Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Friday, April 28, 2023


 This is the original Blue Beetle, who first appeared in Mystery Men Comics #1 (August 1939), and went on to be featured in his own comic book for 59 issues.  (The Blue Beetle comic book was numbered #1-60, but there was no issue #43.)  As with many Golden Age comic book heroes, the Blue Beetle's path to taday has been rocky as comic book publishers die out and characters get bought and re-imagined and re-re-imagined.  Over the years, the Blue Beetle was portrayed as three different characters :  Dan Garret (later Dan Garrett), Ted Cord, and Jaime Reyes -- it's the first character, Dan Garret, who concerns us here.  Artist Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski (as "Charles Nicholas") has been credited with creating the super-hero, although Will Eisner may or may not have written the original script.

Dan Garret is a rookie police officer while also being the Blue Beetle, a man believed to be a crook and wanted by the police.  As the Blue Beetle, Dan starts out wearing a blue suit jacket and mask; later, he switches to a full-body cowled costume, yellow gauntlets, and a domino mask.  His cosume is bullet-proof and he gains super-energy through "Vitamin 2X," which is concoted for him by neighborhood pharmacist Abe Franz.  The Blue Beetle dirve a special powered car that leaves the police in the dust.  He starts by rescuing a banker's kidnapped daughter after her father had been murdered, and by exposing the leader of the gang of kidnappers.

This 282-page compilation includes storiues from Mystery Men #1-15 and Blue Beetle  #1-1.


Thursday, April 27, 2023


 Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham  (2011)

Max the Wolf found himself walking through a great forest with no memory of where he was or how he had gotten there.  This was a bit disconcerning because, although he was not a real wolf (that wa just a nickname he had been given), he was a crackjack Boy Scout and, as such, was aways prepared.  Until now.  Even though the woods were not his native Seattle, he was at least somewhat prepared because he was wearing his Boy Scout uniform, less his cap, and he had his Boy Scout knife in one pocket.  Max faced his situation calmly.  Although it was a mystery, mysteries were meant to be solved and who better to do that than Max, who was also a boy detective.  (Max's many adventures in detection had been chronicled in a series of 37 novels by writer Lawrence Swift.)

His best bet, he decided, was to walk downhill in an attempt to find some water.  While going through a dense area of underbrush, a voice warned him, "I don't think either of us would like it if you stepped on me."  The voice belonged to a very large badger (Taidea taxus).  Since badgers did not talk in Seattle (or anywhere else), Max thought he might be hallucinating, especially after the badger told him that both of them were dead.  Max did not feel dead.  He could feel pain and he was hungry -- two things that were not supposed to happen to dead people.  It turns out the badger, whose name was Banderbrock, had also mysteriously found himself in the forest, decided he had to be dead, and believed that somewhere nearby was the Great Sett, the endless communal badger warren where every good and noble badger went after dying.

In the meantime, not far away, McTavish the Monster was trying to escape from two vicious dogs and their human master.  McTavish was a barn cat but no one could be faulted for believing that he was a "might be a cat."  He was big and battle-scarred with one eye and a snaggletooth; his tail was missing its tip and was broken at an odd angle.  He had little of his original fur left.  He was a tough, mean cat.

  Max and Banderbrock had set up camp for the night.  McTavish saw their campfire (Max was a Boy Scout, remember) and headed for it and ran right past them, hoping to confuse the dogs chasing him.  The dogs stopped before the two and the human caught up.  It was Lord Andor and he carried a large sword made of blue metal.  When he found out who Max was. he told him that he did not belong here, but that others elsewhere were looking for him.  He tried to threaten Max by cutting a six-inch thick tree with just one sweep of his sword, advancing to capture the boy.  Suddenly, Banderbrock leapt from the nearby trees onto the two ravining dogs and a huge fight began.  Max ran off outside of the fire's light and gathered some rocks to defend himself.  He conked Lord Andor a good one, but that made the man angrier.  Andor pinned Max to the ground and was about to smash his head with rock when McTavish came out of nowhere and landed on his back, clawing him painfully.  Anndor ran off, calling his dogs after him.  Only one dog, severely wounded, followed; the other had been killed by Banderbrock.

McTavish also had no memory of how he had come to this place.  For the last week, though, he had been chased by the relentless hounds.  He was sure that the human would be back with more dogs and that they should get away from there as fast as possible.  And so the band was three.

They came across their fourth member on a narrow cliff-side path.  This was Walden, a black bear, who was the sheriff of the Grand Green.  He was trying to find his way back, stopping to eat fish and honey and berries and to eat honey and berries and fish and to eat berries and honey and fish and to take an inordinate amout of naps -- which was pretty much what he also did as sheriff.  That, and try to catch the trickster Rake the cougar, who was the closest thing to a criminal that the Grand Green had.  Walden was on his way to find Prince Aspen, who was supposed to be a great oracle who could answer all their questions.  Prince Aspen, it turned out, was just that -- a large aspen tree who had been a dryad prince of the royal sapline.  He was not an oracle, but he did know many things.

What about Lord Andor?  He was a member of the Blue Cutters, an evil group dedicated to finding those talking animals that had somehow been tranferred to the giant forest.  They liked to kill but they could also Cut -- wounding their victims with small cuts that removed their past memories, an excellent way to gain information.  Andor's chapter of Blue Cutters ws led by Lady Kerris, who charged the ambitious Diana with leading a large group of Cutters to capture Max, Banderbrock, and McTavish, not realizing that they had been joined by Walden.  Diana's men then captured a marmot and, using the Cutting, she discoverd the location of  Prince Aspen.  If Max was an important prize for the Blue Cutters, then Aspen was the grand prize, the most sought-after fugitive in the entire realm.  Capturing Max and the others would be good, but capturing Aspen would ensure that Diana take Lady Kerris's place as the head of the chapter.

And there's a mysterious man in green who is following both our heroes and the Blue Cutters for his own purposes.

To save his friends and solve the mystery of where they are and why they are there will take all of Max's detecting skills, as well as the leadership training he has learned as a top-notch Boy Scout.

" 'The main thing to keep in mind,' Max said, as they walked along, 'is that most detection is simply a process of elimination.'

" 'You think better after you poop?' McTavish said.  'Me too!  Maybe I could be a detective.' "

Down the Mysterly River is a wonderful, inventive, and funny thrill ride suitable for kids my age and younger.

Bill Willingham (b. 1956) is best-known as the writer and creator of the Eisner-winning comic book Fables, which chronicled the adventures of fairy tale and folklore characters hiding in exile nin New York City after their Homelands were destroyed by the powerful Adeversary; those Fables unable to blend in with human characters are hiding in the Farm located in Upstate New York.  The varied characters with their strengths and weaknesses provide a rich tapestry for exceptional storytelling.  The Fables universe has expanded to include other comic book titles, notably Jack of Fables (fifty issues), as well as miniseries Fairest, Cinderella, and Everafter, a special twelve-issue followup to Fables.  A sxi-issue team-up featuring Batman and Fables sheriff Bigby Wolf, A Wolf in Gotham, was issued in 2012.  Fables has twice been optioned for televion and for the movies. 

Willingham has also been an artist for TSR Games, illustrating a number of their role-playing games.  In the comics industry he has wroked on Green Lantern, The Sandman, Robin, House of Mystery, Justice League of America, and others.  Among the comics he has created are Elementals, Ieonwood, Pantheon, Proposition Player, Shadowpact, and Salvation Run.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023


 Nazi treasure...murder...Paris...spies and double elaborate can you go wrong?

Larry Fielding is a reporter who has just been fired without explanation after five years on the job.  Now a beautiful femme fatale has framed him for murder.  Could what's behind it all be a hidden Nazi treasure of stolen jewels?  Or could it be the secret plans for an anti-missile device?  Whatever the answer, Larry is up to his neck in trouble and the City of Lights has becomes deadly trap.

"The Lady Was a Tiger" is an original script by Murrary Bennett and stars William Redfield as Larry Fielding.  Also featured are Roger DeKoven, Ian Martin, Chris Gampel, and Joan Loring.



"Woodrow Wilson's Necktie" by Patricia Highsmith (first appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March 1971; reprinted in Highsmith's collection Slowly, Slowly in the Wind, 1979; reprinted many times, sometimes as "Woodrow Willson's Neck Tie" or "Woodrow Wilson's Tie")

Patrocia Highmith may have been was a  mean, unpleasant, horrid person, but she could write.  From Strangers in a Train to The Talented Mr. Ripley to her many other novels and short stories, she was the Queen of Moral Ambiguity.

"Woodrow Wilson's Necktie" concerns Clive Wilkes, a high school dropout and delivery boy for a grocery story.  Clive's father had abandoned him and his mother when the boy was nine and Clive had gotten into some trouble when he was sixteen but seemed to have straightened himself out.  Clive's one obsession was with Madame Thibualt's Waxworks Horrors, a local wax museum; Clive would visit once or twice a week and never tire of it or its bloody tableaus -- Marat in his bathtub, Reginald Christie strangling a woman, the Kennedy assassination, the Tate-Labianca murders, the Lindberg kidnapping -- all seemed to give Clive some comfort and a sense of thrill.

Clive decided he wanted to spend the night in the waxwork.  It took some planning, but one evening he was able to hide in a dark nook while the staff locked up and left for the night.  It was exciting for a while, but then it tired.  To add a little lagniappe to his adventure he stole a necktie from a wax figure of Woodrow Wilson.  (The exhibit had a tableau of Wilson signing the Armistice; why this was a feature of a house of horrors is confusing and never explained.)   A few days later he revisited the museum; Wilson's tie was still missing -- no one on the staff had noticed it; or, if they had, no one bothered to replace it.  Clive could not tell anyone of his great exploit of spending the night in the waxworks and of stealing the neckitie which was now hanging in his closet.

"Clive did get another idea one afternoon, a hilarious idea that would make the public sit up and take notice.  Clive's ribs trembled with supressed laughter..."  The museum had four employees.  One was the ticket-taker who was the first to leave and would lock and bar the front door; the others -- two men and one woman -- would lock the day's proceeds in the office and straighten out the museum before they left through the rear door.  Once again, Clive hid in a dark corner as the museum closed and the ticket-taker had left.  When the woman was about to leave, Clive stepped out, grabbed from behind by the throat and strangled her.  When  one the men started to leave, he did the same.  But this was a man, somewhat stronger than the woman, and he made some noise before he died.  When the second man came out, Clive acted quickly, stunning him with a blow, then smashing his head against the plaster wall repeatedly until he was dead.   Or so Clive thought.  When the man moved slightly, Clive repeatedly stabbed him in the throat with a penknife.  Now all three were decidedly dead.

Now for the real fun part.  Clive took the wax body of Marat out of his tub and put it on the office desk.  In Marat's place, he put the woman's body; he did not bother to remove her clothers because it was funnier for her to be in a tub fully clothed, wearing her fur-collared jacket and with her hat placed at a jaunty angle on her head.  One exhibit had a man eating his dinner while his wife stabbed him in the neck.  He took the man's figure and sat it in a chair in the office and placed one of the dead men in his place, making sure that the corpse was holding a knife and fork in front of the dinner plate.  At the Woodrow Wilson exhibit. he took the seating figure and placed it on the toilet in the bathroom, replacing the figure with the last corpse; that body slumped forward, it's head covering the document in front of him with blood.  Clive then wiped his fingerprints from anything he had touched and left through the rear door, locking it.  "God Lord, it was funny!" -- not just the placement of the corpses but also the placement of the wax figures.

The next morning, he showed up with a few other customers and waited for the museum to open.  The ticket-taker told everyone to just go in, explaining everyone else seemed a bit late that morning.  At first, nobody noticed anything wrong, not the clothed woman in Marat's tub or the dead man at the dinner table.  Then  one woman asked her husband, "Was someone shot when the armistice was signed?"  Suddenly, a woman screamed from the Marat exhibition.  The ticket taker then recognized the body as hiks co-worker Mildred.  Police were called as Clive left he museum, thinking, "That was good.  That was all right.  Not bad.  Not bad at all."

Rather than show up at work, Clive decided to take a long bus ride somewhere.  By that evening, he was in a small town in Indiana, reading the local newspapers; three of them had headlines about the murders.  He took the papers and went to a local bar.  Nobody else seemed excited or concerned about the murders -- not at the bar, nor at the small diner where he went next.  A couple of men sat next to him at the counter, talking about something else.  Clive interrupted them to ask if they read about the murders.  They had, but they were not interested, and continued their conversation.  Clive told them that he was the murderer.  They ignored him and went on talking.  The next day in another town, the papers were still discussing the murders but Clive's name was not mentioned, nor was the funny way he had positioned the corpses and the wax statues.  Again, he told some people that he had done it and got the same reaction.  So he went home and entered the police staion and confessed.  They treated it as a false confession.  Clive was ordered to see a psychiatrist, who also did not believe him.  Clive wondered what deadly thing he would have to do next to convince people that he deserved an exhibit in Madame Thibualt's Waxwork Horrors...

A somewhat darkly humorous, ironic tale.

I read this in Anne Perry's excellant anthology A Century of British Mystery and Suspense.  I'm still wondering why it was included there.  Highsmith was an American, the story was first published in America, and it took place in America.  Yes, the book also had stories by Americans John Dickson Carr and Michael Z. Lewin, but they both might as well have been British, but why Highsmith?

Monday, April 24, 2023


Oldest grandchild Mark turns another calendar page today.  I may be prejudiced, but he is the sweetest, kindest, funniest man on this planet.  Look up the words "awesome" and "amazing" in any dictionary; if it doesn'r have Mark's picture there, it's a terrible dictionary.  If you do not automatically fall in love with this guy, there is something seriously wrong with you.  As with many of the world's best people, Mark is quiet and unassuming and really does not realize how great he truly is.  No matter -- anyone who has ever met him knows he is anyway.

I love him.  I'm proud of him.  I'm glad he's a big part of my life.

Happy birthday!


 Charlie Wild, Private Detective began as a radio series on NBC on September 24, 1950, replacing The Adverntures of Sam Spade after Spade actor Howard Duff and creator Dashiell Hammett were caught up in the Red Scare of the time; Charlie Wild premiered exactly one week after the last Spade show.  Charlie Wild was a tough New York City private eye whose cases usually involved murder and beautiful women.  Wild was originally played by George Petrie until December 17 of that year.  The program then moved to CBS radio from January 7 to July 1, 1951, with Kevin O'Morrison in the lead, followed by John McQuade.

The show hit the CBS television airwaves on December 22, 1950, running for 20 episodes until June 27; for almost all of that time, the television program ran concurrent with the radio show, sometimes recyling the radio scripts.  Kevin O'Morrison and the John McQuade reprised their radio roles.  Charlie Wild then moved to ABC television from September 11, 1951 to March 4, 1952.  It went to its third network, the DuMont Television Netwrok, for its final episodes, ending on June 19, 1952.  The television show ran for a total of 64 episodes -- 20 on CBS, 27, on ABC, and 17 on DuMont.  John  McQuade continued to star as Charlie Wild through the entire ABC and DuMont runs.  Cloris Leachman was featured as Wild's secretary Effie Perrine for 57 episodes.

In "The Case of the Double Trouble," Charlie is tasked with guarding a valuable parchment; as things develop, he may be underpaid for the job.


Sunday, April 23, 2023


Openers:  The exorcist is dead.

Abby sits in her office and stares at the email, then clicks the blue link.  It takes her to the homepage of the paper she still thinks of as the News and Courier, even though it changed its name fifteen years ago.  There's the exorcist floating in the niddle of her screen, balding and with a ponytail, smiling at the camera in a blurry headshot the size of a postage stamp.  Abby's jaw aches and her throat gets tight.  She doesn't realize she's stoppoed breathing.

The exorcist was driving some luimer up to Lakewood and stopped on I-95 to help a tourist change his tire.  He was tightening the big nuts when a Dodge Caravan swerved onto the shoulder and hit him full-on.  He died before the ambulance arrived.  The woman driving the minivan had three differenr painkillers in her system -- four if you included Bud Light.  She was charged with driving under the influence.

"Highways or dieways," Abby thinks.  "The choice is yours."

-- Grady Hendrix, My Best Friend's Exorcism, 2016

Abby and her best friend Gretchen are high school sophomores.  An evening of skinny-dipping goes horribly wrong and Gretchen is acting strangely.  She's moody and irritable.  Strange things begin to happen whenever she is nearby.  Will their friendship be powerful enough to beat the devil?  "Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist, My best Friend's Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of '80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller."

Grady Hendrix is the author of the 2014 bestselling novel Horrorstor,, showing what could happen when a big box Ikea-like store goes bad.  The book has been optioned and is currently indevelopment.  My Best Friend's Exorcism was his next book; it was relased as a film in 2022.  This was followed by his nonfiction look at horror paperbacks (with Will Errickson) oin 2017, Paperbacks from Hell, which in turn became the inspiration for an ongoing line paperback reprints from Valancourt Books.  Other best-sellers followed:  We Sold Our Souls, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, The Final Girl Support Group, and most recently, How to Sell a Haunted House.   Hendrix's unique and witty take on horror, friendship, and life make him an author to check ouot.


  • Douglas Borton, Shadow Dance.  Horror novel.  "Little Timothy Cutter woke from a bad dream to find himself in a nightmare of sudden, shattering orphanhood.  He said he knew what happened to his parents.  But no one he told believed him.  Not doctors.  Or police.  Or grandparents.  Or even Rachel Weiss, a lovely and dedicated psychologist determined to free Timothy from his obsessive fear.  But one person did believe Timothy.  A drifter named Robert Thorn, who came after Timothy from a hellhole south of the take the little boy with him beyond the border of sanity to a world of darkness where a fiend in human form killed with a kiss..."  Borton also writes as Michael Prescott, Brian Harper, and (swear to God!) Owen Fusterbuster.
  • Val Clear, Patricia Warrick, Martin Harry Greenberg, & Joseph D. Olander, eds., Marriage and the Family Through Science Fiction.  Science fition anthology/text with 26 stories.  From the introduction:  "[S]cience fiction makes it obvious that not all possible changes are desirable, that we must define values before we can wisely manipulate the changes on the horizon.  The key to the development of sound values is the family, since this is where character first takes form and the most profound value orientations are acquired.  Will parents be replaced by experts in childrearing?  Can women get along without men?  Can sex be satisfying without a partner?  The following stories suggest these and other possibilities, but they ought to suggest additional innovations worth discussing."  This is one of a series of academically-oriented science fiction anthologies published in the late 1970s; themes of some of the others include American /Government, Anthropology, Introductory Psychology, Politics, School and Society, Sociology, Social Problems, Sports, Big Business, Urban Life, Criminal Justice, and International Relations.  According to IMDb, this is the ninth anthology in which Martin H. Greenberg served as an editor, and the fifth for Greenberg's frequent collaborator, Joseph D. Olander.  Greenberg would gp on to edit over a thousand anthologies.
  • George Alex Effinger, The Nick of Time.  Science fiction, the first book in a duology.  "Noon, February 17, 1996.  A momentous day for one Frank Mihalik -- and for mankind -- for Mihalik is about to become the world's first time traveler.  Looking every inch the explorer, he takes off for a trip to the 1939 New York World's Fair, and The Nick of Time takes off on an absurd, hilarious, and thoughtful journey through time and space.  Mihilik's chronological odyssey is to be a simple one:  a quick day trip to the past and back again.  Unfortunately, the time travel process still has a few kinks in the system, and just how Mihilik will get back is anybody's guess.  He finds himself stuck at the World's Fair, reliving the same day over and over again.  Just as he is about to lose hope, his girlfriend Cheryl arrives to lend support and encouragemnt.  With a little boost from the past, however, the pair are soon on their way again, hurtling through time at a breathless pace, down an endless path filled with lively, intriguing -- and often dangerous -- encounters:  riding with the Three Musketeers, serving in a war between the Queen of the Past and the King of the Future, even visiting a futuristic Land of Oz ('If we come to a yellow brick road...I'm going to give up').  It's going to take more than clicking their heels together three times to return to their proper time and place, but the adventures and mysteries they uncover along the way turn their trip (and ours) into a memorably fun-filled journey."  The sequel was published as The Bird of Time in 1986.
  • Esther Friesner, editor, Turn the Other Chick.  The fifth in the Chicks in Chainmail series of anthologies, with 22 stories about all types of "warrior women."  "Those cheeky Chicks in Chainmail are back!  One good turn deserves another and those unpredictable amazons are in action again, swords sharpened, chainmail polished, and makeup in place, ready to fight the good fight on the field of battle.  And if you think they're just male wish-fulfillment fantasies, you'd better say it under your breath and out of their earshot, because these babes were born to battle.  All new adventures of fearless women warriors by Eric Flint, author of 1632; Nebula-winning author Harry Turtledove; Jody-Lynn Nye, co-author of the nation's best seller The Ship Who Won; Campbell Award-winner Wen Spencer; and many more, including the inimitable  Esther Friesner herself, as fantasy adventure gets done to a turn."  Copyright by Friesner and Martin H. Greenberg's Teckno Books.
  • Joyce Holland, Beyond Gulf Breeze.  A Sally Malone mystery.  "Someone was killing the young women of Gulf Breeze, someone who wants it to look as though they were abducted by aliens.  After Sally Malone finds the first victim's body on the beach, an autopsy reveals the woman has been incised by medical instruments and was apparently struck by lightning -- on a cloudless night.  When victim two surfaces, the residents of once tranquil Gulf Breze go into a panic.  Fearing her niece, Ruby, may be next, Sally encounters possible evidence of alien visitation,some 'true believers' and the dark side of mankind."  Since I live in Gulf Breeze, I was happy to come across this book, which incorporates the Gulf Breeze UFO sightings in the late Eighties and early Nineties into the mystery.
  • Damon Knight, editor, The Clarion Awards.  Science fiction anthology with 14 stories entered in a 1984 competition for previously unpublished students of the Clarion Writing Workshop, which was co-founded by Knight.  "These are the gems of the last six years of the Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop -- a multifacted and colorful collection that demonstrates the eciting diversiuty of ideas and sheer power of imagination to be found within the science fiction writing of today -- and tomorrow."  The first place winner was Lucius Shepard; other stories in the book are by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Dean Wesley Smith, and Mario Milosevic.
  • Elmore Leonard, Fire in the Hole.  Short story collection, originally published as When the Women Come Out to Dance.  Nine stories from 1982 to 2002, including an excerpt from the 2012 novel Raylan.
  • "Myles na Gopaleen" (Brian O'Nolan, who also wrote as "Flann O'Brien), The Best of Myles.  Collection of material from the author's "Cruiskeen Lawn" columns in the Irish Times.  "To parody At-Swim-Two-Birds, this book is 'a three-star cast-iron plunger,' 'so why not "row in" and have the read of your life?'  The Best of Myles is an edited selection of material written at the top of the author's form.  Men of science, men of the art, men of steam, of straw and of the law will find in these pages the wit that only knowledge can spark off.  It is a book to keep near at hand -- especially if you have already exhausted Joe Miller's book of jests.  New readers are invited to start reading the Keats and Chapman section.  Brian O'Nolan ('Myles na Gopaleen'/'Flann O'Brien') was one of the few people in this century to make a permanent contribution to the gaiety of nations.  His writing often attains heights of sustained comedy that can be matched with the brilliance of early Aldous Huxley or Evelyn Waugh.  Like them, his ear for language, for the sublest inflection of comedy, was ever alert and his mind in first-rate order."  As "O'Brien," the author wrote the classic novels At-Swim-Two-Birds, The Dalkey Archives, and The Third Policeman.  'Nuf said.
  • "John  Vail"  (Robert Carse), The Sea Waifs.  Adventure novel.  "They shattered a ship's morale, two women cast out of the sea...War and death were the business of the men...Life and love the business of the women...The captain scarred the officer's face for love of the dark girl...The crew in the hold faced each other with knives for the love of the blonde...And mutiny growled in a hundred throats."
  • Donald E. Westlake, Watch Your Back!  A Dortmunder novel.  ""John Dortmunder hasn't gotten where he is today by turning a blind eye to an easy heist.  So when his friend and fence Arnie Albright discovers that Manhattan billionaire Preston Fareweather has left a treasure-filled Fifth Avenue penthouse practically unguarded, Dortmunder & Co. spring into action.  But into the life of a crook a little rain must fall...and sometimes it's a deluge.  The one place that Dortmunder's crew can always count on, their shrine and hangout -- the O.J. Bar & Grill -- is under seige from some real criminals:  the Jersey mob.  Now Dortmunder and his team must liberate Fareweather's treasure and fight off a would-be Tony Soprano at the same time.  And in a duel of brains, brawn, and dumb luck on two fronts, Dortmunder had better hope somebody's got his back!"
  • Jane Yolen, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh, editors, Spaceships & Spells.  Original YA anthology of 13 fantasy and science fiction stories.  "Just when we think our lives have become predictable, there is a moment when we have a brush with the unexpected.  We wonder, is it only chance, is it real, is it magic?  *A girl buys an antique brass egg containing a spirit named Arnold.  Arnold will grant her one wish.  What will she wish for?  *A boy learns the price he must pay for playing a fantasy game without reading the instrucions first.  *A young boy is looking for little green men but is surprised to find something else.  Here are thirteen stories that test the very fabric of reality.  They bring the reader into another realm, one with a new set of possibilities.  Included in this collection is 'The Silver Leopard,' a previously unpublished story by Newbery and Caldecott medalist Robert Lawson.  Also included are stories by Isaac Asimov, John Forrester, Bruce Coville, and Jane Yolen, among others."

Earth Day:  Saturday was Earth Day, a perfect excuse to once again mention what I consider to be one of the greatest television shows of all time.  Sunrise Earth is a documentry series which aired from 2004 to 2008 for 64 episodes.  Lacking any human narration, the series simply presents sunrises in various spots on the planet filmed in real time, from multiple perspectives and edited into a seamless whole.  Ambient natural sounds are included.  Captions at the bottom of the screen give the location and time of filming.  From locations throughout America to natural animal habitats, from Ankor Wat to the Kenai fjords, and from the Li River to the foothills of Turkey, the more than five dozen episodes are each worth repeat viewing.   It may not sound like much, but the effect is stunning and relaxing, giving one an appreciation for the diversity and the beauty of our planet.

From Season Three, here's episode 48 (because I was thinking of Bill Crider this morning and because it has llamas):  "Andean Dawn at Machu Pichu":

Quote:  "Beauty is pointless wonder -- and as vital as oxygen and B vitamins" -- William Sebrans

Ha!:  Frank the farmer had a terribly nagging wife.  She would berate him whenever she had a chance.  One day while he was plowing in the field, his wife brought him his lunch.  As soon as he opened the sack, she started in, complaining about everything from his lack of money to his looks and personal habits.  This went on for a full four minuites when Frank's donkey suddenly raised his rear legs and kicked the shrew in the head, killing her instantly.

At the funeral, everybody went up to him and offered their condolences.  Whenever a woman came up to speak to him, he would nod his head up and down, but if it were a man, he'd shake his head back and forth.  This got the attention of the preacher and, after the service, he asked Frank about it.  "Well, you see," Frank explained, "the women all told me how nice she looked laid out in that fancy dress, and I just nodded yes.  The men all asked me if the donkey was for sale."

Genocide:  Don't tell the Turks, but today marks the 108th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide.

Not that it means anything, but the Armenians were there first.  They were settled in Anatolia by the 6th century BCE -- the Turkomans arrived some 1500 years later. In the fourth century, the Kingsom of Armenia adopted Christianity as its official religion and established the Armenian Apostolic Church.  The end of the Byzantine Era in 1453 saw two competing Muslim empires vying for control of Western Armenia -- the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid (Iranian) Empire; Western Armenia was completely cut off from Eastern Armenia, which was controlled by the Safavids.  The Ottoman Empire was multiethnic and multireligious.  The Armenians, as non-Muslims had a subordinate but protected place in the Empire; they could own property and hold religious services as long as they paid a special tax, but they had no political power.  In the eastern provinces, things were dire -- Armenians suffered from forced labor, illegal taxes, murder, robbery, and sexual assault.  Attempts by the Ottomans to remedy this were basically ignored, being opposed by the Muslim clergy and by the Muslim population in general.  By the mid-nineteenth century, large areas of Armenian lands were usurped to make way for the influx of refugees from the Russo-Circassian War.  Confiscated land was given to Muslim immigrants in an effort to reduce the Armenian population in the eastern provinces.  By 1878, the treatment of Armenians became an excuse for the great powers of Europe to intefere with Ottoman politics.  Meanwhile, Armenians in the main were attempting ro reconcile their plight through diplomacy.  Nonetheless, authorities began to perceive the Amenians as a threat.  In 1891, Sultan Abdul Hamid II organized the Hamidiye Regiments (composed mainly of Kurds), giving them carte blanche to act with impunity against the Armenians.  From 1895 to 1896, at least 100,000 Armenians were killed in massacres by both mobs and soldiers.  Many Armenians were forced to convert to Islam.  The Ottoman state took responsibility for the killings as part of a concerted effort to have Christians accept Muslim superiority.  The Young Turk Revolution in 1908 brought the Commmittee of Union and Power (CUP) into power.  Despite CUP's pledges to restore Armenians lands, nothing happened, and CUP became more repressive.  Rumors of a countercoup arose in 1909, leading armed Muslims to attack the Armenian section of Ardana.  The Armenians returned fire.  About 25,000 people -- mostly Armenians -- were killed.  This latest display of violence had been instigated by local officials and clerics, not the government.  Nonetheless, no one was held accountable.  Bowing to international pressure, CUP agreed to reforms that included the appointment of European inspectors for both the eastern and western regions and for placing the Hamidiye Regiments in reserve.  None of these reforms actually happened, but the threat of them was cited as a reason by CUP for the elimination of Armenians in 1915.

Durng World Wasr I, Minister of war Enver Pasha took over the Ottoman invation of Russia territories.  The Ottomans were soundly defeated, losing some 60,000 men.  During their retreat, the Ottoman army destroyed dozens of Ottoman Armenian villages and massacred their inhabitants.  Pasha claimed that the Armenians had actively sided with the Russians.  CUP officials, meanwhile, hearing rumors of weapons caches and armed resistance, while ignoring evidence that most Armenains were loyal to the Empire, decided that Armenians had to be eliminated to save the Empire.

On April 24, Ottoman authorities arrested and deported hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and leaders from Constaninople.  CUP chairman Talaat Pasha ordered the forced march of some 800,000 to 1.2 million Armeniaqns to the Syrian deserts in 1915 and 1916.  The deportees were deprived of food and water and were subject to robbery, rape, and massacre by their paramilitary escorts.  Any survivors of the death march were sent to concentration campos.  In 1916, another wave of massacres were ordered.  100,00 to 200,000 Armenian women and children were forced to convert to Islam.  Massacres and ethnic cleansing continued after World War I and through the Turkish War of Independece.

(A few days before the April 24 arrests that marked the beginning of the genocide, violence had erupted in the Van vilayet in the northeastern part of Anatolia near the Russian border [a vilayet is an administrative division in the Ottoman Empire].  Armenian men were being massacred, and the governor of that region, Djevdit Bey, ordered the Armenians of Van to hand over their weapons on April 18, 1915.  If the men handed over the weapons, they knew they would be killed, if they didn't it would be an excuse for additional massacres.  The Armenians in Van refused and blockaded themselves against an Ottoman attack.  The governor ordered that surrounded Armenian villages be eradicated.  Russian forces came in on May 18 and found some 55,000 corpses -- about one half of the area's pre-war Armenian population.  Meanwhile, Djevdit Bey's forces continued their attacks in the area.  By June, there were just one dozen Armenians left in the vilayet.)

Anyway, the end of the Turkish War of Indendence put an end to two millennia of Armenian civilization in Anatolia.  It is estimated that 600,000 to 1.5 million Armenians wer killed during the genocide. To this day, the government of Turkiye claims that the deportation of Armenians was a legitimate action,  They firmly deny any claim of genocide.

Today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

Little Miss Sure Shot:  Today marks the 138th anniversary of the hiring of sharpshooter Annie Oakley for Bufflao Bill's Wild West Show.  Here's an episode from the Annie Oakley television show that ran for three season fromn 1954 to 1957, starring Gail Davis, Brad Johnson. and Jimmy Hawkins.  The show had absolutely nothing to do with the real-life Oakley or her accomplishments, but it was a tissue of lies that a kid at the time could enjoy.

Pigs in a Blanket:  Today is also National Pigs in a Blanket Day.   All you need is some crescent rolls, some hot dogs, and a cookie sheet.  If you want to go fancy, you can baste the top of the dough lightly with an egg wash (a beaten agg and a little bit of water) and sprinkle them with sesame seeds or poppy seeds or some sort of seasoning.  If you really want to go fancy, you can add bacon or cheese to the hot dog.  Bake on an ungreased cookis sheet at 375 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until they turn brown.  

By the way, it doen't have to be hot dogs; sausage of brats will do nicely.

Get Ready:  This coming Saturday is Bob Wills Day, celebrating the King of Western Swing.  I hope this will get you in the mood:

Saturday is also Independent Booksellers Day.  I'm not knocking the big box stores such as Barnes and Nobles, Borders, or Books-a-Million, but the indies are where you are more likely to find the books you want, rather than the books the publishers and corporate buyers want you to buy.  The staff at the indies are, almost to a person, incredibly knowledgable and friendly; they not only can get what you want but they can also recommend titles you didn't even know existed.  Give them a try.  You won't regret it.

Birthday Wishes:  Felicitations go out to William I of Orange (b. 1533; the founding father of the Netherlands); Vincent de Paul (b. 1581; French priest and saint and future thrift shop guru); Edmund Cartwright (b. 1743; inventor of the power loom); Anthony Trollope (b. 1815; a favorite novelist of Geroge Kelley); Carl Spitteler (b. 1845; Swiss 1919 Nobel Prize-winning poet and author whom few people today have heard of); Philippe Petain (b. 1856; former Prime Minister of France, World War I "Lion of Verdun" and World War II Vichy collaborationist); Queen Marau (b. 1860, the last queen of Tahiti; her name means "Much-unique-cleansing-the-splash"); Susanna Bokoyni (b. 1879; circus performer; according to Guinness World Records. she is the longest-living dwarf on record, dying in 1984); Con Walsh (b. 1885; Irish-born Canadian hammer thrower who set a record in 1910 for throwing the 56 pound weight 16 feet 7/8 of an inch high);  Elizabeth Goudge (b. 1900; English author of The Little White Horse, as well as the source novel for the film Green Dolphin Street); Willem de Kooning (b. 1904; abstract impressionist artist); Robert Penn Warren (b. 1905; author of All the King's Men and the only author to have received the Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and poetry); William Castle (b. 1914; horror film director who never met a cheesy publicity gimmick he didn't like); Phil Watson (b. 1914; two-time Stanley Cup champion [1940 New York Rangers and 1944 Montral Canadiens]); Justin Wilson (b. 1914; Cajun-inspired chef);Richard Donner (b. 1930; film director of The Omen, Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon, and many more, including two of Kitty's favorites, Ladyhawke and Timeline); Shirley MacLaine (b. 1934; actress and honorary member of the Rat Pack); Jill Ireland (b. 1936; actress and one-time Mrs. Ilya Kuryakin, later married to Charles Bronson); Sue Grafton (b. 1940; K is for Kinsey); Richard Holbrooke (b. 1941; diplomat and former Ambassador to the United Nations); Richard M. Daley (b. 1942; a big name in Chicago politics); Barbra Steisand (b. 1942; singer, actress, and goddess to many); Doug Clifford (b. 1945; drummer and founding member of Credence Clearwater Revival); Phil Robertson (b. 1946; Duck Dynasty guy); Roger D. Kornberg (b. 1947; biochemist and winner of a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies of how genetic information is copied from DNA to RNA); Paul Cellucci (b. 1948; former Massachusetts governor; a Republican, Cellucci never lost an election in his more than three decades of public service in heavily Democratic Massachusetts); Eric Bogosian (b. 1953; American playwright and actor; he played Gil Eavis in Succession; Mumia Abu-Jamal (b. 1954; journalist and activist; convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer, he spent 29 years on death row before his sentence reverted to life imprisonment without parole); Margaret Moran (b. 1955; former Labour Party MP whose fiddling with her expene accounts caused a scandal; she was accused of 21 criminal charges but did not appear in court due to mental health issues; she was found guilty in absentia; in 2010, attempts made to erase any mention of the scandal from her Wikipedia page failed); Cedric the Entertainer (b. 1964; stand-up comedian and actor); Djimon Hounsou (b. 1964; Benineses-American actor, known for Amistad, as well as for roles within the Marvel and DC franchises); Rory McCann (b. 1969; Scottish actor who played the Hound on Games of Thrones); Damon Lindelof (b. 1973; creator and showrunner for television series Lost); Eric Kripke (b. 1974; creator of the television series Supernatural); and Kelly Clarkson (b. 1982; massive talent and first season winner of American Idol).

It's nice to have a list like this where the good people outnumber the bad.

Florida Man:  I thought I would use this space today to comment on the stupidity of Governor Ron DeSantis and his cronies, but I found that the Minnesotan covered it much better in his blog TYWKIWDBI.

First, there's this:

Then, there's this:

Granted, the abuse of children is a heinous crime and cannot be tolerated, but I cannot help but remember how many people have been convicted of a crime and later exonerated.  Most person convicted are probably guilty but there are a number of them who are victims of politics, prejudice, and political gain.

Of course, these two examples are just the tip of the garbage iceberg that is the current Florida political scene.  **sigh**

Good News:
  •  Michigan clears criminal records of thousands of low-level, non-violent criminal offenders -- giving them a meaningful second chance
  • Scientist discover pristine deep-sea coral reef in Galpagos
  • Compostable plastic wrap made from seaweed withstands heat and can biodegrade in weeks
  • Contraceptive pill for men nears reality after a major breakthrough
  • A device that pulls dozens of liters of water from the air is already being installed in Jordanian desert homes
  • A lightning strike produced a phosphorus mineral never before seen on Earth
  • Lost dog treks over 150 miles of Alaskan sea ice before he is reunited with his family

Today's Poem:
Rosa Parks

In a bus, in the city of Montgomery,
A woman came aboard.
Little did anyone know at the time,
That this woman would change the world.
When the color of your skin made a difference in society,
And determined how you were treated,
There was a woman, who wanted to change that all,
And in the front of the bus, she seated.
When she was asked to move to the back like the rest,
She simply shook her head and didn't budge.
Even though he was a white man,
She was going to be the judge.
And even as they cuffed her hands,
And sent her away to jail,
In her mind she was not finished,
She knew she didn't fail.
Her actions started a very important movement,
In the history of African Americans.
It sparked a revolution for equality,
And so the civil rights movement began.

-- Rita Dove

In your face to the current Florida educational system!

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Friday, April 21, 2023


Gabby has just graduated from a mail order "detectkative" school and has received his diploma and a box of disguises.  He figures that should get him hired on as a "deppity," but no such luck.  Gabby bets the sheriff that he'll solve the next crime that occurs before the sheriff does.  The sheriff replied that if he did, Gabby would be hired.

Mean-spirited, dad-ratted varmint of a shopkeeper Asa Jones is murdered and his brother Bije says he saw settler Jack Lawlor fleeing the scene.  Gabby must use all his deteckative skills to find out who actually murdered the dingbusted polecat before a lynch mob reaches his friend Jack.

A give-away comic book from Quaker Oats, which Gabby says is the most popular breakfast cereal in the whole United States and Texas.  If not Quaker Oats, you'll sure smack your lips over a steamin' hot bowl of Mother's Oats from the same company.  Either way, it'll cost less than a penny per serving.  (In small print we are told that Quaker Oats and Mother's Oats are the same.)

Enjoy this comic book while you're having a Deee-Licious breakfast!

Thursday, April 20, 2023


 Thirteen French Science Ficrion Stories, edited and translated by Damon Knight  (1965)

Taken mainly from Fiction, the French edition of The Magazine of Fantasy and science Fiction, these thirteen stories offer "a galaxy of Gallic fantasy."  Slowly, over the magazine's existence, Fiction began to publish original stories by French authors in addition to using reprints from F&SF.  Many of the better stories are included here.  All stories were transleted by Knight, who admittedly had to "painfully" polish up his French in the process.  

The contents:  

  • Claude F. Cheinisse (Claude-Francois Cheinisse), "Juliette." (First English publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1961; original French publication in Fiction, #62, January 1959)  A man falls in love with a machine which makes arrangements for her replacement, a newer model.
  • "Charles Henneberg" (Nathalie Henneberg), "The Blind Pilot." (First English publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1960; original French publication as "Au pilote aveugle" in Fiction, #68, July 1959)  A blind man keeps a siren from Alpha Hydrae in a chest.
  • Henri Damonti, "Olivia."  (First English publication in this anthology; original French publication in Fiction, #81, August 1960)   A man falls in love with a married woman; he tries to kill her husband but is killed instead; then he wakes up in the murderer's body.
  • Henri Damonti, "The Notary and the Conspiracy."  (First English publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1962; original French publication as "Le notaire et la conspiration" in Fiction, #106, September 1962)  Answering an advertisement for "unusual diversion," a notary finds himself in the past.
  • Alain Doremieux, "The Vana."  (First English publication in this anthology; original French publication as "La Vana" in La premiere anthologie de la science-fiction francaise, edited by Alain Doremieux, 1959)  Overpopulation has made it illegal for males to live with a woman before the age 30; sexual needs can be gratified at the House of Women, however.  Slovic, age 25, decides to b uy an alien pet, a completely humanoid, utterly unintelligent female.  Editor Knight notes that this story "was rejected with cries of outrage by a well-known American men's magazine."
  • Suzanne Malaval, "The Devil's Goddaughter."  (First English publication in this anthology; original French publication as "La filleule du diable" in  Fiction, #79, June 1960)  The devil falls in love with his beautiful goddaughter; she outsmarts him, winning the keys to Hell and a winged horse in this folktale.
  • "Charles Henneberg" (Nathalie Charles-Henneberg and Charles Henneberg), "Moon-Fishers"  (First English publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1962; original French publication as "Pecheurs de lune" in La premiere anthologie de la science-fiction francais, edited by Alain doremieuz, 1959)  The first pra-time traveler goes to ancient Thebes, where he encounter a long-lived. blue Atlantean, one of a race who created "empty" bodies for time travelers to advance civilization.
  • "Charles Henneberg" (Nathalie Henneberg), "The Non-humans."  (First English publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1960; original French publication as "Les non-humains" in Fiction, #56, July 1958)  Florence, 1490, master artist Perugino takes on a young student at the same time a beautiful alien is cast away on Earth.
  • Piere Mille, "After Three Hundred Years."  (First English publication in this anthology; original French publication as "Dans trois cents ans" in an unnamed magazine, copyrighted 1922 by Les Oevres Libres)
  • Gerard Klien, "The Monster."  (First English publication in this anthology; original French publication as "Le monstre" in Fiction, #59, October 1958)  A creature from another planet lands in the park; when it finally speaks, it is with Bernard's voice.
  • Claude Veillot, "A Little More Caviar?"   (First English publication in this anthology; original French publication as "Encore un peu du caviar" in Fiction Special No.4:  Anthologie de science-friction francais, editor uncredited, 1963)  Piotr Hovcar is the only survivor of forty people who traveled to the planet Bis-bis.  But was it Hovcar?
  • Catherine Cliff, "The Chain of Love."  (First English publication in this anthology; original French publication as "La chaine et le collier" in Fiction, #19, June 1955)  A lonely woman meets an alien who loves animals.
  • Boris Vian, "The Dead Fish."  (First English publication in this anthology; origial French publication as "Les poissons morts" in L'Arbalete, #12, Spring 1947)  Forged railwat tickets, a strange way of fishing, and body morphing...
An interesting and varied collection, one that might pass for a volume of Orbit, the long-running original anthology series that Knight edited from 1966 to 1980.

Knight (1922-2002) was an outstanding science fiction writer (known perhaps more for his short stories than his novels), an influential editor, and a perceptive and demanding critic.  He was the founder of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and cofounder of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, the Milford Writer's Workshop, and the Clarion Writer's Workshop.  He was named a Grand Master by the SFWA in 1994 and has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  He will forever be known as the author of "To Serve Man," the short story on which the classic Twilight Zone episode was based.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


Australian paperback writer Alan G. Yates (1923-1985) published some 221 mystery paperback novels under the name "Carter Brown" ("Peter Carter Brown" or "Peter Carter-Brown" for some Australian and British editions).    Most were published in his native Australia; many (some of which were revised) were republished in England and in America.  Fast-paced, quick reads with breezy dialog, a hint of sex, a dash of humor, and no lack of corpses or adventure -- the Carter Brown novels were popcorn for the mind.  Many of his books had series characters:  Al Wheeler,  a California homicide dtective, Rick Holman, Hollywood private eye, Larry Baker, Hollywood scriptwriter, Danny Boyd, a New York private eye, and Mavis Seidlitz, a not-too-bright private eye with a great body.  Among his other detectives were Paul Donovan, Andy Kane, Mike Farrell, Zelda Roxanne,  Mark Jordan, Joe Kahn, Ivor MacCullum, Max Dumas,  and Randy Roberts.  (Some of his U.S. paperbacks may have been ghostwritten, although the Yates esate apparently denies this.  Reportedly, Robert Silverberg wrote four "Carter Brown" books; whether they were ever published is anybody's guess.  Ten "Carter Brown" mysteries were ghost-written by C. J. MacKenzie in 1958, while Yates was overseas.)  There was also a comic books series, several French films, and a Japanese television series.  Reportedly, there was a French literary award given out for "the most whiskies drunk in a single novel."

(Yates was generally considered to be the author of the 38 romantic suspense books published as by "Caroline Farr," but only one can be traced to him; the remainder were written by various Australian ghost-writers.  Yates also wrote science friction as "Paul Valdez," thrillers as "Dennis Sinclair," and other books, including westers, romances, and horror novesls as "Tex Conrad," "Tom Conway," "Sinclair McKellar," "Ace Carter," and under his own name.)  

On Australian radio, there were two series:  Carter Brown Mysteries (52 one-hour shows, each comprising four fifteen-minute episodes) and Carter Brown Mystery Theater (28 half-hour shours), both produced in the 1950s.  Many of the radio shows lifted dialog directly from the Carter Brown novels.  

Newspaper columnist Johnny Lane printed a story about some unhappy thugs paying a visit to mobster Albert Ferraro. who was scheduled to testify at a Senate committee investigating vice in the city -- perhaps to even name Mr. Big.  But the story was written before the thugs paid their visit and before Albert Ferraro was found strangled by a silk stocking.  The cops want answers...

"Call for a Columnist" was the first program aired on Carter Brown Mysteries, presumably in 1950, although I have not been able to establish an exact air date.  The show was introduced by "Carter Brown" himself, who promised to be back the next week with another thrilling story.



 "Have a Nice Death" by Antonia Fraser (first published in Fiction, 1983; reprinted in Frasewr's collection Jemima Shore's First Case, and Other Stories, 1986; reprinted several other times, including in A Century of British Mystery and Suspense, edited by Anne Perry, 2000)

Casper Milquetoast Sammy Luke is a mousy little author who has finally made it (sort of) big with his sixth novel, Women Weeping, a masochistic, violent, and misogenystic work complete unlike anything he had written before.   Women Weeping has had incredible sales both in Sammy's native England and in America, causing Clodagh Jansen, Sammy's American editor, to arrange an American book tour, featuring Sammy on most of the top American television interview shows in the hopes of pushing sales even higher.  Clodagh was a lesbian and an ardent feminist, who openly said she supported potential best-sellers such as Sammy's in order to afford to publish less profitable, more radical books.  Sammy's wife, Zara -- whom Sammy relies on for everything, especially advice and courage -- had intended to accompany him but her mother fell ill at the last moment.  Sammy never realized how hen-pecked he was, nor how much Zara dominated him. Nervously, Sammy goes to America alone, carrying with him Zara's dire warnings about the untrustworthy and unfriendly Americans -- an opinion that Zara had had reinforced by her influential well-traveled, and opinionated friend Tess.

Sammy is surprised at how friendly every American he met was.  The man at the Customs desk wished him a nice day, as did his taxi driver, who also told him that New York was the friendliest city in the world.  The staff at his hotel, Clodagh Jenson, Sammy's American publicist Joanie, the people interviewing him...all treated him kindly.  the one phrase he consistently heard from all was, "Have a nice day."    Sammy's confidence grew, and with it his hoipes for a decent future; it appeared that his book would make he and Zara financially secure. 

Sammy got a telephone call at his hotel one night.  A female voice.  "I saw you on television last night.  You bastard, Sammy Luke, I'm coming up to your room and I'm going to cut off your little --"  The caller went into vivid, horrifying detail, closing with, "Have a nice death, Mr. Luke."

Clodagh. Joanie, the hotel operator and manager, the police -- were all sympathetic, but all felt this was just a harmless, albeit upsetting call.  the hotel agreed to screnn all calls going to Sammy's room.  When Sammy got another "Have a nice death call," the hotel operator had no record of the call going through...

"Have a Nice Death" ends ironically and not happily for Sammy.  It's proven to be one of Lady Antonia Fraser's most popular crime short stories.  The author (born 1932, now age 90) is most recognized for her historical novels, royal biographies, and histories.  In the mystery field, she is noted for her stories about investigative journalist Jemima Shore, which were the basis of the UK television series Jemima Shore Investigates.  She also won a Gold Dagger from the Crime Writer's Acciation for her nonfiction book, The Gunpowder Plot.  Her first husaband, Sir Hugh Fraser, was a close friend of the Kennedy family.  In 1975, she, her husband, and Caroline Kenndy -- who was visiting them -- narrowly avoided being killed by an IRA bomb planted in  his car; a neighbor of the Frasers was killed in the explosion.  Lady Antonia's second husband was the Nobel-winning author Harold Pinter.

"Have a Nice Death" has been described as a "wonderful puzzle story."

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


 One of the main reasons why I am the luckiest man on Earth is my granddaughter Amy.  She's a quarter of a century old today but I still remember her as that beautiful blonde baby I held the day she was born.    The years have just added to her beauty and to her many graces.  Happy birthday, Sweetheart!

Monday, April 17, 2023


Just to let you know what you are getting into, this is an 1950s AIP flick.  Those who like that sort of thing, carry on; those who don't, try Masterpiece on PBS.  One other bit of warning:  The director of The Screaming Skull (Alex Nicol) has cast himself in the movie (as Mickey), so warning flags are up for those who care about such things.

The film is based on the classic horror story by F. Marion Crawford, first published as a two-parter in Colliers (July 11 & July 18, 1908) and reprinted many times.  Crawford (1854-1909) was a best-selling writer of historical novels who dabbled very occasionally in ghost and horror stories -- the best of which were collected posthumously, which indicates that he may not have thought much about them during his lifetime.   Today he is known for those horror stories and the more than forty historical novels that he wrote are essentially forgotten.

Because this is an AIP film, there's got to be some sort of cheesy gimmick.  This time it's a life insurance payable to any who dies of fright during the showing of this movie in a theater.   Surprisingly, no one ever claimed a pay-out.

Eric and Jenni Whitlock are newlyweds and move into Eric's isolated mansion where Eric's first wife, Marianne, had died in a freak accident, drowning in a pond on the estate.  (We open woith a shot of the pond.  The water bubbles in the mist.  A skull slowly rises from the water.  The title appears, covering the skull.)   Mickey is the simple-minded gardenr on the estate and he was devoted to Marianne and maintains the gardens in her memory.  Jenni has a history of mental illness and begins to see a bunch of strange things, including a skull.  Is this her imagination or can it be something else?  Eric accuses Mickey of staging things.  Because we now all the standard tropes we also know that Eric is gaslighting his new wife -- but for what purpose?   Did Eric kill his first wife?  We never know, but it turns out that Marianne's skull is coming back.  And it's pissed off.

Starring John Hudson (Gunfight at OK Corral, Many Rivers to Cross, The Racers) as Eric, and 
Peggy Webber (The Wrong Man, Macbeth. Little Miss Big) as Jenni.  Also featured are Russ Conway (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Our Man Flint, Love Me Tender) as Reverend Snow, and Tony Johnson (her only other credit on IMDb is for Crime & Punishment, USA, 1959, as "Toni Merrill") as Mrs. Snow.

John  Kneubuhl adapted Crawford's story for the screen

Enjoy.  (But if you die of fright, be aware that the insurance policy has probably lapsed.)

Sunday, April 16, 2023



  • Kate Danley, Phoef Sutton, Lisa Klink, Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin, Reborn.  Horror novel, the 22nd and final entry in Goldberg and Rabkiin's Dead Man series.  "Tanis Archer is facing a miserable twenty-fifth birthday.  She's a part-time barista in her sixth year at Dallas Commnity College.  Her life is going nowhere, fast.  Literally.  Because on her way to work, she loses control of her car and is killed in a horrific crash.  That should have been the tragic end of her story.  But days later, she wakes up on a cold morgue slab...and soon learns that miraculous resurrections have brutal side effects."  This book was originally published as a Kindle Serial and is more than twice the length of the other books in the series.  I'm pacing myself through the series by reading only three books a week; I'm up to Book 7 and am having a great time.
  • Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse.  Television tie-in novel, the first in the series.  "Monk's house is being fumigated, and he has nowhere to go.  Fortunately, his assistant, Natalie, and her daughter are kind enough to welcome him into their home.  Unfortunately, their home is not quite up to Monk's standards of cleanliness and order...But while Monk tries to arrange his surroundings just so, something else needs to be put straight.  The death of a dog at the local firehouse -- on the same night as a fatal house fire -- has led Monk into a puzzling mystery.  And much to his horror, Monk is going to have to dig through a lot of dirt to find the answer..."  Goldberg is a well-known television writer and producer, as well as the author of some of the cleverest and entertaining mysteries around.  Before embarking on the Monk series of novels, Goldberg wrote for the television series.
  • Donald E. Westlake, Get Real.  A Dortmunder crime caper, the 14th and final novel in the series.  "John Dortmunder returns in this last hilarious caper by the late Grand Master of mystery and suspense Donald E. Westlake.  Now the seasoned but often scoreless crook is finally offered a chance at fame, but Dormunder has never taken direction well and he is quickly up to his old tricks, even while the director is screaming for him to...GET REAL.  Dortmunder and his merry crew stumble upon a television reality show whose producer decides to push the limits of the medium by covering the gang as they plan and execute one of their patented nothing-can-go-wrong-until-it-does capers.  As the gang strategizes their next move with the cameras rolling, Dortmunder and his partner Kelp organize a private side enterprise.  It will take an ingenious plan to outwir the executive suits and keep viewers glued to their television sets.  But Dortmunder is nothing but persistent, and he's determined to end this shoot with extra money in his pockets."  In a perfect world, Westlake would be writing Dortmunder adventures through all of eternity.



Saturday, April 15, 2023


 This is the very first title to be issued by Harvey Comics, a firm that started in August 1941 (the January 1942 date is the off-sale date).  Whereas the typical comic book of the day was 68 pages, Pocket Comics had 100 pages -- and still cost only a dime.  Pocket Comics  was also a smaller digest size, designed so a kid could fit a copy in a pocket -- this may not have been the best marketing ploy because kids would stash the book in their pocklets and walk out of the store without paying.  (Every innovation has some design flaws.)

Pocket Comics #1 starts off with Satan, mad dictator of the underworld.  Born with a deformed body and a warped mind, this Lord of Evil exists to spread death wherever he can.  This fang-toothed, taloned baddie is buddies with Hitler and is systematically destroying Uncle Sam's munition ships.  Private Air Cadet Jim Brady and Camp Nurse Patricia Randall spot Satan and his minions setting explosives to blow up Camp Porter and its arsenal.  Jim stops the plot but Satan escapes in a stolen bomber with Patricia as his captive.  Jim lands his plane on the bomber while in flight, enters the bomber, knocks Satan to the floor where Satan is bitten by a deadly tarantula (don't ask) and Satan leaps out of the plane to his supposed death -- until next issue.  

The Red Blazer is Jack Dawson, a young cowboy who comes across Dr. Martin burying an alien body next to a spaceship.  Dawson helps the doctor bury the extraterrestial and, tired and thirsty from the labor, accepts a drink which knocks him out.  He wakes up in the spaceship, obiting just over Earth's "Heaviside" layer.  There's a note from Dr. Martin saying that Jack is being exposed to "AstroPyro radiation," which will give him superpowers.  Clad in a very dorky costume and a domino mask, Jack becomes the Red Blazer, able to fly and to generate and control heat and flame.  Jack understands that Dr. Morgan did this because he wanted Jack to crusade against all evil.  Gang leader Doc Brennan has organized a deadly prison escape and begins a reign of murderous terror.  Seems that's just the type of evil the Red Blazer is crusading against.

West Point Cadet Gary Blakely is the Spirit of '76.'  When war breaks out, he is a student at Oxford.  He attempts to enlist in the R.A.F. and is rejected due to influence from his family, who want him to follow tradition and serve in the Army.  Headed home, he commandeers a French  armored car and breaks through enemy lines.  He enters West Point and discovers fifth columnists working against Uncle Sam.  Donning the army uniform of his great-great grandfather and a domino mask, he becomes the Sprit of '76'!  With fists, sword, and scabard he stops a plot to blow up West Point.  Gary realizes that the role for the Spirit of '76' must be to protect West Point.

Movie star and former stunt girl Linda Turner is bored.  Then she suspects that he director is a Nazi agent.  Designing costume she designs herself -- complete with mega cleavage -- she becomes the Black Cat, and trail Garboil, the director, hoping to discover the mastermind of the Nazi spy ring.  Also on the trail of Garboil is ace reporter Rick Horne.  The two meet, join forces, and foil a plot to secretly send instructions to Nazi agents.  Black Cat lets Garboil escape, hoping that in future issues he will lead her to the mastermind.  The Black Cat was popular enought that she eventually got her own comic book.

The Great Amron has been revived after 6000 years of hypnotic sleep as a mummy to use the magic of ancient Egypt for the good of all mankind -- he is the Phantom Sphinx!  Reanimated by the use of the Pebble of the Nile which had been placed on the mummy's forehead, the Phantom Sphinx's first task is to rescue reporter Nancy Taylor from bandit leader Red Norton.  Magic happens.  Ancient Egyptian magic.  A lot of it.

Hollywood star Alan Douglas returns to his native England.  With his mastery of disguise and knowledge of foreign language he is a natural to join the British Secret Service and become British Agent 99.  Nazis want to hold the Sultana Zaida hostage to disorganize the loyal Liyans who are working with British forces in Libya.  Agent 99 is sent to protect the Sultana, but he is waylaid and German agents kidnap the Sultana while also arranging for the Yogoslave military police to arrest 99 as a spy.  What the Nazis forget is that Alan Douglas is not only a Hollywood star but he is also an action star!

Zebra is by-lined "Ellery King."  (Why do I think that's a pseudonym?)  John Doyle has been convicted of a murder he did not commit.  Two days before he is to be executed, Doyle manages to escape and later convince guards that he had died in a pool of quicksand.  Knowing the injustice that had been done to him, Doyle vows to devote his freedom to combat all crime and evil where justice fails.  And so the Zebra was born -- wearing his striped prison outfit, red cape and boots, yellow gauntlets, a wide red and yellow belt emblazoned with a "Z", and a (you guessed it) domino mask. he sallies forth to do justice.  Political boss Happy Mike thinks Doyle's girlfriend Mary Sewell may knoww ho the real killer is, so he sends his thugs to take care of her.  The Zebra shows up and makes quick of them.  Mary doesn't know who the real killer is, but Happy Mike does, so you just know the Zebra is going to go after him.

"Ellery King" returns with a four-page text story illustrated with comic panels -- "The Zebra's Murder Case."

The issue closes with a tale featuring Spin Hawkins, ace air adventurer and famous author.  Spin finds a small uncharted island in the South Seas and decides to land to check it out.  Suddenly another plane roars out of the sky to attack his.  Spin manages to land his plane but is captured by oriental sailors armed with machine guns.  The island is being used as a secret submarine base.  Instead of killing Spin right off, his captors vow to execute him at dawn, giving Spin enought time to escape and find a large cache of demoliton bombs.  Spin flies off and drops a bomb on the arsenal.  KA-BOOM!

A lot of action for your dime, some of it pretty damned silly.  Kids back then didn't care about silliness; they cared about heroes beating the pants off Nazis and other enemies.  They got that in spades.


Thursday, April 13, 2023


The Woman in the Case by "Ellery Queen" (Manfred B. Leer) (1967)

In 1964, the pseudonymous Ellery Queen published a small Dell paperback of true crime stories, Ellery Queen's International Case Book.  Three years later, another paperbound volume of true crime was puiblished, The Woman in the Case, this time from Bantam Books.  The stories in both books were first published in The American Weekly; the author was Manfred Lee, one of the two cousins behind the Ellery Queen name.  As far as I can tell, neither book has been reprinted.

The back cover copy for The Woman in the Case is a bit misleading:  "Here is a hair-raising collection of stories about women who killed...who killed for money...who killed out of jealousy...who killed out of sheer love for killing.  Mothers.  Daughters. Wives.  Girl friends.  Schoolgirls.  Hardened gun molls.  MURDERERS ALL!  Read about:  The mother who murdered her own son's wife.  The beautioful pistol-packing hillbilly who made Dillinger look like Casper Milquetoast.  The schoolgirl killers who even went Leopold and Loeb one better.  And dozens of other horrifying tales in The Woman in the Case."

First of all there are not "dozens" of other tales; the book contains just nineteen stories in its 122 pages.  And despite the over-hyped description, not every story is about women who kill; a number of them are about women who have been killed, and one is about a woman who solved a murder.  No matter what place a woman had in each tale, all of them are well-written and highly readable; some are ironic -- one woman managed to be declared innocent and left on an ocean voyage -- on the Titanic.  The most famous case covered is the Parker/Hulme murder; this story was first published four years after the killing, so the fact that one of the schoolgirl killers would grow up to be the late best-selling mystery author Anne Perry was not known.


All nineteen stories were first published in The American Weekly, 1958-1959: 

  • "Trail of the Lonesome Hearts"  (as "The Trail of the Lonely Hearts")  The case of Martha Jule Beck
  • "Witness for the Prosecution"  (as "Mother Against Son")  The case of Nina J. Miles
  • "Detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure"  (as "Death Keeps a Diary")  The case of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme
  • "The Secret of Irene Schroeder"  (as "Iron Irene")  The case of Irene Schroeder
  • "The Beautiful Latvian"  (as "The Forgetful Blonde")  The case of Gita Kadegs
  • "The Mystery of the Yellow Thread"  (as "Caught by a Thread")  The murder of Mrs. Amelia Appleby
  • "The Strange Case of Elaine Soule"  (as "The Killer Who Wanted to Be Caught")   The case of Suzanne Elaine Soule
  • "The Dream Detective"  (as "She Dreams of Murder")  The detections of Mrs. Myrtle Hughes
  • "Death in the Tea Leaves"  The murder of Irene Shawsky
  • "The Man with the Jug Ears"  (as "Album of Death")  The murders of Judy Dull, Shirley Bridgeford, and Ruth Mercado
  • "The Girl in the Snowbank"  (as "The Boomerang Murder")  The case of Marie-Paule Langlais
  • "The Poisoned Whiskey Case"  (as "A Tiny Bottle Full of Death")  The murder of Delores Myerly
  • "The Amazing Mrs. Patterson"  (as "Mrs. Patterson's Past")  The case of Gertrude Patterson
  • "The Silk Stocking Girl"  (as "Death in Silk Stockings')  The murder of Grace Roberts
  • "The Hanging Woman"  The case of Mathilda Cassidy
  • "The Murder Without a Body"  (as "Case of the Experimental Corpse")  The murder of Rose Michaelis
  • "The Beautiful Killer of Hampstead"  (as "Death of a Part-Time Lover")  The case of Ruth Ellis
  • "The Temple of Love"  (as "Death in the Temple of Love")  The murder of Jacky Richardson
  • "The Mystery of Rhonda Bell Martin"  (as "Mrs. Martin's Murder Spree")  The case of Rhonda Bell Martin
A fascinating volume.  I wonder why it has never been reprinted.


 From out of the West comes Red Ryder, America's famous fighting cowboy!

Reed Hadley is Red Ryder and Frank Bresee is Little Beaver.  Red Ryder's horse Thunder is played by sound effects.  You betchum!

Red Ryder, based on the popular comic strip, hit the radio airwaves on February 3, 1942, appearing three times a week on the Blue Network, heard only in the East.  The show proved to be more popular in the ratings than The Lone Ranger at first.  The show then picked up a sponsor, Langendorf Bread, which was sold only in the West, and the show moved to the West Coast Don Lee Network toward the middle of 1942.

Enjoy this early episode.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023


 "Dead Man's Head" by Robert Leslie Bellem (from Spicy Detective Stories, August 1936; reprinted in Pulp Fictions, edited by Peter Haining, 1996)

"I opened the package and a human head rolled out onto my lap.  A man's head -- with a bullet hole between the eyes."

And we're off and running with another wild adventure of Dan Turner, the Hollywood Detective.  Turner's literary career lasted sone two decades, from June 1934 to March 1953, appearing in at least an incredible 355 short stories.  Although Dan Turner is arguably creator Robert Leslie Bellem's most famous creation, the Turner stories count for just a small portion of Bellam's output, which is estimated at over 3000 pulp stories.

A Dan Turner story is like no other.  It's hardboiled and embued with sex (mainly hinted) and not-so-subtle violence.  It's also more than a little wacky and infused with a type of English colloquialism that just doesn't exist in the real world.  Guns go "Ka-chow!" and "Chow! Chow!" and "Wr-r-rang!"  But it's not guns that make that noise -- it's "roscoes."  As Kevin Burnett Smith wrote, "[I]t was the high-octane use of every slang word known to man (and more than a few Bellem must have coined himself) that fueled the tales.  Women were wrens or frills, and their breasts were pretty-pretties or tiddlywinks, something that Dan, "as human as the next gazabo," always took time to notice.  Cars were chariots, money was geetus and no one ever got killed in the stories, they were croaked, choked, cooled, iced, de-lifed or had an act of killery performed on them.  Guns didn't go bang -- they were roscoes and they spat, coughed and belched.  Or sometimes they just sneezed, though the end result was the same -- people ended up dead."  And references that would not be coinsidered PC today?  Forget about it.

Back to "Dead Man's Head."  The severed head had been delivered anonymously to Turner's apartment door.  He recognized who it was -- a once-popular movie comic named Skinny Arkle, whose career ended after a wild night with an extra named Nancy Norward.  Nancy ended up dead and Skinny went on trial for her murder.  The jury decided that she had died from natural causes, but the publicity over the case made Arkle's career as dead as the girl was.  (Any resemblance to the real-life Fatty Arbuckle case must be a sheer coincidence, right?)  Arkle fled to Euarope for a while, then came back to Hollywood, eventually marrying a rising star; she made enough cookies and he had enough geetus stashed away for them to live comfortably.  So what was his head doing in a package outside Turner's door?

Turner calls his homicide squad friend Dave Donaldson, who tells him to meet him at headquarters.  And bring the head.  As he leaves the apartment, he bumps into a blonde bimbo who needs to speak to Turner immediately.  She's the sister of Skinny Arkle's wife.  The pair had gotten into a vicious argument and Arkle stormed out, threatening to come back and kill his wife.  That was three days ago and the girl and her sister are frightened.  Turner tells her she needn't worry about Arkle and shows her the severed head.  The girl faints.  Now Turner is in a quandry.  He has to go to police headquarters and he can't bring an unconscious girl with him.  If he leaves her, she may flee before he returns and he wants to question her.  So he does what any "private skulk" or "orb for hire" would do.  He takes off her clothes and leaves her in just a bra and panties, figuring she won't go out in public like that.  Then he hightails it police headquarters.

Turner and Donaldson go to Arkle's mansion to question his wife. but the little Chink maid did not want to disturb her.  Turner recognized a strange car in the driveway as belonging to a big Hollywood director.  They push their way past the maid and charge upstairs.  They hear a shot.  Barging into the bedroom, they find Arkle's wife, both very naked and very dead.  Standing over the body is the big-time director with a roscoe in his hands.  They tell him to drop the gun and stick out his fins for the nippers; if he doesn't, the cop with sock him on the dome with the soft end of his roscoe.  The director punches Donaldson and manages to push Turner down as he flees.  Turner is just a few seconds after him when he reaches the front door.  The director is already in his car.  Two shots are fired.  Turner thought they were aimed at him, but the director is slumped over in his gar, the warm gun next to him, great crimson gushers of blood spewing out of him.  He dies, but it wasn't suicide.  Donaldson figure the killer had to be the director's wife, who had found out about his affair.  He heads off to her home while Turner waits for the response team to pick up the two corpses.  He uses the time to light a gasper and check out the crime scene.  The Chink maid tries to escape through a window.  She begs him to let her go and fits against him like tissue paper.  They kiss, and Turner's blood starts racing...Fade out.  "It was some time later when I said, 'Okay, baby." and Turner begins to question her.  He lets her escape through the window, but then the police arrive and he tells them she just got away.  The police nab her and Turner tells them to put the nippers on her.

Donaldson comes back with the news that the director's wife had a solid alibi, but the director's fiirst wife was Nancy Norward, the girl Arkle had been accused of killing.

I won't go into how Turner solves the case, because you might not believe me.  But in the end, the killer fired his roscoe at Turner and a slug zinged past his skull, so Turner sent three slugs into the guys guts.  The killer gurgles in his throat and vomits a little blood from his punctured guts, the a spew of crimson gushed out of his kisser, and he folded up.

Case closed.  But Turner still has a girl in her underwear and he really should give her clothes back to her.  But he won't hurry about it.

Robert Leslie Bellem (1902-1968) started the Dan Turner series in Spicy Detective Stories in 1934 and that magazine remained a primary home for the Holywood Detective until the magazine (by then retitled Speed Detective) closed in 1947.  In 1942, however, Turner got his own magazine -- Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective. the title late shortened to Hollywood Detective; which ran until late in 1950.  Bellem evidently wrote all the stories in that magazine, using a plethora of pseudonyms.  Over the years, about 23 collections of Dan Turner stories have been published, some of them unauthorized and some even mimeographed.  Bellam also wrote at least 70, and possibly as many as a hundred, comic book stories about Turner; many of these were published in the pulps and some reprinted as fillers in regular comic books.  Two collections of the comics have been published.  There were also two Dan Turner movies made -- one, Blackmail, in 1947, and the other, The Raven Red Kiss-Off, a terrible mess that went direct to video in 1990 and died there.  The script by John Wooley for the 1990 film was evidently published in 2020.

When the pulps died, Bellem turned to Hollywood, writing mainly for television in the 1950s and 1960s.  According to IMDb, he wrote at least 126 scripts for such shows as Dick Tracy, Superman, The Lone Ranger, Perry Mason, and The F.B.I.

Monday, April 10, 2023


This is the twelfth (of twenty-six) Zotaichi films featuring the titular blind masseur and swordmaster in feudal Japan.  (Masseurs are typically blind so they cannot see the bodies they touch.)  It falls in the category of Chambara (sword fighting) films and, from what I understand, this is a pretty good one.

Zotaichi (Shintaro Katsu) is an unlikely hero, he's a bumbling man, blind, a gambler, and a con man.  The women love him (but he doesn't think he's good enough for them); those he's scammed don't.  He has a kind heart.

In this film, he meets a ronin (a masterless samurai), Jumonji, played with elan by Mikii Nanto, who is a chess expert.  Tensions develop between the two but soon they join forces to fend off angry yakuza and a bloodthirsty family as they fight to save a sick child.  The young girl was collateral damage in a fight -- she had been stabbed in the foot, got tetanus, and needs medicine to survive.  SPOILER:  Zatoichi gets the medicine and the girl is okay by the end of the flick.

I am not an expert on ancient Japan or Japanese films but, according to one review, you can learn more about Japanese history and culture from this film than you can from a year's worth of anime.

Evidently, some fans compare Zataichi to Columbo, so that's gor to count for something.

Yes, it's subtitled.


Sunday, April 9, 2023


 Openers:   She hailed me on East 62nd Street, not far from Bloomingdale's.  She was an attractive girl, wearing big-lensed sunglasses against the June glare, and carrying two plaid suitcases, one of which she waggled at me as I rolled down the street.  "Say 'Kennedy,' " I whispered, and eased the cab to a stop.

Openoing the rear door, she shoved the suitcases in first, then followed, slammed the door, shoved the sunglasses up on top of her head, and said, "Kennedy."

"You got it," I said, and started the meter with a smile.  Not only is the long expensive run from Manhattan out to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens one of the joys of a cabby's life, but there's no pleasanter way to drive anywhere than with a good-looking woman in the rearview mirror.

Unless, of course, she's crazy.  And in this instance the early signs were not good.  This girl did not sit back in the seat as I started off, nor did she cross her legs and look out at the passing world, nor did she take a compact from her shoulder bag so she sould study the present condition of he face; all the normal things a good-looking young woman does when settling down alone for a long cab ride.  What she did do was talk to herself, muttering phrases I couldn't quite hear.  And she kept puttimg her hands up to both sides of her face like the blinkers on a horse, running her fingers through her long brown hair and then tossing the hair backwards in a double heavy wave.  And she frowned a lot, and made strange unpleasant faces, and stared at the floor or at the back of my neck.  And sat forward on the seat, very tense and upset.

Part of the reason this behavior discomforted me was the lack of a safety partition between the back of my head and the passenger space.  In New York City, all the major-company cabs are required tp install that safety partition, but the law says private cab owners can decide for themselves, and the private ownership of this particular Checker (who just happened to be my own father) had decided not to go to the expense.  Normally I like it that way, preferring the increased opportunity for friendly conversation and other human contacts, but human contact with a crazy person is where I draw the line.

I endured it all the way down Second Avenue and through the Midtown Tunnel, but after I paid the toll and accelerated up to speed on the Expressway and she still hadn't settled down I felt I had to do or say something to alter the situation.  Frankly, she was making me nervous,  So I looked in the mirror and I called, "Excuse me!"

-- Call Me a Cab by Donald E. Westlake  (2022)

From the back cover:  "In 1977, one of the world's finest crime novelists turned his pen to suspense of a very different sort -- and the results have never been published, until now.  Fans of mystery fiction have often pondereed whether it would be possible to write a suspense novel without any crime at all."

"Call Me a Cab" first ran as a novella-length story in the June 1979 issue of Redbook, and despite several novel-length drafts, never appeared as a book.  Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai, working with Westlake's widow and one of Westlake's agents, managed to combine the various drafts into what may be Westlake's last published novel -- a publishing event that will make Westlake's many fans happy.


It is a suspense novel?  Not really, not as most people would define the term.  There is the matter of will she-won't she will he-won't he at the end of the story, but that's not the edge of your seat, life or death suspense crime readers are looking for.  The "suspense story without a crime" hook appears to be the hook Hard Case Crime uses to justify publishing the book.  Not that there's anything wrong with that; the book deserves to be published and Hard Case Crime (which had already released three previously unpublished books from Westlake, who died in 2008) is a logical place to publish it.  I applaud Ardai for bringing this book out, but I wonder how many readers might feel they were led astray.

The plot is simple.  East Coast lady has been dating West Coast guy.  He wants to marry her, but she's been dithering without knowing why.  Finally she agrees to fly out to him and give him a final answer when she gets there.  She still doesn't know what her answer will be.  She decides, rather than fly, she'll take a cab from New York to L.A., which will give her several more days to come up with an answer.  New York cabby falls in love with her during the trip.  That's it.  Just a long cab ride.  No action sequences.  No real adventure.  Just a long ride in which the cabby and his fare meet a few people along the way as they get to know one another.

A very readable, enjoyable, and unpretentious novel.

And will she-wpon't she?  Will he-won't he?  You'll just have to read the book to find out, because that's all the suspense you'll be getting.


  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Great Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:  The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes Treasury.  Omnibus collection featuring the world's first consulting detective.  Included are Adventures Memoirs, and The Return of Sherlock Homes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" ("A Remininisence of Mr. Sherlock Holmes"), and The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans."  Included in a box of goodies from the Easter Bunny of Upstate New York. 
  • Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin, The Dead Man.  a monthly series of horror novels that began in October 2011 and ran to 22 titles, most written by other writers. The Dead Man in the title is Matt Cahill, who's body was recovered three months after he was killed in avalanche, and who wakes up in the morgue just as his autopsy is about to begin.  Matt should he dead.  He was dead. And now he has a special powere:  he can see evil in people in the form of rotting flesh.  Matt finds himself a pawn in some bizarre game with the supernatural Mr. Dark, who is using Matt for his own evil purposes.  Matt tries to find out why he still lives and how he can stop this nemesis.  The first 21 pulp-modern novels have been released in seven omnibus volumes containing three titles apiece.  I picked up all seven volumes; the final book (already ordered() should be in this week.  Volume 1 contains Face of Evil by Goldberg and Rabkin, introducing the main character and his plight, as Cahill must try to stop his best friend from going on a murderous rampage; Ring of Knives by James Daniels has Matt trying to connect with a man who may have the same powers as he, only to come across a supernatural and bloody nursing home; and Hell in Heaven by Goldberg and Rabkin sees Matt in a small town that has been timelocked for ages and occupied by two warring families, both of whom are used as pawns by something evil.  Volume 2 contains The Dead Woman by David McAfee, which sees Matt in a town terrorized by a vicious serial killer, and where he meets a woman who may share his unique dark world; The Blood Mesa by James Reasoner takes Matt to an arcaeological dig in New Mexico where an ancient terror is unleashed; and Kill Them All by Harry Shannon sees Matt pursued by sadistic professional mercenaries in a dying Western town.  Volume 3 contains The Beast Within by James Daniels, in which Matt seeks out a paranoid visionary who may have defeated an entity like Mr. Dark; Fire and Ice has Matt in an industrial plant during a shooting rampage, in which Mr. Dark raises the stakes, putting thousands at risk; and Carnival of Death by Bill Crider places Matt at a traveling carnival, where the fortune teller's dire porphecies are coming true.  (I should note here that Goldberg and Rabkin credir Bill as a major influence on this series.)  Volume 4 starts off with Freaks Must Die by Joel Goldman, in which Matt discovers an underworld of people with uncanny powers living in the shadows of New York City; then Slaves to Evil by Lisa Klink brings Matt to a small town, trapped between hordes of killer cops and an innocent girl seeking revenge on him; and The Midnight Special by Phoef Sutton has a 1970s zombie flick that sparks bloodshed whenever it's shown.  Volume 5 has The Death Match by Christa Faust, which brings even more horror underground cage fighting; The Black Deasth Aric Davis gives us a new form of crystal meth that turns users into bkack-eyed homicidal maniacs; and The Killing Floor byb David Tully combines a fracking operation that resurrects an ancient being and a centuries-old epic battle.  Colder Than Hell by Anthony Neil Smith starts off Volume 6 and features an escaped psycho killer, a deadly mutant virus, and a major blizzard that has left traffic (and Matt) stranded on the interstate; in Evil to Burn by Lisa Klink, a badly injured Matt must cross a desert to stop a massacre that will give Mr. Dark even greater powers; and Barry Napier's Streets of Blood has Matt in a small town where a dark force is driving people to commit insane acts of violence.   Volume 7 has a flamethrower-wielding madman starting a raging firestorm in Crucible of Fire by Mel Odom; The Dark Need by Stant Litore has Matt pursuing a shape-shifting killer across the Cascade Mountains; and, in the penultimate episode, The Rising Dead by Stella Green, Matt may have finally come across a way to defeat Mr. Dark.  There's a lot of good reading here from a lot of talented authors.  I hope to space the books out by reading only one volume a week; we'll see how long that lasts.
  • Stanislaw Lem, Return from the Stars and Solaris.  Science fiction novels.  Return (translated by Barbara Marshall & Frank Simpson):  "Hal Bragg is a man without a world, an astronaut who returns from a space mission to find the earth changed beyond recognition.  Although only ten biological years have passed, 127 years have elapsed on earth.  Harrowed by the unthinkable things he has experienced and witnessed during his expedition, he reels, baffled and overwhelmed, through what is essentially an alien land.  He finds cities shaped into psychedelic proportions by technology he cannot even imagine; social customs and conveniences so incomprehensible that he stumbles from humorous misadventures to terrifying encounter; sophisticated robots running everything; human beings denatured by a medical procedure, administered in early childhood, that effectively neutralizes most of their aggresive impulses.  How does an astronaut -- who represents the height of his culture's emphasis on pioneering, on knowledge at all costs -- find his way clear to join a civilization that shuns the slightest hint of risk, that channels the vestiges of curiosity and appetite into outlets where they can spend themselves harmlessly, that turns its citizens into pursuers of pleasure, youth, and ease who have forgotten what it means to yearn or wonder?  He falls in love with a young woman whom he seeks to win by the sheer force of his passion for her.  Bull-headed but tender-hearted, he struggles to understand. and, ultimately, he confronts a choice that no man has ever hade to make before, in a dazzling conclusion in which the author gives soaring expression to his own commitment to life."  (Yeah, it's awkward jacket copy, and they don't even other to capitalize "Earth.")  In Solaris (translated by Joanna Kilmartin & Steve Cox):  "When psychologist Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its suface, he finds himself confronting a painful memory embodied in the physical likeness of a past lover.  Kelvin learns that he is not alone in this, and that other crews examining the planet are plagued with their own repressed and newly real memories.  Could it be, as Solaris scientists speculate, that the ocean may be a massive neural center creating these memories, for a reason no one can identify?  Long considered a classic, Solaris asked the question:  Can we understand the universe around us without first understanding what lies within?"  Both of these books were part of the box from George the Tempter.
  • Megan Miranda, The Only Survivors.  "A propulsive and chilling locked-box mystery."  Another gift from the Sage of Tonawanda.  "A decade ago, two vans filled with high-school seniors on a school service trip crashed into a Tennessee ravine -- a tragedy that claimed the lives of multiple classmates and teachers.  The nine students who managed to escape the river that night were irrevocably changed.  A year later, after one of the survivors dies by suicide on the anniversary of the crash, the rest of them make a pact to come together each year to commemorate that terrible night.  To keep one another safe.  To hold each other accountable.  Or both.  Their annual meeting place, a house on the Outer Banks, has long been a refuge.  But by the tenth anniversary, Cassidy Brent has worked to distance herself from the tragedy, and from the other survivors.  She's changed her mobile number.  She's blocked the other's email addresses.  This year, she is determined to finally break ties once and for all.  But on the day of the ruunion, she receives a text with an obituary attached:  another survivor is gone.  Now they are seven -- and Cassidy finds herself hurtling back toward the group, wild with grief -- and suspicion.  Almost immediately, something feels off this year -- a new tension simmering among the group.  As the comsummate observer, Cassidy is the first to notice when Amaya, their annual organizer, slips away from them, overwhelmed.  This wouldn't raise alarm except for the inmpending storm,  Suddenly, they're facing the threat of closed roads and surging waters...again.  Then Amaya stops responding to any calls or texts.  After all they've been through, she wouldn't willingly make them worry, would she?  And -- as they promosed long ago -- each survivor will do whatever he or she can to save one another.  Won't they?"

Stale Peeps? No Problem:  For many people the day after Easter poses a weighty problem:  What to do with leftover Peeps. 

First, let us consider this basic law of Physics:  Peeps over Time = Staleness x Infinity

There are two basic types of people in the world.  1)  Those who eat Peeps -- all the Peeps -- immediately and do not have time to consider staleness, and 2)  Those who believe staleness is an inherent quality of Peeps -- they were born that way, so to speak.  In Christian communities, there are many who celebrate Easter as their most sacred holiday; similarly, there are many (of all religions) who designate the day as Peepster.  Wherever your household falls on this spectrum, chances are that you will find leftover Peeps the next day.  Again, what do you do with them?

Here are some helpful hints:

100:  Today is the 100th day of 2023.  How many of you actually thought we'd make it this far?

For Yopur Conderation:  "For something to be beautiful, it doesn't have to be pretty."  -- Rei Kawakubo

Fast Times at the Hopuse of Everything:   A Prius just tried to race me at the light...I totally had it for the first hundred yards, but I can only walk so fast.

Safety Pin:  Walter Hunt (1796-1859) was the prolific inventoralmost no one has heard of.  About two dozen of his inventions are still used today in basically the same form that he had patented them.

Durng a trip to New York City in 1826, he witnessed a young child get run over by a horsedrawn carriage.  That prompted him to invent a warning device that was basically a metal bell with a ball hammer that could be controlled by a foot pedal, allowing the carriage driver to strike a warning without letting go of the reins.  This alarm was used by most public horse-drawn carriages in the city and by stagecoach drivers; it became the streetcar gong.

Among Hunt's other inventions were a fire engine, an improvement for coal-burning stoves, the first home nife sharpener, restaurant steam table apparatus, the precursor to9 the Iinchester repeating rifle, the forerunner to the 20th century fountain pen, a flax spinner, an improved oil lamp, articial stone, the first rotary street sweeping machine, mail sorting machinery, velocipedes, ice plows, suction-cup shoes used by circus performers to climb up walls, the first modern sewing machine (which he did not patent because he feared it would create unemployment amlng seamtresses), the paper shirt collar, a nail making machine, a swivel-cap stopper, an ink stand, an ice boat, a device that regulates the amount of liquid coming from a bottle,a reversable metalic heel,  and a springy attachment for belts and suspenders.

And he invented the safety pin.

In 1849, Hunt owed draftsman J. R. Chapin $15 for drafting work on p[revious inventions that needed drawings for patent applications.  So Hunt invented the safety pin, selling the patent for $400 (about #13,030 in today's money) to W. R. Grace and Company; Grace went on to make millions of dollars off the invention.  Hunt's invention had a protective clasp at one end and a coiled wire to provide tension at the other end.  Precurors to the safety pin had been around for millennia; the earliest known is the fibula (a form of brooch) invented by the Mycenaeans in the 14th or 13th century BC, used to secure tunics.  It took a genuine genius to imporve on such and ancient idea.

In some countries the safety pin is a form of good luck.  In Ukraininian tradition, the safety pin is attached to children's clothing to ward off evil spirits -- which may be why Putin is having such a hard time invading that country.

Today is International Safety Pin Day, being the anniversary of U.S. Patent #6,281.  Feel free to celebrate.

From Safety Pins to Egg Salad:  This is National Egg Salad Week (the week after Easter, naturally).  To get your groove on, here's seven egg salad recipes you can try.  One for each day of the week, perhaps?

Florida Man:
  •  Hitting the Big Time.  A Florida Man limited television series is scheduled to be released on Netflix later this month.
  • Florida Men William Sierer, Johnathan [sic] Johnson, and Paul DeValle and Florida Woman KimberlySinclar have been arrested under suspicion of human trafficking after it was revealed that a then fifteen-year-old girl was allowed to perform for years at  the Flash Dance Orlando strip club.   Sierer is the owner of the club, Johnson the general manager, DeValle the manager, and Sinclair the "house mother."  Each has been charged with one count of human trafficking for sexual activity of a child under 18, a life felony.  The girl reportedly worked regularly at the club for two years, leaving when she was still under age by Florida law at 17.  She then reportedly worked at another strip club for six months.  She told authorities that she was working to provide for herself and her mother.
  • Florida Man Byron Johnson was arrested by Polk County deputies as the ringleader of a gang that stole large equipment from Home Depots stores throughout Southeast Florida.  According to police, Johnson would renting the equipment from the stores, then sell the items on social media.  Some of the stolen items were Toro Dingo utlity loaders, stump grinders, trenchers, and mini-excavators and their trailers.  The GPS devices that had been installed on the equipment were disabled just hours after rental.  Home depot stores in sixteen Florida counties were targeted.  At least 61 pieces of equipment were stolen, at a cost of over $1 million.
  • Florida legend "Croczilla," a massive 14-foot crocodile was recently spotted and photographed in the Everglades by wildlife photographer Kymberly Clark on April 2.  Clark had been searching for the famous but elusive rep[tile for months without having any luck.  Feeling "defeated,"{ she decided to leave and, as she was driving away, the crocodile appeared.  Perhaps it wanted to wish nher bon voyage.  Speaking of Florida Critters,Katina Boychow, was visiting the everglades last week and shot an incredible viseo of an alligator body slamming a massive python and eating it.  Although the gator won this battle, it could have gone the other way.  Last year, a necropsy on an 18-foot Burmese python in Florida found a five-foot alligator inside.
  • Sometimes you just have to sing.  Florida Man Travis Johnson felt that way during a kareoke session last week at Kennedy's Lamp Post Bar in Cape Canveral.  After his turn at kareoke was over, Johnson wanted to continue to sing and when magaement refused hiom, he did was any red-blooded Florida Man would do -- he pulled out an 18-inch machete.  A person at the bar managed to cionvince Johson to hand the weapon over while police were called.  Johnson said he carried the machete because he always needed to stay alert.  Alcohol was involved.
  • Florida Man and Psychology Teacher ar Dr. Phillips High Scholl in Orange County Jeffrey Keene was recently fiored for "inappropriate' assignment about school violence.  Keene thought he would combine a scheduled active shooter drill with a psychology lesson.  Part of the lesson, however,was for students to write their own obituaries.  Keene is challenging his dismissal.

Good News:
  •  Researchers capture video of deepest fish ever recorded -- five mile below the surface -- and they're not a deep sea fish!
  • Despite what you might see on television or the movies, it's really hard to break a car window with your elbow, but thius guy managed to do it to save a trapped motorist
  • College kids prepare to sent the first private lunar rover to the moon
  • Recently arrived Ukrainians in Minneapolis head to Mississippi to aid tornado victims
  • "Nest Man" of India builds 250,000 homes for sparros, and teaches students to build more
  • One stem cell injection to target inflammation reduces risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 58%
  • And here's a newborn calf with "smiley face" markings

Today's Poem:
To a Cat

Stately, kindly, lordly friend,
Here to sit by me, and turn
Glorious eyes that smile and burn,
Golden eyes, love's lustrous mead,
On the golden page I read.

All your wondrous wealth of hair,
Dark and fair,
Silken-shaggy, soft and bright
As the clouds and beams of night,
Pays my reverent hand's caress
Back with friendlier gentleness.

Dogs may fawn on all and some
As they come;
You, a friend of loftier mind,
Answer friends alone in kind.
Just your foot upon my hand
Softly bids it understand.

Morning round this silent seat
Sheds its wealth of gathering light,
Thrills the gradual clouds with might,
Changes woodland, orchard, heath,
Lawn and garden there beneath.

Fair and dim they gleamed below:
Now they glow
Deep as even your sunbright eyes,
Fair as even the wakening skies.
Can it not or can it be
Now that you give thanks to see?

May not you rejoice as I,
Seeing the sky
Change to heaven revealed, and bid
Earth reveal the heaven it hid
All night long from stars and moon,
Now the sun sets all in tune?

What within you wakes with day
Who can say?
All too little may we tell,
Friends who like each other well.
What might haply, if we might,
Bid us read our lives aright.

Wild on woodland ways your sires
Flashed like fires:
Fair as flame and firece and fleet
As with wings on wingless feet
Shone and sprange your mother, free,
Bright and brave as wind or sea.

Free and proud and glad as they,
Here to-day
Rests or roams their radiant child,
Vanquished not, but reconciled,
Free from curb of aught above,
Save the lovely curb of love.

Love through dreams of souls devine
Fain would shine
Round a dawn whose light and song
Then should right our mutual wrong --
Speak, and seal the love-lit law
Sweet Assisi's seer foresaw.

Dreams were theirs, yet haply may
Dawn a day
When such friends and fellows born,
Seeing our earth as fair at morn,
May for wiser love's sake see
More of heaven's deep heart than we.

-- Algernon Charles Swinburne