This week in Literature and Arts

February 13, 2000: The last original Peanuts strip is published hours after creator Charles Schulz succumbs to colon cancer at 77. Schulz’s contract with United Features prevented another artist from taking over Peanuts after his passing. Recycled strips continue to run in more than 2000 daily newspapers.

In the recent wildfires that devastated California, Schulz’s house–full of original drawings and memorabilia–was destroyed.

February 14, 1930: Knopf publishes The Maltese Falcon in revised novel form. American pulp fiction becomes literature.

Still the greatest Valentine to hardboiled mystery hounds

Monster kids, give it up for Kevin McCarthy, born February 15, 1914 in Seattle WA. Met him at ChillerCon ages ago and he was a pretty nice guy. So many big and small screen appearances, but, of course, he’ll always be Dr. Miles Bennell in Don Siegel’s 1956 adaptation of Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (terrific book, too).

And remember to eat your vegetables before you become one!

February 17, 1939: “Out of the stirring glory of Kipling’s India they roar…”:RKO releases director George Stevens’s Gunga Din, based (very loosely) on Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Actor Reginald Sheffield appears briefly as Kipling, who, for inexplicable reasons, is afield with the British army. Still among the greatest action films.

February 17, 1975: John Lennon bids the world adieu with the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll, an album of 50s cover songs that lured him into music as a teen. The album’s jacket sports a photo of 20-something greaser Lennon leaning in the doorway of Jagerpassage 1, Wohlwillstrasse 22 in Hamburg, Germany.

The picture was shot in April 1961 by 21 year old Jurgen Vollmer when the band was playing at the Top Ten Club. The ghostly figures on the sidewalk were Paul, George, and Stu Sutcliffe, who was on the verge of leaving the band to pursue his art studies. Alas, Stu would be dead within weeks from a brain hemorrhage.

Before running a roll of monochrome 120 through his tripoded Rolli, Vollmer had Paul, George, and Stu practice walking to find a speed that left their pointed boots sharp and their bodies blurry (although successful, the pic, ironically, was cropped for the cover).

Rock ‘n’ Roll was Lennon’s last album release for five years. Goodbye, John.

February 18, 1885: Publisher Chatto & Windus/Charles L. Webster And Company releases Mart Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the United States after the book debuted in England the previous year.

Happy birthday to Jack Palance, born Volodymyr Palahniuk, February 18, 1919, in Hazelton PA. He briefly boxed professionally before enlisting in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Later, he understudied for Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and eventually took over the Kowalski role.

Palance’s sharp features reportedly served as Jack Kirby’s inspiration when creating the Darkseid character in his Fourth World universe (whodathunkit!).

In his autobiography, Billy Crystal talked about working with Palance on City Slickers. Palance apparently had a huge head and had to hold it a certain way for the camera so it looked normal.

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

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