Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


 "The Case of the Murderer's Bride" by Erle Stanley Gardner (first published in Look, October 15, 1957; reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March 1960; in EQMM #155 (Australia), May 1960; in EQMM #90 (UK), July 1960; in Ellery Queen's Anthology #16, 1969; and in Gardner's collection The Case of the Murderer's Bride and Other Stories, edited by Ellery Queen, 1969.)

Lawrence B. Ives had an interesting and profitable occuation:  murdering his wives.  Of course, Ives would be sure that his wives were heavily insured (in smallish amounts but from a number of different insurance agencies) and that they each died accidentally.  We can assume that Ives was not his real name, for he has had a number of names in the past, most likely one name per wife.  We have no idea how many women he married and then murdered but, by the time of this story, he was 36, pretending to be a 48-year-old widower of independent means; it's safe to assume that it took a goodly number of uxorious corpses to allow him to reach him to reach those independent means.  In his defense he was, at least, not a bigamist;  each wife was good and dead before he moved on to the next one.

His latest wife was the former Nan Palmer, a quiet,unassuming woman who was supporting her mother, sister, and brother by the time she was sixteen.  Her sister had left home when she was 18, wen t through at least two marriages, and eventually stopped communicating with her family.  Nan put her brother through two years of college before he was killed in Korea.  Her mother had numerous medical,problams and, between the doctors bills and nurssng fees, Nan had little money to her name.  Her days, while not at work, were spent in drudgery -- caring for her mother, shopping for food, cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, sewing...

After her mother's death, Nan did not know what to do with herself.  She was a likable person but never had time to cultivate friends or to take much care in her personal appearance.  Ssecretly she harbored the romantic dreams she found in novels featuring an innocent heroine who was swept off her feet by a romantic and dashing Prince Charming.  But those were just dreams and had no bearing on her boring reality.  Until she met Larry Ives through a couple of chance meetings at the local library.  Amazingly, Ives began to appear interested in Nan.

It was not long before the two married -- all according to Ives's plans.  He planned to take her out of her drab past, cutting her off from what few friends she had.  She fell for it as he lavished her with gifts:  expensive clothes and makeovers, as well as exciting new experiences.   Nan blossomed.  Beneath her plain, unattended appearance, there was a surprising beauty and a hidden sophistication -- so much so that Ives briefly considered forgoing his occupation, letting Nan live, and spending the rest of his days with her.

But no.  Work was work, and Ives had invested his capital heavily in his bride.  He needed a return on his investment.  But how to kill her without raising suspicions?   Ives's modus operandi was to read newspapers, searching for unique method of accidental deaths.  Over a period of a few months, there had been three or four cases -- widely spread throughout the country -- of person drowning while swimming out of sight of others.  These all took place on large lakes where the boat the people had ridden in drifted away unnoticed from where they were swimming; by the time they realized that the boat had drifted, it had gotten too far for them to reach.  Perfect!

Enter Corporal Ed Courtland, whose kjob it was to read all the crank mail that came into the police department.  (What kind of police department and where it was located were minor details that are never explained.)  One "crank" letter expressed concern for a former co-worker, Nan Palmer, who had married in a whirlwind courtship, moved away, and never contacted her friends.  The writer, while cleaning out some papers in her attic, came across a picture in an illustrated magazine about a man who had tragically lost his wife in an airplane accident (she had fallen out of a plane because her seat belt was not porpoerly connected).  The picture was of Nan's husband Lawrence Ives.  But the man's name wa Corvallis Fletcher.  The writer as concerned for Nan's safety.

Courtland brought the letter to his friend, Dr. Herbert Dixon, a medico-legal epert in forensic pathology and homicide investigation.  Dixon, like Courtland, became interested.  A they investigted, each became convinced that Ives planned to murder his wife, but they had not a shred of proof.  Learning that Ives had taken his wife to a large Nevada lake formed from a part of the Colorado River, the pair headed out in a desperate attempt to save Nan's life.  It was a very large lake, with lots of inlets, and the chances of them locating Ives were slim...

An interesting set-up, weakened by an unrealistic pair of heroes and a deux ex machina denouement.  The pacing is good and the tale harks back to Gardner's pulp roots and the characters of both Ives and his wife are well-drawn.  It's a fast read so you won't feel cheated taking the time to quickly turn the pages. 

The Case of the Murderer's Bride and Other Stories was an early digest-sized paperback collection edited by "Ellery Queen" during the days when EQMM was published by Davis Publications; it was also the very first collection of Gardner's short stories.  The collection has been reprinted at least three times so copies should be readily available.  All seven stories in the book had been reprinted in EQMM from their original appearances.  Other single author collections from writers like Michael Gilbet and Edward D. Hoch followed.  This followed a more successsful, earlier series of single-author collections edited by Ellery Queen from Mercrury Press, beginning in the Forties, most notably significnt collections of Dashiell Hammett's piulp stories.

Sunday, November 27, 2022


[I finished my radiation treatments this week and have been told that the fatigue they have caused should dissipate over the next few weeks.  If true, I should get back to regular blogging soon.  Recently my life has consisted of take a nap, read a few pages, take another nap, read a few more pages, lather, rinse, repeat...

[In the meantime, here's a few Incoming.]


  • Clifton Adams,  Tragg's Choice.  Western, a winner of the Spur Award for Best Western Novel in 1969.  "For ten years, Owen Tragg lived on his reputation as a hero -- exploited by a slick showman who dressed him up in fringed and beaded buckskin, and billed him as 'the man who killed Jody Barker.'   When the act finally folded, Tragg was relieved.  But before he could head to El Paso to apply for a deputy's job, he had some unpleasant business to take care of at Boser's Creek.  There, Jody Barker's widow waited for him; and there, by a stange twist of fate that had sent a half-starved sodbuster on a killing spree, Tragg, the man, was forced to separate himself from Tragg, the legend.  He was all that stood between two people and death."  Adams published fifty full-length novels and 125 short stories, concentrating mainly on westerns.  His series of seven western novels about Amos Flagg were published as by "Clay Randal."  He wrote crime fiction under his own name and as "Jonathan Gant."  He also published one book as "Nick Hudson" and six westerns as "Matt Kincaid."  Adams was a reliable and entertaining author.  He won one other Spur Award for Best Novel in 1970 for  The Last Days of Wolf Garnett.  His first novel, The Desperado, was filmed twice, in 1954 and in 1958.  Two other films were based on his works.
  • "Luke Adams," Apache Law #2:  Hellfire and Apache Law #4:  Showdown.  Westerns about half-breed lawman Mitch Frye.  In Hellfire, "Mitch Frye had seen a lot of killing in his time.  Back when he was one of the Apache scouts with the 6th Cavalry, he'd seen what an Apache could do to an enemy.  But he'd never seen anything like the body he found in the alley that night.  And it wasn't long before there were more.  It looked like somebody was out to sweep the prostitutes off the streets of Paxton.  Somebody who wasn't using the law to do the job -- but a knife.  But cleaning up the town was Frye's job, and now he had a madman to deal with, a butcher who seemed devoted to his bloody work.  Mitch knew in his gut that the killing wouldn't stop until he and the killer met face to face -- a meeting only one of the would survive."  In Showdown, "Trace Beaumont once saved Mitch Frye from drowning.  Now Trace has shown up in Paxton and wants to renew the friendship.  Trouble is, Trace is now a gunslinger wanted for a string of murders, and Mitch is a lawman.  But Mitch doesn't have a lot of time to worry about his old friend -- he's got other things on his mind.  A cutthroat gang that he threw out of town is coming back to tear the place up and get their revenge on Mitch.  And there aren't a whole lot of folks willing to stand by him and help him face the gunmen down.  It looks like Mitch has no choice but to accept Trace's help.  But he'll always be wondering why Trace came to town in the first place.  And whether he's more likely to get shot by the gang...or by his friend.":  I know that Bill Crider wrote at least one, and perhaps all four, in this series -- can anyone provide more information?
  • Ben Bova, Maxwell's Demons.  Science fiction collection containing a baker's dozen of SF stories, plus two essays from various sources.  Five of the stories are reprinted from Roger Elwood anthologies, two are from Analog, the ramainder are fro individual sources or are original to this book.  Bova's character chet Kinsman makes two appearances and Orion one.  Several of the stories inspired later novels such as The Multiple Man and City of Darkness.  A pretty good overview of Bova's work in the 1970s.
  • Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, editors, Dangerous Games.  Science fiction collection with eleven stories about high-tech games and the dangers therein.  The Dann/Dozois themed anthologies always provide thought-provoking tales from both the usual and unusual sources.  Authors here are Cory Doctorow, Terry Dowling, Gwyneth Jones, Jonathan Letham, Alastair Reynolds, Robert Sheckley, William Browning Spencer, Allen Steele, Jason Stoddard, Vernor Vinge, and Kate Wilhelm -- a pretty impressive lineup.
  • Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Murderer's Bride and Other Stories.  Mystery collection, one of the first single author collections edited by Ellery Queen during EQMM's Davis Publications years.  Seven stories, including one featuring Lester Leith, crook extraordinaire.  Also included is "Death Rides a Boxcar," which had been reprinted in a single volume in paperback in the U.K. in 1945 under the title Over the Hump, making the paperback one of the rarest ESG collectibles.
  • J. F. Gonzalez, Shapeshifter.  Horror novel.  "Mark Wiseman thought he had his curse under control.  He thought he had kept it a secret.  He was wrong.  Bernard Roberts is a very wealthy, powerful man, and he knows all about the curse that flows through Mark's veins.  He knows how Mark's parents were killed.  If Mark wants Bernard to keep this knowledge to himself, he'll have to do what Bernard tells him.  He'll have to use his curse to kill.  But if Mark begins to loosen his grip over the wolf within him, will he lose control of it completely?'   Gonzales was one of the bright lights in horror fiction who wrote 18 novels and published five colletions before his untimely death from cancer at age 50. 
  • Charlie Huston, The Shotgun Rule.  Thriller.  "Blood spilled on the asphalt of this town long years gone has left a stain, and it's spreading.  Not that a thing like that matters to teenagers like George, Hector, Paul, and Andy.  It's summer 1983 in a northern California suburb, and these working-class kids have been killing time in the usual ways:  ducking their parents, tinkering with their bikes, and racing around town getting high and boosting their neighbors' meds.  Just another typical summer break in the burbs.  Till Andy's bike is stolen by the town's legendary petty hoods, the Arroyo brothers.  When the boys break into the Arroyos' place in search of the bike, they stumble across the brothers' private industry:  a crank lab.  Being the kind of kids who rarely know better, they do what comes naturally:  they take a stash of crank to sell for quick cash. But in doing so they unleash hidden rivalries and crimes, and the dark and secret past of their town and families."  I've read a couple of Huston's books and they are damned good.  This one should be no different.
  • J. A. Konrath, Origin.  Thriller.  "In 1906, a crew of workers at the Panama Canal unearthed something that could not be identified or explained.  Something sinister.  And very much alive...One hundred years later, a team of scientists gather at underground facility in New Mexico to determine what this being is -- the most amazing discovery in the history of mankind -- and how it  has managed to survive.  A biologist will analyze its structure.  A veterinarian will study its behavior.  A linguist will translate its language.  But even the greatest minds in the world can not answer one inescapable question:  Could this ancient creature, this mockery of God and nature, actually be the ancient demon known as...the Beast?"  Konrath knows how to spin a story and keep the pages turning.
  • Rob MacGregor, Peter Benchley's Amazon:  The Ghost Tribe.  Aventure novel based on "the acclaimed television phenomenon, Peter Benchley's Amazon," a show I had never heard of.  **sigh**  "A brutal gale battles the pilgrim ship Seaflower, driving the ill-fated vessel off-course toward the coast of South America, leaving it to the mercy of bloodthirsty pirates and murderous tempests,  The year is 1627.  And so begins a drameathat will ultimatley span centuries, as destiny strands a handful of luckless European voyagers in the most inhospitable jungle on Earth.  In a world unfathomed, they must bury their dead and push on deep into the dark and savage land explorers will one day call Amazon.  For them , there is no going back -- only treacherous miles of lush, inpenetrable beauty that camoflages sudden and terrible death.  And there are others waiting and watching, ready to destroy to preserve what no one may truly possess.  But there, in this strange and violent place of wondrous discovery, the small band of settlers is determined to endure at all costs, to buld a new life in a merciless wilderness -- and to forge a remarkable society that will be there to greet another group of the desperate lost more than three hundred years in the future."
  • Walter Mosley, The Gift of Fire and On the Head of a Pin.  Science fantasy, two of the six short novels from Crosstown to Oblivion, printed dos-a-dos (like the old Ace double paperbacks).  In The Gift of Fire, the chains that had bound the mythical Prometheus to a rock "cease to be , and the great champion of man walks from that immortal prison into present-day South Central Los Angeles.  Disheveled and lost, he is thrown in jail, where he meets lifelong criminal Nosome Blane.  Shocked at what humanity has done with his gift, he looks for another way to empower lis long, almost lost, cause.  His only hope lies with Nosome's bedridden fourteen-year-old nephew, Chief Reddy, who is anointed with Prometheus's second gift of fire...but is it too late to ignite and enlighten Earth's dying soul?"  In On the Head of a Pin, Joshua Winterland and Ana Fried are working at Jennings-Tremont Enterprises when they make the most important discovery in the history of this world -- or possibly the next.  JTE is developing avanced animatronics editing technologies that will create high-end movies indistinguishable from live action.  Long-dead stars can now share the screen with today's A-list.  But one night, Joshus and Ana discover something lingering in the rendered entity that will eventually reveal itself as "the Sail" and lead Joshua and Ana into a new age...beyond the reality they have come to know and deep into the true nature of good and evil."
  • David J. Schow, Bullets of Rain.  Suspense novel.  "Widowed architect Arthur Latimer has become a recluse in his own home:  a storm-proof fortress that doubles as a shrine to his dead wife.  But the outside world beckons in the form of a bizarre party downbeach.  Now, just as the biggest hurricane ever to hit the Pacific Northwest rolls in with deadly force, Art is subjected to intrusions from his past and invasions from the present.  And soon he begins to doubt everything he sees or thinks he already knows.  And soon you may too."  Schow is equally known  for his horror work (he is credited by some with coining the phrase "splatterpunk"), by script work (The CrowA Nightmare on Elm Street V, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, etc.), and his media commentary.  His work has an urgency that is rare in the field. 
  • Stjepan Sejic, Harleen.  Graphic novel retelling of Harleen Quinzel's origin story -- how she became Harley Quinn, the Joker's girlfriend.  "A stunning tale of love and obsession" from a noted Serbian comic book writer and artist.
  • Doug TenNapel, Ghostopolis.  YA graphic novel.  "When Garth Hale is accidentally zapped into the ghost world by Frank Gallows, a washed-up ghost wrangler, he discovers that he has special powers.  Soon he finds himself on the run from the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, who wants to use Garth's newfound abilities to tighten his grip on the spirit world.  After Garth meets Cecil, his grandfather's ghost, the two search for a way to get Garth back home, nearly losing hope until Frank Gallows shows up to fix his mistake."
  • Per Wahloo, Murder on the Thirty-First Floor.  Science fictinal mystery novel.  "when the nation's publishing conglomerate recieves a mysterious bomb threat. Chief Inspector Jenson is ordered to fingd the culprit within a week -- or else.  As his investigtion begins to reveal theunsavory secrets of a growing list of suspects, Jenson realizes that he has unncovered a tragic story of betrayal and death in whihc he will play the central role."  This one -- also known as The Thirty-First Floor -- was published shortly after Wahllo and his wife Maj Sjowall began publishing their noted mystery series about Martin Beck. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022


 2022 has not been the greatest year for me.

I am selfish.  Fifty-two years, five months, and eleven days is just not long enough.  I wanted more.

And yet...

There are still many things to be thankful for.

Chief among these, I am thankful for memories.  Her smile which could light up the darkest room.  The sparkle in her eye.  Her grace.  Her worldliness and intelligence, as well as the incredible innocence and naivity that would often balance it.  Her compassion and empathy.  Her anger at injustice and the stupidity of her fellow creatures.  Her forgiveness.  The shared joys and sorrows.  The quiet moments.  The gentle touch.  The enthusiastic hugs.  The laughter.  The tears.  The countles ways she made me into the man I am today.  Her help and support.  The many and feeble ways I tried to let her know what she meant to me.  The birth of our children and the sheer joy she had when told that our first was a girl., as well as the fact that we were able to dance around her hospital room an hour after pour second, Christina, was born.  The grandchildren.  The ups and the downs.  The quiet walks along the beach.  The events we attended together.  Our feeble attempts at tennis and at bowling.  All of these memories are available at my beck and call and I am forever thankful for that.

I am thankful for my family.  I could ask for none better.

I am thankful for my friends, both in person and on-line, many of whom I have never met but thier kindness, wisdom, and support are without bounds.

I am thankful for science, not only because that may allow me to beat the cancer that is in my body but because it can lead us all to a brighter future.  Science has allowed us to begin to explore the depths of the universe and the beginning of time.  It has brought us a greater undertanding of nature, the world around us, and ourselves.  It may yet get us through climate change, the destruction of our environment, and overpopulation.  Science has always been a two-edged sword but our challenges and their solutions should not have to come easy.  Thus, I am also thankful for risk.  It can moderate our actions and our thinking for the benefit of all.

I am thankful for animals.  They add a beauty and a grace and a complexity to the world that it sorely needed.  From the dolphins that romp in the sea to the venomous reptiles that my grandson studies, they are a constant reminder that their world is also our world.  their place in existance is jst as important as ours.  I would add one caveat:  I am not thankful for spiders.  I know they have an important place in the ecosystem  but I hate 'em. hate 'em, hate 'em -- I would take a flamethrower to all of them if I could.

I am thankful for tacos.

And pie.  Whoever came up with idea of pie should be lionized through all of history.

I am thankful for water, and feel we should do all in our power to protect our oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands.

I am thankful for music.  I am thankful for words.  Both music and words allow us to express ourselves as mucih as possible.  I am thankful for the paintings of Marc Chagall.  I am thankful for the dancing genius of the Nicholas Brothers.  I am thankful for the songs of Tom Paxton.  I am even (begrudgedly) thankful for the earworm of Sheena Easton's "Morning Train" that has been plaguing me constantly for the last month or so.

I am thankful for God, even though my perception of God may differ widely from anyone else's.  I am thankful for everyone's idea of God, whether through organized religion or through personal experience.   Any possible distortion of God into a hateful, bigoted, or evil engine of destruction I lay to human failure and arrogance and not to any deity.  No one can convince me that God is anything but love.

I am thankful for nature.  It is wild, wonderful, beautiful and capricious.  It not only keeps us in awe but also on our toes.

It may sound cruel, but I am also thankful for the losses you have suffered.  Somehow through the pain, I hope that you are able to come to terms with what your loved ones meant for you and for those around you.  No one is put on this earth to remain here forever and the job of each human being is to help bring meaning and joy to others; if that job is well done, it is reflected in the memories and lives left behind.

So, yes.  I am most thankful for memories.

Fifty-two years, five months, eleven days.  Still not enough time, but the time I will hold onto joyfully and thankfully until my dying day.

Thursday, November 17, 2022


 You've Bet Your Life by "Gordon Ashe" (John Creasey), 1957

This was the fourth and final stand-alone novel that Creasey published under his "Gordon Ashe" pseudonym; the remaining fifty novels under this pseudonym featured Patrick Dawlish and his Crime Haters organization.  I've found the Dawlish novels to be eminently readable.  This one...meh.

Creasey's novels usually feature a British hero coping against long odds.  Even Mark kilby, the hero of six books by Creasey under his Robert Caine Fraser pen name, although based in America, was a Britisher through and through.  For some reason, Creasey made the hero in this book, Johnny Elmes, an American in New York City.  It just did not work for me.  At one point, Johnny gets a phone call from a stranger, who ends the call with the words, "You bet."  From this Johnny knew that the caller had to be from the American west, but not from Texas.  Say what???

Johnny had recently returned from an unsuccessful business to England.  He had patented a new type of box and had hoped to sell the British rights to the Willeson Folding Box Company in London but was unable to meet with the company's head, Clare Willison, who flat out refused to see him.  Now he has received a message that she is in New York and wishes to meet withbim at his office. raising the inventor's hopes.  She never shows.  She has vanished from the hotel where she was staying.  Later, he gets a call from Alice Byrne, Clare's best friend and business associate.  She wants to know if Johnny has seen Clare and is worried because he has not.  Before she can meet with Johnny, she is kidnapped but managed to escape.

It turns out that clare was given complete ownership of her compnay by her father, who had passed over her older step-brother because he was a drunk and a crook.  The brother apparently has conceocted a scheme to force Clare to sign over half the company, as well as complete control, to him.  If threats to Clare did not work, kidnapping her best friend and threatening her life might.

Add to the mix a mysterious Wyoming visitor (yeah, the "You bet" guy) who shows up out of nowhere to help rescue Alice and inserts hinself in efforts to find Clare.  For her part, Alice is leery of Johnny and suspects he might be part of the plot against Clare.

Then the seven-year-old daughter of Johnny's lawyer and best friend is kidnapped to be used as a wedge to against Clare.  There have been a spate of chikld kidnappings and murders recently and this could be the work of the same people.

I don't think there was a single plot hole in this book that Creasey did not feel fit to drive a truck straight though it.  Creasey tries to wrap things up neatly in a pell-mell rush in the final pages of the book, but his explanations just did not gel --  a bad habit that Creasey usually reserves for his more outlandish plots of world destruction in his Dr. Palfrey thrillers, and a habit that he seldom gets intoin his straight detective novels.

Three positive things about the book:  1) it's a fast-paced, albeit ridiculous, read,  2) Johnny gets the girl, and  3) there are no flying coyotes overhead.

This one was an Ace Double paperback (perhaps original -- I could not tell) and was bound with Terror Package by Robert Chavis.

Friday, November 11, 2022


  • Adventure in the Skies
  • Romanceau contraire
  • Humor
  • Mystery
  • Drama
  • Thrills
All the above was promised in the new air adventure newpaper comic strip Wanda Byrd and Chesty Cabot!  

(Chesty was included in some of the trip's prepublication advertising but never actually made into the strip's title.  Potential readers might have conjured up a pneumotic female sidekick with a name like "Chesty," but au contraire, it turn out that Chesty was Wanda's boyfriend, a fighter ace from the War to End All Wars.  Quel dommage!)

For the record, here are the main players:
  • Wanda Byrd - She wanted to be in the talkies; her philosophy was if you wanted a thing long enough, you'll get it.  Yes, our Wanda is a miss with pluck and determination.
  • Chesty Cabot - The famous war ace and gypsy pilot.
  • Wally Racket - "Beer baron who would rather marry Wanda than smuggle a plane filled with narcotics or champagne, but says he'll do both even if he has to have our hero Chesty Cabot bumped off."
  • Runtus, alias The Fox -- Wally Racket's flying racketeer, "jealous of Chesty Cabot's flying record.  He has smuggled so much liquor, narcotics and aliens over the Mexican border for Wally Racket that Wally could send hin to prison for life."

Wand is not only a pretty face and a talented actress, she is also a daring pilot and soon she and Chesty are planning to make a historic around-the-world flight.  You really don't need to know much more than that.

Comics expert Art Lortie wrote:  "It's not a great strip by any means, full of racial stereotypes, a plot ripped off from AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, and bad art -- but it's historically important"

It appeared in a few newspapers with promos and advertising beginning on June 30, 1930 and ran (maybe, the record's not clear) until June 13, 1931.

The strip was written by Evan J. David, a former editor of Flying magazine and an experience pilot.  Supposedly he wrote a lot of aviation short stories and articles and "was considered the go-to guy for info on the fledgling air industry," but I could only find refence to five pieces of fiction and seven articles by him on the Fiction Mags Index.  (Not that this has anything to do with the comic strip, but David was once charged with causing a motor vehicle accident in Massachusetts which killed two persons; he got out of the charges by marrying a witness so she could not testify against him.)

The artwork was done by John M. Grippo, who, as Jan Grippo later became a Hollywood agent
and producer, working with Leo Gorcey to transform the Dead End Kids into the lucrative Bowery Boys film franchise.

Comic Book Plus offers this compilation of Wanda Byrd:

Thursday, November 10, 2022


 Paperback from Hell:  The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix, with Will Errickson (2017)

I hope that this book has not been forgotten because it sings out to me and to anyone else who love the old horror paperbacks of forty to fifty years ago, and it does it in the most loving and snarkiest ways possible.

For those who think 2020 was bad, let me remind you of the '70s and '80s.  The Vietnam War.  Remember that?  A wave of political assassinations that had started a few years before continued.  Race riots left citie burning and police departments acting more thuggish.  Churches were bombed.  Civil rights workers were murdered.  Birth control pills liberalized our sexual attitudes just as a strange disease called AIDS put a crimp on them.  Homosexuality was a disease -- and an illegal one at that.  The country was awash with conspiracty theories, beliefs in aliens and satanism, and a whole pile of pseudoscientific nonsense.  We began to realize that we were destroying our planet but didn't want to do anything about it.  Nixon.  reagon.  Son of Sam. Mass shootings.  Serial killers.  High inflation.  High unenployment.  White flight.  Therapy.  Even more therapy.  Disfunctional families.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear. Dissatisfaction.

Good times.

What to do about it?  Well, if you are a publisher you capitalize on it.  You realize there's a market somewhere in all this chaos.  And the market is horror novels.  Mr. and Mrs. America and all ships at sea can disassociate themselves from the real world by embracing one of fantasy.  Not just any fantsy world, mind you, but one that is completely over the top.  And sometimes it's comforting to know that the current state of affairs is just not your fault -- it's the fault of pesky demons, aliens, monsters, the Old Ones, hapless and oft-times evil scientists and experimenting doctors, genetically tainted madmen and mad women, and the fault of Nature who just got pushed to the tipping point.  You are innocent.  It's not your fault.  It's the other guys'.

Paperbacks from Hell covers all these fear and more, providing hundreds of glorious examples of some of the most striking horror paperbacks.  Here are evil and satanic children, haunted building, not-so-hidden gateways to hell, animals intent on destroyng (and eating) mankind, uncaring entities from other dimenions, religious fanatics both possessed or just plain bad, horrifying holidays, medical monter and sadistic scientists, high-tech murders, motorcycle monsters, unkindly grandparents, vampire, werewolves, living mummies, zombies, evil clowns (is there really any other kind?), inhuman pregancies, inhuman sex (graphically portrayed, thank you very much), disease, plague, madness, disfunctional families. backwoods yahoos, evil mixed with astological signs, and much, much more.  Hendrix pulls few punches as he takes us down this particular damnable Memory Lane.  Here's a few examples:

On Thomas Tryon's The Other:  "For his part Tryon underplays the horror so that it sneaks up on the reader, emerging from a thicket of epic-poetic descriptions of nature.  By the time you're ambushed by Tryon's severed fingers, pitchforks hidden in haylofts, and dead babies floating in jars, it's too late."

On Robert Marasco, author of Burnt Offerings:  "Marasco was a high school english tacher, so his illusions about human nature had long ago been stomped to death."

On Robert Lory's Horrorscope Series, which lasted only five books out of a planned twelve (with the fifth book being published only in England:  "If a series did well, they'd [referring to book packager Lyle Kenyon engel's Book Creations] milk it dry (John Jakes' Kent Family chronicle sold 35 million books!).  If not, they took it out behind the bard and shot it.  Whichis exactly what happened to Robert Lory's Horrorscope series...[A]ccording to Horrorscope, a Turus is more likely to be abducted to a Greek island by a demented movie producer, locked in a labyrinth fullof acid baths,and dismembered by a robot Minotaur.  Aries, you're trpped inside a hollow volcano full of missing luxury yachts, where fiddling with gold gets you burned to death by unquenchable green fire.  Leo?  You're a were-lion."

On the trend toward inhumanoids:  "There are two inds of creatures in this worlkd:  Americans and inhumanoids.  Whether it's alien super-predatorss possessing little girlss, hyperaccelarating them through puberty, and sending them out to kill (Soulmate [by Charles W. Runyon]), or Yetis riding icebergs to ca;;ifornia so they can decapitate our Miss snow Queen 1977 (Snowman [by Norman Bogner]), it's simply a fact:  foreign monsters want to get into our country and mess up our stuff."

On Michael Avallone's Satan Sleuth in Fallen Angel:  taking on cultists who are " '[h]ippies, drop outs, draft dodgers, left-wing radicals, right-wing militants, Jesus freaks, Devil worshippers, generation gappers, motorcycle weirdoes --the whole shebang.'  He balances the scales with these cultists (one of whom is 'as gay as a green goose when the asses were down') using LSD and hand grenades."

On the "splatterpunk" movement, influenced by heavy metal music:  "In the 1983 [nonfiction] book Backward Masking Unmasked. author Jacob Aranza warned that Queen's song 'We Are the Champions' was 'the unofficial anthem for gays in America.'  Larson listed all the satanic bands out to seduce our children, balancing the usual suspects -- Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Black Sabbath -- with Electric Light Orchestra, the Beatles, and the Eagles, as well as the Beach Boys (transcendental meditation), Bee Gees (believers in reincarnation), and John Denver (once tried akido)."  This eventually led to the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which "issued  their 'Filthy 15' Blacklist of objectionable bands, and eventually to "Senate hearings on explicit lyrics and 'porn rock,' whihc accomplished little except to show America that dee Snide was more levelheaded and informed than Tipper Gore."  All this great publicitythat guided amwerica's youth to the music their parents did ot want them to listen to also helped birth the short-lived "splatterpunk" trend, a nebulous genre that had no real basis except to urge publishers to bring out so-called examples.

By the 90s the market was glutted and retrenching.  Thanks to a gentleman named Hannibal Lechter, supernatural horror was dying and serial killer horror was being born.  Suddenly, "Lechter was a household name.  This was a moment horror editors and agents had been eagerly awaiting for more than twenty years. This was the next Exorcist.  This was Rosemary's second baby.  And the first thing it did was strangle its older sibling."

Yet the books remain, hidden in attics and in used book stores.  Many atrociously written and over the top; others, genuine works of horror literature.  Books by Stephen King, Clive Barker, William peter Blatty, Ramsey Campbell, Fred Chappell, Susy McKee Charnas, Les Daniels, Dennis Etchison, John Farris, Ray Garton, Charles L. Grant, William H. Hallihan, Rick Hautala, James Herbert, Jack Ketchum, T. E. D. Klein, Kathy Koja, Dean Koontz, Richard Larmon, Bentley Little, Graham Masterton, Rihard Matheson, Rober McCammon, Michael McDowell,Thomas Monteleone, Kathryn Ptacek, Anne Rice, Ray Russell. Alan Ryan, John Saul, David J. Schow, Dan Simmons,  Michael Slade, Peter Straub, Whitley Strieber, Thomas Tessier, Lisa Tuttle, and Karl Edward Wagner will live on; somewhere a teenager is reading one of these with a flashlight under the bedcovers.  Even V. C. Andrews, who only published six novels, lives on under a registered trademark with over 70 additional novels ghost-written by Andrew Neiderman, all bestsellers.  Many other authors whose names may not desrve to be mentioned, will also live on, also under those selfsame bedcovers because -- good or bad --- because thos paperbacks from Hll will never truly die.

Grady Hendrix is the best-selling author of Horrorstor, My Best Friend's Exorcism, We Sold Our Souls, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, The Final Girl Support Group, and the forthcoming How to Sell a Haunted House.  He writes good books,  Will Errickon writes the popular blog Too Much Horror Fiction.  He knows many things.

The publisher Valancourt Books has initiated a special series of reprints of ome of the book covered in Paperbacks from Hell, each with the cover art from theoriginal paperback and each with an introduction by either Hendrix or Errickson. You can find out more at their website.


 Sam Buffington played the title character in this short-lived adult western series from CBS Radio, which ran from February 23 through June 15, 1958 for a total of sixteen episodes.  The quality of theshow was high but its timing was unfortunate -- the ever-rising popularity of television killed this and manyother radio programs.

Luke Slaughter is a Civil War calvery man turned Arzona cattleman, a hard-as-nails character who is determined to succeed in a very tough business.  A man to be respected or feared, depending on which side of the law you were on.   A man of vision.  A man of legend.  Junius Matthews plays Slaughter's sidekick, Wichita.

In this first episode, Slaughter agrees to drive a herd of cattle from Mexico to Tombstone despite banditos and rustlers and spies among Slaughter's own men.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022


 "The Severed Hand"  by Wilhelm Hauff (first published in Hauff's collection Marchen-Almanack auf da Jarh 1826 fur Sohne und Tochter  Gebildeter Stande, 1825; published in English as The Caravan, and Other Tales, 1840; reprinted many times)

Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827 -- he died, of typhoid, nine days short of his 25th birthday) wa a German writer and poet, some of whose work has become enshrined in German.  His early education was primarily from books in his maternal grandmother's library.  He eventually went to the University of Tubingen, completing his studies in philosophy and theology at the Tubingen Stilf in 1824.  After leaving the University, Huff was hired as tutor to the children of the Wurttenberg minister of war; to amuse the children he wrote a number of fairy tales, several of which remain very popular in Germany.  Most of these stories took place either in the Orient or in Germany -- a dicotomy that can be seen in much of his writing.  He went on to write parodies of the workss of the popular, but mawkish, German author Heinrich Clauren, then published a best-selling historical novel tribute to Sir Walter Scott.  He then published a few short novels -- including his masterpiece, The Wine-Ghosts of Bremen -- and a number of poems which have become part of the German Volkslieder.  Ten months before he died, Hauff became editor of the Stuttgart Morgenblatt; nine months before he died, Hauff married his cousin Luise.  Hauff's antisemetic novella Suss the Jew (1827)  was filmed as a propaganda piece by the Nazis in 1940.

Hauff's Caravan Tales contains six stories about the "Caravan;" a further non-"Caravan" story was included.  "The Severed Hand" ("Die Geschtichte von der abgehauenen Hand") was the third of these tales.

Zaleukos was the only son of a successful merchant in Constantinople.  Because of his cleverness, it was determined that he would study medicine in Paris rather than join his father in business.  After three years of study and having learned all that the medical trade could teach him, Zaleukos returned to 
Constantinople, looking forward to a reunion with his father, only to discover that his father had died two month earlier and that all his wealth had been "donated" to the church.  Now, possessing only meager funds gained from the sale of his father's home, Zaleukos purchased purchaed a number of oriental good that were not available in Europe, the young man began criss-crossing the continent as a merchant.  His reputation for fairness as well as the quality of his merchandise made him a success and he eventually decided to put down roots in Florence, opening a shop offering his services as both a physician and a merchant.  Both avenues of his business thrived.

One day he received an anonymous messsage asking him to meet on a local bridge that midnight.  there he met a man wearing a glorious red cape but who keept his face and features hidden.  The man insisted that Zaleukos follow him.  Zaleukos first demanded an explanation but, hen the man refused to answer, Zaleukos grabbed him by the arm, demanding an answer.  there was a struggle and the man got away, leaving the young physician/merchant holding the stranger's cape.  The cape was of a sort that Zaleukos had never seen before, but it was obviously very costly.  Zaleukos put the cape around his shoulder and returned home.  On the way a stranger, hidden by the night fog, approached him and whispered, "Be on your guard, Count, there is nothing to be done to-nite."   Then the stranger vanished, having obviouly mistaken Zaleukos for the true owner of the cape.

Efforts to find the mysterious owner were in vain.  Then another anonymous message -- this one somehow appearing in the lining of the cape.  It told Zaleukos to once again meet him on the bridge and the owner would give him 400 zachinos for the cape.  Well, 400 zachinos are a lot of zachinos, so our hapless hero went.  There he was told by the man that he needed Zaleukos's medical expertise.   The man and his sister were lately arrived to Florence and the sister had suddenly taken ill and died.  Local relatives wanted her quickly embalmed and buried.

Just a word of warning:  here's where the tale goes full-stop from strange territory to uber-Weirdsville.  Brace yourselves.

The stranger wants Zaleukos to sever his sister's head so that he can take it back to his father in order for his father to view her one last time.

Say what?

Zaleukos figures the request is a bit odd, but money is money and, after all, the girl is dead, right?

The stranger takes Zaleukos into a room where the girl's body is lying down, a sheet covering all but her head.  She is young.  She is beautiful.  She is dead.  He takes out his scapel to remove the head and makes a quick deep cut across her neck.

Surprise!  She opens her eyes.  She is not dead!  But, thanks to the young doctor's precise cut she soon is.  Zaleukos turns to confront her "brother," but he has vanished and our pitiful protagonist realizes that he has been used to commit murder.  He hightails it out of there.  In his panic he has left his medical implements at the scene.

By the next morning all of Florence is agog at the horrendous crime.  The most beautiful and the most popular young woman in the city -- "the fairest flower in Florence," Bianca, the daughter of the governor -- has been brutally murdered, and just one day after she had been married!

So, I hear you ask, "Why is the story called "The Severed Hand" instead of "The Severed Head"?  Well, hang on.  There's more.

Zaleukos is brought to trial.  His story is incredible.  The evidence (much of which appears to have been conveniently manufactured) is damning.  He is found guilty and is sentenced to die.  Then what arrives is not a deus ex machina, but a deus ex Paris.  An old student friend happened to be in Florence and heard of Zaleukos's crime and plight.  Zaleukos tells him all that had transpired.  The friend goes to see what he can do.  What he was able to do was to lessen the punishment.  Justice appears to work strangely in Florence.  Instead of losing his head, Zaleukos will have his hand severed, his wealth seized, and will be forever banned from the city.

After he recovers from losing his hand, his friend gives him a little money and sends him on his way.  Zaleukos, now a completely ruined man, makes his way back to Constantinople.  There he discovers an invisible benefactor.  The man behind the entire plot sets him up in a large house and business and gives hi an annuity.  Zaleukos never learns who the man is or why the crime was committed.  But he lives the rest of his life in prosperity.  Minus one hand, of course.

Make of this story what you will, but I can't help you.  My head is still spinning.

**I should note that this is the 6666th post on this blog.  That's ten Numbers of the Beast.**

Tuesday, November 8, 2022


The tenant of a certain run-down London rooming houe are a sorry and sometimes mean-spirited lot, showing repect for only one of their fellow tenants, Mr Wright, a wealthy businessman and the only person in the rooming housse who has made a success of himself.  One of the tenants, Majot Tomkin, hopes that his daughter Vivian will marry Mr. Wright.   Vivian abhors Wright and is in love with a different tenant.

Into this cauldron of incivility comes a new tenant (who happens to be an angel).  Suddenly things get better in the rooming house and tenants begin to care for one another much to Wright's resentment.

First presented as a stage play in 1908, The Passing of the Third Floor Back was a succes despite (or, pehaps because of) its overwhelming pious tone.  In reviewing the 1935 film, Graham Greene praised the film for havng toned down the "pious note" of the original play, although Greene had problems with director Bethold Viertel's attempts to reconcile the "sweetness and light" of the film with its realism.  The film was voted the fourth best British movie of 1936. The movie has also been noted for its effective use of a very limited budget.

Taking the role of the angel was Conrad Veidt, in his second British appearance after fleeing his native Nazi Germany with his Jewish wife.  Anna Lee, just 22, played Vivian.  The goddaughter of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lee was once dubbed the "British Bombshell."  She had a long and distinguished career both in England and in the United States, culminating in her long-running role of Lila Quartermaine in the soap opera  General Hospital.  Also featured in the film were Rene Ray as the maid 'Stacia, Frank Cellier as Wright, and John Turnbull and Cathleen Nesbitt as Major and Mrs. Tomkin.  The script was written by Michael Horan and Alma Reville (a.k.a. Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock).

The author of the play (and the susequent short story) was British humorist Jerome K. Jerome, best known for his overwhelmingly popular 1889 comic novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), which has never gone out of print and has spawned six films, at least three radio shows, a television series, and a stage play; it has influenced writers from P. G. Wodehouse to Robert A. Heinlein.

The Passing of the Third Floor Back was filmed once before, in 1918 with Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Ketty Galanta and Robert Fisher.


Sunday, November 6, 2022


Openers:  An Ta-ch'eng was a Chung-ch'ing man.  Hi father, who had gained the master' degree, died early;  and his brother Erh-ch'eng was a mere boy.  He himself had married a wife from the Ch'en family, whose name was Shan-hu; and this lady had much to put up with from the violent and malicious disposition of her husband's mother.  However, she never complained; and every morning dressed herself up smart, and went to pay her respects to the old lady.  Once when Ta-ch'eng was ill, his mother abused Shan-hu for dresing o nicely; whereupon Shan-hu went back and changed her clothes; but even then Mrs. An was not satisfied, and began to tear her own hair with rage.  Ta-ch'eng, who was a very filial son, at once gave his wife a beating, and this put an end to the scene.  From that moment his mother hated her more than ever, and although she was everything that a daughter-in-law could be, would never exchange a word with her.  Ta-ch'eng then treated her in much the same way, that his mother might see that he would have nothing to do with her; still the old lady wasn't pleased, and was alway blaming Shan-hu for every trifle thaat occurred.  "A wife," cried Ta-ch'eng, "is taken to wait on her mother-in-law.  This state of things hardly looks like the wife doing her duty."  So he bade Shan-hu begone, and sent an old maidservant to see her home:  but when Shan-hu got outside the village-gate, she burst into tears, and said, "How can a girl who has failed in her duties as a wife ever dare to look her parents in the face?  I had better die."  Thereupon she drew a pair of scissors and stabbed herself in the throat. covering herself immediately with blood.  The servant prevented any further mischief, and supported her to the house of her husband's aunt, who was a widow living by herself, and who made Shan-hu stay with her.  The servant went back and told Ta-ch'eng, and he bade her to say nothing to anyone, for fear his mother should hear of it.  In a few days Shan-hu's wound was healed, and Ta-ch'eng went off to ak hi aunt to send her away.  Hi aunt invited him in, but he declined, demanding loudly that Shan-hu should be turned out; and in a few minutes Shan-hu herself came forth, and inquired what she had done.  T-ch'eng said she had failed in her duty towards his mother; whereupon Shan-hu hung her head and made no answer, while tears of blood* trickled from her eyes and stained her dress all over.  Ta-ch'eng was much touched by this spectacle, and went away without saying any more; but before long his mother heard all about it, and, hurrying off to the aunt's, began abusing her roundly.  This the aunt would not stand, and said it was all the fault of her own bad temper, adding:  "The girl has already left you, and do you till claim to decide with whom she is to live?  Miss Ch'en is staying with me, nt your daughter-in-law; so you had better mind your own business."  This made Mrs. An furious; but she was at a loss for an answer, and, seeing that the aunt was firm, she went off home abashed and in tears.

* a Chinese idiom for "bitter tears"

-- P'u Sung-Ling (1622-1715), from Liao-Chai-Chih-I, or Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, collected about 1740 and translated here by Herbert A. Giles, 1880

The first thing that came to my mind while reading the above paragraph was Janis Joplin's song "Women Is Losers."  Despite efforts by some of today's far right to subjugate women, we are lucky to live in the age we do.

Now that Shan-hu had been sent away, Mrs. An tried to get Ta-ch'eng another wife without any luck.  Her reputation and viscious temper served to keep any possible future wifes away.  So Erh-ch'eng, the younger brother, grew up and married first.  His wife, Tsang-ku, had a temper that was even more ungovernable than that of Mrs. An.  In fact, Mrs. An lived in fear of Tsang-ku, who trted her like a slave.  Ta-ch'eng did ot like the way Tsang-ku treated his mother, but what could he do?  The two of them silently put up with Tsang-ku's humilation of them.

Then Mrs. An got very sick and her sister, Mrs. Yu, came to care for her and treated her with great kindness, bringing Mrs. An gifts daily that supposedly came from Mrs. Yu's daughter-in-law.  The venomous Mrs. An began to mellow, to the point of regretting her treatment of Shan-hu.  Then she discovered that all the gifts that she had received came not from Mrs. Yu's daughter-in-law, but from her own -- Shan-hu, who had paid for them from her own money earned from her spinning late into th evenings.  Shan-hu and Mrs. An reconciled and became devoted to each other.  Meanwhile, Tsang-ku and Erh-ch'eng had little to do with the rest of  the household -- which now included Ta-ch'eng, Shan-hu, and Mrs. An -- and the relationship between the two sisters-in-law was strained, to say the least.  Tsang-ku could at least vent her spleen against her maid-servants, one of who commited suicide because of this treatment.  The servant's family sued Tsang-ku and Erh-Ch'eng had to mortgage his half of the family home to get his wife released from jail.  The fact that Erh-ch'eng waned to sell the family property upset the ghost of Mr.An, the father ofTa-Ch'eng and Erh-Ch'eng', who came back from the dead and told Ta-Ch'eng where a buried treasure of silver plate lay so he could buy out his brother and save the family home.  The ghost had no pity for his younger son and his harridan wife.  Ta-Ch'eng and Shan-hu were the only ones who could see the treasure, though; when Erh-Ch'eng, Mrs. An, and Tsang-ku looked, all they could see was old tiles and rubbish.  Nevertheless, the treasure was real and Ta-Ch'eng used the wealth to save the family home and, in an act of kindness, split the treasure with his brother.  This irritated the evil-pirited Tsang-ku who was sure that Ta-Ch'eng was cheating his brother.  It also irritated the ghost of Mr. An, who appeared before Erh-Ch'eng and berated him, stating that the treasure was Ta-Ch'eng's alone.  Erh-Ch'eng was then determined to give the money back to his brother but his wife refused to let him do it.  And then, their eldest son took sick and died.  Then the next oldest.  This had an effect on Tsang-ku, who became a changed woman, but it was too late -- of their thirteen children, all died, and Erh-Ch'eng and Tsang-ku were forced to adopt one of Ta-Ch'eng's children.  Ta-ch'en and Sang-hu themelves lived to a ripe old age.

Few short stories from ancient China have survived, chief among them a collection of stories publishedin the Fifteenth Century and the tales of P'u Sung-Ling, published two centuries later.  Laden with moral messages and the importance of Chinese tradition and family honor,  Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio has remained a classic of Chinese literature over the centuries and its author has been praised for his mastery of style and composition.


  • Marvin Albert, Bimbo Heaven. a Pete Sawyer/Stone Angel mystery.  "When a beautiful young woman, dripping wet and alone, wandered onto his patio, ex-cop and private eye Pete Sawyer knew he was looking at trouble.  He also knew he would take the job.  It sounded simple enough:  deliver a letter to a local Riviera resident.  But when Pete arrived, the man had vanished and his wife was being worked over by two thugs.  That was only the beginning of a murderous trail of diamonds and death that led from the Cote d'Azur into the exotic heart of Mrocco.  There, in the stark Sahara, Pete wuld spark a bloody showdown that few would live to talk about..."  Whether with his mysteries, adventure novels. or his westerns, Albert always provided a good read.
  • Poul Anderson, Going for Infinity.  Science Fiction retrospective collection with iteen torie and two novel excerpts, along with commentary by the author.  Even if you've read the stories before, this is a don't-miss collection.
  • Greg Bear, Darwin's Children, SF novel, a sequel to the Nebula Award-winning Darwin's Radio.  "Eleven years have passed since SHEVA, and ancient retrvirus that caused mutations in the human genome and heralded the arrival of a new wave of genetically enhanced humans.  Now these changed children have reached adolescence...and face a world that is outraged about their very existence.  For these special youths, possessed of remarkable, advanced traits that mark a major turning point in human develpment, are also ticking time bmbs harboring hosts of viruses that could  exterminate the 'old' human race."  Another author I need to read more of.
  • Michael Connelly, Crime Beat.  Nonfiction.  Before Harry Bosch, before the Lincoln Lawyer, Connelly worked as a crime reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times.  Here are forty-three articles from that time -- true crimes that influenced Connelly's later fiction.
  • Blake Crouch, Recursion.  Science fiction/thriller novel.  "At first it looks like a disease.  An epidemic that spreads through no known means, driving its victims mad with memories they never had.  But the force that's sweeping the world is no pathogen.  It's just the first shock wave, unleashed by a stunning discovery -- and what's in jeopardy is not our minds but the very fabric of time itself.  In New York City, Detective Barry Sutton is closing in on the truth -- and in a remote laboratory, neuroscientist Helena Smith is unaware that she alone holds the key to this mystery...and the tools for fighting back.  Together, Barry and Helena will have to confront the enemy -- before they, and the world, are trapped in a loop of ever-growing chaos."  In his acknowledgements, the author reveals thirteen people he has "Tuckerized" in this book.  Neat.
  • Steve Fisher, Hellsgrin.  Modern western/adventure novel.  "The lure of gold brings life back to the old ghost town of Basin City in an exciting story of five people who met in a deserted village under the shadow of the great glacier, Hellsgrin.  Basin City might have been any ghost town, weathering away for fifty neglected years in the Colorado snow and sun, except that there was a legend about Basin City, and a prophecy.  In 1909, the story went, a prospector, Alonzo Pike, had disappeared with thousands of dollars' worth of gold ingots in the saddle-bags of his pack mule.  His body had been swallowed by a crevasse in the glacier and it was due to appear again, according to a geologist, at a given point on the glacier, on September 12, 1959.  Curious about the riddle and hoping to find the treasure, Johnny Bennion bought Basin City and camped out there in the fall of 1959.  As the twelfth of September approached, tension mounted in the old town.  Others came, drawn by the old story of the prospector's corpse, the mule and the gold bar."  Frazee was an old pro at telling an engaging tale.
  • Chester Gould, The Complete Dick Tracy, Dailies and Sundays:  Volume 20:  1961-62.  Comic strip collection. More than 550 sequential comics, from February 1961 through August 1962.  America's granite-jawed cop meets such memorable characters as Spready, Happy Voten, Keip Choppin, Trusty, Mona the Mouthpiece, and Little Boy Beard.  This was the last collection before Gould and the comic strip went off the rails by introducing Moon Maid and the moon people. As with all others in this series, the introduction is by Gould's successor in writing Dick Tracy, Max Allan Collins.  I had been followiing this series up through Volume 16 and when I saw this book I had to grab it.  Now to find Volumes 17-19 and 21 and beyond.
  • Paula Guran, editor, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu.  Twenty-five stories (most original) from such author as Michael Shea, Laird Barron, John Shirley, Yoon Ha-Lee. W. H. Pugmire, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Brian Hodge, and Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, but nary a tale from HPL.  Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
  • Grady Hendrix, My Best Friend's Exocism.  Horror novel.  "High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade.  But after an evening of skinny-dipping does disasterously wrong, Grethchen begins to act...different.  She's moody.  She's irritable.  And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she's nearby.  Abby's investigation leads her to some startling discoveries -- and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question:  Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?"  For those who are interested, the 2022 film based on the book is now available on Netflix. 
  • Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson, Paperbacks frm Hell.  Nonfiction, a heavily illustrated, lovingly compiled paean to paperback horror fiction of the 70s and 80s.  The trends, the artists, the ridiculously over-the-top plots, the highs and the lows -- it's all here.  I love it.  (Valancurt Books, that nifty purveyor of some really great titles, has started a limited series reprinting some of the long-unavailble books spotlighted in Paperbacks from Hell;  all are mass-market sized and feature the original cover designs from the 70s and 80s; all have a special introduction from either Hendrix or Errrickson -- check them out:  I bought this one as a birthday present to myself and I will be dipping into it for years to come.
  • Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth.  The classic children's book.  "For Milo, everything's a bore.  When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he's got nothing better to do.  But on the other side, things seem different.  Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason!  Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing.  Life is far from dull.  In fact, it's exciting beyond his wildest dreams..."  I know I already have a copy of this buried somewhere in storage but it's good to have a handy copy nearby.
  • Peter O'Donnell, Last Day in Limbo.  A Modesty Blaise Adventure.  "Somebody wanted Modesty Blaise in a big way -- big enough to set up a very expensive kidnap operation...Tia Benita was crazy and her nephew, Paxero, knew better than to cross her.  (After all, she did have all that money.)  When Benita decides that Modesty would make a perfect slave on her plantation, Paxero puts the machinery in motion.  At the same time, Willie Garvin begins setting a trap of his own:  Paxero's henchmen had done a nasty number on Willie's lady friend, and he swears to make them pay!  From steamng jungles to Mayan temple ruins, the action, thrills and tension of the Paxero affair take Modesty and Willie to a shoot-out climax that is so big that even they have to worry!"  No one takes a comic book story to the pages of a novel like O'Donnell, and its always a pleasure to meet up with Modesty and Willie one more time.
  • "Dray Prescott" (who used to be "Alan Burt Akers" when he was not being Kenneth Bulmer), Fires of Scorpio.  Number 29 in the SF series that went on for a total of 52 novels and three short stories.  "Triple trouble always dogged Dray Prescott just when he thought he had things under control.  This time, involved with setting things right on the continent of Pandahem, the Star Lords yanked him away from his friends, and dumped him, weaponless, at the gates of the terrible temple of Leem.  To rescue a girl sacrice there was but the start, for next he had to help torch the temple and all the others like it, and finally take to the sea to confront the next wave of the fish-headed marauders from Kregen's Southern Hemisphere.  There's always lots more doing in Dray Prescott's adventures on the world of Antares in Scorpio, for this colorful series  in [sic] the best thing of its kind since Burroughs stopped writing!"  (That's Edgar Rice, not William Burroughs, one hopes.)  Never nominated for a Hugo or a Nebula, nonetheless, the swift-moving action never lets up, nor does the purple prose ever stop flying.
  • Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo, All ten Martin Beck mysteries.  Someone dropped these paperback off at a local thrift store and I was the first to find them.  The books, listed chronologically, are:  Roseanna (the naked, raped body of a woman is dredged up from the bottom of a Swedish lake and Detective Inspector Beck begins a six-month investigation into the case); The Man on the Balcony (a peaceful Swedish summer becomes a time of horror when a rash of brutal muggings and child sex-murders plague the city and Beck -- now a superintendent -- follows the clues); The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (Beck is sent by the Foreign Office to Budapest to search for a well-known Swedish journalist who vanished withut a trace); The Laughing Policeman (nine people are brutally murdered in a double-decker bus and among those who were on the bus was a friend and colleague of Beck); The Fire Engine that Disappeared (a dingy Stockholm apartment house under police surveillance explodes, killing three people; could this be linked to a suicide that happened earlier in the same day?); Murder at the Savoy (a powerful industrialist is shot during an after-dinner speech in Malmo and Beck discovers he has nothing but contempt for the victim and sympathy for the murderer); The Abominable Man (a police captain is murdered in his hospital room and Beck uncovers evidence of police corruption and brutality); The Locked Room (two cases -- a locked room murdrr and a young woman shoots a bystander during an attempted bank robbery -- have a common denominator and Beck is determined to find it); Cop Killer (a woman is murdered and left burried in a swamp; in the same town a shootout take place between three cop and two teenage boys -- both cases bring back figures from some of Beck's earlier cases); and The Terrorists (Beck is assigned to protect a visiting U.S. senator who is being targeted for assassination; meanwhile there's the murdrr of a millionaire porno filmmaker and the case of a young girl caught in the toil of burecratic red tape).  The huband and wife authors had planned from the beginning to write only ten book in this series.  Both were communists and their aim for the series was to "use the crime novel as a scalpel cutting open the belly of an ideologically pauperized and morally debatable so-called welfare state of the bourgeois."  What they ended up with was well-written, pychologically complex, realistic novels that provided good, serious entertainment.  The two have been described as the "couple who invented Notdic noir."  The Laughing Policeman won an Edgar Award for Best Novel.  All ten books in the series were adapted as films between 1967 and 1994; from 1997 to date, 46 films (both released to video on television) starred Peter Haber as the title character; from 2012 to 2013, all ten novels were dramatized on BBC Radio-4 with Steven MacIntosh in the starring role.  I'm a big fan of the Peter Haber series and enjoyed the 1973 film of The Laughng Policeman starring Walter Matthau but I never got around to reading the books.  Now I can.
  • Brad Steiger (born Eugene E. Olson, 1936-2018), Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places.  Six hundred pages of legends, anecdotes, and bullshit masquerading as fact.  According to the back cover blurb, this is "a defining work on spirit phenomina.  the culmination of Steiger's 50 years of paranormal reserch...[A] bold telling of true ghost stories and firt persson encounters.  It is also a comprehensive classification of the spirit world touching on time travel and parallel universe, presentingthe full range of ghostly manifistations and haunted loctions."  Yada yada yada.  teiger wrote some fiction, but most of his books centered on the paranormal, spirituality, UFOs, true crime, and biographies.  He was a firm believer (he claimed) in Atlantis having been the home of an all-powerful, highly technological civiliation.  Evident;y he never met an ancient alien he didn't like.  He wrote or co-wrote almost 170 books, most of which invlved this kind of dreck.  For the record, I am not a believer.
  • Geoff Tibballs, editor, The Mammooth Book of Zingers, Quips and One-Liners.  Over 8000 of them, very few are laugh-out-loud though,  Typical are these: "I guess God made Boston on a wet Sunday" (Raymond Chandler); "I've seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won" (Muhammad Ali);and "I said I'm hungry enought to eat a horse.  I didn't say nothin' about carrots" (Dennis the Menace).  Luckily, I don't give speeches so I won't have to use any of these to warm up an audience.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.  Needs no explanation.  A boxed set, bound in faux leather.   A birthday gift from my granddaughter Erin. 
  • H. T. Webster, The Best of H. T. Webster. About 250 newpaper cartoons from the talented pen of Harold Tucker Webster (1885-1952),   Webter w the creator of Capar Milquetoat, the "timid soul" whose last name became enshrined in the English language.  Webster's range was vast -- from biting political satire to sharp observations on married life, from his interests in fishing, poker, and bridge to his warm evocations of childhood.  The afternoon I bought the book, I thought I'd just glance at its content and ended up spending over three hours joyfully turning the pages, thoroughly amused and entertained.

Keiko:  Today (cough-cough-cough) marks the 2035th (cough-cough-cough) birthday of the 12th legendary Emperor of Japan, Keiko-tenno, also known as Ootarashihikooshirowaki no Sumeramikito.  When scholars say legendary they mean it.  The dude lived from 13 BC to 130 AD, making him 143 years old when he died.  He did not even get to be emperor until he was 84, ruling for 59 years -- a fact that must give King Charles a wee bit of hope.  The prolific Keiko also had over 90 children, a number that leaves King Charles' two in the dust.  Scholars admit that not much is known about Keiko and a lot that is known is legend, myth, and oral tradition -- the Japanese did not start codifying their history until some time in the 8th century, so there is a lot of wiggle room for misinformtion,  In faxct, there is a possibility that Keoiko ruled in the 4th century and not the 1st.  Keiko has been credited with expanding the empire by conquering local tribes.  Four of his children have been said to have been ancestors of notable clans.

Keiko was tall -- ten feet two inches tall, so they say.   This points to the advantage of a good PR tream and the stout denial of facts, something many of the world's current leaders from Kim Jung Un to Vladimir Putin to the orange-haired grifter have taken to heart in the 21st century.  It is probably wise to remember the claims about Keiko when dealing with today's politicians and their rhetoric.

Fall Back Position:  Most of you, I hope, have successfully navigated yesterday's switch from Daylight Saving to Standard Time.  Perhaps some, such as myself, will need a few weeks or months to figure which buttons and/or combinatin of buttons are needed to correctly set the clocks in out automobiles.  It can be a frustrating time of year.  But there is hope on the horizon.  There appear a concerted effot in Congress to shuck the entire spring forward-fall back thing and go to one consistent year-round system.  (Picture, if you will, the shouts of glee from that Used Paperback Book Store in the Sky from Bill Crider.)   But wait.  How will it be done?  Will we have a twelve-month Daylight Savings Time or a twelve-month Standard Time?  Many are pushing for a permanent Daylight Savings Time because, really, who wants it be dark at 4:30 in the afternon?  (Unless you live in Alaska, of course, and then it's your own damn fault.)  But some medical doctors are say, "Hold on there a minute, Bucko!  Our studies have shown that Daylight Savings brings on an increase in cancers, heart problems, and obesity.  Let's do a permanent Standard Time."  It should be noted that this increase is in the sixth percentile range and does not prove causality.  More study is needed, but does that mean we are stuck in this Spring/Fall loop for some additional years?

Where do you fit in on this "timely" (See what I did there?  I did a pun, and I'm proud of it.) argument?

Happy Birthday, Al Hirt!  (1922-1999):

Obervation:  Positive:  Being mistaken at the top of one' voice.  -- Ambrose Bierce

How To Be a Lady:  Subtitled "A Book for Girls, Containing Useful Hints on the Formation of Character."  This one was published in 1848 and written by Harvey Newcomb (1803-1863).  Because who knows better about being a lady than a middle-aged guy named Harvey?  Among the useful chapters are "Behavior at Table," "Keeping the Sabbath," "Knowledge of Household Affairs," "Indolence," "Ornamental Education," "Governance of the Tongue," and "Union of Serious Piety with Habitual Cheerfulness."

Ladies, there may be a test before close of class.

Harvey Newcomb is lucky he never met my wife in a dark alley.

Gertie the Dinosaur:  From 1914 -- the genius of Winsor McCay:

Florida Man:
  •  37-year-old Florida Man Jonathan Davis of...well, nowhere because he's homeless, was arrested in Okaloosa County for stabbing an Ohio hiker in the abdomen for no known reason.  The victim and his wife had set up a camp by a hiking trail and had befriended Davis.  The victim was rushed to an area hospital in critical condition but is expected to survive.  Davis had outstanding warrants for burglary and other charges.  An attack for unknown reasons may well become a Florida tradition following the adoption of "We don't need a stinkin' reason" as the State Motto.
  • Florida Man Andres Orjuela-Montealegre, 29, was arrested on October 23 when Marion Cpounty sheriff's deputies noticed that he was driving on an Interstate 75 entrance ramp with two missing tires.  He logically explained to one of the deputies,"If you mess with me right now, let me tell you something, I'm going to break your head with a baseball bat.  I'm going to skin you alive."  Orjuela-Montealegre blamed everything on paranormal activity, claiming that he had been cursed, stating he was given a "do or die" choice -- either drive home on two non-existent tires or set his car on fire and sleep on the median.  Despite the reasonableness of his explanation, he was arrested for 2 counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, attempt to deprive and officer of means of protection, corrupt by threat against a public servant, and driving under the influence.  There could have been a few more charges thrownnin there, but they were not reported in the news article I read.
  • Florida Man Edmund Clarke, 36, was arrested after stabbing an acquaintance 40 times in an attempt to behead him inside a Lee County convenience store.  Clarke had reportedly been the caretaker of the victim's father for nearly a decade.  According to a witness, Clarke had begun experiencing hallucinations and had been ranting about being targeted by an unknown enemy before the assault.
  • Florida Man Charles Walker, 52, decided it would be a good idea to jet ski from Pompano beach of Bimini in the Bahamas -- a distance of about 115 mile.  He didn't make it and now has been declared missing.  News reports did not state if this was a case of, "Hold my beer."
  • Lee County Sheriff's deputies approached a car the was pulled over on the side of a road in North Fort Myers because it was blocking a bike path.  The driver, 34-year-old Florida Man Randy Lynn Austerman gave the depupties a fake name.  On learning this they asked his to step out of his car,  The was when Austerman pulled a three-foot sword on them.  (For those interested in details, the sword was attached to a metal dragon-shaped handle.)  Officers attempted to taaser Austerman, who was poking the sword at them through th car window.  Oterman then fled from the passenger side door and the deputies were able to subdue him.  A search of the vehicle revealed methamphetamine, marijuana, and a glass pipe.

Some Good Stuff:
  •  Store employees rewarded for assisting injured elderly lady
  • She just loves to clean and now she's helping women in need by scrubbing homes for free while traveling the world
  • Ground-breaking patient who urvived 12 type of cancer could hold the key to detection and treatment
  • Teen find police medal on bottom of river and tracks down the heart-broken officer who had lost it last year
  • Girl Scouts receive an $84 million donation to aid recovery from lack of income during pandemic
  • Honda designs tiny electric car for hospitalized children to drive to their treatments
  • Living near water as a child is linked to better mental health and well-being in adulthood

Today's Poem:

How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done.
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.

-- Elsie N. Brady

Saturday, November 5, 2022


Stellenbosch University Choir.

Friday, November 4, 2022


 Hopalong Cassidy hit the funny pages in 1949 and was distributed by Mirror Enterprise Syndicate until 1951 when it was bought out by King Features; the strip lasted until 1955.  Drawn by Dan Spiegle and scripted by Royal King Cole, the Hoppy from the newpaper comics section looked a lot like William Boyd, who played Hoppy in 66 film from 1935 to 1948, and then on radio and Saturday morning television.

The character was first created in a series of short stories and novels beginning in 1904 by Clarence E. Mulford.  That Hoppy was a tough-talking, rude, and dangerous critter -- a far cry from the sarsapirilla-drinking, clean-cut character who never drew first that Boyd represented.

In this sequence, "Alias Fancy Frank Sharpe," a con man pretends to be Sir Roland Darby, a major owner of the Bar-20 Ranch.  The phoney owner plans to sell the ranch.  Can Hoppy sstop him in time?

This one take me back to the 50s, which to me meant only one thing -- sitting back and taking in the adventure of Hopalong Cassidy on our old black-and-white TV every Saturday morning.

Enjoy this bit of nostalgia.

Thursday, November 3, 2022


Bodies in a Bookshop by "R. T. Campbell" (Ruthven Campbell Todd) (1946, as Bodies in a Bookshop:  A Detective Story)

Here's how it opens:

"I don't know what came over me.  It wasn't as if there were not enough books in the house to begin with.  There were books on the floor, books on all the tables, books on the beds -- and in the beds if one wasn't careful.  Only that morning I had removed three volumes of Curtis from my room.  How they came to be there I would not know.  There seems to be a plot between the old man, Professor John Stubbs, and his housekeeper, Mrs. Farley, to dump anything they like in my room.  So far as I am concerned this is fine.  I like books.  I like mess.  But I have books enough and mess enough of my own.

"Anyhow I had gone out with the intention of buying a book.  It wasn't that I wanted any book.  I had made up my mind.  I wanted to read Luis Trenchard More's life of my famous namesake, Robert Boyle, the father of chemistry and the uncle of the Earl of Cork.

"I went to Zwimmer's in the Charing Cross Road.  I found the book had been published in America and was out of stock, so I crawled up Gower Street, to see if there was an old copy left in H. K. Lewis's.  There wasn't.

"Having made up my mind that I wanted the life of Robert Boyle I started going around to all the bookshops I could find.  This was fine, but I kept on running into other books I wanted.  I spent the devil of a lot of money.  I said to myself that it didn't really matter very much if I failed to get the Life of Boyle, I had gathered enough to keep me reading for at least a fortnight."

How can any bibliophile worth his salt not continue reading?  Certainly not I.

Our hapless narrator is Max Boyle, a young botonist and assistant to the irascible  and famous John Stubbs, currently writing a massive tome, History of Botony.  Boyle and the "old man" have a history of stumbling onto murder cases -- this is the fourth of seven novels in the series, whicb also features Chief Inspector Reginald F. Bishop of Scotland Yard.  Stubbs is a large, outspoken Scot with an inrdinate fondness for beer and brandy and a habit of driving his Bentley like a maniac.  He speaks in a lower-class accent and blunders through almost every scene with the grace of a water buffalo.  If you squint you can almoss recognize the relationship between Stubbs and Max as similar to that between Nero and Archie -- assuming Nero had somehow inherited a bulldozing gene from Bertha Cool of Erle Stanley Gardner's "A. A. Fair" novels.

Anyway, Max's last stop is a dusty out of the way bookshop.  There are no customers in sight and Max assumes the owner, Allan Leslie, was busy in his office in the back of the building.  Max happily browses for over an hour, finding several worthwhile goodies to puchase.  Still, there was no sign of the owner.  As Max brings his purchases to the cunter he rcgnizes the distinct smell f gas coming from the shop's office.  The door is bolted from the outside and Max assumes the owner had stepped out and forgot t turn off the gas ring with which he made his tea.  Max unlocks the door, intending to turn off the gas as a favor to the owner, only to find the nozzle rusted shut.  What he also found was two bodies on the floor.  Max drags the bodies out to the street, hoping they were still alive.  They weren't.  Each had been knocked unconscious by a heavy blow to the back of the head, in the case of the shop owner the blw was severe enugh to have eventually killed him if the gas had not already done the job.

Allan Leslie had a reputation as an honest and fair bookdealer, albeit somewhat testy.  The other victim was Cecil Baird, a man whose reputation and popularity among those in the book business was less than stellar.   An investigation of Leslie's office records, though, show that Leslie had a side occupation -- dealing in pornography and stolen books.  Baird's sideline turned out to be blackmail.  (When we say prngraphy, please remember we are dealing with the blue-nosed 1940s and the dirty books and pictures would not raise an eyebrow today.  We're talking Lady Chatterly's Lover, the drawings of William Blake, and perhaps certain Japanese prints.  Ho-hum.)

The reader is then taken down a\the fantasy rabbit hole of the obsessed private collector.  The investigation focuses on four book dealers who had been doing business with Leslie, and on Leslie's spinster niece/housekeeper, none of whom have a sufficient motive for double murder, although few have solid alibis.  To add to the strangeness of the mystery  Stubbs decides uncharacteristically that he does not want to solve the murders.

The joy of the book lies in the quirky world of book collecting and in the interaction between the hapless Max Boyle, the boisterous John Stubbs. and the somewhat taciturn Inspector Bishop.  While not a true classic of the genre, I found Bodies in a Bookshop impossible to put down.

Ruthven Campbell Todd (1914-1978) was a Scottish poet, artist, novelist, and expert on William Blake.  He was friends with Dylan Thomas, Louis MacNiece, Wyndham Lewis, Julian Symons, Rex Warner, David Gascoyne. Joan Miro, W. H. Auden and other literary and artistic limelights of the time.  One of his jobs was keep a dozing Ezra Pound awake while Wyndham Lewis was painting his portrait.  In 1936, during the  International Surrealist Convention he had to save Salvador Dali from suffocating in a heavy diving suit.  He was one of Dylan Thomas's friends and was part of the events surrounding the poet's death in 1953.

In the fantasy field he was noted for writing the four popular juvenile books about Space Cat -- Space Cat (1952), Space Cat Visits Venus (1955), Space Cat Meets Mars (1957), and Space Cat and the Kittens (1958).  (Another series I've been meaning to read for years.  **sigh**)

Wednesday, November 2, 2022


 Considered by some to be the worst radio detective show to ever hit the airwaves, Danger, Dr. Danfield featured an "insulting, obnoxious, conceited,  and condecending" unlicensed "private investigator/criminal psychologist with an ego complex."   The acting was terrible and the writing worse.  Steve Dunne played the title character, with JoAnne Johnson as his secretary, Rusty Fairfax.  The show ran on ABC Radio from August 18, 1946 to April 13, 1947 and then was sydicated for several years after.

When a show gets that bad a reputation, you know I have to check it out.  Maybe you'll want to, also.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022


     "The Secret of Emu Plain" by L. T. Meade & Robert Eustace (first appeared in Casssell's Magagine, December 1898; reprinted in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Two, edited by Alan K. Russell, 1979)

From my earliest youth the weird, the mysterious had an irresistible fascination for me.  Having private means, I resolved to follow my unique inclinations, and I am now well known to all my friends as a professional exposer of ghosts, and one who can clear away the mysteries of most haunted houses...To explain, by the application of science, phenomena attributed to spiritual agencies has been the work of my life.  I propose in these pages to relate the histories of certai queer events, enveloped at first in mystery, and  apparently dark with portent, but, nevertheless, when grappled with in the true spirit of science, capable of explanation.

The above is from the introduction to Meade and Eustace's A Master of Mysteries (1898), a collection of six stories from Cassell's Family Magazine featuring John Bell, "ghost exposer."  Over the course of these six stories we learn that there was one case that baffled Bell, one case that he could not explain.  Cassell's (having dropped the "Family" from its title in the interim) printed the the story of the case the year after the book came out.

Emu Plain is a desolate, arid stretch of land of some forty square miles in the Barcoo District of Queensland.  At the center of the plain rises the great Emu Rock, a three hundred foot tall, smooth limestone crag; there is no physical way to climb the rock.  Over its plateaued peak contantly soar many crows and hawks.  The natives avoid Emu Plain, declaring it is haunted by a fearsome creature known as the Bunyip.

At one end of Emu Plain is the station of Bell's old friend Jim MacDonald, whose niece, Rosamund Dale, is about to be married to Frank Goodwin, whose station was just thirty miles away, across Emu Plain.  Bell, fulfilling an old promise to Rosamund, has arrived MacDonald's station for the wedding, which was scheduled for the next day.   Goodwin, who had set off earlier that day for MacDonald's had not arrived and Rosamund was getting worried.   MacDonald then rode across emu Plain to see what had held up the groom-to-be; he returned, aving found no trace of the young man.  That evening the local ranger showed up, bearing news that Goodwin's riderless horse had been found at the edge of Emu Plain with no sign of Goodwin.  A small party, including Bell and MacDonald, set off to investigate, aided by the one-eyed native Billy who was the best tracker in the area.

Like all the natives, Billy is afraid of the Bunyip but he does manage to trace Goodwin partway through Emu Plain.  According to the tracks, to other horses met up with Goodwin, then at the foot of Emu Rock, there was a scuffle, then the two horses rode away, leaving no sign of Goodwin.  Who were these men, and what had happened to Goodwin?  Search party after search party went out and after two weeks, no trace of the missing man was found.  A year before, a wandering englishman had disappeared in a similar manner, with signs of a scuffle at the very same location at the foot of Emu Rock.  Men had disappeared from there in previous years also.

Business eventually called Bell away from the area, although he promised to return soon.  While at a neighboring ranch and awaiting the coach that would come in several hours time to take him to Brisbane, Bell decided to have one last look at the mysterious site.  Borroing a horse, he headed out once again to Emu Rock, where he looked around for half an hour.  The he spotted a small object falling from the sky.  It was a human finger bone, evident;y dropped by one of the overhead crows.

As sometimes happens in that area, a sudden sirocco arose and Bell prostrated himself on the ground to protect himself from the fast-moving sandstorm.  The sand began to cover him, and then...Bell passed out face down on the florr of Emu Plain.

He awoke, still dazed, to find himself face up in an indentation at the top of Emu Rock.  Next to him was the body of Frank Goodwin.  How had he got up there?  And how did Goodwin get up there?  On every side of the Rock was a three hundred foot sheer precipice with neither handhold or foothold.  Suddenly there was a movement from under the dead man's body and a massive brown snake slithered into sight.  The snake, some sort of viper, readied itself to attack Bell, who felt that his only choices was death by snake or death by jumping off Emu Rock to escape the serpent.  Slowly and carefully, Bell took off his belt and wrapped around a largish stone, creating an improvised sling.  The snake and Bell both struck at the same time.  The stone, wielded with all of Bell's force, broke the snake's back and Bell then used the stone to smash its head in.  He tossed the snake's body off the Rock to the Plain below.  Then he threw Goodwin's body off the rock, hoping that someone would eventually find it.

Trapped, with no way off the rock except by jumping, and facing a slow death from starvation and thirst, Bell waited.   With his strength almost gone, a rope suddenly appeared and a voice called for him to pull on the rope.  He did, and managed to secured the end of the rope to a solid area of the rock before he passed out.

Bell awoke weeks later after the fever had left him.  It turned out that Rosamund had had a "premonition" that Bell was stranded on the rock and insisted on going out there with her uncle and Billy.  They managed to fire a cord to the top of th rock by means of a "rocket gun" and Billy climbed up and brought Bell back down.  But what had happened?  How did Bell and the dead Goodwin get to the top of the unclimbable precipice?  Who where the two mysterious horsemen?  And how did that gigantic serpent manage to survive up there?

I have unearthed more than one ghost in my day, but the great Bunyip of Emu Plain has baffled my ingenuity.  He has won in the fight, and I bow my head in silence, owning that he, in his unfathomable mystery, is stronger than I.

But wait, there's more!

John Bell may not know the secret of Emu Rock, but Mrs. Meade claimed that she did.  And Cassell's took that opportunity for a competition.  The top ten readers who could come closest to solving the mystery would win One Guinea each.  No person could enter more than one solution of the story and entries had to be under 300 words,  Entries must have been received by February 15th, 1899, and the winners -- along with Mrs. Meade's solution -- would be announced in the April issue of the magazine.

Three hundred eighty-six readers responded, with answers arriving from every country in Europe, and from the "Far West of the United States," as well as from the West Indies, Canada, India, and Australia.  The solutions ranged from the laughably impossible to the mildly implausible.  Four readers came pretty close to Mrs. Meade's solution (which, in itself, was mildly implausible), but one had to be disqualified because it came from a regular contributor to Cassell's.  The winning entries (in case you were curious) were from, alphabetically:  AGNES CLANCHY, MISS CROSLAND, W. R. FOSTER, SAM. H. GOOD, E. T. JONES, THE REV, J. MIREHOUSE, MINNIE ROBERTSON, THOS. V. STATON, W. H. TWOMBLEY,  and DORA M. WATTS.  I hope they each spent their one guinea wisely.

"L. T. Meade" (Elizabeth Thmasina Meade Smith, 1844-1914) was a prolific writer of girls'' stories, having published at least 150 books in that category.  As per Wikipedia, "she also wrote 'sentimental' and 'sensational' stories, religious stories, historical novels, adventures, romances, and mysteries" for a total of at least 280 volumes.  In the mystery field, she collaborated with Dr. Clifford Halifax, Robert Eustace, and her daughter's father-in-law, Sir Robert Kennaway Douglas.  Wikipedia lists 65 mysteries, with and without collaborators.  Her most memorable books in the field were The Ponsonby Diamonds:  Stories from the Dairy of a Doctor (1894), Stories from the Diary of a Doctor:  Second Series (1896), A Master of Mysteries (1898), The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings  (1899), and The Sorceress of the Strand (1902).

"Robert Eustace"  (Eustace Robert Barton, 1854-1943) who often provided the medical and scientific background for his collaborators, who included Meade, Edgar Jepson, and Dorothy L. Sayers;  He gave Sayers  the main plot idea as well as medical and scientific details for The Documents in the Case (1930).