Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, February 24, 2020


Openers:  In Paris the gambling was hidden but easy enough to find.  This one was in the fifteenth arrondissement near the Citroen factory.  The thick door had an iron ring for a handle; a thug absurdly disguised as a doorman admitted Kendig and there was a woman at the desk, attractive enough but she had a cool hard air,  Kendig went through the tedium of establishing the credentials of his innocence -- he was not a fic, he was not Sicilian, he was not Union Corse, he was not this or that.  "Just a tourist.  I've been here before with Mme. Labrie.  There isn't a message for me by any chance?"

Brian Garfield, Hopscotch  (1975)

Garfield (1939-2018) was a prolific writer of crime and western novels, best known for Hopscotch, which won the 1976 Edgar Award for Best Novel, and for Death Wish, the basis of the Charles Bronson film franchise.  He wrote his first published book. Range Justice (1960), when he was 18; an abridged version was published in 1961 under the title Justice at Spanish Flat -- Spanish Flat was a fictional Arizona town; it and several characters from the book were later featured in a series about Marshal Jeremy Six.

Garfield wrote under a number of pseudonyms including Frank Wynne, Brian Wynne (Garfield's full name was Brian Francis Wynne Garfield), Frank O'Brian, Bennett Garland, Justin Harris, Alex Hawk, Drew Mallory, and John Ives.  Following the death of author William Ard, Garfield wrote the seventh book in Ard's Tom Buchanan series, Buchanan's Gun (1968), under Ard's pen name now turned house name "Jonas Ward;"  the Buchanan series was continued by William R. Cox as Ward.  Coincidentally, when Cox died, Garfield anonymously completed the final book in Cox's Cemetery Jones series, Cemetery Jones and the Tombstone War (1990).

A number of Garfield's works have been filmed.  Death Wish (1974) began a five-film franchise (the third of which also became a video game) for Charles Bronson as vigilante Paul Kersey, dispensing with the  nuances of the source material.  The film was rebooted in 2018 by director Eli Roth for an unremarkable film starring Bruce Willis.  Death Wish was also the uncredited source for the 1975 Turkish film The Executioner (Cellat), with mustached actor Serdar Gokhan bearing a slight resemblance to Bronson. 1976 saw the release of The Last Hard Men, based on Garfield's novel Gun Down (not to be confused with his earlier novel Gundown) and featuring Charleton Heston and James Coburn.  His 1972 novel Relentless became a television film in 1977 starring Will Sampson.  This film may have been the first major-company movie in which the Native American hero was played by a top-billed Native American.  Garfield's 1978 novel Wild Times, a nominee for the American Book Award, became a television miniseries starring Sam Elliott in 1980,

The thriller Hopscotch  transformed into a comedy thriller starring Walter Matthau as a retired CIA agent who writes a tell-all book and now must elude his former employers.  Garfield also co-wrote the screenplay (with actor/director/producer/writer Bryan Forbes) for this 1980 film.

Garfield's only musical, 1983's Legs, was a television movie based on an original story and script by Garfield; co-produced by Radio City Music Hall, it featured Gwen Verdon, John Heard, Sheree North, and The Rockettes.  His 1978 novel Fear in a Handful of Dust was filmed as Fleshburn in 1984,  a disappointing desert survival film.  1978's Necessity became a made-for-TV film starring Loni Anderson in 1998.  Kevin Bacon starred in a 2007 adaptation of Garfield's Death Sentence (1975), keeping the story's title and little else.

Based on a story by Garfield and a script by Donald E. Westlake, 1987's The Stepfather became a cult horror classic, spawning two sequels.  It was also remade as a confusing 2009 Iranian film, 24th Street (Khiabane Bisto Chahar).

At least one of Garfield's short stories made it to episodic TV.  "Scrimshaw" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, December 17, 1979) was an episode on Tales of the Unexpected, airing on July 28, 1985 (almost twenty months after the death of the episode's star John Hackett).

What works by Garfield should you read?  Almost everything he has written is entertaining.  Certainly Hopscotch, Death Wish, or Wild Times.  The Jeremy Six westerns written as by "Brian Wynne" (Mr. Sixgun, The Night It Rained Bullets, The Bravos, The Proud Riders, A Badge for a Badman, Brand of the Gun, Gundown, and Big Country, Big Men) are fast-moving westerns.  (A final Jeremy Six novel, Gunslick Territory, was ghosted by Dean Dudley McGaughey and published as by "Brian Wynne."  Arizona was a finalist for the Golden Spur Award.  Gangway! (written with Donald E. Westlake) is a great humorous western heist novel.  Checkpoint Charlie is a highly recommended collection of espionage tales.  Manifest Destiny is a historical novel about a young Teddy Roosevelt.  The Paladin is a historical suspense novel, co-written with "Christopher Creighton" (real life spy-guy and Olympic Gold Medalist John Ainsworth-Davis).  Suspense novels The Threepersons Hunt and What of Terri Conniston? are nail-biting suspense.  Non-fiction The Thousand-Mile War:  World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in History.  Western Films:  A Complete Guide is just what it proclaims to be and a valued addition to any western fan's shelf.  The Meinertzhagan Mystery is a well-research biography of "a storied British hero of natural science, exploration, espionage, military intelligence, and front-line warfare" who was almost completely a fraud.

With some 70 books to his credit, there is something for everyone in Garfield's works.  What are you waiting for?


  • Jack Ehrlich, Bloody Vengeance.  Crime novel.  "They were tired, hard-working cops who'd had enough...And when the courts let loos a rotten punk to murder and steal again, they finally struck back.  They not only nailed him but they unleashed a wave of vengeance that left no hoodlum unscathed.  Nothing and no one was safe from their wrath -- from the pushers on the turf to the Mafia dons in the penthouse suites.  And throughout the nation, their  loody movement grew..."  Blogger "Paperback Warrior" reviewed this book in January 2019:  "Guys, this is a fantastic paperback.  It's a crime-fighting, right-wing, wish-fulfillment fantasy with awesome action scenes that never veer into cartoonish territory.  I'd go so far to call it among the best 1970s vigilante novels I've ever read -- rivalling Pendleton's "War Against the Mafia" for top spot."  Ehrlich's earlier (1970) novel The Drowning was nominated for a Best Paperback Edgar, and his 1972 western The Fastest Gun on the Pulpit was a television movie in the seventies starring Slim Pickens.
  • Eric Frank Russell, The Mindwarpers.  Science fiction novel, first published as With a Strange Device.  "WARNING  WARNING  WARNING  WARNING WARNING  LOCK YOUR BRAIN  The government's most vital scientific laboratory.  No enemy could steal its secrets, because no enemy could possibly get in.  But men's minds were another matter.  It began with key scientists leaving -- just quitting their jobs and drifting away.  Then master metallurgist Richard Bransome began to remember a past  he had completely forgotten -- a past in which he had been a cold-blooded murderer.  and he set out on a strange, solitary mission to learn the facts -- the fact about himself, and the facts about America's most incredible enemy.  But how could he do either...when he couldn't even trust his own sanity?  Eric Frank Russell, England's great science-fiction writer, returns in this book to the kind of theme he explored in his classic Sinister Barrier and Dreadful Sanctuary.  The result is an astonishing tour de force of science and suspense."  Actually, this is said to be one of Russell''s slower-moving books.  Russell's quality of writing could swing wildly but he remains (for the most part) worth reading.

L'Orfeo:  What many consider the first fully developed example of opera, Claudio Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, with a libretto by Alassandro Striggio, made its premiere on this day in 1607 at a court performance at the Carnival at Mantua.  Several works by Jacapo Peri (notably 1597's Dafni, most of which is now lost) may lay claim as the earliest opera, L'Orfeo is the one that is still continuously performed.

Based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and his failed attempt to rescue his dead bride Eurydice from Hades, L'Ordeo divides it scenes between the countryside of Thrace and the Underworld.

Following a prologue, we meet the lovers on their wedding day and we learn that Orfeo's love for his bride has brought him sublime happiness.  Alas this happiness is short-lived.  While picking flowers, Eurydice is fatally bitten by a snake.  Orfeo vows to enter the underworld to persuade Plutone, the King of Hades, to release his bride.  (He sings this, of course.)  Properpina, Queen of Hades, hears him and is charmed  by his singing and pleas Orfeo's case to Plutone.  The god agrees under one condition:  that Orfeo not look back while escorting his bride out of Hades.  Even those unfamiliar with the myth can figure out what happened then.  Startled by an off-stage noise, Orfeo looks back and Eurydice vanishes as Orfeo is propelled out of Hades.  Orfeo mourns his bride and his lost chance.  The god Apollo appears before him and offers him a chance to join him in the heavens where he will be able to view Eurydice's likeness among the stars.  Since it would be rude to refuse the god's offer Orfeo agrees and ascends to the heavens.

There is an alternate (actually, an additional) ending to Striggio's original libretto.  A chorus of Bacchantes (wild, drunken women) appear, proclaiming the wrath of Bacchus who is mad because, in both mourning eurydice and in agreeing to Apollo, Orfeo is forsaking the company of women.  Bacchus vows not to let Orfeo escape his wrath and the longer Orfeo delays this fate the worse his lot will be.  In this ending Orfeo's fate is uncertain and more closely follows the original Greek myths.

Here's the Act 1 Prologue "Dal mi permesso":

February 24:  Today is Shrove Monday.  Now, Shrove Tuesday is traditionally celebrated with pancakes but it is today that is International Pancake Day.  Go figure.  Today is also World Bartender Day, which may have something to do with celebrating the days  before Lent, or not.

Today is also Forget Me Not Day, but not really.  National Forget-Me-Not Day is November 10 and is meant to remind Americans of the sacrifices returning soldiers have made.  It was created in 1921 to raise monies for injured and disabled soldiers.  On February 24, 1926, the first Forget-Me-Not Drive was held by the Disabled Veterans of America; the little blue flowers were meant to be a reminder of the spring flowers the soldiers had seen on the graves of their fallen comrades.  Apparently various local DVA organizations hold their Forget-Me-Not Drives at different time of the year.  To my mind, it doesn't matter what day this is celebrated because we should be be aware of the meaning of the day every day.

Needless to say, I will not forget you today.

Florida Man Plus Florida Woman -- A Potent Mixture:

  • Florida Woman Rebecca Lynn Duarte, 23, punched out a window and violently attacked her boyfriend after he refused to have sex with her.  In his defense, they had just returned from bowling and who needs sex after bowling?  Alcohol may have been involved because Duarte's breath reeked of it.  The boyfriend was lucky; in July of last year, a different Florida Woman head butted, then stabbed her boyfriend because he would not come across, claiming to be "too tired."
  • Florida Man John Wayne Parker or Palatka, 32, was arrested for stealing drills, cigarettes, batteries , and "other sundry items" to pay for ankle monitor fees accrued during a previous arrest.  (Ankle monitors can cost between $175-$200 to set up and daily fees can run between $5 and $20.  Use of monitors can save up to $14,000 a year per felon in lieu of incarceration costs.  The morality and ethics of monitor fees can be discussed later.)
  • An unknown (and therefore uncaptured) Florida Man zipped into a Winter Haven Walmart on hover skates and stole some $500 worth of merchandise.  It's not a jet pack but what the heck?  You've got to give the guy some points.
In other Florida news the state Supreme Court has put a temporary kibosh on an attempt by the Republican-led legislature to weaken a a referendum overwhelmingly approved by voters allowing former felons the right to vote.  Seems that most of the state's former felons are black and tha most of Florida's blacks are Democrats.  The legislature passed a caveat that only those former felons who had paid all state fees owed will be allowed to vote.  If a felon does vote while owing any fees, he or she will be committing a felony.  Since there is no centralized database of such fees owed, and since many persons are unaware of whether they owe any fees, the legislature has effectively silenced thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- of voters through a campaign of fear.  The State Supreme Court ruled that such a requirement effectively made voting a matter of who could afford it, much like a poll tax.  The Supreme Court also said that requirement had no legitimate reason for existing.  Republican Governor Ron DeSantis will appeal.

Something to Consider:   "Men build too many walls and not enough bridges." -- Joseph Fort Newton

Grrr:  Our nine-year-old car died this week, a quick and premature death.  We tend to drive our cars into the ground, hoping to get 250,000 miles out of them.  This little Kia had only half that.  So now it's off to get a new car that (we hope) will actually last us 250,000 miles.  What we normally do is finance a car, drive it for a few days to see if it suits us, then pay the damned thing off completely.  (I really don't like paying close to the full price of the car in interest over more years than most people would keep the car.  With luck we will have one by the end of the day.  Now to get rid of the old car. 
As usual we had paid for the car completely within a week after we had bought it.  What we just discovered is that the finance company never bothered to remove the lien on the car so we can't even scrap it.  This means I probably will have to take a couple of days calling the finance company, being bounced from person to person, until I convince someone that they should remove the lien on a car that I had completely off nine years ago.  Grrr.   Part of it is on me; I should have the original release documents from when I bought the car but they have gone walkabout sometime over the past year.  Double Grrr.

Good News:

Today's Poem:
The New Cow

The new cow came through the gate,
And her calf came later, a little late.
No longer willing to be led,
The calf went on ahead, 
While she stood to look around
Over the hills and lower ground
Stood shyly, defiantly there,
Smelling flower-fragrant air,
And gazed toward the old cows
Grouped along the way before.
Knowing not how she might stay
Among them, stranger still,
She hesitated yet, now they had turned
At the foot of the hill
And seemed to wait for her at the gate,
To wait for her who was strange and thin,
Til she came on,
And they opened up their ranks
To take her in.

-- August Derleth (February 24, 1909 - July 4, 1971)
Happy Birthday to the Sage of Sauk City!

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