Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, November 17, 2017


A beautiful children's song from Ann Mayo Muir, accompanied by Ensemble Galilei and Hot Soup!

Ann Mayo Muir is perhaps best known for her recordings with Gordon Bok and Ed Trickett but her haunting voice has also made for a very impressive solo career.  Ensemble Galilei is a Celtic music group with numerous albums to its credit.  The popular Hot Soup! folk trio is Susan Trainor, Christina Muir -- Ann Mayo Muir's daughter -- and Jennie Avila.


The Magic Mirror:  Lost Supernatural and Mystery Stories by Algernon Blackwood edited by Mike Ashley (1989)

Algernon Blackwood  (1869-1951) has long been considered, along with J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthuir Machen, and M. R. James, one of the major players in the field of the supernatural tale.  His stories "The Willows," "The Wendigo," and "Ancient Sorceries" are oft-reprinted classics.  H. P. Lovecraft, William Hope Hodgson, H. Russell Wakefield, Ramsay Campbell, and Clark Ashton Smith were influenced by Blackwood.  Henry Miller, in his The Books in My Life, called Blackwood's The Bright Messenger "the most extraordinary novel on psychoanalysis, one that dwarfs the subject."

Blackwood lived an extraordinary life.  As a young man he had an interest in Eastern philosophy and occultism (his parents were hellfire and damnation fundamentalists) and at the close of the nineteenth century joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, whose members were to include (or were rumored to include Arnold Bennett, Alister Crowley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Machen,Gustav Meyrink, Sax Rohmer, William Sharp ("Fiona McLeod"), Bram Stoker, and A. W. Waite.  Blackwood rose in the ranks of the order, eventually abandoning much of its reliance on magic in favor of mysticism and the type of pantheistic approach to nature that has infused much of his writings.

Blackwood's writings found a ready audience in the early part of the twentieth century but, as his writing career began to flag after the First World War (in which he worked as an undercover agent in Switzerland), he found new opportunities as a broadcast narrator on both radio and television.  At parties and gatherings, he had always been in demand for telling stories and beginning in 1934, instead of being interviewed for a radio program he chose instead to tell a story, his talent at narration proved to be great success.  On November 2, 1936, Blackwood appeared in the very first television broadcast from London -- narrating on of his stories, of course.   It is a radio and television narrator that many people in Britain during the middle of the century knew him best.

As the title of this collection suggest, Blackwood wrote many stories that are (for the moment) lost in time.  His records and many of his manuscripts were destroyed in the Blitz.  (And he was probably not the best of record keepers, also.)  Ashley spent ten years uncovering many of the stories reprinted here and, he feels, that there are other stories still to be uncovered in the crumbling yellow pages of old magazines and newspapers to be uncovered.  Then, too, a lot of his radio stories are lost; Blackwood would often ad-lib stories rather than read from a prepared script.

The Magic Mirror contains 25 stories, most of which have been previously unavailable, and excerpts from four of his novels.

The contents:

     The Early Years:

  • A Mysterious House (possibly Blackwood's first published story)
  • The Kit-Bag
  • The Laying of a Red-Haired Ghost
  • The Message of the Clock
  • The Singular Death of Morton
  • The Mauvaise Riche
  • The Soldier's Visitor
  • The Memory of Beauty
  • Onanonanon

     The Novels:

  • The First Flight (excerpt from Jimbo)
  • The Vision of the Winds (excerpt from The Education of Uncle Paul)
  • The Call of the Urwelt (excerpt from The Centaur)
  • The Summoning (excerpt from Julius LeVallon)

     Radio Talks:

  • The Blackmailers
  • The Wig
  • King's Evidence
  • Lock Your Door
  • Five Strange Stories
              - The Texas Farm Disappearance
              - The Holy Man
              - Pistol Against a Ghost
              - Japanese Literary Cocktail (similar to E. F. Benson's story "The Step;" there is no evidence                  of plagiarism, however)
              - The Curate and the Stockbroker

     Later Stories:

  • At a Mayfair Luncheon
  • The Man-Eater
  • By Proxy
  • The Voice
  • The Magic Mirror
  • Roman Remains
  • Wishful Thinking

This is admittedly a mixed bag.  Many of the stories are minor.  Some are mere anecdotes; others employ well-worn tropes.  But there is enough good writing here to satisfy even the most jaded enthusiast of the horror story.  Sprinkled throughout the book are splashes of humor and irony that often are fundamental to a good horror story.  Blackwood's mystical view of nature as a type of awareness or force is also present here, most notably in the excerpt from The Education of Uncle Paul (Blackwood's one book that I found difficult to read; it came across as Arthur Machen on steroids).  Two of the other excepts (from The Centaur and Julius LeVallon) are enough to make one dive into those novels immediately.

The Magic Mirror provides a decent sampling of Blackwood's work.  Almost all of his other collections, as well as many of his novels, are available for free online.  If you aren't familiar with the genius of Algernon Blackwood, what are you waiting for?

Monday, November 13, 2017


  • Douglas Adams, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts.  As the title suggests, these are the original scripts for The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  The book covers the first two series (a total of twelve episodes, or "fits") aired by the BBC in 1978 and 1980.  Did you know that mystery writer Simon Brett produced the first episode of the series?  I did, but then I'm a genius fanboy.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley, Survey Ship.  Stand-alone science fiction novel.  "Six of Earth's finest young people, perfect in mind and body, have been trained from cradle for one task -- to brave the infinite dangers of space, to find new homes for Man.  But once alone in the pitiless universe, they are betrayed by their ship and plagued by space hazards; their voyage becomes a grim test of survival..To survive they must tame their wild talents.  to survive, they must turn their training into skill, with no margin for error.  To survive, they must conquer their fears, longings and nightmares.  They must become a team.  they must learn how to love.  Or they die."
  • Natsuo Kirino, Out.  Crime novel.  'this mesmerizing novel tells the story of a brutal murder in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works the night shift making boxed lunches strangles her abusive husband and then seeks the help of her coworkers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime.  The coolly intelligent Masako emerges as the plot's ringleader but quickly discovers that this killing is merely the beginning, as it leads to a terrifying foray into the violent underbelly of Japanese society."  Winner of Japan's Grand Prix for Crime Fiction and an Edgar Award finalist.  Translated by Stephen Snyder.
  • Richard Laymon, Into the Fire and Island.  Both horror novels.  About Into the Fire:  "Pretty, young Pamela was a very happy newlywed, with a loving husband and a beautiful home.  But all that changed the night Rodney broke in.  He's been obsessed with Pamela since high school, and now he intends to make her his slave for life.  He thinks they'll be alone when he drives her out to the blazing desert.  But someone else is out there too -- someone with a gun.  Pamela hoped her nightmare was over when Rodney was shot, but something about her rescuer isn't quite right."  In Island, when "Rupert Conway set out on a cruise with seven other people, he planned to swim a little, get some sun and relax.  He certainly didn't plan to get shipwrecked.  but after the yacht blew up, that's what happened -- he and his shipmates were stranded on a desert island.  Luckily for them, the island has plenty of fresh water and enough food to last until they get rescued.  And luckily for Rupert, most of his fellow castaways are attractive women.  But that's where his luck ran out -- because the castaways aren't alone on the island.  In the dense jungle beyond the beach there's a maniac on the loose, a killer with a murderous heart, a clever mind, and a taste for blood.  He doesn't like his new neighbors and he plans to slaughter them by one."  For some reason I can't fathom, Laymon was always more popular in England than in his native U.S.  An author always worth reading.
  • Andre Norton & Lyn McConchie, Beast Master's Ark.  SF novel, third in the series about Hosteen Storm, the Beast Master, and the first in series written with (and most likely, by) McConchie.  "Best Master Hosteen Storm has endured great perils to carve out a life for himself on Arzor, the colony planet he's called home since th destruction of Earth by the alien Xik.  On a planet with alien life forms and untold secrets from its pre-human past, there are always dangers in the world, especially in the vast desert and mountain region known as Big Blue.  but nobody has ever experiences a threat like the devastating scourge the natives call Death-Which-Comes-in-the Night.  Something is killing grazing animals...and has begun to attack humans as well, leaving nothing behind but the bones of its victims.  Hosteen, aided by his telepathically linked animals, knows that if he can't stop the killings Arzor will be decimated.  his only ally is a young woman who has beast master ability, but was raised to mistrust others with such a power.  At stake is the safety of ll those on Arzor, and on other colony planets as well.  Because Death-Which-Comes-in-the-Night is a scourge that if not stopped, could spread..."  Norton published the first Beast Master book in 1959, followed by the second in 1962.  It took forty years the next book in the series to appear, followed by a fourth in 2004 and a fifth in 2006; these three were all co-authored by McConchie, who won the Sir Julius Vogel award of Best Novel for New Zealand science fiction and fantasy for Beast Master's Ark.  (This was the first of six Vogel Awards that she has won.)  

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Let us honor our veterans today, and every day.  Not by mouthing words like "Thank you for your service" or by displaying a "Support Our Troops" sticker on your car.

Let's honor them by treating them they way they deserve to be treated.

Let's honor them by providing them needed services.

Like quality health care from an efficient, accessible, and not overburdened VA system.

Like suicide prevention programs and support and proven mental health services.

Like more educational and job opportunities.

Like volunteering to assist disabled veterans.

And for our military, let's provide them with the right equipment, the right training, and the right support.

And, most of all, let us ensure our veterans and our serving military that, if war must be fought, it is fought for the right reasons and not for political expediency or corporate profit.

Mouthing platitudes is fine, but actions can speak volumes.

Here's my go-to song for this day:


Sham the Sham & the Pharaohs.


Cowboys!  (Spurs Jackson and his gand of sharpshooters!)

Nazis!  (And communists and Stone Men, oh my!)

Martians!  (And Venusians and Moon Men, too!)

Walter B. Gibson!  (He of The Shadow fame!)

In "The Madmen of Mars," Spurs Jackson and his buddies travel to Mars in 1953 to defeat Nazis who have been hiding there since 1935.

Then in "Spurs Sees Red," Russians are using a flying saucer-like aircraft to spread fear of an alien invasion.  Their big mistake was in attacking a nearby ranch and shooting his Spurs' friend Pops McLean.  (It should be noted that Spurs had yellow hair in the previous story and now has dark hair for the remainder of this issue.  The first tale was illustrated by Stan Campbell; the rest of the issue by John Belfi.)

In a one-page filler, Spurs introduces us to the Jovian bandersnatch and its unique abilities.

We move to a two-page text story (because we need to meet the postal regulations).  It's moon creatures versus Spurs in "Spurs Jackson and the Selenites!"  The story ends with this warning from our cowpoke hero, "And even in this age we must all be on our guard to preserve the liberties of all people in the Galaxy."

In "The Stone Men from Space," the Queen of Mars gives Spurs and his buddies, Strong Bow and Rapid Fox, a flower that would bloom in the desert.  It worked but somehow petrified wood is also  transformed into Stone Men, led by Ag.  They are easy enough to defeat if, like Spurs, you have an atomic bomb.

Finally, "The Menace of Comet 'X"' has the titluar body heading for Earth.  Once Earth is destroyed, the comet's next victim will be Mars.  It's all a plot by Spurs' enemies Korok of Mars and Vodor of Venus.  Can Spurs and his Space Vigilantes save both planets?  Can the villains control the comet's orbit enough to complete their planetary two-fer?  Read it and see, rannies!

Saddle up your rocket ships, boys and girls!