Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, June 26, 2022


 The blog will be quiet for the next few days while we journey to Birmingham for the 30-day checkup on Kitty's heart valve replacement.

Saturday, June 25, 2022




 Round up all your little buddie, kiddies, and gather 'round the campfire..  It' time for two --count 'em, TWO! -- of almost nobody's favorite western hero, the rip-snortin' Bob Steele!  You don't have to thank me now, but I will be passing the plate at the end/


Friday, June 24, 2022


 Terror on Planet Ionus by Allen A. Adler (originally published under the title  Mach I:  A story of the Planet Ionus, 1957, as Allen Adler [no middle initial]; reprinted as Terror on the Planet Ionus, [with the author's middle initial])

I read so you don't have to, and in this case some of you my thank me.

Imagine a very bad 1950s science fiction flick -- the "B-side," if you will, of a drive-in double header.  Then lower your expectations.  That, in a nutshell is this book.

Don't take my word for it.  Here's what P. Schuyler Miller wrote when he reviewed the book for Astounding:   "another Hollywood script in word and originality but some visualization..."

Damn Knight, a far more severe critic, had harsher words:  "the use of the word 'planet' as an adjective has always been a sure tip-off of grotesque ingnorance in the is a half-heartedly 'novelized' screen story,,,the blank-faced characters stand up and speak their lines woodenly, without any perceptible motivation; characterization, explanation, depth of any kind there is is incredibly, stupidly, loathsomely bad.  The science double-talk is not only meaningless but incoherent, the description has the frantic and addled art (and the idiot prurience) of a comic book story..."

Okay.  So what is Mach 1?  Well is a super-secret, super-charged torpedo boat , loaded with atomic weapons that can easily pass through any waters smoothly and do so beyond the speed of sound.  (Mach 1, remember?)  It is the world's deadliest offensive weapon and the pet project of Admiral Buchanan, the man who developed it and the only person who understands exactly what it is (Mach1, remember?)  Buchanan is a monomaniacal anal retentive who feel that the only good Russian is a dead one. And who are the other cardboard figures in this book?  There's Navy Lt. Commander Jeb Curtis, the arrogant, sexist, rebellious pilot of the Mach 1 and one of two men trying to put his moves on fictional eye-candy Lieutenant Jani Knight, young, beautiful, talented, sexually repressed.  The other man interested in Janis is Martin Edmur, but he is too shy and self-conscious to proclaim his love.  Edmur is the very young electrodynamics genius who discovered "oscillating current," the power behind the Mach 1.  (Oscillating current differs from direct and alternating currents in ways that are explained by scientific gobbledegook,)  Buchanan's aide (or perhaps the second-in-command -- it's not really clear) is Commander Shawn, a by-the-book career man with a major ego problem; Shawn hates Jed Curtis because of the latter's arrogant ways.  Later in the book Senator Collins, a young, level-headed, very un-political man.  There are other important characters but I'll get to them in a minute.

It is the day of the big test for the Mach 1.  Despite Shawn's objections, Buchanan had chosen Jeb Curtis to pilot the ship.  A message reaches Buchanan that the main tracking station on San Nicolas Island is getting unexplainable radio interference and is standing down as a precaution.  Nothing can interfere with Buchanan's pet project so he sends Martin and Janis to the island to fix whatever the problem is.  In the meantime, Buchanan declares the test a go.

As the pilot and sole passenger on the Mach 1, Curtis is amazed at it's power.  His orders are to pilot the ship the ship to a specified location, turn (while at supersonic speed), go to another location, the go to San Nicolas Island to pick up the rest of his crew.  The Mach 1 will then cross the Pacific.  As he zooms across the ocean, he leaves his jet escorts far behind, although he is still being tracked by a number of radar installations.  Suddenly the Mach 1 dies.  No power, no radio,  He sees a giant, gelatinous mass coming toward him from the air.  The mass coalesces in a large clamshell shaped vehicle, an alien spacecraft that swallows the Mark 1.

Curtis finds himself in a strange multi-colored area with apparently no walls or corners.  Voices tell him not to be afraid, he will not harmed.  H sees vague, humanlike figures behind one colored curtain.  The aliens "adjust" him so he could enter through the color.  There is a pretty nifty alien woman with strange eyes and multicolored hair.  Her name is Keesa.  Her race is called the Grid.  She takes him to a male named Kalphon, who tells Curtis that there is a powerful evil. Karkong, that is capable of obliterating Earth, as well as his own planet.  And they need Curtis's help.  The space ship, called the Mass, heads for their own planet Ionus, which we eventually learn is one of Saturn's moons.

Just before this happened, however, a powerful storm unexpectedly hit San Nicolas Island while Janis was alone in a newly constructed hut.  The hut is destroyed and Janis loses consciousness, waking up to find herself on the Mass.  Janis and Curtis reunite on the ship.    They also meet Kimian, Karthom's son and the last-born of their race; as such, he is considered a treasure belonging to the Grid as a whole.  The arrive on Ionus and take an elevator through thirty feet of frozen methane to reach  their city.  Janus and Curtis are brought before the Grid Patriarch Kal.  (The Grid -- or perhaps the author -- have a thing for "K" names.)

Now for a bit more exposition.  Despite being humanlike with strange hair and eyes, the Grid are filled with oscillating current, something that must be discharged on a regular basis or dire consequences will result, such as Karkong, who had been a grid who did not discharge his oscillating current and then grew to an energy-eating monster.  Karkong had destroyed most of Ionus and many of its people in his appetite for energy, even to devouring the last bit of vegetation on the moon's surface (on a methane-ice planet, no less!).  The underground (under-ice?) city has some defenses that are keeping Karkong from breaching it, but those defenses are weakening.  The Grid are absolute pacifists and refuse to try to kill Karkong.  Rather, their plan is to get the secrets of nuclear power from Earth and use that power to constantly feed the monster so it would not attack them.  As plans go, that's pretty much at the bottom of the heap, methinks.

Because this is coincidence theater, Karkong manages to breach the city while Janis, Curtis, and the Special Ks are together.  They all mange to escape in the Mass and head to Earth.  On Earth, however, hellzapoppin'.  Buchanan has no idea what happened to his precious ship.  It just vanished and suspicious minds are blaming Curtis, who now pilots the ship back to Earth while the Mass and its occupants hover in space, undetected by radar.  Curtis tries to convince his superiors of the approaching danger (did I mention that Karkong is following the trace of oscillating current that Janis and Curtis were exposed to?), but officials believe he is either insane or a traitor so they lock him up in a military jail in San Diego.  Karkong the lands in San Diego and begins eating, destroying everything in a 100-yard wide swarth.

So Curtis is released.  The Grid and Janis join him and Karkong continues on his path of destruction, growing larger and larger.  Foreign countries want to blast the monster with atomic weapons but can't agree on where to strike.  Martin comes up with a plan that involves cutting all power from North America except for at Hoover Dam.  Curtis in the Mach 1, would come up underneath the creature where its weak spot is (how they know this I can't explain) and shoot the beast down.  It may have worked but at the last minute, three Russian jet fighters approach and fire atomic weapons at Karkong.  The Russian planes and crew are toast and Karkong has now got an appetite for atomic power.  Countries across across the world have been powering down their atomic weapons (physics be damned!) but one country that has been slow in doing so and that is Russia.  Admiral /Buchanan sees nothing wrong with Karkong eating the Soviets, but wiser heads disagree.  A last-ditch effort is made to destroy Karkong with the Mach 1.

People die.  All this nonsense ends with the final period on page 161.

Here's a description of Karkong, who is over a mile wide near the book's finale:  "Karkong stood reeling on the lifeless rock of a small, barren island.  The illuminating flashes of lightning were outlining a monstrous figure over thirty feet high.  It stood in the center of its shattered field and it seemed to be clawing at the lightning.  The thing's form was that of a human giant that had been burned black by its own heat.   The powerful muscles of its body were partially melted so that the tendons ran like tree roots from arms to chest, from legs to groin.  Even its huge hands had been seared to webs and one foot was shaped like a charred elephant's, as though it had served as a ground for its electrical discharges.  It was completely hairless and it face was a black putty lump of melted flesh.  An ebony, tar-like substance oozed from its depthless eye pits as it did from its twisted mouth."  Wouldn't a special effects department have fun making that?

There is a reason why this reads like a B-movie script.  The author, Allen Adler (1916-1964) came from a theatrical family.  His father was a stage manager and his grandfather was a major star in Yiddish theater.  He owned a New York theater at age 21, presented touring opera companies, and produced a revival of The Front Page.    He "has written both original stories and screenplays for films."  A quick note:  IMDb lists only two credits:  with Irving Block, Allen (both without screen credit) provided the original story for the screenplay for Forbidden Planet (1956) -- no mention that the orignal story was Shakespeare's The Tempest; and the (again uncredited, with Robert Abel) story for 1959's The Giant Behemoth.  Somewhere long the line, he also wrote for Ripley's Believe It or Not!  Allen evidently got caught up in the "second red scare" and was blacklisted.  He died from unspecified causes at age 47, leaving a wife and two children.

So there you have it.  A mess of a novel.  A 50s drive-in science fiction movie for the printed page.  A total disaster.  But...


I reverted to my thirteen-year-old self and tore through this book at a rapid pace, completely suspended my disbelief.  

Or, let's go back to P. Schuyler Miller:  "It's oddly fascinating, crude as it is -- but the I fascinate easy and repent later."

If there is a thirteen-year-old somewhere in side of you, you might want to give this one a try.  While holding your nose.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022


 The Blue Beetle began in 1939 as a comic book feature in Mystery Men.  Following its debut it became a feature comic strip. and in 1940 made its way to the radio.  Dan Garret is a cop who is frustrated by bureaucracy and turn to wearing special armor deigned by a friend.  Garret becomes The Blue Beetle and criminal better beware!

A a radio program, The Blue Beetle did not last long -- just 48 episodes 13 minutes long.  Here's an early 2-part episode from May 16, 1940.  Frank Lovejoy took the tarring role early in the series only to be replaced by uncredited actors.

The Blue Beetle has had a longer life in comic book than on radio.  First published by Fox Feature Syndicate, it ran for 60 issues.  Charlton Comics then reprinted several of the adventures, but they had not bought the rights to the character, only some old plates.  In 1964 Charlton revised the character, changing his last name to Garrett (two Ts) and significantly altering his backstory -- essentially making him a new character.  The Blue Beetle showed up from Americomics and the DC, where he became Ted Kord, a former student of Dan Garrett.  DC eventually passed the mantle on to Jaime Reyes, a Texas teenage.  Jaime hooked up with the Teen Titans.  Jamie's last appearance was in 2013, but in comic book world characters can be revived at a drop of the hat, so don't count The Blue Beetle out yet.

Enjoy Frank Lovejoy as The Blue Beetle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022


 "White Carnations" by "Q. Patrick " (pseudonym of Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Callingham Wheeler) (first published in Colliers, February 10, 1945; reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine #25, November 1945, in John Creasy Mystery Magazine, April 1958, and in Suspense (UK), January 1959)

Lt. Timothy Trant made his debut in the 1937 novel Death for Dear Clare.  This, plus the following two novels were published under the "Q. Patrick" pseudonym; the remaining five novels in the series were written as "Patrick Quentin" -- two of which also features "Quentin" 's most famous detective, theatrical producer Peter Duluth.  The character also appeared in 23 short stories, plus five of the novels abridged for magazine publication under the "Quentin" by-line.

Trant is a Princeton-educated police lieutenant in New York City's Homicide Department;  it was his "passionate interest in the less orthodox behavior of human behavior which had deflected Timothy Trant, Princeton '35, from a solid business career into the police force."  I can only assume it was his ability to allow him to reach this position in such a short time.  Many of Trant's short story appearances involved quick little puzzles that confound all but himself -- sixteen of them appeared in the Sunday newspaper supplement This Week.  

"White Carnations" brings a beautiful girl from Trant's past to his office.  Nine years before, back in his college days, he once danced with her at a prom.  He specifically remembered her white evening gown with very little back and that she waltzed superbly,  Angela Forrest entered Trant's office carrying a bunch of white carnations.  She was obviously frightened.  Today was her birthday, she told Trant some one had anonymously sent her the carnations and she feared that she was marked for death, as had happened to two other family member.

It was a tradition that the family gather for a birthday celebration dinner for whoever's birthday it was.  Her Uncle John had died on his birthday six month before, shot with his own revolver.  Angela had arrived at the house first that evening and discovered the body lying among scattered white carnations knocked over from a nearby vase.  The police deemed it suicide and Angela accepted that verdict even though her uncle had never liked flowers.  Then, in February, her aunt had died of carbon monoxide poisoning on her birthday.  She had received white carnations from an unknown source.  The police seemed to think it was just an accident.  Two deaths, two birthdays, two bunches of white carnations...Trant was intrigued.  The aunt had died outside of Trant's jurisdiction but the investigating officer was a friend.  Calling him, Trant learned that his friend suspected murder but could not prove it.

Angela's father had been very wealthy.  His estate went in equal shares to Angela, his siblings, and their children.  If anyone died, their money would be divided among the remaining heirs.  Money is always a good motive for murder.  Angela's remaining family consisted of three cousins and an aunt.  Cousin Philip was an unsuccessful broker and a very successful alcoholic, twin cousins Lucy and Bertram were ardent and eccentric research chemists, and maiden Aunt Ellen (a "holy horror") was a disagreeable, pushy woman with a cat allergy.

It was decided that Trant would attend the birthday gathering as Angela's old friend from Princeton.  Angela's family was as terrible as promised.  After dinner there was peach brandy.  When Angela brought her glass up to her mouth, she hesitated slightly.  Trant immediately switched glasses with her.  Angela's glass smelled just a little bit off, with a faint scent of bitter almonds.  Circumstances had it that anyone could have poisoned Angela's drink.  With the murder attempt foiled, Trant felt it would be safe for Angela to retire for the night and lock her door.  he felt sure he could name the murderer when he returned the next morning.

Trant's confidence was shaken later that night when he remembered seeing Angela's cat playing  with a catnip mouse.  Suddenly he realized that the murders may continue.  Desperately, he rushed to Angela's just in time to stop the last murder and capture the culprit.

This is a fair play detective tale.  The clues are there for all to see but the authors do a yeoman's job in pacing red herrings and mystifying the reader.  Good stuff.

"Q. Patrick" had a somewhat varied background.  The pen name was first used by Richard Wilson Webb and Martha Mott Kelly, then by Webb and Mary Louise Aswell, then by Webb alone.  In 1936 Webb partnered with Hugh Callingham Wheeler and the started a prodigious output as "Q. Patrick" (mainly Timothy Trant novels), "Patrick Quenton" (the Peter Duluth novels), and :Jonathan Stagge (featuring Dr. Hugh Westlake, a G.P. in rural Pennsylvania).  The partnership ended in 1952 with Webb's death.  Wheeler then continued to write eight more novels under the "Patrick Quentin" name.  Wheeler then went on to great success as a playwright with such hits as We Have Always Lived in the Castle, A Little Night Music, Candide, Pacific Overtures, and Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of  Fleet Street.  Wheeler garnered two Tonys, three New York Drama Critics Circle awards, a Vernon Rice award, and a Hull-Warriner award.

The Edgar-winning short story collection The Ordeal of Mrs, Snow and Other Stories (1961) is a must-read, as are the Peter Duluth novels.

The November 1945 issue of EQMM that contains "White Carnations" is available to read online/

Monday, June 20, 2022


 Harold Dunlop (Charles /Russell) has accidently killed his fiance,  No one saw him do it but after he drops the body on a railroad platform, a young boy (Dale Belding, probably best known as Danny, one of Ma and Pa Kettle's kids) notices him and can place him at the scene.  A flood has washed out the bridge, isolating the town, so Dunlop goes to a boarding house.  This happens to be where the boy lives and he thinks he recognizes the new border.  What to do?  Try to kill the boy, of course.  Also staying at the boarding house is eye candy Jean Maxwell (Mary Beth Hughes).  

A suspenseful noir film directed by Lew Landers and scripted by Jerome T. Gollard.  Russell and Hughes are supported by a great cast of familiar faces, including Billy House (no relation), Fritz Leiber (Sr.), Nana Bryant, Lee Patrick, Roscoe Ates, Eddie Parks, Eve Miller, and Bert Stevens.

Yes, the film did have to get permission from Simon & Shuster to use the Inner Sanctum title.


Sunday, June 19, 2022


 Openers:   People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day,  I was just fourteen year of age when a coward gong by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Port Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.

Here is what happened.  We had clear title to 480 acres of good bottom land on the south bank of the Arkansas River not far from Dardanelle in Yell County.  Tom Chaney was a tenant but working for hire and not on shares.  He turned up one day hungry and riding a gray horse that had a filthy blanket on his back and a rope halter instead of a bridle.  Papa took pity on the fellow and gave him a job and a place to live.  It was a cotton house made over to a little cabin.  It had a good roof.

Tom Chaney said he was from Louisiana.  He was a short man with cruel features.  I will tell more about his face later.  He carried a Henry rifle.  He was a bachelor about twenty-five years of age.

-- Charles Portis, True Grit (1968)

We all know the story of Mattie Ross and her quest to hunt down her father's killer.  To help in this, she turned to an old and dissolute one-eyed Ranger name Rooster Cogburn.  

You may have read the novel (or the magazine serial in The Saturday Evening Post) or are familiar with one of the two film version, with John Wayne and Jeff Bridges respectively as Cogburn.  (I'm a big Jeff Bridges fan, but John Wayne owned the role.)   I first read the novel in 1968 when it was published and soared to the best-seller lists.  The writing was superb, Mattie's first-person voice was authentic, and the story was un-put-downable, but what most amazed at the time was that Tom Chaney's birth name was Theron Chelmsford, Chelmsford being the name of my home town.  (There are only three Chelmsfords in the world -- one in England, one in Canada, and one in Massachusetts.  Giving a villain the same name as my home was an honor I had never thought would happen.)  Later, during the Bush II regime, I thought Chaney was a perfect name for a murderous villain.  So Portis scored with me on at least those two counts.

Charles Portis (1933-2020), like Mattie Ross was a native of Arkansas.  He began his career as a journalist in his home state, then working for two years in Tennessee, before moving back to Arkansas as a columnist for the Arkansas Gazette.   The followed four years at the New York Herald Tribune, spending two years heading up their London Bureau.  He left journalism in 1964 to concentrate on fiction.  His first novel, Norwood (1966), a comic novel that was filmed in 1970 with Glen Campbell as the tittle character, Kim Darby, and Joe Namath.  Both Campbell and Darby also appeared in True Grit, with Darby taking the role of Mattie Ross.  

Incoming:  George the Tempter strikes again!  The Sage of Tonawanda just sent me a book with the following goodies, for which I am sincerely grateful!

  • Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg, editors - Isaac Asimov Presents The Golden Years of Science Fiction, Fourth Series.  Actually a hardcover reprint of Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 7 (1945) and Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF 8 (1946).  Twenty-six classic stories from Fredric Brown (twice), Henry Kuttner (four times; once as "Lewis Padgett" and once as "Lawrence O'Donnell" -- the last two with his wife C. L. Moore), Fritz Leiber, Isaac Asimov (twice), Raymond F. Jones, "Murray Leinster" (three times; once under his real name. Will F. Jenkins). Leigh Brackett. (twice; once in collaboration with Ray Bradbury), Lester del Rey, A. Bertram Chandler, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur \C. Clarke (three times), Chan Davis, Nelson S. Bond, Ray Bradbury (twice; once with the aforementioned Leigh Brackett), Paul A. Carter, and Dolton Edwards (with the great "Meihein in ce Klasrum").  So many wonderful stories in one package.
  • Martha Bolton with Linda Hope - Dear Bob...  Subtitled "Bob Hope's Wartime Correspondence with the G.I.s of World War II."  An affectionate look back at the importance the Hope's wartime shows had on our soldiers.
  • Chuck Klosterman - The Nineties.  A fond and funny look back at the decade in which I was a hip-hop happening dude.
  • Charles Portis, True Grit.  See above.
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt, editor -- Infinite Stars.  A "big fat book" billed as "The defnitive anthology of Space Opera and Military SF."  Twenty-four stories (fifteen original), many of which cover popular series such as Orson Scott Card's ender Universe. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Dune, William C. Dietz's Legion of the Damned, Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan, Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War, David Bara's Lightship Chronicles, Catherine Ansaro;s Skolian Empire, Nnedi Okorafor.s Bindi, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium. Lee Brackett and Edmond Hamilton's, Eric Stark and the Star Kings, Linda Nagata's Red, Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space, A. C. Crispin's Starbridge, Bennett R. Coles' The Virtues of War, Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang, Charles E. Gannon's Caine Riordon, David Drake's Lt. Leary, Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet, and David Weber's Honorverse.  A lot of thrilling reading here.

The Best Ever Female Sci-Fi Authors?:   Here's an easily debatable list.  I don't care for the word "Sci-Fi," a term coined by Forrest G. Ackerman at his most punniest.  I much prefer "SF," which can also be inclusive of fantasy, and since two of the people on this list are Anne Rice and J. K. Rowling -- both fantasists -- "Sci-Fi" seems out of place.  (There are other fantasy writers on the list, but I'm not sure if they wrote science fiction so I won't carp about them.

There are thirty-eight women on the list, which counts down from thirty-eight.  Does this mean they are ranked in order of importance?  I hope not.

Missing from the list are Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia E. Butler, Lois McMaster Bujold, Kelly Link, and (my God!) Mary Shelley, the mother of it all -- all of who were supposedly on this list, at least, according to the squib accompanying the YouTube video.  Among those included are Jane C. Loudon (whose one foray into the fantastic was her 1827 proto-science fiction/gothic novel The Mummy; the majority of her writing was about horticulture and botany) and Thea von Harbou (German screenwriter and wife of director Fritz Lang; her claims to SF fame are the book Metropolis [1925] and By Rocket to the Moon [1928], both were filmed by Lang -- the latter was also released as Women on the Moon.)   Included on the list are several writers I had not heard of, but that is most likely on me, not them.

Let the arguments commence:

Obscure Religions:   There are a lot of strange religions and beliefs out there.  (Some may argue that all religions are strange.)  But here are a few well outside he main religious spectrum.
  • The Raelian Movement.  In 1973 Claude Vorihon met an extra-terrestrial, who gave him the name "Rael."  The alien told Rael that humans were created by a tribe of alien scientists and then told him what to expect of the future.  Raelists advocate "love, compassion and non-judgment through everything from sexual liberation for women (female public toplessness is one such campaign) to environmental issues."  Another belief is Paradism, a world without money.  Raelism has about 70,000 followers worldwide.
  • The Aetherius Society.  Another alien encounter, this time with an ET named Aetherius, one of the Cosmic Masters.  In the 1950s Aethurius met with George King and told him the root cause of the problems on Earth was a lack of spiritual energy.  King began spreading the world, becoming known as the Master.  Followers have adopted a type of Eastern philosophy mixed with Christianity.  They believe the Earth is a living, breathing entity.  
  • The Prince Philip Movement.  On the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, there is a group that worships Prince Philip. the late Duke of Edinburgh.  The local Yaohnanen tribe inexplicably believe that Philip was the descendent of one of their spirit ancestors and had been protecting their culture from his home in England.  I don't know how Philip's death has affected them.
  • Aghori.  A fourteenth century offshoot of Hinduism, Aghori followers carry a cup made from a human skull. allegedly use human bones taken from graveyards in their rituals and et rotten food (and perhaps human flesh) to achieve ultimate enlightenment.  
  • The Church of All Worlds.  Created by "Primate" Oberon Zell Ravenheart and his wife Morning Glory Zell in the 1960s, this is a pagan-based religion that worships Earth as "Gaia."  Followers are called "waterkins."
  • Pana Wave.  A paranoid-based religion preaching against the dangers of electromagnetic waves.  Followers wear white clothes and masks and drive white vans, looking for safe spots from the waves.  It was founded in the 1980 by Yuko Chino, a Japanese woman who branched off from an earlier movement called Chino-Shoho.  She predicted the world would end on May 15, 2003.  It didn't.
  • Bullet Baba's Motorbike.  Why not a movement that worships a motor vehicle?  In this case, a Royal Enfield Bullet 350 cc motorcycle.  The owner, Om Sing Rathore, crashed the bike on Highway 65 in the village of Chotila in Rajasthan and died.  After police dragged the motorcycle away, it allegedly appeared at the same spot several times.  That was more than enough to start a religion and to enshrined the motorcycle on a concrete pedestal in a temple known as Om Bana, more popularly called Bullet Bama.  Garlands cover the bike.  Nearby is a photograph of Rathore.
  • Iglesia Maradoniana.  Fans of the Argentine football star Diego Maradona started this cult worshipping Maradona as a divine being in 1998 in the city of Rosario.  Their symbol is D10S -- combining the Spanish word for God and Maradona's shirt number, 10.  The church has its own commandments and prayers an boasts over 100,000 followers.

"Banned" Daffy:   This 1943 propaganda cartoon starring Daffy Duck has reportedly been banned in some places because -- go figure -- it makes fun of Germans and Nazis.

Oliver Ellsworth:  235 years ago, Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807), one of our nation's Founding Fathers, while a member of the Constitutional Convention, proposed the the words "the United States" be enshrined in the Constitution.  The phrased had been in common use previously, both in the Declaration of Independence and in the Articles of Confederation; in fact, Thomas Paine had previously used the word "the United States of America."  Ellsworth wanted to indicate that the new government was a federation and not a single national entity.  Nearly a month earlier, Virginia's Edmund Randolph proposed a national government with a supreme legislative, and executive, and a judiciary; Ellsworth agreed to the threefold division but objected to the words "national government."  When Gouvernor Morris made the final editorial changes to the Constitution, he included the phrase :the United States of America."

Ellsworth, along with fellow Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman, proposed a bicameral Congress, which was adopted as the Connecticut Compromise at the Constitutional Convention.  Ellsworth also suggested that slavery be abolished (a losing fight at the time) and was instrumental in keeping judicial review out of the Constitution.

Ellsworth attended Yale but transferred to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) at the end of his second year, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.  He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1771.   he became the state attorney for Connecticut's Hartford County and was also selected as on of the state' representatives to the Continental Congress.  Ellsworth was active in the Revolutionary War, serving on a number of committee's in his home state.  He entered the judiciary in 1785.  He served as one of Connecticut's first two senators in the new government, holding a position that would be the equivalent of today's Majority Leader.  In the Senate, Ellsworth drafted the Judiciary Act (Senate Bill No. 1), which established a hierarchy between state and federal courts, giving the Supreme Curt the power to veto state supreme courts in issues that conflicted with the federal Constitution.  In 1796, President Washington nominated Ellsworth to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, replacing John Jay.  No major cases came before the Court during Ellsworth's tenure, but he did encourage judicial opinions be released in a single written opinion rather than have each justice issue a separate opinion, which had been the practice.  He was later appointed Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of France in 1799.

Ellsworth was not a seasoned orator and preferred to work behind the scenes.  As such, his role in the formative years of America have not had the attention it deserved.

Happy Birthday to...:   Balint Kopasz, Hungarian sprint canoeist (b. 1999), Charles W. Chesnut. African-American novelist and short story writer (b. 1858; his novel The Conjure Man is due to be reprinted next February by Flame Tree 451), astronomer Mary R. Calvert (b.1884), writer Lillian Hellman (b. 1905), Errol Flynn, dashing actor (b. 1909), Gail Patrick, actress and executive producer of the Perry Mason television program (b. 1911), guitarist Chet Atkins (b. 1924), Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy (b. 1925), actor Martin Landau (b. 1928), John Waine, English bishop with an "i" and not a "y" (b. 1930), Michael's cousin, actress Olympia Dukakis (b. 1931), actor Danny Aiello (b. 1933), Beach Boy Brian Wilson (b.1942), songstress Anne Murray (b. 1945), This Old House host Bob Vila (b. 1946 -- my Uncle Walter had a "This Old House" tee-shirt that was his pride and joy). singer Lionel Ritchie (b. 1949), Indian author Vikram Seth (b. 1952), Elvis Cole and Joe Pike creator Robert Crais (b. 1953), and actress Nicole Kidman (b. 1967).

Those who died on this day include Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious (d. 830), mobster Bugsy Siegel (d. 1947), Nobel Prize winning chemist Kurt Alder (d. 1958), financier Bernard Baruch (c. 1965), actress Estelle Winward (d. 1984), author, editor, and personality Clifton Fadiman (d. 1999), Judy Agnew, wife of Spiro (d. 2012), artist LeRoi Neiman (d. 2012), and American rapper Prodigy (d. 2017).

Celebrating an anniversary today is Lizzie Borden, who may or may not have taken an axe; she was acquitted of murder on June 20, 1893.

Today is also Juneteenth, but not really because it was yesterday but is celebrated today as a federal holiday.  Today is also American Eagle Day, International Asteroid Day (to celebrate, learn to duck!), National Hike with a Geek Day (and, no, I'm not hiking with you!), National Ice Cream Soda Day, National Vanilla Milkshake Day, Plain Yogurt Day, Take Your Cat to Work Day, World Productivity Day, World Refugee Day, Toad Hollow Day of Thank You, West Virginia Day, Nystagmus Awareness Day,.Kouign Amann Day (yum!) and (I suppose if the Feds are after you) New Identity Day.

Today is part of Amateur Radio Week, Animal Rights Awareness Week, Carpenter Ant Awareness Week, Fish Are Friends, Not Food! Week, Learning Disabilities Week, National Forgiveness Week, National Hermit Week, National Insect Week, National Nursing Assistants Week. National Roller Coaster Week, Take Your Dog to Work Week (which may be interesting since today is Take Your cat to Work Day), Old Time Fiddlers Week, and Wobbly Week.  Although yesterday was also Father's Day, you can still celebrate Universal Father's Week.

Groan:   My therapist says I have a thing about vengeance.  We'll see about that.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man David Daniels, 37, now knows not to mess with a Florida church.  Daniels had followed, then chased, two young Florida girls after they left a restaurant in the FishHawk Ranch area of Tampa Bay.  Daniels reportedly hit one of the girls on the head before they rode their bikes to a nearby church and asked an adult for help.  Daniels entered the church, saying he was the father of the girls, and placed one in a headlock.  When one of the girls mouthed, "Please help me,  This is not my dad," the congregation sprang into action.  Davis is now being held on charges of child abuse and false imprisonment.
  • Florida Man Richard Anthony Bonnell was arrested wearing a one-piece cow suit after Okeechobee Sheriff's deputies raid a drug house ;at Friday.  The other persons arrested were not wearing costumes.  Bonnell was charged with possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, among other charges.  The Okeechobee Sheriff's office posted that those who wish to sell drugs in their county should "consider MOOOOOO-ving."  Cute.
  • Florida Woman Marion Hammer, 83, is retiring after 44 year's as the state's most influential gun lobbyist.  A fierce and tenacious defender of what she considers the Second Amendment, Hammer "successfully shepherded a host of measures that helped to earn Florida the "Gunshine State" moniker and made it a launching pad for gun-related laws that later took hold throughout the country."  She was the driving force behind the state's 2005 "stand your ground" law, as well as law allowing people to carry concealed weapons.  She strongly opposed laws that restricted gun use in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.  As late as last Thursday she criticized "red flag" laws that are now being considered after the mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo.  Hammer, a former NRA president, will continue to advise the NRA.
  • Florida Man who really, really wants to be President Ron DeSantis has reversed course on COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of six months and five years, allowing pediatricians and hospitals to order the vaccines directly from the federal government.  His press secretary denied the story saying that what is called a "reversal" is really the Governor's "steadfast position that the State of Florida does not recommend or distribute shots for babies.  Any healthcare provider that wants the vaccines can obtain them and any parent who wants it for their child can get it."  Florida is the only state not to preorder the vaccines for distribution by the state's health department.  DeSantis still insists that the vaccines are "not appropriate" for Florida's youngest residents, an opinion which many feel puts politics over children's lives.  ""But DeSantis, like his benefactor from Mar-a-Lago, believes he alone (and his true believer) has a copyright on knowledge."

Good News:
  •  A Father's Day tip:  Spending quality time with Dad "helps young children do better at school."
  • Teen hero dives into by to save a drowning woman from her sinking car
  • Houston has housed 25,000 homeless with apartments of their own
  • 101-year-old woman reunited with lost painting looted by the Nazis
  • Sikh gas station owner sells gas ao fifty cents a gallon cheaper than what it costs to help customers
  • Woman who was about to be evicted saved by neighbors who bought the home for her

Today's Poem:

This time each year we now celebrate
          The conviction:  love can conquer hate

Yet while our journey has come so far
          A horizon, peaceful, still shines afar

My heart-of-hearts detests the fights
          But we MUST push on for equal rights

For all those souls thus hurt or lost
          Must not be ceded forsaken cost

Those voices cried in pain and strife
          Will inspire our own to abet free life

So as ONE race, of women and men
The message, timeless, now-to-then

Is that we'll strive with love, in hand
          'Til a time ALL hearts can understand

That heaven gave us this good earth
          To share as HUMANS, in equal worth

And from the sands of struggle, sift
          Grains of compassion ... our greatest gift.

-- Gregory Richard Barden


 Happy Fathers Day!

Friday, June 17, 2022


 "The Black Condor leads the amazing experience of both deceased U.S. Senator Tom Wright, and the Flying Avenger of Justice, his original role."  Well, that sounds nifty.  And he has a "superior native sense of detection," as well as a "Black Ray pistol."  Add to that his ability to fly and he's not just nifty...he's super cool.  Louis K. Fine's comic book creation goes against the evil Jasper Crow, who wants to buy a copper mine and is willing to kill 2500 workers to get it.

Molly the Model has a date with prize fighter Danny, who is very tired from his workouts.  Danny falls asleep, hears the alarms of a passing fire truck, and comes out fighting, chasing Molly's fther up a chandelier.  Ho-hum for this one-pager.

Then, at the beach, Molly's father thinks he recognizes the cashier from Murphy's Bar and sneaks up to surprise her.  She isn't who he thought and she sics her boyfriend on him.  Molly's dad ends up with two black eyes that look like the sunglasses she just bought.  Double ho-hum.

Drew Allen's The Red Torpedo is a former captain in the U.S.N.  He "has made a navigable torpedo which flies, swims and is the most powerful weapon in the world.  He wears a mask and fights for democracy from his secret island headquarters in the South Seas..."  He doesn't wear a shirt.  Once again he is pitted against "his most skilful [sic] foe," The Black Shark, who attack's Red's secret island with amphibious tanks.  There's also a beautiful but willful, turnip-brained fathead of a girl to up the stakes.

"Jim Slade, the roving press photographer, is also Tor the Magician.  As Tor he disguises himself with a mustache and a magician's outfit, thus keeping his real identify a secret."  (That should work as well as Superman putting on Clark Kent's glasses.)  While fishing off Cape Cod in his motor launch, Susie Q,   A distant flare leads him to a sunken submarine.  Tor uses his magic powers to get fish -- many. many fish -- to lift the submarine to safety.  But enemy agents fly by and are about to bomb the submarine.  No worries -- Tor orders flying fish to attack the airplane.  The bomb, however, is still bobbing in the ocean so Tor transforms to Jim Slade and shoots the sucker.   a rdiculous hero and a ridiculous story.

Slap-Happy Pappy gets into a spitting contest with another hillbilly to see who has the best control over tobacco juice.  Has there been a one-pager that was actually funny?

"With the whole universe as its patrol 'beat,' The Space Legion has many gallant men, but none more daring than its flagship commander, Rock Braddon."  He's going to need all that daring as The Space Legion goes against the Outlaws of Jupiter.  The story is signed by "Vern," who was Vernon Henkel, who drew such strips as Abdul the Arab, Comet Kelly, Chic Carter, and Gallant Knight for Quality Comics.

Jane Arden was a syndicated comic strip created by writer Monte Barrett and artist Frank Ellis  It ran for forty years from 1928 to 1948. Crash Comics #16 includes four pages of the continuity from after Russell E. Ross took up the artist's pen.  The bottom of each page has a "humor" comic featuring Lena Pry, as well as a cut-out wardrobe for Jane (and one for Jane's men).  In this issue, Jane a plucky girl reporter and perhaps prototype for Lois Lane and Brenda Starr, wraps up one adventure and begins another as someone is trying to assassinate General Voonick, who has escaped the purge in Eurania.  To be continued...

"A champion of justice whose weapons are a steel bow and blazing arrows which carry his seal...this is Alias the reality young Tom Hallaway!!"  As death threatens heiress Jean Horton, Alias the Spider watches from the trees and swoops into action.  (There's something creepy about a guy watching a young girl in a spooky mansion from the tree limbs at night. or is that just me?)  The bad guy turns out to be the lawyer in charge of executing the will of Jean's great-uncle; he was plotting to take over the great-uncle's estate.  Paul Gustavson created the character.  The Spider began as an unequivocal hero but later, when the character was bought out by DC Comics, he was a criminal pretending to be a hero.  Sic transit gloria...

Ned Brant was another syndicated comic strip, this time about a college athlete.  It was created by Bob Zuppke and drawn by B. Walt Depew.  This issue has four one-pagers that takes Ned and the Carter College Orchestra on the road.  They're real hep cats.

Spitfire by A. McWilliams takes Tex Adams on an uneventful flight from the west coast. delivering a plane to Canada for later European delivery.  Uneventful, that is, until he lands at the Cleveland airport.  The plane has been overheating and has to remain in Cleveland for a couple of days for repairs.  In the meantime, Tex agrees to fly a bomber to Canada.  German agents use a false radio signal to lure Tex and the bomber to a remote location.  Captured, Tex discovers that the spies have used that trick to capture a number of planes that will then be shipped to Germany and used against our allies.  The Germans should have known not to mess with someone named Tex.  Some fancy flying and Tex spoils their plans and causes the Germans to crash.  This adventure earned him the nickname "Spitfire."

A two-page unsigned text adventure has adventurer Eric Vale (the hero of a number of these stories) in search of the "Lake of Missing Men."

Who was the first cross-dressing comic book hero?  None other than Madame Fatal, the creation of Art Pinajian.  "She" was Richard Stanton, a handsome, rich, middle aged widower with a young child.  He is also a renown stage and screen actor who was instantly recognized by the public.   Disguised as an old, red-cloaked lady with a yellow walking stick cum quarterstaff, "Madame Fatal" goes after a gang of phony Hindus who have stolen the five rare Bloodstones of Mu.  The cross-dressing gimmick was not popular and soon Madame Fatal hung up her orthopedic stockings.

"One name send the criminal element into a nervous frenzy...The Clock, and he is really Brian O'Brien, born to riches, but with the needy's interest at heart..."  George Brenner's the Clock was the first costumed crime fighter to appear in American comic books.  With a black tux, hat, and cloth covering the upper part of his face, the Clock used his hypnotic skills nd a number of gadgets to fight both gangsters and Nazis.  In this issue Bat Nillon escapes from prison intent on getting revenge on those who sent him up, starting with O'Brien's friend Judge Maxin.  Luckily the Clock is on hand to foil his plan.

There's also a few more one-pagers that are so meh that I won't mention them.

All in all, a pretty good issue with a few clunkers. but on the whole the artwork is great.

Thursday, June 16, 2022


 Murder on the Menu, edited by Peter Haining  (1991)

Peter Haining (1940-2007) is probably best known today as an anthologist of weird fiction and crime stories.  He was also the author of many non-fiction books on a variety of topics, mostly on popular culture and on various aspect of the supernatural.  Several of his books can still be found on the instant remainder counters of chain booksellers.

As an anthologist, he delighted in unearthing rare and often unreprinted stories, mixing them with more popular and well-known tales.  His research was sometimes sloppy but that did not negate the popularity of his books.

Murder on the Menu, as with most of his anthologies, is tied (however loosely) with food.  Among the twenty-seven stories are a number of classics such as Stanley Ellin's "The Specialty of the House" and Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter." which bookend the volume.  Also included are often reprinted tales including Agatha Christie's "Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds," Robert Bloch's "The Feast in the Abbey,:" Washington Irving's "Guests from Gibbet Island." and Walter Besant and James Rice's "The Case of Mr. Lucraft."

Opinions may vary, but I was impressed with :Richard Dehan's "The Compleat Housewife," whose focus is on a 1773 reprinting of the all-too-real volume, as well as an underhanded ghost who tries to use the cook to have an early twentieth century bride to murder her husband.  Gaston Leroux, author of The Phantom of the Opera, contributes a farcical conte cruel explaining how a sailor lost his arm.  H. C. Bailey's "The Long Dinner" (my Short Story Wednesday contribution this week) just briefly touches on the subject of food as Reggie Fortune tackles as case of robbery, murder, and multiple homicides of children.  P. D. James questions whether one should provide an alibi for a young man falsely accused of murder or whether one should let the accused hang, while providing a decade and a half after the fact twist in "A Very Commonplace Murder."  And no anthology about murder and food would be complete without an appearance of Nero Wolfe, which Haining provides with Rex Stout's "Poison a la Carte."

The stories:

SPECIALITES DE LA MAISON:  Stories by some famous authors

  • "The Specialty of the House" by Stanley Ellin  (If you have never read this one, do so now.)
  • "Bribery and Corruption" by Ruth Rendell  
  • "Chef d'Oeuvre" by Paul Gallico
  • "La Specialitie de M Ducles" by Oliver La Farge
  • "Three, or Four, at Dinner" by L. P. Hartley
  • "A Terrible Tale" by Gaston Leroux
  • "So You won't Talk!" by Damon Runyon
  • "Sauce for the Goose" by Patricia Highsmith
  • "A Very Commonplace Murder" by P. D. James
ENTREES HISTORIQUES:   Tales from the Culinary Past
  • "A Dinner at Imola" by August Derleth
  • "The Feast in the Abbey" by Robert Bloch
  • "The Three Low Masses" by Alphonse Daudet
  • "The Coffin-Maker": by Alexander Pushkin
  • "Guests from Gibbet Island" by Washington Irving
  • "The Compleat Housewife" by "Richard Dehan" (Clotide I. L. Graves)
  • "The Case of Mr. Lucraft" by Walter Besant and James Rice (first published anonymously)
  • "The Man Who Couldn't Taste Pepper" by G. B. Stern
  • "Final Dining" by Roger Zelazny
JUST DESSERTS:   A Selection of Detective Cases
  • "Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds" by Agatha Christie (with Hercule Poirot)
  • "The Long Dinner" by H. C. Bailey  (with Reggie Fortune)
  • "The Assassins' Club" by "Nicholas Blake" (Cecil Day Lewis) (with Nigel Stranheways)
  • "Dinner for Two" by Roy Vickers  (with Detecive Inspector Rason of The Department of Dead Ends)
  • "A Case for Gourmets" by Michael Gilbert (with Patrick Patrella)
  • "Rum for Dinner" by Lawrence G. Blochman  (with Dr. Daniel Coffee)
  • "Under the Hammer" by Georges Simenon  (with Inspector Maigret)
  • "Poison a la Carte" by Rex Stout (with Nero Wolfe)
  • "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl (another if-you-haven't-read-this-one-yet-what-are-you-waiting-for)

There's more than enough here to please everyone.  Recommended.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022


 This underrated but ingenious Hercule Poirot novel got its BBC Radio 4 FM adaptation by Michael Bakewell.  Directed by Enyd Williams, it starred John Moffett as Poirot, Carolyn Jones as Lady Horbury, and Philiip Jackson reprising his television role as Inspector Japp.  Rounding out the cast are Geoffrey Whitehead, Murray Melvin, Teressa Gallagher, Ben Crowe, Andrew Harrison, Bruce Purchase, Liza Sadovy, Priyanga Elan, and Stephen Critchlow.

It's 1935.  "From seat No. 9, Hercule Poirot was ideally placed to observe his fellow air passengers.  Over to his right sat a pretty young woman, clearly infatuated with the man opposite; head, in seat No 13, sat a Countess with a poorly-concealed cocaine habit; across the gangway in seat No. 8, a detective writer was being troubled by an aggressive wasp.  What Poirot did not yet realize was that behind him, in seat No. 2, was the slumped, lifeless body of a woman.

"Hercule Poirot hates flying, so it's almost a welcome diversion when one of his fellow passengers on a cross-channel flight is murdered.  Cue 90 minutes in which you will suspect every one and have your brain cells mixed into a variety of cerebral kedgeree by the number of red herrings on offer.  All I will say is, never stay on a plane that is also carrying a wasp!"  (Jane Edison, radio editor)

Get ready to match little gray cells with Belgium's most famous detective!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022


 "The Supernatural Lady" by Sir Philip Gibbs (first published in Cosmopolitan, January 1926; reprinted in Gibbs's collection Out of the Ruins and Other Little Novels, 1927)

1914.  Valentine Hunt, an English correspondent in Berlin, relates the story of a fraudulent -- and perhaps not so fraudulent medium -- who may, or may not have been partly responsible for World War I.

Hunt first met Anna Herz at the invitation of Karl von Schwartzkopf a young German cavalry officer whose mother was English and whose father worked in the German Foreign Office.  Schwartzkopf was entertaining two of his fellow officers and a young actress just beginning to make her name in the theatrical world when Hunt arrived.  One of the officers, Baron von Holberg, was an unpleasant man with three dueling scars on his face; the other was "a good-natured lad with a monocle and a rather charming smile, " Count Harzburg.  From the beginning Holberg was acting disrespectful to the young lady; not soon after Holberg got into a mildly heated discussion with Hunt about German imperialism.  The argument got no further due to Schwartzkopf's intervention.  Then, when Schwartzkopf left the room to answer the telephone, Holberg attempted to kiss the girl's bare arm.  She resisted but the German officer had a firm grip on her arm.  When she attempted to get away, Holberg's grip was so strong that it left marks on her as she pulled away from him, crying.  Hunt then struck Baron von Holberg across the mouth with his bare hand, leaving a trace of blood on the Baron's upper lip.  With what I assume to be righteous Teutonic anger. the Baron demanded satisfaction -- a duel the next morning, something that would spell doom for Hunt because Holberg was one of the best duelists in Germany.  Holberg left the room "with cold dignity and a swollen lip."  To lighten the atmosphere, Harzburg suggested they go visit the mysterious prophet Schwartzkopf had promised them.

It's important to note that the group arrived at Anna Herz's rooms at exactly twenty minutes past ten.  They arrived at a seance with twenty of the city's most influential people and took the four empty chairs.  Soon a man and a woman arrived from behind a curtain.  The man, middle-aged with large, coarse hands; the woman, attractive and graceful.  The man began by explaining that in their last circle, they managed to contact the spirit Beethoven "who spoke to us with that spirit majesty and harmony-compelling utterance which to all our German folk is a message of national inspiration and loyalty-creating emotion."  Tonight, he went on, his sister would once again attempt to contact any spirit presence that wished to be heard.  The lights lowered, and after ten minutes of silence, the medium began speaking in a deep, harsh, man's voice, asking if Karl von Schwartzkopf was there.  After Schwartzkopf announced himself, the medium's brother asked who the spirit was.  The voice replied, "It's funny to a spirit!  I saw my body lying dead, people said, 'He's stone-dead.'  A policeman was taking notes.  An officer stepped up and elbowed the people back and had a look at the thing they called me.  He said, 'I know him.  It's the Baron von Holberg.' "  At that point, Schwartzkopf stood up and declaimed the woman as a fraud, stating that he had dined with Holberg not an hour before.  The spirit's voice said, "poor old Karl!" and laughed in that deep tone.  Then Anna Herz announced that the spirit had left her.

Harzburg left to call Holberg's apartment.  Getting no answer, he then called the police to learn that Holberg had been struck by a vehicle and killed at five past ten that evening.

Hunt deduced a way thee medium could have learned of Holberg's death just before the seance, but he kept his thoughts to himself.  His friend Schwartzkopf, however, felt that the spirit was real and was awed by Anna Herz's powers.  Schwartzkopf began seeing Anna on a regular basis, and, as he became closer to her, she became close to him.  Schwartzkopf began hinting dire warnings about Germany's future when talking to his mother -- something that was ridiculous because Germany and England were good friends and there was nothing foreboding about.  

Meanwhile, Hunt had checked up on the medium.  It turned out that she was the daughter of  gypsy, father unknown, her real name unknown.  Sha had used several aliases and had spent time in jail for fortune-telling.  Her so-called brother was Frits Mueller, a blackmailer and drug dealer who had served five terms in prison  and now lived off Anna's earnings as spiritualistic medium.  Mueller was the son of a circus manager whom Anna had testified against on charges of child cruelty when she was twelve.  The German police felt that Anna was relatively innocent and had not yet been exposed as a fraud -- the fact that many of her clients were persons of importance may have led to that last conclusion.

Hunt confronted Anna with these facts, as well as some proof he had dug up that some of her tricks were clearly fraud.  She admitted that there were fraudulent parts of her act but that they all were the work of Mueller.  The parts tht she did were real.  She begged Hunt not to confront Mueller, fearing he would kill both Hunt and herself.

It was the spirit of Bismark (supposedly) that gave dire warnings about the future through Anna:  a red mist was approaching the earth, the color of blood -- "Germany's testing time in the furnace fires of destiny."  The German race would march from victory to victory over mighty foes and fields would be filled with death.  These predictions had a great impact on those of the inmost circle of Berlin's life.  Anna claimed that Bismark had uttered one word three times:  "August."  That was in May 1914.   Hunt pooh-poohed the entire idea; Germany and England were on the best of terms.  Then a certain archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo...

Hunt visited Schwartzkopf's apartments hoping to hear news from the Foreign Office about what was happening behind the scenes.  Anna Herz was there with Schwartzkopf.  Russia was mobilizing.  "It was the beginning of hell.  Schwartzkopf begged Anna to look into the future to see what would happen.  She did and she saw his dead body.

Hunt was still able to rationalize Anna's predictions as trickery, but part of him still wondered.  Was she a real prophet, this person he had called "the supernatural lady"?

As a coda:  Schwartzkopf died early inn the war.  Mueller was hanged after the war as a traitor.  Anna Herz was never seen again.

Like Hunt, Sir Philip Gibbs (1877-19622) was a reporter.  He began his career in 1894, published his first book in 1899, and had his first major story in 1909 when he refuted Frederick Cook's claim to have reached the North Pole. Gibbs had the distinction of being one of only five official British reporters during World War I.  (He had been reporting there earlier and had been denied permission to remain on the Western Front by the War Office; he refused and was arrested and sent back to England.  Eventually the War Office relented.)  Shortly after the war he conducted the first journalistic interview with a Pope.  Gibbs was knighted in 1920.

Gibbs published 80 books, mostly non-fiction and reportage.  Nine of his books and short storie were filmed between 1921 and 1933.

The January 1926 issue of Cosmopolitan which contains :The Supernatural Lady" is available to read online.

Monday, June 13, 2022


 For the sixth and final film in the Mr. Wong detective franchise, Keye Luke took over the starring role from Boris Karloff as James Lee Wong.  It was the first time and Asian actor played a lead Asian detective in an American sound film.  (I'm looking at you, Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto.)  In this film, Luke played a young "Jimmy" Wong and is introduced to Police Captain Street, whom th Karloff Wong had worked with in the previous films.  Luke was signed to make four Wong pictures a year but exhibitors lost innterest after Karloff left and the series was cancelled.

Explorer John Benton (Charles Miller) was giving a lecture on his recent expedition to Mongolia when he took a drink of water, collapsed, and died, uttering the words "Eternal fire."    Benton's secretary Win Lee (Lotus Long) explains that the scroll refers to a map pointing to the location of rich oil deposits.  Wong and Captain Street (Grant Withers) must search among Benton's associates to find the killer.

Directed by Phil Rosen (Jim Hanvey, Detective, Spooks Run Wild, Charlie Chan in the Secret Service) from a screenplay by George Waggner (The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, Father Steps Out, The Fighting Kentuckian).  Original story by Ralph Gilbert Bettison (You're in the Army Now, South of the Rio Grande, 1984 [1956 version]) from the James Lee Wong series of short stories by Hugh Wiley in Cosmopolitan.



 Openers:  'I dislike you,; said Mr Fortune.  'Some of the dirtiest linen I've seen.'  He gazed morosely at the Chief of the Criminal Investigative Department.

'Quite,' Lomas agreed.  'Dirty fellow.  What about those stains?'

'Oh, my dear chap!' Mr Fortune mourned.  'Paint.  All sorts of paint.  Also food and drink and assorted filth.  Why worry me?  What did you expect?  Human gore?'

'I had no expectations,' said Lomas sweetly.

A certain intensity came into Mr Fortune's blue eyes.  'Yes.  I hate you,' he murmured.  'Anything else you want to know?'

'A lot of things,' Lomas said.  'You're not useful, Reginald.  I want to know what sort of fellow he was, and what's become of him.'

'He was an artist of dark complexion.  He painted in both oils and water-colours.  He lived a course and dissolute life, and had expensive tastes.  What's become of him, I haven't the slightest idea.  I should say he was on the way to the devil.  What's this all about?  Why this interest in this debauched artist?'

-- "The Long Dinner" by H. C. Bailey (from The Windsor Magazine, January 1935; collected in Bailey's in Mr. Fortune Objects, 1935; reprinted many times, included in The Great Detectives (anonymously edited, 1947, Murder on the Menu (ed., Peter Haining, 1991), Continental Crimes (ed., Martin Edwards, 2017), and in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, April 1953)

The dissolute artist Reggie Fortune was talking about was Derry Farquhar,  man known to police for gaining money under false pretenses.  Ten days before a woman reported him missing.  Dividends from a trust have remained untouched -- something very unlike thee man.  Two weeks before a loud noise was heard from the Bloomsbury "rat-hole of a flat" he rented; police found the flat a mess with a pile of dirty linen, the linen that Lomas had forwarded to Reggie for examination.  The one other thing that Reggie found was a stained menu card.  And what a menu!  "Artichokes in oil, cold pork, lobster, duck and turnips -- with a kidney omelette and roast beef and trimmings."  From that meal card, Reggie suggested that Lomas look in Brittany for Farquhar because that was where such a meal would be served.  Lomas disregarded that suggestion.

An inspector from Paris had arrived, also looking for Farquhar.  It seems he was wanted for robbing a lady of some very valuable jewels.  Not long after, Farquhar's body was found on the rocks in a remote cove, his head bashed in.   Was it an accident, a suicide, or murder?  Near where the body was found was a drenched sketchbook, filled with disturbing drawings, including one of a rough stone female statue with cruelly drawn children dancing around it.  To Reggie, this also indicated Brittany.

Although this seems to be an intuitive assumption on Reggie's part, he insists that his mind works only on facts and reason.  A trip across the Channel leads Reggie to a case of blackmail, murder, and the cunning poisoning of multiple children.

A fascinating case and one that only Reggie Fortune could solve.

H. C. Bailey (1878-1961) was considered one of the Big Five British  mystery writers of the Golden Age of detection.  Reggie Fortune was one of Bailey's foremost detectives, appearing in ten novels and thirteen original short story collections.  Fortune had originally intended to follow in his father's medical practice, but his testimony in several cases that arose from his practice that proved his ability of observation and inference from obscure facts brought him to the attention of the CID, which soon began to use him as a scientific advisor.  The fastidious Mr. Fortune is plump and fair, a gourmet who also enjoys his garden, he is particularly fond of children and cats,  He is a champion of justice and a defender of the weak, particularly children, and if justice is not exactly legal he does not object.

Bailey's other major detective is Joshua Clunk -- the remaining Clunk of the Clunk & Clunk law firm.  Both the Fortune and Clunk opuses are solid entertaining reading, sometimes rising to to classic status.  Check out Reggie Fortune in "The Yellow Slugs" or The Bishop' Crime, for Joshua Clunk, try Slippery Ann.

H. C. Bailey was prolific.  Besides the Fortune and Clunk canons, he authored thirty romance and historical novels, nonfiction, theatrical and radio plays, poetry, and well over 250 uncollected short stories and articles.  He retired from writing in 1950 and spent thee last decade of his life living in Wales.

Royal Folderol:  I just watch a YouTube video, one of those anti-Harry and Megan screeds.  This one take top honors for total wackiness.  Did you know that their children ar a sham?  Yep, fake news.  According to this one commentator, Archie and Lilibet never existed -- they were just a PR ploy.  Really!  Have you ever seen a picture of Archie?  Or at least one of him holding his birth certificate?  Isn't it likely that Harry and Megan just hired a kid to pose as "Archie"?  If Harry and Megan did produce a birth certificate, how do we know it wasn't a fake?  Or a Kenyan birth certificate.  As for Lilibet, doesn't one year-old baby look like another?  Could Harry and Megan presented a ringer to the queen the other day?  

I'm convinced.  It has to be true because it's on the internet.

A Young Paul Newman:  Here's a video of may have been Paul Newman's first television appearance.  From the August 8, 1952 episode of Tales of Tomorrow, it's a story of an Air Force rocket returning to Earth with an unexpected cargo...a block of ice that can freeze everything around it.  Written by someone bill as E. H. Frank (his only writing credit on IMDb), "Ice from Space" pits Air Force Major Dozier (Edmon Ryan) against stubborn Congressman Burns ((Raymond Bailey).  Newman appears as Sgt. Wilson.  (IMDb also credits Newman an occasional cast member on The Aldrich Family in 1952, so it's anyone's guess which was Newman's first television credit.)

The show is in black and white so you won't get to gaze into his blue eyes.

The Sicilian Vespers:  167 years ago today, Giuseppe Verdi premiered his twentieth opera, Les Vespres Sicillennes.  Here's the overture performed by the Orchestra del Teatro alia Scala under the direction of Riccardp Muti:

Happy Birthday, Mary-Kate Olsen:  And, coincidently, Ashley Olsen (b. 

Also, natal felicitations go out to Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald (b. 823), Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fat (b. 839), American General Winfield Scott (b. 1786), Scottish mathematician and physicist James Clerk Maxwell (b. 1831), poet W. B. Yeats (b. 1865), Paul Neumann (not the actor mentioned above, but the Australian swimmer and physician; b. 1875), forever Sherlock in my heart Basil Rathbone (b. 1892), Lord Peyer Wimsey creator Dorothy L. Sayers (b. 1893), This Is Your Life  host Ralph Edwards (b. 1913), Hollywood Square Paul Lynde (b. 1926), concept artist Christo (b. 1935), "shadow" Senator Eleanor Holmes Norton (b. 1937), writer guy who believes in aliens Whitley Strieber (b. 1945), John-Boy Walton Richard Thomas (b. 1951), comedian Tim Allen (b. 1953), Brat Packer Ally Sheedy (b. 1962), Captain America Chris Evans (b. 1981), and Indian archer I have never heard of before Deepika Kumari (b. 1994).

Those who shuffled off this mortal coil on June 13 include Martin Buber, Benny Goodman, Geraldine Page, Fran Allison, Deke Slayton, Maia Wojciechowska, Tim Russert, Jimmy Dean, and Ned Beatty.

Today is International Albinism Awareness Day, Kitchen Klutzes of America Day, National Sewing Machine Day, Weed Your Garden Day, and World Softball Day.  It's also Eat Flexitarian Day, International Community Association Managers Day, Random Acts of Light Day, Corn on the Cob Day, Red Rose Day, Bourbon Day, and Nature Photography Day.

A Bad Joke:  Why are blonde jokes so short?  So men can remember them.

Another Bad Joke:  Why do you never see pig hiding in trees?  Because they are good at it.

Florida Man:

  • Florida Man Charles Mora, 30, was charged with animal cruelty aft a video was posted of him tearing a live octopus apart.  Octopi are capable of feeling "negative emotional states when confronted with pain in much the same way as mammals do."  They have a larger brain to body size than most animals except birds and mammals.  They are capable of high-order cognitive behavior.  After violently ripping the head and guts from the octopus, Mora threw the still-living body in a bin and went about his way.
  • An unnamed Florida Man was bitten by a seven-foot alligator after mistaking it for a dog as he walked about a Sarasota County motel shortly after midnight.  Unprovoked alligator attacks are extremely rare.  Chances of such an attack in Florida are about 1 in 3.1 million.  The victime thought it was a dog with a long leash so he did not get out of the way.  The alligator bite his leg and ripped put a chunk of his leg.  It's tough being the 1 in 3.1 million.
  • An unnamed Florida family from Ormond Beach had their Sunday interrupted when Volusia County police asked if they could borrow their boat to catch a jet ski thief.  The boat owner told the police that they could take the boat if they returned it.  Police arrest Florida Man Ronald Williams, 48, who had stalled the jet ski in the water after stealing it.
  • Alcohol was involved when Florida Man Stephen Joye, of Naples, was arrested for arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest after he had berated two young children, threatening one (a 4-year-old) for "stealing his beach toys."  When police arrived, Joye allegedly tried to punch an officer.  Police said he has slurred speech, glassy eyes, and "strong stench of booze" when they handcuffed him.  On the way to jail, Joye unbuckled himself and began banging his head against the partition in the police car.  To add icing to the cake, Joye's mug shot indicates he also receive a bad case of sunburn.

Both Sides of the Coin:  "Wherever you find a great man, you will find a great mother or wife standing behind him -- or so they say.  Many great women have had great fathers or husbands behind them 
-- Dorothy L. Sayers (whose birthday today was noted above)

The Good Stuff:
  • High school teens swoop in to support 6th grade stranger when no one would sign his yearbook
  • CVS Pharmacy worker pays prescription cost for perfect stranger:  "I can't watch someone in pain."
  • New York woman finds her lost dachshund -- in Hilary Swank's lap
  • Man finds lost wedding ring and delivers it to honeymoon couple using a LEGO man with a metal detector
  • 3D printed ear made and transplanted from patient's own cells
  • 83-year-old sets world  record for sailing across the Pacific alone without stopping
  • Rats trained to carry tiny backpacks into earthquake zones so rescuers can speak to survivors

Today's Poem:
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with gold and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light nd half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet;
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-- William Butler Yeats
(also a birthday boy)

Saturday, June 11, 2022


 From 1930, the gospel group The Kentucky Singers.

Friday, June 10, 2022


 Sixty-eight pages of all the comic book characters you've never heard of!

The Ray (by E. Lectron) -- In private life the Stars ace reporter Happy Terrill, but when th going gets tough he morphs into a superhero in a yellow body suit with a reverse shark fin on the top of his head.  It's hard to make this stuff up.  Happy has a kid companion Buddy, who doesn't know he's The Ray

Rookie Rankin -- A young cop who can always get himself in (and out) of trouble.  Here his kid sidekick is Tim.

Archie O'Toole -- A humor comic with a young ruler who wears a large crown hires an un-handy man. A one-pager.

The Jester (by Paul Gustavson) -- Rookie cop Chuck Lane is the costumed crime-fighter The Jester.  He has perhaps the most ridiculous costume of them all.  He's so tough he doesn't need a kid sidekick!

Wildfire (by Jim Mooney & Robert Turner) -- Carol Vance, bow Caeol Martin, the adopted daughter of a rich family, was gifted the power over all flames by the god of fire when she was a baby.  When she fights evil, she's hot stuff!  Red bra?  Natch.  Red shorts? Natch.  Red knee-high boots?  Natcch.  Long red hair?  Natch.  What more can you ask for from a gal who can control flames?

Invisible Justice (by Art Gordon) -- Kent Thurston, the Invisible Hood, has a super power.  Can you guess what it is?

Midnight (by Jack Cole) -- This enemy of crime wears a black and blue reversible suit.  His only weapon is a "vacuum gun."  He's aided by appropriately named inventor Doc Wacky and by Gabby, an amazing talking monkey.

Wings Wendall (by Vernon Henkel) -- A fighting ace who goes against the Japanese in WWII.

Wun Clod (by Ralph Johns) -- Another one-pager, this time with an atrociously stereotypical oriental who drives poorly.  I can't even call this humor.

The Purple Trio (by S. M. Regi) -- The former vaudeville team of Rocky the Strongman, Warren the ventriloquist, and Tiny the midget take on a perilous mission outh of the border.

Black X (by Will Erwin) -- Black X, the free-lance defender of democracy, battles alien termites in the nation's capitol.

Bozo the Robot (by Wayne Reid) -- An indestructible iron man (no relation to Tony Stark) that battles evil under the control of its owner Hugh Hazzard.

Plus...a two-page text story to keep the postal authorities happy:  "The Fiery Warning" by Robert Hyatt.

Some great artwork and interesting stories here.


Thursday, June 9, 2022


 Hidden Range by "Tex Riley" (John Creasey), 1946

The prolific writer John Creasey was best known for his mystery novels but he also wrote in others genres.  Among his 500 or so books, he wrote at least 29 westerns under three names:  Ken Ranger, Tex Riley, and William K Reilly; very few of these books were published inn\ America.  Hidden Range was one that was -- in the February 1950 issue Real Western Stories, edited by Robert A. W. Lowndes.

(There has long been a story about how clueless Creasey was about the Old West:  in one of his westerns he had a coyote flying overhead.  Sadly, the story is apocryphal; those who have read all of Creasey's westerns report no such passage, although it is possible that such a scene was included ib an early, or more likely, the story originated from Creasey himself as a joke.)

Hidden Range begins with Lannigan, a stranger to the area, wakes up under an oak tree on an otherwise parched landscape where he had bedded down the night before.  His horse, saddle, gear, food and guns were missing.  Someone, actually three someones, according to the footprints,  had managed to rob him blind while he was sleeping.  The nearest town, Ridge City, was fifty miles away, the nearest ranch perhaps five miles less.  A slim chance of making it on foot, without food or water, but a s;im chance was better than no chance if he stayed where he was.

The nearest ranch, Arrowhead, was owned by Hiram Tandy, a grasping old man with a streak of pure meanness that was almost as big as his ambitions.  Tandy wanted control of the entire area.  He had already bought up all the ranches save one around Ridge City, and he owned the town's three banks and most of the businesses.  The town kowtowed to his wishes and appointed the officials he wanted in office, including the hapless sheriff..  The only thing other than power he cared for was his young wife, forty years his junior.  Hiram Tandy was jealous and possessive as hell and Marion Tandy was beautiful and more headstrong than her husband had reckoned.

It took over a week, but Lannigan managed to make it to the Arrowhead, more dead than alive.  Marion Tandy insisted he be brought into the main house while her husband wanted him taken to the bunkhouse.  Tandy allowed no one in the main house because of his jealousy.  This time Marion won out and Lannigan was brought to a spare room.  Over the next few days he could hear the married couple arguing loudly outside his room.  Tandy grew to hate Lannigan because of his physical closeness to his wife.  Out of desperation, several of Tandy's hands bundled the man, still too sick to move on his own, into town and placed him with the town doctor who agreed to shelter him.   Weeks went by and Lannigan healed.  He needed a grubstake and asked the doctor where he might find a job.  The doctor recommended Jeb Grant, the owner of the Double-C ranch -- the only not controlled by Tandy.

The Double-C is a good spread but it is in trouble.  It is way understaffed, a number of hands had left for unknown reasons.  Fences and equipment have been broken and cattle have been rustled, but only a few at a time.  Minor inconveniences all but they added up to big trouble for the Double-C.  Lannigan is hired on the spot and soon finds himself at home with the ranch hands.  A week or so later, the sheriff and several of his men rode up to the ranch looking for Lannigan, claiming he was wanted for murder.  The sheriff also said that Lannigan was really Corliss, the most feared outlaw in Texas.  Grant told the sheriff that he hadn't seen Lannigan.  The Circle-C hands knew that Lannigan hadn't murdered anyone because he was working beside the entire day the killing was supposed to happen.  Lannigan denied being Corliss but Grant could not take just his word for that, so Lannigan told Grant he would leave the spread.

Not far from the ranch, Lannigan came across the bodies of four of Grant's men shot dead.  The bodies had been found just earlier by hands from Tandy's Arrowhead, who had hidden when they heard Lannigan's approach.  

From then on things began to heat up.  Rustlers were herding thousands of Double-C beeves when Lannigan and one of the men from Arrowhead came upon them.  With odds of thirty against two, Lannigan decides to foil the rustlers, almost costing him his life.  All clues pointed to Tandy being behind the entire plot and that Tandy had hired Corliss and his gang to help.  Lannigan decides the only thing to do is kidnap Tandy and make him talk.  They just managed to the Arrowhead owner away when Corliss and a bunch of his men show up looking for Tandy.  Realizing they had just missed Tandy, they ride in pursuit.

Returning to the Double-C (an ally had ridden off to hide Tandy), Lannigan finds the place in ashes with several of his friends burned alive.

Corliss ends up getting Tandy, and kidnapping Grant, as well as Marion Tandy.  A showdown at an isolated cabin pits Lannigan and an ally against Corliss and his men.  There's action aplenty before the entire situation is resolved.  Creasey adds a "gotcha" at the end that no one saw coming.

It's obvious throughout the novel that Marion is taken with Lannigan and Lannigan is attracted to her.  But she's married to Tandy and Jem Grant had his eyes on her before she married Tandy.  Can love be in store for Lannigan?

And those owlhoots who had robbed Lannigan at the beginning of the book?  It turns out all three were members of the Corliss gang nd they eventually got what was due them.

All in all, a satisfying oater with enough suspense and characterization to, please me.  Yes, it's a standard oater but there's nothing wrong with that.

P.S.  There's a bit of confusion between Hidden Range and another book by "Tex Riley," Forbidden Range.  The St. James Guide to Mystery and Crime Fiction the former as being published in 1946 and the latter in 1947.  FictionMags Index lists both books as being published in 1946 and conflates the two.  I'm up in the air.  Are the two different books, or are they the same?  Any help on this would be appreciated and my addled brain will thank you,

Wednesday, June 8, 2022


 From South Africa comes this hardboiled series about London detective Peter Troy, a detective whose adventures could be counted upon to fast women and plenty of action.  The title of each episode featured a description of a woman -- blonde, redhead, vixen, witch, minx, Venus, brazen, doll, wildcat, and so on; it was not an enlightened time.  It ran on Springbok Radio from December 10, 1963 to February 24, 1964.  The sponsor, Irving & Johnson, disliked the series so it was moved to the English Radio Service from May 19 to November 28, 1964, making it the first on the English Service that was independently produced.  A total of 51 episodes (two of which may have been repeats) were aired between the two services. It starred Tom Meehan, John Simpson, and Merle Wayne.  There was an Australian version of the show that aired before the South African series, causing some confusion among old-time radio buffs.


Tuesday, June 7, 2022


 "Northern Lights" by E. d'Esperance" (Elizabeth Jane Puttock), from her collection Northern Lights and Other Psychic Stories, 1899

Here's an odd little tale from an odd little writer who took advantage of the Spiritualism craze of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It isn't even really a story, but a collection of incidences leading nowhere with no real ending.  I found it interesting for what it was and what it wasn't.

The main character is Herr Massie, a representative of a British firm with interests in Sweden.  We learn later in the story that fur of Herr Massie's predecessors had been lost -- one was found dead on a boat, one had drowned, the two just vanished.  Amazingly, this has nothing to do with the story.

It is a bitter cold winter in Sweden and Massie hire a horse, sledge, and driver to take him over country.  Massie, who is familiar with the area, is glad it is winter for the sled can then travel over frozen lakes, reducing the time needed for his business.  The driver, Petter, has one stipulation -- he will not drive after 8:00 pm past the area where cutthroats are known to attack travelers and he will not go past the house where the cutthroats are said to frequent -- a house that also holds many ghosts.  Again, the cutthroats and the ghosts have nothing to do with the story.  **sigh**

The pair travel throughout Sweden.  The sledge overturns once and once they almost sink through thin ice on a lake, but again nothing happens.  One Saturday, they put up at an inn in Dufved and woke the next morning to bitter cold -- a broken thermometer tells Massie that it is at lest 40 degrees below zero.  It is really too cold to travel and, since it was Sunday, Massie could get no business done, so Massie decided to take a little holiday there.  He got a pair of snow skates and with a guide, they headed off to Mullfjell, a mountain on the northern Swedish-Norwegian frontier, leaving Peter back in Dufved.  As evening approached they came across a Kota (a crude hut) and several Lapps tending their deer.  Somewhat tired, Massie asks the Lapps is they could rest there for an hour or so.  The leader of the group, an unnamed man about 60 years old, welcomed them and fed them by the fire in the center of the Kota.  Because of an expected drop in temperature, he invited them to spend the night (on a bed of pine boughs with a sack of potatoes for a pillow).  They accept.

Later that night, finding he could not sleep, Massie leaves the tent and watches the Northern Lights with wonder.  His host followed him out and told him the lights were a bridge between the world of the living and the dead.  The dead ride up the lights to Valhalla and while other dead use the lights to travel back to Earth.  Those who die during winter when the ground is too frozen to dig a grave mus wander the land of the living until they came have a proper burial.  Th two return to the Kota where the Lapp tells the story of his life and his lost love.

"The you've been to England, I suppose? his host said.  "Then you'll know the Prince of Wales.  He bought some reindeer from us, but that was before the terrible storm when we lost so many.  Poor Karin was among us then.  I was to have been married to Karin, but she preferred little Napoleon, and I did not care for any other girl, so I never took a wife, and now I'm nearly sixty."

Karin was a distant relative; his mother and hers were half-cousins.  She was beautiful with little of Lapp features.  Fair-haired and blue eyed with round cheeks and always smiling, Karin was the sweetest sight he had ever seen.  When she married Napoleon, Massie's host lost all pleasure.  He never smelled the flowers in the glade, nor saw the beauty of the woods, nor heard the birds in the spring and summer; all seasons were the same to him.  Her children grew up but she remained as youthful and beautiful as ever.  Then came a dreaded winter that coated their reindeer with a hard crust of snow so that they suffocated.  Karin cried over their misfortune until she was ill and Nappi took was few possessions he could spare to town to sell for medicine.  Instead of medicine, he spent the money on liquor and brought back one bottle of brandy for his wife.  Karin drank the bottle and then could never get enough of the stuff.  The pair soon packed up and left, headed south.  Stories came back of the pair begging drink and tobacco.  Eventually came a report that Nappi might be dead "somewhere about Jerfso, where people die of leprosy."  On hearing of Nappi's death, Massie's host went looking fro Karin, hoping to bring her back to her home.  All he found were rumors that she still roamed the countryside, begging for liquor.

Massie told him that he may have met her several winters ago.  He had met an old woman near Solleftea who  wanted to sell her wedding ring to him. In exchange he gave her a crown and parted ways.  Massie's host recognized the ring as being Karin's.

The Massie related a story his driver, Petter, had told him about a family with two young daughters.  The oldest daughter, about twelve, began talking about an elderly couple who asked for brandy and tobacco.  When she pointed them out to her mother, there was no one there.  Over the next few days, the pair continued to talk to Elsa, the young girl, but no one was or heard anything.  Then, with her mother present, Elsa said thy could have this, holding a piece of hard bread in her hand.  The bread vanished.  The next day Elsa asked her father to give them some tobacco.  Her father was willing but could not see them.  He handed the tobacco to Else and, when she held it out, it vanished.  The same with a small glass of brandy:  when he held it nothing happened but when Elsa held it out the full glass became empty.  Elsa caught a cold and was laid up for a few days.  when she recovered, the ghosts were gone.

And that is basically the story.  The Lapp host added that his people are not afraid of ghosts because they consider them a natural occurrence. possible because while they accp\ept the "white Christ," they also have links to the old gods.

The author, born Elizabeth Jane Puttock (1848-1914) was a well-known medium and spiritualist.  She was also known as Elizabeth Hope Reed (or Reid).  As a child she claimed to have lived in a haunted mansion and had a number alleged psychic visions.  A lonely child, she suffered her mother's verbal and physical abuses as well as dire hints of the asylum from harassing doctors.  In her early twenties. Jane discovered spiritualism with all its trappings -- including the medium's kit bag of powers:  automatic writing, ectoplasm, empathy, premonitions, table turning, and the like.  Taking the name E/ d'Esperance, she travelled through Europe giving seances in which she would materialize both flowers and spirits.  In 1880 she was exposed as a fraud when a sitter grabbed "Yohlande," the spirit she has just materialized and the spirit turned out to be Elizabeth herself.  She became more careful in her seances and was not "busted" for another thirteen years. At a seance in 1983, she claimed to have dematerialized her lower body, with just the stomach and had remaining.  Researcher Heywood Carrington explained his that trick was done in a darkened room.

."E. d'Esperance" wrote two books:  Shadowland, or, Light from the Other Side (1897, an autobiography of sorts) and Northern Lights, and Other Psychic Stories (1899, a collection of ten stories).  Northern Lights is available to read at the Internet Archive.