Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, June 22, 2020


Openers:  I take no credit for my share in the strange affair o
f the Crowfield murder.  Chance, and a somewhat churlish invitation from my friend, Kenneth Darent, took me to the village, and a series of accidents, rather than any shrewdness on my part, led me ultimately to the solution of the problem, where other and better brains had been baffled.

-- Walter S. Masterman, The Perjured Alibi (1935)

The narrator is Dennis Tracy, a somewhat bored, lonely man of "lazy habits and modest tastes."  It's august and the heat of the city is unbearable so Tracey decides to take up an offer from a friend he hadn't seen in the five years since they both de-mobbed from the same regiment.  The Kenneth Darent of now turns out to be much different from the man Tracey remembers.  He is bitter and an alcoholic, living on a neglected estate.  Tracey happens to arrive on the eve of the wedding between Margorie Browne, with whom Darent is in love, and John Barton, a wealthy local.  Barton is hosting a pre-wedding party and Darent storms out of his house in anger to confront Barton at the party.  alcohol was heavily involved.  Darent returns covered in blood, having discovered Barton's beaten body.

Tracy believes his friend when he proclaims his innocence, but the evidence is strongly against Darent.  Although Tracey has fabricated an alibi for Darent, the man is arrested.  By this time Tracey has become enamored with Margorie.  Should Tracey perjure himself with the false alibi, or should he come clean and perhaps let his friend be found guilty?  Which path would increase his chances with the lovely Margorie?

A flawed book which, according to JJ in his review on his The Invisible Event blog, tends to fall apart in the last forty or so pages as the book morphs into "a sort of late-Victorian melodrama, complete with a Macguffin that Masterman puts in purely because what he had planned was too obvious and so he wanted to mix it up."  The novel, according to JJ, "rattles along, is full of distinct thumbnail-sketch characters -- including a man who is accused of murder who is, frankly, an arse of the highest order and all the more wonderful a creation for it -- has sufficient conflict and interest to motivate its actions, and it even manages a non-mawkish love story.  The shame of it is getting to the end and going, 'Oh, so the plot of the book is...hang on is that it?!'."

Masterman (1876-1946) seems to have blundered through life before he became an author.  He ;published 26 books in the mystery, fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres between 1926 and 1942 -- 25 of those books are now available from Ramble House (not available is a 1932 collaboration with L. Patrick Greene, Murder Beacon).

Colin Salter, whose great-great-grandmother's brother was Masterman's grandfather, offers up this short biography from a distant branch of his family tree, including Masterman's three-year prison stint for embezzlement.  When Masterman was released in 1925, employment was out of his reach so he turned to writing.

Father's Day:   Not my father.  Not Kitty's.  Probably not yours.  For the day after Father's Day here's a story about a man, a son, a generational divide, and neckties.

"My Father's Ties" by Recaredo Veredas, translated from the Spanish by Kit Maude:

Here Comes Summer:

Tulsa Rally:  So Trump held a rally in Tulsa, accerbated racial tensions, lied about peaceful protesters, poo-pooed the corona virus pandemic, tried to explain away his two-handed drinking of a glass of water, lied about Joe Biden, lied about the crowd size of the much less-than-filled 19,000 seat auditorium, lied about the economy, lied about the future, lied about everything else, and strutted his stuff about like an old-fashioned, racially tone-deaf snake-oil salesman.

His base loved it, albeit his base is shrinking ever so slightly.

Despite his standard claim of not knowing anything about it, it was Trump who gave the order to fire Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman because of his "bullshit investigations" (Rudy Giuliani's term) into Trump's organization, his friends, his family, and Giuliani.

I'm sure his base loved that, too.


Happy Birthday!:  To Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose focus while in office has been consumer protection, economic opportunity, and the social safety net.  The one-time Republican who has become a bane to the far-right, is on the short list to become the vice-presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket.

A Few More Birthdays:

  • Henry Rider Haggard (1856- 1925) was a popular novelist whose adventure stories and historical romances are still read today.  Best known for King Solomon's Mines (1885), which introduced his long-running hero Allan Quatermain, who appeared in fourteen novels.  Also very popular was his next novel, She:  A History of Adventure, which introduced Ayesha ("She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed"), a beautiful sorceress who had discovered the secret of eternal life; Ayesha appeared in three follow-up novels, two of which also featured Quatermain.  In all, Haggard published 56 novels, including Cleopatra (1889), The World's Desire (with Andrew Lang, 1890), and When the World Shook (1919).  Three collections of short stories were also published.  Beginning in 1875 Haggard spent six years in South Africa which helped provide the background of many of his stories; his first published book was Cetywayo and His White Neighbors (1882), a critical look at British policies in South Africa.  Nine nonfiction books followed, including an autobiography; most of these books dealt with his interests in agricultural and social reform.  He was awarded knighthood in 1912 and, in 1919, become a Knight Commander in the Order of the British Empire.  Haggard is considered one of the early founders of modern imaginative fiction and King Solomon's Mines is considered by many to be the first modern "lost race" novel.  A product of his times, Haggard has been criticized for promoting negative stereotypes of non-Europeans.  His work endures however, influencing popular culture from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Indiana Jones.
  • Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) was a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards and the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.  At the urging of Harlan Ellison, she attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop where she met fellow African-American writer Samuel R. Delaney, who became a life-long friend.  She then immediately sold her first two stories -- one to the 1971 Clarion anthology and the other to Harlan Ellison for his legendary (and still unpublished) The Last Dangerous Visions.  There then followed a five-year drought.  In 1976 Butler published her first novel, Patternmaster, the first of five books in a series about the transformation of the human race into three genetic groups dominated by the powerful telepathic Patternists.  Kindred (1979) takes an African-American woman back in time to early 19th century slave-state Maryland.  In 1984 her story "Speech Sounds" won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.  The following year, her story "Bloodchild" won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and the Science Fiction Chronicle reader awards for best science fiction Novelette.  Her "Exogenesis Trilogy" (1987-1989) explores genetically altered hybrid humans and the theme of isolation.  Her novels The Parable of the Sower (1993) and The parable of the Talents (1998) are dystopian novels set in an America destroyed by corporate greed, the income gap, and the destruction of the environment.  A common theme throughout her work is "hierarchical behavior that can lead to racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism, and all the other 'isms' that cause so much suffering in this world."  Butler died falling onto a cobbled walkway and striking her head; it is unclear whether she had a fatal stroke before falling, or had it as the result of her fall.  Her work remains powerful, highly readable, and influential.
  • Bruce Campbell's chin (b. 1958) was featured in the autobiography If Chins Could Kill:  Confessions of a B Movie Actor (2002).  Some remember Campbell as the star of television shows The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Burn Notice, as well as recurring roles in Jack of All Trades, Ellen, Hercules:  The Legendary Journeys, and Xena:  Warrior Princess.  Campbell may be best known for the character Ash Williams in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, a role reprised in the television series Ash vs Evil Dead, which ran for three seasons.  He also played an aging Elvis Presley in the film version of Joe R. Lansdale's Bubba Ho-Tep, directed by Don Coscarelli.  
  • Erin Brockovich (b. 1960) is a lawyer and environmental activist who was instrumental in building the case against Pacific Gas and Electric for contaminating the drinking water in Hinckley, California.  That case, and Brockovich became famous through the award-winning 2000 Steven Soderbergh film Erin Brockovich.  Brockovich has continued her work as a consumer advocate and environmental activist and good for her.

Florida Man:  This appeared yesterday on

Sometime I will tell you about granddaughter Amy who -- when she was very, very young -- was upset for several days because her invisible friend refused to talk to her.

Da Good Stuff:

Something to Remember:  "A day at the beach is never lost time.  When the warm grains of sand touch our hearts, we know we're in the right place."  --

Today's Poem:
Sumer Is Icumen In

Sumer is icumnen in
[Summer has arrived]
Lhude sing cuccu
[Loudly sing, Cuckoo!]
Groweb seb
[The seed is growing]
and bloweb med
[And the meadow is blooming,]
and springb be wde nu
[And the wood is coming into leaf  now,]
Sing cuccu
[Sing cuckoo!]

Awe bleptb after lomb
[The ewe is bleating after her lamb,]
lhboub after calue cu
[The cow is lowing after her calf,]
Bullic steretb
[The bullock is prancing.]
bucke urteb
[The billy-goat farting,*]
murie sing cuccu
[Sing merrily, cuckoo!]

Cuccu cuccu
[Cuckoo, cuckoo,]
Wel singes bu cuccu
[You sing well. cuckoo,]
ne swik bu nauer nu
[Never stop now.]

Sing cuccu nu - sing cuccu
[Sing, cuckoo, now; sing, cuckoo;]
Sing cuccu - sing cuccu nu
[Sing, cuckoo; sing, cuckoo now.]

-- mid-13th century round

*or, "the stag cavorting"

And here's the song, performed by the vocal group Foremost Four:

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