Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books for a New Year: the links to reviews, citations and more

Happy New Year, and a happy birthday to the list/roundelay originator and poobah Patti Nase aka Patricia Abbott!

Below we have this week's crop of books and other literary expression deserving (and, infrequently, not so much deserving) more attention than they are currently getting. If I've missed your or someone else's FFB review, please let me know in comments...such as the bumper year-end crop from Martin Edwards (Patti missed one, I missed several more). 

Walter Albert: Dead Guy's Stuff by Sharon Fiffer

Sergio Angelini: Rogue Moyle by James Ballantyne as "I Retru Grade"

Frank Babics: "The Sound of Murder" by Donald Westlake

Ben Boulden: High Stakes by Carolyn Hart

Brian Busby: 10 favorite older books purchased in 2015

Curt Evans: Christmas Corpus by Margaret Maron; The Player on the Other Side by Theodore Sturgeon and Frederic Dannay as by "Ellery Queen" among other treasures

Bill Crider: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Sixteenth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois

Scott A. Cupp: Night of the Jabberwock by Fredric Brown

Martin Edwards: Penhallow by Georgette Heyer; Paul Temple and the Front Page Men by Francis Durbridge; We Shot an Arrow by George Goodchild and Carl Bechhofer Roberts; Something Like a Love Affair by Julian Symons

Fred Fitch: Donald Westlake's work in the 1980s.

Barry Gardner: The Heat Islands by Randy Wayne White

Ed Gorman:  The Quarry novels by Max Allan Collins

John Grant: Surfeit of Lampreys by Ngaio Marsh

Rich Horton: Our Man in Space by Bruce W. Ronald/Ultimatum in 2050 A.D. by Jack Sharkey; The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne by William J. Locke

Jerry House: Into Plutonian Depths by Stanton Coblentz

Tracy K: classic and contemporary collections and anthologies

George Kelley: The Secret of Satan's Spine by Will Murray (as Kenneth Robeson)

Margot Kinberg: The Dead Pull Hitter by Alison Gordon

Rob Kitchin: The Getaway by Jim Thompson; Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason; The Music Lovers by Jonathan Valin

Steve Lewis: The Disappearance of Archibald Forsyth by Ian Alexander

Todd Mason: The Sense of the 60's edited by Edward Quinn and Paul J. Dolan; A Personal Demon by David Bischoff, Rich Brown and Linda Richardson (please see below)

Carol Matic: Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (and Nesbit and the Fabians)

Neer: 11 vintage crime novels; books on the Mahabharat

Mathew Paust: Lila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig

James Reasoner: The Ham Reporter by Robert Randisi

Richard Robinson: The Corpse in the Snowman by Nicholas Blake

Gerard Saylor: Worm by Anthony Neil Smith

Steve Scott: "No Grave Has My Love" by John D. MacDonald

Kevin Tipple: ...A Dangerous Thing by Bill Crider

"TomCat": The Cornish Coast Murder by "John Bude" (Ernest C. Elmore)

David Vineyard: Ann Sheridan and the Secret of the Sphinx (among others in its series) by Kathryn Heisenfelt

Todd Mason on
The Sense of the 60's, edited by Edward Quinn and Paul J. Dolan (The Free Press/Macmillan, 1968)
the back cover features a similar array of
other contributors' names...
I'm not absolutely certain, but it seems likely that this was a book assigned to my father, who fitfully took classes at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in the period we lived in that city, in order to get his BS degree in electrical engineering (he was in practical terms already an engineer, officially in those years a technician, on his way through engineering management to retire in air traffic systems design and planning on the national scale in the Federal Aviation Administration ...sometime toward the end of  his career, he took the exams that allowed him an equivalency of an MS in electronics engineering).

So, throughout my childhood, this text, with its relatively short items reprinted from a variety of sources, was kicking around the bookshelves of the house. It fascinated me, though to someone who turned five years old in 1969, it wasn't quite as easy to assimilate as, say, the multi-volume Time-Life pictorial history This Fabulous Century. But picking it up again, it's pretty impressive how much it helped nudge my thinking along, in its (frankly, often not terribly deep, slightly potted, though still rather engaging) panorama of takes on the society around us in 1967-68 and years just previous (though where are the "other" civil rights movements already often heard from by 1967, other than peaking around corners here?)...and, of course, the more sophisticated contemporary and other references were often simply puzzling to me at 8 or 11. But some of it was very striking, all of it seemed worth grappling with. (And it's notable that by time of publication, both King and RFK were still alive.)

Quinn and Dolan, in the course of other work together and separately, would produce similar anthologies, the next year with Relevances, and a decade later with The Sense of the 70's, but I didn't grow up with either of those, and have barely seen a copy of the latter volume; WorldCat, the source of this index, doesn't have a breakdown of either of those volumes' contents. Certainly this book was my first exposure to folks ranging from Lenny Bruce (through Albert Goldman's interpretation to be sure) to Paul Goodman and on over to Susan Sontag and back toward Bruce Jay Friedman. I doubt I knew who Stokely Carmichael nor Sargent Shriver were before first beginning to dive in...I might've known already (probably did) of Rachel Carson and Konrad Lorenz, from sources including other Time/Life Books (notably the Nature Library series).

Description:xii, 528 pages 21 cm
Contents:Part I. The sense of the sixties --
Growing up absurd --"human nature" and the organized system / Paul Goodman --
The mystical militants / Michael Harrington --
The student state of mind / Michael Vincent Miller --
The risk is juvenocracy / Lewis S. Feuer --
The new radicals and "participatory democracy" / Staughton Lynd --
A prophetic minority : the future / Jack Newfield --

Part II. The legacy --
Inaugural address / John F. Kennedy --
Romans / Murray Kempton and James Ridgeway --
Kennedy without tears / Tom Wicker --

Part III. The scene --
Notes on "camp" / Susan Sontag --
The pump house gang / Tom Wolfe --
The Peace Corps / Sargent Shriver --
Psychadelics : you can't bring the universe home / Paul Velde --
I hear America singing; or "Leaves of grass" revisited, like / Jean Sheperd --
Sex and secularization / Harvey Cox --

Part IV. The people --
The Bogart vogue : character and cult / Gerald Weales --
Martin Heidegger : the turning point / William Barrett --
The sign in Jimmy Breslin's front yard / Jimmy Breslin --
He's a happening : Robert Kennedy's road to somewhere / Andrew Kopkind --
Pope John XXIII / Thomas Merton --
The comedy of Lenny Bruce / Albert Goldman --

Part V. The Negro --
"I have a dream ..." / Martin Luther King, Jr. --
The March on Washington / Murray Kempton --
Manchild in the promised land / Claude Brown --
My Negro problem --and ours / Norman Podhoretz --
Who speaks for the Negro? / Robert Penn Warren --
Power and racism / Stokely Carmichael --

Part VI. God --
The end of Theism? / John A.T. Robinson --
The future of belief / Leslie Dewart --
The theology of pathos / Abraham Heschel --
Faith in search of understanding / John Updike --

Part VII. War and peace --
The dangers of a military-industrial complex / Dwight D. Eisenhower --
In defense of thinking / Herman Kahn --
Ecce homo! / Konrad Lorenz --
Open letter to President Johnson / Robert Lowell --
Jeremiah and the people problem / Leonard Kriegel --

Part VIII. Man and science --
Alamogordo, mon amour / William L. Laurence --
Genetics and the survival of the unfit / Lucy Eisenberg --
The silent spring / Rachel Carson --
Escape to the endless frontier / Don K. Price --
Man, work, and the automated feast / Ben B. Seligman --

Part IX. Literature --
Black humor / Bruce J. Friedman --
Muse, spare me / John Barth --
Writing American fiction / Philip Roth --
King Lear or Endgame / Jan Kott --
Is there a tragic sense of life? / Lionel Abel --

Part X. The sense of the future --
Culture and technology / Marshall McLuhan --
The future of man / Teilhard de Chardin --
The statues of Daedalus / Michael Harrington.

by David Bischoff, Rich Brown and Linda Richardson (Signet/New American Library, 1985); adapted from a series of novelets and short stories in the magazine Fantastic, 1976-78, published as by "Michael F. X. Milhaus"  in the magazine as edited by Ted White, who provides a useful afterword to the Signet volume.  White tells us the basic idea for the stories had developed in bull sessions between White and Rich Brown and others as early as 1964, when Brown suggested in the course of a discussion of raising demons, and the customary spell that binds the summoned demon to Hell forever for not actually appearing (as nonexistent demons would tend not to), that there might be, for story purposes, essentially only one last demon available for summoning. But no one got around to getting anything down on paper about an amateur demonologist and the (essentially) good-natured succubus he at first accidentally raises...till White and the writers found themselves working together in a DC-area writers' workshop, and Brown and White (together, they made Tan, though not Cecelia nor Amy) were reminded of the unwritten stories. Aside from White serving as real-time editor in the workshop sessions, the three writers did various drafts with further input from the fellow workshoppers, and a small hoax/back-story about "Milhaus" was devised, that he was a long-term reader of Fantastic and its
Stephen Fabian's cover for "A Trick of the
 Tail" in its original form; The Boss
 shows up to reclaim Anathae the demon..

predecessor magazine Fantastic Adventures, and that "Milhaus" felt the sense of story, concocted purely as diversion, was largely missing from the more ambitious fiction White's magazine currently published. (White notes he was plumping for fiction that might resemble a mixture of Thorne Smith, P. G. Wodehouse and turn-of-the-1950s frequently-contributing FA fantasist Charles Myers, who wrote  a series of stories prefiguring the tv series Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie [and like them Thorne Smith-lite] about a female supernatural sprite named Toffee, and the hapless mortal man she was fond of.) "Milhaus" published a couple of letters in the magazine, along with "his" fictional contributions...this was not long after The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction began publishing, first with the novel Venus on the Half-Shell, stories by Philip Jose Farmer which (with no explanation) purported to be by characters in various Kurt Vonnegut stories (Venus was published as if by Kilgore Trout, for example); Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, not long after, published a couple/few stories by someone calling themselves "Edmundo Hamiltowne"
(clearly a joke based on writer Edmond Hamilton's name), who remains a somewhat obscure figure; it was in the air in the '70s in the fiction magazines. Adding to the nostalgic fun, the "Milhaus" stories of the demon Anathae and her somewhat overwhelmed human companion Willis Baxter featured explicatory footnotes, a device harkening back to pulp editor Ray Palmer's days at Fantastic Adventures and its older sf companion Amazing Stories, where exposition-dumps were pulled out of the main body of the story to streamline the was actually a habit established by Palmer's more tech-oriented predecessor editor, T. O'Connor Sloane, to allow for more elaborate scientific argument for (and against!) hypotheses or gadgetry employed in the stories in Sloane's Amazing than would fit gracefully into the already too-often nearly graceless stories. "Milhaus" footnotes even included a bit of argument with White, in his own counter-footnotes. After a couple of stories had been published, the footnote conceit was
dropped, and in the stories as revised for this volume they are completely absent. The novel as presented in 1985 is mostly fun, even if the occasional Comedy of Humors bits of business (anthropology professor Baxter's pseudonym for his more outre publications is "Raymond de la Farte") fall very flat (even as half-nods to fellow fantasist and essayist L. Sprague de Camp, in this case). The ephebophilia inherent in the work (also in the air even more openly in the 1970s than even now), as Anathae as described in the story resembles a horned and tailed demon version of an attractive 15yo girl more than either cover painting would suggest, might barely be given a pass still with the knowledge that Rich Brown's decade-long marriage was quietly breaking up, and had started rather romantically (in a desperate way) when the young adult Brown had taken in his soon-to-be girlfriend and fiancee when she was still a mid/late teen, and had to flee her abusive family household. But it's the kind of fantasy that would've fit in well, in such Smith-influenced magazines as Unknown Fantasy Fiction or Beyond, as well as the better issues of Fantastic Adventures or Imagination (with more, if not a lot more, sexual explicitness than those magazines would've dared), and there is, as White notes, a certain grappling with moral and ethical issues running through it that surprised even the authors as the stories took shape. I'm glad I've been able to read, finally, in this form, the stories in the series I'd previously missed as well as how the earlier ones, particularly, were revised for publication in novel form.

And, for this week, we leave you with the cover for the original Thrilling Mystery magazine version of the Fredric Brown novel Scott Cupp reviews at the link above: 


Casual Debris said...

Thanks Todd for attaching a shot of the AHMM title page for the Westlake. I have the issue somewhere but not able to dig it out (I just re-read the story from the Prozini/Greenberg anthology). I do love the artwork from those early AHMMs.

Happy New Year,

Todd Mason said...

Thank you, Frank, and HNY to you as well. I'm glad someone else online smashed a (rather acid-yellowed) copy of the issue so that we wouldn't have to. I'm of two minds about the illustrations in AHMM in the first 20+ years of the magazine, as I am with the John Groth similar *one artist all the time* illustration in Short Story International up till his retirement (or, perhaps, death), but both magazines looked a bit too blocky and sparse after the illustrations were dropped (eventually to return in Hitchcock's intermittently). But when you compare either magazine with the work Jack Gaughan was doing for the Galaxy group of magazines in the early '70s...and you can see some examples on the blog here if you search with his see how well it can be done. Though the chaotic nature of the offices then and there also meant Gaughan was dying from overwork and stress...a very unnecessary trade-off.

Rich Horton said...

I read the "Personal Demon" stories as they appeared in FANTASTIC, wholly taken in at first by the "Michael F. X. Milhaus" story. (Reminds me a bit as well, less happily perhaps, of the novel contest for new writers back in the '50s that GALAXY ran, where after no publishable novels appeared they got Fred Pohl and Lester Del Rey to hack together PREFERRED RISK and promote the shared pseudonym Edson McCann as a "new writer".) Anyway, they struck me at the time as pretty fun, though I thought they wore out their welcome after a few entries.

Rich Horton said...

I should have added (after checking) that George Kelley discussed PREFERRED RISK in an earlier Forgotten Books entry ...

Todd Mason said...

Never got quite as tired as, say, the Willy Newbery stories de Camp was publishing at the same time...nor all those sad Robert Young stories of the era. And let us blissfully forget the wretched, seemingly endless series of Orson Scott Card "Hot Sleep" and Barry Longyear "Momus" stories Analog and Asimov's would foist on us in those comparison, the "Milhaus" stories seemed fresh enough throughout their reasonably short run, and as gathered here.

George said...

Thank you for pitch-hitting for Patti Abbott while she takes a well-deserved break from FFB. You continue to amaze me with the range of your reading!

Mathew Paust said...

Wish I'd had The Sense of the '60s back in the day. In fact, it still would be a welcome addition to my book mountain.

Todd Mason said...

Well, thanks, George, and of course we all say the same of you. I think most of us don't restrict ourselves to any one field of writing as readers as it might seem. Why would we?

Matt, you can still pick up copies of SENSE/60s and 70s inexpensively, and I think I will snap up the latter sometime soon. My current indulgence is trying to pick up the third BEST HUMOR ANNUAL, though every Amazon vender keeps listing the 1951 volume as the 1952 volume...the bugs in the Amazon system can be tiresome, atop the concerns for how they treat their staff...

Rich, by the latter '70s, R. Bretnor's Papa Schimmelhorn stories had devolved into nastily misogynist and dull fizzles...and I never much liked Sterling Lanier's Brigadier Ffellowes stories, and Stephen King's initial Gunslinger stories were among the worst fiction I"ve read. So, even Ed Ferman and F&SF definitely could nod in those years, too...(along with running some of the less-bad, but still bad, Robert F. Young stories, and also sharing with Fantastic the minor late de Camps.)

Paul Fraser said...

The Milhaus stories were a favourite of mine in Fantastic and I subsequently got hold of the novel. Don't think I liked that as much: don't know whether I'd moved on or they had smoothed out all the eccentricities (I liked the footnotes).
There was a lot of good stuff in Fantastic from '75-'77: the Harold Shea Incredible Umbrella stories, the Dennis More (Keith Taylor) S&S series, a good Limekiller novella from Avram Davidson. I could go on.
Thanks for reminding me about them; must dig the issues out.

Todd Mason said...

I certainly loved the Davidson stories (particularly Eszterhazy, but also the quasi-autobiographical"...Thoat") and much more...and certainly forgave the stuff I didn't much like (mostly forgave!). WHISPERS, F&SF and FANTASTIC were my favorite magazines, though I loved other fiction magazines, too. Leiber's book reviews by themselves might've led me to buy FANTASTIC. White didn't/doesn't like horror much, but it didn't hurt that the first F&SF and FANTASTIC issues I picked up new on the newsstands (in 1978) had unusually high horror content...

Elgin Bleecker said...

Todd – Your mention of books that were around the house when you were a kid reminded me that THE GUNS OF AUGUST by Barbara Tuchman was on my Dad’s bedside table for most of my childhood. Thanks for reviving a memory, and Happy New Year.

Todd Mason said...

Likewise, Elgin. My parents had an interesting library...that would've been even more interesting if a flood hadn't wiped out quite a lot of it in 1967.