Dungeon! (The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes)

Dungeon_boardWay, way back when I was a kid, I played Dungeon!, the board game that TSR put out in 1975. A few years ago, I bought a recent edition and taught my six year old how to play it. Dungeon! was the father of all dungeon crawlers, like Descent and Dungeonquest.

Today over at BlackGate.com, I did into the history of this venerable board game. It came directly out of Dave Areneson’s Blackmoor sessions and really, pre-dates D&D.

Head on over and check it out.



The Beach Boys – at The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes?

BeachBoys_MTVernonThis week, I actually managed to tie my favorite band into my Monday morning post over at BlackGate.com.

Included with the Beach Boys’ 1972 album, Holland, was an EP. For you youngsters, that stands for ‘Extended Play’ and it was a bonus record: less music than a regular album but more than on a 45. Mt. Vernon and Fairy: a Fairy Tale, was an odd piece of music, singing and spoken verse, telling the story of a young prince and a magic transistor radio.

I talk about this rather unique piece of Beach Boys history, so head on over to Black Gate and check it out.

The Beach Boys – Lei’d in Hawaii

BeachBoysHawaiicoverThe history of the Beach Boys is littered with unreleased and/or rejected albums that never made it to official status, though many of the associated songs found their way to the public. One such project has come to be known as Lei’d in Hawaii (get it?).

In 1966, Pet Sounds was a critical (if not commercial) success, Good Vibrations became a smash hit and Brian Wilson was famously working on the Smile album. However, as 1966 turned into 1967, Smile kept getting delayed, the band (foolishly) withdrew from the Monterey Pop Festival and Heroes and Villains was a disappointment compared to Good Vibrations. The Smiley Smile album (” a bunt instead of a grand slam”) barely dented the charts. Things had gone south for the band in America.

Editorial comment – I like Heroes and Villains and there is some terrific stuff from the sessions that got left out. I think it could have been almost as good as Good Vibrations.

In 1967, the band went to Hawaii and recorded and filmed two concerts, which were to be edited to form a live album for Capitol Records. The cherry on top of the cake was that Brian Wilson, who didn’t travel with the  group in those days, was present. 1964’s Beach Boys Concert album had been a hit and another live album would buy the group some time as they worked on a studio recording.

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Rare Beach Boys Song – It’s a New Day

I don’t know every Beach Boys-related song out there, but I’ve certainly heard an awful lot of them over the years, and this was a brand new discovery today.

Dennis Wilson was the first Beach Boy to cut a solo album – 1977’s Pacific Ocean Blue. But back in 1971, he actually recorded about 90% of a solo effort with the working title Dennis Wilson Poops (I’m hoping there was a change coming to that). It was shelved after he offered a pair of the album’s songs, Cuddle Up and Make It Good, for the current Beach Boys project, Carl and the Passions: So Tough.

While I LOVE River Song from Pacific Ocean Blue, as a whole, the 1971 album was much stronger. An unknown gem was It’s a New Day. Blondie Chaplin, who (along with Ricky Fataar) wasn’t officially a Beach Boy yet, was in the band’s orbit and he sang the lead.

I think this is a fine song and would have easily fit on So Tough or Holland.

Hell on Wheels

I enjoy a good Western, though I don’t watch a lot of them. So, back in November of 2011, I decided to watch the first episode of a new television series on AMC. It was called Hell on Wheels.

Well, that show just wrapped up its fifth and final season a few weeks ago. It turned out to be a pretty darn good Western Noir, set against the backdrop of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.

I wrote a bit of a retrospective last week in ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ over at BlackGate.com. After Justified finished things up and BBC’s Sherlock went into the tank, Hell on Wheels became my favorite TV drama. It had a great cast, excellent cinematography and an evolving story line. Check out my post, then go check out the pilot. You might just like it.

Steve Harrison – REH’s PI Gets Mixed Reviews

While I’m a mystery guy, I’ve been reading fantasy since grade school (and that was a LONG time ago now). And though I came to Conan, and then the rest of Robert E. Howard’s works, relatively late, I have tried to make up for lost ground, though.

Being both a fan of Howard and of the hardboiled genre, I checkHoward_HarrisonCasebooked out his tough as nails detective, Steve Harrison. I was underwhelmed. Harrison is not among Howard’s best known or most popular characters. Conan, Kull, El Borak, Solomon Kane, even Sailor Steve Costigan: they all have higher profiles than Harrison. Heck – Breckenridge Elkins is probably ahead of Harrison on the list (there’s an REH series that I can live without).

William Patrick Maynard is a fellow blogger over at BlackGate.com. He’s currently at work on his third authorized Fu Manchu novel. Bill has a new post up today at THE Robert E. Howard blog, REH: Two Gun Raconteur. It’s Two Gun’s third post this year about Harrison.

2016 kicked off on January 1st with Dierk Guenther’s Gumshoes, Gats and Gals: Robert E. Howard’s Detective and Crime Stories. It covers a lot of ground and looks at the crime and mystery genres, but Harrison is a key part of it.

Some folks say that April 7th was a sign that the quality of the blog is slipping, as my own Steve Harrison: REH’s Private Detective appeared. I think that Howard is the finest writer of fantasy fiction the genre has ever seen. But I’m not as keen on his Harrison stories.

In today’s post, Steve Harrison Reconsidered, Bill offers a more positive view of the stories. He and I have some of the same thoughts, but with different results.

If you’re a fan of the Harrison stories, or even if you’ve never come across them, click on the links above and check out these three essays about one of Robert E. Howard’s characters. As far as I’m concerned, almost any story Howard wrote is worth reading at least once. Though I have to admit, the poetry I’ve not pursued very hard.

John D. MacDonald over at BlackGate.com

MacDonald_TigerYesterday, July 24th, marked the 100th anniversary of John MacD’s birth (and it was also my twelfth wedding anniversary. Fortunately, I remembered both occasions!).

You can search John’s name here at AlmostHolmes and find several posts I’ve written about my favorite author. For today’s ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ post over at BlackGate.com, I talk about JDM, and delve a bit into one of my favorite short stories, “The Trap of Solid Gold.”

Please head on over. And if the mood strikes you, leave a comment. That shows there’s some interest in the post topic. I work for free, so I don’t think they’ll be cutting me loose just yet, but it’s good to see discussions going on about the posts.

And if you’ve (shudder) never read any of MacDonald’s work, I truly believe that you’re missing out on one of the finest writers of the twentieth century. In any genre. He was just that good.