Saturday, December 31, 2016

"New Year’s Eve on Chew Avenue"

Railroad Train to Heaven, the first volume of the memoirs of Arnold Schnabel, will soon be available at long last in a handsome large-format paperback edition, as well as an “e-book”, but in the meantime, and in lieu of any new episodes of Arnold’s chef-d'œuvre at this time, we present again one of our hero’s most beloved sonnets, originally published in the Olney Times for January 4, 1963; two weeks later he would be in a padded cell at the Philadelphia State Mental Hospital at Byberry.

New Year’s Eve on Chew Avenue

It’s New Year’s Eve, it seems we’ve made it,
if only barely, through another year;
the terror, if not gone, has abated
into a dull and grey persistent fear.
My mother’s sound asleep by eleven,
so I go to the VFW,
shove to the bar of this drunkard’s heaven,
and say, “Pat, if you please, I’ll trouble you
for a Schmidt’s, backed with an Old Forester,
and keep them coming till I say not to,
or until you throw me out; whatever;
do what your conscience says that you’ve got to.”
I take that first sacred drink of cold beer:
“Happy new (let’s hope it’s not our last) year.”

(New episodes of Arnold’s adventures will appear in the coming year, and, who knows, perhaps even poems.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

An Arnold Schnabel Potpourri, Vol. 3

The new year will bring us, at long last, the publication of the first volume of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs, Railroad Train to Heaven™and our staff of volunteers and graduate interns are now busily preparing the e-book edition as well; in the meantime, here is another collection of bons mots from that first volume... 

I walked down the windy dark empty street to Congress and turned right, and down the block and a half to the VFW. It’s just a plain long building, dull and brown, it’s windows made out of filmy glass bricks like ice cubes. I opened the door and went in. The first thing I heard was Steve’s distinctive tenor, singing along to a song on the jukebox called “Be My Baby”. And there he was in the middle of the crowded bar, waving a beer mug in time to the music.

Amazingly, it didn’t look like anyone wanted to beat him up.


…I slowly recognized her as a pretty but somewhat somber face I had seen around town in past summers, each year a little taller and a lot more — what’s the word? Imperious? Or even like the way the Blessed Mother looks in some old paintings, beautiful and calm but somehow somewhat bored or even miffed about something.

By the way I just want to interpolate that if despite my present lamentable state of willy-nilly agnosticism there really is a Blessed Virgin I mean no disrespect by the above sentence or, now that I look at it again, should I say sentence fragment.


I felt like a ghost wandering through a carnival swarming with mad midgets.

Universes collapsed, stars exploded and disappeared, new galaxies burst into creation, gods and entire races lived and died as she went into her little kitchenette and took a bottle of Gordon’s gin and poured healthy drams into two of the Flintstones glasses that my aunts had supplied the apartment with. She came up to me and handed me one of the drinks.


I turned and walked out, closing the door behind me. I walked gingerly over to the bathroom, went in, closed the door, unzipped, and splashed cold water from the tap onto the offending portion of myself.


Their words passed into my ears and out again, leaving only the vaguest impressions on my brain.


Miss Rathbone sat down and poured Steve a glass of ice water.

He thanked her, lifted the glass and drank it all, his Adam’s apple palpitating like a small creature trapped in his throat.


I could never describe the complex of emotions, hidden but obvious, conversation, superficial but fraught with meaning, all of it somehow managing to be deeply boring but completely unmemorable, which ensued in the next three minutes of chatter among the old women and Miss Evans.


I said nothing. What could I say? It seems to me that for years I talked to people, and they talked to me, primarily in a sort of code composed almost entirely of clichés, a code whose purpose was not the transmission of meaning but the lack of meaning.


People were starting to come back from the beach, blistered-red, sweating and weary, looking as if they had been through a battle. Even the little children hobbled and staggered as though on a death march, or else were carried by their sandal-dragging parents or brave older siblings.


Real life always comes back to bring us down to planet earth even in the midst of our most exalted philosophizing, and so it was that I realized that I had to urinate.


I didn’t know what to say, which is not unusual for me of course. However, after many years of social doltishness, I’ve gradually realized that people are much more comfortable if you say something, anything other than saying a great resonant nothing…


Next thing I knew we were in a café drinking peppermint schnapps, and pretty soon after that I was being frog-marched into a brothel, gibbering with fright as if I were being dragged to the gibbet. And as terrified as I was going in I was even more terrified an hour later when I shuffled out, expecting a lightning bolt to strike me down at any moment and cast my wretched unshriven soul screaming hellward.

It occurred to me that I was happy.

How odd.


(Fear not, fans –  brand new and exciting chapters of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs will be appearing in this space soon.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

An Arnold Schhnabel Potpourri, Vol. 2

John Facenda: "The Voice of God"

We are very close to the publication – in both paper and electronic forms – of Volume One of Arnold Schnabel’s 73-volume memoir, which shall bear the title Railroad Train to Heaven; in the meantime here is  a second culling of literary bouquets from that volume, ideal for those who  have short attention spans:

A yellow Oldsmobile hissed slowly by, and Steve stood across the street, under his now seemingly repaired umbrella, or perhaps another one. He waved, and then he disappeared, into thin air, or rather into thick rainy air.
It was odd, but just watching her do something so simple as shaking the water off of her umbrella made me want to go to bed with her.

By this time the women were getting back to work on the food. Elektra asked if she could help with anything, but they all said no. Elektra asked again, they said no again. Then one more time around.

I wondered if I could take getting married if it meant listening to all these repetitious verbal rituals, and it occurred to me that I would probably just be a typical man and leave the women to their own arcane devices.
I was afraid this was going to happen, my Aunt Edith’s famous duck’s blood soup. I realized now that they had really gone the whole hog, reverting back to their dark past in a little village in Germany, and that Charlie had brought the duck over still alive. Thank God I had slept through that. I had stood witness once as my aunts killed a duck and then held it upside down to let it bleed into a bowl. It was not an experience I wanted ever to repeat.


John Facenda came on with the news. We watched it for a bit. Some gang in England had robbed a train of £2.6 million.

“When I grow up I’m gonna be a train robber,” said Kevin. “No offense; I know you used to work on the railroad.”

The ladies had also brought out the good china, which I find annoying to eat off of. It’s got all this fancy gilt along its scalloped edges which when you wield your knife and fork upon it makes for an awful scraping noise like desperate mice trapped behind a chalkboard.

Kevin and I sat; for some reason he always sits immediately to my left when we eat. Or is it I who always sits to his right?
It was almost twilight now, the rain had abated to a salty thin spray that seemed not to fall but to shimmer in the air. The air smelled of honeysuckle and gladioli, of wet dirt and the ocean. I sat down in my usual rocker, lit up a Pall Mall, and stared out at the street, covered like a forest floor with gleaming green leaves and fallen brown twigs.
“You don’t understand women. We’re always submitting ourselves to absurd situations. It’s our lot in life.”

The misty rain had stopped, but the light that just a few minutes before had brightly colored the street had now fallen away. A silence fell, or was allowed to resume, but it was still rather windy out, so this was the silence of wet leaves hissing in the trees, of fallen leaves scudding along the street like flotsam in a river, and, from seemingly far away but only a few blocks away, the ocean endlessly crashing at the edge of the continent.


I was having one "first" after another these days, and in my forty-two years this was the first time I had shared an umbrella with a woman who was not my mother. I took the umbrella, it seemed the gentlemanly thing to do, walking on the street side of the pavement, as I had somewhere heard the gentleman was supposed to.
For some reason we hadn’t been talking as we walked; I can’t account for Elektra but for me it seemed redundant and meaningless to add anything to the sound of the rain drumming on the umbrella, the murmuring of the wind.

If I must go into a bar, and apparently sometimes I must, I prefer to slip in quietly, the unknown quiet man quietly drinking his beer or Manhattan. The last thing I need is a bar full of hearty fellows clapping me on the back and asking me how it’s going.
I walked down the windy dark empty street to Congress and turned right, and down the block and a half to the VFW. It’s just a plain long building, dull and brown, it’s windows made out of filmy glass bricks like ice cubes. I opened the door and went in. The first thing I heard was Steve’s distinctive tenor, singing along to a song on the jukebox called “Be My Baby”. And there he was in the middle of the crowded bar, waving a beer mug in time to the music.

Amazingly, it didn’t look like anyone wanted to beat him up.
As I came out though I saw a woman in a long gown in the dark hallway. Her hair was dark gold.

My immediate thought was, “Oh, great, now it’s the Blessed Mother, this is all I need.”

And I was ready to walk right past her or through her without a word, but she said, “Hello.”

“Hello,” I said.

“You’re Arnold, right?”

“Yes,” I said, trying not to sigh.

The whole Holy Family had it in for me, or so it seemed. And where was Joseph?
I digress, but after all this is my memoir and no one will ever read it anyway, probably not even its author.

(New and thrilling chapters of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs will return after the publication of Volume One. )

Friday, December 2, 2016

An Arnold Schnabel Potpourri, Vol. 1

Yes, if all goes well we should be publishing Volume One of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs within the next couple of weeks, in both paper and electronic forms, but in the meantime, in lieu of any new episodes at this time, we present this selection of bons mots culled from that volume
, suitable for recitation at dinner parties or literary gatherings, or for private pondering in the dark watches of a sleepless night:

I did something I should not have done yesterday. Against not only several doctors’ orders but my own personal experience and supposed good sense, I had one too many last night, all right, perhaps two, what am I saying, three, all right, say four, four too many considering two is my limit and I had six, but no, wait, I think I had seven.
The day after my previously recounted escapade at the Pilot House was no worse than what might have been expected, viz., killing hangover, suicidal depression, pathetic and meaningless remorse and guilt, and unremitting boredom relieved only by an infinite self-loathing, in other words nothing to get excited about, just another day at Villa Schnabel.
She arrived, stepping in from the still-bright but dying summer daylight. I suppose she felt she looked radiant. Her hair was like some modernistic light fixture with a hundred watt bulb turned on inside it. She wore a flowery dress of what looked and eventually felt like wallpaper, and she reeled towards me on high heels.
The waiter handed me a wine list. All I knew was you were supposed to drink red wine with meat and white with fish. But she had ordered lobster and meat, making the choice impossible. I settled on a bottle of Mateus rosé.
I kissed her. It didn’t kill me to do so. And for once I surrendered, and I fell, and it was as if a great part of me finally opened up to life. Previously I had felt that nothing could be quite as pleasant as lying in bed on a cool afternoon with nothing to do, staring at the ceiling and dreaming of a world beyond this world, but now I was not so sure.
Her eyes, which seemed suddenly to have grown enormously, looked into mine. I felt as if I could fall into them. So here I was, precariously suspended between being thrust backward out into the stars or falling into this interior universe which seemed to me just as unknowable.
Perhaps life didn’t have to be so difficult after all. Perhaps I had been denying myself life itself all my life in the service of some random superstition. After all, what if I had been born a Hindu, or a Pygmy, or a Hottentot...

The air was cool and clean and fresh, the ocean wind smelled alive with the grace of the universe, of seaweed and salt and bushels of glistening fresh oysters, and so naturally I had to have a cigarette.


I awoke next morning feeling odd. Well, I should say, odder than usual. I lay there and realized that one odd thing I was feeling was not hungover. So that was one good thing about marijuana.


People were slowly walking up the bright street, in their bathing suits, carrying their umbrellas and beach chairs and blankets and towels, in this already stifling and blazing heat. They were quite mad, to go to the beach on such a day. But then of course it was their vacation and they wanted to get their money's worth. But they were mad nonetheless. They would broil on that merciless beach like so many lobsters. Even I was not that insane.
My aunts and mother tend never actually to eat a meal, per se. One of them will eat half a slice of toast, say, and then pass it on to one of her sisters. If it’s a big holiday meal, forget it, they won’t even sit down for more than a minute at a time. There’s no changing them. And yet they’re all rather solid somehow, and strong, albeit very short. They’re almost like the remnants of some race of immortal and stoutly-built dwarves who have emerged from the darkest depths of the Schwarzwald to dwell for a time among men.


I sat in the shade of an oak tree while Kevin crept down to stare at the ducks. He stopped at the water’s edge and crouched down. Some ducks slowly glided back and forth along the water’s surface. They looked bored, but then it was a hot day.


The shop was busy on this rainy day, what else was there to do for poor vacationers? Well, at least this was one day when they wouldn’t have to lie in the blistering heat of the beach, their flesh burning, their children wailing. They could drag themselves and their families into places like this and eat pie and ice cream.
What joy.


When I awoke again I felt much better, very rested. The rain was still coming down, but much more lightly now, and the wind had settled too. The green of the leaves on the oak tree outside my window sparkled dully, like seaweed in clear water.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Female Residence"

We are at last entering the "formatting and layout" stage in the publication of Volume One of the memoirs of Arnold Schnabel – which we hope to have ready in time for the holiday gift-giving season – and so, once again, in the temporary absence of any new episodes of Arnold's magnum opus, we present the first page of yet another inexplicably out-of-print classic by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall:

“Ah, gee, Betsy,” said Thad. “I wish I could come up for a while. Just for a cup of coffee.”

“You know Mrs. Jamieson doesn’t permit us to bring gentleman visitors to our rooms.”

“Yeah, I know, Betsy, but gee.”

“Anyway I never drink coffee this late at night.”

“We wouldn’t have to drink coffee,” said Thad.

“What do you mean by that.”

“Well, we could drink soda pop.”

“Goodnight, Thad.”

“Goodnight, Betsy. What about tomorrow night? There’s that new Cocteau film at the Thalia. It’s supposed to be quite artistic. What do you think?”

“Pardon me?”

“Tomorrow night?”


“Cocteau film? At the Thalia?”

“What about it?”

“I was just asking if you, uh –”

Betsy yawned, deeply.

“Oh, excuse me,” she said. “I’m just all in. Goodnight, Brad.”


“Thad I mean. Goodnight.”

Thad swiftly got the door and opened it for her.

“Goodnight, Betsy!”

Yawning again, patting her mouth with her white-gloved hand, Betsy walked through the door and into the lobby.

“I’ll ring you tomorrow,” called Thad, hopefully, as the door closed.

Mrs. Slivotitz was behind the desk, and a slender girl in grey sat with her legs crossed on the most comfy armchair, smoking a cigarette and reading a movie magazine. As Betsy walked past her on the way to the elevator the girl spoke without looking up from her magazine.

“What a drip!”

“Pardon me?” said Betsy, stopping, trying to stifle another yawn.

“I said what a drip,” said the girl, looking up from her magazine.


“Your boyfriend out there.”

“Oh,” said Betsy, and she held in yet another yawn, blinking her thick dark eyelashes. “Brad.”

Female Residence, by “Horatia P. Stevenson” (Horace P. Sternwall); a Pyramid paperback original, 1952; one printing only, never republished.

(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of some other fine but sadly out-of-print novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

"The Burglar and the Babe"

Our staff is merrily completing its painstaking preparations for the publication of Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel in time for the holiday gift-giving season,  and so, in lieu of any new episodes of Arnold's chef-d'œuvre at the present time, we once again present a snippet of a long out-of-print novel by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall:

Willie “The Bat” Jones slipped through the window and came down silently onto the floor in a crouch. He wore tight black leather gloves, and in his left hand he carried the leather case containing his tools and the carefully-folded nylon loot sack. His right hand he held straight out before him in the darkness, fingers outspread and slightly quivering, like antennae. The house would most likely be completely unoccupied for at least two more hours, but nevertheless (and as was his usual modus operandi) Willie did not risk using even a penlight. Instead he closed his eyes, breathing slowly and regularly, and waited patiently for one full minute. When he opened his eyes again his vision had adjusted to the darkness, and now he continued the doing of his business, his trade, his art.

After cleaning out the safe in the study and then collecting the two antique Purdey shotguns from the library along with several rare first editions of Pope, Swift, and Smollett, but before going into the master bedroom, he went into the daughter’s room and headed immediately for the Harry Winston jewelry box he knew to be on the dresser in there.

The light next to the bed switched on, revealing a very pretty young woman sitting up in the bed.  She wore a nightgown that revealed more of her breasts than it concealed.

“Have you come here to kill me?” she asked.

“No,” said Willy. “I came here to rob you.”

She reached over to the night table and took a cigarette from an engraved silver case which Willy's practiced eye identified as Bailey, Banks & Biddle, worth a grand if it was worth a dime. She lighted the cigarette (with a Tiffany lighter, 18-karat yellow gold) and slowly exhaled smoke in Willy's direction.

"How would you like to make some real money?" she asked.

The Burglar and the Babe, by Horace P. Sternwall; an Ajax paperback original, 1954; republished as The Burgled and the Damned, by “Harrison P. Shockley”, in paperback, by The Faber Workman’s Library (UK), 1956.

(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of some other fine but sadly obscure novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

"The Blowhard"

Yes, our dedicated staff of interns and graduate students are still feverishly preparing Volume One of the memoirs of Arnold Schnabel for publication as an actual "book" in time for the holiday gift-giving season, and so, in lieu of any new episodes of Arnold's
magnum opus at this time, we present the opening paragraphs of another "lost" novel by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall...

Pete Willingham had opinions, lots of opinions, but the problem was that nobody in Wheeler’s Corners would listen to him anymore.

“Shut the hell up, Pete,” they would say when they came into Baxter’s General Store, where Pete had worked since he was fifteen years old.

“Stuff it, Pete,” they would say, “nobody wants to hear what you have to say.”

“For God’s sake, stick a sock in it, Pete,” they would say.

Finally Mr. Baxter realized he was losing business because of Pete, and so, after many warnings, one fine day he fired Pete.

Pete didn’t mind. Getting fired was just the push he needed. He had just finished a correspondence course in public speaking, and he had saved up close to one hundred dollars, so he packed up a cardboard suitcase and took the bus for New York City, where he intended to realize his dream of having his own radio program, and then people would listen to him, they would listen to him good.

The Blowhard, by Horace P. Sternwall (Top Shelf Books, 1951;  “paperback original”, one printing only, never republished).

(Cover painting by James Avati. Scroll down the right hand column of this page to find a listing of many more excerpts from the sadly-obscure oeuvre of Horace P. Sternwall.)

Friday, November 4, 2016

"A No Good Dame"

Our dedicated staff of interns and graduate assistants are still feverishly preparing Volume One of the memoirs of Arnold Schnabel in time for the holiday gift-giving season! In the meantime here's the opening sentence of yet another sadly out-of-print classic from the battered Royal portable typewriter of Arnold's pal Horace P. Sternwall:

What a bunch of schlemiels I was thinking. Sitting around playing poker while a good looking dame like me was sitting over here on the couch drinking highballs, smoking Sweet Caporals, and cooling her heels. I guess it was then that I decided I was gonna take them for every penny they were worth, and that included Johnny — 'Cleveland Johnny' Doyle, my so-called fiancé — the big chump.”

A No Good Dame
, by "Helen P. Steinmetz" {Horace P. Sternwall} (Acme Books, 1953; one printing only, never republished).

(Cover art by Rudy Nappi. Scroll down the right-hand side of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of many other immortal but deleted books by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Cuban Missile Crisis"

Yes, our staff of unpaid interns and graduate assistants are still busily preparing Volume One of  Arnold Schnabel’s  memoirs for publication in time for the Festivus gift-giving season, and so once again in lieu of any new episodes of his chef-d'œuvre at this time, we present another of his classic poems, first published in the October 26, 1962 number of Arnold's neighborhood newspaper,  the Olney Times.

It is perhaps worth noting that Arnold suffered a complete mental collapse just a little over two months after writing this poem.

(This sonnet brought to you by the kind permission of the Arnold Schnabel Society, all rights reserved. Imprimatur: Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.)

An ash-grey morning, I stare at the sky;
will this be the day that the missiles fall?
There’s nothing to be done, except to pray
upon our knees, and ask the good Lord why
He cannot spare some of us, if not all,
if we promise to worship Him each day
and every night for the rest of our
portion of what He should grant us of life,
if only a year, or a month, or just
a week, or a day, or even an hour,
no matter how fraught with fear and with strife,
before we are blown into cosmic dust.
An ash-grey evening, I stare at the sky;
will this be the night that you and I die?

(Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for a listing of links to other classic poems by Arnold Schnabel, as well as to his Schaefer Award-winning memoir, Railroad Train to Heaven.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

"They Call Him Cad"

Yes, our dedicated staff of volunteers are still busily preparing the first volume of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs for publication in time for the holiday gift-giving season, and so, once again, in lieu of any new episodes of Arnold's magnum opus at this time, we present the first page of another classic and sadly out-of-print novel by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall...

“So, Babs,” said Alexandra, after they had both taken their first appreciative sips of their bone-dry martinis, “how are things out on Sunnyville Manor Road?”

“Oh, fine,” said Babs, lighting up another cigarette. Fine, she thought. My husband is addicted to Dexedrine, my eight-year-old daughter insists on wearing a Davy Crockett costume everywhere, and my ten-year-old son wears a beret and affects an English accent. “Everything’s just dandy, Alex.”

“Yeah, I’m sure, but don’t you ever just miss the old days, Babs, in the WAVES?”

“Well, sometimes, I suppose,” said Babs. Right, she thought, sleeping in a barracks with a pack of gossiping man-crazy girls, typing up orders and memoranda all day while the fellows got to sail the seven seas and fight the Japs and Germans, sure, what jolly fun.

“Tell me, what do you miss about those days the most, Babsy?”

Never a good sign when Alex started calling her Babsy, but Babs considered the question for a few seconds and could honestly think of only one thing:

“I miss the uniforms,” she said. “It was nice not having to choose a new outfit every day.”

“Oh, Babsy, you’re such an absolute scream, but listen, doll, don’t turn around and don’t you dare look but there’s a fat fellow in a grey suit at the far end of the bar over there and he looks oddly familiar to me and I can’t quite place him but he’s looking quite blatantly at you, my dear.”


Babs turned around and looked.

“Babs!” said Alex, “I told you not to look!”

“Oh, do shut up, Alex,” said Babs.

It took her a moment and then it all came back. He was older of course, and he had grown quite fat, and his hair had gone grey. But it could only be him. He raised his glass to her.

“Oh, dear,” said Babs.

“What?” whispered Alex, “What? Who is he?”

“Oh my,” said Babs.

He had gotten up off his barstool, a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and now he was lumbering towards their table, smiling broadly.

“Hey, wait a minute,” said Alex, “that’s not --”


“Cad the Cad!” said Alex.

“Yeah, it’s Cad all right,” said Babs.

Tom “Cad” Cadwallader.

The man who had taken her virginity fourteen years ago one hot humid night at the Norfolk Naval Station.

Cad the Cad.

Her first love.

The bastard.

They Call Him Cad, by "Harriet P. Saint-Clair" (Horace P. Sternwall); a Popular Library paperback original, 1959.

(All-new episodes of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs are in the pipeline, and will be featured here after we've gotten the publishing of Volume One out of the way.)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

"The God’s Honest Truth"

Yes, our dedicated staff of interns and graduate assistants are still in the painstaking process of preparing Volume One of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs for publication in good time for the holiday gift-giving season – and so, in lieu of any new episodes of Arnold's chef-d'œuvre at this time, we present the first page of another classic and sadly out-of-print novel by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall:  The God’s Honest Truth.

“Sure, Lieutenant, I’m a drunk, and a two-bit grifter, I’m a defrocked priest and a disgraced cop, I’m a deserter and a coward and a traitor, I’m a hop-head and a three-card monte artist and a race-horse juicer – but I’m tellin’ ya and it’s the God’s honest truth – I didn’t bump Kincaid and I don’t know who did!”

“You forgot one little thing,” said Stein, and he blew cigar smoke into my face.

“Oh,” I said, blinking. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” he said.

He tapped his cigar ash onto my lap. I had just had this suit dry-cleaned at the Chinaman’s not a month before, too.

“One little thing,” he said again.

I would’ve brushed the ash off my lap except my hands were handcuffed behind my back.

“One tiny little thing,” he said.

“Just one little thing, Lieutenant?”

He blew on the lit end of the cigar and it glowed ruby red.

“Yeah,” he said. “One thing.”

Some guys’ll keep it up all night unless you feed them their cues. I didn’t feel like having that stogie stubbed out on my arm so I gave him his goddam cue.

“What’s that thing, Lieutenant? I mean if you don’t mind my asking.”

“You forgot to mention you’re a goddam liar, Molloy, a compulsive liar, a habitual liar. A liar.”

“Oh,” I said. “Yeah. I forgot. You’re right. I’m a liar. And that’s the God’s honest truth, too, Lieutenant.”

The God’s Honest Truth, by Horace P. Sternwall; an Atlas paperback original, 1949; republished as A Most Mendacious Fellow, by “Hank P. Sterne”, a Panther paperback “original” (UK), 1952.

(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of  many other fine but sadly out-of-print novels by Horace P. Sternwall. Our serialization of the memoirs of Arnold Schnabel will resume in the near future, as soon as Volume One has been published.)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

"Two Hoofers Named Helen"

Our dedicated staff are in the final stages of preparing Volume One of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs for publication in time for the holiday gift-giving season, and so, in lieu of any new episodes of Arnold's saga at this time, we present the first page of this sadly out-of-print novel by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall.

“I’m tellin’ ya, doll,” said Big Helen, “my gams are so sore, for two cents I’d chop ‘em off and start sellin’ cigars on the sidewalk.”

“You’re tellin’ me, babe,” said Little Helen. “I need me some liniment, and not the kind you rub on your skin, neither.”

“Boy, I could go for a snort or three, too, girl. Whaddaya say we stop off at Johnny Mac’s?”

“You got a date, sister. Maybe we’ll find a couple of live ones.”

“At Johnny Mac’s? I’ll tell ya, doll, we’ll be happy to find one in that place that ain’t two weeks dead.”

“Ha ha, you said it, babe. Them guys are so square they don’t know enough to fall off the damn barstool when they’re croaked.”

“Yeah, who gives a damn, anyway, girlfriend. The beers are a nickel a glass and our trap is right up the stairs.”

“Let’s collect our shekels and blow.”

“Big” Helen Jones and “Little” Helen Moscowitz collected their pay from Matty the house manager and headed out the stage door and up the alley to 42nd Street.

“Hey, dolls,” said a dude standing on the sidewalk. He wore a blue zoot suit and a snap-brim fedora, and he swung a chain with a gold coin on its end.

“Dig Ricardo Cortez,” said Big Helen.

“Hey, fella,” said Little Helen, “Didn’t you get the memorandum? It’s 1952, not 1942.”

“Very funny,” said the dude. He reached into his trousers pocket and brought out a pearl-handled switchblade and flicked it open. “Maybe you think this stiletto is out of style.”

“That’s not what that cop behind you thinks,” said Little Helen.

The dude turned his head, and as he did Little Helen drove the pointed toe of her pump into the man’s crotch. As he doubled over with a groan Big Helen struck him over the head with her purse, which she always made sure held a stout pint jar of cold cream for just such eventualities as this.

The man crumbled into the entrance of the alleyway.

“Quick,” said Little Helen, “let’s grab his wallet for our trouble.”

“Good idea, sister,” said Big Helen. “I’m grabbing the switchblade, too. It’s cute.”

Two Hoofers Named Helen, by “Hannah P. Sauvage” (Horace P. Sternwall); a Midwood paperback original; 1952.

(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of many other classic but nearly impossible-to-find novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Friday, September 30, 2016

"Dialogue in the Confessional"

Our staff is still busily preparing Volume One of  Arnold Schnabel's memoirs for publication in time for the holiday gift-giving season, and so, once again, in the temporary absence of new episodes of Arnold's saga, we present one of his classic poems.

The following brilliant sonnet – which sheds a bemusing light on Arnold Schnabel’s sexuality – was submitted by Arnold to the
Olney Times for the August 10th, 1963, issue. Not surprisingly  – considering its bold treatment of a subject matter which Arnold had always previously dealt with in the most thickly-veiled terms, if at all – the poem was rejected by the paper’s editor, Silas Willingham III. What is slightly surprising is that after almost twenty-five years of publishing Arnold’s poems on a weekly basis (Arnold had continued to submit poems by V-mail even when serving in the European Theatre in WWII), Willingham had only rejected one other poem, “Committed Bachelor”, which Arnold had submitted apparently just a few weeks previously. Upon finding “Dialogue in the Confessional” unsuitable for the family audience of the Olney Times, but not wanting to leave Arnold’s fans bereft, Willingham had second thoughts about “Committed Bachelor” and ran that in the August 10th issue instead.

“Dialogue in the Confessional”, one of Arnold’s most humorous yet flowing and masterfully composed sonnets, remained unpublished until it was recently discovered in the files of the Arnold Schnabel Society at the Oak Lane Library in Arnold's old Philadelphia neighborhood.

“Dialogue in the Confessional”

I went to confession and told the priest
about what I had done and that Jesus
had said it was okay; I heard the least
intake of breath; “Sex is not to please us,”
he said after a long pause, “but to bring
children into the world, within the state
of holy matrimony.” “But the thing
is,” I said, “no man and wife procreate
each time they perform the act; is it wrong
then, when they do it and fail conception?”
“No, no, of course not,” he said, “Just so long
as they’re wed, their love is no exception
to the rule.” “Right,” I said, “But what if, say –”
“Three Hail Marys,” he said. “Now go away.”

(Kindly go to the right hand column of this page for links to many other Arnold Schnabel poems as well as to our on-going serialization of his previously unpublished memoir Railroad Train to Heaven. New episodes will be forthcoming as soon as Volume One has been published.)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Arnold's friend Big Ben Blagwell: a retrospective

As our dedicated staff is still busily preparing Volume One of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs for publication as an actual "book" (in time for the holiday season!), and in lieu of any new episodes of  Railroad Train to Heaven for the time being,  we hope to forestall any groans of disappointment with today’s submission, a brief backward look at the exciting career of Arnold Schnabel’s friend, that hearty adventurer Big Ben Blagwell.

Ben’s first known appearance was in They Called Her Clementine, by Horace P. Sternwall, a Gold Medal paperback original published in 1949, which opens with these immortal lines:

I liked her face; it was a sweet, open face, a face that seemed to say springtime and flowers and happiness; oh, how wrong I was.

It was almost three years (during which time our hero’s hair somehow turned from “black as engine oil” to “red like dirty rust”) before Ben’s next appearance, in The Magic Pen Wiper, by Horace P. Sternwall; a Popular Library paperback original, 1952 (republished as Port of Passion, by "Hank Peter Savage", a “Perma Book Original”, 1954):

Big Ben Blagwell had whored and boozed and brawled his way through every two-bit dive in the South Seas, but he hadn’t really hit rock bottom until that day he strolled into a little place down Baguio way on the isle of Luzon, a little joint called the Magic Pen Wiper.

A scant two months later Ben showed up again, in My Friend the .45, by Horace P. Sternwall, a Behemoth Books paperback original, 1952:

He had a face that looked like it had been run over by a truck a few times; I turned away but then he spoke, the face spoke: "Hey, buddy, no disrespect, can I ask ya a question?

Ben’s next starring role was in Hell in the Amazon, by Horace P. Sternwall, an “Ace Double” paperback original, paired with Five Elegant Hit-Men, by “Henry Per Swenson” (yet another Sternwall nom de plume), 1953:

When my old navy buddy Buzz Maxwell called me up and asked me if I wanted to take a boat trip up the Amazon just for the hell of it with our other navy buddy Chip Weatherby, I said sure, it sounded like fun.
Boy, was I wrong.
Dead wrong.
Like flesh-eating piranha wrong.

We find Ben again, apparently fully-recovered from the numerous wounds incurred in his previous adventure, in Princess of the Bowery, by Horace P. Sternwall, an Ace paperback original, 1954:

She had a face that reminded me of my mother's face in the casket at the funeral home: painted, hard, and dead, with just the ghost of a smile. I decided to buy her a drink.

Again little worse for the wear, we find Ben a year later in Big Gun For a Little Lady, by Horace P. Sternwall, a Ballantine paperback original, 1955 (originally serialized in abridged form as "Little Lady With a Large Gun" in Savage Tales for Men, August and October, 1954):

“Hey, buddy,” said the dame sitting to Ben Blagwell’s right. “You wanta do me a favor?”
She was a redhead, but not with orange hair like a normal redhead. Her hair really was red, just like her dress.
She didn’t wait for Ben to say anything, but she opened up her sparkly red purse on her lap and brought out a .45 automatic, locked and cocked.
“Here,” she said. “Hold this for me a minute.”
Ben looked up and down the bar. Nobody was paying attention, and the kind of joint this was, even if somebody was paying attention they probably wouldn’t give a damn.
Ben took the gun out of her hand and held it on his thigh.
“Pretty big gun for a little lady,” he said.
“Sometimes a little lady needs a big gun,” she said. “Now put that thing away and let me buy you a drink.”

Still “a sucker for a good-looking dame, and the deadlier the better” we find Ben for the first time in sunny Los Angeles, in A Broad Named Maude, by Horace P. Sternwall, a Signet paperback original, 1956 (“Not a reprint”, but actually serialized in abridged form as “Devil’s Flight” in Torrid Tales, October-November-December, 1953, by “Harry P. St. James”):

It was a long walk back from the Santa Anita racetrack to downtown Los Angeles. Every once in a while Ben Blagwell would stick his thumb out, but nobody stopped. What the hell, Ben wouldn’t have picked himself up either if he saw himself standing on the side of the road in his cheap Robert Hall suit, a big ginger bruiser who looked like he’d kill you just as soon as look at you. It was almost midnight by the time he got back to Bunker Hill, and all the lights in the rooming house were out, which was good -- maybe he could avoid the landlady at least until morning. But someone was sitting on the porch glider up there in the dark. Ben started climbing the creaky wooden steps, hoping to hell that the someone wasn’t Mrs. McGrath, the mean old harridan. And then the someone struck a match, and lit a cigarette, and Ben stopped where he was at the head of the steps.
“Hello, big boy.”
Maude. Maude Collins. Three thousand miles he had traveled to get away from this broad, and here she was.
“You look like hell, big boy,” she said.
I look like hell, thought Ben.
And now I am in hell.

Ben apparently appeared in at least fourteen other Horace P. Sternwall novels, but we have not yet been able to track a single one of them down. If any of our faithful readers does happen to chance on any of them in a garage sale or moldering in a cardboard box in a grandparent's basement, the present writer would love to hear from you.
But in the meanwhile can any of us forget Ben’s first appearance in Arnold Schnabel’s heroic and massive memoir, Railroad Train to Heaven? Yes, it was way back in Chapter 251, when Arnold idly picks up a paperback titled Havana Hellcats (Horace P. Sternwall, publisher and date unknown):

I turned it over and looked at the back cover.
“Trapped in a tropical paradise that turns into a burning inferno of passion and betrayal, Yank soldier-of-fortune Ben Blagwell goes up against a harem of lesbian murderesses whose only motto is ‘More!’”
“By Horace P. Sternwall, author of Say It With a .38, Two Ways to Tuesday, and The Magic Pen Wiper.”
“I couldn’t put this book down, and neither will you!"-- Bennett Cerf
“Not for nothing has Sternwall been compared with Maugham and Conrad." -- Bernard DeVoto
“Sternwall’s Big Ben Blagwell deserves a place in the pantheon of the great heroes of literature, right up there with Leatherstocking, Ivanhoe, D'Artagnan, and Humphrey Clinker.” -- Lionel Trilling
I opened the book to the first page of the novel. I brought the opened book to my nose and breathed in the reassuring smell of the pulpy paper. Then I lowered the book and read the opening lines.
“Your name Ben Blagwell?”
“Who wants to know?”
“I’d like to buy you a drink if you’re Ben Blagwell.”
“I only drink with my friends,” said Big Ben Blagwell.
“And what’s a chap got to do to become your friend?”
“Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you.”
“Innkeeper!” called the fat man in the wrinkled white suit. “Another drink for my friend here. What’re you drinking, Ben?”
“Planter’s Punch, with a float of ‘151’.”
“Two Planter’s Punches,” said the fat man.
“With a float of ‘151’,” Ben reminded him.
“And a float of ‘151’,” said the fat man.
“Sit down, my friend,” said Big Ben Blagwell….
“All right, buddy,” said someone behind me, in a deep, gruff voice.
I turned. It was a big muscular, sun-bronzed guy with four or five days’ growth of a ginger beard, a crushed and dingy white yachting cap, a wrinkled Hawaiian shirt, equally wrinkled denim trousers, dirty white deck shoes. He had a tattoo of an anchor on one forearm, and there was some sort of a bird on the other. He took a drag from a cigarette...
(Portrait of Ben and unknown woman by Vic Prezio. Ben and Arnold Schnabel both will be back with all-new episodes of Railroad Train to Heaven as soon as Volume One is published.)