Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tom Swift's Electrio-Gizmo Xmas Tree

Just in time for the holidays, I'd like to put you in contact with the greatest "Grampa" in the world (of audiobooks at the very least). Roy Trumbull is at the website The Story Spieler. I first ran across him while looking for audiobooks of L. Frank Baum's Oz series. He had a few on and felt that this guy is the perfect storm of children's storytelling. He's got the great wizened Grampa voice along with being able to read without stumbling, a strong presence and a broad yet always interesting choice of materials to pull from.

Through Roy I discovered Tom Swift. "Whatchew talkin' bout Willis?" you may ask since Tom Swift has been around for almost a hundred years now. Quite frankly it's just never been a frame of reference for me. I always thought of Tom Swift in the most abstract of terms, thinking it just some moralistic part of American folklore, like Jack Sprat or something. I had no idea there were several series of books and that they are scifi adventures like you might see in Jonny Quest or the pages of the pulps. Great big "duh" on me. Ah well, it's great to learn new things about old stuff.

Roy has put up a story called TOM SWIFT AND THE VISITOR FROM PLANET X which piqued my interest. A folksy abstract idea meeting a Planet Xian? HUH? OK so I obviously had to research Mr Swift some. I looked him up on wikipedia and stole the above image from a nice site with info on a lot of the books.


I would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season. Take it easy, be happy with your friends and family and think about how cool it would be to have world peace.
The Xmas tree from Planet X.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gimme that Old Time Horror!


Time goes by so fast, especially when you are really, really busy from sun up to sun down. It's been so busy that I haven't had time to enter anything here lately much less encode any books to audio format.

But I do want to touch base and just let people know what I've been listening to in my ever lengthening commute.

A few posts back I talked about the website for Quiet, Please, and since then I've kept up with some studies on the history of horror on old time radio. What is generally considered to be the first major horror OTR program was The Witch's Tale, written and produced by Alonzo Dean Cole. This started in 1931 and ran through 1938. Old Nancy the witch-host of the show was originally 75 year old Adelaide Fitz-Allen. When she passed away 5 years later she was replaced by a then 13 year old Miriam Wolfe.

This is one of my favorite radio series since it keeps pretty straight forward into the occult horror genre and rarely strays into standard detective-type pot boilers. Here we find werewolves, ghosts, giant insects and revenge from beyond the grave!

You can find 60+ episodes at click here to go straight to the streaming and download page.

LIGHTS OUT, Everybody...

Probably one of the most enduring radio shows, up there with Inner Sanctum and The Shadow, is LIGHTS OUT. Started by Wyllis Cooper of QUIET, PLEASE fame, it was taken over by an extraordinary entrepreneur by the name of Arch Oboler. This was a horror and weird fiction anthology that would not die. Starting in 1934 it took a break because of WWII for a couple of years but resumed from 1942 until 1947. There is a distinct patriotic edge to the 1942 - 47 run but it isn't obnoxious. Oboler would run a series called "Arch Oboler's Plays" which were aimed directly at the war effort. Those stories ranged in quality but really did show the breadth of what Oboler was capable of writing.

In the early 1970's Oboler would revisit the LIGHTS OUT oeuvre with THE DEVIL AND MR. O. Oboler tended to stay more on the weird tales, horror and detective noir with a twist ending type tales and a lot of become true classics. The primary one everyone sites is CHICKEN HEART which Bill Cosby did a skit on in the 70's, about a living chicken heart that grows exponentially until it threatens the existence of the entire Earth. Another personal favorite is also a mad science out of control yarn called OXYCHLORIDE X. You can find episodes in many entries on, but here is one of the biggest deposits of episodes.

I've been reading a few books on this stuff lately and here are two:
Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Behind the Creaking Door. Kearney, NE. Morris Publishing. 2002 by Martin Grams
Terror on the Air! Horror Radio in America, 1931- 1952. Jefferson, NC. McFarland & Company, Inc. 2006. by Richard J. Hand.

Another I haven't gotten to yet is The Witch's Tale -- Stories of Gothic Horror from the Golden Age of Radio. Yorktown Heights, NY. Dunwhich Press. 1998. by David Siegel.

Also I'd like to point out the website Radio Horror Hosts, which is a great nexus of horror related OTR. Here you can find info on almost all of the horror shows that appeared on U.S. radio since the 1930s, along with articles ranging from violence and censorship on the radio to its influence on TV and comics.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Calling Captain Future!

I've covered horror, fantasy and crime so far, but haven't really hit on scifi yet. So thought it would be appropriate to bring in Edmond Hamilton's CAPTAIN FUTURE, who had his own magazine for around 17 issues and then later was run in STARTLING STORIES for another several issues. Hamilton was in the pulp business from early on and started with a space opera before Captain Future called THE INTERSTELLAR PATROL which ran in WEIRD TALES. This series has been collected into two books (CRASHING SUNS and OUTSIDE THE UNIVERSE) that are both easily available at most online used book stores.

There are of course many scifi pulps out there, and most considered more adult and "respectable" than the CAPTAIN FUTURE series, but I like my pulp to be... pulpy and not so high-falootin'. So this stuff is a lot of fun as it reminds me of a cross between Doc Savage and Flash Gordon. It's more Space Fantasy than Science Fiction I suppose, but whatever it is, it's pretty fun to read.

For this experiment I've picked CALLING CAPTAIN FUTURE which is the second book in the series. Though I've read several stories so far, this one really hits all of the great genre hotspots: a Sargasso sea of space with a conglomerate of standed ancient space ships, some of which are inhabited by tentacled, blood-thirsty aliens, a romp on Pluto's frozen surface and moons, chased around by hairy dinosaurs, wacky aliens, mad scientists, and a "Legion of Doom"!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


For some reason I was just never a big fan of Two-Gun Bob's peplumy fantasy worlds. They are well written, there's no doubting REH is a master wordsmith of action packed and or horrifying adventure tales, but Conan, Kull, Red Sonja and friends are just not really my thing.

I do find Solomon Kane to be very interesting though as it mixes a little Sword & Sorcery with a little Talbot Mundy or Arthur Friel "exotic adventuring". In fact I believe REH has said that he was a big fan of Friel, so it comes as no surprize that the types of bloody adventure found in Friel and Howard are a pretty close match.

Along with today's experiment I want to point out a couple of things going on in the world of Kane. For one, there is an indie movie now being produced. There's not a ton of info on it but the writer/director is putting out a video blog about the project.

Also there was a fan-made short recently, adapting one of the Kane poems, "The Return of Sir Richard Grenville". It's pretty cool especially for a short, fan-made film. You can check it out by hitting the arrow below.

ALSO it looks like the DARK HORSE Comics' REH line will be putting out a series based on Kane in 2008.

If you are interested in buying the book there is a definitive edition collecting all the stories, poems and fragments, with excellent illustrations by Gary Gianni. From the same publisher are three poems you can download from here.

So on with the experiment. Today we have one of the longer stories in the Kane series, THE MOON OF SKULLS. Click to run in your browser or right-click and "save as" to download.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Lupin the Third's Grandpappy

I always knew that the very long running manga series by Monkey Punch and still running Japanese animation Lupin III was based on a series of French, turn of the century novels by Maurice Leblanc. But had no idea until recently that there are a lot of media incarnations outside of the Japanese anime TV series and movies.

What piqued my curiosity about this fact was that I ran across a trailer for a French made movie called simply ARSENE LUPIN that came out in 2004. It's based on the original 1924 novel THE COUNTESS OF CAGLIOSTRO. Though taking place in the proper time period, it looks to have a bit of that BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF look to it, being filmed in a very "modern" style and using a lot of martial arts that seem to me to be anachronistic of the time. Ah well, it still looks pretty moody and fun. I have it but haven't had a chance to watch it yet.

So this got me wondering about other versions, and upon searching around it looks like there's quite a few. Of live action, there seems to be about 20-something movies from several different countries, starting from 1907 to a new one that is an adaptation of the anime slated to come out in 2008. There was an earlier adaptation from the anime from 1974 called "Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy" which is currently available on R1.

Also in the 1930s was an American made movie that starred John Barrymore as Lupin and his brother Lionel as the Inspector. Two more American made Lupin movies came after the Barrymore one but I guess didn't do so well.

There's two (maybe more) live action series from France circa 1960-70. And a Canadian made cartoon called "Night Hood". The first episode of which, Lupin is confronted and bested by Sherlock Holmes.

"Whaaat?" you might wonder. Well, as it happens in the original line of books by Leblanc, Lupin did indeed come up against Sherlock Holmes on several occasions. Though for copywrite reasons he is called "Herlock Sholmes" or "Hemlock Shears".

In this experiment we are going to take a listen to "The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar" which is a collection of Maurice Leblanc's first Lupin stories which were first serialized in the French magazine "Je Sais Tout" in 1905. The stories are witty and a lot of fun and it's easy to see where the charm of all the different media incarnations get their genesis.

Click here to take a listen.