Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, April 30, 2024


 "The Outside Ledge:  A Cablegram Mystery" by "L. T. Meade" (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) & "Robert Eustace" (Eustace Robert Barton) (first published in The Harmsworth Magazine, October 1900; reprinted in A Treasury of Victorian Detective Stories, edited by E. F. Bleiler, 1979; reprinted in Purr-fect Crime, edited by Carol-Lynn Rossell Waugh, Martin H. Greenberg, & Isaac Asimov, 1989;  reprinted in 100 Dastardly Little Detective Stories, edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan Dziemianowicz, & Martin H. Greenberg, 1993; reprinted in the Meade and Eustace collection The Detections of Miss (Florence) Cusack, 1998; reprinted in The Big Book of Female Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler, 2018)

Miss Florence Cusack appeared in only five detective stories by L. T. Meade & Robert Eustace; she was one of the few female detectives who followed the great popularity of Sherlock Holmes.  Unlike with many detectives, Miss Cusack's cases were not whodunnits, for we know n the villain at the outset, but howdunnits.  Miss Cusack's willing but sometimes befuddled Watson was Dr. Lonsdale, who was always willing to give her a hand.

Oscar Hamilton is a successful financier, whose main investments are on South African Gold Mines.   His trading on the Stock Exchange relies on confidential information delivered to him by his gent in South Africa, a man entirely above reproach.  (Although not really stated, I gather the information led to insider trading, a practice that seemed not to bother the financial or legal authorities.  Times were different then.)  Somehow the information is being leaked to one of Hamilton's rivals, a Mr. Gildford.  Despite a layer of secrecy and many protections against the information being leaked out, when Hamilton's broker arrives at the Stock Exchange to follow Hamilton's orders for the day, he finds that Gildford had just been there, dealing in the same stocks, in the same amount, and with the same instructions that Hamilton had given the broker.  The result for Hamilton was a loss of money, or, at the very best, far less returns on his investments than he should have.

Obviously Gildford somehow had access to Hamilton's confidential information.  But how?  the information was cabled directly to Hamilton from South Africa; strict measures were taken there to prevent any leaks.  When each message arrived, the only persons in  the room were Hamilton, his partner Le Marchant, and Hamilton's broker.  Neither Hamilton nor Le Marchant left the room after the broker left with his instructions.  Hamilton's entire staff was also quarantined as an extra precaution.  Telephone and cable wires were disabled to prevent information getting out that way.  Both Hamilton's and Gildfords's offices were under close watch and Gildford's communication wires were also disabled.  There seemed to be no humanly way the information could have gotten out.

The villain, of course, is Le Marchant, who had racked up sizable gambling debts.  Le Marchant is engaged to Evelyn Dudley, the only daughter of wealthy Colonel Dudley of the Coldstream Guards, and the pair is due to be married the following Monday.  Once the marriage takes place, the Colonel will be forced to settle Le Marchant's debts for his daughter's sake.  Evelyn is a dear friend of Miss Cusack, who is determined to prove Le Marchant a blackguard and prevent Evelyn from marrying the scoundrel.  But how?

Miss Cusack arranges a small dinner party with Evelyn and Le Marchant, and Dr. Lonsdale is also present to take help judge Lonsdale's character in case Miss Cusack is in error about Evelyn's finance.  During the dinner, Miss Cusack and Dr. Lonsdale notice a distinct odor.  It is valerian.  The smell is coming from Lonsdale's handkerchief.  He states that he has been nervous lately and his doctor had prescribed a few drops of valerian in water; somehow some drops must have ended up on his handkerchief -- an explanation Miss Cusack finds specious.

The odor of valerian was all Miss Cusack needed to determine what had happened.  As can be expected, Dr. Lonsdale (and the reader) is left completely in the dark until the solution is revealed.

L. T. Meade (1844-1914) was a prolific author of nearly 200 books, many of them novels for young girls.  In the mystery field she is noted for Stories from the Diaries of a Doctor (two volumes), written with Clifford Halifax, The Sorceress of the Strand (with Eustace), The Brotherhood of Seven Kings (with Eustace), and three volumes about occult detective   Diana Marburg, the Oracle of Maddox Street.  In all, Meade published 66 mystery books, as compared to her 149 girl's and children's books, and her 101 miscellaneous books and twelve miscellaneous collections for young readers.

Robert Eustace, a medical doctor, collaborated with Meade on eleven books. and with Edgar Jepson and with actress Gertrude Warden on one book apiece.  He is best known today for co-authoring The Documents in the Case with Dorothy L. Sayers.  Most of his contributions in these collaborations was supplying scientific and medical backgrouns, as well as the occasional plot idea.


 This shining example of cinematic cheese began as 1963's The Madmen of Mandoras, then was reworked with much added footage and characters to become They Saved Hitler's Brain in 1968.

I don't think I really have to describe the film; the title says it all.

All that's left is for you to sit back and try to enjoy (if that's the word) the acting chops of Walter Stocker and Audrey Caire, as well as Bill Freed's attempt to portray Hitler.


 A jaunt to South Carolina provided most of the books listed below.

  • Mike Ashley & Eric Brown, editors, The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne Adventures.  23 short stories, all but two of them original.  "Ian Watson tells of a journey deep into the Earth's core, where Verne adventurers do battle with occultist Nazis.  Adam Roberts takes us to latter-day California, where a descendant of Verne's Hector Servadac is preparing for the end of the world.  Molly Brown reveals how the Baltimore Gun /club plan to make the Moon habitable by seeding it with garbage.  Johan Heliot strips away the masks to reveal the real reason of Phileas Fogg's intrepid journey around the world.  Michael Mallory describes how Captain Nemo attempts to stop the unleashing of atomic power." Among the other authors are Stephen Baxter, Ian Watson, Richard A. Lupoff, Sharan Newman, Brian Stableford, Tim Lebbon, Kevin J. Anderson, and Paul Di Filippo.
  • Brian Azzarello, John Constantine, Hellblazer:  Good Intentions and John Constantine, Hellblazer:  Highwater.  Volumes 14 and 15 in the graphic novel series.  I'm hedging with these because I actually bought them, along with the Paul Jenkins/Grath Ennis volume (q.v.)as gifts for Jack.  Jack has really been into the DC television series Legends of Tomorrow and his favorite character on the show is John Constantine.  At least it was a couple of weeks ago.  Jack is eleven and interests are apt to veer into strange directions at strange times at that age.  No matter.  I plan to grab them off Jack's shelf and read them sometime over the next month.  Volume 14 has Constantine collects fifteen issue of the comic book (plus a bonus story),  with everybody's favorite wizard back in America and stuck in a maximum security prison serving  a 35-year sentence for murder.  Volume 15 collects the next 13 issues, and has Constantine facing both white supremacists in Montana  and a very different find of evil in Los Angeles as he attempts to find who has framed him, and why.
  • Ian M. Banks, Feersum Endjinn.  Classic science fiction novel.  "Count Alandre Sessine IV has already died seven times.  He has only one life left -- and one last chance to catch his killer.  His only clues point to a conspiracy beyond his own murder.  For a catastrophe is fast approaching Earth.  And a chosen few will do anything to keep it a secret."  And from the Gollanz SF Masterworks edition:  "It is the time of the Encroachment and, although the dimming sun still shines on the vast, towering walls of Serehfa Fastness, the end is close at hand.  The King knows it, his closest advisors know it, yet still they prosecute the war against the clan Engineers with increasing savagery.  the crypt knows it too; so an emissary has been sent who holds the key to all their futures."  This one won the British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel.
  • Ken Bruen, editor, Dublin Noir.  Subtitled "The Celtic Tiger vs. The Ugly American".  Crime anthology with 19 stories by  Eoin Colfer, Jason Starr, Laura Lippmasn, Olin Steinhauer, Duane Swierczynski, Reed Farrel Coleman,Gary Phillips, and others.
  • Stuart J. Byrne, Starman.  Science fiction novel.  "Astronaut Larry Buchanan travels 500 years into the future to become involved in an interstellar war -- learning the terrible truth that even as man expands throughout time and space, he continues to repeat the horrors of history -- blindly refusing to learn from the past -- on a terrifying galactic scale!"   Ho-hum.  This 1969 novel is an extensive rewrite of a 1952 three-part serial in Other Worlds Science Stories, under the title Power Metal, which was also published as a trade paperback in 2015 as by "S. J. Byrne."  Starman was published by small paperback house Powell Publications, which published a number of instantly forgettable science fiction titles, the best of which could be called "routine."
  • Erskine Caldwell, Greta, Tragic Ground, and Trouble in July.  Caldwell was the popular author of novels set in the South dealing with poverty. racism, and other social issues.  Best known for Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre, he was at one time touted as the most widely read author in the world, with individual novels selling in the millions.  Somewhat forgotten now, his books are still worthwhile.  I cam across three of then in old Signet paperback editions and could not resist.  Greta (1955, in the 13th Signet printing) is "the story of a beautiful woman who wanted only the love of her husband but was compelled, through her own weakness, to love many men."  Tragic Ground (1944, in the 31st Signet printing, which claims over 4,500,000 copies sold worldwide) is "the story of Spence Douthit and his rowdy mixups with his jealous wife, his wild young daughters, and a pretty social worker.  It is a book in the Caldwell tradition -- earthy, ribald, powerful...the grippijng drama of a man's attempts to break away from the corrupting influence of a slum to which he finds himself bound by his own weaknesses and excesses..."  Trouble in July (1940, 38th Signet printing, which claims nearly 3,000,000 copies sold) tells of "the emotions that grip a small Southern town when a young girl falsely accuses an innocent Negro boy of assault.  It is a novel of violence, of courage...and sometimes humor as Erskine Caldwell reveals the unexpected reactions of ordinary people in crisis."  Quick, though not necessarily easy reads, the longest of the three has only 144 pages.
  • Lin Carter, Beyond the Gates of Dream.  Science fiction-fantasy collection of six stories, plus an excerpt from a work in progress (which did not progress very far).  Included is a Gernsback satire, a Conan pastiche, and a few odds and ends.  In his introduction Carter lied by writing, "This book contains a lot of science fiction short stories..."  At least half of the items are fantasy.  Carter did not lie, however, when he wrote, "I'm not much of a short story writer."  Carter was basically a fanboy writer, producing a great number of slavishly imitative books of the gosh-ow type of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and pulp hero stuff that he grew up on.  And, while none of these are great classics, they are enjoyable time wasters for thems that likes that sorta stuff; you can do far worse than his novels.  His main claim to fame, though, was as an editor, and there, his influence -- especially in curating the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line -- cannot be overstated .  Oh.  And the except printed in this book, it's from an intended massive Tolkien-Dunsany-Eddison mashup that Carter thought would be his magnum opus, the Khymyrium.  Alas, all the reached print was three excerpts (the other two were published in anthologies edited by Carter) and a brief fan article about his plans for the book.
  • Lin Carter, The Thief of Thoth, bound with Frank Belknap Long, ...And Others Shall Be Born.  "Two complete science fiction novels" (for which read two novellas published in paperback as a Belmont Double.  "What mysterious power emanated from the bejeweled crown of stars that rulers of three planets frantically sought its possession?"  And, "The portals of the unknown had opened wide, then had closed, leaving a horror of monstrous proportions.  The figure's eyes seemed lidless and sheathed with a thin film like a snake.  But they were so penetratingly malignant that they pierced deep into the man's brain, mercilessly exploring all that was there -- laying his thoughts bare like a visual scalpel that mad him scream every time it was moved."  I have no idea which of these publisher descriptions was meant for which story;  frankly, I not about to spend the time now to find out.  If it's any help, Carter described his story as a "wild and wooly sf [parody] of the crime-fighting exploits of James Bond and the sort of space opera Doc Smith used to write."  (Somehow I never considered spy-guy Bond as a crime-fighter, but that could just be me.)
  • Simon Clark, editor, The Mommoth Book of Sherlock Holmes Abroad.  Fifteen original tales of Sherlock a-travelin'.
  • John Creasy, Gideon's River.  Published under his "J. J. Marric" pseudonym, the fourteenth novel in the series.  "a band of dangerous jewel thieves plans to raid a posh riverboat.  A teenage girl is snatched by a murderous kidnapper -- right out from under her mother's nose.   A young man is beaten, tortured and drowned in the dark river.  Commander George Gideon, Scotland Yard's genius of detection, wades through a swamp of baffling clues only to discover -- with alarm -- that he may, already, be over his head..." And, If Anything Happens to Hester.  A John Mannering (The Baron) novel, originally titled Black for the Baron and published under his Anthony Morton pseudonym.  "Hester Vane was a vibrant, headstrong, beautiful young girl who should have been enjoying the best of everything.  Instead she was fleeing from vicious accusations of murder and hiding for her life.  Mannering knew that in order to solve the crime Hester had to be protected.  But with the police on one side and an unknown killer on the other, he also knew that he was stuck in the middle of a web of danger where there was no easy way out -- alive."
  • [Ellery Queen], Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, May/June 2021, November/December 2021, March/April 2022, and November/December 2023, Janet Hutchings, editor.  I used to collect EQMM and had most of the issues through the mid-Fifties and all the issues until Dell took over publishing, subscribing to it for several years.  But the Dell's fulfillment department was sadly lacking, and I was receiving only about 8 issues  a year out of 8 published annually.  (The same delivery rate held for other Dell magazines, Asimov's and Analog.)  In addition I would receive whatever copies came through at random times of the month, and once or twice not until the beginning of the following month -- the fault may have partially rested with my local post office, but if so, only partially.  Basically,  by the time I realized I was missing a specific copy and notified the publisher, I was told that copies of the missing issues were not available (all remaining copies of those issues had been automatically pulped, they said.), but they would extend my subscription to account for the missing issues.  This really ticked off my obsessive-compulsive inner being and let the subscriptions lapse.  also since, newsstand copies were rarely available in my area, I soon gave up on EQMM altogether.  My loss, because I have been missing on some great stories.  Anyway, I found these four recent copies for 20 cents apiece and grabbed them.  I look forward to reading them, but I'll be damned if I'll subscribe again.  I carry a grudge, you see.
  • Robin Furth (plot) & Peter David (script), Stephen King's The Dark Tower:  The Drawing of the Three -- Bitter Medicine.  Graphic novel.  "The Gunslinger has taken Odetta Holmes to Mid-World to join his quest to reach the Dark Tower, but little do Roland and Eddie know that Odetta has a dark side that poses a threat to everything!  And when love begins to blossom, one of their lives would be put at risk.  Meanwhile, Roland's illness is becoming critical, and that means drastic action is required.  As Odetta's personal struggle comes to a head, the Gunslinger seeks out the assassin Jack Mort -- and ends up in a shoot-out on the streets of New York!  The stakes are higher than ever -- yet deeply personal -- as King's saga twists and turns!"  The blurb writer sure likes his exclamation points.
  • [Joe Hill]  Joe Hill Presents Hill House Comics.  Boxed set of the six graphic novels Hill has curated for his comic book line from DC:  M. R. Carey, The Dollhouse Family; Joe Hill, A Basketful of Heads; Joe Hill, Plunge; Joe Hill, Sea Dogs; Carmen Maria Machado, The Low Low Woods; Daphne Byrne, Laura Marks.
  • "Michael Innes" (J. I. M. Stewart), Appleby on Ararat.  The seventh (out of 34) Sir John Appleby mystery novel, first published in 1941.  "During the bleak days of the second World Was, Appleby visits a pleasant tropical island in the South Sea, where he encounters an assortment of colonial expatriots, Eurasians, and natives.  The scenery is spectacular, the conversation droll and civilized, but ominous events portend imminent disaster on this quiet refuge."  Of this novel, The New Yorker said, "Superbly plotted and humorously written."
  • Laurence M. Janifer, Slave Planet.  Science fiction novel.  "The Masters -- Johnny Dodd:  He had everything a man could want on Fruyling's world -- except freedom from the horror of being there; Dr. Haenlingen:  Icy, reserved, the architect of the system that kept men on top an aliens enslaved; Norma:  Warm and human, she was Dodd's one salvation.  The Slaves -- Cadnan:  He did what he was told...until the Masters told him to die; Marvor:  The first of his race to have an independent idea -- an idea that was dangerous and deadly; Dara:  Green and reptilian, but beautiful enough to inspire Cadnan to the slave's worst crime.  As the space fleets of an enraged Terran Confederation close in on the outlaw planet of Fruyling's World, the destinies of slave and master meet explosively, and from the shock of battle and its aftermath come an unexpected and awesome conclusion.
  • Paul Jenkins & Garth Ennis, John Constantine, Hellblazer:  How to Play with Fire.  the third of the Constantine graphic novels I picked up this weekend; this one is Volume 12 in the series..  Things are going pretty well for Constantine after he had cut off a piece of his soul and sent it to Hell to suffer for his sins.  He has a new girlfriend that he hasn't yet killed or damned or driven insane.  His friends are (mostly) alive and healthy.  His enemies are (mostly) either dead or trapped in some forn of eternal torment.   So, it's about time for something to hit the fan.
  • Lynda La Plante, Prime Suspect 3:  Silent Victims.  Novelization of the third series of the award-winning television show.  "Chief Inspector Jane Tennison has moved up the ranks, fighting every step of the way to break through the station house's glass ceiling.  Now, on her first day as the head of the Vice Squad, a crime come in that threatens to to destroy everything she has worked for.  As Vera Reynolds, drag queen and night club star, swayed onstage singing 'Falling in Love Again,' a sixteen-year-old boy lay in the older man's apartment, engulfed in flames.  When Tennison's investigation reveals an influential publis figure as her prime suspect, a man with connections to politicians, judges, and Scotland Yard, she's given a very clear message about the direction some very important people would like her investigation to take.  Suddenly, in a case defined by murky details, one fact becomes indisputably clear -- that for Tennison, going after the truth will mean risking he happiness, her career, and even her life."
  • Toby Litt & Mark Buckingham, Dead Boy Detectives.  Graphic novel collecting the first dozen comic books, as well as three other stories.  Edwin Paine and Charles Rowland were murdered before they reached their teens -- Edwin in 1919 and Charles in 1990.  Now they operate their own detective agency, "taking on cases that are too bizarre for the living, including one that introduced them to young socialite Crystal Palace, who happens top be a student at St. Hilarion's -- the very school where Edwin and Charles lost their lives decades ago.  And in another mystery striking very close to home, Charles discovers that h e has a long-lost half-sister from his father's secret family.  Have Charles, Edwin, and their new ally Crystal stumbled into a conundrum that would have been better left unsolved?"  An absolute delight of a series based on characters created by Neil Gaiman.  The Dead Boy Detectives recently made it to television as a Netflix series, with eight episodes premiering last Thursday.
  • Kim Newman, Bad Dreams.  Horror novel.  'When American journalist Anne Nielson travels to London to investigate the death of her sister, she finds herself sucked into a nightmarish world of corruption and perversion, populated by dealers, pimps, sadomasochists and a vampiric race that feast on their victims' dreams.  At the centre [sic] of this sickly web lurks the Games Master, and the closer Anne draws to his domain, the more she endangers herself and everyone she knows.  But the Games Master is not just a name, and soon Anne will learn that when he plays, he plays for keeps."  This omnibus edition (Titan, 2014) also contains the novel Bloody Students, originally published as Orgy of the Blood Parasites, as by "Jack Yeovil."  The author notes that both novels were technically "first published in the 1990s...but they were (mostly) written in the '80s, before we got even slightly respectable."
  • "K. J. Parker" (Tom Holt), Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead and Saevus Corax Captures the Castle.  Fantasy, the first two novels in the Corax trilogy.  Corax is in the battlefield salvage business.  "There's no formal training for battlefield salvage.   You just have to pick things up as you go along.  Swords, armor,, arrows -- and the bodies, of course."  Who knew salvage could be so risky?  "It's stressful work at the best of times, and although your employees are unlikely to be happy, it makes sense to keep them alive."
  • Otto Penzler, editor, The Big Book of Female Detectives.  Doorstop anthology (1111 pages of smallish type, double columns) with 74 stories, including Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence novel The Secret Adversary.  Penzler starts with the anonymously-written British sleuth Mrs. Paschal (1864) and moves on to cover tales by Mary Roberts Rinehart, Mignon G, Eberhart, Gladys Mitchell, Frances and Richard Lockridge, Anthony Boucher, Q. Patrick, Stuart Palmer, Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton, Sara P)aretsky, Max Allan Collins, Lawrence Block, S. J. Rozan, and Laura Lippman, among others.
  • Nancy Pickard, The Virgin of Small Plains.  Mystery.  "For seventeen years, a rural community on Kansas has faithfully tended the grave of an anonymous teenage girl christened the Virgin of Small Plains.  And some claim that, perhaps owing to the girl's intervention, strange miracles and unexplainable healings have occurred. Slowly, word of the legend spreads.  But what really happened in that snow-covered field almost two decades ago, when the girl's naked, frozen body was found?  Why did young Mitch Newquist disappear the day after the shocking discovery, leaving behind his distraught girlfriend, Abby Reynolds, and their best friend, Rex Shellenberger?  Now Mitch has returned to Small Plains, reigniting tensions and awakening secrets.  Never having resolved her feelings for Mitch, Abby is determined to uncover the startling truth about his departure.  The three former friends must confront the ever-unfolding consequences of the night that forever changed their lives -- and the life of their small town."
  • Martin Rosenstock, editor, Sherlock Holmes:  The Sign of Seven.  Seven Holmnesian novellas by Lyndsay Faye, James Lovegrove, Amy Thomas, Andrew Lane, Derrick Belanger, Davis Stuart Davies, and Stuart Douglas.
  • Richard Dean Star, editor, More Tales of Zorro.  Anthology with 16 new stories about the "bold renegade who carves a Z with his blade."  Authors include Kage Baker, Johnny D. Boggs, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Carole Nelson Douglas, Alan Dean Foster, Craig Shaw Gardner, Joe R. Lansdale, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Timothy Zahn.   I guess there' life in Johnston McCulley's old boy yet.
  • Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, Sandman Mystery Theatre, Compendium One.  Collects issues #1-36 of the comic book , as well as Sandman Mystery Theatre Annual #1.  These take us back to the original DC Sandman, Wesley Dobbs, as he navigates a crime-ridden post-Depression New York City.  (The remaining 35 issues plus a few short stories appear in Compendium Two, which I do not have.)
  • Dennis Wheatley, The Rape of Venice.  Historical adventure featuring Roger Brook.  "In the summer of 1796, Roger Brook, a trifle unwillingly, undertook a new secret mission for the Prime Minister, Mr. Pitt.  It gave him a chance to meet Rinaldo Malderini -- the Venetian Senator and a disciple of the Devil -- and his charming wife Sirisha, an Indian Princess .  It brought him into contact with a lot of other interesting things as well:  a seance, a duel, a shipwreck, cannibals, slavery, kidnapping, the violating of a harem and a desperate night assault against a walled city."  Wheatley's books are of an age, and the various prejudices must be taken into account, but I've always found them entertaining in small doses. 
  • F. Paul Wilson, The Dead World.  An authorized tale of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar.  "A plague is spewing forth from the Dead World, the stationary moon that hovers over the Land of Awful Shadow in the land within the earth.  David Innes, Emperor of Pellucidar, and the eccentric inventor, Abner Perry, rig a balloon to carry them to the Dead World.  But Pellucidar's mysterious moon is not what it seems, and far more bizarre than they ever dreamed.  It holds the answer as to how Pellucidar was formed -- and how it will be destroyed.  Can they stop the plague before it wipes out all life in the inner world?"  Also, The Upwelling  (The Hidden, Book 1).  " 'Oh, Mrs. Sirman, there's a problem with your husband's cremation.'  'What sort of problem?'  'It's his body.'  'What about it?'  'It won't burn.'  And so it begins for Pam Sirman,,,the first step toward learning that everything she thought about her husband is wrong, perhaps even his humanity.   But if he's not human, what is he?  Pam is one three lives that will be drawn together by the apocalypse of the Upwelling.  The other two are Chan and Danni, but their worlds are already in chaos.  A few weeks ago a fierce storm accompanied by an upwelling from the Atlantic abyssal plain tore into Atlantic City.  When it receded, the city and its 25,000 inhabitants were gone without a trace.  Chan and Danni remember being in the city that day, but the ten hours during which the Upwelling occurred have been wiped from their memories."  Preorder; publication date July 9, 2024.
  • Bernard Wolfe, Limbo.  The classic and cult favorite SF novel from 1952.  "In the aftermath of an atomic war, a new international movement of pacifism has arisen.  Multitudes of young men have chosen to curb their aggressive instincts through voluntary amputation -- disarmament in the most literal sense.  Those who have undergone this procedure are highly esteemed in the new society.  But they have a problem -- their prosthetics require a rare metal to function, and international tensions are rising over which countries get the right to mine it..."  A brilliant satire for its time (and, perhaps, ours).

Thursday, April 25, 2024


The Dead World by F. Paul Wilson (first published in Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, edited by Robert T. Garcia & Mike Resnick, 2013; published as a separate e-Book, 2015)

This is actually a novella, but I'm including it here because 1) it received a separate publication, and 2) what the hell, we all need an excuse to get back to the fantastic visions of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The Dead World is a Pellucidar story, taking place in that unusual world located at the Earth's core, the subject of five novels from 1922 to 1944, plus one collection of stories published in 1963.  Pellucidar is a land at the Earth's core, which can be accessed by an opening in the "polar region," which is how David Inness and the eccentric scientist Abner Perry originally entered it.  It's an "impossible" world, "five hundred miles below the thousand miles in diameter, with a miniature sun suspended in the center."  Because the sun is stationary, there is no nighttime and the natives have no real sense of the passing of time.  Next to the sun is a small moon, about a mile from the surface, in a stationary position; this moon casts a shadow on just one area of Pellucidar -- the kingdom of Thuria, also known as the Land of Awful Shadow.  Thuria is occupied by post-Neanderthal humans, ruled by King Goork.  Pellucidar is also occupied by non-human races, including the Mahars -- cruel winged creatures that ruled the inner world until David Innes arrived, defeated them, and banished them to the "northern area."  (How one can tell what is the northern area on this strange world is something that neither Burroughs nor Wilson explain.)  David Innes became the Emperor of Pellucidar, ruling with his wife, the beautiful Sarian native Dian.  Innes takes his role seriously, which is why he makes occasional state visits to Thuria.

One one such visit, Innes and Goork are interrupted by Koort, Goork's second sun.  A large stone had some through the air and smashed the head of Koort's lidi, a saurian used for transport and other things.  The stone was actually a ball made of an unknown metal, which had come straight down from the sky from the mysterious moon, the "Dead World" of the title.  While examining the object, it released a plethora of red seeds, which soon sprouted into voraciously spreading plants.  Innes took a sample with him back home for Abner Perry to examine; b ut the plant died before he could return home.  Several days later, Koort arrived with the news that everyone on Thuria was dead, killed by a strange mist that had  been expelled from the plants; Koort himself had survived only because he had been away hunting.  Armed with gas masks designed by Abner Perry, Innes, Perry, and Koort return to Thuria to investigate.  They retrieve the bodies of Goork and his eldest son to take back with them.  The strange mist appears to be spreading both horizontally and vertically and threatens to take over all of Pellucudar.  Goork and his eldest soon revive -- they had been in suspended animation but revived once outside the range of the strange mist.

Innes realizes that he must travel to the Dead World of the moon to discover exactly what the threat to his world is.  The moon had always been beyond the reach of Pellucidan science but Abner Perry managed to design a balloon that could make the trip.  From the surface of Pellucidar, one could make out mountains, rivers, and bodies of water on the moon, but there has never been any sign of life on the Dead World.

As the balloon reaches the moon, Innes realizes that it is a hologram:  the landscape that they thought belonged to the moon was nothing more than a construct.  When the balloon passes through the hologram they discover that this moon was actually and artificial metal object.  Jus what is is and how it came to be is a mystery to be solved.  Along the way, Innes and Perry may discover the true nature of Pellucidar and how such an "impossible" place could exist.

Great fun, and perhaps an explanation of the world that Burroughs had created will-nilly by throwing out fantastic concept after fantastic concept.  Could the Burroughs' creation actually align with twenty-first century rationality?  You have to read it to see.

(I also got a kick out of a throwaway reference to the Minunians, the "ant men of Africa," from Burroughs' 1924 novel Tarzan and the Ant Men.  We all remember that Tarzan had travelled to Pellucidar in the 1929 novel Tarzan at the Earth's Core.  Just a little Easter Egg for Burroughs fans...And just for jollies, let's throw in a bit of Lovecraft and a dash of Charles Fortean "We are property.")

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


On December 15, 2015, BBC Radio broadcast the first of ten episodes of The Inspector Chen Mysteries, beginning with Qui Xiaolong's Anthony Ward-winning novel Death of a Red Heroine.  The fourth episode of the radio series featured the fourth novel in the series, 2006's A Case of the Two Cities.  (For some reason, the internet was very reluctant to give me an air date for this episode, and I was too lazy to spend more than fifteen minutes trying to find it,  C'est la vie.)

Inspector Chen Cao is a poetry-spouting member of the Police Bureau in Shanghai of the 1960s.  Qui's 13 novels about Chen have proven to be very popular.  The books and radio program offer a fascinating look both old and new Shanghai.  Actor Jamie Zubeiri plays Chen in all ten BBC episodes.  The series was directed by David Hunter (who directed this episode) and Toby Swift,  This episode was dramatized by John Harvey, himself the author of the highly popular Charlie Resnick mystery novels.

In this episode, "The head of the Shanghai anti-corruption squad is found dead in compromising circumstances.  Inspector Chen is drafted in as 'Special Envoy to the Emperor with an Imperial Sword.' "

Enjoy this unusual mystery.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024


 "Love at First Sight"  by Richard Middleton  (from New Tales of Horror by Eminent Authors, edited anonymously by "John Gawsworth" (T. Fytton Armstrong), 1943; reprinted in The Little Book of Horrors, edited by Sebastian Wolfe, 1992)

A brief slice of the macabre.

Our narrator has known Benham for years at his club, but had never met his wife until after Benham was married.  In our narrator's mind, the wife is only known as Darling.  That fist night at Benham's house, he was seated between his host and Darling.  She could tell from her eyes that she was attracted to him.  When Benham stepped out for an errand, our narrator kissed Darling,  She made no protest.  Alas, our narrator was poor and Benham was rich.  But our narrator determined that he, and he alone, would possess Darling.

He has a small cottage in the wood in Surrey.  He persuaded Darling to come with him to the cottage for a week during which they would live on love.  After the week, because there was no future for them without money, they would kill themselves.  During that week at the cottage, they dug their grave.  They would lie at the bottom of the grave, anticipating what would come at the end of the week, then emerge to continue their lovemaking.  

At the end of their week they climbed into the grave with a pistol.  Darling was nervous and perhaps was having second thoughts.  Our narrator pressed the pistol into her hands and urged her to fire a bullet into her brain.  He would then follow.  She hesitated still.  Then...BANG!  Her shaking hands caused great damage but did not kill her.  I horror, our narrator leaped from the grave; the pistol lay beside Darling's shattered countenance in the grave.  Suddenly, Benham was there behind him, yelling, "For God's sake!  Cover her up!"  Our narrator still could not move, so Benham filled the grave, mourning his dog.  Our narrator could not understand.  There was no dog.

A tale of mental aberration worthy of de Maupassant.

Richard Middleton (1882-1911) was an English poet and short story writer, best known for the classic humorous tale "The Ghost Ship."   He worked as a clerk from 1901-1907 at the Royal Exchange Assurance Corporation; but was unhappy and during his evenings "affected a Bohemian life," becoming friends with Arthur Machen, Arthur Ransome, and Edgar Jepson.  He became an editor at Vanity Fair, and fellow editor Frank Harris to whom he stated his desire to be a poet; Harris soon published Middleton's poems "The Bathing Boy."  Throughout his brief life Middleton suffered from severe depression,  He committed suicide in December 1911, at age 29, by ingesting a bottle of chloroform, which had been prescribed for his "melancholia."  The following year, the short story collection on which his reputation is based, The Ghost Ship and Other Stories, was published.  John Gawsworth helped maintain his reputation by publishing a collection of prose miscellany, Pantomime Man, 1in 1933.  Gawsworth also included a number of Middleton's previously unpublished stories in his several anthologies, including New Tales of Horror by Eminent Authors, which presented six new stories by Middleton, including "Love at First Sight."

An interesting bit.  A young Raymond Chandler met Middleton and decided to postpone his writing career:  "Middleton struck me as having far more talent than I was ever likely to possess: and if he couldn't make a go of it, it wasn't very likely that I could."

Monday, April 22, 2024


 The movie poster screamed:  "NOTHING LIKE HIM HAS HIT THE SCREEN SINCE JAMES DEAN" ( you have to supply your o exclamation point.)  Naturally they are talking about Henry Bookholt.  Wait.  Who?  Actually they mean Horst Bucholz, who name was changed for the American release of this film because the distributors didn't want it to be too German-y.  Likewise they changed the name of actress Karin Baal to Karen Baal.  This didn't happen to others in the German cast -- Christian Doermer, Jo Herbst, Viktoria von Ballasko, Stanislav Ledinek, Mario Ahrens, Manfred Hoffmann, Hans-Joachim Ketzlin, Friedrich Joloff, and others -- most likely because their names were far down on the credits.

For the record, the original title for this juvenile delinquent flick was Die Halbstarken.

Also for the record, this is not a great film, although it is watchable, mainly because of the presence of Henry Bookholt Horst Bucholz. who would soon go on to major roles in Tiger Bay, The Magnificent Seven, Fanny, and One, Two, ThreeTeenage Wolfpack was one of Germany's attempts to cash in on the popularity of movies like The Wild One, The Blackboard Jungle, and Rebel Without a Cause.

The tagline tells it all.  "THINK OF A LAW...They've broken it!  THINK OF A CRIME...they've committed it!"

Freddy (Bookholt Bucholtz) is a young criminal and a nasty piece of work who tries top bring his girlfriend Sissy (Baal, who was barely sixteen when this was filmed) and his brother Jan into the very unpleasant world of crime and violence.  Things do not go well.

JD films were the rage in the 50s, and Teenage Wolfpack is a good (although certainly not a shining) example of that ilk.

Give it a try.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Friday, April 19, 2024

CURLY KAYOE #1 (1946)

 Curly Kayoe was a popular comic strip professional boxer created by Sam and Mo Leff.  Not as popular as Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka, mind you, or even Elliot Caplin and John Cullen Murphy's  Big Ben Bolt, but still pretty popular.  Especially if you realize he was an interloper.

The origins of the Curly Kayoe comic strip began in 1918 with Vic Forsythe's Joe's Car, featuring Joe Jinks.  Over the years Joe's attention went from automobiles to airplanes.  By 1928, Joe's mechanical obsessions waned a bit, as evidenced by a title to Joe Jinks; the same year the strip expanded to Sundays, featuring mainly domestic comedy revolving around Joe and his wife, Blanche.  Also at the same time, Joe's interests veered from aviation as he became a fight promoter.  Joe's first boxer was a guy named Dynamite Dunn.  Forsythe left the strip in 1933 and, from 1934 to 1936, the title of the strip was Joe Jinks & Dynamite Dunn.  Various artists worked on the strip over the next few years.  In 1944, Joe met Curly Kayoe, who would soon replace him as the focus of the strip.  The strip was now drawn by Sam Leff and inked by his brother Mo.  On December 31, 1935, the strip officially changed its name to Curly Kayoe.  Joe Jinks remained as Curly's manager for another year, then he moved both out west and out of the strip.

Curly was big, blond, kind-hearted, and not too bright -- pretty much cut from the mold of Joe Palooka.  Not a coincidence really; at the time Mo Leff was ghosting the Palooka strip for Ham Fisher.

Alas for Curly, history repeated itself fourteen years later.  A secondary character, a seaman named Davy Jones, was becoming more and more popular. and, in 1961, the strip's name was once again changed, to Davy Jones this time.  Under that title, the strip continued for another decade, but without Curly Kayoe.

(I remember reading the Curly Kayoe strip when I was a kid.  Curly had a trick -- in the middle of a fight, he would whisper something in his opponent's ear; the opponent would let down his guard enough for Curly to land a knockout punch.  What Curly said remained a secret, although readers could write to the strip and and the secret would be revealed to them!  I never wrote in so I had no idea what those secrets words were.  Now, in my dotage, I'm curious -- not enough to fully regret not writing in, but still curious.)

Curly Kayoe's comic book career consisted of eight issue published between 1946 and 1950, as well a a one-shot as part of Dell's Four Color Comics series in 1958. 

Curly Kayoe #1 opens with Joe Jinks pointing out to a young reporter some of the many famous fight fans at that day's event at Madison Square Garden -- Paul Muni, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Charles Coburn, and bandleaders Frankie Carle and Xavier Cugat.  Jinks also breaks out his scrapbook and we view photographs of Jack Dempsey knocking out Jess Willard, and of Firpo knocking Dempsey out of the ring, as well as the 1926 upset when Gene Tunney won the title from Dempsey.  But, Jinks said, the greatest boxer of all time never won a title.  It was "Killer" Kayoe from 1921, when he won 40 fights, all by knockouts.  The, on the evening when Killer Kayoe's wife was due to deliver a baby, the boxer had a match against Ernie Judd.  Kayoe was anxious to end the match so he could join his wife.  During the second round, Kayoe landed a punch and Ernie Judd hit the canvas...dead.  Kayoe's guilt drove him from the ring.  Kayoe, his wife, and new-born son left town.  A week later it was revealed that Judd had entered the ring with a fractured skull from an accident her did not report.  Killer Kayoe was exonerated, but he never knew that -- no one could locate him.

You know where the story is gong from here.  the years pass and Joe Jinks, knowing that Killer Kayoe had a son, was determined to find him and turn him into a heavyweight champ.  When Joe finally found Curly, Killer Kayoe had been dead for a year.  Before he died he made Curly promised never to to fight in the ring.  Curley is determined to honor his father's wished and to stay and run the family farm.  In a flashback, we see and aging Killer saying, "If I hadn't killed a man in the ring -- I'd like nothing better than to see Curly become a top-notch fighter."  After learning that his father had not killed Judd, Curly decides to become a fighter, and a handshake seals the deal with Joe as his manager.

And a boxing legend begins.

The issue closes with four pages of humorous fillers, including two featuring Ernie Bushmiller's Fritzi Ritz.

Enjoy the origin of Curly Kayoe. 

Thursday, April 18, 2024


 The Last Christmas by F. Paul Wilson  (2019)

More of a How The Hell Did This Slip Under My Radar Book than a Forgotten Book.

I am a big fan of F. Paul Wilson's urban guerilla Repairman Jack, whose saga ended (kind of) with the 2012 publication of the second revised edition of the 1992 book Nightworld.  Since then, Jack has returned in a trilogy about his youth in New Jersey and a trilogy about his adventures as a young man after moving to New York.  Although there has been talk over the years of a Repairman Jack (or Young Jack, or Early Jack) series of graphic novels, they have not come to fruition, except for 2020's Scar-Lip Redux, in which Jack hunts a rakosh.  (A what?  Never mind.  It's something only Repairman Jack fans will understand.)   And then there's The Last Christmas, an interlude in the main Repairman Jack sequence, taking place between Ground Zero (the thirteenth novel in the series) and  Fatal Error (the fourteenth); the events in The Last Christmas take place some five months before the world is scheduled to end.  (What?  Never mind.  It's something only Repairman Jack and Adversary fans will understand.  What?  Adversary?  Where did that come from?  Don't worry about it.  Well, not much.)

Obviously there's a lot to unpack here, especially since the rEpairman Jack series is intertwined with many of Wilson's other novels.

First of all, Jack.  He's a cipher.  No last name, no social security card, no credit card,  no utility bills, no record of him anywhere; nothing, nada, zip.  The most anonymous person you could ever meet.  Medium height, medium weight, run  of the mill brown hair.  Nothing in his appearance stands out.  He makes his living fixing things, often violently.  But Jack is a force for good.  He's one of the good guys and he has a strong moral code.  He also has a fierce determination and dies not back down.  His basic philosophy it to take the fight to the enemy.

There are basically four people of importance in Jack's life.  His girlfriend, Gia; her young daughter, Vicky; Julio, who runs an old-fashioned neighborhood bar that discourages tourists and walk-ins, and Abe, the slovenly owner of Isher Sports Shop.  It is Abe's purpose in life to have every customer who comes into his store to leave without purchasing a thing, because Abe's main business is the huge cache of weapons stored in his basement  (the name of his store is a hint to its real purpose, and a nod to the author's libertarian leanings).  Abe also has many connections and is a fount of secret information, which prove to be a great help to Jack.

Now we have to look deeper into the cosmos.  Somewhere in eternity, there is an eons-long contest (maybe a war, maybe just a game) between two powerful entities.  This is not  matter of 
Evil versus Good, it's more a matter of Evil versus Doesn't Give a Flip.  The reasons for this battle and even the way its being fought are beyond our ken, well above the pay grade of human understanding.  In this battle, Earth is an insignificant piece -- less than a pawn, but if the Evil side wins, life here will be hellish and civilization will end.  The major player for Evil on Earth is someone called the Adversary, who had been taken off the board and trapped for centuries until 1941, when he is released from captivity in The Keep, the first book in Wilson's Adversary Cycle.  Repairman Jack enters the scene i that series' second book, The Tomb, where he was meant to be a one-off character.  (The third book in the series was The Touch; both it and The Tomb were originally not meant to be part of the series but were retrofitted into the Adversary Cycle with the publication of Nightworld.)  The character of Jack demanded  more stories and Wilson the adventures of Repairman Jack with Legacies.

Jack soon finds himself pitted against various supernatural and mundane forces supporting the Adversary.  He eventually meets up with the Adversary's counterpart, the thousands-year-old Glaeken, along with the Lady, a shape-shifting being who appears to be tasked to guiding Jack from his youth in his battle with the cosmic forces, and her equally supernatural Dog. Along the way Jack loses his family one by one, some in the most horrifying ways.

Added to the mix are various other intertwined novels and series written by Wilson, including Black Wind  (a World War II novel focusing on Japan), the Ice Trilogy, Wardenclyffe (which brings Nicola Tesla into the mix), The Peabody-Ozymandius Traveling Circus & Oddity Emporium (which introduces the rakosh, among other creatures, and forms the setting for the Horror Writers of America themed anthology Freak Show), The Compendium of Srem, the science fiction future sequence The LaNague Federation; and the recent DUAD duology (which ties in Wardenclyffe and a greatly revised Healer from the LaNague series).  

Almost all of these are referred to in one way or another in The Last Christmas.  One entering this novel unawares might be left scratching his or her head.

Anyway, on to the novel.

Jack is hired by two scientists to locate a lost animal, a specimen created by a secret government lab, half wolf and half human.  The animal, supposedly escaped while being transported across New York City has had an electronic locater embedded, so locating it should be easy.  Capturing it is a different story.  Of course, the scientist are lying.  The "wolfman" is a convicted murderer named Quinnell, who had been perhaps unfairly jailed by government officials in a hush-up.  Quinnell was dying of cancer and the scientists offered him $500,000 to experiment on him -- an experiment that was bound to kill him, but Quinnell had a wife and a three-year-old daughter to think of.  The experiment not only altered Quinnell's physical appearance, it also began clouding his mind with feral thoughts.  While on the loose, he killed to teenagers who tried to set him on fire, as well as a local pedophiliac targeting his daughter.  The scientist, BTW, kept the money, and Quinnell's wife is dead broke and about to lose their house.

At the same time, Jack is hired by the mysterious Madame de Medici to guard a strange looking object, the Bagaq, one of seven articles from prehistory assumed to possess supernatural powers.  A billionaire named Roland Apfel had illegal possession of the object which had been stolen from her Egyptian estate during an earthquake,  Madame de Medici regained possession of it and now Allard wants it back at any cost -- he is dying and believes it will heal him.  Jack takes the object and stores it with Abe.

Tier Hill is a private detective, a Mohawk Indian, and an expert tracker.  He is hired by Apfel to trail the Madame and locate the Bagaq.  Hill finds that Jack has been given the item.  He is then tasked to get the artifact back, by any means necessary.  Apfel sends his bodyguard Albert Poncia to go with Hill, instructing Poncia to kill Hill and Jack -- as well as any other witnesses, ncluding Gia and Vicky -- once the Bagaq is recovered.  

We also learn that Hill can hear painful noises coming from the Sheep Meadow that no one else can.  It turns out that these are coordinated signals presaging the Year Zero events in Nightworld.  the signals are being tracked by Burbank, a 118-year-old "watcher," and a friend of Madame de Medici.  Madame de Medici, turns out to be an eons-old person who hold knowledge of the Secret History of the Universe.  At the end of the book, we discover Madame de Medici's true identity but Jack does not.

For some reason, Glaeken has begun aging horribly and is now in a weakened condition.  The Lady, too, has become inform; her Dog has been killed.  Glaeken must keep his condition a secret or the Adversary will become aware of it and strike much earlier than expected.  Jack must keep these things secret while dealing with traitorous scientists, government conspiracies, the violent and unpredictable creature that was Guinnell, and the murderous Poncia...and a blizzard on Christmas Eve.

Yeah.  So all this would be a bit confusing to any newbie coming on to the book.  And there are a number of threads that don't do much for this particular story, but tie into what is to come in the series.  But the action is fast.  The thrills are real.  The stakes are high.  And it's always great to see Repairman Jack on the job.

I mentioned that author's libertarian stance earlier.  It's a philosophy that informs some of the best thriller books and films, from James Bond to westerns.  It is great for the one man against large odds type of conflict that steers much popular entertainment, the "in this case, the end might justify the means" type type of meme.  I enjoy that type of fantasy wish-fulfillment in my reading, I really do.  In real life, however, it is the type of philosophy that people tend to drop around their second or third year of college, much like the works of Ayn Rand.  Wilson's libertarian bent seldom bothers me, unless he gets on his high horse about socialized medicine (Wilson is a medical doctor).  He does that very briefly in this book and it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Not enough to detract from the rest of the novel, mind you.  But.  I.  Just.  Wish.  He.  Wouldn't.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Cabin B-13 started as a one-off radio play on CBS Radio's Suspense on March 16, 1943, written by John Dickson Carr and starring Ralph Bellamy.*  The show was broadcast for a second time on Suspense later that year, on November 9, this time featuring Mexican actress Margo (Maria Marguerita Guadalepe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O'Donnell**)  and Philip Dorn.  CBS then scheduled it to air as a standalone (not part of Suspense) on December 27, 1948.  It also aired as the first episode of BBC's appointment with feat on September 11, 1943.  Carr's script was printed in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for its May 1944 issue.  It was the basis of the 1963 film Dangerous Crossing, and remade as the 1992 made-for-television movie Treacherous Crossing; the story was also aired as episodes of television's Suspense and Climax, as well as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's program The Unforeseen.

Is it any wonder that ABC radio spun it off for a series in 1948?

Cabin B-13 the radio series ran from July 5, 1948 to January 2, 1949, replacing Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts.  The half hour program related stories told by Dr. John Fabian, ship's surgeon on the luxury liner Maurevania while docked in various remote ports around the world.  Fabian was most often played by Arnold Moss, a well-known character actor in stage, film, radio, and television; Alan Hewitt, another character actor who should be familiar to viewers of 1950s and 60s television, played Fabian in four of the episodes.

John Dietz directed all 23 episodes from scripts by Carr.   In reviewing the premiere episode Variety singled out Carr's tight script and Deitz's masterful direction, noting that "Suspenseful pace is maintained throughout, with the story turns sufficiently intriguing to hold interest." 

In "Bill and Brenda Leslie,"  also known as "A Razor in Fleet Street" and as "London Adventure," was the first episode of the radio series.  Bill Leslie, while vacationing in London, discovers discovers that he has a double...and the man who looks exactly like him is wanted for murder.  If that's not enough to ruin your day, I don't know what is.

Also heard on this episode were Joseph Curtin, Neomi Campbell, and William Podmore.


* For the curious, here's the original script for the 1943 Suspense episode "Cabin B-13":

**  Phew!  Try saying that quickly five times


 "The Metal Giants" by Edmond Hamilton  (first published in Weird Tales, December 1926; reprinted in pamphlet form as The Metal Giants (Swanson Book Company -- mimeographed from a "defective" magazine, thus missing "a page or so" ), 1932 or 1933; reprinted in The Gernsback Awards 1926:  Volume 1, 1982; included in The Metal Giants and Others:  The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume 1, 2009)

Edmond Hamilton (1904-1977) was, along with Edward E. Smith and Jack Williamson, one of the first major stars in the development of science fiction in America following the 1926 publication of Amazing Stories (generally credited as the first science fiction magazine).  Hamilton's entire output published in 1926 and 1927 (seven stories) appeared in Weird Tales (the magazine would end up publishing 79 stories by Hamilton, making him one of the magazines most prolific contributors); it was with his eighth story ("The Comet Doom," Amazing Stories, January 1928) that he began appearing with great frequency in the leading science fiction magazines of the time.  1928 also marked the beginning of the "space opera" type of science fiction, universe-spanning tales with menaces threatening worlds -- or even galaxies -- with stalwart creatures led by Earthmen to battle the menace.   Hamilton excelled at this type of story and soon earned the sobriquets of "World-Destroyer Hamilton," "World Wrecker Hamilton," and "World Saver Hamilton."  Hamilton would go on to become the major contributor to the Captain Future franchise, writing 17 of the 20 novels, followed by a number of original novelettes.  Although best known for the gosh-wow space opera type of science fiction, Hamilton also produced a number of sensitive and nuanced stories that have become classics in the field.  As the science fiction field changed, Hamilton was one of the few early writers capable of changing with it.  He also had a long career writing comics books for DC, where he worked on the Batman, Superman, and related titles.  (The popular internet meme of Batman slapping Robin?  That was from a story written by Hamilton.)

"The Metal Giants" was Hamilton's third published story and his second science fiction story.  (His first story, "The Monster God of Mamurth" was a Merritt-esque fantasy.)

Detmold, a professor of electro-chemistry at Juston University, the third oldest college in the country, is a genius whose unusual theories have brought him ridicule, theories that have been "unprovable, wild, untrammeled speculation;"  his experiments and statements "were becoming more and more fantastic, calling forth an ever-increasing flood of of shocked protests from outraged scientists."   One theory that has brought him particular scorn concerned an artificial brain:  Detmold insisted that he can create one.  Other scientists have made half-hearted attempts to manufacture living protoplasm from chemicals to produce a living cells to produce an organ, a heart, or a brain -- all meeting with abject failure.  Detmold felt an artificial brain brain should be composed of metal, "entirely inorganic and lifeless, yet whose atomic structure he claimed was analogous to the atomic structure of a living brain."  By applying electrical vibrations to this "brain stuff," he should be able to create an organ that showed signs of consciousness.

This was all a bit too much.  Spurred on by protests from students, faculty members, and the general population, Juston University severed all ties with Detmold, who vowed to continue his work at a remote and unknown location.  Even Lanier of the English Department, Detmold's only friend on campus, was not told where the professor was headed.  Detmold, along with boxes of equipment, boarded a train and vanished from the ken of his fellow man.  Slowly, people forgot about the strange man and his wild theories.

Four years passed.

Then, in a remote area in northern West Virginia, stories began to emerge about large, strange circular impressions, ten feet across,  found in the area about the small steel town of Stockton; no explanation could be found for these impressions and those from outside the area who heard about them blamed the moonshine that could also be found in the area.  Ten days later, a framer named Morgan packed his family and a few possessions in an old Ford and fled the area, saying that he had seen a large, human-like shape, some three hundred feet tall, towering over the woods near his farm.  A few neighbors began saying they had seen a similar apparition, a being that appeared to made of metal.  Word of these sightings reached outside newspapers which tended to also point the blame at moonshine in this backward community.

Lanier, Detmold's old friend, felt there was more to the stories and that Detmold himself might be at the center of the mysterious sightings.  Lanier travelled to Stockton, arriving shortly before "death marched toward the city with crashing, giant strides"...

The nascent field of science fiction relied on unfettered imagination and fantastic occurrences told on a sweeping background, fastened with a dollop of scientific (or pseudo-scientific) reasoning.  Back in those days, the term science fiction did not exist; Gernsback called it "scientifiction," while other magazines just termed them "unusual stories" -- a term that could also cover fantasy, horror, or exotic and unusual adventure.  Gernsback managed to ghettoize the field with the publication of Amazing Stories, and brought to the field an audience of mainly young, white (and disaffected) males.  Previously, proto-science fiction stories had appeared regularly in general fiction and pulp magazines without much comment; now science fiction was beginning to be looked upon as juvenile literature.

Ah, but what glorious juvenile literature!  At the same time, science was expanding its borders.  Young rocket enthusiasts like Robert Goddard began experiments that would lead to the conquest of space.  In 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, the first object to be found in the Kuiper belt.  The fruits of Edison and Tesla were changing the landscape of civilization.  The War to End All Wars had brought America to the forefront of the world, something even the depression could not alter.  Medicine was making strides.  People were demanding more.  Progress was snowballing to the future.  And many young readers of science fiction were deciding on science as a career.

None of this has any bearing on "The Metal Giants," a clunky tale told by a young man barely in his twenties.  But the story, and the author, helped open the vistas of imagination. For that alone, it is worth reading.  Plus, the tale has the extra bonus of being fun.

The December 1926 issue of Weird Tales  is available online.  Also available online are many of Hamilton's early stories.  Check them out.

Monday, April 15, 2024


 Based on the short story pf the same title (although originally published as "And So to Death" in Argosy [March 1, 1941])

 by Cornell Woolrich, the master of suspense and desperation, Nightmare tells the story of jazz musician Stan Grayson (Kevin McCarthy), who dreams he has committed a murder in a room of mirror.  He wakes up to clues that it may not have been a dream after all.  He turns to his brother-in-law, policeman Rene Bressard (Edward G. Robinson) for help...but the noose of circumstance and paranoia gets tight and tighter.

An atmospheric, somewhat improbable, claustrophobic exercise in terror, this is a remake of 1947's Fear in the Night, from the same director Maxwell Shane, who also adapted Woolrich's story for the film.

Also starring actress and songstress Connie Russell, in her last film role before retiring. as Stan's girlfriend Gina.


For the Curious:  Here's the March 1, 1941 issue of Argosy with the original story "And So to Death."  The magazine's tagline reads: "Tonight he sleeps, to dream of murder.  Tomorrow he will awake to see the terrible pattern of his nightmare become reality."

Sunday, April 14, 2024


Openers:  "It's all too exasperating,"  Carolynne Deveraux poured out her story into the sympathetic ears of Zelda Troyer, her new and closest college chum, as they sped down Spofford Boulevard on a Saturday shopping tour in Carolynne's fleet Cadillac convertible.  "I never was so humiliated in all my life -- their packing me home from the de Puster's party like that right in the middle of the evening, just because I was smoking a cigarette!"

"I don't blame you for being sore," Zelda's contralto voice shined in.  "I'd be mad as a hornet under similar circumstances.  Nobody's ever objected to my smoking, but then my whole family smokes.  Some parents are just too old fashioned, I guess."

"Old fashioned is putting it mildly!" Carolynne jabbed her arm out the open car window for a left-hand turn signal.  "Do you realize they kept me confined to my room for to whole days as punishment, suspended my allowance, and even threatened to rake away this car they gave me for a graduation present?  Of course it was about the dozenth time they've caught me smoking after they made me promise not to, but you'd think they'd understand I'm not a child any more.  After all, I'm seventeen!  And the lectures I've had to listen to.  Oh, brother!"

Carolynne's voice burlesqued the tone of a fuddy-duddy giving a morality lecture.  "Nice girls don't smoke.  It isn't moral.  It isn't Christian.  It's bad for your health.  It lowers one's resistance to worldly wickedness."  Carolynne's voice became normal again as she shot forth a stream of invective currently in vogue amongst the students at the supposedly elite Finishing School for Gentlewomen, from which she had just graduated."

-- "Up in Smoke" by "Tigrina" (Edythe Eyde) (first -- and only -- known publication is in Rainbow Fantasia:  35 Spectrumatic Tales of Wonder, edited by Forrest J Ackerman, 2001)

[In the copyright acknowledgements for Rainbow Fantasia, this story is copyrighted 2001 by Tigrina; at the end of that line, in the spot that listed the original publication information for all the other stories in the book, is the note "(July 1946)."  I took that to mean that the story was originally written then, and the the story had never been published, or, perhaps*, published in some amateur and unknown journal.  The International Science Fiction Database (ISFDb) gives the title of the story as "Up in Smoke (July 1946)."  So you pays yer money and you takes yer choice.]

At first glance, the story -- written in a very callow style and featuring a very callow Carolynne Deveraux -- could be a screed against women smoking, or, perhaps*, a tale that would vindicate the modern younger generation of 1947.  Either way, it would be not very interesting; a curiosity, perhaps*, along the lines of the 1927 Blind Alfred Reed song, "Why Do You Bob Your Hair, Girls?"

Zelda is smoking cigarettes with crimson paper, not the typical white cigarette papers the Carolynne is used to.  Carolynne thinks they are heavily perfumed.  Zelda says she has them especially made by a queer chap called Morloq, who makes cigarettes colored to match girls' outfits.  He also blends individual perfumes.  The two go to Morloq's shop, filled with curious scents and compounds and somewhat dazzling with its various colors.  A small. grotesque, emerald-eyed statuette attracts Carolynne's attention; it is "Og Amankh, little-known Egyptian devil, called 'the Imprisoner of Souls,' and he is notoriously antagonistic toward those who do not show him proper respect."  Carolynne decides to order some of Marloq's blended perfume.  When Carolynne returned to the shop, Morloq severed her ka from her body, imprisoning it in a small vial.  Carolynne was found wandering downtown, completely void of any intelligence.  Her parents wondered how this could have happened to their little girl -- she didn't even smoke!

A terribly written and overblown story, perhaps** better suited for a 1947 horror comic book.

Tigrina was the name Edythe Eyde (1921-2015) used in science fiction fandom of the 1940s and 50s.  She was active in the L.A. Science fiction community and was a good friend of Forrest Ackerman.  (She caused a bit of controversy in sf circles when she said she was interested in satanism.)  She is better known for her pioneering activities in the LGBT community as "Lisa Ben" (Look. ma!  An anagram!).  She produced the first known lesbian publication in North America, Vice Versa, and then wrote for The Ladder, the first nationally-distributed lesbian magazine. and was a member of the Daughters of Bilitis.  As Lisa Ben, she was known as an early pioneer in the LGBT movement.  As a folk singer in lesbian clubs, she wrote and performed gay-themed parodies of popular songs -- songs that were never profane or demeaning to gay people.  The Daughter's of Bilitis issues a recording of her songs, calling her the "first gay folk singer." When she died at age 94, "her death went unnoticed and no obituaries were published."

As a science fiction personality, her contributions were very few and very minor.  But her courage and forthrightness in the LGBT movement is something that I -- as a straight, white, male -- admittedly have a hard time processing, but I cannot help but feel proud that someone of her caliber once walked among us.  The National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association created the Lisa Ben Award for Achievement in Features Coverage -- something that, perhaps*, greatly bothers the current governmental apparatus in Florida.

* How many times am I going to set the word "perhaps" off in commas.  I don't know and I don't care, because, perhaps*, I can't be bothered to count.

**Aha!  it's not set off in commas this time!


  • Forrest J Ackerman & Jean Stine, editors, Reel Future.  Sixteen stories that inspired classic science fiction movies.  For me, at least this was pretty familiar ground.  Auithoirs include Well, Lovecraft, Nowlan, Campbell, Bates, Jones, Bradbury, Clarke, Sheckley, Melchior, Langelaan, Nelson, Dick, Zelazny, Longyear, and Varley.  Movies covered are The Empire of the Ants, Reanimator, Buck Rogers in the 21st Century, The Thing from Another World, The Day the Earth Stood Still, This Island Earth, The Illustrated Man, 2001:  A Space Odyssey, The Tenth Victim, Death Race 2000, The Fly, They Live, Total Recall, Damnation Alley, Enemy Mine, and Millennium.  As expected, some good stuff and some dreck.
  • Mike Ashley, editor, The Ghost Slayers:  Thrilling Tales of Occult Detection.  Nine stories, a fairly good representation of the occult detective over the past century and a quarter, some more familiar than others.  Featured detectives are Flaxman Low, John Silence, Carnacki, Alymer Vance, Mesmer Milann, Dr. Taverner, Cosmo Thor, Cranshawe, and Lucius Leffing.  Many notables, such as Morris Klaw and Semi-Duel, have been omitted, but you can't have everything, but there's something here for just about every occult detection fan.
  • James Lee Burke, Feast Day of Fools.  A Hackberry Holland novel.  "Sheriff Hackberry Holland patrols a small Southwestern Texas border town with a deep and abiding respect for the citizens in his care.  Still mourning the loss of his cherished wife and locked in a perilous almost-romance with his deputy, Pam Tibbs, a woman many decades his junior, Hackberry fends off the deeds of evil men to keep his own demons at bay.  When alcoholic ex-boxer Danny Boy Lorca witnesses a man tortured to death in the desert and reports it, Hack's investigation leads to the home of Anton Ling, a regal, mysterious Chinese woman whom the locals refer to as La Magdalena and who is known for sheltering illegals.  Ling denies having seen the victim or the perpetrators, but the is something in her steely demeanor and aristocratic beauty that compels Hackberry to return to her home again and again as the investigation unfolds.  Could it be that the sheriff is so taken in by this creature who reminds him of his deceased wife that he would ignore the possibility that she is just as dangerous a the men she harbors?  The danger in the desert increases tenfold with the return of serial murderer Preacher Jack Collins, whom The New York Times called 'one of Burke's most inspired villains.'  Presumed dead at the close of Rain Gods, Preacher Jack has reemerged with a calm, single-minded zeal for killing that is more terrifying than the muzzle flash of his signature machine gun.  But this time he and Sheriff Holland have a common enemy."  Also, The Lost Get-Back Boogie.  "The novel's title is also the name of the song that Iry Paret -- a honky-tonk musician. Korean vet, and ex-con -- wants to write to hold his memories of a 'more uncomplicated time,' before the war, before prison.  The novel opens the day thirty-year-old Iry leaves Louisiana's Angola state penitentiary, after serving two years for manslaughter, and follows him to Montana, where he hopes to stay cool and out of trouble by working hard on a ranch owned by the father of  his prison pal, Buddy Riordan.  Iry finds the fresh start he seeks, joins a weekend band, and even falls in love.  But the Riordan family's problems deal Iry a new sort of trouble with some ultimately tragic consequences."  This was Burke's fifth novel, which had an amazing 111 rejections (!), and was eventually nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. 
  • Leonard Carpenter, Conan of the Red Brotherhood.  Heroic fantasy/sword and sorcery, the eighth of eleven Conan pastiches from this author.  "Sailing under the grim skull-flag of the Red Brotherhood, Conan is the most feared pirate to prowl the Vilayet Sea, claiming as his booty even Philiope, the beautiful black-haired daughter of a powerful nobleman.  But in the doomed imperial palace of Aghrapur, the decadent emperor Vildiz and his corrupt allies plot the destruction of the powerful barbarian they know only as Amra the Lion.  As Conan carves a pirate empire with cutlass and dagger, the Turanian navy takes to the seas, aided by hellish sorcery of the darkest sort.  Mighty ships manned by undead zombies, and a titanic monster summoned from the nether depths, are pitted against the deadly sword of one man...Conan of the Red Brotherhood."  Over the past few weeks, Dave Lewis has been posting about "Conan of Pastichia" on his Davy Crockett's Almanack blog.  Since we all know how easily influenced I am, is it no wonder that I picked this one up, along with three others by Robert Jordan (q.v.)?
  • Jonathan Carroll, Outside the Dog Museum.  "A novel of love, death, & architecture," the fourth novel in the author's Answered Prayers sequence.  This one won the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1992.  "Meet Harry Radcliffe, a prize-winning architect and self-serving opportunist, ready to take advantage of whatever situations and women cross his path.  After all, Harry is fond of saying, 'Geniuses are allowed to do anything.'  Two desirable, strong-willed women are vying tor his attention, clients everywhere are offering him blank checks to create their buildings...What's life like at the end of the rainbow?  don't ask harry.  He went mad. But with the help of Venasque, an elderly shaman dressed in overalls and running shoes, he begins to pickup the pieces of his former life.  However, sanity offers little of interest to Harry until he is approached by the Sultan of Saru, the benevolent and wealthy ruler of a Middle Eastern country.  The Sultan wants him to build a billion-dollar dog museum.  Just like that."
  • Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins (or maybe Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins), Cutout.   Crime novella.  "A young woman from the Midwest, recipient of an unexpected college scholarship, is recruited into a lucrative courier job that shuttles her from Manhattan to Washington, D.C.  There's a slight drawback:  the previous two 'cutouts' died by violence."  Preordered; publication date is tomorrow.  Also, Max Allan Collins Collection Volume 5:  Twist in the Tale.  E-Book compilation five books by Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins:  two novels (Reincarnal and Bombshell) and three short story collections (Murder -- His and Hers, Suspense -- His and Hers, and Too Many Tomcats and Other Feline Tales of Suspense).  A superb bargain.
  • Robert Crais, Hostage. A stand-alone thriller.  "Three young men gunning for action rob a minimart in a sleepy suburb north of Los Angeles.  When things get out of control, and with police on their tail, they flee the scene and invade a home in an exclusive gated community, taking a panicked family hostage.  Police chief Jeff Talley finds an all-too-familiar scene in front of the house where the criminals are holed up with a father and his two children.  A former hostage negotiator with the LSPD's SWAT unit, Tally is quickly thrown back into the high-pressure world that he has so desperately tried to leave behind.  But Talley' nightmare had barely begun, because this isn't just any house; it holds the dirty secrets of L.A.'s biggest crime lord.  And the people inside aren't the only ones held hostage..."
  • John Creasey, Hang the Little Man. A Roger West mystery.  "Robbery with much violence.  They were nasty, 'small' crimes to begin with -- a series of robberies in small shops, distressing to the victims, but only of routine concern to the harassed, overworked police.  Except for Scotland Yard Superintendent Roger West, who thought them related, organized and extremely sinister.  The violence became murder, and that led to the launching of an all-stops-out investigation..."  I'm nearing the end of my Roger West spree.  Of the 43 novels, I have only seven unread -- and six of them are lurking on my bedside table.  (According to my records, I also own the seventh, but I'm damned if I can find where I put it.  **sigh**) 
  • "Peter Field" (house name, this time used by Davis Dresser, a.k.a. "Brett Halliday"), Guns from Powder Valley.  Western, the first book in the Powder Valley series.  "The Stevens' peaceful and quiet life on the Lazy Mare Ranch in Powder Valley came to an abrupt and violent end when they learned why the Sutton's couldn't come for dinner.  First, Pat Stevens' disreputable but good- hearted cronies, Sam and Ezra, showed up with a terrifying letter from Dusty Canyon.  Next, without warning, a black-hooded rider thundered into the Lazy Mare and thrust a crudely scrawled note into Pat's hand.  The two notes dynamited Pat and his pals into a deadly battle against a gang of hooded robbers, a battle which turned out to be a fight for their own lives as well as for those of their friends."   The Powder Valley novels first appeared in Blue Ribbon Western and other pulps; Dresser wrote 13 of the 17 novels.
  • 'Rae Foley" Elinore Denniston), Wild Night.  Romantic suspense.  "Heiress Mary Quarles had not seen her disinherited cousin in years, but she was not surprised to find the beautiful Sonia in trouble.  For Sonia's past was marked with heartbreak and scandal.  And now, as always, she had turned to Mary for help...Mary soon found herself caught in a mystifying web of terror.  Why did strangers claim to know her?  Who was the man whose kiss thrilled her while his eyes terrified her?  And why was someone stalking her in the night -- waiting to move in for the kill?  Was Sonia a born victim of evil?  Or was it that she, Mary, had really been the victim all along?"  Interesting fact, apropos of nothing, the author was once an assistant to Eleanor Roosevelt."
  • Andrew Garve" (Paul Winterton), No Tears for Hilda.  Mystery.  "George Lambert's horrid wife Hilda takes a nap -- with her head in the oven.  He thinks she killed herself.  Inspector Haines of Scotland Yard believes George killed her.  George's best friend Max Easterbrook knows someone else was responsible, but can he prove it?"
  • David Lynn Goleman, Ancients.  An Event Group thriller, the third (of fourteen) in the series.  "Eons before the birth of the Roman Empire, there was a civilization dedicated to the sciences of the earth, sea, and sky.  In the City of Light lived people who made dark plans to lay waste to their uncivilized neighbors using the very power of the planet itself.  As the great science of their time was brought to bear on the invading hordes, hell was set loose on Earth.  And the civilization of Atlantis disappeared in a suicidal storm of fire and water.  Now history threatens to repeat itself.  the great weapon of the Ancients has been discovered in the South Pacific, and it is being deciphered by men of hatred who want to unleash hell on Earth once again.  This time, it's up to Colonel Jack Collins and the Event Group -- comprised of the nation's most brilliant minds in the fields of science, philosophy, and the military to find the truth behind the world's greatest unsolved myth -- to end the cycle of destruction.  Meanwhile, the seas rise, the earth cracks, and entire cities crumble to dust as the evil plan mapped out thousands of years before begins to take shape."
  • H. Rider Haggard, She and Allan.  An Allan Quatermain/Ayesha (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) mash-up.  Yeah, this one is readily available online, but when I came across this Longmans, Green and Co. 1921 hardback (first American edition?  possibly; also possibly a first world edition) for a buck, how could I resist?  No dust jacket on this one, but the cover painting by Enos B. Cornstock of the title characters is repeated inside as a frontispiece.  Adventure of the highest order.
  • Harry Harrison, Stars & Stripes Forever.  Alternate history novel, the first in a trilogy.  "On November 8, 1861, a U.S. navy warship stopped a British packet and seized two Confederate emissaries on their way to England to seek backing for their cause.  England responded with rage, calling for a war of vengeance.  The looming crisis was defused by the peace-minded Prince Albert.  But imagine how Albert's absence during this critical moment night have changed everything.  For lacking Albert's calm voice of reason, Britain now seizes the opportunity to attack and conquer a crippled, war-torn America.  Ulysses S. Grant is poised for an attack that could smash open the South's defenses.  In Washington, Abraham Lincoln sees a first glimmer of hope that this bloody war might soon end.  But then  disaster strikes.  English troops have invaded from Canada.  With most of the Northern troops withdrawn to fight the new enemy, General William Tecumseh Sherman and his weakened army stand alone against the Confederates.  Can a divided, bloodied America defeat England, or will the United States cease to exist for all time?"  Harrison has never been less than interesting.
  • Geoffrey Household, Hostage:  London:  The Diary of Julian Despard.  Thriller.  "Magma International:  ruthless anarchists...Their aim:  revolution through fear...Their weapon:  an atom bomb hidden somewhere in the heart of London...Operating under the guise of a publisher's salesman, Julian Despard is a loyal member of Magma -- until he discovers the mass-murder plot threatening London.  Breaking with his former comrades, he sets out to prevent the catastrophe even as the terrorist blackmail of Downing Street begins.  But will he be able to locate and defuse the bomb before Scotland Yard arrests him...before Magma itself finds and kills him?"
  • Maxim Jakubowski, editor, The Best British Mysteries 2005.  Anthology with 28 short stories from Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Peter Robinson, H. R. F. Keating, Val McDermid, Peter Lovesey John Mortimer, Ian Rankin, Robert Bernard, Christopher Fowler, and more.  Looks like there's some pretty good stuff here.
  • Robert Jordan, Conan the Defender, Conan the Magnificent, and Conan the Unconquered,  Pastiche novels based on the Robert E. Hoard character.  Jordan penned seven of these years before he wrote the best-selling The Wheel of Time doorstop fantasy series.  In these three, our mighty-thewed warrior faces the diabolical Simulacrum of Albanus, the unslayable Beast of Fire, and a sorcerer who rules the unspeakably corrupt, respectively.  For the gosh-wow kid in me.
  • John Kessel, Good News from Outer Space.  Science fiction, first published in 1989.  "The year is 1999,.  The millennium is approaching fast, and America is ready to believe that the World is indeed about to End.  The economy is a disaster, despite a complete restructuring of the money supply.  Nuclear war in the Middle East has created a new, permanent gasoline shortage.  Gene-splicing technology has given political terrorists almost undetectable weapons.  Poverty, drugs, disease are rampant in the cities, while the new Christian Fundamentalism has taken almost total control of the countryside.  The church is even running the prison system.  The most popular on-line news service in America is the Hemisphere Confidential Report, a computer network descendant of today's supermarket tabloids.  George Eberhart is HCR's top reporter and writer -- once a legitimate newsman, the crumbling economy has forced him into writing 'news' that is little more than fiction.  But now George is onto something really real.  He has perceived a pattern in the sensational stories he reports, a pattern that has led him to believe that the stories of alien invasion may be something more than hysteria."
  • Jim Kjelgaard, Fire-Hunter.  Young adult prehistoric novel.  "Hawk grasped the pup by the scruff of its neck and reached for his club.  This was why he had brought the animal home -- no let him serve as food for a hungry man.  Swiftly, Willow snatched the pup from his hands.  Hawk got to his feet with a growl of rage -- a woman had defied him!  'Do not kill it!  We have food!' Willow cried.  She rose and faced the enraged man.  But as she stared over his shoulders, her eyes widened in fear.  Hawk turned and saw the sabertooth tiger between them and the safety of their fire."  Kjelgaard was a go-to author when I was a kid.
  • John L. Lansdale, Broken Moon.  Western.  "Billie Jo rode up on the top of a knoll, watching the Snyders riding hell-bent for leather toward her.  After dismounting, she plucked a sunflower from the ground and blew the petals, taking note of the wind speed and direction.  The Snyder brothers were making up ground to her fast.  She turned the paint sideways, took her Winchester from the saddle scabbard and laid it across the saddle.  The sun struck the gun barrel, sending a ray of ight down the dell.  She pulled her hat down to shade her eyes, aimed and fired.  The lead rider fell from his horse about a hundred yards away.  The other one stopped, dismounted and scrambled into a small depression.  The two going up Sunset Mountain heard the shot, stopped, held their hats  between them and the sun, looking back down the mountain to where brothers were riding to see if the one she shot would get up.  He didn't.  Billie Jo stuck the rifle back in the scabbard and rode as hard as her mare could go, heading for Rainbow Park..."  Signed.  The author's brother is Joe R. Lansdale.
  • Joe R. Lansdale, The Events Concerning.  A collection of two novellas:  "The Events Concerning a Nude Fold-Out Found in a Harlequin Romance" (1992, a Stoker Award winner)) and "The Events Concerning Two Stabbed Clowns in a Bloody Bathtub" (original).  Also, The Senior Girls Bayonet Drill Team and Other Stories.  A collection of 26 sui generis Lansdale stories.  And, Shooting Star.  Young adult science fiction.  "John Shaw just wanted to go fishing and live off the land -- and now he is only one of a few survivors involved in a horrific crash between a locomotive and a flying saucer.  Stranded in an unforgiving environment, desperate to survive, he and the remaining passengers must outrun, and outsmart, the the alien life forms that are picking off one by one."  Whatever is in the water in East Texas, they should bottle it up and ship it as many other writers as possible.
  • "Emma Lathen" (Mary Jane Latsis & Martha Henissart), Pock Up Sticks.  A John Putnam Thatcher mystery.  "...when Wall Street's John Putnam Thatcher and his Down East crony, Henry Morland, started hiking the Appalachian Trail, they hardly expected to stumble over a dead body...nor did real estate promoters Eddie Quinlan and Ralph Valenti plan to play hosts to a murderer at their luxurious new vacation development...but then, neither did Steve Lester anticipate bumping into his ex-wife or being hammered to death.  The head of the Sloan Guaranty Trust Department again combines his financial skills and unbounded curiosity to solve the murder of a man nobody seemed to dislike enough to kill."
  • Laurie Mantell, Murder in Fancy Dress.  The first Detective Sergeant Steve Arrow mystery.  "The boy claimed he had killed a 'baddie' -- but had he the wit to know?  It would be easy for Detective Sergeant Steven Arrow to take the word of Tommy White and close the case right there.  But Arrow is too good a cop to credit the confession of a mentally retarded teenage.  His dogged investigation of the death of a local policeman, bizarrely costumed for Wild West  day in their New Zealand town, leads him to the 'brains' behind Tommy's statement -- and to peril for himself."  Kiwi author Mantell, who died in 2010 at aged 93, published six crime novels, five of which were in this series.
  • Ian Rankin, Knots & Crosses.  The first John Rebus mystery.  " 'And in Edinburgh of all places.  I mean, you never think of that sort of thing happening in Edinburg, do you...?'  That sort of thing is the brutal abduction and murder of two young girls.  And now a third is missing, presumably gone to the same sad end.  Detective Sergeant John Rebus, smoking and drinking too much, his own young daughter spirited away south by his disenchanted wife, is one of the many policemen hunting the killer.  And then the messages begin to arrive:  knotted string and matchbook crosses -- taunting Rebus with pieces of a puzzle only he can solve."  Also, Resurrection Men.  Another Rebus mystery, the 13th in the series and winner of the Edgar Award.  "Rebus is off the case -- literally.  A few days into a murder inquiry following the brutal death of an Edinburg art dealer, Rebus blows up at DCS Gill Templer.  He is sent to the Scottish Police College for 'retraining' -- in other words, he's in the Last Chance Saloon.  Rebus is given an old, unsolved case to work on, in order to teach him and others the merits of teamwork.  But there are those on the team who have their own secrets -- and they'll stop at nothing to protect them.  Then Rebus is asked to act as a go-between for gangster 'Big Ger' Cafferty.  And as newly promoted DS Siobhan Clarke works the case of the murdered art dealer, she is brought closer to Cafferty than she ever expected..."
  • Ken Shufeldt, Tribulations.  Science fiction, sequel to Genesis.  "An asteroid storm has obliterated Earth.  Billy and Linda West have built enough space-going arks to save a small number of people who now roam the void in search of a new home.  Desperate to find a safe haven, Billy makes a dangerous attempt to exceed the speed of light.  When his plans go terribly wrong, their severely damaged ship is separated from the fleet and left drifting near a mysterious planet.  This world's conditions are hospitable -- but its inhabitants are not.  Suddenly the Wests and their fellow survivors are caught in the middle of an ancient war between two brutal nations.  Faced with horrific dangers, they are forced to choose a side just to survive."  I know nothing about this book or its author, but there was a cover blurb from Ed Gorman, so I said, what the hell, Ed's tastes were always much better than mine.
  • "Nevil Shute" (Nevil Shute Norway), In the Wet.  Published in 1953, a futuristic novel of 1983, that "contains many of the typical elements of a hearty and adventurous Shute yarn such as flying, the future, mystic states, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things."  There's also a lot of social and political commentary in this tale of a future Australia during the rainy season, called "the wet."
  • Neal Stephenson, Reamde.  (Doorstop (1000+ pages) science fiction novel.  "The black sheep of an Iowa farming clan, former draft dodger and successful marijuana smuggler Richard Forthrast amasses a small fortune over the years -- and then increased it a thousandfold when he created T'Rain, a massive multibillion dollar multiplayer online role-playing game.  T'Rain now has millions of obsessed fans from the U.S. to China.  but a small group of ingenious Asian hackers has just unleashed REAMDE -- a virus that encrypts  all of a player's electronic files and holds them for ransom -- which has unwittingly triggered a war that is creating chaos not only in the virtual world but in the real one as well.  Its repercussions will be felt all around the globe -- setting in motion a devastating series of events involving Russian mobsters, computer geeks, secret agents, and Islamic Terrorists -- with Forthrast standing at ground zero and his loved one caught in the crossfire."
  • "John Taine" (Eric Temple Bell), The Forbidden Garden.  Science fiction.  This was the third book published by Arthur Lloyd Eshbach's pioneering publishing house Fantasy Press, following novels by E.E. Smith and Jack Williamson.  and it never proved to be as popular as most of the other titles the company published.  As "Taine," the author published 16 science fiction novels from 1924 through 1954; a number of his stories in the 20s and early 30s remain classics of early science fiction.  As Bell, he was a well-regarded mathematician and author of 14 books on mathematics and the sciences.  The Forbidden Garden (1947) is a proto-feminist scientific romance about a search for a rare flower in the Gobi desert and for a soil sample that could be worth a million dollars.  "...[Q]ueer delphinium, hereditary insanity, black ice, radioactivity, a visitant from cosmic distances and remote ages, seeds of madness, and the strangest garden ever imagined"'s all here in a wild roller-coaster ride of fantastic adventure.
  • Joan Vatsek, This Fiery Night.  Novel, published in 1959, about the events that led to Nassar.  "There is a magnificent range and excitement in this novel of modern Egypt in crisis -- of Englishmen and Englishwomen, Americans and the flower of Egypt itself swept by ambition, intrigue and corruption toward outrage and a blazing holocaust."  This was another what-the-heck purchase, bought because she was the wife of Robert Arthur, the radio scriptwriter (Suspense), creator of The Three Investigators, and one of the best Alfred Hitchcock anthologists.
  • Walter Wager, Viper Three.  Suspense thriller, filmed as Twilight's Last Gleaming, with Burt Lancaster and Richard Widmark   "It was impossible.  there were too many safeguards.  Not even Fort Knox had security as tight as that surrounding the underground control center of an ICBM launch site.  Yet five condemned murderers had penetrated into the very heart of the Minuteman site code named Viper Three."  Wage was noted for his crime and espionage thrillers.  As "John Tiger," he wrote seven tie-in novels for I Spy and two for Mission:  Impossible.  Other books filmed were Telefon (the 1977 film starred Charles Bronson), and 58 Minutes (filmed as Die Hard 2, Yippee-ki-yay, motherlover!) 
  • David Wilson, McCloud #4:  The Corpse Maker.  Television tie-in novel, based on the fourth season episode "The Solid Gold Swingers" (December 2, 1973).  "each murder was the same -- strangulation with a silk scarf.  Each victim was the same -- a beautiful young woman, employed by an expensive rent-a-girl setup.  McCloud smelled a phony from the start.  The similarities were too carefully arranged.  This was a hell of lot more than a psycho-killer with a twisted hunger for beautiful corpses.   Bur half-way to the truth Marshal McCloud was taken off the case.  He was coming too close to someone with too much to lose.  Someone powerful enough to get a tough New York City cop kicked off the detective beat.  But that someone wasn't counting on McCloud's never-quit stubborn streak.  He continued to hunt the killer on his own -- pulling the noose tighter around the most explosive sex and blackmail scheme the city had ever seen!"  I have read that Wilson might be a pseudonym for one or more authors; I don't know.  If anyone does, please comment.  I should also note that two of the McCloud tie-ins were penned by Colin Wilcox, while at least three were by Wilson.
  • Stuart Woods and Parnell Hall, Barely Legal.  A Herbie fisher novel, featuring Stone Barrington.  "Stone Barrington has successfully transformed his protege, Herbie Fisher, into the youngest partner in the law firm Woodman & Weld. Now Herbie must get used to being the name on everyone's lips.  But with new prestige comes new enemies...and darker schemes.  If Herbie's going to hold onto his hard-won status, he'll need to use every last lesson Stone has taught him."  Why is it that with many best selling authors who use co-authors to boost their production, I am much more interested in the co-authors than I am in the guy who gets the biggest credit on the cover?  Yeah, I bought this one because of Parnell Hall.  Wager's 1954 book, The Pentagon's Favorite Magicians (as by "John Tiger") was not published until 2014 (ten years after the author's death) at the request of the United /states Department of Defense --wow!

Chickenman:  Since the late Sixties, I have been the fan of the radio adventures of the greatest crime-fighter the world has ever know:  Chickenman.  As we all know, Chickenman was the weekend secret identity of Midland City shoe salesman Benton Harbor.  He was created by Chicago radio announcer Dick Orkin and appeared almost daily from 1966 to 1969 in episodes lasting only a minute or two.  The Chickenman series was revived in 1973 with Chickenman vs the Earth Polluters, and again in 1977 in Chickenman Returns for the Last Time Again.  Ira Glass of NPR's This American Life has been a big Chickenman fan from the days when his program first aired (under the title Your Radio Playhouse) on WBEZ Radio.

Here's a brief clip from This American Life, in which Glass spotlights two of the Chickenman episodes.


Postscript:  Strangely, my love for Chickenman is not universal.  When I married Kitty in 1970, I was shocked to find that she did not care for Chickenman, calling it stupid.  That was the single sore point in our 52-year marriage.  **sigh**

Tax Day:  Have you filed?

Back in 1942, Tax Day was the Ides of March, March 15.  During the first yer of federal income tax -- 1913 -- taxes were due on March 1.  The date was changed to March 15 in 1918, and then again to April 15 in 1955.

To celebrate Tax Day, here's a patriotic song from 1942 from Dick Robertson and his orchestra.  The song was written by Irving Berlin.

And here's a version from Gene Autry, with Jimmy Wakely's Trio and Lou Bring's Orchestra:

Ombra mai fu:  286 years ago, Handel's opera Sirse was first performed at the King's Theatre in Haymarket.  Sadly, the innovative nature of the work doomed it to failure and it disappeared from the stage for almost 200 years until it was revived in 1924.  Its popularity then grew and it became Handle's second most popular opera (after Guilio Cesare).  It tells of the Persian king Xerxes, who desires his brother's love Romilda, and of the complications it brings.  

The opening aria, Ombra mai fu, has Xerxes singing praises to a plane tree for providing him shade.  It utilizes one of Handle's best known melodies and it often referred to as Handel's "Largo."

Here's the aria, as performed by Cecilia Bartoli:

Definition:  A short description of a thing by its properties; a decision:  Today is the 269th anniversary of Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language.  A typically overconfident Johnson claimed he could complete the work in three years; it took him eight.  Here are some of his definitions of words you may or may not be familiar with:
  • Abb:  the yarn on a weaver's warp.
  • Bolter:  a sieve to separate meal from bran.
  • Crocodile:  a large, voracious, amphibious animal, in a shape resembling a lizard.
  • Deglutition:  the act of swallowing.
  • Emulge:  to milk out; drain.
  • Formidible:  terrible, dreadful, terrifick.
  • Fornication:  concubinage, unchastity between single persons; the crime of idolatry.
  • Goat.: a ruminant animal, that seems to be a middle species between deer and sheep.
  • Hardmouthed:  disobedient to the rein.
  • Harslet, Haslet:  the heart, liver, and lights of a hog.
  • Ipicacuanha:  an emetick Indian plant.
  • Jehovah:  the appropriate name of God in the Hebrew language.
  • Jejune:  hungry; unaffecting; trifling.
  • Kam:  crooked, thwart, awry.
  • Laconism:  a concise, pithy style.
  • Metonomy:  a figure in rhetorick, , when one word is used for another.
  • Nuncheon:  food eaten between meals.
  • Oaf:  a changeling; an idiot.
  • Omelet:  a pancake made with eggs.
  • Paddock:  a toad or frog; small enclosure.
  • Quincunx:  a plantation; a measure.
  • Ragamuffin:  a paltry, mean fellow.
  • Reason: a faculty, or power of the soul, whereby it deduces one proposition from another; cause, principle, motive.
  • Scammony:  a concreted, resinous juice.
  • Scrofula:  the disease commonly called the king's evil.
  • Tarantula:  a venomous insect, whose bite is cured only by musick.
  • Uncircumcision:  a want of circumcision.
  • Usquebaugh:  an Irish compound distilled spirit; the Highland sort, by corruption, is called whiskey.
  • Vampire:  a pretended demon, said to delight in sucking the blood from dead human bodies, and to animate the bodies of dead persons.
  • Vaticide:  the murderer of poets.
  • Walleyed:  having white eyes.
  • Whortleberry:  bilberry, a plant.
  • X is a numeral for ten; but, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language.
  • Youngster, Yunker:  a young person.
  • Zeugma:  a figure in grammar, when a verb agreeing with divers nouns, or an adjective with divers substantives, is referred to one expressly and to the other by supplement; as lust overcame shame, boldness fear, and madness reason. 
  • Zocle:  a small sort of stand or pedestal, being a low, square piece or member, used to support a busto, statue, &c.
If you use any of these words five time in a sentence, they are yours to keep!

The Real Thing:  Today is the birthday of Henry James (1843-1916), author of The Turn of the Screw.
To celebrate here's the LibravVox recording of his classic short story "The Real Thing" ("The Right Real Thing"), a tale that blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy.  Read by Nichoplas Clifford, this story clocks in at just under an hour and five minutes:

St. Louis Blues:  It's also the birthday of the great Bessie Smith (1894-1937)  Here's a short film from 1929 with Bessie singing the W. C. Handy title song, St. Louis Blues:

And here's a 1925 recording (without the annoying commercial interruption), with Louis Armstrong on the cornet:

May There Always Be Sunshine:  Today is also National ALS (American Sign Language) Day.  Here's a kindergarten class singing one of my favorite songs in English Russian, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Cantonese...and American Sign Language.  The words are universal.  Enjoy.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Luis Ancieto Herrada, 64, of Monroe County, has been arrested and charged with aggravated battery with  deadly weapon and elderly abuse for allegedly repeatedly striking a 78-year-old man with a 2x4.  According to witness, the act was committed "for unknown reasons."  Hey, this is Florida.  Do we really need a reason?
  • If you bring a loaded gun with fourteen rounds of ammunition into an airport and TSA catches it, how can you hide it?  If you are Florida Man Abraham Othman Yacoub, 26, of Lakeland, you grab the bag that contains the gun and run into the bathroom, where you wrap it in toilet paper and try to hide it in the trash.  The toilet paper ploy did not work and Yacoub is facing a potential twenty years in federal prison.  The toilet paper, thankfully, was new and not used.
  • Florida Man Francel Parker believes his 20-year-old son, Levion Parker, is alive.  Levion Parker leapt from the eleventh floor of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship while 57 miles from Fort Lauderdale.  Francel Parker said his son, who worked on a commercial fishing boat, was a "master diver" and had numerous flotation devices thrown to him after his leap.  From the bottom of my heart, I pray that this father is right.
  • Florida Man Careem Griffith, 46, of Jacksonville, was arrested for stealing "nine succulent lobster tails, four premium ribeye steaks, two packages of snow crab legs, and a rotisserie chicken" from a Walmart in Yulee.  Sometimes you can't control the hunger, I guess.  In related news, South Florida Man Alberto Betancourt, 36, was caught on camera stealing met from grocery stores at knifepoint.  His crime spree includes robberies at Publix, Tropical Supermarkets, and Marshalls in the Miami-Dade area.  Jail records show Betancourt has a "long history of petit theft."
  • An unnamed Florida Man man was shot and killed while in the pick-up line at an elementary school in Port St. John.  According to police, the gun was fired accidentally.  No further details were available.  What the H!@# was a loaded gun doing in a car an elementary school pickup line? 

Good News:
  • Teen with an incredibly rare condition is cured in a world first.
  • In 1978 a teacher junior high school science teacher promised his class an eclipse party in 2024 -- he just hosted it.
  • Florida police officers arrested a delivery driver on felony charges, then delivered the grocery order themselves.  Sometimes Florida Men can be cool.
  • 60% of Europe's electricity was produced by clean energy in the first two months of 2024
  • New York City coffee shop hires and trains people with autism and down syndrome to work there 
  • Bank teller saves customer from losing millions on a scam

Today's Poem:

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only underground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing.
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay