Saturday, January 5, 2013

a few more Friday's "Forgotten" Books: the links for the New Year

As the year is still new both for our Common Era and for FFB founder Patti Abbott (whose natal anniversary is also 1/1), it's time for another hosting of books deserving more current attention (or sometimes just about any attention), and links to our reviews and citations of them, here rather than at PattiNase, Ms. Patricia Abbott (née Nase)'s own more splendiferous and consistently open-endedly querying blog. As frequently, more links might well be added over the course of the day and if I've missed yours, or anyone else's, review or citation, please feel free to let me know in comments. Thanks very much, everyone...and a happy and thoroughly well-read new year to us all, particularly the  triskaidekaphobes among us...(sympathies). Patti will likely be gathering the links again next week.

Sergio Angelini: The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis

Joe Barone: Something the Cat Dragged In by Charlotte MacLeod

Les Blatt: The Golden Dagger by E. R. Punshon

Brian Busby: Mr. Ames Against Time by Philip Child

Bill Crider: The Last Man on Earth edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg and Charles Waugh

Scott Cupp: Peabody's Mermaid by Constance and Guy Jones

William Deeck: Great Black Kanba by Constance and Gwenyth Little

Curt Evans: Monkshood by Eden Phillpotts

Jerry House: They Shall Have Stars by James Blish (also collected in Blish's Cities in Flight omnibus); Doctor Who and an Unearthly Child by Terrance Dicks

Ed Gorman: Phony Tinsel by Robert S. Levinson; The Power by Frank M. Robinson

Josef Hoffmann: Music and Crime

Randy Johnson: The Creative Murders by "Carter Brown" (cover images possibly NSFW)

Nick Jones: The Green Wound; The Silken Baroness by "Philip Atlee"

George Kelley: The Secret of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett; 
John Carstairs: Space Detective by Frank Belknap Long

Margot Kinberg: The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton

BV Lawson: Cast for Death by Margaret Yorke

Evan Lewis: The Creeping Siamese by Dashiell Hammett

Todd Mason: Infinite Jests edited by Robert Silverberg; Titters edited by Deanne Stillman and Anne Beats (please see below)

Neer: The Muderer is a Fox by "Ellery Queen"

John F. Norris: Room to Swing by Ed Lacy

Juri Nummelin: Echo Park by Michael Connelly

Patrick Ohl: Death of Jezebel by Christianna Brand

Richard Pangburn: Book Case by Stephen Grennleaf

James Reasoner: Cody's Law: The Prisoners by "Matthew S. Hart" (Bill Crider and James Reasoner)

Karyn Reeves: A Family and a Fortune by Ivy Compton-Burnett

Gerard Saylor: Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale

Ron Scheer: Out of Drowning Valley by Susan Carleton Jones; The Blowholers by John Reese

Michael Slind: A Murder of Quality by "John le Carré"

Dan Stumpf: Outlaw Guns by "Murray Leinster"

"TomCat": Corpse Candle by Paul Doherty

Prashant Trikannad: The Penguin Book of Comics by George Perry and Alan Aldridge; Witch House by "Evangeline Walton" (cover by Ronald Clyne) 

Infinite Jests was one of the books my father picked up as a remainder, not too long (perhaps a year) after it was published by Chilton in 1974...Sterling Lanier had been fired as an editor there, some months after persuading them to publish the first hardcover edition of Frank Herbert's was a slow seller at first, and a far cry from Chilton's bread and butter, car-repair manuals. That you have almost certainly heard of Dune even if you know very little about science fiction tells you a little about how that eventually turned out (and about the fine commercial instincts of all the more likely publishers who'd rejected Herbert's novel before Lanier was able to see it through).  Chilton took a flier on a few other sf and fantasy titles in the wake (scirocco?) of Dune, including Lanier's own novel Hiero's Journey and this anthology...which I suspect isn't the first anthology of humorous sf, but might be among the first:
(courtesy ISFDb:)

So, I'm ten years old when this book materializes in the house, with a so-so Cheshire Cat-inspired cover (by one Jack Freas, not untalented but apparently no relation to Kelly and credited with only two covers at ISFDb) and a slightly sturdier production standard than my father's (and my own) other fiction hardcovers, which are uniformly the wares of the Doubleday Book Clubs...but the contents made an impression. The Damon Knight story is one of his best, a bitter and funny account of what life is like when no one can communicate through words (from the first issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction, which would be one of the first such collectables I would buy a few years later. The Russ story was an excellent introduction to her work, pages from a tourist's guide for visiting other planets with sentient life, including that that might either find us tasty or be tasty to us (among the most repeated phrases, in several contexts, is "I am inedible."). The Lafferty is a typical tall tale in his best mode, involving a culture which can go through a renaissance in a few minutes time, while stifling yawns. I'd first read Philip "William Tenn" Class, with his sinister but funny early classic "Child's Play," in a Silverberg YA anthology, Beyond Control, which I'd borrowed from the Enfield public library not too many months before, and likewise was happy to see more work in this adult book from Brian Aldiss, Alfred Bester and others I'd read in anthologies aimed at young readers (even if the stories collected in those YA books were not written with kids in mind). And Grahame Leman's story, "Conversational Mode," about a psychologist under the rigid care of the psychiatric computer program he helped to devise, was definitely in a latter-day "Child's Play" mode, one of the few stories published by Leman (no relation to the similarly good and unprolific Bob Leman, I believe), and what Avram Davidson cited, in his F&SF review of the book (despite his own story included: "Well, I liked it." being his only comment on this initiation of a short comic series of Goldpepper, DDS, stories by him) , as one of the providers of "laughter with a bubble of blood in it." It made a good impression.
A more generic if  better-rendered
qp reprint cover I've never seen.

Somewhat less good, if (if anything) more ambitious, is what boldly claims to have been the first anthology of women's humor (I haven't yet found an earlier example, but I haven't tried too hard)...Deanne Stillman and Anne Beatts (and Judith Jacklin/Belushi)'s Titters, which mixes new and reprinted material from a range of the National Lampoon/Saturday Night Live/NYC hipster crowd the editors (and illustrator/designer) moved in, peppered lightly with some of the most congruent short items they could obtain from influences and fellow-travelers both obvious (Florence King, Fran Lebowitz, underground comix artists such as Aline Kominsky, Diane Noomin and Trina Robbins, even a comically censored contribution by Richard Belzer) and (at first) perhaps less so (Phyllis Diller, Anne Meara, Erma Bombeck, Peg Bracken). Both the strengths and the weaknesses of the NatLamp school of comic presentation are present: the contributors, often the editors in collaboration with others but by no means exclusively, are extremely well-versed in the pop culture of the times (the book was first published in 1976), and are whip-smart in their ability to accurately parody the forms of things ranging from True Confessions magazine and its imitators to Erica Jong's Fear of Flying to Marabel Morgan's then hugely popular how-to guide for sexual self-abnegation The Total Woman to "Brenda Starr" newspaper comics to Nora Ephron's essays and other common contents of the then-newish Ms. magazine. The downside is, as with too much of the other work to come out of the 'Poon and its environs, was too much unchanneled rage is on display, sometime too little artistry, sometimes the notion that sophomoric shock is funny in some extent, sometimes...but too often, not so much. Particularly now that what was shocking and grotesque and edgy in 1972 and maybe still to some extent in '76 is  rather too it might just be grotesque in a rather dull, familiar way.  Certainly the 1984 sequel to this book, from the same trio and with some of the same collaborators, the fake-women's literature textbook Titters 101 has a more even tone, and less variation in the quality of the contributions...but you do have a sense of the urgency and (despite the rancid edge of some of what's here) the same sort of infectious sisterhood in practice as such projects as Wimmen's Comix or even secondary parody target We, Ourselves (the slightly post-hippy Boston Women's Health Collective guidebook) is present here...because even if they weren't the first, as they say they were, they were certainly among the first...and it's sharper, on average, than the collections out of the Lampoon...I wonder what the instigating trio are up to now...

(Note the slightly more early-'80s flare of the Titters 101 model's wardrobe...)


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, thanks very much for the FFB links. As usual I see a lot of interesting stuff here and some new blog links too.

Louis XIV, "The Sun King" (Nick Jones) said...

Yes, as Prashant says, lots to click through this week. Cheers for the link to mine, Todd – you probably spotted I haven't done any reviews for a while, what with year-end round-ups and, y'know, real life. In fact I can't believe everyone else has got back into FFB reviewing so quickly. What a dedicated bunch. Puts me to shame...

Todd Mason said...

Thank you, gentlemen. I hope to have my own review written by the end of the day!

John said...

Mine's done and posted now, Todd. Here's the link to Room to Swing by Ed Lacy

George said...

Todd, you might want to consider changing my link to FFB #203: John Carstairs: Space Detective By Frank Belknap Long.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, John! I'll add yours in, George...this morning, I was finding the It Works! page on your general link, again.

Richard L. Pangburn said...

Hey, I've got one today, although the blogger refuses to load my dusjacket pictures.


Brian Busby said...

Just noticed that the link to my post is incorrect. Here's what it should be:

Thanks for your good work, Todd. What's a Friday without forgotten books?

Todd Mason said...

Ah...your address was accidentally clipped to

...which puts one onto a blog with one entry on it, oddly enough one not reviewing the book in question. Sorry about that.