Category: Golden Age Article

Book Review: The Campus Murders

Released in 1969, the Campus Murders by Ellery Queen introduced Micah McCall. The premise is an intriguing one. McCall is a Special Assistant to the Governor of an unnamed state who is called in to act as a troubleshooter.

In this case, he’s looking into the disappearance of the daughter of one of the Governor’s intra-party political rivals on a small campus, troubled by unrest. His status is a nice feature. He’s not a policeman, but his standing as “the Governor’s Man,” gets grudging cooperation from the police.

McCall finds himself not particularly trusted by the police and being over thirty, he is not welcomed and not fully trusted by most of the radical college students attending the college.

On the positive side, the mystery isn’t bad, and if you want a taste of the 1960s and how the problems on campus were viewed, this book certainly gives a perspective and captures the spirit of the time. There’s nothing more 1960s in the book than Nature’s Children, a group of college students who demonstrate while wearing grotesque masks in the buff and haze McCall.

On the negative side, the book drags at times, particularly before the first murder in the book. It is so focused on the campus issues and getting all these various student perspectives that it really has troubling remembering that it’s a mystery. And when it comes to the big issues of the day, it offers a simple pat solution that minimizes the complexity of the issues it’s addressing. McCall’s characterization doesn’t age well, particularly when it comes to women, but even by the standards of the time, it’s hard to see his behavior as anything but boorish and shallow.

Otherwise, it’s not horrendous but neither is it compelling. It’s a fairly competent book, but it left me completely uninterested in further installments in the series.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0

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DVD Review: The Saint, Set 1

The Saint, Set 1 collects six episodes from Roger Moore’s fifth’s season as the Saint, the first to actually be in color.

The Episodes glory in the Saint’s entry into the world of Color with one beautiful location after another. From Monte Carlo to Venice to Hamburg to Scotland, the series showcases the globetrotting nature of the Saint’s adventures, as well as the wide variety of forms they can take. In, “The Queen’s Ransom,” the Saint accompanies the American wife of an European king in returning a treasure to him and has to outwit a gang of International criminals in the process. In, “Interlude in Venice,” Simon helps out the naïve daughter of an American politician who is at risk of getting swept off her feet by a conman. In, “The Reluctant Revolution,” Simon is compelled to throw in with revolutionaries trying to overthrow a “Banana Republic.” In, “The Convenient Monster,” he encounters a woman who claims the Loch Ness monster is really out there in Scotland.

The variety of the Saint’s adventures is part of what makes the series a standout. The adventures range from straight up mysteries to spy and political thrillers. Through it all, future James Bond Roger Moore plays the Saint as smart, tough, and charming. He’s also joined by a solid guest casts in each and every story.

Overall, these episodes are marvelous and a great start to the Saint’s full color adventures.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: Dandelion Wine


Twelve Year old Douglas Spaulding is growing up in the 1920s in Green Town, Illinois, a town that’s full of life, energy, and a reliable circle of friends and family, and Summer is the best time of all. In the course of Summer, the magic of Green Town makes for many wonderful moments, but Douglas also has to cope with the first pangs of growing up.

Dandelion Wine was originally a novel by Ray Bradbury, who later wrote it as a play and then turned it into this audiodrama for Colonial Radio Theatre.

Dandelion Wine showcases why Bradbury is such a beloved author even outside of the science fiction genre. Bradbury’s at his best and this story works very well for radio as the lyrical dialogue paints evocative pictures that capture the imagination. Dandelion Wine manages to take even mundane moments in life and wrap them in wonder. One of my favorite scenes involves Douglas’ grandfather taking inventory of his stock of the medicinal dandelion wine. It’s a well-done scene that creates a sense of nostalgia and gives a keen insight into the childlike way Douglas views the world.

The play is well-acted with Jerry Robbins turning in a great performance as the mysterious and soft-spoken Mr. Forrester. The sound design is ably done and helps to re-enforce the tone of the story.

The play is a story for all ages, though younger and older viewers will view it differently. Douglas relates well to the younger listeners. Yet, for older listeners, it’ll call to mind a whole other set of emotions: reminders of childhood and the moments when it ended with the realization that the world was changing whether you wanted it to or not.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Note: This Audio Drama is available for free through Audible Channels for Audible subscribers. It’s also available for purchase for non-subscribers.

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Graphic Novel Review: A Secret History of Space

This graphic novel collects Issues 4-7 of Boom Studios’ Steed and Peel series based on the 1960s TV show, The Avengers. 

The four issues cover three separate story lines but there is a sense of them being tied together. The art is superb and really fits with the imaginative, often larger than life world of the Avengers as beautiful concepts are explored.

The first Issue features Steed and Mrs. Peal attending a masquerade ball with some dangerous intruders. It’s probably the simplest story in the book, but the art is very good, even though black and white are the predominant colors.

The middle issues are probably most speculative in the book in a plot that involves blackmail of high government officials, secrets from space, and time travel.

The final issue is typical of many actual episodes of the Avengers as Steed and Peal investigate a series of unexplained unwarranted suicides in a small Welsh town. The ending is a little quick, but the concept is well-realized.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable book for fans of the 1960s series. While being single issue stories does make the first and last issue slightly less complex than you’d otherwise expect, writer Caleb Monroe does a marvelous job capturing the spirit and feel of this classic series.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Audio Drama Review: Too Many Have Lived

In “Too Many Have Lived,” the Hollywood Theater of the Air presents a half hour Black Mask Audio Magazine dramatization of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade short story of the same title.

Sam Spade is hired to find a missing poet by a man who would very much like to marry the man’s wife. When the poet turns up missing, there are plenty of suspects around.

“Too Many Have Lived,” is a fine classic hard-boiled story. It’s no “Maltese Falcon,” but the Theater of the Era does a great job capturing the mood and it’s very well-acted and narrated with a decent amount of sound design. The story has a solidly clever solution that’s worthy of Hammett.

It also serves as a nice sampler for Hollywood Theater of the Ear’s longer works, including a collection of Black Mask stories.

This story is available for free to Audible Members through Audible’s new “My Content” feature and it also can be purchased by non-members for less than $1.50

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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