Author Archives: george


Welcome to Sherlock Holmes Week! For the next seven days I’ll be posting about books and movies related to Sherlock Holmes. Some will be classic, some will be new but all should entertain you. I’m starting off with a new book by Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. Mary Jekyll finds herself in dire straits when her mother dies and the pension that was supporting the London household dies with her. Mary learns some facts about Mr. Hyde who murdered a rich man. Mary knew Hyde as her father’s assistant. The murdered man’s family is offering a hundred pound reward for information about Hyde and Mary desperately needs the money. But, she decides to first contact Sherlock Holmes for advice and assistance.

As you can imagine, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is a mashup of Robert Louis Stevenson and A. Conan Doyle. But wait, there’s more! As Holmes and Watson and Mary Jekyll investigate a series of murders, more pieces of this complex puzzle change everything. Theodora Goss has written a surprising mystery by mixing classic characters and elements. Highly recommended! GRADE: A


I’ll be watching the Final Four tonight. This year’s March Madness games featured plenty of drama and upsets. In the first game, Michigan is favored by 5 1/2 points over Loyola. In the second game, Villanova is favored by 5 points over Kansas. Right now, I’m rooting for Michigan and Villanova to meet for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on Monday night. Who are you rooting for? Who do you think will win the Championship?
6:09 p.m. ET — No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) | TBS
8:49 p.m. ET — No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas | TBS

Monday, April 2 (San Antonio)
9:20 p.m. ET — Semifinal winners | TBS

FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #469: THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1950 Edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty

A few weeks ago I reviewed The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949 and enjoyed the experience. (You can read my review here.) So I decided to read the next volume in Bleier & Dikty’s classic series, The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1950. Once again, I was transported back to my childhood when I first read these great anthologies. My favorite story in this book is Henry Kuttner’s clever “Private Eye.” In a world of complete surveillance, how do you commit a murder and get away with it? Kuttner shows how.

One of my favorite SF stories of all time is Clifford Simak’s “The Big Front Yard.” “Eternity Lost” shows Simak’s concern for immortality and human foibles. Many YEAR’S BEST SF anthologies don’t include two stories by the same writer. Bleiler & Dikty break that rule for Ray Bradbury. I’m a big fan of John D. MacDonald’s work, but he didn’t write much SF. “Flow” demonstrates JDM could write SF very well.

After reading The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1950 you’ll conclude 1950 was a very good year for SF. GRADE: A
A Sort of Introduction, by Vincent Starrett 9
Preface, by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty 17
“Private Eye”, by Henry Kuttner 29
“Doomsday Deferred”, by Will F. Jenkins 66
“The Hurkle Is a Happy Beast”, by Theodore Sturgeon 85
“Eternity Lost”, by Clifford Simak 96
“Easter Eggs”, by Robert Spencer Carr 132
“Opening Doors”, by Wilmar H. Shiras 173
“Five Years in the Marmalade”, by Robert W. Krepps 218
“Dwellers in Silence”, by Ray Bradbury 237
“Mouse”, by Fredric Brown 253
“Refuge for Tonight”, by Robert Moore Williams 266
“The Life-Work of Professor Muntz”, by Murray Leinster 300
“Flaw”, by John D. MacDonald 316
“The Man”, by Ray Bradbury 326
About the Authors 343


Back in the 1980s, Boy Bands ruled the BILLBOARD music charts. Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, and a dozen more groups toured and performed relentlessly. One of these groups, BBmak, came from Britain. They achieved modest success with their hit “Back Here.” They featured a clean sound and rugged good looks (a must for successful videos). Do you have a favorite Boy Band? GRADE: B+
1. “Back Here” Mark Barry, Christian Burns, Stephen McNally, Phil Thornalley Oliver Leiber, John Shanks 3:35
2. “I’m Not in Love” Leiber, Jon Lind Leiber 4:14
3. “Next Time” Leiber, Paul Peterson, Shanks Leiber 3:51
4. “Unpredictable” Leiber, Peterson, Anthony Kavanaugh Leiber, Rob Cavallo 4:24
5. “Ghost of You and Me” Lind, Richard Page Cavallo, Lind 4:46
6. “I Can Tell” James Gass, Robin Thicke Thicke, Pro-Jay 3:39
7. “Love Is Leaving” Barry, Burns, McNally Cavallo, Lind 4:18
8. “Love on the Outside” Barry, Burns, McNally Cavallo, Lind, BBMak 2:47
9. “Still on Your Side” Bridget Benenate, Bob Thiele, Dillon O’Brian, Barry, Burns, McNally O’Brian, Thiele, Cavallo, Lind 3:52
10. “Always” Barry, Burns, McNally Cavallo, Lind, BBMak 1:06
11. “Can’t Say” Barry, Burns, McNally, Thornalley, David Munday Lieber 3:38
12. “Again” Burns, Barry, McNally Mark Jolley, Richard Cardwell, Milton McDonald, BBMak, Cavallo 3:35


When Diane retired 14 years ago, she bought a Toshiba TV as a retirement gift to herself. Diane liked the built-in DVD and VHS players as well as the crisp color on the screen (state of the art back then!). We connected the Toshiba to the Time Warner Cable and everything was copasetic until TWC morphed into SPECTRUM. SPECTRUM sent us a letter declaring they were going 100% digital TV. All of our TVs would require their digital cable boxes. I called SPECTRUM and ordered the digital boxes. When they arrived, we found out that the digital box connected to the TVs with a HDMI cable. The Toshiba TV was too old to have a HDMI port.

So Diane and I went to BJ’s Warehouse where we found the SAMSUNG 28″ HDTV for $199. We didn’t need a big screen HDTV (we already have a 65″ SONY 4K HDTV in our living room). The new Samsung, like the old Toshiba, sits on a dresser in the computer room (aka, Patrick’s room) and is used basically to check THE WEATHER CHANNEL or scores during football season. Setup of the digital boxes was easy. “Activation” over the phone by SPECTRUM took longer than I wished. But, everything is set up and working fine. This is our second SAMSUNG HDTV. Costumer Reports ranks SAMSUNG at the top of their HDTV recommendations. If you’re a SPECTRUM subscriber, be prepared to transition to 100% digital HDTV. Do you like your TVs or do you want to upgrade like we did?


When I was a kid in the 1950s, I’d rush home from school so I could watch The Cisco Kid on TV. From 1950 to 1956 Cisco and his wacky sidekick Pancho rode across the Wild West righting wrongs and stirring up trouble with Bad Guys. Based on O. Henry’s fabulous “Robin Hood of the Old West,” The Cisco Kid featured characters that were very different from the dozens of Westerns on television at that time. This box set presents 10 hours and 45 minutes of action and adventure. Were you a fan of the Cisco Kid and Pancho? GRADE: B+
Ball Bar Jellies
Big Switch
Buried Treasure
Cattle Rustling
Chain Lightning
Freightline Feud
Dog Story
Counterfeit Money
Convict Story
Confession for Money
Ghost Town
Heaven for Heavies
Jewelry Holdup
Lynching Story
Medicine Flats
Quick Silver Murder
Protective Association
Poncho Hostage
Oil Land
Newspaper Crusade
Railroad Landrush
Solen Bonds
Uncle Disinherits Niece
Water Rights

WHAT TO READ AND WHY By Francine Prose

Generous Beth Fedyn sent me an Advanced Reading Copy of Francine Prose’s What to Read and Why, a book that will be published in July 2018. I’ve been a fan of Francine Prose since I read her Blue Angel (2000), a novel about a college professor who becomes obsessed with a female student. But, Francine Prose has another side. She’s a gifted reviewer and essayist. What To Read And Why provides plenty of evidence of Prose’s wit and knowledge. I really liked “On Clarity” and “What Makes a Short Story?” When I read Francine Prose writing about Dickens, Balzac, Gissing, Mavis Gallant, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Austen, and Alice Munro I wanted to drop everything and read something by these writers. If you’re looking for an excellent literary essay collection, I highly recommend What To Read And Why. GRADE: A
Author’s Note v
Introduction xv
1. Ten Things That Art Can Do 3
2. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein 15
3. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations 28
4. Honore de Balzac, Cousin Bette 41
5. George Eliot, Middlemarch 48
6. George Gissing, New Grub Street 63
7. The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant 70
8. Roberto Bolano, 2666 82
9. Complimentary Toilet Pater: Some Thoughts on Character and Language–Michael Jeffrey Lee, George Saunders, John Cheever, Denis Johnson 86
10. Edward St. Aubyn, The Patrick Melrose Novels 111
11. Paul Bowles, The Stories of Paul Bowles and The Spider’s House 118
12. Patrick Hamilton, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: A London Trilogy; The Slaves of Solitude; Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl’s Court 125
13. Isaac Babel 138
14. Lolita, Just the Dirty Parts: On the Erotic and Pornography 143
15. Gitta Sereny, Cries Unheard 154
16. Andrea Canobbio, Three Light Years 163
17. Diane Arbus: Revelations 174
18. Helen Levitt, Crosstown 186
19. Mark Strand, Mr. and Mrs. Baby 193
20. Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle 198
21. Elizabeth Taylor, Complete Short Stories 209
22. Louisa May Alcott, Little Women 213
23. Jane Austen 217
24. Charles Baxter, Believers 224
25. Deborah Levy, Swimming Home 229
26. Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women 233
27. Jennifer Egan, Manhatten Beach 238
28. Rebecca West 237
29. Mahsin Hamid, Exit West 251
30. On Clarity 261
31. Reiner Stach, Is That Kafka? 99 Finds 281
32. What Makes a Short Story? 292
33. In Praise of Stanley Elkin 304
Permissions 319
Acknowledgements 322


With the Apple USB SuperDrive you can play and burn both CDs and DVDs, play MP3 files (like audio books), and listen to music CDs on your iMac. It’s perfect when you want to watch a DVD movie, install software, create backup discs, and more. Only slightly bigger than a CD case, the Apple USB SuperDrive slips easily into your travel bag when you hit the road and takes up little space on your desk or tray table when you’re working. You’ll never have to worry about lost cables with the Apple USB SuperDrive. It connects to your MacBook Pro with Retina display, MacBook Air, iMac, or Mac mini with a single USB cable that’s built into the SuperDrive. There’s no separate power adapter, and it works whether your Mac is plugged in or running on battery power. Just plug in the Apple USB SuperDrive into your Apple computer and it’s ready for use. Easy peasy!

I used my new Apple USB SuperDrive to install TURBOTAX. I’m listening to the unexpurgated Phineas Redux (23 hours, 43 minutes!) by Anthony Trollope (read by the brilliant Timothy West) on my Apple USB SuperDrive, too. For just $80, the Apple USB SuperDrive is a bargain! If you have an Apple computer, you need one of these! GRADE: A


If you had Oprah, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon in your movie, would you just let them stand around? That’s pretty much what happens in this version of A Wrinkle in Time. The prevailing opinion was that A Wrinkle in Time was “unfilmable.” The current film certainly provides proof that might be true, a least in this case. I read Madeleine L’Engle’s classic back in the early 1960s. Madeleine L’Engle had the same problems J. K. Rowling did in trying to get her book published. The fact that the lead character was female (and smart!) made the book a Hard Sell. A Wrinkle in Time won the Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and went on to become a best selling children’s book.

Basically, A Wrinkle in Time is a child’s search for her father. Meg Murray is a bitter 13-year-old trying to deal with the mysterious disappearance of her father. Meg’s little brother, Charles Wallace, and Meg’s schoolmate, Calvin O’Keefe, join her on a galactic journey to find her father aided by the powers of Oprah, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon’s alien characters. Chris Pine plays Meg’s father, but he isn’t given much to do either. This is a very static film.

If you’re going to see this movie version of A Wrinkle in Time set the bar low. GRADE: C