Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, February 28, 2021


 Openers:  Hayes Dushane sweated under a white scorched sky and stared cold-eyed at the ugly welt of yellow earth.  This forsaken, barb-enclosed boothill was as desolate a two-acres of worthless land as he'd ever encountered, yet it represented the end of a long, desperate search for him.

"This here's the grave."  The whiskered, gnarled little man beside Hayes glanced apprehensively over his shoulder as if  afraid he might be overheard in this bleak cross-starred cemetery.  He drew the back of his hand across his tobacco-stained mouth, nodding.  "I seen 'em lower him."

Dushane shivered in the heat, a lean, rangy man burned biscuit-brown, his faded levis crusted gray with alkali dust.  He said, "You saw 'em lower a nailed box."

-- Valley of Savage Men by Harry Whittington (1965)

"Hayes Dushane was the name, and men flinched when they heard it.  Hayes's briether Will, the U.S. marshal, was dead and everyonenin town knew it was a case of cold-blooded murder.  They knew, too, that h/ayes would not rest until he's etracted vengeance on the trash that killed his brother."

A lone man seeking vengeance for the death of a relative/loved one/best friend/mentor/take your pick is a common theme in western novels.  (In fact, my copy of Valley of Savage Men is from an Ace Double that was paired with Whittington's A Trap for Sam Dodge, in which the title character is seeking vengeance in the murder of a childhood friend.)  How effective this plot can be depends on the skill of the authors, and Harry Whittington was a very skilled author.

Athough Whittington wrote a number of westerns, the bulk of his writing was in the crime, suspense, hard-biled, and noir genres.  To say Whittington was prolific is like saying water is wet.  He wrote over *200 novels+; at least once, he is said to have written seven in one month.  (He wrote only (!) twenty-eight westerns**, including six*** in the long-running adult western series Longarm, and four western movie tie-novels.)Whittington was known as the King of the Paperback Original, using at least eighteen pseudonyms, soe of which you may recognize:  Ashley Carter, Curt Colman, John Dexter, Tabor Evans, Whit Harrison, Robert Hart Davis, Kel Halland, Harriet Kathryn Myers, Suzanne Stephens, Blaine Stevens, Clay Stuart, Hondo Wells, Harry White, Hallam Whitney, Henri Whittier, J. X. Williams, Howrd Winslow, and William Vaneer.

According to pop culture critic Woody Haut, "It took Whittington, by his own admission, thirteen years to master the art of creating a compelling narrative.  But once he did, he would immodestly say, 'I could plot, baby. I could plot.'  More importantly, he could also now sell prectically everything he wrote, and live well off the proceeds.  Believing that not planning a novel was unprofessional, he admitted to having a range of experience and knowledge of various locales that fit the sort of writing he was doing.  Though he wanted to make the reader feel what the charaacters tell, he had the sort of wherewithal to move outside his own experience, that it was wasn't simply a case of writing about one knows.  As he said, 'you don't have to die in a fire to write about arson.'\

"...As for his usual working process, Whittington normally started with the climax, crisis or denoument and workd backward, teasing and terrifying the reader, while establishing a plot that would unlock the story.  Consequently, the novel's shape would dictate its its effect."  And the effect of Whittington's novels provided a tense and exciting experience for the reader.  In reviewing 1954's You'll Die Next!, Anthony Boucher wrote, "I couldn't have held my breath any longer in this vigorous tale whose plot is too dextrously twisted to even mention in a review."

Whitting found a more receptive audience in France, where his books were highly regarded.  Comparing hiim to authors such as Goodis, Tracy, and Gault, Rafael Sorin wrote in Le Monde, "Even the mosr minor of Whittington's eariest narratives reread today does not fail to charm.  Whittington, who acknowledges the influences of Cain, Frederic Davis and Day Keene, is the most violent writer of the genre.  His tomb of death can be the apliance freeze, alligators, mosquitoes carrying fatal virus.  But his worst enemy can be la femme.  She who kills for money and devours those who succomb to her charms,"  This is the essence of noir and tragedy.

Although never a household name like Chandler or Hammett, Whittington has a growing number of admirers, thanks to reprints from Black Lizard in the 80s and Stark House Press currently.  There are many more of Whittington's novels that deserve reprinting.

*Some say only 170 novels.  (Only!)   I'll let someone more authoratively than I settle this.  Any takers?  

**There may have been more,  It's hard to keep count.

***Some sources credit him with as many as nineteen Longarm novels, but six seems to be the more accurate number.


  • Ivan Brunetti, editor, An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoon & True Stories, Volume 2.  Doorstop (400 page) coffee table volume showcasing some 80 cartoonists, including Chris Ware, Harvey Kurtzman, Milt Gross, Robert Crumb, Basil Wolverton, Art Spiegelman, Bill Griffith, Gilbert & Jamie Hernandez, Winsor McCay, Lynda Berry, Harvey Pekar, and Sol Stein.  Includes some NSFW pieces.  From Yale University Press.  Some good stuff here and a lot that went right over my head ('cause I'm old, I think).
  • Rick Ollerman, editor, Bullets and Other Hurting Things:  A Tribute to Bill Crider.  I never met Bill Crider nor did I ever tak with him, but like hundreds of others, I considered him a good friend.  Bill was a writer's writer and one of the few truly deccent persons in this world.  This anthology collects 20 original stories written by just a few of his friends.  The only limitation was that the stories had to be ones that Bill would have enjoyed.  Saying that,,this is a book that everyone will enjoy.  Contributing authors include Joe R. Lansdale, James Reasoner, Robert J. Randisi, Bill Pronzini, Patti Abbott, William Kent Krueger, Brendan DuBois, Kasey Lansdale, Charlaine Harris, Sara Paretsky, SJ Rozan, David Housewright, and James Sallis.  There's also a personal introduction (as well as a story) from Bill's daughter, Angela Crider Neary.  My only very illogical complaint was the lack of a story from Bill's very good friend Ed Gorman, who passed away in 2016, two years before Bill passed.
  • "Brad Steiger" (Eugene E. Olson), The Hypnotist.  "Man, woman, or child.  Few can resist the awesome power of The Hypnotist.  First he will relax you.  Then he will heal you.  Then he will try to bend you to his dark, malevolent will."  Steiger was the popular author of pseudoscientific books on UFOs, the occult, spirituaality, and the paranormal,   The Hypnotist was supposedly his first novel, although ISFDb lists two earlier ones.  In all things, Steiger should be taken with a grain of salt.

Chester H. Carfi:  I just finished reading Crazy Mixed-Up Planet, a science fiction collection by Charles E. Fritch.  It's a paperback, dated 1969, from Powell Publications, a low-budget West-Coast publisher that only existed for a few years and was founded by self-professed "hack writer" Charles Neutzel.  (Of the fourteen science fiction titles Powell published in its first year, fully half were by Neutzel.)  Powell managed to publish two important books during its short lifespan:  Harlan Ellison's Memos from Purgatory and Karl Edward Wagner's first book, Darkness Weaves with Many Shades... .  A third book, Dennis Etchison's collection The Night of the Eye was scheduled but Powell went bankrupt on the eve of its publication.  Powell also pubished minor collections by A. E. van Vogt (with his wife E. Mayne Hull), Donald A. Wollheim, and Forrest J. Ackerman; all else published by Powell was pretty much forgettable.

Crazy Mixed-Up Planet contains fourteen stories -- with one exception, all slight -- and an introduction by Chester H. Carfi, lauding the praises of the author.  In fact, half the back cover blurb quotes Carlfi's introduction.  Chester H. Carlfi...who he?  And why is his name an anagram of Charles E, Fritch?  And why is his one credit on ISFDb for a filler story in an issue of Gamma, a small West-coast SF magazine edited by Fritch?  And why is that filler story, "Welcome to Procyon IV," also included in Crazy Mixed-Up Planet under Fritch's name?  We may never know.

At least Carlfi rose from the dank bowels of literary purgatory to tell us what a great writer Fritch is.

Just struck me as unusual.

Pandering to Your Irish Taste Buds:  Today we begin a glorious new month, which we hope will herald the coming of Spring.  This month we celebrate St. Patrick's Day and we really should do it with more than green beer and Kiss Me I'm Irish buttons.  

Here's Alton Brown's recipe for corned beef and cabbage (yum).  I'm posting this at the beginning of the month because it take ten days to prepare the brisket.  It'll be worth the trouble.

And to accompany your meal, here's Ina Garten's recipe for Irish soda bread (once again, yum).

And I can't celebrate St. Patrick's Day without having The Clancy Brothers andTommy Makem's music:

I Really Like Your Shoes:  Today is National Compliment Day.  It's really easy to celebrate.  Give it a try.

Dr. Seuss:  Tuesday is Dr. Seuss' birthday.  Let's celebrate!

Sadly, Dr. Seuss is racist.  What the hell?  Sometimes cancel culture can go too far:

Another Arrow in Your Quiver of Knowledge:  As far as I can tell, this two-page instruction for a Japanese toy, Donuts on Donuts.  Evidently you can make your own shouldn't be too difficult.

Yellowstone:  It's the 149th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park, America's first National Park.  An amazing and beautiful place.  Have you ever visited?

Florida Man:
  • It may be wise to stay off 83-year-old Florida Man Victor Ezquerra's lawn   or to do anything else that man tick off the Broward County man.  Ezquerra was arrested for shooting a neighbor over a dispute about feeding ducks and geese.  According to Ezquerra's daughter, her father can be difficult to get along with, but she never thought him capable of such an action.
  • Florida Man Basem Saidt has learned the importance of reading the fine print.  He sign a contract to have his house painted with Rhino Shield, an expensive paint (costing almost twice as much as other options) that carried a 25-year warranty.  After four years, streaks began to appear on the house -- noticable streaks that caught the attention of Saidt's homeowner's association, which was not pleased.  Saidt tried to contact the contractor who had charged him $6000 to paint the house but the contractor had gone out of business.  When he contacted the paint manufacturer, he was told that the paint wasn't the problem, his house was, due to underlying moisture in the walls and other systemic issues.  The warranty covered "chipping, flaking or peeling"  but the fine print specifically noted that fading or discoloring was not covered.  The company said it would provide free paint to fix the problem, but the cost of labor was not included.  A new Rhino Shield contractor agreed to give Saidt a discount but the final cost was $5500, nearly what he had paid to have his painted in the first place.  The president of the Forida Paint and Coating Association (not related to Rhino Shield) said this situation was common; it pays to read the fine print of all warranties.  Saidt agrees.  Now.
  • I don't know whether it's that old-time religion in Florida or some new-age religion, but a naked Florida Man was carrying a Bible and knocking on doors at the Sunshine Garden Apartments in Pembroke Pines on Wednesday.  Of course he was shot by a neighbor.  This is Florida.
  • Speaking of religion, an unnamed Florida Man entered the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Melbourne during services las week and struck a priest, waved his gun around, and barricaded himself in the church.  Church members were able to escape without harm.  the man, who threatened suicide was arrested after a four-hour standoff.
  • Florida may be God's waiting room,  ut that doesn't mean you have to wait quietly.  An unnamed Florida Woman robbed a downtown Jacksonville bank in her motorized wheelchair.  The woman, who had evidently come in to discuss her account, got into an increasingly tense argument with a teller.  She then announced that she would kill everyone and was robbing the bank.  The problem with a motorized wheelchair is that it is not conduive to a quick getaway, especially if the bank you are robbing is just blocks away from the Sheriff's Department.

Good News:
  • Teen collects 30,000 pairs of shoes to donate "dignity" to L.A. homeless
  • After prosthetic maker said it couldn't be done, an orphaned koala gets a new foot thanks to a dentist
  • Hayley Arceneaux, who survived bone cancer when she ws ten, is set to become the youngest person to be launched into space
  • Restaurant owner spends $2000 of his own money to promote competing restaurants that are struggling
  • The public has named over fifty snow plows in Scotland...and they are hilarious.  Sleetwood Mac, anyone?
  • Scientists use novel ink with calcium to 3-D print "bone" with living cells

Today's Poem:
March Days Return with Their Covert Light

March days return with their covert light,
and huge fish swim through the sky,
vague earthly vapours progress in secret,
things slip to silence one by one.
Through fortuity, at this crisis of errant skies,
you reunite the lives of the sea to that of fire,
grey lurchings of the ship of winter
to the form that love carved in the guitar.
O love, O rose soaked by mermaids and spume,
dancing flame that climbs the invisble stairway
to waken the blood in insomnia's labyrinth,
so that the waves can complete themselves in the sky,
the sea forget its cargoes and rages, 
and the world fall into darkness's nets.

-- Pablo Neruda


 Her most famous short story, a modern classic, read by the author.  Powerful and unforgettable.


 Aretha, with a powerful song for today.  With The Boys' Choir of Harlem.

Saturday, February 27, 2021


 Tina Turner.


 Henry Drub was a foil of rich capitalists in a long-running series of cartoon strips by Ryan Walker (1870-1932) in the socialist weekly Appeal to Reason and (later) other radical newspaper.  Drub's willing and unthinking acceptance of the status quo, where the common man would work and the rich would receive the benefits, made him a popular character among young socialists.  The strips would end with the character staring into space and proclaiming, "I'm the Henry Drub" (or, sometimes, "I'm a Henry Drub").  Drub's wife and son (and readers of the strip) considered him an intractable fool.

Ryan Walker published two small books about Drub:  Adventures of Henry Drub (1914) and New Adventures of Henry Drub (1915) for the SOCIALIST PARTY of Chicago.  Walker was also an effective stump speaker for the Socialist Party of America and would often include examples of the Drub cartoons in his lectures.

Walker would later join the Communist Party.  He died of pneumonia while on a visit to the Soviet Union in 1932.  He was 61.

Let's join Henry Drub as he is exploited by a "corrupt social system."

Friday, February 26, 2021

Thursday, February 25, 2021


 You Don't Scare Me by John Farris (2007)

John Farris (b. 1936) pubished his first novel, a mystery, when he was nineteen and followed it with several more mysteries published as by "Steve Brackeen."  His first major success was with 1959's Harrison High, written two years earlier when Farris was 20, it's a  very readable novel* that tapped into the Peyton Place and The Blackboard Jungle veins; it was filmed in 1960 as Because They're Young, featuring Dick Clark, Tuesday Weld, and Michael Callan.  Farris returned to that well a decade later, penning five paperback original novels set in Harrison High.

Farris may be best known  for his science fictional/horror novel The Fury (1976; filmed by Brian DePalma in 1978 with Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, and Amy Irving); which in turn spawned three sequels.  When Michael Calls (1967) was filmed as an ABC Televison Movie of the Week in 1972.  All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By (1977) was included in Kim Newman and Stephen Jones' Horror:  100 Best Books.  

Farris, now 84, has published 43 novels and two collections., mostly in the horror, suspense, thriller, and Southern Gothic genres.  He was the recipient of the 2002 Horror Writers of America Lifetime achievement Award.  His last novel was published in 2009.  You Don't Scare Me was his penultimate novel and it's a doozy, albeit a flawed doozy.

Crow Tillman was pure evil but Claudelle Emrick could not see it at first.  Three years widowed, Claudelle fell hard for Crow Tillman -- hard enough to not see through his lies or to notice how Crow kept looking at her fourteen-year-old dughter, Chase.  And so Claudelle married Crow.  Then Crow found out that the sixty acres of prime land Claudelle owned was tied up in trusts and legal restrictions that prevented any loans to be given with the land as colleteral.  Crow began beating his new wife.  Soon Claudelle had some of her tougher relatives throw Crow out of the house.  Coming home from a school event with her boyfriend, Chase found her mother savagely beaten while Crow was traring the house apart looking for money.  Angry, Crow shot and killed Chase's boyfriend, then he put a bullet through Claudelle's head.  To top things off, he brutally raped Chase, impregnating her (she was jus one week past her fifteenth birthday) and forced her to go with him.  The night ended with Crow trapped on a bridge by police, him holding Chase by the leg over the bridge's rail, and threatening to drop her into the swirling waters below.  Then, realizing that he could not get out of the situation, Crow put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger, dropping Chase into the cold river.  It took half an hour to retreive Chase's body from the river.  Miraculously, doctors were able to revive the young girl.  But she was changed...

Fast forward nine years.  Adam Cameron is working as a campus security cop at Yale when he sees a student who entrances him.  It's Chase, who is now working on a thesis in mathematics at the university.  Chase walks into the road and freezes there, her eyes tightly shut.  Adam moves quickly to save her from being hit.  He tells her that he has fallen in love with her; her reaction is to laugh and move on.  

Chase suffers from Essential Bletharospasm , a rare condition that unconscioulsy causes her to close her eyes tightly and not be able to open them; an attack can happen at any time and last for unspecific periods.  This was one of the effects that changed Chase after she had drowned.  Another effect was an extreme ability to do math.  Chase had always been smart, but after drowning at fifteen, she emerged a mathematical genius -- there are probably less than fifty persons in the world who are her equal in math.  She's been working on an advanced mathematical proof of other "dimensions."  Well, not exactly dimensions, per se, but other levels of existence unseen and untouchable to us.  And she found herself pregnant: the child of the rape was place up for adoption -- or so che thought.  One final "gift" from her drowning was Crow Tillis himself.  After committing suicide, Crow found himself locked  in a dimension called the Netherworld, where Crow is not fully dead but exists on his rage.  Crow cannot leave this dimension but he can send others from there to our world, as well as influence -- poltegeist-like -- objects in our reality.

As I said, Crow is pure-dee evil.  And he is very jealous.  And he hates Chase.  Over the years, Crow has managed to use his powers to take away everyone whom Chase loved or relied upon -- her brother, her aunt and uncle who took them in after her mother was killed, foster parents, boyfriends:  they all died in horrible accidents.  Crow can psychically link to Chase so she knows he is responsible.  One of Crow's tricks is to transform his tattoo of a rattlesnake into a five foot reality that can attack those in our reality.

Because of all this, Chase is determined not to have any close relationships.  But then along came Adam.  He shows up at her apartment unannounced with flowers and Thai food.  Chase is about to send him on his way when he sees a large rattlesnake slither into her apartment.  He rushes in but they canot find the snake.  The connection between the couple is instant and powerful and they spend the night together.  Adam is wakened by a large dof that appeared from a wardrobe in Chase's bedroom.  The dog then backed into the wardrobe and vanished.

Thus began a deadly battle between the demonic Crow and Chase and Adam.  Allusions and hallucinations turn murderously real.  Adam believes he can help Chase because he had been part of a near-death experiment conducted by a friend who teaches at Yale, but Adam is almost trapped in the Netherworld and escapes only through Chase's aid.  The rattlesnake materializes and its extreme venom almost kills the young man.  Dead people appear in attempts to trap Chase; at times she cannot tell who is alive and who is dead.  In the end, Chase and Adam have to go to the netherworld to confront her menace.  The ending is terrifying and unexpected.

A fast and startling read that leaves many questions unanswered.  Those unanswered questions gnaw at the reader and ultimately detract from the novel.  Still, this is a book that will please Farris' many readers and provide horror fans with a chilling night's entertainment.

* IMHO.  The New York Times called it an "internable adolescent bull session."  You can't please everyone.  


  Prince.  (Well, duh!)


 It's time to turn on your old radio and experience another episode of Vincent Price as Simon Templar, the Robin Hood of Crime and enemy of the "ungodly," better known as The Saint.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021


 It may be a sexist song but it's James Brown.


 My brother got a job crushing cans at the recycling facility but he had to quit because it was soda pressing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


 "Mis' Elderkin's Pitcher" by Harriet Beecher Stowe (first published in The Atlantic Monthly, August 1870; reprinted in her collections Oldtown Fireside Stories, 1872 and Sam Lawson's Oldtown Fireside Stories, 1891)

Back in the early days of Massachusetts there was not much to do in the form of amusement.  There were no magazines od daily papers, no theatre or opera, no parties or balls (except, perhaps on election day or during the Thanksgiving festival).  What there was, however, was the fireside, where one could talk, gossip, or tell stories.  The best story-teller in Oldtown was Sam Lawson, a lanky, not well educated, rustic.  Sam could spin a story from whole cloth or from the past doings that took place in the small community.  Most of Sam's tales were reminescences of the past, told in his Yankee vernacular.

One such tale was "Mis' Elderkin's Pitcher."  Before she was Mis' Elderkin, she was Mary ("Miry") Brown, the popular and atttractive daughter of Black Hoss John Brown, a miserly and cantankerous old man.  All the young men seemed to flock to Miry and, since she was in the church choir, a lot of the young men joined the choir.  There was a time when Sam himself was sweet on Miry, but she was more of a friend than a sweetheart, and Sam soon started going out with his Hepsy and Sam was more than pleased with Hepsy and he and Miry remained friends.

The young men who were enamoured of Miry included Tom Sawin. Jim Moss, Ike Bacon, and -- lately -- Tom Beacon, who "came up from Cambridge to rusticate with Parson Lothrop."  Tom Beacon thought that just because he was born in Boston, he was better than any of the locals and could pick and choose among the country girls.  The country girl he wanted to pick and choose was Miry.  So one evening he conspired to walk Miry home from church all alone and, being a self-assured young man, ventured to place his arm around Miry's waist as they walked.  That was a mistake.  Miry was as strong as she was attractive and Tom Beacon found himself flhying head over heals and landing on the ground as Mary continued to walk home alone.

That did not please her father.  Black Hoss knew that Tom Beacon came from money and money was what interested Black Hoss, ho could squeeze a penny so tight it out out two.  The more he father pushed the idea of Tom Deacon on Miry, the more she hated the Bostonian.  Then Bill Elderkin came to town to teach at the academy.  Bill joined the church choir and claimed he sung tenor.  "He no more sung tenor than a skunk-blackbird, but he made b'leive he did, jest to git next to Miry in the singers' seats."  Soon Bill and Mary were exchanging noted during the Parson's sermons and Mary was falling for Bill.  But Bill was poor; his family consisted only of his mother, "the old Widdah Elderkin, she was jest about the poorest, peakedest old body over the Shelburne."  Black Hoss tried to dissuade Miry about Bill, but the more he talked against him, the more Mary loved him.

That fall, Bill left for college up in Brunswick but he kept writing long letters to Miry.  Black Hoss would grab those letters from the store (which also served as a post office) and kept them.  Mary never saw any of them.  She then asked Sam that is he saw any letters from Bill at the store, would he grab them and bring them to her.   Sam did and Miry was relieved that Bill had not forgotten her.

Miry was the last of Black Hoss's children -- all the others had married and moved away -- and her father made her work hard around the house with seldom any time off except for church.  Then her father became ill, and caring for him, as well as the household chores, and the making of the  utter and the cheese, and whatnot...well, it just about tuckered the poor girl out.  There is a type of man who can be contrary -- just when think he's about to die and has gotten weaker and weaker, he bounces back a bit, and then the cycle starts all over again.

Black Hoss finally did die and Squire Jones read his will.  The farm and stock went to his son.  The household stuff went to his older daughter.  And he left Miry only the old cracked pitcher that he kept on the top shelf in his bedroom.  Miry had hated that pitcher for as long as she could remember and had want to throw it out but Black Hoss forbade Miry to even touch it.  Mity was handed the pitcher; "it seemed jest full o' scourin'-sand and nothin' else."  This was the final insult to Miry from her father.  she took the picher and threw it against the wall.  Shattered, it revealed hundreds of gold pieces:  eagles and guineas.

Sam always tried to end his stories with a moral for the youngsters listening to his tales:

"So, boys, you jest mind and remember and allers see what there is in a providence afore you quarrel with it, 'cause there's a good many things in this world turns out like Mis' Elderkin's pitcher."

For the curious, Miry is now Mis' Elderkin and lives in the handsomest house in Sherburne and rides in her own carriage.  He husband is a deacon in the church, a colonel in the militia, and a selectman in the town.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) most famous work is Uncle Tom's Cabin.  She was one of eleven children born to a Calvinist preacher and was an ardent abolitionist.  One of her brothers was the famous preacher and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher.  She was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction but none of her works approached to popularity of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Both Oldtown Fireside Stories and Sam Lawson's Oldtown Fireside Stories are available to read online.


 Dionne Warwick.


 One bright comedy spot in 1950s televsion was The Phil Silvers Show (a.k.a. Sgt. Bilko and You'll Never Get Rich). winner of three Emmys for Best Televsion Comedy.  Silvers played Master Sergeant Ernie Bilko, a fast-thinking con man who was always looking at a way to get rich, who ran the motor pool at Fort Baxter, Kansas (later, in the fourth season, at Camp Fremont, California).  Bilko was aided by his two corporals Rocco Barbella (Harvey Lembeck) and Steve Henshaw (Allan Melvin).  Paul Ford played Bilko's superior, Colonel John t. Hall.  The most popular member of the motor pool to audiences was Duane Doberman (Maurice Godfield), who was a dumpy "poor soul" with puppy dog eyes and a naive personality.

In this episode, Col. Hall tried to court martial a private Harry Speakup, not realizing that the private was a chimpanzee that was accidently inducted into the Army while Hall was trying to set a speed record for inductine new recruits.  Pure comedy gold, thanks to creator/writer Nat Hiken, fellow writers Coleman Jacoby & Arnie Rosen, plus Silvers and the highly talented cast.

Playing the platoon members were Tige (billed as Tiger) Andrews, Maurice Brenner, Walter Cartier, Herby Faye, Bernie Fein, Mickey Freeman, Jack Healy, Karl Lukas, Billy Sands, and P. J. Sidney.  Special mention should be made of Zippy, who played Harry Speakup -- even though he did not necessarily follow the script.


Monday, February 22, 2021


 Jimmy Buffett.


 Openers:  It is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, saying:  In the old days lived a pawnbroker named Jurgen; but what his wife called him was very often much worse than that.  She was a high-spirited woman, with no especial gift for silence.  Her name, they say, was Adelais, but people by ordinary called her Dame Lisa.

They tell, also, that in the old days, after putting up the shop-windows for the night, Jurgen was passing the Cistercian Abbey, on his way home; and one of the monks had tripped over a stone in the roadway.  He was cursing the devil who had placed it there.

"Fie, brother!" says Jurgen, "and not have the devils enough to bear as it is?"

"I never held with Origen," replied the monk; "and besides, it hurt my great-toe confoundedly."

-- James Branch Cabell, Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice (1919)

From Wikipedia:  "It is a humorous romp through a medieval cosmos, including a send-up of Arthurian legend, and excusions to Heaven and Hell as in The Divine Comedy...The eponymous hero, who considers himself a "monstrous clever fellow," embarks on a journey through ever more fantastic realms in search of a parodized version of courtly love, in an acerbic satire of contemporary America.  Jurgen gains the attention of The Lady of the Lake, Anaitis, Helen of Troy, Chloris, and even the Devil's wife.  his wanderings take him from Poictesme to Glathion, Cocaigne, Leuke, Hell, and Heaven."

Jurgen is a masterpiece of fantasy but the book may well have sank with little trace had it not been attacked by the New York Scloiety for the Supression of Vice for obscenity.  The obscenity purportedly arose from a number of double entendres in the book, although it is suspected that it was, in part, for a joke about papal infallibility.  The novel became a cause celebre, with many literary figires defending the book.  The obscenity case lasted for two years, with the verdict in favor of the novel.  The publicity heklped Cabell become a household name and increased the sale of his books.  Cabell published a revised version of Jurgen in 1923, which included a scene in which Jurgen is placed on trial by the Philistines, with the prosecutor being a large dung beetle.

In his lifetime James Branch Cabell (1879-1958) published fifty-two books, twenty-five of them part of his Biography of the Life of Manuel, which follows Dom Manuel and his descendants over the course of generations.  The books within the Biography were not written insequential order and seven of them were later revised.  The Biography contained not only novels, but short stories, poetry, and essays.  Jurgen was the tenth book to be published in the series, but the seventh sequentially.

Cabell fell out of favor during World War II.  The world had moved on, leaving Cabell's brand of fantasy behind.  "Cabell and Hitler did not inabbit the same universe," literary critic Alfred Kazan explained.  Popular interest in Cabell began to climb again in the 1970s when editor Lin Carter released seven books from the Biography in his Adult Fantasy line for Ballentine Books (but not, alas, Jurgen).  Among those who have been influenced by James Branch Cabell are James Blish, Jack Vance, Robert a. Heinlein, Clark Ashton Smith, Charles G, Finney, and Neil Gaiman.

The masterful vision, sardonic humor, and sly word games of James Branch Cabell ensures that he will be read for many years to come.


  • Kurt Busiek & Len Wein, Conan:  The Book of Thoth.  Graphic novel with art by Kelley Jones.  "For the first time in the history of the Conan saga, learn the secret origin of the Cimmerian's most dreaded for -- Thoth-Amon!  In the dank alleys of a decaying city, a beggar child conjures visions of a future where, insteading of spitting on him in the strrets, the rich and privileged cower in fear of his terrible powers.  Through cunning and murderous deceit, he ingratiates himself into the priesthood of the benevolent god Ibis, only to turn the church, and ultimately the Stygian nation, over to the terrible serpent-god, Set."  One of the better Conan graphic novels.
  • William Campbell Gault, The Dead Seed.  A Brock "the Rock" Callahan mystery.  "He's Brock Callahan.  Brock 'the Rock,' ex-L.A. Rams guard turned private eye.  And he just can't leave well ebough alone.  Callahan can smell trouble.  And this time the stench is reight next door.  It starts with a rich widow, a washed-upo actor and a dead Hollywood agent.  Now all Callahan has to do is turn over a few stones and see what crawls out from under them.  Soon Callahan's on to a crooked cop, a crazed California cult, and a clan of violent hillbillies...and that's when things turn interesting."   Gault's Callahan novels are always fast-paced and interesting;
  • James Patterson & Brendan DuBois, The First Lady.  Political thriller.  The publishing juggernaut that is James Patterson keeps speeding along with the help of a gazillion co-writers, this time with Shamus Award- and Sidewise Award-winning writer DuBois.  As Patterson explains, "I have always been fascinated by the idea that one secret can bring down a government.  What if that secret is a US President's affair to remember becomes a nightmare he wishes he could forget?  Stepping into this diabolic scenario is Sally Grissom, leader of the Presidential Protection team, who learns of the disappearance of the First Lady, which comes in the wake of the scandalouos revelation of the Prsident's affair.  The First Lady seems to have merely escaped to get away from the media storm, but you know there's a big twist coming.  Like the white House receiving a ransom note along with what could be the First Lady's finger.  Now Sally is in a race against the clock, and she cannot trust anyone.  Could the kidnappers be from within the Whote House?"
  • Russell Punter, The Adventures of King Arthur.  Graphic novel retelling the Arthurian legend, with artwork by Andrea da Rold.  "With the kingdom of Britain facing chaos, the mysterious Merlin tkes the infant Arthur into hiding.  Many years later, the young boy is shocked to discover that he is the country's rightful ruler.  Alongside the brave knoghts of the Round Table, the newly crowned King Arthur must fight many battls to keep his kingdom intact.  Swords, sorecery and epic quests come together in this action-packed grphic legend."  Targeted to the YA audience.

A Question of Priorities:   When you have 3000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to give away, what should you do?  Florida governor Ron DeSantis chose to give them to the whitest and richest zip codes in Manatee County, specifically Lakewood Ranch,  DeSantis said this was because there was a high concentration of seniors there but behind his statements lay heavy suspicions of racial discrimination and political favoritism.

Here's how it happened:  DeSantis called Lakewood Ranch developer Rex Johnson about a week and a half ago and asked him to pick two communities in Manatee County to receive the vaccine in one of the state's "pop-up clinics."  Johnson, in turn, contacted Vanessa Baugh, the county commission, who helped choose zip codes 34211 and 34202, which happens to be where her district is.  The total number of Covid cases in the zip codes was slightly more than 2500.  Other areas in the county have Covis numbers nearly four times that.  The Lakewood Ranch zip codes are over 90% white, with an annual medium income of over $100,000.  The second choice for the vaccines were areas with at least 15% black residents, with median incomes of under $60,000.

While other county commissioners complained, chairman Baugh held fim on her choice.  "I realize y'all   don't like the way it happened.  I am sorry...But I jumped onit and I'd do it again," she said.  Commissioner Misty Serva said, "We ask why we think there is a racism problem perceived in Manatee County?  This adds to that argument.  You're taking the whitest and richest demographic in Manatee County and putting them ahead of everyone else."  State Agricultural Commission Nikki Fried, who has criticized DeSantis' response to the pandemic, said DeSantis is rationing vaccines based on political influence.  "This is troubling and potentially illegal.  Vaccines should be distributed to counties based on need, capacity, and science."

For his part, DeSantis said that, if Manatee County doesn't want the vaccine, he'll ship it elsewhere.  I wouldn't be complaining.  I'd be thankful.  We don't need to do this at all."

Corruption can be classic in the Sunshine State.

What do you think?

Pictorial Proof:  Lest you think Florida is not a train wreck, check out these photos from the State Library and Archives of Florida:

Dark Shadows:  Every generation has its own fondly remembered classic cult television show.  For my generation is was The Twilight Zone, then Batman, then The Man from U.N.C.L.E. , and, finally, Dark Shadows,   The last was very popular when Kitty was in college (and especialy popular with Kitty because I evidently looked like David Selby, the actor who played Quentin Collins (let's just say that Selby aged well and I morphed into a Newt Gingrinch look-alike; **sigh**).   Dark Shadows was a weekday soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971, with 1225 episodes.  In April of 1967, Barnabas Collins, a centuries-old vampire was introduced to the show; later came Quentin, a werewolf.  A much later television reboot was unsuccessful; it is hard to recreate something whose time had passed.

The series soon spawned a series of paperback tie-in novels written by W. E. D. Ross. using his wife's name, "Marilyn Ross," as a pseudonym.  Ross wrote 34 books in the series for Paperback Library, one of which remains unpublished, from 1968 to 1972.  Understand that these are not good books no matter how popular they were at the time. Characterization, plotting, and realizing the potential of the situation were not Ross' long suit.  Most of his more than 345 novels written under some 21 pseudonyms are completely forgettable.  The Dark Shadows books are short, fast (and sometimes torturous) reads. 

To give you a flavor of them, follow the link to twenty-five novels in the series:

It should be noted that Paperback Library also published some ephemeral books about the series, although none by Ross.  I belileve there was a cookbook, a joke book, and an anthology of vampire and werewolf stories "edited" by Banabas Collins, among others.  In 1998, Lara Parker (the actress who played Angelique in the series wrote the first of four tie-in novels; two other novels were written by Stephen Mark Rainey (one in collaboration with Eizabeth Massie). 

Two Dark Shadows movies were released during the program's heyday. In 2006, a series of original audio dramas feturing many of the original cast began.  In 2012, Tim Burton directed a film based on the series.  A full cast audio serial began running two days a week in 2015.

There have also been Dark Shadows comic books, board games, coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, and a View-Master reel. 

It's obvious Dark Shadows will remain with us into the future. 

[A little bit of salcious gossip:  Alexandra Moltke (later Alexandra Isles) played Victoria Winters in the series.  She later gained notoriety as the mistress of Claus van Bulow who was accused of trying to murder his socialite wife, Sunny, so that he could be with the "raven-haired soap opera actress."  Isles testified that she had told von Bulow that she would end the affair if von Bulow did not leave his wife.  Von Bulow was found guilting of placing his wife in an irreversable coma; he was found innocent after a second trial.  Sunny von Bulow remained in coma for nearly 28 years before she died in 2008.  Isles and von Bulow never had the happy ever-after both seemed to want.]

Wasn't That a Mighty Day:  Today is the 370th anniversary of the St. Peter's Flood, when the Frisian coast of Germany was inundated, killing 15,000.

Florida Man:  I think I covered Florida enough earlier in this post.  Florida Man will return in all his inglorious glory next week.

Cancun Man:  He's handing out water, hoping people will forget.  They won't.

Good News:
  • Strangers shelter stranded delivery driver for five days during Texas cold snap
  • Mercy Chefs serves its 10 millionth meal. then heads to Texas to feed "bodies and souls" in cold
  • Man raises $25,000 for 70-year-old woman who has been working at KFC with a smile for nearlyn 50 years
  • Alex Trebek's "Jeopardy" is going on job interviews, dressing the people who need it most
  • Archaeologists in Egypt discover the world's oldest beer factory, dating back 5000 years (foe me, any beer news is good news)
  • 110-year-old has become a singing sensation on social media (video at the link)
  • Today is National Walking the Dog Day and National Margarita Day.  Celebrate one or both!

Today's Poem:
Love Is Not All

Love is not all:  it is not meat nor drink

 Nor slumber not a roof against the rain;

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,

Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

Yet many a man is making friends with death

Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It may well be that in a difficult hour,

Pinned down by painand moaning for release,

Or nagged by want past resolution's power,

I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

Or trade the memory of this night for food,

It may well be.  I do not think I would.

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sunday, February 21, 2021


 David Steindl-Ross, a monk and interfaith scholar, discusses the link between happiness and gratitude.  For many in 2021 it seems hard to be grateful -- the pandemic, loneliness, personal losses, economic and political upheavals, nature's fury, and widespread injustice can work against gratitude -- but this should not negate the special moments all around us, moments that can fill us with gratitude.

An interesting TED Talk with great import for current times.


 The Marshall Family.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021


 A rogue planet is plummeting toward Earth.  A spacehsip from this Planet X lands on the moors of Scotland island with its distinctly non-human pilot  On the island happens to be Professor Elliot and his daughter Enid and Dr. Mears, a man with a shady past.  Into this mix comes reorter John Lawrence.  What are the alien's intentions?  what mischief is John Mears up to?  Will John Lawrence and Enid Elliot get together?  So many questions...

This is a British reprint of the US edition of an apaptation of the 1951 film.  The movie starred Robert Clark, Margaret Field, Raymond Bond, and William Schallert, with Pat Goldin as The Man from Planet X.  The film was directed by noted B-movie maestro Edgar G. Ulmer.  The mocie's script was written by Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen.

The comic book adaptation was written by Otto Binder with artwork by Kurt Schaffenberger.

Enjoy this little trip to 1950s low budget science fiction movies via this comic book.

Thursday, February 18, 2021


 The Elegants.


 Rider from Wind River by Marvin Albert (1959)

Joe Lang has been a trail boss for four years.  The former tracker has just come off bringing a herd from Bannock to Wyoming and was headed back to Bannock with two prize horses that were given to him as a bonus.  Camped alone on night, he hears someone approaching -- a dusty red-headed man riding an exhausted paint.  The stranger pulls a gun on Lang, forces him to switch the saddle and two heavy bags from the paint to one of  his horses, and rides off into the darkness.  Lang is patient.  It would do no good to try to track the thief at night and the paint needed rest before it could be of any use.  The morning would be soon enough.

But then there was a group of men who came onto Lang's campsite, holding guns and declaring their intention to hang Lang.  It seems that the thief who had robbed Joe earlier had killed a miner and stolen the gold he had worked for.  The man's widow had gotten a glimpse of the killer and his horse as he escaped == a man in a sheepskin jacket.  Lang was wearing a sheepskin jacket something that was common in that area, and he had the paint the widow had described.  Thus, Lang had to be the killer.  The men were going to hang Lang on the spot.  Lang convinced them to take him back -- if the widow had gotten a brief look at the killer, she might be able to say that Lang was not the man.  But when she saw Lang, she ran at him, crying, "Murderer!"

Lang managed to grab a gun from a posse member and escape, but the men knew his anme and had his description.  Soon he would be wanted throughout the territory as a murderer.  His one hope was to find the real killer and bring him back, hoping the widow will recognize the real culprit.

Searching from town to town, ,he learns that the killer was Ed Stone, the younger brother of Bud Stone, who rules the Stone gang, one of the most vicious and bloodthirsty gangs in the West.  In some of the towns, the Stone gang passed through peacefully; in others, they left dead bodies fromtheir crime sprees.  The Stone gang was easily recognized:  like his younger brother, Bud Stone had red hair; unlike his brother, Bud also sported a large mustache.  The two were the children of Morgan Stone, a powerful and feared rancher who abetted his sons in  their rampages.  Morgan Stone's body was failing him and his mind had begun to lose some of its sharpness, but he remained a deadly shot.  His eldest son, Chuck Stone, ran the ranch and was also involved in his brother's gang.  Chuck was a cruel man, apt to violence, and had three stone-killer gunmen by his side.  Thinking that Chuck Stone might be the key to finding the youngest brother, Lang rode to Wyoming, where Chuck Stone was readying a herd of cattle to drive back home.

Lang happens to meet Barbara Mitchell, the pretty daughter of Wayne Mitchell who owned a small ranch abutting that of Morgan Stone.  Bud Stone was jealously infatuated with Barbara and was know to harm any man who paid attention to her.  Recently, he killed a young lawyer who had been seeing her.  For her part, Barbara could not stand Bud Mitchell and has vowed to kill him for slaying the lawyer.  There's a few more details that you should know.  Morgan Stone had been trying to buy Wayne Mitchell out for years.  Mitchell is in debt and has gone to the same location in Wyoming as Bud Stone and is planning to bring his own herd home to sell -- if Mitchell's cattle drive is unsuccessful, he will lose his ranch to creditors and Morgan Stone would come in to buy the property at a bargain price.

Lang, an experienced hand with a rope, is hired by Chuck Stone to join his crew.  Lang is hoping that Bud and Ed Stone will show up sooner of later, but meanwhile he learns that Bud is plotting with Wayne Mitchell's trail boss to allow Bud's herd to start out a couple of days earlier than Mitchell's.  This would men that Mitchell's herd would find llittle grass to feed on because Bud's herd had been there first.  In the meantime, Mitchell's trail boss will be doing all he can to delay and sabotage Mitchell's herd.  Lang changes sides, tells Mitchell of what he had learned, and was hired as trail boss after Mitchell had fired the one who had been colluding with Chuck Stone.

Lang's journey to clear his name has been a long one, taking him through Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and through saloon brawls, a stagecoach holdup, a gunfight, several ambushes, and into Bud Stone's gang itself.    All three of the Stone brothers now have a reason to kill Lang and Lang must go through a hail of bullets to capture Ed Stone, hoping that Ed would not be killed in all the gunfire.

Rider from Wind River was published as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original and delivers the fast-paced action that Gold Medal westerns were known for.  A stalwart hero. described as a "capable man," really nasty villains, a determined yet fully feminine love interest, hair's breath escapes, conflicted emotions, and vivid descriptions of both the setting and of the hows of managing  cattle drive -- all add up to an enjoyable couple hours spent in a West that is as real as it is legendary.

Marvin Albert (or Marvin A. Albert, as he signed many of his novels were signed) was a prolific writer of mystery, suspense, western, and film tie-in original paperbacks.  Although he published some well-respected novels and some interesting works of hstorical nonfiction in hardcover, he will best be remembered for his paperback writing,  including eight novels about Pierre-Ange (Pete) Sawyer, the "Stone Angel," an American P.I. who has relocated to France.  He also wrote crime novels as "Albert Conway," "Al Conway" (a series of men's action adventure novels featuring Johnny Morini; Albert also used the name for four westerns realeased by Dell), "Nick Quarry" (including a series  featuring tough guy Jake Barrow, and a pair of novels capitalizing on Mario Puzo's The Godfather), "Anthony Rome" (featuring Tony Rome, a Miami detective, played by Frank Sinatra in the films), "Ian McAlister" (four extremely readable adventure novels in the vein of Alistair MacLean), and "Mike Barone" (for a lone movie tie-in).  

Our friend, George Kelley, described Marvin Albert accurately:  "Albert was a supreme professional writer.  He wrote in many  genres and styles but his books werconsistently excellent with well-developed characters, detailed settings, and strong plots." 

It's hard to go wrong with   Marvin Albert book.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


Juice Newton.


 136 years ago today, Mark Twain published his famous novel.  The radio anthology series Favorite Story aired from 1946 to 1949 -- 118 episodes based on literary classics.  Since the stories were usually in the public domain, the program was an inexpensive way to add a bit of class to the airwaves.  Ronald Colman served s the host.

Twain's novel was billed as clarinetist Arti Shaw's "Favorite Story."  Jimmy Lydon (filmdom's Henry Aldrich) starred as Huckleberry.  Lydon is still around at age 97.


* This episode had been announce as the next in the series for August 13, 1946.  I have no ide why it was delayed for over a year.


 Creedence Clearwater Revival.


 How do mathematicians scold their children?

"If I told you n times, Itold you n+1 times.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


 "Allan's Wife" by H. Rider Haggard (first published in Haggard's collection Allan's Wife and Other Tales, 1889)

More of a novella than a short story, this tale is one of four about Allan Quatermain in the book Allan's Wife and Other Tales.

Allan Quatermain was the hero of some 18 books by Rider Haggard, perhaps the most notable being Allan Quatermain (1887), which purported to be the fictional hunter/explorer/adventurer's diary.  At the end of that book, Quatermain makes reference to to his early and tragically short marriage.  After Quatermain's death, the manuscript which told the tale of this romance was found, written many years after the fact.

Quatermain was born in England, the youngest son of a village clergyman.  His father was close friends with the local squire, who had a young daughter about Allan's age.  At a Christmas party when both were young, the girl, Stella, was dressed as Father Christmas when a loose spark set her costume afire.  Those present were frozen with terror, except young Allan, who jumped on the girl and beat out the flames.  Stella suffered a small burn on her neck, while Allan's hands were burned and took a bit of time to recover.

Some time later an illness struck Allan's mother and all three of his brothers.  As they lay dying, Squire Carson stopped by the house to tell Allan's father that he and Stella were leaving England.  The Squire's wife, a Spaniard (and a Papist, thus not to be trusted, according to Allan's curate father) had run off with another man, leaving the Squire and his daughter behind.  The squire vowed to have done with England and was going to emigrate to some place far off, where he will forsake the name Carson and leve all memory of the past behind him.  Later that night, Allan's mother and brothers died.

Strickened with grief, Allan's father took him and moved to South Africa and began missionary work.  As Allan grew up in Africa, he became fluent in native languages, found himself to be an excellent marksman, and grew to a strong and active young man.  On a visit to a local tribe, the son of the chief challenged the tribe's old witch doctor, claiming that he, too, had powerful magic.  A test of lightning had been declared -- the two would stand with their spears on an iron-rich mound during a terrible storm and call the lightning down to slay the other.  Allan heard the chief say that if his son were to be killed in the contest, he would have the old witch doctor, Indaba-zimbi, slain.  Allan warned the old man of the plot and, as the lightning fire-fight concluded, it was the chief's son who was slain by the lightning.  Indaba-zimbi soon made his escape, eventually landing at the settlement where the elder Quatermain served as missionary.

A few years later Allan's father died.  Allan, who always had the spirit of adventure, sold his father's possession and outfitted an expedition to explore parts of Africa and to find his fortune.  The old witch doctor insisted on coming along, while giving both prophecies and advice.  While stalking a large heard of elephants, Allannis attacked by a large bull elephant, narrowly escaping and wounded the bull.  The panicked herd ran off, found themselves in swampy water, and were mired in the mud.  Allan and his men were able to thus slaughter the entire herd and claim their ivory tusks.  The tusks Allan buried, hoping to come back to retrieve them some time in the future.  Days later, Allan happens to come across a group of Zulu warriors in the distance; there were nearly three thousand of them and they had been  following the trail of some migrating Boers.  Allan and his natives find the Boers, traveling in eight wagons with their families and a large herd of cattle.  He warns them that they Zulu are about to attack and tells them they should leave everything behind and escape.  They refuse to.  He then suggests that they attack the enemy while they sleep at night, perhps confusing them enough so they would flee.  Again they refuse.  He finally manages to convince them to send the women and child ahead, with the cattle, so that they might escape.  (They do, but it takes them nearly a year to reach Natal and ultimate safety.)

Staying behind are most of the men, a few women, and the six-year-old daughter of the group's leader.  Indaba-zimbi takes Allen away from the camp to tell hims something important.  Allan is suddenly captive by a group of Zulus.  Indaba-zimbi had gone to the Zulu camp the day before and told them that Allan was a powerful god who had the power to destroy them.  The Zulu now attack the camp and kill everyone exccept for the little girl, Tota, who had hid when the attack began.  The most powerful Zulu warrior is about to slay Tota when Allan intervenes, flooring the huge warrior with a punch.  Allan relunctantly agrees to battle the warrior for the life of the girl.  He is armed with an unfamilar weapon -- a native spear -- and seems sure to lose the fight.  Through a fluke or an accident (or, perhaps, Indaba-zimbi's magic) the mighty warrior impales himself on Allan's spear scant seconds after the battle had begun.  The Zulu's still want to destroy Allan and the girl, but the old witch doctor warns them not to, saying that he will prove the Allan was a god not to be messed with.  Through magic or illusion or hypnotism or whatnot -- Allan himselves says he never learned how Indaga-zimbi managed it -- the witch doctor impaled Allan in the chest with a spear, the point coming out his back, killing him, then bringing him back to life.  That sent the Zulus running, leaving Allan, Indaga-zimbi, and Tota to make their way through the territory.  The witch doctor said they should head north and that is what they did.  They came to a large desert and Indaga-zimbi insisted they continue north, saying that an Englishman lived in the direction.   After four days of hard trek they come across a patch of green in the distance and hope to make it there.

Allan's wakes with a lovely girl sprinkling water on his face.  She sends her companion, a strange looking white woman, to fetch more water to revive both the witch dactor and the  girl.  The girl's name is Stella and -- coincidence upon coincidence! -- she is the Stella Carson from his youth.  (And, yes, it take a lot of narration before we were reintroduced to herHer companion is Hendrika, who had been rescued from a band of baboons when she was young and taught English and some skills by the old squire and Stella.  Hendrika's origin is unknown and she may well be a baboon or  human or perhaps a combination of both.  Hendrika is fiercely devoted to Stella, and as fiercely jealous of anything and anyone that captures Stella's attention.  Hendrika immediately dislikes both Allan and Tota, and has an ninstant hatred of Indaga-zimi, who reciprocates.

Stella takes the three to her father's compound, a magnificent estate with marble huts and walls -- the remnant of an unknown earlier, advanced race.  There are terraces and gardens and livestock, in a majestic arrangement, looked after by a thousand natives.  The squire is unwell, but happy to see the son of his old friend.  Stella takes Tota under her wing and Allan helps to run the large farm; spending as much time with stella as possible.  Soon they realize they are in love and the Squire is overjoyed, promising to marry them after church services that Sunday.

On the night before the wedding, Hendrika sneaks to Allan's room, intent on killing him.  She is stopped by the witch doctor and Indaga-zimi and Allan managed to capture her (she is etremely strong and agile, and fought fiercely), binding her and placing her in a locked storage room.  When the squire learns of this, he threatens to kill the baboon-woman, but Stella argues against it.  It is agreed that Fredrika will be banished from the estate and if she ever returned, she would be slain.

And so Allan and Stella were married.  The natives were all for killing Fredrika, but Stella, Allan, and the Squire managed to convince them otherwise.  Fredrika breaks free, grabs the large knife she had tried to kill Allen with and, with leaps and bounds, speeds away over the rought landscape.  Three days later, the squire has a stroke.  He partially recovers but dies some seven months later.  Stella is upset and becomes ill.  Allan remains busy running the estate, until Indaga-zimi tells him that thousands of baboons have returned to the area, including Fredrika, who is wearing baboon skins and has darkened her face.  Allan decides that the next morning he, Stella, and Tota will leave the estate and return to civilizations.  That morning, Stella and Tota go to visit the squire's grave one last time, where the are captured by Fredrika and her army of baboons.

An intense search of the area turned out to be fruitless.  Indaga-zimi goes into a deaath trance to locate Stella and Tota.  They are alive and are kept bound in a distant cave, guarded by the baboons.  A dangerous trek and a daring rescue follow, but Fedrika escapes.  The experience has weakened Stella so much that Allan does not dare to move her from the estate.  Time passes and Stella gives birth to their son, Harry, but she continues to weaken and soon dies, leaving Allan bereft.  Stella is buried next to her father.  Allan, determined more than ever to leave, visits Stella's grave.  There he finds Fredrika, digging franticly at the dirt on the grave.  He confronts the baboon-woman, who pulls out the long knife she had stolen so long ago.  Allan fears she is going to kill him, but instead she plunges the knife into her own breast.

It's an involved story, laced with the fantastic and hints of the fantastic, as befits a story of the old Africa, fraught with magic and mystery.  The predictions and the powers of Indaga-zimi, the origin and untold truth of the baboon-woman and her ability to command and communicate with thousands of wild baboons, the native superstitions, the unknown builders of the squire's estate, who carved the magnificent marble buildings and played-out diamond mines thousands of years ago...this, together with the history and descriptions of Africa and the true desolation that Allan feels with the lose of his wife, makes for a powerful, fast-paced tale.

Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was, according to his father not meant to amount to much.  During a lackadaisical two years in which he was to be studying for the British Foreign Office test (which he never took) he became interested in psychic phenomena.  He was then sent to Africa for a series of unpaid positions.  He was there when the British annexed the Transvaal and was the person who raised the Union flag and read much of the proclamation.  He fell in love with Lilly Jackson and intended to marry her once he gained a paying position, which he got in 1878.  His father forbade the union until Haggard had made a career for himself and Lilly married someone else in 1879.  (In 1907, Lilly contacted Haggard.  She had been deserted by her husband who had not only embezzled funds but also infested her her with syphilis, a disease that killed him.  Haggard supported his former love until she died in 1909.)

In 1910, Haggard married a friend of his sister.  The had three daughters; a son died at 10 from measles.  He studied law and was called to the bar in 1884, but by then he was making a profitable living writing novels.  Haggard's third novel and his most famous, Kings Solomon's Mines, was a lost world adventure the introduced the world to Allan Quatermain.  Quatermain returned two years later in Allan Quatermain, followed by a long series of prequels.  In 1886, Haggard published She:  A History of Adventure about the eternal sorceress, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.  Most of Haggard's popular novels took place in Africa or in the distant past.  Haggard wss heavily involed in land reform throughout the British Empire and wrote extensively on the subject.  He also contributed several books and many articles on Africa, its history and current status.  He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in 1916 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1919.

Haggard was a supporter of British colonialism and some of his writings can be considered racist, although many of his native characters were portrayed in an honorable light.  Much of his racism was in line with the thinking of Haggard's class and culture of the time.  For myself, I remain horrified at the way African animals were hunted and the large slaughter of elephants in this story was off-putting.  Again, this is in tune with Haggard's time and subject and my 21st century sensibilites come into play retrospectively.   There is much in older literature that I can understand but not approve and I try not to let that interfere with the story. 

Allan's Wife and Other Tales is available to read through the usual online sources.


 Gerry and The Pacemakers.


 Harold Lloyd stars as Harold Diddlebock, the hero of his 1928 film The Freshman.  It's 20 years later and Harold has been fired from the job he has held since his college days.  Depressed, and wandering the streets, he goes into a bar and has the first drink of his life.  Wackiness (and a lion) ensue.

This was Lloyd's last film and his first in nine years.  Written and directed by Preston Sturges, a later version of the movie was cut and edited by Howard Hughes, Sturges' partner at the time, and released as Mad Wednesday (1950).

Also featuring Jimmy Conlin, Raymond Walburn, Rudy Vallee, Edgar Kennedy, Arline Judge, Franklin Pangborn, Lionel Stander, Margaret Hamilton, Jack Norton, Robert Dudley, Arthur Hoyt, Julius Tannen, Al Bridge, Robert Greig, Georgia Caine, Torben Meyer, Vic Potel, Jackie the lion, and "for the first time a young girl called Frances Ramsden playing the youngest Miss Otis."  (Ramsden was a former model who was romantically linked to Sturges, who cast the inexperienced actress in the film.  She had earlier appeared in juncredited roles in two films three hyears earlier.  This was Ramsden's only credited role, whereupon she retired to a life of golf and reading.  She reportedly could play a mean piano.)

The film is a mixed bag.  Lloyd was getting too old for the type of comedy for which he had been known, but it is still great to see him once again.

What do you think?

Monday, February 15, 2021


 The Stones.


 Openers:  The woman driving turned the phaeton from the hghway into a narrow road.  Almost immediately the forest through which they had been passing for a mile or more deepened.  It was now a rich woodland, little cut, seldom touched by fire.  Apparently the road knew little use.  Narrow and in part grass-grown, soft from yesterday's rain, dimmed by ,any trees, now it bent and now it ran straight, a dun streak, cut always in front by that ancient, exquisite screen of bough and leaf.  The highway dropped out of sight and mind.  The woman to whom this countryside was new, sitting beside the woman driving, drew a breath of pleasure.  "Oh, smell it!  It goes over you like balm!"

"It washes the travel stains away.  Take off your hat."

The other obeyed, turning and placing it upon the back seat beside a large and small traveling bag.  She drew her gloves off, too, then, straightening herself, sighed with happiness.  "How deep it goes...and quiet!  It's thousands of miles away!"

"Hundreds of thousands, and right at hand!"

--Mary Johnston, Sweet Rocket (1920)

Thus we are introduced to a magical place:  the rich property of Sweet Rocket farm, located in a high valley in the Appalachians of Virginia.  It is October 1920, and the visitos is Anna Darcy, 60, a spinster schoolteacher, here to spend a few weeks with her former student Marget Lord, 44.  Marget was born at Sweet Rocket; her father was overseer of the estate, then owned by Major Linden.  When he had died, Sweet Rocket was sold for debt and Marget's father bought it.  Marget grew up at Sweet Rocket and loved every aspect of it.  When her parents died, Marget's two older brothers sold the property and Marget went to live with an aunt in Richmond.  Years later, Sweet Rocket was bought by Richard Linden, the Major's nephew.  Richard, it turns out was blind from an earlier accident and lived on the farm, alone, with only colored servants and workers.  Five years ago, he advertised in the Richmond papers for a secretary who could read aloud well.  Marget answered the advertisement and was hired.  She became more than a secretary; Marget loved Richard and Richard loved her, although there was no indication of a sexual relationship, just one of caring and trust.

For a blind person, Richard was extremely able,  He worked every morning on the farm, instinctually know what to do through touch.  Calm, self-confident, and generous, he struck a chord of harmony with Sweet Water.  There was no barrier between Richard and his employees; they liked and respected him as a friend.  Sweet Rocket was a place that erased all boundaries of class.  At Sweet Rocket, everyone felt more than themselves; they were acutely aware of their surroundings.  The colors were sharper, the smells sweeter, the sounds clearer.  Here nature was increased through some mystical and spiritual power, and everyone who came to Sweet Rocket felt it and was changed by it.

While Anna Darcy was at Sweet Rocket, an old school friend of Richard's, Martin Curtin, who had not seen him for fifteen years, came to visit him...and stayed, a most welcome guest.  Later, a young logger, Drew (his last name; I don't think his first ws ever given), stranded by a fiece storm spent the night at Sweet Rocket.  He came back the same week asked to be hired to work on the farm -- Sweet Rocket had entered his soul.  Richard's cousins, Rober and Frances Dane, came for their annual visit.  Everyone who came and stayed at the farm -- including Richard and Marget -- were hurt souls in one way or another.  Sweet Rocket nutured and healed them in some mystical way.

There is no real plot in the book, but there an inceasing pace as those staying at Sweet Water realize thay they are growing to become one with each other and the world.  Sweet Rocket has turned them into the precursors of the next step in human development -- a world entity, a gestalt, if you will, where the individuals are merged as one and with nature.   Call it God, but names don't really matter.  There is a Christian undertone to all this -- the servants are always singing spirituals -- but the mystical and spiritual underpinnings of Sweet Rocket incorporate more than the Christian God.  Past and present have no real meaning, neither does death and life -- what matters is the ultimate Unity.

At times, early in the book, there is an overwhelming awe of Nature (capital N) that reminds me of some of the writings of Arthur Machen or Algernon Blackwood.  I also felt a resonance with August Derleth's The Wind in the Cedars.  It's the mystical power of Nature to transform us. 

It's all very confusing.  Most of the wordage in the novel is the author trying to explain the changes that Sweet Rocket is imposing on the characters.  It didn't really work for me; I can only view Sweet Rocket as an interesting but flawed novel that overreached it's thesis.  My opion is countered by that of Edward Wagenknect, the literary critic, who, in his introduction to the 1944 omnibus Six Novels of the Supernatural, wrote, "in her [Johnston's] work one sees something of the beauty by which life can be irradiated whennit is lived, as it were, sub specie aeternitatis,"  Wagenknecht also quotes the author:  "Mine is no isolated experience, many persons have been and are aware of a widening and deepening of consciousness.  My experience is of value to me, but it has no special prominence in  that enlargement of life into which we are all sweeping -- you no less than myself." 

Mary Johnston (1870-1936) was best known for her sweeping historical novel To Have and To Hold (1900), which was a major influence on Rafael Sabatini.Johnton was close friends with Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, who praised her depictions of Southern life.  throughout her life, Johnston was a strong advocate of women's suffrage, becoming later in life an advocate of Socialism and pacifism.  Her spiritual growth began to be reflected strongly in her work beginning in 1918 and may be best represented in Sweet Rocket.  Mary Johnston wrote 23 novels -- many of which were best-sellers -- along with a number of short stories, two long poems, and a play.  


  • "Lee Child" (James Grant), editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2010  The fourteenth volume in the long-running series in which Otto Penzler served as series editor.  (Penzler would pick a long list of some 50 stories and the annual guest editor would make the final selection of some twenty stories.)  Some familiar names among the authors:  Gary Alexander, Doug Allyn, Jay Brandon, Gar Anthony Haywood, Jon Land, Dennis Lehane, and Philip Margolin.  There's also a posthumously published story by Kurt Vonnegut.  The stories came from a variety of sources:  the genre magazines (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and Thuglit), mystery anthologies (Murder Past, Murder Present, The Prosecution Rests, Boston Noir, Sherlock Holmes in America, Black Noir, and Thriller 2), and from various "little" magazines (The Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly, Harper's Ferry Review, Gettysburg Review, and Oregon Literary Review).  Some pretty good reading here.

Not Very Im-Peachy-Keen:  So Trump has been acquited.  No surprise there.  His enablers in the Senate made it clear that politics and party would prevail over the country's best interest and truth.  Where do we go from here?  There will certainly be a lot of e-mails (he's off Twitter, remember?) the former president trying to invigorate his base with the main purpose being to stroke his ego.  Trump's future as a political power force remains in doubt.  Those who voted for acquittal will be trying to distance themselves from our former Insurrector-in-Chief, because they would feel much safer "putting this all behind us."  The ultra-right fringe which got some power riding on Trump's coattails may move on from him now that they have found ways to enlarge their membership without him.  Donald Trump, Jr., will continue to support his father in as large and as insulting voice he can; but remember, he's actually the dumb one, not Eric.  Republican state committees will continue to censure those who argue in the very slightest against the Almighty Trump -- although I suspect that this will wear thin after a while once they realized they are making a mockery of democracy.  Or not. 

The country will continue to be divided and polarized until the enablers and weasels who are trying to have it both ways are voted out of office.  Twenty Republican senators will see their terms expire for the next voting cycle in 2022.  Some, like Rob Portman, will retire.  Others should be held accountable for their votes:  Roy Blunt (MO), John Boozman (AR), Mike Crapo (ID), Chuck Grassley (IA), John Hoeven (ND), Ron Johnson (WI), John Kennedy (LA), James Lankford (OK), Mike Lee (UT), Jerry Moran (KS), Rand Paul (KY), Rob Portman (OH), Marco Rubio (FL), Tim Scott (SC), Richard C. Shelby (AL), John Tune (SD), and Todd Young (IN).  Voters in each of those states should remember those names and vote accordingly.

Those whose turns will be up for the 2024 election include:  John Barasso (WY), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mike Braun (IN), Kevin Cramer (ND), Ted Cruz (TX), Deb Fischer (NE), Josh Hawley (MO), Rick Scott (FL), and Roger F. Wicker (MS).

And those who have been recently elected and will be up for the 2026 election include:  Shelley Moore Capito (WV), John Cornryn (TX), Tom Cotton (AR), Steve Daines (MT), Joni Ernst (IA), Lindsey Graham (SC). Bill Hagerty (TN), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), James M. Inhofe (OK), Cynthia M. Lummis (WY), Roger Marshall, M.D. (KS), Mitch McConnell (KY), James E. Risck (ID), Mike Rounds (SD), Dan Sullivan (AK), Thom Tillis (NC), and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

Some of these people will surely retire at the end of their term, some may pass away, some may lose their primary elections, and some will delude themselves into thinking they could become our next president.  Nonetheless, remember their names.  Hold their feet to the fire and make them accountable for their actions.  Remember those who weaseled out of convicting Trump with the BS excuse of it wasn't constitutional to convict a private citizen so they would not have pronounce judgement on his insurrectionist acts.  I will not forget these names.  Will you?

Yes, there also a lot of Democrats who, through their actions and self-serving shenanigans, deserve neither their office nor the people's trust, but right now I'm concentrating on those who have made a mockery of the Constitution and the impeachment process.

Presidents Day:  We;ve had some good presidents and some bad presidents and all seem to have been flawed in some way.  But in honoring our past presidents (well, except one -- maybe two) we are honoring the magnificant accomplishment of having our leaders chosen by the people as we continue to move onto a more perfect union.

Most Americans do not realize that George Washington was not our first president.  Things were a bit messy in those early days.  The individual states had a bit too much power under the Articles of Confederate and it was difficult to agree on anything.  This was resolved by the creation  of the U. S. Constitution, which allowed Washinton to be elected the first U.S. president to be elected under the Constitution.  Washington took office on April 30, 1789.  Before that the country had eight presidents under the Articles of Confederation:
  • John Hanson
  • Elias Budinot
  • Thomas Mifflin
  • Richard Henry Lee
  • John Hancock
  • Nathan Gorman
  • Arthur St, Clair, and 
  • Cyrus Griffin
If you recognize more than one of those names, you are a pretty good student of American history.  And today -- Presidents Day -- those eight names leading up to George Washington and beyond should be a reminder that democracy was -- and still is -- a work in progress.

Bios:  Here's a 1957 one-shot comic book that covers the life stories of the American presidents, from Washington to Eisenhower.  The bios run from one page (I'm looking at you, Franklin Pierce) to eight pages (the usual popular suspects).  Considering the format, the intended audience, and the times, please take this information with a grain of salt.  Comics legend John Busema provides the artwork.

More Holidays Than You Can Shake a Stick At:  Okay, yesterday was Valentine's Day, so it makes sense that today would be Love Reset Day.  I hope you reset it in the right direction.  But today is also National Gumdrop Day -- don't ask me why.  And if you are a Sponge Bob Square Pants fan, today is also Annoy Squidward Day; I'd like to see how you celebrate that.  And it's National Hippo Day, as well as National I Want Butterscotch Day.

And February 15 is  Lupercalia, an ancient (possibly pre-Roman) pastoral festival once held way back when to chase away evil spirits and purify the city.  A goat was sacrificed, a feast was held  and young men and magistrates ran widdershins around the Palatine boundary of Rome, with flayed thongs made from the skin of the sacrificed goat, while women of rank would get in the runners' way, hoping that one of the thongs would hit their palms, thus ensuring that they would A) become pregnant, or B) have an easy pregnancy if they are already pregnant.  A fun time was had by all.

On a more serious note, it is International Childhood Cancer Awareness Day.  Let us hope that some day soon that evil will no longer take the lives of innocent children.  It is also Angelman Sydrome Day.  Angleman Syndrome is a rare genetic condition that affects one in 12,000 to 20,000 people.  Sometimes called Happy Puppet Syndrome, it is anything but happy,  Symptoms include a small head, sever intellectual disability, and developmental disability, including no functional speech, balance and movement problems, seizures, and sleep problems.  Symptoms usually occur by age one.  There is no cure and victims can have a nearly norm al life expectancy.  

It's also Susan B. Anthony Day, honoring the famous suffragette.

Rutherford:  Since I have already mentioned president and (obliquely through Susan B. Anthony) women's rights, let's take a brief look at Rutherford B. Hayes, our 19th president.  It ws on this day in `1879 that Hayes signed a bill allowing female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court.  No major surprise there:  Hayes was a staunch abolitionist who was strongly in favor of social and educational reform and felt that government should provide equal treatment in spite of wealth, social standing, or race.  His ascention to the presidency remains a subject of debate -- his was the "stolen election," in which Samuel Tilden had won the popular vote and Hayes received 20 contested electoral votes through a backroom deal that spelled the end of Reconstruction in the South.  Historians have praised Hayes for his commitment to civil service reform and defence of civil rights, while still ranking him as an average to slightly below-average president.

Florida Man:
  • Romance was in the air when Florida Man Joseph Davis of Volusia County proposed to his girlfriend.  It's just that he used an engagement ring that he stole from a former girlfriend to propose.  This thrifty little money saver had tried to convince his latest fiance that his former fiance's house was his own; then he stole some jewelry and a laptop from her.  As of Friday, Davis was still on the run and noth fiances vow to have nothing more to do with him.  Davis already had an active arrest warrant on him for hit and run in Oregon.  He had previously been arrested for having a fictitious ID, filing a false police report, domestic vilence, and possession of cocaine with intent to sell.  He has a tattoo on his arm that says, "On;y god can judge me."  We'll see.
  • Florida Couple and waste of protoplasm Amanda Davis and Charner Williams IV, both 30 and of Titusville, have been charged with manslaughter in the death of Davis' 23-month-old daughter, Athena Blevins.  The couple's roommate had found the toddler unresponsive in a swimming pool at their residence Saturday.  The child was taken to a local hospital where she died.
  • Florida Man Timothy Hill, 39, wanted some money so he could check into a rehab and he asked a 76-year-old neighbor to give him some.  The man refused, so Hill knocked him to the floor, tied him up, took money from his wallet, stole other items, incljuding two cell phones, and demanded the neighbor give him a gun (the enighbor didn't have one). found the man's car keys, and stole his car.   Hill's wife had earlier refused him money because they were separating and she wanted him out of the house.
  • Florida Woman and Lake County deputy Keisha Rytter has been suspended for five days because of a fight with her boyfriend, an Orlando police officer.   The fight escalated to a confrontion at the  boufriend's mother's home in Orlando.  Rytter allegedly slapped the boyfriend's phone oout of his hand and took off with it.  She drove away, then returned, and allegedly punched the boyfriend.  Rytter refused to return and talk to the police and no charges were filed.  Rytter's boyfriend is no longer her boyfriend, and Lake County disciplined Rytter for "conduct unnbecoming a police officer."  The original argument?  Rytter had made comments about her boyfriend's children and their "ghetto hair."

Good News:
  • Instead of responding with cops, Denver is sending health care workers for non-violent criminal calls, and it's already saving lives
  • 70-year-old grandfather becomes the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean and raises $1.4 million for Alzheimer's
  • Chic-fil-A worker who won car in compapany raffle gives it to co-worker who bikes to work
  • No rhinos were poached in Kenya in 2020 -- zero, zip, nada
  • Man saves elk after it was buried in an avalanche with only one nostril and one eye peeking out from the snow
  • Amateur treasure hunter unearths the  kissing centerpiec of Henry VIII's crown; it's worth millions

Today's Poem:
Little Vanny

You can't make a song to Van Buren,
Because his long name will not do;
There's nothing about him allurin',
As there is about Tippecanoe!

He never was seen in a battle,
Where bullet and cannon shot flew;
His nerves would shot with the rattle
Of a contest like Tippecanoe!

While Harrison marched to the border --
Sly Van staid [sic] at home as you know,
Afraid of the smell of gunpowder --
Then hurrah for old Tippecanoe!

Little Matt was too tender a dandy,
To shoulder a musket and go
Where Harrison battled so handy,
As he did when at Tippecanoe.

But snug in his pretty new stockings,
And dressed in his broadcloth so new,
He roasted his shins in a parlour --
Not fighting like Tippecanoe.

And now with his gold spoons and dishes,
He lives like a king with his crew;
He'll feast on the loaves and the fishes,
Til we put in old Tippecanoe.

-- from the Tippecanoe Songbook (1840)
Air:  Rosin the Bow

[It should be noted that Harrison was also wealthy 
but that did not stop his followers from making fun of Van Buren]