Author Archives: george

THE WORRICKER TRILOGY [Amazon Prime Video]


The Worricker Trilogy includes: Page Eight (2011), Turks & Caicos (2012), and Salting the Battlefield (2014). All are written and directed by David Hare. Bill Nighy plays MI5 intelligence analyst Johnny Worricker. Johnny gets in trouble with the Prime Minister (Ralph Fiennes) and goes on the run. My favorite episode is Turks & Caicos when Johnny is hiding out on a tropical island, a tourist hideawy, but trouble finds him. Christopher Walken, a CIA agent, wants Johnny to help him bring down a ring of greedy businessmen. Johnny seeks to help a publicity agent (Winona Ryder) trapped in a corrupt world. What makes “Turks & Caicos” special is Johnny’s ex-girl friend, Helena Bonham Carter. Nighy and Carter are still on the run in the final episode, “Salting the Battlefield.” They’re running out of resources and MI5 is hassling Johnny’s pregnant daughter.

Bill Nighy hits all the right notes as Johnny Worricker. Watching Helena Bonham Carter act is always a delight. Ralph Fiennes projects just the right mix of ruthlessness and rectitude of a real Prime Minister. This series apparently was shown on MASTERPIECE THEATER, but I missed it. Thank goodness for AMAZON PRIME VIDEO! GRADE:B+ for “Page Eight,” GRADE: A for “Turks 8 Caicos,” and GRADE: B+ for “Salting the Battlefield”

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #492: THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES AND NOVELS: NINTH SERIES (1958) Edited By T. E. Dikty


This final volume of The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels (1958) features Kate Wilhelm’s “The Mile-Long Spaceship”–later to be expanded into a novel and Poul Anderson’s famous “Call Me Joe.” I enjoyed Erie Frank Russell’s “Into Your Tent I’ll Creep.” The rest of the stories in this anthology are average. Anthony Boucher reviewed this book calling it an “assembly of the tedious, trite and ill-reasoned.” THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES AND NOVELS: NINTH SERIES (1958) is one of the weaker volumes in the Bleiler/Dikty series. GRADE: B-
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Science-Fiction Year, by T. E. Dikty
“2066: Election Day, by Michael Shaara
“The Mile-Long Spaceship, by Kate Wilhelm
“The Last Victory, by Tom Godwin
“Call Me Joe, by Poul Anderson
“Didn’t He Ramble, by Chad Oliver
“The Queen’s Messenger, by John J. McGuire
“The Other People, by Leigh Brackett
“Into Your Tent I’ll Creep, by Eric Frank Russell
“Nor Dust Corrupt, by James V. McConnell
“Nightsound, by Algis Budrys
“The Tunesmith, by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
“Hunting Machine, by Carol Emshwiller
The Science-Fiction Book Index, by Earl Kemp

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #85: The Atlantic Singles Collection 1967-1970 [2CD] By Aretha Franklin


This 2-CD collection of Aretha Franklin’s singles from the years she became “The Queen of Soul” isn’t coming out until September 28, 2018. No matter. We all know these classic soul songs only this new set looks like it will feature remastered versions of the originals. I started listening to Aretha Franklin in 1967 with “Respect.” More Top 10 hits followed: “Chain of Fools,” “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)”, “Think,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone.” Aretha Franklin had a long, successful career, but I consider these early years with Atlantic Records to be her best. What’s your favorite Aretha Franklin song?
TRACK LIST:
DISC ONE:
1. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) [Mono] [Remastered]
2. Do Right Woman – Do Right Man (Mono) [Remastered]
3, Respect (Mono) [Remastered]
4. Dr. FeelGood (Mono) [Remastered]
5. Baby I Love You (Mono) [Remastered]
6. Going Down Slow (Mono) [Remastered]
7. A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like) [Mono] [Remastered]
8. Baby, Baby, Baby (Mono) [Remastered]
9. Chain Of Fools (Mono) [Remastered]
10. Prove It (Mono) [Remastered]
11. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone (Mono) [Remastered]
12. Ain’t No Way (Mono) [Remastered]
13. Think (Mono) [Remastered]
14. You Send Me (Mono) [Remastered]
15. The House That Jack Built (Mono) [Remastered]
16. I Say A Little Prayer (Mono) [Remastered]
17. See Saw (Mono) [Remastered]
18. My Song (Mono) [Remastered]
DISC TWO:
1. The Weight (Mono) [Remastered]
2. Tracks Of My Tears (Mono) [Remastered]
3. I Can’t See Myself Leaving You (Mono) [Remastered]
4. Gentle On My Mind (Mono) [Remastered]
5. Share Your Love With Me (Mono) [Remastered]
6. Pledging My Love / The Clock (Mono) [Remastered]
7. Eleanor Rigby (Mono) [Remastered]
8. It Ain’t Fair (Mono) [Remastered]
9. Call Me (Mono) [Remastered]
10. Son Of A Preacher (Mono) [Remastered]
11. Spirit In The Dark (with The Dixie Flyers) [Mono] [Remastered]
12. The Thrill Is Gone (with The Dixie Flyers) [Mono] [Remastered]
13. Don’t Play That Song (with The Dixie Flyers) [Mono] [Remastered]
14. Let It Be (with The Dixie Flyers) [Mono] [Remastered]
15. Border Song (Holy Moses) [Mono] [Remastered]
16. You And Me (with The Dixie Flyers) [Mono] [Remastered]

THE B SIDE: THE DEATH OF TIN PAN ALLEY AND THE REBIRTH OF THE GREAT AMERICAN SONG By Ben Yagoda


Ben Yagoda’s history of popular music in the Unified States from 1885 to 1968 features a huge cast of characters: George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein II, and a dozen more. Music started to change in the 1950s and morphed into Rock & Roll. I was surprised by Yagoda’s discussion of Carolyn Leigh, the writer of “Young at Heart,” which became a huge hit when Frank Sinatra sang it. The song was sold for $15,000 giving Warner Records “unlimited usage” to the song which went on to sell 350,000 copies that year. After all the “deductions,” Carolyn Leigh’s check was only $3,500. That’s the way the music business worked back in the Fifties.

Yagoda surprised me again during his story of Burt Bacharach’s development as a hit song generator. Bacharach hired a backup singer, Dionne Warrick. He fell in love with her voice and her “special kind of grace and elegance.” (p.251). In 1962, she recorded “Don’t Make Me Over.” But when the record was released, the name on the label was misspelled “Warwick.” Dionne Warrick adopted the new spelling and became “Dionne Warwick.” I never knew that.

If you’re a fan of music of the first two-thirds of the the 20th Century, you’ll find The B Side a delight! I want to drop everything and listen to The Great American Songbook! Are you a fan of this music? GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue: Premises, Premises 1
I Mr. Miller and Mr. Schwartz, 1954 13
II I Get a Kick out of You, 1885-1933 31
III Jukebox Saturday Night, 1925-1942 59
IV As Time Goes By, 1941-1948 87
V What Happened to the Music? 1946-1954 111
VI Brill Building Boys, and Girl, 1950-1955 149
VII The Big Beat, 1951-1968 175
VIII Fly Me to the Moon, 1939-1965 221
Epilogue: Do You Believe in Magic? 1957-1965 241
Acknowledgments 265
Notes 267
Books Cited 286
Index 292

ORDEAL OF INNOCENCE [Amazon Prime Video] and ORDEAL OF INNOCENCE By Agatha Christie



Whether you watch the Amazon Prime Video version of Ordeal of Innocence or read Agatha Christie’s 1958 novel of the same name (I did both), you’re going to meet a most dysfunctional and repellent family. Rachel Argyle (Anna Chancellor), the matriarch of a wealthy family, adopts five children. All of them are troubled. Jacko Argyle (Anthony Boyle) is accused and convicted of murdering Rachel Argyle. Jacko dies in prison. A year later, a man shows up on the doorstep of the Argyle mansion, claiming he has evidence that Jacko was innocent of the murder. The man, Dr. Calgary (Luke Treadaway), says he was part of an Arctic expedition and just recently returned to learn about this sensational case.

Once Jacko is cleared of the crime, the family members all become suspects. Hester (Ella Purnell), flighty and fragile, hated Rachel for being right about her lack of acting talent–and her taste in men. Tina (Crystal Clarke) and Mickey’s (Christian Cooke) secret relationship gives them motive for killing Rachel. Mary’s polio-stricken husband, Philip (Matthew Goode), seems to know more than he’s telling. Leo, Rachel’s husband (Bill Nighy), is cozy with his secretary, Gwenda Vaughn (Alice Eve). Kirsten (Morven Christie), the housekeeper, knows too much.

In typical Agatha Christie fashion, everyone looks guilty. Everyone has something to hide. My only quibble with Ordeal of Innocence is with the downbeat mood of both the book and the mini-series. The only comic relief is Alice Eve as Gwenda. Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie mystery? GRADE: B (for both)

THE SHAKESPEARE REQUIREMENT By Julie Schumacher


Bill Crider would have loved The Shakespeare Requirement. Julie Schumacher’s snarky look at contemporary Academic Life is spot on. Jason Fitger, new Chairman of the English Department at Payne University, finds his department under siege by the Machiavellian head of the wealthy Economics Department, Roland Gladwell. Gladwell plans to gut the English Department and take over their offices and conference rooms. Schumacher’s witty approach to this turf fight centers around the strategy to remove the requirement of English Majors to take a course in Shakespeare. Fitger’s ex-wife is sleeping with the Dean. But, she harbors feelings toward Fitger and secretly leaks information that might help the English Department survive.

There is a snicker–or outright laugh–on every page of The Shakespeare Requirement. The more you know about the workings of academia the more your funny bone will be tickled! Schumacher shows how universities really work from the gritty classroom tenches to the posh offices of the Provost. You’ll find The Shakespeare Requirement the funniest book of 2018! It’s even funnier than Julie Schumacher’s hilarious Dear Committee Members (you can read my review here). GRADE: A

THE CTHULHU CASEBOOKS: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MISKATONIC MONSTROSITIES By James Lovegrove


What would a Sherlock Holmes Week be like without a Holmes vs. Cthulhu mashup? James Lovegrove’s The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities continues the story arc started in Lovergrove’s THE CTHULHU CASEBOOKS: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SHADWELL SHADOWS (you can read my review here). Holmes and Watson travel to Bedlam (aka, Bethlem Royal Hospital, a London institution and the origin of the word for chaos or madness) to investigate a badly injured man who draws strange symbols on the walls of his room. Holmes recognizes the language the man is writing as R’lyehian script. But before Holmes can solve this mystery, the patient escapes and one of the caretakers is murdered.

As Holmes and Watson chase the escaped patient, more clues emerge. Two men from Arkham’s Miskatonic University appear at the heart of this story with their quest to capture a shoggoth, a hideous creature referred to in the Necronomicon. Part of The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities presents the journal documenting that hunt for the shoggoth. But more Lovecraftean creatures pop up to wreak havoc.

James Lovegrove wraps up this tangled faux-Lovecraft trilogy with The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea Devils (November 2018). Regular posting resumes tomorrow. GRADE: B

THE QUALLSFORD INHERITANCE: A MEMOIR OF SHERLOCK HOLMES FROM THE PAPERS OF EDWARD PORTER JONES HIS LATE ASSISTANT By Lloyd Biggle, Jr.


Many of you will recognize Lloyd Biggle, Jr. as a prolific Science Fiction writer who wrote novels like The Angry Espers (1961). But Biggle also wrote some mystery novels with his Sherlock Holmes pastiche, The Quallford Inheritance (1986), being the best of the bunch. Biggle avoids the Watson problem by creating the character of teenager Edward Porter Jones. Jones was a member of Sherlock’s Baker Street Irregulars and so enjoyed the assignments Holmes sent him on that he asked the world’s first consulting detective to be his assistant. Holmes agreed.

In The Quallsford Inheritance a young woman, Emmeline Quallsford, hires Holmes to investigate the recent death of her brother, Edmund Quallsford. The police consider the death a suicide, but Miss Quallsford believes her brother was murdered. I enjoyed the narration of Jones as the investigation proceeded. Plenty of red herrings and baffling incidents! There’s even an exorcism! If you’re looking for a top-notch Sherlock Holmes pastiche, The Quallsford Inheritance qualifies. GRADE: B+

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #491: THE REMINISCENCES OF SOLAR PONS By August Derleth


Originally published in 1961, The Reminiscences of Solar Pons was reprinted in a paperback edition by Pinnacle Books in 1975 as part of a Solar Pons series. This fifth volume, with its informative introduction by Anthony Boucher, is my favorite. August Derleth, best known for creating Arkham Press and reprinting the works of H. P. Lovecraft, was a prolific writer. His faux-Sherlock Holmes figure, Solar Pons, mimics the best of Doyle’s character. The stories in The Reminiscences of Solar Pons were mostly published in The Saint Magazine in the 1950s. Anthony Boucher liked these faux-Sherlock Holmes pastiches and so did I. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction, by Anthony Boucher 1
“The Adventure of the Mazarine Blue” 6
“The Adventure of the Hats of M. Dulac” 26
“The Adventure of the Mosaic Cylinders” 50
“The Adventure of the Praed Street Irregulars” 97
“The Adventure of the Cloverdale Kennels” 116
“The Adventure of the Black Cardinal” 139
“The Adventure of the Troubled Magistrate” 165
“The Adventure of the Blind Clairaudient” 187
“A Chronology of Solar Pons”, by Robert Patrick 205

GOOD NIGHT, MR. HOLMES By Carole Nelson Douglas



Back in 1990, Carole Nelson Douglas’s Good Night, Mr. Holmes presented American opera singer, Irene Adler, and her “Watson,” Penelope Huxleigh (a young former governess). Together, Adler and Huxleigh solve crimes and bamboozle Sherlock Holmes. Holmes tells Watson that Irene Adler was one of four people in the world who outwitted him. Sherlockians will recall Irene Adler plays a big role in “A Scandal in Bohemia.” In Good Night, Mr. Holmes we get to see the story from Adler’s point of view. Critics assert Irene Adler was more than a match for Sherlock Holmes. GRADE: B+
Irene Adler series
Good Night, Mr. Holmes (1990) ISBN 0-312-93210-3
Good Morning Irene, ISBN 0-8125-0949-8 reissued as The Adventuress(1991), ISBN 0-7653-4715-6
Irene at Large, ISBN 0-8125-1702-4 reissued as A Soul of Steel (1992), ISBN 0-7653-4790-3
Irene’s Last Waltz, ISBN 0-8125-1703-2 reissued as Another Scandal in Bohemia (1994), ISBN 0-8125-1702-4
Chapel Noir (2001), ISBN 0-7653-4347-9
Castle Rouge (2002), ISBN 0-7653-4571-4
Femme Fatale (2003), ISBN 0-7653-4594-3
Spider Dance (2004), ISBN 0-7653-4595-1