Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books

Kid's Edition (Or perhaps not, if people didn't see my suggestion)

Patti Abbott


The Five Little Peppers book series was created by Margaret Sidney between 1881 and 1916. The series began with the Peppers, a fatherless family, finding themselves in difficult straits. Mamsie presides over her three sons and two daughters.

My copy of the first volume has a few lovely colored pictures and many in black and white. It is number Book
#28 in the Patti Nase Library. That information is crossed out and the name Jeff Nase written over it. Some evil has been at work here.

The style is v
ery much like that in LITTLE WOMEN and is clearly greatly influenced by Alcott. The poverty, the triumph over adversity, the camaraderie is similar, the cozy setting is the same. Yet this series continues past the first volume, highlighting different circumstances and family members over time. The writing is lovely. I was amazed at how sophisticated the language was since it is billed for 8-12 year olds. There is something comforting in how none of their problems came from lack of love, drugs, prejudice, or any modern distraction. I could read one right now. I didn't save many of my childhood books, (many passed down to me from cousins and friends), but I saved four Little Pepper books. All of them claimed by my brother, who I am sure never read a book without a cowboy on the cover.

In order of publication, the Five Little Peppers books are as follows (publication dates follow in parentheses):
Five Lit
tle Peppers and How They Grew (1881)
Five Little Pep
pers Midway (1890)
Five Little Peppers Grow
n Up (1892)
Five Little Peppers: Phronsie Pepper (1897)
Five Little Peppers: The Stories Polly Pepper Told (1899)
Five Little Peppers: The Adventures of Joel Pepper (1900)
Five Little Peppers Abroad (1902)
Five Little Peppers At School (1903)
Five Little Peppers and Their Friends (1904)
Five Li
ttle Peppers in the Brown House (1907)
Five Little Peppers: Our Davie Pepper (1916)

Jeff Meyerson has been a member of DAPA-EM for over 30 years and published an early fanzine in pre-computer days called (way before the bookstore/publisher of the same name existed) The Poisoned Pen. I was a mail order book dealer, specializing in secondhand British mystery and detective fiction. I've read thousands of mysteries since 1970.

John Marsden, THE TOMORROW SERIES (1993-1999)
This series isn't so much "forgotten" as never known in this country, for the most part, though it was a huge success in its native Australia and, from what I've read, in Sweden. It's a series of seven young adult books (titles to follow) about a group of half a dozen Australian teens from a rural area of the country who are off camping in a remote area when the country is suddenly invaded and overrun by an unnamed enemy seeking room to settle some of their own excess population.
The kids are led by Ellie Linton, the narrator of the books, and her friend and neighbor Homer, with Lee, Fi(ona), Corrie, Kevin and Robyn in the group. When they discover what is going on they fight back, basically running a small guerrilla operation against the unknown enemy, living off the land and eventually making contact with the New Zealand forces who can provide help.
These are fast reading and quite involving, and they can be harrowing. Let's just say that not everyone who starts the first book makes it to the finale. I must have liked them as I read the seven in a month.
The first book is being filmed in Australia this year, and Marsden followed up in this decade with THE ELLIE CHRONICLES (which I haven't read as yet), three books following Ellie after the war.
Here are the titles:
One of the middle books (3 or 4) was weak but otherwise I found them consistent throughout.

Jerry House lives in Southern Maryland. He can be reached at

My childhood seemed to occur on the borderlands of political correctness and non-political correctness. Some of the Hardy Boys books I read were of the original, non-PC variety; others (many times the same title) were ones rewritten for a kinder, gentler generation. Most of the non-PC books I read as a boy dealt negatively with racial and ethnic stereotypes, including this week's selection. So please forgive me. Hey, I was a pretty naive kid growing up on a farm; what the hell did I know?

Only five pa
ragraphs into the story, we hear Washington White for the first time: "Yas sir, Perfessor, I'se goin' t' saggasiate my bodily presence in yo' contiguous proximity an' attend t' yo' immediate comglomerated prescriptions at th' predestined period. Yas, sir!" Two paragraphs later, we learn that Washington (surprise! surprise!) is a negro; his race being the opposite of his last name. (How I managed to grow up without believing all Blacks were loyal, uneducated, cowardly companions is completely beyond me.)

Five Thousand Miles Underground was the third of eight books in the Stratemeyer syndicate's Great Marvel Series, this one written by Howard R. Garis (who also wrote many of the early Tom Swift books). The adventure features a motley crew consisting of ace inventor Mr. (sometimes called Professor) Henderson, plucky teenage orphans Jack Darrow and Mark Sampson, old hunter Andy Sudds, ex-farmers-now-assistants Tom Smith and Bill Jones (doomed forever, I fear, to remain in the backgrounsd) and the aforementioned Stepin Fe...I mean, Washington White.

In the second book in the series, this crew had discovered a hole in the earth (don't ask). Now Henderson has created a flyin
g boat, The Flying Mermaid, to explore the mysterious hole. So off they go, having amazing adventures every chapter. After being attacked by a maddened whale and surviving a cyclone, they come across a burning ship and managed to rescue fourteen men. Thirteen of the men, alas, are ne'er-do-wells who mutiny and take over the flying boat. Jack and Mark, being clever, pluckish lads, outsmart the mutineers and trick them into jumping overboard (don't ask). Soon they find the hole in the earth and begin their descent. (In the book's illustration, the flying part of the flying boat has a distinctly phallic look; if this was some sort of symbolism, it went way over my ten-yearhold head.) During the descent, they lose consciousness.

When our heroes awaken, we discover that they have descended five thousand miles and have landed on an world floating inside earth--complete with
sun and seven moons (one central moon and six revolving around it -- don't ask). We also discover that Jack is accident-prone; he immediately gets gobbled by a giant man-eating plant. OK, so they rescue him, and a few chapers later he (I think; I skimmed this part) gets captured by the half-vegetable/half animal snake-tree and gets rescued again. The water in this world runs thick as molasses, and the sky seems to change color often. We meet giant insects, dangerous walking fish and weird animals that seemed cobbled together from every beast the author could think of.

You can't have an underground world without an underground civilization. This one is inhabited by giant, mis-shapen men with the soft consistency of snow (don't ask). Hankos, their king, speaks an odd mixture of ancient Latin and Greek (don't ask) and (I gather) is the only one to do so (don't ask). Hankos, being scientifically-minded, had somehow managed to up to the earth's surface, where he shrank to the size of a normal human being (don't ask), and, finding himself just a short distance from Mr./Professor Henderson's island. Did I mention that Henderson had an island? It turns out that Hankos managed to sneak aboard The Flying Mermaid and had been hidden there all along through the many adventures (don't ask). By the way, Hankos grew to his normal giant-size when he got back to the centre (note the British spelling) of the earth. Thankful that they brought him home, Hankos took the crew to the Temple of the Treasure at the top of an underground mountain (don't ask), and let them have at it. Suddenly an earthquake (skyquake? don't ask) closed the mysterious hole in the earth. We our heroes trapped? Well, no. Turns out there was another mysterious hole in the earth that could be reached by a (five thousand mile? don't ask) geyser.

Anyway, everyone gets home safely and the boys decided to use their newly-gained wealth to get an education. One hopes it was in plot development and physical science.

As a ten-year old, I ate this stuff up. (Back then, WTF was not in my vocabulary.) Even
today, I think it's pretty cool.

[Five Th
ousand Miles Underground was published by Cupples & Leon in 1908. The other seven books in the Great Marvel Series were Through the Air to the North Pole, Under the Ocean to the South Pole, Through Space to Mars, Lost on the Moon, On a Torn-Away World, The City Beyond the Clouds, and By Spaceship to Saturn.]

Ed Gorman is the author of the new Sam McCain book, TICKET TO RIDE and many other fine novels. You can find him here.
Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan

In the summer of 1958 I was sixteen years old and going through my first real heartbreak. My only solace was in books and movies. Seeing people was too painful. I mention this because my state of mind had a good deal to do with my reaction to a slender Dell paperback I'd been hearing about.

Bonjour Tristesse had been written by a seventeen-year-old French
schoolgirl and it had the good fortune to become a scandal in both
Europe and
the United States. The story concerned seventeen-year-old
Cecile whose wealthy and handsome father is what one might call, in
crude Yankee tongue, an ass-bandit. His latest young thing is Elsa whom
Cecile likes because she's the kind of trivial beauty her father will dump after a few months. But then Anne appears and Cecile must plot to get rid of her. Anne is serious competition to Cecile. She will take
Cecile's father from her, at least mentally and spiritually. From here the story deals with Cecile's attempt to destroy a fine woman--and one of her deceased mother's best friends--before her father falls in love
with her. The end is tragic.

The novel is ab
out pain and betrayal and loneliness and is told so simply and directly it has the effect of a stage monologue. It was condemned by most of the old farts--the French Catholic novelist Francois Mauriac reviewed it and sounded as if he was making the case for Sagan's execution--while the more charitable critics found it
earnest and compelling if not quite as important as all the fuss would have it.

There was an Iowa angle, too. Otto Preminger discovered eighteen-year-old Jean Seberg from Marshalltown, Iowa and starred her in his catastrophic production of St. Joan. The critics loved her melancholy beauty (who wouldn't?) but she certainly wasn't up to a role this difficult.
This could have ended her career but she was quickly cast in Bonjour Tristesse--which wasn't much of a movie--and did a fine job. Later she would become a French film icon when she did Breathless with Jean Paul Belmondo.

But Seberg had a troubled life very much like that of a Sagan heroine. At least one of her husbands beat her and J. Edgar Hoover had his creeps stalk her here and in France. He tried to destroy her by feeding tales to the press of how she just might be seeing a black man and showing a definite interest in left-wing politics. She died at
forty-one in circumstances that the authorities believed pointed to suicide. She had long struggled with depression.

I followed Sagan's career to the end because Bonjour had given me so much comfort that terrible summer. In France she was seen, at least early on, as a kind of J.D. Salinger, though I always thought her take
on this vale of
tears was far richer than his. And by the time she wrote Those Without Shadows a few years later she was far out of his league. And she certainly never disappointed the media. Here, from
Wikipedia, just a bit of her life story:

Personal life Sagan was married twice; to Guy Schoeller ( married
13 March 1958, an editor with Hachette, 20 years older than Sagan, divorced June 1960), and to Bob Westhof ( a young American playboy and would-be ceramist, married 10 January 1962, divorced 1963.

Their son De
nis was born in June 1963.)[3] She took a lesbian longer term lover in fashion stylist Peggy Roche; and had a male lover Bernard Frank, a married essayist obsessed with reading and eating. She added
to her self-styled "family" by beginning a long-term lesbian affair with the French Playboy magazine editor Annick Geille, after she approached Sagan for an article for her magazine.[1]

Fond of traveling in the United States, she was often seen with Truman Capote and Ava Gardner. She was once involved in a car accident in her Aston Martin sports car - (
14 April 1957) - which left her in a coma
for some time. She also loved driving her Jaguar automobile to Monte Carlo for gambling sessions.

Also, in the 1990s, Sagan was charged with and convicted of possession of cocaine.
Sagan was, at various times of her life, addicted to a number of drugs. She was a long-term user of prescription pills, amphetamines, cocaine, morphine, and alcohol.When police came for inspection in her house her dog called Banko showed cocaine to them and also licks cocaine. Sagan told police " Look! he likes it too."

Kent Morgan writes a sports column for a paper in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but spends most of his time puzzling over what to do with all the books piled on his furniture and floor and stored in his garage. More bookcases are not the answer as he has no room for them.

The Southpaw - Donal Hamilton Haines

I came across a copy of this juvenile novel at a recent charity book sale and quickly grabbed it for my baseball fiction collection. I didn't remember much about the story, but knew I had owned and read it in my youth. First published by Rinehart in 1931, Comet Books started reprinting it in 1949 and that's the edition I found. The book includes illustrations by Harold Minton and several panels on the back cover along with brief text provided the potential reader with an idea about the storyline.

"All Hillton Academy hated baseball, and every other sport except for hazing freshmen. For games bored Greg Elliott, a senior who had the whole school under his thumb. Then Bob Griswold arrived, like a one-man revolution. Bob loved baseball and refused to be bossed. That got him into a knock-down fight with Butch, Elliott's bully. And into much worse trouble with Elliott himself. Finally this undercover battle for leadership blazed into a revolt that shook Hillton Academy to its foundation."

The Southpaw with a cover price of .35 was #16 in a series of 20 mystery, sports, career and adventure tales published by Comet. Among the titles are The Green Turtle Mystery by Ellery Queen Jr., The Spanish Cave by Geoffrey Household and Sue Barton, Student Nurse by Helen Dore Boylston. The series also includes two other baseball books, Batter Up by Jackson Scholz and Bat Boy of the Giants by Garth Garreau, that I also read in my youth. My copies could be hiding from me in boxes in my garage.

Paul Bishop
Bill Crider
Loren Eaton
Ray Foster
John Harvey (Adult)
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Todd Mason
Terrie Moran
Scott Parker
Eric Peterson
Laurie Powers
Kerrie Smith (adult)
James Reasoner
Rick Robinson

Martin Edwards offers a special post to a friend who died last summer.


Paul Bishop said...


I missed the tip off for the kids edition of forgotten books, but I'm on the bandwagon now!

Charles Gramlich said...

I never heard of the five little pepper books. I might have enjoyed those.

Unknown said...

Jeff, I really enjoyed the Marsden books. I probably reviewed the first one in the apa long ago. You might be the one who first mentioned them to me. I can't recall.

Evan Lewis said...

Patti: I hope you appropriated your brother's westerns in return.

Jeff: Sounds like good stuff. Australia and Sweden seems a strange combination for a fan base.

Jerry: Competition for Tom Swift! Don't know how I missed this series.

Ed: Just reading your review makes me feel smarter.

Kent: I'm pretty sure I read this one, around the same time I read a juvenile bio of Warren Spahn.

Anonymous said...

Bill, I thought you were the one who tipped me to the Marsden, but I may have read about them elsewhere.

Nice tribute to Dick Stewart by Martin Edwards, by the way.

Dick was a gem of a guy and is sorely missed by all who knew him.

Jeff M.

Iren said...

Evan:"Australia and Sweden seems a strange combination for a fan base"-- not so strange when you consider that both are on the fringe of European culture, and both have very working class roots.

Kerrie said...

Sorry, Patti - should have checked the special nature of this week's forgotten books - I did see a reference to it, and then promptly forgot!

Unknown said...

Jeff, I probably did tip you to Marsden. I'm pretty sure I reviewed the first book in the apa.