Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, October 2, 2022


Openers:  THE FIRST DAY.

Mr. George Morris stood with his arms folded on the bulwarks of the steamship City of  Buffalo, and gazed down into the water.  All around him was the bustle and hurry of passengers embarking, with friends bidding good-bye.  Among the throng, here and there, the hardworking men of the steamer were getting things in order for the oncoming voyage.  Trunks were piled up in great heaps ready to be lowered into the hold; portmanteaux, satchels, and hand-bags, with tags tied to them, were placed in a row waiting to be claimed by the passengers, or taken down into the state-rooms.  To all this bustle and confusion George Morris paid no heed.  He was thinking deeply, and his thoughts did not seem to be very pleasant.  There was nobody to see him off, and he had evidently very little interest in either those who were going or those who were staying behind.  Other passengers who had no friends to bid them farewell seemed to take a lively interest in watching the hurry and scurry, and in picking out the voyagers from those who merely came to say good-bye.

At last the rapid ringing of  bell warned all lingerers that the time for the final parting had come.  There were final hand-shakings, many embraces, and not a few tears, while men in uniform with stentorian voices cried, "All ashore."  The second clanging of the bell, and the preparations for pulling up the gang-planks hurried the laggards to the pier.  After the third ringing the gang-plank was hauled away, the inevitable last man sprang to the wharf, the equally inevitable last passenger , who had just dashed up in a cab, flung his valises to the steward, was helped on board the ship, and then began the low pulsating stroke, like the beating of a heart, that would not cease until the vessel had sighted land on the other side.  George Morris's eyes were fixed on the water, yet apparently he was not looking at it, for when it began to spin away from the sides of the ship he took no notice, but still gazed at the mass of seething foam that the steamer threw off from her as she moved through the bay.  It was evident that the sights of New York harbour were familiar to the young man, for he paid no attention to them, and the vessel waas beyond Sandy Hook before he changed his position.  It is doubtful he would have changed it then, had not a stewart touched him on the elbow, and said --

"Any letters, sir?"

-- "In a Steamer Chair" by Robert Barr (from In a Steamer Chair, and Other Shipboard Stories, 1892

And what has put George Morris in such a mood?  We get a hint when he sees a certain blonde lady n board and immediately runs from her sight.  He tries to get a tender to take him back to shore but it is too late.  George is stuck on the ship until it arrives in England.  While avoiding the blonde he meets Katherine Earle, an attractive brunette travelling alone.  He is fascinated by Katherine but he remains an enigma and is not one to let her feelings show.  Unknown to George, Katherine was a sales clerk in the large department store in which George has recently been made a junior partner.  The blonde woman tells Katherine that she is engaged to George and has been for several years.  He's lying of course; they had been engaged before he made partner but she dropped him to marry a very rich, very old man.  There is a lot f cnfusin and a lt f amusing repartee between Katherine and gerge befre the whle thing is resslved.  Tacked on to the end of the story is Katherine's back story which, to my mind, was unneccesary and dragged the tale on a tad too much.  "In a Steamer Chair" hinges in the back and frth give-and-take between Katherie and George.  As I read this my mind's eye pictured Cary Grant as George and a mix of  Audrey and Katherine Hepburn as Katherine.

Robert Barr (1849-1912) was a popular Scottish-Canadian writer and journalist.  With Jerome K. Jerome (the famous author of Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing About the Dog) ), he founded The Idler magazine.  He was the author of numerous mystery novels and stories, including the classic The Triumphs of Eugene Valmont.  A close friend of Conan Doyle, Barr wrote arguably the first Sherlock Holmes parody, "Detective Stories Gone Wrong:  The Adventures of Sherlaw Kombs" (also known as "The Great Pegram Mystery").  Describing Barr, Doyle wrote. "a volcanic Anglo -- or rather, Scot-American, with a violent manner, a wealth of strong adjectives, and one of the kindest natures underneath it all."  Barr completed The O'Ruddy, a novel unfinished by his good friend Stephen Crane at his death.  Despite often using stereotypical characters, Barr's fiction can be witty, ironic, and enjoyable.


  • "R. T. Campbell" (Ruthven Campbell Todd), Bodies in a Bookshop.  "Botonist Max Boyle visits 'a curius little shop on a side-street off the Tottenham Court Road' in Londono and is delighteed with the bibliophilic trrasures he finds.  He also stumbles across something less pleasant:  in a back room, an unlit gas ring emits its noxious fumes, and two corpses lie sprawled on the floor.  Boule calls in 'The Bishop' -- Chief Inspector Reginald F. Bishop of Scotland Yard -- who in turn coaxes Professor John Stubbs, a rotund Scottish botonist and amateur criminologist, to lend his assistance.  The salty old professor, quaffing pint after pint of good British beer, his pipe emitting clouds of foul smoke; the protesting Boyle, who would rather be basking in the sun on the Scilly Islands; and the polite, skeptical, world-weary Bishop soon delve beneath the tip of a sinister iceberg to discover skullduggery amd dark deeds."
  • David Drake, Seas of Venus.  Omnibus science fiction collection of two novels:  Surface Action and The Jungle, both set on a Venus firt created by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore in Clash by Night and Fury.  In the firt, "Johnnie Gordon was born to wealth and privilege in the Keeps, but his whole life has been dedicated to becoming a warrior of the Free Companies like his uncle.  Now his chance has come -- a deadly struggle through hellish jungle to steal the enemy's most powerful battleship.  If Johnnie succeeds, then one more duty awaits him:  a duty that will haunt his nightmares forever.  But if he fails, Venus will die as surely as the atom-blasted Earth died; and Mankind will die also."    In the second, "Brainard's torpedoboat was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a salvo of shells flung him and his crew ashore in their wrecked vesssel.  Without a radio, they're as good as dead -- unless they can cross the island through a jungle where every animal is a danger and the plants are worse.  Brainard and his fellow Free Companions are hard men who've faced death in battle, but now their enemy is a green Hell that wants not only to defeat them but to devour it will some day devour all of Mankind -- unless Brainard and his crew survive, and they can turn the lessons they've learned in the jungle against the even greater enemy that lurks in the Keeps themselves!"  Also included in this volume is the author' travelogue of ten days spent in the jungles, reefs, and temples of Belize.
  • Cas Dunlap, Celestial Blues.  Science fiction, the third book (circa 2001) in the author's Pensacola Beach Trilogy.  According to the author, all three books stand independently.  "Once again, there are more things in the sky over Pensacola Beach than the Blue Angels.  and this time they're snatching members of the beach population.  With locals vanishing left and right, Sheriff Slidell Goodbee is called into action to deal with extraterrstial kidnappers.  Fortunately, Ernie 'Honest Ernie' Brown, self-styled King of the Beach Boys, is still around to help out, along with his new friend and celestial scientist, Professor Dorcus Hurple.  If alien skullduggery wasn't enough to turn the peaceful little island community upside down, there's a local war, aka an election, going on,  Unfortunatly for the sheriff and the beach version of sanity, politics and alien invasions do indeed make strange bedfellows and are giving Pensacola the Celetial Blues."  As you can probably tell from the last sentence, this book was written by a local (by way of Dallas) author who lists five previous books.   My copy was signed and inscribed and for fifty cents at the local thrift store I could not let it go. 
  • L. Ron Hubbard & Dave Wolverton, A Very Strange Trip.  Science fiction novel.  "Caught by police with moonshine in the trunk of his uncle's car, Everett Dumphee is faced with the decision to spend ten yearss in prison or enlist in the United States Army.  He opts for what he thinks is freedom -- a hitch in the Army.  Due to bureauratic negligence, Dunphee -- incorrrectly labeled as the fastest bootleg driver in West Virginia -- is issued the occupational specialty designation of Expert Truck Driver.  Subsequently, he is selected for a top - assignment in a newly designed and state-of-the-art All Terrain Vehcle.  While transporting a contraband Russian time machine and developmental weaponry from Trenton Arsenal in New Jersey to the Experimental Weapons Battalion in Denver, Colorado, Dumphee finds himself cast in new settings when the device suddenly activates.  What follows are fantastic, high-tech experiences that might be called the ultimate off-road adventure."  Adapted and epanded by Wolverton from a short story and film script by Hubbard.
  • Brian Keene, Urban Gothic.  Horror.  "When their car broke down in a dangerous neighborhood of the inner city, Kerri and her friends thought they would find shelter in the old dark row house.  They thought it was abandoned.  They thought they would be safe until morning.  They were wrong on all counts.  The residents of the row house live in the cellar and rarely come out in the light of day.  They're far worse than anything on the streets outside.  And they don't like intruders.  Before the sun comes up, Kerri and her firends will fight for their very lives...though death is only part of their nightmare."  Keene was the recipient of the 2014 World Horror Grandmaster Award.
  • James Kestrel, Five Decembers.  Mystery.  "December 1941:  America teeters on the brink of war, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, police detective Joe McGrady is assigned to investigate a homicide that will change his life forever.  Because the trail of murder he uncovers will lead him across the Pacific, far from home and the woman he loves; and though the U.S. doesn't know it yet, a Japanese fleet is already steaming toward Pearl Harbor.  Thei extraordinary novel is so much more than just a gripping crime story -- it's a story of survival against all odds, of love and loss and the human cost of war.  Spanning the entirety of World War II, Five Decembers is a beautiful, masterful, powerful novel that will live in your memory forever."  There has been mega buzz about this book, which won an Edgar for Best First Novel.  I'm looking forward to reading it.
  • Yoon Ha Lee, Tiger Honor.  Young adult science fiction novel in the Thousand Worlds sequence.  "Sebin is a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan who wants nothing more than to join the Thousand Worlds Space Forces and, like their uncle Hwan, captain a battle cruiser someday.  But when Sebin's accceptance letter finally arrives, it's accompanied by the sho cking news that Hwan has been declared a traitor.  Apparently the captain abandoned his duty in order to steal a magic artifact, the Dragon Pearl, and his whereabouts are still unknown. 
    Sebin hopes to help clear their hero's name and restore honor to the clan.  Nothing goes according to plan, however,  As soon as Sebin arrives for orientation, they are met by a special investigator named Yi and Yi's assistant, a girl named Min.  Yi informs Sebin that they must immediately report to the ship Hectae and await further instructions.  Sebin finds this highly unusual, but soon all protocol is forgotten when there's an explosion on ship, the crew is knocked out, and the communication system goes down.  It's up to Sebin, three other cadets, and Yi and Min to detemine who is sabotaging the battle cruiser.  When Sebin is suddenly accused of collaborating with the enemy, the cadet realizes that the most dangerous foe of all is...Min"  Lee, an award-winner author, combines Korean mythology with science fiction in this series.  Because I am an old faart, I find the use of "they" as a singular pronoun a bit off-putting.  I know I should change with the times but it does confuse me, almost as much as the various gender identities now inn common usage.  Bear with me.  I'll learn eventually.
  • Joyce Carol Oates, Dis mem ber"  and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense.  Seven stories of "girls and women confronting the danger around them, and the danger hiddenninside their turbulent selves."  Stories (from 2015-17) are taken from Boulevard, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Vice, Idaho Review, and anthologies edited by Michael Carr and Ellen Datlow
  • Mickey Zucker Reichert, Isaac Asimov's I, Robot:  To Obey.  Science fiction novel based on Asimov's Robot series.  "Susan Calvin is about to enter her second year as a psych resident at the Manhattan Hasbro treaching hospital when a violent crime strikes very close to home.  When she was young, Susan lost her mother in a terrible car wreck that also badly injured her father.  She now believes the accident was orchestrated by government officials who wanted her parents dead.  Susan has always known there was a faction of the U.S. government that wanted to hijack her father's work for military use.  Now it seems that faction is back.  As she struggles to overcome her pain and confusion, as well as deal with her studies, Susan finds herelf hunted by violent antitech vigilantes who would revert mankind to the Dark Ages -- and at the same time she's being watcched very closely by extremists who want high-tech genocide.  Somehow she must find a way to stop them both."  This is the second of three books in Reichert's I, Robot series.
  • Kate Wilhelm, Sleight of Hand.  A Barbara Holloway legal thriller.  "When a seemingly simple case turns complicated, respected attorney Barbara Holloway must rethink her game plan.  The route to justice is paved with nothing but lies, and Barbara must make a judgment call that leaves her no option.  Gregarious Vegas entertainer Wally Lederer has a lucrative showbiz career, but when a childhood friend accuses him of stealing a valuable artifact, his checkered past comes back to haunt him.  Wally claims he's turned his life around since spending time in the slammer for picking pockets, but will the police believe him?  More important, does Barbara believe him when he pleads his case to her?  Wally swears he's innocent.  But when his accuser is found murdered, Barbara knows Wally is in serious trouble -- the police have named him as their prime suspect.  Barbara begins to dig up the dirt, and before long new evidence points towards an unlikely killer.  Now Barbara must decide if protecting her client by revealing the truth will destroy another life she means to save."  Wilhelm has always been immensely readable, whether in mysteries, science fiction, or general fiction.

Webb:  The universe is a strange and beautiful thing.  We are getting to know more and more about it thanks to the James Webb telescope.  Its website is home to many beautiful and startling images as well as a wealth of information about the telescope, its mission, and the universe around us.

Check it out:

Rob Roy:  Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734) was a Scottish outlaw turned folk hero.  (His mother was a Campbell and his paternal grandfather a MacDonald so you just know he was not going to be an ordinary Scot.)  He took part in the failed Jacobite Uprising of 1689.  From there the story diverges.  Either:  A) he became a successful cattleman who lost a large amount of borrowed money when his chief herder disappeared with the funds and he defaulted on the loan; or, B) his estates were forfeited due to his part in the Jacobite rebellion.  In either case his lands were acquired by the Duke of Montrose -- in the first scenario because Montrose was the major debt-holder, in the second because Montrose purchased the land from the Crown after it had been seized.  In either case Rob Roy MacGregor began a blood feud with Montrose.  In 1712, on October 3rd  -- exactly 310 years ago, Montrose issued an arrest warrant for Rob Roy.  By 1716 Rob Roy was living under the protection of John Campbell, Duke of Argyll, who negotiated an amnesty for him.  The following year, Rob Roy and the clan MacGregor were specifically excluded from the Indemnity Act, which effectively pardoned all who took part in the Jacobite Uprising.  The Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719 had the British army crush a group of Jacobite Scots, in which Rob Roy MacGragor may or may not have been wounded.  By 1722, Rob Roy was forced to surrender and he was imprisoned until his pardon in 1727.  He died some seven years later at age 63.

The legend began with a highly fictionalized account in 1723, The Highland Rogue.  The most famous novel, of course was Walter Scott's Rob Roy, 1817.  Berlioz wrte an overture and Wordsworth wrote a pem.  Rob Roy, an operetta, premiered and in its honor a bartender at the Waldorf Hotel in New York created the Rob Roy cocktail.

Here's Walter Scott's take on the legend, as modified by Classics Illustrated comics:

And Walt Disney's take, from the 1963 film Rob Roy, The Highland Rogue, which featured Richard Todd.  The Disney comic was drawn by comics legend Russ Manning:

Mystery Series Week:  Yesterday marked the start of Mystery Series Week, celebrated durinng the first full of October.  It was created by Purple Moon Press back in 2011 and is a perfect time to reconnect with your favorite mystery characters, whether it be Sherlock Holmes of Jane Marple, Philip Marlowe or Lew Archer, George Smiley or James Bond, Hap and Leonard or Tommy and Tuppence...there are so many to choose from.  For myself, I'm hoping to connect with the lastest Thursday Muder Club novel from Richard Osman or the latest Mike Hammer from Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, although Lawrence Block's The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown sounds real good.

There are just too many great mystery series out there for me to pick a favorite, or even a top ten.  How about you?  Do you have a favorite mystery series?  Or, perhaps there's a book in a certain series you are dying to get ahold of?

Caramel Custard:  Today also happens to be Caramel Custard Day!  Perhaps you can enjoyo a nice caramel custard while reading your favorite mystery series.

Here's Julia Child's recipe (and, Dan Ackroyd fans, you don't even have to save the liver!):

From Somewhere on the Web:  I took a pole the other day and found that 100% of the people in the tent were angry.

Florida Man:
  •  Florida Man Joseph Farkas of Brevard County was arrested and accused of intentionally starving his two dogs.  His charges: two counts of felony animal cruelty and two counts of unlawful containment.  (In Florida, animal cruelty can be either a misdemeanor or a "felony animal cruelty."  Felony animal cruelty is when there is onging pain and suffering rather than an isolated event.  I am not sure how Farkas pleaded, but he did attempt to "come clean" and avoid jail time  -- by drinking liquid detergent.  It didn't work.
  • Florida Man Moises Rios Avila of Kissimmee was a driver for DoorDash evidently did not understand how DoorDash worked.  While delivering an order from Red Robin, Avila noticed an unattended package on the doorstep.  The package was at the Door and Avila Dashed away with it...all caught on a security camera.  Avila was charged with burglary and petty theft, although he claims theincident was merely a "prank."  Avila no longer works for DoorDash.
  • A security camera helped Jennifer Michele of Land O' Lakes when she got a Ring alert while visiting her mother's house.  Using Ring's video feature she saw three Florida Men -- actually two Pasco County Sheriff's Department officers and a leasing company employee -- removing the lock from her front door.   Talking through her Ring system she demanded to kknow what they were doing.  She was told they were finalizing her eviction.  She said no one had told her about an eviction.  They said she was notified the previous week.  She said she was not and that she was up to date on all her bills.  A deputy walked away, then returned and apologized.  The evictin notice was for the house next door.  The Sheriff's Department will pay for a new lock and Jennifer Michele was left wondering what would have happened had she not had the Ring system.
  • Three unidentified Florida teens have been arrested with causing more than $100,000 damage to Jenkins Middle School in Palatka.  Using golf clubs, they broke windows, damaged toilets, left water flowing from sinks, destroyed security cameras, and emptied fire extinquishers.  The trio were caught on the security cameras prior to the cameras being destroyed.  All three were 14 years old.  The teens were charged with first degree felony burglary with more than $1000 in damages, third degree felony criminal mischief, and third degree preventing or obstructing extinquishment of a fire by interfering with the fire extinquishers.  In addition, there was damage to the school's gym, which is owned separately by the City of Palatka, and thus falls under a separate investigation and case.
  • The honeymoon may be over for Florida Man Paul Turovsky, 34, when he was arrested in a prostitution sting that netted 176 people in Hillsborough County.  With his new wife asleep, Turvosky decided to answer an ad for sex and then headed out for the hook-up.  The ad was part of the County Sheriff's Office sting operation.  No word on what Mrs. Turovsky said when she woke up.  Also, no word if it was too late for wedding guests to return their gifts.

Good News:
  •  Experimental Alzheimers drug slows mental decline by 27% in trials
  • Incredible 3D rending from Jupiter spacecraft shows "frosted cupcake" clouds
  • John Cena smashes Guiness World Record -- granting 650 wishes for sick children
  • Revolutionary jab that could repair spinal cord injuries is developed by scientists
  • Youth crime in the U.S. has plummited 78% since 1994, countering the usual narrative
  • A new era for cancer screening emerges as a single blood tst can spot multiple cancers in the early stages
  • New scoliosis brace that grows with the patient wins Dyson Award for grad student who wants to make a difference

Today's Poem:
The Twist

Come on, baby
Let's do the twist
Come on, baby
Let's do the twist
Take me by my little hand
And go like this

E-yah, twist
Baby, Baby, twist
Ooh yeah, just like this
And do the twist

My daddy is sleepin'
And mama ain't around
Yeah, daddy's just sleepin'
And mama ain't around
We're gonna a-twist, a-twist, a-twistin'
'Til we tear the house down

Come on and twist
Yeah, baby, twist
Ooh yeah, just like this
Come on, little miss
And do the twist

Yeah, you should see my little sis
You should see my, my little sis
She really knows how to rock
She knows how to twist

Come on and twist
Yeah baby, twist
Ooh yeah, just like this
Come on, little miss
And do the twist

That's all right
Yeah, twist all night
('Round and 'round and 'round)

-- Hank Ballard
(posted on Chubby Checker's 81st birthday)

Happy birthday, Chubby!

1 comment:

  1. I like the Michael Robotham books (SUSPECT) on his detective with Parkinsons although he seems to have dropped it in favor of standalones.