Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, May 31, 2022


 "Le Specialite de M. Duclos" by Oliver La Farge (first published in The New Yorker, April 29, 1950; later reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, in La Farge's collection A Pause in the Desert, 1957; in John Creasey Mystery Magazine, May 1958 (as "The Specialty of M. Duclos"); in Ellery Queen's Anthology #10, 1966; and in Murder on the Menu, edited by Peter Haining, 1991)

The French are passionate about many things, one of which is le haute cuisine francaise.

M. Duclos is a master chef who ran a restaurant in Connecticut, providing superb dining for unsophisticated American palates.  Ever creative, one day he came up with a new sauce blanche, one which surpassed all others and would make Duclos's name legendary in culinary circles, ensuring his successful return to France.  He invited a number of his best customers to try the new recipe at his restaurant, among them a man named Hathaway, an uncouth but monied and influential individual who (horrors!) said that oleo-margarine was the equal of butter in cooking.  Anyway, everyone at the dinner raved about the new sauce.  Hathaway, however, snuck into the kitchen to where Duclos had prepared the sauce; there on the shelf above were all the ingredients for Hathaway to memorize.  Duclos saw that Hathaway had discovered his secret recipe, although not the proportions of each ingredient used.

What to do?  Certainly Hathaway will fumble along, experimenting with the ingredients over the coming weeks, although such a man could never get the proportions right.  Also as certain, Hathaway will put forward his best effort to recreate the sauce blanche Duclos and it will be a mockery of what the great chef had created.  This counterfeit will put Duclos to shame and will become a slur on le haute cuisine francaise.  This insult could not stand!  So Duclos stabbed a knife into Hathaway's heart.

Duclos then made his way to Mexico and then back to France, where he once again assumed his true name.  Authorities in Connecticut demanded that Duclos be returned to America for trial.  A mere formality for that would be the approval of a French tribunal -- something that appeared to be a given.

Enter Maitre Bechamil, one of France's greatest lawyers, who surprised the legal world by taking up Duclos's case.  Bechamil was a Norman and Duclos was am Auvergnat and Bechamil hated Auvergnats -- for one thing, they used too much garlic.  Bechamil you see was a gourmet and the secret to the sauce blanche Duclos could not be lost to the Americans.  The hearing was scheduled for the winter session but Bechamil managed to get it postponed to the spring session -- the presiding judge of the winter session was a man who would sprinkle vinegar upon rogones saures madere, while the presiding judge of the spring session was the president of the Societe Gastronomique des Legistes, perhaps the most important and influential legal association there is. The judge's two associates were also members.

You can see where this is going.  Bechamil had his client prepare his magnificent recipe for the court, using the secret ingredients from three unmarked phials, disposing the phials after using them.  Thee judge and his associates were greatly impressed.  Perhaps bending all sorts of laws and defending the name of France and its cuisine, they ruled that the could be considered nothing more than self-defense.

After the trial Duclos stated that he would be going to Auvergnat for a month, readying himself to return to Paris and open a restaurant.  Bechamil was glad because this would give him a month to come as close to Duclos's recipe for sauce blanche Duclos as possible -- he had pocketed the three empty vials you see and had determined their contents.  He doubted he could ever get the exact recipe, but with a month to experiment and believing that the presiding judge's memory of the exact taste of the sauce might have faded just a little in that time, Bechamil might have a very good chance of being accepted into the Societe Gasstronomique des Legistes.

As Bechamil is experimenting with the ingredients there is a knock on the door.  It is Duclos, who said he had something to show Bechamil before going to Auvergnat, a new purchase.  Seeing what Bechamil was trying to do, Duclos said that one of the three vials he had tossed away during the trial was a red herring and contained an ingredient that was not used in his recipe.  He then opened up a package to show the lawyer what he had bought.  A sharp knife, exactly the same as that he had lost when he killed Hathaway...

The author of this short, satirical tale, Oliver La Farge (1901-1963) was a noted anthropologist and writer, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his 1929 novel Laughing Boy, as well as four other novels and a number of short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, The New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, and The Atlantic Monthly.  He wrote fourteen non-fiction books, mostly about American Indians of the Southwest, a subject also reflected in much of his fiction.  As an anthropologist he explored the early Olmec sites in Mexico and other sites in Central America and the American Southwest.  He rediscovered San Martin Pajapan Monument 1 and the ruins of La Venta, a major Olmec center.

He was closed to the Navajo people and learned their language.  In turn, they called him "Anast'harzi Nez." of "Tall Cliff-Dweller."

His oldest son, Peter La Farge (1931-1965), a former rodeo cowboy, was a popular folk singer in the 50s and 60s.


 Running from 1949 to 1955, Captain Video and His Video Rangers, only five of the original 1537 episodes are available to the public; an additional 19 episodes are stored in the UCLA Film and Television Archive.  The live half-hour show ran from five to six days a week, leading off Dumont's prime-time scheduling.  The show was originally filmed in an office in the same building as Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia; when props were needed. the crew would go downstairs to the store for time, often just before filming.  Despite its low budget and production values, Captain Video was very popular with adults as well as with kids; Adlai Stevenson once postponed a televised interview because he was afraid many viewers would be otherwise watching the show.  To save money, Captain Video would often interrupt an episode to "check in" on what some of the other rangers were doing; the show would then jump to footage from various films -- mostly westerns -- from the Dumont library for a few minute of action scenes, reducing the time the live actors were on the air.  The actors were paid peanuts, making more money from appearing in character at supermarket openings and the like.

From about 1952, the production standards and the writing improved and many well-known science fiction writers were brought in the script the episodes:  Damon Knight, Jack Vance, James Blish, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, C. M. Kornbluth, Robert Sheckley, Milton Lesser, Walter M. Miller, Jr., J. T. McIntosh, and Robert S. Richardson among them.

Three of the five available episodes star the original Captain Video, Richard Coogan, and two star Al Hodge, who replaced Coogan after he quit after seventeen months, in a pay dispute.  The dates of these five episodes is unknown to me.  The episode below, from 1950, stars Coogan  as Captain Video, Don Hastings as the Video Ranger, and Hal Conklin as the villainous Dr. Pauli.  The episode was written by Maurice C. Brackhausen.


Monday, May 30, 2022


 Openers:   She sat in the rocking chair beside the grate of s moldering coal-ash, pressed and damped into a semi-solid mass so that it should burn even longer.  Her eyes were bright with a quick nervous light that contrasted forcibly with the monstrous wreck of her face, for when the second stroke had fallen upon her two years previously, not only had all power of movement had been taken from her, but she had also lost her power of speech, and was forced to live on, a powerless lump of suffering flesh, twisted and broken.  Her body was shapeless in the many shawls that encumbered it.  A scattered rug was wrapped round her knees in an endeavour to provide a slight protection against the chill of the poorly heated room.

Old Mrs. Strathers looked at the clock that ticked loudly on the mantlepiece, overcrowded with ornaments and photographs so dear to her daughter-in0law's heart.  She peered into the greyling dusk.  Six o'clock.  Ronnie should be back soon.

Dear Ronnie!  He was the one solace of her mockery of life, devoting himself to her on every possible moment.  But naturally it was only in the early morning and the evening that he could be with her.  Hi office hours were long.  Half-past eight until half-pat sex, with an hour off in the middle of the day.  He was working too hard; and he hadn't got the strength to stand it.  Molly should have noticed it long since; and made him see a doctor.  But no, the poor boy had grown to look worse and worse, until he was little better than a ghost; and it was not until the previous week that he had consulted a doctor -- Doctor Hallam, who lived at the end of the street.  Old Mrs. Strathers had never felt much confidence in him.  Carless, and too fond of the bottle, in her opinion.  Ronnie hadn't told her very much of what he had aid to him.  She thought that he had made light of it all, but that, no doubt, was because he was afraid of alarming her.

-- "Old Mrs. Strathers" by Charles Birkin (first published under the pseudonym "Charles Lloyd" in anonymously edited anthology Quakes, 1933  -- the sixth of fourteen anthologies in The Creeps Library from London publisher Philip Allen and edited anonymously by Birkin;  reprinted in  the collection Devil's Spawn (1936), Where Terror Stalked and Other Horror Stories (1966), and The Harlem Horror (2002) -- all published under the Birkin name)

Poor Old Mrs. Strathers! -- trapped within her own body, able to move her eyes only, with only her son Ronnie to care for her.  But things are even worse.  Ronnie's wife, Molly, hates both him and her.  Molly ignores her mother-in-law's care and spends what little money Ronnie makes on fripperies, leaving him in worn clothes and forced to work long hours.  And Molly is having an affair with Mrs. Strathers' step-son Charlie (the offspring of her second husband, dead these past fifteen years) -- the two openly and cruelly flaunt their relationship before the old woman because, how can she tell anyone?  Poor sweet, dedicated Ronnie doesn't suspect a thing.  

Charlie works in a chemist's shop and has access to many chemicals...You can see where this is going, and you're right.

When I think of contes cruel in short stories, my  mind turn to three writers:  Villiers de l'Isle Adam (who invented the term), Maurice Level (who brought the form into the twentieth century), and Charles Birkin.  Many other writers -- notably Patricia Highsmith and Roald Dahl -- have used the form successfully, but these three form the core of the "no happy endings" school of short fiction -- their stories are cruel for the sake of being cruel.  It is their nihilistic viewpoint and their approach to horror that have made these writers popular.  Only rarely is it a case of the biter bit in these tales; more often, the innocent are the ones who are bit and eviscerated physically, emotionally, spiritually, or psychically destroyed   Although the conte cruel may look as though it owes much to the Marquis de Sade's writings, nothing could be further from the truth.  Adam, Level. Birkin.Hand others used the form for dramatic effect; de Sade's writings were the wish fulfillment of a deranged mind.  The conte cruel is more aligned with the grand guignol movement in theater.

Sir Charles Lloyd Birkin, Fifth Baronet, (1907-1985) was the son of a British colonel and the grandson of the First Baron, a lace embroidery and tableware magnate.  In the early thirties, Birkin was employed by publisher Philip Allen, where he created The Creeps Library, fourteen anonymously edited anthologies (along with the earlier Not at Might series edited by Christine Campbell Thomson) that set the standard for much of British horror, as well as seven collections from authors E Heron  Allen, Achmed Abdullah, L. A. Lewis, Tod Robbins, Edmond Hamilton. Vivian Meik, and Birkin himself, along with two novels by Meik.  Twelve of the fourteen anthologies contained one or more stories by Birkin under the Lloyd pseudonym.  Other authors included Eliot O'Donnell, Tod Robbins. Marjorie Lawrence, H. R. Wakefield, Lord Dunsany, and Russell Thorndyke, but the quality of the writing in the stories were for the most part aimed to titillate.

In 1942, Birkin  succeeded his uncle to become the Fifth Baron.  He spent World War II in the Sherwood Foresters (an infantry regiment in the British Army.  Birkin returned to writing in 1960 and produce eight volumes of short stories over the next ten years.  He died on the Isle of Mam in 1985.

A bit off topic, but one of  Birkin's sisters, Freda Dudley Ward, gained notoriety as the mistress of  Edward, Prince of Wales, from 1918 to 1929.  Freda married twice; her first marriage was dissolved on account of adultery; one daughter married the film director Sir Carol Reed and their daughter married the actor Edward Fox, who was to portray Edward VIII in Edward & Mrs. Simpson, which also covered Freda's long affair with the would-be king.  Freda's other daughter produced a son who married the niece of James Bond Creator Ian Fleming.  Freda's second marriage, to Cuban Theater impresario Pedro Jose Isidro Manuel Ricard Mones, Marques de Casa Maury, from 1938 to 1954.  Freda died in 1983 at the age of 88

Memorial Day:   Today is the day we honor all those who lost their lives inactive service in the military.  It's also a day picnics and barbeques and family gettogethers, as well as the unofficial start of the summer season.  Perhaps there is no better way to honor those dead than by enjoying the fruits of their sacrifice.

I was part of a big family.  Every Memorial Day, the trunk of our car would be filled with potted geraniums and we would go to several cemeteries in two towns to place them on the graves of family members who had gone on before.  We were extremely lucky that we had no relative to die in war. My parents would spend a few moments silently before each grave, then, at times, spend a few minutes reminiscing.  I was young and many of those we honored were a complete mystery to me, faces from a far-distant past beyond my memory.  And then there was the parade -- the smallest of two annual parades in our small town; the other parade, on the Fourth of July, was a much larger and much grander celebration.  Today, there's no one around to place those potted geraniums on those graves, though my mind is there in spirit with those whim I can remember or remember having been told of.

Most of those we honor were not heroes.  They never set out to be but many turned out to be heroic.  They were poor, scared kids who joined the various services to better their lives.  Once in the service many learned to be heroes, learned the importance of comradery, learned the importance of having each other's back, and learned the importance of discipline.  They also learned they served a higher cause than themselves.  Sadly, many of them ended up in fights they could not understand and some died for no real purpose that I can understand.  

A friend of the family made a point always to visit Arlington National Cemetery whenever he was in the D.C. area.  He would spend hours in that silent beauty that encapsulated honor, sacrifice, duty, and valor -- he always left the cemetery a better man than when he had entered it.

Here's Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery last year:

Here's a song for today:

And my go-to song for this day:

May you have a holiday full of joy, friendship, family, food, love, and remembrance.

Pancake Toss:  I am the most uncoordinated, unathletic person ever to stumble over his own feet, but I may have found a sport in which I could excel:  pancake tossing.  It's evidently a real thing, although I don't if there are any tournaments scheduled in the near future. 

After careful consideration, I doubt I could make my mark on this sport.  The world record holder according to the Guinness Book of Records people is a guy named Brad Jolly who achieved 140 tosses within sixty seconds; I doubt that I could eat that many at one time.

Here's a video of Luke Burrage, a champion pancake tosser, doing what he does best:

Commando Duck:  In 1944 Donald Duck took on the Japanese in World War II.  With such talent on the Allied side, it's a wonder that the war lasted so long.

Today:   Happy birthday to film director Howard Hawks (b. 1896), film producer Irving Thalberg (b. 1899), actor and comic foil Stepin Fetchit (1902), man of many voices Mel Blanc (b. 1908), bandleader Benny Goodman (b. 1909), Hall of Fame comic book artist Mort Meskin (b. 1916), restauranteur Bob Evans (b. 1918), science fiction great Hal Clement (b. 1922), Cheyenne Bodie actor Clint Walker (b. 1927), actress everyone has heard of but few can place Ruta Lee (b. 1935), the guy to whom H.A.L. was sorry he couldn't do that, Dave, actor Keir Dullea (b. 1936), football great Gale Sayers (b. 1943), and singer Wynonna Judd (b. 1964), According to Wikipedia, nobody was born on May 30, 1970; the last persons born in 1969 were Japanese directors Noami Kawase and Ryuhei Kitamura;  the first born on May 30, 1971 were rugby player Paul Grayson, film director Duncan Jones, singer Idina Menzel, ice hockey player Jiri Siegr, and rugby player Adrian Vowles; anyone born on May 30, 1970, is evidently a loser.

This is also the seventh anniversary of the death of Beau Biden.

Today is National Creativity Day -- something you might need to figure out how to celebrate My Bucket's Got a Hole in It Day, also today.

R.I.P., Ronnie Hawkins (1035-2022):

Florida Man:

  • A ten-year-old Florida Boy who may grow up to be Florida Man was arrested in Coral Gables for making a written threat to conduct a mass shooting.  In the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting in Texas, police are not taking any threat lightly.  Detectives interviewed the book and determined there was enough probable cause to arrest him.   The boy was taken away in handcuffs.   Carmine Marcino, Lee County Sheriff, called the boy's actions "sickening."   He went on, as if playing to a crowd, "Making sure our children are safe is paramount.  We will have law and order in our schools!  My team didn't hesitate one second...NOT ONE SECOND, to investigate this threat."  He continued, "Right now is not the time to act like a little delinquent.  It's not funny.  This child made a fake threat, and now he's experiencing real consequences."  Now I cannot presume to know the circumstances here, nor can I speak to what the boy's intent was, but the fact that the sheriff called this a "fake threat" indicates that the police may have overreacted by handcuffing the boy.  Was this a credible threat, or was this ten-year-old boy just being dumb like all other ten-year-old boys?   The fact that this incident hit the national news (I got Marcino's quote from Fox News) and the strong stance of Sheriff Marcino raises a lot of questions, mainly, has a ten-year-old kid become a political pawn for the far-right law and order crowd?  It was not reported whether the boy either had firearms or access to firearms.  Following the recent shooting  tragedy in Texas there have been a number of cases where teenagers have posted threats or hints of mass shootings.  Each one should be thoroughly investigated but shouldn't common sense prevail?  Putting a ten-year-old through a handcuffed perp walk goes beyond scaring someone straight; it traumatizes the child, stokes fear in the community, and throws red meat to a political base.
  • Florida Man and definitely not a member of the ASPCA Tyler Crevasse, 33, allegedly buried his father's dog alive and laughed about it to police.  This was after an altercation with his father that landed the father in the hospital for treatment to his injuries.  Crevasse told the police that the dog was "old" and that he assumed it was "already dying." 
  • In a nightmare scenario, Florida Man Lawrence Green, 51, was reportedly having a fight with his daughter's boyfriend at her Clearwater apartment.  The daughter, Sydney Green, 22, tried to intervene and her father accidently stabbed her in the stomach.  She died a few hours later.  A few months before, Green had posted a tribute to his "hero" daughter, calling her "my energy. my fire. my heart, my love, my baby girl." evidently in response to the emotional support she had given him after the recent death another daughter from COVID.  Green has been charged with manslaughter.
  • Florida Man Wayne Bowen, 64, has pled guilty to using his twin brother's identity to collect thousands of dollars in military veteran's benefits.  Bowen must pay back over $63.000 in benefits for medical service, housing benefit, and  nutritional subsidies.  His brother, who lives in a different state, said he never gave Wayne permission yo use his identity and that he himself had never applied for such benefits.
  • Florida Man Christopher Edwin Day, 52, of St. Petersburg ha been sentenced to life in prison for minor boys in Vietnam while posing as an English teacher.  Mr. Day is not a good person.
  • Florida Man Ramiro Alanis now holds the world's record for movie watching after viewing Spider-Man:  No Way Home 292 times, a feat that cost him 33,400 in movie ticket over a three-month period.  He had previously held the record for watching Avengers:  Endgame 191 times back in 2019.  He record was beaten in 2021 by a man who watched Kaamelott: First Installment 204 times, and Alanis was determined to win back his title.  It wasn't easy.  The Guinness World Record rules state "the movie must be watched independently of any other activity,"  which would include quick naps. checking one's phone, or bathroom breaks.  Nineteen viewings of Avengers:  Endgame where disqualified in 2019 because of bathroom breaks Alanis took.  This time he had to hold his pee.  Now that's dedication.

Good News:
  •  Sisters find each other after 45 years apart, living in the same city with sons going to the same school
  • New "Hometown Heroes Housing Program" is helping Florida teachers and first responders buy their first homes
  • Iceland trots out service that lets horses answer your work e-mail while you are vacation
  • Wintering Monarch butterflies bounce back in Mexico
  • New drug combination lower risk of asthma attacks by 25% -- a pardigm shift
  • Women who hug a loved one how a decrease in the production  of cortisol  (are you listening, Kitty?) 

Today's Poem: 

Alfonzo Prepares to Go Over the Top

(Balleau Wood, 1917)

"A soldier waits until he's called -- then
moves ass and balls up, over,
tearing twigs and crushed faces,
swinging his bayonet like a pitchfork
and thinking, anything's better
than a trench, ratshit
and the tender hairs of chickweed.
A soldier is smoke
waiting for wind; he's long corridor
clanging to a back of a house
where a child sings
in its ruined nursery...
                                                                and Beauty is the
gleam of my eye on this gunstock and my spit
drying on the blade of this knife
before it warms itself in the gut of a Kraut.
Mother, forgive me.  Hear the leaves?  I am
already memory."

-- Rita Dove

Sunday, May 29, 2022


 Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Friday, May 27, 2022


  In 1955 Charlton Comics decided it was time to take their readers back to Baker Street and bring out issue #1 of Sherlock Holmes,  Well, the time wasn't right, and they didn't go back to Baker Street, and the comic book ended after a very short run, although true Holmes fans might have been disappointed.

The 36-page comic featured three Holmes stories, all perhaps scripted by Joe Gill and all with artwork by Bill Molno -- "The Final Curtain." "Love Thy Neighbor," and "The Star of the East."  The stories find Holmes in America, where he first must solve the cyanide death of one of the world's greatest violinists, then he must solve the case of a missing British diplomat who had a violent argument with his neighbor, and, finally, when Holmes lectures at an American university he comes against a case of a stolen jewel that might have vast international consequences.

In all three mysteries there is nary a trace of Dr. Watson.  A shame, I say.

To round out the issue, there's an adventure of Dr. Neff, the Original Ghost-Breaker.  Neff teams up with Inspector O'Malley in "Smashing the Spook Racket."  I have no idea who wrote this but the artwork is by Frank Frollo.  Professor Lorenzo has been using the phony spook racket to collect cash and gems from wealthy suckers.  Can Neff stop this evil racket and figure out how it was done?


Thursday, May 26, 2022


 Murder, London--Australia by John Creasey (1965)

The sublimely prolific John Creasey's thirty-third novel about Superintendent Roger West tales West on a globe-hopping jaunt as he tries to solve the puzzling case of two murders of passengers on the ship Kookaburra.

West is older now than when he first started out in 1942's Inspector West Takes Charge.  He is still very much in love with his wife Janet, still live in the same house, his two sons are now on the brink of adulthood, and his blond hair has begun yo show some gray. but many people still remember and use his old nickname, "Handsome."  West's reputation both within Scotland Yard and throughout the country is unchanged.  He's a man who gets things done, one who tries not to be impatient with himself.  Despite his rank, west is still a man who would rather risk his own life than that of one of his underlings. 

Murder, London--Australia begins with the strangled body of an unknown woman in a boarding house in South Kensington, where she had registered under the name Mrs. Brown.  It had quickly learned that Brown had been a false name, so West had arranged for the dead girl's picture to appear in the morning newspaper with a "Do You Know Third Girl?" tagline.  Benjamin Limm, a thirty-five-ish sheep farmer from New South Wales soon identified the woman as Denise Morrison, who was traveling with her sister Doreen on the Kookaburra from Australia to Southampton.  Limm had been a fellow passenger on the voyage.  The sisters. both in their early twenties, had planned to spend a year hitchhiking across England and then the Continent, taking work where they could find it -- this was to be their "great adventure."  How that Roger had a name for the victim, his next job was to find the sister.  He did not know that Doreen Morrison had spent the last two weeks captured and drugged by a man named Jessouce the other passengers who had debarked at Southampton.  One, Percival Sheldon, an Australian about to return home, collapsed and died just before boarding his plane.  A couple at the airport had recognized him from the airport coffee counter.  Sheldon was getting a coffee when a man appeared to bump into him and  poke him with some sort of needle.  Sheldon had died of digitalis poisoning.  On a hunch, Roger had another examination made of Denise Morrisons body.  She, too. had died of digitalis poisoning and had been strangled after death the disguise the fact.

Meanwhile, Doreen managed to escape her kidnapper and make it to a pay phone.  She had reached West when Jessup caught up to her.  Jessup was about to kill the girl; he had his knife drawn and was about to strike when Roger -- who found the lair by sheer luck and policework -- stopped him.  But there was a second kidnapper, who knocked Roger out and escaped.  Jessup, while in custody, committed suicide with a cyanide pill.

Jessup, it turns out, had been a hand on the Kookaburra.  His real name was Barring, one of three brothers who had a grudge against Australia's Blue Star line, owners of the Kookaburra and more than a dozen other ships.  Another of the brothers had been a steward on the ship and had struck up a romance with Denise Morrison, convincing her tp go to the boarding house and register as Brown, while he, as "Mr. Brown," would join her shortly.  This was the brother who had killed both victims.  Roger suspected the two remaining brothers would target other passengers who had traveled on the same voyage as Denise Morrison and Percival Sheldon.  Then he found out that the Koala, a sister ship had sunk the year before, killing all on board.  Also, one of the ship's officers had died mysteriously in Hong Kong.

The entire affair seemed to large for just the Barring brothers.  Someone was out to destroy the Blue Star line, and that someone might be traced back to China.  Chinese concerns owned a minority share in the line and rumors were that they wanted full control; certainly wholesale murder  by the Chinese was not out of the question.  The answers hark back to Australia and West journeys Down Under to find them.  Along the way, he stops at various cities to meet with old friends.  (It seems that the upper echelons of various police department form a circle of friends.  Top cops from around the world know and like West; many have stayed in his home.)

Further attempts are made on Doreen Morrisons life.  Attempts are made on West's life.  Cn West untangle these webs of violence that threaten thousands and may spark an international incident?  Of course he can.  He's Roger West.

I've stated many times before that John Creasey is one of my favorite addictions.  The Roger West stories rank a close second to Creasey's George Gideon series (under the J. J. Marric penname), IHOP/  Whenever I get my hands on a Roger West title, you've lost me for the entire evening.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022


 Yma Sumac (1922-2008) was a Peruvian-American coloratula soprano.  Her five-octave range, her embrace of exotica music, her stage personality, and her exotic looks during the 1950s made her a sensation among audiences world-wide.  Her music, I fear, is an acquired taste -- one that I unfortunately have never acquired, but there are thems that like it..  But she dis some amazing things with her vocal chords.

I wonder how many remember her today.


 Agatha Christie's 1937 Hercule Poirot novel Dumb Witness my be better known to American readers as Poirot Loses a Client, as indeed he did.

Poirot's morning post includes a distressing communication from an elderly woman saying that she needs his help, giving no indication of her problem.  Poirot's curiosity is aroused when he realizes that the letter had been written two months before, so he and Captain Hastings go off to investigate.  

The woman had been poisoned and survived.  Then, she fell down the stairs, tripping on a rubber ball supposedly left by her terrier.  Suspecting that one of her relatives may be trying to kill her, she sought help from Poirot.  She wrote the letter on April 17, but by the time Poirot received the letter, the woman was dead.

As Poirot and Hastings try to solve the murder, they are strangely aided by Bob, the wire-haired terrier.

The novel was adapted for radio as a two-part mystery by Michael Bakewell and stars John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot and Simon Williams as Captain Hastings.  Other cast members are Sam Dale, Joanna David, Becky Hindley, Rosalind Knight, Damian Lynch, Ifan Meredith, Elizabeth Proud, and Tracy Wiles.  Richard Beadsmore played Bob the dog.  The program was produced and directed by Enid Williams.  It aired on Thursday and Friday afternoons, December 7 and 8, 2006 on BBC Radio 4 FM.

Dare you match wits with the great Belgian sleuth?

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.