"The Man who Vanished" by J. A. Mitchell (from That First Affair and Other Sketches, 1896; any previous publication unknown)
Here's another animal story, a fable about "[a] certain hunter, clad in appropriate raiment, and armed with a fowling-piece of costly mechanism, [who] sought diversion in a forest."
Our intrepid hunter spies a squirrel, takes aim, fires...and misses. this indicated a want of consideration on the part of the squirrel. "[T]hat one of the lower animals should thus take upon himself to to oppose the will of man, created in God's image, brought a shock to his higher nature, and, for the time being, shook his faith in Providence."
Nonetheless, he soldiered on, soon spying a woodpecker. He had much better luck this time, blowing the bird's head nearly off. He lay down his weapon and, with pride, admired the beauty of the creature he had just killed. Then her herd a noice behind him. It was a large bear standing on its hind legs.
The bear remarked on how good the shot was. Did the hunter have a grudge against the bird? No? Maybe the bird was just noisy? The bear told the hunter that he had known the woodpecker -- "a good enough fellow." The bird's wife will be lonely now, the bear supposed. The bear reiterted that it was a good shot, although taken at a disadvantage.
The hunter was very nervous as the bear continued to question him. Perhaps the hunter was empty? (A look at the hunter's ample waist belied this.) Perhaps he sot the bird for the good of the world, it being perhaps better without the woodpecker? Or, perhaps, he shot the bird just for fun? The hunter fesrfully acknowledged this to be true.
"Well. it's good sport. That is, of course, for the chap who holds the gun."
The gun, by the way, was out of the hunter's reach. The bear was now between the hunter and his gun. The bear began to muse. If the gun had been within the hunter's reach, perhaps the hunter's family would feed on bear meat and a bearskin rug would decorate their home. Was the hunter's family starving? The hunter acknowledged they were not.
The bear explains his family is starving and he had promised to bring back food for his wife and three daughters. The bear then invites the hunter back to his den for a meal. Hooking its massive claws onto the hunter's jacket, the bear leads him off into the woods.
"This tale is not a sad one, even from the human point of view." The man was very wealthy, so his family did not want. "Moreover, he was a bully at home and used to open his wife's letters,."
Short effective, and told with a wry sense of humor.
John Ames Mitchell (1845-1948), a publisher, architect, artist, and novelist, was the co-founder, editor, and publisher of the original Life magazine. Mitchell, born in Ridgefield, Connecticut, was president of the magazine from its founding in 1883 to his death in 1918. Another Ridgefield native, Henry Luce, purchased the magazine in 1936, turning it into a p[icture-oriented magazine. Under Mitchell, Life may have been best known for discovering Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson girl. Mirchell and fellow journalist Horace Greeley were founders of the Fresh Air Fund, which operated a camp for city kids in Ridgefield.
Mitchell trained as an architect at the Ecole des Beaux-Artes in Paris. He wroked as an architect in Boston for several years and returned to Paris in 1876 to study painting and developed an interest in studies in black and white. He returned to America in 1880. He lamented there was no printed outlet in America for black and white line drawings, which led to his founding of Life. He returned to architecture briefly, designing the Unity Church of North Easton for his uncle in 1885.
With the magazine established as a success, Mitchell turned to writing, turning out six novels and a number of sketches. Amos Judd (1895) was probably hjis most famous novel while he was alive. It was turned into a Rudolph Valentino film, The Young Rajah, in 1923. Today, Mitchell may be better known for The Last American (1889), a fictional journal of a Persian admiral who rediscovers Americas in 2951.
Although quiet and humble in his personal life, Mitchell held strong opinions and expressed them in his magazine. He stronlgy distrusted modern medicine and was a fervent anti-vaxxer. A great lover of dogs, he opposed vivisection. Following the sinking of the Luisitania, he became bitterly anti-German. He collected mote than $200,000 in a campaign to support French war orphans. He had a genius for anticipating American trends and for using humor to express them; the humor could be effectively biting -- it's been said that politicians were more afraid of Life's cartoons than of its editorials. He was married to Mary Mott Mitchell; they had no children. He died suddenly of apolexy at his summer home in Ridgefield.
That First Affair and Other Sketches can be read online.
Lloyd Bridges plays an american Wotld War II vet who returns to England only to find his former sweetheart is m ixed up with a dangerous spy gang. The trouble begins when Frank Pryor (Bridges) exits his plane and asks a stranger for a light. A short rings out and the man drops dead, the victim of an assassin with a limp. Things go downhill from there.
Moira Lister plays Pryor's old girlfriend, Pauline French. Alan Wheatley, Leslie Phillips, Helene Codet, and Bruce Beeby are also featured.
Based on Anthony's Verney's Death on the Treadway, The Limping Man was directed by Cy Endfield from an adaptation by Ian Stuart Black and Reginald Long.
Openers: The secret itself was still safe. It was clear that the public not yet could have learned it. No; the nature of the tremendous and terrific Discovery remained ocked in the breast of the men who had made it. No one had broken so badly under the burden of it that he had let slip any actual details of what had been learned.
But the fact that there was a secret, of incomparable importance, was out.
David Randell received plenty of proof of it, as he stood at the liner's rail, and the radiograms from shore were brought to him. He had had seven, all of the same sort, within the hour, and here was another.
He held it without opening it while he gazed across the sparkling water at the nearing shores of Long Island beyond which lay New York. Strange that, in a city which he could not yet see, men could be so excited about his errand, while the fellow-passengers, at his elbow, glanced at him only with mild curiosity at the sudden frequency of radiograms for him.
They would be far less indifferent, if they had read them.
The first, arriving less than a hour ago, offered him one thousand dollars for first and exclusive information -- to be withheld from all others for twelve hours -- of what he carried in his black box. It was signed by the most famous newspaper in New York.
Haardly had the messenger started back to the radio station wneh a second boy appeared with a message from another newspaper: "Two thousand dollars for first information of your business in New York."
-- When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer (1933)
The message was one of doom. Scientists in the Southern Hemisphere had discovered that two rogue planets -- one the size of Uranus, the other the size of Earth, with the smaller orbiting around the larger -- had entered the solar system. Exact calculations showed that the two wandering planets would just miss striking Earth on its first path but, after orbiting the sun, the Larger of the two would strike Earth, completely obliverating it. There was a chance that the second, smaller planet may have the qualities needed for life, despite the fact that it had been frozen during its millions of years traveling through space.
The scientists are building rockets that would take a few -- selected for their intelligence and for being the most biologially useful -- to that new world where humanity might have a chance of survival.
But the secret leaked, sparking a world-wide struggle among mankind for an invidual chance of escaping certain death.
The story of Earth facing disaster from a collision with an extrasolar body is an old one in science fiction. Jules Verne and H. G. Wells both played with the idea in novels. A number of writers in the early twentieth century wrote Noah's Ark-type stories in which humanity tried to escape doom. Wylie and Bulmer's book, however, managed to hit a public nerve and the novel has not been out of print since its inception. The cover of the 1973 Waner Paperback Library printing which I read has the tag line, "America's most famous science fiction classic that ranks with 1984 and Brave New World." It helped that the theme was used by Alex Raymond the following year in his Flash Gordon comic strip. The theme of escape from a doomed planet via rocket ship also formed the basis of Siegel and Shuster's Superman comic book. The very successful 1951 George Pal film When Worlds Collide also helped cement the book's fame. Wylie and Balmer followed the book with a sequel, After World's Collide (1934), which has also remained in print. The comic strip Speed Spaulding, in part based on the two books, was created by Edwin Balmer and Marvin Brdley and ran from 1938 through 1941.
Today the story is a chestnut, but it is still readble and can be enjoyed.
Philip Wylie (1902-1971) was a popular author and social critic who defined the term "Momism." Wylie's fiction covered the gamut from mysteries to his 69 popular stories about fishing in his Crunch and Des series. His greatest fistional impact was on the science fiction and related genres. Among his books:
Earlier this week I posted about the 1827 murder of Maria Marten, which became a sensation in England.
Guess what, gang? There was a comic book based on the affair! The story plays fast and loose with some of the facts, but it does how how the crime still rsonated with the public 130 years later.
Check it out.
Zomnibus, a collection of three graphic novels by Shane McCarthy, El Torres, and Chris Ryall (2009)
First off, cool title, huh?
If there's one thing we all know about any zombie apocalypse it's that mankind is going to come out on the short end. It's a basic rule that no one knows where a zombis apocalypse came from, or why it originated. That gives the zombies the advantage of surprise. By the time humanity realizes what's going on, a goodly part of the population has already become ors d'oevres for the flesh-eating monsters. In addition, we as a people, live in an overly-technological age. We're too specialized; there's not that many people who know exactly how a power grid works and we usually fall back to a pre-technological world -- that's another basic rule. Add to that, there's just not enough guns and bullets in existance to take on billions of the undead. So, yeah, things look bleak for mankind.
And bleak is the theme of all three of these graphic novels. "Bleak" includes the fall of societal norms and the rise of vigilantism, murder, rape, and gang violence. There's some pretty graphic stuff in all three of these stories, so I doubt anybody would give give themE PG-13 rating.
First off, there's Zombies!: Feast by Sahne McCarthy, with art by Chris Bolton and Enrique Lopez Lorenzana. It's a stormy night and a bus is transporting eight of the country's worst criminals from one prison to another. Through the blinding rain and far from anywhere, the driver swerves to avoid a man who just appeared out of nowhere. (Yep, the man is a zobie, but no one knows that yet.) The bus crashes and, although there are no significant injuries (well, the driver's dead, but that's not significant, is it?), the bus cannot be driven. The prison guards start walking with their eight shackled and chained together prisoners start walking. They come to what appears to be an abandoned house. One guard remains to watch over the prisoners while nother guard and the US Marshal in charge of the transfer check out the house. They find a blood-splattered bed; then a really disgusting zombie attacks them and take a bite out of the marshal. A bullet through the head stops the zombie. Meanwhile a cute little girl zombie approaches the prisoners and attacks them. One of prisoners grabs a metal pipe and smashes the little zombie's head. Blood and body parts go flying and a lkittle bit of blood and possibly a piece of zombie flesh land in the mouth of another prisoner, so we know he's soon a goner. Then the marshal turns and one of the guards has to kill him.
The survivors head off to find help in the nearest town, the prisoners still shackled together. Surprise, surprise! the town is full of zombies. The gang fight their way to a hardware store, killing a man keeping watch outside the store, thinking he is a zombie. He's not. There are a few other survivors hiding out in the store, including a couple of women. Boys will be boys and one prisoner, Braxton, is the nastiest boy of all. He throws one of the prisoners out a window for the zombies, and kills another to assert his power. Then one of guards hits it off with one of the women and they go off to do more than simple canoodling, unaware that a zombie has crawled into the building though a hole in the wall. The zombie takes a hunk out of the guard's leg. His blonde bed partner screams. (I.m not sure what happens to her, but we never see her again.) More zombies. More fights. More bites. More blood, More gore. Three people make it out of the hardware store -- one guard. one woman, and a prisoner seeking redemption. No quesses on how the prisoner seeks redemption. And then there are two with the zombies closing in...As I said, this is a bleak story and there is nothing bleaker than the story's final ironic panel.
The artwork is dark and claustrophobic, suiting the mood of the story. At times, the colors are too dark, making it hard to distinguish the characters. There is also very little characterization; the character's are either good, bad, or undead -- any further distinctions are unnecessary.
Then we come to the second book: Zombies!: Eclipse of the Undead, written by El Torres, with art by Yair Herrera. We're in Los Angeles now and the zombies have taken over the city. There is a qroup of survivors encamped on the roof of the Los Angeles Memoril Auditorium. A number of survivors, including most of the children, have already been evacuated by the army; the rest are awaiting the return of helicopters to take them to safety. They are going to have to wait a very long time. Communication from all over the country is out. The few army officers left cannot reach the preisdent, the Pentagon, Norad, or the high command, so, as in the earlier story, the survivors are out of luck. More so, because there is a street gang trying to take over the rooftop. The gang is ruled by Lonzo and, somehow, he has managed to get his car on the roof. Not sure how he gets gas for it, though.
The story is told through the eyes of Brad Brazza, a med student who is now responsible for the health care of many of the survivors. Helping Brad is Suzy Novorka, a mother whose two children had already been airlifted off the roof. The other characters we meet are Paquita, who was once Lonzo's woman, Ishigami Shiguro, and elderly sensei who is deadly with a katana, Bernardo, Lonzo's second in command, and Chola, a prisoner who has been abandoned by the cop who was guarding him. Somehow a few zombies manage to get up on the roof so there's biting and bloodshed and Shiguro's katana working overtime. Order on the roof is falling apart -- mayhem, death and rape abounds. The army is now able to evacuate their soldiers and some of the survivors; about half the population of the rooftop is left to their own devices. On another rooftop in Los Angeles there is an End of the World Party/Orgy. Almost everyone in L.A. has given up.
Brad, Suzy, Paquita, Lonzo, Chola, and Shiguro try to escape. There is rumor that some survivors are hiding out in the mountains. Lonzo tries to rape Suzy and she kills him. Shiguro sacrifices himself in a swishing katana bloodbath so the others can escape. We then flash forward to twenty years hence. Brad and Paquita now have two children. Susy went off to try to dind her children and ws never heard from. Chola is now the leader of the mountain community. And the zombies? We assume they are still around, but these zombies follow some biological rules. They can get rigor mortis and be unable to move -- making them easier to kill. And their bodies putrify and sooner of later they just rot away. there may be light at the end of the zombie apocalypse tunnel, after all.
The final story in the book is Complete Zombies vs. Robots by Chris Ryall, with surreal artwork by Ashley Wood. Three scientists have perfected (?) a time machine that can travel to the future. Two of them want to be the first to test the device. The third thinks that it is too dangerous and that a robot should be sent instead. One scientist enters the machine and comes back a mangled mess of blood, meat, and bones. The second scientist enters the machine and...doesn't come back. The third scientist activates a robot for the next trip. Unfortunately, he ignores Asimov's Laws of Robotics and the robot decides that robots are better than humans and kills the scientist before entering the machine.
Now we are in the future and mankind has been eliminated by zombies. Robots have exxpanded and began to specialize, including the introduction of a merciless war robot. But, wait! Somehow there is one human left -- a baby girl who is cared for by the robots. The war robot kills the baby and then triggers the annihilation of zombies and robots worldwide. That should be the end. But wait, somewhere in the future there is a tribe of Amazons living (and, as with all Amazons in a non-patriarchal society, they run around naked). Somehow, there are more zombies around, including what appearss to be a Minataur zombie, and a killer robot. So the Amazons get wiped out, except for three 17-year-olds and a ten-year-old. They manage to kill the zombies but at the cost of their own lives. Warbot is the only one left. He sails off in a freighter, which gets pulled down into the ocean depths by a kraken. Then, surprise! Mermen!
A totally chaotic story that moves all over the place. Yet this is the best story in the book. It's told with wry, dark humor and drawn in a surrealistic style that fits the tale well. If you are looking for a zombie/robot/Amazon apocalypse story, this is the one for you. A masterpiece of imagination and surrealism.
This was the first Zomnibus issued by IDW. A second volume was issued in 2011. I'll be on the lookout for that one.
The Crime Club was a mystery anthology series that ran on the Mutual Network for 46 episodes from December 2, 1946, to October 15, 1947. Doubleday Publishing had entered a deal with Mutual to adapt mysteries from its Dobleday Crime Club imprint for the show and to use the Crime Club name for a few original scripts in the program. This series is not to be confused with the Eno Crime Club that had aired years earlier on Columbia; there was no connection between that show and Doubleday.
Each episode began with with The Librarian of The Crime Club answering the telephone, telling the caller that he did have "that" book, and inviting the caller to stop by The Crime Club to get the story. Once the caller arrived, The Librarian would take the manuscript off the shelf and the tale would begin.
In "Fish for Entree" -- presumably an original script; I could not find any reference to the book on Worldcat -- a corpse with dead fish in its pocket is hauled up from the harbor by the son of the local sheriff. Written by Stedman Coles and directed by Roger Bower, this episode features Walter Kinsella, Virginia Dwyer, Bill Smith, Julie Stevens, and Paul Hammond. Barry Thomson is The Librarian.
"The Slambangaree" by Richard K. Munkittrick (from his collection The Slambangaree and Other Stories, 1897; any earlier publicatin not known)
An enchanting juvenile fantasy, reminiscent of Winsor McCay's later Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend and with overtones of the much, much later The Cat in the Hat.
Reginald, a young boy, wakes up with a strange looking person standing by his bed. Reginald is afraid that this person might be a robber, but the strange figure uts his fingers on each side of its muth and stretches the mouth extraordinarily, eventually hooking one side of the mouth to a bureau on the other side of the room, then letting go, slamming the mouth (sans creature).into the bureau. this naturally disconcerts young Reginald, so the being places its moth back in its proper place.
The creature is a Slambangaree, a spirit from a can of plum pudding, come to give nightmares to those who overeat the plum pudding. The Slambangree informs Reginald that it will remain until, the plum pudding Reginaald ate that evening (and he ate a lot of it) is fully digested. The name, by the way, comes from being slammed and banged about while inside the can of pudding. The creature, wondering what Reginald might have in his pockets, stretches his eyeball across the room to peek into the pants pockets, finding all sorts of treasures a young by might have within. He takes a piece of string and drops it in a pitcher of water, drawing out a very large talking (and singing) fish -- the Capecodger, who, when he sings, the notes come out of his mouth as pieces of candy which drop on the floor, whereupon the Capecodger eats them (there was no five-second rule in those days). The fish's fins grow into wings and he gives Reginald a ride around the bedroom.
Then the Slambangaree conjures up a Cariftywhifty -- a large monster with two heads. When it opens one eye, birds fly out, flit across its face, and fly into the other eye. When the Criftywhifty grows and spins around, Reginald's room seems to grow with it. The Slambangaree tells Reginald the Cariftywhifty eats people -- which is what it about to do to Reginald. The monster grabs Reginald, pops him into his mouth and closes its jaws, trapping Reginald in its giant teeth. Our yung her soon finds himself sliding down the monster's throat, which turns into a staircase. At the bottom of the staircase is a large beautiful garden with papiere-mache great bullfrogs which threaten to put Reginald into a box and feed him flies. Reginald flees up the long staircase and finds himself once again in the mouth of the Carifywhifty and then, surprisingly, in his own bed. The Slambangaree was by then very. very tiny and Reginald knew that the plum pudding was almost digested. The now tiny creeture jumped into the mouth of the Cariftywhifty, which then jumped through the bedrom window without breaking it.
The plum pudding was digested. The Slambangaree was gone. And Reginald went into his father's bedroom to tell him of the adventure. Reginsld's fsther then wrote down the story in the hopes that young boys will no longer vereat on plum pudding, but always eat just the right amount.
Richard Munkittrick (1853-1911) was an english author, editor, and "natural born lotus eater" who claimed to be descended from "a race of clergymen and drunkards." He spent much of his life in America but when The Slambangaree and Other Stories was published he was working at the British humor (Whoops! I mean humour.) magazine Punch. He later was the editor of Judge from 1901-1905. He had earlier published another fantasy collection, The Moon Prince and Other Nabobs (1893). Other books include Yum-yum! (1878), Farming (1892), and Some New Jersey Arabian Nights (1892). Munkittrick also wrote song lyrics. Here are two of his songs (composed by Margaret Ruthven Lang and sung by tenor Donald George, with Lucy Mauro on piano: https://songofamerica.net/composer/munkittrick-richard-kendall/
The Slambangaree and Other Stories is available to read online.
William s. Hart was one of the first great cowboys stars if the films. He began his acting career on the stage in 1888 when he was inn his twenties and first appeared in film in 1914 when he was 49. He had had some success on Broadway in Shakespearean roles and appeared in the original 1899 production of Ben Hur. He had two supporting roles in 1914 and became a star with that year's The Bargain. In 1915, Hart began a series of two-reeler westerns for producer Thomas Ince. These shorts became so popular that they led to th production of feature films, beginning in late 1915. Knight of the Trail was one of the last of the two-reelers Hart made. Hart went on to rule the western box office until the early 1920s, when flashier, more action-oriented films began featuring the likes of Tom Mix.
In Knight of the Trail, Hart plays Jim Treen, a cowboy who has been secretly terrorizing the town as a road agent. He falls in love with pretty, innocent waitress Molly Stewart (Leona Hutton) and vows to himself to go straight. Before the two were to be married, Molly discovers Jim's secret and breaks the engagement. She then bounces right into the arms of cad W. Sloan Carey (Frank Borsage), who steals Molly savings on the eve of their wedding and flees town on an eastbound train. Jim takes a perilous shortcut to overtake the train and forces Sloan to return the money to Molly. Molly sees the good in Jim and marries him.
The rather simplistic plot, written by Hart, is compensated for by superb acting by Hart and Borzage (who appeared in over one hundred silent films and became the noted director of Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, A Farewell to Arms, and The Big Fisherman). Decent production values, intuitive direction, realistic western sets and costumes, and interesting locations also help make this short worth-while.
Openers: I dropped into Jack's place the other night for a slice of tongue -- some of it in a sandwich and some from between Jack's lips. The place was pretty crowded, but I managed to find a booth as Jack glided over to take my order.
:What'll it be?" he asked. Then -- "Well, I'll be damned!" said Jack.
"Probably," I observed.
But Jack didn't hear me. He was staring at the tall thin man who elbowed his way toward the booth.
I stared, too. There was nothing remarlable about the gentleman's thin, somewhat dour face, but his suit was enought to attract anyone's attention. It isn't often you see a horse blanket walking.
"See that guy?" Jack whispered, hurriedly. "He's a number for you. Used to be an upper bracket in the rackets."
"He looks it," I confided. "Is he dangerous?"
"No. Reformed, completely reformed. Ever since he divorced his third wife he's led a simple life, playing the races. But I never expected to see him in here -- he hasn't been around for months. Wait -- I'll see if can steer him into your booth. You'll enjoy it -- he's the biggest liar in seven states.
-- Robert Bloch, "Time Wounds All Heels" (Fantastic Adventures, April 1942)
The stranger is Lefty Feep and "Time Wounds All Heels" was the first in a series of twenty-three tales in Fantastic Adventures about the hapless hero, from April 1942 to July 1950. The first eight stories (plus one original, "A Stich in Time") were reprinted in Lost in Space and Time with Lefty Feep (1987) -- the first of a proposed three-volume collection from John Stanley's Creatures at Large Press. The other volumes never appeared.
The Feep stories were tailored to the Fantastic Adventures audience -- young, undisciminating teenagers. Feep, a race track tout who never seems to get a break, relates his tales in the first person, using a Damon Runyon-esque dialog, complete with slang, tortured puns, and other crimes against the English language. The themes come from folklore by way of Thorne Smith -- thus you have flying carpets, a genie in a bottle, the Pied Piper, the Ariabian nights, Jack the Giant Killer, and a zillion riffs on time travel -- all about as corny as you can get.
Understand, these stories are not good. They are strained and predictable and written to order. Bloch himself had no particular fondness for then and, indeed, did not remember writing some of them. But they were popular, and --doggone it -- I really like them. Just not in heavy doses. Reading more than one or two at a time would be too much of a mediocre thing.
Fantastic Adventures ran a lot similar stories, comic far-out fantasies with a humorous bent and a befuddled hero. Dwight V. Swain gave us Henry Horn; William McGivern, Tink, as well as Philip Ppiuncare & the Three Musketeers; James Norman, Oscar, Detective of Mars; Leroy Yerxa, Freddie Funk; Elroy Arno, Willowby Jones; Harold Lawlor, Bill Mitchell; And Charles F. Myers, Toffee. Not quite in the same vein was Nelson F. Bond's stories of Bullard; Bond would use the same formula for eom of his stories in Bluebook and Pat Pending, Squaredeal Sam McGhee, and (in Astounding, Horse Sense Hank). And, in Astounding, there were the stories of Gallagher, who created the wackiest inventions imaginable while drunk and has no idea wht they were designed to do when he sobered.
Fantastic Adventures began in May 1939 by Ziff-David Publications as a companion to Amazing Stories. Its first managing editor was Raymond A. Palmer, who had great success in turning around the moribund Amazing Stories, by aiming at a strictly juvenile audience. The "official" editor was B. G. Davis, who held that post unitl 1947. Assistant editor Howard Browne began as managing editor with the March 1947 issue, while Palmer was named editor. Browne was soon replaced by associate editor William Hamling beginning in 1948. Browne came back as editor in January 1950,; Lila E, Shaffer served as managing editor for a few months in 1953. The last issue of Fantastic Adventures in March 1953, making way for the far more adult-oriented digest Fantastic. Browne was never a fan of science fiction or fantasy; his interest lay in mysteries and in Hollywood, where he made a name for himself. Hamling went on to edited a number of low-level science fiction magazines and to find financial success in soft-core porn publishing. FAs last associate editor, Paul W. Fairman became managing editor of Fantastic in 1953, beginning (with Browne) the magazine's quick slide into mediocrity which was only reversed with the appontment of the talented Cele Goldsmith (later, Cele G. Lalli) as editor in December 1958. Fairman, BTW, went on to become the editor of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; Lalli left Fantastic in 1965 to become editor of Bride's Magazine.
Fantastic Adventures was noted for introducing Thornton Ayre's The Golden Amazon and for publishing a number of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It had the distinction of publishing Theordore Sturgeon's first novel, The Dreaming Jewels, as well as long stories by Lester del Rey, Willian Tenn, and Walter J. Miller, Jr. Most of the magazine's contents were written by a stable of Chicago-based writers such as William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, David Wright O'Brien, Don Wilcox, and Berkeley Livingston, along with Hamling and Palmer, all writing under a plethora of house pseudonyms to provide the word count the magazine needed. The magazine also dipped into Tarzanesque adventures with novels about Jongor (by Robert Moore Williams) and Toka (by Palmer under his J. W. Pelkie pseudonymn.
Robert Bloch needs no introduction. The author of such classic stories as Psycho, "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," and "The Hell-Bound Train," Bloch was a master of the suspense, horror, fantasy fields, often with a sly humorous twist. For many of my generation, Bloch was the entry point to a lifetime of fantastic reading.
There was only one issue of this ground-breaking comic. "Every brush stoke and pen line in the drawings on these pages are by Negro artists....another milestone in the splendid history of Negro journalism." The brainchild of Orrin C. Evans, a former reporter and editor in the Afro-American newspaper field, Evans was also a contributor to The Crisis, the official organ of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Here you will meet Ace Harlem, noted Negro detective. You'll journey to the African Gold Coast, where Lion Man, a college-educated American has been sent by the United Nations to watch over the world's largest deposit of uranium -- and with the help of his young friend Bubba -- faces the minois of "any treacherous nation that might seek to carry away the lethal stuff for the purpose of war." And you'll travel the rails with Sugrfoot and Snake-Oil, two roving minstels who bring a dash of unintentional humor to their journeys. For the kiddies, there's the adventures of the Dew Dillies -- Bubbles and Bibber, two little sprites who live in a fantasy land.
All-Negro Comics is dated and somewhat stereotypical, but it was an important advance for its time. For all of its hep cats, jive talk, and slurred English, the book goes a long way to portray the situation of African-Americans in the late 1940s and to provide wholesome entertainment to its readers.
"REMEMBER -- Crime Doesn't Pay, Kids! Stick to the church, and use up your energy in good clean sports."
And a Happy Juneteenth to all!
"The Bald Spot" by H. G. Dwight (from the collection The Emperor of Elam and Other Stories, 1920; reprinted in Sunset: The Pacific Monthly, September 1924)
A little tale of ego and pridefulness and of how one may set (or not set) artificial limits for purely artificial reasons.
[And, of course, the protagonist had to be named Jerry. In fiction, very few heroes are named Jerry. Jerry is more commonly either a buffoon, a villain, or (if he is lucky) a side kick to the story's hero; he may even be a third-string character. Not that I'm complaining. My wife, on the other hand, swears that every character ever written named Kitty is either the upstairs maid or a hooker with a heart of gold. But enough of paranthetical remarks. On to the story, such as it is.]
Our protagonist is a not quite young but at least youngish man who takes pride in himself and in his appearance. On a regular trip to the barber. he refuses to use pomade, preferring to let his hair remain dry. The barber makes some silly remark about Jerry's hair getting a bit thin. Nonsense! Jerry thought. His hair is as it always was. When the barber takes out a hand mirror to show Jerry the finished haircut, there it is -- a bald spot. Certainly that must be an error.
Back at home,Jerry uses a hand mirror to check out the back of his scalp. The bald spot is still there. Perhaps it is just a trick of the light. But no. No matter how he angled the mirror, the bald spot remained.
So it had come to this. His youth had fled without Jerry even realizing it. Jerry had gone blithely through life believing there was alway tomorrow. If adventure did not come today, there was always tomorrow. A thousand beautiful women to pursue? Again, they would be there tomorrow; there was no rush because there was always tomorrow. Now, instead of youth with its flowing hair and fast automobiles and pretty girls, there was a rapid slide away from youth to taking the elevated and having to perhaps settle for a less than beautiful woman -- the obvious fate of those who time has passed by.
Figuratively girding his loins, Jerry half-heartedly decides to face his fate and to saunter into the outside world with his bald spot. Strangely, people do not stare at him or his bald spot, but Jerry feels they should. He passes a group of children happily at play -- they all have full heads of hair. The happy people he sees are young people with hair, not balding people. Life seems to have passed the balding people by.
Jerry wanders through New York with these dark thoughts, finding himself on the George Washinton Bridge. He stands by the edge of the bridge and contemplates suicide. Why not? Youth is gone and he only faces a helpless inexorable slide toward death. He will never be able to be Important or do something Important now. (When you are young and there is always tomorrow, the word deserves a capitol I.) The darkness of the chasm below seems to be calling him. Then a voice interrupts him, asking if he's thinking of jumping.
The voice belngs to an older policeman. Jerry turns to him. If he were thinking of jumping, shouldn't the policeman be trying to stop him? No, the cop says, you.ve been standing there to long; if you were going to jump, you would have done it by now. The cop asks him what his problem was. Did he break up with his girl? Did he lose his job?
Jerry notices the policeman's hair. It is slicked down. The cop says that his hair "stared droppin like leaves in the fall o' the year, when I was about as young as you." He goes on to say that he uses plain castor oil on his hair. It's just as good as the "high falutin' " stuff they try to sell you at a barbershop. And the missus, he goes on, "says a bald spot's worse inside the bean than out. an' there ain't no oil that'll help it."
Jerry considers that wisdom for a while. Then the policeman offers to "go over to a place I know an' let me treat you to a shot of something wet." That sounds good to Jerry and off they go.
Sometimes you just have to look at things from another's viewpoint.
Harrison Griswald Dwight (1875-1959) was born in Constantinople, where his father was connected to a school there. Dwight entered the consuar service after graduating from Amherst. He served as a translator with the Supreme War Consul in Versailles and in 1919 was the secretary to General Tasker Bliss at the Paris peace conference. He later worked as the assistant drafting officer for the State Department in Washington, D.C., moving to the protocal department a few years later. Frm 1935 t 1947, he served as assistant director for the Frick Collection in New York. In addition to four collections of short stories, along with books reviews, poems, and a handful of articles, Dwight's short story "In the Pasha's Garden" was the subject of an opera produced by the Metropolitan Opera Company in 1934. Dwight also published a book about the Frick Collection of art.
Regarding The Emperor of Elam and Other Stories, Edmond J. O'Brien wrote in The Best Short Stories of 1920: "Those who read Mr. Dwight's earlier volume 'Stamboul Nights' will recall the very real genius for the romantic preservation of adventure in exotic backgrounds which the author revealed. Every detail, if studied, was quietly set down without undue emphasis, and the whle was a finished composition. In the title story of the present volume, and in 'The Emerald of Tamerlane," written in collaboration with John Taylor, Mr. Dwight is on the same familiar ground. I had occasion three yers ago to repint 'The Emperor of Elam' in an earlier volume of this series, and it still seems to be worthy to be set beside the best of Gautier. There are other stories in the present collection with the same rich background, but I would like to call partiular attention to Mr. Dwight's two masterpieces, 'Henrietta Stackpole Rediviva' and 'Behind the Door.' The former ranks with the best half-dozen American short stories and the latter with the best half-doxen short stories of the world. I regard this volume as the most important which I have encuntered since I began to publish my studies of the american short story."
High praise, indeed.
The Emperor of Elam and Other Stories is available to be read online.
Bonita Granville, now a bit older from her Nancy Drew days, plays twins Linda and Estelle -- one nice and one not so nice. Army veterans and roommates Don Castle and Wally Cassell become involved with the twins and Estelle plays one man against the other. Then Linda's body turns up in a barrel of gravel. Regis Toomey plays the detective in charge of the case.
Based on Cornell Wollrich's story "He Looked Like Murder" (from Detective Fiction Weekly, February 8, 1941), the film was adapted by Robeert Presnell, Sr. (The Kennel Murder Case, Meet John Doe, Hurricane Smith). Vienna-born John Reinhardt directed this B-movie for Poverty Row Monogram Pictures. Granville's husband Jack Wrather produced The Guilty; she and Wrather went on to produce the Lassie television series.
Openers: The clock in the tower of the Record struck two. Although I didn't know it then, the clock of my destiny struck at the same time.
Hard on the throb of the chime Smithson stuck his head out of the door of his den, and swept his eyes over the local-room. He found nobody but me. Every one else was absent. As for me, I was having a smoke after a light lunch, and waiting for something to do.
"Nobody here but you, eh?" said Smithson. "Well, c'm'ere."
Smithson was city editor of the Record. Therefore, I cast aside my cigarette and complied with his request.
He bobbed back into his room, withdrawing his head from the door very much like a turtle drawing into its shell. I followed him and stood waiting his next remark. When it came I didn't know just what to make of it after all.
Said Smithson: "Know anything about Semi Dual?"
-- "The Occult Detector" by J. U. Giesy and Junius Smith B. Smith (first published in three parts -- February 17, February 24, March 7, 1912 -- in The Cavalier)
Ah...Semi Dual, aka Prince Abdul Omar of Persia. Psychiatist, telepath, mystic, astrologer, and an early "occult detective."
The occult detective mixes the mystery/crime story with the superntural, fantasy, or horror genres. Perhaps the first was Fitz-James O'Brien's Harry Escott, who appeared in two stories beginning in 1855. soon the floodgates were open for the likes of Bram Stoker's Abraham van Helsing, Sheridan Le Fanu's Martin Hesselius, Algernon Blackwood's John Silence, E. and H. Heron's Flaxman Low, William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki, Sax Rohmer Morris Klaw, Dion Fortune's Dr. Taverner, Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin, Joseph Payne Brennan's Lucius Leffing, and so many more, leading up to the present day with such characters as F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack, Brian Lumley's Titus Crow, Mike Mignola's Joe Golen, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, and Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden. Even Sherlock Holmes has moved into occult territory by confronting Dracula, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, H. P. Lovecraft's Old Ones in reimaginings written by other authors.
Geisy and Smith wrote 33 Semi Dual adventures from 1912 to 1943. The character gained his nckname from the dual nature of his investigations -- part material and part occult. Semi Dual lives and operates in a skyscaper that he owns. A later tenant of the office building is the detective firm of Glace and Bryce. Glace is Gordon Glace, the former Record reporter who narrates many of the stories; his partner in the detective agency is retired police detective James Bryce. In most of the storie, it is one or the other of these two who first encounter the mystery or menace du jour; Semi Dual, like Nero Wolfe, seldom leaves his home.
In "The Occult Detector," Grace follows smithson's orders and goes to interview the mhyysterious Semi Dual. During the interview, the detective learns enough about a recent murder to solve it. Many of the early stories involve "small-scale" cases, kin which Semi Dual helps individuals. Later stories have the detective going aginst occult forces that threaten the world, especially the Devil-inspired Black Brotherhood. Semi dual also takes on criminal gangs in the later stories.
The series, though popular, was never reprinted during the pulp era, perhaps because to their length -- most of the stories were novella-length or greater. Altus Press is releasing the entire series in nine volumes, and nine of the stories are avaiable to read online at Roy Glashan's Library (http://freeread.com/au/index.html)
Pro Se Press has revived the character in The New Adventures of Semi Dual, a collection of three stories by I. A. Watson, Kevin Noel Olsen, and James Palmer.
J. U. Giesy (1877-1947) was a physician, astrology enthusiast, and pulp writer, best known for his Json Croft trilogy of fantasy books, beginning with Palos of the Dog Star Pack. Fellow astrology believer Junius B. Smith (1883-1945) began his fiction career co-writing "The Occult Detector" with Giesy; in addition to the Semi dual series the pair collaborated on at least eight other stories. Smith published another sixteen stories on his own and contributed a regular column, "My Stars," to Ainslees (later retitled as Ainslee's Smart Love Magazine, and then as Smart Love Stories) beginning in 1934.
'Tis Himself: Today, Flag Day, we also celebrate the birthday of my late father-in-law, Harold A. Keane. More than one person has said that you could tell Harold's family came from County Cork because he was built like a fireplug. I don't know what happened on that long-ago day in County Cork when three brothers decided to emigrate the same day -- one to Canada, one to Australia, and one -- Harold's father -- to America, but I suspect someone was close on their heels. Harold's father ended up in Rockland, Massachusetts, working in a shoe factory. He evidently once had a chance to become a partner in a new shoe company, Thom McAn, but felt it was too risky,
Harold was one of eight kids. There was not much money and Harold's youngest borther Don (who passed away several months ago in his nineties) always felt close to Harold because Harold has scrimped and saved to buy Don a bicycle in the days when Don thought his family would never be able to afford one for him. When World War II broke out, Harold dropped out of high school and joined the Navy with his cousin Eddie. Harold and Eddie switched temporarally identities so that each would pass the parts of the physical the other couldn't. Harold fell in love with Eileen, whose fiance had been killed earlier in the war. When Harold proposed, Eileen put him off by saying she would marry him once the war was over, and -- son of a gun! -- the war was suddently over within a week, so with a wife and a Bronze Star, Harold went off the Georgia Tech, studying engineering. Soon , there were three of them (Michael had been born), living in a trailer while Harold studied and sold newspapers outside of Sunday mass to get along. (He had had a chance to run bootleg liquor but Eileen put the kibosh on that, despite the easy money.) Shortly before he graduated, the school tried to kick him out when they discovered that he had never graduated high school, saying that Harold had entered Georgia Tech on false pretenses. Harold made them dig out the original application he had made to the school, pointing out that the space for year graduated from high school was blank. Harold was scrupulously honest and had made no false pretenses. They allowed him to graduate.
Harold worked for various companies subcontracted to the defense industry one rockets and the space program. Because of security concerns he could never really say what he did and Kitty and her brothers used to make up extrvagrant stories about what he did. One night, while they were living in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Harold woke the kids up and said it was a beautiful night for a walk. They ended up on a sand bar watching the original Gemini rocket take off; he just could not tell them why they were really out that late at night.
Harold was quiet, patient, and good-humored, but he remembered the time when "no Irish need apply." He could be feisty and quick to anger when he felt someone was taking advantage of him; I once saw him walkout on a shady car dealer just moment before the deal was to close. (And it was a sight to see when the woman who was making Kitty's wedding dress decided she couldn't/wouldn't make the dress agreed upon. Kitty got married in wedding dress she wanted, one that was as perfect as she is. Thank you, Harold.)
It was pancreatic cancer that got Harold. We suspect it might hve been a result of radiation from the various secret places he worked. (Toward the end of each week, he and many of the other workers would remove the radiation counter all employees were requred to wear to ensure they were not exxposed to dangerous levels.) Harold appeared to beat the cancer twice, but that evil, evil disease kept coming back. He passed away just weeks before the birth of his first grandson, Mark. For that reason I have also considered Mark as living proof that the circle continues.
It's a blessing Harold never knew he shared a birthday with Donald Trump. He would have hated that son of a bitch.
Flag Day: Today has always been an important holiday to me. It's a time to reflect on what the promise of our imperfect country is and what we can do to come closer to achieving that promise. The flag, and what it stands for, and the people who have sacrificed to stand behind it are all part of the core of who I am as a human being. I hold no truck with idiots who demean the flag by mugging while hugging it on stage, just as I hold no truck with those who selfishly and stupidly use it as an excuse for their own deplorable actions. For me, the flag and what it stands for is sacred, which is why I support the protester's right to burn it -- but not to desecrate it.
Here's a ten-minute documentary from 1939 that tells The Story of Our Flag: https://archive.org/details/0841_Story_of_Our_Flag_The_E01383_14_27_16_16
And somewhat off topic: Here's a 1917 film titled Betsy Ross, a totally non-historic melodrama whcich includes a "blink and you'll miss it" scene where Betsy creates the flag. The rest is the film is a silly, but somewhat enjoyable, love triangle between Betsy, her sister, and a British soldier. https://archive.org/details/0985_Betsy_Ross_01_00_36_00
The Big Chick with the Big Roscoe in the Kentucky Diner: Just because every once in a while you need a Jean Shepherd fix. Here's The Jean Shepherd Show from Febraury 26, 1965:
Gowrow: The Gowrow is a lizard-y thing/With nasty jaws. It cannot sing./It's horn-like spikes run down its back./A sweet nature it does does lack./So if you're down in Arkansas/Visiting your sister or your Maw,/Avoid the Gowrow. (Note: He or she/Often comes after a moonshine spree.)
R.I.P. Lt. Col. Sam Lombardo: Sam Lombardo wan an Italian immigrant who cme to America when he was ten and later served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, died Friday at Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He was just one month shy of his 102nd birthday. He was one of four World War Ii veterans who, at age 100, participated in the coin toss for Super Bowl LIV in Miami Gardens to commemorate the NFL's 100th season. The four rolled onto the field in golf carts, passing a group of cheerleaders. ("They wouldn't let us stop by them," Lombardo recalled with a wink. "they kept going. I said 'Why don't you stop for a minute? I just want to shake some hands.' ")
Lombardo served as the executive officer of an infantry company following the battle of the Bulge in World War II. As they advanced across the German countryside, Lombardo noted that he had not seen any American flags. He asked the company commander for a flag but the request ws denied by headquarters. Well, that got Lombardo's back up. "If they won't give us one, we'll make one." That's just what he and his comany did. They used pieces of white cloth surrender flags hanging from German windows, and found pillows made of red fabric. A blue curtain was added and the stars were cut from the surrender flags using the medic's scissors. It took weeks to make the flag, using sewing machines found or borrowed during their march across Germany. The flag was finished three weeks before the war in Europe ended and was carried proudly by the men in Lombardo's company. The hand-made flag is now prominently displayed at the Fort Benning museum.
I am of the firm belief that every genertion is the greatest generation, but some may be more "greatest" than others.
Lombardo, an avid golfer, is now Somewhere where there are no greens fees.
Florida Man: Just one item today because ti happened in mmy neck of the woods.