Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


 'The Valley of Unrest:  A Book without a woman:  Edgar Allan Poe:  An Odd Oddity Paper" by Douglass Sherley first published in book form in 1883 [see below]; reprinted in The Man Who Called Himself Poe, edited by Sam Moskowitz, 1969)

This is an odd story, relating in part Edgar Allan Poe's sojourn at Virginia University when he was seventeen, and drawing itself on Poe's 1831 poem, "The Valley of Unrest" (originally, "The Valley Nis").

The unnamed narrator is a year younger than Poe when, lost and home-sick on his first day at Virginia University, he is approached by Poe, who says, "I like you.  I want to know you."  From day day, the narrator became Poe's closest friend while they attended the school.  Poe was a sometimes moody, sometimes whip-smart friend who had the natural ability of a leader.  He drew among him a number of students who were rebels of a sort -- prone to play fast and loose with the rigid standards of the university, mainly in the area of playing cards for money and drinking.  The most popular drink during these illicit card games was peach and honey, evidently a standard drink or either ale or wine among the Old South elite.

Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University, had a bugaboo about playing cards for money and he wanted the practice stopped at the school.  He gathered the names of those most likely to involved and had the sheriff raid the school with writs for the suspected gamblers.  Word had gotten out about the raid and a group of students, led by Poe, managed to escape.  Poe led them "over an almost untrodden path" to the nearby Ragged Mountains, a wild part of the Blue Ridge, and to the remote Valley of Unrest.  The group had managed to bring food, playing cards, and a goodly supply of peach and honey with them.  There they stayed for three days, sneaking back to the university at night to have their supplies refreshed by some of their friends.  Each night around a campfire they amused themselves before retiring by taking turns telling stories.  They got word that they had been forgiven and on the third night, before marching back to the school, they again swapped stories.  The last to speak was Poe.

He told a tale of the location where they had been hiding, a spot inhabited by human shadows and three demons.  Two young men, fast friends since childhood, found themselves on opposite sides during a war.  One dark night in the heat of battle they faced each other unknowingly.  It was only after one of the friends was slain did the other realize who it was that he had killed.  Stricken by his action, the surviving friend found himself cursed to go about the world a homeless, friendless wanderer who would eventually find himself lying in a grave forever nameless.  And so it came to pass the he spent years in lonely wandering until a strange compulsion brought hi to the Valley of Unrest -- that same compulsion that forced him to dig a grave and to lay himself down in it.

After Poe had told that tale, the card-playing, peach and honey drinking group of students returned to the university..  The following December both the narrator and Edgar Allan Poe left Virginia University, never again to have contact with each other..

Thus ends the first part of the story, one that reads as if (and may possibly be) a true account.  But then there's the remaining part of the tale.

The time is now in the late 1870s, nearly three decades after Poe's strange death, and the narrator finds himself in a small Italian town.  It's Carnival time and he has has rented the Ducal palace and he strangely found himself longing to return to his native land.  As so he left the palace and the local folk began saying he was driven out by the ghost of some murdered Duke.  Returning home was a bit of a disappointment -- all his old friends had either died or had moved and all the places he had so fondly remembered had drastically changed, except for the University of Virginia, an unchanging landmark of his youth.  And one thought persistently and illogically came to him:  what if someone had actually been buried in the Valley of Unrest in a "nameless grave"?

But that lonely dell in the Ragged Mountains was not easy to find.  Our narrator searched long with the troubled thought of there being a bunch of "new-blown lilies on a nameless grave" in the Valley of unrest.  Suddenly he was aware of being watched by someone.  It was an old man, older than he.  The strange man recognized as one of the group of students who had camped out nearby almost fifty years before.  The old man had watched the group, silently and hidden, and remembered well Poe's tale that was related that final evening.  The man led the narrator through the thick forest to the same dell in the Valley of Unrest where the group played cards, drank, and told stories.

There, in the center of the dell, was "a green mound of earth, grave-shaped, without a stone, with only a bunch of lilies at the head, just coming into bloom.  In truth, I had found it, and there before me, the nameless grave."  

One day in 1835 (the old mountaineer, whose name turned out to be Gasper Conrad, said) a stranger came to the area and sought out lodging for the night from him.  A friendship grew and the stranger decided to build a small hut and spend the winter in the mountains.  He shunned all neighbors except for Gasper and soon earned a bad reputation among the mountain folk because of this.  He gave no name but was soon dubbed "shaggy" by the populace.  They thought he might be a criminal or a murderer, or some demon sent to plague the few mountain folk in the area.  Shaggy was shunned, as was Gasper for his friendship with the man.  The following year he told Gasper that he knew the day, hour, and time of his own appointed death.  Shaggy said he had once been associated with Aaron Burr, who was indirect cause of the one great evil in his life.  

On September 14, 1836 -- the same day that Burr died -- Shaggy led Gasper to the lonely dell where he had dug a wide grave in which he placed a coffin.  Shaggy lay in the coffin and then died, his last words being a pitiful cry, "Don't!  don't!  I am Albert Pike Carr!"  Gasper felt that the name belonged to someone other than Shaggy.

Years later he learned that Albert Pike Carr and his best friend from childhood had gone off to join Aaron Burr during his famous expedition.  Burr suspected one of his mean of treason and ordered Carr's friend to do away with him that night when the traitor was to be on sentry duty.  But the traitor had claimed illness and asked Carr to take his post.  Carr's friend mistakenly kills Carr, his best friend in the world.  Racked with guilt, the man wanders the earth until he finds himself the man who was called Shaggy in the Ragged Mountains.

Poe's story that he had made up before a campfire had become eerily true.

The publication of this story is unusual.  It was first published as a book of some 150 pages,  "printed on one side only of quarto [about twelve by nine inches -- JH] sheets of thick red* paper, with most generous margins.  The sheets are held together with blue** silk cords."   It was printed in antique style, with f replacing s throughout.  There was evidently an 1883 and an 1884 printing, both similar.

The author is presumed to be Douglass Shepley, who is listed as merely the editor and "who vouches for the authenticity of this posthumous manuscript."  Sherley attended the University of Virginia long after Poe, but Poe did attend and a man named Thomas Goode Tucker, who was a close friend of Poe.  Sherley had published some excepts from letters by Tucker in Virginia University Magazine and some assume that the story came from Tucker and was polished by Sherley.  We will probably never know.

Sherley (1857-1917) was a Kentuckian who studied law at UVA and published a number of short books.  1n 1893 and 1894 he went on a lecture tour that included James Whitcomb Riley and Mark Twain.  He died in Indiana and was buried in his native Louisville.

By the way, I have no idea why the book included in its subtitle "A Book without a woman," ecept, perhaps, because there was no woman in the story.

"The Valley of Unrest" is a quirky, readable story that deserves wider attention.  It can be read online in its original form on the internet; other, more eye-pleasing copies are also available.

* or maybe orange

** or maybe brown (the difference in color may be ascribed to the age of the book, or perhaps to individuals who perceived the different colors)

Monday, May 23, 2022


Your Show Time was an early television effort to bring famous literary short stories to the small screen.  It ran for 26 half-hour episodes from January 21 to July 15, 1949 -- a total of 26 episodes adapting tales from such authors as Guy de Maupassant, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Each episode was introduced by "The Bookshop Man," played by Arthur Shields doing his best Barry Fitzgerald imitation.

The fourth episode of the show featured Theophile Gautier's horror story "The Mummy's Foot" (originally "Le Pied de momie," published in Le Musee des familles, September 1840).  In this version, Peter Renault is a young playwright who is writing a show about ancient Egyptian times.  Unfortunately he gets a little too "wrapped up" in his subject.

Herbert Anderson (1917-1994), in his first television role, stars as Renault.  Anderson had a 35-year career in films and television.  He began doing bit parts in films, but after "The Mummy's Foot" spent most of the rest of his career in television -- most notably as Herbert Mitchell, the father in Dennis the Menace (1959-1963).

Rounding out the cast were J. Edward Bromberg, Peggy Dow, Phyllis Coates, and Hank Henry.

This episode was produced by Louis Lantz and directed by Sobey Martin, from an adaptation by Stanley Rubin.


Sunday, May 22, 2022


 Openers:   I returned from the city about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life.  I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it.  If anyone had told me a year ago if I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact.  The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick.  I couldn't get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as that of soda-water that has been standing in the sun.  "Richard Hannay," I kept telling myself, "you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you jad better climb out."

It made me bite my lip to think of the places I had been building up those last years in Buluwayn.  I had got my pile -- not one of the big ones, but good enough for me; and I had figured out all kinds of ways of enjoying myself.  My father had brought me out from Scotland at the age of six, and I had never been home since; so England was a sort of Arabian Nights for me, and I counted on stopping there for the rest of my days.

But from the first I was disappointed with it.  In about a week I was tired of seeing sights, and in less than a month I had had enough of restaurants and theatre and race-meetings.  I had no real pal to about with, which probably explains things.  Plenty of people invited me to their houses, but they didn't seem much interested in me.  they would fling me a question or two about South Africa, and then get on to their own affairs.  A lot of Imperialist ladies asked me to tea to meet someone from New Zealand and editors from Vancouver, and that was the dismalest business of all.  Here was I, thirty-seven years old, sound in wind and limb, with enough money to have a good time, yawning my head off all day.  I had just about settled to clear out nd get back to the veld, for I was the best bored man in the United Kingdom.

The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan  (1915; first published as a serial in Blackwood's Magazine in their July, August, and September issues as by "H de V.")

Be careful what you wish for, Richard Hannay.  Within a few paragraphs you be pushed into an adventure that will have you running for your life over the hill and moor of Scotland, chased by both police and anarchists plotting to destabilize Europe.  As a character, I found Hannay to be a mixed blessing, at times shrewd and daring, and at other times of be a dim bulb.  The book I found also to be a bit off-putting because of at least one character's racist and anti-Semitic.  But the book has a lot going for it.  It is a classic adventure-espionage novel, a "shocker," as the author described it.  In 2003, the book was listed as one of the UK's best-loved novels by the BBC.

Most of us are familiar with the story from Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film starring Robert Donat.  In 1938, Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air adapted the book for their fourth episode, not getting the notoriety as their adaptation of that H. G. Wells novel later in the year. Other radio adaptations include episodes of the Lux Radio Theater (1937, with Robert Montgomery), Philip Morris Playhouse (1943, with Herbert Marshall), The Hour of Mystery (1946, with David Niven), the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Stage Series (1947). Studio One (1948, with Glenn Ford), Suspense (1952, with Herbert Marshall [again]), eight BBC adaptations, and  three BBC solo readings.   There have also been at least three audiobook versions of the novel.  Another version of the book, starring Kenneth More as Hannay, was released in 1959, followed by a 1978 version starring Robert Powell, and a television film staring Rupert Penry-Jones in 2008. Currently filming is a Netflix television mini-series with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead.  A theatrical adaptation of the novel was staged in 1995, and rewritten in 2005; it became the fifth longest running play Piccadilly's Criterion Theatre; it moved to Broadway in 2008 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two.   (The London show won an Oliver, and the Broadway show also received a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.  A 2014 BBC radio documentary focused on the novel's impact at home and abroad.

I have not seen every version of The Thirty-nine Steps, but a good number of them do not follow the book and have different ides of what the "thirty-nine steps" are.  Much of this can be laid to Mr. Hitchcock. who threw out most of the novel when he made his film.

Richard Hannay was too a character to waste on just one book.  Buchan used him as a major character in Greenmantle (1916), Mr. Standfast (1919), The Three Hostages (1924), and The Island of Sheep (1936), and as a minor character in The Courts of the Morning (1929) and Sick Heart River (1940).  Hannay also appears as a member of The Runagates Club (1926), a collection of twelve stories; another member of that club is Sir Edward Leithen, a major character in five of Buchan's novels, including Sick Heart River.  

Hannay was also the title character in the 1998-1999 television series featuring Robert Powell in the title role.  He was also featured in a 1952 six-episode series, The Three Hostages, with Patrick Barr as Hannay, and in a 1997 television movie of The Three Hostages, with Barry Foster as Hannay.

John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir (1875-1940) carried on dual careers as an author and as a politician and diplomate.  As an author, he wrote 28 popular novels, 43 non-fiction books (many of which were histories, including one book of 24 volumes), eleven biographies, four poetry collections, and five short story collections, along with editing 14 anthologies.  On the political side (following periods as a barrister and a publisher), Buchan was the private secretary to the  High Commissioner of Southern Africa, a lieutenant colonel in the intelligence corps and director of intelligence during World War I, reporting to prime minister David Lloyd George, s Unionist member of Parliament, King George V's Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, and the 15th Governor-General of Canada.  

On February 6, 1940, Buchan suffered a stroke and injured his head as he fell.  Two surgeries failed to save him and he died on February 11,  His time spent in Canada and his clear devotion to the Canadian people endeared him to much of the populace. He was given a state funeral in Ottawa and his ashes were then shipped to England for burial.


  • Richard Brister, The Shoot-out at Sentinel Peak, with Tangled Trail by Roy Manning.  An Ace Double western.  The Brister:  "The storm broke in Sentinel the day Cleve McNary's neighbor Will Ruscher, spilled out his life's blood on the town street.  Will's H-on-a-Rail ranch was just a two-bit building between two giant neighbors, but it had one thing of real value in that arid valley -- a darned good waterhole.  Cleve could have used that water himself but he wasn't the kind of coyote that would buy something with lead that he couldn't get with silver.  On the other hand, he couldn't stand with holstered pistols while another man got away with murder."  And the Manning:  (from the Mobile Press Register) "Tex Tevis, the hero of this story, had built a small homestead with his brother, and they found themselves in a peck of trouble with the big cattle ranchers.  Six-guns blazed on the range and when the smoke of the fighting was cleared, Tex's brother was dead, their home burned.  Tex swore revenge and in his hatred he became a renegade and a social outcast..."
  • "Barry Cord" (Peter B. Germano), Concho Valley (abridged), with My Brother the Gunman by William Heuman.  An Ace Double western.  About Concho Valley:  "Lon Winters hightailed it into Concho Valley to find out what was holding up his pard, Frank Santree.  Lon was shocked to discover that Frank had  just been strung up as a rustler of Diamond T beef.  Lon knew that Frank was no rustler.  And when he tried to get to the truth of the whole mess, he stepped plumb into the middle of a strange kind of range war.  He knew that there was double-dealing going on, but by the time he figured out the rules of the deadly game, he'd already been slipped the ace of spades.  And then Lon knew that his guns had better be the fastest in Concho Valley or he'd be joining his partner darned quick."  And the Heuman:  "Carmody, when Cass Malone left it to join the Union Army, was a sleepy Kansas cattle-town.  When he came back six years later, he found it had become a booming railhead, run ruthlessly by one Frank Wymore, a hardbitten hombre who knew what he wanted and how to get it.  It didn't take Cass long to figure out how Wymore managed to stay alive in a town where he'd turned every decent man against him.  Chief on his payroll was a pack of hired gunslingers, ready to answer any complaints with a bullet in the back.  But Cass's worst discovery was that his own kid brother was number one gunman in the crowd.  Then there was no choice left for Cass Malone.  He had to pit himself against his own flesh and blood, or settle for a coward's grave in Boot Hill."
  • "Barry Cord" (Peter B. Germano), Mesquite Johnny (abridged), with A Time for Guns by Rod Patterson.  An Ace Double western.  The Cord:  "Johnny Delaney was a kid they called 'the orphan,' but from the hell he raised he could have been the devil's own offspring.  Fast, furious, and fearless, he was also still beardless.  And there was nothing he wanted more than to be thought of as a full-grown man.  That's why he saddled up to look for his pal who had disappeared over in Ladrone.  He needed to prove himself a man once and for all.  But once in the thick of the bushwacking and double-dealing of that cattle-rustlers' paradise, Johnny found out there was something even harder than growing a man's beard.  That would be to get out of Ladrone alive!"  About the Patterson:  "Clay Harper knew that his life wasn't worth the skin of a new-born calf after the way he had bucked his old rival, Lee Carmody.  Therefore he had nothing to lose by opposing Lee's big Sultana outfit and stopping it from taking over the range.  But Lee didn't know how dirty the fight would get and how many other people's lives it would involve.  He hadn't anticipated wholesale murder, nor that his wife would run out on him, nor, finally, that his son might ecome a key pawn in the deadly struggle."
  • John Creasey, Murder, London-Australia.  A Superintendent Roger West mystery.  "Superintendent Roger West's newest case begins with the strangling of an Australian girl in a London boarding house.  Then a man dies suddenly at London Airport -- and like the girl he was a passenger on S.S. Kookaburra.  West and his Scotland Yard colleagues discover enough to suspect that every passenger on that recent voyage of the Kookaburra is in danger of death.  As they dig deeper, the danger becomes even greater, threatening the Australian Blue Flag fleet of ships.  The complex -- and perilous -- job of solving this elaborate crime takes Roger West from London to Australia."  Creasey's books are like crack to me and Roger West is one of his greatest characters.
  • "Evan Evans" (Frederick Faust, also known as "Max Brand"), Outlaw's Code.  Yep, another western.  "His name was Lawrence Grey -- Texas called him Rinky Dink -- South of the Border he was Don Diablo.  But by any other name he was equally deadly.  He was fair-haired, with a pink and white complexion and a charming smile.  Women loved him, and on both sides of the law, men got out of the way for Rinky Dink.  He never broke a promise.  He never forgot an enemy or a friend.  What he wanted, he took...a girl, a horse, a million in gold."
  • Frank Gruber, Outlaw.  Another western, making them more than 83 % of this week's incoming.  " 'Twenty-five thousand, dead or alive!'  That's how bad the banks and the railroads wanted Jim Chapman, terror of the border states, the first man who ever robbed a bank in broad daylight, or held up a U. S. mail train and gutted it of its gold.  Frank Gruber, the great western author, has written this powerful, full-bodied novel of Jim Chapman, Confederate veteran, world-famed outlaw, in the bloodiest, most violent days in the whole raw history of America's frontier."

Squeeze Box:   What is the most underappreciated, least cool musical instrument.  Many would vote for the accordion.  And who could blame them?

Unless, of course, you are Clifton Chenier, the great accordionist and zydeco innovator.  Chenier himself was inspired by the recording of Amadie (or Amede) Ardoin.

(For those who are interested, here's an early recording of Ardoin, "Les Blues de Voyage"

(And a 1955 recording by Clifton Chenier, "Ay Tete Fee"

In essence, an accordion is a musical instrument that uses hand-pumped bellows and and two keyboard to sound free reeds (small metal tongues that vibrate when air is pushed past them.  The earliest precursor to the accordion may be the cheng, or sheng, which appeared in China around 3000 BC.  The story goes that the emperor Huang Ti sent a scholar to the western mountain regions of his kingdom to find a way to reproduce the song of the phoenix bird.  The scholar returned with the cheng, the first known instrument to use the free vibrating reed principle.  Later instruments to use this principle arose in Egypt and Greece and played a part in many beliefs.

During the 12th and 13th centuries an instrument called the portative as popular in England.  This had a small keyboard bellows and reed pipes and was strapped onto the player.  Around 1770, the cheng made its way to Russia, and the across Europe.  Another precursor to the accordion was the regal, also known as the Bible regal because of its common use in  churches.  Its popularity faded because of its tendency to go out of tune rather quickly, although it was often used in madrigal groups from the 15th to 18th centuries.

The first true accordion was made in 1822 by the German instrument maker  Christian Friedrich Buschmann (who is questionably credited with also inventing the harmonica), who called his instrument the Handaoline, and had it patented.  In 1828, Cyrill Demian made modification to Buschmann's Handaoline, named the new instrument the accordion, and had it patented.  Demian is widely credited for not only naming, but also creating, the first modern accordion.  Since the there have been many changes and variations of the accordion.

Among the more well-known accordion players are Lawrence Welk, Myron Floren, Loreena McKennit, and Bruce Hornsby.  Bring the generous kind of guy I am, I won't hold their choice of instrument against these folks...well, maybe Lawrence Welk.

On This Day:  April 23 was a busy day in history.  Joan of Arc was captured (1439); Savonarola was burned at the stake (1498); Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon was nullified (1533); South Carolina becomes the eighth state (1788); the declaration of the Bab announced that he was a prophet, eventually becoming the forerunner of the Baha'i faith -- today is a holy day for Baha'is (2844); Mexican president Mariano Paredes unofficially declares was on the United States (1846); the North-West Mounted Police was founded (1873); the New York Public Library was dedicated (1911); Italy joined the Allies in World War I (1915); Bonnie and Clyde were killed by police (1934); Heinrich Himmler committed suicide (1945); Tibetans signed The Seventeen Point Agreement with China (1951); Eunice Kennedy married Sargent Shriver (1953); "I Get Around" by the Beach Boys was a number one hit (1964); the Java programming language was introduced (1995); the Good Friday Agreement is reached with Northern Ireland (1997); and there have been way too many bombings, shootings, killings, and natural disasters.

Birthday wishes go out to Mayan king K'inich Kan Bahlam II (b. 635), Philip I of France (b. 1962), Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (b. 1707), Franz Mesmer (b. 1734), Eads Bridge designer James Buchanan Eads (b. 1820), General Ambrose Burnside (b. 1824), actor Douglas Fairbanks (b. 1883), actor Herbert Marshall, who played Richard Hannay -- see above (b. 1890), author Par Lagerkvist (b. 1891), author Scott O'Dell (b. 1898), Goodnight Moon lady Margaret Wise Brown (b. 1910). Scatman Crothers (also 1910). bandleader Artie Shaw (also 1910 -- it was a good year for talent), singers Helen O'Connell (b. 1920) and Rosemary Clooney (b. 1928), sexy actress Joan Collins (b. 1933), chess genius Anatoly Karpov (b. 1951), Marvelous Marvin Hagler (b. 1954), actor and game show host Drew Carey (b. 1958), and singer-songwriter and occasional SYFY movie actress Jewel (b. 1974).

On on this day in history, we bid a fond (or not-so fond) farewell to Pope Urban I (d. 230), antipope Benedict XIII (d. 1423), Italian friar Gerolamo Savonarola (d. 1498), pirate William Kidd (d. 1701), legendary frontiersman Kit Carson (d. 1868), the above-mentioned Bonnie and Clyde (d. 1934), rich guy John D. Rockefeller (d. 1937), the above-mentioned baddie Heinrich Himmler (d. 1945), actor and singer George Jessel, who once tried to molest Shirley Temple until she kicked him in the groin (d. 1981), Australian activist and last speaker of the Gaagudju language Big Bill Neidjle (d. 2002), golfer Sam Snead (d. 2002), folk singer, activist, and the man who gave us the story of "Moose Turd Pie" Utah Phillips (d. 2008), comedian Anne Meara (d. 2015), James Bond and Simon Templar and Beau Maverick actor Roger Moore (d. 2017), The Very Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle (d. 2021), and (again) too many people from bombings, shootings, killings, and natural disasters.

And if you want to go wild and celebrate, today is International Turtle Day (and which for those who are picky, excludes Christina's Sebastian, who is a tortoise -- but who would be so callous to omit sweet, sweet Sebastian?).  It is also Lucky Penny Day, National Taffy Day, and World Crohn's and Colitis Day.  As mentioned above, Baha'is are celebrating Declaration of the Bab Day.  And don't forget International Day to End Obstetric Fistula and Victoria Day.  We also in the  National Backyard Games Week, Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, National Safe Boating Week. National Tire Safety Week, and World Schizophrenia Awareness Week.  For those who are interested we are smack day in the middle of the 2022 Cannes International Film Festival.

If you were born on this date you are a Gemini and your birth flower can be either the lily of the valley or the hawthorn.  Your birthstone is the emerald, which supposedly gives the owner foresight, good fortune and youth.

The Wackadoodle Wave:   And then there's this:  Abroted fetuses are being burned in Washington, DC to provide electricity.  Don't believe it?  But it must be true because that was the testimony of anti-abortion activist Catherine Glenn Foster, the president of Americans Right to Life before a House judiciary committee meeting on the access to abortion, and we all know that testimony before a House Committee has to truthful, right?  Do I need mention that Ms. Foster was requested to appear before the committee by Republican members?

Which brings me to this interesting article from The Atlantic by David A. Graham.  It's worth a look.

And do we even have to mention Jewish Space lasers?

Nijinsky:  Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) was one of the world's greatest ballet dancers.  His grace, athleticism, and artistry, along with his sensitive interpretations and his ability to seemingly defy gravity in Grande Jete made him one of the most famous figures in the Ballets Russes and around the world.  Very little film exists of his work, but here's a short clip from a reconstruction of a 1909 performance of Le Pavillon D'Armide, when the Nijinsky was only twenty and had recently been named premier dancer of the Ballets Russes.  The clip was apparently mainly reconstructed from still photographs.

Florida Man:   Florida Man has not been in hibernation over the past few weeks.  Here's some examples.
  • Florida Man Jean Barreto, 26, is lucky to be alive after a Florida Man Osceola County deputy fired at him with a taser.  Unfortunately Barreto was fueling his motorcycle at the time nd was covered with gasoline -- he received third degree burns over 75% of his body..  Barreto is being charged with fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement, reckless driving. and resisting an officer without violence; the unnamed sheriff's deputy is being charged with culpable negligence and (I assume) gross stupidity.
  • Florida Man Adam Smith, 35, has been arrested over a series of lewd video calls he made to unsuspecting strangers in 2021.  (When I say "lewd," I mean he was masturbating.)  Smith had previously been arrested in 2019 for pulling his car up to a woman and gratifying himself in the same manner.  Although Smith is said to be a Tennessee native, two of the obscene calls he made came from a Sarasota, Florida, number -- which makes him a Florida Man in my book.
  • West Palm Beach Florida Man Jamie Avery, 28, has been accused of trying to set a child on fire in a New York City office building.  Police found Avery and another suspect trying to start fires in the building.  Police also found a one-year-old child covered in flammable liquid at the scene/
  • Florida Man Michael Justin Rowe, 32, was arrested for trying to steal $800 in small change from a machine in an Englewood laundromat using a sledge hammer.  Rowe was wearing a gorilla mask.  Also arrested in the simian-themed heist was Taylor Marie Farrell, 34; it is not known whether she is a Florida Woman.
  • Florida Man and Polk Country Deputy Austin Moates was arrested on charges of child abuse.  Moates had responded to an incidence of bullying at a local school.  Moates took the two children home, spoke to their mother, nd then proceeded to spank each child "with his hand for their behavior."  Moates the told the children to go to their rooms.  One did but the other refused.  That's when Moates grabbed the girl by the neck and forced her upstairs.  According to the girl, Moates "choked my neck and he squeezed my neck and carried me up the stairs and he wanted me to die."  When a person noted the red marks on the child's neck and asked if Moates was responsible, the deputy denied it, saying "what are you talking about," and that he did not see any red marks, and if the marks were there, the girl probably did it herself.  Sometimes Florida Men say the stupidest things.

Good News:
  •  Scuba divers recover 12 tons of trash from Lake Tahoe, including engagement rings and wallets
  • An otter spotted in the Detroit River may be the first sighting in 100 years
  • Students create edible tortilla tape to keep your wrap wrapped
  • The number of greater one-horned rhinos reaches a new high
  • Island is finally rid of 300,000 rats
  • anonymous donor pays of entire debt for an entire 3033 class in Texas
  • Plants have been grown in lunar soil for the first time ever

A One-Liner from Steven Wright:  I bought some powdered water but I don't know what to add,

Today's Poem:

I cannot tell you how it was,
But this I know: it came to pass
Upon a bright and sunny day,
When May was young; oh, pleasant May!
And yet the poppies were not born
Between the blades of tender corn;
The last egg had not hatched as yet, 
Nor any bird forgone its mate.

I cannot tell you what it was,
But this I know:  it did but pass.
It passed away with sunny May,
Like all sweet things it passed away,
And left me old, and cold, and gray.

-- Christina Rossetti

Saturday, May 21, 2022


 Sam Cooke with The Soul Stirrers.

Friday, May 20, 2022


 Dudley Bradshaw, a wealthy young playboy, has a secret identity.  He's Mr. Satan, a costumed hero, international detective, and soldier of fortune.  He had no superpowers, no sidekick -- just a purple devil's costume from a Fancy Dress costume shop (the costume also included a long yellow cape).   His brief comic book run was in the first nine issues of MLJ Comics Zip Comics, where he served -- along with Kalthar (King of the Jungle), Miracle Man, Capt. Valor, and others -- as a backup feature to the adventures of Charles Biro's Steel Sterling, Man of Steel.

Mr. Satan was created by writer Abner Sundell and artist Ed Ashe.  The pair created most of Mr. Satan's none adventures as well as other features for MLJ.

Mr. Satan has no backstory.  Why he decided to get gussied up in that get-up remains a mystery, as does why he chose such a poor costumed hero moniker.  His adventures -- six pages per issue -- are quickly told, with no suspense, little mystery, and even less depth.  He remains one of the few MLJ comic book heroes was was not picked up later by one of the comic book publishers of the 60s.

The 1940 Mr. Satan should not be conflated with the much more popular Mr. Satan from Dragon Ball.

For your edification, here the complete Dudley Bradshaw oeuvre:

Thursday, May 19, 2022


 The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories (revised edition), edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg (2004)

Who doesn't love a good private eye?  The hard-boiled PI begin in the May 1923 issue of Black Mask with Carroll John Daly's "Three Gun Terry."  A month later Black Mask published Daly's first Race Williams mystery, "Knights of the Open Palm" in that magazines infamous special "KKK issue."  Three months later Dashiell Hammett published his first Continental Op story.  And the floodgates were opened.

Today, PIs are both hard-boiled and soft-boiled, reflective and instinctive, male and female, straight and gay, and some have physical of mental disabilities.  The field covers a broad range of careers; while many are actually licensed PIs, many others are not.   The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories is mainly concerned with real private eyes, although Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder (an  unlicensed private eye) and Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter (an insurance investigator) are included in the mix.  

Pronzini and Greenberg have selected tales about some of the greatest and most popular private eyes of all time.  The only significant omissions seem to be Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.  (Two other early PIs -- Carroll John Daly's Race Williams and Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner -- were included in the first edition of this book in 1998, but were dropped for this edition.)  Still, according to Kevin Burnett Smith's The Thrilling Detective website, this volume is "possibly the single best anthology of private eye ever...Recommended.  HEARTILY."

Some of the stories may be familiar but most are not.

The contents:

  • Raymond Chandler, "Wrong Pigeon"  (Philip Marlowe)
  • Fredric Brown, "Before She Kills"  (Ed and Am Hunter)
  • Howard Browne, "So Dark for April"  (Paul Pine)
  • William Campbell Gault, "Stolen Star"  (Joe Puma)
  • Ross MacDonald, "Guilt Edged Blonde"  (Lew Archer)
  • Henry Kane, "Suicide Is Scandalous"  (Peter Chambers)
  • Richard S,. Prather, "Dead Giveaway"  (Shell Scott)
  • Joseph Hansen, "Surf"  (Dave Brandstetter)
  • Michael Collins, "A Reason to Die"  (Dan Fortune)
  • Ed McBain, "Death Flight"  (Milt Davis)
  • Stephen Marlowe, "Wanted -- Dead and Alive"  (Chester Drum)
  • Edward D. Hoch, "The Other Eye"  (Al Darlan)
  • Stuart M. Kaminsky, "Busted Blossoms"  (Toby Peters)
  • Lawrence Block, "Out of the Window"  (Matt Scudder)
  • John Lutz, "Ride the Lightning"  (Alo Nudger)
  • Sue Grafton, "She Didn't Come Home"  (Kinsey Millhone)
  • Edward Gorman, "The Reason Why"  (Jack Dwyer)
  • Stephen Greenleaf. "Iris"  (John Marshall Tanner)
  • Bill Pronzini, "Skeleton Rattle Your Moldy Leg"  (Nameless Detective)
  • Marcia Muller, "The Broken Men"  (Sharon McCone)
  • Arthur Lyons, "Trouble in Paradise"  (Jacob Asch)
  • Max Allan Collins, "The Strawberry Teardrop"  (Nate Heller)
  • Robert J. Randisi, The Nickel Derby"  (Henry Po)
  • Loren D. Estleman, "Greektown"  (Amos Walker)


It's impossible for me to pick out a favorite.  Brown, MacDonald, Block, Lutz, Gorman, Greenleaf, and Collins all have stories that just sing to me.  All the other tales are more than worthwhile.

To steal a line from above:  "Recommended.  HEARTILY."

Who's your favorite fictional PI?

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


 In a real-life example of Mickey and Judy deciding to put on a show in somebody's barn, Dan and Barbara Glenn, owners of the real-life Mystery House Publishing Company decide to preview books they were considering publishing as radio plays, with the company's staff pitching in by writing the adaptations, acting all the roles, doing the sound effects.

At least that's how the legend goes.  In reality it is not known whether the publishing company or the Glenns actually existed.

The radio show reportedly began in 1929 and ran through 1951, but not continuously.  Recording are rare -- about 32 episodes survive, most from the mid-Forties.

(It should be noted that there was a Mystery House publishing company from 1940 to 1948 as an imprint of Arcadia House.  Authors included Frank Gruber (as "Stephen Gould"), "Anthony Gilbert," Barry Perowne, Peter Cheney, "E. C. R. Lorac," William G. Bogart, William Gray Beyer, Sydney Horler, Sam Merwin, Jr., Oscar J. Friend (as "Owen Fox Jerome"), John Roebert, Frank Kane, Amelia Reynolds Long, along with a host of lesser writers.  They published over seventy books for the library trade during this period.  Samuel Curl, the publisher, went bankrupt in 1948 and sold Arcadia House to Phoenix press.  Curl managed to reorganize in 1950 and later entered into a partnership with Thomas Bouregy to form Bouregy & Curl.  Curl issued thirteen books under the Mystery House imprint from 1952 to 1956 when Curl ran out of money, dissolved his partnership with Bouregy, and exited publishing.  All Mystery House Books from 1957 to 1959 were published by Bouregy.  At no time during this entire period was there any mention of the Glenns and no book issued under any of the titles used in the Mystery House radio program.)

Anyway, here's the earliest episode of Mystery House that I could find online.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022


 "The Diamonds of Shomar's Queen" by Charles J. Mansford, B.A.  (first published in The Straand Magazine, July 1892; collected in Shafts from an Eastern Quiver by C. J. Mansford, 1893)

Frank Denviers and Harold Derwent are a pair of English tourists and adventurers who, accompanied by their daring and faithful servant Hassan, undergo "as many hairbreadth escapes and other adventures by sea and land as can well be packed into a volume of less than three hundred pages."  The twelve stories about the trio were published monthly in The Strand Magazine from July 1892 through June 1883.  "The Diamonds of Shomar's Queen" is the first tale in the series which takes its flavor from Conan Doyle and Rider Haggard.

As we open, Hassan has just told the Englishmen a fabulous tale about a deserted city of marble and a rare diamond that they feel might have been embellished with a bit of fancy.  Hassan has his faults (he's a bit light-fingered but Arabs tend to consider that a cardinal virtue, according to Derwent) but he has always been completely honest with his masters.  (These tales suffer from the jingoism that was prevalent in England at the time; take that as you will.)

More than two thousand years ago a great king named Shomar ruled in Arabia.  Shomar was used to accolades and kowtowing from his courtiers. but there was one courtier -- a prince -- who did not show Shamar the deference he felt was his due.  The king was very unhappy.  Because the prince was very popular, he did not dare to have him killed.  What to do?

Then there were rumors of an uprising inn a distant part of the kingdom.  Taking advantage of this, Shomar accused the prince of instigating the rebellion and exiled the prince.  The prince, his daughter, and a few followers left the royal city, never to be seen there again.  Eventually the prince founded his own city, Metra -- a marble city rising from a mighty ravine, a city of beauty and wealth that soon attracted many others.  There the prince ruled until his death, after which his daughter, the Princess Idaliah, ruled.  Idaliah was a woman of great beauty and many princes pursued her in hopes of winning her heart.  Idaliah, however, was in love with a poor mountaineer, with whom she met during the early days of her father's exile.

Word of Metra and its beautiful ruler eventually made its way back to Shomar's palace.  Shomar travelled to Metra to see for himself and was impressed with the beautiful city and even more impressed with the beautiful woman who ruled it.  He asked Idaliah to marry him and she refused, saying her heart belonged to another.  Asked if her lover should die, would she then consider marrying him, Idaliah plainly said that if her lover should die she, too, would die.  Shamar exited after giving the Princess a fabulous diamond necklace and began plotting the mountaineer's death.   Well, son of a gun, the mountaineer had an "accident" and fell of the cliff into the ravine and died.  When his battered body was brought to the palace and placed before her throne, Idaliah to one look and the corpse and died.

Shomar, horrified that his evil deed had led to the Princess's death, ordered the city emptied and sealed.  He appointed the oldest woman of a nearby tribe to guard the city.  Since then, the oldesst crone of every generation served to guard and protect the city and the bodies of Idaliah and her lover, which remained as they were when death eased Idaliah's broken heart.  Shomar, meanwhile, declared that his people were to consider the dead princess his queen.  And so it was for more than two thousand years.

Oh.  Did I mention that Idaliah was wearing the diamond necklace when she died.

That's the story Hassan told and the three set out to find the city of Metra and to see if the tale of the diamond necklace was true.  It was.  Surprisingly, the bodies were as intact as they day they died, the Princess Idaliah as beautiful as ever.  And, as Denviers held back the old crone/guardian, Derwent took the necklace from the lovely corpse.  As he did so Idaliah's body crumbled to dust.

Not much happens then.  They leave the city with the necklace, became rich, and went on to other adventures.

The remaining eleven episodes of Shafts from an Eastern Quiver as printed in The Strand Magazine are:

  • The Jasper Vale of the Falling Star  (August1892)
  • The Black Horsemen of Nisha the Seer  (September 1892)
  • Darak, the Scorn of the Afghans  (October 1892)
  • The Sword-Hilt of the Idol at Delhi  (November 1892)
  • The Hindu Fakir of the Silent City  (December 1892)
  • Margarita, the Bond Queen of the Wandering Dhahs  (January 1893)
  • The Masked Ruler of the Black Wreckers  (February 1893)
  • Maw-Sayah:  The Keeper of the Great Burman Nat  (March 1893)
  • The Hunted Tribe of Three Hundred Peaks  (April 1893)
  • In Quest of the Lost Galleon  (May 1893)
  • The Daughter of Lovetski the Lost  (June 1893)

Charles John Jodrell Mansford (1863-1943) was a British educator and author.  Shafts from an Estern Quiver was his first book.  Others were Under the Naga Banner (1896, about the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant), A Bride's Experiment:  A Story of Australian Bush Life (1896), Bully, Fag, and Hero:  or, In Playground and Schoolroom (1897), The Adventures of Mark Paton and Other Stories (1898), Fags and the King (1909), Sword of Scarlet (1925?), Prefect and Fag (undated, but perhaps 1926), and The Great Green Serpent (1926. a lost race novel).  

He was the son of a tailor and the youngest of five brothers.  His elder brothers became, respectively a hatter (who became destitute and spent time in a workhouse), a laborer (well, actually a labourer...British you know), a carpenter, and a postman.  Charles, who may have conjured up his two middle names, somehow managed to graduate from the University of London, eventually becoming Headmaster at Grace, Lady Manners, Grammar School in Bakewell, Derbyshire, from 1896 to 1902; his wife Louisa served as honorary Headmistress to the girls at the co-educational school.  For 1902 to 1919, Mansford was Headmaster of Dartford Grammar School.  At Dartford, Mansford completely revised the school's curriculum to meet twentieth century standards; enrollment increased, two major additions were added, and the staffing was greatly improved.  He also championed (unsuccessfully) for equal opportunity and equal pay for female teachers; this may have been due to the influence of his wife who had been educated by Frances Mary Buss, a pioneer in women's education.

Mansford's literary career began in 1881 when he worked as a publisher's assistant.  It can assumed that this offered him entry to the popular magazines such as The Strand.  His literary endeavors seemed to be divided by adventure stories for the magazines and boys' school stories for the book and juvenile market.  He had great success in both but his imperialist sensibilities and his chronicles of schoolboy bullying and antisemitism do not wear well with today's readers.

Personally, Mansford was an opportunist and a snob, eager to erase any knowledge of his lower class background.  Working to advance his social standing, he joined the Freemasons, applied for The Freedom of the City of London, and was elected a Fellow of  the Chemical Society (allowing him to append FCS to his name) -- all to give the impression that he was on the same status level as his students.  Mansford was baptized a Catholic -- a fact he kept hidden -- and espoused the Church of England.  Being fifty years old during World War I, Mansford was deemed too old to fight.  Rather, he established an Officer Training Corps at Dartford and assumed the title "Captain;" he maintained that title for the rest of his life.

Charles and Louisa's one child, Isobel Grace, married a Dartford pupil, Geoffrey Noakes.  Noakes emigrated to America in 1920 and Isobel, along with Charles and Louisa, followed in 1921, settling in Fresno, California.  Charles and Louisa eventually separated and, at least by 1934, Charles was once again settled in England.  In March of 1934, Charles made a new will, cutting out entirely his wife and daughter; instead giving his entire estate to Dorothy Kate Rider, a woman some thirty years younger than Mansford.  According to the 1939 census, they lived at the same address.  She referred to him as her "uncle".  He wasn't.  She was also listed on various documents as a "Dispenser (medical)" or as a "cashier."  Her exact relationship with Mansford is not known.  It was 9:30 on a Monday morning, January 18, 1943, when Mansford went to visit a shop and stepped in front of a taxicab.  He died later that day at the hospital.  He was 79.

His estranged wife and daughter enjoyed a much longer life.  Louisa passed away at age 96; Isobel lived to age 101.

All issues from July 1892 to June 1893 of The Strand Magazine, as well as Shafts from an Eastern Quiver are available to  be read online.


 Our daughter Christina is many things:  smart, talented, kind, pretty, witty, caring, determined...I could  go on and on.  One other thing she is today is a year older.

Did I say determined?  For the first few years we called her "Christy."  Then she went to school and told us in no uncertain terms that her name was "Christina" -- and so she has been ever since.  Her fashion choices during elementary school were rigid:  red socks and a printed top.  I can't tell you how many years she wore that outfit but it sure made buying clothes for her easier.  When she was three and her sister was five, Jessie (ever curious and sometimes non-thinking) pulled a pot of hot turkey grease on her, scalding her leg.  We quickly hosed off Jessie's leg and bundled her and Christina into the car and headed to the emergency room.  While the doctors praised us for such quick thinking, the nurses were praising Christina for being so calm and well-behaved while in the waiting room alone.  Christina instinctively knew how to act during an emergency -- something she has kept with her for her entire life.  

We never had much money but when she was young Christina would often feel guilty when she compared her life to those of her friends.  Happiness in other homes was sometimes in short supply.

Very little phased her.  As a child, the immensity of the universe truly scared her.  I don't know if it still does but I do know that the universe should be very wary of Christina.  As I said, Christina is determined, but she is also more than a little fierce.

When she was a freshman in college, one of her roommates wanted to check out the school's tae kwon do club but was afraid to go alone, so Christina went with her.  While not the greatest at the sport, she worked hard and eventually won her Black Belt and eventually became President of the George Washington University Tae Kwon Do Club.   (Her roommate dropped out after a week or so -- the sport required too much.)

As a paramedic, she and her ambulance partner were once greeted by an elderly man whose wife had collapsed.  "I'm afraid she's dead," he told them.  Either she or her partner (both were fierce in their job) replies, "Not on our watch," and managed to bring the woman back.  As an emergency room technician, Christina would take it upon herself to sit with dying patients because she firmly believed that no one should die alone.  Also it was no secret that, as an ER tech, the doctors were grateful whenever Christina was on duty because they knew that the ER would be running smoothly.  

When Christina left that job to become a cardiac sonographer, she would pick up signs that the heart doctors would miss.  She would also alert the doctors if they should see the patients sooner than later.  Her experience at that job has come in handy recently as Kitty was going through her heart problems; Christina was able to explain a lot of the medical goobledegook to us so we had a better idea of what we were facing.

She currently works as a sign language interpreter for the school system, assigned to a single deaf student each year.  After working with one girl through junior high and high school, she is now assigned to a special needs kindergarten.  She Facebooked us this morning:  "I am feeling the kindergarten love.  They sang happy birthday to me."  Then, "They made me a happy birthday Balloon bouquet."  And then, "Chance [her student] made me a card."  Working with these kids has brought a special joy to her, even though it can be cold during the daily outdoor PE sessions.  Once a week the kids have a guided art lesson and Christina joins in, posting her work on Facebook.  She may not be a great artist but her joy shines through.

Christina is a great and supportive partner for her husband and a proud and loving mother to her kids.  All three of her children are amazing, although Jack at nine is a bit of a challenge.  (His birth mother was a drug addict and, after going through drug rehab during his first six weeks at Washington Children's hospital, he was immediately fostered by Christina and Walt.)   Slowly the challenges are being met and overcome and Jack is proving to be a warm, loving and funny kid; any future challeges will be met with the same love and determination.

If every one had a daughter, sister, mother, or friend like Christina the world would be a much better and much happier place.

We are so proud of her.  And we love her.  Beyond words.

Thursday, May 5, 2022


 The Radio Beasts by "Ralph Milne Farley"  (Roger Sherman Hoar)  (first published in Argosy All-Story Magazine in four parts:  March 21-April 11, 1925; first book publication, 1964)

In an all-too obvious nod to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ralph Milne Farley began his "Radio" series with 
The Radio Man, a four-part serial in Argosy All-Story Magazine in 1924, which magazine laughably touted the sequence as "scientifically accurate."  The Radio Man was published in book form in 1948, then reprinted two years later as An Earthman on Venus, under which title it was also printed in comic book format in 1951.  (A few years ago I linked to the comic book version on this blog.  Since The Radio  Beasts was the direct sequel to that first novel, you can check it out again for a quick briefing on the events of the first book at

The Radio series follows the adventures of Miles Standish Cabot, a Harvard-educated scientist who is likely the world's greatest authority on the workings of an scientific possibilities of radio.  (Back in the day, radio was a popular hobby and many people studied the various types and possibilities of this form of communication.  There was a natural synchronicity between radio buffs of the time and fans of science fiction -- a genre that would even have a name for several years yet to come.)  Cabot managed go devise a way to use radio as a matter transmitter to journey to Venus, a world of strange beings and danger.  The planet is called Pores by its inhabitants.

Actually, that's not right.  Pores is the name of that planet's large continent, which is completely surrounded by boiling oceans -- beyond which may or may not be unknown lands.  There are two major races on Pores, the Cupians and the Formians.  The former is human-like, although with antenna through which they communicate, small, wisp-like wings on their back, and six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.  Because of their telepathic way of communicating, the Cupians have no ears and consider Cabot deformed because of the two "mushrooms" on each side of his head.  The  Cupians are white -- something not really overtly stressed, yet something you should keep in mind.

The Formians are giant ants, black and naked and numerous.  They are ruled by Formis, their queen, who is very young and easily influenced.  For 500 years, the Formians ruled the planet, enslaving the Cupians.  The Cabot arrived on Venus and led the Cupians in an uprising, defeating the ant-beasts and bringing peace to Cupia.  Pores was then divided into two areas -- the larger Cupia and the much smaller Formia, which held the remnants of the ant race.  Peace ruled over both kingdoms.  Cabot went on to marry Princess Lilla, the beautiful daughter of King Kew XII.

Consistency and logic are not the hallmarks of early planetary romances.  On the biological forefront, there's the problem if interspecies sex.  As we open with The Radio Beasts, Lilla is expecting Cabot's child.  That is not really a problem because the biological incompatibilities are conveniently ignored.  The hero gets the beautiful alien girl and the girl easily bears the hero's child.  It worked for John Carter and Dejah Thoris so it  can work for Cabot and Lilla.

And then there's the problem of slavery.  As slaves, evidently the Cupians worked only four hours a day.  Freed from the burden of the Formians, the Cupians needed only work two hours a day.  Cabot proposed the Cupians use the extra time to create great civic works.  Being a Harvard grad and a former star swimmer and marksman in college, naturally Cabot's first idea for a project was to build a large stadium.  Go figure.

Cabot is called to attend the dedication of the stadium with the king.  Because of her pregnancy Lilla stayed behind at home.   The dastardly Prince Yuri, King Kew's nephew and the next in line for the throne, who was also a big bad villain of the first book, appears and shoots the king through the heart and then declares himself king.  Yuri has allied himself with the Formians and also has a strong corps of Cupian followers.  Quickly the old government is destroyed and the Formians help Yuri to consolidate his power.  A bloody civil was ensues and Cabot goes through many adventures trying to save the kingdom.  He gets knocked unconscious a lot.  Cabot is also trying to get to Lilla, who had (it seems) given birth the a boy just hours before the old king was assassinated -- thus, Cabot's son is the rightful heir to the throne.  Alas, when Cabot finally reaches their home, the place is destroyed, Lilla is captured, and Cabot's infant son has been slain by Yuri.

The writing in this book is atrocious, not withstanding the constant scientific/pseudo-scientific/just plain hogwash exposition that is laced throughout the tale.  ("Before I tell you what happens next, let explain the scientific workings behinds this or that invention that Cabot developed."  **sigh**)  There are many giant and deadly monsters placed in Cabot's path, but through luck, serendipity, and a tad of deus ex machina, Cabot perseveres. Along the way he discovers a lost race under hidden in the Caves of Kar -- the ancestors of the Cupian race and the guardians of the lost religion (including two called Glamp-glamp and Nan-nan!)  There's an off-handed allusion to Freemasonry.  And there's the horse-sized bees called the Hymernians, which Cabot discovered is actually another intelligent race on the planet and whom he enters into a treaty to have the bees fight on the Cupian side.  We also see Cabot as a frequent dim-bulb; his stupidity is needed at time to thrust the plot forward.  When he is not being stupid, Cabot is a forceful personality who is able to build alliances and command a faithful following.

I have mentioned the distasteful racial undertones of the book.  The author was a Harvard educated Constitutional lawyer who also served as a state Senator and state Attorney General.  As a teacher, he specialized in mathematics and engineering.  He developed a system for aiming large guns by the stars.  The author's family name spits old New England values.  Sadly, one of those values was blind racism, which seems to flow through this narrative.  Also disturbing was the blatant call for genocide.  Cabot is forceful in his opinion that two intelligent races cannot occupy one planet:  one race -- the giant black ants -- must be completely eliminated, even if that means Cabot must kill his one ant ally and friend, Doggo.   Eventually Cabot allows a few ants to survive -- in zoos, for the edification of Cupian children.  (Doggo's body was never found or identified, saving Cabot the task of killing his friend.)  There's a hint at the end of the book that Cabot may also have to eliminate the intelligent bee race of Hymerians with whom Cabot had entered a treaty.

All in all, this is a rather distasteful book with enough thrilling action scenes and exotic creatures to please pulp readers of the mid-Twenties.  The adventures of Miles Cabot continued in The Radio Planet, The Radio WarThe Radio Minds, and The Radio Minds of Mars.  Similarly titled stories The Radio Flyers and The Radio Gun-Runners are not part of the series.

Let me leave you with a few random snippets from  The Radio Beasts:

As he increased his speed, his centrifugal acceleration, like that of a horse-chestnut which a small boy whirls on a string, gradually forced him outward and upward, thus offsetting to a large extent the sliding action of the sand.


...all that he could think of was that old Harvard Glee Club song about the darky, which ends with the words:

     "Oh, Lord, if you can't help me,

     For heaven's sake, don't help the bear!"


"This bee is a friend of mine," the earthman asserted.

You have been warned.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022


 "Third Person Singular: by "Clemence Dane" (Winifred Ashton); first published in the collection The Babyons:  The Chronicles of a Family, Heinemann, 1927; reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, October 1946

The Babyons is a collection of four stories that follow and English family through five generations from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.  "Third Person Singular" is the first story in the book.

The year is 1750 and Jamie Babyon is engaged to his cousin Hariot -- a contract of intent had been signed, she brings money to the marriage, and his family's pressure is great.  But Hariot is the Maiden of Nuremburg; beautiful, tempting, but with a greedy voice and of the  type who would destroy whomever she married.  
Hariot scared him.  On the other hand, Hariot's companion Menella Traill was far more suited to Jamie's tastes.  Three years before, when Jamie was eighteen and penniless, he thought himself in love with Hariot but as the years went by he grew more and more to dislike her.  Now at twenty-one, having unexpectedly coming in to his mother's inheritance after the sudden deaths of his two elder brothers, Jamie can afford to spurn his cousin.

During the years of their engagement Jamie had seen little of Hariot.  She was six years older than him and her family (wisely) kept them apart.  It turned out that Hariot was insane and much of their time apart was spent being locked up in an asylum.  Only recently had she been returned to her family and deemed to be sane once again.  Hariot did not like that Jamie broke it off with her; she had plans to guide a young, gullible husband to the highest seats of power.  Now she cursed him and threatened him, stating that he might go away from her but she would never go away from him:

"You won't see me; but I'll see you:  nor will you hear me; but I'll hear you.  I warn you, Jamie, I'll creep into your brain.  I'll hear your thoughts before you think them.  I'll suck your soul out, I tell you:  and in the hollow places where your soul was, there I'll live!"

That same day Sir James Babyon and Miss Menella Traill eloped.  The marriage ceremony was briefly interrupted when the parson thought he heard someone in the outer chamber intent on stopping the marriage.  A quick investigation showed there was no one there.  Then, when the newlyweds rode off in their carriage, the parson thought he saw a long shadow following them.  For their honeymoon the couple travelled to several European cities.  While in Milan, an acquaintance asked Menella about her companion, saying he saw a female companion with her the day before.  This came as a complete shock to Menella and Jamie.  As the married couple travel through Europe they find that Jamie's friends are becoming afraid of them, soon their servants are, too.  On returning to England, Jamie discovers that Hariot has committed suicide and he begins to fear her unearthly presence.

How does it end?  Not happily.

A supernatural thread runs through the Babyon saga, although the three stories that follow are much lighter in tone.  The second story takes place in 1775; the third, from 1820 to 1873; and the concluding story, from 1902 to 1906.

Winifred Ashton (1888-1965) took her pseudonym from the London church. St. Clemence Danes.  Over her literary career she wrote at least 30 plays and 16 novels, and was considered by some to the most successful all-around British writer during the period between the World Wars.  Her hit 1921 play, A Bill of Divorcement, was adapted for the movies three times.  She also co-wrote the screen play for Anna Karenina, featuring Greta Garbo.  She won an Academy Award for co-writing Perfect Strangers (U.S. title Vacation from Marriage).  

Her novels were varied and often covered social issues.  Her 1926 novel The Woman's Side concerned issues of women's independence.  1919's Legend debated the meaning of a dead friend's life and work.  Broome Stages (1931), concerning a mutigenerational acting family, was a surprise success.  Co-writing with Helen de Guerry Simpson, she wrote three detective novels featuring Sir John Suamarez, including the classic Enter Sir John, filmed by Alfred Hitchcock as Murder!  A member of Britain's Detection Club, she also contributed to their volumes The Scoop and The Floating Admiral.   In 1955, she edited Novels of Tomorrow, a series of science fiction books for publisher Michael Joseph, which included works by John Wyndham, C. M. Kornbluth, and Robert Sheckley.

Ashton/Dane was also famish for her completely innocent use of indecent words.  Totally unaware of their meaning in the vernacular, she would use terms like "cock," "erection," "tool", and "spunk," while also referring herself to be "randy" -- she would use these terms in unfortunate sentences, never realizing the double entendres.

"Third Person Singular," as well as the other three stories in The Babyons, can be read online at Faded Page.  The October 1946 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries can also be found online.


Just the facts, Ma'am.

The date:  November 22, 1951 (maybe; or it could be May 2, 1953; sources differ)

The place:  Los Angeles

The crime:  Homicide -- a woman has been strangled

The cops:  Sergeant Joe Friday (Badge 714) and his partner, Frank Smith, search the city for clues

The story you are about to see is true.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Join Jack Webb  and Ben Alexander and a cast including Olan Soule, Cliff Arquette, Tom McKee, Helen Kleeb, Jeanne Bird, and Ted Bliss, and Mel Ford as this mystery unravels.  Written by Webb and directed by James E. Moser.



 I'm a day late in posting this but I'm sure that Amy will forgive me because she's that kind of person.

Amanda Frances Dowd, my second granddaughter, turned 24 yesterday.  (Please note that the word "second" relates strictly to chronological order; all my grandkids are first in my book.)

Why do I love her?  It's not just because she laughs at my terrible jokes.  And it's not just because she replies in kind -- usually wittier.  I love her because she's kind, caring, smart, empathetic, loyal, witty, and sometimes she lets me hug her even though she knows I've never learned to un-hug.  Amy has a strong ethical sense that I sincerely wish more of us had; she cares about the environment, equality, social responsibility, and social justice.  And she makes great soup, some of which she freezes and brings over to us.  Did I mention that Amy is also beautiful?  And that being a blonde, she defies all of those stereotypical blonde jokes?

I could go on and on about how wonderful Amy is, but the fact is that the very best thing about Amy is that she's Amy.  You can't get any better than that.

Oh.  And we love her.  Very much.

Monday, April 18, 2022


Openers:  Pine trunks in a double row started out of the mist as the headlights caught them, opened to receive the car, passed like an endless screen, and vanished.  The girl on the back seat withdrew her head from the open window.

"We'll never get there at this rate," she said.  "We're crawling." 

The older woman sat far back in her corner, a figure of exhausted elegance.  She said, keeping her voice low:  "In this fog, I don't think it would be safe to hurry."

"We'll see what Hugh thinks."

But the speaker did not move immediately,  She looked to tired to move.  Her face, under the sort veil and the close black hat, showed white in the dimness, of the same whiteness as the small pearls in her ears.  Presently she leaned forward, her high collared woollen [sic] coat falling softly away and showing the dark silk dress beneath.  She put a hand in a white glove on the back of the driver's seat.

"Can we go a little faster, Hugh?" she asked.  "It's so late."

-- Elizabeth Daly, Unexpected Night (1940)

A foggy night, a dangerous road, and a party of four on their way to a small to a small town on the Maine coast.  The older woman is Eleanor Cowden, the guardian of nineteen-year-old Alma Cowden and her brother Amberley Cowden, who will turn twenty-one at midnight, less than two hours away; when Amberley reaches his majority, he will inherit a large fortune in the area of one million dollars.  The money may not do Amberley much good -- he has a severe heart condition and had not been expected to live this long.  The party is on their way to a fledgling summer theater, the dream of Arthur Atwood, Amberley's cousin.  Despite his poor health, Amberly is interested in the theater and hopes to gain an actor role at the theater, despite his family's total disappointment.  (Arthur Atwood is also considered pretty much of a ne'er-do-well by Eleanor and Alma Cowden.)  The fourth member of the party is Hugh Sanderson, Amberley's tutor and companion.  

Before moving on to the theater, the four plan to stop for the  night and visit distant relations Colonel and Mrs. Barclay and their son Lieutenant Frederic Barclay.  With the Barclays for part of the evening was Mr. Henry Gamadge, an expert on old books, paper, and inks, who is there for some golfing.  Gamadge is a somewhat nondescript youngish man who listens intently and observes.  He live comfortably in New York City in the house he was born in with his wife, his cat, his manuscripts, and a young assistant who can get any piece of information need (don't ask how).

The Cowden party arrives at the Barclay shortly after midnight, making Amberley now a very wealthy man.  Knowing his life will be short, he has made a will to be signed and witnessed later that day.  Fate (?) intervenes and Amberley is found dead the next morning, having fallen off a cliff.  Death was determined to have happened around 2:00 am.  Did Amberley have a heart attack while standing on the cliff edge?  Had he fallen accidently?  Or on purpose?  Or was he pushed?  And what about Amberley's will, last seen in his jacket pocket?  It's missing.

And was it a coincidence that a faded actress now at the summer theater was also found dead from an (accidental?) overdose of morphine?  And that her death likely also happened about 2:00 am?

This was the first of sixteen novels that Daly wrote about Gamadge, ending in 1951.  The Gamadge books are in the classical detective style.  Agatha Chritie declared Daly to be her favorite American mystery writer, and it's easy to see why.  Well-written, sharply observed, fairly clued, with a likable detective, Daly's books were very popular at the time, and are still worth a read some seventy or eighty years later.

The Mystery Writers of America (of which she was an honorary member) award her a Special Edgar in 1961 calling her "the grande dame of women mystery writers."  Critic Charles Shibuk called her novels "always both civilized and literate."

Daly died in 1967 at the age of 88.  Twenty-two years later, and forty-eight years after Henry Gamadge's last case, Elizabeth Daly's niece, Eleanor Boyton, published the first of five mystery novels featuring Clara Gamadge, Henry's widow.  Clara, who first appeared in the Henry Gamadge series was a warm, witty, grandmotherly super-sleuth, happy to take up her late husband's mantle.  (I have one of these books and thought it very entertaining.)

Fourteen of the sixteen Gamadge novels, including this one, are available to be read online at the Faded Page (Canada) website.  Check them out.


  • Isaac Asimov, Asimov's Book of Facts.  A compilation of three thousand facts of all kinds, chosen by Asimov from "over six thousand (from the tens of thousands evaluated by our researchers)."  For Example:  "Nearly 87 percent of the 103 people asked in a poll in 1977 were unable to identify correctly an unlabeled copy of the Declaration of Independence.  (The poll was conducted at a shopping area in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)"  Naturally, it had to be Florida.
  • Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg, editors, Hitler Victorious.  Alternate worlds collection of eleven stories of the German victory in World War II.  Authors are Hilary Bailey, Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Algis Budrys, Sheila Finch, Howard Goldsmith, C. M. Kornbluth, Brad Linaweaver, Keith Roberts, and Tom Shippey, with an introduction by Norman Spinrad.  Eight of the stories are reprints, many of them classic stories in the genre.  This one looks to be a good read. 
  • Clive Cussler, editor, Thriller 2:  Stories You Just Can't Put Down.  Original anthology of 23 stories from the International Thriller Writers.  Authors are Kathleen Antrim, Gary Braver, Sean Chercover, Blake Crouch, Jeffrey Deaver, Robert Ferrigno, Joe Hartlaub, David Hewson, Harry Hunsicker, Lisa Jackson, Joan Johnson, Jon Land, Lawrence Light, Tim Maleeny, Phillip Margolin, David J. Montgomery, Carla Neggers, Ridley Pearson, Marus Sakey, Javier Sierra, Mariah Stewart, R. L. Stine, and Simon Wood.
  • Charlaine Harris & Toni L. P. Kelner, editors, Death's Excellent Vacation.  Vacation-themed fantasy/supernatural anthology with thirteen short stories.  This was the third (of six thus far) themed anthologies from Harris & Kelner.  Authors are Jeff Abbott, L. A. Banks, Jeaniene Frost. Christopher Golden, Chris Grabenstein, Charlaine Harris, Toni L. P. Kelner, Katie MacAlister, A. Lee Martinez, Sharan Newman, Lilith Saintcrow, Sarah Smith, and Daniel Stashower...a pretty impressive line-up.
  • Susan Hill, editor, The Walker Book of Ghost Stories.  Children's collection of 17 ghost stories, four new.  Authors are Joan Aiken, Ruth Ainsworth, Walter R. Brooks, George Mackay Brown, Dorothy Edwards, Eleanor Farjeon, Leon Garfield, John Gordon, Pauline Hill, Susan Hill, Penelope Lively, Ruth Manning-Sanders, Jan Mark, Sorche Nic Leodhas, Phillippa Pearce, and Catherine Sefton.
  • Kim Newman, Anno Dracula:  Dracula Cha Cha Cha.  Horror/fantasy novel in Newman's popular Dracula series.  "Rome 1959 and Count Dracula is about to marry a Moldavian princess, returning him to the position of Lord of the Undead.  Journalist Kate Reed come to the city to visit the ailing Charles Beauregard and his vampire companion Genevieve.  Along with the undead British secret agent, Brand, Kate is swiftly caught up in the mystery of the Crimson Executioner, who is bloodily dispatching vampires elders in the city.."  Also included is a bonus novella, "Aquarius," featuring Kate Reed.
  • ----------The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School.  Horror/fantasy novel, the second in Newman's Drearcliff Grange School series,  "Amy Thomsett -- the girl who flies on moth wings -- is confident she can solve any mystery, sleuth out any secret and defy any dark force.  With her friends in the Moth Club she travels to London to take part in the Great Game, a contest of skill against other institutes of learning.  In a nightmare, and in the cellars of a house in Piccadilly, Amy glimpses a spectre who might have dogged her all her life, the Broken Doll.  Wherever the limping ghost is seen, terror strikes. And the lopsided, cracked-face. glass-eyed creature might well be the most serious threat the Moth Club has ever faced."  Think Harry Potter, Lovecraft, Professor X, Miss Peregrine, and Ann Radcliffe and you'll get a slight taste of the flavor of this novel.

Funny, You Don't Look Jewish:  CNN headline:  Powerful space laser detected by South African telescope

Sorry, Marjorie Taylor Greene, this space laser is what is called a "megamaser," a powerful radioactive laser, located some five billion light year away from Earth.  The light from this megamaser travelled over thirty-six thousand billion billion miles to reach us.  Megamasers are created when two galaxies crash into each other; the gas the galaxies contain become extremely dense, triggering intense beams of light to shoot out.  When galaxies merge, hydroxl (a chemical compound consisting of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom) can be found inside the merger, hence this megamaser is also called a "hydroxl megamaser."  This megamaser is the most distant one ever discovered.  It has been named Nkalakatha, a Zulu word for "big boss."

Never a Cross Word:  British intelligence officials became alarmed that military secrets were somehow being passed through the crossword puzzle in the Observer newspaper.  The words GOLD, SWORD, and JUNO appeared as answers in the puzzle.  These were common words and they appeared far apart from each other that it may be considered a coincidence, but the fact that all three words were designations for beaches assigned to Allied troops led intelligence officers to wonder if this was indeed a coincidence.  Then, in May 1944, more concerning code words began to appear in the Observer's puzzles:  UTAH, OMAHA, MULBERRY, NEPTUNE, and OVERLORD.  These various puzzles were traced to one contributor, a mild-mannered boys' prep school headmaster named Leonard Dawe.

Officials swarmed on the unsuspecting Dawe's home and seized his notebooks.  After a thorough examination of both Dawe's records and his life, they could find no link between him and enemy agents, the intelligence service declared that he was not a traitor.  (This statement was made very reluctantly, it seems.)  The great crossword puzzle mystery remained unsolved.  Was it mere coincidence?

In 1984, the truth came out.  One of Dawe's former students said the and other students would often help Dawe with his puzzles by occasionally filling in words on a grid.  There was a military camp adjacent to the school and many of the boys would play there during recess and they would hear soldiers using these code words and the boys would add those interesting words to the grids.  After British intelligence swooped in on Lowe, the headmaster questioned his students and found out the truth.  Fearful that he had become an accidental traitor, he made the boys swear they would never tell.  And they didn't -- for some forty years.

Little Orphan Annie:  Everybody's favorite waif with a severe eye malformation made her debut appearance on August 5, 1924, in the New York Daily News.  Created by Harold Gray, the strip outlasted him for over forty years, finally being cancelled on June 13, 2010.  For many years, the popularity of the strip had consumed the country. with various tie-ins, comic books, juvenile novels, a radio show, two film adaptations, and a hit Broadway musical with spawned another four films.  Parodies and rip-offs of Little Orphan Annie abound.  Even after the comic strip's cancellation, the major characters from Annie lived through guest appearances in the Dick Tracy comic strip.

When I was a kid I enjoyed Annie, who was a tough scrapper, as well as her companions Punjab, the Asp, and the occasional Mr. Am.  I didn't care too much for Annie's dog Sandy, and I felt that 
Daddy Warbuck's relationship with Annie was tres creepy.  In today's environment that feeling I had has grown exponentially.

Anyway, here's the Little Orphan Annie song from The Coon Sanders Nighthawks in 1928:

And, a comic book from 1938:

Gilbert Gottfried:  Love him or hate him, he was a major influence in modern comedy.  Rest in peace.

Florida Man:
  • A Florida Man later identified as Darren Durant was caught on video stealing a crossbow by shoving it down his pants.  He also stole a pair of cutting tools to remove the zip ties on the crossbow before stuffing it in his trousers.  This happened at a True Value store in Mims.  The suspect, who used a walking crutch, put his jacket over the part of the crossbow protruding from his pants and walked out of the store undetected.  The whole episode was captured on the store security camera.  Durant was captured a few days later after he was after he was spotted in a local Walgreens.  When Durant realized that he had been spotted by a local deputy, he tried to flee on foot but did not get very far limping away on his crutch.
  • Florida Man Aaron Henderson, 43, had an undignified exit from this world by being crushed by a bulldozer while using a porta-potty.  Henderson had been working at a Polk County landfill in Winter Haven as a spotter, directing trucks as they dumped trash.  A bulldozer driver was taking his vehicle while the landfill was shutting down for the day; the blade of the bulldozer was elevated, restricting the driver's front view.  He heard a crunch and realized that he had run over a porta-potty.  Investigating, he found Henderson's body inside.  When you gotta go, you gotta go, but that is a bad way to go.
  • Florida Man Thomas Eugene Colucci bought two small baggies of methamphetamine from a man he met at a local bar.  An "experienced" methamphetamine user, Colucci did not get the expected high from the drug and believed he may have been sold bath salts instead.  What to do?  Call the local sheriff's department to test the drugs, of course.  Colucci told officers he did not want others to purchase phony meth from the man and that he wanted the man arrested.  Slight problem:  Colucci had no idea who sold him the drugs.  Another slight problem:  the drugs tested positive for methamphetamine and Colucci was arrested.
  • Sometimes flying the friendly skies may be too friendly.  Florida Man Donald Edward Robinson, 76, of Bonita Springs, was on a flight to Boston when he began fondling himself, exposing himself to a 21-year-old female passenger seated next to him.  For reasons I cannot phantom, the woman began videoing the act for some 24 seconds.  As they approached Boston, the man's genitals were fully exposed.  He then placed his hand on her thigh, removing it immediately when she objected.  When the plane landed she alerted security but could not locate Robinson in the crowd.  Robinson was later identified through the video the woman had taken of him.  According to an article in Newsweek, "If convicted for his current charge, Robinson could face up to 90 days in prison, a year of supervised release, and a maximum fine of $5000."  It's the use of the word "current" in that sentence has got me wondering, although the article makes no mention of any previous crimes.

Good News:
  • Celebrations erupt as baby cotton-top tamarins are born to one of the most endangered primate species
  • Pink Floyd reunites to record first new material in 28 years -- a protest song against the Ukraine War
  • Simple bacterial spray can solve India's air pollution and also enrich local farmers
  • U.S. House passes bill to cap insulin costs at $35 a month
  • Man wins $200 million in lottery and donates all all of it to save the Earth
  • Researchers find new strategies for preventing clogged arteries
  • Vancouver couple converts their large resort property into a Ukrainian refugee home for dozens

Today's Poem:  Today is the 116th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake.

What Remains

The squeal of horses buckling beneath a rubble rain;
the first smell of burn, the hiss of tugs
pumping Pacific spray to waterfront buildings.
Except for this last, it looks like Richmond
forty years before; the charcoal ruins of wooden buildings,
stone gutted like thought, the bowed steel of tracks;
the officers pointing or posing, hands
planted on their hips, in small groups.

They destroyed the grand boulevards with dynamite
to chasten fire and play homage
to fault-riddled earthen gods.
Pacific in location only -- to appease the saints
Francisco and Andreas.

Where the photos are vague,
someone has penned suggestions:  an outline
of a fallen horse, a woman's skirt,
the haphazard angle of building,
the bulge and twist of streetcar rails.

Yet all sources mark a cheeriness in the faces,
a generosity, attempts to continue without houses,
water, transportation;  the camps built for those who fought
pneumonia on those first unsheltered nights,
the women building stoves from rubble and brick,
the family at white-clothed table,
on fine chairs, dining in a wasteland.

The fire shepherded the people to Golden State Park,
the Presidio, the ferries.  Black figures scampered
like rats from house to house, gathering
what they could:  tables, dressers, chairs, 
the crippled children.  Dead horses littered
the narrow, gray, smoke-shrouded streets.
One statue, like the city, balanced on its head.

-- from The Overland Monthly, May 1906

And here's what it looked like: