Last Update 6/22/21

Random Notes, Random Lines by Donald Sidney-Fryer, Hippocampus, 2021, $20, ISBN 978-1-61498-338-5

This is a collection of essays originally published over a span of almost fifty years. They discuss various aspects of horror and fantasy, including the Conan saga, Clark Ashton Smith, poetry, and other topics. The essays are well written although only about half of them dealt with issues that I found of interest. There is also a short collection of indifferent poems. Some are essentially reviews, some critiques, and others historical summaries. They originally appeared in a variety of genre publications - mostly semi-professional magazines. This is of most interest to those with specialized tastes rather than general ones despite the high quality of the prose. 6/22/21

The Attack on Taranto by Thomas P. Lowry & John W.G. Wellham, Stackpole, 1995

The Italian fleet was state of the art and dominated the Mediterranean early in the war. Its base of operations was the fortified harbor of Taranto where battleships, cruisers, and destroyers were arranged in neat rows. The British launched a daring air attack with less than thirty planes, put two battleships, a cruiser, and some destroyers out of action for half a year and destroyed a large hangar and its aircraft, and only lost a single plane. The attack was so devastating that the Japanese sent people to study it, and this was probably a major input into the attack on Pearl Harbor. Short and spends considerable time on side issues, but informative. 6/10/21

Bare Bones 6

The latest issue looks at a variety of literary genres. Richard Krauss looks at crime magazines, David Sutton reminisces about horror anthology series in the UK, the sleaze magazine Web Terror Stories gets a thorough going over by Peter Enfantino, and there are other articles about Caroline Munro, The Outer Limits, Leslie Whitten's Moon of the Wolf, and other topics. I have a column here, this time examining two collections of Hammer Film novelizations by Jonathan Burke, published by Pan in the UK. Well worth your time. 5/31/21

The Phantom Detective Companion by Tom Johnson, Altus, 2009

Although the Phantom Detective ran for twenty years, it did not have as many issues as Doc Savage or the Shadow. I have read about twenty in the series, and was not particularly impressed. They were mostly written by established pulp names like Norman Daniels, Emile Tepperman, Norvell Page, and a couple I had not heard from. That said, I enjoyed reading through the summaries of each novel, which are accompanied by information about the actual writer, or speculation about the identities when not known. Henry Kuttner wrote two of them - neither of which I have seen -as did Ray Cummings. There are several articles about the series, about unpublished stories that were changed and sold elsewhere, and about an imitator known as the Blue Ghost. A very helpful book. 5/17/21

Bare Bones 5, 2021, $9.95

This is a revival of a magazine dedicated to rare and vintage genre fiction. This issue talks about Robert Bloch's Twilight Zone novelization, killer plants in movies, sleaze paperbacks, The Whistler, William Campbell Gault, and other subjects. David Schow's column is interesting as always. I have a column here as well, in which I remember some big bug science fiction novels. Lots of cover art included. Available from Amazon. 3/12/21

The Far West by Dwight Holing, Smithsonian, 1996 

For purposes of this guide, the Far West includes California and Nevada. I spent about an hour at a California airport – coming back from Vietnam – and have never visited Nevada. California is quite varied – forests, deserts, mountains, seacoast – and much of it is very scenic. The text is minimally interesting and there seems to be fewer examples of birds and other animals than usual for this series. 2/14/21

The Pacific by Steve Barth, Smithsonian, 1995 

Nope, California is not included in this travel guide. This volume covers Alaska and Hawaii only. I found this volume in the series particularly interesting because the two environments are so different from each other and from the rest of the states. I have been to Hawaii, but only one island. The islands actually differ quite a bit from each other. Alaska, as you would expect, includes lots of photos of ice capped mountains and landscapes. I hate cold weather so this wouldn’t be high on my visit list, but there are some very impressive vistas included. Nevada shows less variation but there are some beautiful photographs here as well. This volume has a lot of wildlife included. 2/1/21

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler, Quercus, 2019 

The title is a bit of a misnomer since John Dickson Carr and Georgette Heyer, among others, can hardly be considered forgotten. Perhaps they are underappreciated. The book consists of short essays covering more than a hundred writer – half of whom I have read at least some of their work. There is a lot of delightful information included here and only a couple of errors. The aliens in The Body Snatchers do not take over the bodies of their victims and Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver is not a casual busybody who interferes in police investigations. She is in fact a private detective and usually works cooperatively with the police. I ordered several books based on the descriptions Fowler provides and many more are on my watch-for list. Just what I needed – more books to read. 1/13/21

The Pacific Northwest by Daniel Jack Chasan, Smithsonian, 1995  w2125 

Obviously this guide covers Washington State and Oregon. There is a wider range of geographic types than in most other books in this series. Parts of Oregon look a lot like New England, at least superficially. The plants and animals are noticeably different when you look more closely. Washington has some really impressive mountains. I once spent a night and a day in Seattle and it never stopped raining so I didn’t get to see very much. 1/5/21

Mammoth Science by David Macaulay, DK, 2020  

You could probably learn more about biology and physic by reading this book than you could from a couple of years of high school science. Using mammoths as a unifying – and sometimes intentionally silly – theme, the author provides clever illustrations of how matter exists, how forces work, how life functions, and how energy works. The book should be appealing to adults, but it would be ideal for school children, particularly having trouble comprehending – or being interested in – scientific principles. The author’s other works include The Way Things Work, which is an equally useful explanation of how simple machines are built and function. 1/2/21