Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - Death Cuts the Deck by Robert L. Fish

Robert L. Fish is probably best known for his Sherlock Holmes parodies featuring Schlock Homes of Bagel Street. Ebook editions of many of the tales are available.

As Robert L. Pike, Fish penned the novel Mute Witness which became the police thriller classic Bullit with Steve McQueen. 

This one's a cozy mystery set on a cruise ship, so deck has an extra meaning. It's from 1971, published by Ace Star. 

Death Cuts the Deck by Robert L. Fish

Death Cuts the Deck


Monday, January 11, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - Devil Day - basis for the film Madhouse

I'm a big fan of the Vincent Price vehicle Madhouse (1974), in which he plays a horror star whose return sparks a series of murders. To me, it along with Theatre of Blood from United Artists, are interesting, seventies tales of horror and revenge that showcase Price in diverse roles. Madhouse was his final excursion with American International Pictures, however, ending an era. 

The film's based on the British novel Devilday. Editions with Price on the cover exist, but this is the British edition from Sphere that's dated September 1970. The ACE edition with the same cover is listing for $768 on Amazon right now, with $3.99 shipping, so I'm glad I got it when I did. 


Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Home For the Holidays - Mining Moments

 The holidays seem vast and brief at the same time. I always feel a little tinge of something when I'm putting away Christmas decorations.

I open a box to put something back and find an item I tucked away in November when I took everything else out. And it hits me that the time has passed quickly, as all time does. It immediately feels as if it was long ago the boxes were put back in storage and as if it was seconds.

I had a nice holiday season with my wife Christine, and it did stretch a bit in spite of the flash feeling. I watched a lot of movies, of course. We're working to stay safe and sane.

Happiest Season on Hulu caught my interest early on because it was not just another Christmas movie. It's LGBT-themed and semi-autobiographical for writer-director Clea DuVall, and I thought it was fun and equally poignant in its exploration of people finding their true selves while coping with family pressures.

Christine and I watched and liked The Queen's Gambit together,  at the same time everyone was. "You always have liked smart girls," Christine reminded me. 

I got on a Bond kick later in the season. Friends were rewatching and a common podcast led to several concurrent purchases of the Nobody Does it Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond. 

Several Christmases ago, a lot of Christmases actually, I got boxed sets of the films up through the Pierce Brosnans. (Later, as they came out, I got Blu-Rays of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.) During the holiday break that first year of ownership, I rewatched most of the flicks starting with Dr. No and enjoyed the disc extras with each.

That was long enough ago, the new viewing experience was fresh.  

Doing that again was a different but fun experience, and afforded a bit of "where was I when" thinking. The first ever Bond on my radar was On Her Majesty's Secret Service

My mom got her hair done in a hair salon across from the theater in the little town where I grew up. One of the younger stylists mentioned the film and that a new star was taking over. I remember looking out the window at the poster of George Lazenby on skis. Didn't  actually see a Bond other than the David Niven Casino Royale until Man With the Golden Gun, though I recall ads for Diamonds are Forever and Live and Let Die. I can't recall ads for You Only Lives Twice, but it open roughly the same time as The Dirty Dozen, for which I saw ads on TV and in magazines. I went to see that with my dad and my uncle. My uncle feared I wouldn't sit still for a feature film, but I did, half of it on the upper edge of a theater seat because my weight didn't push the folding cushion down. 

SEE ALSO: The Red Cardigan

Back to Now
In the mix this season, I kept up with The Mandalorian though there were still a few spoilers in spite of everything. You can't watch fast enough. When I saw You-Know-Who's Instagram post of himself going Shhhh, I knew what that had to mean. Clearly, as I just noted, you gotta watch it when it drops. 

I fit in a Christmas Day showing of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim as well, the classic 1951 rendering that holds up so well. It was a nice alternative to Bells of St. Mary's or It's A Wonderful Life, both of which I love but also have memorized.

We got enough cold in Williamsburg for it to feel like the holidays, though it deterred walking a bit too, which Christine and I enjoy.

Christine and I fit in a few walks to look at decorations in spite of the cold, and we got to see the Saturn/Jupiter alignment, though with streetlights and surprisingly busy sidewalks, we didn't get quite the view we were hoping for. Part of the time I thought it might be distant radio towers we were seeing before deciding that had to be the view. So it goes.

We adopted our new friend ZoĆ« right before the holidays as well, so part of the time we enjoyed the journey of her feeling more and more at home. I put Band Aids on a few bites and scratches as she was getting comfortable. 

I also spent a good bit of time shaking out shoes and looking under furniture for feather-tailed toys she enjoyed but had a tendency to lose. 

Nothing profound here, just a few notes so that I'll remember later, because with my friend Lee's death, I've realized how much days can blur together and how hard it can be to mine moments from memory. 

Once that wasn't as hard, but there were fewer years to look back on. Now there are more with more thoughts crowding the attic.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - The Butterfly Revolution by William Butler

I suppose The Butterfly Revolution by William Butler fits best into a sub-genre somewhere along side something like Glendon Swarthout's Bless the Beasts and Children and maybe even Lord of the Flies. The cover blurb suggests that as you can see. You can also read a brief review here

The book focuses on an uprising at a summer camp and the establishment of a new, brutal order by the victorious young revolutionaries. It's copyright 1961.

It's not a slasher film, though the marketing and poster for the loose movie adaptation, Summer Camp Nightmare (1987) channels that vibe at least at a glance. 

The big name in the cast is Chuck Connors as the camp director with Melissa Reeves of Days of Our Lives in a supporting role. 

This Ballantine edition is from December, 1973, the 11th printing. Butler's other books include The House at Akiya and The Experiment. 

SEE ALSO: Biblioholic's Bookshelf- The Scarf by Robert Bloch

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Memory and Loss

 I've been in a remembering mode for the last few days. I guess my last post on "A Christmas Memory" touched on that. Maybe it's the holidays or just COVID times. My cousin, who is deeply immersed in family history, sort of fueled it further with a Merry Christmas email that mentioned places my mom and grandmother lived before my parents were married.

That sent me to Google Street View to check out my childhood home. It's still there, though looking different on a little street across from the high school in my home town. The siding's new along with a few other features, but the back porch with its red brick steps and ornamental iron posts looks the same. It's only four or five steps, but it seemed mountainous when I was a kid.

It's hard to describe how looking at a recent photo makes me feel. It's a bit bittersweet, though that's not quite the right word. It's just a rush of emotion and memory.

I can recall the guy down the street got a pirate costume one Halloween, just one of those crappy, in-a-bag jobs with the shiny fabric they call vintage these days. I remember him before Trick-or-Treating hanging out and climbing onto that irorn work with a toy hammer and declaring: "Me gonna fix this ship."And I remember sitting on those steps and reading Superman No. 199 in which he raced The Flash. 

So that's the place I was in when I got word last night one of my old friends from high school and college days passed away. Not the kid in the pirate suit. The segue's a little awkward. 

This guy's name was Lee. 

I immediately thought of him calling and waking me up on what would have had to have been June 1, 1984. I'd started working the 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift at the newspaper, so an early call was like the middle of the night. I grumbled, but then I realized Star Trek III: The Search for Spock opened that day and we needed to find out how things turned out with our favorite Vulcan. 

Seeing Trek was a tradition. We'd been Trek fans a long time. We'd been friends a long time. He lived around the corner from me, and we rode bikes as kids. 

He'd actually been the one to purchase the Star Trek Concordance, which was a handy guide in the days before the internet. Gaming was on a Commodore 64, by the way. We explored Zork and other worlds of Infocom. 

We actually missed seeing Star Trek II together because he was running late, and we couldn't get into an opening night showing. I saw it the next day with my girlfriend at the time. She was not a Trek fan. Her friend, who did get in the night before, had been saddened. "Paula said somebody died." Yeah, that spoiler was on Lee. 

We got past that, and we continued to see movies during our early working life.

I'm not sure when our paths diverged, but over time we drifted into different circles. He went back to school, I got married. He later worked in IT at the company where my wife worked, so I'd hear of him a lot more than I saw him, then I left Central Louisiana.

We caught up on Facebook a couple of years ago. He found me, and we kept in touch via posts. He'd moved to Baton Rouge for new IT jobs and was active in a church music program. He'd always been in choir and played the piano well. 

I noted his occasional post about bad service at a quick stop or other steps along his path, noticed not too ago he was dating someone. I was happy for him. Saw pics at a high school reunion I didn't attend because of COVID. He was there in the mix of old friends. 

I shared a meme about Louisiana foods not too many days ago. How many have you had? Along with a lot of other people, he responded adding a quip, a familiar Cajun exclamation. Not something that warranted a response by me in a long thread, but a reminder he was out there living his life. 

Then word came he'd had a heart attack in his home. Someone I didn't know remembered him fondly. 

And suddenly 30 years are compressed, and I'm contemplating, amid this year of death and chaos, yet again how fast it all seems to have been when you look back.

And you start mining your memory. Yep, we saw Raiders together, my second viewing. Dune, Never Ending Story, Krull. All early '80s. 

Okay there were films and dinners. Was he in that mix of friends discussing 30's onslaught? When did we go our separate ways. 

Couldn't tell you. 

But he scored 22 out of 23 dishes on a New Orleans food test. Which one was he missing? Shrimp BBQ or turtle soup?

Ayeeeeee. I should have asked when I had the chance. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Favorite Short Stories - A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

I read "A Christmas Memory" first in junior high. 

It was assigned reading in our textbook. I didn't know who Truman Capote was yet. My Weekly Reader neglected coverage of the Black and White Ball and didn't review In Cold Blood. 

It was just another story in the reader back then, but Capote writes in that little tale of an elderly cousin who was a friend to him in his childhood. 

As I was growing up, my grandmother, my mother's mother, lived with my family. She was my babysitter when I was little since my mom was a high school teacher.

The relationship between Buddy, the narrator, and his cousin reminded me of my relationship with my grandmother. 

She was as much a friend as a guardian. She worked hard to keep me from killing myself, but she didn't worry much if the afternoon movie was playing Them or The Incredible Shrinking Man

She told me stories of her youth, an early bad marriage, an early widowhood in a second, happier union. She was an ally against my mom who'd inherited a strict approach from a Baptist minister grandfather even though we were Methodists.

My grandmother cooked though she didn't have the inclination toward fruitcakes exhibited by Buddy's cousin. I don't remember a signature dish.

I do recall her liking Delaware Punch, a soft drink. It's all but gone I read the other day. I haven't seen a bottle in years. But at a little grocery store back in the day, we'd slide bottles out from the case-style soft drink machines where the bottles dangled inside and cool air rushed up when you looked in.

The family lore held, since she'd lost a son to a heart attack two months before I was born, that taking care of me revitalized my grandmother.   

She took me to kindergarten on Fridays until I went every day the following year. We took a cab driven by a guy who looked to me like The Skipper from Gilligan's Island. She dressed up for those occasions, wore a hat and waited for me at the bottom of a flight of stairs outside the classroom. 

My grandmother was still alive, still living with us when I read A Christmas Memory for the first time. She'd live three, maybe four years longer. Happily at that time in my life years didn't tick past like seconds and certainly not like the blur 2020 has proved to be.

But even then, in reading, I could see that the world was finite. The story offered a bit of a bittersweet portent, especially when it reached this passage:

"...more and more thirteenths are not the only days she stays in bed: a morning arrives in November, a leafless birdless coming of winter morning, when she cannot rouse herself to exclaim: "Oh my, it's fruitcake weather."

I guess in some ways, the tale prepared me even as it celebrated the relationship of Buddy and his cousin. My grandmother passed away the day after I finished my first year in high school. I always suspected she held on to let me finish final exams.

I picked up the boxed 1966 edition of the story for probably a dollar years later at a library book sale. I keep it around for Christmas re-reads. It triggers good memories. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - The Dark Shadows Book of Vampires And Werewolves

Happily as I mentioned recently, the original Dark Shadows novels are being reissued. This is another adjacent, branded book from the original Paperback Library era. It includes classics such as John Polidori's early tale of a gentleman vampire,"The Vampyre." That was begun, of course, during the same writing challenge that produced Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.  It seems an appropriate public domain choice for a collection adjacent to the world of Barnabas Collins. 

The complete contents are listed on Goodreads

This one is copyright August, 1970 by Dan Curtis Productions.  

The Dark Shadows Book of Vampires and Werewolves

The Dark Shadows Book of Vampires and Werewolves Back Cover

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Season's Greetings - Robin and Red Berries

Robin and Tree Red Berries

Just happened to spot a robin while walking the other day. Looked seasonal. 


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