SAME TIME, SAME CHANNEL: An A-to-Z Guide to Radio from Jack Benny to Howard Stern by Ron Lackmann disappointed the heck out of me. Lackmann has relatively little to say about the plots or characters of the various shows, instead focusing on rattling off the cast lists, sponsors and networks (in fairness, this was apparently tough stuff to figure out when this book came out in the 1990s). It’s also sloppily edited — the Kaye, Danny entry says to see Danny Kaye Show, which doesn’t have an entry — and with a few too many errors (the Fu Manchu movie serial was Drums of Fu Manchu, not Shadow of).
THE BLIND SPOT by Austin Hall and Homer Eon Flint worked better for me than when I read it in college, but ultimately it still fails. A philosopher announces his next lecture will shatter the “blind spot” that makes us think the occult is beyond scientific understanding. After he vanishes in the company of the mysterious Ramda Avec, the protagonists search a mysterious, spooky old house for answers and discover ties to a magical world. This part is readable, though slow, but when we cross through the house to a parallel world, it becomes a complete slog to get through. The focus shifts to a minor and uninteresting supporting character and the setting is a third-rate Edgar Rice Burroughs Lost Race story when what’s needed is an A. Merritt-class exotic world. The Virgil Finlay cover is too good for the work it depicts.
I checked out THE BEST OF RICHARD MATHESON from the library to see if the source story for The Stranger Within was included; it wasn’t, but as I’m a Matheson fan I read it through anyway, though skipping the stories I already have. A vampire plans his own funeral. A janitor becomes a genius. A woman fights the killer doll stalking through her apartment (that one I did reread). Some of the stories didn’t work, but overall most satisfactory.
Edward Eager’s KNIGHT’S CASTLE has the next generation of the family in Half Magic and Magic By the Lake get their own adventure when magic sucks them into a castle playset to keep re-enacting messed-up versions of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe: knights in the 20th century, battles with angry dolls and having Prince John turn into a parody of Stalin (“No one can get past this iron curtain!”). Not up to the first two books but still charming; like so many Ivanhoe riffs, this has the hero and Rebecca wind up together (it’s the unanimous opinion of Scott fans that she’s way more interesting than the romantic lead Rowena).
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