Twenty mp3s of Great Songs from 1901-1920

New visitors may also enjoy Vintage Film Sampler: What to Watch When You Don’t Know What You Like (an introduction to the films of the 1940s and 1950s), Graphic Novels for People Who Hate Comics and Sesame Street Video Clips.

It’s a shame most people are unfamiliar with American Popular Music. It’s great fun. It occurred to me today that a lot of this music is in the Public Domain — I could rip mp3s from my collection and post them. So I have. All mp3s in this entry are in the Public Domain — download and share!

The best way to introduce this music is probably to offer the entire 1991 RCA collection called Nipper’s Greatest Hits: 1901-1920. This disc is long out-of-print. It sells for $190 on Amazon. One copy recently sold for $60 on eBay. In the early days of eBay, I lost a bidding war for this disc. I contacted the winning bidder, and she graciously made me a copy of the disc and the insert.

According to the liner notes:

The selections of Nipper’s Greatest Hits: 1901-1920, are redolent of those days when performers played and sang into a simple acoustical horn whose vibrations were sensitized onto the wax of a revolving disc. Today’s digital restoration of the early shellac records not only eliminates unwanted ticks, pops, and surface noise; it also amplifies the sound signal, so that in this compilation one hears those musical pioneers in their best guise.

Here are all twenty songs from the set, displayed in chronological order, not track order. The song title links to an mp3; the performer name links to additonal information (generally from wikipedia).

This isn’t a comprehensive list of popular music of the era. Two of the biggest songs — “After the Ball” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” — aren’t even included. However, it’s a good representation music that was popular one hundred years ago.

Many of these songs sound quaint to our ears. Recording technology was primitive before 1925, and the best way to get a good recording was to be loud. Opera singers and brass bands made great records.

If you like this music — and I doubt that many of you will — check out modern interpretations of the songs. I’m particularly fond of After the Ball, which I own on vinyl. Joan Morris does a good job with piano accompaniment (though her style is operatic).

For more information on early American popular music, explore:

I’d love to start a weblog devoted to this stuff, but with this blog, my personal finance blog, and my comics blog (not to mention some secret stuff), I’m positively blogged out.

Please please please forward other sites that feature early American popular music.

Burglary Leads to Bizarre Kidnapping

“You wouldn’t believe how stupid some people are,” Dave often tells me. He’s a lawyer. “Criminals are just stupid.” Here’s a story from today’s issue of the Clackamas Review that supports his claim.

Burglary leads to bizarre kidnapping, drug charges
from the 28 June 2006 issue of Clackamas Review

A residential burglary went from bad to worse in Milwaukie June 16, leading to criminal charges for all involved.

According to Clackamas County Sherrif’s Office spokesman Detective Jim Strovink, the incident started out as the sort of case law enforcement often never sees: Someone burglarized a house and discovered a marijuana-growing operation. Although the resident reportedly had a medical marijuana permit, police say he was growing far more than he was allowed.

“You’ve got one individual who burglarized the house and got some marijuana,” Strovink said, “and recognized ‘what is this stuff — this stuff is great!'”

The homeowner, Bradley Poppino, 43, was apparently away at the time. The alleged burglar, Paul Canul, 18, of Milwaukie, reportedly decided to come back.

“He recruited a couple of mopes to go with him and said ‘I’ll give you a cut if you help out.’ Little did he know that the homeowner, Poppino, had returned and discovered what had happened.”

Poppino reportedly had a friend of his own, neighbor Andrew Kester, 27, also of Milwaukie. Poppino had parked his vehicle away from the house — to make it appear he had not returned — and was waiting.

“Sure enough, the three mopes come down the road there — two go to the front and one comes to the back.”

The neighbor saw them. “He said ‘school’s out and here’s three guys with backpacks — it looks unusual.’ He pops up, and Poppino comes out of his house.”

Two of the suspects reportedly ran in one direction; the third, Canul, fled with Poppino and Kester in hot pursuit. Canul reportedly had a pistol, but “they were not intimidated — they tackled him.”

Canul was brought back to the house and allegedly duct-taped and threatened if he didn’t return the marijuana stolen in the first burglary.

“They allowed him access to a cell phone, after they started intimidating him, saying they would cut off his toes — one for every hour they didn’t have the product returned.”

He was allowed to talk to his friends, to tell them to come and bring the marijuana; in the process, he made it known to them that he was still being held at the house they had allegedly tried to rob. They called the police.

“The uniformed officers go down there from the description provided to them,” Strovink said. “They go up to the door at Poppino’s house, and they’re greeted by these two individuals, Poppino and Kester. They split the two up and start talking to them, and they give it up to them.

“They go inside, and there’s this guy — sitting in a chair with a blanket in his lap — and there’s a mountain of duct tape beside him, and his shoe’s off.”

By that time it was about 7 p.m., and Canul had been there for about four hours. Strovink said Canul confessed to stealing from the house; officers took everyone into custody.

Poppino was charged with Kidnapping I as well as with manufacturing marijuana; Kester was charged with kidnapping, as well. Canul was charged wtih Robber I and Attempted Burglary I, as well as the unlawful possession of a weapon with the intent to use it.

“This is a rather odd series of events,” Strovink said. “But it’s not unusual to have people growing marijuana — manufacturing it — to be ripped off.

In this case, he said, “you’ve got guns, drugs, and stupid people…that’s the trifecta.”

It almost sounds like the plot for a bad buddy-comedy film.

Blue Jay Riot

Poor Kris.

She hasn’t been sleeping well lately, probably because of the heat. This morning she nudged me awake: “You’re going have to get ready for work on your own. I’m exhausted. I’ve got to sleep more.” I got up. She stayed in bed.

Almost immediately a flock of jays gathered in the yard for an important 5:30 a.m. conference. They squawked and screeched and scolded, their voices raised together in a cacophonous chorus that nobody could sleep through.

Then I heard my alarm go off. Kris hates when I forget to turn off my alarm while she’s still in bed. I cringed, knowing that she was cursing me as she fumbled to stop the noise.

The jays took a seed break and all was quiet for a while. However, they soon returned to look after unfinished business. They yelled and screamed some more. This time they were joined by a pair of cranky crows, who cawed their support for one jay plan or another.

Kris came downstairs before I left. She wasn’t happy. I tried to strike up a conversation. “When did the cats come in?” I asked.

“At 4:30,” she said. “Nemo started yowling and yowling. He was hungry.” Both of the boys have been boycotting the house since I brought the kittens home the other night. They’re refusing even to come in to eat — a hunger strike in protest of the interlopers. (The kittens are all now back at the shop, by the way.)

Poor Kris.

Frugal Weekend

Kris and I had a busy weekend which was filled with frugality. Mostly.

On Friday, we stopped by the Milwaukie library book sale. This is the first library book sale I’ve attended where I haven’t felt compelled to purchase tons of books. I did buy a few, though, including:

  • Your Money Matters by Malcolm MacGregor
  • 2001 Household Hints and Dollar Stretchers by Michael Gore
  • The Young Man Entering Business by Orison Swett Marden (a 1901 guide for young men — my big splurge at $6)
  • Wealth Without Risk by Charles Givens
  • Collins Latin-English Dictionary
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • On Writing Well by William Zinssesr (third edition)
  • If You Want to Write by Brend Ueland
  • The Elements of Expression by Arthur Plotnik
  • The Ortho Guide to Basic Home Wiring Techniques
  • The Ortho Guide to Doors, Windows, and Skylights
  • The Sunset Guide to Home Canning
  • The Farm Journal Freezing and Canning Cookbook
  • Heloise from A to Z

Total cost? About $14, nearly half of which went to the old book. After a quick stop at Mike’s Drive-In for some milkshakes, Kris and I drove to Portland Nursery to buy a rain barrel for her birthday.

On Saturday, we made our first-ever foray to the Eastmoreland Community Garage Sale. Wow! There were 140+ families officially participating, and many more who were unofficially participating. We spent five hours walking the streets, looking for bargains.

I spent $21.75:

  • $5 on a cat carrier ($25 new)
  • $3 on a mitre saw and mitre box
  • $5 on an unused set of rapidograph pens ($90 new at Amazon!)
  • $0.25 on The Wealthy Barber (!!!)
  • $1 on Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant
  • $1 on Real Estate Loop-Holes: Secrets of Successful Real Estate Investing, which is marketed under the Rich Dad brand
  • $1 on MAD About the Seventies
  • $5 on an old slate chalkboard
  • $0.50 on The Motley Fool Investment Guide

I also spent several dollars buying drinks and snacks from kids in the neighborhood. I always buy stuff from kids. This girl was selling jokes:

On Saturday evening, Tiffany and Andi joined us for a potluck BBQ at Paul and Amy Jo‘s. We were all famished, and gorged ourselves on the delicious food.

Last week, Kris and I discovered the Milwaukie farmers market, which takes place midday every Sunday during the summer. We’ve lived here two years, but have never gone. That’s a shame, because the market is much better than we had expected. There’s lots of fresh produce, of course:


But there are also vendors selling flowers, sharpening knives, serving lemonade, cooking sausages and elephant ears, and selling meat (lamb, pork, clams, etc.). I spent $7 on flavored cheese curds. What an awesome snack: garlic- or chipotle pepper-flavored curds are delicious!

On Sunday afternoon, we wilted in the heat. In the evening, Mike and Rhonda joined us to celebrate Kris’ birthday at Higgins, one of our favorite Portland restaurants. I promptly spent three times as much for one meal as I had spent over the entire weekend buying books, scavenging garage sales, and looking over fresh produce. But it was worth it.

It was a very good weekend.

Too Hot

Even Simon believes it is too hot:

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to come inside any time soon.

Three Kittens

Custom Box Service has three kittens.

Earlier in the week, Jeff startled a black cat from the lawnmower shed. She took off like a flash. Yesterday he discovered three hungry kittens in the same shed, hiding under some tarps. The black cat must be there mother, but there’s no sign of her now. Unfortunately, Mama Cat may have abandoned her babies.

The three kittens — which are as adorable — are hungry. We don’t know how old they are, or what to feed them. We have a case of cat food from several years ago — the cans are marked “best by July 04”. We figure it’s our best choice. I gave them each a dollop of wet food this morning. One devoured it, another munched on it idly, and the third ignored it completely.

Later I took out a bowl of water, but my little friends were oblivious to it. They walked through it, stumbled in it, stuck their noses in it, but they did not drink.

What should we feed a trio of kittens that are a few weeks old? They don’t seem big enough to be weaned. (They may only be a couple weeks old. As I say, we can’t tell how old they are.) Is wet cat food safe? Should we get them some milk?

They already have little personalities. One of the grey kittens likes to follow the guys around the lawn. The black kitten has an amazing set of lungs, and its wailing can be heard from a great distance.

But I have to tell myself not to get attached to these babies. The odds that they’ll survive are near zero. It’s hard, though. I love kittens. I really do.


Summer has arrived, and so too, at last, has the sun.

Kris and I now spend our evenings roaming the yard. She prunes flowers and weeds her tomato plants. I tie up my grape vines or mow the lawn. The cats wander to-and-fro, attending to their cat agendas, stopping briefly to greet us when there is nothing more urgent to do.

The strawberries are nearly finished, as are the peas. The raspberries are bountiful, but their texture is odd: the fruit is small and crumbly. The lowbush blueberries have just begun to ripen — they’re fat and juicy. Our marionberry or boysenberry (we can never remember which) is enormous. It stretches the entire twenty-foot length of the berry trellis, its thick and thorny vine like something from Sleeping Beauty. It has produced thousands of little fruits, which have begun to change from pink to red, and which will soon grow purple and delicious.

Last night while examining the apple trees, I was treated to a chorus of cheeps from the corner of the yard. It sounded as if scores of baby birds were crying out in hunger. I walked over to find their nest (or nests). The birds were in the big camellia at the corner of the house. But they weren’t baby birds. The tree was filled with a swarm of bushtits.

In a fit of orneriness, I spread my arms and ran headlong into the camellia, hoping to raise a cloud of bushtits from its branches. Instead, I only raised a puff: about twenty or thirty of the little birds took wing, seeking refuge in the locust.

Later, Kris summoned me to the yard. “Look,” she said, pointing at Simon. He was crouched lawn in the grass, creeping toward the rose garden. I looked to where he was staring, and there was the flock of bushtits, flitting from bloom to bloom.

Tiff’s friend, Andrea, has been visiting from Philadelphia for the past week. Kris and I have joined them for a couple of meals, once at Mike’s hamburger stand, and once at Nicholas’ lebanese. Yum. Andi is a photographer, and a good one. She earns a living with her images. I took some time to pick her brain, especially about iStockPhotos, where she sells a lot of her work. Thanks for being patient with me, Andi! (Andi’s flickr stream.)

An Introduction to Classic Films

text by Kris, links by J.D.

[Note: Kris’ original title was Vintage Film Sampler: What to Watch When You Don’t Know What You Like, but it’s just too damned long!]

A friend of ours recently joined Netflix and asked me to make some recommendations. Although Jd & I do our fair share of adding recent releases to our Queue, I think Netflix’s true strengths shine when it comes to viewing both TV series and Classic Films.

I am a sucker for the old black-and-whites. Especially Warner Bros. Especially from the late thirties and forties. Especially Bette Davis.

Turner Classic Movies was my first introduction to many of these vintage films, but even they don’t own the rights to everything. Netflix has a very respectable inventory of the most-acclaimed Classic Films, but they are missing some of the more obscure from my favorite actors.

If you’re new to the genre, I’ve compiled a list to get you started. Once you’ve sampled from the list, it’s easy to branch out according to your taste. Pick a favorite actress (Katharine Hepburn, for example), Director (George Cukor, anyone?), year or two (hard to beat 1939-1942 in my book), romantic duo (ie. Bogart & Bacall) or style (screwball comedy, film noir).

The list is chronological. Remember that most actors worked on contract in those days, meaning they churned out the movies, so there are bound to be some losers among their credited titles. As the list moves from thirties to fifties, color arrives and the films lose their cinematic innocence. Movies of the fifties and sixties are bleaker, angrier, more “real” than their theatrical predecessors. (By the seventies, I think they’re mostly vapid or in need of therapy.)

I’ve organized most of the list according to leading actress for two reasons: the movies I love almost always have a strong female character, and the biggest names (and salaries) during this era were the leading ladies (partly due to the influence of WWII in the mid-forties). Davis and Hepburn get the most due to the incredible length and breadth of their careers. I hope my plot summaries below aren’t as bad as the Sci-Fi blurbs, but face it, vintage films require you to accept implausibility.

I hope you find something you like!

Claudette ColbertIt Happened One Night (1934)
I’m not normally a screwball comedy fan, but the chemistry between Colbert and Clark Gable is undeniable. Directed by Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life), this early film set the stage for the next fifteen (or fifty) years of romantic comedies.

Katharine HepburnStage Door (1937)
Before Hepburn was a big star, her trademark cheekbones were part of this ensemble cast that also features Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden (the principal in Grease), Lucille Ball, and Ann Miller. In the role of a snooty aspiring actress, Hepburn’s so convincingly bad you’ll forget she’s acting.

Bette DavisJezebel (1938)
Warner Bros.’ pre-emptive answer to Gone with the Wind. Davis is a rebellious Southern Belle opposite Henry Fonda. Great supporting cast. Includes dueling and the obligatory happy slaves singing gospel songs and an obscenely melodramatic ending. No one but Davis could have carried off this plot.

Norma ShearerThe Women (1939)
One of the most popular stars in her day, Shearer’s name hasn’t survived among the pantheon of movie greats. But this is a great film. The all-woman cast includes Joan Fontaine, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Marjorie Main. It deftly showcases some of the fads and trends of the day, and has both snappy and heartfelt dialogue. There’s a decent remake as a musical with June Allyson (The Opposite Sex, 1956). If you like Shearer, she played a sympathetic Marie Antoinette opposite Tyrone Power (va-va-voom!) the previous year. [J.D.’s note: there’s also a new version in production. I like this film.]

Katharine HepburnThe Philadelphia Story (1940)
C’mon — you’ve seen this one, right? An uber-classic. Fabulous trio of Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart; it’s hard to know which guy to root for. All the minor roles excellent, too. (Make sure you don’t get the watery musical remake with Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby from 1956 — called High Societyugh!)

Joan FontaineRebecca (1940)
You’ll win a prize if you can figure out Fontaine’s character’s name in this classic psychodrama by Hitchcock (hint: it’s not Rebecca). Also a wonderful leading role spin by Laurence Olivier, if you want to see what your grandmothers were swooning over. Stellar supporting cast. If you like the movie, the book is even better.

Ingrid BergmanGaslight (1940)
The vulnerable Bergman is lovely in her distress in this film. Although the plot is a bit thin, both she and Charles Boyer, her (mis)leading man, shine. Too bad Joseph Cotton is so stiff here.

Bette DavisAll This, and Heaven Too (1940)
Davis is a governess who accidentally sparks the French Revolution when she becomes embroiled in a battle of wills between a Duke and Duchess. Features some nice child actresses (including June Lockhart of later Leave it to Beaver fame). NOT available on Netflix! Let’s start a letter-writing campaign. [J.D.: I find this film tedious. It’s not available on Netflix because it’s not out on DVD.]

Orson WellesCitizen Kane (1941)
No true fan of cinema should skip this movie. All of Welles’ films are scary in their single-minded, experimental genius; this is the least flawed among them. Pay attention to the groundbreaking camera work by Gregg Toland. And oh yeah, Welles is the lead actor, writer, director and producer of this amazing film. He was 26 at the time. [J.D.: Kane has some great moments and should not be missed, but the film d-r-a-g-s in its last act. Welles was 26! 26! It boggles the mind.)

Greer GarsonMrs. Miniver (1942)
Director William Wyler made this movie about a British family in WWII to encourage the US to join the war against Germany. And it worked! FDR used part of the film’s dialogue to persuade the Americans that the fight was worthy. It’s cheesy patriotism but the casting is perfect and there’s a twist in the end. It will make you remember that there were wars for which we sacrificed more than just our tax dollars. Greer Garson also played a charming Elizabeth Bennet (opposite Laurence Olivier as Darcy) from 1940, and if you like movies about famous chemists, she’s a wonderful Madame Curie in 1943. (Unfortunately — neither available from Netflix, although Random Harvest, a decent alternative, is.)

Bette DavisNow, Voyager (1942)
Ah, unrequited love. Davis’ transformation from over-mothered spinster to confident (and secretly fallen) woman is beautiful. Also a great scene where she gets to tell off her controlling mother. You may have never seen the leading man, Paul Henreid, in anything else, but he will capture your heart here. Be forewarned: very cheesy ending.

Ingrid BergmanNotorious (1946)
What could be finer than Bergman and Cary Grant teaming up to fight the Nazis! Hitchcock balances the romance, character development and suspense in one of his best. Great camera work. Kudos to villain Claude Rains, too; at times, he steals the show and you feel sorry for him even though he is a Nazi!

Lauren Bacall/Humphrey BogartThe Big Sleep (1946)
Ah, I long for the days when a leading man could be ridiculous-looking, and be named Humphrey, but still make the ladies pant. Don’t allow yourself to be confused by the plot (or lack thereof) in this one. Just enjoy the ride. None of the Bogart/Bacall movies have serious credentials; they existed merely as excuses to get this team together on the screen.

Irene Dunne/William PowellLife with Father (1947)
Adapted from what was (at the time) the longest-running non-musical Broadway play of all time, a very cheesy family comedy set in 1883 New York. Good clean fun that will probably bore the pants off any young movie-viewer today. Lots of complaints on the Netflix site about the DVD quality on this and a few other older films. Sounds as though some film restoration is in order so we don’t lose classics like this one. [J.D.: This film is goofy fun. Some of the dialogue is as hilarious as you’ll ever find, especially when Mother explains her shopping rationale. And who can forget Father’s constant refrain of “I am not going to be bap-uh-tized.”]

Katharine HepburnAdam’s Rib (1949)
Had to include at least one Hepburn pairing with Spencer Tracy. Their off-screen romance permeates their acting. In this film they are husband-and-wife lawyers on opposite sides of a case in which a woman tried to kill her husband for infidelity. A wonderful examination of gender issues is woven through the slapstick. (My fave Spencer/Hepburn, Without Love, isn’t available from Netflix.)

Bette DavisAll About Eve (1950)
You owe it to yourself to see this film. Top-notch acting from the entire cast (including Marilyn Monroe in a minor role). Deliciously wicked. Has the famous “bumpy night” line. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Rent it. By now, the young attractive actress Bette Davis has morphed into the weird-looking later Bette Davis, but her acting became even more powerful as she aged. [J.D.: Despite some slowness in the middle, this is a great film. Excellent writing, and for a long time the film with the most Academy Award nominations.]

Grace Kelly/Jimmy StewartRear Window (1954)
Edge-of-your-seat Hitchcock. This is such a classic that people refer to it in casual conversation; time to see the movie if you’re missing the allusions. Kelly’s cool beauty is a perfect foil to the clautrophobic suspense of voyeur Stewart trapped by his window with a pair of binoculars. [J.D.: I find this film dull; I much prefer Vertigo, which Kris hates.]

Henry FondaTwelve Angry Men (1957)
See, I can like a movie with all men! One of the best of all time. Pure psychological drama; you’ll be sweating along in the jury room and turning on the fan. Watch this one when you can savor the exquisite pacing and characterizations. No distractions, please. [J.D.: Kris first saw this film a year ago. She was raving about it as soon as the credits rolled.]

Elizabeth Taylor/Paul NewmanCat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Wow! This adaptation of Tennessee Williams‘ drama sizzles with sexual frustration. If you think Liz is only famous for her myriad marriages, friendship with Michael Jackson and malodorous perfumes, you owe it to her legacy to see this film. She didn’t get many meaty roles (typecast for her looks rather than her acting abilities) but she’s an absolute carnivore in this one. Me-ow!

Marilyn MonroeSome Like it Hot (1959)
This movie crackles with inside jokes and witty repartee. Monroe is mostly eye-candy, but charmingly so. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon provide most of the laughs, but the real star of this film is the screenplay by Billy Wilder. Even better the second time around. Although this movie is from the late-fifties, it could have been written in 1938, perhaps because Wilder had been working in films since 1929. [The funniest movie ever made — even the AFI thinks so. Even better the twentieth time around. One of my top three films of all time.]

Other notes:
A Lion in Winter (1968) — Too late to be in my fave era, but worth seeing if only for Katharine Hepburn‘s luminescent turn long after most of her contemporaries were long gone.

Musicals — that’s a whole separate entry!

Notable absences:
Barbara Stanwyck: some love her, but I think she always seems like she has gas
Joan Crawford: ugh — too butch for me
Myrna Loy: I love Myrna Loy, but don’t really like the films she’s in. If you must try her, your best bet is the Thin Man series with William Powell.
Gone With The Wind: I just assume everyone’s seen this one. If not, take the day off work, rent the full version, and enjoy the War Between the States.

[Research for this entry was aided by the TLA Video & DVD Guide, a very handy reference.]

Contest: Science Fiction Blurbs

Contest! Want to win some free science fiction books? Read on…

Why isn’t science fiction respected as mainstream literature? Take a gander at these book blurbs, each of which was taken from the latest flyer for the Science Fiction Book Club. These are hilarious, and not in a good way.

Here’s a contest: Tell me which blurbs are real and which blurbs are fake. Whoever has the most correct answers by next weekend wins three books recently purged from my scifi library. (Please do not cheat. That takes the fun out of it. Just make your best guesses without any outside support.)

  1. Changelings — When a scientist gets wind of the shapeshifting ability of the Shongili twins, she plans to kidnap them for study and experimentation. They must flee their home on Petaybee, for though the planet is protected from exploitation, its people are not.
  2. Definitely Dead — When mind-reading cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is summoned to be Queen of the Vampires in New Orleans, she’s more puzzled than worried. But that’s before all those folks start trying to kill her.
  3. In Fury Born — Aided by a self-aware computer and a Fury from Old Earth mythology, an ex-Marine seeks vengeance when raiders murder her family.
  4. Mammoth — When ruthless billionaire Howard Christian’s arctic team turns up a frozen mammoth, a watch-sporting 12,000-year-old man and a time-travel device, he can’t decide which he wants more. Until the device brings rampaging mammoths to Downtown L.A.!
  5. The Protector’s War — Nine years after the Change rendered technology inoperable only a few pockets of civilization remain. Two communities thrive in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. But the army of the Protectorate is coming for their priceless farmland.
  6. Dragon’s Fire — Pellar, a mute orphan boy, is taken in by Masterharper Zist and his wife, Cayla. They are concerned with the fate of the Shunned, particularly with the Red Star due to return soon. In time Pellar decides he must unravel the disappearance of Moran, Zist’s previous apprentice. Pellar also finds a reclusive community of watch-wher breeders, led by a half-mad woman named Aleesa. They were driven from their homes by the local feudal chief, D’gan, who hates the watch-whers. Pellar convinces the group to trust him and to allow him to take an egg away with him. The egg is extremely valuable. But is it worth the risks Pellar takes to transport it?
  7. The Ghost Brigades — Three alien enemies are moving toward war against humanity, aided by a turncoat scientist. Cloned from the traitor’s DNA, Jared begins to intuit his motivations. But time is running out…
  8. Queen of the Slayers — The forces of darkness are more eager than ever to regain dominance. As apocalypse draws near, the mysterious Queen of the Slayers emerges. She turns Champions against each other in her determination to claim the intoxicating Slayer essence.
  9. Promise of the Witch King — The assassin Artemis Enteri and the dark elf Jarlaxl search for the Witch-King’s treasure. At the gate of the Bloodstone lands, they find themselves in the midst of a struggle between the ghost of an evil lich and an oath-bound knight.
  10. Heir of Autumn — Ruled by eight Children of the Seasons, the city of Ohndarien falls to tyranny when Brophy, the Heir of Autumn, is accused of murder and exiled. Brophy must find a way past treachery — and the secret held within the dreams of slumbering child.
  11. Solstice Wood — When Sylvia meets the women of her grandmother’s sewing circle, she learns why she’s been called home: Lynn Hall is the door between this world and Faerie — a realm the circle seeks to bind with magical stitches. And Sylvia is now its heir…
  12. The Wizard of London — Two mismatched girls at an Edwardian boarding school reveal startling psychic gifts under the watchful eye of headmistress Isabelle Harton. But when a power-mad Elemental Mage also learns of their rarified gifts, Isabelle’s quest to shield them puts her on a collision course with the greatest Mage in England — the Wizard of London.
  13. Danse Macabre — Anita Blake should be thinking about the ardour, the sexual power that flows between her and Jean-Claude, Master Vampire and Richard, her werewolf lover. It is reaching new levels…perhaps evolving into something altogether new. The unexpected effect of this is that Jean-Claude’s own power as a master vampire have grown. Richard, always unpredictable is changing too. On top of all this, Anita may be pregnant. And while not knowing whether the father is a vampire or a werewolf or someone else is bad enough, life as a Federally licensed vampire killer is no way to raise a baby.
  14. High Druid of Shannara — Pen Ohmsford had paid dearly in his quest for the darkwand, the wand made from the ancient tanequil. His friends hide from Druids while the trolls are besieged by savage Urdas. Can the scattered friends join forces in time to defeat the evil.
  15. Southern Fire — On the Aldabreshin Archipeligo, magic is anathema. When magic-wielding savages terrorize a southern realm, warlord Kheda must act to save his domain. He turns to Dev, a man who is everything Kheda despises, a peddler of vice…and a wizard.
  16. Crystal Gorge — The enemy is close to the Treasured One’s secrets, while the Dreamers are in danger of delivering a nightmare to the Elder Gods. It falls to the humans to fight back the Vlagh…if the realm of Dhrall is to live.
  17. Crown of Stars — In the series finale, Sanglant fights to legitimize his rule with Liath as his queen. As the Ashioi sow discord among the humans, Lady Sabella and Duke Conrad try to seize the crown, while Liath seeks forbidden magic to heal the war-torn land.
  18. Memories of Ice — A new threat looms over beleaguered Genabackis. The Pannion Domin’s fanatical minions devour all who refuse its sadistic priest-king’s creed. When the city of Capustan is threatened, Dujek Onearms rebel army must forge peace with their old enemies.
  19. The Stardragons — Eons after humankind is gone, when the Universe itself is collapsing, only the Stardragons remain. They begin an epic quest to find the Birthplace — source of all life in the universe.
  20. Micah — A routine assignment turns difficult when Anita Blake must deal with her feelings for were-leopard Micah while raising the most dangerous zombie of her career.
  21. Geodesica — The post-human Exarchate controls both ftl technology and the Naturals of the far-flung system — until a mysterious alien construct threatens their rule. But Geodesica will prove more dangerous than anyone can imagine.
  22. The Anubis Gates — When a 20th-century scholar time-travels to 1810, he’s soon face to face with a the ka of an ancient Egyptian sorceror, a deformed clown of crime, and a body-stealing werewolf…all involved in a sinister plot to change history.

Each of the real blurbs was copied exactly — spelling, punctuation, and all. I think the Science Fiction Book Club needs to hire a new blurb writer. A couple of these are from well-known authors or are highly-regarded books, but you wouldn’t know it from these summaries!

“You know,” Kris said to me as I read some of the blurbs to her, “It’s no wonder they have to sell these five for a dollar.” And it’s no wonder that people don’t take science fiction seriously.

When the contest has finished, I’ll go through and post Amazon links to the real books. Have fun!


My startling transformation from a hoarder to a purger continues.

“I want to get rid of more books,” I told Kris last night.

“Which books?” she asked. She looked skeptical.

“Nearly all of them,” I said.

That was going to far, Kris protested. “You don’t need to get rid of any more literature,” she said. “If you want to get rid of something, get rid of your comic books. And the science fiction.”

Over the years, I’ve amassed a large science fiction library, one that takes up about 360 inches of shelf space. Maybe more. But I don’t read science fiction much anymore. I haven’t read a single book from my scifi library since we moved to the new house.

To make matters worse, the scifi books live on a pair of bookshelves in the guest room, a room that I keep complaining doesn’t give me enough room to work. (It doubles as my writing office.) I want to get rid of the guest bed, but Kris thinks I should get sell the science fiction bookshelves instead. We purchased them for $20 each from a disgruntled Borders employee. The shelves are angled so that the base rests on the floor several inches from the wall. They take up a lot of space. And they’re ugly.

“Yeah, I could purge some science fiction,” I said. “Maybe I could move the remaining books to a shelf in the other room.” We have a pair of bookshelves in our ‘cat room’ that we use mainly as storage for children’s toys. Since we have no children, these could probably be kept out of sight.

“Maybe I could move the small bookshelf from the media room into here,” Kris said. “Then we could put the kids books on it, and you could move your science fiction books over.”

“Could we get rid of the guest bed?” I asked, though I already new the answer.

“No!” said Kris. After a moment she added, “But we could move the guest bed into a corner, which would give you more space to work in.”

We’ve made a decision to re-arrange several rooms again. This happens once every few months, and I love it. I derive great pleasure from shuffling books between rooms, from dragging furniture to-and-fro. It’s as if we’re gradually seeking the ideal layout for every room in the house.