Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 30, 2022


 The "Yellow Peril" has shifted over the years, from China to Japan to Korea and now back to China (with an assist from North Korea.  But back in 1945 it was definitely Japan, as the cover of this issue of Ranger Comics shows.

But because we are red-blooded Americans, we start with a two-page text story on the inside front cover and continued to the inside back cover -- "The Unbeatable Twenty," in which brave soldiers fight fiercely against Germans.  This tale was reprinted from Khaki, the Canadian Army Bulletin.  Alright, so it's our allies from up North instead of the Yanks who are creaming the Germans here, but I'm sure our boys could have done as well as the Canadians.

The first comic story in the issue features John Starr's "Firehair," Queen of the Sagebrush Frontier.  " 'Boston blue blood turned injun, huh?' said Jake Flagg of the J-F ranch.  'Raised wild in the Dakota teepees, was she?  well, gents, if she meddles with me she'll bite the dust like any ther redskin!' "  Firehair des meddle with Flagg, siding with his enemy, Cole, a nester.  Flagg won't hesitate to stop at murder, but Firehair won't hesitate until justice is served. 

Bob Hickok's "Glory Forbes" is doing a little salt water fishing and it appears that she has hooked a "man-shark" but that was one that got away, but no one else saw it.  Well, it wasn't a man-shark but it was a man who was going to have his body joined with a shark in one of the Professor's illegal schemes.  And once the man got a look at Glory, he decided that she was the woman that he wanted.  The thugs the Professor sent to kidnap Glory mistakenly nab her friend Betty instead.  It's up to Glory to track them down and put an end to this nonsense.

"Kazanda" by Peter Amos & Brody Mack is Queen of the Lost Empire and is gifted with mystic powers.  There's a lot to unpack here.  First, Kazana is telepathic.  Second she talks to crocodiles and birds.  Third, a boat carrying a scientific expedition has exploded and Aileen is fund by Sylf the evil despot, who plans to make her his queen even though his people feel she must be a sacrifice.  Fourth, Slyf has an etherome, which has rays that allow him to communicate telepathically.  Fifth,  Talmar of the Tusks and his headless horsemen are coming to invade Sylf's lands.  Sixth, Kazanda promises to give Sylf one of the scientists for sacrifice in exchange for Aileen.  Seventh, to be continued next month.  Dang!

This next ne has me a bit cnfused.  "The Werewlf Hunter" has a beautiful rich wman abut t be sent t the guillotine for murder when dull, boring Yvonne says she would trade places with her now just for a taste of the exciting lifestyle the woman had lived.  She gets her wish through a strange little man (whom I assume is the Werewolf).  Yvnne is a dim bulb.  This one is by Armand Broussard and the artwork is meh.

"U.S. Rangers" is signed by Capt. R. W. Colt.  Captain Morgan and his Rangers are hiding out in a deserted temple in occupied China, having been led there by Foi, a local dancing girl.  Foi's evil twin sister Mala has ratted them out to the Japanese, who surprise the Yanks.  The Rangers are captured and Mala believes she has killed her sister.  But Foi is alive and sneaks Morgan into the enemy camp disguised as a coolie -- a shirtless coolie with no head covering, mind you.  Foi kills her traitorous sister and the Yanks prevail.  This was the cover story and had nothing to do with what the cover depicted.

It should be noted that all of the females in this issue, with the exception of Yvonne, are...well, let's say, generously proportioned in the mammary department.  And Glory Forbes wear lace-trimmed white panties.


Thursday, September 29, 2022


 To Hide a Rogue by Thomas Walsh (1964)

Walsh (1908-1984) began hiss fiction career in 1933 with stories in Black Mask and Mystery League.  Within two years, while still contributing to the pulps, he began selling stories to the slicks, which became his major market through the Forties and well into the Ssixties, with twenty-five stories in Colliers and thirty-one in The Saturday Evening Post. as well as stories in Comsopolitan, Good Houskeeping, and other prominent magazines of the time. Walsh's obituary stated that he pubished about fifty short stories, but the actual number was over a hundred.   His first book, Nightmare in Manhattan (serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in 1949 and published in book form the following year) won an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery and was filmed as Union Station (1950).  His short story"Chance After Chance" (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 1977) brought him his second Edgar.  In all, Walsh published eleven novels, stopping when his when passed away in 1968.  A few years later he began writing again, short stories of this time, publishing nearly two dozen in EQMM.

Walsh's specialty was police stories.  Dorothy B. Hughes was a fan, writing, "There has been no better writer of the police story, and there has never been a better writer of the streets of New York...His books stand the true test of expertness:  they can be read today not as dated material but with the same zest as when first published."  Not to disparage Hughes (she wrote this years ago), but portions of To Hide a Rogue are dated, including a brief reference to the main protagonist's homophobia (common at the time of writing) and a minor misconception of how drive-in movie theaters work (off-putting problably only to me).  But these are minor quibbles.  To Hide a Rogue is a fast-paced, claustrophobic thriller thriller that is unputdownable.  I read it in one session, turning each page hungrily.

  Meg Ryan is a charge nurse.  Despite a hidden past, she is a hard-working, efficient and dedicated nurse with a decent core of kindness and empathy.  Her latest patient was Harry McKenna, a subway cop who had been shot during a robbery in which another siby man had been killed.  Harry spent three weeks in the hospital under Meg's care and then two additional weeks resting at home.  Durng thay time he fell in love with her, and she with him.  Harry is a hard-nosed and intelligent cop, but when he finally goes back to work as a night patrol supervisor for the Triboro Subway Police his thoughts are on Meg.  After his shift, he finds Meg cowering at his doorstep in fear, unable to speak.  He brings her in and tries to settle her down.  Eventually he learns that she has been frightened by a man hanging outside her apartment that night, a man with a distinct limp.  She could not explain why she was frightened and eventually she convinces Harry (and possibly herself) that it was just he imagination getting away from her.  Harry, always being straight forward, inadvisedly takes this time to declare his locve for Meg and asks her to marry him.   She rejects him and leaves, although not without indicatingthat she still has kind feelings toward him.

Although Meg does not realize it, the limping man is someone from her past -- someone who wants to destroy her.  He sends Harry an anonymous letter claiming that in Meg's troubled past in Chicago she had an affair with a married man, had a child by him, and then escaped to start her present life in New York.  Meanwhile, the limping man has managed to gain two accomplices with promises of money that he claims Meg owes him.  They are Al, in his forties, and Leon, a tough punk in his late teens.  The limping man, who was known only as "Whitey," has Al drive him to an old church where he claimmed he would get the money from Meg.  There, Whitey climbs up the bell tower and, with a long-range rifle, shoots a subway operator through the head as his train passes nearby.  He tells Al what he did and that Al, having driven him there, is now an accomplice to murder.  

He then has Leon call Meg with a phony story about Harry being seriously injured in a subway accident and wanting to see her.   Meg gathers her things and rushes out of her apartment.  Whitey and his accomplices are waiting for her and Al hits her on the head -- perhap a bit too hard -- and they carry her unnconscious boy off.   Leon goes to Meg's apartment, openes a suitcase on her bed and begins to throw some of her clothes in it, along with a stack of incriminating letters.  He has Leon drop a note at the door of the head of the subway workers' union, demanding $20,000 or the murders of subway workers would continue.  Leon  also dropped Meg's keys nearby in an attempt to implicate her.  Now Meg is set up, with an unknown lover, to take the fall for the subway murder and the ransom attempt.

Harry falls for this cockandbull story at first, then his love for Meg allows him so find some holes in the setup.  Harry has to find out who is responsible and why, and he must find Meg and reconcile himself with her past, all the time hoping that she has not been murdered.  This leads to a wild, prolonged, and bloody chase through the city's subway system with apparent failure at every turn, culminating in a stunning and violent climax.  

A good read with a solid working knowledge of the city, its police, and its subway system, told with a reporter's eye, with most of the action taking place over a single day.  Recommended.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


Forgotten Tales of Love and Murder by Edgar Rice Burroughs, edited by Patrick H. Adkins (2001)

Edgar Rice Burroughs needs little introoduction.  Creator of Tarzan and one of the best-selling authors of the Twentieth century, his work ranged from fantastic adventure to planetary romance to westerns to historicals and mainstream romance.  Most of his unpublished manuscripts hve been mined and published -- Marcia of the Doorsteps, You Lucky Girl!, Minadoka, Pirate Blood, The Wizard of Venus, I Am a BarbarianTarzan:  The Lost Adventure (completed by Joe R. Lansdale), and even Brother Man, a collection of correspondence. 

 Lost in the files of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. were the author's few attempts at the non-Tarzan short story.  With the permission of Danton Burroughs, Patrick Adkins scoured those files and came up with all of Burroughs' non-Tarzan tales and a number of logic puzzles, most of which had never been published.  These are collected in this book, which was pubished by Guidry & Adkins (New Orleans) -- most likely the only book published by this imprint and never reprinted.

Burroughs was never a literary writer and on display here are all of Burroughs' fault -- the stereotyping, the coincidence theater, puerile plots, the overblown wordage, and the juvenile dialog.   But Burroughs could tell a story, hooking the reader in from the beginning and taking them to places where they wouold forget all the literary felonies he was commiting.  The pacing is fast.  The humor, albeit strained, works.  The suspense, sense of adventure, and horror are all on display.  These are very minor works, but they are a gold mine for Burroughs fans and completists.

The stories:
  •  "Jonathan's Patience" was probably written around 1904, long before Burroughs' professional work and just after his children's tale Minadoka.  Jonathon is a schemer and a con man, but he has managed to place himself in a position of importance in his work and in his church, waiting for the chance to strike it rich.  A cute and srdonic tale.
  • "The Avenger" dates from 1912.  Joseph Stone mistakenly believes his wife is cheating on hm and slays the man the thinks is responsible.  Dressing the corpse i his clothes and disfuring the ded man's face, he leaves the body to be assumed to be himself and runs off.  Later he learns the truth.
  • "For the Fool's Mother" is the author's firsst western, also dting from 1912.  A young man has a three hundred dollar stake from years of working and saving out west.  He plans to head home and buy the houose his mother has been renting for her.  Two men, a dirt-poor prospector and a tin-horn gambler are both determined to get the money.
  • "The Little Door," written in 1917 is a tale of war-time vengeance against German occupiers in France.  Gimmicky and nasty.
  • "Calling All Cars" is a convoluted crime story that has little internal logic.  A young couple are held captive by a rich man's servant who has attacked his employer.  Thinking his boss dead, the man plans to pin the crime on the couple.  His plan fails and he finds the money he has cached has been stolen and dies from the shock.
  • "Elmer" (1936) was the original story that an editor at Argosy rewrote as "The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw."  A cave-man is unfrozen from ice and is brought to Hollywood.
  • "The Strange Adventure of Mr. Dinwiddie" has a naive man mistaken for a navy admiral who is the target of spies.  Dinwiddie's innocence boggles the imagination.  This one is from 1940.
  • "Mysogynists Preferred" takes a group of women-hating men and a group of men-hating women and places them together.  Heavy racial stereotyping, 1941-style..
  • "Uncle Bill," from 1944, is a disturbing story of a woman who has waited sixty years for her husband to return.
  • "The Red Necktie" was written around 1932 and is a standalone puzzle story.  You now,,if A is twice as old as B and half again the age of C, and if one of them has dark hair, and the one with blond hair was in the kitchen, who murdered D?  That type of thing.  The solution to this one was not found in Burroughs' papers, but the puzzle had appeared in the May 29, 1932 issue of  Rob Wagner's Script Weekly, which published the solution the following week.
  • "Murder:  A Collection of Short Murder Mystery Puzzles," from 1932-1940, features Police Inspector Muldoon, a genius who can suss out such logic puzzles easily and catche the murderer.  The stories here include "Who Murdered Mr. Thomas?," The Bank Murder," "The Terrace Drive Murder," "The Lightship Murder," "The Dark Lake Murder," "The Gang Murder," "Murder at Midnight" and "The Dupuyster Case" -- the last being an unfinished work.  Solution are given to all the puzzles and, in the case of "The Dupuyster Case," Burroughs' notes outlining the remainder of the puzzle.
Also include is a tongue-in-cheek "Autobiography"ina "Meet the Authors" piece in the June 1941 issue of Amazing Stories.

As Adkins notes in his introduction, these dated stories are little likely to enhance Burroughs' reputation as a writer.  "It's probably true that the stories possess most of the strengths and weaknesses of of Burroughs' better known works.  Still, those strengths remain impressive.  By turns witty and sardoic, gripping, suspenseful, humorous, and horrifying, these long overlooked tales are above all else highly readable, boasting the authentic voice of a master storyteller."

Saturday, September 17, 2022


 Sweet Heaven Kings.

MAN O' MARS #1 (1958)

 The excellent cover by Angelo Torres to this one-shot comic book is enough to get the juices flowing for any red-blooded American boy of the 50s who is unsure of the vagarities of sex and astrophysics.  A beautiful blonde (well-endowed, 'natch) in a fish-bowl space helmet and a form-fitting mini-mini dress is grappling with a geen-skinned alien (who is only wearing what appears to be a blue breech cloth) on the ourer rim of a small two-alien flying saucer, the glass hatch to the saucer is open and the second alien is pointing his ray gun at our hero in the foreground -- a rock-hard handsome blond man with bare arms holding a ray gun, obviously coming to rescue the beautiful girl.  In the background there is a bevy of flying saucers rising from the moon to join in destroying the dreaded Earthlings in this outer space encounter.

What's not to like?

Man o' Mars is John Hunter "of the Marsmen."  Wo is John Hunter?  Who are the Marsmen?  Time for a back story.

Mars was the home of two humanoid races, the peaceful, yellow Azurians who are the scientists, and the warlike blue warriors  bent on conquering.  As Mars runs low on water, the verdant Earth with its oceans and rivers beckon, and Gurtil, commander of the Mars War Fleet, redies an invasion of Earth.  Because the Azurians beliefe there is another, peaceful way, they are banished to the wastes of the planet where it is assumed they will die.  The Azurians find an underground grotto with enough water for them to hide and prosper.  What Gurtil did not know was that Earth now had long-range guided missiles and that defeated his planned invasion.  The War Fleet went back to Mars, licking their wounds, and preparing for another invasion in the future.  The Azurians realized that the blue Martians were biding their time until they would be strong enoung to conquer Earth.  Secretly, they sent an ambassador to Earth to explain the situation.  Since the Azurians were a peaceful sort, they knew they had no chance against their blue enemies.  They proposed that Earth send them 100 young men to be trained on Mars to defeat the enemy.  One of those young men was a boy named John Hunter.  Another of the "young men" was Renee, John Hunter's girlfriend, who had cut her hair and pretended to be a boy to remain close to her love.

As you can see, logic has no place in this tale (or any comic book story of the time).  F'instance, why are the yellow-skinned Martians called "Azurians" when "azure" means blue (as the color of the sky on a clear day).  Is this akin to calling a atll man "Shorty"?  And what's this farce about training 100 boys to defeat a planet's War Fleet?  No matter, let's get on with the story.

Armed with far more advnced weponry, Gurtil once again invades Earth, destroying a major city and threatening to obliterate New York unless Earth surrenders.  Gurtil does not realize he had been followed to Earth by John Hunter's fleet of twenty ships.  In a surprice attaack Hunter desstroys half of Gurtil's ships while losing five of his own.  Gurtil regroups on a planetoid that had been a captured armory, knowing the Hunter would not dare attack him there.  Gurtil sends a lone ship to meet with Hunter's fleet.  In a Trojan Horse scenario, the ship holds only Ylla (shades of Ray Bradbury!), a beautiful green-skinned Martian with platinum hair and a two-piece bathing suit.  Aboard Hunter's ship, she claims to be running from the cruel Gurtil.  Suckered by a pair of, um...let's say eyes, Hunter believes her until she gets to drop on him with a gun, forcing him to turn his ship to Gurtil's hideout.  In a little bit of exposition theater, we learn that Gurtil's secret weapon is an atomic hydrogun which works on water -- but only the natural water found on Earth.  (see above paragraph, re: lack of logic)

John quickly orders the ship's sheilds down and don his space hood (the fish-tank helmet, remember?)  With the magnetic power off and air escaping the ship. Ylla soons loses consciousness.  As she blacks out she accidently fires her atomic hydrogun, hitting an empty water cup that had just a bit of moisture left, and KABOOM!

The ship is destroyed but because there was no air pressure to cause concussion, Hunter, Renee, and Hunter's pal Jerry survive.  Meanwhile, Earth has agreed to surrender.  Earth's one hope now rests with John Hunter.  He orders another ship and floodsit compartment.  Sussing what Hunter has planned, Jerry knocks Hunter out and commandeers the ship.  He drives it into Gurtil's planetoid and KABOOM!

Earth is safe.  Hunter and Renee get ready to embrace.  The Marsmen can return home to Earth.  And everyone knows that a guy named Jerry has to be the hero.

This issue has two other stories.  One featuring Star Pirate on a planter with centaurs (among other things), the other featuring Space Rangers.  also, two fillers by /Murphy Anderson, both two pages long, about Life on Other Planets --  a wildly imaginative display, reminiscent of features Frank R. Paul and James B. Settles used to do for Amazing Stories and Fantasic Adventures back in the late Thirties-early Forties.

You can willingly suspend your disbelief here:

Thursday, September 15, 2022


 The Blind Spot by Homer Eon Flint & Austin Hall (originally published in six parts in Argosy-All Story Weekly, May 14 - June 18, 1921; incompletely published [three parts only] in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, March - May/June 1940, then published in Fantastic Novels, July 1940; first published in hardcover by Prime Press, 1950; first published in paperback byb Ace Books, publ;ished numerous times since them)

Here is a science fiction "classic" at its creakiest and opinions differ wildly about its merits.  Basically, "The :Blind Spot" is a portal between dimensions, although we are not told this until well into the book, which has the characters discussing The Blind Spot in mysterious terms because nobody has an inkling of what it is.  A prominent professor is scheduled to make a presentation on what he calls The Blind Spot, promising the talk will be of earth-shaking importance, but he disappears just before he was to speak so nobody knows what the heck it is.  And then there's the mysterious unearthly figure knonw as Rhmda Avec whom authorites cannot capture.

It's all a bit of a muddle.

CONFESSION TIME:   I'm only half-way throught the book though I had hoped to finish in time for this review.  So let me give a taste of other reviews of the novel, taken from\

  • From author John Peel - "This is an odd one, a collaboration between two authors -- and you can tell.  The first one (Flint) wrote the first 17 chapters and then the rest of the book was finished by his friend Austin Hall.  It's odd because they have utterly distinct styles, so the book abruptly changes.  Flint is verbose and mystical, setting up the mystery, and Hall is diret and detailed as he sets out the solution...If you can last the first 17 chapters (and it's tough), the resolution is actually quite nice."
  • From Warren Founier - "This weird classic of Radium Age Science Fiction was developed by the collaboration of two friends working in a shoe store, each who wrote approximately half the book somewhat independently rather than seamlessly meshing their ideas into a cohesive story.  Hence, you have a very bipolar work of fantasy that just doesn't quite know what it wants to be."  And on Chick Watson, who figure predominently in the second half of the book:  "Chick Watson is a bore...When he arrives on the other side [i.e., in an alternate dimension], he remains in a coma for 11 months...[O]ne dashing priest is smitten with Chick's muscular and athletic physique and challenges him to hand to hand combat.  Chick accepts the challenge confidently, as he had never lost any athletic competition before.  The guy was an ematcated mess hanging out in burlesqye bars and getting smashed on brany in the first half, and now he is a superhero after n 11-month coma?  I can suspend my belief as much as any scifi and fantasy fan, but this kind of thing is just insulting."
  • And Leothefox said:  "The first thing I'll say about this book is that there's a lot of it.  It consists of 'accountts' from several narrators and spans nearly 350 pages, which is longer than my standard fare.  For all its faults, it does read pretty well and pretty much delivers the goods in the end...none of the cliches were too jarring"
  • And, according to Love of Hopeless Causes:  "Probably awesome in its day.  Forry Ackerman says, 'The most famous fantastic novel of all time.' ...I think Forrest doth let his tongue wag flatteringly a bit too much.   I gave it the old non-college try; in fact several times.  It's a sloww starter that bogs down."
  • Kevin said:  "The mystery is compelling, the science contemp;lative, and the characterizations attractive,  Highly recommended."
  • Fraser Sherman gave it three stars, writing:  "I enjoyed this better than I remember doing in college, but it still fails (the 3 stars are for the good parts)...we follow one minor character through the Blind Spot of the title to another world.  What should have been A. Merritt-class eerie is instead a generic lost race adventure with little to recommend it.  I started skimming.  A shame."
  • Apryl Anderson remembers "reading this and loving it 20 yrs. ago...Read it again January 2019:  Retro fun, yes, that describes it."
  • And James notes:  "One of my all-time favorite science fiction novels."
  • And from Barry:  "Interesting early 20th century metaphysical fantasy scifi  but a bit long for its ultimate impact."
So there you have it.  You pays your money and you takes your chances.

As for me, I hope to finish the book this weekend.  I may eventually go on the sequel, The Spot of Life (1932; book publication 1941) by Austin Hall alone.

Austin Hall (1880-1933) claimed to have written over 600 stories for the pulps, mainly westerns.  Hall also wrote under the house pseudonyms Roy Ford, Andrew A. Griffin, and Bucky McKenna.  Hall's one other science fiction novel was People of the Comet (1923; book publication 1948)

Homer Eon Flint (1889-1924) was also know for his science fiction novellas about Dr. Flint:  "The Lord of Death." "The Queen of Life," "The Devolutionist," and "The  Emancipatrix."  An intriguing footnote to Flint's story was the mysterious manner of his death.  He was said to have driven off with a known criminal and was later found dead in his crashed car; there were rumors of his involvement with a robbery.

The Blind Spot is available to read online.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


 Barrie Craig, Confidential Invetigator ran from October 3, 1951 to June 30, 1955 on NBC Radio.  William Gargan played the Madison Avenue private detective.  Craig was a laid-back detective rther than the intense type like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe.  Gargan, who had previously played Martin Kane, Private Eye, was well-suited for the role.  An attempt to place the show on television -- with a pilot written by Blake Edwards -- flopped, however.

Enjoy this early episode.


Tuesday, September 13, 2022


 "The Boys' Toilets" by Robert Westall  (first published in the anthology Cold Feet, edited by Jean Richardson, 1985; reprinted in Westall's collection Ghosts and Jurneys, 1988, and in an anthology edited by Westall, Ghost Stories, 1988)

The January term at a girls' school started with unanounced construction.   heavy equipment invaded the school grounds, digging and cruching things and blocking the entrance to the science department.  It turned out that there had been an underground leak in the central heating but no one bothered to inform the school officials of this.  A quick and angry call to City Hall and arrangements were made for the school to move temporarily across the road to the abandoned Harvest Road boys' school, which had been closed for many years.

The boys' school was in a state of tremendous disrepair -- paint peeling, old equipment and furniture tossed about, dirt almost everywhere you looked, and, if possible, even more grafitti than dirt. The more virulent graffitti refered to someone called Billy Boko.  Worst of all was the boys' bathroom tht had been assigned to the girls in 3A.  Rust-streaked urinals (a mystery to some of the girls), old cigarette butts, pull chains replaced by thick string like hangman's nooses. every lock broken, toilet seats missing, and -- horror of all horrors -- no toilet paper!  As the girls stood outdie the boys' toilet mulling over their terrible fate, the toilets began to flulsh on their own.

Yet needs must.  And due to "the fatal weaknesses of feminity," soon the girls began to use the facility.  The first was Rebeccah, who was a preacher's daughter.  While occupied in her stall, she heard someone come in.  No, it was several someones.  And it was boys!  While she sat, panicked, breathing softly and holding a handkerchef over her mouth, she heard them drag someone into thte stall next to hers.  Whoever it was, the boys pushednhis head into the bowl and flushed.  Laughing, the perpetrators ran out; a few miutes later, Rebeccah heard a final set of heavy footsteps trudge out.

When Rebeccah returned to the classroon, her friend Liza saw that something was wrong.  Curious, she asked to go the the restroom.  When she returned, she was flushed and tried to speak.  Somehow the class knew then that there was something wrong in the restroom.  Their teacher, Miss Hogg, remained clueless.

The next to go was Margie.  She came back and reported that there were boys in the restroom.  Mis Hogg fearlessly advance to the restroom, determined to put a stop to this nonsense.  She returned and headed to the principal's office.  Back in the classroom, Miss Hogg berated Margie for her imagination.  Then Rebeccah and Liza said that they had heard boys also.  Once again Miss Hogg headed to the restroom, with the class triling behind her.  She ordered Rebeccah to go into the restroom and do what she would normally do.  Rebeccah went into a stall, closed the door and sat down.  When she returned nothing had happened.  Miss Hogg was once again  berating the girls for their imaginations as a toilet flushed.  Then, another.  And then, another.  It started from the far end of the restroom and was getting nearer.  More toilets flulshed.  Miss Hogg said there must be a problem with the plumbing.

The following Monday, it was Margie's turn to go.  Reluctantly she raised her hand.   But she did not try to enter the boys' toilet; insead, she snuck outside and tried to used the janitors' toilet but was caught.  Mis Hogg, visibly upset, ordered Margie to go to the boys' restroom.  Margie went in and Margie came back and sat down.  A short while later, Margie bolted out of the classroom.  There was a puddle under her chair.  She had not gone while in the restroom and valiantly tried to hold it in until it was too late.

The following day after recess, it was Fiona's turn.  The shyest girl in class, Fiona came into class dumbstruck.  there were wisps of yellow toilet paper wrapped around her arms.  She tried to speak but then collapsed.  As everyone gathered around the unconscious girl and someone called for an ambulance, Rebeccah snuck out to the restroom.  Fiona must have been in the third stall, for the toilt paper roll was empty and the stall was littered with torn toilet paper.  By all appearances, Fiona had to claw her way out of the toilet paper.  

Rebeccah uses knowledge she learned from her clergyman father to summon who(or what)ever has been causing all the trouble.  It is the ghost of a young boy who appears, mummy-like, wrpped in the toilet paper that had strewn over the floor.

A hidden cache, a sadistic headmaster, and a repentent (or vengeful?) ghost all lead to a disturbing ending for Rebeccah. 

Robert Westall (1929-1993) was a British art techer and antique shop owner who wrote an amazing array of young adult and children's fantasy during the last decade of his life.  He published some two dozen novels and twenty short story collections.  He received the Carnagie Medal twice (and twice was a Carnagie Medal "highly commended" runner-up, ond once a "commended" runner-up), the American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Aduts Award,  the Guardian's Children Fiction Prize, the Dracula Society Children of the Night Award, the Nestle Smarties Book Prize, and the Sheffield Children's Book Award.  He was twice runner-up for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and his 1989 novel Blitzcat was named one of the Hundred Best Books for Young Adults in the Last 25 Years.  Much of his fiction for children "cover complex, dark, and adult themes."  According to Peter Nicholls and John Clulre, Westall "was at the forefront of those [children's] authors who had begun to respond to their audience's need for more direct confrontation with issues that concerned them."  Although much of his writing was for younger readers, adults will certainly enjoy most of his work.

Monday, September 12, 2022


 The first episode of Jack Webb's television series has Joe Friday pitted against a terrorist bomber.  Barton Yaarborough co-stars as Sergeant Ben Romano, and Raymond Burr pops up as Deputy Chief Thad Brown.  


Sunday, September 11, 2022


 Openers:   The man lay on a cot near a window in one of the wards of the French army hospiptal at Toulon.  Dr. Dumain, who was showing me through the hospital and who had been called away to attend a delirious patient in another ward, had told me the man's name was Bonnot, and that he had shot himself in the breast two days before in the barracks at the fort.

I had started after the doctor, thinking to take advantage of the opportunity to make my escape -- had had enough of the hospital for the day -- and had nearly reached the door, when a hoarse, agitated voice sounded from behind.


I halted.  The man in the cot had turned his head to look at me with eyes tht positively startled me with their expression of poignant, intense suffering.

The outline of his body under the white sheet and the knotty appearance of his arms, which lay outside, showed him to be  big, muscular fellow; his bare shoulders were brown and massive.  His chest and neck were swarthed in bandages; but these details did not enter my conciousness till later.

My whole attention was centered on his eyes, that burned like twin fires of agony; and I told myself that no physical pain could produce so keen a torment.  As I looked, one great, brown arm was outstretched toward me.

"Monsieur, s'il vous plait,"  he murmured.

-- "Target Practice" by Rex Stout (from All-Story Cavalier Weekly, December 26, 1914; reprinted in Stout's collection Target Practice, 1998)

And so Bonnot tells his story.  He was born in Alsce, some fifteen mies from the French border.  Hi only sibling, Theodore, was six years younger.  When the baby was ten months old their father died, leaving the family impoverished.  Family friends offered to take Theodore to Frankfort as their own son.  Bonnet's mother agreed,  Shortly thereaafter, the mother and Bonnet moved to Paris, where she found low-wage work -- never enough to be able to send for Theodore.  Years later they were able to make one trip to Germany where they found Theodore thiving as a uiversity student.  Even later, in 1909, Theodore came to visit them in Paris, staying for two years; he had been sent by the german government to conduct some sort of scientific enquiries.

Bonnot, now in his early thiries, enlisted in the French army and distinguished himself as an artillery marksman.  Working his way up from the ranks, Bonnet became a sergeant and placed in charge of Battery No. 3 in Toulon.  Then the war came and half of the men at his fort were sent to the front but Bonnet remained because of his importance to Battery No. 3.  The colonel at the fort insisted that regular target practices be held.

One day bonnet had a visitor -- his brother Theodore. who said that he had been drafted for the German army but had escaped to come to France.  Overjoyed at being reunited with his borther, Bonneot proudly led him around the fort showing him the big guns arrayed there.  Theodore appeared more interested in talking about the old days in Paris, but all the time his eyes were moving back and forth, taking everything in.  Of course he was a German spy.  Bonnot discovers this, as well as notes Theodore has written, and locks him in the gun room while he goes for the authorities.  When he reached his captain, Bonnot could not bring himself to give his brother up.  He returns to the locked gun room and discovers his brother gone, presumably leping over a parapet across an eighteen foot trench and then over a wall -- something very difficult but not completely impossible.

Suddenly it's time for target practice.  Bonnot inspets the three available guns, only one of which would be used in that day's target practice.  Hidden in the bore of the giant artillery gun was Theodore!   Bonnot tried to convince himself that it was not he who fired the gun, but that it was France itself.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) really needs no introduction.  The creator of Nero Wolfe and Arhis Goodwin was one of the most famous mystery writers of the twentieth century.  He began writing in 1910, selling a few short poems, but by 1912 Stout had begun publishing an array of stories in the pulps and other magazines.  In 1916 he invented the school banking system which was adopted in more than 400 schools, earning him far more money than his writing thur far had ever done.  (Is it still in existence? I wonder.  I remember it being used in my elementry school of too many year ago.) 

His first book, How Like a God, was published in 1929, followed by Seed on the Wind (1930), Golden Remedy (1931), and Forest Fire (1933).  In 1934 his proto-science fiction political thriller The President Vanishes was published anonymously.  1934 also saw publication of the first Nero Wolfe detective novel, Fer-de-Lance.  

Stout was outspoken on many political and intellectual affairs.  He was active in the American Civil Liberties Union, was head of the War Writer's Board during World War II, wrote propaganda for Fight for Freedom, hosted three rdios shows during the war, made numerous public broadcasts and speeches, led The Society for Prevention of World War III, was active in the United World Federalists, supported the nascent United Nations, led the Author's League of America during the McCarthy era, was the long-time president of the Author's Guild, and was the 14th president of the Mystery Writer's of America and received its Grand Master Award in 1959.  

Two of Stout's books are particularly close to my heart.  The Doorbell Rang was a Nero Wolfe novel that ended with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover grovelling at Wolfe's doorstep.  Reportedly, one third of Stout's (again reportedly) massive FBI file dealt with this book.  In 1942, Stout published The Illustrious Dunderheads, whih published islolationist, anti-World War II, and pro-Nazie statements by sitting members of Congress.  Would that he were alive today to publish a sequel, perhaps titled The Malevolent Dunderheads.


  • Carl Hiaasen & Bill Montalbano, Trap Line and A Death in China.  Thrillers.  Before writing satirical crime novels that deconstruct the great state of Florida, Hiaasen penned three thrillers with fellow reporter Montalbano.  Here are the second and third of that trio.  Trap Line:  "With its dozens of outlying islands and the native Conchs' historically low regard for the law, Key West is a smuggler's paradise.  All that's needed are the captains to run the contrband.  Breeze Albury is one of the best fishing captains on the Rock, and he's in no mood to become the Machine's delivery boy.  So the Machine sets out to persuade him.  It starts by taking away Albury's livelihood.  Then it robs him of his freedom.  But when the Machine threatens Albury's son, the washed-out wharf rat turns into a raging, sea-going vigilante....[it's] a handyful of scruffy Conchs against an armada of drug lords, crooked cops and homicidal marine life.  The resultt is a crime novel of dizzying velocity, filled with enough wrenching plot twists, gritty authentic characters, and enough local color for a hundred tropical shirts."  A Death in China:  "David Wang, Chinese-American art historian, dies shortly after a visit to an ancient tomb housing priceless artifacts.  Officials diagnose death by duck, a fatal confluence of culture shock and rich cuisine.  But Wang's friend Tom Stratton suspects something more sinister, especially after the dead man's brother, a highly placed Party official, tries to have him kidnapped.  From a nightmarish interrogation to assassination by cobra, A Death in China takes readers on a trip with no rest stops through a world of claustrophobic mistrust and terrifying danger."   A different Carl Hiaasen than many of his readers would recognize.

Tribute:   Christina posted this on Facebook last Wednesady:

It had been one month since my mother passed away.  In that month we celebrated AJ turning 50, Kaylee turning 26 and we went on a cruise.  School has started up and we have had 4 weeks of dealing with very difficult, very trying behaviors with Jack.  The kind that make you question everything you are doing as a parent and seriously wonder if we are ever going to come through the other side of this.  Pop has gone back to the beach with us, after a 4 month hiatus.  I know there are a lot of close families out there and I know most everyone feels a tremndous hole when they lose their mother.  But the absence of Nana is ginormous.  The impact and importance she had with our family literally cannot be put into words.  I have been thinking about this for the last month and I truly can't say anything about Nana in less than 77,000 pages.  Besides all that she accomplished on her own as her own person, what she did for me and my family can not be completely expressed.  Nana had great struggles in her private life.  some of which I didn't fully understand at the time.  But she ALWAYS showed up for me, which I also didn't fully comprehend at the time.  Nana completely believed in me and my abilities to accomplish something, way more than I ever believed in myself.  That is a huge asset in life, to have such a cheerleader in your corner.  Nana and Pop took care of my children for 22 years.  22 years of me knowing that my kids were safe and wholely loved, so I could work with a clear conscience.  I was able to switch careers several times, because Nana was willing and able to watch my kids so I could go back to school.  Nana was the reason we got Jack.  I had an opportunity to take in an 8 month old boy (who was not Jack).  But I couldn't do it without the support and help from Nana/Pop.  They were completely willing to disrupt their lives and help me with another person's child.  The situation fell apart at the very last second, we were literally getting in the car to pick the baby up.  I was more devasted and heartbroken than I thought I would be.  I didn't realize how much I wanted another child until this one fell through.  Nana suggested we beome a foster family and we did.  When we got the opportuity for a 6 week old (Jack), Nana was very quick to say yes, she could help us with him.  she held my hand and kept me centered during the entire 2 year battle to get Jack, and the medical problems we went through early on and the ongoing behavioral,problems since then.  There are so many ways, big and small, that Nana was there for me.  If I spent a year talking about all the things Nana did for me, I wouldn't be able to scratch the surface.  I ALWAYS talked to Nana...all the time.  For advice or to vent or to extremely process things.  I look to her now to do that, but she is no longer here.  This past month has been quieter (even with Jack around).  Partly because Nana would always have the TV on 24/7 with the volume up at 78.  But the TV is not on as much now, but the force that Nana brought to the family is also gone.  Over the summer, I was sending out email updates to my extended family about the medical saga we were going through.  On the final email, I wrote tht we had reached the end of the road.  But I have realized that the road doesn't really end.  It keeps on going, but the journey is just much quieter now.

One note:  Kitty suffered from severe tinnitus all her life nd her way of coping with it was to have the television or radio playing constantly, usually very loud.

And for the curious, here are my three favorite gals:

And Christina and a friend:

And Jack with a buddy:

And Jessamyn's comment whe she heard that Queen Elizabeth had passed away.  "I think Nana had just invited her to tea, and so she went.  Nobody refuses Nana."

Saturday the tribe (seven of us0 went and got tattoos inhonor of Kitty.  Mine (my first and only) was the ALS sign for "I love you" on my left ankle -- the same tattoo and location of Kitty's (first and only) tattoo that was done last year.

Kiva:    Sometimes the world and all its problems seem just to much to handle.  We may not be able to solve the big problems but each of us can take tiny steps that mean a lot to make the world a better place.   Kiva is an international microfinance charity that provides microloans to those who are traditionally locked out of regular financial avenues -- low income entrepeneurs and students in 77 countries.  Over 81% of the borrowers are female and the total repayment rate is 96%.  Nearly 2 million loans have been made through Kiva, with over 3000 borrowers in conlfict zones such as Ukraine.  Over one and a quarter  million brrowers are from lest developed countries,  Kiv supports over a million farmers worldwide.  A quarter million borrowers now have access to clean energy.  More than 72,000 educational loans have neen given.

As little as $25 can get one started.  As I mentioned, therepayment rate by borrowers is over 96%.  The money can then be reinvested in another loan, so the $25 initial seed can be recycled many times.  It's a gift that can jeep giving.  Although it's not a gift, it's a loan and it can be repaind to the donor at any time.

I have opened a Kiva account to honor Kitty's memory.  It is a cause that she firmly believed in nd it's a way for me to make a small impact on the world.

I do not wish to push this or any other organization on you.  For those of you who do give chariitably, microfinance may be something that appeals to you.  Kiva has a website (kiva,org) and a high rating on Charity Navigator, which is a very reliable source of information on all sorts of charities.  In this day and age, ll charities should be vetted before you donte.

Pudge:   With the start of football season, it's a good time to look back on the career of Pudge Heffelfinger, the first paid professional American football player.  Born in 1867 in the then-small community of Minneapolis, Pudge was a large, athletically-gifted youth.  The six foot three inch Pudge played both baseball and football in high school and, during his junior and senior high school years, occasionally played both sports for the University of Minnesota -- a catcher for baseball, and a halfback for football.  Pudge had intended to go to the University of Minnesota but a local fan and Yale alumnus convinced him to apply to Yale, tutoring Pudge so he could pass the entrance exam.  The first day of freshman practice in 1888, the captain of the varsity spotted Pudge, liked what he saw, and placed him on the varsity lineup.  Despite his tremendous talent as an athlete, Pudge had a quiet, unassuming manner and did not have the "killer" instinct that the game required; after many efforts to rouse that instinct, it took a sharply worded letter from one of the graduate coach to raise Pudge from his lethargy.  Pudge went on to play his best game of the year then, soon becoming a "terror to his opponents."  The Yale football tram that year went undefeated and untied, but was also not scored against, with a season record of 698-0.

During his years at Yale, Pudge Heffelfinger was a three-time All American.  The Yale team lost only two games during those four years.  Not content at excelling at football, Pudge also was on the school's rowing, baseball, and track teams, and won the university's heavyweight championship.

Following his years at Yale, Pudge played amateur football for the Chicago Athletic Association and was arguably the best player at the time.  Pudge was sought after by two Pittsburg teams for animprtant upcoming game between the two rivals, the Pittsburg Athletic Club and the Allegheny Athletic Association.  The Pittsburg club offered him $250 to play the game for their team.  Pudge refused, either because it ws too little money or because he did not want to risk his amateur standing.  The Allegheny team doubled Pittsburg's offer, so on the day of the game, Pudge Heffelfinger was wearing an Allegheny uniform.  Allegheny won the game 4-0, with Pudge making the only touchdown.  (Touchdowns were worth only four points back then.)  The payment to Pudge was not known until the 1960s.

Pudge Heffelfinger became the head football coach for the University of California at Berkeley in 1893, for Lehigh university in 1894, and for the University of Minnesota in 1895.

Following his coaching career, Pudge joined the family footwear manufacturing business in Minneapolis until 1910, followed by an active career in real estate.  A Republican, Pudge was a delgate to the Republican National Conventions of 1904 and 1908.  He was elected to the Heppepin County Board of Commissions, an office he held for 24 years, serving four years as its chairman.  He twice ran for Republican Primary for Minnesota's 5th Congessional District as a "wet" during prohibition, losing both times to a "dry."

He remained active in football, voluntarily coaching the Yale Bulldogs from the sidelines, taking part in scrimmages and in charity and exhibition games until he was 65.  From 1935 to 1950 he edited the yearly Heffelfinger's Footbal Facts.  In 1951 he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.  In 2015 he was inducted into the Pittsburg Pro Football Hall of Fame.   Although Pudge Heffelfinger has not been elected to the wider Pro Football Hall of Fame, I suspect it will be just a matter of time.

Red Riding Hood:   A 1992 cartoon version of the classic tale, from the childrne's book by James Marshall.  Narrated by Donal Donnelly.

Cleopatra:   The classic H. Rider Haggard novel in a Classics Illustrated comoic book.

Milk Shakes:   Today is National Chocolate Milkshake Day!

I know that none of you need instructions on how to make a choclate milkshake, and certainly not instructions with step by step videos, but...

The link does has a few suggestions on how to spice up your milkshake, but there is no mention on how to make a malted which is one of my favorites.  Bah!

Florida Man:
  •  Florida Man Nathaniel Singleton, 71, was one of 20 person arrested for voting illegally in the 2022 election in a sham crack-down by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  Singleton said that he did not realize that he was ineligible to vote.  In fact, he had been told by the state Board of Corrections that all of his rights had been automatically restored.  (This is in line with what many of others who were arrested had stated.)   Singleton had obtained a voter crd after signing up with the Supervisor of Elections in his county.  A 2018 ballot measure allowed felons to restore their right to vote.  The republican-led legislature, which had not beenin favor of the initiative namged to add a few caveats to muddle up the process, including a requirement that felons repay all money owed to the state before being allowed to vote.  Most felons do not know if they owe any such money and have never beeninformed of the fact.  Record keeping is so nebulous that it is difficult to determine who owes what, if anything.  The formlprocess to restoring one's voting rights is also muddled and unclear and most have no idea it exists.  All of this makes perfect fodder for a politician aiming for a higher office and wanting to throw some red meat to his most conservative followers.  And, really?  You cuold only find twenty felons out to destroy democracy out of how many million voters, Ron?
  • Florida Men Joel O'Grady, 38, and his son Julian Falkinberg, 21, both of Sanford, are wanted for knocking another man unconscious at a wedding reception, then kicking the man repeatedly before they fled.  A tender little memory for the bride and groom of their most important day.
  • In another case of 'Is our children learning?" Florida teacher Diane Tirado was fired as an eighth grade history teacher at a school in Port St. Lucie apparantly for issuing zeroes on class assignments that were not turned in or even started.  Although she is a ong-time teacher, Tirado was new to the Port St. Lucie school system and to its "no zero" grading poliicy.  It turns out "the student and parent handbook declares 'NO ZEROES -- LOWEST POSSIBLE GRADE IS 50%.'  in bright red lettering."  School adminstrators confirmed the policy to Tirado, who felt it was wrong to give half credit for not doing the work.  She gave out the zeroes,  Then she was fired.  Becuse she was new to the system, Tirano was still under a probationary period and no reason need to be given for the dismissal.  But we all have a pretty good idea what the reason was.
  • Florida Woman Julia Kinsey Hoover, 39, was arrested after a former student at the Christian private school she worked at accused her of "twerking" against him at his prom two years ago.  The student claimed that Hoover pressured him to drink and began "twerking" on him several times during the evening.  The student said her actions made him uncomfortable and he left the floor each time it happened.  Sheriff's Investigator Brian Cruse said that he had interviewed two witness who confirmed the incident.  He also said that he foundout Hoover had solicited sex from a student via text messages.  Either things like this did not happen while I was in high school or I was too dumb to notice.

Good News:
  • Pipes a million times thinner than human hair could be used to deliver personalized therapies to individual cells
  • Mankuna honey could help clear the deadly bacteria which causes cystic fibrosis
  • A mythical Welsh kingdom drowned by the sea could have existed according to glacier reserch and a famous map
  • Grandma lost 250 pounds and is now a bodybuilder after saggy skin removal
  • Long lost brothers to be reunited after 77 years and 10,000 miles
  • Pakistan's first female architect delivers bmboo-built relief shelters after devasting floods
  • Scientists discover how to starve key growth hormwone from melanoma cells in new breakthrough

Today's Poem:
A Poem for Queen Elizabeth II

Philip came to me today,
and said it was time to go.
I looked at him and smiled,
as I whispered that 'I know."

I then turned and looked behind me,
and saw I was asleep.
All my Family were around me,
and I could hear them weep.

I gently touched each shoulder,
with Philip at my side.
then I turned away and walked
with My Angel guide.

Philip held my hand,
as he led the way.
to a world where Kings and Queens
are Monarchs every day.

I was given a crown to wear,
or a Halo lnown by some.
The difference is up here,
they are worn by everyone.

I felt a sense of peace,
my reign had seen its end.
70 years I had served my country,
as the peoples' friend.

Thank you for the years,
for all your time and love.
Now I am one of two again,
in our Palace up above.

-- Joanne Boyle

Saturday, September 10, 2022


 The John Marshall Family.

Friday, September 9, 2022


 Cartoonist Elzie Segar created The Thimble Theater in 1919, with many of the episodes depicting short "melodramatic" and absurd plays featuring the recurring cast of Olive Oyl, Ham Gravy (a.k.a. Harold Hamgravy), Olive's brother Castor, Willie Wormwood, Winnie Woogle, Harry Hardegg, and others.  The Thimble Theater replaced Ed Wheelan's Midget Movies comic strip for the King Features syndicate when Wjheelan moved on to create Minute Movies.  After its first decade, The Thimble Theater added a character who liked spinach and had huge forearms...and comic strip history was changed.

The link takes you eleven of the playlets, crude artwork and all.


Thursday, September 8, 2022


 Death at the Isthmus by George Hrmon Coxe  (1954)

Jim Russell, a  lawyer who had been gravely wounded in the Phillipines durng the war, receives a request from Max Darrow, the man who had saved his life back in 1945:  a letter, with enclosed airplane tickets.  

Dear Russ:

I can use that favor you think you owe me.  If you can't make it as scheduled, cable and change reservation to suit yourself.  The sooner the better.



Although Jim had never been close to Max -- Max had always been too much of a wheeler-dealer who was apt to skirt legal niceties -- Jim had been burdened for nine years with the thought that he was in the other man's debt.  So off he went to Panama City, hoping to erase that obligation.

What Max Darrow asked of him was simple enough.  Max had a son, a six-year-old boy he had never seen.  Things were getting too hot in Panama for Max and there had been threats (and attempts) on his life.  Max handed Jim an envelope with $8000 in it, and two small packages, one with a cheap, souvenir imitation tortoise-shell cigarette case and the other with a gold St. Christopher medallion on a chain.  The boxes were to go to Shorty Maloff, a friend of Max's, who would get the medallion to Max's son; the cigarette case was for Shorty, just the sort of cheap gimcrack he would appreciate.  The cash would be used for the boy's education, something that Jim, as a lawyer, could handle.  A simple request and one that Jim could handle easily.

But it turns out that Max did not have a son.  This was just a ruse use Jim to get the packages through customs without raising suspicioin.  Inside the cigarette case was a fortune in emeralds.   The gems were legally Max's, but by using Jim, Max could avoid a very heavy customs fee.  And Max was right about being afraid for his life.  Within a day, Max was dead on his apartment floor, shot.

The suspects included Max's partner in a small air freight company,  a night club singer who had been Max's one-time mistress, Max's current mistress, a retired army major who happened to be married to the current mistress, a beautiful young girl attempting to retrieve $10,000 owed to her father from a shipping company that Max owned, a restaurant maitre de who had been Max's silent partner, some Texas gunrunners who had been stiffed by Max and one of his partners, and a group of insurrectionists who wanted the missing weapons.  Assigned to solve the murder as Inspector General Hector Quesada of the Panamanian Secret Police, a calm, thoughtful man who was not above kidnapping people from the Canal Zone to bring them into the country proper where he had authority.

In the center of all this was Jim Russell, the man who found the body -- and later, another body -- and who was not allowed to return to the United States until the murder was solved.  And there was the young girl in danger whom Jim had fallen in love with.

A fast pace, sharp characterizations, and a vivid locale add up to a pleasant evening's read.

George Harmon Coxe (1901-1984) had been called "the professional's porfessional" by Anthony Boucher.  Best known for his stories about newspaper photographer Flashgun Casey, as well as his books about Kent Murdock, another newspaper photographer, Coxe was name an MWA Grandmaster in 1964.  He published well over 60 novels from 1935 to 1975, had a solid career in the pulps, and worked in both film and television.  His character Flashgun Casey took to the radio airwaves from 1943 to 1950, and the again from 1954 to 1955; Darrin McGavin played Casey on television during its 1951-1952 run; Casey even made a brief appearance in comic books for four issues in 1949-1950 .

Casey appeared in five novels and pne stpry collection by Coxe, as well as in one pseudonomynous novel by Edward S, aarons.  Murdock appeared in 23 novels.  Other series characters by Coxe included Jack Fenner ( a newspaper colleague of Murdock), who appeared in three novels with Murdock as well as in one solo novel, Sam Crombie, Maxfield Chauncey Hale, and medical examiner Paul Standish.

About one half of Coxe's novels were stand-alones, with the majority of them taking place in the Caribbean.  Cox had a freer rein with these sstandalones and was able to draw tighter characters without the fear of radically changing a series character.  

Detective work seldom figured into Coxe's mysteries, relying far more on suspense and plot.  None of his novels could ever reach the classic status as those of a Christie, Sayers, Carr, or Queen, but as with his fellow contemporary Graand Masters Hugh Pentecost, Baynard Kendrick, and Aaron Marc Stein, George Harmon Coxe always provided solid entertainment.

Saturday, September 3, 2022


 The Chuck Wagon Gang.

Friday, September 2, 2022


 Andy Devine (1905-1977), the talented character actor who sounded as if he gargled with ground glass, was a big part of my childhood.  Known maninly for his appearances in western films nd television, Devine played Roy Rogers' sidekick Cookie in ten films and was Jingles, the sidekick in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok on both radio (1951-1956) and television (1951-1958).  His girth, voice, and gentle manner made Devine a natural to play the comic relief, but Devine could also handle serious roles such as the hero in Island in the Sky (1953) or the detective in Pete Kelly's Blues (1955). 

I have fond memories of his children's program Andy's Gang, which ran from 1955 to 1960.  The show was a successor to Smilin' Ed McConnell and His Buster Brown Gang (later Smilin' Ed's Gang) and featured McConnell with a cast of charcters that included Froggy the Gremlin and Midnight the Cat.  Andy Devine took over the hosting duties in 1954 after McConnell died of a heart attack.  Devine inherited the characters as well as the sponsor, Buster Brown shoes.  (one of the characters was Tige, Buster Brown's dog, who lived in a shoe with Buster.  The show also carried over some of the trademark bits from its predecessor -- the phrase "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!", Froggy's introductory "Hiya, kids, hiya!", and Midnight the Cat's "Nice." (Froggy was always the troublemaker and kids loved him for it.)  Somehow Andy Devine managed to hold together many of the old shticks and make them his own.  He ended each show by saying, "Yes, sir, we're pals, and pals always stick together.  And now, gang, don't forget church or Sunday school."

Fawcett's Andy Devine Western ran for only two issues and fetured humorous stories about Devine.  The cover of the first issue stated, "Introducing -- The master of mirth and girth, that's why he's the rage of the sage!"  And on the cover of the second issue:  "Our hero's an absolute zero...that's why he's the jest of the west."  Ah, but Andy Devine was much more than that...He deserved a longer run.


Thursday, September 1, 2022


 Day Care by John Russo (1985)

John Russo (b. 1939) is a screenwriter, film director, and author who may be best known for co-writing the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead with director George Romaro.  (He also had a brief acting gig in that film as the first ghoul who is stabbed in the head.)   From that point on, much of his career has been defined by that paricular type of visceral horror genre.  Among the films he wrote were Midnight (1982; a.k.a. Backwoods Massacre), The Majorettes (1986, a.k.a. One by One), and Voodoo Dawn (1991; a.k.a. Strange Turf) -- all three -- plus Night of the Living Dead -- were novelized by Russo.  A full two dozen of his thirty-one published books are in the horror genre, at least four of which are in the Living Dead franchise.  Most of his books were published as paperback originals, many of them during the late Seventies-Eighties "horror boom."

Day Care was Russo's ninth novel and the seventh to be published by Pocket Books.  The cover (Frank Morris) shows a young girl whose pretty face hides a distorted skull, complete with bulging eyeball.  That kind of sets the tone for Russo's novels.  You know you are not going to get nuanced prose.

What you do get is a sensualized tale of extreme mind control in which the victims of sexual violence at the hands of psychopathic killer are teenage girls.  Because of this the first third of the book is more than a little icky.  Things pick up after that.  It's as if Russo had to get the sexual fantasizing thing out the way before he could get to the meaty, more sinister/less kinky part of the book.

Reminiscent of Dean Koontz's 1976 novel Night Chills, in which a scientific discovery allowed the total mind control of others, Day Care explores a similar technique developed by rogue scientists Vincent and Carol Parkhurst.  Secretly funded by the NSA, the Parkhursts founded the Fairchild Academy, a premiere private educational institute for primary through high school grades, as well as the Fairchild Eductional and Psychological Research Center.  Admission to the ultra-exclusive Academy ensured top college placements and a major start in life.  Unknown to the students and to most parents, the Academy was home to the Ultrachild Project and its Brain Augmentation System, in which a controlling microchip was implanted in the skulls of selected students.  Those students had an overwhelming desire to study and to achieve in school.

The chips could also be used to control emotions.  It would be a simple matter to trun a quiet student into a raging killing machine, or a studious, quiet schoolgirl into a nymphomaniac.  Enter the young man who wants us to know him by the name "Augie."  He is a graduate of the Fairchild Academy.  He is also a computer hacker.  His hacking skills have given him the knowledge of the Ultrachild Project and the Brain Augumentation System and he's been able to use that knowledge to control students.  His goal is to destroy Fairchild Academy and the program that had allowed it to control him while a student.

The government has decided to expand the Ultrachild Project to pre-schoolers and Fairchild Academy in about to introduce a pre-school program to its offerings.  Linda Berkshire is the over-doting, over-achieving mother of four-year-old Shana, who has been pushed into beauty contests, modelong gigs, and commercials.  (This was some ten or eleven year before JonBenet Ramsey.)  Shana's father, Ray, an advertising executive, is wary of Linda's ambitions for their daughter but is emotionally overpowered by Linda's single-mindedness.  An acquaintance of Linda's -- a fellow stage mother -- arranges for Shana to gain admission to the Fairchild pre-school program.  

Unknown to either parent Shana is chipped, setting the stage for a violent ending that threatens the Berkshire family and may call for the ruin of the Fairchild Academy.  Helping to propel things along is Augie.

In the end what we have is two books.  The first, a pandering tale of sexual voyeurism, then a suspenseful tale of slowly growing tension.  It would have been better if Russo had decided which he wanted to write and then went ahead with it.

Also it should be noted that there is no "day care" in the book.  Go figure.