Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Most Embarassing Minor League Baseball Caps (Part 2 - Fruit, Nuts and Vegetables)

Fort Wayne TinCaps

Jamestown Jammers

Modesto Nuts

Cedar Rapids Kernals

Hillsboro Hops

Many more to come. Stay tuned.

A last-minute addition - by special request of Shay!

Normal Cornbelters

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Toy Soldier Saturday: MARX GIs (Part 4)

Yeah, three sets of these have gone before, and we ain't done yet. Marx did some humungous battleground sets, and needed soldiers to fill them. 

Way more Toy Soldiers HERE

Friday, August 28, 2015

FFB: Seven Books Reviewed by DASHIELL HAMMETT

(This column appeared in the April 26, 1930 edition of the New York Evening Post.)

THE WYCHFORD POISONING CASE. By Anthony Berkeley. Crime Club. $2.
DEATH TRAPS. By Kay Cleaver Strahan. Crime Club. $2.
THROUGH THE EYES OF THE JUDGE. By Bruce Graeme. Lippincott. $2.
WHY MURDER THE JUDGE? By Claude Stuart Hammock. Macmillan. $2.
MARKED "CANCELLED." By Natalie Sumner Lincoln. Appleton. $2.
WHO MOVED THE STONE? By Frank Morison. Century. $2.50.
MURDER IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT. By "Diplomat." Cape & Smith. $2.

OF ALL the facetious amateurs—count them yourself—engaged in solving mysteries that are too much for the police Roger Sheringham is the most amusing—well, anyhow, the least annoying—to me. His Job in "The Wychford Poisoning Case" is to learn who gave arsenic to the late John Bentley There are several people who could, and perhaps would, have done it. You are not likely to guess the right one, but you can blame the author and not yourself, for his book runs a brisk, entertaining race to a flabby and unsporting end.

“DEATH TRAPS” would have been a pretty good short story. It attains book length by dint of a tedious opening, many irrelevancies and the rambling volubility of the retired Yakima grocer through whom it is told. The mystery it gets around to after five or six chapters has to do with an attempt to murder Gerald Dexter in his suburban home and the subsequent deaths of the Justin Veernegs next door. Familiarity with one of the established technical devises for leading suspicion away from the guilty person will lead you straight to him, her or it fairly early in the story. Ever since "The Desert Moon Mystery" there have been rumors that Mrs. Strahan writes what is sometimes called graceful English. I have not yet been able to verify these rumors. The outstanding characteristics of her style seem to be an assortment of rather acrobatic synonyms for "said" and a waiving of the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs.

“THROUGH THE EYES OF THE JUDGE" follows the now familiar court room method of solving a mystery. Patrick Terence Spencer is being tried for the murder of his cousin George, a murder by which he gained fifty thousand pounds. The evidence against him is overwhelming, but into Mr. Justice Raymond's mind certain doubts begin to come, and so. . . .  It is difficult to say why this should not be a better story than it is. Perhaps the trouble is that the judge lacks reality.

IN "Why Murder the Judge?" his Honor is poisoned in his library while showing a rare book to a group of friends. Then the book disappears, there is a lot of bocuspocus in a bookshop, people refuse to account for their actions, there is more hocuspocus in a law office and much activity only slightly related to the murder. Probus Thorne, another gifted amateur, is the detective, though his Japanese valet seems to do most of the work. There is nothing here to excite you.

THE most exciting thing shout "Marked Cancelled" was the excellent publicity put over for it. The morning before the hook appeared in bookshops a New York morning paper—by no means the least prominent—gave space on its front page to an alleged Washington dispatch in which Miss Lincoln was said to have unearthed, while examining some family relics, an old envelope bearing a stamp reputed to be worth some $10,000. Now, ladies and gentlemen, when you consider that she was about to publish a book bearing the present title and that one of the clues in the book was an out-of-date postage stamp, well, it is a shame the book was— But here is a sample: "With me, it was love at first sight. Ah, Claire, dare I hope?"

THE author of "Who Moved the Stone?" applies detective-story methods to the question of what actually happened to the body of Jesus Christ between the time it was laid in the tomb after the crucifixion and the discovery of the empty tomb on Sunday morning. The result bears the same relation to history that the average detective story bears to criminology

“MURDER IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT," written by a man known on two continents as diplomat and author, so the blurb says, starts off with the murder of Harrison Howard, Under Secretary of State, in his office, then becomes what the jacket calls a "satirical expose of the workings of the Department of State" and, with the help of much dirty work on the part of pacifists and bootleggers, lisps its way to an inane end. By "Diplomat"? By Jove!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

HOLLYWOOD COWBOY DETECTIVES - New Pulp Fiction by Darryle Purcell

I'm a long-time fan of B Westerns. For me, the stand-outs from the 1930s - judged on personality and humor - were Ken Maynard and my father's favorite, Hoot Gibson. So I was pleased to receive a press release from author/artist Darryle Purcell, announcing this series of pulp-style adventures featuring the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives. That press release is jam-packed with information, so I'm going to let you read it yourself. Here goes:

Classic B-western stars ride again

Several almost-forgotten B-western stars of the past have found work in a new series of historical fiction westerns.

Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Crash Corrigan, William S. Hart and other film-cowboy heroes from the 20s through the 50s have returned to battle Nazis, saboteurs and old-fashioned bad guys in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives (HCD) series published by Page Turner’s Buckskin Editions in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Darryle Purcell, a long-time Mohave County, Ariz., resident known for his topical newspaper columns and political cartoons, has reset his editorial sights on historical western fiction.

“I grew up enjoying the B-western movies and serials made during the 1930s through the ’50s,” the former Mohave Valley Daily News managing editor said. “Many of those films were contemporary to the years they were produced. Western heroes such as Col. Tim McCoy would board a train in the metropolitan east of, say, 1936 and arrive in the old west (quite often Arizona) to battle evil doers. We all remember films where the Three Mesquiteers fought the Nazis in the early 1940s.”

Purcell is writing and illustrating the 1930s-contemporary western series, which embraces the adventurous world of pulp publishing while also saluting the great western movie serials of that era. The first publication, Mystery at Movie Ranch, is comprised of 12 cliffhanger chapters set in the San Fernando Valley area of southern California during the filming of the 1934 Mascot Pictures serial, Mystery Mountain, starring Ken Maynard.

“I do a lot of research on what was being filmed, where, by which studio within a specific time frame,” he said. “I then carve a window in the time period where certain people could have come together to deal with an adventure.”

Sean “Curly” Woods, former Los Angeles Examiner crime beat reporter and current studio flack, is Purcell’s main fictional character who appears in all HCD publications. In Movie Ranch, Woods’ assignment is to write fluff public relations articles about the serial and its stars and keep Maynard out of trouble while looking into the possible sabotage of the Mascot production.

“From a variety of sources, Ken Maynard was a temperamental alcoholic,” Purcell said. “Nobody’s perfect. He was still a skilled rodeo, circus and film cowboy idolized by youth from the 1920s through the ’50s.”

While helping Maynard battle his personal demons, Woods discovers real enemies are not only targeting the western production, but the American way of life. Joined by western movie star and World Champion Rodeo Cowboy Hoot Gibson, Maynard and Woods engage in a series of deadly encounters with an army of anti-American terrorists ruled by a sinister mastermind known only as the Viper. The Hollywood Cowboy Detectives deal with organized crime, a sniper attack, aerial combat against an experimental German flying machine, interrogation by a sadistic enemy scientist in an underground stronghold, an ungodly creature who is the product of evil experiments, and a variety of battles with those who would eliminate all who believe in freedom and justice.

The Kindle version of the Mystery at Movie Ranch can be purchased on Amazon for $1.99. But for those who still like books printed in ink on paper, a paperback version of Mystery at Movie Ranch can be purchased at for $8.99, which includes the bonus HCD short story, "Mystery of the Murdered Badman." In that short story, Woods works to save Maynard from being charged with the murder of a western-movie villain and abduction and possible murder of a former silent-screen vamp. All HCD publications have color covers and black and white internal illustrations in the style of pulps and adventure novels of the 1930s.

The illustrated Mystery of the Arizona Dragon is also currently available as a Kindle download from Amazon. In that adventure, Woods is sent to a dude ranch, not far from where California, Nevada and Arizona meet, to investigate problems while the cast and crew of Charlie Chan Goes West prepare for filming. Hoot Gibson, Warner Oland and Keye Luke join the HCD hero as he attempts to track down the source of a variety of deadly incidents. It is also available as a paperback with the bonus HCD short story, "Mystery of the Stuntman’s Ghost."

The recently published HCD adventure, Mystery of the Matinee Murders is also available in paperback and on Kindle. In Matinee Murders, Woods, Gibson and Crash Corrigan are joined by Orson Welles and a radio-theater group on a studio-funded road trip to entertain children in hospitals and at Saturday matinee presentations. A mysterious assassin hounds the entertainers, leaving a trail of victims killed with cobra venom. Following a full-scale military assault, the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives are captured and taken to an underground fortress where an enemy power keeps an army of the dead. Cowboy star Ken Maynard joins the action in a final showdown with a Nazi terrorist who is about to unleash death and worse upon a theater full of young Saturday matinee western fans. In the paperback, Matinee Murders is joined by a bonus pulp-style mystery about a radio detective known as "The Man of the Mist."

The newest HCD adventure, Mystery of the Alien Banshee is currently available in Kindle format. When it is published in paperback, it will be accompanied by the bonus short story, "Mystery of the Kidnapped Cowboy." All short stories are also available individually on Kindle.

“My publisher at Page Turner’s Buckskin Edition Westerns is a real fan of old-time western and science fiction pulp publications as well as the B-movies of the same era,” Purcell said. “Buckskin is a perfect fit for my writing and illustration efforts.”

Purcell, who was public information director for Mohave County, Ariz., from May 2005 until January 2013, had been managing editor of the Mohave Valley Daily News in Bullhead City, Ariz., for 12 years. The former editorial cartoonist spent a total of 23 years in daily newspapers as well as a few years illustrating and art directing educational comic books and young reader books, drawing gag cartoons for rock and roll and motorcycle enthusiast publications and working in layout and character design on some Saturday morning animated cartoons.

“I reached into my work experiences as well as my time in the military, having served in the First Cavalry in Vietnam and the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions stateside, to create the characters and attitudes that appear in the Hollywood Cowboy Detectives series,” Purcell said. “The HCD series embodies the lessons of the classic B-westerns: Life is hard but good will triumph over evil.”

Some may believe that philosophy is out of date. But, according to Purcell, many of the B-western stars of the 1920s and ’30s not only portrayed the just hero, they lived by the Code of the West. Most were Great War veterans. Some, like Tim McCoy served in both world wars. James Stewart, Clark Gable and many other western stars of later years left their film careers to serve in World War II.

“With this series, I hope to revive the lessons of the straight shooters while introducing a new generation to some of the great cowboy heroes of the past. Besides having served in the First World War, most of them had been working cowboys on ranches, rodeos and wild-west shows before joining the motion picture studio system. Often, their movie careers began as stuntmen for other, less-talented, film stars. The HCD series honors the hard work, amazing action talents and ethical lessons of the B-western film stars of the past,” Purcell said.

The illustrated book series can be found at by searching Books for Hollywood Cowboy Detectives.

That's it. End of press release. Yippi-Yi-Yo-Ki-Yay. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Overlooked Films: THE LADY IN THE LAKE (1947)

Story by Raymond Chandler. Screenplay by Steve Fisher. Deadly dame by Audrey Totter. Together, they make my all-time favorite mystery film. What's Robert Mitchum doing in the YouTube shot below? Beats me. He wouldn't play Marlowe for another 28 years. But never fear, the film is the real thing, and Robert Montgomery makes a better Marlowe, even though we only see him when he looks in the mirror.

Because this movie has a lot of Christmasy stuff, I was tempted to wait until December to post it. But because many films get yanked from YouTube without warning, I didn't want to take the chance. So Merry Christmas to you, four months early.

Your weekly Overlooked HQ is Sweet Freedom.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Most Embarrassing Minor League Baseball Caps (Part 1)

Chatanooga Lookouts

Lake Elsinore Storm

Orem Owls

Hudson Valley Renegades

Lexington Legends

Mahoning Valley Scrappers

Yeah, these are all for real. Many more (and even more embarassing) caps to come. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Toy Soldier Saturday: Barzso Pioneers

All of the toy soldiers I've featured to date have been "vintage" plastics, from the 1950s and early '60s. These guys are relatively new. Sometime in the '90s, I believe, an outfit called Barzso Playsets, Inc. started manufacturing all-new playsets and figures in the Marx tradition - aimed not at kids but at collectors. One of those collectors was Cap'n Bob Napier, who gifted me, way back when, with this set of pioneers. Barzso is still making this stuff, and their latest release appears to be a Roman Colosseum, complete with gladiators. You can see that HERE

The Toy Soldier parade is HERE

Friday, August 21, 2015

FFB: WESTERN TOY GUNS by Jim Schleyer -and- CAP GUNS by James L. Dundas

It's interesting that these two books about collecting cap guns were published in the same year - 1996 - but are far different animals.

Cap Guns (with values) is sort of a coffee table book, with three to five large color photos to a page. In all, it features somewhere between two and three hundred guns. That may sound like a lot, until you examine Backyard Buckaroo's Collecting Western Toy Guns. The photos are mostly black and white (with a 24-page color section), but feature more than 1300 guns, plus another thousand or so accessories like holsters, boxes, belt buckles, caps, and knives & tomahawks. Both books list suggested ranges of values, now out of date, but useful in determinating relative rarity.

Another difference is that about half of Cap Guns is devoted to cast iron pistols made between 1880 and 1940. This conveys the impression that half the guns in existence were cast iron. Western Toy Guns presents a much truer picture. Cast iron pistols are mixed in with the later diecast (aka pot metal) guns and shown to be an extreme minority. The cowboy shows dominating televison in the '50s and early '60s brought a tidal wave of cap guns to market. And that brings up Western Toy Guns one drawback - it features exclusively western stuff. Though the vast majority of pistols and rifles were western style, there were also military, detective, spy and space weapons, and a few of each make the cut in Cap Guns.

If all this puts you in the mood to see some guns, I invite you to start right here. Over the past year or so I've posted pics of more than fifty guns from my own collection, and there are a lot more on the way. You'll find those photos HERE. You should also pay a visit to, the single greatest source of photos and info on the web.