Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, April 22, 2018


Here Kate talks about her Barbara Holloway mysteries, the book industry, and e-books.

Lord, she will be missed.


Roy Rogers.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


Malvina Reynolds.

Happy Earth Day!


In 1953 British publisher C. Arthur Pearson ventured into science fiction with his terribly titles Tit-Bits line.  Nineteen 64-page science fiction paperbacks were published from 1953 to 1955 by some of the most prolific British SF writers of the time -- E. C. Tubb, "John Rackham," John Russell Fearn, and Francis G. Rayer among them, most writing under pseudonyms.  At the same time Pearson also published Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comics, created (and mostly drawn by) legendary artist Ron Turner.  The comic book line, alas, was around for only six issues; a seventh had been prepared but was later issued only in French.

Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comics offered decent stories, great art, and truly alien aliens.  The first issue offers three stories:
  • "The Dome of Survival" - Due to "a process of electrostatic decomposition," the natives of Pluto are losing their air.  Ships were sent out to see if one of the inner planets could be colonized.  No viable planets were found.  Earth itself was just a pile of molten rock, a long way from becoming the verdant planet we know.  Faced with certain doom, the Plutonians sent eight robots throughout the solar system, one each to orbit a planet...and wait.  In the meantime, the Plutonians built the Dome of Survival, with would house five selected Plutonians (or, Tegali, in their own language) in suspended animation while the rest of the planet died.  Flash forward to our future.  Mankind is about to build its first space station and spacemen Rex Ripley and Max Henchman are bringing materials to place in orbit when they are contacted by the Plutonian robot.  Rex, Max, and their space ship are kidnapped by the robot and are rushed to Pluto, where the robot releases the five Tegali from their suspension.  The Tegali are basically giant six-armed starfish, where the arms can roll up (fruit roll-up-style).  They are immensely strong and scientifically advanced...and they are determined to destroy humanity and claim Earth for their own.  Can Rex and Max foil their evil plans?
  • "The Inner World" - Taking a page from Ray Cummings' Worlds-within-Worlds motif.  Professor Elmo Cately has invented a ship capable of shrinking into an atom, where Cately believes a miniature universe exists.  This particular atom is located in the graphite point of a pencil.  Communication with Cately is lost as he passes an electron "the size of the moon."  Captain Ace Diamond of the Interplanetary Investigation Bureau is sent. with two crewmen, to find out what happened to Cately.  They end up on the subatomic planet Zepos and are met by a humanoid-ish alien with an ant-like head and a disintegrating ray.  Zepos is afraid that the graphite pencil point which holds their universe might be destroyed.  To prevent that from happening, the planet is sending out a space army to destroy humanity.  How can Ace and the gang stop this foul plot?  And can they still find and rescue Cately?  And when all is said and done, can they destroy the submicroscopic universe?  I mean, really?  A whole universe of sentient beings?  SPOILER ALERT!  Of course they blowing up the tiny piece of graphite with an atomic bomb!  overkill, much?
  • "Escape from Varl!" - The ruler of the planet Varl is the evil Skor, who has enslaved humans to work in his uranium mines under the brutal supervision of Skor's Tigermen -- giant striped humanoids with Sphinx-like heads.  One slave, Lestos, manages to to escape and free a number of the slaves.  They manages to get to a ship and pilot to an unexplored planet "on the other side of the heavens -- far from Varl!"  They are met by a T-Rex type monster (with longer arms, an ovoid head, bulging eyes, long forked tongue...and not really reptilian).  Before the monster can eat them, another monster appears and they fight to the death.  Because the monsters are so big, Lestos figures they must be the only two on the planet.  (Lestos is a little short in the brain department.)  They build a city, defeat another monster, and decide to go back and free all the slaves of Varl.  Phew!

P.S.  The remaining five issues are also available st  Check them out.

Friday, April 20, 2018


Six-Gun Gorilla, written anonymously (perhaps by more than one author from internal evidence), 1939

Gorillas are pretty neat, especially when they roam the wild west, packing heat and out for revenge.

This particular gorilla also has a pretty neat gorilla name...O'Neil.  Well, it's better than Konga.

Six-Gun Gorilla first appeared as a fifteen-part serial in the British boy's magazine The Wizard, beginning with the March 18, 1939 issue.  Don't be frightened because the story was written for boys almost eighty years ago.  While the language is somewhat simplified and the story tends to have one of two sentence paragraphs, there's enough blood and humor (whether wittingly or not) to satisfy even the most jaded gorilla-phile.  I'm surprised an excerpt did not make it into Rick Klaw's essential 2013 anthology Apes of Wrath.

We open with Bart Masters, an aged gold miner and hermit, deciding that it was time to retire.  Over the years he had accumulated about ten thousand pounds (pounds, not dollars -- this is a British magazine, remember?) of gold dust and nuggets -- enough for him to spend the rest of his life in ease.  Although Masters is a hermit, he does have a partner, of sorts.  O'Neil, the giant gorilla, had been by Masters' side for eight years, ever since he was purchased in San Francisco from a sailor.  Masters trained the young gorilla, who grew to be devoted to him.  Masters even taught O'Neil how to fire a gun -- an act made somewhat difficult because the giant ape fingers could not fit in the trigger guard.  True, O'Neil was a very poor shot, but the gorilla had learned the fundamentals.

That evening, with sacks of gold on the table, Masters slept in his cot.  O'Neil slept in a corner, chained to the wall -- the chain being a remnant of the two's early days together, although by now it was used out of habit more than anything else.  Quietly, four figures came into the cabin.  It was the Strawhan gang, four of the most vicious outlaws in the West, led by Tutt Strawhan.  In a few short minutes, Masters was dead and O'Neil was knocked unconscious by a bullet that grazed his skull.

O'Neil woke to find his friend and master dead.  Still chained, he tore the chain from the wall, taking part of the wall with him.  His only thought was to avenge himself on the four outlaws.  Awkwardly at first, he strapped on Masters six-gun and, with a bandolier across his chest, set out following the scent of the Strawhan Gang.

O'Neil's efforts often seemed to little, too late, but he soon avenged himself on the gang one by one -- and in a bloody manner I might add.  Along the way, he destroyed a saloon, fought an enraged bull buffalo, battled Redskins, and more...a trail of vengeance that spun over forty-five chapters.

Not great literature, but Six-Gun Gorilla is an interesting read, not only because of its unique hero and way out plot, but because its fun to see British pulp writers attempt to write an authentic western.

The complete serial is available at Gutenburg Australia and probably else where on the web.  Check it out.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Bobby Hebb was basically a one-hit wonder with this song.

I saw him person only once in the way-long-ago when he opened for the Beatles.  My major memory of that performance was his deer-in-the-headlights look when he accidentally dropped his mike.  He recovered quickly and danced widdershins around the stage as if it were a part of his act, then calmy picked up the mike and continued with the song.


George Valentine, fresh out of the service, had an idea to make money.  He started with an ad:

     Personal notice:  Danger's my stock in trade.  If the job's too tough for you to handle, you've
     got a job for me.  George Valentine.

It worked well enough to maintain Let George Do It for eight years and 416 episodes on the radio, from 1946 to 1954.  In the beginning, the show added a humorous sit-com feel to its private eye background, but -- over the years -- it evolved into a hard-boiled mystery program.

I'm not sure exactly why the program is not better known.  It's star, Bob Bailey, went on to star in the much better-known Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.  Yet, of the two, Let George Do It had a longer run life.  Ah, the winds of fate...

"The show is carried by the performance of George Valentine by Bob Bailey.  Valentine doesn't easily fit in with gruff hard boiled detectives like Marlowe and Spade, nor is he a self-assured intellectual like Sherlock Holmes or Nero Wolfe.  Valentine is good natured and personable, but he carries himself like a poker player.  Valentine plays it close to the vest, then at the end of the episode when he comes up with the solution, you realize he's been carrying a full house."  -- Adam Graham

Valentine's secretary/assistant is Claire Brooks (sometimes referred to as "Brooksie"), played by  veteran actress Frances Robinson.  Occasional members of the cast were Claire's kid brother Sonny (played by Eddie Robinson) and elevator man Caleb (played by Joseph Kearns). 

Let George Do It was produced by Owen and Pauline Vinson and directed by Don Clark.  Scripts were written by David Victor and Jackson Gillis.  John Heistand served as announcer.

The opening episode, "The First Client," was produced as an audition tape on May 14, 1946; the actual pilot program aired on September 20, 1946, on the Don Lee-Mutual Broadcasting Network. (Some sources give the air date as October 18, 1946.)  For this one episode, Shirley Mitchell appeared as Claire; Frances Robinson began her run with the second episode.

George's first client is a famous writer who tells the fledgling detective that someone is trying to murder him, then collapses on the spot.  Things get really interesting when the bopdy disappears.