Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, May 10, 2021


 Openers:  I met Caleb Brown in the year 2000, shortly before his 90th birthday.  He was at that time living in a retirement home in Houston, and having read a memoir I had written with a Houston private-eye named Clyde Wilson, he'd given me a call and asked me to payhim a visit.  He said he wanted to tlk about collaborating on a book muck like the one I'd did with Wilson.

"Ypu captured his voice quite well, I think." Brown told me.  "I'm hoping that you can do the same with me."

{Bill agreed, and spent every Saturday until Brown's death  recording the old man's many amazing exploits.}

I transferred all of the recorded material into my computer, and have now transcribed a small portion of it, including the following harrowing tale, exactly as he told it to me.


My college chum Robert Hawkins was one of a certain breed of men for whom adventure was the breath of life.  As for me, I much preferred sitting quietly in a comfortable chair with a good book and a glass of fine whiskey, yet for reasons I cannot explain, I often allowed myself to be drawn into Robert's schemes.   So it was with his journey to the inpenetrable Forest of Bwindi.

"Really, Caleb, you must come with me," Robert said one day as we sipped an excellent Colubian coffee in my study.  Not everyone is as attuned to the flavor, but both Robert and I enjoyed it.  "It's the chance of a lifetime."

"If we survive," I said, setting my china cup in its saucer.. "The dangers and the horrors involved are something you never mention when you talk to me of your proposed adventures.  Let me remind you of our journey to the lost city in the Sahara, and the terrible sunburn we both suffered, not to mention the severe dehydration.  I felt much like a walking raisin.  Not to mention being pursued by walking skeletons.  I can still remember vividly the clicking of those dry bones."

-- "Among the Anthropophagai!  A Story of Gorillas and Gasbags" by Bill Crider (2013, as an e-book short story; reprinted in Skelos, Fall 2020)

Most know of Bill's fondness for alligators, but he also had a place in his heart for gorillas, most likely because of the legendary story "The Gorilla of the Gasbags" in the pulp magazine Zeppelin Stories, where it grabbed the cover illustraion for its June 1929 issue.  The author was Gil Brewer ((1898-1967), not to be confused with the later pulp and paperback writer of the same name who would have been six- or seven-years old when the story was published.  Zeppelin Stories lsted for four monthly issues, of which "The Gorilla of the Gasbags" appeared in the third.  This was at a time when publishers would outvie each other for the most specialized pulp fiction magazines.  Zeppelin Stories was one of many pulps that died from over-specialization.  Anyway, as a long- (and perhaps deservedly-) obscure pulp, the magazine is extremely rare.  Bill Crider said that he had never read the story, nor had he ever seen a copy of the magazine.  The story has never been reprinted and probably was never offered on e-Bay or any other online site.  Pulp historian Jess Nevins said (about 2009) that the only known copy of this issue of Zeppelin Stories was held in private hands and the owner refused to allow others outside of a very small group of friends to look at it.  In 2007, Bill wrote that a copy had recently been purchaes on e-Bay for "the astronomical sum of $3183.33!"

No wonder no one has read the story, which (truth to tell) is probably pretty terrible.  Yet...Gorillas!  Zeppelins!  How can you go wrong?  It inspired Bill to throw in some cannibals and a framing story (something often used in the pulps) to come up with this homage.

Gorillas have long been a staple of fantastic literature and films.  Think King Kong and Mighty Joe Young and some of Tarzan's adventures.  Gorillas and giant lustful apes often appeared on the covers of the "terror pulps." usually alongside a valiant hero, an evil villain and a scantily-clad girl.  Actor Ray "Crash" Corrigan got a lot of mileage out of his gorilla suit in B movies for  more than twenty years -- the suit was deigned for Corrigan's measurement and was made of human hair and had nostrils that could flare.  (By the way, National Gorilla Suit Day is January 31.  Did you celebrate this year?)  And how ,many times has a mad scientist tried to place a human brain in a gorilla's head? 

In March of 1939, the British weekly boys' magazine The Wizard began an anonymously written fifteen-part serial Six-Gun Gorilla, which has gained some noteriety.  The gorilla there was named O'Neill.  I don't know if there is any connection to Norman Partridge and Marc Erickson's 1997 comic book Gorilla Gunslinger, but how many gun-toting gorillas are there, anyway?

In May 1940, writer Don Wilcox's novella "The Whispering Gorilla" appeared in Fantastic Adventures.  A sequel, "The Return of the Whispering Gorilla." written by David V. Reed appeared in the Febraury 1943 issue of Fantastic Adventures.  Both stories were later published in book form, along with pseudonomously-written novelette 'War of the Giant Apes" (Fantastic Adventures, April 1949, as by "Alexander Blade.")

In comic books, I remember fondly Congo Bill, the DC comics jungle hero who eventually turned into Congorilla -- a legendary golden gorilla -- thorugh a magic ring.  Problem was while Bill inhabited Congorilla.s mind, the gorilla entered his.  When Congo Bill eventually died, he was permanently trapped as Congorilla.

DC Comics also gave us Gorilla Grodd, who was made a superintelligent, telepathic. telekinetic ape able to control the  minds of others after he and his tribe were altered by the captain of an alkien spacecraft that crashed in the jungle.  Under the direction of the alien, Grodd and his tribe created Gorilla City.  When the advanced city was disovered by explorers, Grodd force them to murder the alien and then began his attempt to conquer the world.  Grodd's plans are often foiled by the Flash, Superman, Batman, or the Justice League.

Some intersting anthologies about gorillas and other simians are The Apes of Wrath, edited by Rick Klaw, and Mother Was a Lovely Beast, edited by Philp Jose Farmer.

Do you like gorilla stories?


  • Boris Akunin, Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel  The third (thus far) Sister Pelagia mystery.  "The ship carrying the devout to Jeruselem has run into rough waters.  On board is Manuila, controversial leader of the 'Foundlings.' a sect that worships him as the Messiah.  But soon the polarizing leader is no longer a passenger or a prophet but a corpse, beaten to death by someone almost supernaturlly strong.  But not everything is as it seems, and someone else sailing has become enmeshed in the mystery:  the seemingly slow but actually astute Sister Pelagia.  Her investigation of the crime will take her deep into the most dangerous areas of the Middle East and Russia, running from one-eyed criminals and after such unlikely animals as a red cockerel that may be more than a red herrong.To her shock, she will emerge with not just the culprit in a murder case but a clue to the earth's greatest secret."  Originally published in Russia as Pelagia i krasnyi petuckh (2003).  Translated by Andrew Bromfield.
  • "Christopher Anvil" (Harry C. Crosby), The Steel, the Mist, and the Blazing Sun  Science fiction novel.  'detente between the United States and the Soviet Union has lasted for over two hundred years..." [Yeah, the book is that old.]  ".-- but only because nuclear war has resulted in the two old enemies bombing each other back into the Stone Age.  Now, as each country begins the long climb back to industrialization, the remants of their populations find themselves once again at wr.  But war with pre-First World War techjnology is entirely different from was with the nuclear weapons of twoo hundred years ago:  this time there will be a winner.  and clearly, whoever wins the bitter struggle for western Europe will rule the world for a thousand years."   Ace Books published the paperback edition as "an Analog book -- series editor Ben Bova."  The copyright pages notes that the book was published by arrangement with Baronet Publishing Compny, Inc., but ISFDb indicates that the Ace edition was the first edition.
  • Ralph Daigh,, Maybe You Should Write a Book  Nonfiction self-help with short articles from well-known writers:  Edward S. Aarons, Isaac Asimov, Saul Bellow, Peg Bracken, Taylor Caldwell, Dorothy Eden, Shirley Ann Grau, Donald Hamilton, Joan Aiken Hodge, Louis l'Amour, Norah Lofts, John D, MacDonald, Helen MacInnes, James A. Michener, Joyce Carol Oates, Norman Vincent Peale, May Stewart, and John Toland.  I doubt it will inspire me to write a book but the commentaries will be interesting.
  • William Keith, Jr., Bolo Rising.  Science fiction novel inspired by Keith Laumer's Bolo series.  "The enemy has struck the human colony of Cloud with merciless precision, an attack so deadlu that even the world's solo Bolo, a Mark XXXII Mixi HCT named Hector, was overwhelmed.  Within days, the survivors of Cloud's shattered military had been herded into slave camps, while Hector, recognized as kin by the alien machine invaders, was 'repaired,' his loyalties electronically suborned as he became a slave camp guard in the service of the !*!*! masters....One human, however, refuses to accept defeat.  Mjor Jaime Graham will free his companions or die trying.  All he needs to do is find a way to bring Hector back to the side of humanity, stop the enemy's bombardment from orbit, and defeat the ancient, cold, and highly advanced machine intelligence utterly hostile to organic life...all wihtout tools, wighout weapons, and with enemies even among his fellow slaves."  In addition to William Keith, Laumer's Bolo sequence has been continued by Larry Dixon, Mercedes Lacky, David Drake, David Weber, Linda Evans, Robert R. Hollingsworth, Dean Wesley Smith, J. Stephen York, John  Ringo, Hank Davis, Bill Fawcett, and S. M. Stirling -- almost a full line-up of Baen Book authors..

The Astor Place Riot:  Today is the 172nd anniversary of the Astor Place Riot that left up to 30 rioters dead and 120 injured.  The unlikely scene was the Astor Opera House in Mnahattan.  On the surgface the cause was an argument between two respected actors, American Edwin Forrest and the English William Charles Macready over who was the better Shakespearean actor.  Of course, things are never truly as they seem...

The theater was a very popular place back then and persons of all stripes attended.  Theaters drew a devoted following and the vocal audiences tended to be very loyal and treated the stars of each as idols, similar to how soccer teams and stars are treated today throughout the world.  Also at that time, Shakespeare was considered the epitome of Anglo-Saxon culture and was revered by all; even the lowliest worked was apt to be able to recite the Bard's works by rote.  The American stage was still in early days and Edwin Forrest the first well-known American shakespearean actor.  Most experienced actors were touring British and Macready was the most famous.  

There still remained a strong anti-British feeling among the working class as well as the Irish immigrants, and violence often erupted from the zealous audience.  The nativists (you'd called them nationalists today) were also very anti-English, as well as anti-Irish.  All of these forces were united in their contempt and distrust of the wealthy who controlled the police and the militia.  The upper classes tended to be anglophile and supported Macready, while the working class, the Irish, and the nativists supported Forrest.  In truth, the actors themselves did not really matter; what was at stake was the future of America's national culture, fueled by class struggles, ideology, and distrust.

Forrest and Macready's professional jealousy soon expanded to hate.  On Macready's second American tour, Forrest tailed him from city to city, performing the same Shakespearean plays that Macready did.  Forrest's second English tour did not fair at well as his first, something that Forrest put down to Macready's interference.  Forrest booed at one of Macready's preformances of Hamlet.  Macready called Forrest all sorts of insults.  Someone threw a dead sheep on stage as Macready performed.  And so the rivalry went.  Forrest, who had married an English wife, had filed for divorce and the case was decided against him on the very day that MacReady came to New York on his last American tour.

Macready was scheduled to perform Hamlet at the Astor Opera House the same evening that Forrest was to perform the play several blocks away at the Bowery Theater.  The Bowery Theater catered to 
the working classes while the Astor was built by the city's elilte who did not want to associate with the type of clientele which favored the Bowery.  (The Astor's dress code included white vests and kid gloves in their effort to separate the different audiences.)

Three days before the actual riot, MacReady's performance was halted because hundreds of Forrest's supporters had purchased tickets and disrupted the performance with boos and jeers and with all manner of items thrown on the stage.  Macredy vowed to sail for England the next day but was dissuaded by some of the city's most prominent residents, including Washinton Irving and Herman Melville.  Macready stayed and his next perfromance was scheduled for May 10.

That day, the police chief informed the mayor that the 250 men he had assigned to the Astor might not be enough to control any riots that might occur.  The mayor then called in the militia -- 350 mounted troops, light artillery, and hussars.  On the other side, imflammatory posters were distributed, asking "Working Men - Shall Americans or English Rule in This City!"  The posters went on, "The crew of the British steamer have threatened all Americans who shall dare to express their opinions this night at the ENGLISH ARISTOCRATIC! OPERA HOUSE!  We advocate no violence but a free expession of opinion to all public men.  WORKINGMEN!  FREEMEN!  STAND BY YOUR LAWFUL RIGHTS!"  The poster was part of the Tammany Hall gang's attempt to embarass the city's new Whig mayor.  Free tickets were given out and men were to told where to meet outside the theater.  A number of Forrest sjupporters were identified and forbodden to enter the theater, although many were admitted unknowingly.  Nearly 10,000 people were outside the Astor that evening.  Ned Buntline, the dime novelist and a staunch Forrest supporter, urged the crowd outside to pelt the thearter with stones and to fight skirmishes with the police.  Inside, an attempt to set fire to the Astor failed, but the rowdy crowd managed to upset the performance -- the actors had to resort to finishing the play in mime.  After the play, Macready managed to sneak out the back of the theater.

The troops arrived at 9:15 and were attacked.  Verbal warnings were ignored and the troops then fired into the air to no avail.  They then fired directly into the crowd, killing both rioters and innocents.  Almost all killed were working men.  Seven were Irish immigrants.  One of those killed was a young boy.

The riot further divided class distinctions and segregation in America.  The city's elite praised the work of the police and the militia.  The Astor Opera House -- now known as the "Massacre Opera House" and the "DisAstor Palace" did not survive the following season and closed its doors.  The building changed hands and was eventually torn down.  A new venue was built further away from the hoi-poloi:  uptown's Academy of Music.  The new hall, having learned some lessons from the riot, was less elitist than the Astor.

Any resemblance between the political culture of that tme and ours is purely coincidental, I'm sure.

Watch Out for Big Talk!:  Here's a 1950 propaganda comic book from the National Association of Manufacturers that spells out what all good american citizens should do.  Layered among the good advice are speils for the benefits of capitalism and we all know how much big business puts our needs ahead of everything else.  An intersting take, but sure to bring along a grain (or two) of salt.

An Ode to Chuckleheads:

My Florida Rep, Matt Gaetz,
Is someone most people haetz.
     His sex and drug scandal
     Is too much to handle,
Will he survive?  Just waetz.

Marjorie Taylor Green,
The Q-Anon spouting queen, 
     Has joined up with Matt
     To continue their spat
With all that is right and is clean.

The election was never lost, 
Trump's winning votes were tossed!
     The curruption is classic
     Like pickles are Vlasic.
Eventually we'll win.  But what cost?

Matt Gaetz and Marge
Think like Nigel Farage
     But on a much large scale.
     They should be in jail,
But alas, they're currently at large.

For those who do not know me, I must freely admit here that I do not like Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Green, or any other of the mealy-mouthed hypocrites still supporting Trump's lies.  Gsetz, who went on the offensive, Roy Cohn-style, in an attempt to divert attention from his legal problems, won an untentional reprieve from the headlines thanks to Josh Duggar.  Duggar (another waste of protoplasm) and his prediliction for young girls (younger even than Gaetz's) has managed to pull most of the headlines away from our boy Matt, giving him some breathing room.  But how long before all the chickens, girls, drugs, bribery, and corruption come home to roost?  Not soon enough for me (he said vindictively).

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man William James Walker, 38, is wanted for stealing Lynyrd Skynyrd memorabilia woth an estimated $12,000.  The items were scheduled to be auctioned off for the Jimmie Van Zant Cancer Benefit in Middleburg.  Jimmie Van Zant, cousin of the rock group's Donnie, Ronnie, and Johnny Van Zant, died of liver cancer in 2016.  "the stolen items included irreplacable items from the Southern rock band, as well as a 1957 Les Paul guitar signed by Gregg Allman, Brian Howe, butch Trucks and others."  The suspect is believed to be homeless and frequents hotels in the Jacksonville area.
  • Florida Man David Anthony tried to use Covid-19 as an excuse for murdering his ex-wife, Gretchen.  In March Gretchen's frinds began getting e-mails saying that he had come down with Covid-19 and was seeking treatment at a specialized clinic.  Another vague message said that she had transferred to a facilty run by the CDC -- no such facility exists.  A neighbor reported hearing screams from Gretchen's home earlier that month.  A welfare check by police at the home revealed the house was empty and that the house's security camera had been ripped off.  A check with the security company showed a blurred male figure lurking on the porch the night the neighbor heard the screams.  And then there was the report of something foamy running from the closed garage door down the driveway, as if someone had been scrubbing the garage floor.  David anthony denied any knowledge, stating tha Gretchen was alive and was being treated for Covid-19 somewhere.  When he finally confessed to the murder, he tried to place the blame on Covid-19:  "My illusions saw the Covid pandemic as the end of the world, an Armageddon I felt compelled to escape no matter the cost..."  How this translated as an excuse to merder his ex-wife escapes me.  David Anthony has been found guilty and is senteced to be relesed from prison in 2058, when he will be 81 years old.
  • Florida Man Xavier Javern Cummings was being questioned by Cocoa police about a motel disturbance when he managed to hop in their unlocked car and drive away.  During the pursuit, Cummings crashed the police cruiser.  Officers then tried to get Cummings out of the crashed car, but he eluded them and then stole their unlocked cruiser.  Police roadblocks eventually forced Cummings to crash the second car and he was arrested with incident or injury.  Cummings faces ten different charges stemming from the incident.
  • Directionally-impaired Florida Man and Capitol rioter Kenneth Kelly, 58, of Ocala, thought he was storming the White House when he entered the Capitol Building and began smashing windows.  Needless to say, the Q-Anon follower was not the sharpest knife in a box filled with very dull ones.
  • An unnamed Florida Man operator of a ferris wheel at the Opa Locka Hialeah Flea Market Carnival was seen attacking a black mother and one of her two child as they attempted to exit a ferris wheel car.  The man apparently pushed her and a brawl started.  One of the chilren, a toddler, fell to the platform.  Two witnesses rushed forward to protect the woman as other onlookers charged in and began punching and kicking the ride operator.  The melee lasted only for about 30 seconds.  Welcome to the post-racial world, my friends.

Good Stuff:
  • US donation kicks off a landmine clearing in one of the largest conservation areas in the world
  • In learninng to use her left hand following a stroke, this 60-year-old woman discovers that she's a talented painter
  • Toddler without hands gets a puppy without paw
  • Muddy bride sacrifices dress to deliver acalf during wedding reception   ["Look!  I made a cow!"]
  • India's richest man retools factories to provide free oxygen for 1 in 10 Covis patients
  • Elderly man gets lessons on hair and makeup to help his struggling wife

Today's Poem:
A Word to Husbands

To keep your marriage brimming
With love inn the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever your're right, shut up.

-- Ogden Nash


  1. Wow. Can never get over how comprehensive this is. It much take you a long time to put it together.

  2. Impressive as always, Jerry. Baronet was a short-lived firm (I believe) that was notably publishing large sized "quality paperback" versions of some of the same books Ace was publishing in mass-market size. Several of the ANALOG-branded books were published by both. Baronet may've been faltering by the time the Anvil item saw print.

    1. As I dimly remembered, Baronet also published David Hartwell's similarly short-lived COSMOS SF AND FANTASY FICTION magazine. Most of what they did get to the stands were either ANALOG books or THE ILLUSTRATED ___ authors.

  3. I prefer gorilla and other ape stories such as "Rachel in Love"...