on his retina!  (Yeah.  Evidently that was still a thing back in 1945.)  It's the image of Nihil, a villain who had supposedly die in an escape attempt after being convicted by the World Court of crimes against humanity!  Rocket soon locates Nihil's "Fortress of Treachery," where he, Sue, and Punchy are captured.  Can they stop Nihil's evil plan to destroy the world?   Well, can they?

In "The Vengeance of Vengo," time has become topsy-turvy and the people of Earth are beginning to age rapidly -- including Rocket, Sue, and Punchy!  Turns out this is a plot by Vengo -- another villain presumed dead after escaping prosecution for murders caused by his time experiments.  Can an aged Rocket and gang find Vengo, stop his evil plans, and somehow inoculate the entire planet before it is too late?  Well, can they? 

Also in this issue:  A tale of Illuso, the world's greatest magician who has been given magical powers by a Tibetian lama. with the understanding that Illuso will use these powers for the benefit of mankind.  Here, Illuso investigates the disappearance of a policeman who has been accused of robbing a warehouse.  The villains are really fingers Crowell and his gang, who are holding the policeman prisoner.  Magical powers and illusions (a la Mandrake, without Lothar) save the day.

And, in "Forty-five Feet of Murder,"star reporter Betty Boyd meets up with the world's largest python, now accused of killing the curator of the local zoo.  Well, the python is innocent and it's the bad guys, including a punch-drunk ex-fighter, who try to throw Betty into the alligator pit.  They should have known better than to have gone against a plucky young girl reporter!

The issue ends with a one-page "Minit Mystery" featuring Inspector Trent.  The (sorta) obvious solution is revealed in the last panel, which is printed upside down.

Rocket Kelly, both as a comic book and as a character, did not last long.  Wonder why?

Give it a whirl.

Friday, September 11, 2020


 It's been nineteen years since the world was significantly changed.  Here's a tribute to the heroes.


 The Shadow #279:  The Freak Show Murders by "Maxwell Grant"  (Walter B. Gibson)  [The Shadow, May 1, 1944]

Sherlock Holmes once said, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the basis of a pulp story about The Shadow."  That may not be an exact quote.

This is a late season adventure of The Shadow; The Shadow magazine would close with issue #325 after limping along as a quarterly for its last four issues.  No longer is The Shadow Kent Allard, the name used in the earlier Shadow novels; he has now adopted the name of Lamont Cranston, meshing with the radio series character.  Cranston is a name borrowed from the real Cranston, who is travelling the world.  Also merging with the radio series is the character of Margo Lane, the wealthy socialite who is the girlfriend/companion of The Shadow.  As with the radio show, The Shadow is able to cloud men's minds, giving him the ability to move in shadows and to have the darkness follow him somehow.

The Freak Show Murders with Steve Kilroy, a representative of Associated Metallurgy, meeting with Milton Treft one night in Treft's manor home.  Treft has the formula for alumite, a miraculous lightweight metal with superlative strength.  The true inventor of alumite was Abner Pettigrew, now deceased.  Before he died, Pettigrew used all of the metal he had created to make a dozen life-sized statues, each representing an hour on the clock.  The statues, while appearing made with a hefty bronze, actually only weighed about twelve pounds apiece but were strong enough to withstand bullets. With the formula and the twelve statues, no one would be able to dispute the claim of ownership.  The statues had been divvied up between Treft and his three co-investors.  Before Steve could close the deal with Treft, a man in a harlequin costume appeared and shot Treft in the heart.

In the fight that ensued, Steve ended up with the assailant's gun, but the Harlequin manged to escape with the formula and the names of the co-investors.  Before Kilroy could give chase, Treft's bodyguards had burst into the room and tackled Steve, believing he was the murderer.  Steve managed to get away but was chased through the woods by the armed bodyguards.  Coming across a railroad track, Steve jumped on a train carrying The Sorber Greater Shows, a travelling carnival.  Steve hires on as a roughneck, hoping that the Harlequin, because of his costume, was a member of the carnival and that Steve would be able to identify him. 

Enter The Shadow.  As a shareholder in Associated Metallurgy, Cranston does not believe that Steve is the killer authorities make him out to be.  There must be "an unknown factor in the case."  Cranston also knew about the carnival travelling nearby and deducted that Steve was hiding out there.  The Shadow enlists Margo Lane and off they go a-carnivaling.

The carnival, run by Pop Sorber, is having difficulties.  Circumstances forced the carnival to forgo a profitable local stop and its advance man set up a number of other stops to make up for it.  The new stops were very small communities and very much out of the normal circuit the carnival took.  One main event of the carnival was its freak show, advertising ten -- count 'em, ten -- freaks.  Sadly, Sober has only five freaks and hopes the rubes don't notice.  Margo Lane shows up and is hired to portray two freaks -- the Spiderwoman and the mermaid.  Steve is promoted from roughneck to portraying Atlas the Wild Man.  Another roustabout is drafted to portray Nicco the Cigarette Fiend.  Soon Sorber has his ten freaks, including a sword swallower. a snake queen, a knife thrower, a tattooed man, an electrical wizard, and Damon and Pythias, the Inseparable Twins (or Siamese twins).  On of them must be the Harlequin.  Why?  Well, why not.

Steve joins up with Margo and The Shadow to find the Harlequin.  The carnival's new route takes them to towns where the Treft's other co-investors live.  In a drawn-out cavalcade of comic errors, The Shadow and the Harlequin battle, but luck is on the Harlequin's side and not The Shadow's.  The cold-hearted villain leaves a trail of bodies behind him as he amasses the life size statues, but where can he hide the loot?  And who is he?  The answers are fairly obvious to the reader by some heavy-handed misdirection.

The plotting may be clunky but Gibson reliably provides fast-moving action and a realistic carnival,background -- the author had toured as a magician with a travelling carnival, so the language and the feel of the carnival are authentic.

The novel has been reprinted twice, once in a volume from Doubleday in 1978 and once in an omnibus volume (#149) from Sanctum Books earlier this year.

For Shadow fans, pulp hero fans, old farts like me, and anyone who wants to spend a quiet evening at home lost in a world some seven-and-a-half  decades gone.

Thursday, September 10, 2020


 Sonny and Cher.


 For much of it's life on the radio X Minus One aired stories from Galaxy Science Fiction magazine.  This one comes from a story by "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins), one-time "Dean of Science Fiction," was was first published in Galaxy's September 1951 issue.  

"They've got a queer sort of evolution hereon Moklin.  Babies here inherit desired characteristics.  Not acquired characteristics, desired ones."

Ralph Camargo, Stan Early, Helen Gerald. Dick Janaver, Joseph Julian, John Marley, Karl Weber, and Patricia Weil were the featured actors, while Kenneth Banghart was the announcer.  The episode was directed by Daniel Sutter.  Ernest Kinoy adapted Leinster's story for this episode.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020




 I spilled spot remover on my dog.  He's gone now.  -- Steven Wright


Tim Buckley (1947-1975) with "Sweet Surrender."

His son Jeff (1966-1997) with "Grace."


 In a twist on Arsenic and Old Lace, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre try to create superhuman zombies from hapless traveling salesmen for the war effort.  Their failures are buried in the cellar of an old colonial inn.  Wackiness ensues, with a bizarre cast of characters thrown in to add to the humor.

Former boxer Maxie Rosenbloom, Larry Parks, and (Miss) Jeff Donnell co-star.

A minor horror/comedy that actually entertains.  Worth a look.

Monday, September 7, 2020


 Openers:  Nekonkh, captain of the Nile boat Silver Beetle, paused for the fiftieth time beside his vessel's high beaked prow and shaded his eyes to peer anxiously across the wharfs.

The city that rose beyond them shimmered, almost drained of color, in the glare of Egyptian noon.  Doorways were blue-black in white buildings, alleys were plunged in shadow; the gay colors of the sais and hulls that crowded the harbor seemed faded and indistinct, and even the green of the Nile was overlaid by a binding surface glitter.  Only the sky was vivid, curving in a high blue arch over ancient Menfe.

The wharf itself seethed with activity.  Sweating porters hurried in and out among groups of merchants haggling over stocks of cargo yet to be loaded; sailors, both foreign and Egyptian, swarmed everywhere, talking in a babble of tongues.  A donkey drover pushed through a cluster of pale-faced traders in the fringed garments of Babel laid wagers on a dogfight at one end of the wharf, while a ring of yelling urchins surrounded a cage of monkeys at the other.  Over all rose the rank smell of the river -- an odor compounded of fish, mud, water-soaked rope, pitch and crocodiles.

-- Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Mara, Daughter of the Nile  (1953)

From the blurb in the Puffin edition:  "Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom.  But her escape from her cruel master only places her at the mercy of  not one, but two rival masters who each support contenders to the throne of Egypt -- and who would kill Mara instantly if they suspected her role as double spy.  although distrustful of both at first, Mara begins to believe in one of them, Sheftu, and his plan to restore Thutmose III to the throne.  And as her belief grows stronger, Mara finds herself, against her will, falling in love with him.  But before she can reveal that love and pledge her aid to Sheftu, her duplicity is discovered, and a battle ensues in which both Mara' life and the fate of Egypt are at stake."

Wow!  Danger, romance, political intrigue, a mysterious far-off locale, and adventure, all with a plucky young heroine!   No wonder this was one of my wife's favorite books when she was young.  She was probably in junior high school when she first read Mara, Daughter of the Nile about the same time that she was discovering Mickey Spillane, Michael Shayne, and Agatha Christie -- this was when she almost gave up on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd about a third of the way in; she had figured out who the murderer was, how the crime was done, and the motive.  (My wife is very smart, you see.)  Anyway, she loved this book so, early in our marriage I found a hardcover copy for her and she loved me for it.  Over the years, that copy probably went walkabout, or was buried in one of a zillion storage boxes, so last week I picked up a paperback copy for her and she still loves me.  (What a gal!)

McGraw (1915-2000) was a popular children's and young adult author.  She won the Newbery Honor three times over three decades:  Moccasin Trail (1952), The Golden Goblet (1962), and "The Moorchild" (1997).  Her 1977 book, A Really Weird Summer, won the edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.  McGraw also wrote two Oz books (Merry Go Round in Oz,1963, and 
The Forbidden Fountain of Oz ,1980, both credited to herself an her daughter, Laura Lynn McGraw, although all writing was done by Eloise; a third Oz book, The Rundlestone of Oz, 2000, was credited to Eloise alone), as well as assisting in the editing of Gina Wickwar's The Hidden Prince of Oz (2000).  McGraw wote at least fourteen other books including historical novels, including Greensleeves (1968), The Seventeenth Swap (1986), and The Striped Ships (1991).  For her final novel, McGraw returned to ancient Egypt for Pharoah (1998), her only adult novel.

There are a lot of young adult authors who provide satisfying reading for adults.  Eloise Jarvis McGraw is one of those.

Check her out.


  • Zomnibus, a 2009 Graphic novel omnibus of three zombie novels:  Zombies!:  Feast by Shane McCarthy, with art by Chris Bolton & Enrique Lopez Lorenzana; Zombies!:  Eclkipse of the Dead by El Torres, with art by Yair Herrera; and Complete Zombies vs. Robots by Chris Ryall, with art by Ashley Wood.  Some great artwork here.  I hope the stories live up to the quality of the art.

Happy Labor Day!:  The history of workers' rights in America go back as far as 1636 with a fisherman's strike in Maine.  In 1677, New York City carmen attempted to strike and were fined.  With the coming of the industrial age in America, labor rights became increasingly important.  In Lowell, Massachusetts, where the industrial revolution became, textile companies lured farm girls to work their mills with the promise of money that could not be had at home.  The girls (a lot of them were girls; many were young women) were not only provided jobs, but housing and cultural activities.  The fact that some of these jobs were dangerous was not emphasized.  As the nineteenth century entered its second half, workers across the country were being taken advantage of by employers and a movement toward collective bargaining began to take shape.  In 1885 and 1886, several municipalities passed legislation to establish a Labor Day.  In 1887, five states recognized a Labor Day holiday.  By 1894 thirty-two states recognized Labor Day, and later that year Congress passed a law making the first Monday in September a national holiday -- Labor Day.

The labor movement in America was never meant to be political, although by the 1930s the labor movement became strongly associated with the Democratic Party.

Growing up in the Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts, I was very much aware of the history of labor in the city of Lowell and its neighboring city Lawrence.  It was in Lawrence that a textile workers strike took place in January-March, 1912, known as the "Bread and Roses strike."  The strike, led largely by women, with the support of the Industrial Workers of the World, was a success, resulting in pay increases, overtime pay, and a promise not to discriminate against strikers.  It was this strike that created the  moving picket line -- a way for the strikers to avid being arrested for loitering.  The City of Lawrence still commemorates the strike with an annual Bread and Roses Festival.

Although the phrase "Bread and Roses" did not originate with the strike, it was embraced by the strikers and became a slogan that stood for justice and dignity for women workers worldwide.  Some signs carried by the strikers read, "We want bread, but we want roses, too!"

The power of labor unions has significantly decreased.  Corruption, organized crime, poor management -- all has led to the decline of unions.  But the legacy of the labor movement can not be denied.  Five-day, forty-hour work weeks, safer working conditions, the elimination of child labor -- can all be traced to the labor movement.  I believe in a strong labor movement and I believe it can exist in a win-win environment with management.  Sadly, like much else these days, our polarized society will most likely not allow that day to come.

Here's Judy Collins singing "bread and Roses":

And the Dropkick Murphy's singing "Which Side Are You On?":

Vote Early and Often?:  This week Grump did what he does best:  sowing chaos and disruption.  By endorsing the patently illegal idea of voting twice, once by mail and once at the polls, he is hoping to increase his chances for re-election.  And, yes, he's couching it in terms that may seem logical to his base, but he is blatantly and knowingly encouraging voter fraud.  Add this to the disruption of the Postal Service and attempts to disqualify a large number of voters and his false claims that mail-in voting would delegitimize the election, and we have one very scared president.

Problem is, it  might work.  At the very least, he may be able to declare the election illegitimate.  Worse yet, he might even win.

What to do?  Call the bastard out on all of this.  Show him up for the liar and cheat he is.  While he's urging his people to vote early and often, America should fight back early and often.

Dat Ol' Debbil:   Earlier this week I was at a thrift store rummaging though a bin of used books.  I came across a pamphlet titled Hypnotism:  Divine or Demonic?.  Then I came across a few more similar pamphlets on related subjects, all dealing with the negative effects of demons in this world.  They were all written by a dude named Lester Sumrall.  I thought I'd check this guy out.

Sumrall (1913-1996) was a well-known (I didn't know of him, so what does that say about me?) pastor and evangelist who penned over 130 books (Although judging by the thrift store bin, they were pamphlets more than books).  He turned to God when, at age 17, he was dying of tuberculosis and had a vision (sent by God) where a casket was suspended to the right of his bed and an open bible suspended to the left.  A voice then asked him,"Which of these will you chose tonight?"  Well. we know what he chose.  He began preaching the Gospel, bringing his message to 110 countries.  In 1957, he founded LeSEA (Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association), which eventually reached "90% of the world's population."  It has since morphed into the Family Broadcasting Corporation.

His view of religion was pretty rigid.  He declared all Muslims (and their religion) demonic because they did not follow Christ.  His books include 101 Questions and Answers on Demonic Powers, Alien Entities ("More people are seeking spiritual experience apart from God, but often they discover that they are being controlled by the powers of darkness and that their guidance is demonic."), Bitten by Devils ("...about Clarita Villanueva, who was beaten and choked by unseen adversaries."), Exorcism:  The Reality of Evil, Jihad:  The Holy War ("Discover the destinies of Iran and the entire Muslim world as we march toward the end of time."), Overcoming Compulsive Desires ("Topics include food, shopping, television, gambling, lust, pornogrphy and a host of others"), Supernatural Principalities and Powers ("If you think witchcraft, demons, and magic are bizarre but harmless nonsense, think again!"), and Unprovoked Murder:  Insanity or Demonic Possession?. And about hypnotism?  It "is a poisonous art...It is an explosive, destructive and contagious menace."  (I just thought you would want to know that.)

Those who know me know that I am not anti-religion.  I have my own core set of beliefs that have done me well.  One of those beliefs is to respect the beliefs of others.  Within limits.  The teachings of the Westborough Baptist Church, for example, are just plain evil.  Those who kill, rape, and torture in the name of God are evil.  Lester Sumrall, by all accounts, was a well-meaning person and had done a lot of good (a major feed the hungry program, for example).  But it's safe to say that I would not be entering his church.  And from Sumrall's rigid, take-no-prisoners viewpoint, I doubt that Jesus would either.

Mmm, Chocolate!:

He's Tanned, He's Ready, He' Back -- Florida Man!:

  • Florida Man Christian Mosco, 47, was charged with extortion, burglary, and petty theft for allegedly trying to extort $50,000 from a Daytona car dealership.  Reasoning that the best defence was a poor prosecution, he he posed online as two assistant state attorney, stealing their Florida Bar ID numbers, and filed a motion to have his case dropped, citing "announcement of no information."  Unfortunately for him, Mosco used a previous filing from another person's case in doing this, not realizing he had filed the wrong motion.
  • Florida Man Jerry Zeigler, 26, and Florida Woman Carrie Tyrell, 42, were arrested in Daytona Beach for punching, kicking, stomping on, and robbing a man for helping a Black man pick up trash in a roadway.  The suspects allegedly made comments that the victim should help his own race.
  • A sixteen-year-old Florida Teen managed to shut down remote learning at the Miami-Dade school district by launching at least eight (out of at least two dozen) cyberattacks on the school.  Lest you think Florida Teen was a computer genius, he wasn't.  He used an easily available program to overwhelm the district's servers.  A police raid on the teen's home during the pre-dawn hours this past Thursday was not related to the cyberattacks, according to officials, making me wonder what else was going on?
  • Teachers have it hard enough coping with the pandemic; they should not have to be concerned about school cleanliness.  Well, unless you are in Volusia County, that is.  The teacher's union has filed a complaint that an unnamed Florida Man custodian was seen using toilet water to clean school floors.  The district hires out its school custodial services.  The Chief Operating Officer for the district says the complaints are overblown since fewer than 1% of the teachers have documented the action.  In any case, he continued, the company has retrained the custodian in proper cleaning methods.
  • Fort Walton Beach Florida Man Christopher Allen Freeman, a cell phone store manager, was arrested for stealing a sexually explicit video  of a "nationally known" female television personality from a mobile device her boyfriend had brought in for service.  The Okaloosa county Sheriff's Department said that explicit images of multiple female adults were found on Freeman's phone, some of which may have also been obtained illegally by Freeman.  I have to question the intelligence of the boyfriend who brought the phone in for service knowing the video was on the device and that of the television personality who allowed the video to be taken in the first place.

Good News:
  • Woman donates kidney to the cop who locked her up
  • Hormel Foods to provide free college education to children of all its 16,000 employees
  • Bride and groom donate their wedding dinner to a local shelter -- and help serve it
  • Hospital staff stays behind in hurricane to protect 19 babies in intensive care
  • The first time a ten-year-old boy uses his birthday metal detector he unearths a centuries-old sword
  • Teen creates dolls for kids with rare medical conditions to help them feel included
  • Man has a special relationship with a red robin that helped him through trauma

Today's Poem:
Starting the Subaru at Five Below

After 6 Maine winters and 100,000 miles,
when I take it to be inspected

I search for gas stations where they
just say beep the horn and don't ask me to

put it om the lift, exposing its soft
rusted underbelly.  Inside is the record

of commuting:  apple cores, a bag from
McDonald's, crushed Dunkin' Donuts cups,

a flashlight that doesn't work and one
that does, gas receipts blurred beyond

recognition.  Finger tips numb, nose
hair frozen, I pump the accelerator

and turn the key.  The battery cranks,
the engine gives 2 or 3 low groans and

starts.  My God it starts.  And unlike
my family in the house, the job I'm

heading towards, the poems in my briefcase,
the dreams I had last night, there is

no question about what makes sense.
White exhaust billowing from the tailpipe,

heater blowing, this car is going to
move me, it's going to take me places.

-- Stuart Kestenbaum

Sunday, September 6, 2020


 From 1982, three of the greatest writers of science fiction (all sadly gone now) are interviewed by Studs Terkel and Calvin Trillin on the Alpha Repertory Television Service, the precursor to the Arts and Entertainment Network.

Intelligent talk.  Intelligent people.  Good stuff.


 Alison Krauss.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Friday, September 4, 2020


 One of the holy grails for collectors of paperback books is Mansion of Evil by Joseph Millard (Gold Medal #129, 1950). one of the first (if not the first) full color graphic novels issued by a paperback publisher.  A quick check shows that four copies are currently available on Abebooks, ranging in price from $100 to $350.

Six days ago, this rare book was made available on that wonderful site Comic Book Plus, having been uploaded by "Cimmerian32."

The artist is not identified, but comparisons have been made to the old EC Comics.

Bill Crider posted about this book on May 22, 1977:  "Maxwell Haimes, a famous artist, happens to see Beth, who's a double for the wife her recently murdered.  Haimes believes that if Beth has an 'accident,' he can cover up the murder.  So he kidnaps her and takes her to the Mansion of Evil.  After that it's a race against time for Beth's fiance and the cops.  Can they save her?  sure.

"Along the way we're treated to a portrait of Laura (the dead wife), which of course shows the dead woman's startling resemblance to Beth.  (Where do these writers get these ideas?)  We see the secret room in the basement where Laura is buried.  We get car wrecks and near escapes.  It's not V for Vendetta, that's for sure, but it's kind of fun in a dated way.  I even like the art.

"After looking this one up on, I can't recommend that you check it out.  Way too pricey."

Well, it's not pricey here, so check it out.

Joseph Millard (1908-1989) wrote in a number of fields, mainly westerns, although he also published pulp mystery, science fiction, aviation, and men's adventure stories.  He wrote books 2-8 in the tie-in series featuring Clint Eastwood's character from A Fistful of Dollars, as well as tie-ins to the movies Cahill:  U.S. Marshall and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, as well as one tie-in from the Hec Ramsey television series.  His rather mundane science fiction novel The Gods Hate Kansas was filmed as They Came from Beyond Space; the movie was actually worse than the book.  He also wrote as Ray Lunt, Aaron Peabody, and N. J. Westwood.


 The Contours with one of the burning questions of the Sixties.

Thursday, September 3, 2020


 Nebula Award Stories Eleven, edited by Ursula Le Guin (1977)

Just a bit of explanation:  The Nebula Awards are presented annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America and are voted on by its membership.  It is one of the two major annual awards in science fiction, the other being the Hugo Award, voted on by registered attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention.  (There is a third, lesser-known but still cherished award -- The Jerry, which is given freely to anyone who supplies me with donuts and/or pizza.  Play your cards right and you, too, may receive a coveted Jerry.)  Now, on to the review.

1975 was a banner year for science fiction.  

Joe Haldeman's classic war novel The Forever War won the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.  (Other contenders were The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, and The Female Man by Joanna Russ -- heady competition indeed.)  It also win the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1976.  The book details the centuries-spanning interstellar war between Earth against the enigmatic Tauran civilization.  For this anthology, LeGuin has chosen "End Game," a section of the novel first published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, January 1975.

Roger Zelazny won the Best Novella Award (and the Hugo Award) for "Home Is the Hangman" (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, November 1975).  A sentient space-exploring robot, previously thought lost, has returned to Earth and one of its original designers has been found dead under suspicious circumstances.  Is there a link?  (Other stories nominated that year were "The Storms of Windhaven" by Lisa Tuttle and George R. R, Martin, "A Momentary Taste of Being" by "James Tiptree, Jr.", and "Sunrise West" by William K. Carlson.)

Tom Reamy, a blazing talent who died much too young, took the Nebula for Best Novelette with "San Diego Lightfoot Sue" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1975).  A Kansas boy falls in love with a prostitute when she moves to Los Angeles; the prostitute casts a spell to rejuvenate herself, but magic can be tricky.  (Other stories nominated  were "The Final Fighting of Finn MacCumhaill" by Randall Garrett, "Retrograde Summer" by John Varley, "A Galaxy Called Rome" by Barry N. Malzberg, and "The Custodians" by "Richard Cowper".)

The Best Short Story Award went to one of the best short story writers ever, Fritz Leiber, for "Catch That Zeppelin!" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1975).  Leiber placed himself in this alternate history story, as he sees a zeppelin moored to the Empire State Building in 1973.  He has shifted to another timeline where Germany's defeat in World War I was so decisive that peace and international prosperity grew and that the Hindenberg disaster never happened because the US sold non-volatile helium to Germany for their dirigibles.  And there's a peaceful German airship engineer named Adolf Hitler.  (Four of the other nominees for this award were "Sail the Tide of Mourning" by Richard Lupoff, "Utopia of a Tired Man" by Jorge Luis Borges, "A Scraping of the Bones" by A. J. Budrys, and "Doing Lennon" by Greg Benford.  An additional three short story nominees -- listed below -- were selected by Le Guin to fill out this volume.)

"Child of All Ages" by P. J. Plauger (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, March 1975) deals with an immortal little girl who has spent the past twenty-four hundred and thirty-three years (give or take a decade) as a prepubescent child.

Harlan Ellison's "Shatterday" (Gallery, September 1975) explores primal fears as a man fights for his life against his own doppelganger.

Craig Strete, talented writer of Cherokee descent, gives us another of his Native American-themed stories with "Time Deer" (Worlds of If, November-December, 1974).  In this sensitive and elegiac story, an elderly man takes some time to commune with nature before his son places him in a nursing home.  (Off point:  Does anyone else prefer the Canadian term "first nations" to "Native American"?)

Rounding off this volume are two original essays on the state of science fiction:  "1975:  The Year in Science Fiction, or Let's Hear It for the Decline and Fall of the Science Fiction Empire!" by Peter Nicholls and "Potential and Actuality in Science Fiction" by Vonda N. McIntyre.

All in all, Nebula Award Stories Eleven is an excellent and varied collection of memorable tales.  I truly can't pick a favorite.  More to the point, I truly can't pick a least favorite.


 First, The Marvelettes.

Then, John, George, George, and Ringo cover this classic.


 Dashiell Hammett's satanic-looking private detective had been played on the radio before -- once in 1941 by Humphrey Bogart, the in 1943 by Edgar G. Robinson, both in CBS adaptations of The Maltese Falcon -- but it wasn't until 1946 that Spade got his own radio series.  A young Howard Duff played Spade and radio legend Lurene Tuttle played his secretary Effie Perrine for 13 episodes of The Adventures of Sam Spade from July 12, 1946 through October 4, 1946 on ABC radio.  (On occasion, actor Stephen Dunne filled in for Duff.)  The shoe then moved with Duff and Tuttle to CBS radio for 137 episodes (September 29, 1946 to September 25, 1949).  On October 2, 1949, the program (still with Duff and Tuttle) moved to NBC for 51 episodes until September 17, 1950.  By then Dashiell Hammett's name had been removed from the series because he was being investigated for Communist activities by Senator Joseph McCarthy's mob. Duff himself was removed from the show at the end of this run because his name in the Red Channels book -- a right-wing publication that named 151 prominent actors, writers, musicians, and broadcast journalists it suspected of Communist manipulation of the entertainment industry, effectively blacklisting all, including Duff.  Duff's sin?  Supporting labor unions.  After a month's absence, The Adventures of Sam Spade returned to NBC sans Duff on November 17, 1950, with Steve Dunne assuming the title role.  This incarnation ran for 24 episodes, ending on April 27, 1951.

Let's go back to nearly the beginning.  Sam and Psyche was the fourth episode to be aired.  Peter Lorre and Jay Novello are uncredited co-stars in this episode in which Sam and Effie are dragged into a murder and Sam finds himself in the act of grave-robbing.    William Spier directed this episode from a script by Jason James and Robert Tallman.


Monday, August 31, 2020


 Otis Rush.


Vittorio Candella (Victor Mature) grew up on the tough streets of New York and became a police lieutenant.  His childhood friend was not so lucky -- Marty Rome (Richard Conte) became a violent petty crook and a cop killer and is now in a prison hospital ward, riddled with bullets.  Marty's sleazy lawyer, W. A. Niles (Berry Kroeger), wants Marty to confess to a different crime, thereby clearing himself of the murder charge, but Marty refuses.  Candella must check out the lawyer's allegation, but as a close friend of the Rome family, must walk a careful tightrope.  Marty is afraid that Candella might implicate his girlfriend, Teena Riconti (Debra Paget, in her screen debut) and Marty will do anything to protect Teena.  thrown into the mix is Tony (Tommy Cook), Marty's kid brother, who is just on the cusp of becoming a hoodlum -- or will he take the straight and narrow path.  Marty is pushing Tony toward the bad side.

Also in the better than average cast are Shelley Winters, Fred Clark, Hope Emerson (Mother on Peter Gunn), Roland winters (Charlie Chan in five movies), Betty Garde (Caged, Call Northside 777, and various roles in nearly forty television programs from 1949 to 1971), and Walter Baldwin (Grandpappy Miller in Green Acres and Petticoat Junction). 

Director Robert Siodmak has made a visually stunning, nuanced film that is a classic of film noir.

Based on Henry Edward Helseth's novel The Chair for Martin Rome, the film's script was credited to Richard Murphy.  It was an open secret that this was one of many films Ben Hecht (The Front Page) served as an uncredited writer.

A nifty film that deserves to be better recognized.


 A song that seems to fit the last day of August.


 Openers:  Ellie was changed when she came out of the coma.

Not that I expected the same flaky, sixteen-year old we'd all known and loved, not after she had been dead to the world between Christmas and May, all the while constantly shuttled in and out of a hyperbaric chamber to help heal her buirns.  The doctors warned me that some cognitive changes were inevitable.

But this was something else.  This was someone else.

She awoke looking just like her sixteen-year old self -- the same straight black hair, the same round face and pale skin.  But she wasn't really Ellie.  Not anymore.

Someone else looked out through her owlish blue eyes.

-- F. Paul Wilson, Signalz (2020)

Signalz is the latest addition to Wilson's "Adversary Cycle," a series that began with The Keep and ended with Nightworld, and all part of "The Secret History of the World, " a far-ranging saga that includes the adventures of Wilson's most popular hero, Repairman Jack.  The basic premise of all of this is that there is a cosmic battle (more of a game, perhaps) spanning the universe and various dimensions between two entities -- one completely malevolent, the other uncaring about the individual worlds that are pawns in this contest.  One of those pawns (a fairly insignificant one) is Earth.  Aiding the Enemy have a number of humans throughout millennia who are currently organized as the powerful Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order; those in the Order believe they will be put in charge when the "Change" comes -- not realizing that they too will be sacrificed by the viciously hostile Enemy.  Signalz takes place in the final month of, and just before, the end of civilization.

Signalz is the story of the strangely changed Ellie, the spunky forensic accountant Hari, and the strangely omniscient writer P. Frank Winslow (wonder where that name came from), who has written a series of novels that patterns the hidden doings of the Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order and feature a recurring character named Jack Fixx (wonder where that name came from).

The Secret History of the World currently encompasses thirty four books and a number of short stories.  They make exciting reading -- part mystery, part crime, part thriller, part adventure, part fantasy, and part horror.  Like most of Wilson's work, there is a strong Libertarian bent to the series.  This adds to the excitement:  Strong individuals fighting against even stronger forces and using any method available to come out on top.  Whether it's James Bond, The Shadow, or any other well-meaning vigilante, we're rooting for him.  In real-life, though, Libertarianism is not as wonderful as it is in our fantasies.

Several of Wilson's early science fiction novels have received Prometheus Awards from the Libertarian Futurist Society.  Among his other awards and recognitions are a Stoker Award, the Grand Master Award from the World Horror Convention, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America, the Thriller Lifetime Achievement Award from the editors of Romantic Times, and the San Diego ComiCon Inkpot Award.  He has frequently been on The New York Times best-seller list. Wilson's work has been translated into twenty-four languages and has sold of nine million copies in the US alone.

I, myself, am a Repairman Jack addict.  The lone vigilante who always prefers taking the fight to the enemy -- no matter how heavy the odds against him are -- is a fully-formed hero who speaks to my thirteen-year-old self.  You can't go wrong with Repairman Jack.

And you can't go wrong with F. Paul Wilson.

William Livingston:  Two hundred forty-four years ago today William Livingston became the first governor of New Jersey, a post he held until his death, nearly fourteen years later.  Previous to Livingston, New Jersey had been governed by a royal governor.  Livingston was fairly new to the state, having moved there in 1772 at age 48 and began building a house for his large family -- he had thirteen children, at least six of whom survived him.  While his home was being built, he rented a house in what id now Elizabeth; a young Alexander Hamilton lived with him for at least one winter while attending school He quickly gained influential friends and was elected in 1774 as one of New Jersey's delegates to the Continental Congress.

Livingston did not favor independence and, in June of 1776, was not re-elected to the Continental Congress.  Livingston then decline an offer to head the state's militia, but did return as a Brigadier General of the militia, a title he had been given the previous year.  That August, he was elected governor, the first not appointed by the Crown.  Although he had not been in favor of independence at first, Livingston was active in the revolution and the British had offered a reward for his capture.  Livingston was part of the New Jersey delegation to the 1787 constitutional convention and was one of the signers of the Constitution.

He had been born to an influential Albany family.  His father was the second Lord of Livingston Manor and his maternal grandfather was the mayor of Albany.  One of his older brothers became the New York State Treasurer and another served in the New York Senate.  William Livingston enrolled at Yale when he was thirteen (or possibly fourteen) and graduated in 1741.  He then went to New York City to study law, apprenticing as a law clerk for prominent attorney James Alexander, a Scot who had to flee his home country after supporting James Stuart, later becoming Attorney General of New York and active in state politics.  Livingston left there due to some disagreement before finishing his apprenticeship and went to the law offices of William Smith, Sr., who had turned down the presidency of Yale at age 27 to begin his New York City law practice; he went on to become Attorney General of New York and a judge of the New York Supreme Court.  

Livingstone became friends with William Smith, Jr.,  and John Moran Scott, who later became  one of the original Sons of Liberty and served as a Brigadier General under George Washington during the Revolution.  The three -- Livingston, Smith, and Scott -- founded the weekly journal the Independent Reflector, which ran for 52 issues before political pressure placed on the printer forced its closure.  The Reflector was New York's only non-newspaper publication and the only one being published in British North America at the time.  It supported the upstate New York Presbyterian gentry and firmly opposed the downstate Anglican and Dutch Reform political bloc.  In particular, it vigorously opposed the founding of King's College (now part of Columbia University) for fear that it was an excuse for the Anglican church to install a bishop in the colony. 

Despite failing to close the college (and the non-appearance of an Anglican bishop), Livingston remained active in politics and served one term in the New York Assembly until his political allies lost power in 1761.

A  number of Livingston's children also gained prominence, most notably his daughter Sarah, who at seventeen married John Jay in 1774.  Jay would go on to be one of the country's Founding Fathers, a delegate to the First Continental Congress. a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, sixth president of the Continental Congress, United States Minister to Spain, Acting United States Secretary of State, second Governor of New York, and the first chief Justice of the United States.  Sarah Livingston Jay's role in society greatly aided her husband in these posts.  She was evidently quite a looker; once while attending a theatre in Paris, she was mistaken for Marie Antoinette and the entire audience rose in homage.

Another of Livingston's daughters, Susannah became the stepmother-in-law of William Henry Harrison, and a son, Henry, was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Also on This Day:  In 1897 Thomas Edison patented the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector.  Edison had experimented with films previously.  Here are the first ten films (two and a half minutes' worth) made in America by Edison that have survived:

Come On-a My House:  It's also the birthday of William Saroyan, a writer born to immigrants who fled the Armenian genocide and author of The Human comedy, My Name Is Aram, and The Time of Your Life, among others.  What is not that well-known is the he and his cousin Ross Bagdasarian (who would later create Alvin, Theodore and Simon -- The Chipmunks) wrote a song that became a hit for Rosemary Clooney:

Yes, It Is Fun:  In 1948 the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association came out with this promotoinal comic book with the well-duh! title of It's Fun to Stay Alive, full of tips for kids (and adults) about automobile, pedestrian and bicycle safety.  Utilizing prominent cartoon characters, including Carl Anderson's Henry, Bugs Bunny, Raeburn Van Buren's Abbie an' Slats, and J. P. McEvoy's Dixie Dugan, among others, this sixteen-pager balances the fine line between promoting safety and scaring the bejeezuz out of kids.  Check it out.

VIP:  Virgil Partch (who signed his work "VIP") was a popular magazine gag cartoonist in the 40s and 50s.  Although he was a staff gagwriter for The New Yorker, his cartoons seldom appeared in that magazine because Harold Ross disliked his drawing style; instead he published in True, Collier's, Playboy and other top magazines.  Many of his cartoons were about drinking and about the relationship of men and women and some were just plain weird.  In addition to his single-panel cartoons, VIP created and drew the popular syndicated comic strip Big George.

VIP was born in 1916, retired from cartooning in 1984 because of cataracts, and died some eight months later in a car accident.  

Here's a Pinterest page with some of his work for your enjoyment:

Chadwick Boseman:  The world lost a bright talent this past week with the death of Chadwick Boseman at age  from Stage 4 colon cancer.  His character of Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe has been a positive inspiration for many children worldwide.  In addition to playing the Black Panther, Boseman also had significant roles as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown.  

After the news of his passing, many people went to this spot-on performance on Saturday Night Live as a tribute to him:

Only in Florida:  Here's the fourth and final (so far) "Only in Florida" clip.  Florida Man will return in all his ignoble glory next week.

Because We Really Need the Good News:  

Today's Poem:
For the Chipmunk in My Yard

I think he knows I'm alive, having come down
The three steps of the back porch
And given me a good once over.  All afternoon
He's been moving back and forth,
Gathering old bits of walnut shells and twigs,
While all about him the great fields tumble
To the blades of the thresher.  He's lucky
To be where he is, wild with all that happens.
He's lucky he's not one of the shadows
Living in the blond heart of the wheat.
This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires
Of starlight, he'll curl among their roots,
Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter
On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.

-- Robert Gibb