Friday, November 19, 2010


You'd think that with my unfortunate resemblance to Drew Carey (that guy is the bane of my fucking existence) I'd stay away from his hometown. But I can't. I love the town and its history, and I recently spent a very pleasant few days and nights there as a guest of Mark and Amy Stone and their delightful children, looking with Mark into a seventy-five year old cold case. Here are some of my new friends:

This is Flo Polillo, or rather a replica of her head in the Cleveland Police Museum. Actual head's whereabouts have been a subject of debate since 1935.

Above is s replica of Edward Andrassy's head. Actual head was found, but had been separated from Eddie's neck; said removal appeared to be the cause of his decease.

Here's Rose Wallace's plaster stand-in, modeled from a cast of her skull and based on photographs. Identification was tentative and based on dental work.

Finally, this is an actual death mask modeled from the head of a fellow known only as "The Tattooed Man." Can you think of a better name? Give it a try!

Here's Doc Stone himself, looking over Kingsbury Run, the flats associated with the murders. Mark directed the great documentary "The Fourteenth Victim" (available on Amazon), about the case. You should all order it and get creeped out good and solid.

And finally, my new friend Itchy. Itchy is resting in this picture.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Irish Times Piece

Damn it, you all know how I hate to blow me own horn but here's a sweet piece from the Irish Times written by the fine Irish crime novelist and journalist Declan Burke, known to his chums and enemies alike as either "Dec" or "Hambone." No matter which side of that divide you count yourself on, the article concerns the Concord Free Press and mentions me and a book I wrote entitled "Rut," which as we all know is both a noun and a verb. Go forth and sin no more.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Silver Dollar in Ghent, Minnesota

Last night I read with the amazingly talented Kyle Minor at the Marshall Festival at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota, and after the reading the festival's organizer, my good pal Anthony Neil Smith, took Kyle and me and a grad student in creative writing (Dan Vierck, remember that name) over to the nearby town of Ghent to the Silver Dollar, the first bar in Minnesota--not the oldest, but somehow the first. The distinction apparently has to do with a long-ago change in the liquor laws of the state, but no one could quite explain the exact nature of the claim.

In any case, they have one of the best old bar signs I've ever seen. Here's Kyle, standing before it like a badass.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Obscene Hummel Figurine

This comes via filmmaker and all around good pal Mark Wade Stone. It belonged to his grandmother and dates back to circa 1939. All I can say about it is that it appears to me to be a little boy humping a flowerpot containing an anthropomorphic cactus. The mind reels at the Freudian implications.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Phil Lewis, 1925-2010

Last month my uncle Phil Lewis died, and the weekend of the 19th I went to LA for his memorial service and career retrospective, organized by his daughter, my cousin Janet. The above mixed media piece isn't typical of his work, but I wanted to include it on the blog because it's such a great picture of Phil.

The memorial service was everything it should have been, laughing and crying and the palpable sense that Phil was present among us. And in a very real sense he was--the artwork that was his lifeblood from the 1940s right up until the end hung on the walls of the gallery, and almost all the people still alive in his circle were there.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

David Thompson

I try to stay away from real life as much as possible, on the blog and as a general principle. Today, though, I got the rotten news that my good friend David Thompson died suddenly, and I'm going to piss and moan for a paragraph. He was a bookseller and publisher and a friend to many dozens of people. He was married to a wonderful woman he loved very much, and he was as joyfully engaged with his work as anyone I've ever known, and he was only thirty-eight. Above is a picture taken the last time I saw him, when he made a trip to St. Louis to help set up BoucherCon 2011. He was one of the best people I ever met in the book business, and nobody had an unkind word to say about him.

I owed him an e-mail from last week. There were books I wanted to recommend that he publish. We had plans, goddamnit.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The amazing and hilarious Tim Gilbert and the art of shaving your junk

Some of you Wichita hepcats may remember musician, actor and Kirby's Beer Store fixture Tim Gilbert, who decamped many years ago for London. Here's Tim explaining in a British TV commercial about pube-shaving (thanks to Michael Carmody for posting this originally):

Thursday, September 2, 2010

the Basement Sublet....of Horror!

This week creator/writer/director Joel Sanderson has posted for your viewing pleasure the entire "Atomic Brain" episode of the Basement Sublet of Horror:

This is one of two episodes that I guest-hosted. In this one I play regular host Gunther Dedmond's meth-addled landlord. Here are some Basement Sublet trading cards, including the two associated with this episode:

And I get the card right after Herc "Carnival of Souls" Harvey!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Thrift Store Masterpiece

Found this Sunday in an antique mall near St. Louis:

See how she's grasping that pink candle, like she's judging its size? Nuanced! Classy! And those breasts are the definition of perky. I think this might have come from Bob Guccione's yard sale. Here's a better picture of the middle section:

The subtle effect of the candlelight against the dark background evokes Delatour at his height--perhaps even Kincade--while the model with her wistful gaze seems to have wandered in from the saddest, most poignant 16-MM stag film ever made.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Random Scary Images

Scary, Norman Bates-style stuffed Buffalo (Bison bison, for you sticklers):

Scary, decaying mannequin from a mining museum:

Scary Honey Wagon (that's a toilet on rails for use by the miners) from the same museum:

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Nostalgic Latex-Novelty Related Anecdote

From a very old friend who wishes, understandably, to remain anonymous, a remembrance called forth from the past by the Proustian madeleine of my recent Novelty Dispenser posting:

"In 1971, when I was a naive 9 year old, I bought a "French tickler" from a dispenser, thinking it was some kind of novelty candy. Boy, was I disappointed--and bewildered. I mean, what a ripoff for 25 cents. But it had to have SOME purpose, right? So I kept it and put it in my sock drawer, until I could discern its purpose. Over the next few weeks, my father's suspicions were aroused when he realized I was asking a lot of pointed questions of people, including his parents when they came for a visit ("Gramma, do you know what a French tickler is?"). Finally, my dad asked to see what I was talking about.
He asked where I'd gotten it, gave some lame explanation of its purpose (so lame even a naive 9 year old could tell it was bullshit), then took it from me, saying that it was something a young boy shouldn't have.
Imagine my disappointment when I discovered it a few days later while emptying the trash. It was all stretched out and wet. I couldn't understand why he would have lied to me just so he could use it (whatever that use was)--all he had to do was ask me!"

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Move over, Art Snow--F. Dressen's in town!

Another Thrift Store (or "Antique Mall" for you fancy-pants types out there) painting for your amusement and edification, this one painted by one F. Dressen.

I didn't buy it--$95 seemed a bit steep--but I'm starting to regret it. It's at that perfect juncture between competent (Mr. or Ms. Dressen clearly possessed some technical skills) and crazy, and the sad clown's face is rendered well enough that it feels like an actual portrait of some morose Pierrot.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

America's Finest Gas Station Restroom Novelty Dispensers

So here's a souvenir of my trip to Michigan:

Near as I can tell it's supposed to be some sort of balloon. Any of you out there have any theories?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back to blogging!

All right, summer's winding down. I haven't traveled very much, but I did make a couple of trips to Wichita and one, very brief, to Michigan and Indiana. Here's a trio of photos I found in an antique mall near Benton Harbor, MI (and not far from Niles, MI, home of 19th c. baby farmer and camp follower Mrs. Almira Griffiths!):

My guess is that these characters are meant to be a city slicker and a corn-fed rube, and that one is about to con the other out of a suitcase (not necessarily the one we think). The photographic studio is the Locke Clute company of 79 Washington Avenue in Detroit, and the stamp on the back of the photos identifies the artistes as Leo and Earl James, Singers and Character Change Artists (and get a load of the spooky Burlesque Shroud-of-Turin Effect bleeding through the back of the card):

Finally, here's one of the brothers solo, playing a drunkard:

All three images are marked on the back in pencil: One, "Earl Jake no. 1; "Earl Jake and" and finally just "Earl Jake." Someone who didn't like Leo, or was Leo's real name Jake? Was Jake their real last name? And whatever became of them?

NEXT: Adult novelties sold in gas station restroom vending machines!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Wayback machine

In the eighties I managed a cafeteria in a dormitory on the Boulevard St. Michel in Paris. We only served a continental breakfast in those days, but earlier in the century the dorm provided three hot meals a day for its several hundred residents, and the abandoned institutional kitchen in the basement was a source of spooky fascination.
Rotting furniture:
Kind of a "Shining" vibe here.
A bin full of sawdust, for what purpose I don't know, unless it was for that time-honored tradition of absorbing vomit off the floor upstairs:
Drawers full of unused silver. Bet that drawer is empty today.
The building's main elevator would take you down there, but the only way down from the cafeteria was via a very rickety old spiral staircase, and it was dark as hell down there. I am not ashamed to admit that I was scared shitless every time I had to go down there by myself.

As always, click to enlarge! (Images copyright Scott Phillips, 2010)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

More Shameless Promotion: Misadventure!


Just out from McSweeney's: Millard Kaufman's last novel, Misadventure. Kaufman had a brilliant Hollywood career, helping to create Mr. Magoo, writing the screenplay for, among many other fine pictures, "Bad Day at Black Rock," and even serving as a front for his blacklisted pal, Dalton Trumbo. His acclaimed first novel, "Bowl of Cherries," came out when he was ninety, and sadly its follow-up is being published posthumously. But what a followup! Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir, says:

"Millard Kaufman understands that in a noir world—like, say, Los Angeles in the 1980s—the only hope for sanity is a sense of humor. Having lived through the city's earlier and equally absurd mid-century mores, he is more than qualified to skewer and roast its later incarnation. For a man in his nineties, Kaufman writes with all the verve and venom of a precocious 25-year-old; his story is good—but his storytelling is a non-stop delight."

I believe the book was written circa 1980 (see Eddie's reference to its time frame) and updated shortly before Kaufman's death to set it between the two Gulf wars. Here's my blurb, which will, I guess, appear on the paperback, having been written too late to appear on the jacket:

"Though it's only Millard Kaufman's second novel, 'Misadventure' came after a lifetime of writing about the light and dark sides of humanity, and in it the dark side plainly has the upper hand. Fast, nasty and funny as hell, it's a brand new classic of the noir genre, and I wish the author had lived on to write ten more just like it."

Like I said, it's a gas! So head on out to your local independent bookseller and buy a copy already!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shameless Promotion, part IV: the LINEUP

Continuing my series of uncharacteristically selfless promotion of other people's projects (shouldn't I be feeling better about myself by now?), I present to you The Lineup no. 3. Editor and pal Gerald So was kind enough to send me a couple of review copies of this most unusual poetry mag, which he co-edits with Sarah Cortez, R. Narvaez and Anthony Rainone. What's unusual about it is that all the poems are about crime, and the poets here include Patricia Abbott, Wallace Stroby, James W. Hall and Reed Farrel Coleman, and the poems are pretty badass. If you like hardboiled crime writing, this is right up your sordid, trash-strewn, bloodstained alley.

You can buy it at and you can get submission guidelines, author bios and more at

Sunday, March 28, 2010

shameless promotion, part III: Heavy Rotation!

Here's the latest thing from Mike Coykendall (

It's a groovy little pop masterpiece on which Herr Coykendall plays bass and occasionally sings, and which he engineered and mixed to boot. He's backing up M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, better known as She & Him. Ms. Deschanel is a pop songwriter of the first order, with a voice that calls to my mind such voices as Shannon McArdle (late of the Mendoza Line) and Miss Peggy Lee. And the thing has a sound to it that's pure confectionary joy. It's been in heavy rotation at home and work for days now:

She and Him, Volume Two, on Merge it now.

And in case you forgot to buy this last time:
The Unbearable Being of Likeness Cover Art

"The Unbearable Being of Likeness" is still available from
And of course he's an ex-Wichitan. So get out there and buy some records, kids!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Grandfather Paradox

Duane Swierczynski has written a number of hard-to-classify books that straddle various subsections of the crime, science fiction and thriller genres, all of them well worth your hard-earned dimes. His new one, Expiration Date, comes out March 30, and it's not only the best of the bunch, it's also planted square in the tiny, hard-to-hit intersection of science fiction, crime, horror, fantasy and probably a genre or two I'm forgetting right now. When I recommended it to a bookseller friend here in St. Louis I told her it reminded me of Joe Hill's "Horns" in its determined shotgun wedding of nuts and bolts quotidian reality and psyched-out gonzo fantasia, and it deserves to have that kind of commercial success.

Here's the gist of the thing, though it's impossible to do justice to it justice in this short space:

Mickey Wade is a recently terminated reporter for a Philadelphia alt-weekly who ends up in his grandfather's dilapidated apartment in the run-down neighborhood Mickey grew up in. Suffering from a blistering headache Mickey takes what he thinks is a handful of Tylenol from Grandpa's medical cabinet, and what happens next is either the most wacked-out time-travel story ever or the worst trip in the history of psychedelic medications. Duane is a lifelong Philadelphian, and one of the book's pleasures is the changing portrait of the town's lesser-known neighborhoods from the seventies up to the present.

So on the 30th head on down to your local independent bookseller and buy it. Duane's always-entertaining blog can be found here:

Maybe someday he'll reveal the secret behind his nickname: Duane "Three-balls" Swierczynski.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Other People's Stuff

I have been accused (by my own self, even) of using this blog for shameless self-promotion. And so my next few posts, in order to restore karmic balance, will be shameless promotion of my friends' work.

Today's subject is my pal Julia Clift, an amazingly talented painter whose work I just saw for the first time last week (though I've known her for about a year). Here's one she painted in Norway in 2009, "Monika":

And this one, also from last year, entitled "Camera and Lanterns":

Her website is here:

There's a lot of implied narrative in her work, not unlike Hopper or the photographs of Gregory Crewdson, the kind of work that rewards repeated viewings.

And she's a real keen gal, too.

Next: Duane Swierczynski!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Smutty Olympia

I wanted to post this during the Olympics, but it didn't arrive in time. Still, a lovely little piece of erotica from the bottom of Grandpa's sock drawer:
And once more, rolled stockings! And with skates. That is a very specific fetish, my friends.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kirby's '88

I took these pictures of Kirby's Beer Store in April '88, shortly before leaving Wichita for good. Above is one I've posted before of a dissolute bartender.
And here's the legendary northeast corner, home of many a session of tonsil hockey and drunken loutishness. GLOBE OF FROGS!
And from the men's room, the ancient condom dispensers, for those who were about to be lubricated.
Remember that ceramic thing with the matchbooks? For a while people amused themselves by writing predictions in the matchbooks, as though they were fortune cookies. My favorite was "You will have a very disturbing wet dream about the disinterment of Miss Lucille Ball." Look! Regulars!
Many, many manhours wasted on the pinball machine, not to mention quarters.

The walls, covered with crapola.
That same dissolute bartender. Does that look on his face remind you of the sleeve of "Lust for Life?"
The TV, above the legendary jukebox. Note the print of Marilyn Mao.
More crapola, plus a view of that amazing jukebox, which contained among many, many other gems the 45 from my GI Joe astronaut circa 1968 of John Glenn's Mercury-to-Earth transmissions.

I hope you've enjoyed this trip in the way-back machine.