Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Leonidas Witherall is an instructor at a boy's school in Dalton, Massachusetts.  He also happens to be both an amateur detective and the pseudonymous author of the popular Lieutenant Hazeltine (Haseltine) stories.  In looks, he resembles William Shakespeare and, for that reason, is sometimes called "Bill."  Witherall, the creationj of mystery author Phoebe Atwood Taylor (1909-1976), writing as "Alice Tilton," appeared in eight novels from 1937 to 1947.  The homicides he solves tend to be farcical and Witherall spends much of his time trying to maintain his dignity.  His housekeeper in the books is Mrs. Mollet, sometimes called Mullet. 

About the Leonidas Witherall novels, here's critic Dylis Winn:  "Tilton books are so busy, so complicated, so Marx Brothers...that makes them sound as if they might have a plot, doesn't it?  Bad assumption."   And H. R. F. Keating wrote:  "If a writer can keep in play an interest in a crime of some sort, preferably indeed murder, and at the same time induce the reader to take the hither-and-thither balloon flight of farce, then the entertainment provided will not be doubled but tripled...[T]he only recipe for success is sheer deftness in writing, coupled perhaps with establishing a firm basis in fact before the hilarious fantasy is about to take off.  Both these elements Alice Tilton has at her disposal."

The Adventures of Leonidas Witherall ran on the Mutual Network from June 4, 1944 to May 6, 1945, although a pilot appears to have aired on September 7, 1943.  Walter Hampdon starred as Witherall.  Mrs. Mollett/Mullet was played by Ethel Remey and Agnes Morrehead.  Jack MacBryde played Police Sergeant McCloud.  

In this episode, Mrs. Mollet/Mullet has been kidnapped.  She escapes, and Leonidas and the housekeeper set out to capture the crooks.  Ethel Remey plays Mrs. Mollet/Mullet in this one.  The script was by Howard Merrill.


Tuesday, May 30, 2023


 "Last of the Morticians" by E. C. Tubb (first published in Galaxy Magazine, October 1959; reprint in Tubb's collections Ten from Tomorrow, 1966, and Twelve from Tomorrow, 2016)

A minor, yet entertaining, story from one of science fiction's most prolific writers and a good example of the social satire that Galaxy was publishing at the time.

Earth is now a member (albeit a somewhat primitive member) of the Galactic Civilization, which has been a boon to the planet.  One Rigellian in particular is lauded as the greatest benefactor the human race has ever known.  When Sigk Geslegk arrived on Earth, he brought with him the secret of immortality.  Now, not only were humans immortal, mental conditions such as depression had been alleviated to the point that no one committed suicide, and the ever-aware "snatch-field" saved epople from accidents by transporting them instantaneously from danger.  Humanity should be happy, and it is -- except for the last two remaining morticians.

Ephraim Fingle and Luke Earguard were competing undertakers in the town of Centre Forks (pop. 12,057) until business dried up so much that they had to join in partnership.  Even that was not working out; the last funeral they held was for Mrs. Chadwell's pet dog ("a horrible little Peke, [who] had rashly eaten rat poison instead of the boned chicken provided").  Funerals were so rare by that time that the entire town had turned out witness it.  Now, Ephraim and Luke spend their time dreaming of railroad accidents with thousands of violent deaths resulting, to no avail.  It looked like they had no choice but to quit their honored and well-loved profession and seek work in a food factory, or somehwere else.

Then Ephraim had an idea.  Funerals were for burying the dead and the funeral business was just as dead as their previous customers.  Why not hold one last funeral -- one for the profession?  Luke was afraid that burying an empty coffin would make them a laughingstock.  So why not include a body?  Pretend that one of them had died -- that somehow the immortality treatment had not worked -- and hold a funeral.  They drew straws and Ephraim became the intended corpse.

Luke publicized the heck out of the affair and it became a world-wide sensation.  Nothing was too grand for Ephraim's funeral, which was televised and even attended by a delagation of Rigelians, Vegans, and other aliens.  It was so popular that Luke got offers for fifteen more funerals -- a little girl from a rich family wanted a funeral for her doll, a man who kept his appendix in a jar decided it was time to hold a funeral for it, other requests came pouring in.  Also pourng in was Augustus Blake, a man from the government, with a long list of charges for fraud.

The end result was a very (very, very) hefty fine, rather than jail time -- although if the fine was not paid, Ephraim and Luke could look forward to the jail time.

 If you are familiar with a typical Galaxy story of the time, you can probably guess the ending.  The Galactic Civilization giveth, the Galactive Civilization taketh away, the Galactic Civilization giveth again...

Edwin Charles Tubb (1919-2010) was a young British science fiction fan who began publishing in the English SF magazines and for British paperback publishers.  He eventually wrote over 140 movels (mostly SF) and some 230 short stories and novellas.  In addition top science fiction, he penned westerns, a detective novel, a Seton Blake novel, a foreign legion novel, and a series of historical novels.  His largest contribution to the science fiction field was his series of 33 novels about Dumarest of Terra, stories evoking the planetary tales of Leigh Brackett.  He also wrote 17 space operas as "Gregory Kern" about SF adventurer Cap Kennedy, and a series of six tie-in novels for the television series Space:  1999.  

Aside from variations of his own name, Tubb  used at least well over five dozen pseudonyms, including house names:  Chuck Adams, Stuart Allan, Anthony Armstrong, Ted Bain, Alice Beecham, Anthony Blake, L. T. Bronson, Raymond L. Burton, Julian Carey (Julian Cary), Morley Carpenter, Judy Cary (Jud Cary), J. F. Clarkson, Norman Dale, L. P. Eastern, Robert D. Ennis, James Evans, James Farrow, James R. Fenner (James R. Fennier), R. H. Godfrey, Charles F. Graham, Charles Gray (Charles Grey), Volstad Gridbin, Alan Guthrie, D. W. R. Hall, George Holt, Gill Hunt, Alan Innes, E, F. Jackson, Gordon Kent, Gregory Kern, King Lang, Brett Landry, Mike Lantry, P. Lawrence, Chet Lawson, Nigel Lloyd, Robert Lloyd, Frank T. Lawns, Ron Lowman (Ron Lowam), Arthur MacLean, Carl Maddox, Phillip Martyn, John Mason, Colin May, Carl Moulton, L. C. Powers, M. L. Powers, Edward Richards, Paul Schofield, John Seabright, Brian Shaw, Roy Shelton, John Stevens, Eric Storm, Andrew Sutton, Edward Thomson, Ken Wainwright, Frank Wright, Douglas West, Eric Wilding, and Frank Winnard. 

Tubb took over the editorship of the British Authentic Science Fiction from H. J. Campbell and helmed the magazine for its last twenty issues.  Tubb was a co-founder of the British Science Fiction Association and edited the inaugurtal issue of Vector, the Association's critical journal. 

As Tubb's markets began to dry out, he stopped writing for about a decade in 1986, only to be coaxed back into the field, where he remained until his death at age 90. 

Although Tubb's work lacks the sophistication and depth of many later-day space operas, his tales remain entertainingly readable.

Monday, May 29, 2023


 Alex Raymond created Flash Gordon as a comic strip for King Features Sydicate to compete with the already popular Buck Rogers.  King Features had tried to get the rights to Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series, but failed.  They then to Raymond, a staff artist.  Raymond, in part, used elements of Philip Wylie's novel When Worlds Collide as his inspiration.  When the syndicate accepted his proposa, Raymond was teamed with experienced writer and editor Don Moore as a ghostwriter.  The first Flash Gordon comic strip appeared on January 7, 1934.  The strip was an outstandind success and became one of the most popular comic strips of the 1930s, spawning merchandise galore, including toy spaceships and ray guns.

The world-wide popularity of the strip was diminshed somewhat during World War II.  Nazi Grmany refused to let the strip run in German newspapers; Mussalini's Italy restricted it to only two newspapers; and Spain's only newspaper to carry the strip ceased publication with the Spanish Civil War in 1938.  Following World War II, the floodgates reopened for the comic strip.

Three serial films starring Buster Crabbe as Flash were made, beginning in 1936; all three were later condensed into full movies.

In May 1953, an international West German, French, and American production company began filming a live action half hour show in an abandoned beer hall in Stugart, Germany, allowing parts of the war-torn city to be used as backdrops.  The first 26 episodes were shot there before the director, Wallacw Worsley Jr., quit over a salary dispute.  The final 13 episodes were filmed in Marseille with new director Gunther vom Fritsch.  Flash Gordon ran in syndication through most of the United State, while it was broadcast on the East Cost by the Dumont Network.  The show proved to be very popular and reruns continued into the early 1960s.

In the series Flash Gordon is an agent for the Galactic Bureau of Investigation.  With his fellow agents Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov, the trio traverl the galaxy under the order of Paul Richard to battle space kmonsters, power-mad alien dictators, and any other threats to the cosmos.  (In hindsight, there are traces of imperialism and capitolistic themes, but, hey, it was the Cold War 50s.) 

The premier episode, "The Planet of Death," has Flash Dale, and Zarkov traveling to the planet Tarsit to investigate an ancient curse.  There, they face a traitorous scientist and a threatened invasion by the evil planet Ebon.  The screenplay was by Pearl Markham and Bruice Elliot.

Steve Holland stars as Flash.  In later years he served as model for "Doc Savage" on the many paperback covers created by artist James Bama   Dale Arden is portrayed by 21-year-old Irene Chapman.  While the first season of Flash Gordon was airing, she also appeared as a harem girl in a television commercial for men's aftershave.  I can't find much information about Joe (Joseph Nash), who played Dr. Zarkov.  He did has a role as the Head Waiter in the 1951 television film of Clayton Rawson's Th Great Merlini, though.  The character of Commander Paul Richard laster only eight episodes and he was played by Henry Beckman, who had a 53-year screen careert in flims and television, including regular roles in I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, Here Comes the Bride, Funny Face, and Bronc.  None of the other actors used in the series spoke English, which added a challenge to filming.

Enjoy this episode.

Sunday, May 28, 2023


Openers:   On the last day of her life, when she was two hundred and forty-seven years old, the blind poet, miracle worker, and prophetess Pampa Kampana completed her immense narrative poem about Bisnaga and burried it in a clay pot sealed with wax in the heart of the ruined Royal Enclosure, as a message to the future.  Four and a half centuris later we found that pot and read for the first time the immortal masterpiece Jayaparajaya, meaning "Victory and Defeat," written in the Sanskrit language, as long as the Ramayana, made up of twenty-four thousand verses, and we learned the secrets of the empire she had concealed from history for more than one hundred and sixty thousand days. We knew only the ruins that remained, and our memory of history was ruined as well, by the passage of time, the imperfections of memory, and the falsehoods of those who came after.  As we read Pampa Kampana's book, the past was regained, the Bisnaga Empire was reborn as it truly had been, its women warriors, its mountains of gold, its generosity of spirit and its mean-spiritedness, its weaknesses and its strengths.  We heard for the first time the full account of the kingdom that began and ended with a burning and a severed head.  This is that story, retold in plainer language by the present author, who is neither a scholar nor a poet but merely a spinner of yarns, and who offers this version for the simple entertainment and the possible edification of today's readers, the old and the young, the educated and the not so educated, those in search of wisdom and those amused by folly, northerners and southerners, followers of different gods and of no gods, the broad-minded and the narrow-minded, men and women and members of genders beyond and in between, scions of the nobilitiy and rank commoners, good people and rogues, charlatans and foreigners, humble sages, and egotistical fools.

-- Salman Rushdie, Victory City (2023)

From the jacket:  "In the wake of an unimportant battle between two long-forgotten kingdoms in fourteenth-centruy southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history,  After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for her namesake, the goddess Pampa, who begins to speak out of the girl's mouth.  Granting her powers beyond Pampa Kampana's comprehension, the goddess tells her that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga -- 'victory city' -- the wonder of the world."

Rushdie uses the form of an ancient epic to spin a tale of myth and adventure.

Salman Rushdie is one of the great authors of our time, the winner of the Booker Prize, the Whitbread Prize, the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, the National Arts Award, the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, the Eueopean Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature, the Budapast Grand Prize for Literature, and the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour.  I have to confess that I have tried, and failed, to read his work before.  I just could not get into The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, or Midnight's Children, which is lokely more my fault than the author's.  Victory City, however, sounds to be just in my wheelhouse and I'm looking forward to giving it a rry.


  • "K. J. Anderson" (Kevin J. Anderson), Captain Nemo.  Fictional biography.  "What if Nemo was a real man, whose actual life was more fantastic and adventurous than all the fictions he inspired?  Here is the epic tale of Andre Nemo, the man behind the myth.  The free-spirited and inventive son of a French shipbuilder, Nemo goes to sea as a cabin boy, faces marauding pirates and bloodthirsty sharks, is marooned for years on a mysterious island, battles prehistoric monsters long believed extinct, journeys to the center of the earth, balloons across Africa, escapes from Arab slavers, discovers the fabled city of Timbuktu, endures a plague of locusts, survives the Charge of the Light Brigade, attends to the wounded with Florence Nightingle, is pressed into service by the ruthless Robert the Conqueror, and, ultimately, wages war on War itself as the captain of his greatest creation:  the legendary underwater vessel known as the NautilusCaptain Nemo is also the story of Nemo's childhood friend, Jules Verne, who would bestow immortality on the captain's exploits, and of the remarkable woman they both loved to the very end."
  • Isaac Asimov, Asimov's New Guide to Science.  Nonfiction.  First here was The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (two volumes, 1960), which was well-received despite its sexist title.  But science had a habit of moving forward, so the book was revised and updated as The New Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (1965, still with a sexist title).  More science happened, and in 1972 came another revised version, Asimov's Guide to Science.  In 1984, Asimov published a further revised and expanded edition, Asimov's New Guide to Science.  Doorstop books all, covering both the physical and biological sciences for the general reader.
  • Iain Banks (as opposed to his science fictional alter ego, Iain M. Banks), The Wasp Factory.  His first novel, selected in a British poll as one of the top 100 novels of the twentieth century.  "Meet Frank Cauldhame.  Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:  Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my younger brother Paul, for quite different and fundamental reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more of less on a whim.  That's my score to date.  Three.  I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again,  It was just a stage I was going through." 
  • Robert Benchley, The Best of Robert Benchley.  Collection of 72 humorous pieces from one of the great wits of the twentieth century and as member of the famed Algonquin Round Table.
  • James Daily, J.D. & Ryan Davidson, J.D., The Law of Superheroes.  Nonfiction, a look at the law as it might apply to comic book superheroes.  "Could Superman sue if someone exposed his identity as Clark Kent?  Is a life sentence for an immortal like Apocalypse 'cruel and unusual punishment?' Is X-ray vision a violation of search and seizure laws?  Is the Joker legally insane?  And who foots the bill when a hero destroys a skyscraper or two while defending Metropolis? [...] from alternate universes and copyright laws to shape-shifters and witness testimony to conracts with the Devil, The Law of Superheroes is a must-read for legal experts, true believers, and anyone who is ever called upon to practice in the comic multiverse."
  • Peter Dickinson, The Lively Dead.  Mystery novel.  "When a mysterious corpse is discovered in the recntly designed garden in her London townhouse, Lydia Timms finds herself propelled into an ever-widening net of blackmail, espionage, and, perhaps, murder."  Dickinson was a unique and talented writer in the mystery field, and elsewhere.
  • "Robert M. Drake" (Robert Macias), Beautiful & Damned.  Collection of stories and poems.  A pig-in-a-poke purchase; I had never heard of the guy.  Evidently he is a poet, novelist, and visual artist who found success by posting on Instagram, where he had (has?) a million followers.  According one critic, his "poems seem like those of a very young and immature fellow who is trying to think  hard about life.  It's Hallmark card level.  Only really, really depressed Hallmark cards."  **sigh**
  • Erle Stanley Gardner, The D.A. Breaks an Egg, The D.A. Breaks a Seal, The D.A. Cooks a Goose, and The D.A. Goes to Trial.  Doug Selby mysteries.
  • Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon, Blood of the Four.  Fantasy novel.  "In the great kingdom of Quandis, everyone is a slave.  Some are slaves to the gods.  Most are slaves to everyone else.  Blessed by the gods with lives of comfort and splendor, the royal elite routinely perform their duties, yet some chafe at their role.  A young woman of stunning ambition, Princess Phela refuses to allow a few obstacles -- including her mother the queen and her brother the heir apparent -- stand in the way of claiming ultimate power and glory for herself.  Far below the royals are the Bajumen.  Poor and oppressed, members of this wretched caste have two paths out of servitude:  the priesthood...or death.  Because magic has been kept at bay in Quandis, royals and Bajumen have lived together in an uneasy peace for centuries,  But Princess Phela's desire for power will disrupt the realm's order, setting into motion a series of events that will end with her becoming a goddess in her own right...ultimately destroying Quandis and its inhabitants."
  • Elly Griffths, The House at Sea's End.  A Ruth Galloway mystery.  "Just back from maternity leave, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is struggling to juggle motherhood and work when she is called in to investigate human bones that have surfaced on a remote 'Norfolk beach.  The presence of DCI Harry Nelson, the married father of her daughter, does not help.  The bones, six men with their arms bound, date back to World War II, a desperate time in this stretch of coastline.  As Ruth and Nelson investigate, Home Guard veteran Archie Whitcliffe reveals a secret the old soldiers had vowed to protect with their lives.  But then Archie is killed and a German journalist arrives, asking questions about Operation Lucifer, a plan to stop a German invasion, and a possible British war crime.  What was Operation Luifer?  And who is prepared to kill to keep its secret?"
  • Carolyn Guest, A Southern Mansion Mystery 4.  Self-published mystery in a series of novellas focusing on various Southern mansions, this time Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, Lousiiana.  "It was possible that Catherine and Mary Lou had been twirled around the dance floor in the arms of the fiend who had killed the woman.  Their nerves now lay shattered like shards of glass on that white floor now stained with crimson.  Suddenly the door which was behind her slammed shut with a loud bang.  Then to make matters worse the light went out and she was left in total darkness.  She began to pray.  It was her only hope.  Her life began to flash before her eyes as she huddled near the door.  If Thibodeau says that she is late then something is definitely wrong!"  [Huh?} The author (1941-2019) lived one town over from me, which may explain why so many of her books (there are at least seven in the series) are widely available in local thrift stores -- all signed by her.   Recipes are included in each of the books; this book includes four from Daniel Thompson, Executive Chef at Nottoway Plantation.
  • Anthony Horowitz, Forever and a Day.  Authorized James Bond novel.   "The sea keeps its secrets, but not this time.  One body.  Three bullets.  007 floats in the waters of Marseilles.  It's time for a new agent to step up.  Time for a new weapon in  the war against organized crime.  It's time for James Bond to earn his license to kill.  This is the story of the birth of a legend, in the brutal underworld of the French Riviera...M laid down his pipe and stared at it tetchily.  'We have no choice.  We're just going to bring forward this other chap you've been preparing...But uou you didn't tell ne his name.'  'It's Bond, sir,' the chief of staff replied. 'James Bond.' "  Horowitz includes some orignal material by Ian Fleming.
  • Diane Johnson, Dashiell Hammett: A Life.  Biography, written with the cooperation of Lillian Hellma.
  • "Anna Kavan" (Helen Woods Ferguson Edmonds), Ice.  Literary slipstream novel.  ""In a stark and surreal landscape an unnamed narrator competes with a man known as'the warden' in an obsessive search to fins and control an elusive, sylph-like being with albino hair called 'the girl.'  Their sadistic pursuit of this strange and fragile young woman is set against an apocalypotical background of global violence, with the planet faving environmental catastrophe inb the form of ever-encrouching ice."  A classic of modern literature from an author who had a very troubled life -- suicidal, suffering from mental illness, schizophrenia,  a painful spinal disease, and drug addiction, she adopted the Kavan name and persona after one release from a mental hospital.  
  • Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger, editors,  Echoes of Sherlock Holmes.  Mystery anthology with 17 stories inspired by the Homes canon.  Authors include Tasha Alexander, Jon Connolly, Deborah Crombie, Cory Doctorow, Hallie Ephron, Meg Gardiner, William Kent Kruger, Jonathan Maberry, Catriona McPherson, Denise Mina, David Morrell, Anne Perry, Gary Phillip, and Hank Phillipi Ryan.  A pretty imporessive lineup.
  • Don Maquis, The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel.  Collection of pieces about everybody's favorite cockroach and his reincarnated cat friend, edited with notes by Michael Sims, and presented in their original order of publication from 1916 to 1922.   As with the Benchley book above, I am afraid that some authors have fallen into a near forgotten status.  
  • Phil Stanford, Portland Cofidential:  Sex, crime, and Corruption in the Rose City.  Non fiction.  This is Portland, Oregon, and the author os a columnist for the Portland Tribune.  Striptease.  Drug Pushers.  Pinball.  Payoffs.  Prostitution.  Racketeering -- who knew?  Heavily illustrated.
  • Rex Stout, Double for Death.   A Tecumseh Fox mystery.
  • Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country. An "assemblage of mini-memoirs," edited by Daniel Simon.
  • R. A. J. Walling, The Corpse with the Blistered Hand.  A Philip Tolefree mystery from the British Golden Age of Mystery writer, first published in England as Dust in the Vault.  Tolefree started out as a private agent in non-criminal insurance matters, but soon finds himself involved in murder cases.  "A stranger meets a fellow-conspirator in the moonlight...people get to talking again about the legendary Prior's Hoard of gold (every abbey in England has one, so nobody believed the tale)...a map is discovered in an ancient Boethius...'Curiouser and curiouser,' comments Tolefree...and then swift, terrible murder..."  (Boethius, circa 480-524 AD,  was a Roman historian, philosopher, and translator of Greek classics.)
  • Leonard Wibberly, The Mouse on Wall Street,  The Duchy of Grand Fenwick rides again!  This time too much money is plaguing the tiny kingdom.  After its victorious war against the United State, the duchy had placed manufacturng rights for its Grand OPinot chewing gum with and American company.  Now the anti-smoking forces seem to be getting the upper hand and sales of the gum are soaring.  Grand fenwick receives a check for one m illion dollars -- its 40 % share of the first annual profit.  Surely nothing good can come from those uinneeded dollars into the tidy economy of Grand Fenwick (15 square mjies, 5000 souls).  The following year, the check is for ten million dollars.  Something needs to be done to preserve the duchy.  Glriana XII comes upo with a brilliant idea to get rid of the unwanted money -- she''ll invest it in Wall Street.  Clsing her eyes, she jabs a pin at the financial section of the newspaper, figuring that will be the easiest way to lose the funds.  "Suffice it to say here that mergers merge, conglomerates conglomerate, and in due course the m oney markets of the world begin to wobble.  For what if Grand fenwick should liquidate its billions -- yes, they're billions by now -- of American assets and demand payment in gold?"  Has there ever been such a delightful place in literature than Grand Fenwick?

Scary Moms:  Since I live in Santa Rosa County and one of my grandchildren still goes to school there, this news item hit close to home:

If you read the artricle, you'll find a list of the 65 books at the end.  You may, like me, end uip scratching your head.

Just who are "Moms for Liberty?"  Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

As an aside, the NAACP and at least on majot LBGTQ group have issued "travel advisories" for the state of Florida.  In response, Florida senator and former governor Rick Scott issued his own travel advisory against socialists coming to Florida; according to Scott, they are not welcome.  (As CEO of hospital company Columbia/HCA, Scott "oversaw the largest Medicare fraud" in U.S. history, a claim PolitiFact rules was "mostly true.")

Ed Ames (1927-2023):

"Mary in the Morning"

And "The Daniel Boone Song"

"Try to Remember"

Tina Turner (1939-2023):

"Riuver Deep, Mountain High"

"Proud Mary"

"What's Love Got to Do with It"

A Literary Joke:  Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini.  The Bartender asks, "Oliver Twist?"

The Clutching Hand (Well, Part of It):  Here's Chapter 14, "The Silent Spectre," of the fifteen-part serial featuring Jack Mulhall as Arthur B. Reeves famous "scientific detective" Craig Kennedy, with Rex Leae, Mae Busch, and Ruth Mix.  Look closely and you'll also see famoujs movie stuntman and actor Yakima Canutt.  Craig Kennedy is called in to find a scientist and his missing formula for creting synthetic gold.  If you are interested, there are links to all fifteen chapters of this 1938 cliffhanger serial.

Istanbul was Constantinople:  570 years ago today, the Byzantine Empiure came to an end after 1223 years.  The Byzantine empire, or Eastern Roman Empire, was an extention of the Roman Empire; its beginning were marked by the capitol city moving from Rome to Constantinople by the Emperor Constantine.  The Western Roman Empire continued oinly to the Fifth century.  The terms "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Rpman Emp[ire" did not come into begin until late in its history; its citizens called themselves Romans and considered their empire the Roman Empire.  During most of its history, the Byzantine Empire wqs the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in Europe.

Constantine I (c. 272-337) was emperor from 306 until his death.  He became sole ruler of the Roman Empire by 324, after defeating the Emperors Maxentius and Lucinius in a civil war.  He was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, he had begun to favor the new religion in 312.  He played a major role in issuing the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed tolerance for Christians.  In 325, he convened the First Council of Nicea, which produced the Nicean Creed.  Constantine's rule marked the turning point from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages.  He built an imperial palace in Byzantium, renamed it New Rome, then named it Constantinople after himself.

As emperor, Constantine restructured the government, separating it into military and civil authorities.  The army itself was reorganized to better enable it to respond to threats and to fight against tribes on the frontiers, resulting in regaining territories lost by his predecessors.  He introduce a new coin, the solidus, which became the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than a millennium.  Constantine's role and motivations in his empire have been questioned by scholars, both pro and con.

The Byzantine Empire went through periodic declines and resurgances over its long history, reaching its greatest extent during the reign of Justinian I, following the fall of the Western Empire.  During the early Muslim conquests of the 7th Century, the empire lost Egypt, Syria, and Africa.  The empire expanded again during the Macedonian dynasty in the Ninth to Eleventh Centiries.  In 1204, Christian conquerors sacked Comstaninople, which was regained nearly six decades later, but the empire was merely a shadow of itself.  For its last two centuries the Byzantine Empire was only one of several small states in the area -- most of its former territory had been gobbled up by wars with the Ottomans.  

On May 29, 1453, the Ottoman army under the leadership of 21-year-old Sultan Mehmed II outnumbered the Byzantine forces of Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos after a 53-day seige and swept the city.  Following the conquoring of Constantinople, Mehmet made the city the new capitol of the Ottoman Empire.  For all intents and purposes, the Byzantine Empire and the Roman Empire were dead, marking the end of the Medieval period and the beginning of a new era in military history, in which the use of gunpowder changed the face of seige warfare.

"Ain't I a Woman?":  On this day in 1881, Soujourner Truth delivered this landmark speech to the Woman's Convention in Akron. Ohio.  She nailed it.

Birthday Greetings:  Among those who have a birthday today are Victor, Duke of Munsterberg (1443-1500), Reichsgraf, Duke of Munsterberg and Opava, Count of Glatz, he was important in his day, not so much now; Virginia de' Medici (1568-1615), Italian princess and illegitimate daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici, as Regent of the Duchy of Moderna and Reggio she was able to protect the autonomy of Moderna durng attacks in 1601, never truly stable, her husband's many infidelities sent her off the deep end and she suffered from mental illness until her death; Charles II of England (1630-1685), King of Scotland from 1549-1551 and, after the Reformation, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1560-1585, of him, John  Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, wrote "We have a pretty, witty king,/Whose word no man relies on,/He never said a foolish thing,And never did a wise one,";  Patrick Henry (1736-1799), the "Give me liberty or give me death!" guy; John H. Balsley (1823-1896), carpenter and inventor of the folding stepladder; G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), writer, essayist, poet, and Christian apologist, creator of Father Brown, and model for John Dickson Carr's Dr. Gideon Fell; Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), polymath, author of The Decline of the West; Frederick Schiller Faust, perhaps better known as "Max Brand" (1892-1944). prolific writer of westerns, historicals, and romances, he wrote a gazillion weserns which are still being published, as well as the Dr. Kildare series; Beatrice Lillie (1894-1989), actress and singer, sometimes touted as "The Funniest Woman in the World"; Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969), Austrian-American filmmaker (The Blue Angel, The Devil Is a Woman, Duel in the Sun); Bob Hope (1903-2003), ski-nosed comedian, actor, and noted USO entertainer; T. H. White (1906-1964), author of The Once and Future King; Tony Zale (1913-1997), boxer and multiple World Middleweight titleist with an overall record of 67-18-2; Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) Nepalese sherpa and mountaineer who was with Edmund Hillary when they climbed Mount Everest in 1953 (today also happens to be International Mount Everest Day); John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), American president; Norman Hetherington (1921-2010), Australian cartoonist and puppeteer, creator of Mr. Squiggle, who was the main character on an Australian television show for forty years; Eugene Wright (1923-2020), American jazz bassist and member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet; Lars Bo (1924-1999), Danish artist (you can see some of his work here:; Peter Higgs (b. 1929), English theoretical physicist and Noble Prize winner for his work on subatomic paticles, he predicted the existence of a new particle, the Higgs boson; Paul R. Ehlich (b. 1932), biologist and co-author of The Population Bomb; Sylvia Robinson (1935-2011), singer, one-half of Mickey & Sylvia ("Love Is Strange"), she also produced the Joe Johnson record "You Talk Too Much"; Fay Vincent (b. 1938), former Commissioner of Major League Baseball, 1989-1992; Pete Smith (b. 1939), Australian radio and television announcer; Al Unser (1939-2021), race car driver, member of a famous racing family, and the second of four men to have won the Indianapolis 500 four times, Taiho Koki (1940-2013), Japanese sumo wrestler, the 48th yokozuna (the highest ranking in sumo); Bob Simon (1941-2015), CBS News television correspondent who covered 67 countries during his career, he won 27 Emmy awards for journalism; Kevin Conway (1942-2020), actor, he was the control voice on The Outer Limits for 152 episodes, 1995-2002; Gary Brooker (1945-2002), singer-songwriter, founder and lead singer for Procol Harum; Joyce Tenneson (b. 1945) American photographer, known for her nude and semi-nude portraits of women; Anthony Geary (b. 1947), actor best known as Luke Spencer of Luke and Laura from the soap opera General Hospital, winner of eight Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series; Rebbie Jackson (b. 1950), singer and eldest child in the Jackson family; Danny Elfman (b. 1953) singer-songwriter and noted film composer, he wrote the theme nusic for The Simpsons; John Hinckley, Jr. (b. 1955), Jodie Foster fan and attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan, he was granted unconditional release on June 15, 1922, following the assassinatin attempt the producers of the television show The Greatest American Hero changed the name of the lead character from Ralph Hinckley to Ralph Hanley; La Toya Jackson (b. 1956), sister of Rebbie (see above); Mohson Makhmalbaf (b. 1957), Iranian film director of more than 20 feature films, including Kandahar; Annette Being (b. 1958), actress (The Grifters, The American President, Love Affair), she's married to Warren Beatty, who appears smitten with her; Rupert Everett (b. 1959), English actor, producer, director, and novelist; Melissa Etheridge (b. 1961), Grammy Award-winning singer; Zhu Jianhua (b. 1963), retired Chinese high jumper, his personal best (2.39 meters) is a former world record and remains the current Chinese record, he won a Silver Medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics; Noel Gallagher (b. 1967), one-time lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist of Oasis; Steven Levitt (b. 1967), American economist and co-author of Freakonomics; Hida Viloria (b. 1968), an intersex, nonbinary, gender nonconforming Latine American activist who uses the they/them pronouns, they are (is?) the Founding Director of the Intersex Campaign for Equality; Laverne Cox (b. 1972), award-winning transgender American actress and LBGT advocate. she first rose to prominence playing Sophia on Orange is the New Black; Steve Cardenas (b. 1974), martial artist and actor, he played the 2nd Red Ranger on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and the Blue Zeo Ranger on Power Rangers Zeo; Aaron McGruder (b. 1974), creator of the comic strip The Boondocks; Mel B. (b. 1975), one-time Scary Spice, and (later) television personality and talent show judge; Sarah Millican (b. 1975), English comedian, "My New Year's resolution is to get in shape.  I choose round."; Daniel Tosh (b. 1975), television host and comedian, from 2009 to 2020 he hosted the Comedy central series Tosh.0;  Lorenzo Odone (1978-2008), whose parents developed a controverial treatment for his adrenoleukodystropjia, a fatal illness, which became the basis of the film Lorenzo's Oil; Riley Keough (b. 1989), actress and granddaughter of Elvis; Erica Garner (1990-2017), advocate for police reform following the murder of her father Eric Garner after a New Tork City police officer placed him in a lethal chokehold, Garner believed that her father's death had more to do with police conduct than race, following the birth of a son she had a heart attack and was found to have an enlarged heart, a second heart attack in December placed her in a coma and she was diagnosed with "major bran damage," she died a week later; Park Ji-hoon (b. 1999), South Korean singer and actor, one-time member of the boy band Wanna One, he was known as the "wink boy," Park adopted the catchphrase, "save you in my heart," since then his solo singing (7 EPs) and acting career have garnered praise (his first movie is scheduled to be released this year).

Florida Man:
  • Florida Woman Daily Salinas has been identified as the woman behind efforts to ban a number of literary works from the elementary school in Miami L:akes where her two children attend, including youth poet ;laureate Amanda Gorman's poem "The Hill We Climb," which Gorman read at President Biden's inauguration.  It was revealed that Salinas had attended protests by The Proud Boys and Mom for Liberty (which see, above), although she has stated she does not belong to either group.  She has also been linked to County Citizens Defending Freedom USA, a far-right Christian Nationalist organization.  She has published anti-Semetic remarks on social media, citing the fabricated anti-Semetic screed The Protocol of the Elders of Zion.  Salinas admitted to posting the remarks, but said that anti-Semitism was not her purpose.  Some of her friends were Jewish, she said.  Among the other works she managed to get banned were The ABCs of Black History, poems by Langston Hughes, and books on Cuba -- all of which she criticized for "indirect hate messages," critical race theory, and gender indoctrination.  Salinas also admitted that she had only read snippets of the books she insisted be banned.  "I'm not a reader.  I'm not a book p[erson.  I'm a mom involved with my children's education."
  • Florida Man and Santa County Commissioner James Calkins wears his political affiliation proudly, refusing to vote for a registered Democrat for a volunteer position on the county's Marine Advisory Committee.  He said that he would only vote for Sheila Alford, owner of Avalon Aquiculture, if she would change her party affliation   "I will not vote for a Democrat to be appointed to any board in Santa Rosa County, we have a lot of Republicans in this county, that are qualified to serve in this position," he said.  The remaining commissioners did not agree, and Alford was appointed on a 4-1 vote.  Earlier this year, when a prescribed burn got out of control, Calkins accused former Florida Department of Agriculture sectreart Nikki Fied and the Democratic party of "trying to burn out county down."  One year ago, a video surfaced showing Calkins and his Russian-born wife Mariya attending a New Year's Eve party in Ruissia, singing the Russian national anthem, and hobnobbing with Vladimir Putin.   "I love Russia," Calkins said. One hour after the Janaury 6, 2021 insurrectionj in Washingon, Calkin posted on Facebook, "Proud of our boys.  Stop the steal."  (Calkins blamed antifa.)  In a 2020 election video, Calkins called out looters:  "If you loot, we shoot."  Calkins has also endorsed arming county teachers  inside classrooms.  Calkins was the only Santa Rosa County commission to "enthusiastically" support renaming a county causeway the "Donald J. Trump Causeway," saying that a lot of people in the county voted for Trump [Trump got 72% of the vote] and that it was a "fantastic idea."  One resident supporting the idea said it establish ourselves as being the destionation for conservative persons and patriots."
  • Neatness counts, evidently, for Florida Man Anthony Michael Corrado of Naples, who allegedly beat his grandmother to death with a hammer and severely i njured his grandfather.  Police say they arrested the blood-soaked 34-year-old after he had asked his housekeeper to clean up the crime scene.  Corrado has a lengthy record of arrests for possession of amphetamines and heroin, a hit-and-run incident, and for parole violations.  The grandparents had taken out a restraining oder against him.
  • What does the well-dressed Florida Man wear?  For 32-year-old Omar Gutierrez the answer is cat pajamas, or, perhaps, a cat onesie.  That's what he was wearing when Aluchua County deputies arrested for attempted murder after he stabbed his roommate in the neck.  Gutierrez is being held on a one million dollar bond.
  • When you are in Florida, placement means a lot.  For Florida Man  John Riddle, 58, of Hollywood, this means being careful where you sit.  Riddle found a hissing iguana in his towlet bowl   A self-confessed not-a-fan of reptiles Riddle admitted he was scared by the grumpy critter. Worse yet, he was unsure of how to get rid of the iguana.  Riddle put up a baby gate to keep the iguana in the bathroom.  After an hour of trying to working up the courage to get the reptile out of his house, the iguana climbed out of the bowl and hid behind the toilet, and Riddle was able to use a strainer to shoo the angry beast out of his house.  There are three types of iguana in Florida, al of them invasive species.  The green iguana can grow to a length of five feet.  Iguanas do not like the cold and you may remember stories of frozen iguanas falling out of trees during a cold snap in Florida this past winter.
  • A 72-year-old unidentified Florida Man lost the lower part of his right leg when he was attcked by an alligator in Brevard County RV park.  The alligator was later spotted with the man's foot hanging from its mouth.  Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers and Brevard County deputies track the alligator and choot it, capturing the incident on video; out of repsect to the victim, they did not release the portion of the video which showed the foot hanging from the alligator's mouth.  Florideans have a one-in-3.1 million chance of being injured in an unprovoked alligator attack.  Today happens to be National Alligator Day.
  • In a related story, Florida Man Jordan Rivera, 23, had his armed ripped off by a ten-and-a-half foot alligator.  Rivera had been in a Fort Meyers bar, and was peeing in a nearby pond because the line in the bar was too long, he said.  He woke up armless in the intensive care unit of the Fort Meyers Hospital.  "I looked over and I saw my arm the way it was -- and I was like, 'Whoa.' "  A regular at the bar, Manny Hildago -- who takes his cat, Mr. Tom, bar-hopping with him -- had rushed over to pull Rivera to safety.
  • 72-year-old Florida Man Paul Zittel of Ocala was arrested child pornography charges after police found over one ton of explicit printed material -- more than 220,000 printed images -- in his home.  Police had obtained a search warrant after receiving a tip that Zittel had uploaded multiple files of child pornography to the internet.  Eech!

Various Holidays:  I've scattered some of today's holidays throughtout this post, but I do want to mention that today is also National Paper Clip Day, National Coq au Vin Day, National Biscuit (meaning cookies, not biscuits) Day, and Put a Pillow in Your Fridge Day.

Some of the Good Stuff:
  • Woman overcomes homelessness, then wins 5 million dollars
  • Microbes that digest plastics at low tempertures are discovered in the Alps and in the Arctic
  • After 4-year search for a mate, endangered lemur gives birth to adorable pup
  • Anti-poaching helicopter attemps daring rescue inches above a swirling flood
  • Lights turned off at the Gatway Arch every night to assist in bird migration for 325 species
  • Grandson accompanies 93-year-old grandma to visit all 63 National Parks
  • 13 years after losing both legs in Afghanistan, veteran scales Mt. Everest for a world record
  • Big white dogs save the world's smallest penguin in Australia

Today's Poem:  Memorial Day began in 1868 as Decoration Day.  It is an occasion to honor and remember those who lost their lives while serving the United States of America.  We must never forget their sacrifice.  May their deaths never be in vain.

Vigil Strange I Kept On the Field One Night

Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comradedropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy. reach'd up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late at night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of
responding kisses (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and tehn in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle field spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partiually reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade
-- not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest ligering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd,
My comrade I wrapped in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave,
in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blamket,
And buried him where he fell.

-- Walt Whitman

envoi:  My go-to song on such a day as this:

Saturday, May 27, 2023


 Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae.


 Created by Dick Briefer for Fox Comics, Rex Dexter premiered in the first issue of Mystery Men Comics, dated Augusdt 1939, and continued for another 23 issues.  He was also featured in Rex Dexter #1 (Fall m1940) and in The Eagle #1 (July 1941).

At the 1939 World's Fair, Montague Dexter premiered a rocket ship that he had built.  To prove that it would work,he and his wife took off on a journey headed for Mars, but his "experimantal flivver" vanished, presumably lost in the stratosphere.  The couple did make it to Mars, however, crashing their shiup.  For the next 61 years, Montague Dexter worked on repairing his ship.  In the year 2000, the ship was ready to fly, but by then Dester and his wife were too old to withstand the rigors of space flight.  It was left to their son Rex, born on Mars, to return to Earth.

(Let me pause here and fill in some blanks.  There are Martians:  brownish, humanoid, frog-loke beings with disc ears and a tufts of black hair on top of their heads.  There Martians hope that Rex will be a link between the people of Mars and those of Earth.  Rex himself is tall, handsome, with flowing blond locks; he walks around Mars unprotected -- unloike his father, now 85 and bearded, wearing a space helmet to protect him from (I guess) the Martian atmosphere.  One panel showing the wrecked spaceship has a clearly defined large planet Earth looming over the planet like a gibbous moon.  Typical 1939 science fiction fare.)

Rex takes off for Earth.  Alas, he soon loses control of his ship and it crashes into a large space ship that just happened to be cruising nearby.  Rex is able to get into the larger ship, where he finds some Earthmen and one particular lovely Earthgirl, Cynde.  (One version of the story has Rex rescuing Cynde from space pirates when they meet; the origen story about Rex changes over time.)  The ship radios ahead to Earth that they have Rex -- exciting news for everyone on Earth   Rex is greeted by the mayor of New York and is given a parade down Fifth Avenue.  He meets with the president, who updates himj on what has happened on Earth since 1939.

One thing that has happened was a devasting European  war in the 1950s which left that continent pretty much a barren wasteland, while America grew into a futuristic landscape, complete with flying cars and rocket ships.  Living (lurking?) in an old castle on a European mountai top is the evil madman Boris Thorax, the only person in contact with the people of the moon.  Unlike the Martians, the Moon People are evil and need slaves;  Boris Thorax hatches a plan to give the Moon People all the Earth slaves they want, while at the same time he can become the ruler of Earth.  He contacts the Moon People and has them pull the planet Traxis out of orbit to smash it into America.  When the people of the western hemisphere realize the coming destrucytion, they will flee to Europe, where Boris will capture them and give them to the Moon People.  Bwa-ha-ha.

Rex and the president discover that Traxis is coming to destroy America.  They are interupted by Yesoff, a former servant of Boris Thorax who fled when he realized the madman was mad.  Yesoff tells Rex and the President what Thorax is up to and he and Rex travel to Europe to stop him.  As they head off on their quest, stoic Cynde watches and declares her love for Rex.  (BTW, since landing on Easrth, Rex has shorn his locks and nopw sports a typical 1939 haircut.)

Rex and Yesoff climb up tje mountainside to Thorax's lair,  Yesoff is looking forward to braking Thorax's neck, but Thorak shoots Yesoff, who falls against the lever controlling the oncoming planet, changing its course so that it crashes harmlessly into the ocean.  (Trunamis are evidently not a big worry in the year 2000.)  It's left to Rex to break the madman's neck.  We close the first episode with Rex lolling against the castle wall, looking at the planet Mars, and dreaming of Cynde...

In later issues, Rex and Cynde vow to protect Earth from and threat and/or invasion.  This goes well for a while until an Martian beast that Rex had brought with him escapes and wreaks havoc.  (Didn't know about the beast, did you?  Neither did we.)  The people of Earth are now pissed at Rex and exile him and Cynde.  Eventually, there's another alien invasion and Rex manages to stop it, so he is forgiven.  Inlater issues, Rex's origen story is altered -- he is now Montague's grandson, was born in 2015, and reached Earth on 2040.  Cynde's story changed to have her raised on Mars with Rex.  (Comic book readers of 1939 to 1941 have short memories.)

Enjoy all 26 adventures of Rex Dexter of Mars.


Friday, May 26, 2023


The Corpse with the Blistered Hand by R.A. J. Walling (first pu8blished in England as Dust in the Vault, 1939)

Robert Alfred John Walling (1869-1949) was a British journalist and, in his later years, a Golden Age Detective writer who was sometimes classed with Agatha Christie for ingenuity.  Walling started his career as a reporter in Plymouth.  In 1891, he started a newspaper focusing on football (which, because he was British, means soccer).  Two years later he became editor in chief of Bicycling News.  The following year, he helped launch the Western Evening Herald, the first evening newspaper in Plymouth.  In 1904, he was named managing director/editor of the Western Evening Newspaper Company, and joined the Board of Directors in 1915; he remained on the Board until his death.  He was named a magistrate in 1910 and served in that post for several years, during which time he became interested in crime.  By 1913 he began serializing detective novels in the British newspapers.  His first detective novel was published in France in 1927.  The first Philip Tolefree mystery, The Fatal Five Minutes, came out in 1932; Tolefree was featured in 23 novels, ending with 1949's The Corpse with the Missing Watch.

Tolefree was an upper class insurance broker who solved murders; his Watson, James Farrar, was a ship broker.  As far as I can tell, neither of them did much broking in the novels, of which the earlier ones were narrated by Farrar, who was then relegated to a character in later books.  Many of the U.S. editions of the later novels were retitled to provide descriptive conditions of the corpse:  The Corpse in the Green Pajamas, The Corpse in the Coppice, The Corpse in the Crimson Slippers, The Corpse with the Dirty Face, The Corpse with the Floating Foot, The Corpse with the Blue Cravat, and so on.  The Tolefree books are erudite, well-plotted, and -- if Blistered Hand is representative -- overly talkative and somewhat twee in their attempt to inject some humor (humour).  Critics either loved them or hated them.  Julian Symons thought Walling was a humdrum, while Will Cuppy considered him the dean of mystery writers.  Howard Haycraft thought he was a better mystery writer than John Rhode.  John Dickson Carr praised his sense of misdirection.  Bill Pronzini thought that Walling "elevated dullness to a fine art," and that Tolefree was a twir.  Barry Pike found the stories "courtly" and "replete with mystery, suspense, cross-purposes and strained relations."  Alexander Wollcott and Ogden Nash loved Walling's mysteries.  And, according to Walling's U.S. publisher (who printed some 135,000 copies of his books in the firstr ten years), "Rumor has it that when the Queen of Spain fled from Madrid at the time of the Revolution, she left behind a Walliing story, half finished.  Walling fans still wonder how she could have chosen to take her jewels."

The scene of the murder in The Corpse with the Blistered Hand is a great house in a remote village in the Cotswolds, "built around an ancient chantrey by some 16th-Century new-rich when old rip Henry cleared out the clerics."  It is a hot and sweltering summer in London when Tolefree and Farrar receive an invitation from old friend, Professor of Moral Philosophy, and amateur detective Gregory Pye to join him for a week or so at John Perivale's estate.  Perivale has a beautiful young daughter, Helen, who is madly in love with Bill Kinterbury, a former student of Pye's.  Kinterbury happens to be the son of the skintiest of skintflints on the Cotswolds, Samuel Kinterbury.  For the past two months the village has been graced with the appearance of William Abbott (probably not his real name), who claimed to be an artist and spent each day painting a canvas that allowed hijm a good view of the Albury Chantrey.  The chantrey is owned by Colonel Yeoland, a reclusive man who purchased it after his wife had died several years before.  Yeoland and Abbott have been meeting in secret and plotting...something.  There has been a local rumor that, four hundred years ago, the priory's riches were buried somewhere by the chantrey to avoid seizure by King Henry's men (a story of hidden treasure looms over every old abbey in England, so nobody really believed this particular tale).  Could this supposed treasure be behind the plotting between Abbott and Kinterbury?  Or could it be something else?  While clearing out a clogged chimney in the chantrey, Yeoland came across a brick-up 400-hundred year-old volume of Boethius, which had inserted in it a hand-drawn geometrical figure; legend also had it that a plot to the hoard's location had been drawn up at the time.  Could this be it?  Also lurking about is a sinister oriental figure who appeared around the village at the same time Abbott did, and a retired Captain who was a fish-out-of-water in the small village and his fishier-out-of-water wife.  There's also a sneaky village lad mistrusted by all.  And a naval captain and a London lawyer who are visiting Yeoland; they are actually government agents on the search for a leak of important information.

And, of course, the corpse wih a blistered hand, found in a room in the chantrey where he had been digging up the floor.  The corpse is Abbott, and his head had been bashed in -- but not before he had received a bullet to the brain.

A three-pronged investigtion starts.  Canny Inspector Bleeby is the official in charge of the case and he is trying to determine Abbott's true identity and purpose, as well as a motive for the killing, and any possible accomplices.  Captain Franks and Ronald Greene, the undercover government men, don't think the murder has anything to do with why they were sent to Albury, but can't be too sure.  And Tolefree, Farrar, Pye, Perivale, Helen, and Bill are trying to keep Bill's father's name out of the investigation because...well, Helen and Bill do not want to start their life off together with the shadow of a possible crime by Bill's father hanging over them.

I found the book and the characters a bit overdone.  The by-play between the main characters seemed strained with folksy colloquialisms.  The conversations too wordy.  There's also the casual racism that made Britain (and elsewhere) such a fun place to be, so be warned.  That being said, the bones of this novel are good.  The plotting is first-rate and the clues well-hidden.  I don't know if I'll ever go out of my way to read another Walling, but I probably wouldn't turn one down if given the opportunity.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023


 The Shadow ran for 18 seasons on the Mutual Radio Network, for a total of 677 shows.  The Shadow began as the mysterious narrator on July 31, 1930, on the radio show Detective Story Hour, an anthology program designed to promote Street and Smith Publishing's Detective Story Magazine.  The name The Shadow was first proposed by scriptwriter Harry Engman Charlot as the producers tried to come up with a description for their narrator.  When newstand customers began asking for the "Shadow" magazine, Street and Smith realized they were on to a good thing and hired writer Walter B. Gibson to create and develop The Shadow as a distinct literary character.  Gibson's Shadow premiered in the first issue of The Shadow Magazine, with the story "The Living Shadow," dated April 1, 1931.

The Shadow was a crimefighter who had the power to cloud men's minds.  He had many identities, the most-used identity over time was that of wealthy Lamont Cranston.  On the radio program, as opposed to the magazine stories, his power to cloud men's minds rendered him invisible to his enemies.  The Shadow Magazine ran for 325 issues, each with a novel, by-lined with house name "Maxwell Grant," about the mysterious vigilante, ending with the Summer 1949 issue.  The majority of the original Shadow stories (282 of them!) were written by Gibson.  Beginning in 1963, Belmont Books published nine original paperback adventures of The Shadow, the first written by Gibson, the remainder by Dennis Lynds.  In 2015, writer Will Murray brought The Shadow back in two authorized mashups with Street and Smith's other major pulp hero, Doc Savage; these were published under the house name "Kenneth Robeson."  In 2021, James Patterson and Brian Sitts published the first of a proposed series of Shadow novels that brought the crime fighter from 1937 to 2087 -- the book, IMHO, was an unmitigated disaster.

(The Shadow was also featured in films, a comic strip, comic books [including crossovers], a vdieo game, a pinball machine, and two failed attempts at a television series.)

Back to the radio show.

The Shadow's other identities, as well as his elaborate network of operatives, were dropped in favor of Cranston, who, besides being seemingly invisible, now has the power to read minds.  The Shadow of the airwaves is more compassionate and less ruthless than his pulp counterpart.  Created for the radio show was the character of Margo Lane, the Shadow's companion and love interest.  She is the only person who knows that The Shadow is Cranston.

22-year-old Orson Welles voiced The Shadow until 1938, when the role was taken over by Bill Johnson.  Johnson left after five seasons and the role was filled by Bret Morrison (in separate turns totalling ten years), John Archer, and Stephen Courtleigh.  Margo Lane was played by Agnes Morehead, and others.  (After four years on the radio the character of Margo Lane transitioned to the pulp magazine, drawing a slew of hate male from loyal readers.)

In "The Destroyer," The Shadow faces a madman bent on destruction in order to be remembered in history.  John Archer plays The Shadow/Cranston, and Judith Allen is Margot Lane.  Future science fiction legend Alfred Bester wrote the script.

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows!"  Follow the link and you, too, will know.



 "Clancy and the Subway Jumper"  by "Robert L. Pike" (Robert L. Fish) (first published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, December 1961)

Robert L. Fish (1912-1981) was a consulting engineer who, in 1953, was sent to Rio de Janero to oppen a plastics factory.  He stayed in brazil for nine years, using the experience as the background for his ten novels about policeman Captain Jose de Silva.  His first novel, The Fugitive, featuring de Silva, won the Edgar Award in 1963 for Best First Novel.  Fish also garnered an Edgar for his short story "Moonlight Gardener" (Argosy, December 1971).  Under his own name, Fish published five books about Kek Huuygens. a Polish smuggler using a Dutch name and an American passport.  His Murder Lreague Trilogy features three elderly down-on-their-luck mystery writers.  As "Robert L. Pike," he wrote three books about Lieutenant Clancy, a gruff New York cop.  The first book in that series, Mute Witness, was transformed through the magic of Hollywood, into the Steve McQueen film Bullitt, in which -- unlike clancy -- Steve McQueen drove cars.  (I saw Bullitt in a movie theater when it came out while I was dating Kitty; we here holding hands and, at a certain point in the film, Kitty jumped, startled, and nearly ripped my thumb off; I still have not forgiven McQueen.)  Also as "Pike," Fish wrote four books about San fRancisco cop Jim Reardon, a character from the Bullitt film.  Among his amny other books, Fish completed The Assassination Bureau, Ltd., an unfinished novel by Jack London, and a biography of soccer star Pele.  Since 1984, the Mystery Writers of America have awarded the Robert L. Fish Award for the best first short story by an american writer.  

(Of all Fish's writings, the stories of Schlock Homes of 221B Bagel Street are dearest to my heart.  Narrated by Homes's friend Watney, these parodies are pitch perfect and unroariously funny,) 

"Clancy and the Subway Jumper" was the first of four Clancy stories to appear in EQMM and marks the first appearance of the character in print.  Clancy had just been transferred from the 47th precint to the 52nd the week before and had not yet been able to get close to his men,  While standing in back of a squadroom poker game, he got a callabout a subway jumper on the 86 IRT.  Rather than disturb the game, Clancy decided to take the call himself.  The mangles body was unrecognizble, but the corpse's wallet showed him to be Caper Kelly, an almost legendary crook who drove a cab as a front for his less than legal activities.  Kelly was never known to be in this part of the city, preferring his own turf.  He also drove his cab everywhere and never used the subway sytem, so why had he been here?  Witnesses stated that he just jumped in from of the subway car without warning.  There was no one around him, so he wasn't pushed, and the witness said he did not trip.  Everything pointed to suicide but that was something no one could imagine Kelly doing.  Kelly's cab was found a few blocks away, a new model.  Two things stood out:  the ashtray in the back of the fromt seat was missing, perhaps stolen by someone, and the overhead light did not seem to work -- for a car that new, both items seemed strange.  In his workman-like manner, Clancy solves the mystery before the night is over.

A brief and perhaps minor story, but it gives a glimpse of a by-the-books, honest cop who methodically works at doing his job and does not participate in wild car chases over the streets of San Francisco.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023


Michael Lanyard, jewel-thief turned detective, was created by author Louis Joseph Vance (1879-1933_and appeared in eight novels from 1914 to 1934.  (A ninth book, The Lone Wolf and the Hidden Empire by Carl W. Smith (1937), was an original juvenile novel from Whitman Publishing, which also pubished BIG Little Books.)  The Lone Wolf starred in two dozen fims from 1917 to 1949, featuring such actors in the title role as Bert Ltell, Melvyn Douglas, and Gerald Mohr; The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt was the first of nine films to star Warren William as Michael Lanyard.  Mohr was also one of two actors to play Lanyard in a 1948 radio series.  Louis Hayward played the dashing Lanyard in the Lone Wolf television series from 1954 to1955.

The source for The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt was an unpublished script for the 1929 film The Lone Wolf's Daughter; so many changes were made to that script that the original source is unrecognizable.

An old enemy of Lanyard's (Spiro, played by Ralph Morgan) is the head of a gang for fairly inept crooks trying to steal plans for an anti-aircraft gun, and manages to involve the Lone Wolf in the plot.  A young Ida Lupino plays Val Carson, a woman who hopes to marry Lanyard and spends much of the film chasing him.  Pre-teen Virginia Weidler is Lanyard's tomboy daughter Patricia and is as precocious as ever; this gets a bit confusing because Lanyard is supposed to be a bachelor -- the daughter is never mentioned again in any of the films.  Rita Hayworth notches up the sex appeal as femme fatale Karen, the girl friend of Spiro.  All in all a fast-moving, breezy mystery-comedy that was typical of the 1930s.  While the film is not great art, you won't be wasting your time watching it, and it's interesting to see Lupino and Hayworth at the start of their careers.

The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt was written by Jonathan Latimer, his first scripting credit to be listed on IMDb.  Latimer had been known for his classic mystery novels featuring Bill Crane, but this film marked the beginning of a long and successful career in films and television.  Among his writing credits are Topper Returns, The Glass Key, The Big Clock, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Copper Canyon, Plunder of the Sun, and 32 episodes of the Raymond Burr-starring Perry Mason.

Director Peter Godfrey went on to helm Hotel Berlin, Christmas in Connecticut, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, The Woman in White, and The Girl from Jones Beach among others before moving on to direct episodic television in the 1950s.


Monday, May 22, 2023


I normally post the books I have read during the past week in the comments on Patti Abbott's Monday blog.  For some reason these comments for the past two weeks were eaten by the internet after I have posted them.  Today, I posted and reposted them a total of three times -- all to have them vanish.  I have no idea why and other things I have posted there have gotten through.  Go figure.

Time constraints lately have pushed my regular Monday posting here -- Bits & Pieces -- to every other week, so I thought I'd use this space to report on the books I have read over the past two weeks.  This will not/should not be a regular thing.  Here goes:

Books read, in alphabetical order:

  • "Barbara Allan" (Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins), Antiques Liquidation.  The latest Trash 'n' Treasure mystery, a cute and clever series that ignores the fourth wall.
  • Lawrence Bloch, Hit List.  The second book in the Keller series about a professional hit man who collects stamps.  An interesting and highly engagins series.
  • Martin Edwards, The Cipher Garden.  The second in the author's Lake District series.  A well-written and well-plotted mystery with an interesting locale.
  • Erle Stanley Gardner, The D.A. Breaks a Seal, The D.A. Cooks a Goose, The D.A. Draws a Circle, The D.A. Goes to Trial, The D.A. Holds a Candle, and The D.A. Takes a Chance.  Gardner wrote nine novels in the late 30s/early 40s about D.A. Doug Selby.  Selby is to district attorneys as Perry Mason is to criminal defense lawyers.  Fast, fun, and pulpish, Gardner keeps a lot of balls in the air.  I had previously read the first book in the series and decided it was high time I read the rest.  The other two D.A. books should be coming in this week.
  • Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk Is Miserable and Mr. Monk on Patrol.  Television tie-in mysteries.  Goldberg wrote fifteen of these and the books are as addictive as the television series was.  In the books, Goldberg gives the characters a chance to grow while still remaining true to the original concept.
  • Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin, The Dead Man, Volume 6 and The Dead Man, Volume 7.  Each omnibus contains three novels in the monthly thriller series about Matt Cahill, a man who died in an avalanche and is mysteriously resurrected three months later.  Cahill finds himself fighting a demonic force in order to stop (or, at least lessen) wholesale slaughter.  Cahill's weapon of choice?  His grandfather's ax.  Included in these two volumes are Neil Anthony Smith's Colder Than Hell (#16), Lisa Klink's Evil to Burn (#17), Barry Napier's Streets of Blood (#18), Mel Odom's Crucible of Fire (#19), Stant Litore's The Dark Need (#20), and Stella Green's The Rising Dead (#21).  The contract for these books was extended for a second year, with a projected 24 novels in all; the series, however, ended with book #24 -- a triple-sized volume that was first published as an Amazon serial.  I'll be reading that one this week.  The enitre pulp series would be at home in the pages of a weird menace magazine of the 30s, such as Terror Tales.
  • Grady Hendrix, My Best Friend's Exorcism.  A mash-up of humor, horror, and the eternal gift of friendship.  Recently made into a fairly decent movie available on one of the streaming services.
  • James Kestrel, Five Decembers.  The Edgar-winning novel that spans the World WAr II years.  Absolutely engrossing and recommended without qualification.
  • Steve Martin, Number One Is Walking.  Graphic novel memories of Martin's career.
  • Stephanie Phillips, Grim, Volume One.  Horror graphic novel.
  • Bill Pronzini, High Concepts.  His latest collection.  Science fiction and fantasy stories, a mumber of them in collaboration.
  • Robert Silverberg, three erotic novels from the 60s, The Hot Beat (originally published as by "Stan Vincent" -- a Hard Case Crime reprint with three additional short stories) and two-in-one volume from Strak House Press, Gutter Road (orignally as by "Don Elliott") and You Can't Stop Me (originally titled Lust Lover as by "Dan Eliot").  [When things got too hot legally for soft-core publisher Greenleaf/Corinth Books, popular pseudonyms werer altered -- "Don Elliott" became "Dan Eliot," "Andrew Shaw" became "Andrew Shole," and so on.]  These books hinted at a lot and hid behind vague descriptions but would not be out of place on today's newstands.  They provided a good training ground for future successful writers such as Silverberg, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Jakes, Bill Pronzini, Evan Hunter, and Dean Koontz, among others.  (Hunter and Koontz have both denied writing such titles, but the evidence appears to be there.)
  • Rex Stout, Bad for Business and Double for Death.  Two Tecumseh Fox mysteries, both very good.  Fox never hit the same heights as Nero Wolfe, either in popularity of in profitability.  Wolfe just out-quirked Fox's personality traits.
  • Paul Tremblay, Survival Song.  An apocalyptical novel concerning a deadly virus.  Claustrophobic and chilling.
  • James Tynion IV, The Nice House on the Lake, Volume Two.  Graphic novel closing the story arc, while leaving room for more tales.  A representative group of people face the end of humanity while at a remote location.
  • Donald E. Westlake, Put a Lid on It.  Crime novel about a presidential election and the stupidity of politicians.  With a bit of tweaking, this could have been a Dortmunder novel, but I'm just as glad Westlake decided not to go there.
Coming up:  The final Dead Man, at least one more Doug Slby mystery, a classic Max Allan Collins novel, a Lawrence Block novel from Hard Case Crime, and -- perhaps -- the latest books from Salman Ruchdie and Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, May 21, 2023


 Bill Monroe & Doc Watson.

Friday, May 19, 2023


Judge Parker started out as a soap oper-ish comic strip in the Mary Worth mode on November 24, 1952.  It was created by Nicholas P. Dallis, a psychiatrist who signed his work on this strip as "Paul Nichols."  Dallis (1911-1991) wrote the comic strip until 1990.  He also created the popular comic strips Apartment 3-G and, under the pen name "Dal Curtis," Rex Morgan, M.D.  Judge Parker and Rex Morgan, M.D. continue today; Apartment 3-G ended in 2015.  The original artist on Judge Parker was Dan Hellman, who continued drawing the strip until 1965.

Judge Alan Parker is a widower with two children, Ann and Randy.  In the storyline reprinted in this comic book, Ann, the eldest, is a student nurse, and Randy is a 17-year-old boy home from school for the summer.  The other member of the household is Mrs. Lila Benson, a motherly housekeeper.  Randy is enamored with Kathy, the wild (but not too wild) and rebellious (but not too rebellious) seventeen-year-old daughter of wealthy, social-climbing Mrs. Valentine.  Kathy's mother is set on matching her with David Craig (of the socially prominent Wellington Craigs, you know).  David is a crude, self-centered, egoist who tries to put the moves on Kathy -- at least, such moves that would be fit and proper for a 1950s family comic strip.  (Yes, Craig is a cad.)  Randy comes to Kethy's rescue, knocks David out, and takes Kathy home.  At her doorstep, Kathy gives her rescuer a kiss, only to be caught by Mrs. Valentine.  Upset at Randy for a) being a parvenu, and b) for not being one of the Wellington Craigs, you know, she forbids Randy from seeing her daughter.  Randy goes home to mope while Kathy's mother continues to push to make nice with David Craig (of the Wellington Craigs, you know).  Mrs. Valentine forces Kathy to go on a sailing date with Craig.  Meanwhile, Ann convinces her brother to go on a date with a nursing student friend of hers who decides it would be fun to visit the marina.  Craig, of course, had been drinking before he picked up Kathy for the sailing date, and began acting in a very crude manner.  Kathy makes an offhand remark about killing Craig, and one of the dockmen overhears it.  A sudden squall comes in and Craig refuses to head back to the marina.  He also refuses to put on a life jacket.  He falls down, drunk, and hits his head just as the boat capsizes.  After the storm, the Coast Guard spot the wrecked boat, with no sign of the occupants.  Soon, however, Kathy is spotted, clinging to a bit of flotsam.  David Craig has drowned, his body recovered later, with evidence of an injury to his head.  Craig's father blames Kathy and vows to have her prosecuted for his son's death.  He locates the dockhand who had overheard her threatening to kill Craig if she had half the chance.  Although things are looking dire for Kathy, she is believed and Craig's death is ruled accidental at the coroner's inquest.  The door is opened, however, for Craig's father to appeal... 

Throughout the story, Judge Parker is calm and reasonable, dispensing homely advice.  (In one panel he is pictured reading the newspaper in his easy chair, smoking his pipe and wearing a smoking jacket -- it's hard to picture anything more Father Knows Best than that.)  Among some of Parker's bon mots:  "Social presige comes as a reward for good citizenship!  It does not precede good citizenship."  

There's not much for Judge Parker to do in this story except be a calm presence.  And that, my friends, seems to be the essence of Fifties soap opera comic strip fathers.



 The D.A. Goes to Trial by Erle Stanley Gardner (1940)

Gardner (1889-1970) is best known for his series of 82 novels featuring criminal defense attorney Parry Mason.  At the time of his death, Gardner was the best-selling American author of the 20th century.  Perry Mason has also appeared in films, a radio show, three television series, 30 television films, comic books, a daily comic strip, and a stage play.  Beginning in 1937, and through 1949, Gardner published nine novels about a dedicated district attorney, Doug Selby, who just did not have the reach of Perry Mason

The Selby novels are set in a sort of alternate universe to the Mason books.  In this world, Selby is the opposite of Perry Mason's frequent opponent, District Attorney Hamilton Burger; Selby is an idealist who would prefer to lose a case if it meant that an innocent man would go to jail.   Selby has to be convinced beyond any doubt that those he prosecutes are guilty.  This idealism leads Selby to investigate murders as well as simply prosecuting them.  Selby's frequent adversary is the wily Los Angeles attortney Alphonse Baker Carr, often referred to as "A.B.C."  Carr is unsrupulous, devising ways to hamper Selby's investigations and to muddy the waters both for his clients and for his personal profit.  Carr's clients are invariably guilty but know they can get off the hook by hiring Carr -- it's "as easy as A.B.C."  Carr is the opposite of Perry Mason, as Selby is the opposite of Hamilton Burger.

Selby is the district attorney of Madison County, an agricultural county not far from Los Angeles, whose seat is Madison City.  (It may not be a coincidence that the name Gardner gave to Doug Selby's turf is an anagram (with one vowel substituted) of MASON, D.A.)  For a long time, Madison City was controlled by illegal and powerful gambling interests.  A scandal involving a former sheriff led to a political upheaval, placing a young Doug Selby in the District Attorney's office, and his friend Rex Brandon -- a plain-spoken ex-rancher -- as county sheriff.  Despite their political victory, the two face strong opposition from the defeated yet still powerful political bloc, including the former D.A., Sam Roper, and The Blade, one of two daily newspapers in Madison City.  These enemies are constantly trying to thwart Selby and Brandon from fulfilling their duties.  They are aided in part by the headline grabbing, bumbling, and inefficient police chief of Madison City, Otto Larkin.

Two other regular series characters should be mentioned.  Sylvia Martin is the gutsy and talented reporter for the town's other newspaper, the Clarion.  She is in love with Selby.  Her insights often help Selby and Brandon in their investigations.  Also in love with Selby is Inez Stapleton, the daughter of the town's most powerful man.  When we first meet Inez, she is smart but frivolous, spending much of her time on the tennis courts with Selby.  When Selby is elected to office, he takes on a more mature stance and seldom has time for Inez.  During an early book in the series, Selby is forced to convict her brother for a fatal hit-and-run while under the influence.  Ines realizes that that Selby has changed and wants him to respect her as an equal, so she decides to become a lawyer.  For his part, Selby is kind of a dim bulb when it comes to women.  Although he is attracted to both, he hides his feelings from himself, remaining good friends with both women.  Inez and Sylvia recognize each other as rivals for Selby's affections and remain wary of each other.

In The D.A. Goes to Trial, Inez Stapleton returns to Madison City, a newly-coined lawyer.  She has managed to complete three years worth of studies in just seventeen months, while also taking various criminology courses.  A dead hobo has been found by the railroad tacks, apparently hit by a passing train.  The coroner found nothing suspicious in the death.  The hobo had one of those in-case-of-accident cards in his wallet, pointing to a brother in Phoenix.  The brother request the body be cremated and the ashes sent to him.  After that was done, it was discovered that there was no brother and the identity of the now-cremated corpse is unknown.  Luckily, railroad inspectors had taken photographs of the corpse, and the coroner regularly took fingerprints of any dead hobos that came across his table (this was California in the late 1930s, remember, and there were a lot of hobos, some of them ending up dead).  Selby's investigation showed the dead man to be John Burke, an employee of a lumber mill suspected of embezzling thousands.

Why was Burke dressed as a hobo?  Further investigation showed that Burke was married with a child.  His wife had formerly been married to a Phoenix rancher.  She claimed her husband was abusive and that she wanted to go back to her first husband, who she still loved.   He had given her ten thousand dollars to cover Burke's theft so that the child will not grow up under the shadow of having  a criminal father.  This portrait of Burke did not align with what Selby had been told by a former employer.   They $10,000 was placed in a bank vault and the bank manager was found shot dead in the vault, with the money and some $40,000 in other funds missing.  

Selby had a lot of unanswered questions, but a politically motivated grand jury indicted the first husband before Selby was ready to act, forcing his hand.  Selby was legally obliged to follow the grand jury's recommendation.  The rancher, Jim Lacey, hires Inez to represent him.  Inez has a few tricks of her own that Selby resents.  In the background, A. B. Carr is muddying the waters for his own purposes.  Fingerprint evidence indicates that the dead hobo may not has been John Burke.  Selby's enemies are speading the rumor that Selby is hesutant to prosecute because of his feelings for Inez.  Most poeople have forgotten about the dead banker and the missing $50,000.

Part of me questions Gardner's handling of the law in this case.  I am not familiar with California law, nor with the law as it stood some seventy-five years ago.  I'm sure Gardner got it right, but it seems slightly off to my modern sensibilities.  Then Gardner throws in two surprise witnesses at the very end of the novel, creating a deus ex machina effect that also threw me.  Selby manages to resolve everything satisfactorily, but Gardner had juggled so many balls into the air, I was unsure if there were not some balls still hanging there.  I'm still unsure.

The D.A. Goes to Trial is a rapid-paced detection novel with with interesting (sometimes cookie cutter) characters.  There's a lot of flash and a lot of substance and I truly enjoyed it, even though it left me somewhat disquieted.

Thursday, May 18, 2023


 Inspired by the movie Casablanca, Rocky Jordan got his start at the end of World War II with A Man Named Jordan, which aired as a daily serial on the West Coast CBS network.  Jack Moyles played Jordan, the owner of the Cafe Tambourine in Istanbul.  Jordan would outwit the Axis powers on a regular basis.  Following the war, the show became a weekly half hour series, appearing in different time slots until 1947.  After its brief hiatus, the show was revamped as Rocky Jordan, premiering on October 31, 1948, with the cafe's location moved to Cairo.  Using the army's Pocket Guide to Egypt, the show's writers were able to insert a modicum of local authenticity.  The Guide also allowed them to rewrite old scripts, moving the original location to Cairo.  Rocky Jordan went off the air on September 10, 1950, but was again briefly revived in 1951 as a summer relacement series with George Raft taking over for Jack Moyles.  Plans to reboot the series as a radio serial died when CBS Radio decided to go with Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar instead.

From the Old Time Radio Downloads site:  "A respected shiek, knifed in the chest and dying, asks Rocky to find the tomb of his ancestor...who was a pharoah!  The p[haroah was a coward, his tomb is underground and was used as an derground storage depot by Nazi General Rommel + Rocky Jordan had taken a liking to a gypsy girl named Chicca and found her a place to his and even spends [five pounds] out of his own pocket for her and her boyfriend to escape to Athens.  Then it turns out that she's stolen a wealth in jewels from her tribe.  Jordan doesn't knopw who he can trust."

It looks like Rocky has his work cut out for him.

Directed by Cliff Howell and written by E. Jack Neuman, Larry Roman, and the strangely named Gomer Cool.