Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday's "Forgotten" Books and More: the links to the reviews 20 July 2018

This week's books, unfairly (or sometimes fairly) neglected, or simply those the reviewers below think you might find of some interest (or, infrequently, you should be warned away from); certainly, this week as most weeks we have a few not at all forgotten titles (this week's chiefest ringer is the new Laura Lippman novel).  Patti Abbott expects to return to hosting next week...and if I've missed yours or someone else's, please let me know in comments...

Frank Babics: The Stereoscope by John Saul

Mark Baker: That Touch of Ink by Diane Vallere

Yvette Banek: Death in High Provence by George Bellairs; all FFBs

Les Blatt: Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

Elgin Bleecker: Some Die Hard by Stephen Mertz

Brian Busby: Paul Fulford: works and career

Martin Edwards: The Theft of the Iron Dogs by E.C.R. Lorac

Barry Ergang (hosted by Kevin Tipple): Extenuating Circumstances by Jonathan Valin

Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: EC Comics, May 1955

Will Errickson: Harlan Ellison, RIP; New Terrors (US edition) edited by Ramsey Campbell

Curtis Evans: "Q. Patrick"

Paul Fraser: New Worlds SF, March 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock

Barry Gardner: Rescue by Jeremiah Healey

John Grant: Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker

Rich Horton: Lady Merton, Colonist (aka Canadian Born) by Mrs. Humphry Ward (aka Mary Augusta Ward nee Arnold)

Jerry House: The Green Eyes of Bast by Sax Rohmer; Red Ryder by Jerry Harman

Kate Jackson: Tread Softly by Brian Flynn

Tracy K: The Private Practice of Michael Shayne by "Brett Halliday" (Davis Dresser)

George Kelley: You'll Get Yours by William Ard; The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1954 edited by Everett Bleiler and T. E. Dikty

Joe Kenney: Death Rock by Maxene Fabe

Margot Kinberg: Invisible Dead by Sam Wiebe

Rob Kitchin: Book of Scars by William Shaw

Kate Laity: Sunburn by Laura Lippman

B. V. Lawson: The Experiences of Loveday Brook, Lady Detective by Catherine Louisa Pirkis

Evan Lewis: War of the Dons by Peter Rabe; Archie Andrews and Jughead's first appearance: "Archie" by Bob Montana and Vic Bloom (Pep Comics #22, December 1941)

Steve Lewis: 7 Suspects (aka Death at the President's Lodging) by Michael Innes: Three Thirds of a Ghost by Timothy Fuller

Todd Mason: S-F: The Year's Finest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1956 First Annual) edited by Judith Merril; The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels: Ninth Series (1958 last volume) edited by T. E. Dikty and Earl Kemp

J. F. Norris: FFBs

Juri Nummelin: Sunburn by Laura Lippman; Grover Brinkman fiction

John O'Neill, Barry Malzberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro: the Pocket Books 1970s SF/Fantasy The Best of [Given Writer] series of collections

Matt Paust: Red Square by Martin Cruz Smith

Mildred Perkins: His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

J. Kingston Pierce: Manhunt, January 1953, edited by "John McCloud" (Scott Meredith)

James Reasoner: When Dames Get Tough by "Hank Janson" (Stephen D. Francis)

Richard Robinson: The Jewel That Was Ours by Colin Dexter; West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar by Raoul Whitfield

Gerard Saylor: My Helmet for a Pillow by Robert Leckie

Jack Seabrook: "Enough Rope for Two" by Clark Howard

Steven H. Silver: "Sweet Bells Jangled" by Martha Soukup; "The Constable of Abal" by Kelly Link; "Michael Laurits Is: Drowning" by Paul Cornell; "Chicken Little" by Cory Doctorow; "Miranda's Muse" by Esther Friesner; "The Events at Poroth Farm" by T. E. D. Klein

Kerrie Smith: Agatha Christie's True Crime Inspirations by Mike Holgate

Dan Stumpf: The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

"TomKat": The Case of the Kidnapped Coloneand The Case of the Fighting Soldier by Christopher Bush

Danielle Torres: Letters from Palestine by Anaele and Delphine Hermans

David Vineyard: The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Söderberg

FFB: S-F: THE YEAR'S GREATEST SCIENCE-FICTION AND FANTASY (First Annual) edited by Judith Merril (Dell; Gnome Press 1956); THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES AND NOVELS: Ninth Series edited by T. E. Dikty and Earl Kemp (Advent: Publishers/Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club 1958)

The last and the first.

In 1956, Judith Merril was already a veteran anthologist in the fantastic-fiction arena, her first effort thus a 1950 assembly of sf, fantasy and horror from Bantam entitled Shot in the Dark in part because that's how the publishers looked at the project; you don't see stories by Jack London, Merril's old Futurian Society friend John Michel and Marjorie Allingham in immediate succession in too many books then, or now.  She was given, by Dell, the opportunity to edit the second US-based Best of the Year series to focus on short sf and fantasy, stressing the former...she could live with that...S-F in her early volumes officially stood for "science-fantasy" in the broadest sense (later, it abbreviated her revival of Robert Heinlein's suggestion of "speculative fiction"--covering all the fantastic, as Merril used it). Since 1949, there had already been a primarily science fictional BOTY, from the minor but professional hardcover house Frederick Fell, edited by Everett F. Bleiler and Ted Dikty (and George Kelley has been reviewing each in turn); Bleiler tapped out with the 1954 volumes, The Best Science Fiction of the Year and Year's Best Science Fiction Novels (devoted to novelets and novellas), perhaps in part because Fell didn't want to go forward with the longer-story annual, and the remaining volumes combined the shorter and longer stories. Dikty came to depend more and more on unofficial co-editor Earl Kemp, who was also part of the group of s-f/fanzine/convention fans who in 1955 came together to form Advent: Publishers, mostly with the intent of collecting Damon Knight's critical essays and reviews in book form, and In Search of Wonder saw its first edition that year. Advent decided to continue in that mode (publishing books about sf  and related matter by James Blish, Robert Bloch and others), and apparently Fell, which began publishing operations in 1949 with, among other books, an artistically wildly uneven and not terribly commercial set of sf releases, and whose sf program shrank almost immediately to their two annuals, decided after the 1956 volume that they didn't want to publish The Best Science Fiction of the Year either, and so there was no 1957 volume...but there was a 1958 volume, published via a partnership between Advent and Doubleday's Science Fiction Book Club: Doubleday printed the copies, including the perhaps thousand or so Advent received for sale to the general and library trade, while the SFBC edition, identical except for the lack of price on the jacket and "Book Club Edition" in its usual place on the front flap, was made available to the membership.  The fan-initiated Gnome Press, one of the most prosperous (but apparently not the most ethically-run) of the small houses publishing a lot of sf and fantasy magazine reprint material the larger houses weren't picking up too readily in the early and mid 1950s, got the rights to publish the hardcover editions for the first several volumes from Dell, till Gnome began to completely collapse and Merril and Dell struck up a deal with Simon & Schuster for the hardcover editions with the fourth volume. Meanwhile, the Richard Powers cover for the Dell paperback and the Edward Emshwiller design for the Gnome hardcover jacket were both typically wonders who misspelled Avram Davidson's name below, however.

SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy ed. Judith Merril (Gnome, 1956, $3.50, 352pp, hc)
While writer Julian May (Dikty)'s clip art-style and basic typography cover for the Advent/SFBC final volume was certainly functional (she was far better known for her story "Dune Roller"--which she also illustrated for its magazine appearance--and would return to writing sf after a long hiatus with a series of novels, and also short movie novelizations as by "Ian Thorne", in the early 1980s).

The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels: 9th Series ed. T. E. Dikty and Earl Kemp (Advent:Publishers; Doubleday SFBC, 1958, hc; 258 + vi pp)
    • · The Science-Fiction Year · T. E. Dikty · ar
    • 14 · 2066: Election Day · Michael Shaara · ss Astounding Dec 1956
    • 28 · The Mile-Long Spaceship · Kate Wilhelm · ss Astounding Apr 1957
    • 37 · The Last Victory · Tom Godwin · ss If Aug 1957
    • 53 · Call Me Joe · Poul Anderson · nv Astounding Apr 1957
    • 85 · Didn’t He Ramble · Chad Oliver · ss F&SF Apr 1957
    • 97 · The Queen’s Messenger · John J. McGuire · nv Astounding May 1957
    • 119 · The Other People · Leigh Brackett · nv Venture Mar 1957, as “The Queer Ones”
    • 155 · Into Your Tent I’ll Creep · Eric Frank Russell · ss Astounding Sep 1957
    • 164 · Nor Dust Corrupt · James V. McConnell · ss If Feb 1957
    • 178 · Nightsound · Algis Budrys · ss Satellite Science Fiction Feb 1957, as “The Attic Voice”
    • 189 · The Tunesmith · Lloyd Biggle, Jr. · nv If Aug 1957
    • 226 · Hunting Machine · Carol Emshwiller · ss Science Fiction Stories May 1957
    • 233 · The Science-Fiction Book Index · Earl Kemp · ix
One notes both anthologies hew pretty closely to the sf and fantasy magazines for their selections, with the Merril showing a slightly greater eclecticism in sources, if not to nearly the same degree she would later, with stories from a paperback collection and Bluebook and Good Housekeeping, the latter by fantastic specialist Jack Finney. Both mix new and veteran writers, and both limit the contributions by women writers to three each...if rather stellar trios: Shirley Jackson, Mildred Clingerman and Zenna Henderson in the Merril, Leigh Brackett, Kate Wilhelm and Carol Emshwiller in the Dikty/Kemp. Only Jackson and Brackett could be considered true veterans at time of inclusion, though Clingerman, Henderson and Emshwiller were a few years into their careers. 

The Merril book begins with Orson Welles's account of his wife Paola Mori and a publisher friend going and buying the actor/director a gift of a shelf-full of sf and similar novels, and how little he enjoyed most of the course of making a pitch for the short fiction in the field, which was less likely to be written by an opportunistic veteran or tyro writer, either sort frequently not up to speed with the best of sf, as the novels often were in 1955. Not that there was any lack of hackwork in the magazines, particularly the lesser ones, which were undergoing the first thinning out, after a boom in the early 1950s in the wake of the insurgent successes of the new Galaxy and the improved, more mature Startling Stories, and the continuing good profitability of Astounding SF, as the American News Company, the distributor which handled perhaps half  or more of the magazine traffic in the States, was beginning to lose some of its major clients before the company was sold off piecemeal in 1957 for its real estate and other assets, more valuable by some distance in total than its stock price had been. The glut of magazines had made it possible for a half-competent writer to place any given half-competent story Somewhere in the field, but this also didn't do any favors for the magazines as a whole, since it meant casual or first-time sf/fantasy magazine readers often were as likely to find a mediocre experience at best in their purchase as a good or better one. But, nonetheless, the magazines did tend to have editors more knowledgeable about sf, fantasy and horror than the paperback or hardcover book houses did, with some few exceptions...and even the lower-budgeted magazines often featured work less spavined than too many of the novels, whether new books or primitive or otherwise unworthy reprints. It might also be noted that Dell was fond of getting some sort of Name associated with their magazines and paperback anthologies in those years, not infrequently a Hollywood celebrity such as Welles or Alfred Hitchcock. 

Merril's first-volume preface is brief, and agrees with Welles's notion that sf and fantasy are the Fables of Today in 1956. And then leads off the fiction in her first volume with a relatively clumsy "first story", R. R. Merliss's "The Stutterer", which would turn out to be its young medical-doctor/writer's only story (at very least under his own name) in the sf/fantasy media; he would write two novels with medical themes, one an historical novel set during the Black Plague years, and the other a contemporary novel about life as a med student and intern, published in the 1960s, as by Reuben Merliss. The story, given it was published in Astounding, is remarkably clumsy not only in its literary qualities (often overlooked in that magazine) but also in some of its technological aspects, as it posits android soldiers built from an alloy so hard that an atomic blast at ground zero will do no more to it than crystallized a thin outer layer of it, without bothering to explain how such a material might be shaped or otherwise worked with in manufacture. Merliss also frequently jumps from
one character to another in terms of point of view in a scene to no good purpose, and explains every action of his characters at times in such a way that should've been pruned, but this was the beginning of the Tin Age at John Campbell's Astounding, where his attention was beginning to be concentrated in  fringe "science" and the political content of his editorials, and such miserable writers as E. B. Cole and the blandest sort of yard-goods writing by those who could do better, such as the young Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett, began to be staples of the magazine. Not a terrible story, but probably the worst in the book, and a very poor choice to start with. 

The next, much better story is also about an android, one of Avram Davidson's most famous, if a bit heavy on the fan service and easy schtick, "The Golem" elderly couple, the Gumbeiners, are visited one afternoon by a lumbering, gray-complected fellow who invites himself up onto their front porch, and begins to lecture them about how there is clearly an innate emnity between humanity and androids such as itself. The Gumbeiners are unimpressed. 

Humor, a bit more labored, continues with Robert Abernathy's "Junior", involving sentient polypoid sea creatures including an innovative young male who manages to upset tradition. A lot of fan service in this one, though with a cute notion to end with. 

James Gunn's "The Cave of Night" is, like the Davidson, his earliest widely-cited story, an account of the first human astronaut, launched in military secrecy and on a budget mission...and apparently through misadventure stranded in his disabled space capsule in Earth orbit, making broadcasts to the Earth below over shortwave as he awaits probably unlikely rescue or for his oxygen to run out in about a month's time. The pompous tone which runs through the piece is not completely excused by it being told by an old newspaper-reporter friend of the broadcasting astronaut. Nicely encapsulates the notion of three-stage rocketry for Earth-based space exploration, and deftly describes the impressive vistas from an orbiting craft, though.

More to come.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Getting Around: Saturday Music Club on Wednesday: mostly jazz and classical

Nellie McKay, Helen and Nick Forster, the eTones: "Unknown Reggae"

Cleo Brown: "Boogie Woogie"

Carmen McRae, Dave Brubeck, Randy Jones, Chris Brubeck: "New York State of Mind"

Max Roach, Tyrone Brown, Cecil Bridgewater, Odean Pope: "Perdido"  (in East Berlin, 1984)

The Gene Krupa Orchestra (arrangement by Gerry Mulligan): "How High the Moon"

Teo Macero, Charles Mingus, Orlando di Girolamo, Ed Shaughnessy: "How Low the Earth"

Chamber Orchestra of Europe: Alfred Schnittke: "Concerto Grosso No. 1"

The Playground Ensemble: Henryk Gorecki: "Quasi una Fantasia" String Quartet no. 2, Op. 64

Steffen Schleiermacher: Henry Cowell: "Three Irish Legends"

Ennio Morricone Orchestra: "Per Qualche Dollari In Piu" (3rd Cue)

Friday, July 13, 2018

FFB: THE BEST FROM FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION 11th Series edited by Robert P. Mills (Doubleday 1962); THE GHOUL KEEPERS edited by Leo Margulies (Pyramid 1961)

Two weeks ago, I reviewed Robert Mills's first of three annual best-of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction volumes, from his years of editorship of the magazine, whose name is usually abbreviated F&SF, and one of two Leo Margulies anthologies taken mostly from Dorothy McIlwraith's term as editor of Weird Tales (WT), including its revivals easily the next longest-running and certainly a similarly major influence on fantasy and horror (and to some extent suspense and science fiction) writing over the decades. This time, Mills's third and last annual volume, which managed to get the least ugly cover from the nonchalant Doubleday art department I recall among the whole series' run, by the talented but sparsely-employed Roger Zimmerman, and the less-elegantly, but punningly, titled other Margulies volume from Pyramid. 

The lineup in the Margulies volume is perhaps just slightly less impressive than in the previous one, but only just so; the lineup in the Mills if anything managing to be slightly better, if, again, only by some intangible fraction. And Ace Books even let the poetry and Mills's headnotes actually be reprinted in full in their reprint of this volume, apparently...only three poems this time, the Walt Whitman classic in lieu of an editorial introduction. (In the UK, Panther was less generous in their paperback reprint, excising the Reeves poetry and the stories by Evelyn E. Smith, John Anthony West and [Ms.] Jody Scott, the latter two the younger contributors to the book; the West had been apparently first published in the UK in a 1961 collection of his short stories, Call Out the Malicia, which was the source of West's three F&SF stories before Dutton reprinted his collection in the US in 1963.) The least well-known writers in the WT book are Harry Altschuler, later the literary agent who made such a famously bad deal for Robert Bloch with the purchasers of dramatic rights to Psycho for Alfred Hitchcock's production company (and was fired by Bloch soon after), and Helen W.(einbaum) Kasson, the sister of the short-lived but highly influential sf and fantasy writer Stanley G. Weinbaum, one of small cadre of siblings of more famous writers who made their own mark, such as also Mary Pangborn or to some extent Jane Aiken Hodge (one could probably also, perhaps unfairly as with Hodge, cite Hugh and Robert Benson, E. F. Benson's bothers, but that's more like a Bronte Sisters situation).
The most famous stories in each volume: an easy choice for the Mills, as "Harrison Bergeron" has almost certainly passed "Report on the Barnhouse Effect" as Kurt Vonnegut's single most famous and widely-reprinted story, and this account of a human world where all people are artificially restrained if they demonstrate any greater talent or attractiveness than anyone else is the close correspondent in familiarity to Daniel Keyes's "Flowers for Algernon" in Mills's first volume, the Ninth. In the Margulies, it's a bit closer, but the Robert Bloch lead-off story "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is probably the champion by a hair, and it's a clever and very hardboiled sort of suspense story, not supernatural horror except from the point of view of its benighted protagonist, who thinks he's been rescued from his homeless, abandoned state by an angelic woman and a generous but Satanic man, and how things go very wrong for everyone involved. It's appeared in a large number of Bloch's own collections, and in at least four anthologies which have seen multiple editions, including this one.  The lead story in the Mills is Avram Davidson's very funny "The Sources of the Nile", in which a busy but underpaid writer (not a situation unfamiliar to Davidson himself) stumbles across a family who anticipate trends to a fabulous degree, and almost grabs a brass ring of fame and fortune with them...but an underestimated villain manages to snatch them away...and marry the writer's neglected womanfriend, to boot. Plot is not the strong point in this story, as with many of Davidson's best, so much as often hilarious, acutely observed detail and anecdote, obscure references deftly woven in...and, as with the Bloch story, a beautiful blond woman as the protagonist's obsession, though in the Davidson story understood all too well by her would-be swain as opposed to misunderstood almost completely.

The remarkable balance of the contributors to both books deserves some quick annotation, at least: in the F&SF book, Jay Williams was best known then and probably remains so for his young-readers' novels about Danny Dunn; Evelyn Smith was a contributor to most of the fantasy magazines, and number of sf magazines particularly in the 1950s, and particularly to, initially, Anthony Boucher's F&SF before Mills. Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Gordon R. Dickson and Clifford D. Simak need little introduction to most readers of fiction from sf and fantasy magazines; Anderson and Dickson notably collaborated early on (particularly on the humorous "Hoka" stories), and Simak was one of the primary models that Asimov patterned his fiction after, in the latter's early career. "Cordwainer Smith" was the pseudonym Paul Linebarger, and eventually his wife Genevieve Linebarger as well if mostly in collaboration, used for their speculative fiction writing, most of it within a series called the "Instrumentality of Mankind". Charles G. Finney, best remembered for his novel The Circus of Dr. Lao, which has been influential on a number of writers, ranging from Ray Bradbury through Jonathan Lethem (Pyramid editor D. R. Bensen prominently blurbed their edition of Finney's The Ghosts of Manacle as "The damnedest book you ever read"); Jody Scott, whose first story this was, went on to write at least four novels, with one published only recently, a decade after her death, as a part of a loose, bitterly satirical series of science-fantasies, and one, a recent-past historical novel set during the Free Speech Movement activism at UC Berkeley, published only so far as an edited novella in an issue of Escapade magazine. John Anthony West, who died in February, and devoted much of his later life to speculative Egyptology, was one of several writers over the decades mostly to publish a few stories over a stretch of years mostly in F&SF, albeit all his F&SF stories were reprints from a UK collection and his three later short fictions in the field were sold to Damon Knight, and to Ben Bova at OmniRosser Reeves was one of the more important innovators in advertising in the '60s and '70s, who contributed three poems to F&SF at the turn of the '60s, and one short story to the last, April 1960, issue of Robert Lowndes's Future Science Fiction. And this John Berry, as opposed to the large handful of other literary John Berrys who lived and published through the latter half of the 20th Century, is perhaps best-known for his Macmillan Prize-winning first and only novel, Krishna Fluting (1959).

While in the WT volume, along with Bloch, stalwarts of the Dorothy McIlwraith years of the magazine Theodore Sturgeon and Ray Bradbury have stories in, as they did in the previous one, Sturgeon's the one sf story in the book; this was usually Edmond Hamilton's bailiwick in WT, as the primary contributor, along with (to some extent) H. P. Lovecraft, of what earlier editor Farnsworth Wright liked to cal the "weird-scientific" stories in the magazine; his story here is more in dark fantasy mode. One of the Gavagan's Bar club/pub-stories of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, accomplished fantasists and historians both, is included, as well as one of the Jules de Grandin psychic investigator stories by Seabury Quinn, throughout the pulp years apparently the most popular feature of Weird Tales with readers. Henry Kuttner is represented, and represents the heroic fantasy tradition in the magazine, with one of his Elak of Atlantis stories, not quite as famous as his eventual wife Catherine L. Moore's "Jirel of Joiry" stories, nor Robert E. Howard's several series featuring Conan, or other adventurers, but still notable. Weinbaum Kasson and, perhaps oddly, Altshuler (with his only story in the fantastic press, apparently, perhaps his only published story) round out the book.  Thus, The Ghoul Keepers is perhaps a shade less impressive than its predecessor, as noted before (though the Bloch story here is certainly a better one), the 11th Best from F&SF at least as good as the 9th (and easier to find in an unabridged edition). 

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Some more women musicians, with and without some men (who explain later): Saturday Music Club in Mountain Time

A Tribe Called Red and Northern Voice: "Sisters"

Fanny: "Summer Song"

Strawberry Parfait: "Bulldog", "The Fugitive" and "The House of the Rising Sun"

Samantha Fish Band: "Cowtown"; "Need You More"; "Don't Say You Love Me"; "Daughters"; "American Dream"

Rising Appalachia: "Swoon"

Carion: "Six Bagatelles" (composer: Györgi Ligeti)

Barbara Hannigan and the Gothenburg Symphony Chamber Orchestra: "Mysteries of the Macabre" (composer: Györgi Ligeti; arrangement: Elgar Howarth)

1991 composition or, at least, arrangement: "Mysteries of the Macabre" is an arrangement by Elgar Howarth of the 3 arias sung by the Gepopo character in György Ligeti’s opera, Le Grand Macabre (1974-77).

The Maria Schneider Orchestra: "Choro Dancado"

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm: "She's Crazy with the Heat"; "That Man of Mine"; "Jump Children"; unidentified instrumental piece; "How About That Jive"; "I Left My Man"; unidentified instrumental excerpt; "Don't Get It Twisted"; "Just the Thing"

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm: "Lady Be Good"

Jelly Roll Morton: "Improving Spanish Tempos/Creepy Feelings" (Library of Congress Recordings)

Maria Schneider at the Library of Congress

Ian MacKaye at the Library of Congress

Dorothy Disney, a pioneering marriage advice columnist as at least one obit claims (notably for THE LADIES HOME JOURNAL's "Can This Marriage Be Saved?"), was Ian MacKaye's grandmother. Fun fact revealed here (at least new to me).

Chris Hillman at the Library of Congress

Fanny: "Hey, Bulldog" (live in Philadelphia, 1973)

The Beatles: "Hey, Bulldog"

Happy belated birthday, Richard Starkey...