Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, October 30, 2023


 J. Carrol Naish, a popular and versatile character actor with 224 IMDb credits, belied his Irish ancestry by playing Arabs, Hindus, Mexicans, Itallians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, African-Americans, and Orientals -- often in black-hearted villainous roles -- due to his considerable skill at dialects.  Time magazine once referred to him as "Hollywood's one-man United Nations."  At various times he protrayed such iconic figures as Charlie Chan, Dr. Frankenstein, Siting Bull, Mark Twain, General Santa Ana, and Lt. General Philip Sheridan.  His character roles added to such well-known pictures as The Hatchet Man, Elmer, the Great, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Captain Blood, Anthony Adverse, Ramona, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Think Fast, Mr. Moto, Beau Geste, Typhoon, Down Argentine Way, Blood and Sand, The Corsican Brothers, The Pied Piper, Batman (1943), Sahara, The Beast with Five Fingers, Humoresque, Annie Get Your Gun, and Clash by Night,  He was nominated for an Oscar twice -- for Sahara (1943) and for A Medal for Benny (2945); hw received a Golden Globe Award for A Medal for Benny.  On radio, he played the title role in Life with Luigi (1948-1953), while also bringing the role to television for a short-lived series (11 episodes, 1952).  

Naish seems tailor-made for the role of Dr. Igor Markoff in The Monster Maker.  Markoff is (dare I say iot?) a mad scientist who injects his victims with a megalomy serum that causes bones to grow out of proportion.   Patricia Lawrence (Wanda McKay), the daughter of a famed concert pianist, resembles Markoff's dead wife, so natually Markoff must have her.  When Patricia spurns him, Markoff injects her father with the serum, causing his hands and face to become distorts.  Markoff will five him the antidote only if Patricia agrees to marry him.

Also featuring Ralph Morgan, Tala Burell, Terry Frost, Alexander Pollard, and Sam Flint, with Ace, the Wonder Dog, Glenn Strange (as a giant), and Ray Coorigan in one of his gorilla suits.  Written by Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney from an original story by Larry Williams, with Nell O'Day as an uncomnfirmed co-writer.  Directed by Sam Newfield and produced by his brother Sigmund Neufield.

Enjoy this bit of Halloween melodrama.

Sunday, October 29, 2023


Happy Birthday to me!


 Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson.

Friday, October 27, 2023


Captain Steve Savage was a public domain hero first drawn by Wally Wood in Captain Steve Savage Over Korea (Avon) in November 1950.   The cover title changed every issue through #8 -- Captain Steve Savage and His Jet Fighters (#2);  Captain Steve Savage and His Secret Super-Jet (#3); Captain Steve Savage Fights the Red Raiders from Siang-Po! (#4); Captain Steve Savage and the Rockets of Death! (#5), Captain Steve Savage Operation Destruction (#6); Captain Steve Savage's Flight to Kill! (#7), and Captain Steve Savage Battles the Red Mystery Jet (#8).  Oddly enough, issues #4 through 8 were also issued as Captain Steve Savage (without the accompanying descriptive title), and continued for the 9th issue; issues #10 through 13 were titled Captain Steve Savage and His Jet Fighters, and apparently included some reprints.

(And that was that.  Until 1968 when Marvel Comics appropiated the Captain Savage name for its World War II series Captain Savage and His Letherneck Raiders (18 isues; retitled Captain Savage and His Battlefield Raiders with #9) -- a spinoff of Marvel's popular Captain Fury and His Howling Commandos.)

Issue #9 has Steve and his squad going up against the "Rockets from Nowhere."  A mysterious rocket, evidently launched from a submarine at sea, takes out a friendly convoy.  Over the next few weeks, more rockets are spotted but, despite an exhaustive search, no enemy sub could be found.  One of Steve's pilots, Lannigan, is shot down during a dogfight and Steve takes his own plane down to rescue him.  As they are flying back home, a savage storm catches them and tosses Steve's plane around for several hours, ending with Steve being lost over the China Sea and his plane running out of fuel.  they are forced to land on the water and hope that rescue comes before Steve's plane sinks.  A Chinese junk, armed to the teeth and flying a pirate flag, comes across the two airmen.  Steve and Lannigan are captured and are to be held for ransom, when one of the mysterious rockets flies overhead, terrifying the pirate crew.  Steve is taken before the legendary pirate king Wo Tang and bargains for his and Lannigan's freedom, saying they will destroy the source of the feared rockets.  With the help of the pirates, Steve soon discovers the rockets' underwater launching base but is taken captive by the savage Red commander General Chu.  Just when things look darkest, Steve pits wooden Chinese junks against modern artillery.  Guess who wins?

In gratitude, the pirate king pledges to become an ally against the communists.  Steve then pontificates:  "The free people of the world must join hands everywhere to defeat the Red slave nations."  He welcomes Wo Tang and his pirates as allies.  Schmaltzy, but effective for th early 1950s.


Thursday, October 26, 2023


 Dixie City Jam by James Lee Burke  (1994)

Bestselling author James Lee Burke has been writing about Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux for more than 35 years; Burke will be 87 when the 24th book in the series will be published next year.  Throughout the series, Burke has shown his love and appreciation for the beauty, culture, and traditions of Southern Louisiana while, at the same time, not shying away from its history of racism and greed that persists to this day.  Robicheaux is a conplex character whose troubled past of voilence, alcoholism, and drug abuse has left its mark on a man who strives to be worthy of those he loves.

It isn't easy.  Robicheaux comes from a poor, French-speaking family that has been torn apart by betrayal.  Going against tradition, Dave has earned a college degree; he has had a short-lived and ill-fated marriage.   He encountered horrors and near death in Vietnam -- an experience that has scarred his life.  Joining the New Orleans Police Department, he is partnered with Clete Purcel, a fellow Vietnam vet who has a take-no-prisoners attitude.  Together they become the "Bobbsey Twins" of News Orleans, dispensing justice through violence and intimidation, often under a "black flag."  Despite his loutish and violent ways, Percel remains at heart a decent and loyal person whose inner demons keep leading him (and Dave) on a self-destructive course.  In the first novel in the series, Dave's drinking has led him to be fired from the New Orlens Police Department.  He meets, falls in love with, and marries Annie, a social worker.  Living in a home built in nearby New Iberia by his grandfather, Dave runs a bait shop with Batist, an illiterate Black man.  Dave eventually joins the New Iberia Sheriff's Department.  

In the second novel in the series, Dave rescues a five-year-old Columbian girl from a plane wreck in the Gulf of Mexico.  He and Annie unofficially adopt the girl, who had been piloted from her native land by missionaries; they name her Alafair, after Dave's mother.  (Burke's own daughter, Alafair, is  now a bestselling novelist in her own right.)   Alafair has a pet, a three-legged racoon called Tripod. Annie is eventually murdered by a pair of sociopathic hitmen, and Dave must cope with both his alcoholic past and his burning desire for revenge.

Dave has close ties to New Iberia and appears to know many of the wealthy people in the area.  He is respectful of the poor blacks in the area, but could never fully relate to their social standing in the South.  Race and politics play a strong role throughout the series as the powerful -- both locally and from far away -- play with the lives of those less fortunate.  Dave eventually remarries, to Bootsie, a woman suffering from lupus.  When Bitsie eventually dies, Dave and Alafair are devastated.  Later in the series, Dave marries for a fourth time, to a former nun whose experiences with evil in Latin America has steeled her for the violence that seems to follow Dave.  Throughout the series, Dave is haunted by ghosts of the recent and far past -- perhaps a result of the lingering maleria he caught while in Vietnam, or perhaps from the after-effects of drug abuse.

Dixie City Jam, the seventh book in the series helps to solidify the reputation of the novels as a direct followup to In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead.  Here's David K. Jeffrey's synopsis from the St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers:

"In Dixie City Jam, one of the best of the Robicheax series, Burke creates Robicheaux's most powerful antagonist, Will Buchalter, an incestuous, bisexual, psychopathic fascist who, with his sister, repeatedly invades Robicheaux's home and violate, terrorize, and torture both him and Bootsie.  Buchalter is a truly frightening portrait of evil.  By contrast, Burke's other villains here -- the mobsters, Max and Bobo Carlucci; the New Orlens police lieutenant on their payroll, Nate Baxter; the Channel Irish mobster Tommy Lonigham; and Manuel Ruiz, Tommy's factotum whom the Carluccis have been using to scare black drug lords out of the trade in the projects -- seem nearly tame by comparison.  Baxter's horrifyingly casual racism and power over two black collegues in the NOPD, Sgts. Lucinda Bergeron and Ben Motley; his eventual humilation; Bergeron's difficult relationship with her teenaged son, Zoot; Hippo Birnstine, the Jewish businessman who offers Robicheax thousands of dollars to find a U-Boat sunk off Louisiana's Gulf Coast, and Clete Purcel's blunt presence all contribute to the many pleasures of the book...The Robicheaux series reveals Burke's lyrical/poetic eye for setting, psychological realism, strong plotting, political concern, an traditional human values.  Burke is in the process of redefining the crime genre, and it is as exciting to witness this process as it is to read his novels."

What Jeffrey fails to add is the looming presence of the sunken Nazi submarine as a chilling symbol of enduring evil.

Burke has won Edgars for Black Cherry Blues and the Billy Bob Holland novel Cimarron /Rose, as well as being named as a Grand Master by the MWA.  He was awarded a 1998 Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in Fiction and the 2002 Lousiana Writer Award.  In addition to the Robicheaux novels, he has written twelve novels about the Holland family, including four about Billy Bob Holland and three featuring Hackberry Holland.  Burke has also pubished a number of historical novels.  His third collection of short storiesis forthcoming.

Althoug I am very partial to the Robicheaux series, any book by James Lee Burke is well worth your time.

The Robicheaux series:

  • Heaven's Prisoners  (1988)
  • Black Cherry Blues  (1989)
  • A Morning for Flamingos  (1990)
  • A Stained White Radiance  (1992)
  • In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead  (1993)
  • Dixie City Jam  (1994)
  • Burning Angel  (1995)
  • Cadillac Jukebox  (1997)
  • Purple Cane Road  (2000)
  • Jolie Blon's Bounce (2002)
  • Last Car to Elysian Fields  (2003)
  • Crusader's Cross  (2005)
  • Pegasus Descending  (2006)
  • The Tin Roof Blowdown  (2007)
  • Swan Peak   (2008)
  • The Glass Rainbow  (2010)
  • Light of the World  (2013)
  • Robicheaux  (2018)
  • The New Iberia Blues  (2019)
  • A Private Cathedral  (2020)
  • Clete  (forthcoming, June 11, 2024


 Last night Mark brought home his not-quite friend, Blink the Great Horned Owl, for a sleepover.  Blonk was due to fly out of Pensacola (not using his own wings) for a trip to Washington State and, although Zookeeper Mark is no longer low man on the totem pole but is still a lower man on the zoo totem pole, he was tasked with getting Blink to the airport in the dark hours of the morning.  Blink is a very cute owl with a very severe attitude problem and has the worse personality of any of the owls at the zoo.  (Gee, I wonder why theu are sending away...far away?)  Blink spent the night hissing at us.  (Yes, owls hiss; they're just not as professional about it as snakes.)  Willow, the aged cat who is older than dirt, did not appreciate spending the night in the same room with Blink.

In honor of Bl;ink's stay with us, here's an episode from World's Best Short Stories, featuring Theodore Pratt's "The Owl That Kept Winking."  Not much is known about this program, but there were a number of similar programs on the radio airwaves at the time, including The World's Greatest Short Stories, which aired for ten years on NBC.  The tradition has been kept alive today with shows such as NPR's Selected Shorts and a vast number of podcasts.

"The Owl That Kept Winking" first appeared in Esquire, June 1944.  It was reprinted in Martha Foley's The Best American Short Stories 1945.  It is a simple, fifteen-minute tale of a Florida farmer trying to brak the spirit of an owl that has ravaged his chickens.

Enjoy.   (And enjoy your trip, Blink!)

Wednesday, October 25, 2023


 Great Ghost Stories:  101 Terrifyng Tales, edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz  (2016)

Stefan Dzienmianowicz (b. 1957) is a prolific editor of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery anthologies, editor of single author collections, and author of a number of critical works in those fields.  Many of his anthologies were large collections for the instant remainder market and he has worked with such luminaries as Martin H. Greenberg, Robert Weinberg, Ed Gorman, and S.T. Joshi.  His anthologies are often deep dives into lesser known tales from the pulp magazines and collections from the specialty small presses.  As we approach Halloween, I thought it appropriate to discuss onew of his doorstop anthologies.  Great Ghost Stories was one that Geroge Kelley sent me a few months ago.

Depite the book's subtitle, ghost stories do not have to be terrifying.  They can be humorous, sad, sentimental, vengeful, unsettling, or reaffirming; they can be cliched or innovative.  The variety can be seemingly unending.  Here, Dziemianowicz has assembled a bit of everything, from old chestnuts to forgotten rarities.  

Lovecraft is here, as are Bierce, Saki, Washinton Irving. M. R. James, de Maupassant, and Sheridan Le Fanu, as well as some unexpected authors such as Stephen Leacock, Ford Madox Ford, and Somerset Maugham (with an earlier version of his classic story "A Man from Glascow").  A great anthology for sampling.

The stories:

  • Across the Moors by Willaim Fryer Harvey (from Midnight House and Other Tales, 1910; Harvey may be best known for his story "The Beast with Five Fingers")
  • The Adventure of the German Student by Washington Irving (also known as "The Lady with the Velvet Collar;" from Tales of a Traveller by "Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.," 1824; by "The Headless Horseman" and "Rip van Winkle" guy)
  • All Souls' Day by D. K. Broster (from Macmillan's Magazine, September 1907; reprinted in A Fire of Driftwood, 1932; Dorothy Broster wrote the classic "Couching at the Door"_
  • At Ravensholme Junction by Mary E. Penn (from The Argosy [UK], December 1876; who the author was is a mysery, although there is some circumstantial evidence that it might have been Ellen Wood, the popular author who wrote East Lynne (1861); Peen's eight ghost stories were finally collected by Richard Dalby in the second volume of his "Mistresses of the Macabre" series for Sarob Press, In the Dark and Other Ghost Stories, 1999)
  • At the Dip in the Road by Mrs. Molesworth (from Uncanny Tales, 1896; Mary Louisa Moleworth wrote over 100 books of many types, but is best known for her "charming stories of children," as well as for her chilling excursions into the supernatural)
  • At the Gate by Myla Jo Closser (from Century Magazine, March 1917; included in Dorothy Scarborough's seminal anthology Famous Modern Ghost Stories, 1921)
  • Bone to His Bone by E. G. Swain (from The Stoneground Ghost Tales:  Compiled from the Recollections of the Reverend Roland Batchel, Vicar of the Parish, 1912; Swain was a chaplain at King's College, Cambridge, and a colleague of M. R. James; he was a member of th select group to whom James read his famous annual Christmas Eve ghost stories)
  • The Botathen Ghost by R. S. Hawker (from All the Year Round, May 1867, edited by Chalres Dickens)
  • Buggam Grange:  A Good Old Ghost Story by Stephen Leacock (from Winsome Winnie and Other New Nonsense Novels, 1920)
  • The Burned House by Vincent O'Sullivan (from The Century Magazine, October 1916; reprinted in The Haunted Wherry and Other Rare Ghost Stories, edited by Jessica Amanda Salmoson, 1985)
  • Cara by Georgia Wood Pangborn (from Harper's Magazine, January 1914; reprinted in The Wind at Midnight, 1999; Pangborn was the mother of SF writer Edgar Pangborn)
  • The Clock by William Fryer Harvey (from The Beast with Five Fingers and Other Tales, 1928)
  • The Closed Window by A. C. Benson (from The Hill of Trouble and Other Stories, by Arthur Christopher Benson, 1903)
  • The Cold Embrace by Mary Elizabeth Bradden (from The Welcome Guest, September 22, 1860; reprinted in Ralph the Bailiff and Other Tales "by the author of 'Lady Audley's Secret,' 'Aurora Floyd,' Etc. Etc. Etc.," 1862)
  • Colonel Halifax's Ghost Story by Sabine Baring-Gould (from The English Illustrated Magazine, December 1897, as by "S. Baring-Gould"; reprinted in A Book of Ghosts by S. Baring-Gould, 1904; interesting fact:  Baring-Gould wrote the Christian hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers")
  • The Conquering Will by Harriet Prescott Spofford (from The Smart Set, June 1901;reprinted in The Moonstone Mass and Others, 2000)
  • The Damned Spot by Violet M. Methley (from Truth, June 21, 1921; reprinted in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 2004:  The Last "Queer Stories from Truth," edited by Jack Adrian, 2004)
  • Dark Dignum by Bernard Capes (from Pearson's Magazine, June 1897; reprinted in At a Winter's Fire, 1899)
  • The Delusion of Ralph Penwyn by Julian Hawthorne (from Cosmopolitan, February 1909; reprinted in The Rose of Death and Other Mysterious Delusions, 1997)
  • The Demon Spell by Hume Nisbet (from The Haunted Station and Other Stories, 1894)
  • The Diary of Mr. Poyntner by M. R. James (from A Thin Ghost and Others by Montague Rhodes James, 1919)
  • The Door by Henry S. Whitehead (from Weird Tales, November 1924; reprinted in Passing of a God and Other Stories, 2007)
  • Dr. Trifulgas by Jules Verne (variant title of Frritt-Flacc, from Le Figaro illustre, December 5, 1884; first published in English ias "Frritt-Flacc" in The Trinity Tablet, October 3, 1885, and as "Dr. Trifulgas" in The Strand Magazine, July-December 1892; reprinted in Yesterday and Tomorrow, 1965)
  • The Dream Giver by Chris Sewell (from Truth, December 6, 1922; reprinted in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 2004:  The Last "Queer Stories from Truth," edited by Jack Adrian, 2004)
  • The Eleventh of March by Amelia B. Edwards (from Miss Carew, 1865; reprinted in The Phantom Coach:  Collected Ghost Stories, 1999)
  • Eveline's Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (from Belgravia, January 1867; reprinted in Ralph the Bailiff and Other Stories by "the author of 'Lady Audley's Secret,' 'Aurora Floyd,'  Etc. Etc. Etc.," 1862)
  • A Far-Away Melody by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (from Westminster Magazine, August 1890; reprinted in Collected Ghost Stories by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman, 1974)
  • Father Macclesfield's Tale by R. H. Benson (from A Mirror of Shallot:  Being a Collection of Tales Told at an Unprofessional Symposium by Rev. Robert Hugh Benson, 1907)
  • The Fifteenth Man by Richard Marsh (from The Seen and the Unseen, 1900, as "The Fifteenth Man:  The Story of a Rugby Match";  fun fact:  Marsh published his horror novel The Beetle the same year Bram Stoker published Dracula, Marsh's book outsold Stoker's)
  • Fingers of a Hand by H. D. Everett (from The Death Mask and Other Ghosts by Mrs. h. D. Everett, 1920)
  • The Footsteps in the Dust by Alice Perrin (from Crampton's Magazine, December 1901; reprinted in The Sistrum and Other Ghost Stories, 2001)
  • The Former Passengers by B. M. Croker (from "To Let," 1893; reprinted in "Number Ninety" and Other Ghost Stories, the third volume in Richard Dalby's "Mistresses of the Macabre" series, 2000)
  • The Furnished Room by O. Henry (from New York Sunday World Magzine, August 14, 1904; reprinted in The Four Million, 1919)
  • The Ghost and the Bone-Setter by Sheridan Le Fanu (from Dublin University Magazine, January 1938 [uncredited]; reprinted in The Purcell Papers by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, 1880)
  • A Ghost from the Sea by J. E. Muddock (from Stories, Weird and Wonderful, 1889)
  • The Ghost in the Chair by Lettice Galbraith (from New Ghost Stories, 1893; Galbraith, the pseudonym of Lettice Susan Gibson, published a handful of highly respected ghost stories in the 1890s and then stopped, although she lived until 1932)
  • A Grammatical Ghost by Elia W. Peattie (from The Shape of Fear and Other Ghastly Tales, 1898)
  • The Halfway House by Mary Heaton Vorse (from Harper's Magazine, October 1921; reprinted in Sinister Romance, 2002)
  • The Haunted Burglar by W. C. Morrow (from Lippincott's, July 1897; reprinted in The Monster Maker and Other Stories, 2000)
  • The Haunted Mill; or, The Ruined Home -- by Jerome K. Jerome (from Told After Supper, 1891; Jerome is best known for his novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing About the Dog) and for his short story "The Passing of Third Floor Back")
  • The Haunted Orchard by Richard Le Gallienne (from Harper's Magazine, January 1912; reprinted in Famous Modern Ghost Stories, edited by Dorothy Scarborough, 1921)
  • He? by Guy de Maupassant (variant title of Lui?, first published in Gil Blas, Julu 3, 1883, as by "Maufrigneuse"; first English appearance in an edition of the works of de Mapaussant published by M. Walter Dunne, 1903)
  • The House of the Nightmare by Edward Lucas White (from Smith's Magazine, September 1906; reprinted in Lukundoo and Other Stories, 1927)
  • How He Left the Hotel by Louisa Baldwin (from The Argosy [UK], October 1894 [uncredited]; reprinted in The Shadow on the Blind and Other Ghost Stories by Mrs. Alfred Baldwon, 1895)
  • "If You See Her Face" by B. M. Coker (from "To Let", 1893; reprinted in  "Number Ninety" and Other Ghost Stories, the third volume in Richard Dalby's "Mistresses of the Macabre" series, 2000)
  • In Kropfsberg Keep by Ralph Adams Cram (from Black Spirits & White:  A Book of Ghost Stories, 1895)
  • In the Dark by Mary E. Penn (from The Argosy [UK], June 1885; reprinted in In the Dark and Othr Ghost Stories, 1999)
  • The Interval by Vincent O'Sullivan (from The Best Ghost Stories, edited anonymously, most likely by Joseph Lewis French [sometime erroneously attributed to Arthur B. Reeve, who wrote the introduction], 1919; reprinted in Master of Fallen Years:  The Complete Supernatural Stories of Voncent O'Sullivan, 1995)
  • John Charrington's Wedding by E. Nesbit (from Temple Bar, September 1891, as by Edith Nesbit; reprinted in Grim Tales, 1893)
  • Joseph:  A Story by Katherine Rickford (from Land and Water, September 18, 1919; reprinted in The Best Psychic Stories. edited by Joseph Lewis French, 1920)
  • The Journal of Edward Hargood by "'D.N.J." (from The Cambridge Review, January 26, 1911; reprinted in The Moon-Gazer and One Other, 1988)
  • The Kirk Spook by E. G. Swain (from The Stoneground Ghost Tales:  Compiled from the Recollections of the Reverent Roland Batchel, Vicar of the Parish, 1912)
  • The Lady and the Ghost by Rose Cecil O'Neill (from The Cosmopolitan, November 1902; reprinted in Humorous Ghost Stories, edited by Dorothy Scarborough, 1921; primarily known as a cartoonist, O'Neill was the creator of the Kewpies)
  • The Last Squire of Ennismore by Mrs. J. H. Riddell (from Idle Tales, 1888; Charlotte Riddell was one of the leading Victorian woman writers of supernatural fiction)
  • The Lonely Road by H. D. Everett (from The Death Mask and Other Ghosts by Mrs. H. D. Everett, 1920)
  • Lost Hearts by M. R. James (from The Pall Mall Magazine, December 1895; reprinted in Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by Montague Rhodes James, Litt.D., 1904)
  • The Man with No Face by G. M. Robins (from The Lady's Realm, February 1902; reprinted in The Relations and What They Related and Other Weird Tales by Mrs. Baille Reynolds, 1902; reprinted as The Relations and What They Related & Other Weird Tales by G. M. Robins as Volume 6 in Richard Dalby's "Mistresses of the Macabre" series, 2003)
  • The Mass of Shadows by Anatole France (published in French as La messe des onmbres in E'tui de nacre, 1892; first published in English as The Mass of the Shades in Tales from a Mother-of-Pearl Casket, 1896)
  • The Medium's End by Ford Madox Ford (from The Bystander, March 1912; reprinted in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 1998, edited by Jack Adrian, 1998)
  • Monsieur de Guise by Perley Poore Sheehan (from The Scrap Book, January 1911; reprinted in Fantastic Novels, July 1940)
  • Mrs. Morrel's Last Seance by Edgar Jepson (from The London Magazine, February 1912; reprinted in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 2005:  Haven't I Read This Before?, dited by Jack Adrian, 2005)
  • The Murderer's Violin by Erckmann-Chatrian ("Erckmann-Chatrian was thejoint pseudonym of Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian; the original Frech appearance of this story was as Le violon du perdu in Contes de la montagne, 1860; English version in The Wild Huntsman, 1877)
  • My Friend's Story by Catherine Crowe (from Ghosts and Family Legends:  A Volume for Christmas by Mrs. Crowe, 1859)
  • The Mystery of the Semi-Detached by Edith Nesbit (from Grim Tales by E. Nesbit, 1893)
  • The Occupant of the Room by Algernon Blackwood (from Nash's Magazine, december 1909; reprinted in Day and Night Stories, 1917)
  • Old Ayah by Alice Perrin (from The Story-Teller, June 1916; reprinted in The Sistrum and Other Ghost Stories, 2001)
  • On the Brighton Road by Richard Middleton (from The Ghost Ship & Other Stories, 1912)
  • The Open Window by Saki (from The Westminster Gazatte, November 18, 1911; repronted in Beasts and Super-Beasts by H. H. Munro, 1914)
  • The Other Occupant by Ultich Daubeny (from The Elemental:  Tales of the Supernormal and the Inexplicable, 1919)
  • Outside the Door by E. F. Benson (from The London Magazine, January 1910; reprinted in The Room in the Tower and Other Stories, 1912)
  • Over an Absinthe /Bottle by W. C. Morrow (from The Argonaut, January 2, 1893, as The Pale Dice-Thrower; reprinted in The Ape, the Idiot & Other People, 1897)
  • The Pageant of Ghosts by R. Murray Gilchrist (from The National Observer, August 19, 1892; reprinted inThe Stone Dragon and Other Tragic Romances by Murray Gilchrist 1894)
  • The Queer Picture by Bernard Capes (from The Fabulists, 1015)
  • The Readjustment by Mary Austin (from Harper's Monthly Magazine, April 1908; reprinted in What Did Miss Darrington See?  an Anthology of Feminist Supernatural Fiction, edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, 1989)
  • Reconstruction by Michael Kent (from The Blue Magazine, July 1920; reprinted in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 2005:  Haven't I Read This Before?, edited by Jack Adrian, 2005)
  • The Recrudescence of Imray by Rudyard Kipling (from My Own People, aka Life's Handicap:  Being Stories of My Own People, 1891; often reprinted as The Return of Imray)
  • The Return by R. Murray Gilchrist (from The National Observer, July 2, 1892; reprinted in The Stone DRagon and Other Tragic Romances by Murray Gilchrist  1894)
  • Rose Rose by Barry Pain (from The London Magazine, May 1910; reprinted in Stories in Grey, 1912)
  • The Shell of Sense by Olivia Howard Dunbar (from Harper's Magazine, December 1908; reprinted in The Shell of Sense:  Collected Ghost Stories of Olivia Howard Dunbar, 1997)
  • The Soul of Laploshka by Saki (from The Westminster Gazette, May 8, 1909; reprinted in Reginald in Russia and Other Sketches, 1910)
  • The Specter by Guy de Maupassant (first appeared in French as Apparition in Le Gaulois, April 4, 1883; first pubished in English in an edition og the works of de Maupassant pubished by M. Walter Dunne, 1903)
  • A Spectral Collie by Elia W. Peattie (from The Shape of Fear, and Other Ghostly Tales, 1898)
  • The Spectre Bride by William Harrison Ainsworth (from Arliss's Pocket Magazine, 1882, as The Baron's Bride; reprinted in Great British Tales of Terror:  Gothic Stories of Horror and Romance 1765-1840, edited by Pater Haining, 1972; this is not  by Ainsworth:  editor Haining confused this with a simlar-named Scottish story; this is supposed from the German and the original author and title is unknown)
  • The Spectre of Rislip Abbey by Dick Donovan (from Tales of Terror, 1899; Donovan was a pseudonym of J. E. P. Muddock)
  • The Spectre Spiders by William L. Wintle (from Ghost Gleams:  Tales of the Uncanny by W. J. Wintle, 1921)
  • The Steps by Amyas Northcote (from In Ghostly Company, 1922)
  • The Stone Coffin by "B." (from The Magdalene College Magazine, December 1913; reprinted in When the Door Is Shut and Other Ghost Stories, 1986; the author is suspected by A. C. Benson)
  • The Story of the Spaniards, Mammersmith -- by E. and H. Heron (from Pearson's Magazine, January 1898; reprinted in Ghosts:  Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low by Hesketh Prichard and K. Prichard, 1899; Hesketh  Hesketh-Prichard and Kate Prichard were mother and son)
  • A Strange Goldfield by Guy Boothby (from The Lady of the Island, 1904)
  • A Strange Messenger by Mrs. Molesworth (from The Wrong Envelope and Other Stories, 1906)
  • The Stranger by Ambrose Bierce (from Cosmopolitan Magazine, February 1909, as A Stranger; reprinted in Can Such Things Be?, 1910)
  • Terror by Night by E. F. Benson (from The Room in the Tower and Other Stories, 1912)
  • The Three Sisters by W. W. Jacobs (from Night Watches, 1914; Jacobs is best-known for his story The Monkey's Paw)
  • Told in the Inn of Algeciras by W. Somerset Maugham (from The Woman at Home, February 1905; reprinted in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 1998. edited by Jack Adrian, 1998; this is a much earlier verson of Maugham's 1947 story A Man from Glacow)
  • The Tomb by H. P. Lovecraft (from The Vagrant, March 1922, as by Howard Phillips Lovecraft; reprinted in The Outsider and Others, 1939)
  • The Transferred Ghost by Frank R. Stockton (from Century Magazine, May 1882; reprinted in The Lady or the Tiger? and Other Stories, 1884)
  • The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall by John Kendrick Bangs (from Harper's Weekly, June 27, 1891; reprinted in The Water Ghost and Others, 1894)
  • The Will of Luke Carlowe by Clive Pemberton (from Sketchy Bits, February 19, 1906; reprinted in The Weird O' It, 1906)
  • A Wireless Message by Ambrose Bierce (from Cosmopolitan Magazine, October 1905; reprinted in Can Such Things Be?, 1910)
  • "With What Measure Ye Mete..." by Ethel Lina White (from Black and White, December 29, 1905; reprinted in The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 2000, edited by Jack Adrian, 2000; the author's novel The Wheel Spins was filmed as The Lady Vanishes by alfed Hitchcock)
  • The Woman's Ghost Stroy by Algernon Blackwood (from The Listener and Other Ghost Stories, 1907)
That's a lot of stories to choose from for your Halloween reading!

Tuesday, October 24, 2023


Today is the birthday of playwight Moss Hart (1904-1961).  To celebrate, here's a filmed version of the stage play You Can't Tale It With You, written by Hart and George S. Kaufman, and featuring Jason Robarts, George Rose,  Elizabeth Wilson, Colleen Dewhurst, and Maureen Anderman.  This aired on the PBS series Great Performances on November 21, 1984.  Filmed at New York City's Royale Theatre.

Enjoy this classic comedy.

Sunday, October 22, 2023


Openers:  In the old brownstone house which was the dwelling, and also contained the office, of Nero Wolfe on West 35th Street near the Hudson River in New York, heavy gloom had penetrated into every corner of the room, so that there was no escaping from it.

Fritz Brenner wa in bed with the grippe.

If it had been Theodore Horstmann, who nursed the 3,000 orchids on the top floor, it would have been merely an inconvenience.  If it had been me, Archie Goodwin, secretary, bodyguard, goad, and goat, Wolfe would have been no worse than peevish.  But Fritz was the cook; and such a cook that Marko Vukcic, of Rusterman's famous restaurant, had once offered a fantastic sum for his release to the major leagues, and met with scornful refusal from Wolfe and Fritz both. On that Tuesday in November the kitchen had not seen him for three days, and the resulting situation was not funny. I'll skip the awful details -- for instance, the desperate and disasterous struggle that took place Sunday afternoon between Wolfe and a coule of duckilings -- and go on with the climax.

"Bitter End" by Rez Stout (first published in American Magazine, November 1940)

It ws lunchtine and Wolfe had just put a spoonful of pate on a roll, taken a bite,and explosivelt spat out the mouthful -- all over Archie.  The pate, from a previously unopened jar of "TINGLEY'S TIDBITS (since 1877) -- The Best Liver Pate  No. 3."  The pate had been poisoned.  Coincidently, not long after, a young woman named Amy Duncan approached Wolfe about the pate.  It had been laced with quinine.  Her uncle, Arthur /tingley, of TINGLEY'S TIDBITS, suspecte a number of persons -- including Amy -- of poisoning a recent shipment of the pate.  Soon Tingley was murdered and Wolfe and Archie are embroiled in another murder case.

"Bitter End" was the first Nero Wolfe novella Stout published, some six years after the one-seventhof a ton detective made his debut in the novel Fer-de-Lance.  It was a reworking of Stout's Tecumseh Fox novel Bad for Business, which was published later in that year.  It was probably for the rason that the story had never been included in a Nero Wolfe collection.  The story finally appeared in book form in Corsage:  A Bouquet of Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe, a posthumous limited collection of 1,776 copies in 1977.  (In addition to "Bitter End." Corsage also soontained a 50-page informal interview with stout and a short artilce from Life magazine, "Why Nero Wolfe Likes Orchids," by Stout writing as "Archie Goodwin.")   The story finally made it into a collection of Nero Wolfe novellas, Death Times Three, in 1985 -- the only Nero Wolfe collection that was not first issued ina hardcover edition.  (Death Times Three also included the stories "Frame-Up for Murder" (an extensive re-write of the 1958 novella "Murder Is No Joke," reprinted in And Four to Go -- the rewrite, "Frame-Up for Murder," had never been reprinted in book form) and "Assault on a Brownstone" (an early draft of 1961's "Counterfeit for Murder," incl;uded in Homicide Trinity -- again, "Frame-Up for Murder" had never been included ina Nero Wolfe volume before.)

I had been reading some early Rex Stout (mainly general fiction) in preparation for Hard Case Crime's reissue of Stout's 1930 novel Seed in the Wind next month.  Coming across Corsage reminded me of just how much joy there was in his Nero Wolfe saga.


  • Max Allan Collins, Too Many Bullets.  A Nate Heller novel.  "In 1968 Nate Heller is there when Robert Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel.  Heller takes it upon himself to investigate the murder when  a friend fo his and Bobby's raises doubts about the LAPD's invetigation.  Heller strongly suspects the involvement of Jimmy Hoffa (currrently imprisoned), but Hoffa seems to be in the clear as the private eye looks into the possible presence of CIA enemies of RFK's on the murder night, the apparent manipulation of Sirhan Sirhan into a Manchurian Candidate-style assassin, and a probable second shooter."  (Back in real life, RFK, Jr., on the campaign trail, has been accusing the CIA of involvement in the murders of his father and his uncle.  Surprisingly, he inststs that both were shot, rather than killed by vaccines.)
  • Robert Crais, The Sentry.  A Joe Pike novel.  Following The Watchman and The First Rule, which brought Elvis Cole's partner Joe Pike front and center, Pike returns, this time "to a case that will rock him to his core.  Five years ago, Dru Rayne and her uncle fled from Louisiana to Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina hit, but now they face a different kind of danger.  A neighborhood protection gang savagely beats Dru's uncle, but Pike witnesses it and offers his own brand of protection.  Oddly enough, neither of them seems to want it -- and neither do the federal agents mysteriously watching their storefront, men who appear quite willing to let the gang have their way.  None of that deters Pike -- there's something about Dru that touches him and he won't back away, whether she wants his help or not -- but as the level of violence escalates, and Pike himelf becomes a target, he and Elvis Cole begin to discover some things.  Dru and her uncle are not who they seem, and everything Pike thought he knew about them, their relationship to the gang, and the reasons they fled New Orleans -- it's all been lies.  A vengeful and murderous force is catching up to them...and it's perfectly happy to sweep Pike and Cole up in its wake.
  • Ralph Dennis, all thirteen books in the Hardman series, hardboiled classics featuring unlicensed PI Jim Hardman:  Atlanta Deathwatch, The Charleston Knife Is Back in Town, The Golden Girl & All, Pimp for the Dead, Down Among the Jocks, Murder Is Not an Odd Job, Working for the Man, The Deadly Cotton Heart, The One-dollar Rip-off, Hump's First Case, The Last of the Armageddon Wars, The Buy Back Blues, and All Kinds of Ugly.  Ed Gorman once described Dennis as "the most beloved obscure provate eye writer who ever lived."
  • Erle Stanley Gardner, City of Fear, mystery colletion of seven stories originaly pubished in All Detective Magazine in 1933.  This one was also published as Pulp Tales Presents #1:  All Dtective Magazine -- Erle Stanley Gardner.  Also, Whispering Sands:  Stories of Gold Fever and the Western Desert, collecting nine of the twenty-one "Whispering Sands" stories tht Gardner published in Argosy between 1930 and 1934; seven of the stories reprinted here feature the desert-wise prospector Bob Zane. (Nine additional Whispering Sands/Bob Zane stories were reprinted in Pay Dirt and Other Whispering Sands Stories of Gold Fever and the Western Desert, which was part of last week's Incoming.)  I'm catching up on a number of Gardner's short story collections.
  • Lee Goldberg, the Diagnosis Murder series.  I recently read all fifteen of Lee Goldberg's tie-in novels for the television series Momk and I thought I would try the tie-in bovels Goldeberg wrote for Diagnosis Murder.  I ordered all eight books through diffeent vendors on Abebooks.  Here are the ones that have come in so far:  The Dead Letter (Nick Stryker, the infamous blackmailing LA private investigator has sent a package to Mark Sloan with the note, "If you are reading this, I'm dead."  Can Sloan figure out which powerful person put the kibosh on the sleazy PI?), The Death Merchant (While vacationing in Hawaii, Sloan's holiday is interrupted when a local restaraunteur falls victim to a shark attack.  Or did he?  The body is covered with corn syrup and red dye -- "movie blood" -- and had been dead before being dumped into the sea),  The Double Life (Sloan wakes up in the hospital and can't remember the last two years of his life, includng a wife he doesn't recognize), The Past Tense (The body of a woman dressed up as a mermaid lands on the beach outside Sloan's home.  The woman's stomach contains a memory card relating to an 43-year-old murder -- the first murder Sloan had ever solved.  Had he made a mistake back then?), The Shooting Script (Gunfire at a neighbor's house leads Sloan to discover the bullet-riddled bodies of an aspiring actress and a Hollywood producer.  The case may involve a local Mob kingpin), and The Silent Partner (Among the unsolved murders that the LA police have asked Sloan to look into is the death of a woman believed to have been the victim of the Reaper, a serial killer currently on death row.  It was never proven the the Reaper had killed that woman and Sloan suspects that, at least in this case, he is innocent).  First World Problem:  a book that I ordered through one online vendor has not shown up; instead the vendor sent two (count 'em two) copies of The Shooting Script, which I had ordered through another vendor.  Anyone interested in a copy (or two) of The Shooting Script, please let me know.
  • Julius Green, Curtain Up -- Agatha Christie:  A Life in Theatre.  A meticulously researched book on Christie and her contribution to popular theatre.  I have read a number of Chrisitie's plays and have seen a few of them, but I never realized bow many she actually wrote.  Green lists fifteen unpublished plays, including A Daughter's a Daughter (based on the "Mary Westmacott" novel), and plays adapted from Towards Zero, The Secret of Chimneys, and short stories "The Wasp' Nest," "Philomel Cottage," "The Last Seance," and "The Dead Harlequin," as well as an adaptation of the Arthur B. Reeves Craig Kennedy novel, The Exploits of Elaine.  I would love to be able to read these unpublished works.
  • Grady Hendrix, Ankle Snatcher.  An amazon short story from one of the most innovative horror writers we have.
  • Dean Koontz, Nameless, Season 1 and Nameless Season 2.  Koontzian horror.  Each "season" is broken down into six "episodes."  Season 1In the Heart of the Fire, Photographing the Dead, The Praying Mantis Bride, Red Rain, The Mercy of Snakes, and Memories of Tomorrow; Season 2The Lost City of the Soul, Gentle Is the Art of Death, Kaleidoscope, Loght Has Weight, But Darkness Does Not, Corkscrew, and Zero In.  An interesting marketing ploy from Koontz.
  • Roanld Malfi, The Night Parade.  Horror novel.  "First the birds disappeared.  Then the insects took over.  Then the madness began...They call it Wanderer's Folly -- a disease of delusions, of daydreams and nightmares.  A plague threatening to wipe out the human race.  After two years of creeping decay, David Arlen woke up one morning thinking the worst was over.  By midnight, he's bleeding and terrified, his wife is dead, and he's on the run in a stolen car with his eight-year-old daughter, who may be the key to a cure."
  • Matthew Rossi, Nameless, Book 1.  Bought by mistake, but what the hell, I'll give it a chance.
  • Theodore Sturgeon, The Complete Stories of Theodore Stugeon, Volume XIII:  Case and the Dreamer.  The final volume in this pivotal series, not to be confused with the 1974 Doubleday collection Case and the Dreamer.
  • Scott Van Doviak, Lowdown Road.  Crime novel.  "It's the summer of '74...Richard Nixon has resigned from office, CB radios are the hot new thing, and in the great state of Texas, two cousins hatch a plan to drive $1 million worth of stolen weed to Idaho, where some lunatic is gearing up to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocker-powered motorcycle.   But with a vengeful seriff on their trailand the revered and feared matijuana kingpin of Central Texas out to get his stash back, Chuck and Dean are in for the tide of their lives -- if they can make it out alive..."

  • Rex Stout, Seed on the Wind.  Psychological novel.  "The l;awyer, the jeweler, the art critic, and the oil-company man...self-possessed, independent Lora Winter has had a child with each of them.  But when one of these men drives up to her house with a fifth man in the car, Lora rtuns to hide.  That's how this extraordinary novel opens -- and by the time it ends, you'll have pieced together a masterful psychological jigsaw puzzle that is miles from a traditional crime novel, but whose desperate characters nevertheless resort to kidnapping, blackmail and possibly even murder."  Originally publilshed in 1930 and out of print for over ninety years, Seed on the Wind is one of four psychological novels Stout published before creating Nero Wolfe.  Hard Case Crime is bringing this one out on November 14, and will be publishing his 1929 novel How Like a God in June of 2024.  Will publisher Charles Ardai also bring out more of Stout's early work, such as Golden Remedy, Forest Fire, and the political thriller The President Vanishes?  Time will tell.  PREORDERED.

Fibonacci Numers:  In this TED Talk, "mathemagician" Arthur Benjamin eplains the wonderful world of Fibonacci numbers, a pattern that can be found throughout the universe.  Fascinating..

Oppossum Rock:  Just to liven up your Monday morning, here's Sonny Boy Williamson with "Opposum Rock."

Fantasmagorie:  1n 1908, Emile Cohl used the new stop motopmn process of phtography to create this unusual innovative and creative stream of conciousness cartoon.


Another Early Cartoon:  From 1912, the great Winsor McKay (Little Nemo in Slumberland, Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend, Gertie the Dinosaur) show us How a Mosquito Operates.

Today's Cryptid:  The Dover Demon is a creature that was reported seen in Dover, Massachusetts on April 21 and 22, 1977.  It is a large-eye creature with a small, stick-like body and "tendril-like fingers" and glowing eyes (perhaps orange, perhaps green).  It can be bipedal, but can also move on all fours.  It was probably about three and one-half to four feet tall.  Three separate sightings were reported over the two days.  First, William Bartlett claimed he saw the creature while driving on Farm Street on April 21; the beastie was perched on a broken stone wall.  The sighting lasted only a few seconds and Bartlett's two companions that evening did not see the creature.That same evening John Baxter reported seeing a similar creature on Miller Hill Road.  Baxter got a good view of the creature from about thirty feet away; ot's body reminded him of a monkey and it had a "large figure-eight shaped head." Then, Abby Brabham reported seeing the creature the following night on Springdale Avenue.  Not to pour cold water on the cryptid, but Bartlett was seventee-years-old and Baxter and Brabham were both fifteen-years-old, so the possibility of a teen-age prank cannot be ignored.  Plus the creature was never seen again.

Dover is a small town in Norfolk County, near Boston and adjacent to Wellesly.  Its popuoation o\in 2016 was 6,279; it's population in 1977 is estimated to be about 5,000.  It happens to be the wealthiest town in the Commonwealth.  I imagine the activities for a teenager in Dover in 1977 were limited.

The story of the Dover Demon has echoed through to this day.  Explanations -- other than a hoax -- were that the creature was a baby moose, a snowy owl, an escaped gibbon from a private zoo, a lttle too much underaged drinking, or the real thing -- a creature unknown to man.  You decide.

The Springhill Mining Disaster:  Today is the 65th anniversary of the Springhill Mining Disaster at the Springhill coal field in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.  This was actually the third disaster at the mines; the first taking place in 1891 and the second in 1956.  The 1958 disaster claimed the lives of 75 miners, while another 99 were rescued.  The tragedy was referenced in Richard BRautigan's poetry book The Pill Versus the Springhil Mine Disaster (1968), and was an Easter Egg in Disney's 1961 animated One Hundred and One Dalmatians.  Folksingers Ewan McCall and Peggy Seeger wrote "The Ballad of Springhill" in 1959; here's a version by Peter, Paul & Mary:

Happy Birthday:  It's been a few weeks since I listed natal felicitations.  Here's a few people celebrating birthdays today:

Wen Yanbo (1006-1097; scholar-official of the Song Dynasty who served four emperors over five decades; Saint Ignitius of Loyala (1491?- 1556; Spanish preist and theologiab, one of the founders of the Society of Jesus); Hedwig Eleanora of Holstein-Gottorp (1636-1715; Queen of Sweden, 1654-1660, regent for her son, 1660-1672, later regent for her grandson, 1697, then representing him during his absence in the Great Northern War, 1700-1713); Pieter Burmann the Younger (1713-1778; Dutch philogist and poet who wrote Anthologia Veterum Latinorum Epigrammatum et Poematum, 1759-1763; he evidently had a violent disposition); Samuel Moray (1762-1843; American inventor who worked with the internal combistion engine; he was a pioneer in steamships and held twenty patents); Chauncey Allen Goodrich (1790-1860; American lexicographer, educator, and clergyman; the son-in-law of Noah Webster, he edited his dictionary after Webster's death); Albert Lortzing (1801-1851; German German composer and librettist, known for his two comic operas Zar und Zimmermann, 1837, and Der Wildschutz, 1842); John Russell Bartlett (1805-1886; American historian and linquist; NOT the John Bartlett of Bartlett's Quotations); Pierre Larousse (1817-1885; French lexicographer and encyclopaedist; he founded the publishing house Editions Larousse and is known for Petit Larousse  and the 15-volume Grand dictionaire universel du XIXe siecle); Gustav Sporer (1822-1895; German astronomer noted for his studies of sunspots and sunspot cycles); Adlai Stevenson I (1835-1914; American vice president under Grover Cleveland; his grandson Adlai Stevenson II ran twice for president against Dwight D. Eisnhower); Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923; world-famous Fench actress with a "golden voice"); John Heisman (1869-1936; American football player and coach; the Heisman Trophy is named for him); "Speckled Red" (Rufus Geroge Perryman, 1892-1973; American blues and boogie-woogie artist, noted for his recordings of "The Dirty Dozens" -- a collection of insuots and vulgar remarks from the Afro-American tradition, i.e., "I want all you women to fall in line/And shake yo shimmy like I'm shakin' mine/You shake yo shimmy and you shake it fast/If you can't shake the shimmy, shake yo' yas, yas, yas");  Emma Vyssotsky (1894-1975; American astronomer whise specialty was the motion of stars and the kinematics of the Milky Way; an early pioneer in what was assumed to be a man's field); Bernt Balchen (1899-1973; Norwegian -- later American citizen -- pioneer polar aviator and one of the first four pilots to fly over the South Pole ;

Harvey Penick (1904-1995; American professional golfer and coach, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame); Felix Bloch (1905-1983; Swiss-American physicist and Nobel Prize Laureate; he is considered one the developers of nuclear magnetic resonance);  Yen Chia-kan (1905-1993; president of the Republic of China, 1975-1978, following the death of Chiang Kai-shek; Gertrude Ederle (1906-2003; she swam -- a lot); Ilya Frank (1908-1990; Soviet physicist and Noble Prize winner for his work in explaining the phenomenon of Chrenkov radiation); Zellig Harris (1909-1992; American linguist and mathematical syntactician; his contributions include "transfer grammar, string analysis, elementary sentence-differences and decomposition lattices, algebraic structures in language, operator grammar, sublanguage grammar, a theory of lin guistic information, and a pricipled accpount of the nature and origin of language" -- phew1); Simo Puupponen (1915-1967; prize-wining Finnish novelist under the pen name "Aapeli"); James Daly (1918-1978; American actor; he protrayed Cahd everett's superior in the television drama Medical Center, and starred in Saason Three of Foreign Intrigue; father of actors Tyne Daly and Tim Daly); Bob Montana (1920-1975; American cartoonist, creator of the comic book characters in Archie, many of them were based on hometown nad high school friends from Haverhill, Massachusetts); Jean Barker, Baroness Trumpington(1922-2018; British Conservative politician and life peer; she worked at Bletchley Park, cracking German naval codes; she recalled that former Prime Minister David Lloyd George "used to find reasons that were never explained to use a tape measure to take all her measurements"); Ned Rorem (1923-2022; American composer; he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for Air Music:  Ten Etudes for Orchestra); Frank Sutton (1923-1974; Actor who played Sergeant Carter on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.); Johnny Carson (1925-2005; comedian and talk show host); Dezso Gyarmati (1927-2013; Hungarian professional water polo player and three-time Olympic champion); Jim Bunning (1931-2017; American baseball player and politician; he pitched the seventh perfect game in Major League Baseball while with the Phillies; he represented Kentucky in both Chambers of the U.S. Congress);  Diana Dors (1931-1984; English model and actress, she was a blonde bombshell who actually had acting talent to accompany her pneumatic assets; the second of her three husbands was actor and game show host Richard Dawson); Vasily Belov (1932-2012; Soviet and Russian writer who published more than sixty books, including Business As Usual, Eves, and The Year of aajor Breakdown; he was a Russian nationalist who opposed the Soviet policy of collectivization); Carol Fran (1933-2021; American soul blues singer who sang with Guitar Slim, Nappy Brown, Lee Dorsey, Joe Tx, and her her husband Clarence Hollimon); Chi-Chi Rodrigues (b. 1935; professional golfer and the first Peuto Rican to be named to the World Golf Hall of Fame); Johnny Carroll (1937-1995; rockabilly musician who career was sadly eclipsed by early rock musicians such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash); Deven Verma (1937-2014; Indian film and television actor, noted for comic Bollywood roles); Charlie Foxx (1933-1998; who, with his younger sister Inez, formed a rhythym and blues soul duo whose original version of "Mockingbird" sold over a million copies); Ellie Greenwich (1940-2009; songwriter who wrote or co-wrote  such hits as "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Be My Baby." "Maybe I Know," "Then He Kissed Me," "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," "Christmas [Baby Please Come Home]," "Hanky-Panky," "Chapel of Love," "Leader of the Pack," and "River Deep - Mpuntain High"); Pele (1940-2022; he played footbal, or soccer, depending on what country you are from); Michael Crichton (1942-2008; American author who gave us both The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park; his unfinished novel Volcano will be completed by James Patteron and published in 2024); Anita Roddick (1942-2007; British businesswoman, human rights activist, and environmental cam paigner; she found The Body Shop, which helped shape the ethical consumerism movement); Mel Martinez (b. 1946; Secretary of Housing and Human developement under George H. Bush); Miklos Nemeth (b. 1946; Hungarian Olympic champiion and former world record holder in the javelin throw); Greg Ridley (1947-2003; English bass player and founding member of Humble Pie and Spooky Tooth); Brian Ross (b. 1948; investigative journalist; winner of at least 45 journalism awards); Nich Tosches (1949-2019; American journalist, novelist , and biographer; among his books was Hellfire:  The Jerry Lee Lewis Story, 1982; Wurzel (1949-2011; English musician who played guitar in Motorhead frm 1984-1995); Ang Lee (b, 1954; Taiwanese film director of Eat Drink Man Woman, Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and The Hulk); Dwight Yoakam (b. 1956; country music singer-songwriter); Paul Kagame (b. 1957; former rebel leader and current president of Rwanda; an authoritarian with a mixed record of accomplishments, he evidently has blood on his hands); Martin Luther King III (b. 1957; American activist); Nancy /Grace (b. 1959; Amercian lawyer and controversial journalist, unfortunately remembered for popping out of her costume on Dancing with the Stars); Sam Raimi (b. 1959; American filmmaker who directed the firs three films in the Evil Dead franchise and the Spider-Man trilogy, as well as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness); "Weird Al" Yankovic (b. 1959; American musician and parodist); Randy Pausch (1960-2008; he wrote The Last Lecture after learnig that he was dying of pancretic cancer); Laurie Halse Anderson (b. 1961; author of chldren's and YA books); Doug Flutie (b. 1962; quarterbeck who played professionally for 21 seasons, later a football commnetator and analyst); Gordon Koman (b. 1963; Canadian author of children's and YA books whose titles have sold over 30 million copies); Robert Trujillo (b. 1964; American bassist for Metallica since 2003): Augusten Burroughs (b. 1965; author of the memoir Running with Scissors); Walter Flanagan (b. 1967: comic book store manager and artist, and lead star on AMC's Comic Book Men); Sanjay Gupta (b. 1969; American neurosurgeon and television medical reporter); Jon Huiertas (b. 1969; actor with roles on Sabrina the Teenage WitchMoesha. Castle, and This Is Us); Grant Imahara (1970-2020; American electrical engineer and television host on MythBusters); Zoe Wiseman (b. 1970; former model and now photographer known for fine art nude photography); Kate de Castillo (b. 1972; Mexican-American actress who, at 19. had the lead role in the telenovela Nuchatitas; and in 2011 played the lead role in La Reina del Sur); Ryan Reynolds (b. 1976; actor producer businessman, Green Lantern, Deadpool, humanitarian, and People's 2010 Sexiest Man Alive); Meghan McCain (b. 1984; journalist and former co-host of The View); Emilia Clark (b. 1986; Daenerys Targaryen); Mako Komuro (b. 1991; former member of the Japanese imperial family who gave up her posittion when she married outisde the imperial family in 2021); Ireland Baldwin (b. 1995; model and activist for animal rights; the daughter of Alec Baldwin and Kim Bassinger); Amandla Stenberg (b. 1998; actress and intersectional feminist; she played Rue in 2012's The Hunger Games);and  Yui Kobayashi (b. 1999; Japanese model and member of the idol group  Sakurazaka46).

Happy birthday to all!

National Boston Cream Pie Day:  Yes, it is today!  Here's Betty Crocker's recipe for this american favorite:

(Today is also Slap Your Irritating Co-Worker Day.  I don't have a recipe for that so you're on your own.)

Don't Make Assumptions:  On the first day of school, many of the children brought i n gifts for their teacher.  The florist's son brought on a dozen roses; the candy store owner's daughter rought in a beautiful box of chocolates; and the liquor store owner's son brought in a big heavy bos.

The teacher lifted the box and notice that the box was leaking a little, so she touched the spot with her fingers and tasted it.  

"Is it wine?" She guessed.

The boy said no, so she tasted it again. "Is it champagne?" she asked.

"No," said the boy proudly.  "It's a puppy."

Florida Man:
  •  Florida doofues and supposed "Cartel" members Jeffrey Arista, 32, Jonathan Arista, 29, and Raymond gomez (age not given) used an Airbnb nea Fort Lauderdale, fake badges, and police lights to kidnap a man at gunpoint and water board him, only to discover they had gotten the wrong man.  The victim they were instructed to capture was a coworker of the man they grabbed.  Before the waterbording the trio threatened the victim with pistols, stun guns, and an electric drill.  After some 12 hours, they realized their mistake and =ecided to use the victimat hand to trap theeir true intended victim; because they had thrown the abductee's phone out of a miving vehicle when they captured him, they had to provide him with a new phone to call their true target.  The victim played along long enough to get away and call on a bomb threat, which triggered a massive police response.  The trio said they were hired because the victim had an unpaid debt; they refused to identify who had hired them for fear of eprisals.
  • Florida Man Tyler Fayconsolo, who according to reports was "high as f***", head butted a car window during a high speed chased and flopped out of the car.  It was all recorded on Marion County police video.
  • Florrida Woman Dawn Shepherd, 46, of Ocala, was arrested after she had a heated argument with a Liberty Middle School receptionist over a visitor's pass.  Shepherd was areested for battery against a public education official.  She had been at the school for a meeting with administration about educatioan plans for her two children.
  • A Florida Man in Indiatlanta has upset his neighbors by building a "man cave" in his back yard with shipping containers.  The unnamed man evidently waited two years for a permit to build his man cave, but it is nclear what the building permit did allow.  Brevard County has issued a stop work order while officials try to determine what to do about the situation; copunty codes allow the use of shipping containers as storage but do not allow the stacking of containers.  the homeowner has expressed a willingness to work toward a workable solution.
  • Baboo, the pet deer of Florida Man Michael Hanson of Palm coast was put down by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission after he allegedly attacked a 71-year-old man who had injuries to his hand and leg.  Officials teid Baboo to a telephone pole before cutting his throat, and the shot it.  They said the deer was put sown that way to preserve its brain for analysis.  A Flagler County sheriff's deputy said, "Seemed like he was very friendly because he wasn't afraid of us.  Makes me wonder if it anted not to attack but to play."  Hanson rscued the deer eighteen months ago after its mother had died.  He said he did not keep it captive but let it roam around freely.  Hanson would go out every morning and have coffee with him.  He'd leve his screen door open and the deer would lay on his couch.  "Hre didn't have a mean bone in his body," Hanson said.  Neightbors have set up a GoFundMe page for a memorial to Baboo to be placed on a nearby lot.
  • Orange County deputies drew thei guns on Demarquis Smith and handcuffed him in from of Clients and coworkers in Winter Park.  Oops, they had the wrong man.  the man they intended to arrst was four inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than Smith.  Eorrors like this happen all the time, Smith was told.  According to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, "It is not uncommon for deputies to detain someone suspected of a crime or who has a warrant for their arrest while their idetity is verified and charges are confirmed."  Smith's wife filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office, but had not heard back from them for ten days, so she went to the sheriff's office with a television news crew.  Although the sheriff's office has since been in touch with the family, they have yet to issue an apology.  "I feel like they should ask a little more questions, do more investigating than just acting because this could have been prevented if they just did a little more research," Smith's wife said.  The sheriff's office said they could not comment on a matter currently underreview.  When asked to speak more broadly about what happens when a person is detained due to mistaken identity and how often things like this happen, the office also declined comment.
  • Florida Bird Bachman's Warbler has been declared extincr.  That's it.  Gone. Kaput.  Finito.  The small yellow and black songnird that lived in Florida's brush is one of 21 endangered species declared extinct in 2023.   In Florida, there are 32 birds considered endangered or threatened, with more than 100 other at risk.  **sigh**

Good News:
  •  14-year-old invents soap for treating skin cancer
  • Herbal extract may improve mild dementia
  • Rolling Stones launch their first album in 18 years (Well, I think it's good news!)
  • Chicago marathoner gave up record finish to save kitten
  • Police officers retrieve couple's engagemtn ring after it fell into a sewage drain
  • Woman becomes first human fitted with nerve-and-bone-fused bionic limb
  • Wild mushroom harvest helps keep trees standing in Mozambique
  • Scientists have created natural sponges that soak up nanoplastics

Today's (Halloween) Poem:

Ghost House

I dwell in a lonely house I know

That vanished many a summer ago,

And left no trace but the cellar walls.

And a cellar in which the daylight falls

And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O'er ruined fences the grape-vines shield

The woods come back to the mowing field;

The orchard tree has grown one corpse

Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;

The footpath down to the well is healed.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart

In that vanished abode there far apart

On that disused and forgotten road

That has no dust-bath now for the toad.

Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is comiong to shout

And hush and cluck and flutter about;

I hear him begin far enough away

Full many a time to say his say

Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.

I know not who these mute folk are

Who share the unlit place with me --

Those stones out under the low-limbed tree

Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad --

Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad --

With none among them that ever sings,

And yet, in view of how many things,

As sweet companions as might be had.

-- Robert Frost

Saturday, October 21, 2023


 The Chuck Wagon Gang.

Friday, October 20, 2023


 Sometimes it is painful to look at the past.  Case in point, this 1882 catalogue, New York Publishing Co.'s Mammoth illustrated Catalogue of Useful Hand Books, Joke Books, Magic Books, Comic Books, Song Books, and Interesting Miscellaneous Works.  Among the many titles explaining to readers the ins and outs of wooing fair maidens, how to ice skate, how to perform various magic and conjuring tricks, how to hypnotize, and how to swing clubs and dumbbells, are a variety of racist tomes detailing ethnic jokes and skits -- usually targeting Blacks (or "Darkies," as the catalogue points it), but also the Irish, Italians, and just about any other put-upon minority at the time you could list.  And then there's Hints on Courtship, Marriage and the ToiletteFlirtation Made Easy, or The Art Revealed includes a section on parasol flirtation (something I may want to master).  Simple Method of Dog and Horse Training includes this section:  "TRAINING OF STEERS -- Recipes."  (Wait.  What?)  There are books on party games, ventriloquism, conumdrums, and a  number of books detailing the life and history of various sideshow and circus freaks (The Bear Man, The Smallest Chinese Dwarf, The Four-Legged Girl, The Living Skeleton,. The Magnetic Boy, The Tattooed Lady, The Gentleman Born Without Hands or Feet, The Wonderful Dwarf and Her Child (That Was Never Born), etc., etc., and etc.).  Truly, there is something here for every lack of taste.

Check it out.  But please, for the love of all that's good in this world, don't try to order any of these books.

Thursday, October 19, 2023


 Danny Dunn and the Heat Ray by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin  (1962)

The boy scientific genius is a constant meme in juvenile and young adult book series.  Think Tom Swift or Rick Brant.  For a boy scientific genius who is not really a genius, I would go with Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin's Danny Dunn.  Danny is smart and curious, but he is not a genius.  Unlike many other lead characters in such series, Danny is all too human.  He can be petty, impulsive, stubborn, and unthinking -- all traits he must overcome on his road to adulthood.

Danny lives the town of Midston with his widowed mother who acts housekeeper for Professor Euclid Bulfinch, a renowned scientist associated with Miston University.  Bulfinch, who looks on Danny as a son, admires the boy's curiosity and often allows him to view and sometimes takes part in his experiments, despite the fact that Danny sometimes gets into trouble without meaning to.  Danny's best friend is Joe Pearson, a sometime comic foil who does not understand or appreciate technology.  Joe loves food and wants to be a writer:  he often composes amusing ppoems about their aventures and the people they meet.  In the third book in the series, Irene Miller moved next door to Danny.  Irene's father is an astronomer at Miston University and Irene has caught the scientific bug from him; Irene is especially intersted in physics.  (This type of series is male-oriented, but it musyt be nore that Irene is an eaual partner here -- something quite unusual for books of this type.)  For most of the series the three friends are in the sixth grade.  Because a juvenile series always needs a villain, there's Eddie "Snitcher" Phillips, a bully who is jealous of Danny and his friends.  (The kid villains in this type of series are seldom really evil; they're just stupid, lazy, and unthinking.)  The location of the town of Miston is never spelled out, but hints in the series place it somewhere in Maine.  

The books in the series vary from science fiction to pure adventure, but always with a healthy dose of science background.  In Danny Dunn and the Heat Ray, the seventh in the series, Danny learns what holds an airplane up in flight and also about lasers -- a rather uncommon subject in 1962, and the "heat ray" of the title.

We start with Danny using a small unused weather balloon that Professor Bulfinch had given him.  Danny had filled the balloon with helium and was using it to carry his books to school.  This led to a conversation about airplanes when neither Danny or Irene admitted they did not know how airplanes actually worked.  In science class, the teacher announced that they would take part in a state science fair and each sudent was to come up with a project for the fair.  Danny and Irene (and Joe, somewhat unwillingly) decided to something on flight.  Danny asked his mother to call her cousin Cahrles Matthews, a professional pilot and volunteer for the Civilian Air Patrol, to see if he would be willing to eplain the mechanics of flight to them.  Matthews was due for a fire patrol flight the next monring for the CAP, and he invited Danny along.  Fire season was starting and it was important to get es early a notice about brush and forest fires as soon as possible.  While Matthews and Danny were flying over an isolated cow pasture, they saw a Rolls Royce in the middle of the pasture, with its driver frantically waving them down.

The driver of the Rolls was a short-tempered, gruff, and imperious industrialist named Glenway Pippit.  Pippit had been on his way for an apppointment with the president of Miston University, and had become impatient with his directions and decided to take a short cut -- one that led him to the middle of a cow pasture, completely lost.  He had flagged down the plane merely to get directions back to the university.  Matthews and Danny were amazed at the gall of the testy man, but Danny agreed to ride with Pippit and show him the way.  Pippit, it seems, was considering giving the university a one million dollar research grant.

Danny and Irene decided that they would buld a wind tunnel for the science fair to demonstrate how the design of an airplane wing helped a plane stay in the air.  They wanted to use smoke blown into the tunnel to show the movement of air currents, so they went to Professor Bulfinch for ideas.  Bulfinch was working on a new adaptation for lasers when they arrived.  Shortly thereafter the unoversity president and Mr. Pippit arrived for a demonstation of Bulfinch's laser.  Pippit asked what the value the laser had i the real world...cold it be used as a weapon of war?  Bulfinch was shocked, saying that many other uses could be found for the invention, but warfare was not one that he condoned.  Later, Pippit interviewed of the scientist at the university and was upset that none wanted their experiments to be used for military purposes.

Danny and Irene were afraid that Pippit might not give the university the much-needed grant money.  Then Danny had an idea that might make a profitable use for Bullfinch's laser that Pippit could get behind -- he could use the laser to dry up bogs, leaving dry land available for development and construction.  (Danny forgot that bogs were fed by underwater springs, making the scheme impossible.)  Bulfinch was a meeting, but Danny did not want to wait.  He and Joe dug a hole in the back yeard and filled it with water, crating a muddy mess.  Irene got Pippit to come and see the experiment and the Professor's "heat ray" dried the mud in no time.  Pippit told the trio that their idea would not work and why, but then he got an idea of his own.  He aimed the heat ray at the hole, eventually exposing several rocks that now glowed with extreme heat.  Pippit then began to consider the heat ray as a weapon of war, destroying the enemy and their supplies without impunity.  He got so excited that he accidently stepped in front of the ray and caught his pants on fire.  Luckily, Joe had two buckets of water on hand and he poured the water on Pippit.  Unluckily, Joe's hand slipped and one of the buckets clocked to industrialist on the he head, knocking him into the mud.  Pippit left in a fury.

Danny tried to call Pippit's hotel room the next day and discovered that he had left in a hurry.

Reports came in that a forest fire had started in the general direction of where Pippit was headed.  Fearful that the pigheaded industrialist might be caught in the blaze, Professor Bulfinch hopped in his car to find him.  The Professor and Pippit soon found themselves surrounded by the hungry flames, and Danny had a desperate idea on how to save the pair.  Danny and Charles Matthews and Professor Bulfinch's heat ray soon took off in Matthews' tiny Piper Colt aircraft.

What was Danny's plan?  We know it's going to work and leave us with a happy ending, but how?  

Jay Williams (1914-1978) was the author of at least 79 books, including 39 children's novels, 11 picture books, 8 historical novels, 7 mystery novels, 4 nonfiction books, and a play.  Perhaps best-known for his Danny Dunn series, his mystery novels in his "Case for Cannon" series written as by "Michael Delving" were quite popular, as were his historical novels The Wirches and Solomon and Sheba.  Williams was noted for his rigorous research for his books.  His co-author, Raymond Abrashkin (1911-1960) was a filmmaker.  Abrashkin died at age 49 from ALS after co-writing the fifth book in the Danny Dunn series.  Williams insisted that Abrashkin be listed as co-author on remaining books in the series because he had done so much to formulate the series as a whole.

I find the entire Danny Dunn series charming and wish I had started reading it when I was in the sixth or seventh grade.

The Danny Dunn series:

  • Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint  (1956)
  • Danny Dunn on a Desert Island  (1957)
  • Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine  (1958)
  • Danny Dunn and the Weather Machine  (1959)
  • Danny Dunn on the Ocean Floor  (1960)
  • Danny Dunn and the Fossil Cave  (1961)
  • Danny Dunn and the Heat Ray  (1962)
  • Danny Dunn, Time Traveler  (1963)
  • Danny Dunn and the Automated House  (1965)
  • Danny Dunn and the Voice from Space  (1967)
  • Danny Dunn and the Smallifying Machine  (1969)
  • Danny Dunn and the Swamp Monster  (1971)
  • Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy  (1974)
  • Danny Dunn, Scientific Detctive  (1976)
  • Danny Dunn and the Universal Glue  (1977)

Wednesday, October 18, 2023


Murder by Experts ran from June 13, 1949 to December 17, 1951 on the Mutual Radio Network for a total of 130 programs.  The show was created by writer/producers Robert Arthur and David Kogan, creators of The Mysterious Traveler and other popular suspense programs.  Unlike their other radios series, Arthur and Kogan did not create the stories aired; instead, they relied on stories by some of the best crime writers of the day; the stories were, however, adapted by Arthur and Kogan, with an occasional assist from several freelancers -- none of the author of the original stories actually wrote the scripts.   Still, the quality of the scripts and the plots made Murder by Experts one of the best crime dramas on the air.  The /Mystery writers of America gave a nod to Arthr and Kogan to let them use the names of their members to help promote the show.  Because so few of the shows remain in existence today, there is quite a bit of confusion about the series.  Most of the episodes were hosted by John Dickson Carr (who left the show in mid-1950 to be replaced by "Brett Halliday" (Davis Dresser), but Alfred Hitchcock was either the host or a guest on some of the very last episodes.  The program won an Edgar for Best Radio Drama in 1950, and David Kogan accepted the Edgar live at the end of the episode that aired on April 24, 1950.

In "Two Coffins to Fill," a man decides to kill his rich wife but all of his plans backfire.  The story was selected by mystery writer "Kelley Roos," who was actually the husband and wife writing team of Audrey and William Roos.  The story they chose was one written by Robert Foster; I was unable to trace either the original story or the author **sigh**.  Featured in the cast were Karl Weber, Eleanor Phelps, Jimmy Stevens, Miriam Wolfe, and Maurice Tarpin.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023


"Cannon in Front of Them" by Manly Wase Wellman (from Short Stories, October 25, 1944)

Confederate Captain C aldecott allowed himself to be captured by Union troops at Seven Pines in order to facilitate his battery to be captured -- the South could spare a captain more easily than if could guns   Six days later he seized a musket and jumped from a train, only to be captured.  He escaped once more from a train station in Philadelphia and was recaptured outside Medina.  Finally, he was shipped to Fort Lowery in Minnesota, presumably too far from the South for him to make an escape.  But escape he did.  And now he finds himself surrounded on the prairie by searching soldiers and their Indian guide, onve agai to head beck to captivity..

Fort Lowery is staffed by two companies of third-rate infantry, "one hundred and fifty misfits, convalescents and shambling recruits," led in the main by "elderly uninspired officers [who] had been activated for this slipshod frontier duty."  The fort's two cannons are antiquated and rusty and had not been cared for for years.  Caldecott, who had been given the run of the camp (because where could he go?) is asked by Lieutenant Rovelle to show the infantrymen the use of the cannon (because when would the Union soldiers need them?) as a way to keep his soldiers busy.  Caldecott was a fiece and loyal Southerner.  If he had thought his showing the Union troops how to operate the cannon would have helped the Union Army, he would not have done so.  Caldecott's one burning ambition was to get back into the was and help his Conferates drive the bluecoats as far north as possible.  But Fort Lowery also held pretty Amy Rovelle, the daughter of Lieutenant Rovelle, who admired Caldecott as a person, rather than a Confederate officer.  And Caldecott's feelings for Amy were almost as strong as his feelings for his loyalty to the Confederacy.

An overheard conversation and a misinterpretation of Amy's words led to a disagreement between the two.  That, followed by a saber attack by a union paymaster, led Caldecott to be placed in the Firt's jail; for three days.  That was when the Sioux attacked.  Anyone not able to make it back to the walls of the fort were slaughtered.  Caldecott is released from his cell to join the fray.  Both the Sioux and the hapless soldiers of Fort Lowery did not plan on a brave Confederate artillery officer.

"Cannon in Front of Them" is your basic by-the-books story.  the reader nows exactly what is going to happen and how it will all turn out.  Two things make the tale stand out:  the detail given to the frontier post and to the intricate operation of the cannon, and the character of Captain Caldecott (who was never given a first name).   The Civil War is framed as a fight between Southern cotton and New England factories -- with no mention of slavery (or even state's rights).  Caldecott is fighting for "his" country and will do nothing to betray it and whatever he can to asdvance its cause.  Within this framework, Caldecott is Noble with a capital N.

Manly Wade Wellman, although born in Angola, considered himself a proud Southerner.  (His middle name came from General Wade Hampton.)  Much of his nonfiction and a godly part of his juvenile fiction dealt with the South and with the Civil War.  His book REBEL YELL is an effective homage to the young men who fought and died for the Confederacy.  He was a friendly and much-loved Southern gentleman, something that belies his blindness to slavery as the main cause of the Civil War and his opinio that the original Ku Klux Klan (back when it supposedly opposed the the corruption of Reconstruction, rather than being a white supremist, racist group) was a noble organization.   Wellman was also know to leave a fice dollar bill in a tree hollow and to return to find a jug of white lightning.

Well is best-known today for his tales of fantasy and horro, although he wrote in many fields -- historical, western, detective, science fiction, sports, plays, and general fiction, as well as (as mentioned above) many works of nonfiction.  He won an Edgar Award for his nonfiction collection about murders in North Carolina.  One of his stories beat out one by William Faulkner to win an Ellery Queen prize.  He also was active in writing for comic books, and scripted the very first story about Captain Marvel.  His work is immensely readable.  In 2013, the North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundtion has been issuing the Manly Wade Wellman Award for outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy by a North Carolina author.  Although much of his fantasy has been reissued in recent years, his work in other fields remains a treasure trove to be mined by present-day publishers.

The October  25, 1944 issue of Short Stories is available online at Internet Archive.  (This issue also contains stories by Hapsberg Liebe, Bert David Ross, Roy C. Rainey (a house name),  H. Bedford John ( the conclusion of a serial, and a tale under his "Gordon Keyne" pseudonym), George S. Rosenber (under his "George Armin Shaftel" pseudonym), Oliver Pruden, and Robert H. Leitfred.  Some good reading here.)


 Just because Halloween is right around the corner.  Enjoy.

Saturday, October 14, 2023


 Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Friday, October 13, 2023


Based on the popular western film, radio, and television character, The Cisco Kid was a daily (Monday through Saturday) comic strip for King Features from January 15, 1951 through August 10, 1968.  Intricately drawn by Argentine comic artist Jose Luis Salinas (1908-1985) and scripted by veteran cmics writer Rod Reed (1910-1989), the strip has been aclaimed as one of the best western comic strips.  Salinas was heavily influenced by Alex Raymond  and his work has been compared to that of Hal Foster.  The scope and backgrounds of his artowork reflects the mythic West at its best, and his depiction of the facial characteristics of his subjects was rare in its detail; plus, no comic strip artist could draw a horse as consistently well as Salinas.

The strip was reprinted in New Zealand in comics issued by Feature Producrions, Ltd., of Wellington.  The issues reprinted  thirty daily strips, two to a page, in a wide formats that displayed Salinas' ivstas to full effect.

Issue #8 opens on a shoot-out.  Previously, night club singer Silver Belle has hidden the map to a lost mine in the piano.  Her boyfriend, Mr. Ragtime the pianist, is jealous of Cisco.  Cisco has just shot bad guy One-Eyed Jack, who had ambushed out hero from a near-by balcony.  What Cisco does not ralize is that one of One-Eye Jack's confederates os sneaking up behind him with a very evil looking knife.  A shot rings out and the wouid-be knifer is killed, shot by Mr. Ragtime.  Rgtime, however, still consumed by jealousy, turns his gun on Cisco, vowing to also kill him.  He is stopped by Silver Belle, who declares her love for him.  It turns out that One-Jack has destroyed the map, but Cisco knows its location.  Cisco also reveals to Silver Belle that her father was not a criminal, he was a brave and honorable man who had been murdered by criminals.  The three of them -- Cisco, Silver Belle, and Mr. Ragtime -- ride out to the mine, where they meet Pancho.  Cisco gives the mine to Silver Belle and Mr, Ragtime as a wedding presnt, and he and Pancho ride off to another adventure.

Outside of the town of Squawville, Cisco and Pancho stop at a local ranch, seeking work.  The rancher, though has fallen on hard times and had to recently lay off five of his top hands.  He tells the pair they would be lucky if they found any work from there to the border.  Cisco and Pancho decide to check out Squawville.  The owner of the local stage line is posting a "Help Wanted -- Must Be a Good Shot" sign; local wags suggest the sign should read, "Men wanted to commit suicide -- must be good targets."  Needles to say, Squawville has an outlaw problem.  As Cisco and Pancho are talking to the stage manager, the local stage comes roring in without a driver and out of control.  Cisco goes into action, grabbing the runaway horses and calming them to avoid any injury to civilians.  The missing driver is the fifth the stage line has lost in a month.  The outlaw behind the stage robberie is only known as "Mr. Crooked Dagger."  Cosco and Pancho do not shy way from danger (well, Cisco anyway; Pancho thinks he'd rather be cleaning out stables) and are hired on as driver and shotgun guard.  On their first run, Cisco's alert eyes spy a bushwacker and shoots him.  The outlaw ganf, hearing the shot, figure it is a signal from the bushwacker, and are surprised to see him wounded and the stage taking flight.  "Mr. Crooked Dagger" cannot stand failaure and shoots the bushwacker in cold blood, then he orders his gang to catch the stage.  (There's a great, action-filled, panoramic panel showing the chase.)  The bad guys are gaining because the weight of the stage is just a bit too much for the horse.  While Cisco is firing at the bandirs, Pancho jumps off the stage to lighten the load.  Cisco realizes what Pancho has done and it appears the gang has just found Cisco's "hefty hunk of hombre" friend.

To be continued.

Lots of action, great artwork, and a great pair of heroes.  What more could you ask for?