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CARNACKI (1971) RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about non-Holmes detectives of the Victorian and Edwardian Ages click HERE   

Horse of the InvisibleEpisode: THE HORSE OF THE INVISIBLE (October 18th, 1971)

Detective: Thomas Carnacki, created by William Hope Hodgson. The first Carnacki story was published in 1910.

Review: Thomas Carnacki was an Edwardian detective who investigated the paranormal in 9 stories written by William Hope Hodgson, famous for the horror tale The House on the Borderlands. The fun of the Carnacki mysteries came from the way that sometimes the supernatural elements were being faked by human malefactors. The hero would solve the case either way.

In a fortuitous bit of casting which helps make this episode timeless, Donald Pleasence starred as Thomas Carnacki. Pleasence’s role of Doctor Loomis in the Halloween series of slasher films makes him a familiar face even to viewers unfamiliar with his loooong body of work.

CarnackiGiven that this program is titled The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes the best way to describe The Ghost of the Invisible would be as a hybrid of The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Speckled Band crossed with the John Silence series of occult mysteries.

Renowned “Ghost Detective” Thomas Carnacki is hired by the patriarch of the Hisgins family to safeguard his soon-to-be-wed daughter Mary from a spectre which has haunted the family for centuries. That spectre is the titular horse, a ghostly mare which has murdered the first-born child of each successive lord of Hisgins Hall … when that first-born child has been female. Continue reading

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CONCLUSION: AMERICA’S QUASI-NAVAL WAR WITH FRANCE (1798-1801)

It’s Memorial Day Weekend! Continuing this holiday weekend’s dose of seasonal posts is this concluding part of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at America’s undeclared naval war with France from 1798 to 1801. FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE  . 

Enterprise

MAY ?, 1800: (Some sources place this action in late April) The USS Boston, commanded by “the American Horatio Nelson” himself, Captain George Little, was in the Bight of Leogane, where it fought and sank a force of six French-allied ships in the navy of Hyacinth Rigaud. (Rigaud’s infamy was covered in Part One)

MAY ??, 1800: The Adams recaptured an unidentified vessel which had previously been taken by the French and converted for its navy’s use.

MAY ??, 1800: The Insurgent and the Adams teamed up to liberate an unidentified British privateer ship from the French craft which had captured it.

MAY ??, 1800: The Adams recaptured the Nancy (one of many vessels with that name), a ship previously seized by the French for their own navy.

Mascot sword and pistolMAY ??, 1800: The Adams defeated and captured the French ship Grinder

MAY ??, 1800: A very busy month for the Adams came to an end as the feisty vessel overcame three to one odds to defeat and capture the French ships the Dove, the Renommee and a third ship whose name has not come down to us.   

MAY 31st, 1800: The John Adams (separate vessel from the Adams) recaptured the American brig Olive from the French.  

JUNE 6th, 1800: The Merrimack battled the French vessel L’Hazard in order to free the French ship’s latest capture – the American Ceres.  The Merrimack succeeded in liberating the Ceres. Continue reading

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AMERICA’S QUASI- NAVAL WAR WITH FRANCE: 1798-1801

USS ConstellationMemorial Day Weekend is fast upon us with this topical post from Balladeer’s Blog. This one covers some naval actions from America’s undeclared, neither fish nor fowl, quasi-Naval War with France. Often called Stoddert’s War in reference to Benjamin Stoddert, America’s first Secretary of the Navy, this conflict was waged largely in the West Indies.

John Adams

John Adams

President John Adams wanted the infant United States Navy to protect American shipping in the West Indies from French vessels seizing our ships and sailors. The French Revolutionary government had adopted this policy to (in their view) “punish” the U.S. for not declaring war on France’s side in the Wars of the French Revolution.

Thus far America had remained neutral due to divided public opinion on the matter. Some voters felt the U.S. should join the war on the side of France but others felt that the current French Revolutionary government had overthrown, imprisoned and slain virtually all of the French figures who had aided America during our war against England, therefore negating any obligation on our part. (The paranoid French government had even jailed Thomas Paine when he visited the country.)

President John Adams later took great pride in keeping America out of an all-out land war. (Sentiment against France grew so strong that 80,000 men volunteered to serve against her. And don’t forget the rallying cry of “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute!” following the X, Y and Z Affair.) Adams chose instead to act largely on defense by protecting our coastline, safeguarding U.S. shipping and expanding our Navy from three whole vessels (WOW!) to FIFTEEN.

Here are a few of the battles from this virtually unclassifiable conflict:

Stephen Decatur

U.S. Naval hero Stephen Decatur

JULY 7th, 1798: Off the New Jersey Coast, Captain Stephen Decatur, Sr led his 20-cannon Delaware against the 10-cannon French privateer craft La Croyable. The French vessel had just plundered the American merchant ship Alexander Hamilton. After a long chase and running fight La Croyable was seized by the Delaware. The French ship was renamed Retaliation and joined the growing U.S. Navy.

NOVEMBER 20th, 1798: Off Guadeloupe, the Retaliation (commanded now by William Bainbridge) ran afoul of two French vessels: the 40-cannon L’Insurgente and the 44-cannon Volontaire. The French opened fire and soon captured Retaliation, then imprisoned the crew in the hellish Basseterre Prison on St Kitts.   

FEBRUARY 9th, 1799: Nearly fifteen miles off the coast of the island of Nevis, American Captain Thomas “Terrible Tom” Truxton took his kickass nickname and his 36-cannon ship the Constellation into battle with the 40-cannon French vessel L’Insurgente. The battle began shortly after Noon and roughly two and a half hours later the French surrendered.     Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FORTY-THREE: JANUARY 1911

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer garbPART FORTY-THREE: The targets of James Larkin Pearson’s version of the Fool Killer in the January of 1911 issue:

*** The Government Printing Office, for its extravagant waste, which is STILL infamous.

*** Jackleg lawyers who gave the rest of the profession a bad name. Pearson depicted them as lecherous villains trying to ravish the blind female embodiment of Justice.

*** Horace Fletcher once again. Fletcher’s “health plan” which consisted of thoroughly chewing one’s food was still a popular fad.

*** People who were throwing themselves into the craze to own and pilot airplanes as they were coming into wider use. Many of these unskilled wannabes wound up just getting themselves killed in spectacular accidents. Continue reading

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POLEIS (CITIES): ANCIENT GREEK COMEDY

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of ancient Greek comedies. 

classical greecePOLEIS – In this post I’m looking at Poleis (Cities), written by Eupolis, one of the Big Three of Ancient Greek Comedy along with Aristophanes and Cratinus. This satirical comedy is dated from approximately 422 B.C. to 419 B.C.  Like so many other such comedies it has survived only in fragmentary form.

The title refers to the all-important Chorus in ancient Greek comedies. In this case the chorus consisted of actors costumed to represent some of the city-states which were under the influence of Athens at the time.

masc chair and bottleAs for how people can be “costumed” as cities, picture how it would be done with American cities. The chorus member representing New York might be depicted as the Statue of Liberty, Saint Louis as the Arch, Pittsburgh as a steel worker, Los Angeles as a brain-dead movie star and so on.

Part of the political satire dealt with the love-hate relationship that many subject- states had with Athens. Being the combination Paris/ Tokyo/ New York City of its time, Athens had a lot to offer its allied polities, but a certain air of tension always existed because of what some of those locations felt were Athens’ high-handed ways of dealing with them.

Eupolis depicted the personified subject-states/ allied states as workers with a not altogether beloved “boss,” Athens. Continue reading

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THE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT (1977) BY ROBERT LUDLUM: BOOK REVIEW

Chancellor ManuscriptTHE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT (1977) – With the latest revelations about blatant abuses by the FBI and other politicized agencies here’s Robert Ludlum’s novel about the dangers of such abuses by both the left and the right. There are Deep State operatives and an ugly “we know best” mentality like in today’s headlines. (Think of fascist garbage like the CIA’s John Brennan.) 

TIME PERIOD: From shortly before J Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972 up to early 1973. The novel’s “what if” premise depicts the 77 year old FBI Director’s death as a planned assassination to prevent the Nixon White House from getting ahold of Hoover’s legendary files. (That’s NOT a spoiler – all that is made clear in the novel’s opening pages.)

Those files contain so much “raw meat” on powerful U.S. figures that we readers are told that whoever takes hold of said files will be able to rule the U.S. from behind the scenes by blackmailing the rich and the powerful.

The novel’s naïvete shows in that premise. I despise Hoover but I’ve always considered his abuses to be the EPITOME of the behavior of the scum from “the intelligence community” (LMAO), not an aberration from it. The accumulation of private information about people carries with it the implicit intent to USE that information against them. Of course, these days Zuckerberg and his fellow Corporate Fascists cheerfully help “the intelligence community” (LMFAO) spy on all of us.  Continue reading

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MADAME SARA (1971) RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes bestFrom 1971 to 1973 The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was a British television series which dramatized non-Holmes mystery stories by Victorian and Edwardian authors. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode click HERE   

Madame SaraEpisode: MADAME SARA (November 1st, 1971)

Detective: Dixon Druce, created by L.T. Meade (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) and Robert Eustace.

Villainess: Madame Sara, by the same creators. The first story featuring Dixon Druce and Madame Sara was published in 1902.

Madame Sara picReview: Years before the insidious Doctor Fu Manchu and his dogged adversary Sir Denis Nayland-Smith came this detective and the female criminal genius he clashed with. In the case of Dixon Druce and Madame Sara, there was always an air of attraction and sexual tension between them.

The pair’s duels of wits sprinkled with flirtation are enjoyable and, combined with the fact that a woman co-created the characters and co-wrote their six mysteries, I’m genuinely puzzled why they aren’t more well known and more widely dramatized.

Madame Sara was the story which introduced Dixon Druce (John Fraser), investigative manager for the Werner’s Solvency Inquiry Agency. That firm can be hired by potential investors to probe the financial and legal bona fides of domestic or international businesses.  

Dixon DruceAs the episode opens, Druce is in his laboratory engaging in a game of forensic one-upmanship with his Scotland Yard friend Inspector Vandeleur (George Murcell). Their verbal fencing over poisons is interrupted by Dixon’s old school friend Jack Selby (William Corderoy).

Selby has recently married the well-to-do and beautiful Beatrice Dallas (Jasmina Hilton), whom he met while at a government post in Brazil. Jack is seeking Druce’s help in unravelling certain complications left over from the will of his wife’s late parents.

Delgado as SilvaTheir fortune of 2 million Pounds will be left to whichever of their children is ultimately left alive among Beatrice, her unmarried sister Edith (Caroline John of Doctor Who fame) and their elusive, enigmatic half-brother Henry Joachim Silva (THE Roger Delgado for another Doctor Who connection).    Continue reading

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