Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Incredible Legend of the First Black Samurai

The Incredible Legend of the First Black Samurai

Song of the Day

Johnny Preston - Charming Billy (stereo) - YouTube:

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

30-Million-Year-Old Tick Full of Monkey Blood Found in Ancient Amber

Today's Vintage Ad


The Black Dahlia Murder

Neatorama: A young woman is murdered, her body mutilated and dumped next to an L.A. sidewalk. Sensationalized newspaper reports call her everything from a manipulative tease to a naive young girl. But who was she, and who killed her? Here’s a murder mystery, L.A.’s most notorious cold case, ripped from the headlines …of 1947.

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Alan Pruitt, Typed for a Corpse, Phantom Books (Australia), 1954

Rent a Texas Home That Looks Like a Cowboy Boot

Mental Floss: Meet Dan Phillips, the real-life Western version of the old woman who lived in a shoe. Inspired by storybook architecture, Phillips, an architect who resides in Huntsville, Texas, constructed a 35-foot-tall house shaped like a cowboy boot. Phillips's boot-shaped abode is equal parts roadside attraction and functional residence—and Lonely Planet reports that it’s now available for rent.

Mitch Albom: By the Book

Mitch Albom: By the Book

Yes. Yes, I Can.

Can You Ace This Spelling Quiz From 1912?

Friday, April 07, 2017

Chelsea Brown, R. I. P.

NY Daily News: NEW YORK — Chelsea Brown, a dancer and actress who brightened "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" and later found success performing in Australia, has died.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Tim Pigott-Smith, R. I. P.

Hollywood Reporter: He became a regular on British TV screens in everything from 'Doctor Who' to 'Downton Abbey.'

Torn & Restored -- Austin Williams

Rusty Diamond, former stage magician, left Las Vegas after a trick goes terribly wrong at the birthday party of the daughter of a well-known mobster.  He's been living off the grid for two years, but someone has located him somehow, and he's received some odd mail, the latest item being a box that holds a greeting card, a sheet of textbook paper, three human teeth, and an adult index finger severed just above the knuckle.  The only way Diamond can find out what's going on is to return to Las Vegas.

It's a trap, of course.  A very smart young man named Trent has been nursing a grudge against Diamond, and he's been posting videos on the dark web of himself dressed in garb like Diamond wore for his act.  He looks Diamond, and he's performing Diamond's tricks, except that he's doing them for real -- snuff shows.  His threat is that he'll give the video to the police, who'll believe it's Diamond who's in them.  Trent hooks up with the mobster, who'd also like to destroy Diamond.  They're going to do it, too, if Diamond can't pull one last trick out of his sleeve.

The Las Vegas local color's strong in this book, and material about magic tricks is always of interest.  Some of the story takes place in the tunnels under the city, and I like stuff like that.  Williams manipulates his fast-moving plot well, with a good bit of violence.  Things don't end without serious costs to some of the characters.  It's all well done, and there's a satisfying conclusion.

The Rusty Diamond series was originally planned as a trilogy, but there's a strong indication at the end that Diamond will be back, this time in a different city.    


Boontling Language of Boonville

Boontling Language of Boonville – Boonville, California: A local dialect born in the late 19th century is only spoken in this isolated California valley.

Song of the Day

Buddy Holly - I'm Gonna Love You Too - YouTube:

I Miss the Old Days

55 Humorous Snapshots of Novelty Souvenir Portraits in the Past

Today's Vintage Ad


Dawn Wells: Forever Mary Ann

Dawn Wells: Forever Mary Ann: Dawn Elberta Wells was born on October 18, 1938, in Reno, Nevada. Dawn Wells has lived such a full, rich, idyllic life, it is a bit ironic that her very first dream was probably the only one she never achieved. "I wanted to be a ballerina more than anything," she says, "(but) I couldn't get 15 inch thighs and grow another five or six inches. And my knees started dislocating."

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Ross Meservey, Masquerade into Madness, Phantom Books (Australia), 1954

30 of the Worst Mugshot Shirts of All Time

30 of the Worst Mugshot Shirts of All Time: If you're going to be committing elicit activities it's probably best to make sure your attire doesn't scream "Arrest me!".  

What kind of activities would those be?

A Brief Literary History of Robots

A Brief Literary History of Robots

Vintage Treasures: Zimiamvia: A Trilogy by E.R. Eddison

Vintage Treasures: Zimiamvia: A Trilogy by E.R. Eddison

Forgotten Hits: April 7th

Forgotten Hits: April 7th: Hot shot debuts this week include a new track by Neil Diamond ("Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon") which premiers at #66, "I Got Rhythm" by The Happenings, debuting at #71 (talk about your old song revivals!), "When I Was Young" by Eric Burdon and the Animals (or NEW Animals if you read all of our other interesting 1967 tidbits), which premiers at #75, "Somebody To Love", the first chart hit by The Jefferson Airplane (#81) and "Here Comes My Baby" by The Tremeloes (the group that Decca Records signed instead of The Beatles back in 1962 … making their first US chart appearance with a song written by Cat Stevens.)

9 Famous Puppeteers of the 20th Century

9 Famous Puppeteers of the 20th Century 

FFB: The Taming of Carney Wilde -- Bart Spicer (Jay Barbette)

My nomination for the best series of private-eye novels that's now almost entirely forgotten is Bart Spicer's Carney Wilde series (I'll bet Art Scott will back me up on this).  Wilde is a Philadelphia p.i. and the series covers his career from his small beginnings to his days as the owner of an agency with a number of operatives (12, in The Taming of Carney Wilde).  In all the books the plotting is excellent and the writing is, too.  

A few days ago I found myself sitting in a chair with three cats sleeping on me.  I didn't have a book to read, but I could reach the bookshelf nearby.  The book I grabbed to have a look at is the 6th in the 7-book Carney Wilde series.  I'd read it years ago, and when I started it again, I knew I'd finish it.  It was too good to put back on the shelf otherwise.

It opens with a shootout between a bank robber and the cops.  And Wilde.  A cop is killed, Wilde is wounded (bone shattered in his shoulder), and the robber gets away.  There's a clue that indicates the robber might be escaping on a steamboat on an excursion to New Orleans, so Wilde goes aboard in hope of redeeming himself and not losing his agency's biggest client.  Wilde is handicapped throughout because his shoulder hasn't healed and his left arm is immobilized.

There are plenty of colorful characters and twists in the tale, and Wilde meets a beautiful photographer who's destined to become his wife in the next book.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story again, even though I remembered some of the key points.  All the books in this series are highly recommended.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Readers of this Blog Will Not Be Surprised

Cops find sharp-toothed caiman during Brooklyn drug raid - NY Daily News: Cops find sharp-toothed caiman — a tiny cousin of crocodiles — as they raid Brooklyn apartment for drugs  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Don Rickles, R. I. P.

Hollywood Reporter: "Mr. Warmth" forged a career when he turned the table on his hecklers, going on to insult everyone he encountered — even Frank Sinatra.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen -- Charlie Lovett

I liked Charlie Lovett's The Bookman's Tale quite a bit, and I liked First Impressions even more.  In the earlier book, Lovett wrote about the search for an original Shakespeare manuscript.  This one's about the search for proof that Jane Austen didn't plagiarize Pride and Prejudice.  

Sections set in the present day feature Sophie Collingwood, book lover, and alternate with sections set (mostly) in the late 18th century and featuring Jane Austen.  At the heart of both sections is the second edition of a book called A Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield, a clergyman who's very important to Austen. 

Sophie's love of books is encouraged by her uncle Bertram, who dies in mysterious circumstances.  Sophie's convinced that he's been murdered, so she's determined to prove it, find the killer, and prove Austen's innocence at the same time.  And if that's not enough, she finds herself being romanced by two very attractive men.  Lovett has a bit of fun doing some parallels with Pride and Prejudice.  Or that's how it seemed to me.  I'm far from an Austen expert.

I found First Impressions charming and a great deal of fun.  If you like books about books, then this is for you.  The parts with Sophie and her uncle talking about books are irresistible.  It's hard to pick a favorite, but I'm going with this one:


The Man Behind History’s Most Iconic Movie Posters

Vanity Fair: Robert McGinnis, at age 91, may not be a household name, but his book covers, movie posters, and “McGinnis Girl” femme fatales sure are. Michael Callahan explores his pop-culture punch.  

Hat tip to Art Scott.

11 Chilling True Crime Stories

11 Chilling True Crime Stories That'll Give You Sleepless Nights

Song of the Day

Bob Moore - Mexico - YouTube:

The Whiz-Bang Artistry of Scorsese’s ‘The Color of Money’

Second Glance: The Whiz-Bang Artistry of Scorsese’s ‘The Color of Money’: Martin Scorsese's 'The Hustler' sequel is considered a minor footnote in his filmography, and inferior to the film that inspired it. Is that fair?

Today's Vintage Ad


The Movie Elvis Did with Mary Tyler Moore

The Movie Elvis Did with Mary Tyler Moore: Change of Habit was Elvis Presley's 31st and final film. Although Elvis was to appear later in two documentaries- Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972), Change of Habit was Elvis's last appearance in a movie as an actor.

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Octavus Roy Cohen, The Corpse that Walked, Phantom Books (Australia), 1953

When shooting a movie scene becomes deadly.

Sink or Swim: When shooting a movie scene becomes deadly. Stagecoach, 1939.

I Miss the Old Days

Lee Jeans, Beautiful Adverts for the Leisure Suit from the 1970s

Galaxy, October 1968: A Retro-Review

Galaxy, October 1968: A Retro-Review

Forgotten Hits: April 6th

Forgotten Hits: April 6th: Records to watch this week outside The Top 40 include "Love Eyes" by Nancy Sinatra, which leaps 28 places from #69 to #41, giving Nancy THREE records on this week's chart.  (Her duet with her Dad sits at #3 and "Summer Wine", her duet with her record producer Lee Hazlewood is holding down the #72 spot.)

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

Remains of an ancient Egyptian pyramid discovered south of Cairo

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

2017 Thriller Award Nominations

Mystery Fanfare: 2017 Thriller Award Nominations

“Morgue Attendance and the Hair in the Chimney” (by E. Gabriel Flores)

“Morgue Attendance and the Hair in the Chimney” (by E. Gabriel Flores) | SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN: E. Gabriel Flores is a geography professor who has recently begun another career as a crime writer. Her first published fiction, “The Truth of the Moment,” appeared in EQMM’s December 2016 issue, in the Department of First Stories, and was recently named the winner of the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for best short story by a new American author. Many different experiences form a writer and perhaps those that enter into the inspiration for crime fiction are of a darker sort. In this post, we learn about one of the early jobs that stirred ideas in this talented newcomer.—Janet Hutchings

Song of the Day

Bernard Herrmann - Psycho (theme) - YouTube:

Meet the 'Grammar Vigilante' of Bristol

Meet the 'Grammar Vigilante' of Bristol  

Annoying auto-video.

Today's Vintage Ad


I Miss the Old Days

These Bizarre and Hilarious Vintage Postcards You Wish You’d Never Seen

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Robert Bloch, The Star Stalker, Pyramid, 1968

Sounds Like a Winner to Me

Guns, Gators, Nails, and Niecy Nash: The First Trailer for Dark Comedy Series ‘Claws’ Has it All

Roy Sievers, R. I. P.

The New York Times: Roy Sievers, who won the American League’s first Rookie of the Year Award playing for the 1949 St. Louis Browns and became one of baseball’s leading power hitters of the 1950s with the original Washington Senators, died on Monday at his home in Spanish Lake, Mo. He was 90.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Bonus FFB on Wednesday #3: The Kidnaper -- Robert Bloch


Unlike the two previous reviews, this one's all new.

Since this is a 1954 Lion Book, you might figure it would be something along the lines of The Killer Inside Me, a story narrated by a psychopath, a guy who's looking out only for himself and who can justify (to himself) everything he does, no matter how terrible.  If you figure that, you'd be right.

The narrator calls himself Steve Collins, but his real name is Stanley Kolisheck.  He hasn't used that name since he left home at age fifteen:  "I was afraid they'd come after me for beating [my father] up so bad.  Besides, I never liked being called a Polack."  

Steve is tired of working for The Man, and he thinks he needs big money.  He also thinks there's only one way to get it: criminal enterprise.  So he decides to kidnap the daughter of the richest man in town, conning his only friend and the woman who loves him (but  only when he hurts her, he believes) into helping.  He has an absolutely foolproof plan, of so he thinks.  Do things go wrong?  Do you even have to ask?

The Kidnaper (I'm not fond of the spelling) isn't in the ballpark with Jim Thompson's books, but it's close enough to be compelling reading.  It's only 128 pages long, but the print is so tiny that it's daunting to a geezer like me.  You might be able to find a reprint edition if you're interested in checking it out.

Bonus FFB on Wednesday #2: The Will to Kill -- Robert Bloch


Another rerun, this from May 19, 2005.

Dan Stumpf suggested that I read one of Bloch's early crime novels, and this is the one I grabbed. It's very short, probably not more than 40,000 words, more like half of an Ace Double than a "real" book. I have no idea why Don Wollheim decided to publish it as a single, but here it is.

Bloch liked Ripper tales. His story "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" is a classic, and he later wrote a novel called Night of the Ripper. This Ace book is from 1953, an early entry in the Ripper novel sweepstakes. There's a good bit of Ripper lore in it, but it's not really a serial killer story, though it appears to be at first. It's narrated by Tom Kendall, who has an annoying habit of waking up in rooms with dead women. Well, it happens twice. I'd call that a habit. He has another problem, as well. He's subject to blackouts, dating from his time in the Korean conflict. Naturally he's doesn't remember killing the women, but he thinks he might have.

However, we readers know better. Why? Because Kendall owns a little store where he sells stamps and used books. Would a guy like that kill anybody? The few scenes in the store with Kendall's customers are great. People in 1953 were collecting the same things they do now (Planet Stories, for example), but I'll bet they paid a lot less.

Although the book was published over 50 years ago, some it sounds right up to date. This passage for example: Some of them wear khaki, some of them wear blue shirts, and some of them wear the same beat-up old overcoat winter and summer both, rain or shine. Rain or shine, you find them on the sidewalks and on the concrete steps —the bugs that swarm out from underneath the stones of a big city. The red-rimmed eyes look at you, but seldom see. They're really gazing out of present time—at yesterday's dreams or tonight's bottle. The cracked lips move, because the winos like to talk. Sometimes they talk to each other, sometimes they talk to themselves, but most of the time they talk to people who aren't there: people who haven't been there for years because they're dead, or divorced, or run away.

Oh, it's easy to be smug and smart and superior about the crum-bums—until you look in the mirror and wonder what a week without shaving would do to your face, and what would happen if your clothes got worn and you couldn't afford the price of a haircut. Almost anybody can look like a crum-bum after just a month. And all you need to make a start is just one little push. Lose the job, lose the house, lose the wife or the kids, or just plain lose your nerve—and then start looking for what you've lost in the bottom of a bottle. A month? You can turn into a crum-bum yourself in one minute, if the minute is bad enough. Sometimes, though, you don't go all the way.

This is a well-written mystery, lots of misdirection, good use of obvious suspects, and a surprising solution. Maybe it's a stretch, but it works pretty well. Not Bloch's most famous book, by a longshot, but a quick, entertaining story. 

Bonus FFB on Wednesday: Once Around the Bloch -- Robert Bloch


This is a repeat of a very recent FFB post, but since we're celebrating the Robert Bloch Centennial today, I thought it was a good time to put it up again.  You never know: someone might have missed it.

I had a feeling this "unauthorized autobiography" by Robert Bloch would be entertaining, and it certainly was.  Bloch doesn't go in for depth, but he covers the breadth of his life in some detail.  

I learned quite a few things I didn't know.  Having started reading Bloch's stories in the '50s in the SF digest, I'd always thought of him as a full-time writer.  He wasn't.  He worked for years in different jobs, primarily advertising and politics, until Hollywood work came along.  I'd never realized how much TV and movie work he'd done.  Quite possibly the success of Psycho had a lot to do with that.  Bloch wrote for the shows you'd expect and for some so obscure that I have no memory of their existence.  His stories of the fates of many movie and TV projects are among the most interesting in the book to me.

Bloch's Hollywood success led to some amazing friendships, including those with Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, and Joan Crawford.  His writing about the latter has changed my opinion of her.

The tone is breezy and light (Bloch can't resist puns), and although the book is long, it doesn't seem to be.  Because I was fond of Bloch's work in the '50s, I wanted to know more about him, and I'm glad he left us this record of his life and work.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Gator Update (Full House Edition)

Mama alligator leads her 16 babies across a golf course, because Florida

With video.

2017 Hugo Award Finalists Announced

2017 Hugo Award Finalists Announced 

Soon We'll Have No Rights Left at All

Man cited for eating pizza at SF bus stop

Hat tip to Bill Pronzini.

I Miss the Old Days

Even the more recent Old Days: 33 Outragous Pictures Of Shopping Malls During The '90s

Song of the Day

Connie Francis - Where the boys are - YouTube:

When Chicago Gangsters Carried Business Cards

Mental Floss: In the 1970s and 1980s, Chicago street gang members were proud to show off their affiliations—so proud, in fact, that they actually carried business cards. “Street gangs made business cards displaying their symbols, nicknames, territories, and enemies as a means to assert their pride, recruit new members, and serve as general tokens of affiliation,” Brandon Johnson writes in his new book, Thee Almighty & Insane, a photographic collection of these historic “compliment cards."

Today's Vintage Ad


The Most Popular Slang the Year You Were Born

The Most Popular Slang the Year You Were Born

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Don Stanford, Bargain in Blood, Phantom Books (Australia), 1953

Otto Penzler’s Literary Lair

First Editions of Mystery Fiction - Fine Books and Collections: Otto Penzler’s Literary Lair His plush private library houses the finest collection of mystery fiction By Nicholas A. Basbanes

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

Archaeologists Find 30,000-Year-Old Jewelry in Indonesia

Overlooked Movies -- Where the Boys Are

This might not be a great movie, but I thought it was when I first saw it in the theater well over 50 years ago.  But then you know I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories.   It follows the adventures of four midwestern college students, Merritt (Dolores Hart), Melanie (Yvette Mimeux), Tuggle (Paula Prentiss), and Angie (Connie Francis) in Ft. Lauderdale for Spring Break.  It's a funny movie, and it was sold as a comedy, but it's also a serious one.  If you want to know what was going on with sex and college students in the late 1950s and early 1960s (before the "real" '60s began, all you have to do is watch this movie.  

Men, it seems, want only one thing (if you know what I mean and I think you do), but that turns out to be true in only one case, a vicious and sad one.  What good men really want is someone they can respect and love, someone who's smart and sharp and not a pushover.  Women want only one thing, too, a good man.  Or at least they think so.  And you know what?  That's not far off the mark.  I was there.  I remember.

Just about everyone in the movie has beliefs challenged and modified or changed by the end (or they just come around to what they really believed in the first place).  It's a lot more serious underneath than it appears to be on the surface.

After I saw the movie, I immediately bought the book.  I don't remember much about it other than that I liked it a lot.  It was written by Glendon Swarthout, a versatile guy who also wrote the Homesman.  Hard to believe the same man wrote those two novels.

This is the movie the should've made Paula Prentiss a star.  She's great, purely wonderful.  I've been in love with her ever since.  And this might be a surprise, but Connie Francis can act.  She's much better than you might expect, very good at comedy.  I don't know why she didn't have a better career in movies.  

Monday, April 03, 2017

Jack Ziegler, R. I. P.

The New York Times: Jack Ziegler, whose satirical, silly and observational style enlivened more than 1,600 cartoons at The New Yorker beginning in the mid-1970s, died on Wednesday in a hospital in Kansas City, Kan. He was 74.  

Hat tip to Steven Levine.

I Want to Believe!

The Old Man Who Claimed to Be Billy the Kid

Song of the Day

The Lively Ones - Exodus - YouTube:

How A Bunch of Dried Grapes Became A Hit Band

The California Raisins: How A Bunch of Dried Grapes Became A Hit Band 

Today's Vintage Ad


10 of the Dirtiest Things You Touch Every Day

10 of the Dirtiest Things You Touch Every Day 

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Ledru Baker, Jr., And Be My Love, Phantom Books (Australia), 1953

I'm Sure You'll All Agree

Netflix Original Series Ranked from Worst to Best

I Miss the Old Days

Smiles from the 1940s – 35 Found Snapshots of '40s Girls May Get You Hooked

New Poem at The Five-Two

The Five-Two: J.H. Johns: SINS TO FORGIVE

The Wild Imagination of Harry Stephen Keeler

The Book Drop: January 22nd marked the 50th anniversary of mystery and sci-fi writer Harry Stephen Keeler's death. In this month's Book Drop, Jon Michaud talks about Keeler’s work and legacy with Ed Park and Richard Polt. And check out our Author Picks section to read Park and Polt's list of Keeler favorites.  

Link via The Bunburyist.

Forgotten Hits: April 3rd

Forgotten Hits: April 3rd: "Happy Together" by The Turtles and "Dedicated To The One I Love" by The Mamas and the Papas hold on to the #1 and #2 spots respectively on this week's chart … but making a big move toward the top are "Somethin' Stupid" by Nancy and Frank Sinatra (#3, up from #8) and "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tommy James and the Shondells (#4, up from #7).  Petula Clark holds at #5 with her latest, "This Is My Song."

I Found a Penny in the Walmart Parking Lot Last Week

10 Strange Things Found in the Jungle

Sunday, April 02, 2017

I Miss the Old Days

Afro: The Popular Hairstyle of African-American People in the Late 1960s and '70s

Song of the Day

The Byrds - The Christian Life - YouTube:

The Oldest Living Things in the World

The Oldest Living Things in the World 

Today's Vintage Ad


I'm Sure You'll All Agree

50 Essential Children's Books 

Including two with crocodiles!

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Edward Ronns (Edward S. Aarons), Don't Cry, Beloved, Phantom Books (Australia), 1953

Richard Bolles, R. I. P.

The New York Times: Richard N. Bolles, a former Harvard physics major, Episcopal priest and career counselor whose own twisting vocational path led to his writing “What Color Is Your Parachute?,” the most popular job-hunter’s manual of the 1970s and beyond, died Friday in Danville, Calif. He was 90.  

Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Adam Diment, the superstar spy novelist who vanished

Adam Diment, the superstar spy novelist who vanished for four decades

Philipp Meyer: By the Book

Philipp Meyer: By the Book - NYTimes.com

Death Valley Fossil Theft

National Park Service Seeks Public Help in Death Valley Fossil Theft: Fossilized footprints, which had been left in a lakebed by ancient mammals and birds, have been swiped