Sunday, August 31, 2014

Music for Wine Lovers

For those with discriminating palates: "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" by Kip Anderson & Nappy Brown!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX 60mm INDIANS (Part 2)

Here's another war party of 60mm warriors. The first batch is HERE. These guys loved to attack the Marx Fort Apache back in the '50s, especially when Rip Masters, Rusty and Rin-Tin-Tin were in residence. 

More pint-sized warriors HERE

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday's Forgotten Books: THE LINKS and SOME DIE HARD by Stephen Mertz (1979)

Here are the links to this week's edition of Patti Abbott's world renown Friday's Forgotten Books. I'll be adding more links as I find (or hear about) them. I came across a few reviews posted earlier in the week and weren't sure if they were intended to be FFBs or not, so I guessed. If I missed yours, (or guessed wrong) shoot me. Shoot me, that is, an email, to

Sergio Angelini: Death at Half-Term by Josephine Bell
Matt Baker: Death Valley by Sandy Dengler
Yvette Banek: Death of Jezabel by Christianna Brand
Les Blatt: Tragedy at Ravensthorpe by J.J. Connington
Brian Busby: The Long November by James Benson Nablo
Bill Crider: My Gun, Her Body (Dinah for Danger) by Jeff Bogard (Leslie Bernard)
Martin Edwards: Angel in the Case by Milward Kennedy
Curt Evans: Black Widow by Patrick Quentin (book & movie)
Rich Horton: Cleek of Scotland Yard by T.W. Hanshew
Jerry House: Hell-For-Leather by Jake Foster (James Reasoner and Ed Gorman)
Randy Johnson: The Saint Closes the Case by Leslie Charteris
Tracy K: The Davidian Report by Dorothy B. Hughes
George Kelley: Where the Summer Ends by Karl Edward Wagner
Rob Kitchin: I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich
B.V. Lawson: Fool's Gold by Ted Wood
Todd Mason: The Best of the West, Joe R. Lansdale, ed.
Neer: Oil! by Upton Sinclair
J.F. Norris: Bury Me Deep by Harold Q. Masur
James Reasoner: Private Eye Action As You Like It by Joe R. Lansdale & Lewis Shiner
Karyn Reeves: The Murders in Praed Street by John Rhode
Gerald Saylor: A Twisted Thing by Mickey Spillane
Ron Scheer: Heartwood by James Lee Burke
Kerrie Smith: Nemesis by Agatha Christie
Kevin Tipple: The Zebra-Striped Hearse by Ross Macdonald
TomCat: The Abandoned Room by Wadsworth Camp
Prashant C. Trikannad: Defending Jacob by William Landay

And now . . .

This cover doesn't look much like 1979, does it? That's because it ain't. It's a brand spanking new edition of this lost Mertz classic now available in both trade pb and eBook from Rough Edges Press. The original, in all it's 1979 glory, is below.

In the all-new afterward to the new edition, Steve reveals that the pen name on that first edition, "Stephen Brett," was a hat tip to Brett Halliday, author of the Michael Shayne series. At the time, Steve had been selling stories to Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, and Some Die Hard was his first novel (the number is now somewhere in the neighborhood of 60, and counting).

Steve also reveals that his working title for this one was "The Flying Corpse," which pretty much describes the core of the mystery. A rich guy, about to remove his wastrel son from his will, fears the son is about to murder him, and hires private detective "Rock" Dugan on a contingency basis. If the guy is murdered before the new will is signed, Dugan will get twenty grand to catch the killer. And sure enough, the guy is stabbed to death, while alone in the cockpit of an airborne glider. Yep, it's a locked room mystery in the sky.

I read the Manor House edition long ago and remembered nothing except I enjoyed it. So it was a pleasure to rediscover this novel in its new incarnation. And I was a bit surprised. I know Steve to be a long-time fan of the hard-boiled detective genre, so I expected a guy named Rock Dugan to be hard as nails. But that ain't so. Dugan lets his inner tough guy loose when necessary - particularly when he beats the crap out of a dirty police chief - but by and large he's a polite, sensitive and even romantic guy. Excluding that cop-beating scene, I'd rate him mediumboiled.

Mertz the mystery fan shows though in several places. We learn that Dugan too is a mystery fan, and in chapter one he's reading a Perry Mason mystery. Later, after meeting the soon-to-be murder victim, he ruminates on the similarities between his situation and that faced by Philip Marlowe in the opening scenes of The Big Sleep. He likens his problem to the locked room puzzles of Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr.  And later, after a conk on the head, Dugan tells us a real-life conk is harder to recover from than the fictional conks Mike Hammer used to get.

Altogether, Some Die Hard is a nicely rounded mystery with just about the right amounts of sex, violence and old-fashioned deduction. Unlike Race Williams, Dugan uses his brain - rather than his guns - to solve the case. And unMarlowelike as he is, I came across a couple of Chandlerlike lines:

I wouldn't have left Langdon Springs then for all the graft in Washington.
and . . .
And there he is - deader than Philadelphia on a Tuesday night. 

Some Die Hard was a great read - Again! Get it HERE.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cap Gun Monday: THE REBEL'S SCATTERGUN (in the box)

I was planning to show you Johnny Yuma's Scattergun this week, but shucks, I got so carried away with pictures that I reckon I'll have to split this into two parts. Sorry to keep you in suspense, but next week, I promise, I'll show it to you out of the box.

On a complex scale considering both scarcity and desirability, the Scattergun is just about the most valuable cap gun of all time. I've only seen one offered for sale. Ever. And thankfully, I bought it. It was so long ago I can't remember where I got or how much I paid, but I'm glad I didn't miss my chance.

This gun was made by Classy Products, an outfit that made a lot of cheap-looking Roy Rogers pistols. This one, which doesn't look cheap at all, has a lot of fragile plastic. And I'm guessing it wasn't as well distributed as guns made by some of the major companies, hence the rarity 

Lots more Cap Guns HERE.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX 54mm KNIGHTS (Part 1)

These little armored boogers were probably the first to defend Marx tin-litho castles, way back in 1953. They're pretty crude compared to later Marx figures, but have their place in Toy Soldier History, so here they are. There were five more in this set, which we'll see in Part 2. A later, and more nicely sculpted set of knights will follow in Part 3. 

More soft-plastic armies HERE

Friday, August 22, 2014

Forgotten Books: CRY AT DUSK by Lester Dent (1952)

When Bill Crider reviewed this book back in 2009, he was amazed how weird and perverse it was. I believed him, of course, because Bill knows what he’s talking about (you can peruse or re-peruse every one of Bill’s immortal words HERE). What amazed me was that such things could be said about a novel by Lester Dent.

I’ve read and enjoyed most of Dent’s Doc Savage novels, most of the books published under his own name and quite a few of the pulp stories that have resurfaced over the past few years. Because I’ve been reading him since I was ten years old, I figured I had a good handle on Dent's style, his themes and his characters. My mistake.

At first blush, Cry at Dusk seemed to have been penned by an alien. Dent’s familiar voice was missing, as was his smart-aleck view of people and society. I kept reading anyway. That’s when the stuff Bill called “weird” crawled in, slithering and sliming over the landscape of the book, and I started asking What the hell was Dent thinking?

Our hero here is college kid Johnny Marks, who, along with his horny Uncle Walter, has been on the run for a couple of years, changing names and towns to avoid their past. Uncle Walter is running from a bloodthirsty thug (for reasons unknown), while Johnny is running from an evil slob named Hermie Bouncett and a curvy babe named Jennifer. Hermie is hot for Johnny, Johnny is hot for Jennifer, and Jennifer is (seemingly) hot for Hermie. Hermie is also a masochist, who loves provoking Johnny into beating him up, which makes him even hotter. Johnny isn’t sure what he likes, and it’s making him crazy. Meanwhile there’s a lot of talk about sex between animals (not with, thankfully) and such fetishes as a guy liking the smell of his own socks. Yeah, it's that weird.

Why Dent chose to write such stuff is beyond me. I’d be tempted to think me might have been doing a parody of other Gold Medal books, seeing how far he could push the envelope, but there’s no indication he was having fun with this. The only character who has any fun is Hermie Bouncett, and that's when he’s getting beat up.

Eventually, three recognizable Dent elements do rise to the surface. 

First, his love of the sea. Johnny Marks has an unaccountable love of the sea and boats, as do several other characters, allowing Dent to play around with his own (strictly non-perverse) passion. 

Second, the minor villain Hermie Bouncett. Just about every Doc Savage adventure features a two-dimensional minor villain (sometimes a minion of the major villain) with a funny name, wacky appearance or peculiar mannerisms. Hermie qualifies in all three categories. And he’s completely over-the-top, as a college student with such a powerful criminal enterprise that he puts the fear of god into cops from New York to Nassau. 

And third, when you scrape off all the weird stuff, the underlying plot is a very Dent-like adventure story. You just have to read almost the whole dang book before you find it. 

On page 148 (out of 180) Dent actually explains what the hell the novel is about. Here’s Johnny talking to Jennifer:

“You see, there have only been three great influences in my life.  One was psychological, one was spiritual, and one was physical. The psychological one was evil, Hermie Bouncett. The physical one was a living hell of desire, you. The spiritual one saved me from the first, sometimes from the second, and always it saved me from myself, and it was the sea.”

Along the way, I encountered a few Dent-like lines: 

My toes wanted to snap like mousetraps. 

The waiter brought me a drink, a tall fruity thing in a black glass. I looked inside and the liquid was yellow as lizard blood should be, and when I tasted it a big cat got into my stomach and began to purr.

He didn’t look like there were any bones left in him.

Her hands moved like birds with their throats cut. 

Finally, with all the talk about sex – and there’s one hell of a lot of it – only one real sex act takes place. It lasts only a few sentences, and is remarkably tame. This is it:

Time lost its tenseness and there was a climbing ecstasy in us that would not be denied. I looked down at her, her eyes wide, her lips parted a little with an expression as if she were catching her first breath of life, and the lines of her throat did not tighten in defense, and we reveled equally in the intimate sense of a glorious togetherness. She placed her hands against my face. Her fingers tightened and bit into my cheeks, soft hungry little angels with fangs of desire. She pulled her face close to mine and kissed me and all the breath stopped in us for a while and there would not be anything greater for us ever. 

Contrary to that blurb on the cover, no one was ever stretched on a rack, and there were no aliens, in love or otherwise. And did anyone ever “cry at dusk”? Not so I noticed. Ain't that false advertising?

TODAYS' FFB Links are at In Reference to Murder
NEXT WEEK you'll find them here on the Almanack

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Overlooked Films: THE FAT MAN (1951)

I read somewhere recently that the idea for The Fat Man radio series originated with Hammett's agent, and was pitched as Casper Gutman playing detective. As preposterous as that idea is, I have no reason to think it isn't true. Gutman was referred to as the Fat Man in The Maltese Falcon, and even had a chapter named after him. On the other hand, the character bears slightly more resemblance to the Continental Op, who also sometimes referred to himself as a fat man. The only thing that really makes sense is that it was a clever way to capitalize on the popularity of the Thin Man franchise, and pretend the character was really a creation of Hammett's. 

Anyway, Universal made a movie of it, and while this isn't the worst film ever made, neither was it good enough to spawn After The Fat Man, or Another Fat Man, or The Fat Man Goes Home, or Shadow of the Fat Man, or even Song of the Fat Man. Oh well. You should watch it anyway. Did you know Julie London once recorded a sultry version of "Louie, Louie"? You didn't? See below.  

More Overlooked Films at Sweet Freedom

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cap Gun Monday: Leslie-Henry WAGON TRAIN .44

The Leslie-Henry Wagon Train .44 was 11 inches of bad news to the enemies of Major Seth Adams, Flint McCullough, Charlie Wooster and the gang. Like the Hubley Ric-O-Shay we saw a few weeks ago, this one makes a twanging noise when the trigger snaps back, like a bullet ricocheting off a rock. The finish on this gun must have some real copper in it, because some parts were turning green, and I was able to clean them with lemon juice. 

More non-lethal smoke wagons HERE.