Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, September 16, 2023


The blog is taking a couple of weeks off.  I'm not going anywhere or doing anything special ot exciting; I just need some time to recharge my batteries.  I realized that for several months now I had not been taking the time to take a breath, calm my soul, and truly appreciate all the good that is surrounding me.  Time to do that.

See you on the other side.


Here's a Golden Age Aussie superhero, private detective Ralph Rivers, The Crimson Comet.  There's not much done in these comics.  Richards is pictured as a rather stiff guy, wearing sunglasses and holding a pipe in his mouth (not sure if he ever smokes it).  He wears a raincoat that may be hiding a hunchback, but it's not -- it's to hide his golden wings.  Yep.  He flies.  As the Crimson Comet, he is a supposed friend of Ralph Rivers.  He wears a tight red bodysuit with the underwear on the outside ('natch) and some sort of swimming cap that hides his hair and ears; on the front of the cap is a cicled "C" with two wings extending from the circle.  He had a wide holstered gun belt with a big circular buckle. and he wears calf-high boots.  He is the epitome of a costumed superhero, even though the book is printed in black-and-white.

I have no idea of his origin story, or if he ever had one.  The comic book ran for 73 issues, from 1949 to sometime in the Fifties, during its first run, then for another possible 32 issues, ending in 1958.  The first issue was published by Leisure Publications, an early name for the H. John Edwards publishing company of Sydney; the second series of comics was published by Action Comics of Sydney.  The Crimson Comet was created and drawn by John Dixon, who left the book after seven issues to be replaced by Albert de Vine. who drew the book well into the mid-Fifties, when Dixon returned to the fold.

In no way should this Crimson Comet be conflated with D.C.'s The Flash, sometimes refered to as the Crimson Comet.

Re:  the Australian comic book.  This one was stapled across the top. 2which meant it had to be turned on its side to be read.  This form of formatting appears to be unique among some Australian comic books.

In issue #13, pretty young Cecily Adams crashes into Ralph Rivers outside his metropolian office.  She begs Rivers to hide her from aliens who are about to invade the Earth.  Turns out that eighteen months before, she was horseback riding, inspecting her property in the country, when she spotted a small, fast-moving, silver metalled craft that landed behind some nearby hills.  When she went to inspect it, she discovered a flying saucer about the size of a bicycle tire.  Two "men" emerged from the saucer and stabbed her in the leg with a hypodermic needle.  She woke up, shrunken in size, a captive inside the saucer, which then took of at astounding speed.  They travelled in space for four days before landing on what she was to learn was the planet Neput.  She was forced to drink some sort of liquid which returned her to normal size, and then she was brought before the Emperor Nazikom, the ruler of Neput.  (Could a villain have a more appropriate name than Nazikom, especially in  the early 1950s?)  Neither spoke the other's language, but Cecily was given a tour of the planet which emphasized the world's vst technological skill and advanced weapons of war.  Evntually she was taught the language of the Neputians.

Brought back before Nazikom, she was told that she must teach his subjects English to better enable then to conquer Earth.  (Neput had already cuered all its nearby neighboring planets.)  Cecily refused, but she was placed under a machine whose rays zapped her powers of resistance.  Now, with two Neputian officers, she was returned to Earth so they could pave the way for the invasion.  The officers were to meet with the invading general to discuss invasion plans while Cecily was locked in a hotel room.  Cecily managed to tie some bedsheets together and escape through a window.  Fleeing, she bumped into Ralph Rivers, which is where we started the story.

This seems like a good place for me to carp about fashion choices and proportionality, and there's a lot to unpack about both.   Cecily starts out on horseback wearing a one-piece outfit with puffy full sleeves and a very skimpy pair of shorts.  She may be riding brefoot (it's hard to tell).  Through her eighteen mopnths of captovity, she wear the same darned outfir, carefully shaded underneath her breast to emphasize her ta-tas (which are admirable).  But now whe's wearing high heel shoes!  When she and her Neputian guards go back to Earth and check into a hotel (the Ritz), she has a mid-length dress, a small skullcap-like hat (which mysteriously vanishes in the next few panels) and a pearl necklace.  The Neputians outfit of choice one their planet are Speed-os, tight-fitting shirts with blousy arms, and high pointed hats, all of which makes them resemble a Frank R. Paul illustration. 

As far as proportions go, the flying saucer is the size of "a bicycle wheel," yet the occupants are seven inches tall.  When Cecily regains her height, they appear to be about three feet tall or so.  The flying saucer has a number of compartments in it, including a room for Cecily to be imprisoned in, closets for the Crimson Comet to hide behind, a control room and more.  At the hotel, the saucer is carried under one of the Neputian's arms and appeared to be the size of a 78-rpm record album.

And how many bedsheets does a hotel room at the Ritz have anyway?  Enought to reach the ground from a window when tied together?  And what floor was that room on anyway?

I know I'm picky.  Sue me.

The artwork, except for the characters, is pretty nifty.

And, don't worry about the alien invasion.  SPOILER:  A single auto-piloted hydrogen bomb blew the planet Neput all to hell.

Enjoy this weird little piece of Australian comic book history.

Thursday, September 14, 2023


 Comfort Station by "J. Morgan Cunningham"  (Donald E. Westlake), 1973

For thousand of years, the wisestof us have poindered the question,"Can a bad book ever be a good book?"  And, over the millennia, the answer has always come back with a resounding "No!"

Purportedly cashing in on the phenominal success of such 1970s blockbusters as Hotel and Airport, J. Morgan Cunningham has produced the epic story of the various cast of characters who passed through the men's room of the Bryant Park Comfort Station near the New York Pub;oc Library on 42nd Street on one very rainy day.

At the beginning of the book, we are given the cast of characters, of which I have taken the liberty to reproduce verbatim:

     FRED DINGBAT -- omnibus operative, prooud of his position in intraurban transit.  Too proud?

     MO MOWGLI -- custodian of the Comfort Station.  What was there about his past that haunted him?

     ARBOGAST SMITH -- plainclothes patrolman. In responsibility he found anodyne -- and the testing of his strength.

     HERBERT Q. LUMINOUS -- bookkeeper om the run.  What happened to him was almost a cliche.

     CAROLINA WEISS -- onetime Russian countess now A & E mechanic.  In the arms of another man she sought forgetfulness.

     GENERAL RAMON SAN MARTINEZ TORTILLA -- deposed dictator.  What was it he wanted to get off his chest?

     FINGERS FOGELHEIMER -- mobster.  Out of the thrilling days of yesteryear, he returns for vengeance.

     LANCE CAVENDISH -- Black.  With him and thirty-five cents you can take the subway.

Characters will meet.  Characters will interact.  Some lives will be changed.  A modicum of suspense may occur.

It sholuld be noted that author Cunningham was enthusiastic, if not very capable, with his prose.  He delivered an manuscript of over three million words, which staff editors managed to winnow down to a smallish paperback.  In doing so, the editors tried to retain the distinct and unpleasant (and oft times excruciating) flavor of the author's writing.  Best-selling blockbuster authors need not feel threatened.  Although considering the quirks of the publishing industy, as well as the buying public, perhaps they should be.

Donald E. Westlake could be a sly boots.  He is at his sly-est and bootiest here with this over the top farce that had become a hard-to-find camp classic.  Luckily, Open Road Media has made it available to the public after nearly half a century.

So, back to the question:  "Can a bad book ever be a good book?"  The answer is still an overwelming "No!"  But it can, in the hands of a master like Westlake, be a hell of a lot of fun.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Once again, let's join Reed Hadley as Red Ryder and Frank Breese as Little Beaver as they ride again for justice, this time facing against a gang that wants the Barton Ranch -- and are willing to use force if necessary.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023


"The Stone That the Builders Rejected" by Avam Davidson  (previously unpublished and likely written in the mid-1950s; the original manuscript title was "Caretaker;" a hand-written note changed the title to "A Very Old Custom;" under the current title, it had been purchased for Harlan Ellison's legendary and still unpublished anthology The Last Dangerous Visions* but was eventually returned to Davidson's estate; it was finally published in Volume 1 of AD100:  100 Years of Avram Davidson; 100 Unpublished or Uncollected Stories ((2023).

A short, sharp story.   Joe Gilson was broke, a stranger in town, and down on his luck.  Employment agencies were of no use -- they wanted their nut up front before they paid applicants for any work done, in fear job applicants would skip town before giving the agencies their due.  So there was Joe, in the cheapest and dingiest bar in the cheapest and dingiest part of town. counting his nickles in hopes that he had fifty cents to cover a meat loaf sandwich (35 cents) and a "big short beer" (15 cents), when he met Burry, Jack, and Valdo, three friendly construction workers (who did not seem to be fairies).  They took pity on Joe and brought them to their work site, where Benny, their boss, was upset about a story in the papers about an office building under construction in Omaha that had collaped. killing three men and injuring seven, two of the not expected to survive.  Benny as well as Joe's three new friends were upset that the construction workers were foolish enough not to take proper precautions.

Joe goes to work for the crew, all of whom treat Joe as a new member of the family.  Joe did not even have to join the union until he had been working there for thirty days, so he could save a little money ahead.  Jack and Valdo shared a large apartment with an extra room for Joe until he could get a place of his own.  Burry's wife cooked a large meal for them and served plenty of wine.  Joe felt he was the luckiest guy on Earth.  Later, Jack and Valdo took Joe to a place that was not a bar and was run by a woman named Mary.

Sometimes if things appear to be too good to be true, they probably aren't.  Ah. Joe...

Avram Davidson (1923-1993) was one of the truly great and sadly underacknowledged writers of the twentieth century.  He began his writing career as a Talmudic scholar aroun 1950 and his first stories were published in Commentary and in other Jewish intellectual magazines.  Although he had been active in science fiction fandom since his early teens, he burst onto the professional science fiction and fantasy scene with "My Boyfriend's Name is Jello" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1952), the first of many challenging and often unclassifiable stories over his career.  Davidson has won the Hugo, Edgar, World Fantasy (three times), and Ellery Queen Awards, as well as being given a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.  Davidson also served as editor for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and ghost-wrote two highly acclaimed novels as "Ellery Queen."

Davidson's Adventures in Unhistory is a collection of highly researched, digressive, articles about the hidden corners of history and legend, and are a joy to read, as are his stories about Dr. Eszterhazy. an erudite Sherlock Holmes figure in the fictional county of Sythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, the waning fourth-largest empire in Europe, and his tales of Jack Limekiller, a Candaian ex-pat living in a mysterious and imaginary Central American country, and his stories about Vergil Magnus, a medieval magician based on the poet Vergil.  No matter where you dip into Avram Davidson's works, you'll find a rich, rewarding, and often twisty tale, embued with literacy, slyness. and wit.  Unfortunately, Davidson's love of exploring new ideas led to the abandonment of many planned and begun  series -- it was as if, with the best of intentions, he..."Squirrel!"

Critic John Clute's observation in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction that Davidson "is perhaps sf's most explicitly literary author" can easily extend to his many other genres.

* Sometimes listed as "The Stone Which the Builders Rejected."  The Last Dangerous Visions may soon be published if all goes well with the Ellison estate, and will include many of the stories Ellison originally bought for the anthology, and will include many newer stories;  I don't know of anything by Davidson** will be included in the final version.

**Davidson did collaborate with Ellison on at least one published story, "Up Christopher to Madness" (Knight, November 1965; included in Ellison's 1971 collection Partners in Wonder).  A proposed collaborative crime novel, Don't Speak of Rope, died -- perhaps thankfully -- aborning, although Ellison listed it as a forthcoming novel for several years before all mention of the book was dropped.  I know I can't be the only person who wished that novel had born fruit.

Monday, September 11, 2023


Today is the birthday of ubiquitous child actor Dickie Moore (1925-2015), the kid who gave Shirley Temple her first ion-screen kiss (in Miss Annie Rooney, 1941).  Moore made his screen debut at the age of 18 months; by the time he was ten he had appeared in 52 films.  Before he aged out as a chld and youth actor in the Fifties, he appeard in over 100 films, including Blonde Venus, So Big, Gabriel Over the White House, The Story of Louis Pasteur, Sergeant York, Out of the Past, and in eight Our Gang comedies.  Following his acting career, Moore taught, wrote books on acting, edited Equity News, and produced industrial films.  In 1966, he founded Dick moore Associates, a public relations firm, which he ran for 44 years.  His third wife was actress Jane Powell (married 1988 until his death).  He died of dementia iat age 89.

Moore played the title character in Oliver Twist.  Also featured were Irving Pichel as Fagin, William "Stage" Boyd" as Sykes, Doris Lloyd as Nancy Sykes, and Sonny Ray as The Artful Dodger.  The film was directed by Willam J. Cowen from a script by Elizabeth Meehan.  

"You can consider yourself at home, consider yourself one of the family," as you watch this non-musical version of the Charles Dickens classic.



 Openers:  The white-painted fruit steamer steamed out between the forts and turned toward the south.  She only touched at Bahia del Toro to drop the mail on her downward trip, though on her return toward the north she paused to take on a portion of her cargo.  The Stars and Stripes at her masthead fluttered brightly in the golden sunshine of midday, and the same sunshine made the sea seem bluer, and the palms greener and vividly alive.  Half a dozen small launches that had clustered about the white ship scattered and made for different points along the waterfront of the city.

El Senor Beckwith was seated in a great cane chair on the veranda of the white house that sprawled over the hillside.  He looked at the ship and heaved a sigh.  It was not a wistful sigh, nor was there pathos concealed anywhere about it.  The sigh was a sign of the satisfaction that filled him.  He sat at ease, puffing a long black cigar.  At his elbow a glass tinkled musically when he moved.  His huge frame, now clad in spotless white duck, was eloquent of content.  Only his left thumb, bandgaed and in splints, gave the cumbrance of the wrppings.  It was a souvenir of the incident that caused his sensation of complete satisfaction.  Conway had broken that thumb in his last struggle, two weeks before.  Conway was dead.

-- "The Gallery Gods" by "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins)  (first published in Argosy All-Story Weekly, August 21, 1920; reprinted in in Leinster's The Runaway Skyscraper and Other Tales from the Pulps, 2007; in The Murray Leinster Megapack, 2012 [ also published as The First Murray Leinster Megapack, 2015]; and in The Second Murray Leinster Megapack, 2015)

Regular readers of this blog (both of them) know that I am a big fan of Murray Leinster.  I am also a big fan of Will F. Jenkins and of William Fitzgerald.  (I would probably also be a big fan of Jean farquar, Pepe Gomez, Joe Gregg, Kenny Kenmare, Louisa Carter Lee, Florinda Martel, and Rafaele Yborra, but I haven't read his work under those pseudonyms.)  Leinster/Jenkins published well over a thousand science fiction, western, mystery, romance, adventure, horror, and mainstream stories over his career.  He was extremely readable.

Minor Leinster.  But even minor Leonster eas heads above many of his competitors.

Incoming:  There's a lot of Lee Goldberg and F. Paul Wilson books this week, probably because I like both authors.

  • Kevin J. Anderson, Janet Berliner, Matthew J, Costello, & E, Paul Wilson, The Artifact.  Thriller.  "Six adrenalin junkies who call themselves the Daredevils Club hold the fate of the world in their hands.  In an ancient undersea cavern, one of them, oil man Frik von Alman, discovers a set of stones that are unlike anything else on Earth.  Fitted together, the stones form an object that promises limitless free energy for the world."
  • Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg, Pros and Cons and The Shell Game.  Two novellas in the Fox and O'Hare series.  Evanovich teamed with Goldberg to write the first five books in the best-selling series; two other novels followed, one written with Peter Evanovich and one with Steve Hamilton.
  • Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Troubled Trustee.  A Perry Mason mystery.  "Investment counselor Kerry Dutton has his hands full as trustee for Desere Ellis, a young woman with a talent for spending money.  To protect her interests, Dutton performed some 'creative accounting,' and multiplied that modest fund several times over.  Yet now that trust is expiring, he fears his financial finagling will brand him as an embezzler -- and destroy him in the eyes of the woman he loves.  Romance isn't Perry Mason's forte, but the lawyer agrees to help with Dutton's money mix-up.  True to its reputation as the root of all evil, the controversial capital soon yields murder." A late in the series novel marred slightly by Gardner's conservative and somewhat crankypants "Hey, you kids get off my lawn!" attitude.  I read this one over the weekend, completing my read of all 57 novels and four short stories in the series; this is the only one of Gardner's many novels and non-fiction books that I had read.  Not to worry, though, there are still a slew of short story collections ahead of me.
  • Lee Goldberg, Fast Track.  A racing novel based on Goldberg's film Fast Track:  No Limits.  Also, Three Ways to Die, a collection of three novellas; Ella Clah:  The Pilot Script, with William Rabkin, based on Aimee & David Thurlo's Navajo police detective; and Dame Edna:  Detective, a film script written for the late Barry Humphries' Dame Edna Everage character (Humphries died in April and I have no idea of the status of the film, but there is no mention of it on Humphries IMDb page).
  • Steve Hockensmith, Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  Horror/literary mash-up, the prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
  • J. A. Konrath, Ann Voss Peterson, & F. Paul Wilson, The Fix.  Nov ella, the seventh in the Code Name: Chandler series about a female spy for a secret government agency.  F. Paul Wilson was brought along for this entry because Chandler meets up with Repairman Jack and the two have to scramble to save the city from terrorists.
  • "Murray Leinster" (Will F. Jenkins), The Runaway Skyscraper and Other Stories. A mixed collection of eight science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and adventure stories first published in various pulps from 1919 to 1931.  See Openers, above.
  • Sarah Pinborough and F. Paul Wilson, A Necessary End.  Thriller.  "Set against a worldwide apocalypse, it takes the eteranl struggle between faith and reason and makes it real.  LIFE CAME OUT OF AFRICA...But now it's death's turn...It spreads like a plague but it's not a disease."  the book was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award.
  • Daniel Stashower, The Floating Lady Mystery.  A Harry Houdini mystery.  "In turn-of-the-century New York City, struggling young performer Harry Houdini is working for the renowned magician Kellar.  One night his master's astonishing illusion The Floating Lady goes horribly wrong, with Kellar's levitating assistant apparently plunging to her death.  Houdini, along with his wife Bess and brother Dash, must solve the mystery and figure out how the young lady died from from a drowning rather than a fatal fall."
  • F. Paul Wilson, Ephemerata V5.0:  The Odds and Ends of a Writing Life.  Miscellany.  Introductions, forewords, afterwords, reviews, obituaries, rants, guest blogs, and whathaveyou.  Over 100 pieces in all.  Also, The Last Christmas:  A Repairman Jack Novel, taking place in late December between Ground Zero and Fatal Error.  Jack is convinced "to take on a missing-person fix.  As usual, nothing is as it seems, and the missing person isn't exactly a person.  In fact, it's like nothing anyone has ever seen.  And in the middle of this, the mysterious Madame Medici hires him to safeguard a valuable object.  Simple, right?  Not even close."

Earworm:   Sometimes you get an earworm that just won't let go.  It happened to me this weekend and I thought I would inflict  it on you.

"Creole Belle" was written as a cakewalk song in 1901 by J. Bodewell Lampe and George Sidney.  It was transformed and popularized by Mississippi John  Hurt, who first recorded it in 1963.; his stamp pm the song was so powerful that many now consider the song to have beenwritten by Lampe, Sidney, and Hurt.  

There are far worse earworms.

Mississippi John Hurt.

Taj Mahal.

Jim Kweskin.

Stefan Grossman.

Doc & Merle Watson.

Bodenwald Lamp.

Hans Theessink.

Bob La Beau.

Arlo Guthrie.

Dan Zanes & Elizabeth Mitchell.

The Beanshakers.

Nils Falk.

Elijah Wald.

Toots & Littlefield.

Michael Cooney.

Tarzan and the Devil Ogre:  The first original Tarzan comic book was dated February 1947 and was issue #134 of Dell Comics Four Color Comics.  It was drawn by Jesse Marsh, who would improve his depiction of the Jungle Lord over the years.  Tarzan returned to Four Color Comics for issue #161 before getting his own title in the January-February 1948 issue of Tarzan.

Enjoy this first comic adventure of Tarzan.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

It was a day of horror, but also a day in which we, as Americans, showed out mettle.  It was also a day that could have led to great promise for America -- in many ways it did and in many ways it didn't.

Many people dressed in Islamic garb were approached by total strangers asking them if they were all right, was anyone bothering them.  We realized that an entire race or a religion cannot be defined by a few evil people.

It was a day when passengers on American Airlines Flight 93 stood up to evil even though it cost them their lives.

It was a time when Rudy Guiliani was America's Mayor and late-night comedians had to cease calling George W. Bush stupid.  It was a time of uniting.

Sadly, it was also a time when politicians overreracted.  In the heat of the moment, Congress passed the disaterous Patriot Act, which was used to strip away some of our basic rights.  Torture, almost always an ineffective way to gain credible information, began to be used in some quarters.  Donald Trump whould claim that he saw thousands of Muslims cheering when the Twin Towers went down; the saddest part of this being that many people actually believed that showboating liar.  Instead of using the tragedy to allow the country to forge ahead united, politicians selfishly used the attacks to further their own agendas and create a divisive country.  Imagine what the world might be if, instead of a knee-jerk reaction, we moved forward with calm consideration, reason, and diplomacy.

Many first responders died in their attempts to rescue victims; thousands of others were injured by physically or by toxic fumes; it took the public outrage of celebrities like Jon Stewart to force the government to do the right thing by these heroes.

Late on Sepembter 10th, Kitty and I  had returned to Virginia after driving through New York City, and found out cat Maggie (the best cat in the world) deathly ill, dying from some sort of poison.  Early in the morning, we drove Maggie to the County Animal Shelter to say our goodbyes and have her peacefully put down.  While we waiting for the shelter to open, the radio told us of the first plane to hit the Twin Towers; when the shelter opened and we brought Maggie in, a plane had just hit the second tower.  Thousands of people that day died, and my tears were only for Maggie, our beloved cat.  I used to feel guilty about that, but I later realized that I just could not cope with the magnitude of what had happened outside our own little world.  I still have a hard time coping and with trying to understand the degree of hate and anguish and evil that gave us 9-11.

Here's a song that has helped me continue to cope:


 Blind Willis McTell.

Friday, September 8, 2023


 C-M-O (or C. M. O.) stood for Chicago Mail Order Company and the first issue of this title was a combined comic book/catalogue.  The Chicago Mail Order Company billed iself as "The House of Style -- The Home of Quality."  Accordin to their avertising, more than 19 people order from C. M. O. every minute, order fillers use roller skates to get around the six-floor warehouse with its thirteen miles of moving belts to move nearly 34,800,00 pounds of packages a year for shipping.  More than 6,000,000 catalogues were mailed in 1942 -- with 250 of the more than 1000 pages printed in color!  (Their exclamation point.)  Incorporated in the various stories in the book are links to where one can find the clothes and props used by the characters in the comic book in the C.M.O. catalog, which explains why some of the characters are wearing some of the most gawdawful trendy clothes.  The second issue of C-M-O COMICS (June 1942) eliminated those ads; I don't know if there was a third issue.

The Chicago Mail Order Comany began operations in 1889, following on the heels of successful Chicago mail order companies such as Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward. Its original name was The Chicago Mail Order and Millinery Company, although the "and Millinery" was dropped from the name in 1906.  In 1947 the name was changed to Aldens, Inc.  Was it a coincidence that the featured characters in C-M-O Comics were the borther and sister team of Jack and Judy Alden?  the catalogue operation was liquidated in 1986.

Jack and Judy Alden were clean-cut teenagers living on Roseville, a small town on the U.S. Canadian border.  The football they are playing with is available (page 487 of the catalogue), as is Mrs. Alden's striped cotton dress (page 91 of the catalogue) and Judy's favorite anklet socks -- available in four beautiful colors (page 172 of the catalogue).  Alas, Mrs. Alden's oven is not available, but a toy replica, complete with utensils, is (page 480 in the catalogue),   Together with their visiting cousin Dan Wilkens, they go exploring in "The Mystery of the Old Mill," bringing Dan's portable radio.  Jack is wearing a plaid deerstalker cap (page 372 of the catalogue) and Judy has a blue babushka (page 131 in the catalogue); Judy also has a coruroy jacket (page 241 in the catlogue), a cotton broadcloth shirt (page 219 of the catalogue), and a demin jerkin and skirt (both page 241 in the catalogue) .  On their way they meet friends Reggie and Bob; theu invite Reggie and Bob to go with them but the boys would rather go to Baldy creek to try out Reggie's new rifle.  A violent storm comes up ans the trio take shelter in the (scary) old mill.  Meanwile, an escaped prisoner pulls a gun on old Herb Small, demanding a place to hide; Small takes the bad guy to the old mill.  Herb is wearing a lines sheepskin jacket (page 329 in the catalogue).  Back at the Alden's, Mrs. Alden is all aflutter with worry about the kids, who have note returned home.  Her husband says he'll call the police.  In the Alden's living room is a clock (page 496 in the catalogue), a table lamp (page 421 in the catalogue), and a small table (page 419 in the catalogue).  The local radio station sends out an alert on the missing chidren; Jack, Judy, and Dan hear the alert on Dan's portable radio but they are tapped in the old mill because the storm's winds have slammed a door and locked them in (!).  But the kids are clever.  Dan uses a rope to swing up to a high platform where, on the other side, he sees the escaped prisoner force Herb Small to exchange clothes.  Dan is wearing thick corduroy trousers (page  286 of the catalogue) andf a snow and rain repellent mackinaw (page 334 of the catalogue).  Dan is also wearing moccisin-style shoes (page 283 of the catlogue).  Dan and Herb try to subdue the escaped prisoner, while -- up on the platform -- Judy applies powder to Jack's face to make him look lijke a ghost.  Jack then jumps into the fray, wearing a warm, well-cut, and easy to put on jacket (page 301 of the catalogue) and shape-holding trousers (page 264 of the catalogue).  As the rook is subdued, the police arive to wrp things up.  As a reward, Jack gets a handsomje and handy pen and pencil set (page 504 of the catalogue,), Judy gets a dainty slender wrist watch (page 495 of the catalogue), and Dan gets a swell new bike (which, like Dan's portable, radio, Judy's powder puff makeup kit,  and Reggie's new gun, is not referenced in the catalogue -- what happened?).  Little brother Billy, who didn't do squat in the story but shows up on the last page anyway to help shill product, has a two-piece suit with a gaily-striped pullover and solid color suspender pants (page 222 of the catalogue) and buckle sandals (page 252 of the catalog).  Judy is also wearing a perky red hair bow that looks darling (page 62 of the catalog, while Dan is wearing a diamond pattern plaid sweater (page 277 of the catalogue), and Mr. Alden is wearing one of the "best-looking shirts he's ever owned" (page 316 of the catalog), and Mrs. Alden is wearing a slenderizing (not that she needs it) shirtwaist dress (page 94 of the catalogue).  The end.

Well, it's the end og the first story anyway.  There's more to come.  there are stories about charcaters you've never heard of -- The Gaucho, Super Ann, The Invisible Terror, Ray "Star Spangled" Banners, Plymo the Rubber Man, and Ed Smith, as well as another adventure with Jack and Judy Alden, who find themselves involved in "The Case of the Missing Crook," while they wait for Dan to arrive by train for a visit.

C-M-O Comics was an interesting concept that probably should be filed under "When Product Placement Goes Horribly Bad."  Luckily, their mail order business went belly-up almost 40 years ago so you shouldn't be tempted to order all the neat stuff detailed in this issue, so I think it's safe for you to read and enjoy this comic book.

Thursday, September 7, 2023


 My Gun Has Bullets by Lee Goldberg  (1995)

Lee Goldberg knows many things, among them are 1) how to write entertaining, suspenseful novels, and 2)  television.  As a writer and/or producer, his credits include Spenser:  For Hire, The Highwayman, Murphy's LawHunter, Baywatch, She-Wolf of London, Likely Suspects, Cobra, The Cosby Maysteries, Sliders, Deadly Games, Stick with Me, Kid, SeaQuest 2032, Flipper, Diagnosis Murder, Martial Law, The Nightmare Room, A Nero Wolfe Mystery, She Spies, 1-800-Missing, Monk, Psych, Fast Track:  No Limits, The Glades, Galip Dervis, and Mystery 101.  Among his many books are eight original television tie-in novels in the Diagnosis Murder and fifteen original tie-in novles in the Monk series, as well as the best-selling Successful Television Writing and a number of non-fiction books about television history.  With Max Allan Collins, Goldberg founded the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.  Goldberg has also launched two publishing ventures:  Brash Books (with Joel Goodman) and Cutting Edge Books.  Goldberg's first foray into novels was with the .357 Vigilante paperback series published under the name "Ian Ludlow."  (This original series has been rebranded the Jury series and has been republished under Goldberg's name.  Goldberg has taken the "Ian Ludlow" name and used it for the main character in another series of novels.)

Would you be surprised that Goldberg used his television background for My Gun Has Bullets, the first suspense novel published under his own name?  No, I didn't think you would.

Charlie Willis was an L.A. cop who had the misfortune of seeing a wildly erratic driver speeding in a Rolls Royce, swerving down the highway, forcing other cars off the road and crashing.  He managed to stop the car by pulling front of it.  Expecting some drug-addled or boozed-up driver, he was surprised to see that the car was driven by a sweet-looking old lady.  Except she was not so sweet.  She cursed Charlie out for stopping her and demanded he move so she could get on her way.  (She had been running late and wanted to make it to Neiman Marcus before they closed because the the store was having its fantastic annual one-day sale.)  Charlie demanded she get out of the car, so she reached into the back seat, pulled out a gun, blew him away, the sped on her way yo the sale; she made it to the store in time and ended up spending $11,000 there.

When Charlie woke up in the hospital, he was surrounded by a gaggle of network executives.  It turns out the sweet little old lady was Esther Radcliffe, the star of the hit series Miss Agatha, about a kindly lady who served tea, baked cookies, and solved murders.  Miss Agatha was the network's cash cow and they were not going to lose it because its star was in reality an evil harridan with a trigger finger.  On exchange for completely forgetting who had shot him, the network offered Charlie a twelve-week series deal, a cop show titled My Gun Has Bullets.

Eddie Planet (pronounced Plan-A) was a washed-up actor whose hit series Saddlesore ended ten years before.  Six failed searies later, Eddie despaired of being a star again.  He bagan pitching ideas for television series, but nothing came of it,  Then he met investor  Daddy Crofoot, who decided to back Eddie's latest project, Frankencop (about a cop whose body was created from body parts from twelve dead cops).  What Eddie did not realize was that Crofoot was tied to the mob and needed to launder money.  Crofoot would not be happy if he lost money on the deal and when Crofoot was not ahpy, people tended to die.  He also insisted that the star of Frankencop be Crofoot's cousin Flint Westwood, a dim-bulb porn actor whose one saving grace was that he out-Holmesed John Holmes and out Jeremy-ed Ron Jeremy.

Sabina Bishop considered herself a legitiamate actress because the films she was working on were erotic thrillers and not porn.  (Porn did not have a slender thread of plot running it the way that an erotic thriller did.)  Durng filming one day, and despite the best efforts of cast and crew, Sabina's nipples did not get erect enough to satisfied the director.  In disgust, Sabina walked out of the set and out of her career as a "legitimate" actress.  Meanwhile, the producer of Aunt Agatha was concerned.  Despite being a solid hit, the show's demographic was aging out -- in a few years they might all be dead.  Something had to be done.  So the show was revamped to bring in a new character -- Agatha's niece, a leather-wearing, cleavage-exposing martial arts expert.  Who to cast in that role?  Sabina Bishop, of course.  This did not go over well with Esther Radcliffe, who immediately began plotting ways to kill Sabina.

Esther, meanwhile has been having an affair with the much younger Flint Westwood.  Westwood has been videotaping their encounters and using these to blackmail Esther ate $50,000 a pop.  Esther does not realize that Flint is behind the blackmail and believes that Charlie is the culprit, so she plans to kill him before she kills Sabina.  She gets a gun with real bullets and uses an elderly propman to get it on set.

     "Itchy Matthews, the withered old propman, rushed up and handed Charlie the massive gun that was Derek Thorne's trademake.  Rumor had it Itchy had worked props on Birth of a Nation.  It didn't matter that half the time Itchy handed Charlie his colostomy bag instead of his props.  The man worked cheap."

Itchy screws up and hands the deadly gun to Charlie, instead to the actor with whom Charlie was to engage in a gunfight.  The scene is shot, bullets fly, and the other actor is dead, shot three times in the chest by Charlie.  Because Charlie's gun had bullets.

In the meantime, the ratings for Frankencop are tanking.  In response, Crofoot does what any good mob boss would do -- he calls in an expert.  Delbert Skaggs was the most most experienced hit man in the mob.  Skaggs enjoyed his job but he wanted more.  Skaggs felt he should leave the ranks of the employed and move up to the executive level.  The call from Crofoot would give him that chance.  Skaggs was put in charge of Frankencop above Eddie.  It didn't take Skaggs long to figure out what the problem was:  The networks ran the show.  They determined what programs would air when, and against whom.  That may be the way to run a network but it wasn't the way to run a criminal enterprise.  A criminal enterprise did not just lay back and accept what was handed to it; it blasted its way through the competition to the top.  Skaggs knew what had to be done -- eliminate the competition.

Among the sbow in the linewup of the three networks were such offerings as Johnny Wildlife, Dedicated Doctors, Boo Boo's Dilemma, Rappy Scrappy, Broad Squad, Smart Alec, Adopted Family, My Wife Next Door, Young Hudson Hawk, Blacke and Whyte, Honeymooners:  The Next Generarion, Sheriff of Mars, Sleepwalker, and Red Highway, and (of course) Miss Agatha, My Gun Has Bullets, and Frankencop.  In development were such shows as Matt Jacob (with Don Knotts as a sustance-abusing P.I.), Soft Shoe (with James Arness as a retired song-and-dance man moving in with his Broadway chorus line gay son), Energizer Bunny, The Anson Williams Show, The Two Dicks, It's All Relative!, Socially Relevant, and Sunn of a Gunn (starring Erik Estrada and Chad Everett).

What was needed was to eliminate those shows competing in Frankencop's timeslot, as well as those shows on other networks strong enough to carry their ratings over to other shows on the night that Frnikencop aired.  Easy peasy -- especially for a trained and enthusiastic killer like Delbert Skaggs.  And so the bodies begin to pile up, and Frankencop's rating soared.

One of the most popular characters on television was Boo Boo, a genuinely ugly dog featured in a heart-warming comedy.  Unfortunately, Boo was, in real life, a homicidal rapist animal with a taste for human flessh and a severe attitude problem.  Boo Boo could only get rhrough his scenes without killing someone through a constant barrage of tranquilizers darts.  Assigned by Skaggs to kill Boo Boo, Eddie hires two moronic stuntmen, Burt and Otto, to do the job.  As stuntmen, Burt and Otto did not wear seatbelts because they could not figure out how to operate them.  But that didn't matter because both had a genetic condition that left them impervious to pain.  On all their killing assignments, Burt and Otto manage to screw up royally.

All the above is just a slight glimpse at the frentic action and many plot lines woven throughout My Gun Has Bullets, a throughly enjoyable, grin-inducing, suspense romp that makes one wonder how close Goldberg's fictional Hollywood is to the real thing.

Highly recomended, as are all of Goldberg's other books.

Charlie Willis came back for an encore performance in 1997's Beyond the Beyond (also published as Dead Space).  Goldberg's latest novel, Malibu Burnig, the first in his Sharpe & Walker series, was released this month. -- be there or be square.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023


Saddle up, cowpokes!  It's time for Hoppy (Bill Boyd) and California Carlson (Andy Clyude) to try to end a fued between rival outfits.


Tuesday, September 5, 2023


 "The Girl with the Horizontal Mind" by Harlan Ellison  (originally published as by ""Price Curtis" in Mermaid, Vol.1 No. 6, 1958; reprinted in Ellison's collection under the name "Paul Merchant," Sex Gang, 1959; reprinted under the the pseudonym "Cordwainer Bird" in Adam, September 1963; reprinted in Ellison's collection Getting in the Wind, 2012)

Sex Gang was a notorious collection of (mainly crime) stories written for the lesser men's magazines and pubished in paperback by Lawrence Hamling's Nightstand Books in 1959.  Hamling pressured Ellison at a tome when he (Ellison) was desperate for money into compiling this collection of the cruddiest of the crud that he had written until then.  The book was published under a pen name -- reportedly, Ellison wanted the pen name to be something like "S. X. Merchant," but even that went a bit too far for Nightstand.  Anyway, Sex Gang had, I believe, two printings, and Ellison immediately wiped it fro his mind and from his catalog, going for years without acknowledging it.  (Currently, htree copies of the original paperback are listed on Abebooks, going from $757.39 to $950.00, plus shipping.)   And so things sat.  Until Miriam Kinna, silver-tongud editor of Bad Seed magazine and Kicks Books, convinced Ellison to finally allow Sex Gang to be reprinted, with a difference.  The original content was to be divided into two books, with some of Ellison's original j.d. and men's magazine stories.  The books would appear under titles that indicated Ellison's disdain for the original book -- Pulling a Train and Getting in the Wind.  And here we are.

It is foolish to expect great literature here.  Or even great eroticism.  What you get is a bare-bones sex story that is barely literate.  You have been warned.

Walt Tucker is a twenty-one-year-old college student who is working as a window washer during his vacation.  One of the windows he is washing has a shade pulled partially down.  Through the part of the window that is not blocked by the shade he sees a fantastic pair of bare legs.  He reaches i and pulls the shade all the way up, exposing a beautiful, voluptuous girl who is entirely nude.  "they were full and round and using the standard measure, three and a half milliboobs per handful."  (Yucky!  you see where this going.)  The girl does not try to cover herself but tells Walt to go away.  He moves to the next window, which happens to be her bedroom window, just as she walks to the bedroom in all her glory.  Walt climbs through the window and a typical porno movie scene plays out.

Her name was Julie and she was kinky.  She liked to expose herself during sex and soon insisted they couple in open and public places.  Soon wAlt has had enough of this and breaks it off before they end up copulating in Macy's store window.

The end.


A  number of Ellison's contemporaries made their bones with early stories like this, incuding Robert Silverberg and Lawrence Block.  It was a way for them to earn a few shekels while they were honing their craft.  These early stories are of interest to those who wish to trace a writer's development and for those who are completists.

For all others, there is no there there.  I did warn you, didn't I?


You could also most swear this was a 1930s gangster film, but it was made in 1957 by legendary director 
Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Hound-Dog Man, The Killers, Dirty Harry); Siegel had a knack for limited budget projects into movie gems.   His low-key documentary style on Baby Face Nelson would be mirrored two years late on the hit television series The Untouchables.

Mickey Rooney stars (and gives a credible performance) as sociopath Lester Gillis, who would become known as Baby Face Nelson, a remorseless and unforgiving killer who would climb to the top of the FBI's Most Wanted list.  Carolyn Jones (who had appeared a year before in Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and would later endear herself to all of us as Morticia Addams) turns in a bravura performance as Nelson's gun moll Sue.  The two are backed up by a remarkable cast of  actors including Leo Gordon (who had been featured in Siegel's Riot in Cell Block 11, and played the heavy in numerous television shows and films) as John Dillinger.  (Gordon, BTW, was the real deal: he had served five years in Folsom Prison for armed robbery and had been shot by point-blank several times by police, and survived.  He was also a talented writer, penning many episodes of episodic television -- often westerns, as well as such movies as The Wasp Woman, Attack of the Giant Leeches, Tower of London, and Tobruk.)  Others in the cast were Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Jack Elam, John Hoyt, Ted de Corsia, Elisha cook Jr., Dabs Greer, and Anthony Caruso.  Many in the cast were easily recognized for their roles in other classic gangster and crime films.

The screenplay was written by Irving Shulman and Daniel Mainwaring.  Shulman was the best-selling author of The Amboy Dukes, Cry Tough!, Platinum High School (remember?  Mickey Rooney played a tough ex-marine in the film version), and Harlow; he also wrote the novelization of West Side Story, and wrote the early film treatment for Rebel Without aCause, which he later novelized.  (According to IMDB, Shulman came up with the story for the movie with Robert Adler, who was not credited; IMDB had no other information about Adler, nor have I been able to find anything about him through a casual look on the internet.)  Shulman's co-author on the script was Daniel Mainwaring, who was also mystery novelist "Geoffrey Homes."  Among Mainwaring's many film credits were Dangerous Passage, Tokyo Rose, Big Town, Out of the Past, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Woman Who Wouldn't Die, and Against All Odds.

Because it was 1957, the film played homage to J. Edgar Hoover in its opening sequences, touting Hoover and his FBI as protectors of the nation:

"A Tribute to the F.B.I.

"Under J. Edgar Hoover, its director for thirty-five year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been forged into America's most formidable weapon against all crimes.


To whet you appetite, here's the film's tagline:  "More vicous than Little Caesar!  More savage than Scarface!  More brutal than Dillinger!  The 'baby-face butcher' who lined 'em up -- chopped 'em down -- and terrorized a nation!"

Enjoy this well-crafted film.

Sunday, September 3, 2023


 Openers:  In the autumn of 1816, John Melmoth, a student in Trinity College, Dublin, quitted it to attend a dying uncle on whom his hopes for independence chiefly rested.  John was the orphan son of a younger brother, whose small property scarce could pay John's college experiences; but the uncle was rich, unmarried, and old; and John, from his infancy, had been brought up to look on him with that mingled sensation of awe, and of the wish, without the means to conciliate, (that sensation at once attractive and repulsive), with which we regard a being who (as nurse, domestic, and parent have tutored us to believe) holds the very threads of our existence in his hands, and may prolong or snap them when he pleases.

On receiving this summons, John set immediately out to attend his uncle..

The beauty of the country through which he travelled (it was the county Wicklow) could not prevent his mind from dwelling on many painful thoughts, some borrowed from the past, and more from the future.  His uncle's caprice and moroseness, -- the strange reports concerning the cause of the secluded life he had led for many years, -- his own dependent state, -- fell like blows fast and heavy on his mind.  He roused himself to repel them, -- sat up in the mail, in which he was a solitary passenger, -- looked out on the prospect, -- consulted his watch; -- then he thought they receded for a moment, -- but there was nothing to fill their place, and he was forced to invite them back for company.  When the mind is thus active in calling over invaders, no wonder the conquest is soon completed.  As the carriage drew near the Lodge, (the name of old Melmoth's seat), John's heart grew heavier every moment.

  Melmoth the Wanderer:  A Tale by Charles Robert Maturin (1820)

In the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers, critic Chris Morgan heaps on the praise:  "Charles R. Maturin's best-known novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, is a tour de force, oneof the greatest exmples of Gothis horror.  For a start, the novel is long and complex, consisiting of five clearly interlinked tales in addition to an extensive framing device, covering different historical periods between the 1660s andf 1816.  But breadth an complexity are easly achieved through presistence, what Maturin possessed was an outstanding ability to create atmosphere in just a few sentences and to demonstrate the traits of character in a handful of words. [...] Each tale is a brief Gothic novel, varying in style and atmosphere, yet closely connected with the others in theme."  

Morgan goes on:  "While the novel is longer and more digressive than a 20th-century readr would normally welcome, its best passages are breahtaking and it evokes a series of string emotions."  Such literary lights as Scott, Byron, and Goethe waxed enthusiastic over the novel, while Balzac was inspired to write a sequel, Merlmoth Reconciled.  The book greatly influenced writers from Baudelaire and Wilde to Thackeray and Lovecraft.  To read Melmoth the Wanderer today is to encounter many now-standard and overused cliches; for the reader in 1820, that was not the case -- Maturin was there first.

John Melmoth does inherit his uncle's wealth and estate.  Among his uncle's effects he finds an aged manuscript which tells of an ancestor who has made a deal with the devil for 150 years of unaging youth,  That ancestor, "Melmoth," becomes obsessed with finding a person willing to take on the pact, thus relieving "Melmoth" of the eventual tortures of Hell.

Maturin (1780-1824) was an Irish Protestant clergyman and a writer of Gothic novels and plays.  Maturn's early works were published under apseudonym, but he was forced to abandon the pen name in order to collect royalties.  These works were criticized for their unorthodoxy Samuel Taylor Coleridge was particularly vehement in his criticism) and, reacting to the criticism once it was discoered that Maturin was the author, The Churh of Ireland banned the clergyman from any possible advancement in the church.  It was hard to support his family on the paltry salary he received as a curate, so Maturin continued writing.  In the years following his death, Maturin was recognized for his briliant and lucid religious writings, causing many in the church to rue the fact that he was forced to concentrate so much effort on his fiction in detriment to proselytizing for his religion.


  • "Nona Abbott" (F. Paul Wilson), Rx Murder and Rx Mayhem.  Cozy mysteries featuring Noreen Marconi, a family pratitioner from a small town outside Baltimore, hampered somewhat by the addition of the ghost of her father.
  • Lewis Black, Me of Little Faith.  The noted "rage" comic takes on religion in this collection of humorous essays.
  • Lawrence Block, The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder.  Block's most popular character tells his own story.  Block is now of the age where he can write and publish whatever he wishes, and we, as readers, should be grateful.  Here, Scudder recounts his life, the highs and the lows and the lower-lows, with a brilliant, poignant, honest, and rambling style which makes the fictional character m ore real than I thought possible.
  • John W. Campbell, Jr., Frozen Hell.  An early draft of Campbell's classic story Who Goes There? (a.k.a. The Thing from Another World.
  • John W. Campbell, Jr. (edited by Perry Chapdelaine, Sr., et al.), The John W. Campbell Letters, Vol. I and The John W. Campbell Letters with Isaac Asimov & A. E. van Vogt, Volume II.  Hefty volumes of correspondence (over 1300 pages total!) from the influential and contraversial editor of Astounding Science Fiction and Unknown.
  • John Dickson Carr, The Island of Coffina and Other Mysteries from the Casebook of Cabin B-13.  All of Carr's two dozen scripts from the 1948 radio mystery series Cabin B-13.  A tret for lovers of both old-time radio and classic mysteries.
  • Max Allan Collins & Matthew V. Clemens, Max Allan Collins Collection, Volume Two:  John Sand.  Omnibus of three John Sand novels:  Come Spy with Me, Love Fast, Spy Hard, and To Live and Spy in Berlin, and the story "Murderlized."  The conceit of the series is that Sand was the guy Ian Flemng based his James Bond novels on.  The three  novels were previously released in a boxed set titled No Time to Spy.
  • Harlan Ellison, Getting in the Wind and Pulling a Train.  Early crime stories.  Betwen the two volumes, the entire contents of Ellison's early, difficult-to-get collection Sex Gang (published in 1959 under the name "Paul Merchant") are included, along with other stories.
  • John Haefele, A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos.  Nonfiction about August Derleth and his influence on H. P. Lovecraft's literary legacy.
  • William F. Nolan, Nolan on Bradbury.  What it says.  A collection of Nolan's writings about his friend, Ray Bradbury.
  • Mark Rich, C. M. Kornbluth:  The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary.   Heavily researched and flawed biography of talented and influential writer who died way too early at 34.  I got the impression that Rich really tried to be even-handed in his approach, but...  Althoug it's nearly impossible to get a handle on such a complicated person, Rich relied heavily on conficting anecdotal evidence, apparently placing Fred Pohl as the villain of the piece.  An entertaining and maybe/maybe-not reliable look at a fascinating person nestled among other odd and fascinating people.  A lot of unnecessary repetition here just screams for a good editoir.
  • Justin Richards, Doctor Who:  The Only Good Dalek.  Graphic novel featuring the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond.
  • Nat Segaloff, A Lit Fuse:  The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.  The expanded second edition of this biography, mainly culled from interviews with Ellison.  Like Kornblutth, Ellison is hard to pin down, but Segaloff seems to arrive at the core of one of the most influential writers of the past seventy years, yet he barely touches on how Ellison has placed his mark on American life.
  • "John Wyndham" (John Benyon Harris), Plan for Chaos.  A previously unpublished novel written in the late 1940s/early 1950s and finally published in 2009.  A science fiction detective novel mash-up which met with a mixed reception.  Nazis are cloning a master race in the jungle while trying to provoke a nuclear war betwen the United States and Russia.  Not Wyndham's best effort, but an interesting curiosity.

Pickleball:  I am not the hippest person on this planet and am not au fait on current trends.  Recently I've been hearing a lot about pickleball; my first reaction was to scratch my head and to question my hearing.  Pickleball.  It's a strange word, isn't it?  What the heck is it?

It's a fairly new sport that has becme very popular.  Sort of a red-headed stepchild of tennis or ping pong, except pickleball has a frw different rules.  It can be played as singles, with one person on each side of the net, or as doubles, with two on each side.   There is a net.  Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors, as long there is space for a court 44 feet long and 20 feet wide.  Each player has a pickleball paddle, which is larger than a ping pong paddle.  The pickleball itself is a hard plastic ball with 24 to 40 evenly spaced circular holes, and it bounces less than a tennis ball.  There is a seven-foot area on each side of the net, the non-volley zone --a ball must bounce off that zone before it can be hit.  Only the server can score a poiint, and serves must be done underhand.  Usuallu, the first sode scoring 11 points, with at least two points leading, wins.  The point system is confusing to me (I'm a troglodyte, remember?) so I won't try (can't) explain it. 

Pickleball is a game that is easily transportable, has low start-up costs, has a short learning curve.  It'sand can be played by a wide range of ages and fitness levels.  It's popularity grew during the height of the COVID pandemic as an alternative to other indoor recreastional sports.  This year it is estimated that there are over 4.8 million players.  Professional pickleball associations have begun to arise:  Association of Pickleball Professions (APP), Professional Pickleball Association (PPA), Major League Pickleball (MLP), and USA Pickleball (USAPB, which purports to be the governing body of pickleball in the United States; USAPB also established the International Federation of Pickleball [IFP], which purports to be the world governing body for the sport).  Pickleball has attracted a large number of investor, including Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant.

But whence came pickleball?  It was created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, at the summer home of Joel Pritchard, who, with his friends Barney McCallum and Bill Bell, devised the game and established the rules.  As to the name accounts differ.  Prichard's wife said that it reminded ber of the pickle boat in crew, where the oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.   One theory had the name derived from the Pritchard's dog, Pickles -- although the Pritchards said the dog got its name from the game, not the other way around.  Bill Bell said that he named the game because he could hit the ball in such a way that it would put the other player in a pickle.

Pickleball is always popular with people.  The sound made when the ballis struck is a "sharp popping" one, and the constant noise has proved to be an irritant to many nearby residents.   Residents claim they cannot hold normal conversations because of the noise;others claim it to be "trauma-inducing."  Some communities are making efforts to tackle this problem.

Have no doubt about it.  Pickleball is here to stay.  The same has been said about many other fast-growing fads, including the macarena.

And don't get me started on the inappropriately-named beanbag toss game called cornhole.

operation under its cuirrent 

The 1st United States Congress:  234 years ago, on March 4, 1789, the United States federal government began its operation under its current form of government with the establishment of the 1st United States Congress.  Previously, the country was ruled by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which had been finalized by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777 and was ratified by all thirteen states by March 1, 1781.  It soon became apparent that the Articles of Confederation were ineffective in many areas for the growing country, especially ijnh the protectionist trade barriers between the states; other areas of concern were the raising of funds, the assembnling of delegates, and various commerce regulations.  Political leaders began talking about amending the Articles of Confederation and soon others joined in.  In March of 1777, a Constitutional Convention was convened in Philadelphia for this purpose, and it became obvious that revising the Articles of Confederation were not enough to solve its many problems.  The Convention began drafting a new Constitution.  The new Constitution establish a chief executive (the President), courts, and taxing powers.

There were no formal political parties at the time.  Members were grouped in factions based on their voting records as either Pro-Administration (P) or Anti-Administration (A).  The new Congress was a bicarmal one, with the lower chamber (the House of Reprsentatives) elected by the people and the upper chamber (the Senate) elected by state legislators.  The size of the House was to be determined by the number and populations of the states; the size was to be determined by law, not the Constitution.  The term of a Representative was two years.  The Senate would be comprised of two Senators per state; the term for a Senator would be six years, with one-third of the new Senate serving two years, one-third four years, and one-third six years, allowing one-third of that body to be elected every two years.

The new Constitution also spelled out the three separtion of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches being co-equal bodies.  The new Constitution was ratified by the end of 1788 and was set to be implemented on March4, 1789.  On April 1, the House of Representatives achieved a quorum and elected its officers.  On April 6, the Senate did the same.  They met in joint session on April 6 to count the electoral ballots and unanomously declared Gearge Washington as the country's first President; John Adams, who had received 34 of 69 votes, was named Vice President.  Adams was inaugurated as Vice President on April 21, and Washington as President on April 30.  The new government was off and running.

Here's a little quiz I call How well Do You Know Your Founding Fathers?  Here's five members of the original Senate and five members of the original House.  Which state was each from?  (Your choices are Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Souoth Carolin, and Virginia.  I've excluded North Carolina, and Rhode Island; North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet ratified the Constitution by March 4; New York had seated three of its six representatives and neither of its two Senators by March 4.)  Answers below.

1. Tristram Dalton ((P) 
2. Oliver Ellsworth (P) 
3. James Gunn (A)
4. Ralph Izzard (P)
5. Paine Wingate (A)


1. Egbert Benson (P)
2. Aedanus Burke (A)
3. Lambert Cadwalader ((P)
4. Elbridge Gerry (A)
5. James Madison (A)

Passings:  This past week has seen a lot of notable deaths, including some people who have had an impact on my life.
  • Jimmy Buffet.  The singer/songwriter whose mellow music, beach bum persona, and inventive lyrics inspired a legion of Parrotheads, died Friday.  He was less than two months younger than me.  Thanks to him, I could dream of a cheeseburger in paradise, wish I had a pencil-thin mustache, and find my one particular harbor.  I attended one of his concert in Charlotte, North Carolina, almost three decades ago and had a great time.  My girls went to a number of his concerts.  Christina once volunteered to work the ambulance during one of his concert, expecting to watch his show for free; it didn't work out that way -- she spent the entire concert hauling drunks to various medical centers and never heard a single song.  **sigh**    Here's a recording of Gratful Dead's "Ripple" that Buffet did for Playing for Change, along with David Crosby, Bill Kreatzman, Clarence Bekker, Roberto Luti, David Hildago, Blind Boy Paxton, Tita Tsira, Tula, Las Rosas Angelinas, the Sassi de Montea Strings, the Chicago Children's Choir, and many other talented artists throughout the world.  It indicates the universality of his talent and his popularity.
  • Bob Barker.  The Truth or Consequences and The Price is Right television host and animal rights activist died on Saturday, August 26, less than four mnonths before his 100th birthday.   Along with many other people in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, I grew up with Bob Barker on our television set.  In 1987, Barker did the unthnkable for a television host -- he stopped dying his hair and let it go gray.  Good for him!  A blocked artery, a stroke, prostate and skin cancers, and a number of falls plagued Barker over the past two decades, but he passed away peacefully in his sleep.  As one on-line wag and Price Is Right fan put it, I'm surprised he did not make it to 100 without going over.
  • Bill Richardson.  The former UN Ambassador and Governor of New Mexico died last Friday at age 75.  Richardson's fsather was Mexican-American by dewcent and his mother was Mexican Spanish; Richardson hinmself was American by birth and was a descendant of William Brewster, a Mayflower passenger.  Following college, Richardson worked for Massachusetts Representative F. Bradford Morse (Morse would later go on to a high position in the United Nations), and later was a staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and worked for Henry Kissinger's State department during the Nixon administration.  He moved to Santa Fe in 1978 and ran for the House of Represntative in 1980, losing narrowly.  Two years later, he was elected to the House, where he remained for 14 years, representing "the country's most diverse distcit" and holding over 2000 town meetings.   He served as Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Conference and later as Cahirman of the House Subcamitte on Native American Affairs, where he sp[onsored anumber of bills protecting Indian rights.  Richardson later served as Deputy Majhority Whip, where he established a friendship with Bill Clinton.  He was the ranking house democrat to work on the passage of NAFTA and served as a back channel to Mexico's then president; for his efforts, he was awarded the Aztec Eagle Award, the highest award Mexico can give to a foreigner.  His diplomatic skills came into play whenj he help0ed release two Americans being held by Saddam 
    Hussein in 1996.  He also played a mapor role in releasing an American prisoner from North Korea in 1996 and in obtaining a pardon for an Amerocan being held in Bangaladesh.  For these efforts, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.  As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, he helped broker a ceasefire with the Taliban in Afghanistan and was disappointed when the ceasefire did not hold.  In 1998, Richardson became the Secretary of Energy.  His tenure there was marred by a controvery when a scientist named Wen Ho Lee was suspected of given nuclear secrets to the Chinese Government.  Although Lee was eventually cleared, the scandal loed to Richardson's tightening security within the department, which led to the creation of the National Nuclear Security Admisitration, a foerunner to the Homeland Security Department.  Richarson became the first energy secretary to implement a pklan for the disposal of nuclear waste.  He also oversaw the largest return of federal land to an Indian tribe in over 100 years.  Richardson was elected governor of New Mexico in 2002. and entered the Guiness Book of Records for the most handshakes in an eight-period, beating the previous record set by Theodore Roosevelt.  Richaron institu3ed a number of economic reforms, supported some LGBTQ rights (while opposing gay marriage), signed a permit system to allow New Mexicans to carry concealed handguns, and supported a plan  to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses (under the plan, traffic fatalities decreased and the uninsured rate for drivers fell fomr 33% to 11%).  While all this was happening, Richardsson continued to act  in negotiations with foreign governments on behalf of the federal administration.  During his second term as governor, he was able to ban cockfighting and to legalize medical marijauna   In 2007, he ran for president but dropped out after poor showings in early primaries and caucuses.  He signed a bill elimating the death penalty in New Mexico, and, in a somewhat contraversial move, declined to pardon Billy the Kid for an 1878 murder, for which then territorial governor Lew Wallace had promised (but never delivered) a pardon.   Richarson's second term as governor was marred by a federal grand jury investigation of alleged pay-for-play deals; at the time, Richardson had been nominated as Secretary of Commerce but had to withdraw the nominatiuon because of the charges.  After he dropped the nomination the grand jury dismissed the charges.  Pay-for-paly also came into focus when the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibilty and Ethics (CREW) in Washington named Richardson one of the 11 wirst governors in the United States because of various ethical issues.  The Committe had been established as a cpouinterweight to a number of conservative organizations then existing and much of their work targeted Republican lawmakers, allowing some to  label it a "Liberal watchdog.  The asscoiated Press reported, however, that CREW "has a history of targeting members of Congress representing different races, philsophjies and political parties."  In documents that were unsealed in 2019, Virginia Guiffre alleged that she was sexually trafficked by Jeffery Epstein and Ghilaine Maxwell as a minor to several high-profile individuals, including Richardson.  Richarson hdenied the charges and offered his assistance in the investigation.  The U.S. Attorney's office stated that Richardson was neither a target, subject, or a witness in the case and that no allegation against Richardson was under investigation.  My own opinion is that Richarson was a successful politician who accomplished many positive things.  Successful politicians, rightly or wrongly, are susceptable to charges of wrong doing, but -- as far as I can tell --  there is no there there.
  • Mohamed Al-Fayed.  The Egyptian-born businessman and one-time owner of London's Harrads department store died Wednesday at age 94.  Most remember him as the father of Dodi Al-Fayed, who died in the automobile crash that claimed the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.  Al-Fayed alleged that the crash was orchestrated by MI-6 on behalf of Prince Philip.  He also claomed that Diana was pregnant with Dodi's child and that he was the onloy one who had been told of the pregnancy.  Al-Fayed claimed that the crash occured because the Royal fam ily did not want Diane to marry a Muslim.  No evidence ever came to light about Diana being pregnant.  Multiple inquiries also tended to disprove Al-Fayed's claim of a conspiracy.  But it's hard to keep a good conspiracy theory down.  Lord knows the Royal Family can be sketchy to support all sorts of rumors.
  • Faye Fantarrow.  The young British singer/songwriter who was being mentored by the Eurythmics star Dave Stewart, died Saturday of an agrtessive brain tumor at the age of 21.   She had tweice beaten leukemia at ages 8 and 13.  I had never heard of her before, but her death saddens me.  Here's her recording of "AWOL":

Labor Day Songs:

  • John McCutcheon relates a tele and then sings one of labor's greatest anthems.
  • Judy Collins with another great anthem in support of women's sufferage 
  • Utah Phillips tells us "There Is Power in the Union"  
  • Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers with "Talking Union"
  • Sweet Honey in  the Rock with "Step by Step"  
  • Hazel Dickens with "They'll Never Keep Us Down"
  • Rosalie Sorrels with "I Am a Union Woman"   
  • Peggy Seeger with "I'm Gonna Be an Engineer"
  • The labor movement was closely associated with other movements for justice and equality as Malvina Reynolds reminds us      

Holidays:    In addition to Labor Day, today is also National Eat an Extra Dessert Day, as well as National Macadamia Nut Day.  With all those macadamia nuts you might also want to celebrate Mouthguard Day.  One celebration that should not be missed is National Wildlife Day, which has nothing to do with National Eat an Extra Dessert Day.  Some unsiung heores are also celebrated with National Newspaper Carrier Day.  Worthy celebrations all.

It should also be noted that today is Mitzi Gaynor's 92nd birthday.  The singer/actress appeared in such films as 1956's Anything Goes, The Joker Is Wild (1957), and, in a starring role, 1958's South Pacific -- for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.  In September 1964, she was the act sandwiched between two sets by the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Hormonal teen-age girls remembered the Beatles; hormonal teen-age boys remembered Mitxi Gaynor.  Go figure.  Judge for yourself:  and

Florida Man:  There's a lot that's been happening later, much of it not good.
  • It's not easy being a dog in Florida. 75-year-old Arlow Lorenzo Phillips of Pasco City has been arrested for animal cruelty after he tied his pit bull to his car and then went speeding down the highway.  Police received reports from witnesses about the bloodied, howling dog being dragged along the road by a driver who was driving erratically and speeding.  Phillips told police that he had forgetten the dog was tied to the vehicle.  Earlier, though, he had taken the dog to a veterinarian and said that it had been hit by a car.  The dog could not be saved.  Phillips had had his drivers license revoked since 2007 and had been convicted seven times of driving without a license, along with unspoecified charges.
  • In other sad pit bull news, 25-year-old Corey Vaughn Dacres of Pembroke Pines has been arrested for drowning the family pet in an apartment complex swimming pool.  According to police, Dacres had gotten into an argument with relatives and grabbed the dog when he left the apartment.  He then threw the dog over a locked swimming pool gate into the water, climbed the gate, and held the animal under the water until it was dead.  Dacres then went back to the apartment and told the family what he had done.  He said he wanted to get "revenge" on his relatives.
  • Another dog was luckier.  A Longwood, Seminole Cpounty, resident was walking his small dog,, Molly, when they had a bear encounter.  The man was injured and taken to the hospital, whilke the dog went missing.  Neighbors found the dog several days later and it had been attacked by the bear.  They took the dog to a veterinarian and paid for the one and one-half surgery while the dog's owner remained in the hospital.  Bear encounters are becoming more frequent in /Florida this time of year.  Bears are searching for food in preparation to hibernating and there have been many reports of bears threatening small animals and frightening residents.  Authorities suggest that, before going out at night, residents flick their outside lights on and off several times to frighten the bears away.
  • Florida Man Kevin Broz of Orange County and a professional alligator hunter ha bagged the second heaviest alligator on Florida reciord.  The gater weighed in at 920 pounds and had a length of 13 feet 3-and-one-quarter inches.  The Florida Wildlife department esitmated the alligator's age at betwwen 60 and 90 years old.  Broz said that he had never had any concerns about swimming in Florida waters but now that he has seen that alligator, he does.
  • Florida Man Joel Banza, 50, of Sanford, has been arrested for the murder of his 40-year-old girlfriend.  Jaycee Cartegena Clememente was found stangled with a zip-tie around her neck.  Banza tried to convince police that she had committed suicide.  Neither the police not the medical examiner believed him.
  • Florida Man Donovan Faison, 21, also of Sanford, was arrested after a months-long investigation for the murder of his girlfriend Kaylyn Fiensa, 19, in November 2022.  Fiensa was three-months pregnant with her second child and refused to get an abortion, according to reports.
  • 19-year-old Edward Comacho was arrested after ramming a stolen vehicle into a gun store in order to steal guns.
  • Florida Man and Osceola County Pizza Hut manager Calvin Cook, 31, was arrested after he sexually assaulted a female employee he had locked in a room at the store.  He told police that he was aware that she was a minor.  It didn't seem to bother him.
  • 27-year-old Orange County deputy and Florida Man Brian Espina was arrested for speeding on his motorcycle to impress his girlfriend.  He was clocked at dong 90 miles an hour -- twice over the speed limit -- but denied witness reports that he was racing.

Good News:
  •  Couple who won $100,000 in lottery plans to spend it on fostering shildren
  • Stray dog who escaped Michigan shelter three tiomes finds new home at retirement center
  • Ultrasound scanners inside a bra could detect breast cancer earlier and between screenings
  • New blood tst could detect Parkinson's before it begins to damage the nervous system
  • Man averts oil tanker disaster by crowdfnding to remove crumbling ship from Red Sea youths sue state over climate change -- and WIN
  • Enzyme discovered that could turn air into energy, possibly providing a new clean way to make an energy dream come true
  • And, for your moment of joy, here's a video of a little boy giggling as four puppies play with him

Ha Ha:   My brother thinks he's so smart.  He told me that an onion was the only food that makes you cry.  So I threw a coconut at his face.

Today's Poem:

Dos the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at the door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who work?
Yea, beds for all who come.

-- Christina Rossetti 


How Well Do You Know Your Founding Fathers?  Answers:

Senate:  1-MA; 2-CT; 3-GA; 4-SC; 5-NH          House:  1-NY; 2-SC; 3-NJ; 4-MA; 5-VA


 Dave Van Ronk.

Saturday, September 2, 2023


For something a little bit different from what I usually post for Comic Book Saturdays, here's Sheba the Great, a creator-donated comic book that was recently posted to comicbookplus.  As the creator, Von Allan. notes, the comic was writen in 2004, drawn in 2015, tweaked in 2022, and finally colored, lettered, and edited in late 2022.  

The lovely and voluptuous Princess Aurora, daughter of Baron Kulonius, has been kidbapped.  The Baron's concerns are mercenary: he has aready had one daughter kidnapped and (gasp!) violated, thus ruining her chances for a potential marriage.  So he has hired bounty hunter Sheba the great and her robot Otto to find and return the princess.  Intact.  The trail takes the two to the ruined asteroid Melachor and its cursed and abandoned city.  Aurora's still active transponder, which the Baron had installed in her, indicates that the Princess is alive and somewhere below the city.  In a tunnel underneath the city, Sheba and Otto come across indications that the Barbarian Clones of Ashton-Five are lurking there -- evil beings who had been created by the even-more evil Queen Alora.  Sheba thought she had destroyed all of the Barbarian Clones a few years ago with a well-placed nuke.  She also thought she had killed Queen Alora.  She was wrong on both counts.

The Clones attack.  They are each wearing a portable force shield which makes them immune to Sheba's blaster.  Alora is alive -- of sorts.  Her zombiefied body is being rejuvenated with the blood of Princess Aurora.  Alora wants her vengeance on Sheba.  She is also determined to kill her captive, Princess Aurora.  And Alora is also protected by a portable force shield.  Can Sheba destroy the Barbarian Clones, defeat Alora, rescue Aurora (and her supposed virginity), and earn her bounty?  Go figure.

Note:  There is some cleavage and some massive mammaries, which, I suppose, can be de rigueur for some creator-owned comics.


Friday, September 1, 2023


 The Last Cop Out by Mickey Spillane  (1973)

Mickey Spillane burst on the literary scene in 1947 with the first Mike Hammer novel I, the Jury.  Spillane had previously been hiding in the shadows writing for comic books and (he claimed) pseudonymously for the slicks and pulps.  Hammer, a hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners PI with a sense of justice and an active trigger finger, caught the imagination of the American male just back from the War when the book was released in paperback.  Spillane was soon one of the top-selling writers in America and Mike Hammer became an American icon.  Spillane took the violence of such writers as Carroll John Daly, added more than a hint of sex (which became more and more graphic as time passed and cultural attitudes changed) and created a new style of crime novel.

Spillane was criticized for the crudity of his style and subject but he knew his audience and he wrote to them, often disguising his true literary talent.  Spillane refused to be catgorized as an author, preferring instead to call himself a writer.

Spillane did not limit himself to Mike Hammer.  He wrote other novels, westerns, juveniles, short stories, articles, scripts.  When he died, he left behind a trove of drafts, uncompleted stories, and notes for Max Allan Collins, his literary executor, to complete.  Much of Spillane's published work had the same intensity as the early Hammer novels.  Some, however, were duds.

Which brings us to The Last Cop Out.

The mob in America is run by the "Big Board," nearly two dozen gang leaders who control all the syndicates throughout the country.  At the head is Papa Menes, who runs everything from afar with an iron first.  Below Papa is Mark Shelby, born Marcus Aurilieus Fabius Shelvan, a college-eduicated thug who was called the Primus Gladiatori because of the way he dispatched his enemies -- quickly and with great pleasure.  Now, someone is killing members of the Big Board.  When the novel opens, four have already been murdered with no clue as to who the killer is.  Soon the number of dead rises significantly, despite all possible precautions.  A number of gangsters decide to use the murders to hide their own attempts to rise up within the mob.. Papa Menes goes into hiding to wait out the fallout from all this, while still controlling what he can..

Gillian Burke, "Gill," was a cop who had been close to nailing the mob when he was framed and forced to leave the department.  Burke was the one cop the mob feared but now he is sidelined, working as head of security for a large corporation.  The top guys in the city are afraid that the mob violence will spill and "innocent" people will be killed.  They arrange to hire Gill back -- if Gill succeeds, they will take the credit; if not, then Gill will be their fall guy.

Helen Scanlon was the daughter of a cop.  She is working as a receptionist for one of the legitimate businesses owned by the mob and run by Frank Verdun.  Verdun  also happens to be one of the mob's most effective hit men.  Back in his earlier cop career, Gill and Verdun had faced off, but both survived.  Gill visits Verdun to put him on notice.  Helen, meanwhile. is getting suspicious of Verdun.  Helen goes out on a date with Gill and is gobsmacked over his virility.  (When they finally get it on, Helen is amazed she has never had such a skilled and powerful lover.  Yep, Gill is the typical Spillane hero -- the man who puts all others to shame with his lovemaking skills.)  Verdun decides he cannot trust Helen and orders both Helen and Gill killed.  That doesn't work out the way Verdun hoped.

As far as I could tell, Gill doesn't do much in this novel.  He just hangs around cryptically while the mob quakes in their collective boots in fear of him.  Meanwhile, the mob keeps killing each other off while the original unknown assassin takes some time off.

Every member of the mob is super kinky.  Spillane delves into those kinks in far more detail than he would have earlier in his career.  Sadism is big here; one neo-Nazi Hitler fanboy gets off by cutting out his victims' navels.  There's also painful anal sex and genital mutilation and brutality and homosexuality, all included to add shock value and to portray the mob figures as less than human.  The manner of some of the killings are also super kinky, perhaps justifiably so.  The mob's women as hookers, all with their own agenda and desires for vengeance.  It gets confusing.

Also confusing is Spillane's use of similar names.  Gill's cop friend is Bill and, in at least one instance, a typo conflates the two.  And there's Helen and Helga, both sexy ladies.  And the mob figures Shatzi and Shanke and Shelby.  So yes, it does get confusing.  And then there are the scene shifts...

As for the typical Spillane twist at the end of a book...ho hum.

Normally, I zip through a Mickey Spillane novel at light speed.  This one was a slow slog.  A. Slow.  Slow. Slog.