Saturday, July 24, 2004

Ed's Place: "Letters; Mystery*File; Tuesday Weld
July 23, 2004"

Ed Gorman's blog is back, and he's writing about Tuesday Weld. Check it out.

As for me, I'm still in my nostalgic mode and reading some old SF magazines. Last night I had a look at AMAZING STORIES for July 1957. I was probably about to turn 16 when I read this issue for the first time. I'm sure I thought the stories in it were classices of world lit. This time I'm a little more skeptical.

Robert Silverberg's "The Blue Plague" is a story of the Venusian invasion of Earth, and it's as preposterous as anything I've read in years, even though I'm sure I loved it when I was 16. Apparently Venus and Earth have about the same kind of atmospheres, but Venusians don't look anything like us earthlings. They can, however, assume our forms. And they can be killed with very virus they're planning to use to destroy us.

"Brief Hunger" is by G. L. Vandengurg, which I believe is a Silverberg pseudonym. It's a humorous fantasy that might have been intended for AMAZING's companion magazine, FANTASTIC. When an actor in a play removes his dental bridge, his thoughts are broadcast aloud to the audience. This happens because his tongue is touching the sensitive nerve where his tooth used to be. Hey, I believe it. Or I'm sure I did when I was 16. Those were the days, my friends.

Friday, July 23, 2004

"The wrath of the King of Orion flamed across the void.  Out from the Hyades sped his hunters, and from Mintaka and Saiph and Aldebaran, grim ships of war sped headlong between the stars in vengeful search for the small and secret ship that had dared violate their domain."

That's the opening paragraph of Edmond Hamilton's "The Star Hunter" from SPACE TRAVEL for September 1958.  Either you like that kind of thing or you don't, and there was a time when I liked it very much indeed.  I was a teenager in a small Texas town, and in reality I'd  never been much farther away from home than the 90 miles to Dallas.  But in the pages of the SF digests that I read by the metric ton, I travelled all over the known universe and to galaxies far, far away, thanks to writers like Edmond Hamilton and magazines like SPACE TRAVEL, the descendant of IMAGINATION and IMAGINATIVE TALES.   Editor William Hamling tried to save his SF line by putting factual articles into SPACE TRAVEL, but it didn't work.  The magazine lasted only a few issues, more's the pity.

Re-reading stories like "The Star Hunter" now, 46 years (!) later, I don't get quite the same charge that I did when I was 17.  The old sense of wonder that I was fairly bristling with in those days has dwindled.  But it's still there, somewhere,  and now and then there's nothing for it but to get out one of those old digests and read a story by Hamilton or Dwight V. Swain or Calvin M. Knox or "Alexander Blade," "S. M. Tenneshaw," "Ivar Jorgenson."  I always wanted to write stories like those, but I never did.  Never could.  But boy did I love to read 'em.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

And now for something completely different.  The other day a friend gave me a copy of Christopher Buckley's LITTLE GREEN MEN.  He said it was hilarious, and he was right.  This is the funniest book I've read in a good while.  It's not exactly political satire, but it's not exactly NOT political satire, either.  When a powerful TV talk-show host is abducted by aliens on the golf course of an exclusive D. C. country club, his life is turned around.  He starts a crusade to get the government to investigate the existence of extraterrestrials, and of course everyone who supported him before drops  him like a hot horseshoe.  Ironically, he becomes more powerful than ever, although with an entirely different audience.  Sometimes it's hard to tell who's more bizarre, the abductees or the denizens of congress and the White House.  I highly recommend this book if you ever feel the need of a good laugh.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Army rations rehydrated by urine New Scientist: "Would you eat food cooked in your own urine? Food scientists working for the US military have developed a dried food ration that troops can hydrate by adding the filthiest of muddy swamp water or even peeing on it."

I'm sure enlistment will be up by the thousands as soon as word about this wonderful breakthrough gets around. As David Letterman would say, "That's good eatin'!"
Blogger has been "interesting" again today.  I've tried posting once, and the post disappeared.  Then I couldn't get back on blogger.  So we'll see what happens this time.

One of my eBay purchases is a copy of DOUBLE-ACTION DETECTIVE, issue #6, from July 1957.  It's a  Columbia Publication, edited by Robert A. W. Lowndes, so it looks a lot like the SF digests I have from the same publisher.  And Lowndes has some of his usual writers here: Robert Silverberg, Margaret St. Clair, and Sam Merwin, Jr.

St. Clair's story is another one of those "this is the solution to the Jack the Ripper case" tales.  It's OK, but it doesn't offer a real historical personage as the Ripper.  He's "The Courier" of the title.  The hook is that he's working for Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl, and a member of the party.  Except that he's working both sides.  An OK story, nothing more.

And then there's Silverberg.  His story is a competent police procedural in the DRAGNET vein.  I know he was writing  whole issues of some of the SF digests around the time of this issue's publication (sometimes in collaboration with Randall Garrett), but he was apparently also writing mysteries, sports stories, book reviews, and the occasional nonfiction article.  He must have been writing 18 hours a day.  I'm in awe of him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: "Singing Japanese plants
Tue 20 July, 2004 11:44

TOKYO (Reuters) - People who like talking to their plants can now enjoy a musical accompaniment, thanks to a Japanese invention that turns petals and leaves into amplifiers.

Called the 'Flower Speaker Amplifiers', the gadget made by Let's Corp is hidden in a vase or a potted plant and sends music at just the right frequency to vibrate up the stems and then be converted into audible sound by the plant as a whole.

A device such as a CD player or radio can be connected to it."

I'm not sure what I think of this, but at the moment I'm thinking "scary." Do I really want a pot of begonias playind and singing "Stairway to Heaven"? Or even "Mystery Train"? Would plants grow better if they played the Beatles or Barry Manilow?
Rough Edges: PROGRESS

"Today was another pretty good work day, 23 pages, giving me a little over a hundred for the week. This is a pace I need to maintain."

My admiration for James Reasoner knows no bounds. I don't see how he maintains a blog, reads all kinds of books, visits Sam's Club, watches DVDs, and still manages to write 23 pages a day. What's even more amazing, as you know if you've ever read James's work, is that they're quality pages. Which reminds me that James's first novel, the legendary TEXAS WIND is back in print. If you haven't read this p.i. classic, you should order it right now from PointBlank:  You can thank me later.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I mentioned down below that I did an article on Clifton Adams for Steve Lewis's Mystery*File.  After the article was published, Bill Pronzini told Steve that Adams had done a novel for Berkley Books under the name "Nick Hudson."  The title is THE VERY WICKED (1960), and since Bill said it was worth looking for, I naturally had to have a copy.  Back in the Olden Days, I'd have looked in vain in little out-of-the-way used-book stores for years before finding one.  In the Age of the Internet, all I had to do was go 0n-line, where I had several copies to choose from.
The book is very different from Adams's other crime novels.  It's a noirish Jack-the-Ripper riff, in which a vice cop named Bill Creel goes over the edge and starts killing prostitutes.  There's no gore, and no sensationalism, even though most of the book is told from the cop's point of view.  We find out a lot about the cop and his attitudes toward women, and a lot about his unhealthy state of mind.  We know, or suspect, that he's going to end badly, so the interest is in how long he can keep fooling people, and how many women he'll kill, before he slips up.
I didn't like this book quite as much as Adams's work for Gold Medal, but as an early entry in the serial killer category, it's worth a read.  And it has a great redhead on the cover.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

My eBay habit recently brought me a gaggle of mystery-story digests, including THE EXECUTIONER MYSTERY MAGAZINE from August 1975.  The bookend stories in this issue are by Stephen Mertz and Margaret Maron, and I figure they must be among the first stories these two writers published.  I'm just guessing, though.
Steve's story is "The Busy Corpse," and if the title is a bow to Westlake's "The Busy Body," the story is more WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S.  And I'll bet the makers of that movie didn't pay Steve a penny in royalties, the swine.  The story is a clever "tables turned" or "biter bit" riff, with the Mafia, a private-eye, and a cop, all done in under 7 pages.
Maron's story is "When Daddy's Gone," a noirish story from the naive point of view, if you can imagine such a thing.  Or maybe the pov isn't so naive, after all.  Nice southern setting, the kind Maron has done so well in her novels. 
Turning up magazines like this, the kind you should have bought and kept the first time around, is what makes eBay so much fun.
UPDATE: I see by Steve's comment below that this was indeed his first national sale.  He must've been just a kid at the time.  I've also learned from a "reliable source" that this was the final issue for the magazine.  No fault of Steve's, of course!