Sunday, October 31, 2021

Series Showdown: Six-Gun Samurai vs Lone Star

It's East meets West meets East meets West. Lone Star was more mature and had better story, but lacked the gore and sleaze of Six-Gun Samurai. Lone Star's head falls on its lap staring up at the blood fountain spurting from its own neatly severed neck stump.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Alfred Hitchcock Anthologies

Woe be to the Alfred Hitchcock anthology completist.

Genius director and garbage can of a human being Alfred Hitchcock's name has been attached to over a hundred books and hundreds of digest magazine installments with thousands of stories of mystery and suspense. With a possible exception of the very beginning, he neither selected the stories nor wrote the introductions in his name.

A better history is at Casual Debris. A 95% accurate and complete bibliography at Casual Debris and The Hitchcock Zone. A cover gallery and an index for the magazine is at Galactic Central.

After a handful of scattered titles in the 40s, things picked up after the beginning of the 1955 TV series. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine began in 1956, and a book series followed in 1957. I don't think they were formally connected, but they had some synergy, with the books reprinting and the TV show filming some magazine stories.

Most of the books came out in hardback and dividing in half for two paperbacks. Some of the paperback titles had a first installment sharing the hardback title, such as Stories for Late at Night, with the second half as More Stories for Late at Night, or with a different title such as Skeleton Crew. So you get the same book with multiple titles, and multiple books with the same title. The hardbacks during this era were mostly from Random House and the paperbacks from Dell, but there are exceptions.

On top of that, there were different editions with different art, and on rare occasions slightly different story lineups, or abridged versions with a couple stories shaved off.

There was a series aimed at children, with the same caliber of stories, and a British series edited by Peter Haining, possibly the hardest to find. There were several French editions, but I haven't compared the table of contents to see if they are straight translations or new lineups.

Meanwhile the digest magazines have been published continuously since 1956 to this day, the second longest running mystery digest next to its sister title Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. There were reprint titles in the UK, Australia, and India. From 1957 to 1968, mostly in the fall, there was a sampler magazine. These were literally three random unsold magazines with the covers ripped off and stuck in a generic cover. I have a couple with the same cover and each has different titles underneath.

Things get confusing again with the series of 27 anthologies more directly linked with the magazine, edited by Eleanor Sullivan and Cathleen Jordan, published between 1977 and 1989. Some were numbered editions in thicker digest format, some also reprinted in hardcover, some reprinted in two large print hard covers as part one and two, some reprinted in the numbered series Alfred Hitchcock's Book of Horror Stories. Despite being more closely tied to the magazine, not all the stories came from there.

The hardback anthologies continued through the 90s, and began to be combined with stories from Ellery Queen. Cynthia Mason edited the later anthologies, with the theming focusing on theme (holidays, cats, etc) and the mention of Alfred Hitchcock being minimized.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Lone Star 2: Lone Star and the Opium Rustlers by Wesley Ellis

Lone Star 2
Lone Star and the Opium Rustlers
by Wesley Ellis
1982 Jove

Jessie Starbuck is the heir of the Starbuck fortune seeking revenge against the Prussian cartel who killed her family. Ki is a half Japanese samurai who pals around with her. Their connection isn't clear in the second volume, not sure if their partners, he's her employee, there's some honor blood debt thing, or what. They've got a Moonlighting will they / won't they sexual tension thing going on, but it doesn't stop them from performing in the three sex scenes contractually obligated in adult westerns (two for Ki and one for Jessie).

Jessie checks in on her corporate interests in San Francisco, discovering that the Prussian cartel is working with the Tongs and corrupt city officials. Jessie goes undercover in a brothel while Ki frees slaves from the Tong. Ki falls in love with a local Chinese girl which definitely doesn't get her raped and killed.

Like the best of adult westerns, this would have been so much better without the sex, which was shoehorned in at awkward intervals. The plotting was good, and did a pretty good job of establishing this as an episode of a longer series. The story is standalone, but you got a sense of progress towards Jessie's overall long term goal.

Kindle ebook from Amazon

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Six-Gun Samurai by Patrick Lee

Six-Gun Samurai
by Patrick Lee (Mark Roberts)
1981 Star

Tanaka Tom Fletcher was a westerner raised in Japan after being orphaned. He was trained as a samurai and returned to America to avenge the brutal massacre of his family.

We get the usual "Kung Fu" style of fish out of water culture clashes, with a text that alternatively decries and revels in casual racism. Tanaka comes across more ninja than samurai, though he quickly adopts Western firearms.

It more than delivers in violence and sleaze. Fletcher's swordplay is straight from a chanbara film, slicing up the baddies and having their various chunks slide off like a cartoon cat running through a harp. The villains are some of the worst  - their scam is to find landowners who have a gold claim and rape their children until the owners sign over the deeds.

The plot unravels a bit towards the end, with the story making some stretches to make sure some baddies live to be killed in further installments, but a fun ride overall.

Paperback from Amazon

Monday, October 18, 2021

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Series Showdown: Cap Kennedy vs Simon Rack

Cap Kennedy was more focused and had a better story structure (barely), but Simon Rack had a castle siege with exploding intestines. You do the math.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Simon Rack 1: Earth Lies Sleeping by Laurence James

Simon Rack 1
Earth Lies Sleeping
by Laurence James
1974 Sphere/Zebra

Simon Rack, agent of the futuristic Galactic Security Service, is sent to Earth for a mission involving freeing up trade of an element necessary for space travel. Earth is stuck in the middle ages, and there's kind of a Prime Directive thing about not using advanced technology, but not really. Simon and crew hang around taverns, get captured, escape through elaborate death traps, and generally go through the motions of a sillier D&D campaign.

There's a decent pay off at the end where Rack leads a rebellion, featuring a castle siege with advanced weapons which make your intestines crystallize and explode out of your stomach. His first novel, this one felt like James already had a first draft of a medieval novel and rewrote it when his editor wanted scifi. Curious how the rest of the series plays out.

As of this writing, a cheap edition available for Kindle on Amazon.

Friday, October 8, 2021

John & Ernest: Super Fly Meets Shaft

The "break in" record is a specific strain of novelty song, in which a narrator, usually a newscaster, acts like they're doing man on the street interviews, and the answers are all samples from popular records of the day. They are all very bad, and John & Ernest are no exception.

Super Fly Meets Shaft was released, and even charted, in 1973. It starts with the cardinal error of thinking that Super Fly is a name and not an adjective for Youngblood Priest, and goes downhill from there.

And the B-side, Soul President Number One

Monday, October 4, 2021

Steinwasen Park - Germany

 Some interesting layout her at Steinwasen Park in Germany. Beautiful scenery, a covered alpine slide, a rapids ride with a spiral lift, and two indoor rides that travel in and out between common areas and their own show.

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Glass Bottle

The Glass Bottle is a one album band from 1970, produced by Dickie Goodman of break-in novelty song infamy. The songs are unremarkable - of greater interest is the fact that this was part of a marketing campaign for literal glass bottles, as soda companies were moving to plastic. None of the songs are about glass bottles, I guess the idea was to keep the notion of glass bottles in people's heads. Or more likely, Dickie and company trying to get music industry cred on the advertising company's dime.