Thursday, October 19, 2017

For nearly a half century gators have called this Alvin bank home

Houston Chronicle: The First Bank of Alvin has been home to alligators for nearly half a century. In 1969, a rice farmer donated three 6-inch gator hatchlings to the bank, to live in its goldfish pond, according to an Associated Press story, published in 1983. The trio - J. Paul Gator, Mitzi Gator and William Teller Gator - soon grew to be about 7 feet long, and became a major attraction for locals. The goldfish didn't last long.  

Great article, excellent video.  This is, of course, where I've been banking since moving to Alvin in 1983.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

“Bayou City Breakdown” (by Susan Perry Benson)

“Bayou City Breakdown” (by Susan Perry Benson) | SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN: Susan Perry Benson debuted in EQMM’s Department of First Stories in July 2013. A native Houstonian and a frequent contributor to the Houston Chronicle and Texas Magazine, she had already moved to North Carolina by the time she turned her pen to fiction, but she continues to have close ties to Houston. In this post she shares some thoughts about Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall near Houston on August 25, 2017. EQMM salutes all of those who have weathered this season’s hurricanes and are bravely rebuilding their cities and towns. And we thank Susan for letting us see the catastrophe from the perspective of someone to whom it is deeply personal. The author’s next story for EQMM will appear in our March/April 2018 issue.—Janet Hutchings

Song of the Day

Mata Hari: Famous Spy or Creative Storyteller?

Mata Hari: Famous Spy or Creative Storyteller?

Today's Vintage Ad


I'm Sure You'll All Agree

23 Songs That Will Make Country Haters Be Like, "I Actually Really Like This Song"

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Gene Harvey, A Girl Called Joy, Cameo Books, 1951

I Miss the Old Days

31 Colorful Photos Show Hat Styles That Audrey Hepburn Often Wore From Between the 1950s and '60s 

The Imperials Inexplicably Not Included


Bonus FFB on Wednesday: The Emperor and the Maula -- Robert Silverberg

I know what you're saying.  You're saying, "How can a brand-new book be forgotten?" Well, I'm not saying it's been forgotten by current readers. I'm saying that even the author, Robert Silverberg, had forgotten it.  The short version is that he wrote The Emperor and the Maula, a 30,000 word novella for a publisher as part of a multi-author project that never came to  fruition.  Silverberg eventually sold the story again by cutting it in half and selling it to a space-opera anthology.  Then he forgot about it until one day he happened to run across the original on his computer's hard drive.  He read it, liked it, and decided to sell it again, this time in is almost original version, with the difference being that he added an ending that was more conclusive than the original one.  It's all in Silverberg's introduction, which is not to be missed. 

I enjoyed the novella.  Although it was written about 1992, it reminded me very much of the kind of SF I liked to read much longer ago than that.  It's an old story in a new form, the story of Scheherazade and the thousand nights and a night as space opera.  Laylah Walis is the teller of the tales, and she's telling them to the emperor of the Ansaar. Her purpose is to stay alive from night to night, but also to tell him about her world of Earth, conquered by the Ansaar, and about the things that happened there after the conquest. And also to tell him about her travels through parts of the Ansaar empire.  The story's old-fashioned in the best sense, with a real sense of wonder (and bushels of adverbs), along with Silverberg's usual storytelling panache.  Since Silverberg isn't writing fiction anymore, it's a real gift to have something new from him.  Check it out.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How Shirley Jackson Makes Us Lose Our Minds

How Shirley Jackson Makes Us Lose Our Minds

Song of the Day

15 Netflix hidden-gem horror movies: 2017 version

15 Netflix hidden-gem horror movies: 2017 version

Today's Vintage Ad


I Miss the Old Days

20 Beautiful Color Photos of Julie Andrews in the 1950s and 1960s: Singer and actress Julie Andrews was born Julia Elizabeth Wells on October 1, 1935, in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England. Andrews has endured as a popular star of stage and screen for many decades. She came from a musical family; her mother was a pianist and her stepfather, from whom she took her surname, was a singer.

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Alan Marshall (Donald E. Westlake), All About Annette, Midwood, 1960

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

10 Films Where The Supporting Role Was Better Than The Lead

I'm Back

Bouchercon was great.  I missed seeing some people I wanted to see, but I got to visit with a lot of friends.  My panels were all well received, and in fact turned out even better than I could have hoped.  My daughter, Angela, was there, and she took good care of me.  We visited the CN Tower, the railroad museum, and Casa Loma.  Photos to follow.  Maybe.

Overlooked Movies: Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb is one of the later Hammer horror films, and not one of the best, but when it showed up on TCM, I recorded it and took a look.  It's based on Bram Stoker's Jewel of the Seven Stars, and it's not a real mummy movie.  That is, there's no wrapped up menace.  Instead we get Valerie Leon, who's Tera, the sorcerous woman placed in a tomb in some sort of suspended animation by Egyptian priests, who then cut off her hand and throw it to wild dogs.  Not that it does them much good, as they all wind up with their throats torn out.  There are a good many torn-out throats in the movie.

Many years after the entombment, Prof Fuchs (Andrew Keir) leads an expedition that discovers Tera. While he's in the tomb, his wife back in England dies in childbirth, and the child dies, too.  But she revives when Fuchs speaks the name Tera.  She grows up to look just like Tera, and she's also played by Valerie Leon. She has a red scar on her wrist. And Fuchs just happens to have smuggled Tera's body and sarcophagus into his basement.  Don't ask how.  On his daughter's birthday, he gives her a ruby ring taken from Tera's severed hand.  You can probably guess the rest, as the new Tera is gradually taken over by the old one, who uses the new one to get revenge on the members of the expedition and to take and artifact from each one.  The artifacts will allow her full return to live when all are gathered.  

There's an evil member of the expedition who's trying to facilitate Tera's return, and there's the new Tera's boyfriend who's trying to help her fight the takeover.  Lots of people die, and the ending of the movie is either satisfactory or not, depending on how you like ambiguity.

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb isn't great, and it's pretty slow, but it's passable Halloween entertainment.

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

Monday, October 16, 2017

First It Was the Thin Mints Melee

and now it's the nacho cheese attack

Richard Wilbur, R. I. P.

The New York Times: Richard Wilbur, whose meticulous, urbane poems earned him two Pulitzer Prizes and selection as the national poet laureate, died on Saturday in Belmont, Mass. He was 96.

Hat tips to Barry Ergang and Jeff Meyerson.

Roy Dotrice, R. I. P.

The New York Times: Roy Dotrice, a British stage, film and television actor who began performing as a prisoner of war in Germany and worked in Britain and America for six decades, notably in one-man shows portraying Abe Lincoln, the diarist John Aubrey and other historical figures, died on Monday at his home in London. He was 94.

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

17 Iconic Movie Scenes That Were Actually Improvised

17 Iconic Movie Scenes That Were Actually Improvised

Song of the Day

America's Unsung Wartime Codebreaker

Elizebeth Friedman, America's Unsung Wartime Codebreaker: An American pioneer in the field of cryptology—the study of writing and solving secret codes—William Friedman is known for his distinguished career as an expert codebreaker with the U.S. Army during World Wars I and II. But although Friedman is one of the biggest names in cryptanalysis—he coined the word itself—historians often skip over the fact that his wife, Elizebeth, was every bit as skilled a codebreaker. Her accomplishments have been (sometimes deliberately) kept from the spotlight.

Today's Vintage Ad


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J. X. Williams, Sin Street Hippie, Nightstand Books, 1968

Top 10 Unbelievable Things Found Underwater

Top 10 Unbelievable Things Found Underwater

Friday, October 13, 2017

Across the Street from the Bouchercon Hotel with Angela


I'm Sure You'll All Agree

The most breathtaking buildings in the world 

Song of the Day

Today's Vintage Ad


I Miss the Old Days

Glamorous Photos That Capture Teenage Girls of Fresno State College in the 1960s

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Neil Curtis, The Land of Esa, Curtis Books, 1952

Top 10 Recent Discoveries From Ancient China

Top 10 Recent Discoveries From Ancient China

FFB: Bloody Vengeance -- Jack Ehrlich

Jack Ehrlich wrote a lot of dandy paperbacks, both westerns and crime novels, although he's almost entirely forgotten now.  One of the most amazing of them is Bloody Vengeance.  I think I wrote once that I didn't know if Ehrlich was serious in this book or if it was a parody of the series like The Executioner and its many imitators.  Either way, reading it is quite an experience, and it's just as relevant now as it was back in 1973.

Here's the premise.  Some cops decide to take the law into their own hands.  If the law's not convicting the scum on the streets, why not just kill them?  What if this worked out so well that other cops took up the idea?  What if it became a movement that spread across the country?  What if the instigator if the whole thing became a powerful political figure and the head of a powerful political movement?

There are a couple of ways to take the book, as I said, but whichever one you choose, I think you'll agree that the book is very well done and pretty dang scary.  You can tell yourself that it can't happen here, but don't you have to wonder a little?  Check it out and see what you think.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

7 Greco-Roman Mystery Cults You Should Know

7 Greco-Roman Mystery Cults You Should Know

Song of the Day

Song of the Day

Today's Vintage Ad


I'm Sure You'll All Agree

17 Creepy As Hell Books You Should Read If You Love Halloween

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Anne Powers, Ride East! Ride West!, Ace, 1960

10 History Myths Still Taught As Fact

10 History Myths Still Taught As Fact

Bouchercon Bound

My oncologist gave me the okay to attend the Bouchercon in Toronto.  I think I'm up to the trip, but there's only one way to find out for sure.  Assuming I get there and survive, I'll be back in Alvin late next Monday.  The blog will proceed mostly as usual since I've scheduled stuff to appear.  I won't be available by email most of the time, but I'll try to check it occasionally.  My daughter, Angela, was planning to be in Toronto as well, but the fires in and around Sonoma County might wreak havoc with those plans.  I hope not, though.

Bonus FFB for Wednesday: The Villa of Mysteries -- David Hewson

After reading a review of this book by David Vineyard on Steve Lewis' Mystery*File, I thought I'd give it a try.  It's a considerably complexly plotted mystery set in Rome with a big cast of characters that includes cops (Costa, Peroni,  Falcone), a pathologist (Teresa Lupo), the anti-Mafia squad, Mafia members, revenge, ancient rituals, buried secrets, and probably more that I'm forgetting.  

Things are set in motion when a pair of Ugly American tourists discover a bog body.  The body is at first wrongly identified by Lupo as being as much as 2000 years old, but it's not. It's only 17 years old, and the girl is soon identified correctly. Then a mother comes to the police because of the apparent abduction of her daughter.  That's when things get complicated.  There's a series of revelations at the end of the novel, one after another, many of them surprising.

This is a literate but overlong thriller.  Excellent atmosphere and local color, along with some genuine creepiness.  Check it out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why Coco Chanel Created the Little Black Dress

Why Coco Chanel Created the Little Black Dress

Song of the Day

When Bond Battled Bond at the 1983 Box Office

When Bond Battled Bond at the 1983 Box Office

Today's Vintage Ad


A Literary Tour of London

A Literary Tour of London: Like the city itself, the list of books where the plot threads through London's crowded streets is immense and rather overpowering. Where does one start when recommending books set in the city? We are assuming you have already read enough Dickensian literature although Oliver Twist is always worth revisiting.  We're deducing Sherlock Holmes is too obvious for this reading list.

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Gertrude Schweitzer, The Obsessed, Gold Medal, 1950

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

This Is the Best Gas Station Coffee in Every State, Explained in One Amazing Map

I Miss the Old Days

Sonny & Cher: 30 Lovely Photos of American Singer Couple in the 1960s: Sonny & Cher were an American pop music duo, actors, singers and entertainers made up of husband-and-wife Sonny and Cher Bono in the 1960s and 1970s. The couple started their career in the mid-1960s as R&B backing singers for record producer Phil Spector.

2017 Top Halloween Candy by State

2017 Top Halloween Candy by State Interactive Map

Overlooked Movies: The True Story of Jesse James

What do you think when you see a the title of a Hollywood movie like The True Story of Jesse James? Maybe I’m just a cynic, but I think that probably everything I see in the movie is going to be pretty far from the truth, and that turns out to be the case with The True Story of Jesse James

Robert Wagner is Jesse, who sports the definitive 1950s haircut. Jeffery Hunter is Frank, whose haircut is nearly as good. 

Now I’ll digress, if I haven't already. Not long ago I reviewed Black Bart a pretty dang good 1940s western with even less historic material than this one.  It's more fun, too.  But that’s not the point. The point is that the climactic scene of Black Bart seems to have been pretty much borrowed intact by William Goldman for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I couldn’t rouse any comments about that on the blog post at the tme, but maybe somebody will speak up now. 

To continue the digression, the opening of The True Story of Jesse James is the Northfield raid, followed by a chase scene organized by the Remington (why not call it Pinkerton if this is the true story?) detective agency. The chase shows huge numbers of men chasing Jesse and Frank, and it looks and ends pretty much just like a famous scene in, you guessed it, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You can see a tiny bit of it in the trailer. I think Goldman committed another homage in his movie. Anybody else want to say something? I’d sure like to get some more opinions on this. 

Now back to our regularly scheduled review. Wagner and Hunter get to do a couple of shirtless scenes, which surely helped sell the movie to teen girls in the ‘50s, so there’s that. It’s not a bad movie, but in spite of that and Cinemascope and its good production values, it never really rises above the pack. And it sure never gets too close to the truth. Beyond Hunter and Wagner, there’s a good cast that includes Hope Lange, Agnes Moorehead, John Carradine, Allan Hale, Jr., and Frank Gorshin. I liked the blind guy at the end who apparently makes up “The Ballad of Jesse James” on the spot and sings it. I had a little cardboard 78 of this song when I was a kid, and I sang it relentlessly. So I grew up with the legend of Jesse as the Robin Hood of the West, which the movie perpetrates against all the historical evidence. But to paraphrase a line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, when the truth becomes legend, we might as well sing the legend. The Kingston Trio did a great version of the song in the early ‘60s to lead off their first album with John Stewart replacing Dave Guard. The KT was never the same for me, but I like their version of the song, anyway.

True Story of Jesse James

Monday, October 09, 2017

Y.A. Tittle, R. I. P.

abc7ny.com: Y.A. Tittle, the Hall of Fame quarterback and 1963 NFL Most Valuable Player, has died. He was 90.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Alvin, Texas, Leads the Way

abc7ny.com: Chloe Bennett and Timothy Watterreus were busy preparing for their wedding when Hurricane Harvey struck in August. But like many Houstonians, their plans were put on hold by the destructive storm. 

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Jimmy Beaumont, R. I. P.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Jimmy Beaumont, the golden-voiced singer of the Skyliners, died Saturday in his sleep at his home in McKeesport at age 76 after a career that lasted nearly 60 years.

Unseen photos from Weegee

Unseen photos from Weegee, the cigar-chomping master of the NYC streets

Song of the Day

15 Companies That Changed Their Names

15 Companies That Changed Their Names

Today's Vintage Ad


Top 10 Female Duels And Duelists

Top 10 Female Duels And Duelists

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Mark Tryon, The Fire that Burns, Berkley, 1959

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich In Every State, According To Yelp

I Miss the Old Days

11 of the Best Articles: We Really Read the Old 'Playboy' for the Articles

Forgotten Hits: October 9th

Forgotten Hits: October 9th: "The Letter" by The Box Tops and "Never My Love" by The Association hold on to their #1 and #2 spots respectively on this week's chart.  Gaining fast are "To Sir With Love" by Lulu (up from #9 to #3 … and a sure fire #1 hit), "Little Ole Man" by Bill Cosby (#8 to #4), "How Can I Be Sure" by The Young Rascals (#11 to #6) and "Gimme Little Sign" by Brenton Wood (#12 to #8).  

Includes SuperChart, some tunes to play, and other good stuff.

The Story Behind The Godfather

The Story Behind The Godfather: The Godfather is considered one of the best movies ever made—the American Film Institute ranks it #3, after Citizen Kane and Casablanca. The story of how it got made is just as good.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Hammett Prize Winner

Hammett Prize Winner

“A Shadow of Lead” (by Lou Manfredo)

“A Shadow of Lead” (by Lou Manfredo) | SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN: Lou Manfredo has been a regular contributor to EQMM since 2006. He is best known for his series of novels featuring Brooklyn cop Joe Rizzo, a character Kirkus Reviews called “the most authentic cop in contemporary crime fiction.” That authenticity probably derives from the twenty-five years Lou spent working in the Brooklyn criminal-justice system. Fans of Rizzo can see him again in “Rizzo’s Monkey Store,” in EQMM’s next issue, November/December 2017 (on sale October 24). Lou’s post today is timely, as violence and disasters seem to be making our world an ever more dangerous place. . . . —Janet Hutchings

Song of the Day

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

Top 100 Western Songs:  Songs 1 to 20

Today's Vintage Ad


5 Self-Portraits Famous Authors Doodled in Their Own Books

5 Self-Portraits Famous Authors Doodled in Their Own Books

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John A. Moroso, Passionate Fool, Red Circle

Roz Chast: By the Book

Roz Chast: By the Book: The author of, most recently, “Going Into Town,” enjoys listening to audiobooks while working on a craft project like embroidering: “My idea of a really good time.”

I Miss the Old Days

New York in the 1950s: 23 Fascinating Color Snapshots May Make You Softhearted

12 Fascinating Facts About Crows

12 Fascinating Facts About Crows

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Connie Hawkins, R. I. P.

abc7ny.com: Connie Hawkins, basketball's dazzling New York playground legend who soared and swooped his way to the Hall of Fame, has died at 75.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

And It Still Is

‘Why ‘The Family Circus’ Was Always So Sentimental

Song of the Day

Sex, Politics and the Banned Books of 2016

Sex, Politics and the Banned Books of 2016 

Today's Vintage Ad


Japan Leads the Way

Nicolas Cage is now a snack called the Nicolastick  

Hat tip to Deb.

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Whit Harrison (Harry Whittington), Army Girl, Venus Books, 1953

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

New Artifacts Found in Greek Shipwreck That Yielded Antikythera Mechanism

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

40 of the Creepiest Book Covers of All Time

I Miss the Old Days

The Hollywood Living Legend: Look at the Beauty of Young Angela Lansbury From Between the 1940s and 1950s: Born 1925 to an upper-middle-class family in Regents Park, central London, British-American-Irish actress Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury has appeared in theatre, television and film, as well as a producer, voice actress, singer, and songwriter. Her career has spanned seven decades, much of it in the United States, and her work has attracted international attention.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Ralphie May, R. I. P.

Deadline: Tributes are pouring in for Ralphie May, the popular comedian who died today at 45. The majority of reactions are coming from members of the tightknit stand-up community, who are using phrases such as “funny and sweet,” “one of the nicest and kindest out there” and “realest dude I’ve ever met.”

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

39 Books That Are Actually Scary

Song of the Day

I Miss the Old Days

63 Adorable Color Photos That Show What Kids Wore in the 1950s

Today's Vintage Ad


The Little-Known Visual Art of E.E. Cummings

The Little-Known Visual Art of E.E. Cummings

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Joan Tucker (Florence  Stonebraker), Young Secretary, Venus Books, 1954

An Oldie but a Goodie

bare•bones e-zine: You Gotta Read These: Fifteen Paperbacks You Might Have Missed by Bill Crider: Now and then, this blog will run highlights from the golden days of The Scream Factory and bare•bones. We'll also be running pieces that were written for bare•bones but never published. Today, we're proud to "reprint" Bill Crider's list of 15 crime paperbacks you may not know about. Good luck hunting them down.

This week’s tabloids

Hitler found alive after WWII, and how Donald Trump is misunderstood, in this week’s tabloids 

Forgotten Hits: October 6th

Forgotten Hits: October 6th: The Hollies have TWO new records on the chart this week … that's because they've switched record labels … so Epic Records, their new label, is pushing "King Midas In Reverse", which premiers at #67 and Imperial Records, their OLD record label, is still trying  to make money off their catalog by releasing a remake of the old Doris Troy hit "Just One Look", which debuts at #80.  It's working … those are the top two debuts on the chart this week!  

Survey and some tunes to play included.

Forgotten Magazine: Fantastic Science Fiction, July, 1960

Here's the story about why I'm reporting on this magazine.  A friend (the former college president here) and I were talking about a round-robin story we'd read in an SF magazine in the '50s.  We thought it was in either Amazing or Fantastic, but we we looked through all our digests and couldn't find it.  That's because it was published in 1960, which I discovered by asking the knowledgeable folks on Fictionmags.  So now that I had the info on the right magazine, I could reread the story.  So I did.

Both my friend and I remembered this story as being wonderful.  I think that must have been because of the novelty of it.  Neither of us had ever read a round-robin story before.  I don't believe I've read one since.  I no longer think the story's wonderful.  I'm not even sure I understand it.  The only part I remembered on the reread was the one written by Robert Sheckley.  I'm not sure why that is.  I'm also not sure what to say about the story, so I'll just let you read what the magazine's editorial director (Norman M.
Lobsenz) had to say about it.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Update on the Rafferty Series from Bill Duncan

Things have been moving--the first three Rafferty books are now available on your e-reader of choice from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and Barnes and Noble. The next three will follow in November 2017. The covers for these are being designed as we speak.

I'm just finalising the launch date for the brand new Rafferty story, FALSE GODS, but it will definitely be before the end of the year.

If you, or anyone else, wants to stay in touch with the next releases, and get a free copy of the first two Rafferty books, I've set up a website which lets you do both. www.raffertypi.com

I've been keeping Dad up to date with the progress and he's been blown away with the interest, both now and also from years ago. I think back when he was writing, publishers only worked on sales numbers, not specific fan feedback. From him, thank you for your part in spreading the news about Rafferty. 

The Axman’s Jazz: The Axeman of New Orleans

The Axman’s Jazz: The Axeman of New Orleans 

Song of the Day

I've read a lot of them

15 Children's Books No One Reads Now 

Today's Vintage Ad