Vale Ducky

David McCallum – famous as Illya Kuryakin in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but better known to my generation as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard in the NCIS franchise – has passed away at the age of 90.

NCIS has always been fundamentally silly, but still quite enjoyable in a unthinking ‘hunt down the bad guys and shoot them pew-pew-pew’ sort of way, and Ducky’s appearances were one of the most enjoyable aspects. I don’t think he’s been in it much of late (I haven’t been going out of my way to watch since the classic cast were replaced), but he will still be much missed.

(I think McGee’s still there, but he has a beard, and McGee with a beard isn’t real McGee)

As it happens, one my earliest encounters with the works of H. P. Lovecraft was a set of books on tape of The Dunwich Horror and The Rats in the Walls that I borrowed from the local library. Years later I actually managed to buy them when the library decided they were past use. Examining them a few years back I was astonished to discover they were read by Mr McCallum. His reading of the description of Dunwich will always be the definitive version for me.

I’ve managed to find a copy of it on YouTube, although it’s a little faster and higher pitched that the version that I first heard creeping out of my tape player a good 30 years ago. But I’ll include it nonethless.

I’ve also found a copy of The Rats in the Walls, but be aware that the name of the cat (unfortunately common at the time of the work’s writing but appallingly racist) is not edited.

Vale Mr McCallum, and thanks for all the fun!

NCIS R’lyeh

Dunwich is ridiculously old…

Rejoice and be glad all ye people of the Interwebs! For my computer is healed!

Well, not exactly healed, but useable for the time being, which is the main thing. Once I pick up that additional 1 terabyte external drive and back up my music collection I’ll be sending it off to the shop for a complete overhaul – perhaps a complete reinstallation of Windows – which should see it right. I hope.

Anyway, while luxuriating in the ability to view Wikipedia on a decent sized screen this afternoon I discovered something rather, well, I don’t know that there’s a better adjective for it than “cool”.

Many years ago, when I was about 14,  I discovered that our local library had a book on tape of two stories by H.P.Lovecraft, The Dunwich Horror and The Rats in the Walls. I was quite getting into Lovecraft at the time and leapt on the opportunity to hear two tales I hadn’t yet managed to find a copy of – the only ones I’d tracked down at that point being Beyond the Wall of Sleep in a collection of Weird Tales reprints that also featured Tennessee Williams’ account of the revenge of Nitocris, and an August Derleth “collaboration” named Wizard’s Hollow.

The recordings were a bit cut down in order to fit them on a cassette tape each, but the actor reading them – someone I’d never heard of – did a remarkable job. His rich, but understated reading of the opening paragraphs of the Horror – the eerie description of the hills around Dunwich – has stayed with me ever since. In my mind it’s the definitive version of the story and I can still hear it in my head to this day – as can I his reading of the last line of The Rats.

The rats… The rats… in the walls…

(This is of course partially because a few years later the Library was selling off a bunch of old books and I was able to purchase the tapes, which are still in my personal collection)

So, today I was clicking my way around Wikipedia and ended up on the page for The Rats in the Walls. Much to my surprise the book on tape was mentioned along with the actor who’d read it. Out of curiosity I clicked through and discovered that… it’s Ducky!

That Ducky!

That’s just… cool. Try to tell me it isn’t.

I’ve been meaning to convert the tapes to MP3 (just for my own personal enjoyment) for years. Now I’ll have to do it. As soon as I can find them of course… 🙂

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