Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


The Five Stairsteps.


My brother was fired from his job at the bank on his very first day.  A woman asked him to check her balance so he pushed her over.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones.


This interesting low-budget film from small company Invincible Pictures stars Reginald Denny as a playwright and reluctant detective when two producers of his play are murdered.  Evelyn Brent, Jack La Rue, Inez Courtney, and Hugh Marlowe are in the top credited cast.

I liked the film, but reviewers are mixed on IMDb.  Thus:

"A wise cracking little thriller that's actually much better than it's title."

"WONDERFULLY enjoyable, entertaining and clever classic 'whodunit'...has literally got everything from a complicated plot with LOTS of suspects, a pretty unusual murder method, and some QUITE suspenseful moments, to the most funny and original wisecracks and the most hilarious characters."

"No one can dream up a dumber murder method (but they did)...but then surprisingly, it became enjoyable."

"A mostly static, dull, over-talkative, and ultimately disappointing movie.  I couldn't make sense of the garrulous plot...a shame to see Evelyn Brent wasted...a chatterbox like Inez Courtney and a tepid hero like Reginald Denny...One incredibly boring scene [with] the lackluster Denny...I thought would never end."

Well, you can't please everyone.

This one was directed by Phil Rosen (Charlie Chan in the Secret Service, Captain Tugboat Annie, The Shadow Returns) from a script by Arthur T. Horman (The Lone Wolf in Paris, Buck Privates, Captains of the Clouds).


Monday, December 11, 2017


Danny O'Keefe.


  • Ursula Curtiss, The House on Plymouth Street and Other Stories.  Collection of thirteen mystery stories.  Curtiss came from a writing family; her mother was mystery novelist Helen Reilly and her sister was mystery novelist Mary McMullen, who provides a warm and interesting look at Curtiss in the books introduction.  Curtiss is somewhat of a forgotten writer, although her books have gotten positive reviews lately from Sergio at Tipping My Fedora, John Norris at Pretty Sinister Books, and others.
  • "Michael Innes" (J. I. M. Stewart), Lament for a Maker.  Mystery novel, the third featuring Sir John Appleby.  In addition to being an academic, contemporary novelist, and literary critic, Stewart published nearly fifty mystery novels and collections under his Innes pseudonym from 1936 to 1987, thirty-five of which featured Appleby, who began as a Detective Inspector at Scotland Yard and rose to Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.  From the Crime Fiction Lover blog:  "The third novel by Innes is a remarkable combination of gothic horror and literary thriller with an obvious debt to Robert Louis Stevenson.  Set in a fictional district of Scottish hamlets, it begins like a 1930s version of Trainspotting with a local shoemaker's account in an authentic dialect of the bizarre events that have occurred during a snowbound Christmas.  The mad recluse Ranald Guthrie, the laird of Erchany, has fallen from the ramparts of his castle on a stormy winter night.  A crime appears to have been committed but few will mourn the passing of the miserly laird, who was in thrall to a clannish feud going back centuries."
  • Mel Odom, Paid in Blood, Blood Evidence, and Blood Lines.  The three novels in Odom's NCIS:  Crime Scene series.  These are not television tie-ins, but are original novels featuring NCIS Commander Will Coburn.  In the first:  "An NCIS agent is found murdered in North Carolina...A U.S. Marine with ties to the South Korean black market is assassinated in Chinhae...Columbian cocaine is discovered in Moscow...And old Soviet nuclear missiles have gone missing."  In the second, "A serial killer stalks a quiet North Carolina community...A sixteen-year-old has been savagely killed...A dead soldier is linked to a seventeen-year-old murder case...And a high-powered politician may be involved."  And in the third:  "An NCIS agent is shot taking down a suspect...Two fathers fight to protect their sons..And somewhere in the jungles of Vietnam, a U.S. soldier lies in a forty-year-old grave."  The publisher of this series, Tyndale House, is known for religious nonfiction and fiction, often from a conservative Christian viewpoint; their biggest sellers have been the Left Behind series.
  • Edgar Wallace, The Forger.  Mystery novel, circa 1927.  "Newly married to a man she did not love, Jane Leith is plunge headlong into a nightmare of murder and madness.  What was the secret of her husband's immense fortune?  Was he 'The Clever One' who kept the banks and the police of the world guessing with his brilliant Forgeries?  Or was he a homicidal maniac?"  Wallace, of course, wrote a gazillion thrillers during the first third of the last century.  His work now is dated and. at times. quaintly readable.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


Weather has been acting strangely lately.  Here in Pensacola, it snowed last night.  Maybe fifty flakes (I didn't count).  One enterprising person was actually able to catch a snowflake in a jar for the Pensacola Museum of Ain't That Weird, but by the time he got there the sneaky snowflake had managed to escape, leaving behind only a small trace of snowflake pee.

Here's a BBC documentary on strange weather phenomena.



Oya, with one of my favorites.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Once upon a time, The Dave Clark Five were almost as big as The Beatles.

NICKEL COMICS #1 (MAY 17, 1940)

A nickel!  Wow!  For that price you can buy two copies -- one for each hand -- rather than one of those elite, just-for-the-over-privileged-1%, ten-cent comics!  (Or, alternatively since Nickel Comics was scheduled for fortnightly* publication,you can get both issues for the same thin dime.)

Every comic has to have their designated superheroes, right?  So this first issues has some origin stories.

Jim Barr's father -- an honest and fearless police sergeant -- was gunned down by gangsters, leaving his young son to vow to become a police officer like his father and fight crime.  In preparation the young lad spends his time studying "scientific criminology" and ballistics -- earning him the nickname "Bullet."  Jim then spends several years working on hid pet theory that criminal behavior is caused by a germ (or toxin); working tirelessly to develop an anti-toxin for his "crime cure."**

Finally old enough to take the police exam, Jim is humiliated to learn that he failed:  too short, too skinny, bad marksmanship --the years working in a lab had "taken their toll."  Jim does get a job as a civilian laboratory criminologist for the police department.  In his spare time,he continued to try to create his "crime cure."  He finally tests his serum on himself and is disappointed to find it did not work.  SPOILER ALERT!  But it did work!  END SPOILER ALERT!  When Jim wakes up the next morning, his body had altered!  "Overnight the serum has destroyed all the germs and toxins in Jim's body.  Thus released from the poisons which sap other men's strength, Jim's muscles and nerves develop with amazing speed.  His chest deepens, he grows taller and heavier and his body grows hard and strong as steel.  The serum had done its work."  Jim had become the most powerful man on Earth.

Realizing that this power cannot fall into the hands of criminals, Jim destroys his work.  Wearing over-sized clothes to disguise his new body, Jim returns to work.  When a killer holds the police at bay with a truckload of dynamite, Jim decides that he could do something to honor his father -- he could become a costumed crime-fighter who can strike fear into the hearts of evil-doers.  The serum had also increased his brain power, so Jim could easily make and design a bullet-shaped helmet that als served as a "gravity-regulator."    Clad in knee-high black boots, yellow jodhpurs, a black belt as wide as a sizable tire, a red short sleeve shirt  with a vee-neck front that reached just above the navel, two wide golden bracelets (one for each wrist), and his bullet helmet, Jim Barr is transferred into...BULLETMAN!  All this was done in done for Jim, in his new persona, to catch the killer who had stymied the police for hours.  Then he did even more stuff.  Phew!

But wait!  This was not the only origin story in this issue.  On Africa's Gold Coast, Bushmen attack Dr. Wilbur Dale and his wife and their twin infant sons.  A faithful servant is able to flee with one of the young boys, Bill, saving him while leaving his twin Stephen and his parents to die.  The baby is then shipped to America where his dead father's lawyer serves as his guardian.  When Bill is 22, rumors come to him about a huge white man called  living in Africa's interior called Sti-Vah.  So, off Bill goes to Africa in hopes that his brother had survived and that this is him.  In Africa, he gets a companion called Dagoo, a pygmy, and together they travel to an unexplored part of the continents where they encounter savage ape-men and gint animals (snakes and elephants and gorillas, oh my!).  At last they meet Stephen, who is now the ruler of a tribe of giant natives, only to have the village attacked by Arab slavers.   Captured by the slavers, the two now face new dangers as the legend of THE JUNGLE TWINS is born.

This issue also introduces us to Warlock the Wizard (a white "white" as in good, not white as in Caucasian...although he surely is.  This is 1940, after all.) and his wise raven Hugin.  Warlock has a golden staff topped by a clenched hand.  When Warlock shouts the word of power (it's "ABRAXAS," but don't tell anyone) the hand leaves the staff, grows to a huge size, and obeys Warlocks commands -- usually about saving innocents and smashing bad men.  The word of power also does other nifty things (basically anything the script calls for) to help save the day. This tme, Warlock faces off against Baron Garth, Lord of Evil and a black magician ("black" as in evil, not Negro, cause the Baron is also a Caucasian.  This is 1940, after all.), who has beautiful Joan Scott in his clutches.  Monsters and magic galore happen.  I also have to mention that it's cool that Hugin (the bird) is the one who tells Warlock that someone needs saving.

And all in color for a nickel!  Brought to you by the same folks who bring you Mechanix Illustrated.


* Actually, the publishers (Fawcett)said "bimonthly,"which used to mean every two months but has now been corrupted by (IMHO) yahoos who also use it to mean twice a month, so you you now hear bimonthly, you don't know if they mean once every two months or twice a month.  Yes, like the Oxford comma or double-spacing after a sentence-ending period, this is a pet peeve of mine.  Actually, the publishers said this "bimonthly" comic book would appear every other Friday.  In my book, this means fortnightly.  So not only is Fawcett's bimonthly not like your grandparents' bimonthly, t'ain't anyone's bimonthly.  Ptah!

** Yes, this is a quack theory, bordering on super-quack.  But we've seen a lot of them in our time, haven't we?

Friday, December 8, 2017


Duane Eddy.


Tarzan and the Madman by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1964)

The last complete Tarzan novel (the 23rd) to be published by Edger Rice Burroughs came fourteen years after the author's death.  There's a reason for that.

Tarzan and the Madman was actually written in 1941 but was shelved by the author when "Pearl Harbor and the war drew Edgar Rice Burroughs away from his writing due to a more active career as a war correspondent."  The manuscript lingered, forgotten, in the author's files until discovered by Burroughs' son Hubert.  Perhaps it should have stayed there.

It's not that the book isn't an enjoyable read.  It has a lot of the expected Burroughs touches that one looks for in a Tarzan novel -- a lost city, a woman in peril, various characters wandering through the jungle missing each other at every available opportunity, dangers galore, the whole civilization versus nature thing, a sly sense of often self-deprecating humor, and a hero with superhuman abilities.  It's just that the book is a bit...odd.  There's just no there there.

It reads (and probably is) like a first draft, perhaps abandoned until the author could get a clearer grasp on what he wanted to say and how to say it.  With 33 chapters, each averaging less than five pages, there is a lot that is not fleshed out and plot points that seem to be thrown in willy-nilly after the fact.  One does not expect three-dimensional characters from Burroughs; likewise, one does not want to encounter one-dimensional or no-dimensional characters.  One of the villains in the piece is introduced as an opinionated Bolshevik for a couple of paragraphs and for the rest of the book this aspect of the book is completely ignored.  Another villain is described as a "rotter," as if that one word early in the novel is enough to describe his character.  Neither villain, by the way, is very villain-y.

The two main warring factions in the book are poorly described.  Their attempts at war are deliberately laughable and are designed to maintain a status quo, allowing Burroughs to pontificate on the absurdity of war.  He then hints on the necessity of war. 

The word "fascist" appears only once in the book as we are told that all fascists are gullible.

Tarzan himself is unconvincing and, at times, very unTarzan-like.

The heroine is captured and recaptured and captured again by various groups.  I lost count after the seventh times she was captured.

The love triangle in the story comes to a quick end when one of the suitors is killed by a giant ape, quickly, as if the author suddenly tired of the gent.

Scenes that should have taken paragraphs if not pages are skimmed over with a single sentence
The book ends not with a bang, but with a deus-ex-talkedy-talk in which everything is explained in a fast and unconvincing manner.

The plot?  A man claiming to be Tarzan has been kidnapping native women and children.  The real Tarzan discovers this and is determined to track down and kill this imposter who has sullied his name.
The false Tarzan has been taking the kidnapped ones to a lost city in the jungle for human sacrifices, and that's when he doesn't throw them to a captive group of hungry lions.  He is awkwardly referred to a "the man who thought he was Tarzan" through out the book.

The lost city is inhabited by Portuguese descendants of followers of Christoforo de Gama (brother of famed explorer Vasco de Gama), thought to have been destroyed by Moslems 400 years ago.  The Portuguese then bred with natives as their culture declined and their Christian religion degraded to an unrecognizable state.  The city is cut off from the rest of Africa by a tribe of cannibals.  The king, a descendant of de Gama, and the high priest have been using the false Tarzan for their own ends.  Their only neighbors are in a nearby city of Moslems (who had also interbred and degraded), ruled by the cruel Sultan Ali.

King de Gama has sent the false Tarzan to capture a white woman -- any white woman.  The woman he captures is Sandra Pickerall, the daughter of the rich owner of Pickerall's Ale.  (Sandra is the one who spends the rest of the book being captured  by oh so many different people [and apes].)  there is a reward for the return of Sandra and another reward for the killing of Tarzan, who supposedly kidnapped her.  Sandra and the reward bring together many of the cast of characters -- good and bad -- whom we follow throughout the book.

Tarzan and the Madman is an entertaining, if hurried and jerky, read.  It would have been much better if Burroughs has got around  to making it much more coherent.  As it stands it is an ill-deserved capstone to a noted series.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


The Moody Blues.


From April 19, 1939, Chester Morris stars in this episode of The Silver Theater (brought to you by International Silver).  The Silver Theater ran from 1937 to 1947, presenting 232 dramatic programs.  (This was in addition to 23 variety shows that ran on The Silver Theater Summer Show in 1941, which was hosted by Ed Sullivan.)

Dave Sherman has inherited a huge fortune from his father, including the Lazy B ranch in Medicine Bow, Wyoming.  With his new-fund wealth, Dave heads east to achieve one of his personal goals:  to meet real New York City gangsters.  Connie Banister (Glenda Farrell), the daughter of a New York banker friend of Dave's father, introduces Dave to some of her friends, pretending they are gangsters.  Conrad Nagel hosts this comedy written by Paul Franklin.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis.


Never try to explain a pun to a kleptomaniac.  They take things literally.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Judy Garland & Gene Kelly, from 1942's For Me and My Gal.


From 1933, here's Popeye's theatrical cartoon debut, the first of 280 cartoons Popeye adventures filmed from 1933 to 1957.  Popeye began as a character in E. C. Segar's already popular Thimble Theatre comic strip and soon took over the strip.  According to Wikipedia, by the 1930s there was "hardly a newspaper reader in the Depression-era that did not know his name."  But animated cartoon characters, led by Mickey Mouse, proved to be very successful, King Features signed an agreement with Fleischer Studios to produce animated adventures of Popeye and the other Thimble Theatre characters.

In this first cartoon of the series, Popeye has just got shore leave.  Waiting for him is Olive Oyl.  A number of other sailors try to pick up Olive -- including Bluto -- but she only has eyes for Popeye.  Popeye and Olive head to a carnival, followed by Bluto, who tries to impress Olive by winning games of skill and strength.  He, however, is always outshone by Popeye.  Finally, he kidnaps Olive and, since she won't marry him, ties her to the railroad tracks.  Popeye (and a can of spinach) comes to the rescue.

This first cartoon introduces the Popeye the Sailor Man song, as well as the "Sailor's Hornpipe" theme song.

Popeye is voiced by Billy Costello, who reportedly became too big for his britches after the success of the first cartoons, and was replaced the more popular Jack Mercer.  Olive Oyl (and Betty Boop) is voiced by Bonnie Poe, later to be replaced by Mae Questal and her Zasu Pitts imitation.  Bluto is voiced by William Pennell.

Several things set this cartoon apart.  First, it also features Fleischer's popular Betty Boop.  Betty is a carnival dancer and Popeye goes on stage to join her.  Betty is also topless and dark-skinned -- a parody of Josephine Baker -- so I imagine this cartoon was seldom shown on Saturday morning children's TV.

Speaking of dark-skinned, one of the carnival games Popeye and Bluto play is African Dodger, in which the goal is to hit a Negro with a ball.  A disgustingly popular carnival game from America's past, this led in some cases to brain damage and blindness, and occasionally death.  One of many blots on our cultural past.  At the end of this clip, there is a brief description of this horrifying game.

Monday, December 4, 2017


Jeni LeGon, Bill Robinson, & Fats Waller 1935's Hooray for Love.


If last week was a drought, this week is a deluge:
  • Timothy B. Benford, The Ardennes Tapes.  Thriller/horror.  "Christmas Eve, 1944.  The Ardennes Forest was thick with blood as the Battle of the Bulge raged on.  But in the midst of combat, two hundred troops -- Americans and Germans alike -- abruptly ceased fighting, uniting to face one common -- and unspeakable -- enemy...Only two men survived.  Noe, four decades later, one still lives, institutionalized and unable -- or unwilling -- to speak.  Suddenly, he begins to rant, shieking in terror about the unmentionable horrors of Ardennes...Pray that somebody listens!'
  • J. T. Edson, Ranch War.  Western.  "It seems when a lady's called 'Calamity,' chaos follows wherever she goes -- even to the most peaceful railroad town of Mulrooney, Kansas.  Martha Jane Canary's always been free as the prairie wind, tied to no place or person, so she never expected to inherit a hardscrabble ranch that other folks have been working.  She might have ignored the legal summons to claim her property...if someone hadn't tried to kill her first.  Now, whether she wants the spread or not, Jane's going to fight for what's hers -- taking on bushwackers, crooked lawyers...and a woman with a greedy heart, and a plan to steal Jane's land with bullets and brutality,  But Calamity's got an ally -- a baby-face Texas gun called the Ysabel Kid -- not o mention stony courage, a strong and sure whip hand...and a mule-stubborn willingness to lay down her life for what's right."  This book was published in England as White Stallion, Red Mare.  Edson was a British writer who published 137 books, mostly westerns, many of which were about the Floating Outfit, of which the Ysobel Kid was a member.  Calamity Jane, a historical figure, also appeared in a number of his books.  The author, whose political and racial beliefs were evidently far to the right of Attila the Hun, has fallen out of favor in recent years.
  • P. N. Elrod, editor, Dark and Stormy Knights.  Urban fantasy anthology.  "They're the shadowy defenders of humanity -- modern-day knights committing the darkest of deeds for all the right reasons.  In this all-star collection, nine of today's hottest urban fantasy authors bring us thrilling, all-new stories of the supernatural brimming with magic, mystery, and mayhem."  Presented alphabetically, the authors are Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Shannon K. Butcher, Rachel Caine, P. N. Elrod, Deidre Knight, Vicki Petterson, Lilith Saintcrow, and Carrie Vaughn.
  • James Ellroy, guest editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2002.  Mystery anthology.  Twenty mystery and suspense stories from 2001 chosen from a longer list compiled by series editor Otto Penzler.  Authors are John Biguenet, Michael Connelly, Thomas H. Cook, Sean Doolittle, Michael Downs, Brendan DuBois, David Edgerly Gates, Joe Gores, James Grady, Clark Howard, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Malone, Fred Melton, Annette Meyers, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert B. Parker, F. X. O'Toole, Daniel Waterman, and Scott Wolven.  Six of the stories are reprinted from anthologies edited by Penzler (three from Murderer's Row and three from Murder on the Ropes), while another three are from The Mysterious Press Anniversary Anthology, which has a forward by Penzler (who was the founder of Mysterious Press).  EQMM, AHMM, and Playboy each have one story represented.
  • Alan Dean Foster, Flinx's Folly.  SF novel, the ninth published in the Pip and Flinx series, and the eighth chronologically; The Pip and Flinx series is a subset of the much larger Humanx Commonwealth series.  "It's a good thingFlinx is no stranger to trouble, because he's swimming in it.  After surviving an attack by a new gang of assailants, Flinx is spirited away and enlisted in a battle against an extra-galactic threat.  Hidden behind the Great Emptiness, in a place where it seems matter and energy have never been, thee is only evil.  Pure evil that is approaching him, accelerating.  This terrifying high-stakes adventure through perilous new realms will rocket Flinx into the very heart of danger -- and into the arms of the only woman he's ever loved.  As he and Pip bravely travel to a place where no man or mini-drag has gone before, Flinx discovers he has a few more friends than he thought -- and far more enemies than he ever imagined."
  • David Gerrold, The Galactic WhirlpoolStar Trek television tie-in  novel.  "Beyond the realm of the Federation, beyond the edge of the galaxy, a lost colony of humans in space drifts inexorably toward the galactic whirlpool.  Kirk blazes new star trails to these strange people, isolated for centuries.  Unless he can convince them that the Enterprise crew members are not 'demons,' they will be sucked into a churning one-way tunnel of doom!"  Gerrold, a well-known SF writer, got his start by creating the tribbles for Star Trek.
  • Paul Johnson, The Nameless Dead.  Thriller.  "Crime writer Matt Wells hasn't had much time for a career of late -- he's been too busy fighting for his life.  And now he can' trust anyone, not even himself.  His thoughts are not his own -- his subconscious has been infiltrated and a single word can trigger hidden orders buried deep within Matt's memory, turning him into a killing machine.  The FBI aims him at the man responsible for his conditioning:  an architect of Nazi revival and devotee of the Antichurch of Lucifer Triumphant.  This man Took Matt's life away and must pay.  Even in a nation rife with antigovernment paranoia and conspiracy theories, nobody could believe the things Matt has seen.  In a nation infected with trained assassins and ritual murderers, only he can piece together the truth and save the U.S. from impending disaster."
  • Scott Nicholson, The Harvest.  Horror.  "AS THE SEASON TURNS...Nestled deep in the Southern Appalachian Mountains is the town of Windshake.  Living among the populace of good ol' boy moonshiners and God-fearing folk are psychologist Tamara Leon and her family.  All her life Tamara has been plagued by dark dreams and visions.  She calls them 'Gloomies.'  They have an uncanny way of foreshadowing tragic events to come -- and her instincts tell her something unnatural is happening....SOMETHING WICKED GROWS  Because a new presence has taken up residence in Windshake.  It feeds off everything in its path, consuming life to fuel its malevolent purpose.  Its evil can be seen in the eyes if it converts as they proceed to spread its influence from neighbor to neighbor.  And its hunger will not be sated until it has remade Windshake in its own image..." 
  • Joyce Carol Oates, guest editor, The Best American Mystery Stories 2005.  Mystery and suspense anthology with twenty stories from 2004 chosen from a list provided by series editor Otto Penzler.  Authors this time out are Richard Burgin, Louise Erdrich, Daniel Handler, George V. Higgins, Edward P. Jones, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Tim McLoughlin, Lou Manfredo, David Means, Kent Nelson, Daniel Orozco, David Rachel, Joseph Raiche, John Sayles, Sam Shaw, Oz Spies, Scott Turow, and Scott Wolven.  Most of the stories here are reprinted from mainstream and small press magazines.  Only two stories came from genre sources:  one from EQMM and one from the website; another two came from Akashic Books Brooklyn Noir anthology.
  • Ann Perry, editor, A Century of British Mystery and Suspense.  Mystery and suspense anthology with 32 stories first published in the 20th century.  Many of the older standby authors are represented (Doyle, Chesterton, Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham), along with a number of noted authors from the mid-century (Michael Gilbert, Nicholas Blake, Patricia Moyes, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Ferrars, Ian Fleming) and beyond (Ruth Rendell, Ann Perry, Frances Fyfield, Robert Barnard, Simon Brett, Antonia Fraser, Reginald Hill, Peter Lovesey).  There's even a story by John Dickson Carr, who, though not a Brit, certainly wished he could have been one.  A very good collection of both the familiar and the unfamiliar.
  • Robert J. Randisi, Texas Bluff.  Western, the third in The Gamblers series.  "Professional gambler Ty Butler knows he should keep moving to stay ahead of the killers who wiped out his family and are now gunning for him.  But when a serious card player finds a challenging game in an honest house, he wants to stay a while.  For Butler, a certain gambling hall is paradise -- though the emporium's notorious owner, Little Luke Short can't seem to steer clear of Hell's Half Acre, a corrupt and festering boil in the middle of Fort Worth.  Short's been waging an on-going war with a crooked kingin, and now he's making it Ty's fight as well.  The stakes get higher when the criminal is murdered and the law comes running for Little Luke.  But Ty Butler recognizes a bluff when he sees one -- not to mention the unmistakable hand of a hired killer.  He may end up taking a bullet, but he's not cashing out of this game until real justice is done."  It's amazing how the extremely prolific Randisi (over 500 books and more than 30 anthologies) maintains a high quality in his writing.
  • Ruth Rendell, The Babes in the Woods and End in Tears.  Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford mysteries, the 19th and 20th novels in the series, respectively.  In the first book, as floods threaten "both the town of Kingsmarkham and his own home and no end to the rain in sight, Chief Inspector Wexford already has his hands full when he learns that two local teenagers have gone missing with their sitter, Joanna Troy.  Their hysterical mother is convinced that all three have drowned, and as the hours stretch into days Wexford suspects a case of kidnapping, perhaps connected with an unusual sect called the Church of the Good Gospel.  But when the sitter's smashed-up car is found at the bottom of a local quarry -- occupied by a battered corpse -- the investigation takes on a very different turn."  As for the second book, "When Mavis Ambrose is killed by a falling chunk of concrete, the police have no reason to suspect mischief.  However, the bludgeoning of the young and gorgeous Amber Marshalson that follows is clearly murder.  In the midst of the hottest summer onrecord, Inspector Wexford is called to investigate.  He discovers the two cases might be linked, and that amber was at the scene of Mavis's death.  When a third body is found. the case takes a disturbing and unexpected turn.  The deeper Wexford digs, the darker the realities become, and what he finds leaves him feeling lost in a world absent of morals."  I enjoy Rendell's Inspector Wexford series far more than her psychological crimes novels.  Not sure why.
  • Dan Simmons, Darwin's Blade.  Standalone mystery novel.  "A series of high-speed fatal car wrecks -- accidents that seem as if they may have been stages -- is leading Darwin Minor down a dangerous road.  A reluctant expert on violent ways to die, he sifts clues from wreckage the way a brilliant coroner extracts damning information from a victim's corpse.  But the deeper he digs, the more enemies he seems to make, and the wider the conspiracy seems to grow.  Before long, he'll find himself relying on deadly resources of his own in order to save his life -- and those of untold others."  Simmons writes big, fat books, and writes them brilliantly.  I absolutely have to make time to read more by him.
  • Jack Williamson, Firechild.  SF novel.  "Alphamega:  child of one man's unlimited imagination, the product of genetic manipulation experiments to create new life forms.  The only survivor of a fiery assault by Bioscience Alert, God's watchdogs who have named all scientific research the devil's handiwork.  to the U.S. government, she is a menace -- a plague carrier to be destroyed on sight.  But to Sax Belcraft, she is the only link to his lost brother.  And to Panchito Torres, who knows her best, she is an angel come to Earth, able to heal with a touch.  Alphamega.  What is she...and what will she become?"  Williamson had a sixty-nine-year career as a popular and influential science fiction writer published his last novel the year before he died at age 98.  I have enjoyed everything I have read by him, and he seemed to get only better with age.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Bobby Vee & The Strangers.

CHEYENNE #3 (1957)

Dell issued the comic book Cheyenne, based on the popular western television series, from 1956 to 1961, for a total of 25 issues.  Artist Tom Gill to go out of his way to to draw the title character not to resemble television star Clint Walker.  This worked out well when Walker stormed off the set during a contract dispute and Warner Brothers brought in Ty Hardin as Bronco Lane, who was also added to the comic book for three issues.  When Walker returned to the show, Bronco Lane got his own show but disappeared from the pages of the comic book, never to have a title of his own.

Because of the vageraties of Dell publishing, issue Number 3 was published as Dell 803; issue Number 1 was published as Dell #734 and Number 2 was published as Dell #772; normal numbering began with issue #4.

Anyway, in the opening story this issue, "Fury at Rio Hondo," Cheyenne Bodie finds himself drawn citizen's rebellion in French-ruled Mexico.  It has been noted that this story is a rip-off homage to the Bogart movie To Have and Have Not.

Another plot of another Bogart movie -- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre -- bears a striking resemblance to the second story in this issue, "The Argonauts."

Source material aside, for an old fan of the television show, this issue is a treat.


Friday, December 1, 2017


Country Joe and the Fish.


Somebody's Walking Over My Grave by Robert Arthur (1961)

A few people may recognize Robert Arthur as the creator of the boys' book series The Three Investigators.  Others may know him as the ghost-editor of some of the best Alfred Hitchcock anthologies of the 1960s.  Or he may be remembered for the slew of pulp stories he published in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.  Perhaps some know him primary as an old-time radio writer or the producer of The Mysterious Traveler radio program.  Sadly, I fear, most people do not recognize the name Robert Arthur at all.  Which is a shame.

Certainly one reason many would not recognize the name is that he published only one adult novel -- Somebody's Walking Over My Grave -- and that was published only as half of an Ace Double (D-489) and has never been reprinted.  (An earlier version of the story,  "Epitaph for a Virgin," appeared in Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine, in September 1956; five years later, the Ace Double produce the "First Book Publication" of the novel.)

The novel stars Vista Beach P.I. Max London, a tough guy with a hidden secret and a thirst for vengeance.  London, we learn, also researches and takes photographs for true crime articles written by his brother Peter.  (Strangely, Peter does not appear in the book, for a reason we learn later.)  When the book opens, Max is on the beach, photographing a 21-year-old nude model, for an upcoming article scheduled for the twentieth anniversary of the murder of Millicent, Pete's fiance.  Millicent's body had washed ashore from a boat belonging to noted racketeer Tony Reiner.  An accident?  Max and Peter do not think so, although they were unable to prove Reiner's guilt.  Flashforward to the present (circa 1959) and Reiner has supposedly put his past behind him and moved to Vista Beach (which, also described as a town, is really a small California City). 

Max is hired by John Grigsby, and inventor and owner of a successful electronics company soon to be worth hundreds of millions with the advent of color television.  Rigsby's first wife was one week from getting a divorce when she was killed in a car crash in Reno two years earlier.  She evidently had gambled a lot and lost a lot while in Reno -- a crooked gambler is holding promissory notes from her totaling $20,000  and is now demanding that Grigsby honor them.  Grigsby wants Max to verify that the notes are genuine.

That case soon involves a murder.  Then another.  Then another.  There's a missing 410,00 dollars  And the prime suspect is Max.

This is prime pulp.  As the noose tightens for Max, the mystery gets more convoluted and the case against Max builds. 

The cast of characters, suspects, and victims grows larger and larger in this short (140 pages) novel.  Among them are the nude model (a virgin) we first meet on the beach, a beautiful but scarred electronics genius (another virgin), a second-rate but slightly pudgy (we soon learn the pudge is all the right places) chanteuse who is definitely not a virgin, Grigsby (who may or may not be trying to do the right thing), Grigsbys second wife (his self-serving former secretary), a crooked police chief with a hate out for Max, an ineffective Acting D.A., Reiner (the so-called reformed gangster who is hoping to open Vista Beach to the rackets, Righty and Lefty (twins who serve as muscle for Reiner), a small-time gambler and con-man, Grigsby's unethical business rival, and (surprise!  surprise!) and honest cop. 

Although the story is pure pulp, it is not great pulp.  But, then, most pulp wasn't.  However, it is a well-written story with fast-moving twists and turns and with most of the inconsistencies ironed out by the tale's end.

For those who are interested, the magazine version, "Epitaph for a Virgin," is available to read on-line at

Thursday, November 30, 2017


A popular group at Jim Rooney's Club 47 in Harvard Square (in the days when men were men , music was music, and Maria Muldaur wore really short skirts) was Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band.  Kweskin was joined by Fritz Richmond (who actually turned a quonset hut into a musical instrument when he was in the army), Geoff Muldaur, Muldaur's wife Maria (yes, those skirts were really that short), Mel Lyman (a very unhinged man),Bill Keith,  and others who shuffled in and out of the group.  

Good, knee-thumpin' music.

Jug Band Music:

Ukelele Lady:

The Sheik of Araby:

The Circus Song:

Boodle Am Shake:

Shrisotpher Columbus

When I Was a Cowboy:

My Gal:

Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You:

Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me:

Rag Mama:

K.C. Moan:

Washington at Valley Forge:


I'm a Woman:

Storybook Ball:


This one is not dedicated to Judge Roy Moore.

Here's B. B. King and "Lucille."


From Suspense, September 2, 1943, an adaptation of a Cornell Woolrich story starring Preston Foster and Dane Clark.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Three Dog Noight.


A man ran into a dentist's office in a panic.  "You've got to help me, Doc!  I think I'm turning into a moth!"

The dentist said, "I think you really need a psychiatrist's office.  This is s dental clinic."

The man said, "Yeah, but your light was on."

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Billie Holiday.


How about a silent oater?  This rare 1925 films stars the great Ken Maynard and Tarzan ("Ken Maynard's pal"), along with "Six Famous Beauties" -- Olive Trevor, Fern Lorraine, Katherine DeForrest, Edith (Edythe) Flynn, Grace Fay, and Nancy Zann.  Mix's love interest is played by Esther Ralston, who had just come off her role as Mrs. Darling in 1924's Peter Pan and would soon be billed by Florenz Zeigfield as "The American Venus."

Claims that the dam under construction in the film was the Saint Francis Dam, which failed a few years later, are questionable.  The dam was most likely the Mulholland Dam, which still stands.

This YouTube clip has been specially restored from the original 52-minute film and logs in at about ten minutes.


Monday, November 27, 2017


The Temptations.


There is no Incoming today so let me fill up this space telling you about a movie I saw last night on Hulu.

Iron Sky (2012) is a nifty little Finnish/German/Australian B-movie about Nazis on the moon.  While this is not a unique idea it has its fringe believers out here in the real world -- perhaps even as many as those who are flat earth believers.  So it's no wonder that there's (at least one) Nazis on the moon movie.

In the waning years of World War II, Germany secretly flew members of its space program to the dark side of the moon where they have been laying in wait for more than seventy years...waiting for the time when they could invade Earth and establish the fourth Reich.

Meanwhile, back on the big blue marble, the President of the United States (Stephanie Paul) is facing certain defeat in her reelection.  Except for her Southern accent, the Prez is a Sarah Palin clone:  fairly incompetent, self-centered, and naturally Republican.  Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant) is the President's PR person and is even more grasping than her boss; Vivian hatches a publicity stunt that should propel the President in the polls:  send some Americans to the moon.  This idea may actually work since it has been fifty year since anyone went to the moon and, to get the most oomph out of the stunt, one of the two-man crew will be black!  But who to send?  They settle on James Washington (Christopher Kirby), a male model whose only qualifications are that he is good-looking and black.  (It doesn't hurt that their secret mission is to find Helium-3, an element that could make America energy-free for millenia.)

Off they go, landing on the dark side of the moon and, as they land, banners are unfurled on the side of the ship with the President's image and her election catch-phrase, "Yes She Can."  The two astronauts immediate stumble on the secret Nazi base hidden in a crater, complete with huge towers filled with Helium-3, flying saucers, jack-booted Nazis, and a huge schloss shaped like a swastika.  In true movie fashion, the first one to die is the black white astronaut.  Washington is captured by Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto) and brought to Nazi headquarters to face soon-to-be-deposed (Adler has ambitions, you see) Moon-Feuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Klier).  When the astronaut's helmet is removed, the Nazis see their first black man ever.

Well, the Nazis can't have that!  So head mad scientist Doktor Richter (Tilo Pruckner) concocts a potion that turns Washington into a white man.  Since he is now white, the Nazis presume that he is now a full-fledged Nazi.  Since the Nazi moonbase is essentially deisel-punk heaven, their secret weapon -- the Gotterdammerung, the largest war machine ever -- is a HUGE mass of cogs, wheels, and chains.  Sadly for the Germans, their large walls of computers do not have enough power to lift the Gotterdammerung off the moon.  Washington happens to have a cell phone on him, which happens to have a thousand times more computing power than the Nazis have.  Again sadly for the Germans, when the cell phone is hooked into the German computers the Gotterdammerung begins to rise, but only for a second because the cell phone's battery died.  Adler decides to take a flying saucer to Earth so Washington can locate some cell phones to be taken back to the moon so the invasion can start.

Washington escapes, but no one listens to a former black man's warning about Nazis on the moon.  Adler meanwhile has ingratiated himself with the President and her PR maven Vivian.  Adler steers the President's campaign to embracing the Nazi philosophy (without mentioning the word Nazi, may I add); and the country and the campaign steer far to the right.  At the same time, tired of waiting for a supply of cell phones, the Moon-Feuhrer launches and attack on Earth, using space zeppelins towing meteors instead of the still dormant Gotterdammerung.  Even though the nations of Earth vowed not to militarize their space programs, every country except Finland has done so.  Enter epic space battle.

Back on the moon, Adler tries to get the Gotterdammerung aloft and Washington tries to stop him.  I wonder how that will work out?

Oh.  And Washington finds an anti-white serum that turns him back to a black man and he hooks up with the beautiful, blonde, moon-Nazi elementary school teacher Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), the daughter of the mad had scientist.

This brief description doesn't do the film justice.  It is funny, full of outrageous ideas and deadpan humor.  It is prophetic, showing how easy it is for a populace to turn to the far right.  It is visually interesting, with outstanding CGI depicting the deisel-punk sensibilities behind the Nazi war machine.  It is topical, with its playful approach to race and politics.  Iron Sky is certainly not a great movie, but it is a fun one.

A sequel is planned for 2018.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Two hundred ninety-nine years ago on (perhaps) this day, the first African lion in America went on exhibit at the home of Captain Arthur Savage on Brattle Street in Boston.  I have no idea why Savage, a sea captain, had a lion or where he had gotten it but there it was.  It would be five more years before another exotic animal, this time a camel, was exhibited in America.

About that date.  November 26 is the date most sources agree this event happened.  So why is the Boston News-Letter advertisement about the exhibit dated March 31, 1718?  Hmm.

Also, apologies for the title pun of this post.

Read about it here:


Marty Robbins, with a classic cowboy gospel song.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


In the late Sixties you would have to work really hard to find a group more counter-culture than The Fugs.  This song is from 1968 and is one of the few that I feel comfortable posting here.


As a fourteen-year-old boy in Sweetwater, Texas, Roy Crane's future career became obvious when he took a correspondence course in cartooning from Charles N. Landon. At nineteen, he studied briefly at Chicago's Academy of Fine Arts and then spent some time at sea and riding the rails before landing a newspaper cartooning job at the New York World when he was twenty-one.  Crane was twenty-three in 1924 when he began a humorous comic strip -- Wash Tubbs -- which soon took grocery store employee Washington Tubbs II hunting for treasure in the South Pacific.  Wash Tubbs soon morphed into an pioneering adventure strip and, with the addition of the character Captain Easy ( a soldier of fortune with a mysterious past) in 1929, comic strip history was made.  Tubbs was eventually relagated to a minor character and the strip officially changed its name to Captain Easy in 1949 and ran until 1988.  Crane left the popular pair behind in 1943 to start a new adventure strip, Buz Sawyer, which ran until 1989 -- a dozen years after Crane's death, although the panel was signed by Crane until 1979.

John Singer Sawyer, better known as "Buz," was a young Navy pilot during World War II.  The air ace and his sidekick Rosco Sweeney had many exciting adventures in the exotic areas of the Pacific, but when the war ended Buz returned home to civilian life after a special peacetime mission, only to find life has changed.  The girl he's sweet on is now at university, another girl has moved to New York, a younger crowd has taken over the old hangout, people he knew have moved on, and life is boring, boring, boring.  Buz moved to New York in search of a job, finally landing one as a trouble-shooter for an international oil company.

Buz Sawyer #1 reprints some of the strips from 1945 and 1946, when Buz was a civilian and before he found the job with the oil company.  During this interregnum, there were still adventures to be had.  Buz meets up once again with two women from his past:  old girlfriend Tot Winters, now engaged to opera singer Count Franco Confetti, and Sultry, the Maharani of Batu, who has ong held a torch for Buz.  Added to the mix is Skagg, sultry's thuggish assistant, and Taboo, Sulty's pet tiger.  And, of course, Buz is reunited with Sweeny, as well as with old friend Chili Harrison.

Buz finds himself arrested for murder, which culminates in a life or death battle on an ocean-going yacht.  Who said civilian life was easy?


Friday, November 24, 2017


For those who think Rod McKuen could not record and entertaining, non-schmaltzy song, I offer this in proof.

"I know a man who married a dump truck'...I have hummed that line for years.


The Short Life and Happy Times of the Shmoo by All Capp (2002)

I have some vague memories of Al Capp appearing on Boston television in the 1960s, where he struck me as a bitter, old, one-legged man.  This was a time when the cartoonist was getting more and more acerbic and when stories of his sexual misconduct were beginning to rise.  But Capp was a man of contrasts:  even during his time as a right-wing iconoclast, Capp remained a strong and generous supporter of a number of liberal causes.  No matter what sort of person Capp had become in his later life, he remained the genius who helped shape American culture in the mid-twentieth century -- this he did through his brilliant comic strip L'il Abner.

Abner Yokum, a simple, muscle-bound innocent, along with the other denizens of Dogpatch, Kentucky, captured the hearts and imaginations of America from 1934 to the nineteen seventies.  Abner, Daisie Mae, Mammy and Pappy Yokum, Marryin' Sam, the hapless Joe Btfsplk (whose name, according to Capp, was pronounced by blowing a raspberry), and others were welcome guests in homes throughout the world -- even Queen Elizabeth was a fan.  Capp and Li'l Abner also gave two more wonderful characters:  the Dick Tracy lookalike fearless Fosdick (one of my favs) and the incredible Shmoo.  Of those two, the Shmoo (plural, Shmoon or Shmoos) was certainly the most popular. 

From Wikipedia:

"Schmoo dolls, clocks, watches, jewelry, earmuffs, wallpaper, fishing lures, air fresheners, soap, ice cream, balloons, ash trays, toys, games, Halloween masks, salt and pepper shakers, decals, pinbacks, tumblers, coin banks, greeting cards, planters, neckties, suspenders, belts, curtains, fountain pens and other shmoo paraphernalia...Close to a hundred licensed shmoo products from 75 different manufacturers were produced in less than one years, some of which sold five million units each."

In 1949, the Shmoo replaced Mickey Mouse as the face of Children;'s Savings Bonds, backed by a $16 million advertising campaign.

The have been Shmoo books and comic books, Shmoo-themed records, and animated television shows (including Fred and Barney Meet the Shmoo).

So who/what are the Shmoo/Shmoon?  The Shmoo is a fast-breeding animal that looks a bit like a bowling pin (or, perhaps, male genetalia; potato, potahto).  They are happy, cheerful critters who exist only to make people happy.  They require only air.  And they are a perfect food source.  They lay eggs, bottles of milk, butter; when cooked they can taste like chicken, steak, pork, or catfish, depending on how the are cooked; raw they taste like raw oysters on the shell.  Their pelts make perfect leather or house timbers (depending on how thick you cut them).  Their whiskers make wonderful toothpicks and their eyes can be used as suspender buttons.  They have no bones so 100% of the Shmoo can be used; there is no waste.  If a Shmoo senses that you are are hungry, they happily drop dead so you can eat them.

I wonder what PETA thinks of the Shmoo?

Capp claimed there was no hidden message behind the Shmoo, but many have felt it was a stinging jab on capitalism; others felt it was a swipe at socialism.  For millions of readers, it didn't matter; after the first story arc with the Shmoo appeared, L'il Abner's circulation doubled.

The original sequence was published in 1948 as The Life and Times of the Shmoo sold 700,000 copies that year alone.  The Short Life and Happy Times of the Shmoo includes both the original story and its sequel, "the Return of the Shmoo."  As a bonus, there's an introduction/appreciation from Harlan Ellison that is worth the price of the book in itself.

Li'l Abner happens to stumble on the Valley of the Shmoon, where he is warned that the Shmoo is the "greatest menace to mankind that's ever existed."  There are billions of them in the valley, and more are born every second.  These cute creatures take a shine to Abner and follow him back to Dogpatch, where Abner gives the quickly-multiplying animals to every family in Dogpatch.  The Shmoo provide for every need.  Now no one needs to buy food any longer and, thus, do not need to work.  As the Shmoos spread throughout the country, America's economy tanks.  While some businessmen see this as an opportunity, others -- including J. Roaringham Fatback -- are determined to solve the crisis.  D. D. Teasdale, professional pest exterminator, is hired to eliminate the Shmoon.  Teasdale's ace employee, Dan'l Shmoone, who with his Shmooicide Squad, is dispatched to Dogpatch, where the Shmooicide Squad (the SS?) riddle the animals with Fosdick-like bullet holes.

Li'l Abner, however, has managed to save two Shmoon.  He thinks they are both males but Daisie Mae informs him the one is a female Abner is a simple-minded soul).  She wants the Shmoos to marry and have billions of little Shmoos.  Abner, long a proponent of bachelorhood, is opposed.  Daisie Mae and the female Shmoo have their chance at the upcoming Sadie Hawkins Day race.  To complicate things, The Wolf Girl makes a surprise appearance, hoping to land Abner for herself.

The Shmoo go back to their isolated valley.  Abner remains a bachelor for the time being.  Eventually he does marry Daisie Mae and they have a son, Honest Abe.  The Shmoo have long been forgotten but one day Honest Abe finds one and soon there's another national Shmoo emergency.  Nothing the government and the army does can stop the Shmoon, so it's up to Abner to save the day.  He does, but there's always the possibility that the Shmoo might return...

(They don't, at least in the comic strip.)

Broad humor, subtle humor, marvelous artwork, and a deus ex Yokum combine to make this book a true delight.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


  • How Jon Stewart celebrated Thanksgiving:
  • Here's a little bit of history from Stan Freberg:
  • And no thanksgiving can be complete without this clip from WKRP in Cincinnatti:
  • Unlike many, I like Brussel sprouts.  Like many, I like bacon:
  • To show you how to cook a turkey, here's the Swedish chef (with an assist from Danny Kaye):
  • For some, Thanksgiving can be a bit disturbing:
  • For our Thursday old-time radio selection, here's the Thanksgiving program from The Burns and Allen Show, November 18, 1940
  • In yesterday's "Something Is going To Happen," the EQMM blog, editor Janet Hutchings reprints Edward D. Hoch's "The Thanksgiving Chicken" from the mid-December 1995 issue of EQMM
  • A couple of songs from John McCutcheon.  First, "Thanksgiving Day," then "Calling All the Children Home," which was inspired by the way McCutcheon's mother would call him and his siblings to dinner:
  • William Bell Scott's poem "End of Harvest," with eight different narrators -- take your pick:
  • And Ernest Vincent Wright's poem "When Father Carves the Duck," this time with eleven different readers to choose from.
  • Ten comic strips with their take on the holiday:
  • Irish people taste test Thanksgiving food:
  • Two years ago, the stars of Bones offered this holiday greeting from the Old West:
  • How to avoid political arguments over the dinner table:
  • A brief history of Thanksgiving:
  • This I Believe:  Gratitude:
  • And, for a bit of music from the past, here's Mary Chapin Carpenter:


Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Adam Sandler.


The farm couple had been married for years and were very happy, but there was one thing that irked the wife greatly -- her husband would pass mass amounts of gas, especially at night while they slept.

She complained about this constantly but there was nothing her husband could do to stop this.  "One day you're going to fart your guts out and then you'll be sorry!" she would tell him.

The day before Thanksgiving she was preparing the turkey for the next day's dinner and as she was pulling out its guts she had an idea.  She hid the turkey guts and that night, as her husband was sleeping, she quietly slipped them under the covers by her husband.  "That'll fix him," she thought, chuckling to herself.

The next morning her husband was late coming down to breakfast.  When he did come he had a pained look on his face and was walking a little strangely.

"By golly, Reba," he said, "you were right about my passing gas.  Last night I actually farted my guts out!  But with the help of God and these two fingers, everything was right again!"


Bonus joke -- and not a gross one:

How many chefs does it take to stuff a turkey?

Usually just one, and then it's a pretty tight fit.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Ol' Blue Eyes.


From 1951, a short, 12-minute film in which a typical middle class family reflect on their many blessings on Thanksgiving.  Dad (a garage mechanic) is balding, Mom knits, the three youngest kids play peacefully on the living room floor, teenager (actually he may be a preteen, I can't tell, but he's sulky enough to be a teenager) Bill is pissed because the family may not be able to afford a turkey this year, and the living wallpaper is hideous.

At least Dad doesn't smoke a pipe.  

The film was produced in Lawrence, Kansas.  No surprise there.

Enjoy, and count your blessings. 

Monday, November 20, 2017


Led Zeppelin.


  • Richard S. Wheeler, Eclipse:  A Novel of Lewis and Clark.  Historical novel/western.  "Lewis and Clark:  two great but very different men.  Plainspoken William Clark enjoys the triumph and acclaim of the expedition, marries his childhood sweetheart, and settles in St. Louis as superintendent of the nation's Indian affairs.  His black manservanr, York, who accompanied the expedition, forces Clark to confront the nature of slavery and question the society that condones it.  Meriwether Lewis, a man of fierce courage and brilliant intellect, returns from the pacific a changed man.  Something terrible has happened to him.  A disease with no name erodes his health and threatens to destroy his mind -- and his honor.  In Eclipse, Richard S. Wheeler has written an exploration of triumph and tragedy told in authentically rendered voices of the two greatest American explorers.  Moreover, Wheeler provides a solution -- dark in its ramifications, stinging in its potential for the truth -- to the greatest mystery in American history:  the terrible and unexplained death of Meriwether Lewis in the wilderness of the Natchez Trace of Tennessee in October 1809."  Greatest mystery?  Probably not, not a very intriguing one.  Wheeler is always worth reading.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Adam Frankel, former Obama speechwriter and founding Executive director of Digital Promise, a bipartisan group chartered by Congress to advance innovation in education, offers some ideas that might help us respond to the challenges of 21st century education.

Think, consider, enjoy.


Paul Robeson.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy with a lively animal song.


Back (too) many years ago when I was in college I was friends with a stoner named Willie.  I had bought a cheap television for ten bucks for my dorm room to watch late night horror films and Willie thought that was a great idea and so he bought one for his room.  Now, if you're a stoner, television takes on a whole new dimension.  The only station Willie could get on his set (because he didn't spring for cable) was the local one out of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  Willie's favorite was The Lawrence Welk Show because he was fascinated with how many weeks Welk could go without changing the set (the record, I believe, was five weeks).  This local station ran on a shoestring and aired mainly syndicated shows and old black and white educational videos.  And so it was that one day Willie came to me all excited because he had seen this remarkably cheesy show about Susie and her grandmother.  As Willie told me, the show ran thusly:

Susie was a beautiful, personable, intelligent high school girl who went to Grandma with a problem -- she couldn't seem to attract the attention of any boys.  Grandma said, let's see if we can figure out the reason why.  She asked Susie how long it takes for her to decide on her wardrobe each morning.  About fifteen minutes, Grandma, Susie said.  And how long does it take you to get washed up each morning?  Again Susie said, about fifteen minutes.  Then Grandma asked, and how long does it take you to get your hair done each morning?  About fifteen minutes, Grandma.  And how much time do you spend putting on make-up?  About fifteen minutes.  Then Grandma's voice changed and got a bit sharper:  And how long do you spend brushing your teeth each morning?  I'd guess about five minutes, Grandma.  AHA! said Grandma triumphantly (and perhaps wagging her finger -- Willie didn't specify), "Equal time for equal jobs!"  Problem then presumably resolved.

I mention all of the above because Susie's Grandma reminds me of Mrs. Rock, the advice specialist who manages to solve the personal romantic problems of young girls who seek her out.  (Mrs. Rock, a plump older woman with glasses*, has an office from which she spews out her advice, although I'll be damned if I know her job title.)  In addition to the illustrated stories, this issue of My Personal Problem has several pages of letters supposed from young people seeking help for their personal problems. (I'm fat, I'm ugly, my ex-boyfriend still has my class ring, how do I know what the right perfume for me is, am I coming on too hard with this girl I like, my boyfriend likes sports more than he likes me, my boyfriend is going into the Air Force and I wonder if I should stay true to him -- So many personal problems!)

In "Date-Breaker," Jim is a selfish creep who keeps breaking dates with trusting and not very bright Anne; usually Jim breaks a date to go dogging after other girls.  Mrs. Rock suggests that Anne keep out of Jim's life until he shows he can change his ways.  Dog in the manger Jim shows what a cad he is so Anne settles happily for Peter.  Take that, Jim!

Mrs. Rock doesn't appear in the next story, "Bewildered Rival."  Beautiful Betty has fallen in love with Freddie (who in the first panel looks grotesquely evil and/or grotesquely constipated...and why is he shown with such a grotesquely large head!).  Freddie, however, is also in love with his Mom and Mom is in love with Freddie.  Can this triangle be resolved?  And can Freddie and Betty live happily with Freddie's father who shows up after having walked out on Freddie and his mother when Freddie was just a baby?  This family takes the fun out of dysfunctional.

Mrs. Rock returns to help Judy Peal in "What's Happened to Us?"  Judy is a selfish bitch (Mrs. Rocjk would say a misguided soul who had misapplied her energies) who has brought her marriage to the brink by wasteful spending, ignoring her husband, and unfounded jealousy.  But Judy has now discovered her own failings and Mrs. Rock suggests that she re-adjust herself so that she doesn't repeat her mistakes and that she try to show her husband how much she loves him.  Judy, however is a slow (I would say blundering) learner and it takes a while for Mrs. Rock's advice to bear fruit.

Finally, in "Two for Company, Three for Love," seventeen-year-old Joan's problem is that she loves two boys equally and both have asked her to the graduation dance.  This is not just a first world personal problem, it's a high school first world personal problem.  Mrs. Rock's solution?  Don't see either boy for a week.  By then Joan will have a clearer idea of her decision.  The advice works.  Joan drops both boys and begins seeing a post-grad student (remember, she's still in high school; this isn't Roy Moore territory, but it's getting close) because she let her heart make up her mind for her.  Joan and Mrs. Rock are both pleased, but I fear for Joan's future.

Yes, I fear the road to romance is fraught with dangers.  And personal problems.


*None of the beautiful young and troubled girls who seek out Mrs. Rock wear glasses.  And, unlike Mrs. Rock, they all (with the exception of Betty in whose tale Mrs. Rock is absent) have long hair.

Friday, November 17, 2017


A beautiful children's song from Ann Mayo Muir, accompanied by Ensemble Galilei and Hot Soup!

Ann Mayo Muir is perhaps best known for her recordings with Gordon Bok and Ed Trickett but her haunting voice has also made for a very impressive solo career.  Ensemble Galilei is a Celtic music group with numerous albums to its credit.  The popular Hot Soup! folk trio is Susan Trainor, Christina Muir -- Ann Mayo Muir's daughter -- and Jennie Avila.


The Magic Mirror:  Lost Supernatural and Mystery Stories by Algernon Blackwood edited by Mike Ashley (1989)

Algernon Blackwood  (1869-1951) has long been considered, along with J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthuir Machen, and M. R. James, one of the major players in the field of the supernatural tale.  His stories "The Willows," "The Wendigo," and "Ancient Sorceries" are oft-reprinted classics.  H. P. Lovecraft, William Hope Hodgson, H. Russell Wakefield, Ramsay Campbell, and Clark Ashton Smith were influenced by Blackwood.  Henry Miller, in his The Books in My Life, called Blackwood's The Bright Messenger "the most extraordinary novel on psychoanalysis, one that dwarfs the subject."

Blackwood lived an extraordinary life.  As a young man he had an interest in Eastern philosophy and occultism (his parents were hellfire and damnation fundamentalists) and at the close of the nineteenth century joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, whose members were to include (or were rumored to include Arnold Bennett, Alister Crowley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Machen,Gustav Meyrink, Sax Rohmer, William Sharp ("Fiona McLeod"), Bram Stoker, and A. W. Waite.  Blackwood rose in the ranks of the order, eventually abandoning much of its reliance on magic in favor of mysticism and the type of pantheistic approach to nature that has infused much of his writings.

Blackwood's writings found a ready audience in the early part of the twentieth century but, as his writing career began to flag after the First World War (in which he worked as an undercover agent in Switzerland), he found new opportunities as a broadcast narrator on both radio and television.  At parties and gatherings, he had always been in demand for telling stories and beginning in 1934, instead of being interviewed for a radio program he chose instead to tell a story, his talent at narration proved to be great success.  On November 2, 1936, Blackwood appeared in the very first television broadcast from London -- narrating on of his stories, of course.   It is a radio and television narrator that many people in Britain during the middle of the century knew him best.

As the title of this collection suggest, Blackwood wrote many stories that are (for the moment) lost in time.  His records and many of his manuscripts were destroyed in the Blitz.  (And he was probably not the best of record keepers, also.)  Ashley spent ten years uncovering many of the stories reprinted here and, he feels, that there are other stories still to be uncovered in the crumbling yellow pages of old magazines and newspapers to be uncovered.  Then, too, a lot of his radio stories are lost; Blackwood would often ad-lib stories rather than read from a prepared script.

The Magic Mirror contains 25 stories, most of which have been previously unavailable, and excerpts from four of his novels.

The contents:

     The Early Years:

  • A Mysterious House (possibly Blackwood's first published story)
  • The Kit-Bag
  • The Laying of a Red-Haired Ghost
  • The Message of the Clock
  • The Singular Death of Morton
  • The Mauvaise Riche
  • The Soldier's Visitor
  • The Memory of Beauty
  • Onanonanon

     The Novels:

  • The First Flight (excerpt from Jimbo)
  • The Vision of the Winds (excerpt from The Education of Uncle Paul)
  • The Call of the Urwelt (excerpt from The Centaur)
  • The Summoning (excerpt from Julius LeVallon)

     Radio Talks:

  • The Blackmailers
  • The Wig
  • King's Evidence
  • Lock Your Door
  • Five Strange Stories
              - The Texas Farm Disappearance
              - The Holy Man
              - Pistol Against a Ghost
              - Japanese Literary Cocktail (similar to E. F. Benson's story "The Step;" there is no evidence                  of plagiarism, however)
              - The Curate and the Stockbroker

     Later Stories:

  • At a Mayfair Luncheon
  • The Man-Eater
  • By Proxy
  • The Voice
  • The Magic Mirror
  • Roman Remains
  • Wishful Thinking

This is admittedly a mixed bag.  Many of the stories are minor.  Some are mere anecdotes; others employ well-worn tropes.  But there is enough good writing here to satisfy even the most jaded enthusiast of the horror story.  Sprinkled throughout the book are splashes of humor and irony that often are fundamental to a good horror story.  Blackwood's mystical view of nature as a type of awareness or force is also present here, most notably in the excerpt from The Education of Uncle Paul (Blackwood's one book that I found difficult to read; it came across as Arthur Machen on steroids).  Two of the other excepts (from The Centaur and Julius LeVallon) are enough to make one dive into those novels immediately.

The Magic Mirror provides a decent sampling of Blackwood's work.  Almost all of his other collections, as well as many of his novels, are available for free online.  If you aren't familiar with the genius of Algernon Blackwood, what are you waiting for?

Monday, November 13, 2017


  • Douglas Adams, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts.  As the title suggests, these are the original scripts for The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  The book covers the first two series (a total of twelve episodes, or "fits") aired by the BBC in 1978 and 1980.  Did you know that mystery writer Simon Brett produced the first episode of the series?  I did, but then I'm a genius fanboy.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, Survey Ship.  Stand-alone science fiction novel.  "Six of Earth's finest young people, perfect in mind and body, have been trained from cradle for one task -- to brave the infinite dangers of space, to find new homes for Man.  But once alone in the pitiless universe, they are betrayed by their ship and plagued by space hazards; their voyage becomes a grim test of survival..To survive they must tame their wild talents.  to survive, they must turn their training into skill, with no margin for error.  To survive, they must conquer their fears, longings and nightmares.  They must become a team.  they must learn how to love.  Or they die."
  • Natsuo Kirino, Out.  Crime novel.  'this mesmerizing novel tells the story of a brutal murder in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works the night shift making boxed lunches strangles her abusive husband and then seeks the help of her coworkers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime.  The coolly intelligent Masako emerges as the plot's ringleader but quickly discovers that this killing is merely the beginning, as it leads to a terrifying foray into the violent underbelly of Japanese society."  Winner of Japan's Grand Prix for Crime Fiction and an Edgar Award finalist.  Translated by Stephen Snyder.
  • Richard Laymon, Into the Fire and Island.  Both horror novels.  About Into the Fire:  "Pretty, young Pamela was a very happy newlywed, with a loving husband and a beautiful home.  But all that changed the night Rodney broke in.  He's been obsessed with Pamela since high school, and now he intends to make her his slave for life.  He thinks they'll be alone when he drives her out to the blazing desert.  But someone else is out there too -- someone with a gun.  Pamela hoped her nightmare was over when Rodney was shot, but something about her rescuer isn't quite right."  In Island, when "Rupert Conway set out on a cruise with seven other people, he planned to swim a little, get some sun and relax.  He certainly didn't plan to get shipwrecked.  but after the yacht blew up, that's what happened -- he and his shipmates were stranded on a desert island.  Luckily for them, the island has plenty of fresh water and enough food to last until they get rescued.  And luckily for Rupert, most of his fellow castaways are attractive women.  But that's where his luck ran out -- because the castaways aren't alone on the island.  In the dense jungle beyond the beach there's a maniac on the loose, a killer with a murderous heart, a clever mind, and a taste for blood.  He doesn't like his new neighbors and he plans to slaughter them by one."  For some reason I can't fathom, Laymon was always more popular in England than in his native U.S.  An author always worth reading.
  • Andre Norton & Lyn McConchie, Beast Master's Ark.  SF novel, third in the series about Hosteen Storm, the Beast Master, and the first in series written with (and most likely, by) McConchie.  "Best Master Hosteen Storm has endured great perils to carve out a life for himself on Arzor, the colony planet he's called home since th destruction of Earth by the alien Xik.  On a planet with alien life forms and untold secrets from its pre-human past, there are always dangers in the world, especially in the vast desert and mountain region known as Big Blue.  but nobody has ever experiences a threat like the devastating scourge the natives call Death-Which-Comes-in-the Night.  Something is killing grazing animals...and has begun to attack humans as well, leaving nothing behind but the bones of its victims.  Hosteen, aided by his telepathically linked animals, knows that if he can't stop the killings Arzor will be decimated.  his only ally is a young woman who has beast master ability, but was raised to mistrust others with such a power.  At stake is the safety of ll those on Arzor, and on other colony planets as well.  Because Death-Which-Comes-in-the-Night is a scourge that if not stopped, could spread..."  Norton published the first Beast Master book in 1959, followed by the second in 1962.  It took forty years the next book in the series to appear, followed by a fourth in 2004 and a fifth in 2006; these three were all co-authored by McConchie, who won the Sir Julius Vogel award of Best Novel for New Zealand science fiction and fantasy for Beast Master's Ark.  (This was the first of six Vogel Awards that she has won.)  

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Let us honor our veterans today, and every day.  Not by mouthing words like "Thank you for your service" or by displaying a "Support Our Troops" sticker on your car.

Let's honor them by treating them they way they deserve to be treated.

Let's honor them by providing them needed services.

Like quality health care from an efficient, accessible, and not overburdened VA system.

Like suicide prevention programs and support and proven mental health services.

Like more educational and job opportunities.

Like volunteering to assist disabled veterans.

And for our military, let's provide them with the right equipment, the right training, and the right support.

And, most of all, let us ensure our veterans and our serving military that, if war must be fought, it is fought for the right reasons and not for political expediency or corporate profit.

Mouthing platitudes is fine, but actions can speak volumes.

Here's my go-to song for this day:


Sham the Sham & the Pharaohs.


Cowboys!  (Spurs Jackson and his gand of sharpshooters!)

Nazis!  (And communists and Stone Men, oh my!)

Martians!  (And Venusians and Moon Men, too!)

Walter B. Gibson!  (He of The Shadow fame!)

In "The Madmen of Mars," Spurs Jackson and his buddies travel to Mars in 1953 to defeat Nazis who have been hiding there since 1935.

Then in "Spurs Sees Red," Russians are using a flying saucer-like aircraft to spread fear of an alien invasion.  Their big mistake was in attacking a nearby ranch and shooting his Spurs' friend Pops McLean.  (It should be noted that Spurs had yellow hair in the previous story and now has dark hair for the remainder of this issue.  The first tale was illustrated by Stan Campbell; the rest of the issue by John Belfi.)

In a one-page filler, Spurs introduces us to the Jovian bandersnatch and its unique abilities.

We move to a two-page text story (because we need to meet the postal regulations).  It's moon creatures versus Spurs in "Spurs Jackson and the Selenites!"  The story ends with this warning from our cowpoke hero, "And even in this age we must all be on our guard to preserve the liberties of all people in the Galaxy."

In "The Stone Men from Space," the Queen of Mars gives Spurs and his buddies, Strong Bow and Rapid Fox, a flower that would bloom in the desert.  It worked but somehow petrified wood is also  transformed into Stone Men, led by Ag.  They are easy enough to defeat if, like Spurs, you have an atomic bomb.

Finally, "The Menace of Comet 'X"' has the titluar body heading for Earth.  Once Earth is destroyed, the comet's next victim will be Mars.  It's all a plot by Spurs' enemies Korok of Mars and Vodor of Venus.  Can Spurs and his Space Vigilantes save both planets?  Can the villains control the comet's orbit enough to complete their planetary two-fer?  Read it and see, rannies!

Saddle up your rocket ships, boys and girls!

Friday, November 10, 2017


Jim Croce.


All Our Yesterdays by Robert B. Parker (1994)

Parker's most famous creation is Boston PI and lovesick tough guy Spenser.  He has written four other series, all of which have risen to one degree or another of popularity:  the Jesse Stone series, about an alcoholic and lovesick small town police chief; the Sunny Randall series, originally written as a vehicle for actress Helen Hunt, about a female Boston PI and lovesick tough girl (who, for a while, knocked boots with Jesse Stone); and the Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch western series, about a lovesick marshal and his deputy.  He's also written several young adult novels and four stand-alones.  The stand-alones include the dog-ugly Love and Honor (about which the less said the better), a fairly decent novel about Wyatt Earp, a suspense novel featuring Jackie Robinson, and this book.

All Our Yesterdays may have been intended as Parker's BIG book.  It's almost twice as long as his other books and the relative lack of white space and wide margins seem to indicate that this is something special for Parker.  Plus, it's a multi-generational saga involving a family of Boston cops.

We start off with Conn Sheridan, a brave and dedicated member of the IRA in 1920 Ireland.  Conn's service to the cause allows him to rise quickly among the ranks and soon brings him close to the IRA's top leadership.  Conn soon begins an affair with the young wife of a Boston Brahmin in Ireland to oversee a family business.  The affair soon turns to an obsession and Conn begs the woman to run off with him; he's even willing to abandon the IRA to be with her.  She, however, cannot leave her position of wealth and rebukes him.  When Conn persists, she informs on him with the British police, and so Conn is jailed and will soon hang.

The betrayal has changed Conn.  He's lost his soul and now has nothing to live for.  When the IRA breaks him out of jail, he goes to America -- to Boston -- and joins the police force to become a cop who doesn't care whether he lives or dies.  Eventually he meets his former lover and discovers that her now-adult son is a pederast and murderer.  Using this information as a lever, he blackmails the woman to have a long-term and degrading affair with him.

Conn's son Gus also becomes a Boston cop.  Following his father's death, he discovers his father's evidence against the child molester-murderer.  Blackmail evidently is embedded in the Sheridan genes because Gus uses this information to extort money on a regular basis.

Gus' son Chris has no desire to become a cop.  Instead, he gets a law degree and later becomes a criminal psychiatrist.  He also hooks up with Grace, the pederast's daughter.  Some cogs slip in Grace's father's brain and he begins molesting and killing children again.  Grace's brother is beginning a run for a US senate seat; his biggest opponent is Boston's mayor.  In a political move, the mayor appoints Chris to lead the investigation into the recent murders. 

Did I mention that Chris is lovesick?  No?  Well, you knew that anyway because that's a common theme of Parker's -- love and the compromises one has to make in its name.

So, three generations of two families tied together by fate and an ungodly amount of coincidence.  If this was to be Parker's magnum opus, he should have made it even longer.  I lost count of the major plot points that were glossed over from one chapter to the next -- we just skip right over them and continue as if they had happened.  There is some decent action, a few plot twists, and some interesting characterization.  Overall, it's a pretty good read if one ignores the lovesick relationships (especially of Chris and Grace) and the all-over-the-place plot jumpiness.

All Our Yesterdays highlights Parker's faults as a writer.  Luckily, it also highlights his virtues.

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Today would have been the 100th birthday of Tere Rios, the author of The Fifteenth Pelican, the book that became the basis of the Sally Field television show The Flying Nun.  In honor of Ms. Rios, here's the main theme from that show.


Steely Dan.


Robert Burtt and Wilfred Moore, the duo who had come up with Captain Midnight, created Sky King in 1946 for the radio, basing it on a story by Roy Winsor.  Sky King was an Arizona rancher and airplane pilot who stopped the bad people and rescued the lost people into 1954, when the radio episodes began playing concurrently with the television show.  Sky's Cessna airplane was called The Songbird.  His niece Penny (actress Beryl Vaughan) and nephew Clipper lived with him, both of whom were budding pilots.

(I never heard the radio show but I was a big fan of the television version when I was a kid.  Like so many others, I was totally smitten with the cute, blonde Penny -- played by Gloria Winters; and I was saddened when the actress died seven years ago at the age of 78.)

To give you a taste of the radio show, here's two ten-minute episodes:  "Prince Aron Zibi" from June 30, 1947, and "Army of Blue Men" from July 14, 1947.  The announcer is a young Mike Wallace.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017


From 1973, The Allman Brothers Band


Taking a little trip into the past, here's a joke from 1922's Jokes for All Occasion, published by Edward J. Clode.  These jokes were designed for public speakers in a day when public speakers had no idea how to be funny.  The jokes are very weak; many of them are offensively racist to today's reader.  As such, these jokes are really bad and are fair game for today's post.  Here's a pretty bland one:

A thriving baseball club is one of the features of a boy's organization connected with a prominent church.  The team was recently challenged by a rival club.  The pastor gave a special contribution of five dollars to the captain, with the direction that the money should be used to buy bats, balls, gloves, or anything else that might help to win the game.  On the day of the game, the pastor was somewhat surprised to observe nothing new in the club's paraphernalia.  He called the captain to him.

"I don't see any new bats, or ball, or gloves," he said.

"We haven't anything like that," the captain admitted.

"But I gave you five dollars to buy them," the pastor exclaimed.

"Well, you see," came the explanation, "you told us to spend it on bats, or ball, or gloves, or anything that we thought might help us to win the game, so we gave it to the umpire."

[insert rim shot here.]

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Sometimes you need just a bit of funny.  Here's Rowan Atkinson with the great Kate Bush.


As one person said in the comments, "Told her not to chop onions when I am watching this."


A side note:  When my grandson Mark was five, he was in a sports center wrestling program.  His very first match was against a boy who had no arms and no legs.  Mark lost.  I don't think it was because he was surprised to have such an opponent, but because Mark couldn't figure where to grab the boy.  Plus, his opponent was really good!

Monday, November 6, 2017


Brian Hyland.


  • "Jack Buchanan" (Stephen Mertz), Stone:  M.I.A. Hunter:  Invasion U.S.S.R.  Men's action adventure novel, the ninth in the series.  "MISSING:  Lee Daniels, american journalist stationed in Moscow.  The Soviets deny any involvement -- but the U.S. government knows better.  there's only one way to get Daniels out of Russia:  brute force.  And ex-Green Beret Mark Stone is just the man for the job."  Three novels in the series were co-written by Bill Crider and three were co-written by Joe Lansdale.  Evidently, Mike Newton also contributed to the series but I don't know which books he worked on.  I've enjoyed the books in the series that I have read.
  • Algis Budrys, editor, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume XVII.  SF anthology with eighteen stories by winners and finalists in the annual writing contest, as well as illustrations by winners and finalists in the accompanying art contest.  Several essays are also included.  Traditionally, most of the stories printed in this series are (IMHO) range from so-so to moderately good, but the contest has given a number of respected writers their first opportunities to develop their craft.  This volume, from 2001, has no names that I recognized.  Oh, well.
  • Lee Child, Persuader.  A Jack Reacher thriller.  "Jack Reacher is the persuader.  An ex-military cop and the ultimate loner.  No family, no possessions.  No commitments, no fear.  Nothing -- except a strong sense of justice.  Which is why Reacher agrees to help a female agent caught in a death trap.  Why Reacher must outwit and outfight a criminal army.  Because once Reacher finds trouble, he cannot quit.  Not once.  Not ever."  Like so many others, I am a fan of Lee Child's books.  This one happens to be the only Jack Reacher novel I have not yet read.  After this, there be a long wait for me until a new Reacher is published.  Is that fair, I ask you?
  • Edmund Cooper, Sea-Horse in the Sky.  SF novel.  "Kidnapped!  Eight men and eight women, with curious bumps on the backs of their heads, and no memory of anything but an uninterrupted journey, a flight that never landed.  They emerged from their green plastic coffins one by one. into the sunlight of an endless alien plain.  Standing alone on either side of a short road that ended abruptly in grass and shrubs were a supermarket and a hotel...and nothing else.  Fortunately, the hotel had a limitless bar -- they were going to need it, because, although no one ever saw who stocked the groceries or changed the sheets, they did see other things.  Shocking things...frightening things...unbelievable things.  Some would die of it.  Some would go mad.  And some would find the truth."  Cooper, a fairly popular British writer, had a quarter of a century career that started in the mid-fifties, but is pretty much forgotten today.
  • Gordon R. Dickson, The Earth Lords.   Fantasy.  "Some call it Hell...A hidden labyrinth beneath the Canadian wilderness, where dwarfish Lords and Ladies ride humans like horses -- and plot the final downfall of mankind.  Bart Dyberg is a 'steed.' but one gifted with mental and physical abilities unsuspected by those who have enslaved him.  Soon, he vows, he will surprise the Lords and escape to the world above...If there's a world to go back to."  Dickson has always been a favorite.
  • Tom Godwin, The Space Barbarians.  SF novel, a sequel to Space Prison.  "In three bloody years of spacewar, the 'barbarians' of the hell-world Ragnarok had destroyed the Gem Empire. -- and freed the 'civilized' planets of Earth and Athena from their alien domination.  But the Earthenians feared and hated the men of Ragnarok and resented the superhuman strength and speed which had won their bloody victory.  And when a new threat from beyond the stars struck at Ragnarok and left it desolate, the 'barbarians' were strictly on their own -- abandoned to certain destruction by the rest of mankind!" 
  • Mick Herron, Dead Lions.  Crime/spy novel, winner of CWA's Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime novel of the Year.  ""London's Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what's left of their careers.  The 'slow horses,' as they are called, have ll disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here.  Maybe they messed up an op badly, or got in the way of an ambitious colleague.  Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle -- not unusual in this line of work.  One thing these failed spies have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action.  Now the slow horses have a chance at redemption.  An old cold war-era spy is found dead on a bus outside Oxford, far from his usual haunts.  As the agents dig into their fallen comrade's circumstances, they uncover a shadowy tangle of ancient Cold War secrets.  How many more people will have to die to keep those secrets buried?"
  • Patricia Moyes, Johnny UndergroundTwice in a Blue Moon, and Who Saw Her Die?  All Inspector Henry Tibbett mysteries.  In the first, "Emmy Tibbett goes to her RAF reunion with an inexplicable sense of foreboding.  As a naive nineteen-year-old auxiliary officer she had fallen in love with handsome pilot 'Beau' Guest.  After the reunion Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett suspects that his wife is on the brink of uncovering a dangerous secret but he can't prevent her from delving into a past that is dark with menace."  In the second, "When Susan Gardiner unexpectedly inherits an old country in outside London, she inherited a long-lost distant cousin.  A few years her senior and very attractive, Cousin James is also very attractive.  Soon love blooms.  But just as soon, murder enters the picture as customers of the inn's posh restaurant begin to die one by one."  And in the third, "An extravagantly iced cake, two dozen dark red roses and a case of vintage champagne, all gifts to celebrate Crystal Balaclava's seventieth birthday.  Strange that she should feel it necessary to invite Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett to join the party as her bodyguard.  Henry's scepticism turns to horror when Lady Balaclava drops dead in his arms, apparently poisoned."
  • Don Pendleton, Copp in Deep.  The third (of six) novels featuring PI Joe Copp.  "Joe Copp is hired by old buddy ex-cop Tom Chase to protect him from the FBI.  Chase is security chief for a defense contractor, and Uncle Sam is following him and setting up his executives for a sting.  Sure enough, two of them are stung.  Permanently.  And Chase is arrested as a spy.  Copp?  He's only running from the feds, busting KGB skulls, schmoozing with sexy women, rubbing elbows with traitors, and tripping over corpses while running for his life.  With his client under wraps, Copp is out in the cold, in deep, and getting deeper."  Pendleton was the creator of Mack Bolan, the Executioner, a men's action adventure hero whose adventures grew into a huge franchise, as below:
  • {"Don Pendleton"], Don Pendleton's The Executioner #226:  Red Horse (written by Will Murray) and #373:  Code of Honor (written by Keith A. R. DeCandido).  In the first, a series of firebombings in Boston are suspected to be the result of a gang turf war, but Bolan thinks differently -- the attacks are too professional, done with military precision.  In the second, an elite secret group of mercenaries begin targeting retired American servicemen, Stony Man, the secret group of commandos sanctioned by the President, sends Mack Bolan to deal with the problem.  Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan:  Moscow Massacre (The Executioner #92) (written by Stephen Mertz) has Bolan penetrating Russia to help an imperiled CIA mole in Moscow, and ending in a bloodbath in the heart of KGB high command.  Lastly, in Don Pendleton's Mack bola:  Stony Man II (written by Mel Odom), Stony Man must try to stop a war that could set world peace back generations when a Palestinian madman unleashes "the ultimate terror sweep."
  • Donald J. Pfeil, Voyage to a Forgotten Sun.  SF novel.  "'May you rot forever in your seventh hell!'  Trader Zim heard the sentence, but he didn't believe it -- 20 years in isolation on some god-forsaken Class IV planet.  Hadn't he been warned about the strict laws on Standra?  Didn't he know an underground smuggling operation was sure to be discovered?  Now he was doomed to rot in jail...unless he agreed to accompany the President of Earth back to his home planet.  The mission was fraught with unknown dangers, but a wily Trader could always think of something..."  Pfeil was the editor of of Vertex, "the slick science fiction magazine" that ran from 1973 to 1975.  Vertex evidently had enough money to attract name writers, but went from a "slick" magazine to a newspaper tabloid for its final three issues.
  • Jerry Pournelle, creator, War World, Volume IV:  Invasion.  SF anthology in the shared CoDominium universe.  This one has eight short stories with linking material.  This volume (and others in the series) was produced "with the editorial assistance of John F. Carr."  The War World anthologies ran to nine volumes, with ISFDb crediting Pournelle as editor of six of them; Carr edited an additional four volumes in the offshoot War World Central series.
  • John Maddox Roberts, Space Angel.  Sf novel.  "For Kelly, it was an impossible dream come true when he shipped out on the Space Angel.  Ship's boy was the most menial jog aboard, but it was excitement enough just to be in space.  Things became more exciting than even Kelly wanted when an unimaginably old and powerful entity commandeered the Space Angel and sent the freighter on an incredible mission to the center of the galaxy -- with two hereditary killers and a poetic crab added to the crew for extra interest!  Kelly knew that he would finish the trip as a seasoned spacer -- or a very dead one."  Besides science fiction, Roberts has written Conan pastiches and a well-regarded series of mysteries set in ancient Rome.
  • Fred Saberhagan, The White Bull.  SF novel.  "In the reign of Minos, King of the Cretans, the gods gave proof of their existence:  a bull-headed man accompanied by his bronze servitor strode forth from Neptune's realm.  At last the gods had removed the veil that separated them from their worshipers...or had they?  Strangely enough, the Minotaur forswears all claims to divinity -- and his metallic servant cannot speak at all.  Instead, he comes to the Greeks bearing gifts of alien knowledge.  But Daedelus at least will have cause to beware the teachings of...The White Bull."
  • Kathleen Sky, Ice Prison.  SF novel.  ''Mithras had been set up as a penal colony -- no one would have gone to such a frozen hell voluntarily.  Even five genertions later, no inhabitant could escape from Mithras alive.  And now, Howell discovered to his horror, the Confederation Colonial Service was using it as a dumping ground for its own troublemakers.  He was marroned on Mithras -- its new commandant, yet as much a prisoner as any convict.  And to add to his tribulations, the entire colony was being terrorized by a fourteen-year-old girl."  This one was published by Laser Books, a short-lived SF imprint of Harlequin (the romance people); the series was edited by Roger Elwood who, at one time, was thought to be the man who would ruin science fiction.
  • Richard S. Wheeler, An Obituary for Major Reno.  Biographical western.  "Marcus Reno is a pariah, a controversial figure accused of being responsible for the worst disaster ever to befall the army of the United States.  Thirteen years past, he was one of George Armstrong Custer's senior officers when Custer and over 200 men in his command were annihilated by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors above the Little Big Horn River in Montana Territory.  Now, in the spring of 1889, Major Reno is dying and wants to tell the real story of the Custer battle and wants his honor -- the most precious word in his vocabulary -- restored."  Few people can match Wheeler in the western field.