Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, March 31, 2021


 (April 1, 2021)    George, Alan & Unwin PUBlishers have announced a special 50th anniversary edition of Roald Dahl's classic children's fantasy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Company president Alfred "Alfie" George stated that, although this was actually the 58th anniversary of the book, they did not think of the promotion until last Wednesday.  "Well, were at the pub and it got to be closing time and me mate, Alan Cropnagle, and me started talking about all sorts of things like crop circles, Manchester United, who's Ma made the best toad-in-the-hole, and a lot of other things.  Anyway we both woke up the next morning in Clyde Opperton's barn and Alan was holding a stained piece of butcher's paper in his hand, which detailed the plan to issue this book.  The paper, I mean, not Alan's hand."

Mister George also added, "Me lawyer says we got to explain that we ain't George Allen & Unwin, which is the original publishers of the book.  We're somebody else, and we named the company for me, Alan, and Unwin -- that's Alan's cat -- and we added PUBlishers because that's where the idea came from.  I think.  Besides, those original folks sold out some thirty years ago."

What is unique about the anniversary edition is that it will be printed entirely on sheets of chocolate, 164 of them.  "Have you ever been reading in bed and decided it was time for a nosh?  Well now you won't have to get out of bed, 'cause the snack is right in front of you!  Genius, eh?  And although most of the book will be printed on milk chocolate, the nasty bits where all those little kids get their comeuppance will be printed on dark chocolate.  We'll also include a sheet of white chocolate for the autographed edition which will have me and Alan's signature," George expounded.

The volume will be about 40 inches thick* (about 1/4 inch per page, printed on one side only).  It will come in a gold (coloured, not the real, very expensive stuff) slipcase.  "We picked gold, because gold is the 50th anniversary thing and me and Alf plan on this deal being our golden ticket," Cropnagle added.  Each book will cost a mere 5000 pounds -- "We ain't doing euros," Cropnagle specified -- a pittance for Roald Dahl's many rich fans.

Both were quick to add that the book should be stored on a cool place.  "Don't leave it in a locked car on a hot day," they warned.

*  That's if Alfie and Allan's math is correct, something that can be called into question.


 Anthony Newley, for April Fool's Day.


 Basil and Nigel unlock the mystery of a young man's strange behavior -- a young man who wishes to marry a girl whose guardian happens to be Colonel Sebastian Moran, the second most dangerous man in London!

This episode, written by Dennis Green and Anthony Boucher, was suggested by a scene from Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips."  The announcer is Harry Bartell, who spends a lot of time shilling for the sponsor, Petri wines.

Enjoy this bit of old-time radio.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021


 Paul Anka.


 "The Bagman's Pony" by E. OE. Somerville & "Martin Ross" (Violet Martin) [from All Along the Irish Shore:  Irish Sketches, 1903)

Our narrator is an Irishman living in Delhi; because he is Irish, he is known as Paddy by the British stationed there.  He receives a message from a friend, asking him to put up a "bagman" for a week while visiting Delhi.  A bagman is "a globe-trotting fellow that knocks about from one place to another, and takes all the fun he can out of it at other people's expense."  This particular bagman was bringing a horse to run at the Delhi races.  Paddy asks the bagman to stop in with him for the week because that's the sort of thing that was done.

The horse, a roan, was called the "Doctor," and was not as good a steed as the bagman made out.  By the end of a week of races, the bagman had lost a lot of money on his horse.  A lot of money.  He borrowed funds to pay off most of his debts, but he did not have enough money to pay what he had lost to Paddy, so he asked Paddy if he would take n IOU from him.  Because the man was a guest in his house, Paddy agreed.

The next morning, the bagman had fled, taking the Doctor with him, but leaving behind his grass-cutter (a native who spoke little or no English) and his pony.  The pony, alas, was a sorry thing to look at.  It was a kattiawa tattoo (a common mountain pony) and a gareeb kuch kam ki nahan ('a miserable beast, in the  most intensified form).  Just for the fun of it, Paddy had the grass-cutter mount the pony to see how the beast could trot.  And trot he did -- the ugly beast went like a flash of lighting and did the same when he galloped.

That night Paddy hosted the 112th for dinner and the men were ragging him about losing out on the IOU and about the "worthless" pony.  Paddy had a few drinks too many and began taking bets on the pony.  The next morning, a little worse for wear, Paddy realized the he had bet a thousand pounds on the bagman's pony.  He was a little concerned because of the size of his bets, but felt he had a fair chance of winning.  He took the pony out for a run and the stubborn creature refused to move at all, despite threats, lickings, and the use of spurs.  Paddy felt betrayed but, remembering the pony's speed when the grass-cutter rode him, asked his man to bring the grass-cutter to him.  But the grass-cutter had taken off in the early, dark hours of the morning; he had tried to take his pony, but the animal was locked up securely.  So Paddy was left with an immovable pony and the possible loss of a thousand pounds.

Paddy then had a dog cart hitched to the pony and the pony responded with all the speed that he had before.  Feeling relieved, Paddy spent the next few days training the pony.  

By the time came to run the pony for the bet, most of Delhi had become excited.  Bets were made one way or the other and a large crowds of whites and natives showed up to see the outcome.  Paddy did not get off to a good start.  The starter's gun startled the pony and it reared and fell back.  Once on the way, many of Paddy's friends followed him on horseback to cheer him on, several coming up next to Paddy and the pony.  The pony got frightened and began to run -- something that is not allowed in trotter racing.  According to the rules, Paddy had to stop the pony and could not continue his run until the dog cart's wheels had gone in reverse, taking more precious time.  Some people had set up a small bar along the course and Paddy, for some reason I can't comprehend, stopped there, took a couple of large gulps of liquor, stuck brandy in the pony's nostrils, and forced some brandy down its throat before taking off again.  That whole speedy exercise cost Paddy twenty seconds he could ill afford to spare.

I don't want to spoil the story by telling you whether Paddy won his bets, although he did -- by thirteen seconds.  The bagman was never seen again.

Edith Somerville (1858-1949) was an Irish novelist whose interests were in riding and painting.  She was a domineering woman who was once Masters of the West Carbury Hounds, as well as an active suffragist and Irish Nationalist.  She met her cousin Violet Martin in 1886 and the two soon became literary partners (and, it is likely, romantic and sexual partners).  Their first book was published in 1889.  They published fourteen books together before Violet died in 1915.  Somerville added Violet's name to some of her later solo works, claiming that they kept in contact via seances.  When Somerville died at age 91, she was buried next to Violet

The most popular books the two wrote together were The Real Charlotte (1894) and Some Experiences of an Irish R. M. (1908).  The latter, and its two sequels, was adapted for The Irish R. M., a popular television series that ran for three seasons from 1983 to 1985, and starring Peter Bowles.

All on the Irish Shore:  Irish Sketches is available to read online.  In addition to "The Bagman's Pony," it contains ten other entertaining stories.

Sunday, March 28, 2021


 I won't be blogging for the next few days while I try to figure out why my computer hates me.

Saturday, March 27, 2021


 Tom Jones.


 "There's never lived a man could shoot faster or straighter than Billy West."  Billy is also a mean man with his fists.  He's a polite, unassuming man whom one does not want to rile. The young, blond, handsome Billy returns to Lone Creek, Wyoming, and the Blue Sage Ranch after three years of school back east.  The Blue Sage Ranch is owned by pretty Molly Sage, who inherited the ranch after her father was killed.  Also on the ranch are Molly's young brother and sister, Snubby and Julie, Molly's young brother and sister, and Uncle Dan'l. and old cowpoke and Billy's best friend.  After a rocky start, Billy and Molly get long just fine.

Billy West ran for eight issues from Standard Comics from April 1949 to November 1950; the comic book's title was then changed to Bill West for at least three issues.  Bill West appeared to be a more mature and (at least in issue #9) Molly and her siblings were dropped.  

In this first issue of Billy West,, we learn of Billy's homecoming and how he saved the Blue Sage from rustler and all-around bad guy Bull Jason.  Also, Uncle Dan'l relates to Snubby and Julie how he and Billy first met.  We also get a chance to join Billy West's new club and get a cowboy ring, a secret code, a membership card, and a full color photo of Billy and his horse Eagle -- al for just 15 cents to cover the cost of mailing!  You can't go wrong with that, pardner!  

Friday, March 26, 2021




 Wind Over Wisconsin by August Derleth (1938)

It's 1831 and the wind of change is blowing over that part of the Michigan Territory that will soon become Wisconsin.  Baron Pierre Charlfonte Pierneau is a successful trapper and trader who had inherited his large home and its 40,000 acres from his father, who had fled France and settled here forty years before.  The title meant nothing to Charlfonte in this new land, but some people insisted on using it when referring to him.  There are few white people in the area now, but that is slowly changing as the nation grows and continues its westward push.  Already there are fewer Indians.  One of the remaining tribes is the Sac, led by Black Hawk, who has been a friend of Charlfonte and his father before him.  A government treaty obtained by fraud had forced the Sac from their home territory and an Indian prophet has been trying to convince Black Hawk that he will retake the land.  Charlfonte knows that this is foolish and to try would be to doom the Sac at the hands of the government's military, but he cannot convince Black Hawk of this.

Charlfonte had been born in that house upon a hill overlooking the Wisconsin River.  His mother, longing for France and her way of life there, has filled the house with the latest fashions and has insisted that Charlfonte be properly educated.  This Charlfonte went to Harvard, where he met the love of his life, the beautiful Adrienne, whom he married and brought back to Wisconsin with him.  Although no longer an actual frontier, neighboring towns were far away, as were their doctors.  Charlmonte and Adrienne lost two sins at an early age, leaving them their young daughter Emilie; Charlmonte himself had also lost his brother at a young age -- all were buried, along with the old Baron in a peaceful spot overlooking the river.  The house was then a home for Charlfonte, Adrienne, Emilie,  Charlfonte's mother, his employees Clemont, Dave Kerry, and Edward Fonda, and Fonda' wife and young son.  The adults all worked hard and enjoyed each other's company, the men making occasional trips to Prairie du Chien to trade their pelts.

One one trip to Prairie du Chien Charlfonte meets and becomes friends with Hercules Dousman, an intelligent, honest, and practical trader.  Like Dousman, Charlfonte is both intelligent and honest; unlike Dousman, he is idealistic, whose visions of right and wrong are strongly etched into his being to the point that he ignores some reality.  Charlfonte, for example, rages against the immoral treatment of the Indians, part of him knowing that their cause is lost but part of him insisting that justice be done.

Also on that trip, they come across a drunkard who is beating a young woman.  Dave Kerry intervenes, knocking the bully down.  The woman is Kerith O'Neil and the man is her stepfather, who had been beating her since her mother died some years before.  Kerith was forced to stay with her stepfather since she had nowhere else to go.  Dave Kerry offers her a position at Pierneau's home and she accepts, as Charlfonte amusedly watches his friend fall immediately in love with Kerith.and she with him.  Kerith's stepfather is taken to jail to sober up by two soldiers, Colonel Zachery Tayler and his aide, Lieutenant Jefferson Davis.

(This is a theme that appears throughout the book, with the author introducing historical characters either directly or offhand.  Adrienne receives a shipment of books from her sister in Boston that includes the small, anonymously written Tamerlane and Other Poems.  Charlfonte gives his mother sheet music by a promising young composer, Frederick Chopin.  One character met an amazing young artist names James Audubon and began subscribing to his artwork prints.  And so on.  My own opinion is that Derleth overdid these references, but it really did not effect the quality of the tale.)

As noted above, the theme of the book is change.  Trapping is beginning to die off -- the demand for furs is lessening, there are less animals to be trapped, and Jacob Astor is beginning to draw down his fur trade.  Over the next few years, Charlmont will be forced to find another source of income -- his land is rich and farming wheat may be an option.  As with many of the animals, many the Indians are moving west, although there remains danger from some tribes and from some hot-headed individuals.  Michigan is soon to become a state, sloughing off its Wisconsin territories, and Dousman is suggesting the Charlfonte position himself to run for public office.  Barges and other river craft will soon make way for steamboats.  Already railroad lines are being built only a few hundred miles away.  A stage line is being proposed, making travel easier.  The government is working up to making land available for settlement.

Charlfonte is concerned about having no sons; Emilie will inherit his estate and he must begin to train the youngster.  Charlfonte is also very worried about his friend Black Hawk, who is now leading his tribe to their former territory, cleverly avoiding the army and volunteers trying to stop him.  Although Blackhawk does not welcome bloodshed, it may become unavoidable.  Joining the military in searching for Black Hawk are several tribes that are sworn enemies of the Sac (as well as sworn enemies of whites, but they don't tell the military that.)  The Crow, especially, like to attack isolated homes and blame the raids on the Sac.

One evening the Crow attack Charlfonte's, but the home is well fortified against everything but fire.  The battle goes on for a long time and Charlfonte and his crew are running out of ammunition, when they are rescued by Black Hawk and his men.  Charlfonte and Adrienne go out to welcome then when a stray shoot from a fleeing Crow wounds Adrienne in the leg.  No major blood vessels or bones were hit and the bullet is easily removed, but after a few days, Adrienne becomes weak.  Her condition worsens and before a doctor can be brought she died of blood poisoning.

Charlfonte is beside himself in grief, losing all purpose.  He blames himself for his wife's death and his is still grieving over the fate of Black Hawk, who eventually surrendered to the government and faced a life of humiliation.  Charlfonte, who had always followed a strict moral code, is forced to murder a man in cold blood (I won't go into details here) and suffers a moral crisis.  His first attempt at farming wheat fails.  A rogue group of four Indians murder a settler and remain free, roaming the territory.  Adrienne's sister arrives from Boston to help take care of Emilie, and accuses Charlfonte of being responsible for her sister's death.

The winds of change that blow over Wisconsin are providing a challenge for Charlfonte.  Will he accept them and move on to a better future?

August Derleth (1909-1971) spend most of his life in his hometown, Sauk City, Wisconsin, which served as his microcosm to the world.  A prolific writer and editor, Derleth's most serious work was his Wisconsin Saga, comprising of regional novels, short stories, articles, poems, and journals that trace the history of Wisconsin and its people.  A subset of this was the Sac Prairie Saga, again a large compilation of writings in which the town of Sac Prairie was based on Sauk City and its people.  These works made Derleth one of the most noted regional writers of his time.

Today Derleth may be best known for co-founding Arkham House, a publishing company that was started to preserve the work of H. P. Lovecraft and grew to become a major influence on fantasy fiction in the mid-Twentieth century.  Derleth is credited with reviving interest in Lovecraft, while being damned by some purists for his revisionist work on Lovecraft's unpublished writings and for structuring Lovecraft's Cthulu Mythos to meet his own needs.  Derleth is also noted for the creation of the Sherlockian pastiche Solar Pons, who appeared in numerous stories and books; the character has been continued by several writers in turn and seems unlikely to fade away.  

Publishing well over a hundred books, Derleth's best work remains his Solar Pons stories, the Steve-Sims juveniles about the Mill Creek Irregulars, his early short stories about young Steve Grendon (Derleth's literary alter ego) in Sac Prairie, and his regional novels.  Most of his books are highly recommended.

Derleth was a man of wide interests and of deep feeling for the nature of his home state.  Much of his work contains vivid and loving descriptions of the land, its animals and vegetation, and its attack on the senses of color, sound, and smell:

"In March the south wind began to blow.  Gradually the snow gave before it; ,the river ice became brittle and broke away; and\ in lowland places the gray catkins of pussywillows split their brown sheaths, the mauve alder buds lengthened and revealed the yellow beauty cradled there all the long winter, the dogwood was more red, and a mist of green came among branches of birch and aspen,  In midmonth, before the snow had gone, the first songbirds came:  meadow larks crying before dawn on the prairie lulled now by the south wind, bluebirds chuckling and chortling around the outbuildings, redwings swaying on vines and reeds in the lowlands and bringing the March days to spring fullness with the variety of chatter and song.  From the high sky came again the shrill whicker of ospreys coursing along the river, and from the underbrush at the river's edge rose the full-throated song of the vesper sparrow, last fading notes of the ruby-crowned kinglet and the imperative cries of the marsh wrens, while on the sandy bottoms ran the killdeer, crying all day shrill lonely cries, and all night flying aloft among the woodcocks, so that the still, pregnant dark sounded and responded with their love songs at mating."

Your reaction may vary, but Derleth speaks to me.


 Fifty-one years ago today, we got married.  I had graduated college and Kitty was going to Lowell State College (now The University of Massachusetts, Lowell) and was living in Concordia Hall. the girls' dormitory, and decided she wanted to get married there.  It was an evening wedding.  Some friends of Kitty provided the music (Lowell State had an excellent music program).  The lounge at Concordia Hall was large, comfortable, and, near the center, had a statue of Orpheus, which spouted water.  Friends and relatives were seated on three sides of us.  The fourth side faced the lobby and was filled with girls from the dorm curious and happy to watch.  It was 1970 and long hair and scraggly beards were de rigueur for men.  My brother Kenny, who was my best man (and still is), had his hair cut for the occasion, after which my mother told him to get a haircut (**sigh**).

It went off without a hitch.  Kenny was very nervous, but I was calm and relaxed.  I knew that, for once in my life, I was doing something that was absolutely right.

A champagne reception was held at a hall on the other side of the city.  Kitty claims she never finished her glass of champagne -- someone kept refilling it.  Far more people were at the reception than had been invited, a consequence of  having an entire dormitory of girls watching the wedding, methinks, and the venue soon ran out of champagne and had to scramble to find more.  A few relatives (well, actually it was my Uncle Arthur -- who seldom drank) got a little tipsy.   A good time.  And a wonderful start to fifty-one years, and counting.

I look at Kitty today and I see that same young woman from all those years ago.  Her smile, her eyes, her beauty...perfection wrapped up in a package of humor, intelligence, patience, empathy, and love.  she may have gotten physically older and may not move as gracefully as she once did, but the woman I pledged to spend my life with remains, as gracious and perfect as she was fifty-one years ago, but improved over the years like a fine wine.  I look at my heavier, hair-thinning self in the mirror and once again I wonder how someone as wonderful as Kitty could have fallen love with a schlub like me.  Not that I'm complaining.

And so the years roll by, some good and some bad, and we faced it all together.  She has made me a much better person and I love her for that, as well as so many other things.  

I loved her than.  I love her now.  I will love her far into the future, and beyond.

I am the luckiest man in the world.

Thursday, March 25, 2021


 The Lovin' Spoonful.


 It's time to join Basil and Nigel as Dr. Watson relates a tale of a memorable New Year's Eve over some Petri Wine (the show's sponsor at the time) with announcer Harry Bartell.  This episode was written by Dennis Green and Anthony Boucher and was based on an incident mentioned in Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Silver Blaze."

Sit back, have some Petri wine, and enjoy this episode.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Tuesday, March 23, 2021


 "The Conjured Kitchen" by "Octave Thanet" (Alice French) (first published in Harper's Bazaar [date unknown]; reprinted in Thanet's collection Otto the Knight and Other Trans-Mississippi Stories, 1891)

An old Arkansas plantation house has been repaired and is now fit for living.  The family has hired Aunt Callie, a former slave and now well-respected member of the black community, as  their cook -- a move that everyone applauded since Aunt Callie is said to be the best cook in the area.  Aunt Callie, her daughter, and the black handyman Jerry [a fine and noble name, says I] spent two weeks getting the place organized before everyone moved in.  Now, a week after moving in, there is trouble in the kitchen.

The bread refused to rise for Aunt Callie.  Also, her rolls came out to sour and were fed to the pigs (they were too sour for the calf) and her puff muffins were spoiled and hade to be fed to the chickens.  The hindquarters just delivered by the butcher was not cut into usable pieces as had been the usual practice.  Milk won't churn properly.  Butter, ordered a month before, had still not been delivered, reducing the family to using lard and tallow.  The weather had turned surprisingly cold, freezing things.  The damper on the kitchen stove turned wonky, causing things put in the oven to burn.  Mice got into the raisins.  The shelf holding the coal oil broke, spilling the oil into the mince-meat.  The carpenter who was to put the door on the barn was called away. leaving Jerry to nail the cows in every night and to remove the boards each morning, causing a cow to rip her leg on one of the nails.  Minks got at the chickens.  A custard meant for the family was eaten by the dog.  

The cause, according to Aunt Callie, was that she and the kitchen had been conjured.  While roaming the fields looking for sassafras, she came across Old Man Maggert, the local conjure man, gathering herbs.  As everyone knows, herbs gathered for conjuring had to be gathered in private or else the conjuring won't work.  And, as everyone knows, Old Man Maggert was a nasty, mean cuss.  The conjurer raged at Aunt Callie and put a curse on both her and her kitchen.  As a conjurer he could have done much worse.

Aunt Callie's daughter, Jinny Ver, was an educated and beautiful woman who held no truck with her mother's superstitions.   Slowly, she, too, became convinced of Old Man Maggart's power.  It was suggested that the family contacted Uncle Rufe Lemew as one who had the power to remove conjuring.  But Uncle Rufe had had an argument with his "here" wife and had taken his rifle and clothes and moved to Tennessee to be  with his "main" wife.  That left the local black preacher who, they hoped, would be able to talk Aunt Callie out of this superstitious belief, but all did was to strengthen Aunt Callie's belief in both conjuring and the preacher's foolishness.

Jerry the handyman was a good-natured, but uneducated soul.  Despite a hard life, he retained a good sense of humor and self-deprecation.  Naturally clumsy and shy, Jerry developed a strong liking for Jinny Ver and tended to stammer and trip whenever in her presence.  Somehow he managed to get up the courage to ask her to the festival, but Aunt Cassie put the kibosh on that, saying that Jinny Ver was too educated for the likes of Jerry, despite the fact that Jerry owned two mules and a wagon, had a banjo and ten dollars in the store account.  Jerry knew his alphabet and could write his own name, as well as read and print a bit.  While Aunt Callie was telling him this, Jerry had gotten his legs all twisted up so when Jinny Ver came in in her new dress, Jerry tripped and spilled a soup tureen all over the girl's new frock.  Well, that did it for Jerry.  Both women refused to speak to him, shouting work orders to him as if he were far away, even though he was right next to him.

Both situations -- the conjured kitchen and Jerry's ill luck with Jinny Ver -- continued.   One day, Jerry came in and excitedly told Aunt Callie that he knew how to lift the conjurer's curse.  According to what he had overheard at the grocery store, one had to go up to the conjurer, him enough to draw blood, and catch the blood before it hit the ground.  Jerry was determined to do this for Jinny Ver and Aunt Callie, even though Aunt Callie and he both believed he might be killed in the attempt.  Jerry dictates a will leaving his mules, wagon, banjo, and money to Jinny Ver, and goes off on his quest.

While Jerry is gone, the stove in the kitchen catches fire and threatens to destroy both the kitchen and the house.  The handle to the pump is broken.  (Part of the conjuring?)  Everyone brought whatever jugs of water they had in their rooms to try to extinguish the flames.  Suddenly the fire goes out and Aunt Callie believes this is because the conjuring has been lifted.  Jerry must have defeated Old Man Maggert!  (Everyone else thought that the water poured on the fire did the trick.)  Aunt Callie told Jinny Ver to clean herself up, put on some good clothes, and add some scent to her handkerchief because she was going to marry Jerry -- who may not be educated but he surely was brave.

There was never a problem in the kitchen or on the plantation ever since.

The conjuring may or may not have been real, but they story itself is fascinating in its exploration of superstition.  Off-putting notes lie in the use of stereotypical black dialect whenever many of the characters speak and in the tacit acceptance of black and roles of the time.  Neither should detract from the tale given its ancestry.

Alice French (1850-1934) used the name "Octave Thanet" for all of her writing.  Much her writing came from winters spent in her home in the Black River swamp country of Arkansas.  She prided herself on her accurate description of the area as well as the customs and dialect of her characters.  Her stories relied on local color and proved popular with readers of the day.

She divided her time between her home in Davenport, Iowa, and "Thanford," the Arkansas home she shared with her lover, Jane Allen Crawford.  Thanford was the site of many glamourous literary parties.  French also established a wood workshop and a photography studio there (she did publish one book on photography).  She and Jane Crawford gave up Thanford after fifteen years (in 1909), and she travelled extensively throughout the United States, speaking on conservative causes and against women's suffrage.  According to Wikipedia, "Her point of view remained fixed in the era of her youth."  She lost contact with literary and social developments shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century, later developed diabetes and lost a leg and became blind, dying just two years after Jane Crawford.

He attention to detail and her exploration of local folkways and superstitions still make much of her work readable today.

This story is available to read online in the collection Otto the Knight and Other Trans-Mississippi Stories.


 Rory Storm & The Hurricanes (with pre-Beatles Ringo Starr on drums).


 From October 24, 1955, the Old Ranger (Stanley Andrews) spins us a tale of a time when a contest was held for "The Homeliest Man in Nevada."  Clem Scobie, a war hero, is teased by his fellow miners because of his appearance and he tends to accept this.  "I know that in looks I'm no star/There are others more handsome by far/But my face I don't mind it/Because I'm behind it/It's the folks out in front that I jar."  Then came pretty Mona Sherman (Patricia Joiner) and Clem is smitten, but Mona is attracted to handsome Bruce Courtright (Richard Avonde).  Well, we know that is going to change, don't we?

Directed by Stuart E. McGowan, from a script by Ruth Woodman.



 The Hullaballoos.

Monday, March 22, 2021


 Openers:  His voice came in a rasping croak, as though his throat were only part human, and the other part was frog.

"I have studied victory and control by terror.  Most outstanding was my visit to Japan.  There, meine Herren, is the greatest example of control through fear and terror.  In the Mashi Prison I saw -- "

"One moment, Herr Goulon,"  the Hun general on his left interrupted.

The crippled beast-man shot an enraged glance at the enquiring general.    His sunken, bloodshot eyes became horribly fierce and cruel.

"I assume that your study of terror began with your hatred for a certain American spy?" the general suggested.  "I refer to the man known as G-8."

-- "The Wings of the Giant Claw," "as told by G-8 to Robert J. Hogan"  (from G-8 and His Battle Aces, December 1943)

During World War 1, no American pilot was more feared than the man known only as G-8, who battled the German menace in all its supernatural glory.  That's right. in these bizarre adventures, the Germans used werewolves, zombies, animated skeletons. resurrected Vikings, and the products of super-technology that the most evil of German scientists could create.  Not only was G-8 a flying ace, he also was a super-spy.  It's astounding that the war lasted as long as it did.

Aided by his manservant Battle and the two daring pilots who were his Battle Aces, Nippy Weston and Bull Martin, G-8 flew into battle for 110 issues of Popular Publications' G-8 and His Battle Aces, from October 1933 to June 1944.  As with a number of the pulp heroes of the time, G-8 had a girlfriend,  nurse who helped the squad; like G-8, her name was never given.

All of G-8's adventures were written by Robert J. Hogan (1897-1963) under his own name.  Born in New York state, Hogan worked a number of jobs from riding the range in the Rockies, to playing the piano for silent movies.  He also built houses, manufactured leather goods, designed planes, and was briefly an amateur boxer.  When he was 20, he worked as a cowpuncher for a Colorado ranch -- the name of the ranch was G-8.  Hogan was reportedly the first person in the Denver area to take the Air Service Exam.  He enlisted in January 1918 and was sent to Eberts Field for flight training.  Hogan later taught flying.  In the late 1920's Hogan worked as a sales manager and airplane demonstrator for Curtiss-Wright Corporation, where the operations manager was Harold "Bull" Nevin, who had been a squadron commander in France and acted as an occasional spy.  Nevin told many stories of his adventures during the war and of the comradery of the men he fought with.  Bevins had one photograph prominently displayed of he and two other flyers, on of who was named "Nippy" Westover.  Nevin and Westover later became the prototypes for Bull Martin and Nippy Weston.

Following the 1929 financial collapse, Hogan determined to become a writer and had success primarily with the air pulps -- there were about half a dozen of them at the time.  Hogan also wrote for the sports and western pulps.  At the time, Popular Publications had the best air war pulps. and Hogan soon became a regular contributor with his stories of Smoke Wade in Battle Birds.  Wanting to expand to full-length series, Hogan pitched his idea to publisher Harry Steeger.  The hero would be called G-8, in part because the letter G would hint at some government involvement.  "And His Battle Aces," Steeger added; Steeger planned to drop Popular's Battle Aces magazine and still get some crossover effect by including the title in Hogan's new series.

The formula was simple: the hero had given writer Robert J, Hogan access to his diaries that recorded various adventures; Hogan, in turn, would have free license to adapt the adventures.  To keep the series fresh, Hogan planned to include a fantastic element to his series.  It worked well, starting out as a fifteen cent magazine and dropped down to ten cents in 1936.  By 1941, though, the public had a different was to worry about and few were interested in the old war.  The magazine switched from monthly publication to every other  month, before finally fading out in 1944.

While at Popular, Hogan also wrote seven novel-length installments for Mysterious Wu Fang and all four adventures of The Secret 6 in the short-lived self-titled- pulp magazine.

Following G-8 and His Battle Aces, Hogan went on to write westerns and for television.

"Wings of the Giant Claw" was a late entry into the G-8 saga, number 107 out of 110 adventures.  The blurb tells you that, even at this late date, the action continued:  "Out of the caverns of the lost came the deathless beast-men of Herr Goulon, Hunland's Master-mind of Murder -- and to save the world he was fighting for, the Ace American Flying Spy had to undertake a solo flight -- beyond the grave!"


  • Lou Anders, editor, Futureshocks.  SF anthology with 16 stories about "new fears arising out of sociological, biological. or technological change."  From the back cover:  "Experience sensory overload in this anthology from today's masters of speculative fiction as they reveal the terrors, triumphs, and seeming impossibilities awaiting humanity in the years to come.  From artificial intelligences and bioengineering to transhumans threatening to make mankind obsolete, these cutting-edge tales present a future in which every day brings shocking new developments undreamed of the day before -- a future in which tomorrow never knows what may follow."  Authors include Kevin J. Anderson, Paul Di Filippo, Alan Dean Foster, Alex Irvine, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Mike Resnick & Harry Turtledove, Robert J. Sawyer, and Robert Charles Wilson.
  • L. P. Davies, The Artificial Man.  Science fictional mystery.  "With his first novel, The Paper Dolls, was published, it was hailed by critics everywhere and was chosen by Harper's Magazine as one of the best mysteries of the year.  Anthony Boucher, in the New York Times, called it 'a vigorous man-against-the-unknown adventure story, with touched of horror all the more effective for being underplayed.'  Now, with The Artificial Man, L. P. Davies plunges even deeper into this new type of suspense novel -- a unique hybrid which combines the eerie ans unknown terrors of science fiction with the elements 0f the classic suspense tale.  The story begins very quietly in the English village where Alan Fraser had lived all his life.  The shopkeepers, the folks next door, the village constable, the delivery man -- and then came the girl, the mysterious stranger, and chaos and danger."  This seems to be a fairly typical British SF/suspense novel along the lines of John Blackburn or Charles Eric Maine; whether it rises to their level remains to be seen.
  • Michael Kurland, A Study in Sorcery.  Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy takes the stage in this alternate world novel where magic exists.  "Just when thought it was safe yo go back in the temple...A young Azteque prince is found dead on an ancient altar -- murdered, it seems.  And most puzzling of all -- the boyo's heart is missing!  From across the Atlantic, Lord Darcy, Investigator in Chief for the Court of King John, and Forensic Sorcerer Sean O'Lochlainn are called to solve this ghastly mystery.  Is it merely a nostalgic return to the good old days of human sacrifice?  Or could it be a calculated attempt to endanger the fragile balance of power between Angevin and Azteque Empires?  Lord Darcy must work quickly and with extreme caution, if he is to unravel this puzzle in time to preserve the peace of the New World, the security of the Old World -- and his own life!"  Lord Darcy is one of the great science fiction characters.  This is Kurland's second adventure of Lord Darcy, following Ten Little Wizards.
  • Keith Laumer, The Stars Must Wait.  Science fiction.  The third Bolo book by Laumer before Baen Books turned the robotic tanks into a shared universe.  "In the year 2002 a young Air Force Lieutenant Commander prepares for his role as Backup Navigator for the historic Callisto Mission.  Before leaving Earth for space, 'Jack' Jackson will be placed in a state of suspended animation, and will be awakened on arrival at Callisto -- unless something happens to the Primary Navigator...And Jackson slept on.  And on.  When he does awaken, a century has passed, and he is faced with a nightmare wilderness inhabited by neo-barbarians and senile -- but still sentient -- tanks.  Now it's up to Jackson to bring the world back to its senses."  Published in 1990, the book was written when Laumer was past his prime, after a stroke had a negative impact on his writing.  Still, it may be worth looking into.
  • Mack Reynolds, Galactic Medal of Honor.  SF novel, expanded from the story "Medal of Honor" that appeared in Amazing Stories [not Fantastic as stated on the copyright page], September 1960.  "The Galactic Medal of honor was the most important, the most coveted award of all time.  It was given only to a handful of the bravest and most self-sacrificing of those defending earth from the mysterious alien invaders that had appeared fifty years before.  It was almost always given posthumously.  The bearer of the medal became the idol of all mankind, would never want for any necessity or luxury -- would never want for anything.  Everyone one Earth sought that medal...One man was going to cheat to win it -- and live to regret it."  Reynolds was one of SF's most popular writers in the Sixties, specializing in political and economic themes mixed with fats-paced adventure.
  • Dennis Wheatley, The Quest of Julian Day.  Thriller novel.  "It was for lovely Sylvia Shane that Julian set out on his quest for the treasure of Cambyses, buried for more than two thousand years.  It led to a night in the Tomb of the Sacred Bulls in Alexandria, to an encounter with white slavers and dope runners in the City of the Dead where death lurked in the ancient temples.  A quest that was to end in the waterless Libyan desert, five hundred miles from civilisation."  [Who the heck writes these back cover blurbs?]   Wheatley was a popular writer of historical, adventure, espionage, and occult novels -- all very staid and veddy, veddy British.

Oh, What a Day!:  Now that Spring is here and 1,000,000 Americans have received their first vaccination shot at least, it's time to celebrate all the simple things that make life great and to downplay for a moment all the things that don't, such as Asian-American racism, GOP-fueled voter restriction attempts, and Daylight Savings Time.  So let's start with today -- it's International Talk Like William Shatner Day!  What   fun   we   will   have  talking   slowly  and with   exaggerated   emotion   (or   lack   of   it)!

If that doesn't float your boat (although surely it should), today is also National Bavarian Crepes Day.  Despite the expected crowds today at your local Bavarian Crepes R Us, this is a holiday you should not ignore..

One celebration that I can get behind is National Goof Off Day, a holiday that appears catered to my talents.  I may skip Gryffindor Pride Day, but Coq Au Vin Day sounds tasty.  I like the idea of International Day of the Seal, National Sing Off Day, and As Young As Feel Day (although As Young As You Would Like To Feel Day would be more appropriate in my case).  

World Day of Metta celebrates the a type of Buddhist mediation that directs positive energy and kindness to others.  Pretty neat, if you ask me.

Today is also National and World Water Day.  That's one that should be recognized every day of the year.  All those who work to protect our waters -- from riverkeepers to the Environmental Protection Agency to the many organizations which realize the value of clean water (including The National Wildlife Federation, Clean Water Action, The Nature Conservancy, Protecting Our Waters, and Environment America) -- need our support and deserve our thanks.  Polluting our rives, lakes, and oceans is not the way to go.

This entire week is **drum roll, please** American Chocolate Week!  O frabjous day week!  Callooh!  Callay!  (As I chortle in my joy.)

Other neat celebrations for this week include:
  • National Anonymous Giving Week
  • National Clean Out Your Closet Week (Could Fibber McGee be the spokesperson?  If you don't recognize the name, forget it -- you're too young.)
  • National Poison Prevention Week
  • National Animal Poison Prevention Week
  • National Fix a Leek Week (which ties into National and World Water Days. above)
  • World Folktales & Fables Week; and
  • Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination
I would also mention that it's National Introverts week but I don't want to bring attention  to  myself.

A Bridge Too Far Not Far Enough:  I have mentioned before the saga of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, also known as the Three Mile Bridge, which joins the city of Pensacola with the city of Gulf Breeze (Floridians define the term "city" fairly loosely), and the Eastern section of the state's Gulf Coast.  It opened on Halloween Day, 1960,  replacing  the earlier Thomas A. Johnson Bridge, which had been constructed in 1931.

Thirty-two years ago, on January 15, 1989,  a tug pushing two empty barges slammed into the bridge, causing major damage and closing the bridge for 18 days -- forcing commuters to take a 45-mile detour via Route 97, or to utilize an overcrowded ferry system.   Two lane traffic (one lane in each direction) was restored on the westbound bridge, but it would be 224 days before the bridge was restored to normal.  The state used that time to modernize the bridge, adding emergency lanes and updating the bridge's barrier and lighting. Seventeen years ago, Hurricane Ivan hit, teaching the state more lessons on how to make a more secure bridge.  Plans were drafted for a new bridge -- taller, and with more robust foundations and superstructure, able to withstand a ship impact, dissipate the force of an impact, and provide less structural damage.  After much hemming and hawing, funding and approval for a new bridge finally came about and in February, 2020, the westbound side of the new bridge was opened. allowing two lanes of traffic each way until the eastbound side of the bridge could be completed.  

Then came Hurricane Sally on September 15.  First reports were the a barge had broken loose and was wedged underneath the bridge,  then a crane was toppled and took out a whole section of the bridge, making the bridge completely unusable.  Then came the news that the bridge construction company had failed to moor their barges during the storm and thirty-seven barges broke loose, many of them slamming into the bridge, while others were found washed up on homeowner lawns in various places on the Bay.  The site was so dangerous that underwater divers could not assess the damage for several weeks.  Months later, one barge was so firmly packed into the bridge's understructure that it could nor be removed.  Luckily (?), the newer Garcon Point Bridge had opened in 1999, so commuters reduced their detour by about 20 miles.  Not so luckily, the Garcon Point Bridge is a toll bridge ($5 each way) and is a narrow bridge with just one lane each way.  Luckily, the state waived the toll for a limited period, said period being extended several times over now.  Unluckily, traffic has become a nightmare with congestion, accidents, and fatalities.  But hope was coming!

It was announced that the repaired bridge would be open to traffic on March 22 -- TODAY!  (Whoot!  Whoot!)  The traffic would allow four lanes on the Pensacola side and two lanes on the Gulf Breeze side.  Work would continue and all lanes would be completely open at the end of the month.

The nineteen days ago, it was announced, "Whoops!"

It turns out that they accidentally discovered the new bridge was not secure.  While putting an ornamental piece in place, the foundation shifted and would not shift back into its proper place.  Now much of the work that has been done must be torn down and replaced.

Here's some drone footage of the damage to the bridge, taken on September 17: 

Oh.  and it also turns out that they had miscounted the number of barges that had gone walkabout (floatabout?) during Hurricane Sally.  They found another one just about a week ago.

My bridge confidence level has reached negative numbers.  **sigh**

How Ballet Was Saved:    Once upon a time women took the major male roles in ballet and the music was composed with this fact in mind.  The following 1970 British documentary explores this dichotomy using Delibes' 1870 ballet Coppelia, which was based on E. T. A. Hoffmann's stories "Der Sandmann" and "Die Automate,"  Since I like Delibes, and I like Coppelia, and I am a fan of Hoffmann's writing, this program was a natural for me.  The history and background was icing on the cake.



Sunday, March 21, 2021


 One of the most enjoyable things on YouTube right now are the Pitch Meeting videos from Screen Rant with Ryan George.   Each meeting involves a screenwriter (Ryan George) pitching a movie or television concept to a producer (also Ryan George).  The results are hilarious, sometimes disturbing, and always on point. 

The compilation below is of the pitch meetings for the Twilight saga movies, Twilight, Breaking Dawn, Eclipse, and New Moon, Parts 1 and 2.  For me, this is great because the movies and the books are high on my list of things to loathe.



 The Choir of Hexham Abbey.

Thursday, March 18, 2021


 Yellowjacket was a comic book superhero who lasted for ten issues of his own comic, and made his final appearance in Jack-in-the-Box Comics #1 (October 1946).  He was Vince Harley, a crime fiction writer and amateur beekeeper who became the superhero while searching for a crime plot.  Here's how describes it:

"Crime author Vince Harley is thinking of a new novel premise when one comes to him.  You see, Judy Graves appears near his house, bringing the mob after her.  In the ensuing scuffle, Vince learns that he can communicate with bees.  Using his new-found abilities, Vince defeats the gangsters and embarks on a new career as 'the Yellowjacket.' "


[Excuse me for a minute.  I have to find my willing suspension of disbelief.  Now, where is it?  Ah!  There you are!  Okay, now I can go on.}


Where were we?  Yes, the mob guys are after jewels that Judy has.  They want her to help them steal them and she doesn't want to.  When she threatens to go to the police, they give chase in the rain -- which may explain why they took their time tracking her down; time enough for Vince to lay her on the sofa in front of the fireplace, to make her a hot cup of tea, to find the jewels she had hidden, and to fall asleep himself.  Vince wakes up when the pug-uglies show up, brandishing guns, and demanding the girl (in their best Brooklyn accents, 'natch).  Ah, but the girl is gone!  Vince takes a swing at one of the baddies and gets knocked down.  They were going to shoot our hero, but one of them came up with a more evil idea:  Let's get one of the bee hives, shake it up real good so the bees will get mad, and dump the bees on the unconscious man so the bees will kill him and we won't have to!  Great idea, Chauncy!  Now the bees happen to be yellowjackets, which really do not belong in an apiary, but who's kvetching?  Anyway, Judy did not vanish -- she just hid in a closet.  When she came out, Vince's entire body was covered with yellowjackets, which suddenly leave Vince and ramble back to their hive.  Vince, of course is unharmed because he is one of those few people who are immune to bee stings.  Vince decides to go after the bad guys.  For some reason, he decides to dress up in a yellow costume, complete with mask, yellow and black striped cape, black gloves and leggings, with yellow underpants worn on the outside to match his shirt.  When one of the bad guys pulls a gun, Vince has a yellowjacket sting him.


[Okay, there's a lot to unpack here.  Whoops!  I see my willing suspension of disbelief is trying to scuttle back to a safe place.  Come back here, you coward!  Okay.  First off, why did Judy have the jewels?  And how did the gang know she had them?  And this whole thing of yellowjackets in an apiary?  Give me a break?  And I can get that people can be immune to bee stings, but thousands of them at one time?!!?  And why can Vince communicate suddenly with bees?  And how does he know he can?  And because you can talk to the bees, does that mean they will obey you, or even listen?  And where the hell did that costume come from...And where did my willing suspension of disbelief go now?  Geez, you turn you back for one second...Where are you hiding, you little so-and-so?  I need you here with me. I mean I really, really, really, REALLY need you.  I don't think I can go on without...Gaah!  My disbelief!  It's coming back!  Oh, the humanity!...]


...must make it through the next paragraph...Be strong, Jerry!

Anyway, the cops come, the crooks are arrested, the jewels go back to wherever the hell they came from, the girl gets a suspended sentence, and there's a new superhero on the block.


Also in this issue:

  • After getting  the go-ahead from Zeus, Diana the Huntress helps the Allies defeat the Germans and Japanese in Greece
  • Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" gets a six-page comic adaptation
  • Danny King, circus crime-fighter, becomes King of the Beasts and handles a vengeful ex-lion tamer
  • Harbor Lights (evidently a Yank Merchant Marine) tells the tale of a sailor who should have died when captured by Germans
  • The Filipino Kid, Juan Manito, protects his homeland from the Japanese
Check it out.


 Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers.


 Wieland; or, The Transformation:  An American Tale by Charles Brockden Brown (1798)

The narrator is Clara Wieland, a beautiful, intelligent, and strong-willed woman, the sister of Thomas Wieland.  Sara and Thomas have jointly inherited their father's property -- Mettingen, a large and somewhat isolated outside of Philadelphia -- where they were raised.  Their father had emigrated to America sometime in the late middle 18th century to found spread the word of his personal religion to the Indians.  He failed in this endeavor and eventually died following an unexplained incident of spontaneous combustion.  With their father gone, Thomas -- referred to as Wieland in the novel -- remained in their father's house, and Clara moved to a smaller house on the estate.  Both Clara and Wieland have inherited their father's religious streak, Wieland more so than his sister.  Wieland marries Catherine Playel, a childhood friend, and they have four children to whom Clara is devoted.

Their life is both idyllic and Edenic.  Mettingen is, in Clara's mind, paradise.  There is not a more beautiful or more peaceful place in the world.  They pass their days reading poetry and literature, performing little plays, and in intelligent conversation.  Soon they are joined by a fourth, Henry Playel, Catherine's brother, who had just returned from a long sojourn Europe.  The four are close and have no need of others.

Soon their little world becomes strange.  First, Wieland, then Playel, begin to hear voices...commands.  Eventually Clara hears them, too.  Playel, who had fallen in love with a married German woman while in Europe, had recently determined to return to Europe after learning that she was now a widow, becomes disheartened when the mysterious voice tells him that she has died.   He elects to stay at Mettingen. remaining close to his friends.  Clara soon finds herself in love with him but, as a respectable woman, gives him no hint of her feelings.

The voices continue.  The four are joined by Carwin, a mysterious man with whom Playel had been acquainted in Europe.  Carwin's background is hazy and we later learn that he had fled to America after being sought for some unspecified crime.  One evening Carwin lies hidden in Clara's closet and plans to rape her.  When Carwin confronts Clara, however, he does not "dishonor' her, believing her nder some sort of supernatural protection.  We learn that Carwin is a biloquist (a ventriloquist who can speak in several voices, copying each exactly), explaining the mysterious voices.  Carwin leaves. and soon Playel arrives and accuses Clara of being all sorts of bad things -- he had just overheard Carwin and Clara in the garden where the voice of Clara describes their carnal love in explicit terms.  Playel wants nothing to do with Clara, and -- since he conveniently has learned the his European love was actually alive and had travelled to America to find him -- vows to go to her.

Clara the receives a note from Carwin, asking her to meet him at her house.  She goes and finds the savagely murdered corpse of her sister-in-law in her bedroom.  In shock, she goes downstairs as Wieland storms into the house, accusing Clara of all sorts of bad things.  (Playel had told him what he had heard, you see.)  Then he rushes out.

A group of townspeople come.  Clara faints.  When she wakes up she learns that all four of Wieland's children have been slaughtered, and that Wieland has been arrested for the murder of his family.  Not only arrest, but he has also confessed.  According to Wieland, Jehovah had spoken to him demanding first the sacrifice of his wife to prove his devotion, then the murders of his children.  Wieland felt he was doing the bidding of God, and as a most religious man, he had no choice.  Wieland is deemed insane and is sent to an asylum.  Carwin strongly denies he had used his powers to trick Wieland into musrder.  There, he reveals that Jehovah has told him he must also kill Clara and Playel.  He escapes several times to attempt to murder Clara, but was caught before he could reach here.  He escapes one final time and confronts Clara, determined to kill her.  Needless to say, Clara is saved.  Playel goes off and marries his German love.

Clara is left alone, isolated.  Everything she has loved has been torn from her.  Her personal Edan has been denied her.  She accepts her fate and vows to live on in misery.

But, wait!  There's a coda written three years later.  Playel's wife has died and he marries Clara, who realized that, although she likes Playel, she does not love him.  Slowly she is picking up the pieces of her life and is finding some sort of happiness,

The religious overtones of the novel are obvious.  Brown, himself did not like extreme religiosity.  The sacrifice of Isaac theme is used to display this.  We are left to wonder if Wieland's psychosis was the result of Carwin's interference or was due to the religious fanaticism of Wieland, although the letter is strongly hinted.  (Carwin, by the way, goes of to a remote part of America and turns to farming.)  The Eden-like setting suggests that religious fanaticism is what destroyed paradise.  Clara's independence streak is countered by her acceptance of puritanism. 

Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810) was the most important early American novelist before James Fenimore Cooper, and Wieland -- the first of seven novels extant -- was his most popular work.  It followed in the Gothic-like tradition of Thomas Godwin's Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794), although far less mundane and politically charged.  Wieland is certainly not everyone's cup of tea; it is as overblown and wordy as any 19th century novel.  The sexual content is neatly sidestepped through obfuscation.  Motives and segues can seem inexplicable.  Through it all, however, there is a narrative pace that propels one through the novel.  It was a much better reading experience that I had thought it would be.

It should be noted that Brown based his book on a real-life murder story.  In 1781, in Tomhannock, New York, James Yates killed his wife and four children and then attempted to murder his sister.  Yates, evidently influenced by religious delusion, expressed no remorse at his trial.


 Petula Clark.


 Earth has been pulled out of its orbit by a passing comet.  Drifting through space for the past ten years, its atmosphere has been frozen into a deep layer of "snow."  Our narrator is a ten-year-old boy whose family lives in a makeshift shelter they call "the nest."  Their breathable atmosphere comes from regularly collecting the "snow" and melting it over a fire.

X Minus One was an NBC radio program that ran from 1955 tom1958 for a total of 126 episodes.  The show was originally a revival of NBC's 1950-1951 series Dimension X, and its first episodes were versions of old Dimension X episodes.  X Minus One then partnered with Astounding Science Fiction magazine to adapt stories from that magazine into half-hour episodes; later during its run, it partnered with Galaxy Science Fiction on the same basis.

"A Pail of Air" was based on Fritz Leiber's story in the December 1951 issue of Galaxy.  It was adapted by George Lefferts and featured Ronnie Liss, Pamela Fitzmorris, Richard Hamilton, and Joe De Santis.  Fred Collins id the countdown from "X minus five" as the show's announcer.Daniel Sutter directed.

Enjoy this episode from one of the very best old-time radio science fiction programs.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021


 From 1933, Blind Jim Howard.


 My neighbor is very ignorant but he is a big supporter of bacteria.  It's the only culture he knows.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021


 "The Terrible Experience of Plodkins" by Robert Barr (from The Idler, March 1892; reprinted in Barr's collection In a Steamer Chair and Other Shipboard Stories, 1892)

This is the tale that Plodkins told, verified only in part by the narrator.  Plodkins was a frequent traveler on cross-Atlantic liners, being connected to companies both in England and in America.  Plodkins was also a heavy drinker -- "he was one of the most talented drinkers in America," asserts the narrator, who "never knew a man who could take in so much liquor and show such little results."  His curse was "that in the morning Plodkins was never at his best, because he was nearer sober then than at any other part of the day" -- a situation he would remedy as soon as possible.

For passenger wishing to take a bath in the morning there was a great demand for the bath room, such that the porters had to assign bath times for those indicating that they wanted to bathe.  A half hour was allotted to each passenger.  Plodkins time was 7:00 am; the narrator's was 7:30.  The tub itself was large and deep, made of marble, with taps for hot of cold, sea water, or regular.  The drain was in the center of the tub, at the bottom.  Normally, the porter would fill the tub halfway at the desired temperature for each passenger, then knock on the cabin door to say that the bath was ready.

One morning the narrator woke a bit after 7:30.  The porter had not knocked to waken him.  He put on his robe and hurried to the bath room.  The door was unlocked.  Inside he found Plodkins laying in the tub unconscious.  Plodkins was not dead, as was feared, and was able to be revived, albeit dazed and somewhat addled.  Rather than be taken to his room,  Plodkins added water to the tub and instructed the narrator to turn on the electric light.  He then asked him to place his hand in the water.  When the narrator did this, he got a sharp electric shock.  Something was seriously wrong with the wiring.

Plodkins said that, once he got into the tub, he reached across to turn on the light and got a shock that paralyzed him except for his fingers and toes.  Plodkins found himself lying beneath the water line, unable to move.  By pushing with his fingers, he able to place his nose above water for a time, but he knew that if no one came into the bath room soon, he would drown.  Remembering that the plug lay beneath him in the center of the tub, he slowly moved his fingers toward it in an effort to removed the plug.  As he sank beneath the water line he could see the water slowly receding.  But would he able to hold his breath long enough to prevent drowning?  Spoiler alert:  He did, just in time.

Plodkins blamed his ordeal on drink.  Whether the drink caused the electricity to shock him, or whether the drink had paralyzed his body once shocked, he did not specify.  He did, however, vow to give up drinking then and there, and taking baths, also.  We learn that Plodkins never drank since that experience.  No word on whether he ever took another bath.

A light, amusing anecdote -- nothing more.  The sort that Robert Barr (1849-1912) seemed to specialize in.  Barr was born in Scotland and emigrated to Canada with his family when he was four.  Barr trained as a teacher and became the headmaster/principal of a school in Ontario.  It was there that he began to write short stories, often based on his experience as an educator.  Barr then became a staff writer for the Detroit Free Press, contributing articles under the name "Luke Sharp" (Barr had gotten the name from a local undertaker). 

Barr then went to England in 1881 to establish a British edition of the Detroit Free Press.  While there, he also began to expand beyond short stories and write crime novels.  In 1892, Barr founded the magazine The Idler, in collaboration with Jerome K. Jerome.  Barr was a popular writer of the day and was friends with Arnold Bennett, Joseph Conrad, Bret Harte, Rudyard Kipling, H. Rider Haggard, H. G. Wells, and George Gissing, among others.  Conan Doyle described Barr as "a volcanic Anglo -- or rather Scot-American with a violent manner, a wealth of strong adjectives, and one of the kindest natures underneath it all."

Barr published about two dozen books between 1892 and 1912, including a posthumous collaboration with his friend Stephen Crane, The O'Ruddy:  A Romance (1903).  Among fans of crime fiction, Barr may best be remembered for The Triumphs of Eugene Valmont (1906; and listed in the Queen's Quorum of the 125 most important detective-crime books), which includes the classic story "The Absent-Minded Coterie" and features a comic French detective who may be a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes and an inspiration for Hercule Poirot.  Barr's short story "Not on the Passenger List" is an often reprinted ghost story.  Most of Barr's work, though, consists of light, enjoyable short stories.

"The Terrible Experience of Plodkins" is available to read online in Barr's In a Steamer Chair and Other Shipboard Stories.

Saturday, March 13, 2021


 A bit of 60s counterculture from The Fugs, who, according to an FBI document, were "the most vulgar thing the human mind could possibly conceive."

NOTE: The lyrics are NSFW.


 Kids in the early 1950s have Robert A. Heinlein to thank for Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, the popular television, radio, comic strip, comic book, and juvenile novel character -- not that Heinlein had nay personal involvement in the series.  Creator Joseph Greene was inspired by Heinlein's 1948 novel Space Cadet, to rework an unproduced radio script he had submitted two year before about a character named Tom Ranger and the Space Cadets.  Greene adapted his original script for a proposed daily newspaper comic strip in 1949 which also remained unproduced.  It remained for television to introduce the character:  on October 2, 1950, CBS released Tom Corbett, Space Cadet with Frankie Thomas, Jr., in the title role.  The first shows were based on Greene's comic book continuity.  Tom's sidekicks were fellow cadets Roger Manning (Jan Merlin) and Astro, a Venusian (Al Markim).  Captain Steve Strong, who oversaw the squad of cadets, was played by Michael Harvey for six episodes before the role was taken over by Edward Bryce.  Willy Ley served as technical advisor.  The television ran for four years, bouncing back and forth among the four networks at the time, ending on June 25, 1955, on NBC.

In September 1951, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet finally became a newspaper comic strip, running until September 1952.

From 1952 to 1956, Grossett & Dunlop published eight Tom Corbett novels under the house pseudonym of Cary Rockwell, again with Willy ley as technical advisor.

Dell Publishing ran three tryout issues of Tom Corbett in their Four Color series, which was used to get feedback on possible standalone series.  Tom Corbett, Space Cadet gained its own title, beginning with #4, in 1952.  The quarterly book ran until issue #11 in 1954, then was taken up by  Prize Comics for three issues.

Dell's issue #4 contains the full-length, 34-page story "Lost Race of Assorians," also known as "The Beggar's Secret."  It opens with Captain Steve Strong and his Space Cadet Squad reporting failure to the commander of the Solar Guard base on Mars; they had been the latest in a number of attempts to locate evidence of a rumored lost race of Mars, the Assorians.  They also failed to find any trace of the missing Professor Thornton, who has spent his career looking for the mythical Assorians.  It's only when a dying beggar tries to pass a message onto Tom that the cadets get a hint of where Professor Thornton might have gone.  The hint came from the beggar's pet Martian picpup -- a creature that can project thoughts -- that had adopted the cadets after the beggar's death.  Somewhere in the Great Red Desert lies the lost empire of the Assorians and the missing professor.  Unfortunately, there also lie the outlaws of Bor Borito!

The story for this issue was written by Paul Newman (no, not that one), with artwork by John Lehti.


Friday, March 12, 2021

Thursday, March 11, 2021


 The Star Kings by Edmond Hamilton (first published in Amazing Stories, September 1947; published in book form, 1949; reprinted in paperback as Beyond the Moon, 1950)

 A by-the-numbers space opera.

A twentieth century hero, pure of heart?  Check.

Plot adapted from classic literature, in this case, The Prisoner of Zenda?  Check.

Telepathic communications?  Check?  From a far distant future?  Double check.

A mind swap between the hero and a far future scientist?  Check.

A galaxy divided into warring empires?  Check.

Destruction of the scientist's lab, potentially leaving the hero stranded 200,000 years in the future?  Check.

A galaxy-destroying secret weapon, too powerful to be used?  Check.

Another secret weapon in the hands of the enemy, capable of destroying star fleets.  Check.

Discovery that the hero is inhabiting the body of a star prince, one of only three who have the knowledge of how to use the ultimate weapon?  Check.

A romantic "quadrangle" between the hero, the future scientist/prince, the woman he (the f s/p) is to marry for political purposes, and the woman he (again, the f s/p) really loves?   Check.

A royal assassination, pinned on the hero?  Check.

The hero unsure whether the body he inhabits is that of a traitor?  Check.

Space battles?  Crash landings?  Kidnappings?  Hopeless situations?  Check.

A final blaze of glory and a possible happy ending?  Of course.

All of this wrapped up in a glorious science fictional pulp style and transformed beyond the mundane by the skill of the author.  Hamilton has taken normal tropes and injected a pulse-pounding narrative that places The Star Kings well beyond the typical space opera*.

I willingly admit that I am a sucker for much of Hamilton's writing.  For those familiar only with his juvenile tales of Captain Future or with his writing for comic books, Hamilton's mature works will come as a pleasant surprise.


* Hamilton returned to the worlds of the Star Kings in 1964 with the story "Kingdom of the Stars," Amazing Stories, September 1964, followed by "The Shores of Infinity," Amazing Stories, April 1965.  At the request of a French publisher, Hamilton then wrote "The Broken Stars" and "The Horror from the Magellantic" to allow all four stories to be included in Retour aut etoiles (1968);  these stories were later reprinted in English in Fantastic, December 1968, and in Amazing Stories, May 1969, respectively.  The entire French collection was reprinted as Return to the Stars, 1969.  Hamilton also wrote the story "Stark and the Star Kings" with his wife Leigh Brackett, bringing together the Star Kings with Leigh Brackett's hero, Eric John Stark, for Harlan Ellison's never-printed anthology The Last Dangerous Visions;  this story was finally reprinted in Haffner Press' collection Stark and the Star King by Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett in 2005 (an earlier -- 2004 -- French version of this title has differing contents).  "Stark and the Star Kings" marks the only time Hamilton and Brackett officially shared a by-line.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


 Joe Williams.


 G. K. Chesterton's famous detective hit the radio airwave briefly, from June 10-July 29, 1945, on the Mutual Broadcasting System.  Stage, radio, film, and television actor Karl Swenson played the title role.  (Swenson may be best remembered as the voice of Merlin in Disney's The Sword in the Stone, or as lumber mill owner Lars Hanson on Little House on the Prairie; shortly after the episode in which his character died, Hansen himself died of a heart attack -- that episode aired eight days after the actor's death.)  William Sweets directed and John Stanley announced the half-hour mystery program.

Can you match wits with one of the greatest clerical detectives in fiction?


 An old vaudeville song from Lucy Lowe.


 So this couple went to a therapist and the therapist asked, "What brings you here today?"

The wife said, "My husband is impossible to live with.  He's just too literal."

The husband said, "My truck."

Tuesday, March 9, 2021


 "Rats of Limbo" by Fritz Leiber (from Fantastic Science Fiction Stories, August 1960; never reprinted to my knowledge)

The blurb for this story read, "Every writer must have his fun.  One has his fun -- and gives you some, too -- in this little tale, fable, sketch, scrap (crumb?)."  I read this 3-page crumb a bit more than sixty years ago and it has stayed with me since then -- that was when I realized that Leiber was a great writer, and my opinion has never changed.

I won't describe it because I there is no way I can do it justice.  Suffice it to say that it is a chilling, surrealistic tale of the consequences of having both a bad memory and a most powerful imagination.

Below is a link from Internet Archive for the entire August 1960 issue of Fantastic*.  The story begins on page 33.  See if your opinion matches mine.

[*Also in this issue are stories by Robert Bloch, Eric Frank Russell, Arthur Porges, Frederic [sic] Brown, and Robert F. Young, as well as the conclusion of Jack Sharkey's "The Crispin Affair" and Sam Moskowitz's profile of M. P. Shiel and H. F. Heard, "The Neglected Thinkers of SF."]


 Buddy Holly (with Fats Domino and Little Richard).


Two of my favorite writers when I was much younger were named Shulman.  Irving Shulman wrote gritty, tough-guy novels like The Amboy Dukes, Cry Tough, and The Big Brokers and the screenplay for Rebel Without a Cause. and Max Shulman wrote gloriously insane humor novels like The Barefoot Boy with Cheek and Rally Round the Flag Boys!, as well as the Dobie Gillis short stories.  It's hard to find two more dissimilar writers but I reveled in both their works.

There was no reason for me to mention Irving Shulman here other than my desire to stroll down Memory Lane.  The focus is on Max Shulman, or, rather, his Dobie Gillis character.  Dobie (Dwayne Hickman) was a romantic teenager whose dreams of love, especially with the enticing Thalia Menninger (Tuesday Weld, written out after the first season **sigh**), came to naught.  The one girl who wanted Dobie was Zelda Gilroy (Sheila James), who felt Dobie and she were meant to get together.  Dobie's best friend was a young beatnik, Maynard G. Krebs, who (as played by Bob Denver) became the show's breakout character.  Dobie lived with his parents, Herbert T. Gillis (played wonderfully by Frank Faylen), who owned a small grocery store, and Winifred (Florida Friebus).  For a brief while, Dobie had an older brother Davey (played by Hickman's real-life brother Darryl) but Davey went the route of Richie Cunningham's older brother Chuck, never to be heard from again.  Other cast members included Warren Beatty as rich kid Milton Osborne, Steve Franken as Milton's cousin Chatsworth Osborne, Jr., and William Schallert as (first high school, then college) teacher Leander Pomfritt; Herbert Anderson played Promfitt in the pilot episode only.  Another important, but unspeaking character, was Rodin's "The Thinker," the statue were Dobie sat to suss out his problems.

The television show ran from 1959 to 1963 for 148 episodes.  The first episode of the series, "Caper at the Bijou" has Dobie desperate for money so he can take Thalia to the dance, so he and Maynard hatch a plot to win $100 at the Bijou Theater's Jackpot Night.  It aired on September 29, 1959.


Monday, March 8, 2021


 Bob Segar and The Silver Bullet Band.


 Sorry.  Between Kitty's birthday yesterday and medical appointments today, I did not have time to write the usual Bit & Pieces post.  Next week, for sure.

Sunday, March 7, 2021


 When we met many years ago, her smile and her laughter could brighten the darkest day and I could get lost in the wonder of her eyes.  She was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside.  I've always wondered why she would settle for a clunk like me but I'm smart enough not to challenge her on it.  With the passage of time little has changed, except we move a little slower and our joints ache just a little bit more.  She still takes my breath away.  I still love her as much now as I did then  That's a lie.  I love her even more.  As we grew together, she has been my source of happiness and joy.  She has helped me grow to be a better person.  She has given the world two amazing daughters, who, in turn, have given the world amazing grandchildren.  I am the luckiest man on earth.

Happy birthday, my love.

Saturday, March 6, 2021


 One of the few SF conventions we attended.  In between speakers, Kitty and Forrest J. Ackerman were singing "42nd Street" at our table...


 Chester DT Baldwin.

Friday, March 5, 2021


 From 1962, Don & Juan.



"One of the lost comic book private eyes, and a surprisingly successful one, at that, was YOUNG KING COLE, JR., the 'detective agency master mind.'  Cole appeared in his won comic book for several years, and appeared sporadically in other publications as well.   Mild-mannered, bespectacled, sporting a bow tie, it wasn't hard to think of Cole as the CLARK KENT of private eyes.

"However, Cole didn't slip into a conventional phone booth and come out slugging.  His adventures tended to be as mild-mannered [as] Cole himself, avoiding violence and bloodshed.  And, like most private eyes of the time, Cole was assisted in his adventures by a faithful secretary/Gal Friday.  Iris was her name and she stuck by Cole through thick and thin."

A masked bandit has been robbing banks in Prairie City.  A photograph dropped at the scene of the latest robbery leads Cole to Windy Grove, Texas (population 90 people, 2000 cows), where he faces death with a young beauty queen wannabe.

Also in this issue are adventures of Toni Gayle ("glamourous detective model"), Larry Broderick ("city detective"), Inspector Klooz (comic relief detective), Dr. Drew the Zoo Man (with the power to make animals understand him), and a one-page filler with Boitram the Boiglar.



Ladd's Black Aces, from 1923.  The group was first called The Original Memphis Five, and later known as Jazzbo's Carolina Serenaders, Bailey's Lucky Seven, The Southland Six, and The Cotton Pickers.  Tommy and Jimmey Dorsey were occasional members of the group and Jimmy Durante was once their piano player.

Thursday, March 4, 2021


 The Charwoman's Shadow by Lord Dunsany (1926)

Ramon Alonzo Matthew-Mark-Luke-John of the Tower and Rocky Forest in a long-ago and magical Spain is tasked by his father, Gonsolvo, the Lord of the Tower and Rocky Forest, in bringing gold for Ramon Alonzo's sister's dowry.  The girl is now fifteen and needs to be married soon, as was the custom, but her father never learned the art of getting gold (he was more interested in hunting boar) so the casket of silver and oak that was to contain young Mirandola's dowry was empty.  And the nearest person -- basically the only person -- who would be a "suitable" husband for Mirandola was the fat and unpleasant Gulvarez, who own a small estate and raised wonderful pigs.

At one time, Ramon Alonzo's grandfather was hunting in the dense woods by the slope of a mountain a day's walk away, when he met a strange man, a magician.  The two talked and the grandfather told the magician about hunting boar, which was the great joy in Ramon Alonzo's grandfather's life.  The magician felt that this information about boar hunting was of great import and was one of the few things that he had not known before.  On parting, the magician gave the grandfather a scrap of paper upon which he had written something.  It was a letter of friendship inviting the grandfather or whomever he should send with the letter into the magician's home in the deep woods.

Magician's are well-known for their alchemy and can easily transmute dross into gold.  And Mirandola's dowry needed gold.  Ramon Alonzo was told to find the magician, show him the letter of friendship, and have the magician teach him the secret of making gold.  Easy peasy.

The magician's home was large and very old, perhaps as old as the magician himself who, once every thirty years, takes a draft from the elixir of life to remain immortal.  The magician agrees to tutor Ramon Alonzo in the ways of magic, although he poo-poos the idea of transmuting gold as something minor and not really worth studying.  Ramon Alonzo, however, insists on learning to make gold and the magician finally agrees,,,for a fee.

The fee is simple.  The magician will take Ramon Alonzo's shadow.  Ramon Alonzo objects and the magician vows to replace it with a false shadow so that Ramon would hardly know the difference.  It turns out that this false shadow -- the bad shadow -- is fixed; it does not grow as the sun lowers as normal shadows do.  On the earthly plane, shadows follow humans and do what the humans lead it to do.  In the afterlife, though, shadows lead humans and humans must follow the shadows wherever they go.  And bad shadows go to damnation.

The only other person living at the magician's home is an old, bent, withered charwoman who had also given her shadow to the magician.  Ramon Alonzo is a courtly and gallant youth and feels pity for the charwoman, who regrets giving up her shadow.  He vows to get the old charwoman's shadow back for her.

The Charwoman's Shadow is a wonderfully inventive fantasy told with a glorious acknowledgement of the wonders of nature and with a sly appreciation of human ingenuity.  When villagers of a nearby town see Ramon Alonzo and his "bad shadow," they turn against him and hunt him.  Meanwhile at home, Mirandola cleverly plots her future.  The magician uses the shadows he has collected for evil purposes and as messengers to dark beings across the cosmos.  The forest is filled with fairies, elves, imps, and other supernatural creatures who may be forced to do the magician's bidding.  Although much of the ending is telegraphed, the book remains a masterpiece of the imagination.

Lord Dunsany (Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, 1878-1957) was a man of many parts -- writer, successful playwright, sportsman, peer of the realm, chess expert, campaigner for animal rights, cricketer, and supporter of the Boy Scouts and other organizations -- who wrote some of the most engaging fantasies of the early twentieth century.  Scion of the second oldest title in Irish peerage, Dunsany was a major donor to the Abbey Theater and was friendly with William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, and Rudyard Kipling and he socialized with Padric Colum, "AE" (George William Russell), Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells.  

Lord Dunsany created his own literary pantheon when he published the story collection The Gods of Peguna.   He made a major contribution to the "club story" with his character Joseph Jorkens who appeared in some 150 short stories.  His crime story "Two Bottles of Relish" is one of the most reprinted stories in the genre.  His first novel, Don Rodriguez:  Chronicles of Shadow Valley was set in the same Spain that never was that The Charwoman's Shadow is.  Other important fantasy novels include The King of Elfland's Daughter, The Curse of the Wise Woman, and The Blessings of Pan.

Lord Dunsany has been a major influence on the modern fantasy.  Writers who have acknowledged him include H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, J. R. R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges, Talbot Munday, Donald Wandrei, Guillermo del Toro, C. M. Kornbluth, Manly Wade Wellma, Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Vance, Michael Moorcock, Peter S. Beagle, Ursula K. Le Guin, Fletcher Pratt, L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, Margaret St, Clair, David Eddings, Gene Wolfe, M. J. Engh...I could go on.

Dunsany published a wide variety of work, from short stories and novels to play and poetry to essays and autobiography.  If you have never read Dunsany, you owe it to yourself to start.

Dunsany was also a bit of an odd duck.  He wrote his stories with quill pens that he would make himself and he usually wrote while sitting on a white hat.  He like coarse salt -- and lots of it -- and would bring his own supply while traveling or visiting.  


 Fairport Convention.


 Dashiell Hammett's most famous detective took to the radio airwaves from 1946 to 1951 for 245 episodes over three networks.  This Sam Spade was a pretty loose version of the Hammett character, but the Hammett name helped the popularity of the series.  Hammett's name, however was removed from the series in the late Forties during the Communist witch hunt of that time.  Played by Howard Duff, and, from November 1950 until the series' close, by Steve Dunne (because of Joe McCarthy's anti-Communist hysteria, Duff was not invited to play the role for the last 24 episodes), Spade was a less tough and more wise-cracking character.  Lurene Tuttle played the ever-loyal secretary, Effie.

The Adventures of Sam Spade won an Edgar Award for Best Radio Drama from the Mystery Writers of America in 1947.

In "The Vaphio Cup Caper" Spade is hired to protect a valuable, but Sam is knocked out.  Wakening, he finds the cup gone and a dead body.  More danger awaits Sam before he closes this case caper.

BTW, Evan Lewis featured this episode on his highly recommended blog, Davy Crockett's Almanack, back on Halloween day, 2009.  So consider me a Johnny-come-lately.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021


 From 1963, Joey Powers.


 What do you get when you cross a bunny with a rottweiler?   Just the rottweiler.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021


 The Wreck of the Titan by Morgan Robertson (first published as Futility by M. F. Manfield in 1898;  revised in 1912 as "The Wreck of the Titan" and published in Robertson's collection of four stories The Wreck of the Titan; or, Futility)

This week I (again) present more of a novella than a short story, this time a full-blooded adventure tale that was best known for "predicting" on of the greatest maritime disasters in history.  The story features a large and "unsinkable" British passenger liner named the "Titan," the biggest, fastest, and most advanced ship of its time, which is destroyed by an ice berg.  The "Titan," as with the real-life "Titanic" twelve yers later, was not equipped with enough lifeboats to handle the full complement of passengers and crew.  A revised version of Robertson's story was issued in 1914, making the ship's measurements closer to that of the real Titanic.

The Titan has made three crossings of the Atlantic.  Despite being the fastest ship ever built it still had not equalled its projected time of five days for a crossing and the owners and the captain of the ship are determined to do so this time.  Nothing will slow the ship down on its voyage from New York to England.

One of the passengers on the ship is Myra Selfridge, wife of Colonel George Selfridge, the scion of a wealthy family.  Myra and the Colonel are travelling with their young daughter, also named Myra.  The older Myra is startled to see among the crew John  Rowland, a former admirer with whom Myra had cut ties five years before.  Rowland had been a young Navy officer with a good career, but Myra soon spurned him when she discovered her was an atheist.  Worse still, shortly after that Rowland had begun drinking!  Rowland was deeply in love with Myra and went rapidly downhill after they parted.  He became a drunkard and was demoted and then kicked out of the Navy for conduct unbecoming of an officer.  Then he began a series of assignments on various ships as a lowly crew member.  He had been a member of the Titan's crew for all three of its voyages and had been drunk on each.  Now he had come back on the ship drunk and was still feeling the effects as they set sail.  The captain, as punishment, ordered him to sand the ship's stanchions.  That's when he and Myra saw each other, neither knowing the other was on  board.  Myra reported Rowland's presence to her husband, believing the Rowland had somehow followed her onto the ship for an evil purpose.  Rowland had made certain threats (or, rather, remarks that Myra took to be threats) during their breakup five years before.)

Later that evening, little Myra wandered from her parents and went on the deck where Rowland was looking out onto the sea.  Rowland, seeing a young child alone on deck, jokingly told her he would throw her overboard, hoping to frighten the child to go back inside.  Just as that happened, Myra (the other) appeared and quickly grabbed the girl from Rowland.  She and her husband then went to the captain and reported that Rowland was about to throw their child overboard.  The captain, who couldn't be bothered with such a trivial matter while also being concerned of his liabilty, said that he would throw Rowland in the brig, but instead ordered that he be given duties well outside the view of any passengers.  Thus Rowland was assigned to crow's nest duty.  That night, he spotted a smaller ship about to cross paths with the larger Titan.  The captain, determined to maintain a high speed, did not slow down or try to avert the other ship, but instead rammed it, shearing it in two, and the continued on full blast without stopping to rescue its crew.  The Titan ws so massively huilt that its passengers did not feel anything during the collision.

The next day, the captain called all his crew in to meet hi privately, one by one.  He told each person to forget about the collision and gave each an envelope full of money.  Rowland was the last to be interviewed and he refused to go along with the plan.  He said he would have the captain exposed for the murderous man he is.  Rowland knew his stance put him in danger for the rest of the voyage but he stuck to his principles.  The captian and the first mate, knowing Rowland was an alcoholic, decided to drug his drink so that Rowland would begin seeing things and basically act insane -- thus making any statement of his to maritime officials to be disbelieved.

It was a cold, raw, and fog-ridden night and Rowland was stationed as lookout.  The drug in his drink was beginning to do its work and Rowland suffered from severe hallucinations.  Little Myra, meanwhile, had wandered away from her parents again, coming on deck by Rowland.  Seeing her brought Rowland back to sanity and he wrapped the girl in his jacket and she fell asleep before him.

Enter the ice berg (which turned out to be also part ice floe -- a floe is a flat sheet of ice while a berg is a broken off part of a glacier).  The ship hit the flat portion of the ice.  Because of its shape it continued up and onto the ice until one of its propellers was completely out of the water.  Then the ship rolled on its side, smashing parts of it to pieces before sliding back into the ocean and sinking.  The damage happened so fast and was so extensive that only two life boats managed to make it to sea.  One of those life boats contained little Myra's mother -- the only woman to survive the wreck.  Rowland and little Myra, whom he grabbed close to his chest, had slid off the ship onto the ice.  Parts of the ship were strewn over the white expanse, including the bridge and a number of shatter life boats.  Rowland did his best to keep the little girl warm, using some sails as a covering and managing to start a fire from the pieces of the wrecked life boats.  Their situation looked dire.  The Titan was gone and there no sign of any rescue boats.  He relocated the two of them to the ruined bridge, which gave them some additional protectiion from the elements.

The next day Rowland went exploring the ice berg, trying to see any rescue in sight from higher ground (well, higher ice, actually).  Coming back he spotted a figure near their shelter.  Coming closer, he saw it was a polar bear.  The bear had smelled the young girl and was making for her.  Rowland rushed to the scene, taking out the only weapon he had -- a jacknife with a five-inch blade.  He got there just as the giant predator swatted the girl, sending her sliding away and smashing her head on some wood.  Rowland charged the bear with his knife.  The bear got a grip on Rowland's arm, crushing boone with its teeth.  In desperation, Rowland stabbed the bear with the knife.  The bear, now angered, threw Roland down, breaking some of Rowland's ribs.  Despite the pain, Rowland charged the bear again, plunging the knife through the bear's eye and into its brain.  Rowland dragged himself over to the girl.  she had fouor deep wounds on her back where the bear had clawed her.  In pain, he then skinned the bear, taking a layer of fat to use as a compress for the girl's back.  Somehow he mangaed to get young Myra Wrapped up tightly, binding her with rope to restrict her motions, hoping that she might begin to heal within that cocoon.

The two castawys had some shelter, warmth from their fire, fresh water from the melting ice, and food from the bear's meat.  Rowland was not sure how long the pair could live stranded as they were.  Abandoning his atheistic thoughts, Rowland got down and prayed that he might be able to reunite the little girl with her mother, if she still lived.  Then, according to the rules of melodrama, a ship appeared in the distance, attracted by the smoke from the fire.  Rowland and little Myra were rescued, but both were very ill.  Rowland's injured arm had to be amputated.  Eventually, both made it to London, Rowland gaunt and emaciated and the pair of them in rags.  At the shipping company, Rowland encountered the Titan's captain and first mate, both of whom had survived.  There then followed a very painful passage with a stereotypical Jewish Shylock and one of the ship's owners about the insurance payment on the Titan:  the Jew, who had insured the boat knew that he would be ruined if he paid out the insurance; the owner, who happened to be the little girl's grandfather, Mr. Selfridge (coincidence theater here in full force), knew he would be ruined if the insurance was not paid.  Witness to all this was Rowland, who testified to the captain's murderous acts.  Selfridge, on discovering the girl was his granddaughter whom he had feared dead, paid little attention to what was going on until the insurer stated plainly that the policy was void and would not be paid.  Again, true to all the rules of melodrama, Selfridge had a heart attack and collapsed.  The Jew ordered him moved because he did not want anyone dying on his floor.  Rowland then refused to give the Jew the testimony he needed, making the insurance payout available to his old lover and young Myra.

Rowland and little Myra then sailed to new York, where her mother (who had no idea her daughter had survived) was living.  They arrived, both still in rags, but Rowland with $16.50 -- his pay for that fatl voyage.  Rowland took the girl to a dress shop and told the clerk to give young Myra a bath, fix her hair, and outfit her with the best clothes his $16.50 could afford.  Now broke, he brought the girl to her mother's house, but was stopped outside by a suspicious policeman, who accused the vagabond-looking Rowland of trying to kidnap a child of a wealthy family.  Enter Myra the mother, who took the girl in her arms.  Again the mother accused Rowland of kidnapping and of trying to murder the little girl earlier.  (Not having read any of the newspaper accounts anout Rowland and his bravery, she had no knowledge that Rowland had saved her daughter.)  Rowland was beaten and taken to jail, where he was again roughed up.  The next day at the trail, a clerk handed the judge a newspaper account of Rowland and the girl's rescue and of what Rowland had done.  He dismissed all charges and Rowland left, avoiding the slew of newspaper reporters who had come to interview him.

For the next few years, Rowland worked his way up to respectibility, from living homeless iunder a bridge, fishing for his meals and selling the extra fish, to getting enough money to eventually rent a room and purchasing clothes, to using his remaining arm to address envelopes for a mail order company, to applying for a civil service exam, which he easily passed, and finally to a "lucrative position under the Government."  And there they story ends.

Well, except for a coda.  Six months after receiving his new position Rowland got a letter stating, in part, "...Myra will not let me rest.  She asks for you continually and cries at times.  I can bear it no longer.  Will you not come and see Myra?"  And so Rowland went to see -- Myra.

A bit of coincidence made Futility a harbinger for the Titanic, then some judicious after-the-fact editing and rewriting turned "The Wreck of the Titan" into a legend.  Those who follow the legend and have never read the tale have missed out on a fast-paced adventure story.

Morgan Robertson (1861-1950), the son of Great Lakes ship captain, went to sea as a cabin boy and was in the merchant sevice for 33 years, rising to first mate.  For ten years he worked as a diamond setter until his eyes began to fail.  He had been writing occasionally for some time and now turned his attention to writing popular stories of the sea, placing them in many of the popular magazines.  Although he never made much money with his writing he was still able support himself and maintain his friendship with New York's bohemian set.  Robertson was also the self-proclaimed inventor of the periscope, describing it in a 1905 book about a submarine.  The credited inventors of the periscope was Simon Lake and Harold Grubb, who had perfected the instrument three years earlier in 1902.  Robertson claimed that he had "invented" a prototype periscope but that a patent was refused.  The truth of that claim appears to be unsubstantiated.

Both versions of the story, Futility and The Wreck of the Titan, are available to be read online.