Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Update

Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog.  I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care.  A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left.  The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I've made a lot of friends here.  My only regret is  that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block' fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins' latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand,  which is a collection of two novellas, "A Bullet for Satisfaction," an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and "The Last Stand," the last thing that Spillane completed.  It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I'll never read.  But I've had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it.  Much love to you all.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Blog Hiatus

Don't know for how long. I just know I no longer have the energy or the will to carry it on. Thanks to all for support and encouragement. Love to all.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Mitch Margo, R. I. P.

NY Daily News: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mitch Margo, a member of the group behind the hit song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in the early 1960s, has died at his California home. He was 70.

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four

Song of the Day

The Great Western

The Great Western: The Heroine of Fort Brown

Today's Vintage Ad


What's the Difference Between a Street, a Road, and an Avenue?

What's the Difference Between a Street, a Road, and an Avenue? 

PaperBack



Raymond F. Jones, The River and the Dread, Laser, 1977

Women Were Pirates, Too

Women Were Pirates, Too 

Time Capsule Diner Hiding in a New Orleans Record Store

Time Capsule Diner Hiding in a New Orleans Record Store

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Friday, December 01, 2017

This Film Version of 'Treasure Island' Gave Us Our Image of Pirates

This Film Version of 'Treasure Island' Gave Us Our Image of Pirates

Song of the Day

The Aero-Nuts of 1785

The Aero-Nuts of 1785: From our “Dustbin of History” files, here’s the harrowing tale of a little-known milestone in aviation history.

Today's Vintage Ad

The Tianjin Binhai Library is a Book Lover’s Dream

The Tianjin Binhai Library is a Book Lover’s Dream

Annoying slideshow.

PaperBack



Ngaio Marsh, Final Curtain, Pocket Books, 1948

The ten most expensive movie flops of all time

The ten most expensive movie flops of all time

Forgotten Books: Prime Sucker -- Harry Whittington

Hank sat at the table and wanted George's wife.  It was like being drunk, the way she made him feel.

That's the opening paragraph, and right away you know things aren't going to end well.  You also know that when it comes to writing a novel about sexual obsession, Harry Whittington knew what he was doing.  

Hank, the sucker, is George's boss.  Amy is George's wife.  Hank's own wife, Ethel, is cold and a little twisted. Amy's twisted in a different way: "I want whatever you want, her eyes had said, and he knew in his sickness that they also said, I want what any man wants. Any man."  George has used Amy for the old badger game before, but this time something happens.  Amy really does fall for Hank. 

Will Hank be able to break away from Ethel and find happiness with Amy?  This was the '50s.  That should answer the question.  Whittington puts Hank his characters through the wringer and there's raw emotion on every page.  This isn't one of Whittington's noir classics, but it's worth your time.  

Another rerun.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jim Nabors, R, I. P.

The New York Times: Jim Nabors, a comic actor who found fame in the role of the amiable bumpkin Gomer Pyle in two hit television shows of the 1960s while pursuing a second career as a popular singer with a booming baritone voice, died on Thursday at his home in Honolulu. He was 87.  

Hat tips to John Duke and Jeff Meyerson,

America’s Jack the Ripper and the Downfall of Eliot Ness

America’s Jack the Ripper and the Downfall of Eliot Ness

Song of the Day

Today's Vintage Ad


12 Tips From a Rare Books Expert to Keep Your Books Looking Great

12 Tips From a Rare Books Expert to Keep Your Books Looking Great 

WWI food propaganda forever changed the way Americans eat

How WWI food propaganda forever changed the way Americans eat � For Our Consideration: Meatless Mondays. Local is best. Eat less wheat. These sound like food fads plucked from 2017’s buzziest blog headlines but are in fact from 100 years ago. Each was a campaign from the U.S. Food Administration during World War I, and the food propaganda it represented was as important to the war effort as Uncle Sam’s “I want YOU for the U.S. Army.”  

Some nice vintage ads with the essay, too.

PaperBack



Frank Kane, A Real Gone Guy, Dell, 1958

The Author of ‘Frankenstein’ Also Wrote a Post-Apocalyptic Plague Novel

The Author of ‘Frankenstein’ Also Wrote a Post-Apocalyptic Plague Novel: ‘The Last Man’ was derided in its time for being too grim, but today it would fit in with a growing genre of dystopian fiction

The Story Behind The Natural

The Story Behind The Natural 

Forgotten Music

The Life of a Song: ‘Not Fade Away’

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A New Story by the Master of Hardboiled Detective Fiction

A New Story by the Master of Hardboiled Detective Fiction: “The Glass That Laughed” by Dashiell Hammett  

Hat tip to John Duke.

A Short and Sweet History of the Whitman's Sampler

A Short and Sweet History of the Whitman's Sampler

Song of the Day

I Miss the Old Days

Fascinating Vintage Photos of People Wearing Levi's Jeans on the Streets in the 1970s

Today's Vintage Ad


Why the Can Opener Wasn't Invented Until Almost 50 Years After the Can

Why the Can Opener Wasn't Invented Until Almost 50 Years After the Can

PaperBack



Weston Clay, Boot Hill, Handi Books, 1951

Or Maybe You Did

26 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Libraries  

Video with John Green.  

An (Almost) Comprehensive History of Rat Kings

Mental Floss: A ball of furry fury, a rat king occurs when the tails of rodents become twisted, wrapped, and warped into a knot so impossible that not even the world's most loyal Boy Scout could untangle it. Rat kings have been reported since the mid-16th century (almost entirely within Germany), and everything about them—from their name, to their cause, to their very existence—remains suspended in mystery.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

12 Fascinating Facts About Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush

12 Fascinating Facts About Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush 

Song of the Day

I Miss the Old Days

41 Amazing Photos That Capture Rollerskates at Venice Beach, Los Angeles in 1979 

Today's Vintage Ad


The First Detective

The First Detective

PaperBack



Erle Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Runaway Corpse, Pocket Books, 1969

Western Musings: A Conversation with Paul Bishop

Western Musings: A Conversation with Paul Bishop

Ultra-Cool New Illustrations For the Original James Bond Novels

Ultra-Cool New Illustrations For the Original James Bond Novels

Overlooked Movies -- Passengers

Passengers, an SF movie starring Chris Platt, Jennifer Lawrence, and Michael Sheen, was generally disliked by critics.  I can understand why, but I don't agree.

On a starship with everyone in suspended animation for 120 years, Pratt is awakened early because of a glitch.  He learns that he still has 88 years to go, with only a robot bartender (Sheen) for company.  In that situation, I'd probably do just what Pratt does.  He wakes another passenger (Lawrence).  The critics found this creepy and stalkery.  Maybe it is, but facing 88 years of loneliness, I'd probably do the same.  Of course he doesn't tell Lawrence the truth, which causes trouble later, but there's a lot more serious trouble to come.  Saying what that is would spoil things, so I'll keep mum.

Pratt and Lawrence are charmers, and Sheen just about steals the movie.  The movie looks great, and there's action and romance aplenty.  No need to go out of your way to see it, but there's no need to overlook it, either.

Passengers

Monday, November 27, 2017

Judy Crider, November 5, 1943 - November 27, 2014

Worst day of my life.  There were so many good days before this one, so many great days, that I try not to dwell on this one.  It's still a source of awe and wonder to me that someone as beautiful, smart, and kind as Judy would fall for a goober like me, but I guess everybody deserves one fantastic stroke of luck in his life, and Judy was mine.  The blog will remain dark the rest of the day in loving memory.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

The 35 best science-fiction movies since Blade Runner

Song of the Day

Moonlight Towers

Moonlight Towers

Today's Vintage Ad


27 Vintage Snapshots That Capture People Posing With Their Grilled Turkeys in Thanksgiving Day

27 Vintage Snapshots That Capture People Posing With Their Grilled Turkeys in Thanksgiving Day 

PaperBack



Frank Kane, Esprit de Corpse, Dell, 1965

You Probably Don't Want to Read These

Bad sex award 2017 shortlist: the contenders in quotes

14 Things You Owned in the '70s That are Worth a Fortune Now

14 Things You Owned in the '70s That are Worth a Fortune Now

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Here's Why Stop Signs Are Red

Here's Why Stop Signs Are Red

Song of the Day

6 Utterly Terrifying Unsolved Mysteries No One Can Explain

6 Utterly Terrifying Unsolved Mysteries No One Can Explain 

Today's Vintage Ad


14 of the Worst Metal Band Promo Photos of All Time

14 of the Worst Metal Band Promo Photos of All Time

PaperBack



Steven C. Lawrence, The Iron Marshal, Avon, 1960

10 Incredible Facts About Ravens

10 Incredible Facts About Ravens

Here are the most popular Amazon Kindle books of all time

Here are the most popular Amazon Kindle books of all time

The True Story of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond

The True Story of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond—And Why the British Won’t Give It Back 

An Illustrated Look at the Terlingua Chili Cook-off

An Illustrated Look at the Terlingua Chili Cook-off

Friday, November 24, 2017

Joan Hess: R.I.P.

Mystery Fanfare: Joan Hess: R.I.P.

FFB: Campus Doll -- Edwin West (Donald E. Westlake)

A repeat and late, but it keeps the string going.

I don't know if Donald E. Westlake used the Edwin West name often, but he used it on at least five books for Monarch in the early '60s. One of them was Campus Doll.

Westlake and Lawrence Block wrote a lot of books like this for various sleaze publishers, and they (and others) shared a few in-jokes. For example, the setting of this book is Clifton College, which figures in many of Block's novels from around the same time. If you can believe these books, Clifton was indeed a swinging campus. There's also a mention of a lousy movie called A Sound of Distant Drums, which turns up all the time. Charles Ardai even pays homage to it in his recent Fifty-to-One. [It's mentioned in The Comedy is Finished, too.]

The plot here is similar (very similar) to numerous other books from this period by Westlake and Block. Jackie's a not-so-nice girl whose parents can suddenly not afford to send her to Clifton. Her date for the evening, the rascally Rick Marshall, suggests that she start charging for what she used to give for free. "That'll be ten dollars, Rick," she says, and her new career has begun.

Jackie is quite the businesswoman, and Rick turns into a brutal pimp. When the business expands, Jackie takes in another woman, Rita, and Jackie suddenly realizes that all her trouble is caused by men. She decides that what she needs is a good woman. Before long (this is a short book, and nothing takes long), Jackie has a house full of women, one of whom is working with Rick to sell (gasp!) marijuana. One of the profs from Clifton falls for Jackie. Then things start to go wrong all at once. Jackie decides that the way out is to have the prof kill Rick. And so on. There's no happy ending here, folks. It reminded me of nothing so much as the ending of a hot-rod novel by Henry Gregor Felsen.

It's always interesting to read something by a favorite writer from the period when he was starting out. Campus Doll isn't going to win any literary prizes, and it's not going to do a thing to increase Westlake's reputation. It was probably written very quickly. Maybe over the weekend. But it's slick and short and fun to read as a literary and cultural artifact. It has a nice cover, too.

Song of the Day

Update

Dear blog friends and family, I spent Wednesday in the ER and Thanksgiving in a Observation Room.  I'm not sure what they observed, but they couldn't find anything to explain my deep fatigue.  So I'm back home and will try to keep the blog going in abbreviated for for as long as I can.  Thanks for all your encouragement.  A friend of mine reminded me not long ago of an old song we both loved when we were kids, and I'm seeing those blue shadows on the trail.

Today's Vintage Ad


7 Times Misleading Movie Trailers Didn't Align with the Film

7 Times Misleading Movie Trailers Didn't Align with the Film 

How Not to Avoid a Murder Charge

Neatorama: Reverend Jacob S. Harden was only 22 years old and trying to establish himself as the pastor in Andersontown, New Jersey. He had married Louisa Dorland under pressure from her parents and rumors about him that Harden suspected they started. It was not a happy marriage, and they weren't even living together. But Louisa visited her husband at a parishoner's home where he was staying, and there died after a short illness. An autopsy revealed she had ingested arsenic, and suspicion turned to the young pastor. So he fled.

FFB: Among the Gently Mad

Rerun alert!

Nicholas Basbanes' A Gentle Madness is one of the best books about book collecting ever written. If you haven't read it, you should just stop reading this, find Basbanes' book, and read it right now.

Among the Gently Mad isn't a sequel, but a complementary volume. It appears to be out of print, which amazed me and which I think qualifies it for the Forgotten Books post. Like all Basbanes' books, it's wonderful.

As you might be able to see in the photo on the left, the subtitle is "Perspectives and Strategies for the Book Hunter of the Twenty-First Century." And that's what it is. Every bit of advice in the book seems to me first-rate. Basbanes is not fond of on-line selling, and he's even less fond of eBay, but he loves Google's search engine, and he's fond of any number of my own favorite Internet sites, like Abebooks.com.

But the book has a lot more than just good advice to offer. One thing I particularly liked was the phrase "a gathering of books." It sounds so much better than "an accumulation." There are wonderful descriptions of book collections Basbanes has seen and of his own collections. There are great book-finding stories. Stories about the collecting habits of many famous and lesser-known book lovers. I found something to like on every single page of this book, and on almost every page felt the shock of recognition.

If you love books, you just can't pass this one up. My highest recommendation.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Song of the Day

Away for a while

I'll be away from the computer for a while.  I'll have a few posts, but not many, as I'm feeling rotten.  I hope to be back and better in a few days.

Today's Vintage Ad


The Worst Music Festival in History

The Worst Music Festival in History

PaperBack



Gordon Daniels, Top Gun, Crest, 1963

10 Long Lost Cities (That Have Recently Been Discovered)

10 Long Lost Cities (That Have Recently Been Discovered)

Happy Birthday, Frances Crider!

My mother's birthday was pretty much ruined by another big event that happened on this date in 1963.  You oldsters will remember what I'm talking about and exactly where you were when you heard the news.  I'm not going to dwell on that, however.  I'm just going to remember my beautiful mother. She's in the red blouse, second row.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Greatest Hair Metal One-Hit Wonders

Greatest Hair Metal One-Hit Wonders

Song of the Day

7 famous seafaring felines

Cats at sea: 7 famous seafaring felines 

Today's Vintage Ad


I Talked to 150 Writers and Here's the Best Advice They Had

I Talked to 150 Writers and Here's the Best Advice They Had: JOE FASSLER ON SEVEN OF THE MOST COMMON WRITING TIPS

PaperBack



Peter McCurtin, The Assassin #1: Miami Massacre, Dell, 1973

I Miss the Old Days

The Swinging Sixties: 49 Snapshots That Capture Couples in the 1960s 

Overlooked Movies: CHiPS

CHiPS might not be the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's the worst movie I've seen in a long, long time.  It's allegedly based on the innocuous TV series of the same name from the late '70s and early '80s.  It has the same characters and the same name, but that's about it.  The two motorcycle cops are still Ponch and Jon, but Ponch is an undercover FBI agent with a disgusting personal problem, while Jon is a former track racer now broken in body, addicted to opioids, and trying to save his marriage.  

The plot is chaotic, the alleged humor is crass and sometimes downright repulsive.  The trailer (see below) is bad enough, but the movie is worse.  And while there are lots of explosions and violent episodes, they don't really advance the plot.  The movie seemed interminable. I wish I'd overlooked it.

So why did I watch it?  I blame my daughter. She's the one who turned it on and watched.  I was trapped in the same room.  Next time I'll find the exit.

CHIPS

Monday, November 20, 2017

Della Reese, R. I. P.

CBS News: LOS ANGELES — Della Reese, best known for her work on "Touched by an Angel," has died at age 86. The actress and gospel-influenced singer found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama, when she was in her 60s.

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

The First Known Uses of 6 Common Typographic Symbols

The First Known Uses of 6 Common Typographic Symbols

Song of the Day

5 Terrifying Real Artifacts

5 Terrifying Real Artifacts (With Even Creepier Stories)

Includes crocodile mummies.

Vintage Ad


Russell Johnson: More Than "the Professor"

Russell Johnson: More Than "the Professor" 

PaperBack



Nelson Algren, Never Come Morning, Avon, 1955

I Miss the Old Days

45 Amazing Photos That Capture Everyday Life of New York in the Early 1960s

The National Book Award Archives: The Best American Fiction Since 1950

The National Book Award Archives: The Best American Fiction Since 1950: The National Book Awards began in 1950 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City when The Man With the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren was named America’s premier piece of fiction from the previous year. Today, it’s the most important event on the American literary calendar and continues to recognize the best in American writing.

4 Huge Roles Actors Declined (And What They Chose Instead)

4 Huge Roles Actors Declined (And What They Chose Instead)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Mel Tillis, R. I. P.

Fox News: Country music singer Mel Tillis, whose six-decade career included hits such as “I Ain’t Never” and “Coca Cola Cowboy” and who never let his stutter get in the way of him becoming a legend, died on Sunday, his publicist confirmed. He was 85.

These Stephen King characters all appear in multiple books

These Stephen King characters all appear in multiple books

Song of the Day

Were-sharks and Nazi leprechauns: the rise and fall of the horror paperback

Were-sharks and Nazi leprechauns: the rise and fall of the horror paperback

Today's Vintage Ad


What Was the First Book You Fell in Love With?

What Was the First Book You Fell in Love With? 

PaperBack



Leo Guild, Hollywood Screwballs, Holloway House, 1960

10 Surprising Traits That Are Hereditary

10 Surprising Traits That Are Hereditary

The Origin Stories of 25 of Your Favorite Fast Food Chains

The Origin Stories of 25 of Your Favorite Fast Food Chains

This Week's Tabloids

Bible predictions: talking pets, the Mark of the Beast, and an exploding pop star, in this week’s tabloids

Saturday, November 18, 2017

After 100 Years, This Entire Forest Will Be Turned into Mystery Manuscripts

After 100 Years, This Entire Forest Will Be Turned into Mystery Manuscripts: Hike through Norway’s future library, currently in the form of baby trees

Song of the Day

The Gun That Made the Twenties Roar

The Gun That Made the Twenties Roar: In the United States, the decade of the 1920’s, aka the ‘Roaring Twenties’, was the time of the Jazz Age, Art Deco, flappers, the Charleston, the Scopes Monkey Trial, a runaway bull stock market, birth of the NFL, Babe Ruth, first widespread use of the automobile, the beginning of airline aviation, Prohibition, bootleg liquor, Al Capone, speakeasies, gangsters, Eliot Ness and the Untouchables, and what was perhaps the single most iconic object of that era – the Thompson Submachine Gun (TSMG).

Today's Vintage Ad


The Real Frank James

The Real Frank James The glorified outla...: The glorified outlaw, and why he shed his criminal skin after the death of his younger, and more famous, brother.

PaperBack



Middleton Kiefer, Pax, Perma Books, 1960

2017 National Toy Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

2017 National Toy Hall of Fame Inductees Announced: ROCHESTER, New York—The mystery has been solved! The simple, soaring paper airplane; game-changing Wiffle Ball; and murder-mystery favorite Clue today became the latest inductees to The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame. The honorees were selected from a field of 12 finalists that also included: Magic 8 Ball, Matchbox Cars, My Little Pony, PEZ Candy Dispenser, play food, Risk, sand, Transformers, and Uno.

5 Strange, Star-Laden Films That Have Never Been Released

5 Strange, Star-Laden Films That Have Never Been Released

Andy Weir: By the Book - The New York Times

Andy Weir: By the Book: The author of “The Martian” and, most recently, “Artemis” has never read Frank Herbert’s “Dune”: “Yes, I know. I’m the worst sci-fi fan in the universe.”