Return to Ramble House Page
Return to Other Loons Page
THE COMPLEAT CALHOON
TALES FROM THE TOWER
THE MOJO FUNK CAPER 15
APPOINTMENT IN SAVANNAH 19
THE VULVEENA SAGA 21
HE ALSO SERVES 29
LUCKY JOHN 37
THE MAN WITH THE PLASTIC SKULL 57
THE ELEVEN AMBIGUPHONES OF
FARTHALOMEW SPLIB 63
A STARKEY FISH STORY 67
MURDER IN THE MONASTERY 69
JICARILLA MUD 111
THE GLOWING GREEN GAMBIT 133
ANGELUS OF DOOM 145
WEED, WOMEN AND SONG
THE MARQUEE CHANGER 175
TRAVELS WITH HARRY 181
THE MOTHRA CAPER 199
THE BERTRAND RUSSELL AFFAIR 207
HOW I BECAME A SHARPSHOOTER 215
HOW I GOT MY MANTRA 217
BRUSHES WITH DEATH 223
THE JARAMILLO INSCRIPTION 231
CHRONOLOGICAL CALHOON 263
Nyello, Norbert Tudwallow here, your curator of affairs at the LOADSTAR Conservatory of the Snooty Arts. I’ve been privileged to know Fender Tucker for most of his 52 years, following his Huck Finn childhood in the backwoods of New Mexico in the 50s; to his John Lennon adolescence as guitar picker in Colorado; through his Jack Nicholson adulthood as publishing mogul at LOADSTAR in Louisiana, and on to his Timothy Leary old age, as he travels throughout the world spreading his contrarian philosophy to world leaders and back-alley derelicts alike.
Fender was born in 1947, the third of four sons, to Donald and Maxine Tucker of Thibodaux LA. The family moved to Farmington NM in 1950 where young Fender (who was then known as “Tommy”) received a liberal education and a conservative number of at least a dozen slaps from the Ursuline nuns who ruled St. Thomas Catholic School with thumbs of iron. He survived eight years of stultifying rote learning from the Baltimore Catechism then managed to endure four more years of Mrs. Grundyism at the local high school. He was only arrested once in his early years, for being drunk and disorderly as he exited the El Vasito Bar after a night of too much champagne. One of his earliest attempts at literature is found as the first story in our collection: The Mojo Funk Caper. It was collaboration written in study hall with his friend, Geno Jaramillo, and inspired by their favorite hard-boiled detective of the time, Richard S. Prather’s Shell Scott. Unfortunately, the last half of the story, which describes the Mojo Workout and leads to the violent flashforward that opens the story, is missing. The reader is left hanging at Aunt Jemima’s Prophylactic Factory.
Our young author, who had adopted the name “Fender” in the 9th grade because he “had to have something to scratch into the desktops in study hall” made a cursory stab at college in the mid 60s, but mainly he bummed around, dodging the inevitable draft. In March of 1967, he succumbed to his irresistible foe and entered the U.S. Army. Several of his adventures are related in memoirs found in the companion piece to this book, Weed, Women and Song.
Fender resumed playing guitar in sleazy bars as soon as he got out of the Army, spending most of the years 1970-1987 in Durango CO and Las Cruces NM. He managed to lead a lazy, devil-may-care life during these years, making pitiful money and yet at the same time, indulging his every whim. He also managed to get arrested again; this time for growing illegal weeds in his back yard. It was 1971 and he had a beard. That was enough probable cause in those days for a deputy sheriff to be suspicious enough to climb over Fender’s fence to “seize 19 marijuana plants, ranging from 1 inch to six inches in height.” On the day the major bust was plastered on the front page of the Farmington Daily Times, the headline was “NIXON URGES WAR ON DRUGS”. Fender was always proud of his being the war’s first local casualty and has never ceased gloating over his eventual victory over Tricky Dick, who died in ignominy while Fender has thrived in blissful intoxication, more than a few times figuratively dancing in glee on the former despot’s grave.
In 1986 an Albuquerque murder trial was held in the Las Cruces courthouse because of the pre-trial publicity upstate. Fender was on a true crime book kick at the time and thought it would be a great opportunity to see American justice in action and—in keeping with the grandest American traditions—maybe pick up a few bucks by writing the true crime novel of the murder. LUCKY JOHN is the result of the month he dedicated to the trial. He pooped out at the short story stage and never sent it to any publisher.
Instead, in 1987, as he was tiring of the late nights, sore backs, and dwindling groupies of the country & western music scene, he applied for and got the job of Managing Editor at LOADSTAR, a Commodore computer disk magazine in Shreveport LA.
He had been interested in computers ever since the early 80s, when his brother John pointed out that they were no longer tools of the corporate gargantua, but actually little puzzle machines. So he had bought a Timex Sinclair 1000, then a VIC-20, and finally a Commodore 64 which occupied most of his time away from the bar. In 1983, inspired by Umberto Eco’s medieval mystery, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, he programmed a computer adventure game called MURDER IN THE MONASTERY. A decade or so later, at LOADSTAR, he novelized the computer game into a long short story, somehow handling the fact that the game had two different solutions—chosen at random by the computer. He entered the story in the LOADSTAR ProseQuest ’97 Contest where it abjectly lost, even though he was one of the judges.
The history of LOADSTAR during the Tucker regime is as colorful and purple as his prose, and we all hope that someday someone will chronicle it for posterity. The rest of the stories in this collection come from the halcyon days at the LOADSTAR Tower, the behemoth of a building which casts its ghastly shadow over the pitiful shantytown known as Shreveport. APPOINTMENT IN SAVANNAH was also written for a ProseQuest Contest, and shows just how obsessed he was with his new language, BASIC. He had been dreaming in BASIC ever since the early 80s but it wasn’t till the mid 90s that he began to realize how the syntax of BASIC had permeated his thinking and philosophy. All of his thoughts were variants of “IF I do this, THEN this will happen.” He figured it was just as logical as whatever other people used for their thought processes.
HE ALSO SERVES was his entry into the ProseQuest ’99 Contest and while it appears to be in the same mold as other dystopian novels as Orwell’s 1984 and any number of Philip K. Dick books, he insists that the futuristic tale is actually a sustained exercise in wishful thinking.
As a contrarian, Fender has fought against the proliferation of computers and the ubiquity of the Internet. Fruitlessly, he’s quick to add. He has a fear of the chaotic anarchy of the whole concept of “chat rooms” and seldom strays from eBay where he buys and sells vintage paperbacks. Perhaps his bias against the idea of real-time communication online is due to his first experience with it, back in 1989, which he describes in THE VULVEENA SAGA. Years later, he’s embarrassed by the way he covertly insulted and baited his friends online by taking on the persona of the ball-breaking queen of femspite, Vulveena, but back in 1989, in those innocent days, he considered logging on in disguise as a completely obvious thing to do. He assumed that everybody logged on as someone else all the time.
When he found out how hurt and surprised his fellow workers were by the charade, he dropped out of the chat scene and has not gone back.
In December of 2001, he edited his last issue of LOADSTAR and with that, his creative juices apparently dried up. He is now the Grand Exalted Mojo of Ramble House, a miniscule publishing house specializing in reprinting the complete works of Harry Stephen Keeler. Thanks to his pal Jim Weiler’s inventing the no-budget publishing process that put this book in your hand, he’s managed to bring more than fifty Keeler webwork mysteries back into print. The official beacon for reviving Harry Stephen Keeler, an excellent group called the HSK Society, publishes a monthly newsletter called The Keeler News and has an annual “Imitate Keeler” contest. Fender’s 2001 pastiche, The Man with the Plastic Skull, and his 2002 entry, The Eleven Ambiguphones of Farthalomew Splib and A Starkey Fish Story in 2003, continue the stories in this collection.
Fender once again was slapped senseless by the Muse in mid-2004 when he decided to write a series of short stories about the larger-than-life people who pioneered the oil bidness in northwestern New Mexico back in the 50s. So far he’s written two of them, JICARILLA MUD and ANGELUS OF DOOM, both of which play havoc with our common understanding of history. But, of course, history is what survives on paper and this book is doing its part to make sure history is what Fender remembers, not some silly “reality”. There’s even a haunting love theme for each of the two oil bidness books.
The second half of the book comes from his memoirs, WEED, WOMEN AND SONG. This is a collection of sexual, military and legal reminiscences that indicate that even though he only spent three years of his life in the army, most of the wild things he did happened during those years. Of course, 1967, 1968 and 1969 were memorable years for everyone at that time.
In addition to the memoirs, the lyrics to each of the 60 or so songs Knees wrote during his musician years (mainly 1970 – 1987) are listed and annotated. A CD of MP3 files of all of the songs—plus a lot more—is included at the end of the book. Have fun listening to the recordings Knees made on his home studio and try not to smile at their abject lack of commercial potential. Nothing shows off Knees’ contrarianism more than the cynical lyrics and slightly off-kilter music on the CD. At least, he’s willing to be held solely responsible for all of the screeching guitar-work and caterwauling vocals.
Finally, this new collection of the compleat Calhooniana contains another sort of memoir, based on the inscription that Fender’s friend Geno Jaramillo wrote in his 1965 high school yearbook. Geno had listed 34 experiences he and Fender had shared between 1957 and 1965 and I helped annotate them. The two lads were young and full of piss and vinegar when these things happened and I think I managed to make all of the scatology moderately palatable. The annotation is called THE JARAMILLO INSCRIPTION.
Nowadays Knees occasionally writes a memoir and adds it to Weed, Women and Song, or writes an Keeler-related article for the Keeler News, but in general he has lost his intellectual creativity. His irrational exuberance and undeserved confidence gone, he now prefers making books with his hands to making them with his brain.
It may be both our loss and our gain. Read on and decide for yourself.
Norbert Tudwallow, November 16, 2002
Updated February, 2007
Return to Ramble House Page
Return to Other Loons Page