Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Overlooked Radio: THE WHISTLER

Here's good timing. Just as I was fumbling around for something to slap up here on Overlooked Tuesday, my new Facebook pal Patrick Carrico posted this link to five hundred and two (!) Whistler radio shows on my page. That's HERE. Thanks Patrick. While you're listening, you may wish to admire these posters from the 1944-45 film series starring Richard Dix. I haven't seen any of these, and none appear to be on YouTube, but I've seen Dix elsewhere, and he's one of those supreme overactors who chew up the screen and spit it out at you. The radio Whistler, I'm pleased to report, is much easier to take.

More Overlooked Media at SWEET FREEDOM.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Art of TOM ROBERTS (Part 7)

Here's Tom's salute to EQMM's distinguished book reviewers. From left to right we have John Dickson Carr, Allen J. Hubin, Anthony Boucher and Jon L. Breen, with conductor Howard Haycraft. 

This insignia appears on Haycraft's hat. It has to mean something. Can anyone tell me what?

You'll no doubt recognize this painting from Part 5 of our series. It first appeared on Crippen & Landru's Hugh B. Cave collection Long Live the Dead.

My undying gratitude goes out to EQMM (and AHMM) Senior Assistant Editor Jackie Sherbow for providing these covers. Thanks, too, to Ann Littlewood, for her technical assistance.

More wonders from the mind and hand of Mr. Roberts next week. To see what has gone before, click HERE.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Concrete Angel is a thoughtful, complex and exquisitely written novel that defies simple classification. There are elements of crime, memoir, coming of age and psychoanalysis all chugging along side by side.

The story revolves around a woman named Eve, a moral sociopath who turns everyone she meets into an enabler. Dancing like marionettes, they enable her to do whatever she wants without facing the consequences. What she wants is to acquire more and more stuff, not because she needs it, but for the simple joy of possession. Trouble is, Eve’s means are limited, so she just takes what she wants, running the gamut of criminal behavior from shoplifting to fraud and dabbling with dang near everything in between. And because she knows herself and doesn’t give a damn, she never has to deal with remorse.

Our storyteller here is Eve’s daughter Christine, a young woman in search of an identity. She’s been so deep under her mother’s spell that she doesn’t even think of herself as a real person, and is surprised when anyone acknowledges her existence. Christine takes us on a tour of her mother’s life, from Eve’s troubled childhood to her troubled marriage and the troubled relationships beyond. Eve sees Christine as merely another tool—she even uses her to get away with murder.

Along the way, we meet a host of richly drawn characters, and we’re treated to a cultural history lesson. Eve’s world, from the fifties to the present, is peppered with references to books, TV shows, popular products and ideas of the times. And it all rings true. I know because I lived it too.

Ultimately, Concrete Angel is the story of Christine’s struggle to rise from the depths and emerge as her own person, a person who—despite Eve’s best efforts—turns out to be an honest, intelligent and morally upright human being. 

Want a copy of your own? You can get one right HERE.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX Presidents (Part 5 - The End)

This concludes our presentation of pint-sized plastic Chief Executives. The painted JFK marks the end of my collection, but Marx kept making them right up until Tricky Dick, around the time the company quit the toy soldier business. The last three photos here were borrowed from elsehwhere on the net. A Reagan figure exisits, but it was made before he was Prez, when, along with guys like Humphrey and Goldwater, he was considered an important politician. There were also a few First Lady figures, such as Eleanor R and Jackie K.

Deader Presidents are HERE.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Forgotten Boks: Andrew J. Offutt's CONAN TRILOGY

I've had these three books for more than thirty years, and I'm sure I read at least one of them. But I'm pretty dang sure I never got around to reading all three, and had no idea they constituted a trilogy. I still didn't know that a couple of months ago, when I started The Sword of Skelos, and remained clueless until I ran into a whole chapter recapping events critical to the understanding of the plot. That's when I dug out the other two books and figured out they both took place before Skelos, even though one of them was published after

I understand that Ace and Bantam were (and still are) competing imprints, but it seems a little petty that they wouldn't tell us the book(s) they were publishing were part of a larger story that just happened to stray outside their own pages.

But even beyond the issue of different publishers and the odd order of publication, this is a peculiarly mismatched trilogy. The first two "novels," Conan and the Sorcerer (1978) and Conan the Mercenary (1980), are really just long novelettes. The type in each book is huge, and roughly a third of the pages are devoted to extravagant illustrations by Esteban Maroto.The Sword of Skelos (1979) has many more pages, with nearly twice as many words per page, and a smattering of small, totally unneccesary illos by Tim Kirk. 

Kirk's spot illustrations, a feature of all six books in Bantam's "Fantastic New Adventures of Conan" line depict such mundane items as a saddle, a sword, an amulet, a tavern sign and a purse. Ho hum. Kirk's strengh was drawing people and animals and giving them loads of personality (as in Don Grant's Bear Creek collections) and his talent was totally wasted here.

Offutt's style, while lacking the poetry and rhythm of Howard, is serviceable. My only complaint is that a few scenes dragged on too long while he was struggling to insert comic relief. Storywise, the whole saga hangs together pretty well, and builds to a satisfying climax in book three. 

There are better (and worse) Conan stories, but this one may have the honor of being the longest continuous narrative. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Overlooked Films: DICK TRACY MEETS GRUESOME (1947)

This 1947 brought out the big guns. The Dick Tracy most folks deem the best, and a co-star so famous he dumped "Dick" out of top billing. Got your popcorn? On with the show.


More Overlooked Media at Sweet Freedom.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Fistful of Will Murray: TARZAN, THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE

These two brand-spanking new Altus Press books sit atop my To-Be-Read pile, presenting me with a very cool problem: Which to read first? Yikes. I may have to flip a coin. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Art of TOM ROBERTS (Part 6)

Our tribute to Mr. Roberts rolls on, with this Crippen & Landru cover from 2007. This time all three scans come to us courtesy of the Richard Robinson University Library. 

This one's from Black Dog's Olden Days of 2002.

And Tom paints like an Egyptian for this Black Dog cover from 2011.

CORRECTION: In case you missed our late update to last week's post, The Raygun Revival cover credited to "Tom Roberts" turned out to be by a whole 'nother Tom Roberts, about whom this Tom and I know nothing. Sheesh, how embarassing. 

More artistic wonders next week.

See our growing gallery of Tom's work (and the other Tom's) HERE

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX 45mm Cowboys

Here are some of Louis Marx's smallest cowboys, averaging only about an inch and a half tall. Sadly, this set contained about a half dozen poses I do not possess. 

Many more Toy Soldiers HERE

Friday, June 19, 2015

FFB: Four Books Reviewed by DASHIELL HAMMETT

This column appeared in the April 12, 1930 issue of the New York Evening Post.

By Dashiell Hammett

THE NOOSE. By Philip MacDonald. Dial. $2.
BLUE RUM, By Ernest Souza. Cape & Smith. $2.50.
THE BLACK DOOR. By Virgil Markham. Knopf. $2.
FOLLOWING FOOTSTEPS. By J. Jefferson Farjeon. Dial. $2.

The materials of "THE NOOSE" are not in any way novel. Anthony Ruthven Gethryn is the usual gifted amateur who stands high in the graces of Scotland Yard because in the past he has helped the Yard solve mysteries that had it stumped. He is a drawling gentleman who is sometimes whimsical, sometimes facetious, and says "y’know" and "p’r’aps." His wife is beautiful and admires him, as do most women. His current task is to keep one Daniel Bronson from being unjustly hanged for the murder of a man named Blackatter in Bellows Wood. Bronson, ex-pugilist proprietor of the Horse and Hound, has had the misfortune to be found lying on the ground —apparently he stumbled while running away from the scene of his crime and knocked his head against a stump —with a discharged shotgun in his hands not far from where his enemy Blackatter lay with some of his head blown off. There was plenty of other evidence against the unfortunate Bronson: in his pocket was a letter from Blackatter making an appointment with him to Bellows Wood that night; a witness had heard him threaten Blackatter in the Horse and Hound earlier that day. All that happened months ago. Now Gethryn, convinced of the condemned man's innocence, has from Thursday to Monday to save him from the gallows. He sets out to save him by finding the real murderer. With his wife, Chief Detective Inspector Pike and two reporters from the paper of which he is part owner, Gethryn goes to Farrow and
begins to re-examine clues that are months old, to question witnesses, to stir up the neighborhood. The two principal witnesses are feebleminded Tom Harrigan and the unattractive Dollboys. Gethryn learns something new and pertinent from Harrigan and hopes to learn much more from Dollboys, but Dollboys disappoints him by getting himself murdered early Saturday morning. This, you can see, is all familiar stuff, stuff that can be found in dozens of detective stories now stacked on bookshop shelves, but what lifts Mr. MacDonald's book above those dozens is the deftness of his carpentry. "The Noose" has the neatest plot I have seen in months. It is logical, it is simple and it is baffling.

"BLUE RUM,” on the other hand, has a lot of good material in it and fresh backgrounds, but both are so ineptly handled that the result is very faintly exciting at first and something less than that further on. Roy Overton, mining engineer, young, out of work, nearly penniless, lands in Lisbon in search of a job. His poverty leads him to a room in the weird Penaao Juliana. Shocking things happen then. When Overton can stand them no longer he leaves to take lodgings with Ericson, a fellow American. That night pompous Senhor Alfonso, proprietor of the Penaao Juliana, and his wife are murdered. The Lisbon police suspect Overton. Later he and Ericson return to the house to hunt
for a paper that tells where the Fortinha Diamond is hidden. They find, instead of the paper, another corpse— the remains of repulsive Doctor Pedro. Pursued by the police, they become unwilling stowaways aboard a ship that presently sinks. They are picked out of the Atlantic by another ship and work their way to Brasil and to Carvaihoa, where the Fortinha Diamond is supposed to be hidden and where Senhor Antonio Medico rules his district with an iron hand while his cohorts drink the blue rum he distills. Thus it goes, on and on for 463 pages, too many of them filled with descriptions of places and bits of local color that seem authentic enough, but do not help the story along at all; too many of these filled with explanations that deprive the story of every least trace of the mystery that might have given it glamour, too many of them filled with expositions of the obvious. The identity of "Ernest Souza" seems to be no longer a secret. That is too bad. She was well advised when she put a pseudonym on "Blue Rum's'' title page

“THE BLACK DOOR" deals with adventures of Tom Stapleton—another young American abroad—in Kestrel Eyrie, the ancestral castle of the Veryans on Ramsay Island near the coast of Pembrokeshire. Gathered there are Sir Anthony, the head of the family, Arthura and Robert Veryan, Hector Brasonby, and James Mottram, to await the doom that has already struck down four members of the family. Later they are joined by Charles Norshire, who claims kinship with them, but is murdered before his claim can be proven false. Then a poet comes to
them—chiefly to Arthura—and is slain. Things happen mysteriously, as is their wont in ancestral castles and in the country roundabout. There is an aging woman to whose cottage window a candle burns every night, a definitely odd curator searching for a stolen missal, a locum feverishly interested in polycythemia, and in the end one more fiend brought to some sort of justice. Mr. Markham is an American who has been living in Wales. He has been living there long enough to forget his native tongue: young Stapleton’s Americanisms are amazing.

There is no mystery in "FOLLOWING FOOTSTEPS.'' John Trestle, a diluted-Locke sort of character, saves a pickpocket named Mary from arrest, tries to save her from a life of crime, stands between her and the former accomplices who pursue her, and, through her nobility, is finally reunited to the lovely lady Beatrice Warrener, It is all pretty thin.

Recommended: "THE NOOSE."