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All About Sam Weller's New Biography on Ray Bradbury
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I loved every last word of Sam's book. I lingered over it as long as I possibly could because it was so darn good, I never wanted it to end. Sam's writing style is fantastic--a smooth flow, very readable, very touching. I laughed at so many parts, and I cried at just as many. And mostly, I loved learning all kinds of new things about Ray. I am going to read it again very soon!
Posts: 774 | Location: Westmont, Illinois 60559 | Registered: 04 January 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I got the same reaction.

I love Sam Weller's style. It reads very nice.

And I laughed, as well.

We love the man, Ray Bradbury. We are reading about our dear and wonderful friend...as if it is like new pictures of Mars never seen before. We poor readers have not seen so much of the one we really care about.

And...wait a moment...WHY is all this???

I think it is because Mr. Bradbury loves us...

Now, for those who know me, you are aware that I do not agree with Ray's religious and philosphical beliefs about life.

So, WHY do I love the man, who writes in prose that entice me to be a better person?

IT'S A MYSTERY ...as far as I can tell.

There is no word in the dictionary like..."stery". And I write it as Mine...which is to say.... "MY"... And then add "STERY"! And that's what it is....

This man, Ray Bradbury, not only captures my heart...late in life...he captured it when I was young... and he will capture the hearts of those a hundred years from now...even some poor soul in need of a friend in that future time that we cannot imagine... who will find some story of Ray Bradbury and find hope for life in a dismal world, should it be the one that surrounds him.

How can you explain it?

It's NOT Scripture.

But it SEEMS like scripture.

And for me that is troubling... and a point of contention...

I don't want to have discovered a facisimile that erodes my soul in the long run, into a place of loss...

So, I've learned to go so far...and not farther...with the prose of our friend..but the...'so far'... is SO VERY FAR indeed... So much farther than anyone writing today... Incapsuled in a few words he blazes to our hearts ...worlds profound and glorious...We want to examine our lives and see if they are right... are we true to OUR God...????

Are we running the race that Ray calls us to run???? ...which is to be not another...but the one that God has fingerprinted us to be...

Now... what other author on the face of the bookstore shelves or library deeps can claim from at least this reader to be such a consumate artist... NO ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
::::NOTE to CLARIFY the ABOVE::::

For those who have read my previous posts on the subject of how my beliefs differ from Bradbury, and vice versa, additional info may not be necessary. But I need to re-state something in better terms than what was mentioned in my above post.

When in elementary school, I was convinced that 'NOT' getting to know this man Ray Bradbury personally would be the doom of my soul, that is to say (with my Roman Catholic upbringing)...I would burn in hell. All the torments of everyone that never responded to the call of their eternal soul would be locked in as a continual and unfullfilled wrenching experience.

So, when able to finally wrench myself away from the things that held me back, it was only by fully committing myself to discover the wonder of what it was in the prose of Ray Bradbury that turned my soul to pant after sunshine and not darkness. In the next 8 years, I was able to come to a point in my emotional being to let it all go in the search to discover that secret. Then on one particular day (can't recall if it was late morning or early afternoon)... I stood face to face with Bradbury in his office, and as we talked, I remember looking at his face and sensing this gigantic gulf between the both of us. I had come as far as I could...and yet...here was this gulf. A week later... I had that experience one hears about...being born again in the blood of Jesus Christ. It hit me out of the clear blue as I was getting ready to go to the laundry. It was like an invisible giant sea wave rolling onto my apartment, busting thru the doors and windows. And THIS...THIS was what I had been looking for. I found it! (or my having been found).

Thru all the bumps and falls and getting back up again experiences thru the years that followed, I discovered that Bradbury did not share the identity of the wonder of his writing with the discoveries I had made!

And so...like I state in the above post... I go THIS far..and no further. For entwined and interwoven in the prose of Bradbury is the character of Christ...found 'hidden' in all that there is. But somehow, it's brighter for many in the pages that Bradbury pens.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Nard Kordell,
Posts: 3954 | Location: South Orange County, CA USA | Registered: 28 June 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Greetings to everyone!

Thanks so much for all the kind words you have been sending via email regarding my book. Nard and Imskipper, wow, you guys are terrific. Ray and I have read all the letters and have been overjoyed by the enthusiasm and the support. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. More good reviews continue to come. They will be posted at www.bradburychronicles.com shortly. I have updated a couple things with much more to come very soon.

I just got back from my third trip in two weeks to Los Angeles. Ray and I drove out to Palm Springs yesterday for a signing at the Celebrity Bookstore. The turnout was terrific and we had an amazing time. THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES was number 15 last week for hardcover nonfiction in Southern California. All these signings are paying off!

Yesterday, we went to Ray’s favorite Mexican restaurant (where he has been going since 1958!), and after the signing we headed to his vacation home for some relaxation poolside. When we headed back to L.A. in the evening, the sun was setting over the desert and the hundreds of futuristic windmills that generate electricity for the area where gusting in the powerful night breeze. It was a beautiful scene to behold. The windmill farm stretched out as far as the eye could see.

A comment regarding Mr. Electrico – a story that is very near and dear to me. Unfortunatly, I can’t afford to write a dissertation every time someone has question or grievance, but I love the story of this mysterious carnie so I’d like to address the topic here for all to read.

No need to revise the biography just yet Cori! If you read the footnotes, you will see on page 346 that I noted the arrival of the Downie Bros. Circus in Waukegan on Saturday, September 3, 1932. It arrived by train form Evanston, Illinois at 5:45 in the morning. The Downie Brothers Circus, a very popular national touring show, set up on the west side of Waukegan, at the corner of Washington Street and Green Bay Road. This was about a mile west of Ray’s house. Buck Owens was the main draw, along with George Hanneford and the famous Hanneford family of riders. There was also a street parade around noon on Saturday that wound through downtown Waukegan (shades of Something Wicked!).

The plot thickens…this was not the only circus in Waukegan on Labor Day Weekend, 1932. The well-known Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus also lumbered into Green Town (arriving by truck), and pitched tents at Grand and Martin Avenue. Hagenbeck-Wallace featured hundreds of live animals as well as noted animal trainer Clyde Beatty and The Great “Wilno,” a human cannonball. It’s amazing! It seems as if the center of the big top universe that weekend was in Ray Bradbury’s hometown of Waukegan, Illinois! It is worth noting that according to records at the World Circus Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, that neither the Downie Brothers nor Hagenbeck-Wallace had a “Mr. Electrico,” as part of their act. Point in fact, the only “electric” magicians on record were women – a Mlle. Electrica (1911-1914), and (1945-1947), and Miss Electricia in 1926 and 1946.

But wait, there’s more! The American Legion Festival was also on the lakefront that weekend and it included a carnival. In a typical twist of Bradburian fate (something I found to be mystically sewn throughout Ray’s life), I located the permit request for this festival and it was granted on August 22, 1932, Ray’s 12th birthday! It is this very festival that Ray Bradbury recalls. All of this is covered in my book. I found other Waukeganites who remembered this carnival. According to Fred Dahlinger, Jr., Director of Collections at the World Circus Museum, this carnival, which is mentioned (but not by name) in newspaper accounts at the time, was likely “a 40-miler” -- something very small, and very local and, consequently, off the radar screen of most circus and carnival historians.

Cori—I hope the fact that I wasn’t able to identify Mr. Electrico doesn’t invalidate my book in your mind. As you can see, I’m well ahead of the research you and your professor found and I did much more in my attempt to locate this very elusive enigma. Sorry to disappoint this reseacher out there, but Mr. Electrico had nothing to do with the Downie Bros.

Here are some other things I did in an attempt to find Mr. Electrico:

•I took ads out in the local Cairo, Illinois newspapers hoping to find any information about the man (you will recall that, according to Ray, Mr. Electrico told him that he was a veteran of World War One as well as adefrocked Presbyterian minister from Cairo, Illinois).

•I searched the U.S. Presbytery Historical archives for defrocked ministers and cross-referenced the names to World War One veterans.

• I searched for defrocked ministers who had resided in Cairo. I found one, by the name of "Hood," but he came in the late 30s.

•In the process I also unraveled a wealth of new material relating to the murder of Ray’s Uncle Lester (something Ray has long tied together with Mr. Electrico and Labor Day).

All of this turned up nothing in terms of finding the carnival magician. Even the Disney Company, when they embarked on a search for the mysterious catalyst known as Mr. Electrico found nothing. And, in a way, I think that’s wonderful. He remains a mystery and a memory and man who, in is own small way, changed Ray Bradbury’s life forever. Magic should never be divulged. It’s sort of fitting that the identity of this man remains shrouded in mystery.

In the end, the story of Mr. Electrico was just one tiny fragment in the great mosaic that is Ray’s life. His identity really didn't make or break my telling of ray's life story so I moved on. I had to! I spent a great deal of time uncovering all new details about the man but I had to spend as much time researching all other aspects of Ray’s amazing story. Simply as evidenced by my research relating to Mr. Electrico, I hope you can see that I did my homework!

That said, I welcome anyone who can solve the mystery. But do me a favor, drop me a line first, I can save you a lot of time. When it comes to the research, been there, done that.

Thanks again to everyone for the questions and kind comments! Ray sends his love!

See you on the road!

Sam Weller


This message has been edited. Last edited by: Sam Weller,
Posts: 104 | Location: Chicago, IL, USA | Registered: 28 March 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I occasionally helped Sam out with research on his book and I might add that we combed through all the archives of the local American Legion Hall trying to find any documentation on the Dill Bros. Carnival or Mr. Electrico. If there is an expert in this world on Mr. Electrico, it's Sam Weller. Sam, it was an honor to work with you and still is!

G-Force out!
Posts: 13 | Location: Chicago, Illinois | Registered: 05 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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One more interesting coincidence we were able to uncover: there is a company named Dill Bros. in Zion, Illinois, just north of Waukegan. While it sure seems starnge, the powers-that-be at the company said they have never been involved with a carnival.

G-Force out
Posts: 13 | Location: Chicago, Illinois | Registered: 05 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Because sometimes we need to know more than ...we really need to know (some of us, anyway)...here's the website to the place G-Force has mentioned. Could somewhere, someplace in the history of this company, there be someone who 'manufactured' or 'milled' some sort of 'sword like' metal object that a Mr. Electrico may have held...hmm??!!

Posts: 3954 | Location: South Orange County, CA USA | Registered: 28 June 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks for the detailed reply, Sam. I never said you didn't do your homework. I think the thing to do is for "Unsolved Mysteries" to return as a series and you could submit this as a story and be interviewed for it there!

As for lost treasures--Nard and I were thinking of taking metal detectors to Arizona in search of Bradbury's lost typewriter, and would like to know in which river to search. But please email us privately. Wouldn't want anyone beating us to it!
Posts: 7238 | Location: Dayton, Washington, USA | Registered: 03 December 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I want to offer my admiration to Sam Weller for writing the biography for which so many of Mr. Bradbury's fans have long been panting.

As a historian who has recently received his doctorate, I particularly want to compliment Sam on the thoroughness and conscientiousness of his research into the facts of Ray's life, the history of the Bradbury family.

His research into Mister Electrico is a wonderful case in point.

In January, I made some inquiries on the discussion board of the Circus Historical Society, hoping for some leads on the identity and fate of Mister Electrico.

I was astonished to learn the coincidence that the Downie Brothers Circus (owned by one Mr. Sparks, no less) was in Waukegan on the same day that Ray went to the Dill Brothers Combined Circus.

Imagine my chagrin in learning, on the release of "The Bradbury Chronicles," that Sam had already scooped--and exploded--my big "discovery"!

Sam indicated in the endnote on p. 346 of the Chronicles that he was already well aware of the Downie Brothers coincidence, and that it is almost certainly nothing more than a coincidence.

Having done some follow-up research of my own in April, I am now strongly inclined to agree with Sam's thesis that there is no connection between Mister Electrico and Downie Brothers, and that the Dill Brothers circus Ray remembered was indeed the small, locally-based, unnamed carnival at the American Legion Labor Day festival.

Frustrated by my inability to find Electrico by investigating Downie Brothers, I took tentative steps over the last few weeks toward researching Presbyterian Church records for defrocked clergymen.

But on May 10th, Cori brought to my attention Sam's marvelous and most appreciated post on this discussion board.

I would have to concede, in the light of Sam's comments, that the Presbyterian angle likely belongs with the Downie Brothers angle atop the ash heap of my cold leads and dead ends.

I do wish that I could provide Ray's fans, and above all Ray himself, with the solution to the Mister Electrico Mystery.

But Sam has proven himself the lone expert on this subject. He has already come as close as anyone has to unmasking Ray Bradbury's childhood Phantom, and it is unlikely than anyone will come any closer.

With gratitude to Sam,
J. Patrick Mullins, Ph.D.
Posts: 25 | Registered: 10 May 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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This seems to be as good a place as any to note the following:

I see the recent tragedy of the two murdered little girls occurred in Zion, home of the Dill Brothers. And I must say I pricked up the ears when I’d heard the bodies of these poor girls were found in a ravine in the town’s park. Words cannot express the awfulness of this evil but, shades of The Ravine and Bradbury’s Lonely One. . . It’s true that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

(To top it off, this morning’s standup by the Fox News reporter was on the steps of the courthouse in Waukegan.)


Posts: 614 | Location: Oklahoma City, OK | Registered: 30 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Pterran, my same thoughts as I read about the tragedy and heard about it on television. The ravine was described as "a place where no one should go." So my question is why would the young girls have gone there? Did the father take them there? I realize that this is not a topic of relevance in regard to Sam's excellent comments and other's follow-up, but it seems too conicidental that Zion, Waukegan, and the story all happen at this time.
Posts: 1525 | Location: Sunrise, FL, USA | Registered: 28 June 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I admit, I had qualms about bringing up the subject and posting it to this thread but it seems like such an obvious part of this discussion that someone should mention it. Might as well be me. (I'm a little sketchy on the story myself; my understanding was those poor girls were brought to the ravine.)

On another, more positive note, the Dill Brothers connection seems like too big a coincidence. I'm a fan of James Lileks and he posted not long ago on his site of how he Googled the name of a manufacturer of gin or whiskey or some such. What he found was the current company was involved in a line of business entirely unrelated to the manufacture of spirits. Oh, they still made the stuff, but while it was their main product during the Depression, over the years, through take-overs and consolidations, it is only a very minor part of the current business. He likened it to people 70 years from now being shocked to learn that Microsoft once manufactured softwared. So perhaps the current Dill Brothers had something to do with circuses in the dim past but no one now knows anything about it.


Posts: 614 | Location: Oklahoma City, OK | Registered: 30 April 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I just received Mr. Weller's Bradbury Chronicles and have already begun to slow down my reading. Someone previously commented on this. If I consume it, there won't be anything left. So last night I read Sam's wonderful introduction and then proceeded to the acknowledgements. Then I perused the cited pages and sources at the conclusion. But around 1 am...

I broke my own promise (to read a bit at a time) and became that kid who first read Golden Apples long ago and flicked on the flashlight to read the 1st chapter in our darkened bedroom.

Sam Weller has had an experience of an author's lifetime in giving birth to such a child, the Bio of Mr. B. He includes many wonderful and personal ironies in all he encountered. One of the finest is that his own child was on the way when the final edits were being prepared. Two thumbs up!! My signed copy included a great photo of the two of them signing side by side!

If you haven't done so already, get this gift for yourself.
Posts: 2723 | Location: Basement of a NNY Library | Registered: 07 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Frank, I have to ask as I am sure that others reading your post are wondering the same thing--how in the heck did you not only get a SIGNED copy, but a PHOTO of Ray and Sam signing side by side?
Posts: 1525 | Location: Sunrise, FL, USA | Registered: 28 June 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Biplane, as with all RB anecdotes, there is always more to the story that meets the eye.

When we first started talking (here) about the Chicago opening of Mr. Weller's book, I began to make plans to take our spring break in April to travel and be on hand for the signing at the Library (I believe). We called about hotel reservations, train travel, and even planned to get a couple of extra days of side-trips in while in the Midwest from far NNY. Then word came out travels would be too much for Mr. Bradbury. So we venture to NY City instead since CA was out of the question financially and logistically. Darn!

Soon after, I determined that I would allow myself a little extravagance in acquiring the "Chronicles." I watched carefully and struck quickly when V. Popescu of Bookcount listed a copy, as described above (signed both by RB, SW & dated, and a 5x3 print of the two gentlemen hard at work the day of the signing. Nice!).

I have never been more pleased with an online exchange (book received & quality of transanction -perfect and professional). Now, if I can just go out and catch a batch of fireflies in an old Mason jar, I could give the boys back their mag-light and read Chap. 2 "real late" after everyone is asleep.
Posts: 2723 | Location: Basement of a NNY Library | Registered: 07 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dear Prof. Mullens:

Thank you so much for the VERY gracious message. I hope that through our combined efforts we are able to identify Mr. Electrico.

Posts: 104 | Location: Chicago, IL, USA | Registered: 28 March 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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