Saturday, January 19, 2008


Sometimes, I actively seek out the ridiculous. In this particular case, I have it e-mailed to me every day:

Tarzan Classics -- one of the many denizens of the funny papers available through

Tarzan became a comic strip in 1929, about 17 years after Edgar Rice Burroughs's short story, "Tarzan of the Apes," was published. I think the current story running on is from the 1950s. I could easily do without Tarzan killing so many animals (happens just about every week in the old strips, but I don't think the present-day storylines are quite the same) and I do hope to heaven that no one tries to learn what Africa or its people are all about by reading the strip, but I admit that I smile to myself whenever my e-mail inbox shows that one of the strips has arrived. Why? Because they are just so ridiculous!

I got hooked on them when I decided that as hilarious as Dilbert is, I needed a little less realism. So I went browsing around on the site, and saw Tarzan, which seemed to fit the bill.

Soon, I opened an email containing a Tarzan strip in which the Ape-Man and his compatriots are carried underwater, unconscious, to a great depth by sea people who live in an underwater kingdom. Everyone is alive after this journey.

That's when I knew I had to see Tarzan every single day.

In the most recent episode, Tarzan has acquired a young boy as a companion (a story which is, in itself, rife with implausibilities) and they have climbed a sheer cliff and come across — as one does — dinosaurs that are eating "blind bats" as if they were flying popcorn. Tarzan and his companion are escaping by feeding large chunks of black granite to the dinosaurs in the hope that this will give them fatal indigestion.

A few days ago, Tarzan said of the giant prehistoric lizards, "This sight would certainly be difficult to prove to the world below."

Amen, Tarzan — King of the Apes and the Understatement.
They'd think you were crazy. But that's why I read you!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ed Hoch

I am deeply saddened by the news (learned on Sarah Weinman's blog) that Edward D. Hoch, MWA Grand Master and undoubtedly the leading mystery short story writer of our time, has passed away. Ed's name is well-known to readers of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine — the most recent issue features one of his stories on the cover, and no other contributor could have been so integral a part of the magazine as Ed was over so many years.

He was incredibly imaginative. In addition to being extremely well-written, his stories often contained intriguing information, culled from research over a wide range of subjects. He respected his readers — I can't remember reading a story of his that wasn't expertly crafted.

I was lucky enough to be able to spend time talking with Ed and his lovely wife, Patricia, in recent years, and I treasure the memory of those talks. I consider the time I spend with Ed to be one of the great privileges that have come my way in my years as a writer.

Ed had a wonderful sense of humor. He was a genuinely good man, a generous and kind person. His example of giving back to the mystery community with his time and effort is one that we would all do well to emulate.

He will be greatly missed.