Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, September 30, 2020


 It's been a tough week.  Not only did we lose Helen Reddy, as well as the dignity of presidential debates, but we also lost Mac Davis.  RIP.


 Radio legend Fred Allen mustered up some laughs with this episode more than seven decades ago.



 Rest in peace, Helen Reddy.


 Last January, my resolution was to lose twenty pounds.  Thirty more pounds and I'm there!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


 Carole King, Shania Twain, Gloria Estefan, and Celine Dion join forces.


 For his very first film appearance, 007 is American spy Jimmy Bond, played by Barry Nelson.  Closely following Ian Fleming's original novel, Bond must outwit he Soviet spy, crime bigwig, and card sharp Le Chiffre, played by Peter Lorre.  (Gone, though, are some of the torture scenes and the novel's ending.)  Le Chiffre has been milking Soviet funds to support his gambling habit, losing several million francs.  Bond's mission is to defeat Le Chiffre in a high stakes game of baccarat in Monte Carlo and ruin him.

In a reversal of nations, Bond is a CIA agent and Clarence Leiter (Felix Leiter, in the books), played by Michael Pate, is a British secret agent.  The lovely Linda Christian is a former flame of Bond's. Valerie Mathis -- an amalgam of the book's Vesper Lynd and Rene Mathis.  William Lundigan served as series host and trisd to explain to the audience how baccarat is played. 

Filmed live at the CBS studios in Los Angeles, Casino Royale is a striking example of 50s live television with its "dropped lines, missed cues, miss-timed squibs and sound effects...the whole nine yards."  Nelson is bland, Linda Christian is gorgeous, and Peter Lorre steals the show (as he so often does).  There are no gadgets you associate with a later Bond, no thrilling chases. no over the top action.  What you do get is a fairly interesting 50 minutes of 1950s drama and a completely different James Bond from today.

Enjoy this 007 rarity.

Monday, September 28, 2020


 From SNL, with Pete Davidson and Chris Redd.  Oh, how we're going to miss her.


 Openers:  "Of course, if they had had any sense they'd have routed us via Cairo," the engineer from Birmingham said.

This is the miracle of our age:  that one may be borne swiftly and smoothly along in winged luxury, constantly fed and reassured, while underneath one unrolls the great viridian mat of Central Africa, that territory to be flown over but never conquered, whose mysteries deepen as the rest of the world grows hallower, whose beasts and peoples breathe a secret, greener air, whose prodigality seems to make of the continent a very planet, subject to its laws and psychologies -- this, I say, is the miracle, that we may be borne over all this superbity to the tune of turbo-props and notice nothing of it because of the vacuous gossip of an engineer from Birmingham.

"I mean, Dakar just doesn't compare with Cairo in any wat," he added, "as regards to amenities or anything else."

-- Brian Aldiss, The Male Response (1961)

Thus begins a bitingly, somewhat bawdy novel exploring the White Man's Burden, the Black Man's Burden, palace intrigue, the opposition of tradition versus progress, and, of course, sex.

Soames Noyes is a manager for Unilateral Company, a leading British producer of computers.  The time is 1970, just a short hop forward from when the novel was written.  Prince Deal Limpo Lander, son of the king and president of the Republic of Goya -- a flyspeck African country few had heard of -- has ordered a computer a part of a scheme of his father's to modernize his country.  Having no idea of what the computer would be used for (or how to use it, for that matter), the prince picks the most modern, expensive computer -- the Apostle Mk II -- for Goya.  His only requirement is that the computer be painted red instead of the normal gray of the computer.  So Soames is off to Goya with three Unilateral engineers and the safely packed, albeit disassembled, Apostle Mk II in the plane's cargo hold, headed to Goya's capital of Umbalathorp.

The plane crashes and Soames, one engineer, and the prince are the only survivors.  The computer was not damaged.  Soames finds there are few white people in Goya:  two small families of rival traders and an English couple and their daughter who are ostracized for their sexual preferences.  The king and president (he claims both titles) is wily, politically astute man named M'Grassi Landor.  Because he is both king and president, he is allowed to have two families -- one for the king and one for the president.  M'Grassi's political rival is Dumayami, a witch doctor who opposes the new computer, and who predicts that Soames will never leave Goya.  There is also a Chinese family living in the palace, the father being the laundryman for the palace as well as being an accomplished spy.  Just about everyone Soames meets (save for the witch doctor) has a daughter that wants to seduce Soames as a possible way to get away from Goya, which is a country with a majority of poor people and a smattering of the rich.

Soames is a duck out of water here.  A good part of the book centers on his efforts to make sense of the place, its people, its mores, and its politics.  The remaining Unilateral engineer is killed shortly after he managed to get the computer assembled and running.  Soames discovers a plot to steal all the computer spare parts in order to resell them to the government.  Soames tries to recover the parts, only to be foiled by a runaway train.  (The train was originally designed to run to a neighboring village whose inhabitants had all died from plague before the railway could be completed.)  Soames also  saves the life of Prince Deal and finds himself being elected President of Goya in another politically savvy move by M;Grassi.  Soames is unaware of a provision in the country's constitution that makes all presidents-elect to publicly choose a First Lady and to publically copulate with her before being sworn in.  This goes against his English sense of reserve (although every other Englisher in the book has no moral scruples).

The Male Response is a sly, fast read from one of England's great authors.  Aldiss was never one to restrain himself as far as subject matter, genre, or imagination.  Like his colleague J. G. Ballard, Aldiss is sui generis, always moving to new, challenging, and literate frontiers.  Here, Aldiss is at his satiric best.

Galaxy Science Fiction Novels:  Aldiss's The Male Response was the 45th (out of 46) book published as a Galaxy Science Fiction Novel.  The line was started by H. L. Gold in 1950 as an adjunct to his Galaxy Science Fiction, magazine.  The books were presented in a paperback digest format and were sometimes abridge for space.  Most of the authors were among the top science fiction writers of the time.  In 1959 the series was sold to Beacon Books, which changed the format to a regular paperback size, and promoted them as sex-ed up novels more fitting for their main line of soft-core novels.  Titles were often changed and the stories themself edited (or added to) to increase the sex content.  The first edition of The Male Response was one such book.  I read the House of Stratus 2001 edition and have not compared this edition to the original.

 Nonetheless, there is some great reading in the 46 books in the series -- realizing, of course, that some of the gratuitous scenes can be laid to the editor and not the author.  Here's a list, in order:

  • Eric Frank Russell, Sinister Barrier
  • Jack Williamson, The Legion of Space
  • Arthur C. Clarke, Prelude to Space
  • S. Fowler Wright, The Amphibians
  • S. Fowler Wright, The World Below
  • Raymond F. Jones, The Alien
  • Clifford D. Simak, Empire
  • Olaf Stapledon, Odd John
  • William F. Temple, Four Sided Triangle
  • Jay Franklin, Rat Race
  • Wilson Tucker, The City in the Sea
  • Sam Merwin, Jr., The House of Many Worlds
  • "John Taine," Seeds of Life
  • Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
  • Leslie Mitchell, Three Go Back
  • James Blish, The Warriors of Day
  • "Lewis Padgett," Well of the Worlds
  • Edmond Hamilton, City at World's End
  • James Blish, Jack of Eagles
  • "Murray Leinster," The Black Galaxy
  • Jack Williamson, The Humanoids
  • Sam Merwin, Jr., Killer to Come
  • "David Reed," Murder in Space
  • L. Sprague de Camp, Lest Darkness Fall
  • "Murray Leinster," The Last Spaceship
  • "Lewis Padgett," Chessboard Planet
  • Malcolm Jameson, Tarnished Utopia
  • Fritz Leiber, Destiny Times Three
  • L. Ron Hubbard, Fear
  • Fletcher Pratt, Double Jeopardy
  • C. L. Moore, Shambleau
  • F. L. Wallace, Address:  Centauri
  • "Hal Clement," Mission of Gravity
  • Manly Wade Wellman, Twice in Time
  • Frank Riley & Mark Clifton, The Forever Machine (They'd Rather Be Right)
Here Come the Beacons:
  • Olaf Stapledon, Odd John (reprinted and probably sexed-up)
  • Raymond F. Jones, The Deviates (The Secret People)
  • George O. Smith, Troubled Star
  • Larry M. Harris ("Laurence Janifer") & Randall Garrett, Pagan Passions
  • Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet
  • Philip Jose Farmer, Flesh
  • Sam Merwin, Jr., The Sex War (The White Widows)
  • Philip Jose Farmer, A Woman a Day (The Day of Timestop)
  • A. E. van Vogt, The Mating Cry (The House That Stood Still)
  • Brian Aldiss, The Male Response
  • "Cyril Judd", Sin in Space (Outpost Mars by C. M. Kornbluth & Judith Merril)
For the most part, this is a great science fiction reading list.

  • Peter Haining, editor, Pulp Fictions.  Anthology of twenty hard-boiled stories covering Hardboiled Dicks, Cops and G-Men, and The Hoods.  Typical Haining anthology of the familiar, the unfamiliar, and the quirky.  Authors include Robert Leslie Bellem, W. R. Burnett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, James Hadley Chase, Peter Cheney, Carroll John Daly, James Ellroy, Samuel Fuller, David Goodis, Dashiell Hammett, MacKinlay Kantor, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Ross Macdonald, Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Thompson, and Cornell Woolrich.  A good line-up and, I'm sure, some pretty good stories.

Bad News:  Thanks to global warming -- you know, the thing that does not exist according to the right-wing concussed ward -- hurricanes are getting stronger and more frequent.  This past week there was a hurricane off Alaska and we also learned of zombie hurricanes.  I'm sure this whole thing will blow over...The Notorious RBG is about to replaced by the Inglorious ACB as the Senate vows to fast track the nomination to have her seated before the November election.  This, just in case the election results go to the Supreme Court for final judgement.  All part of a ploy from the GOP which feels they are most likely on the losing end in November...Trump refuses to say whether he will leave office if he loses, although he vowed to do so if there was a "fair" election.  Of course, in his mind, any fair election would have him winning.  He fears those pesky mail-in ballots and has done everything he could to illegitimize them.  Now he wants to have only those votes counted on election day determine the winner, because, he says, that way we will not have to worry about a transition of power because it would be a continuation...How many times has he blatantly misinterpreted the Constitution?  None, because he never read it and, because it contains words of more than one syllable, could never read it...Trump's latest appointment to the coronavirus task force -- Scott Altas -- because "Everything he says is false," according to CDC director Robert Redfield.  Atlas has consistently supported Trump's false claims about COVID-19 ...Former Trump campaign director Rick Gates has revealed that Trump wanted his daughter Ivanka to be his running mate in 2016.  He settled for Pence. There's a joke there somewhere but I'm not going to try to find it...In order to lower the bar for his upcoming debate, Trump has been touting the theory that Joe Biden has been taking performance enhancing drugs and challenging the Democrat to take a drug test.  Performance enhancing drugs may also explain how Trump was able to remember "person, man, woman, camera, TV" and to identify a drawing of a camel...The Republican investigation of Joe/Hunter Biden/Ukraine was released. showing no evidence whatsoever of any illegality.  That did not stop several Republicans from claiming that things that did not happen did happen.  Reality takes a strange twist in their world...In an absolute miscarriage of justice, no one was charged in Breonna Taylor's death.  Taylor's family is demanding the release of Grand Jury documents.  It would be very interesting to see what they were or were not told by the state's attorney...The New York Times was able to get hold of twenty years of tax records for Trump and his organization.  Which indicated that he had paid no taxes for eleven of the eighteen years that the paper had examined and that he paid only $750 in 2017.  Most of Trump's businesses are losing money.  The Trump organization has paid for most of his personal expenses.  Many of Trump's tax write-offs are questionable.  The IRS is investigating a $72.9 million tax refund that may have been illegitimate.  While president, he has received more money from foreign sources and US interest groups than previously known.  Trump may have only $853,000 in stocks and bonds remaining to sell to keep his head above water.  Trump is responsible for loans totalling $421 million -- most of which comes due within the next four years...Former Trump campaign manager Brad Pascale has been hospitalized after threatening self-harm.  Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, placed the b lame on Democrats and "disgruntled RINOs."...Florida governor Rick DeSantis has lifted all Covid-19 restriction from the state.  This when Florida has had over 14,000 deaths (and counting) and before the second wave of coronavirus is expected to hit.  This move may help shore up the state's Republican base before the election (assuming that Republican base does not die of Covid before November 3)...Brain-eating amoeba has killed a 6-year-old Texas boy, sparking fears of the water supply for eight Texas cities...Over 350 long-finned pilot whales died in a mass stranding on a Tasmanian sandbank.  Rescuers manage to save 108 other whales during a five-day rescue effort...American Wesley barnes if facing a possible two-year prison sentence for writing a bad review of a Thai resort on TripAdvisor...and so it goes...

Song Titles:  What is the worst song title ever?  Could it be "I'm Selling Mom's Urine on Ebay"?  Or, perhaps, "Kill a Tree for Christ"?  Other possibilities include "Indies to the Andes in His Undies," "She Was Bitten on the Udder by an Adder," "Booger in My Beer Mug," and "Santa Claus Has got the AIDS This Year."

Your suggestions are welcomed.

Meanwhile, here's "I'd Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me (Than a Frontal Lobotomy):

The Omaha Race Riot:  Today is the 101st anniversary of the Omaha race riot.  The Red Summer of 1919 saw more than 20 race riots in American industrial cities.  Tensions began in Omaha two years before when major meatpacking plants hired blacks as strikebreakers.  Much of the city was controlled by the Irish, who had earlier managed to drive the city's Greek population out of Omaha.  The city's criminal element then teamed up with the Omaha Business Men's Association to challenge the moralistic platform of Omaha's new mayor, Edward Parsons Smith.  With the support of the city's labor unions, Smith was able to push through a reform agenda.  Racial tensions were already high when, on September 11, two members of the Omaha police "morals squad" shot and killed a black bellhop.  Then, on September 25, 19-year-old Amy Loebeck was allegedly raped and 41-year-old Will Brown, an African-American, was arrested the following day.  The Omaha Bee, controlled by the political machine that opposed the new mayor and his reforms, had been publishing a series of sensational stories about "black criminality" to embarrass the new administration.  With the alleged rape, the Bee went to town, putting out sensational, overblown, and incriminating stories.

On September 28, a group of white youths gathered and began a march to the county courthouse.  Despite attempts to disperse the crown, the marchers reached the courthouse at 4:00.  By 5:00  the mob had grown to from 5,000 to 15,000 people.  The police (ahem) decided the mob posed no threat and the captain in charge sent fifty reserve officers home.  By 6:00 pm the courthouse was surrounded on all sides.  The crowd seized revolvers, badges and hats from policemen.  African-Americans anywhere in the area were beaten by the mob.  The mob raided local hardware stores, stealing more than a thousand revolvers and shotguns.  Police were shot at and seven officers were wounded.  By 7:00 police and sheriffs formed their last line of defense on the fourth floor of the courthouse.  By 8:00 the mob had set the courthouse on fire.  A 16-year-old leader of the mob, Louis Young, and a 34-year-old businessman, James hiykel, were shot and killed.  The mob pelted the courthouse with bullets and rocks; spectators were shot; women fell and were trampled; blacks were dragged from streetcars and beaten; some members of the mob were beaten in the confusion by other members.

At 11:00 the mayor emerged from the burning building.  He was hit on the head with a baseball bat and a noose was placed over his head and he was dragged away.  Despite attempts to rescue him, he was hung from the metal arm of a traffic signal.  Then a state agent drove a car into the throng and the three city detectives managed to free the mayor.  The mayor was taken to Ford Hospital where he lingered between life and death for several days, eventually recovering.

The fire had spread to the third floor.  Three officers and a newspaper reporter found shelter in a second floor safety vault.  They managed to hack their way out through a courthouse wall and were shot at as they squirmed through the hole they made.  Bottles of formaldehyde were thrown in the staircase; the fumes overcame two policemen.  The sheriff managed to get 121 prisoners onto the roof.  Reportedly, the prisoners vowed to throw Willy Brown off the roof to the angry mob.  The sheriff ordered the female prisoners be taken out of the building.  Several collapsed on the burning stairs.  The mob let the women -- including black women -- to safely leave.  More gasoline was thrown at the building.  the mob cut the fire hoses that were being used to quench the fire.

A note was thrown to the mob, saying that they would hand Willy Brown to them if they came to the fourth floor.  Allegedly, Brown was then thrown to the mob by black prisoners, although the leaders of the mob said they could tell who gave them Brown due to the heavy smoke.   Within a few minutes, Brown was hung from a telephone post just one block from where the mob had tried to hang the mayor.  Hundreds of revolvers and shotguns were fired into the corpse.  Brown was then cut down and his body was tied to the end of an automobile and was dragged four blocks.  The body was then set on fire and the charred corpse was then dragged through the business district for several hours.

From the time he was arrested to the moment before his death, Brown proclaimed hi innocence.

The riot ended at 3:00 on the morning of the 29th.   Peace was enforced by 1600 soldiers.  Blame was placed at the police by the army and at the army by the police.  The federal response came to late, in part because President Woodrow Wilson (who had to authorize federal action) had had a stroke.  120 rioters were arrested, most not prosecuted, and none served a term of imprisonment.

The army general in charge of the troops laid the blame on the riot with the Industrial Workers of the World.  The Wobblies were fair game at the time as part of a larger Red Scare.

Is there a lesson here for today?

Florida Man:   
  • An unidentified Florida man called the Hillsborough County sheriff's office after he heard his neighbor shouting, "Shoot!  Shoot!"  The neighbor was watching Game Three of the Stanley Cup playoffs with two friends and were yelling for the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos to make a goal.
  • Port Charlotte Florida Man Sean Metcalfe was charged with domestic battery after he slapped his wife with a piece of pizza when  she tried to throw the box away.  When [olic arrived she still had grease and tomato sauce on her face.  I believe the police charged him with domestic battery because it evidently is not against Florida law to waste a good slice of pizza.
  • Two Brits discuss three separate Florida Man episodes, including a ghostly three-some and a desire for hot pockets.  Probably NSFW.
  • As mentioned above, former Trump campaign chairman Brad Pascale was hospitalized after threatening to harm himself.   He had barricaded himself in his home and had multiple firearms.  What I did not mention was that he lives in Fort Lauderdale.  Figures.
  • An unnamed Miami, Florida, tow truck driver was arrested Friday night for illegally lifting an Audi with a frightened 17-year-old girl inside, but not before backing up and crashing into the car.  Police said the driver told them he was towing a different car, but the incident was caught on video and proved him to be a liar face.
  • A Tennessee woman is searching for her mother's cremated remains.  She had sent the remains by mail to her sister in Jacksonville not knowing her sister had moved.  The post office delivered the remains to the address on the package and the current resident placed the carton outside for carrier pickup but the carton and Mama's ashes went missing.  If you are in Florida and happen to spot with a bright red label saying "CREMATED REMAINS," please let Amy Redford of Oldham county, Tennessee know.  She is missing her mother.
  • Florida Man and waste of protoplasm Governor Ron DeSantis has lifted all Covid-19 restriction for the state.  I know I also mentioned this above, but it is such a Florida Man thing to do.

Good News:
  • Drug found to repair nerve cells, giving hope for future MS treatments
  • Customer raises a $12,000 tip for his favorite 89-year-old pizza deliveryman
  • Tennessee high school students collect 10,000 face masks for those in need
  • Australian scientist use seaweed as a supplement for cows, potentially reducing methane emission by 90%
  • Rallying after a North Dakota farmer has a heart attack, nhis neighbors teamed together to save his 10,000 acre harvest
  • Five great things we should remember about Ruth Bader Ginsberg (There are far many more than five, but this is a start,)

A 2020 Thought:  Next week has been exhausting.

Today's Poem:
Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod be in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset  by gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hope springing high, 
Still I'll Rise

Do you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful eyes.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' on my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Living behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream of the hope and the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

-- Maya Angelou

(posted in honor of RBG, BLM, and the memory of Breanna Taylor)

Sunday, September 27, 2020


 For the past sixteen years Hard Case Crime has had one of the most exciting and entertaining publishing programs for the mystery lover.  Concentrating on bringing back the vibe and look of the paperback mystery of yore, HCC has brought back into print books by such authors as Day Keene, David Dodge, Wade Miller, Donald Hamilton, Charles Williams, Richard Powell, Ed McBain, Richard S. Prather...the list goes on.  New books by Max Allan Collins, Lawrence Block, Stephen King, Donald E. Westlake, Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, Christa Faust, Mickey Spillane and many others have added to the luster of this line.  Editor Charles Ardai has made a great effort to bring a special feel to each of the books Hard Case Crime has published.  By my count HCC has issued 131 books to date, each with its own stunning original covers by some of the best artists in the business.  Planned releases for the end of 2020 and into 2021 are books by Erle Stanley Gardner, Max Allan Collins, Donald E. Westlake, Stephen King, and James Kestrel.

It's hard to go wrong with any Hard Case Crime book.  Here's a look at HCC and its retro style crime paperbacks.

For those keeping count, the HCC Wikipedia page lists the books published in order, as well as their recent line of comic books and graphic novels.


 Amy Grant.

Saturday, September 26, 2020


 Dionne Warwick.


T.V. Picture Stories, a British comic book, mined popular television shows for its content.  Each issue presented an episode of a television show, sometimes American (Sheriff of Cochise, Highway Patrol) and sometimes British, such as this issue.

Dixon of Dock Green was a long-running BBC show that ran from July 9, 1955 to May 1, 1976.  Over 430 episodes were produced, the vast majority of which are missing.  The show featured Jack Warner as the sympathetic Constable George Dixon of the fictional Dock Green police station in London's East End.  It concentrated on the daily life of the station and usually involved petty offenses rather than violent crimes.  The show was created by playwright, novelist, and screenwriter Ted Willis (later Baron Willis), who based the program on the 1950 film The Blue Lamp, a police procedural in which PC Dixon is killed.  Willis, who did the original treatment for the film with Jan Reid, resurrected Dixon for the television show when the BBC, about to face competition from the newly formed the Independent Television network of commercial stations, wanted a program about "everyday stories of a London policeman."  Running for twenty-one years, Warner played George Dixon into his 80s.

"A Whiff of Garlic" aired on October 11, 1958.  The program no longer exists in the BBC Archives.

The weekend is beginning and it looks to be a busy time for the Dock Green station.  Dixon is concerned about his daughter, who is married to a policeman on duty that night; Dixon does not like the idea of her being alone.  She decides to visit a friend who is about a ten minute walk away.  Meanwhile, things are heating up at the station.  A drunk is arrested who claims it is all the policemen who are drunk, Dixon shoos off a couple of kids making out near the front of  jewelry store.  A lady reports seeing a naked man in the bushes.  A man in the drunk tank is repeatedly singing, "She's only a bird in a gilded cage."  And a young girl is attacked walking home from a dance; she managed to get away but is truly shaken.  Andy, Dixon's son-in-law, is now worried about his wife -- she would be walking in the same area as the attack on her way to see her friend.  A couple of phone calls show that she had left her friend's house and should be home by now, although no one is answering the phone there.  A female sergeant volunteers to walk though the area as bait for the attacker.  She gets jumped but the officers following her were not able to catch the man, who (the woman said) had a whiff of garlic about him.  Since Dixon knows his beat and its people so well he has a pretty good idea of who the attacker might be.  SPOILER!  He nabs the guy.  END OF SPOILER!

Okay.  Everything ends well.  Kinda.  But where in hell is Mary, Dixon's daughter.  Remember her?  The girl they couldn't find?  She evidently dropped off the plot line and was forgotten.  Although Dixon and Andy -- Mary's husband -- were very fretful at the beginning of the story, and even more so when they could not locate her, at the end of the story everybody seems happy and sanguine, especially avuncular old Dixon.  But the story ends Mary-less and nobody seems to give a damn.  Well.  Except me.  Grrr.


Friday, September 25, 2020


 From 1966, Louis Prima cut the one about the same time as the Lovin' Spoonful did.  In fact, it's likely that the Spoonful is the backup band here.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


 Fee, Fei, Fo, Fum by John Aylesworth (1963)

John Aylesworth (1928-2010) was a Canadian-born actor, comedian, writer, and producer.  He left high school before graduating and joined an advertising agency as a writer, where he joined forces with another young writer, Frank Peppiatt.  Together, they became Canada's first television comedy team.  They went on to become one of television's most prolific variety show writing teams.  On his own, Aylesworth created Front Page Challenge, a current events quiz show that ran on CBC television from 1957 to 1995.  

Aylesworth and Peppiatt moved to America in 1958.  They are probably best known for creating the variety show Hee Haw and its spinoff Hee Haw Honeys.  Aylesworth (often with Peppiatt) wrote, co-wrote, or created such shows as The Gisele MacKenzie Show, Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall, The Jimmy Dean Show, The Judy Garland Show, Hullabaloo, The Kraft Music Hall, The ABC Comedy Hour, The Judy Garland Show, and The Sonny and Cher Show, as well as shows for Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Jonathan Winters, Jackie Gleason, The Harlem Globetrotters, Shields and Yarnell, and Dorothy Hamill.

As far as I can tell, Fee, Fei, Fo, Fum was Aylesworth's only novel, an Avon paperback that has only been reprinted once (by Rarebooksclub Com in 2012).  The opening paragraph succinctly tells you what you need to know:

"In the early light of an ordinary morning, a handful of early risers discovered a three-hundred-and-fifty-foot giant, lying stark naked on the pavement along Madison Avenue."

The year is 1970, just a hop, skip, and jump away from 1963.  The giant is Judd Morrow, a previously normal-sized advertising executive.  The problem of a giant stretched out upon one of the city's main thoroughfares falls into the lap of Mayor Arthur M. Groat, who fears the giant could destroy the city once he wakes up.  The Chief of Police is all for dropping a bomb on the giant -- just as a precautionary measure.  Then Morrow wakes up.

Judd Morrow is fairly agreeable and is not a deliberate threat to the city.  It's decided to transfer him out of the city to a more remote location, Flushing Meadows.  And for God's sake, get something to cover him up (although the television stations have pixilated certain parts of the naked giant.  Helicopters are brought in to airlift Morrow to his new location.

The entire country seems to be happy with the friendly giant and corporations are falling over themselves to manufacture items to meet his needs.  (Needless to say, there is a great public relations boon for the companies that provide these items, from a giant comb to a suit of clothes, and from a giant martini to a fourteen-foot cigarette.)  But how did Judd Morrow suddenly become a giant?

The answer lies with Dr. Leon Grist, a Park Avenue psychologist and mad scientist.  Under another name, he had been one of Adolph Hitler's favorite scientists, performing such experiments as successfully transferring the head of a canary onto the body of a mouse (the success of the experiment could well have gone beyond six days had it not been for that darned mousetrap in the kitchen).  Unknown to Hitler, the not-so-good doctor had been shifting a generous funds the Fuhrer has provided him to a secret Swiss account, so when Nazi Germany fell, the doctor (now personally well-funded) took off to America and assumed the name Grist.  Grist was a very short person who wanted to be taller, so he created a growth formula.  Unfortunately, one of his clients (Morrow) somehow ingested a large dose of the formula and...well, you know.  Also unfortunately, Grist never bothered to create an antidote, nor did he have any idea how to go about doing so.

Think of what an army of giants could do.  Grist certainly did.  He was more than happy to sell his formula to the government (any government, actually) for fifty billion dollars.  The President was not willing to go along with that.  Instead, he ordered Grist to come up with an antidote.  Using government funds, Grist assembled a research team of former Nazi scientists who were supposedly working on an antidote.  But to come up with an antidote, they first needed to know what the original formula was.  This was something Grist refused to reveal because he still hoped for a large cash payoff.  thus, the Nazis and their lab assistants spent their entire time brewing coffee in beakers.

Other nations were eager to get the secret of growth, so when Grist was kidnapped, blame fell on the Russians rather than on the two loutish young men who grabbed the mad scientist, hoping to ransom him.  Again seeing dollar signs, Grist manages to convince his kidnappers to go into partnership with him for a large ransom payoff.

In the meantime, poor Judd Morrow is beginning to realize that he may be spending the rest of his days as a giant.  He also realized that he was in love with Lottie Breen, the one that got away.   (Actually, she left because she could not put up with Judd's philandering.)  Lottie, seeing images of giant Judd on the television, realized that she still loved the big galoot, although things seemed hopeless now.  Judd manages to get Grist (who by then had escaped his kidnappers) to agree to make Lottie a giant so he could marry her.  Lottie agrees.  She grows.  They get married.  They retired to the one-room giant house that had been built in Flushing Meadows for Judd.  A moment later, Judd emerges, normal-sized, while Lottie remains at three-hundred-and-thirty-five-feet tall.  The way of true love is never easy, my friends.  What happened, and why?

Everything combines for a marvelous sendup of sex, advertising, politics, Nazis, and petty thuggery.  There is nothing world-shaking here, just a quick, humorous, good-time read.  In these pandemic days, can anyone ask for more?


 In 1920 my father was just four years old and my mother had not been born yet.  Then again, neither was I.

Let's take a look back and see what was popular, music-wise, a century ago.

The #1 song of 1920 was this one by Al Jolson:

The #2 song was this fox trot by Paul Whiteman and his Ambassador Orchestra:

Mamie Smith & Her Jazz Hounds came in at #3 with "Crazy Blues":

The Ted Lewis Jazz Band introduced Lewis' signature song to take the #4 spot:

Although first released in 1919, this song from Ben Selvin Novelty Orchestra came in at #5 in 1920:

Marion Harris took this W. C. Handy song to the #6 spot:

Coming in at #7 is this song from the musical comedy Mary, performed by John Steel:

Al Jolson returned to take the #8 spot with this tune written by Irving Berlin:

Paul Whiteman followed Jolson on the charts for a second time to come in at #9 with this flip side of "Whispering":

Rounding out the top 10 is this song from Art Hickman's Orchestra which hung in at #1 for three weeks in August 1920:

Other top songs from 100 years ago include "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time," "Avalon," "That Old Irish Mother of Mine," "Look for the Silver Lining," "Pretty Kitty Kelly," "Let the Rest of the World Go By," "You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet," and "You Can't keep a Good Man Down," as well as lesser-known songs such as "I Know where the Flies Go in Summertime," "The Moon Shines on the Moonshine," "My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle," and "Sweet Mama (Papa's Getting Mad)."

Good times.


 Doc and Merle Watson.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


 The Tracer of Lost Persons, a 1906 episodic novel by then-best-selling novelist Robert W. Chambers, provided the source material for one of old-time radio's longest-running detective shows.  As Chambers put it, Westel Keen "was thirty-three, agreeable to look at, equipped with as much culture and intelligence as is tolerated east of Fifth Avenue and west of Madison.  He had a couple of elaborate rooms at the Lenox Club, a larger income than seemed to be good for him, and no profession."

Frank and Ann Hummert developed the radio program, taking Chambers' character and turning him into an older sleuth.  In the novel, Mr. Keen was a matchmaker for hire; now he was an actual tracer of lost persons and, later, solver of murders.  Basically, the entire show, save for the title, was the creation of the Hummerts.  The show ran from 1937 to 1955, beginning with a half-hour weekly format on then NBC Blue network, then moving to CBS in 1947; for the last few years of its run, Mister Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons switched to a 15-minute weekday program.  (Again, information varies.  The first episodes may have been fifteen-minute ones and the last few months of the program's run it may have reverted back to half-hour episodes.  Most likely everything has been explained in Jim Cox's 2004 book Mister Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons:  A Complete History and Episode Log of Radio's Most Durable Detective, which I have not read but you are more than welcome to.)  Over the eighteen years of its existence, 1690 episodes were broadcast nationwide; of those, only 59 episodes are known to survive.

Bennett Kilpack starred as the aloof Mr. Keen (who, as far as I know, had no first name in the series) until October 1950, when he was replaced by Phil Clarke and later by Arthur Hughes (or perhaps it was the other way around).  Jim Kelly played the not-too-bright, stereotypical (for the day) Irish assistant Mike Clancy.

Enjoy this episode, which appears to be the last surviving one featuring Bennett Kilpack.


 The Zombies covered this Shirelles song for the BBC.


 WebMD is updating its server because of a virus.  Well, they think it's a virus.  It could also be pancreatitis, kidney failure, gallstones, a heart murmur, shingles, or perhaps appendicitis.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


 2020 has not been a good year.  Pandemics, fires, hurricanes, the systematic dismantling of our democracy, economic chaos and massive unemployment, a divided country...

2020 has also taken two towering stalwarts of truth and reason from us:  the great John Lewis and, last Friday, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Here's a tribute to Ginsberg from Founders Sing.


 Wilkie Collins' seminal mystery novel The Moonstone (1868) was done no great service with this Monogram Pictures adaptation.  There is a jewel theft and Inspector Cuff is on the case, but the B movie treatment by scripter Adele Buffington (the vast majority of her 102 credits on IMDb are forgettable westerns) and director Reginald Barker (The Bargain [1914], The Italian [1915], Civilization [1917])   have sucked the life out of the story.

David Manners starred as Franklin Blake.  Manners was born Rauff de Ryther Duan Acklom in 1901.  The handsome actor co-starred and was featured with some of Hollywood's best known beauties, including Jameson Thomas,Loretta Young, Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, Constance Bennett, Kay Francis, Katherine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, and Claudette Colbert, but is best remembered for his work in horror flicks Dracula, The Mummy, and The Black Cat.

British cabaret performer Phyllis Barry co-starred as Anne Verinder.  In 1930, she had caught the eye of Samuel Goldwyn, who cast her opposite Kay Francis in Cynara, a film with high hopes and disappointing returns.  She began a slow slide into lesser roles, sometimes acting as a comic foil for Buster Keaton, Wheeler & Woolsey, and The Three Stooges.  Her last four film roles were uncredited.   She quit acting in 1947 and became addicted to prescription drugs.  She died seven years later of an accidental overdose.  She was 45.

Also in the cast were Gustav van Seyffertitz, Jameson Thomas, Herbert Bunston, Elspeth Dudgeon, John Davidson, Claude King, and -- as Inspector Cuff -- Charles Irwin.

Supposedly the film was "highly acclaimed."  Give this curiosity a try.


 We're back after three days of no cable and no internet.  Hurricane Sally was not to blame, nope, nope, nope.  Instead it was a stupid stupid stupid dump truck that ripped down the cable wire to our apartment building.  I called our stupid stupid stupid cable company, explained the problem and was told a technician could come out and look at our cable box this coming Friday morning.  Stupid stupid stupid cable companies hire people that do not listen.  My next door neighbor went down in person to complain and was told that a technician could come out this morning (Wednesday) to look at his cable box.  Grrr.  Somebody somewhere finally listened and early this morning the cable wire was back in its place and everything was working again.  Perhaps God reached down and fixed it; I doubt the stupid stupid stupid cable company had enough sense to.

Before you say, "Woah, Jerry!  There had been a major hurricane pummeling the area last week, don'tja know?"  Well, I do know and I understand that it is a mighty job to bring service to perhaps hundreds of thousands who have lost it.  But to hire people who smarmingly tell you that a tech will come out and look at your cable box sometime in the future when they have been told the problem is with a downed wire is stupid stupid stupid.  Mediacom, you should be ashamed.

And WastePro...why do you hire people to drive your stupid stupid stupid dump trucks just so they can rip down wires and then scurry off, hoping no one will have noticed?

Anyway,  we're back and I'm happy.  No longer will I sit wistfully at a blank computer screen, no longer will Kitty have to charge her phone three times in one day because that it the only place where she can get Facebook, and no longer will the two of us have to face a blank television screen rather than out beloved British mysteries.

We're back, baby!

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.