Author Archives: george

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #600: CROSSROADS IN TIME Edited by Groff Conklin

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing a Friday’s Forgotten Books just about every Friday since Patti Abbott invited me to join her online group back in 2009. My first Friday’s Forgotten Books featured Theodore Sturgeon’s The Dreaming Jewels (you can read the review here). For the past 12 years I’ve been presenting Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, and Horror books in celebration of the great writers we all love. For this #600 review, I thought I’d choose a classic SF anthology from 1953, Crossroads of Time with a great Richard Powers cover.

Many of my favorite SF writers are here: Murray Leinster, Clifford D. Simak, Fritz Leiber, F. L. Wallace, and Chad Oliver. Notice that Groff Conklin included two women SF writers, Margaret St. Clair and Katherine MacLean, a rare event for anthologies from the early 1950s. I hope you’re enjoying my reviews and the great books from The Kelley Collection! Thank you for your participation and feedback over all these years! GRADE: A

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Introduction by Groff Conklin
“Assumption Unjustified” by Hal Clement (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1946)
“The Eagles Gather” by Joseph E. Kelleam (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1942)
“The Queen’s Astrologer” by Murray Leinster (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949)
“Derm Fool” by Theodore Sturgeon (Unknown Fantasy Fiction, March 1940)
“Courtesy” by Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science Fiction, August 1951)
“Secret” by Lee Cahn (Astounding Science Fiction, January 1953)
“Thirsty God” by Margaret St. Clair (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1953)
“The Mutant’s Brother” by Fritz Leiber (Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1943)
“Student Body” by F. L. Wallace (Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1953)
“Made in U.S.A.” by J. T. McIntosh (Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1953)
“Technical Advisor” by Chad Oliver (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1953)
“Feedback” by Katherine MacLean (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1951)
“The Cave” by P. Schuyler Miller (Astounding Science-Fiction, January 1943)
“Vocation” by George O. Smith (Astounding Science Fiction, April 1945)
“The Time Decelerator” by A. Macfadyen, Jr. (Astounding Stories, July 1936)
“Zen” by Jerome Bixby (Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1952)
“Let There Be Light” by H. B. Fyfe (If, November 1952)
“The Brain” by Norbert Wiener (Technical Engineering News, April 1952)

K-tel PRESENTS FLOWER POWER

I was never a hippie, but I did enjoy hippy music back in the 1960s. This K-tel collection, sold mostly through TV commercials decades ago, features some classics songs: “California Dreamin'” and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” and “What the World Needs Now.” The only dud is Bob Lind’s annoying “Elusive Butterfly.”

I remember “Happy Together” by The Turtles being played constantly on the radio. But there are a few One-Hit Wonders included here: Sopwith Camel’s “Hello Hello” and “Back on the Street Again” by The Sunshine Company.

Were you a hippy? Did you embrace Flower Power? GRADE: B

TRACK LIST:

  1. “California Dreamin'” THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS 2:37
  2. “Incense and Peppermints” STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK 2:46
  3. “Back on the Street Again” THE SUNSHINE COMPANY 2:28
  4. “Reach Out of the Darkness” FRIEND & LOVER 3:08
  5. “Green Tambourine” THE LEMON PIPERS 2:22
  6. “Elusive Butterfly” BOB LIND 2:46
  7. “Happy Together” THE TURTLES 2:52
  8. “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL
  9. “Hello Hello” SOPWITH CAMEL 2:24
  10. “Beautiful People” MELANIE 3:35
  11. “Sunday Will Never Be the Same” SPANKY & OUR GANG 2:55
  12. “Angel of the Morning” MERRILEE RUSH & THE TURNABOUTS 2:58
  13. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” THE FIFTH DIMENSION 4:49
  14. “What the World Needs Now” JACKIE DeSHANNON 3:10

BURNING BRIGHT By Nick Petrie

Last month I read Nick Petrie’s first Peter Ash thriller, The Drifter (you can read my review here). I enjoyed it so much I found and read the second. book in the series, Burning Bright. Peter Ash is a itinerant veteran with PTSD. He’s prone to physical problems when he’s inside a structure. So Ash lives outside or in his truck.

In Burning Bright Ash travels to Northern California and gets involved in saving the life of investigative journalist, June Cassidy. Cassidy finds herself being tracked down by a shadowy organization who murdered her mother, a world-famous computer scientist. Cassidy’s mother created an Artificial Intelligence that potentially be worth billions of dollars. But only June Cassidy knows where the AI is located.

As in The Drifter, Peter Ash gets to employ his combat skills to protect June Cassidy. In addition, Ash also works on solving who is behind the attempted abductions and attacks on Cassidy.

If you like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, you’ll enjoy these Peter Ash thrillers. Plenty of action! This is a perfect page-turner for these coronavirus shelter-in-place times. GRADE: B+

SHIRLEY [HULU]

Elisabeth Moss portrays Shirley Jackson as a confused, troubled, and brilliant writer. Moss’s Jackson drinks too much, sleeps all day, and rarely leaves the house. But, Jackson loves to write and this movie tells the story of the writing of The Hangman, a story of a missing college student.

Director Josephine Decker and screenwriter Sarah Grubbins set up the action through the characters of a young couple–Rose (Odessa Young) and doctoral English student Fred (Logan Lerman). Jackson’s pretentious and philandering professor husband, Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg), manages to convince Rose and Fred to stay in the house with him and his disturbed wife. Fred helps Stanley with his classes at Bennington College while Rose cooks and cleans.

Shirley Jackson and Rose form a quirky relationship while secrets swirl around both of them. If you have an interest in Shirley Jackson, this biopic will fascinate you. Elisabeth Moss’s performance deserves an Oscar nomination. Are you a Shirley Jackson fan? GRADE: B

WIT’S END: WHAT WIT IS, HOW IT WORKS, AND WHY WE NEED IT By James Geary


I’ve been a fan of James Geary’s books over the years. You can read my review of Geary’s The World In a Phrase here. James Geary’s latest book, Wit’s End (2019) explores the origins of wit and how it works. Trying to unravel comedy challenges the best writers, but Geary handles his subject with a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of humor. I liked Geary’s analysis of puns where he provides many funny examples. After that, Geary presents story after humorous story to illustrate how jokes work featuring Harpo Marx and Buster Keaton and other masters of fun.

This slim book holds a lot of witty wisdom. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
OFT WAS THOUGHT: An Essay in Sixty-Four Lines 1
ONE BAD APPLE, Or, An Apology for Paranomasia 5
THIRTY-FIVE DAYS IN MAY 17
WATCHERS AT THE GATES OF MIND: Wit and Its Relation to Witzelsucht, Malapropisms, and Bipolar Disorder 35
PERFECT WITTY EXPRESSIONS AND HOW TO MAKE THEM 52
ADVANCED BANTER 62
AN ODE TO WIT 76
TURNING WORDS 79
MY NAME IS WIT 91
SLAPSTICK METAPHYSICS 105
THE CHAINS OF HABIT 113
FINDING MINDS 125
AMBIGUOUS FIGURES 136
WISDOM OF THE SAGES 150
TRUE WIT 163
WIT’S END 166
Wit Thanks 177
Notes and Bibliography 181
Illustration Credits 213
Index 215

SEDUCTION: A HISTORY FROM THE ENLIGHTENMENT TO THE PRESENT By Clement Knox

I had ordered Seduction: A History from the Enlightenment to the Present (2020) just before the coronavirus closed the Libraries in our area. This week, the City of Tonawanda Library opened (minus most of their furniture to allow safe distancing) and I picked up this RESERVE that had been waiting for me for months. Clement Knox presents the subject of seduction within the cultures and the social changes where it flourished. England was known for its “Rake Culture” where men seduced women, mostly by promising to marry them…and then leaving town.

My favorite chapter revolves around Samuel Richardson and his classic 1000+ page novel, Clarissa. I read Clarissa in one of my doctoral seminars and loved it. Clarissa is a pure woman tormented by a rake and betrayed by her parents who promote the relationship. Clement Knox also explores the wild life of Merry Shelly and her group.

Clement Knox concludes his study with references to James Bond (skilled at seduction) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula uses hypnosis to seduce women and suck their blood…and other things. Finally, Knox admits that the Tinder online culture feeds an explosion of seduction on the Internet. If you’re interested in seduction, this is the book for you. GRADE: B+

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

INTRODUCTION — 1

CHAPTER ONE: Rake culture — 13

CHAPTER TWO: The transit of Venus — 80

CHAPTER THREE: An unsentimental education — 143

CHAPTER FOUR: Circling Mary Shelley — 197

CHAPTER FIVE: Of Mann and men — 251

CHAPTER SIX: Blood out — 320

CHAPTER SEVEN: Seduction remains — 374

Afterword — 418

Acknowledgements — 433

Endnotes — 434

Index — 473

GRANT By Ron Chernow [38 Disc Audio Book]

My wonderful cousin, Anne, gave us this unabridged audio book–38 discs, 48 hours of listening pleasure–on one of our visits to Boston. Diane and I decided when the coronavirus pandemic hit Western New York, we’d take advantage of the Stay-at-Home order and listen to Ron Chernow’s Grant. So, for the past three months or so, Diane and I have been listening to Mark Bramhall narrate Grant during lunch. Each disc is about 70 minutes in length, so we’d typically listen to a half a disc each day.

I knew a bit about Ulysses S. Grant from some of the history books I’ve read over the years. When I was in ROTC at Marquette University, I studied Grant’s battles in the Civil War in our MILITARY HISTORY class. But listening to this audio book completely filled out the image I had of Grant as a brilliant tactician and strategist, but a man beset by problems.

Grant had no business sense. Time and time again, Grant was hoodwinked by people he trusted. Although Grant had integrity, many of the people he surrounded himself with did not. Grant’s family used the famous man to their own selfish ends, especially Grant’s father.

The recent toppling of a statue of Grant angered me because Grant supported freeing slaves, admired black soldiers, and fought for black voter rights in the South after the Civil War. The reason given for bringing down the statue of Grant was because “he owned slaves.” Grant did not. His wife’s family owned slaves before Grant married her. Grant and his wife never owned slaves.

From the minor military career to the generalship of the Northern forces, Grant’s rise is impressive and surprising. Grant never aspired to higher positions, he was usually pushed into them because of his talents. Grant never wanted to be President, but he did so because he felt it was his duty.

There’s no denying that Grant led a sad life, punctuated by successes and infrequent happiness. Grant was an alcoholic constantly fighting to stay sober. He smoked a dozen cigars a day which resulted in cancer of the mouth and throat. Grant labored in pain and agony as he was dying to finish his memoirs in order to not leave his wife penniless. Ron Chernow’s biography is a classic. GRADE: A

BLOOD RITES By Jim Butcher

The last new Harry Dresden novel was published in 2015. Jim Butcher announced that not one, but TWO new Harry Dresden novels would be published this Summer. So, of course, I had to get caught up on this Urban Fantasy series. Blood Rites is the 6th book in the series and first appeared in 2004.

Harry Dresden is hired to protect a movie director whose life is being threatened. Two of the director’s staff have already been killed in suspicious “accidents.” Dresden senses danger and Magic on the movie set, but his life is complicated by a group of vampires.

Dresden recruits his Chicago Police friend, Karrin Murphy, and the mysterious hitman, Kincaid, to help him eliminate the vampire threat. This leads to a violent confrontation. But this battle is only a prelude to a much more involved conflagration at the end of the book that portends a new path in the story arc. GRADE: B+

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #599: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: War of the Worlds By Manly Wade Wellman and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – The Martian Menace By Eric Brown

I enjoy the series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches that TITAN BOOKS publishes. Here are two books that feature a mash-up of Holmes and H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The first book, Manly Wade Wellman’s Sherlock Holmes and War of the Worlds, was first published in 1975. TITAN BOOKS reprinted the book in their “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” series in 2009.

The action in Sherlock Holmes and War of the Worlds begins when Holmes buys a crystal egg in a variety shop in London. He discovers it actually is a communication device that links Earth with…Mars! Holmes shares his discovery with the other famous A. Conan Doyle character, Professor Challenger. Together, Holmes and Challenger determine that the Earth is about to be invaded. And, sure enough, they’re right!

For part of the Invasion, Holmes goes his way and Challenger goes his way. But, eventually, Holmes and Challenger get back together to deal with the devastation and horror of death-rays, poison gas, and giant menacing robots.

Eric Brown’s The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – The Martian Menace (2020) opens with Holmes asked to investigate the death of the Martian Ambassador. The successful resolution of that case leads the Martians to approach Holmes once again when one of their famous philosophers is murdered. Holmes and Watson agree to investigate the case…on Mars! During their departure to Mars, Holmes and Watson discover they share their spaceship with another passenger: Professor Challenger!

I enjoyed Eric Brown’s clever plot and the mysteries about the Martians that Holmes and Challenger manage to penetrate. If you’re in the mood for a couple wonderful Sherlock Holmes pastiches with a Science Fiction flavor, I recommend Sherlock Holmes and War of the Worlds and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. GRADE: B+ (for both)