Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Friday, December 30, 2022

NICKLE COMICS #6 (jULY 26, 1940)

 All in color for a dime?  No way. Jose!  Nor when you can get Bulletman, Warlock the White Wizard,  The Jungle Twins, Cap't Venture, and The Red Gaucho all in one issue for a measly nickle!  (Of course, the page count -- 36 pages -- is small for a comic of that time, but Nickle Comics came out every other Friday so you're basically spending a dime a month for amounts to a 72-page comic -- with a bit extra at the end of the year.


Jim Barr, who invented a serum that makes him the most powerful man on Earth -- Bulletman, modern Robin Hood of Crime -- is headed to Police Sergeant Kent's office to protest being told he must take a vacation when he learns that Tim Hanigan, a veteran cop, has been shot in the a gang calling themselves the Blue Devils.  To Jim, this looks like something that could be handled by his alter ego, so he quietly goes on vacation, intending to track the gang of killers.  He heads to Eagle Valley, where hanigan had been murdered and finds a small town enveloped in fear.  The Blue Devils are led by a mysterious hooded man called Lucifer.  As Bulltetman, Jim allows himself to be captured by the Blue Devils before opening up a can whupass on them, rescuing the pretty editor of the local newpaper, and exposing the identity of the evil mastermind Lucifer.  It's just all in a day's work for Bulletman.

Warlock's talking raven Hugin informs him that there is something wrong at Geyser National Park.  He investigates and gets the attention of a local gang and their leader "Killer" Staley.  While searching for a kidnapped girl, Wrlock is captured and left to die as a steamoing hot geyser is about to popur over him.  Luckily (?) Warlock has his magic wand which is capped by a golden hand;  the hand snuffs out the geyser and knocks out the ruffians.  With the nhelp of Hugin asnd the golden hnd, Warlock manages to escape death several times and bring an end to Killer Staley's plot to kinap wealthy tourists.  Through the entire adventure Warlock has not used his weird lamp of the gods.  Perhaps next time.  I notice that every character in this story is drawn with a distinctly narrow face, a la el Greco, but I doubt if the artist was actually el Greco.

Bill Dale has brought his long-lost twin Steve, who had become a Jungle King in Africa, back to New York with him.  They are followed by the evil Sneed, who wants the valuable ruby the Steve possesses.  Sneed releases a bunch of man-eating junsle cats from a circur in an attyempt to get the ruby, but Steve belows out a command using the ancient elephant call.  The cirucs elephants come to the rescue.  Sneed is jailed and Steve and his pygmy servant Dagoo decide to head back to Africa but their boat sinks in a tropical hurricane and they are rescued by Simlo Smith, a madman who fancies himself a Roman emperor.  Bill and Steve rescue Dagoo from a giant man-eating plant only to be thrown into an arena where the defenseless trio have to fight four armed warriors.  Escaping from the arean they are chased to a pool filled with hungray sharks.  It's constantly out of the frying pan and into the fire for Bill, Steve, and Dagoo.  Will they be able to survive in the next episode?

Cap't Venture and the Planet Princess Zyra of Saturn go flitting aound from planet to planet "Exploring the mysterious deoths of the universe."  They land on the planet of Camur and encountered a recently escaped slave of the Valhoes.  (In this universe, everybody speaks English.)  They then run across a saddled pterosaurus being ridden by one of the dreaded Valhoes.  the trio are captured and Venture and the Camurian are sent to the mines, while the evil Valho takes a fancy to the pretty Zyra.  Can this mean a fate worse than death for the foxy Zyra?  Not so, because Venture leads the Camurians in a revolt and frees the planet.  As with Bulletman *above) this was just all in a day's work.  *The pterosaur looks as if it came directly from the pen of Basil Wolvereton.)

A presidential costume ball is to be held in Santa Palos and the president of the South American country will use the ball to hand over a signed treaty to be delivered to the Americans.  Anti-American agents get wind of this and are determined to act.  In the meantime, President Francia has issued an invitation to the ball to the Red Gaucho, who is eager to attend as he will be handed the treaty to give to the American ambassador.   Two Spanish-Americans, Edvardo and Delores, are also attending the ball.  Edvasrdo decided to go costumed as the Red Gaucho.  You can see where this is going.  Edvardo is captured by the spies.  Delores falls for the Red Gaucho, thinking him Edvardo.  The Red Gaucho uses his whip to settle the hash of the spies and all turns out well on the peace front.

A pretty dencent bargain for a nickle.

Enjoy:  And have a great New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2022


 Man Drowning by Henry Kuttner (1952)

Firstly, this may not be a Henry Kuttner novel.  There are strong indicsations that it might have been ghost-written by Cleve Cartmill (1908-1964), who is mainly remembered as a science fiction and fantasy writer.  Cartmill's most famous story, "Deadline" (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944), gave a detailed description of the creation of a nuclear weapon similar to that the United States was creating with the Manhattan Project, and caused the FBI to raid the editorial offices of magazine editor John W. Campbell to investigate a possible breach of security.  But Cartmill had extrapolated his story from scientific information readily available to the public -- the FBI ended uo with egg on its face and Campbell was able to later use the episode to promote the idea that science fiction could lead to science fact.  Outside of the science fiction field, Cartmill ghost wrote mystery novels for Leigh Brackett, Gypsy Rose Lee, and George Sanders, as well as ghosting several Saint stories for Leslie Charteris.  So it is certainly possible that Cartmill wrote Man Drowning.  Kuttner may have been swamped by other obligations and handed over an outline or a synopsis to Cartmill.

Secondly, it is also entirely possible that the book is Kuttner's work, either by himself or with his wife, the talented Catherine L. Moore.   Kuttner was an extremely talented author who could evoke many styles and moods  -- a trait shared by his wife and frequent collaborator.  The fact that much of their work was hastily written and floridly pulpish cannot detract from the magnificent talent both had.

Thirdly, in an alternate universe, Man Drowning, could easily have been written by Jim Thompson.  Or perhaps, James M. Cain.  It's that good and that claustrophobic.

The protagonist is Nick Banning, a man who walked out of the Arizona desert to the isolated home of Count Leopold De Anza and his wife, both of whom had settled there a few years before from Spain, their past life being wrapped in mystery.  De Anza and his wife are surrealism personified:  she, appearing with a live king snake around her neck, had been institutionalized in a mental facilty in Spain years before for rasons we are never given; he, slathered with ointment to make his face wrinkle-free and wearing makeup to give him the appearance of youth, would suddenly spent months at a time in bed, playing the invalid.  Their live-in help consists of a Mexican couple -- the husband outgoing and incompetent, the wife, efficient and self-contained.  The De Anzas have also had a rotating roster of assistants, each leaving after a few months for no discernable reason.  Banning, who appeared on their doorstep with only his torn and filthy clothes, thirsty and hungry, is persuaded to become the couple's next assistant.

This suits Banning well because the desert house is only a few miles outside of Phoenix, where Banning's ex-wife Sherry lives.  Banning is still very much in love with -- perhaps obsessed by is a better description -- with Sherry.  The marriage failed because of Banning's fierce bouts of rage.  When  his anger boiled up (and it frequently did), he lashed out.  Never at Sherry.  Never.  But at anyone else, as well as at inanimate objects.  Sherry divorced him when she could not take living in fear any more.  Now in Phoenix, she's working in a bar, trying to get enough money to restart her singing career in Chicago.  Banning has avoided Sherry for the past year., but now he believess he has been able to control his anger and he wants another chance with Sherry.  Although Sherry loves him, she cannot afford to get involved with Banning again.

And in the background is the Arizona desert.  Hot, merciless, and wonderfully evoked.  In one of the dryest places on earth, a man is still at risk of drowning -- drowning in his own emotions and failures.  A drowning man can still try to reach for a lifeline.  Banning's lifeline was Sherry, the woman he had to have,  And obsession can lead to violence and brutal death...

A taut, psychological thriller with no happy ending, Man Drowning is a powerul read that deserves to be far better known.

No matter who wrote it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022


 Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police was a syndicated juvenile adventure radio series that ran for 178 episodes from January 1, 1937 to May 25, 1940.  The series was created and written by Viginia Cooke.  Each weekly episode ran about fifteen minutes. The complete series was divided into two arcs.  The first 100 episodes, "The Menace of the Octopus," dealt with Speed and his alies facinfg the world's most dangerous criminal,  The final 73 episodes, entitled "Speed Gibson and the Atlantian Syndicate," follows Speed through Africa as he continues his quest to defeat the Octopus.

Speed is a fifteen year-year-old pilot -- "a typical American boyinterested in short wave radio, aviation, and most of all -- The International Secret Police."  Speed's uncle Clint Barlow is an operator for the International Secret Police; Cint's right-hand man is Barney Dunlap.  In the very first episode, Cl;iont and Barney are called to headquarters to be briefed on the activites of thye Octopus.  While they were at the meeting, an agent of the Operator attempted go through Cliont's papers in his room, only to be knocked unconscious by Speed with a model of the China Clipper he had been making.  As episode 2 opens, Clint, Barney, and Speed are in the Chief's office with Speed's prisoner.

Let's see what happens in episode 2:  "Speed is Inducted Into the Secret Service."

The records are sketchy, but it believed that Speed was played Elliott Lewis.  Lewis was an actor, writer, directo,r and producer whose versatility earned him the nickname "Mr. Radio."  He played many characters on Burns and Allen and on The Jack Benny Radio Show; he was Archie Goodwin to Francis X. Bushman's Nero Wolfe; played the title characters on The Adventures of Gregory Hood and Hawk Durango; was the announcer on Escape; and famously portrayed Frankie Remley on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.  Lewis acted briefly in films and on television but his work there concentrated mmainly on scripting, directing and producing.  In the early Eighties, he wrote seven paperback detective novels about police officer turned private detective Fred Bennett -- one of which was nominated for a Shamus award.  

Howard McNear (Doc Adams on radio's Gunsmoke and barber Floyd Watson on The Andy Griffith Show; his filme appearances included Bell, Book and Candle, Anatomy of a Murder, Heller in Pink Tights, and Blue Hawaii) was Clint Barlow.  Barney Dunlap was portrayed by John Gibson (Casey, Crime Photographer, Terry and the Pirates, A Date with Judy); Barney would utter such popular catchphrases as "Suffering wangdoodles!"  The Octopus was voiced by Gale Gordon (Here's Lucy, Our Miss Brooks, Dennis the Menace).

All 178  episodes of Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police are available online.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022


 There's a well-dressed person on a bicycle next to a poorly-dressed person on a tricycle. What's the difference?  Attire!




Florentine Dante" by Fergus Hume (from Hagar of the Pawn-shop.  The Gypsy Detective, 1898; any earlier magazine publication unknown; reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Detective Stories, edited by Marie Smith, 1994)

Let's first go back to 1887, a historic year for mystery fans.  This was the year that saw publication of Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet, surely one of the most famous detective novels of all time.  Yet sales of this Sherlockian masterpiece were weak.  The best-selling mystery novel of that year, and, indeed, the best-selling mystery novel of the Victorian Era was The Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume, a first novel.  Fergus who?  Britisher Hume (1859-1932) began writiung plays, but his first play was actually stolen by an uinscrupulous character who staged it and presented it as his own.  At the ytime Hume was reading and inmpressed by the detective novels of Emile Gaboriau and felt he could write a book of the same type.  The result was Hansom Cab.  Conan Doyue read that book and was inspired to write Study, which introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes.  (Doyle once remarked, "Hansom Cab was a slight tale; sold many by 'puffing.' "  Nonetheless Hume's book made a lot of money, while Doyle had to wait for Holme's popularity to catch up with him.  (A similar case happened in the horror field.  Bram Stoker's Dracula was published about the same time as Richard Marsh published The Beetle; Marsh's book was far more popular than Stoker's, a situation eventually corrected by the passage of time; few people read Richard Marsh today.)  Hume went on to write over 130 novels -- most of them mysteries and thrillers -- and well as several short story collections.  None achieved the overwhelming success of his first novel.  As with Marsh, few people read Fergus Hume today.

One of Hume's short story collections was Hagar of the Pawn-shop.  The Gypsy Detective, featuring an unusual sleuth.  Hagar Stanley was a young woman, twenty years old, and a Gypsy, yet she was noted for  "her strict sense of duty, her upright nature, and her determination to act honestly, even when her own interests were at stake."  Mike Grost lists Hagar Stanley as a "suipernatural detrective," although there is no sign of this in "The Florentine Dante," her first of ten cases.  I'll have to read further in the book to see if this holds true.

Jacob Dix owned a pawn-shop in Carby's Crescent, Lambeth.  Dix is old, sick, miserly, and generally unlikable.  His pure-bred Romany wife Hagar is dead, and their only son has cut off all ties with the man and his whereabouts are unknown, yet Dix is determined to leave his estate to his son Jimmy.  Dix's only friend (if that words can apply) is the lawyer Vark, a man even more venal than the pawn-broker.  Vark hopes to eventually gain Dix's wealth.  Enter young Hagar Stanley, the hitherto unknown niece of Dix's dead wife.  Hagar is one the run from a villain who would have forced her to marry him.  Having learned of Dix and that he was old and not well, she has come to volunter to take care of the old man if he would shelter her and teach her his trade.  A bargain was made and Dix soon came to cherish young Hagar and rely on her.  Over the following year Vark fell in love with Hagar and asked her to marry him.  He would, he vowed, convince Dix to alter his will in favor of Hagar and they could then enjoy nhis wealth.  Hagar refused him, knowing him to be a scoundrel.  Vark continued and tried to convince Dix that his estranged son was trying to kill him.  Believing this, Dix was ready to give his estate top Hager, but she smelled a rat and convinced Dix that his son was innocent.  Eventually Dix died, and Hagar took charge of the pawn-shop in the absence of the rightful heir, working solely for the benefit of Dix's missing son.

Now to "The Florentine Dante," which was been slightly abridged from the original book to present it as a stand-alone story in The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Detective Stories.  Appearing at the pawn-shop is Eustace Lorn, a young man nin haggard condition with thread-bare attire.  He wishes to pawn a rare book from the fourteenth century -- a second edition of Dante's La Divina Comedia, easily worth over a hundred pounds.  Lorn does not want to sell the book; it is too precious to him, but he needs money.  Pawning the book allows him to eventually get it back by paying off the loan plus six percent interest.   Hagar haggles and the pair agree to a price of four pounds.  Hagar retains the book and Lorn leaves with the pawn ticket.

A week l;ater, a man enters the shop with the pawn ticket and wants to redeem the book.  The man is "short, stourt, elderly, and vulgar."  Hagar takes an immediate dislike to him and suspects that he obtained the pawn ticket through less than proper means.  She refuses to honor the ticket and said that Lorn himself must redeem it.  The customer, named Jabez Treadle, threatened to go to the polcie and left in anger.  After he left, Hagar sent a message to Lorn.

Lorn arrived and told Hagar the story about the book.  It had been owned by his uncle, Benjamin Gurth, who had diede six months before.  Gurth had come home ten years ago with a forune from the West Indies.  Despite having the fortune, Gurth was a miser, hoarding his money and refusing to help his siter (Lorn's mother) who was very poor.  When Gurth died, his only bequest to Lorn was the Florentine Dante; all his other property was taken by creditors.  The book, however, was said to hold the secret to where Gurth had hidden his massive wealth, determined hy the old man's will to belong to whoever could find it.  A thorough search of the book yielded no clues to the secret and Lorn felt defeated.  Jabez Treadle, had spent years trying to befriend Gurth trying to befriend him and gain the secret to the treasure, lso to no avail.  Gurth had asked Lorn for the book; if he were to find the secret within, he would share the wealth with Lorn, so Lorn had given him the pawn ticket.  Hagar did not trust Treadle and promised to help Lorn.  The two then examined the book carefully but could find no hint of a secret.

Then  Hagar had the idea that the secret might have been written nin invisible ink -- a plot device that was rather unusual for the time.  She devised a way to heat the pages of the book without destroying it by fire and Lo and Behold! she found a hidden message.  The message however made no sense and it was up do Hagar to figure ut how to decode the message and retrieve the treasure.  How she did it and what they found makes upo the rest of the story, which ends in a surprising twist.

Once we pass this story and the rest of Hagar's adventures, we can go to the epilog of the book to discover that Hagar and Lorn fall in love and marry, entering into a life of bliss and effectively ending Hagar's unofficial career as a detective.  Can we expect anything different from a late-nineteenth century popular novel?

Hagar of the Pawn-shop.  The Gypsy Detective is availble to read online.  Judging from "The Florentine Dante," I'd say the book might be worth your time.

Monday, December 26, 2022



From December 21, 1950, episode 10 of television's first run (of four television series) of Ellery Queen mysteries, starring Richard Hart as Ellery, and featuring Sono Osato, Kurt Katch, Frank Tweddell, Raymond Bramley, and Don Kennedy.  Rex Marshall was the announcer.  

Ellery is returning to the city in his Kaiser (the program's sponsor was Kaiser-Frazier automobiles) when he stops at a small town carnival.  Of course, there's a murder.

The Adventures of Ellery Queen ran for 50 episodes on the Dumont Network from October 14, 1950 to December 6, 1951, before moving to ABC for another 43 episodes (December 16, 1951 to November 26, 1952.  Richard Hart, the origin al star, died suddenly of a heart atack in January 1951 and was replaced by Lee Bowman.  Florentz Ames played Ellery's father, Inspector Richard Queen.  

Produced by Irving and Norman Pincus, "The Hanging Acrobat" was directed by Donald Richardson from an adaptation by Gilbert Braun from an original story by "Ellery Queen" (Frederick Dannay and Manfred B. Lee).  "The Adventure of the Hanging Acrobat" first appeared in the May 1934 edition of Mystery under the title of "The Girl on the Trapeze;" it was reprinted in the collection The Adventures of Ellery Queen the same year.

Time to match wits with Ellery!

Sunday, December 25, 2022


 [Santa came through with a new computer keyboard that actually has an "S" key and an "X" key that works!  I'm back, baby!]

Openers:  Kellogg has just climbed the ladder and entered the veranda of his corrugated-iron bungalow when he heard heavy steps approaching from behind.  He shot the bolt on the mosquito-screen door, turned and waited.  In Port Moresby at night it was well to be cautious of strangers.

A moment later a bulking figure strode out of the gloom and approached within speaking distance.

"Just a minute there.  Are you Sam Kellogg?  If you are, I'd like a word with you."

Kellogg reached into his pocket, pulled out a small flashlight and sent a white ray stabbing forward.  His eyes narrowed as the light centered on the man before him.  He was dressed in a dirty suit of white drill with a sun helmet pushed far back on his head.  A long scar ran across one side of his brow, and the lower part of his face was dark with a week's beard.

Scratching a match. Kellogg lit the gasoline lamp suspended from the ceiling, then moved back and unlocked the door.

"Yes, I'm Kellogg," he said crisply.  "Come in.  What's on your mind?

The man stepped over the sill, extended his hand.  "Heron's the name," he said.  "Bill Heron.  I got a proposition to make to you.  You are a sea-faring man, aren't you?"

--"Black Passage" by Carl Jacobi (from Thrilling Adventures, May 1936; reprinted in Jacobi's collection East of Saraminda, 1989)  Note that the first sentence jumps from the present tense to the past tense (where it remains for the rest of the story); this may have been due to hasty writing, hasty editing, or slip-shod proofing -- all of which was possible in the pulps.

The original magazine blurb:  "Command of the 'Bamba Queen' Falls to Sam Kellogg, Stranded in Port Moresby -- and the Vessel Proves a Plague Ship, with Murder at the Helm!"

Kellogg had been the first officer of the Markella, which sank in the Papuan Gulf two months before.  Now unemployed with little chance of finding work in Port Moresby, Heron's offer seemed provident.  Heron has a ship with a full crew -- everything except a skipper.  Kellogg, however, did not yet have his master's papers and told the stranger so.  "Papers be hanged!" Heron said.  The ship in question was the Bamba Queen, a two-thousand tonner under British registry that had been quarantined for bubonic plague and was not due to be fumigated for another few days. The skipper and his two white officers had snuck off the ship and were hiding out at a copper mine at Rona Falls, waiting for the ship to be declared safe.  Heron proposed that he and Kellogg row out to the Bamba Queen, fill her with steam, and slip out to sea.  The government would raise hell, of course, but that would blow over, and the ship's true captain wouldn't show back in Port Moresby for three weeks.  In short, Heron wanted to steal the ship.  It's cargo happened to be munitions -- rifles head to Rabaul in New Britain to put down an uprising there.  Heron proposed to sell the rifles to natives at a very high price.  He would split the profits with Kellogg, fifty-fifty.

Since this is a pulp story and Kellogg is the hero, he refuses to have anything to do with the plot and kicks Heron out.  In dasdardly pulp fashion, Heron vows that Kellog will regret doing so.

You know what is going to happened next.  Kellog is shanghaied and wakes up aboard the Bamba Queen, where he is forced to navigate a ship that had not been fumigated amd whose crew had been exposed to bubonic plague.  To complicate matters, a large trove of stolen diamonds is discovered on board the vessel, further infecting the greed of Heron and his two cronies, Rigori and Lobeck.  And then native crew decided to mutiny...

Carl Jacobi (1908-1997) was best known for his weird fiction.  An editor and a journalist by profession, he wrote mostly for his own pleasure, penning well over 130 stories from 1928 until his death.  His work was consistenly well-plotted, competent, and concise.  A number of his tales have achieved semi-classic status within the horror/fantasy/weird genres.  Five main collections of his work were published durinmg his lifetime, four of them of weird fiction:  Revelations in Black (1947, abridged as The Tomb from Beyond, 1977), Portraits in Moonlight (1964), Disclosures in Scarlet (1972), and Smoke of the Snake (1994); twenty-one of his more than forty far-East adventure stories were included in East of Samirinda (1989).  Although his tales of action-adventure in the far-East comprised nearly a third of his published work, Jacobi never travelled there and seldom left his native Minnesota.  He relied on his fetile imagination and his extensive personal library of far-East hisoty and lore, including such titles as In Borneo Jungles, The Home-Life of Borneo Head-Hunters, Field Book of a Jungle Wallah, and Where Strange Trail Go Down, as well as extensive correspondence with commanding officers of the military outposts in Long Nawang and with the many companies and organizations doing buisness in the area.  An interesting biography (probably the only one) of Jacobi's life is Lost in Rentharpian Hills:  Spanning the Decades with Carl Jacobi (1985).  

Two retrospective collections of Jacobi's best weird tales, both arranged by S. T. Joshi, are available:  Mive and Others and Witches in the Cornfield (both 2021), as well as an e-book collection, The Tenth Golden Age of Science Fiction Megapack (2014).  In addition, Centipede Press has issued the massive (900-page), expensive ($350) Masters of the Weird Tale:  Carl Jacobi (2014).   A paperback edition of East of Samarinda is currently available from abebooks for $9.45, plus shiupping.


  • Greg Bear, Hull Zero Three.  Science fiction novel.  "A starship hurtles through the emptiness of space.  Its destination -- unknown.  Its purpose -- a mystery.  Now, one man wakes up.  Ripped from a dream of a new home on a new planet, he finds himself wet, naked, and freezing to death.  The dark halls are full of monsters but trusting other survivors he meets might be the greater danger.  All he has are questions -- Who is he?  Where are they going?  What happened to the dream of a new life?  What happened to Hull Zero Three?  All will be answered, if he can survive the ship."  Bear, who died much too young last month, was one of the greats in the field.
  • Stefan Dziemianowicz, editor, Great Ghost Stories:  101 Terrifyihng Tales.  Doorstop collection of weird stories, both familiar and uncommon.  Many of the classic authors are represented, as well, as some popular names from the distnt past that many today may not recognize.  A smorgasbord of macabre treats for the afficiando.  This one came to me via the Sage of Tonawanda, may he be thrice blest. 
  • Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg, The Pursuit.  Thriller, a Fox and O'Hare novel.  "Nicolas Fox, international con man, thief, and one of the top ten fugitives on the FBI's most-wanted list, has been kidnapped from a beachfront retreat in Hawaii.  What the kidnapper doesn't know is that Nick Fox has been secretly working with the FBI.  It isn't long before Nick's covert partner, Special Agent Kate O'Hare, is in hot pursuit of the crook who stole her con man,  The trail leads to Belgium, France, and Italy, pitting Nick and Kate against their deadliest adversary yet:  Dragon Kovic, an ex-Serbian military officer who's plotting a crime that will net him billions...and cost thousands of American lives.  Nick and Kate have to mount the most daring, risky, and audacious con they've ever attempted to save a major U.S. city from a catastrophe of epic proportions.  Luckily they have the help of an eccentric out-of-work actor, a bandit who does his best work in the sewers, and Kate's dad, Jake.  The pressure's on for Nick and Kate to make this work -- even if they have to lay their lives on the line.{"  Evanovich is best known for her books abouit bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, a series I really enjoyed at its beginning but wore thin for me after a while.  Goldberg, on the other hand, is a TV writer and producer whose novels have not failed to entertain me.
  • Eric Flint, editor, Grantville Gazette V.  Science fiction antholgy of 25 stories in the Ring of Fire series, in which a 20th-century West Virginia town is hurtled back to 17th-century Europe; the storiers originally appeared in the e-zine Grantville Gazette, which expounds on (and adds consistency to) the shared universe of the Ring of Fire novels.  Flint passed away earlier this year and with his death, alas, I fear, so too has the Grantville Gazette expired.  It will be missed.
  • Martin Gardner, Perplexing Puzzles and Tantalizing Teasers.  Young Adult assemblage of various types of puzzles, riddles, and problems -- including many that woud confound many adults.  An interesting and fun way to pass a couple of hours, presented by a master of logic.
  • Thomas Godfrey, ed., Murder for Christmas.  Mystery anthology with 26 Yule-themed tales of crime.  Authors include John Collier, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Marjorie Bowen, Stanley Ellin, Baynard Kendrick, Baroness Orczy, Woody Allen, O. Henry, Ngaio Marth, H. R. F. Keating, Georges Simenon, Dorothy L. Sayers, Carter Dickson, Edward D. Hoch, Margery Allingham, Rex Stour, Damon Runyon, and G. K. Chestertton.  How can you go wrong?  This one came to me through the good graces of George Kelley.
  • Parke Godwin, The Tower of Beowulf.  Fantasy novel.  "Under the harsh tutorlege of a merciless father, young Beowulf grew to be a strong and skillful leader of men,  But shame, guilt and loss have marked him a coward in his own mind -- unworthy of praise and the noble trappings of victory.  Attend the saga of Beowulf, tormented warrior and slayer of monsters -- an indominitable champion driven to confront great peril and ever-greater foes in his vain attempt to throw away a life he holds at no value.  Here is the epic story of a hero in spite of himself, whose legend is born at the dark bottom of a haunted lake -- and of the unwanted mantle of glory, duty and pain that Destiny has decreed he must wear until the end of his days."  Godwin was a World Fantasy Award winner whose novels have explored such legends of King Arthur, Guineviere, Robin Hood, and St. Patrick.
  • Simon R. Green, Something from the Nightside and Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth.  The first and sixth novels in Green's Nightside series, which features P.I. John Taylor, who works the dark and corrupt Nightside, a city within London teeming with monsters.  In the first book, "My card says I'm a detective, but what I really am is an expert at finding lost things.  It's part of the gift I was born with as a child of the Nightside.  I left there a long time ago, with my skin and sanity barely intact.  Now I make my living in the sunlit streets of London. But business has been slow lately, so when Joanna Barrett showed up at my door, reeking of wealth, asking me to find her runaway teenge daughter, I didn't say no.  Then I found out exactly where the girl had gone.  The Nightside.  That square mile of Hell in the middle of the city, where it's always three a,m,  Where you can walk beside myths and drink with monsters.  Where nothing is as it seems and everything is possible.  I swore I'd never return.  But there's a kid in danger and a woman depending on me.  So I have no choice -- I'm going home..."  In Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth, the Nightside is "[n]ot a nice place to visit or a nice place to live.  So you wouldn't think I would care that it was about to be destroyed, by none other than my very own long-missing, not-quite-human mom.  But I do.  I was born here.  I live here, and I got friends here.  They might not be acceptible in polite company, but they're my friends, nonetheless.  I know that I'm the only one who can stop her.  The trick is, how to do it without fulfilling this prophecy that says whatever action I take, not only is the Nighside doomed, but the rest of the woirld will soon follow..."
  • George Mann, editor, Sexton Blake, Detective.  Collection of 26 stories about Sexton Blake from 1909 to 1934, from The Penny Pictorial, Union Jack, and Detective Weekly.  Sexton Blake was created as a response to the popularity of Sherlock Holmes.  He first appeared in writing by Harry Blyth (using the pseudonym "Hal Meredith") in 1893.  From that time until 1978, he appeared in over 4000 stories written by over 200 authors.  The character has appeared on stage, in film (both silents and talkies), on radio, on television. in comics, and on a 78-rpm record.  At one time, he was featured in 217 original stories writtenn in Bengali by Bengali author Dinedra Kumar Roy.  Another gift from the very gracious George Kelley.
  • Susan Oleksiw, Under the Eye of Kali.  An Anita Ray mystery.  "Trouble befalls two American tourists staying at the cozy seaside Hotel Delite in southern India.  Helping her aunt Meena run the place, photographer and gallery owner Anita Ray is drawn into the mystery.  The victims, both women, were nurses, one of whom admiitted to smuggling black market medicak supplies across the border to those in need.  Now one of them is dead, the other in a hospital.  Aunt Meena is teetering on hysteria and Anita needs answers.  Of all the exotic sights and sounds of the city, few are as captivating as the Balabhadrakali Temple and its alluring statue of the goddess Kali.  But tourism had little to do with the tragedy -- something else was going on.  Pushing aside her fear of poking into the dangerous world of illegal trade, Anita discovers the motive for murder was far more personal.  And now one of her own photographs may hold the key to the killer's identity."  Besides writing a number of well-recieved mysteries, Oleksiw is the author of A Reader's Guide to the Classic English Mystery, which holds a treasured place in my library.
  • Whitley Steiber, Critical Mass. Comspiracy thriller.  "What would we do if a nuclear weapon was detonated in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. government suddenly disappeared?  What would we do if a terrorist organization announced that it had concealed nuclear weapons in every major Western cities...and the demanded that the entire planet embrace its twisted brand of fundamentalism?   Nuclear interdiction expert James Deutsch and his Muslim wife, Nabita, struggle to stop an impending nuclear attack on a great American city.  Along the way, they delve deep into the hidden world of nuclear terrorism and the titanic battle within Islam for its own future."  Steiber wrote a lot of very good books early in his career, but (IMHO) he jumped the shark by getting on the "aliens have kidnapped me" bandwagon.  From the brief blurb at the back of this book, I doubt if he has found his way back.
  • John Varley.  Dark Lighning.  Science fiction novel, the fourth book in Varley's Thunder and Lightning series.  "On a voyage to New Earth, the starship Rolling Thunder is powered by an energy no one understands, except for its eccentric inventor Jubal Broussard.  Like many of the ship's inhabitants, Jubal rests in a state of suspended animation, asleep yet never aging.  The moments when Jubal emerges from stasis are usually a cause for celebration for his family, including his twin daughters -- Cassie and Polly -- and their uncle who is the captain of the Rolling Thuinder.  But this time, Jubal makes a shocking announcement...The ship must stop, or everyone will die.  These words from the mission's founder, the man rsponsible for the very existence of Rolling Thunder, will send shock waves throughout the starship  -- and divide its pasengers into those who believe and those who doubt.  And it will be up to Cassie and Polly to stop a mutiny, discover the truth, and usher the ship into a new age of exploration"  Another part of the Kelley bonanza; again, much appreciated.
  • Richard S. Wheeler, Restitution.  western novel.  "Truman Jackson and his family are a pillar in the frontier community of Cottonwood, Utah.  A successful rancher, there is no one he wouldn't lend a hand to, and no one who wouldn't consider him a friend.  But no one in Cottonwood knows much about the Jacksons.  When asked about their past, they give vague and shadowy answers, and no one is able to find out where they came from, or what they did.  Truman Jackson and his wife, Gracie, have been hiding their outlaw roots -- and their criminal deeds -- for the past seventeen years.  To become whole once again, Truman is ready to confess his sins -- even if it turns his family, friends, and an entire town against him."  Few people were better that Rchard Wheeler at writing page-turning, provoking westerns with an authentic flavor.
  • Bill Willingham, Down the Mystery River.  young adult fantasy novel.  "Max 'the Wolf' is a top-notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering, and a master of being prepared.  So it is little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood.  Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat) -- all of whom talk -- and are as clueless as Max.  Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds.  Armed with powerful blue swords and known as Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey.  For what purpose, Max can't guess.  But unless he can solve the mystery of the strange forested world he's landed in, Max may find himself and his friends changed beyond recognition, lost in a lost world..."   Willingham is the genius behind the graphic novel world of Fables.  Mark Buckingham, who has drawn most of the Fables titles, porvides the illuistrations for this book.  A winning combination.

Boxing Day 1:  Today is Boxing Day.  I may be unclear on the concept.

Boxing Day 2:  Still unclear.

Boxing Day 3:  I'm never going to get this Boxing Day thing right, am I?

Light-Horse Harry:  Henry Lee III (1756-1818) was an American Revolutionary War hero who served as a major general in the continental Army and won the nickname "Light-Horse Harry."  He was a member of the Continental Congress and  later governor of Virginia (1791-1794) and served his state in the House of Representatives from 1799 to 1801.  It was there, on this date 223 years ago, in a eulogy before Congress, that he famously described his close friend George Washington as "First in war, first in peace and  first in the hearts of his countrymen."  He was the father of Robert E. Lee.

Here is the full funeral oration.  The famous quote can be found on page 14.

Little Maid of Arcadee:  Also on this date (in 1871) the first operatic collaboration between W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sulivan premiered.  Thespis -- described as "An entirely original Grotesque Opera in Two Acts" -- tells the tale of an acting grouip led by Thespis, the Greek father of the drama, who temporarily trade places with the gods of Olympus.  The actors are inept at ruling.  Mayhem ensues and the gods angrily return, kicking the acting troupe out of the heavens, dooming them to be "eminent tragedians,  whom no one ever goes to see."  The show ran for 63 performances, a surprisingly good run for a seasonal work.

Thespis was performed only one other time during its creators' lifetimes, a benefit performance shortly after its oringinal staging.  During the 1950s, interest in the opera was renewed and it has been perfomed an number of times since.  Because the original music -- except for two songs and some ballet music -- survived past 1897, the twentieth century stagings have used music from later works by the pair or used original music.  The two compisers went their separate ways for three years after the performanmces of Thespis, reuniting for Trial by Jury in 1875 with manager Richard D'Orly Carte, to begin their sucessfulk careerrs, which included such works as H. M. S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado.

One of the two songs that has survived from Thespis is "Little Maid of Arcadee."  Here it is performed by Richard Holmes (brother of Rupert Holmes) at the 75th anniversary gala of New York's Gilbert & Sullivan Society on October 18, 2011:

Celebrate:  In addition to Boxing Day, December 26 is also National Thank-You Note Day ( a no-brainer), National Candy Cane Day (I can see that), and National Whiner's Day (I assume for those who got coal in their stocking).  We're also starting Kwanzaa, the seven-day African American and pan-African cultural holidayToday also marks the beginning of Junkanoo, a celebration i  the Bahmas and for the English-speaking Caribbean culture and the Black-Caribbean diaspoora; marked by parades,usic, and dance, the celebration goes on until January 1.  It's also National Homeowners' Day, Slovenian Independence and Unity Day, St. Stephen's Day in Ireland, and the Synaxis of the Mother of God, celebrated by the Orthodox Church in  Greece in honor of the Virgin Mary.

Among those born on this date are Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (b. 1194), English poet Thomas Gray ("Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," and the sad ode to a drowned cat [below], b. 1716), Scottish mathematician, scholar and polymath Mary Somerville, whose signature was the first on John Stuart Mill's petition to Parliament to give women the right to vote (b. 1780), inventor of the Difference engine Charles Babbage (b. 1791), popular author E. D. E. N. (Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte) Southworth, the most popular American novelist of her day (b. 1819), Admiral of the Navy Geroge Dewey (b. 1837), co-founder of Pathe Records Charles Pathe (b. 1863), Nobel Prize laureate (Nobel Peace Prize 1933) Norman Angell (b. 1872),  English runner and Olympic champion Percy Hodge (b. 1890), author (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capicorn) Henry Miller (b. 1891), Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong (b. 1893), character actor Elisha Cook, Jr. (b. 1903). American politician Albert Gore, Sr., father of Al Gore (b. 1907), actor Richard Widmark, who famously pushed actree Mildrid Dunnock and her wheelchair down a flight of stairs in 1947's Kiss of Death (b. 1914), first host of The Tonight Show Steve Allen (b. 1921), legendary comic book artist and one of the founding artists of Mad John  Severin (b. 1921), English-American actor with eyebrows that would not stop Donald Moffat (b. 1930), Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch portrayer Caroll Spinney (b. 1933), Estonian architect with a great name Peep Janes (b. 1936), "wall of sound" record producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector (b. 1939). best-selling author Catherine Coulter (b. 1942), baseball legend Carlton Fisk (b. 1947), former CNN journalist Candy Crowley (b. 1948), shortstop (the greatest ever, according to Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone) Ozzie Smith (b. 1954), Indiana politician Evan Bayh (b. 1955), Sherman's Lagoon cartooist Jim Toomey (b. 1960), actor Jared Leto (b. 1971), and "You know nothing, Jon Snow" actor Kit Harington (b. 1986).

Those who died on this date (many of whom will be missed) include Pope Dionysius (d. 268), Pope Zosimus (d. 418), Swedish King Valdemar (d.  1239), French bishop Jean de Marigny (d. 1350), archaelogist Heinrich Schliemann (d. 1890), American painter Frederic Remington (d. 1909), Henry Watson Fowler, author of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (d. 1933), American wrestler Gorgeous George (George Raymond Wagner) (d. 1963), notorious photojournalist Weegee (Asher -- later modified to Usher -- Felig) (d. 1968), president Harry S. [often without the period] Truman (d. 1972), Jack Benny, the greatest comedian ever, IMHO (d. 1974), film director Howard Hawks (Scarface, Bringing Up Baby, Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Red River, The Thing from Another World, and Rio Bravo, among many others) (d. 1977), actress Elsa Lanchester (d. 1986), tragic murder victim JonBenet Ramsey (d. 1996), singer-songwriter Curtis Mayfield (d. 1999), actor Jason Robards (d. 2000), fashion photographer Herb Ritts (d. 2002), president Gerald Ford (d. 2006), singer Teena Marie (Mary Christine Brockert) (d. 2010), television and film producer and "supermarionation" pioneer (Supercar, Fireball XL 5, Thunderbirds, etc.) Gerry Anderson (d,. 2012), professional wrestler Brodie Lee (born Jonathan Huber; he also used the stage name Luke Harper) (d. 2020), Greek president Karolos Papoulias (d. 2021), Bishop Desmond Tutu (d. 3021), and entomologist E. O. Wilson (d. 2021).  Requiescet in pace.

Florida Man:
  •  Florida Men John L. Moore Jr., 56, and Tanner J. Mansell, 26, have been convisted of stealing fishing gear in federal waters.  They cut and removed a fishing line they claimed was entangled with vulnerable lemon sharks, releasing at least nineteen sharks in the process.  They each face up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.  The line was attached to a commercial fishing buoy and was allowed by federal law; the NOAA HMS Compliance Guide allows commercial fishermen to catch sharks species that otherwise are not allowed by Florida law.  The sharks were freed while the pair had taken a group of tourists, including a police chief, to swim and dive with sharks off the coast of Jupiter.  Moore and Mansell, believing they had frred the sharks from an illegal line, reported their actions to authorities.  Sadly, they were wrong.
  • The New York Post, once Donald Trumo's favorite newspaper, has sadly dismissed him as "Florida Man" and relagated his 2024 Presidential announcement to page 26.  Could not happened to a nicer guy...
  • 27-year-old Florida Man Alisha Lalani has been charged with battery on police horse after he slapped the horse (named Patch) on the butt with his open hand in St. Petersberg.  A policeman was on Patch at the time.  According to officers, Lalani did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time; he stated he did not know that it was not allowed to slap a horse on the butt.  It tuirns out that battery on a police horse is a first-degree misdemeanor. 
  • In other, more srious and certainly more disgusting, anim al related news, Florida Man Chad Mason, 26, of Clearwater, has been charged with having sex with a dog in public (including in front of a child under the age of 16).  When confronted by witnesses, Mason fled the scene, causing mayhem along the way.  At the nearby Northwood Presbyterian Church, he allegedly broke potted plants, tossed around children's toys, and knocked over a nativity scene, after which he destroyed a nearby mailbox and attempted to steal a car before he was arrested.  Mason has since been released on bond, after having a Christmas season that he will not soon forget.
  • 25-year-old Florida Man Austin Harrouff avoided jail time after a judge acepted an insanity plea from the man who killed a 59-year-old man and his 56-year-old wife six years ago and chwed on the face of one of his victims.  It is "highly unlikely" that Harrouff will ever be released from the mental facility where he is being held.
  • 38-year-old Florida Man Jermaine Bell had just been convicted of armed robbery and was facing a life sentence when he interupted the Miami-Dade courtroom proceedings by drinking a cup of a "bleach-like" substance.  How he got the liquid and why he was allowed to have it on his person is unknown.  Bell was hospitalized but survived the incident.

Good News:
  • Work set to begin on asteroid hunting observatory -- NASA's new mission to protect Earth from disaster
  • Scientists have discovered an "Achilles heel" for a rogue protein that fuels a dealy brain cancer, effectively shutting down the protein and potentially bettering the 10% current survival rate
  • A perfectly spherical dog?
  • Pennies thrown into Rome's Trevi Fountain go to help the city's poor
  • Young people help restore a historic arch in East London
  • Five good news stories from a memorable World Cup series
  • Woman who hated exercise started lifting weights to combat arthritis and is now a regional champion
  • Agressive leukemia disappears in a 13-year-old girl who was the first to receive new CRISPR treatment

I Should Have Followed This Advice Yesterday:  "Never eat more tha you can lift." -- Miss Piggy

Today's Poem:
Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat
Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes

'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined, 
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, her emerald eyes,
She saw, and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide.
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first, and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish'
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat's averse to fish?

Presumptous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch'd, again she bent,
Not knew the gulf between,
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Not cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A Favourite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne'er retreived,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glistens, gold.

-- Thomas Gray

Thursday, December 1, 2022


 The Hills Stand Watch by August Derleth (1960)

August Derleth, the Sage of Sauk City, was a one-man pubishing phenomenon.  Novelist, journalist, biographer, essayist, historian, editor, educator, literary mentor, naturalist, and strong proponent of Wisconsin writers and writing.  Today he most remembered for his advocacy of H. P. Lovecraft's writings (and it is a given that most people today would never had heard of HPL, to say nothing of Cthulhu, without the tireless efforts of Derleth), as well as the promulgation of the American weird tale through Derleth's publishing company, Arkham House, and through Derleth' own anthologies.  Derleth is also remembered as the creator of Sherlock Holmes clone Solar Pons. a character who continues to live on through the writings of others.  During his lifetime, Derleth was considered one of the most immportant of America's regional writers; that aspect of his career has been sadly -- and unjustly forgotten.

Derleth' major work was his Wisconsin saga, a broad and sweeping look at his beloved home state, its people, its history, and its character.  As a subset to this, Derleth created his Sac Prairie Saga, with Sac Prairie serving as the fictional counterpart to his home village of Sauk City.   The overall saga consisted of historical novels, short stories, poetry, journals, young adult novels, juvenile nonfiction, biographies, and history exploring his home state with a poet's eye.   His novels covered parts of Wisonsin's history that may seem to hold little glThe Hill Stand Watchamor:  the establishment of a banking system, the torturous political path from being a territory to becoming a state, the growth and death of the fur trade, the importance of lead mining, the establishment of a railroad, the treatment of Indians, the slow establishment of trade and business, as well as both the Catholic and Protestant religion, and the importance of German, Hungarian, and Cornish immigrants settling in the area.

The Hills Stands Watch takes place in the lead mining area around the small village of Mineral Point inn the 1840s.  David Pengellen, co-owner of the local store, has just brought his new to this remote area from her native Providence.  Candace Pengellen, used to a much more active social life, is having a hard time adjusting to what is basically a frontier life despite the best efforts of a few newly acquired friends, including Aunt Marget, the widowed woman who serves as housekeeper for several of the families in the village.  The thick Cornish accent of many of the townspeople is difficult for Candace to understand and adds to her isolation.   David himself, is a clear-headed young man whose opinions and tact make him very popular.  He realize that Candace is having a difficult time adjusting.  Lieutenant Nate Parr is a former militiaman who roams the territory with Soaring Hawk, a taciturn Winnebago scout.  Parr has secret ambitions of gaining a political post after Wisconsin achieves statehood and has made numerous friends throughout the territory to help him reach that goal.  The closest thing Parr has to a frined, putside of Soaring Hawk, is David Pengellen.  When Parr meets Candace he is strongly attracted to her, a feeling he tries to hide because of his friendship with David.  Tamson Bishop is Aunt Marget's orphaned niece from Cornwall.  When we meet her she is just seventeen and is trying to rid herself of her thick accent.  As she blossoms into womanhood before our eyes, we learn that she is wisely observant and, with the exception of Soaring Hawk, the most aware character in the novel.  Tamson has a secret crush on David and will do nothing about it because of her friendship and respect for Candace.  Candace's depression grows after she has a miscarriage and learns that she is no longer able to bear children.  Also, circumstances back in Providence any possibility of Candace ever returning there, destroyinng a secret hope tht she has held onto since entering Wisconsin territory.  Slowly, Candace finds herself drawn to Parr, just as David finds himself drawn to young Tamson.  The scene is set for tragedy.

The other main character in the novel is Wisconsin itself.  The natural beauty of the land is lovingly described by Derleth, who, as I mentioned, has a poet's eye for his state.

In the background are the efforts to grow the lead mining business in the area, attempts to get a railroad to pass through Mineral Point as the demand for lead pushes the growth of the town, the incipient was with Mexico (which will mean an increase in demand for the mineral for ammunition), the possibility of some final Indian uprisings which could bring war to the territory, and the political machinations as the territory inches toward statehood.

Everything combines well into strong character studies of the main players and a fascinating view of a point in American history, as we are reminded of the difference between fate and Providence:  fate "was the anme applied to man's errors."

Well-written, literate, and perhaps a bit too, old-fashioned for many of today's readers.  Nonetheless, it's worth a try if you should happen to come across a copy.