Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, January 21, 2018


"May you live in interesting times" -- old curse

While the effects of a government shutdown are beginning to be felt, its impact will be increased tomorrow as the work week begins.

Government shutdowns are a recent thing in our country's history.  Here's a look at the past government shut-downs.


The Vaughan Quartette (more often spelled "Quartet").  James T. Vaughan was a successful publisher of gospel songbooks, selling more than 30,000 in 1909 alone.  The following year he organized a quartet to go on the road and help sell his books; his sales doubled.  The quartet was so popular that Vaughan kept adding more of them until, by the mid-1920s, there were sixteen quartets traveling throughout the country.  This recording, from the 1920s, is undated.  I have no idea which "Quartet" this is, nor do I know who any of the singers are.  The picture of The Vaughan Quartet show five people -- one, I assume, is their pianist.

Saturday, January 20, 2018


Heading this ticket is Mountain:

Followed by CCR:


The first issue of this pre-Code Fawcett horror comic book consists of three stories introduced by The Mummy, a shriveled green creature with most of its wrapping gone and wearing a red robe and cowl.  Yes, this is an attempt to ride on the coat-tails of the EC horror comic book line, but it's a pretty good one.

The first story, "Ghost Hounds of Trelawney," is the best of the lot, with some great artwork by bob Powell.  The title is presented in two lines, with the first letter of each word printed in red, spelling GOTH -- a neat little trick that probably went unnoticed by many of its readers.

"Out across the moors, above the eerie shriek of the wind, the howling, wailing, moaning that came of no earthly thing gave stark irrefutable evidence of the --- GHOST HOUNDS OF TRELAWNEY"

John Marshand has inherited fifty acres of land in Trelawney and has put it up for sale but no one has shown interest in buying or farming it, so he has traveled to that remote Scottish village to find out why.  Arriving at night, he is told by his cab driver that no one has farmed in Trelawney for more than a half century. Dropping him off in front of the local inn, the cab driver -- obviously scared -- says it is almost 11:00 and drives quickly away.  Entering the inn, he sees locals racing to lock the doors, bolt the windows, and extinguish the lights.  It is almost 11:00 after all.

Marshand is told of a local legend concerning two rival squires known for their cruelty and their hatred of each other.  Each squire had several viscous hounds trained to kill and would set them loose on their tenants with impunity.  Eventually, the tenants rose up and hanged both squires, but the evil did not die.  Each evening at 11:00, the ghost Squire Ghastney and his evil hounds walk the land that once was his.  Well, pish-posh, thinks Marshand, so when he hears what might be the howling of a hounds, he goes outside to investigate.  Naturally he soon spots a luminescent figure coming toward him.  It is Squire Ghastney with three leashed, snarling, slavering hounds.  The vengeful ghost spots Marshand and gives chase, as Marshand is forced to run into a marshy wood where he gets bogged down in the mud.  Freeing himself, he crosses a stream, thinking that that might stop the ghost.  It doesn't because the ghost and his demon hounds walk on top of the water toward Marshand.  Just when all seems lost, the sun rises and squire and hounds vanish.  Marshand tries to leave town but no one will help him.  As darkness comes and there seems no way for him to get to the nearest railway station, he steals a wagon hitched to two horses and drives madly toward the station.  Too late?  Suddenly it is 11:00 and the ghost and his hounds appear.  In a desperate race, Marshand sees the train pulling out of the station.  He hops from the wagon, leaving the horses to be savaged by the ghostly hounds, and manages to board the moving train.  The train picks up speed.  Marshand believes he has escaped, but out the window he sees the squire, running even faster than the train in pursuit, for the ghost has got his scent.  How can Marshand defeat this terrible spectre?

The second story is titled "The Nameless Horror."  "Real and terrible beyond all words -- defying all description -- this ghastly, gargantuan monster appeared for human eyes to witness for the first time!  At the sight of it -- fear drove men to madness or suicidal death!"

An African safari.  An unexplored jungle.  The terrorized natives will go no farther.  They have entered the land of Tangunu, the white ape, the god and soul of all apes!  Clay Brener, the cruel and amoral man who headed the safari with his beautiful finance Enid, is determined to capture this legendary beast to sell to a zoo.  Forcing the natives on with gun and whip, he finds the giant ape, with its "beady eyes gleaming, fangs gnashing and "with a fury that was as a raging sea and stormy lightning-rent skies!"  A strong steel-mesh net and a heavy dose of chloroform prove to much for the savage creature.  Locked in a strong steel cage for the ocean voyage back to the states, the white gorilla is continuously taunted by Brener in what the tale calls (in an obviously poorly-edited panel) "his saddistic divertisement."  It's not nice to taunt a jungle god, especially when you get too close to the cage and said jungle god manages to bite you on the shoulder.  Brener is taken to the ship's infirmary, where he soon begins to feel odd:  "My hands are stiff -- appear swollen larger than usual!  and my skin -- the texture is so coarse and more hairy!...M-My jaw is ponderous and my cheekbones high and large!  And my breathing -- so deep and labored!" ...

The Mummy introduces the final story:  "Their blind eyes were all-seeing, as they sought Charlie Deffer even behind walls of stone and bars of steel!  And their dead limbs pursued -- and bony, bleached-white fingers reached out to ensnare him for their...CUSTODIAN OF THE DEAD!"

Charlie Deffer is a small-time crook and he likes money.  What better way to get money than to be a grave robber?  Especially when the cemetery has such an impressive grave where a lot of money went into its erection.  Surely there must be some valuable stuff buried with the corpse -- and there is!  A heavy gold ring on the bony finger of one hand!  But when Charlie Deffer goes to remove the ring, the hand clenches tight.  Charlie faints in horror and when he wakes up there is an old man standing over him.  He is the graveyard's caretaker, but rather than turning Charlie over to the police, he brings him to his cottage and feeds him.  Inexplicably, the old man gives Charlie the key to a strongbox that holds a lot of money and also gives him the deed to his house, telling Charlie that he no longer needs them.  Caretakers, it seems, are actually chosen by the dead and the dead have chosen Charlie.  There is no escape for the dead will follow the caretaker everywhere he goes.  Except prison, it seems.  Desperate, Charlie assaults a policeman and is sent to prison for a year, hopefully breaking this curse.  But when Charlie is released from prison...

All in all, a pretty neat issue.  Effective (although at times cliched) writing and some good to very good artwork make this one a winner.


Friday, January 19, 2018


The Beetle Horde by "Victor Rousseau" (Agvidor Rousseau Emanuel, 1879-1960) (1930)

Rousseau was a popular pulp writer in the first half of the last century and whose first novel was published in 1901.  much of his work in the pulps did not appear in book form until after his death.  His most famous science fiction were The Messiah of the Cylinder (1917) and The Surgeon of Souls (a collection of stories first published in various magazines in 1909-10 and released in book form in 2006).  He used a number of pseudonyms, most often "H. M. Egbert;" as "Lew Merrill" he wrote the cult favorite story "Bat Man" and as "John Grange"he wrote a few of the adventures of Doc Savage-clone Jim Anthony, Super Detective.

The Beetle Horde has a unique place in the history of science fiction.  It began as a two-part serial in the first issue of Astounding Stories of Super-Science (January 1930), the storied magazine that would morph into Astounding, then into Analog, which is still published today, 89 years later.  As the lead story of that issue, it received the magazine's first cover and was the story that the magazine published.

The tale concerns an expedition of the South Pole, several years after another expedition led by the famous archaeologist Bram was lost.  Among the current expedition were Tommy Travers, a well-known aviator, and Jimmy Dodd (not the head Mouseketeer from days of old), a scientist who had argued with Bram about some of his more unorthodox theories.  The two make a startling discovery -- the "fossilized" carapace of a giant beetle, some five feet long.  The they the take off in Tommy's plane in search of more of the fossils.  Entering a thick cloud, Tommy loses control of his aircraft and crashes, not into snow and ice, but into a warm crater which holds a large pile of these giant beetle carapices.  Foraging in this pile is a beautiful girl, Haidia, a native of the underground world from which the giant beetles came.  Evidently human, Haidia's race has evolved underground to have nictitated eyelids to help them see in the gloom.  Haidia's hair has grown long enough that she has braided the ends to wrap around her body life a shift.

The three are attacked by some live beetles, and each hides under a carapace.  They are captured and are taken below the earth's crust to Submundia, the vast underworld kingdom that is ruled by Bram, who was not dead as had been believed.  Bram is now totally insane.  Rumored to have been a morphine addict before, he is now completely controlled by the drug.  He has somehow found a way to control the savage beetles and now lives as a solitary mad king.  Besides the current beetle horde. there is large mass of trillions of larvae about to be hatched.  Then they mature, Bram intends to release them upon the upper world and destroy humanity because they scoffed at some of his theories.

Haidia's race of humans have been divided into three parts by Bram:  one for mating, one for slaves, and the third are culls -- those not fit, for some reason, to be in one of the other two classes.  Haidia is a cull.  Why?  Who knows?  Pulp stories don't have to explain themselves.

What follows is standard fare.  Escape.  Capture.  Escape. Battle scenes.  Death.  Destruction.  Rescue.  Finale.  Denouement.  All told in an early pulp style that thrillingly pushes the plot to its finale.

 Last week I panned another classic pulp adventure, Lieut. Gulliver Jones:  His Vacation.  While I found that one plodding and somewhat aimless, The Beetle Horde is different.  The writing can be clunky, to wit:

"'If we are attacked, you must sacrifice your life for me, Tommy, so that I can carry back the news.'
"'Righto!' answered Tommy with alacrity.  'You bet I will, Jim.'"

Underlying the entire book is a bright satire about academia, science, and competing theories.  Bram is perfectly willing to let Tommy, Jimmy, and Haidia live if only Jimmy will admit that he was wrong about Bram's theories.  Jimmy and Bram are both bull-headed; their own ideas are the most important part of them.  Jimmy is willing to die for his; Bram is ready to destroy the world for his -- something concerning a marsupial lion.  This conflict is well played throughout the book.

An entertaining and well-paced story that may be of interest to the modern reader.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


Rod Stewart.


From January 17, 1948, host Robert Montgomery presents a radio adaptation of James M. Cain's 1942 novel Love's Lovely Counterfeit.  This would be the second time Suspense presented this tale; the first being on March 8, 1945, starring Humphrey Bogart.  This time the starring role is played by James Cagney, with support from Cathy Lewis and Wally Maher.  At the end of the show, Montgomery and Cagney talk with James M. Cain about this performance and about Cain's writing.

The novel was adapted by Robert L. Richards and "Jason James" (a pseudonym for screenwriter Jo Eisinger because of his contract with Columbia Pictures; Eisinger would go on win an Edgar Award for his script for the television series Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, "The Pencil").  William Spier produced and directed this episode..

It's time to sit back and relax and enjoy the story of Ben Grace, a gangster who rises to the top on the coat-tails of a reform politician.