Sunday, November 30, 2014

Knights of the Metropolitan Museum (Part 3)

Here's another collection of life-size toy soldiers from the Arms & Armor room of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ain't you glad these suits are no longer in style?

More Museum Knights HERE.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Toy Soldier Saturday: Cherilea Spacemen

Unable to place these little buggers, I consulted sees-all, knows-all toy solider collector Cap'n Bob Napier, and he delivered the poop. They belong to the line of Cherilea swoppets, made in Great Britain beginning in the '60s. The line also made knights and cowboys and Indians and cavalrymen and baditos, among others, and all look a little awkward. I believe there were six poses in the space guy set, but I possess only these three, which is, of course, a ding danged shame.

More Toy Soldiers await you HERE.

Black Friday's Forgotten Books: DIG ME A GRAVE by John (Cleve F. Adams) Spain

If you've been here before, you may have noticed I'm a big admirer of work of Mr. Cleve Franklin Adams. I've read and enjoyed all of his novels, but my favorites (as of this moment) are Sabotage, The Private Eye and this one, Dig Me a Grave.

Adams' many heroes, Rex McBride, Steve McCloud, John J. Flagg and their brethren, were all cut from the same cloth, the main difference being that some were slightly more amoral than others. Bill Rye, the protagonist of Dig Me a Grave is the most amoral of them all, and the most unusual, because he's sort of a hybrid. He's about 50% typical Adams Black Knight, and 50% Ned Beaumont.

Adams made no secret of his admiration for Dashiell Hammett. At least two of his novels, Sabotage and Decoy, paid homage to the plot of Red Harvest, and this book's lead characters were inspired by Ned Beaumont and Paul Madvig of The Glass Key.

Like Madvig, this book's Edward Callahan is a behind-the-scenes political boss, and like Beaumont, Bill Rye is his right-hand man. Adams captured Madvig's character perfectly, and the relationship between the two characters is spot on. He also made a valiant effort to reincarnate Beaumont in the body of Rye, but the characteristics of his own standard hero were too deeply ingrained to be suppressed. The result is that hybrid character, more mysterious and opaque than Rex McBride, but more emotional, and more amused with life, than Ned Beaumont.

Hammett's style in The Glass Key is much like that of The Maltese Falcon - ultra-objective, so that we're never told what the hero is thinking or feelings. We have to discern that from his words and actions. Adams makes a stab at that sort of objectivity here and there, but in other scenes we are privy to what's going on in Rye's head, making him more likable and more relatable than Beaumont.

The result is a novel that's more fun and (to me) more satisfying that The Glass Key. The prose of Hammett's novel is better crafted, of course, and the story more literate, but Dig Me a Grave delivers more smiles - especially if you've read The Glass Key, and know where it's coming from.

Commercial: For a closer look at Adams and  his characters, you might take a squint at my article, "Cleve F. Adams: Black Knight, Cannibal and Forgotten Man" in Windy City Pulp Tales #14, available right HERE from Black Dog Books.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Overlooked Films: Roy Rogers in ROUGH RIDERS ROUND-UP (1939)


Here's a Roy Rogers flick with a slightly different twist. But actually, it's so slight that if you miss the first five minutes, you probably won't notice. The film opens with Roy and a troop of Rough Riders, still in uniform, just returning from their exploits on San Juan Hill. Next thing you know they're getting off a stage at an Arizona Border Patrol station, to start their new careers. And that's it for the uniforms. Next time we see them, they're dressed like regular movie cowboys. 

Still, it's not quite your average Roy oater, because his crust old sidekick in this one is played by veteran cowboy actor Raymond Hatton, and he does a fine job of it. I have nothing against Gabby Hayes, but it's nice to see someone else in the role. Trigger was also absent, which is neither here nor there. The rest of the film is pretty ordinary Republic fare until the climax, when Roy calls on the gang of ex-Rough Riders to come to his rescue. 

Along the way, Roy finds time to sing two tunes. One has some cowboy flavor and the other is a sappy love song. I guess that's better than singing two sappy love songs. Here's the movie:


Your Overlooked Films Round-Up is at Sweet Freedom

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cap Gun Monday: Kilgore PRIVATE EYE

Is this the gun Stu Bailey carried? Mike Hammer? Peter Gunn? No, probably not. Heck it's not even the one I carried, back in my pretend private eye days (that was a Mattel Shootin' Shell .38). Still, this is a nice little piece - 6 1/2 inches of pure shiny pot metal. And it's still a virgin, because it's never fired a roll of caps. 

Lots more Cap Guns HERE

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX Round-Hat (Zorro) Mexicans - Part 1

These guys, designed for the Marx Zorro playset, are called Round-Hats to distinguish them from the shako-wearing Alamo attackers I featured HERE. Competent as these guys look, Zorro consistently made them look like schmucks. We'll meet the rest of this slap-happy gang in Part 2. 

More Toy Soldiers HERE.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Forgotten Books: HOME IS THE HANGMAN by Richard Sale (1949)

Richard Sale, the "Dumas of the Pulps" and the creator of Daffy Dill, authored ten novels, but this wasn't one of them. What is it is is a collection of two long magazine stories that have absolutely nothing to do with HOME and dang near nothing to do with a HANGMAN. Still, because Sale was such a great storyteller, I enjoyed this more than many novels written by lesser humans. 
The lead story, occupying 96 of the 160 pages, appeared in the August 31, 1940 issue of The Saturday Evening Post under the title "Sailor Take Warning." Near as I can tell, it was published under that title in Great Britain (and probably Australia) in paperback in 1942. For this Popular Library edition, though, the story was retitled "Home is the Hangman," and (I suspect) was given a slight makeover to update the text. It was also given a cover by the talented Rudy Belarski, no doubt recycled from one of the many Popular Publications pulps.
The story involves an American sent to Haiti to man a weather station after his predecessor is murdered. As you'd expect in a Sale story, he's caught up with a lot of weird and mysterious characters, and as you'd expect in the Saturday Evening Post, he has a little romance along the way. Much of the intrigue revolves around a sunken Nazi submarine, apparently the means by which a war criminal known as "The Hangman of Dachau" (not the historical Hangman, Emil Mahl, but a fictional one called Veilsen Reinhardt) escaped justice. And that's where the updating comes in. The story was originally published in 1940, but now takes place several years after the war, presumably 1949. One of these days I'll have hunt down that issue of the Post and confirm (or obliterate) my suspicions.
The rest of the book is a novelette called "Beam to Brazil," first published as a serial in the February, March and April 1943 issues of Country Gentleman. This one is firmly set during wartime, and features a radio operator sent to Peurto Rico to get a transmitting station up and running in time to direct an air convoy to Brazil, and then on to Africa. It's another crackling good yarn, and marginally more fun than the first, because the hero displays a touch of Daffy Dill-type attitude.

This week's other Forgotten Books are featured at pattinase. Next week, while Patti takes a well-deserved break, I'll be hosting the links right here.