Forgotten Book: The Lost Continent (Beyond Thirty) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1915, 1955)

The Lost Continent isn't exactly a Burroughs masterpiece.

The Lost Continent isn’t exactly a Burroughs masterpiece.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 189th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Somehow in 189 review essays, I have never tackled a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs. ERB was one of the first writers I read regularly, though the titles I had access to were pretty random. When I lived in Iowa Park, Texas (1962 – 1967), the local library was pretty small but they had some ERB, some Tom Swift (the original series) and a smattering of other stuff. So, I read some Venus books, some Pellucidar and other titles, though no Tarzan. They had none of those.

When I got to San Antonio in 1967, the school had a book fair and I saw a copy of Thuvia, Maid of Mars with the Roy Krenkel cover and I fell in love with that series. Mars was Heaven, to quote Mr. Bradbury. So I read a lot of Burroughs. But as a collector I never had many ERB titles. The good ones were already too expensive. I had copies of them all, just no collectible first editions.

In college, I ran across the Fantasy Press edition of Beyond Thirty and The Maneater, a collection of two short novels which had not been reprinted from their early pulp days. I kept that book for many years, but it is now long gone.

I read it back in the 70’s, when I purchased the Fantasy Press edition, and thought it was OK. Not Africa-, Mars-, Venus- or Pellucidar-comparable, but OK. So when I found a UK paperback of Beyond Thirty — now retitled The Lost Continent and with an odd cover — for 50 cents recently, I picked it up with the idea of making it a Forgotten Book.

The novel was written in 1915, just three years after A Princess of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes and was directly affected by World War I. It tells the story of Lt. Jefferson Turck of the Pan American Navy and is set in 2137. Some 200 years earlier, a great war in Europe caused the Western Hemisphere (and its one giant nation Pan America) to declare the rest of the world off limits. Pan America controlled from meridian 30° West to 175° West. The Navy patrolled these coordinates. Lt. Turck is patrolling from Iceland to the Azores in his flying submarine, which can travel in the air or below the waves, when the craft suffers an engine failure as well as a wireless failure. A giant storm pushes the ship into those forbidden zones. Entry into the zone is punishable by death, regardless of the circumstances.

Faced with this likelihood, the ship stops for repairs and Turck goes out fishing with three men. During the fishing trip, his boat is separated from the ship and the four men find themselves left behind.

Not wanting to travel across the Atlantic in a small motorized ship, they decide to try for Europe, specifically England. When they arrive they find themselves hunted by Tigers, but their weapons are sufficient to keep the beasts away. Soon they are near London, where they find lions abounding, and they rescue a young maiden from a semi-human tribesman. The girl turns out to be Victory, the Queen of England! She is in trouble as Buckingham, a member of her tribe, has killed her father the King and wants to marry her so he can become King himself. Buckingham does not like Turck and soon captures him and offers him as a sacrifice to the lions.

With Victory’s help he escapes and she joins the four men as they explore continental Europe. Turck falls in love with Victory and is surprised when she and one of the crewmen desert the remainder of the party and leave them stranded. Here they encounter an army of Abyssinians who are well trained and organized. Turck alone is captured and taken to the local commander, who makes him his personal manservant, which irks Turck since he has never been a servant to a black man before. Whites are inferior to the Abyssinians, and he is treated poorly.

Soon the Emperor Menelek XIV visits, and when presented with captured slaves, immediately picks out Victory as his next paramour. Turck does not like this and has to find a way to rescue her.

Our hero eventually wins out and is reunited with her, the remainder of the crew and makes it back to his world, where things have changed and he is now a hero rather than a condemned traitor.

All in all, it’s an OK read, but not nearly as good as others from this time period. The final 20 pages is extremely rushed, and events which should have taken chapters are shunted off in two sentences. It is lesser Burroughs and it is not hard to see why it took 40 years to be collected. It also suffers from an attitude against the non-white races that I found pretty blatant and jarring to current sensibilities, which is not surprising given some of the charges leveled against his Tarzan books from the same period.

If you’ve read all the other ERB, you should read it. But if you have not, don’t go out of your way to locate it.

Series organizer Patti Abbott usually hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: Wild in the Streets (1968)

1968's cult classic "Wild in the Streets" deserves a look this tempestuous election season.

1968’s cult classic “Wild in the Streets” deserves a look this tempestuous election season.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 168th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films.

Since it is an election year, I thought it might be wise to review a politically charged film from that hotly contested year of 1968. I was not yet old enough to vote when this came out, but I was interested in the political process and watched both parties at their national conventions and the attendant folderol that went with it. I was (then and now) very anti-war and saw it as a major part of the campaigns.

Somewhere that year, the theaters on Ft. Sam Houston (where I was living) managed to show Wild in the Streets, and I somehow got to see it, even with an R rating. Perhaps the clerk thought I was one of the soldiers since I had a burr haircut at the time. Anyway, I saw it and thought it was a hoot.

Flash forward 48 years and I see that TCM was going to broadcast it one night while I was not at home. Mr. DVR came through for me, and I captured the film again. I watched it the other day with my wife and found it interesting, naïve, stupid — and totally relevant to the current political scene.

Max Flatow Jr. (Christopher Jones) is raised in a home with a shrill, dominating mother (Shelly Winters). It does not take much for him to rebel, beginning with manufacturing drugs and explosives in the family basement. He blows up his father’s new car and leaves home. Four years later, he is 22 and a multi-millionaire rock star under the name Max Frost with his band the Troopers – which also includes 15-year-old attorney Billy (Kevin Coughlin) on guitar, former child star Sally LeRoy (Diane Varsi) on keyboards, Abraham “the Hook” Salteen (Larry Bishop) on bass and trumpet and anthropologist Stanley X (Richard Pryor) on drums. They are young, rich and bored. They’re also asked to perform at a political rally for Congressman Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook), a young candidate urging for voting rights for 18 year olds, which was a hot topic at the time and one I supported. Max does a live gig for the rally but pushes his own agenda, which is for the vote to be extended to 14 year olds.

The reaction is overwhelming, and Fergus finds himself a reluctant ally to the charismatic rocker. Established political advisors are appalled and want Fergus to drop Frost like a hot potato. Among those is Senator Allbright (Ed Begley). With youth demonstrations for the 14 voting age expanding across the country, Frost and Fergus compromise on 15 and Ready. They select that age so Billy can actually vote. Fergus is elected in a landslide.

Just as the election happens, a local congressman, aged 84, dies. To be elected to Congress you must be 25. Coincidentally, Sally Leroy has just turned 25 and finds herself appointed to Congress. Her first act is to introduce a constitutional amendment reducing the age for someone elected to Congress or the presidency to 14. A water supply spiked with LSD reduces the joint session of Congress to hysterical mania and the amendment is approved. (No one bothered getting the states to ratify it, but that’s just a detail.)

Soon, Max Frost is president and legislation is passed making people go into mandatory retirement at age 35, at which time they’ll be sent to camps where they’ll be fed, clothed, and provided LSD on a regular basis.

It progresses from there, but the tale of a charismatic outsider who rouses his troops and maneuvers into the political arena sort of resonated with me. I’m not going to get into a political discussion. I know who I am voting for and I hope you know your own mind also. The upcoming vote will be divisive I am afraid, but I hope some form of sanity manifests itself during the process.

I had fun with the Wild in the Streets. Christopher Jones had a short run in Hollywood, bowing out after the death of Sharon Tate (with whom he had an affair) left him devastated. IMDB only gives 10 acting credits for him and only one after 1970 (Mad Dog Time in 1996). He died in 2014.

It’s not a good film (too absurd and too many plot holes), but it is a better film than American International normally made. Give it a shot. Songs by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill include “Shape of Things to Come,” which made it to #22. It was #1 in San Antonio as I recall from that time. It is heard three times in the film.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Cocktail Hour: Guest bartender Travis E. Poling serves up the Ginger Scald

Two versions of the Ginger Scald featured in Scott Lynch's "The Lies of Locke Lamora." The one on the left is made with sherry, the one on the right with Marsala.

Guest bartender Travis E. Poling drinks beer and reads books, and every now and then he writes books about beer. The latest is San Antonio Beer: Alamo City History by the Pint with co-author Jeremy Banas. Poling has been a journalist in the San Antonio area for nearly 30 years and is at work on his third book on beer, researching a historical novel and serving as guest curator for an upcoming museum exhibit on brewing in Texas.

It wasn’t until reading about the upcoming fourth novel in the Gentlemen Bastards cannon that Scott Lynch came to my attention. The premise from this Wisconsin fantasy writer was intriguing, so I shopped my own home library and to great delight found Lynch’s debut novel The Lies of Locke Lamora.

The setting for this 2006 debut fantasy is the city of Camorra, reminiscent of an Italian city-state with the canals of Venice, a ruling Duke and a peerage protected by the Secret Peace from a hierarchal thieving class ruled by the ruthless Capa Barsavi.

We meet Locke Lamora as a newly orphaned thief in training and follow him through his unconventional upbringing in revealing flashbacks in between the ambitious con action of the Gentlemen Bastards gang led by the adult Lamora.

This is a caper tale, with deceptions on multiple levels, and a story of revenge served both with calculating cold and hot abandon. The character of Locke is as likable as he is cunning, making him at ease posing as a brandy merchant from far lands in a long con of the Don Lorenzo and Doña Sofia. His team, through multiple talents and disguises, brings the falsehood to life.

Beginning, middle and end are all satisfying with numerous twists including a threat to the Camorri underworld by the mysterious Grey King, who is picking off the underbosses. And while this novel wraps nicely, there are enough hints throughout to tease future plot lines. There are mentions of an absent female member of the team, who may have been a love interest of Lamora, lands across the sea from Camorra, and the mysteries of the long-gone alien race that built the mostly indestructible bones of the city on which Camorra was built.

It isn’t often that a fantasy novel includes instructions for a cocktail, but since Lynch provided instructions on a Camorri drink sipped while wealthy spectators watched nasty sea beasties tear prisoners apart as punishment and amusement, I thought I’d give this monster a go (with some substitutions, of course. Here is the description in the book:

“Cont? moved adroitly to fill [the Don’s request for a Ginger Scald], selecting a tall crystal wine flute, into which he poured two fingers of purest Camorri ginger oil, the color of scorched cinnamon. To this he added a sizable splash of milky pear brandy, followed by a transparent heavy liquor called ajento, actually a cooking wine flavored with radishes. When this cocktail was mixed, Cont? wrapped a wet towel around the fingers of his left hand and reached for a covered brazier smoldering to the side of the liquor cabinet. He withdrew a slender metal rod, orange-red at the tip, and plunged it into the cocktail; there was an audible hiss and a small puff of spicy steam. Once the rod was stanched, Cont? stirred the drink briskly and precisely three times, then presented it to Locke on a thin, silver plate.”

Here’s my variation on the drink using a French ginger liqueur as the spicy base. To recreate the fictional ajento I tried infusing the wine with radish, but the concoction became a bit sulfurous after a few hours. The muddling imparted a cleaner flavor.

GINGER SCALD

1.5 ounces Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
1 ounce Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy
0.5 ounces Poire (pear liqueur)
1.5 ounces Sweet Marsala wine
3 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
1 radish

Pour first three ingredients in a fluted glass. Remove a 1/8-inch slice from the center of the radish and set aside. Chop the rest of the radish and muddle it with the wine (for a different take, use sherry instead of Marsala). Add the bitters to the wine, strain and top off the drink. Stir three times with a heated rod (I used a metal kabob skewer heated on a gas burner). Garnish with the slice of radish on the rim.

 

Forgotten Book: Galactic Pot-Healer by Philip K. Dick (1969)

The title character of PKD's Galactic Pot-Healer heads to another planet where he faces an appropriately triply fate.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 188th in my series of Forgotten Books.

One of my early writing heroes was Philip K. Dick. The man was a lunatic genius. Somewhere around 1966, my friend Joe Pearson gave me a copy of The Man in the High Castle in paperback. It was mind blowing. And I reread it almost immediately.

And nearly failed German because of it! With a name beginning with “C,” I was in the front row. But my German teacher was a Luxembourger who fled the Nazi invasion, so she was death on the Nazis and a swastika would send her into a tirade in three or four languages. Well, the Popular Library edition had a US map with the Swastika and Rising Sun over the map. I had just finished my final exam (I was carrying a strong A in the class) and I was reading High Castle right in front of her while she was grading my paper. And that cover was facing her!

When I realized what I was doing, I immediately put the book cover on my desk top. I continued reading but she could no longer see the cover.

So I was a rabid PKD fan and every time I found one of his novels or collections, I bought it. Most of them were 50 cents or less. In 1969, Galactic Pot-Healer came out and I read it and it moved to the top of my favorite PKD books. For most people, the list is High Castle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ubik, Martian Time Slip, Flow My Tears the Policeman Said and A Scanner Darkly, in some semblance of that order. But I really loved Pot-Healer, The Game Players of Titan, The Zap Gun and Counter-Clock World, too. The mid to late 1960’s were a very productive time for Dick.

When I saw Galactic Pot-Healer in the Waldenbooks at North Star Mall, I plopped down my 60 cents and took it home. At 144 pages, it did not take long to finish. Wow! Teenage mind blown. I eventually got the SF Book Club hardcover version and kept that for many years,

Joe Fernwright is a pot-healer. He takes pots – ceramic and otherwise – and restores them to their former glory, sometimes better than originally made. Unfortunately, in his future America, there is not much call for his line of work. So he gets his daily cash dole and spends it immediately. It devalues up to 80 percent in 24 hours. He has a depressing life until he gets a message: “Pot-Healer I Need You. And I Will Pay”. He gets another note that says, “I Will Pay You Thirty-Five Thousand Crumbles.” He checks with his bank to get an approximation of how much this is in real money. He is told $200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00.

Joe’s interest is piqued. An entity known as the Glimmung is raising the sunken city of Heldscalla from the bottom of an alien ocean on Sirius Five, aka Plowman’s Planet. He is part of an elite team of humans and aliens brought to the planet to achieve this task. The Glimmung (also featured in PKD’s YA book Nick and the Glimmung) is hard to describe, looking sometimes like a gyroscope or a teenage girl or the contents of an ocean all at once.

Arriving at Plowman’s Planet, Joe is greeted by the Kalends, another alien race, who sell him the Book. They only sell one book and it claims to know the past, present and future. In perusing it, Joe sees that things may not go so well for him or the Glimmung, which brings about interesting discussions of fate, fatalism, predestination and other philosophies PKD puts interesting spins on. Joe learns his fate may or may not involve dying, meaning his character has a very trippy experience.

It’s a very complex book and one I understand somewhat better at 64 than I did at 17. If you like PKD, and you all really should, it is a rewarding experience.

But as always, your mileage may vary.

As I quick throwaway, just a few minutes before writing this I finished up The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax, a first mystery novel by Andrew Cartmel, and it was fabulous! Nearly 500 pages and I read it in two evenings. All about collecting jazz records from the mid 1960’s and the wonderful mania that is searching for treasures (like PKD paperbacks) and the joys and pitfalls of finding it. It’s just out from Titan Books for $14.95 and worth every bit of it. I am now anxious for the next book in the series which is scheduled for May 2017. Check it out.

Series organizer Patti Abbott usually hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Moment of Wonder: Spinning Around Two Suns

An artist's impression of a stellar eclipse and planetary transit events on Kepler-1647. Credit: Lynette Cook

NASA has announced its discovery of the largest known planet that orbits two suns. These bodies are known as circumbinary planets, or “Tatooine planets,” after Luke Skywalker’s home world.

The planet Kepler-1647b — roughly the mass and radius of Jupiter — is 3,700 light-years away and an estimated 4.4 billion years old, about the same age as Earth. The stars it orbits are similar to our own sun, with one slightly larger and the other a little smaller.

A team led by astronomers from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and San Diego State University (SDSU) in California identified the planet using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. The discovery was announced this week in San Diego at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

“(Finding) circumbinary planets is much harder than finding planets around single stars,” said SDSU astronomer William Welsh, one of the coauthors of the NASA study on the planet. “The transits are not regularly spaced in time and they can vary in duration and even depth.”

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Films: Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama (1988)

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama promises B-movie sex and violence — and it delivers.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 167th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films.

It has been a while since I did a really bad B film. (Fans might remember the enthusiastic review of Zombeavers last August.) The other day, I was reviewing a DVD catalog and this film was available for about $7 and I knew I should see it. When it comes to horror movies, I’ve got a soft spot for so-called Scream Queens, and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama promised plenty. I’ve only ever met one Scream Queen — Jewel Shepard, when she was signing her book If I’m So Famous, How Come Nobody’s Ever Heard of Me? She was a very fun signer and I really enjoyed talking with her. Her book was a hoot and a half, too.

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama has, hands down, one of the great sleazy names for a B horror film (not that Zombeavers was any sort of slouch). It really tells you what your audience is going to be. You got college girls, horror, bowling and slimeballs. Well, in truth, you only sort of have slimeballs.

College roommates Keith, Jimmy and Calvin (John Stuart Wildman, Hal Havins and Andras Jones, respectively) are bored one night. Calvin’s playing a video game, Jimmy’s drinking beers and Keith wants one of the beers. Jimmy is not the giving sort, but Keith offers up that he knows where Delta Delta Delta sorority is doing their pledge initiation that night. The sorority, known as Felta Delta, promises to have some salacious happenings. So the boys go over to see what they might.

Pledges Taffy and Lisa (Scream Queens Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauers, respectively) are on the wrong end of a sorority paddle and an aerosol whip cream attack from initiation masters and all-around bitches Frankie, Rhonda, and Babs (Carla Baron, Kathi O’Brecht and Robin Rochelle). Babs has some sadistic ideas for finishing up the initiation, when the boys are discovered inside the Delta house watching Lisa and Taffy shower. Soon, all six are sent off to the mall bowling alley to secure a bowling trophy. Babs’ dad owns the mall and they plan on doing some mean stuff to the group.

Inside the bowling alley, Calvin runs across punk thief Spider (huge Scream Queen Linnea Quigley) ripping off the gaming machines and register. He tries to pick her up, but she’s not having any of it. Eventually, though, she helps the group get into the area with the trophies. They steal a large one that’s 30 years old.

Unfortunately, they accidentally drop the old trophy, and out of it comes an ancient imp (voiced by Dukey Flyswatter). The imp is grateful for his release and offers each of the folks a wish. Jimmy orders lots of gold, but Calvin cautions that things might not be as good as they seem.

Keith wants to have sex with Lisa and Impy makes her amenable to the idea. Suddenly, Babs, Rhonda and Frankie interrupt things and we find out that Calvin was absolutely correct in not trusting the imp. Of the 10 main characters (the nine listed plus a janitor for comedic relief), eight are going to die. I hope I’m not spoiling it for anyone, but this one is nearly 30 years old and has been shown a lot. Just because I never saw does not imply that you did not.

We have knifings, smashed heads by bowling ball, flame thrower, deep fryer, decapitation, zombie-ism, Bride of Frankenstein-itis (for Frankie, of course), being pulled apart and more. The mayhem is handled very effectively. The budget was low but you can tell the movie makers put it all onto the screen.

All in all, this one delivers exactly what it promises: a B movie with sex and violence and some humor. If, like me, you enjoy that sort of thing, this movie is definitely for you. Be warned, though, this is not Akira Kurasawa or Citizen Kane, and if that’s what you want, well, to each their own. As I always say, your mileage may vary. I was glad to finally see this one. Maybe you will be too. If not, there’s always next week.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Cocktail Hour: The Next in Line (Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s story of the same name)

The Next in Line cocktail takes its name from Ray Bradbury's tale of the mummies of Guanajuato.

Ray Bradbury wrote some truly terrifying fiction over the years, and for my money, “The Next in Line” is among his creepiest.

The story was the result of his 1945 visit to Guanajuato, Mexico, where he saw the city’s famed mummies. Relatives of the dead were required to pay an annual grave tax to keep their dearly departed underground in Guanajuato. Fail to pay up, and your loved one’s corpse would be dug up to make room for new arrivals in the crowded cemeteries. When they began to exhume bodies, however, the authorities discovered that many of them had naturally mummified in the arid soil.

Guanajuato, of course, saw another revenue opportunity. It stood the mummies in a line and lets tourists gawk — provided they pony up a few pesos.

“The Next in Line’s” middle-aged American couple, Joseph and Marie, are on vacation in Mexico. Joseph is eager to check out the famed mummies, but Marie wants nothing of them. They couple has already witnessed a funeral procession for an infant and the morbid scene has left her feeling rather uneasy.

That unease builds into terror, and because this is a horror story, Joseph naturally drags her into a face-to-face viewing of the mummies. When she does, Bradbury invokes powerful descriptive language to give us the creeps as well.

They looked as if they had leaped, snapped upright in their graves, clutched hands over their shriveled bosoms and screamed, jaws wide, tongues out, nostrils flared.

And been frozen that way.

All of them had open mouths.  Theirs was a perpetual screaming.  They were dead and they knew it.  In every raw fiber and evaporated organ they knew it.

She stood listening to them scream.

The "Next in Line" is available in Bradbury's October Country collection.

While plenty of horror writers can describe dead bodies, Bradbury’s story sticks with the reader because he so effectively taps into Marie’s mounting dread. Every tiny sign of illness, every symbol of death, becomes an awful and foreboding drumbeat in her own funeral procession.

We also realize that Joseph is a sadist who mocks her morbid fixation, at one point buying a Day of the Dead candy skull and eating it in front of her. Naturally, he makes sure she notices that the skull is decorated with her own name.

If you’ve read “The Next in Line,” you know exactly why Marie has reason to be terrified. If you haven’t, I won’t give it away. Either way, why not pick up Bradbury’s October Country collection and give it a read with its namesake cocktail in hand?

Tequila seems to be the obvious liquor for a story taking place in Mexico, and in homage to the American couple, I borrowed the other ingredients from a whiskey cocktail called the Brown Derby, the namesake drink of the famed restaurant in Bradbury’s L.A. hometown.

It’s just the kind of easy-sipping cocktail that would go down easy in the Guanajuato sun. And like nasty Joseph, it’s got a bite that sneaks up on you.

THE NEXT IN LINE

2 oz. anejo tequila
1 oz. freshly squeezed graprefruit juice
1/2 oz. honey
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Twist of lemon rind for garnish

Place all the ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Pour into a couple glass and garnish with the twist.


 

Forgotten Book: The Penguin Pool Murder by Stuart Palmer (1931)

The dialogue in Stuart Palmer's The Penguin Pool Murder is a major selling point.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 187th in my series of Forgotten Books.

I love a good mystery. A locked room mystery is even better. And a good noir story with blazing guns and snappy dialogue is my forte. I’m not much on amateur detectives or cozy mysteries. So, why was I reading a Golden Age mystery with a spinster school teacher working with the New York homicide Inspector?

There were several things leading up to it. I had recently found a nice trade paperback of this novel. It is the first in the Hildegard Withers series. I have seen the filmed version with Edna May Oliver and James Gleason a couple of times, as well as Oliver’s other two appearances in the role and at least one time with Zasu Pitts filling the role. I would love to see the made-for-TV movie from 1972 with Eve Arden in the role.

Miss Withers is taking her third grade class on a trip to the New York Aquarium where she trips up a pickpocket. While arguing occurs among the guards, the pickpocket escapes. When a dead man falls into the temporary penguin pool, she is the first to notice the body and has the guards call for the police. The police include Inspector Oscar Piper, her main foil throughout the tale.

The dead man is Gerald “Jerry” Lester, a local trader with a seat on the Stock Exchange. His wife Gwen is at the aquarium with an old friend/flame Phillip Seymour, a local attorney. Piper, of course, suspects the wife and boyfriend, particularly once the boyfriend admits to knocking Lester out and hiding him away. Other potential suspects include the aquarium director, Bertrand Hemingway, another attorney Barry Costello and pickpocket Chicago Lew McGirr. It seems a fairly open-and-shut case, especially when Seymour confesses to killing Lester. Unfortunately, his confession contains factual errors not supported by the coroner’s report.

Miss Withers, being industrious, inserts herself into the case, taking notes as all the suspects are questioned and noticing things the police do not. She is the first to discredit Seymour’s confession.

The events in the story take place almost immediately after the Great Crash of 1929 and several of the players here were clients of Lester. They lost big time in the margin call. And then there’s Lester’s secretary who may have had an interest in more than dictation. Gwen does not love Lester and wants to spend his money, but he took a big hit and is trying to cut back expenses.

The novel is fairly straightforward, with Palmer playing fair with the reader. The clues are there and an observant reader can figure out who the killer is. I suspected I knew about 2/3 of the way through — and my reasoning was correct.

What makes this novel special is the dialogue, particularly that between Miss Withers and Inspector Piper. They have a great relationship in the book and in the films. Palmer was a former newsman and he knew his characters well.

Now with this being a novel of the early 1930s, there are some social issues that might offend modern readers. There is social racism, nothing overt, but typical of the time. The police, except Piper, are close to buffoons and do not mind some breaking and entry or obtaining evidence in ways that would get your case laughed out of court nowadays. But I could live with that.

I enjoyed the book. It is not very long: fewer than 200 trade paperback sized pages. The plotting was good. In fact, Palmer ended up moving to Hollywood to work in the film industry. He worked briefly with one of my favorites, Craig Rice, and eventually they collaborated on some John J. Malone and Hildegard Withers stories. Those also are worth reading. He also worked on the Falcon, Lone Wolf and Bulldog Drummond movie series.

Check it out.

Series organizer Patti Abbott usually hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Films: Gamera the Invincible (1965/1966)

The poster for the U.S. release of Gammera the Invincible shows off the American actors and the extra "M" added to improve its marketability here.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 166th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

So it is a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I was resting up doing not much of anything when I decided that it was time to review another film. I had watched 2015’s Crimson Peaks from Guillermo del Toro, but somehow that did not seem like what I wanted to write about.

So what to watch?

Last weekend (Memorial Day), I checked out several Half Price Books locations in San Antonio. In one I found a collection of six Gamera films on two DVD’s for the princely sum of $3.00 (less the 20% holiday sale price). Somehow, the package leapt into my shopping basket.

Some mindless kaiju seemed like just the thing to watch today. So Gamera the Invincible hopped into the DVD drive on my computer and I settled in for a quiet event. I never saw any of the Gamera films in the theater and very few of them ever. I remember in our first year of marriage, around 1980, Sandi and I saw one as we were channel surfing. She was fascinated by the spinning turtle that shot flames out of his butt. Made it a little hard to take seriously. Bur since she was not here, I had the film all to myself.

The version I watched was the 1966 World Entertainment Corp. and Harris Associates version which took the original 1965 Daiei production and, much like Toho’s Godzilla, shot some scenes of English language actors and interspliced them with the original to make it more palatable for the English language audiences.

To the film: A Japanese scientific vessel is cruising the Arctic and working with Inuit tribes when four Russian jets stray into American airspace. A confrontation follows, a Russian jet is shot down and a (nuclear?) bomb explodes. The explosion awakens a giant turtle with a severe tusk problem. The Inuits have an ancient drawing referring to the monster as Gamera. General Terry Arnold (Brian Donlevy, far removed from his Professor Quatermass films of a decade before) receives the initial reports of a 150- to 200-foot giant turtle. He soon finds himself assigned to fighting the beast.

Over in Japan, Doctor Hidaka (Eiji Funakoshi), who witnessed the birth of Gamera, is working with other scientists to stop the enormous turtle after he has destroyed a lighthouse and saved the life of a young boy Toshio (Yoshiro Uchida). Toshio is fascinated with turtles and was reluctantly releasing his small pet when Gamera showed up.

Toshio forms a connection (at least on his end) with Gamera and, of course, causes likeable trouble trying to get close to the monster and helping him avoid various traps. As with most Japanese films of this ilk, I absolutely hated the kid and wanted him gone fast.

Meanwhile the UN assembles a committee with General Arnold on to solve the problem. It is decided that Arnold and a Russian counterpart will head the group. They decide to implement Plan Z but they need time. The Japanese have to feed Gamera fire and power for 24 hours until the plan can be brought to fruition.

Like last week’s film, the effects are sometimes laughable. Toy ships and planes are quite recognizable in the early shots, and Gamera is, of course, an actor in a rubber suit. But this film has some heart and soul that I thought Master of the World lacked. I mean, a turtle using butt flames as a source of jet propulsion is pretty unique.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. There are five more in the set I bought. I’m sure we will see another one soon.

As for Crimson Peaks, I really enjoyed that film also and will probably address it soon. Keep your powder and whatever jet propulsion method you utilize dry. Your mileage could also vary.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 

Forgotten Book: The Opener of the Way by Robert Block (1945 and 1976)

Many options, some very pricey, exist for purchasing Robert Bloch's The Opener of the Way

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 186th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Like most readers, I go through phases where I binge on certain types of books and try to collect them in various editions. One of my longer manias involved Arkham House books. I went through several stages where I wanted the words to all their titles or I wanted nice collectible copies of all their volumes. That path, I can assure, you will lead to destitution and madness. That would particularly be true now if you are starting your collection now and do not have really deep, deep pockets.

Back when I was looking at the Arkham House titles, they were expensive. And, while I work with accounting and money and the like, I have never been one to let my better judgment stand in the way of something I want. Well, not quite true. In 1973, I was offered a presentation copy of Lewis Carroll’s Phantasmagoria for a mere $150. At the time, I was working maybe 20 hours a week, for less than $2 per hour while attending school. That $150 price tag represented close to two months take-home pay for me. I was barely able to stay in school and feed myself at the time, so I had to let it go. But that potential purchase always remains back in my thoughts. What might have happened? What might have happened was that I would have lost my apartment, been unable to pay my bills and I would have had to sell the book, along with many other nice things, in order to keep a roof over my head, my car running and food on the table.

That book was THE ONE that got away.

I have had many fine things over the years, but Arkhams were always one thing I loved. I once convinced a bookstore to order the entire available Arkham catalog and tried to buy them one at a time for a while. They were only $4 or $5 each at the time, but even then, I had trouble getting them paid for. It caused some stress in my relationship with the bookstore.

Arkham, for those who have made it this far and don’t really know what I am talking about, is a specialty publisher, that started as a venue for August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to publish a memorial volume for H. P. Lovecraft, since no commercial publisher was interested. They launched the enterprise with The Outsider and Others in 1939. They soon also published more Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, along with Robert E. Howard’s amazing Skullface and Others. They did the first books of many fine writers of the weird, fantastic and horrible. People like Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Seabury Quinn, William Hope Hodgson and Robert Bloch. Their volumes are wonderful, filled with stories only available to those with a fantastic pulp magazine collection and deep pockets. My first Arkham book was The House on the Borderland and Other Stories by Hodgson, which reprinted the title novel and three others. I ran across Hodgson through Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy Series and loved his work.

Over the years, I acquired several Arkham House books, some like the Hodgson expensive, others like Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock not nearly so much. But I never had The Opener of the Way by Robert Bloch, which was published in 1945. It was Bloch’s first book.

For several titles, such as the massive Clark Ashton Smith volumes, I got the British publisher Neville Spearman’s 1970’s reprints. Sure, you had to order them from England and it took forever and the postage was expensive, but CAS was worth it. Spearman did The Opener of the Way in 1974 but I missed it. Again, funds were a big reason.

In 1976, British publisher Panther released the massive collection in two paperback volumes, The Opener of the Way and The House of the Hatchet. Last year, I got the first of those volumes, not realizing it did not contain all of the hardcover title. And that is what I read this week.

This volume contains ten stories from the hardcover edition, including the title story, “Beetles,” “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” and “The Fiddler’s Fee,” all stories I really liked. They suffer slightly from being together, as many of the stories contain that final line that serves as a “Gotcha!” with the Ripper story being a superb example. Others you could see coming.

I like Robert Bloch’s work. About 6 months ago I reviewed his novel The Will to Kill here and it was great. This volume holds up reasonably well. It does represent early work by Bloch who matured as he wrote more.

Those who want the whole volume can get the Arkham House volume (starting in the $400 + range on up to a price with a comma in it), the Neville Spearman edition ($30 to $750), the two paperbacks (between $10 and $20 each) or The Early Fears by Bloch (Fedogan and Bremer, 1993), which reprints all of Opener (except the introduction) and Pleasant Dreams, another early collection.

Go forth and collect.

Series organizer Patti Abbott usually hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.