Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

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

Sunday, August 30, 2020


 Elmer Kelton (1926-2009) was one of the best western writers of the last century.  Winner of eight Spur Awards. winner of four Western Heritage Awards, voted the Best Western Author of All-Time by the Western Writers of America, winner of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement, recipient of the first Lone Star Award for Lifetime Achievement from Larry McMurtry Center for the Arts and Humanities, recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cowboy Symposium, and author of some forty novels, including The Day It Never Rained, The Day The Cowboys Quit, and The Man Who Rode Midnight.

Here's a discussion on Kelton's life and works with Dan Schneider interviewing Kelton's son Steve Kelton, award-winning author and past President of The Western Writers of America Judy Alter, and three-time Spur Award-wining author, educator, and historian Joyce Roach.



 Elizabeth Cotten.

Saturday, August 29, 2020


Campaign songs have been a staple of elections since the time of George Washington.  From the 1880 Presidential election, here's a torturous campaign song for James Garfield, set to the tune of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home."  Garfield won, becoming our 20th president.  He was assassinated six-and-a-half months into his presidency, paving the way for Chester A. Arthur to become president.


 Slovenly Peter has his roots in mid-Nineteenth century Germany.

From Wikipedia:  "Der Struwwelpeter ("shock-headed Peter" or "Shaggy Peter") ia an 1845 children's book by Heinrich Hoffman.  It comprises ten illustrated and rhymed stories, mostly about children.  Each has a clear moral that demonstrates the disastrous consequences of misbehavior in an exaggerated way.  The title of the first story provides the title of the whole book...Hoffman wrote Struwwelpeter in reaction to a lack of good books for children.  Intending to buy a children's book as a Christmas present for his three-year-old son, Hoffman instead wrote and illustrated his own book."

All things considered, I'm glad I did not have Hoffman as a father.  The expanded 1910 version was clearly written by Edward Gorey, Shel Silverstein,and Roald Dahl by way of Stephen King -- when these kids misbehave, the consequences are heavy.  Awful things happen to such kids as Cruel Frederick, Little Suck-a-Thumb, Augustus Who Would Not Have Any Soup. Fidgety Philip, Johnny Look-in-the-Air, Flying Robert, Little Jacob, Frank the Liar, Tom the Thief, Lazy Charlotte, Romping Polly, The Cry-Baby, Sophy Spoilall, and other unfortunates.

Many thanks to Comic Book Plus for making this one available.

Friday, August 28, 2020


 Anyone who has read this blog knows that I am extraordinarily proud of my children and grandchildren.  They are, one and all, amazing people.  One of them -- the amazing Ceili, our eldest granddaughter  -- turns 24 today.

Born Catherine, with the middle name Delaney, she was called Caylee from the start.  Over the years the spelling of Caylee changed often.  Some days she was Kaylee, others she was Cayley, or Kayley, and for a long time she was Ceili -- an Irish word for Dance.  Lately. she has been Della, or Del.  To me she is Ceili -- I'm old and stubborn and am not going to change, so she just has to live with it.

Life has not always been easy for her; she watched her father die when she was nine.  It was a traumatic experience that took a while to overcome. yet somehow she managed to.  As she enters her twenty-fifth year, she still melts my heart.  She smart, funny, compassionate, brave, and feisty.  She sticks up for the little guy.  Pity the person who tries to bully someone in her presence.  Ceili has eyes that sparkle and a smile that shines through any darkness.  She is beautiful in every way.

I realize that she is an adult now, but I can't help to think back when she was much younger and full of giggles.  After she was born and was brought from the delivery room, tightly swaddled, she was amazingly serene.  She gave off an aura of just being happy to be here, happy just to be.  At three she would giggle as she rode on my shoulders while we took the trash out.  (I doubt she'd be willing to ride on my shoulders today.  **sigh**)  She fell in love with Elmo, the bright red puppet from Sesame Street and would be excited whenever we went to the "Melmo store" (K-Mart, for those not in the know; it sold Sesame Street merchandise).  She's put on an apron and a chef's hat and "help" her daddy cook with a seriousness and intent that was astounding.

[As an aside:  each grandkid was influenced by children's television.  For Ceili, it was Elmo; Amy had Teletubbies; Mark, Bob the Builder; Erin, Wonder Pets; and Jack cannot get enough of Legends of Tomorrow.  I can't complain.  I had Hopalong Cassidy; Kitty had Yancy Derringer.]

There are so many things about Ceili to admire.  One thing that stands out for me is her compassion.  We tried to each both our girls and all the grandchildren that the most important thing in the world is to have a kind heart.  Ceili has that in spades.  Her grace and her love is no match for any darkness.  Just being with her can lighten my mood.

We are proud of her and love her and we look forward to see how amazing she'll be on her next birthday, one year from now.

Thursday, August 27, 2020


 Grandson Jack has just discovered the wonders of the Rubik's Cube.

Here's Tom Paxton.


 Rocket to Limbo by Alan E. Nourse (1957)

Alan E. Nourse (pronounced Nurse; 1928-1992) was a medical doctor who, in part, paid for his education by writing science fiction.  Many of his early novels were juveniles (today they would be called Young Adults) but he also published several adult novels in his career.  Always entertaining, Nourse's science fiction is infused with a positive outlook, an appreciation for technology, science, and medicine, and (often) a sense of humor.   He is probably best-known out of the science fiction field for his nonfiction, including Intern, a major best-seller published under the pseudonym "Doctor X" in 1965.  He also had a monthly medical column in Good Housekeeping, which earned him the nickname "Family Doctor."  Nourse also wrote a number of nonfiction books for young people, including the So You Want to Be a...[Doctor, Nurse, etc.] series, a half dozen books on astrometry, books explaining medical topics such as viruses, hormones, herpes, safe sex, STDs, and AIDS, as well as the Life Science Library book The Body.

Although not marketed as such, Rocket to Limbo is a young adult novel, the fourth (and the third science fiction) published by Nourse.  It first appeared in Satellite Science Fiction (October 1957) and was published in hardcover from David McKay later that year.  Ace issued it as one of their science fiction doubles (backed with John Brunner's Echo in the Skull) in 1959, and as a single in 1986.  A British edition from Faber and Faber came out in 1964.  It also has been translated and publishednin Spain and Germany.  An E-book version was released in 2013.

The novel begins with a prologue in the distant future of 2008, where space travel is limited to the solar system and outpost colonies have been established on Mars and Venus.  Earth is overcrowded, hungry, and wracked by war.  In a desperate attempt to save humanity, the Argonaut, a generational starship is launched, headed for Alpha Centauri -- a "Long Passage" that will take a century and a half or so.

Fast forward some 350 years.  Mankind has discovered the Koenig drive, a means for a "Short Passage" -- what would have taken a couple of centuries can now be achieved in a couple of months.  With the Koenig drive, mankind has expanded to several hundred stars, still not enough to keep up with humanity's ever-growing numbers.  New planets are needed.  And what about the Argonaut?  It never make it to its destination; lost or destroyed in space, it remained on of the early mysteries of space travel.

Young Lars Heldrigsson, 18, has just graduated from the Colonial Service Patrol's academy and has been assigned as an Officer-in-Training on the starship Ganymede, slated for a routine trip to Vega III to check on a new colony on that planet.  A milk-run, perhaps, but an exciting opportunity for the young spaceman.  The Ganymede is captained by Walter Fox, a legendary spaceman who was also noted for his firm belief that out there...somewhere...are alien races which Fox believes must be benign.  In all of its travels to over one hundred stars humanity has yet to met up with an intelligent race of aliens, and many in the Patrol believe that there are no aliens at all.

There is something off about the Ganymede and its mission.  There is too much secrecy about the mission and why is the ship carrying hidden nuclear bombs?  Once underway, the 21 officers and crew of the ship learn the true mission.  In the outer limits of where man has traveled in space is the star system Wolf.  The starship Planetfall had been investigating the system for possible colonization when the ship strangely went quiet after approaching Wolf IV.  Considering all factors, it was possible that the ship met with aliens and was possibly destroyed by them.  The Ganymede was to go to Wolf IV and try to discover what had happened to the PlanetfallRather than being in space for a couple of months as the crew had originally been told, they were to be in space more than three times that -- a dangerous prospect that did  not sit well with some crew members.

About a third of the men rebelled and tried to stage a mutiny.  They failed and supposedly accepted their fate to go to Wolf IV.  That, or to be jettisoned in space with two week's rations.  Their decision was easy-peasy.

Wolf IV turned out to be a frigid planet with wild winds and a strip of mountainous land extending across its equator.  The wreck of a starship was spotted strewn across a mountain top.  The nearest place to land was miles away and the men were split into parties with six to remain with the ship.  One party would travel to the east and one to the west, each trying to find a passage to the ruined ship.  One reliable crew member had spotted an improbable city rising out of a great chasm but, on second look, it was not there.  Hallucination?  Much of the planet's limited flora and fauna did not make sense.  Lars discovered a backpack from the Planetfall miles from the wreck.   Had some survived the crash?  The planet held more questions than answers.

During the first night of their trek, four members of Lars' team snuck off in the night, taking with them the supply of food, radios, and other essentials.  Obviously the mutineers had not given up.  Not able to discover whether the same had happened to the other party that had been sent out, and not being able to make their way back to the ship, Captain Fox and his three remaining men, including Lars, determine to make it to the wrecked ship in hopes that there might be some supplies to help them survive.  Grit, determination, and stubbornness was all they had left.

Climbing to the top of a mountain where they could see back where their ship had landed, there was no ship there.  This seemed impossible because had the ship taken off, they would have seen the flare of the rocket.  More mysteries appeared.  The men make it (just barely) to the wrecked ship to discover the wreck is not of the Planetfall, but of the centuries-missing Argonaut.  Then, they discover the chasm where the vanishing city had been spotted.  It was there again -- shining. sparkling, with unnatural spires and towers that continuously changed shape, and with bridges that would suddenly move.  There figures that could be seen moving about the city.  And the city was floating some three hundred feet in the air.

Lars makes it to the city and encounters a friendly race of human-like creatures with astounding psi abilities.  These capabilities were so great that the race never learned how to talk.  And that was just the first of the strange events that Lars uncovered.  What was the city, who inhabited it and how, and what happened to the Planetfall and the Ganymede?  All questions Lars must solve if he has any hope of returning to Earth.

This is a book where the willing suspension of disbelief comes in handy.  (Certainly the fallacy of solving overpopulation merely by establishing star colonies mus be glossed over.)   But this is good old-fashioned science fiction, the kind I devoured when I was much younger.  It is certainly worth a quick read.  In a 1960 review of the novel, Frederik Pohl wrote, "[T]his is an entertaining volume, if not a very memorable one."

Here!  Here!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


One of the most influential guitarists of the second half of the Twentieth century, John Fahey (1939-2001) combined the type of music he learned from old folk and blues 78s and modern classical composers such as Bartok and Ives.   He came in at number 35 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list.  Sadly, his life was not an easy one.  Poverty, three failed marriages, alcoholism, and ill health, including Epstein Barr Syndrome and diabetes all took their toll and he died while undergoing a sextyple coronary bypass just six days before his 62nd birthday.  He left us with some great music.

"Poor Boys Long Way from Home"

"Red Pony"

"Sunflower River Blues"

"On the Sunny Side of the Ocean"

"Sligo River Blues"

"Candy Man"

"How Green Was My Valley?"

"Desperate Man Blues"

"Wine and Roses"

"New Orleans Shuffle"

"Requiem for Mississippi John Hurt"

"Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King King Philip XIV of Spain"

"Summer Cat by My Door"


In Nelson S. Bond's classic science fiction tale, an aviator lands on a small island and discovers a race of superhuman mutants preparing to take over the planet.  David Ellis stars.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


Here's a song Kitty's grandfather and father both used to sing to her, far long before she met me and my size 16 feet.  

Here's Leon Redbone, who was born this day in 1949.


 My neighbor and his wife do not go to the gym.  I guess some relationships just don't work out.

Monday, August 24, 2020


 Although it's Dick Powell singing, I'm posting this as a birthday tribute to Ruby Keeler, born this day in 1909.


Let's get a couple of things over with at the beginning:  this film is slow moving, there's too much talking and too much exposition about spiritualism, and the copy of the film linked below is not in pristine condition.

Now, let's talk about the Benson boys, three brothers -- all writers -- whose father served as the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The elder of the three was Arthur Christopher (A. C.) Benson, a distinguished academic and author of some 60 books -- he wrote the words to the British patriotic song "The Land of Hope and Glory," and was a well-regarded poet, essayist, and diarist, as well as the author of some of the most effective ghost stories written.  His brother Edward Frederic (E. F.) Benson was also no slouch at writing ghost stories, producing a number of novels and enough short stories to fill five volumes of collected ghost stories.  Fred Benson was also well-known for his satiric writings about British society, especially the Mapp and Lucia novels, and his Dodo stories.  And then there was Robert Hugh (R. H.) Benson, an Anglican Priest who was later ordained in the Catholic Church, eventually rising to Chancellor for Pope Pius X and gaining the title of Monsignor.  Much of his writing involved apologetics and devotional works, but he also produced historicals, children's stories, plays, contemporary fiction, as well as horror and science fiction.  Aficionados of horror stories would do well to check out the works of all three brothers.

One novel by R. H. Benson was The Necromancers (1909), a rather scathing novel that set out to expose the dangers of spiritualism -- a movement that the Catholic Church decried.  One reviewer said, I can think of no other book that reaches so high a pitch of horror."  It was this book that was the basis of Ghost Story/The Spell of Amy Nugent/Spellbound/Passing Clouds (take your pick), a Brish flick directed by John Harlow, who also directed one Sexton Blake movie and two Old mother Riley comedies.

The underlying plot is simple:  When his young fiance dies, a man gets involved with spiritualists in an effort to contact her.  The film stars Derek Farr, Vera Lindsay, and Hay Petrie.

Despite its plodding, over-talky nature, this is a movie that can rewarding for those who stick with it.

Take a look and see if you agree.


 After last night's disheartening new from Wisconsin, let's take a look at policing English-style from 1907 from music hall star Vesta Tilley.

Sunday, August 23, 2020


 Openers:  There had been a gunfight earlier in the evening, but the, in a place like this one, there usually were gunfights earlier.  And later, for that matter.

The name of the place was Madame Dupree;s and it was one of the big casino-drinking establishments that were filling the most disreputable part of San Francisco in this year of 1903.  The Barbary Coast was the name for the entire district and, yes, it was every bit as dangerous as you've heard.  Cops, even the young strong ones, would only come down here in fours and sixes, and even then a lot of them got killed.

-- Ed Gorman, "The Old Ways" (from Tales of the Great Turtle, edited by Piers Anthony & Richard Gilliam, 1984; and Pirate Writings #10, 1996)

I never met Ed Gorman, nor did I correspond with him or spoke to him, yet he was an important part of my life for several decades.  Ed was a writer's writer.  A good writer, not necessarily a great writer (although he had the talent to be one and some of his work could only be described as great).  He was a writer who respected the craft, a writer who read and enjoyed and  absorbed the works of others, a writer who became a friend to many others in the field, a writer lent his talents to others when needs be.

I don't know that much about his early life but, from what I have been able to glean from his writing, it was not an easy one.  He grew up wearing hand-me-downs from his cousin, the child actor Bobby Driscoll.  (Driscoll, like many other child actors, his life went downhill as he got older; he started using drugs at age 17, moved to New York in hopes of rekindling his career, became part of Andy Warhol's art colony for several years, left there penniless, and his unidentified body was discovered in a deserted East Village tenement in March of 1968, dead of drug-related causes [he was identified over a year later]; his life and death had a profound impact on Ed.)  Ed spent twenty years in the advertising business and ran his own agency for a while.  Those years were marked by alcohol, drugs, and unhappiness as Ed became a person he did not like.

His way out was writing and Ed wrote and published a number negligible stories.He published in many fields and considered himself a genre writer.  In 1982, he married his Carol Maxwell, a teacher and children's and young adult writer.  He credited fellow Iowa writer Max Allan Collins with showing him how to write a novel and his first novel, Rough Cut, was published in 1984.  Soon after he left his day job and became a full-time writer.  Although he has published in almost any genre, he is best known for his crime, suspense, and western novels.  Among his series characters are Jack Ryan (ex-cop, part-time ator, and security guard), Tobin (movie critic), Jack Walsh (sentimental private eye), Robert Payne (psychological  profiler), Sam McCain (small town attorney), Dev Conrad (political consultant). Noah Ford (western military investigator following the civil war), Dev Mallory (post Civil War Secret Service agent), Guild (old west bounty hunter), Anna Tolin (early female police officer), and the futuristic cops of Star Precinct.  

Bill Pronzini called Gorman "one of the best American writers to enter the crime field in the 1980s, bring fresh ideas, characters and approaches."  Pronzini adds, "His mysteries are an amalgam of pure entertainment, social commentary, symbolic statement, and in-depth studies of what he terms 'outsiders trying to make peace with the world.' "  He was also been called "The poet of dark suspense."  His best writing is marked by a distinct empathy for his characters, flawed as they may be.  Much of his work  was rapidly produced for whatever market he was aiming at -- his three-volume SF series Star Precinct (published as by "Daniel Ransom" and co-author Kevin Randle, a pair of very readable although unsuccessful women suspense novels in the Mary Higgins Clark style, "nonfiction" work for hire for so-called ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, and so on.  His horror novels under the name Daniel Ransom are effective but rushed; the author said he never knew how to end a horror novel.  There are probably a number of books out there that he wrote we may never know about.

But the stuff we know!  Especially his mysteries and westerns.  He had a special affinity for small town America (particularly his home state of Iowa) and its people and history.  My favorites among his books has to be the Sam McClain series (about a struggling lawyer in the Fifties) and his Guild series of westerns; others may rightfully claim others as their favorites.  When he was good, Ed Gorman was very, very good.  Perhaps his impressive story was the Spur award winning story, "The Face" -- a must read.

Aside from writing, Ed Gorman was an impressive editor with over 80 anthologies to his name, often edited with his good friend Martin H. Greenberg.  Ed was a co-founder and long-time editor of Mystery Scene, and was the force behind that magazine's Best of the Year anthologies, later continued under his own name. With Greenberg, Ed was responsible, for a number of single-author collections from Five-Star Press, often bringing light to the careers of capable writers of the past.  He was no slouch at nonfiction, either, editing books about mystery writers, a Dean Koontz tribute anthology, and (with his friend Kevin McCarthy) an examination of the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  (Ed's name was also included on the copyright notice of McCarthy's two novels; often copyright notices were the only indication that Ed had a hand in a book.)

Ed was a champion of many forgotten writers, bringing notice of past works in paperback that had disappeared over time.  He seldom traveled, preferring to remain in Cedar Rapids and indulging in long phone calls to his many friends he never met in person.

Ed Gorman was diagnosed with incurable multiple myeloma in 2002.  He production slowed down a bit after that, but he kept writing stories and novels that kept his readers enthralled.  He died in 2016 and is greatly missed.


  • Tom Piccirilli, Deceased.  Horror novel.  "Something is calling Jacob Maelstrom back to the isolated home of his childhood -- to the scene of a living nightmare that almost cost him his life.  Ten years ago his sister slaughtered their brother and parents, locked Jacob in a closet...then committed a hideous suicide.  Now, as the anniversary of that dark night approaches, Jacob is drawn back to a house where the lines between the living and the dead is constantly shifting,  But there's more than awful memories waiting for Jacob at the Maelstrom mansion.  There are depraved secrets, evil legacies, and family ghosts that are all too real.  There's the long-dead writer, whose mad fantasies continue to shape reality.  And in the woods there are nameless creatures who patiently wait the return of their creator."  Piccirilli was a blazing, brilliant writer in many genres, gone far too soon.
  • [unknown author], April Kane and the Dragon Lady:  A "Terry and the Pirates" Adventure.  A juvenile novel published in 1943, illustrated with drawings adapted from the comic strip in 1939.  James Reasoner reviewed this book on his blog back in 2007 and states that it was based on a sequence from the original comic strip.  His review is here and can do better justice to the book than I can:

Going Postal:  A lot has been written about Trump's attempt to subvert the upcoming election by hobbling the Postal Service.  Under the guise of "cost-cutting," Postmaster General William DeJoy had eliminated overtime, removed essential sorting machines, removed mail boxes, and remove a number key, experienced postal officials, all in an apparent attempt to block mail-in voting during the pandemic.  Trump has gone on and on about how mail-in voting will lead to the biggest election fraud in history.  As usual. our president is making up so-called "facts" to promote his personal agenda.  Under pressure, DeJoy has announced that his proposed changes with be "rolled back" until after the election.  Yeah, right.

A leaked internal memo has instructed postal maintenance workers not to return or hook up the sorting machines despite any orders from their local postmasters.  Another leaked memo has ordered postal employees not to speak to any member of the media.  How much the Postal Service will live up to the rollback of DeJoy's order is open to question.

A couple of facts.  The Postal Service was never designed to make a profit.  It's a government service, provided for in the Constitution.  To ask it make a profit is akin to asking our armed forces or our public schools to make a profit.  Despite this, the Postal Service had been operating in the black until a few years ago when Republicans in Congress mandated that the Postal Service fund 75 years of future pensions within ten years -- that's pensions of current and future employees.  The Postal Service is already a semi-private operation and it appears that it may be part of a long-time Republican dream to privatize as many government operations as possible.  (They call it "cost-cutting."  Others may call it profiteering.)

Please note that DeJoy has little or no qualifications for his post, other than being a major Trump donor as well as having a large financial interest in three companies that directly compete with the post office.  It is also interesting to note that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been named as the one who orchestrated DeJoy's attempt to block mail-in voting.  Mnuchin's qualification for his post appear to be 1) producing the movie Suicide Squad, and 2) taking advantage of the 2008 financial debacle to become the "Foreclosure King," evicting thousands of people from their homes.

Despite their attempts to derail the election to the point that Trump could call it "rigged," hope remains that this clown car of an administration is voted out in November.

Pretty Poison:  Alexei Navalny, the Russian dissident, remained in a coma in a Berlin Hospital after being allegedly poisoned -- something that happens to be quite common among critics of Vladimir Putin.  Quite common.  Very common.  Downright universal.

Putin, a former KGB official and current thug, gangster, murderer, interferer of elections, and all-around tyrant, likes poison.  It eliminates political obstacles without being directly traced back to him.  Poison is a theatrical way of killing someone and a method of control, often giving other opponents of the regime fear to act.  

Investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya managed to survive being poisoned, but she was gunned down less than two years later.  Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., managed to survived poisoning twice, the first time losing his kidney function, the second being placed in a medically-induced coma.  Pyotr Verzilov was suspected of having been poisoned in 2018, but nothing was proved.  Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned and killed by polonium-210 paced in his tea.  Sergei Skripal and his daughter managed to survive a poisoning attempt by a military-grade nervve agent; another man was not as lucky.  And the beat goes on.

Putin has a lot to answer for.  And Donald Trump likes him.

Little Black Quasha:  When Scottish author and illustrator Helen Bannerman published her first book, The Story of Little Black Sambo, in 1899, it was hailed as having one of the first black heroes in children's literature, and was cited by critics as positively portraying its hero in both story and pictures -- something that was true when compared to most other children's books with black characters.  But 1899, as they say, was another country.

For the first fifty years after the book was published, it was considered a children's classic  
(I remember it being read to my second grade class in the early Fifties), but for the past half century or more the tale has been considered as racially insensitive.  "Sambo" has become a racial pejorative and I truly doubt it is being read to schoolchildren anywhere in the United States today, not even in Mississippi or Alabama.  And those original illustrations?  Well, they were drawn in "pickaninny style" (Langston Hughes' term, not mine), even though Bannerman's Sambo was a boy from the south of India.

But with the success of The Story of Little Black Sambo, Bannerman went on to publish similar books, including Story of Little Black Mingo, The Story of Little Black Quibba, Sambo and the Twins, and The Story of Little Black Quasha, and involving Indian children who were all transformed in the public's mind as black Africans.  

One review of Quasha on Amazon said, "The story of 'Little Black Sambo' is improved on here, this time our hero is little Quashaa kind, intelligent girl who loves to read and whose unselfish assistance to an unfortunate person is rewarded." Judge for yourself.  Here is the 1908 American edition, "by the author of 'LITTLE BLACK SAMBO'."

A footnote:  A popular restaurant chain in the 50s through the 70s named Sambo's (named for its two founders Sam Battistone and and Newell "Bo" Bohnett) made the marketing mistake of using images from the book as part of their interior design.  Decried as being racially insensitive, the 1,117 restaurant chain finally died in the early 80s, and perhaps rightly so.

God Bless the Corn:  In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at the intersection of 57th Street and Minnesota Avenue, there was a much-loved (albeit briefly loved) stalk of corn that grew through a crack in the concrete.  Named The 57th Street Corn, this plucky piece of vegetation even had its own Twitter account.  According to mayor Paul Tenhaken, the stalk of corn became a symbol for the people of the city during its brief life.  "Finding joy in the small things will continue to help us get through what has become a challenging time in our country.  It was 'amaizing' to see the community rally around the 57th Street corn as a sign of hope over the last few days."  Wednesday morning, Sioux Falls learned that someone had ripped up the single stalk of corn.  A community mourns.

But that's not the end of the story!  Resident Chad Theisen and his children rescued the moribund plant in hopes of reviving it.  They bought a pail at a local hardware store and replanted it.  "A local corn-growing crew was quickly dispatched to the scene of the crime and efforts to save the patient began," he said.  Theisen hopes to replant the corn in a safer place.  For those interested, his family named the corn stalk "Cornelia."

Quote for Today:  "If Monday had a face, I'd punch it."

Only in Florida:  While I am building up a warehouse of recent Florida Man stories, here's the third (of four) "Only in Florida" compilations:

On the Plus Side:
"Like stars to the sky, so are the children to the world.  They deserve to shine!"  -- Chinonye J. Chindolue

Today's Poem:

The Coming of Good Luck

So good luck came, and upon my roof did light,
Like noiseless snow, or as the dew of night:
Not all at once, but gently, as the tree
Are by the sunbeams tickled by degrees.

-- Robert Herrick


 August Derleth is perhaps best known as the man who kept H. P. Lovecraft's work alive after that author's death in 1937.   As a friend and correspondent to Lovecraft, Derleth and fellow fan donald Wandrei tried to get publishing houses interested in publishing a collection of Lovecraft's stories; getting no interest, they founded the small press Arkham House to keep Lovecraft's name alive.  Soon, the legendary publishing firm was run by Derleth alone, introducing a host of fantasy and horror authors who might otherwise have fallen into the literary cracks of history.

Derleth had access to Lovecraft's commonplace book and used scraps from it to produce "original" stories by Lovecraft in collaboration with himself.   He also codified Lovecraft's "Cthulhu cycle," twisting it in ways that Lovecraft had perhaps never intended.  Many Lovecraft fans now disdain Derleth because of this but, without Derleth, Lovecraft would most likely be a forgotten writer today.

Derleth, as a writer and editor, had many other arrows in his quiver.  He was one of the country's leading regional writers, something which is talked about briefly in the interview below.  He was a regional historian, a fairly distinguished poet, a literary critic and teacher, biographer, mystery writer and creator of the popular Holmesian character Solar Pons, and author of the juvenile (because the young adult category had not yet been established) series about The Mill Creek Irregulars.  It is fair to say, however that without his work promoting Lovecraft and (through Arkham House) other important fantasy writers, most ewould not be aware of Derleth.

The interview below, from Robin Laws' Black Clock Audio Tales Special #15 podcast, is with Kenneth Hite, a role playing game designer, writer, and expert on Lovecraft.  Be aware that this podcast is not the most focused you might encounter.  It rambles and, at times, denigrates Derleth (something that I, a devout reader of over 100 books by Derleth, find a bit off-putting), and does provide some necessary context.  Nevertheless, there is some good information about Derleth and his importance in the field of the weird tale.

With that caveat, let's go to the podcast:


 The Davis Sisters.

Saturday, August 22, 2020


 In 1969, The Harvard Lampoon issued an LP (remember them?) titled The Surprising Sheep, which was a prized possession in our household until the album went walkabout the same time our record player (remember those?) did.  The songs on the album were brilliantly funny, irreverent, causticly satirical, and just plain amazing.

Here's one of them, a paean to Chicago, home of the 1968 Democratic Convention (remember that one?).

Friday, August 21, 2020


 Thriller Comics was a British comic book than ran for 40 issues from 1951 to 1953 before changing its name to Thriller Comics Library for another 122 issues before ending in 1957, after which the title was once again changed to Thriller Picture Library for a final 288 issues.  Each issue contained a full-length story, most often adapted from a novel or a film.

Alfred John Hunter (1891-1969) published his first stories when we has still a schoolboy.  Between the World Wars his stories appeared in practically all the British story papers. Hunter also published under the pen names John Addiscombe, L. H. Brenning, Francis Brent, Stanton Doyle, Anthony Drummond, and Jack Ruthven.  He is perhaps best remembered as the author of some of the Sexton Blake novels, beginning with The Affair of the Fatal Film in August 1935.

"Phantom Footsteps" originally appeared as a novella in September 8, 1934, issue of The Thriller, a 24-page tabloid that also included Edgar Wallace's short story "The Green Mamba."  The comic adaptation was drawn by Philip Mendoza; I have no idea who adapted Hunter's original story.

The action begins with the robbing of the Westpool National Bank...



 Del Shannon.

Thursday, August 20, 2020


 If you want to have an overview of the best of the science fiction field through the early 1970s, look no further.  These five volumes cover more than 70 classic tales dating from 1895 to 1974, with all stories selected by The Science Fiction Writers of America.

The publication of these volumes can be a bit confusing.  The second and third volumes were also published as Volume TwoA and Volume TwoB.  The fourth volume was also published as Volume Three.  The fifth and final volume was only published as Volume IV.  The ones edited by Ben Bova include only novelettes and novellas; the ones edited by Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Carr cover the Nebula Award-winning stories, novelettes, and novellas given by the SFWA from 1965 to 1974.  

A number of these stories were subsequently expanded or incorporated into novels.  Many others are parts of well-known series.  Most of the authors were major writers in the field; a few have been all but forgotten in time.  There are stories of adventure and invention, of robots and time travel, of both near and far future, of mutants and supermen, of logic and absurdity.  Some stories are fast-paced; some contemplative.  Some are horrifying; some inspiring.  

All are well worth your time.

...And just try to pick a favorite.  I dare you.

The contents:

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, edited by Robert Silverberg (1970)

  • Stanley G. Weinbaum, A Martian Odyssey (Wonder Stories, July 1934)
  • John W. Campbell, Jr., Twilight (Astounding Stories, November 1934, as by "Don A. Stuart")
  • "Lester del Rey" (Leonard Knapp), Helen O'Loy (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1938)
  • Robert A. Heinlein, The Roads Must Roll (Astounding Science-Fiction, June 1940)
  • Theodore Sturgeon, Microcosmic God (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1941)
  • Isaac Asimov, Nightfall (Astounding Science-Fiction, September 1941)
  • A. E. van Vogt, The Weapon Shop (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1942)
  • Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore, Mimsy Were the Borogoves (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1943, as by "Lewis Padgett")
  • Clifford D. Simak, Huddling Place (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1944)
  • Fredric Brown, Arena (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944)
  • "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins"), First Contact (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1945)
  • "Judith Merril" (Josephine Juliet Grossman), That Only a Mother (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1948)
  • "Cordwainer Smith" (Paul Anthony Myron Linebarger), Scanners Live in Vain (Fantasy Book, Vol. 1. No. 6, January 1950)
  • Ray Bradbury, Mars Is Heaven! (Planet Stories, August 1948)
  • C. M. Kornbluth, The Little Black Bag (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1950)
  • Richard Matheson, Born of Man and Woman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Summer 1950)
  • Fritz Leiber, Coming Attraction (Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1950)
  • "Anthony Boucher" (William Anthony Parker White), The Quest for Saint Aquin (New Tales of Space and Time, edited by Raymond J. Healy, 1951)
  • James Blish, Surface Tension (Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1952)
  • Arthur C. Clarke, The Nine Billion Names of God (Ster Science Fiction Stories, edited by Frederik Pohl,1953)
  • Jerome Bixby, It's a Good Life (Star Science Fiction Stories No. 2, edited by Frederik Pohl, 1953)
  • Tom Godwin, The Cold Equations (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1954)
  • Alfred Bester, Fondly Fahrenheit (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1954)
  • Damon Knight, The Country of the Kind (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1956)
  • Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1959)
  • Roger Zelazny, A Rose for Ecclesiastes (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1963)

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two, edited by Ben Bova, 1973

  • Eric Frank Russell, ...And Then There None (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1951)
  • Theodore Sturgeon, Baby Is Three (Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1953)
  • Poul Anderson, Call Me Joe (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1957)
  • "Lester del Rey" (Leonard Knapp), Nerves (Astounding-Science Fiction, September 1942)
  • "Cordwainer Smith" (Paul Anthony Myron Linebarger), The Ballad of Lost C'mell (Galaxy Magazine, October 1962)
  • C. M. Kornbluth, The Marching Morons (Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1951)
  • H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (The Time Machine, 1895; Wells wrote several versions of this novel, including The Chronic Argonauts, 1888; The Time Machine, 1894; The Time Traveller's Story, 1895; a serial version, 1895; and a book version, 1895 -- I'm  not sure which version Silverberg used for this anthology)
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Universe (Astounding-Science Fiction, May 1941)
  • Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore, Vintage Season (Astounding Science Fiction, September 1946, as by "Lawrence O'Donnell")
  • John W, Campbell, Jr., Who Goes There? (Astounding-Science Fiction, August 1938, as by "Don A. Stuart")
  • Jack Williamson, With Folded Hands (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1947)

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Three, edited by Ben Bova, 1973

  • Jack Vance, The Moon Moth (Galaxy Magazine, August 1961)
  • E. M. Forster, The Machine Stops (The Oxford and Cambridge Review, Michaelmas Term, 1909)
  • James Blish, Earthman, Come Home (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1953)
  • T. L. Sherred, E for Effort (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1947)
  • Frederik Pohl, The Midas Plague (Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1954)
  • Wilmar H. Shiras, In Hiding (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1948)
  • Clifford D. Simak, The Big Front Yard (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1958)
  • James H. Schmitz, The Witches of Karres (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1949)
  • Isaac Asimov, The Martian Way (Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1952)
  • Algis Budrys, Rogue Moon (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1960)
  • Theodore R. Cogswell, The Spectre General (Astounding Science Fiction, June 1952)

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Four, edited by Arthur C. Clarke (& George Proctor), 1981

  • Harlan Ellison, "Repent Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman (Galaxy Magazine, December 1965)
  • Roger Zelazny, The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1965)
  • Brian W. Aldiss, The Saliva Tree (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1965)
  • Roger Zelazny, He Who Shapes (Amazing Stories, January and February 1965)
  • Richard McKenna, The Secret Place (Orbit 1, edited by Damon Knight, 1966)
  • Gordon R. Dickson, Call Him Lord (Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, May 1966)
  • Jack Vance, The Last Castle (Galaxy Magazine, April 1966)
  • Samuel R. Delaney, Aye, and Gomorrah (Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison, 1967)
  • Fritz Leiber, Gonna Roll the Bones (Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison, 1967)
  • Michael Moorcock, Behold the Man (New Worlds SF, September 1966)
  • Kate Wilhelm, The Planners (Orbit 3, edited by Damon Knight, 1968)
  • Richard Wilson, Mother to the World (Orbit 3, edited by Damon Knight, 1968)
  • Anne McCaffrey, Dragonrider (Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, December 1967 and January 1968)
  • Robert Silverberg, Passengers (Orbit 4, edited by Damon Knight, 1968)
  • Samuel R. Delaney, Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones (New Worlds, December  1968)
  • Harlan Ellison, A Boy and His Dog (New Worlds, April 1969)

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume IV, edited by Terry Carr, 1986

  • Fritz Leiber, Ill Met in Lanhkmar (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1970)
  • Theodore Sturgeon, Slow Sculpture (Galaxy Magazine, February 1970)
  • Katherine MacLean, The Missing Man (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, March 1971)
  • Poul Anderson, The Queen of Air and Darkness (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1971)
  • Robert Silverberg, Good News from the Vatican (Universe 1, edited by Terry Carr, 1971)
  • Arthur C. Clarke, A Meeting with Medusa (Playboy, December 1971)
  • Poul Anderson, Goat Song (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1972)
  • Joanna Russ, When It Changed (Again, Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison, 1972)
  • Gene Wolfe, The Death of Dr. Island (Universe 3, edited by Terry Carr, 1973)
  • Vonda N. McIntyre, Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, October 1973)
  • "James Tiptree, Jr," (Alice Sheldon), Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death (The Alien Condition, edited by Stephen Goldin, 1973)
  • Robert Silverberg, Born with the Dead (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionR
  • Gregory Benford & Gordon Eklund, If the Star Are Gods (Universe 4, edited by Terry Carr, 1974)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin, The Day Before the Revolution (Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1974)


 The Seekers.


 Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was one of the world's best-selling thriller authors, publishing hundreds of books and stories and over twenty-five plays.  His work is sadly considered dated nowadays, which is a shame.  His stories of The Just Men, J. G. Reeder, The Green Archer, Sanders of the River, and many other characters took readers of the first third of the twentieth century far beyond their easy chairs to sensational realms of adventure, danger, and crime.  

"Criminal at Large," based on Wallace's stage play originally titled The Case of the Frightened Lady (1931) and filmed as  The Frightened Lady (1941), first aired  the radio in April 1944.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020


 Once upon a time country music was known as "hillbilly music" and one of the earliest to record this new 'genre" was Eck Robertson (1887-1975), a Georgia-born and Texas-raised fiddler.  "Sally Gooden" (with its B-side release "Arkansas Traveler") is considered the first "country record."  Robertson travelled to New York with ex-Indian fighter Henry Gilliland to play for RCA Victor; in order to get rid of the two, the record company recorded them (with Gilliland joining in on "Arkansas Traveler") and were surprised when the record was a hit.


 Suspense, adapted from the popular radio series, ran on CBS from 1949 to 1954.  For its pilot program, the show lived up to its name by presenting a story from an acknowledged master of suspense -- Cornell Woolrich.

Roy Gardner is unemployed and dead broke.  Due to his ruthless former boss, Roy cannot find work.  In desperation Roy kills the boss and steals some money.  Roy's wife Mary decides to stand by him and the two plan to flee from New York.  In typical Woolrich fashion, an attempt to escape from a situation only makes things worse.

The episode was recorded live from New York City and is one of 90 of the 260 episodes to survive today.  

Meg Mundy, a stage, film, and television actress took top billing as Mary Gardner.  She later appeared in two other episodes of Suspense and had a long-running role as Mona Croft in the daytime drama (677 episodes) The Doctors from 1972 to 1982.  She dies in 2016 at age 101.

Also appearing were Philip Coolidge (North by Northwest, Inherit the Wind, The Tingler) and Gage Clarke (The Bad Seed, I Want to Live!, Nightmare).  Rex Marshal, long-time radio personality and and "voice" of Reynolds Aluminum for twenty-five years, served as the series announcer.  Everyone's Favorite Martian, Ray Walston, made what might have been his first television appearance here in the uncredited role of "Ticket Seller."

Emmy Award winning director Robert Stevens produced and directed this episode, as well as 105 others in this series.  Stevens is also noted for directing more episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents than anyone else -- 44 episodes, plus an additional five episodes for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

No credit has been given for whoever adapted Woolrich's story but the script follows the sort story in effectively ratcheting up the suspense.


Monday, August 17, 2020


 [Apology:  Today's BITS & PIECES post is not appearing today -- probably next week.  Plumbing problems (ours) and a battle with a home security company (for a friend) have taken up most of my day.]

In the meantime, enjoy John Gorka.

Sunday, August 16, 2020


 A fascinating look at the creator of Lew Archer, the subject of this half-hour documentary released in 1977.  Richard O. Moore produced and directed this film, which has Macdonald reading from three of his novels and from his essay "A Writer's Sense of Place."  The age of the film evidently is responsible for the horrendous quality of the music used; you will have to grit your teeth through it as you listen to Macdonald talk about his career -- it's worth it.

As a bonus, here's Scott Bradfield's "Reading Great Books from the Bathtub" podcast about the repeatable pleasures of reading Ross Macdonald.  Bradfield, an essayist and critic, is the author of The History of Luminist Motion and four other novels, as well as four collections of short stories. 


 John Michael Talbot.

Saturday, August 15, 2020


Today is our daughter Jessamyn's birthday.  In my mind she was born not that long ago; it seems like a blink of the eye.  She came out perfect and remains so to this day, although shortly after birth she became jaundiced and was put under bilirubin lights for a couple of days -- something she didn't like; only a few hours old and she was screeching like a banshee and arching her back, raising herself on all fours, unusual for one so young.  That's our Jessie...feisty, determined to be heard.  Once home she was a happy baby and as a toddler she had long curly blonde locks.  That is, until the three-year-old little @#$% upstairs decided to give her a haircut.  **sigh**

Jessamyn grew to be a girl and then a woman of grace and courage.  A few childhood cancer scares, a young widowhood, and a bout with breast cancer...she has overcome difficulties and emerged a stronger person.  And along the way she has gifted the world with two amazing daughters.

Jessie is bright.  She's funny.  She's caring.  She's beautiful.  And she faces every challenge in the same feisty way she faced those bilirubin lights a blink of an eye ago.

We could not be more proud of her and we could not love her more.

Happy birthday, sweet one.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, was my father's birthday.  He would have been 104 years old.  It's difficult to realize that he has been gone thirty-five years now since he has always been -- and still is -- a fundamental part of my life.  He was the man who taught me honor and compassion.  A man who loved people and gave of himself.  He loved kids and loved to laugh with them.  To my knowledge there was only one person he knew whom he actively disliked, and that was a man who had been found to be a child molester.  He taught me the importance of responsibility and of family.  He was a man of strong beliefs which he showed through his actions, not his words.

I try every day to be the sort of man he would be proud of.  I miss him.  I miss his laugh, his kindness, his quiet dignity, his love of people, and the pure joy with which he lived his life.

This week bookends a great part of my life.  The past, where I learned what life is all about, and the future, where I try to pass that knowledge on to my children and grandchildren.  I am a lucky man.