Saturday, August 04, 2018

Tracking Hammer’s Hesitant First Steps

While everybody else figured that Mickey Spillane had created his industrial-strength New York City private eye, Mike Hammer, specifically for the best-selling 1947 novel I, the Jury, his fellow fiction writer and friend, Max Allan Collins, knew differently—and had known for years. Collins recalls that long before Hammer’s “father” passed away in 2006, he’d shown him a “browning, crumble-edged” manuscript of about 30 single-spaced pages in length, which Collins recognized quickly as an earlier, incomplete attempt by Spillane to introduce his protagonist to the reading public. That Hammer “prequel” didn’t finally see print until this year, when—after being finished by Collins—it was released as Killing Town (Titan).

Touted as “The Lost First Mike Hammer Thriller,” Killing Town is among a handful of publications Collins has been instrumental in bringing out over the last several months to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Spillane’s birth in 1918. It followed the March release of The Last Stand and preceded the recent debut of a four-issue comic-book series, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, all from Hard Case Crime.

This new yarn, set about a year before the events in I, the Jury, commences with a striptease. After hitching a risky ride on the bottom of a train boxcar from Manhattan to the small (fictional) Rhode Island municipality of Killington—or “Killing Town,” as one of the locals derides it—Hammer spots a toothsome young blonde nonchalantly disrobing in an adjacent, sidetracked sleeper car. Although he insists he’s “no peeping Tom,” the detective lingers and watches through the window long enough to see the “very grown woman with baby-doll features” admire herself in a door-hung mirror … but not so long that he falls prey to train yard cops flushing freeloading hoboes from elsewhere along the line of carriages. Before being spotted, Hammer dashes for the train station, cleans up a bit, and then heads to a “sloppy hash house” for a breakfast of bacon and eggs.

At this point, we don’t know why Hammer had to bum a ride on an iron horse, or why he’s landed in this burg that reeks so thoroughly of rotting fish. What we find out soon enough, however, is that Spillane’s man is 27 years old. He’s an ex-soldier, a veteran of World War II who served “briefly” with the New York City Police Department. He’s only been a fully licensed private investigator for “about a month.”

And he’s in deep trouble.

Based on scant evidence, but with lots of motivation to make a quick arrest, the Killington cops have tagged Hammer as a sex murderer. It seems the looker he had eyeballed undressing in the sleeper compartment was Jean Warburton, a well-known employee of the town’s fish-canning factory, who was raped and murdered soon after Hammer departed the railway yard. The police figure Hammer—the most convenient stranger in town—was behind that violence. For reasons not immediately discernible, our hero doesn’t rush to mount a defense for himself. Yes, he maintains his innocence; but he’s circumspect as to why he has come to Killington, neglects to mention his P.I. credentials, endures beatings meant to bleed a confession from his hide, and doesn’t appear especially worried when it becomes obvious that he’s in the frame for homicide.

Then, just when hope is running mighty thin, a surprise witness comes forward to speak on Hammett’s behalf. She’s Melba Charles, the daughter of former Rhode Island state senator Ernest Charles, “a small-town big wheel” said to “own half of Killington,” including the seafood-processing plant and its equally malodorous cousin, the fish glue factory. Hammer doesn’t recognize this new blonde in the least; yet he can’t help appreciating her physical attributes, describing her as “one-hundred-thirty pounds of female flesh in a dress so green it made her hair seem almost white, and so form-fittingly stylish she may have gone to Paris for it. She was being mighty careless with her legs, too, just by having them attached to her body like that.”

So why is Melba willing to alibi Hammer out of this jam, claiming to have seen him still wolfing down his breakfast at the time of Warburton’s molestation? Another, better question: Why, now that she’s sprung the shamus, does she want to marry him as soon as possible, insisting he go along with it as the price of his freedom?

As with the previous nine Hammer novels Collins has completed since Spillane’s demise (from 2008’s The Goliath Bone through 2017’s The Will to Kill), Killing Town offers a heady, hard-edged mix of overt brutality, rapid-fire wisecracking, casual sex, and corruption-steeped cops. Even a couple of New York mobsters manage to elbow their way among the dramatis personae. Suspicious of his having been roped into matrimony, and bewildered at how accepting Melba’s well-established family is of their pending nuptials, Hammer probes that clan’s relationship with the late Jean Warburton, in the course of it unearthing threads of blatant exploitation and envy. Concurrently, he endeavors to fulfill his original intent in coming to Killington, carrying out a death-bed request that may result in his own death. And in the background, crying out for explanation, is the mystery of Melba: what leads her to demand Hammer’s hand in marriage, when she’s so evidently fragile in the ways of lovemaking?

Collins observes in his introduction to Killing Town that Spillane’s partial manuscript of this novel contained no mention of two characters who later became staples of the Hammer series: his best friend from their war years together, New York City policeman Patrick Chambers, and Velda Sterling, Hammer’s curvaceous secretary and future partner in crime-solving. Collins ultimately found a way to fit the former into this plot, about halfway through, when the gumshoe telephones Chambers (still a patrolman) to let him know he’s still among the living. He also has Chambers—who’s been having difficulty contacting Hammer up to then—suggest that the P.I. could use a secretary, a playful hint at Spillane’s later casting decision.

What Collins can’t do as easily is explain why Spillane didn’t finish writing Killing Town, but instead moved on to I, the Jury. When I asked him about that recently, Collins replied:
Mickey never said why he set this aside, but my guess it that he set up this intriguing situation of Hammer having to marry the Senator’s daughter, and then didn’t quite know what to do with it. The natural place to go was that Hammer and Melba would eventually consummate their marriage and live happily ever after … which would have short-circuited a detective series. (He had a similar problem with another early Hammer I completed, Lady, Go Die!, in which Hammer and Velda are getting too hot and heavy, too early in the series.) Mickey’s material ends after Chapter Five, those pages incorporating my own expansion and polishing. But as usual in the manuscripts I’ve been honored to complete, he has set everything up, introduced or at least mentioned all the major players, and given me the tantalizing fact of a fish glue factory to figure out why he did that. I believe the ending I came up with was what he implied.
One remarkable thing about Collins’ posthumous collaborations with Mickey Spillane is that it’s nearly impossible, without hints, to distinguish where one author’s work leaves off and the other’s begins. To date, Collins has added 10 Mike Hammer novels to the original series of 13. (Two more books—Murder, My Love in 2019, and Masquerade for Murder in 2020—“will be developed primarily from plot synopses and notes,” according to Collins.) He’s also produced a variety of Hammer short stories from fragments Spillane left behind, collected in 2017’s A Long Time Dead. So familiar is Collins with his friend’s storytelling style and roughneck protagonist, that he could turn Killing Town into a credible, valuable addition to the Hammer series, even when the P.I.’s own creator could not.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Putting Murder on the Map

This morning has brought the posting of my fourth CrimeReads submission, an enthusiastic look back at Dell Books’ distinctive early 20th-century line of paperbacks. As I explain in the piece,
Ever since the 1930s and the advent of the “paperback revolution” in English-language books, publishers have sought to make their creations not merely inexpensive, but distinctive. One of the notable successes in that regard was also one of the earliest. For about a decade, beginning in 1943, American publishing house Dell—which had started out in 1921 producing pulp fiction magazines, and in 1942 followed rival Pocket Books into the mass-marketing of compact, cut-rate, and sporadically abridged softcover reprints—launched a numbered line of works branded with stylistically recognizable cover paintings and backed by detailed diagrams of where events in each story took place. Those “mapback” editions were popular at the time, and over the decades have become collectible. …

Mapbacks were published across a gamut of genres (each identified by a variant of the company’s keyhole colophon). At least half of them, though, were mystery, detective, or suspense novels, both of the traditional sort (by Agatha Christie, Mignon G. Eberhart, John Dickson Carr, and others) and those concocted by harder-edged scribblers (Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner, Margaret Millar, Brett Halliday, etc.). The focus of those books’ back-cover diagrams varied widely, but they can roughly be broken down according to three progressively widening perspectives.
Over the last decade or so, I have collected a number of these mapback editions—in various conditions of use—and was pleased to break them all out again for close appraisal while working on that CrimeReads story. The bad news was, I had room enough in my feature to include only 13 such paperback fronts. That’s 13 out of some 600 mapbacks Dell produced! Cutting down my selections was no easy enterprise, as you can imagine, since I had so many excellent specimens from which to choose. In the end, I winnowed my choices down to 28 covers I thought best represented Dell’s line, but then I had to trim away 15 of those to reach the magic baker’s dozen. Not being one to waste valuable research, and confident that Rap Sheet readers would enjoy seeing more mapbacks, I’ve installed those excess 15 images in my Killer Covers blog. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

PaperBack: “Brown’s Requiem”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

Brown’s Requiem, by James Ellroy (Avon, 1981). Cover illustration by Stephen Peringer. See Peringer’s original artwork here.

A Bland Boost for Diversity

Sisters in Crime (SinC) has announced that Chicago-area resident Mia P. Manansala has won the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award. That prize, named in honor of African-American novelist Eleanor Taylor Bland (who produced more than a dozen police procedurals before passing away in 2010), comes with a $1,500 grant designed specifically to help “an emerging writer of color” complete his or her debut crime-fiction work.

According to a SinC news release, Manansala “writes crime fiction featuring a humorous, millennial, Filipina-American protagonist.” Her Web site adds that she’s “the secretary of the Mystery Writers of America (Midwest Chapter), and a member of Sisters in Crime, Banyan: Asian American Writers Collective, the Chicago Writers Association, and the Chicago Nerd Social Club.”

Past recipients of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award are Maria Kelson (2014), Vera H-C Chan (2015), Stephane Dunn (2016), and Jessica Ellis Laine (2017).

FOLLOW-UP: The Gumshoe Site notes that Manansala’s “unpublished debut novel, tentatively entitled Death Comes to ComiKon, would feature Filipina-American amateur detective Sunshine Salinas.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Readying Gunther’s Swan Song

When popular British author Philip Kerr died this last March at age 62, after a battle with bladder cancer, it was announced that his UK publisher, Quercus, had possession of the completed first draft of a final novel starring Kerr’s series protagonist, onetime Berlin police detective Bernie Gunther. Now comes word, via The Real Book Spy, of what that novel—a prequel to be titled Metropolis—will offer:
A portrait of Bernie Gunther in his twenties: He’s young, but he’s seen four bloody years of trench warfare. And he’s not stupid. So when he receives a promotion and a ticket out of Vice squad, he knows he’s not really leaving behind the criminal gangs, the perverse sex clubs, and the laundry list of human corruption. It’s 1928 and Berlin is a city on the edge of chaos, where nothing is truly verboten. But soon a new wave of shockingly violent murders sweeps up society’s most vulnerable, prostitutes and wounded ex-soldiers begging on the streets.

As Bernie Gunther sets out to make sense of multiple murders with different MOs in a city that knows no limits, he must face the fact that his own police HQ is not immune. The Nazi party has begun to infiltrate the Alex, Berlin’s central office, just as the shakey Weimar government makes a last, desperate attempt to control a nation edging toward the Third Reich.

It seems like the only escape for most Berliners is the theater and Bernie’s no exception. As he gets deeper into the city’s sordid underground network, he seeks comfort with a make-up artist who is every bit a match for his quick wit and increasingly sardonic view of the world. But even this space can’t remain untouched, not with this pervasive feeling that everything is for sale in Berlin if you’re man enough to kill for it.
Metropolis is set for release in the States on April 9, 2019.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Man Who Would Be Marlowe

In response to my CrimeReads piece of last Thursday, which looked at how other writers have employed Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe in their fiction since the death of his creator, Raymond Chandler, back in 1959, L.A. author-critic Dick Lochte wrote this comment on the site:
Great overview of the many takes on Marlowe. There are at least two appearances of the old boy in other P.I.s’ books: John Shannon’s The Orange Curtain [2001] has P.I. Jack Liffey meet a cantankerous Marlowe complaining about Chandler’s misrepresentation of him. And Charles Alverson’s Joe Goodey meets Marlowe in his office in an old San Francisco building, in, I think, Goodey's Last Stand [1975], though it could have been book two, Not Sleeping, Just Dead [1977]. In any case, their aged Marlowes seem quite a bit more Chanderlesque than [Lawrence] Osborne’s [in the new Only to Sleep].
I appreciate Lochte’s kind words about my work, and wish I’d had space enough in CrimeReads to examine some of those Marlowe cameos he refers to. As it was, I did the best I could within a reasonable word count, and in the end actually sacrificed mention of a fourth book that featured Marlowe’s creator as a central player: William Denbow’s Chandler (1977), a broadly panned tale that found Chandler protecting Dashiell Hammett from death threats.

I also left out another short story starring Marlowe, this one by Julian Symons, a British mystery writer and renowned chronicler of crime fiction. Titled “About the Birth of Philip Marlowe,” it appears in Symons’ beautifully illustrated 1981 release, Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations (Abrams). Symons’ intent was to put forth new cases starring some of this genre’s best-known sleuths—Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen, Jules Maigret, and of course Marlowe—as well as imagine further complications to those characters’ histories. (The most novel sucy “revelation” might be that Ellery Queen had an intellectually keen younger brother!) In several instances, Symons integrates himself into his narratives, playing the role of persistent interviewer. “About the Birth of Philip Marlowe,” the last offering in these pages, is just such a yarn.

The chapter commences with Symons being led—thanks to some of Chandler’s letters he had acquired from a local bookseller—to the rather shabby downtown L.A. office of a private investigator whose name he never revels. Symons notes that this gumshoe has “a reputation for being honest and highly independent,” and that “he was unmarried, had an office in the right area, was the right age. Everything I found out suggested that he was the original of Marlowe.” Symons goes on to describe his subject further:
Of course he was older than the Marlowe of the books, something between fifty and sixty, but still a handsome man. … When I saw him I understood why Chandler hadn’t been so far off the mark when he said that Cary Grant would have been the right screen Marlowe for looks, because this man had the kind of sophistication and style you associate with Grant. Yet behind that sophistication he was unmistakably tough, and he also looked rather world-weary and cynical. Robert Mitchum? Yes, if you can imagine a cross between Mitchum and Grant, that would be about right. None of the other screen portrayals came anywhere near his physical appearance. Bogart was too small, and the others were just wrong.
This P.I. is reluctant to confirm that he was Chandler’s model for Marlowe, and he refuses to allow Symons to tape-record their conversation. But after some haggling over what the author will pay for his biographical information, the P.I. finally opens up some about his childhood in Santa Rose, California, north of San Francisco; his parents (a father who was a traveling salesman, a mother who was a drunk and died in a sanatorium); the couple of years he spent studying at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon; a succession of jobs (freight clerk, insurance claims investigator, etc.) that led to his working with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office (a job from which he was eventually dismissed for insubordination); and his leap into the lonely life of a shamus. When Symons asks whether the story about him marrying newspaper heiress Linda Loring was true, the P.I. “threw back his head and laughed.” “I was never so lucky,” he explains. “Linda was real enough, although of course that wasn’t her name and I’m not giving you any real names. We made some bedsprings creak, and if I’d played my cards right there could have been orange blossom and confetti, but I never had played my cards right when money was around, and I guess now I never will.”

(Above) Rhode Island-born artist Tom Adams was responsible for this image of the P.I. featured in “About the Birth of Philip Marlowe.” He also created the other illustrations in Symons’ book. Adams had previously painted the covers for Ballantine’s 1971 paperback line of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe novels.

As their conversation continues, the P.I. remarks on Chandler’s tendency to embellish the facts of criminal cases in his fiction and to give his protagonist literary airs. (“You got to understand Ray was a romantic. Some of the stuff he wrote about me was true, some he put frills on, some he just made up.”) And he finally recalls his initial involvement with Chandler:
The year would have been ’36, or maybe ’37, a few years after he’d been sacked from the South Basin Oil Company [formerly the Dabney Oil Syndicate] for being on the sauce too often. I guess he was beginning to get known as a writer—you’d know all that literary stuff better than me—but the thing was he didn’t know much, relied on books. Till he met me I doubt if he’d ever been face to face with a private detective.
The P.I. says that Chandler (a gent he describes as “smart, nervy, a bit of a scholar”) approached him for assistance with a young “dame” named Louellen Singer. It seems the writer—married but known to have been unfaithful to his wife in the past—had escorted Louellen to a gambling club called Jody’s, only to have her suddenly mouth off to the joint’s owner, Johnny Lacosta, and get them both thrown out on their ears. Chandler hoped the P.I. could smooth things over between Louellen and Lacosta, and thereby protect her from anything approaching retribution. The lovely blond Louellen, though, didn’t want the P.I.’s help—even though he quickly realizes she needed it: Lacosta had evidently been paying for her “snazzy apartment,” while she’d been betraying him with a handsome gangster-type named Lefty Hansen, “so-called because his left was his gun hand.”

I won’t spoil the maybe-Marlowe’s memories by revealing their conclusion, but this violent episode does sound like something that might have spilled forth from Chandler’s typewriter. Surprisingly, even after 37 years, it’s not difficult to find a copy of Symons’ Great Detectives (either through Amazon or AbeBooks) and read “About the Birth of Philip Marlowe” for yourself.

Can’t This Spy Get Some Birthday Cake?

I was late in becoming a fan of the American TV spy “dramedy” Chuckvery late, in fact: only within the last few months have I started watching that 2007-2012 NBC series, and I’m currently about halfway through Season 4. I don’t really remember why I eschewed the show during its network run. It probably had something to do with its being broadcast on Mondays at 8 p.m.—not a time I think of as offering tremendous entertainment opportunities. (Chuck’s competition in 2007, for instance, included The Big Bang Theory and Dancing with the Stars.) Regardless, I originally missed seeing what has now become one of my favorite evening diversions.

The show is quirky and over-the-top at times. But it offers a wonderful cast of performers, among them Zachary Levi as the eponymous accidental spy Chuck Bartowski, Adam Baldwin as brusque career soldier/NSA agent John Casey, Joshua Gomez as surprisingly endearing computer nerd Morgan Grimes (Chuck’s best friend since childhood) … and of course, Yvonne Strahovski as canny, tough, resourceful, and—sorry, I’m a male—downright stunning blond CIA agent Sarah Walker. (If you don’t trust my judgment on that last count, check out this compilation video of Walker’s appearances throughout the series.) During the program’s early years, Chuck bounced around between a few girlfriends (one of them played by Smallville’s Kristin Kreuk), disappointed that Walker was his CIA “handler,” but nothing more. However, he kept coming back to Sarah, who—he learns much later—had fallen in love with him almost from their first meeting, though she was afraid to admit that. (It seems spies have to be independent, never enjoying free time enough for lasting relationships.)

I bring all of this up, because today—in addition to being National Paperback Day (you already knew that, right?)—is the 36th anniversary of Yvonne Strahovski’s birth. The Australian actress of Polish descent has gone on since Chuck to co-star in Dexter and the limited series 24: Live Another Day, and she can now been seen in The Handmaid’s Tale. In that Hulu dystopian drama she plays Serena Joy Waterford, a character described by Wikipedia as “a former conservative cultural activist”—“poised and deeply religious, but capable of great cruelty … She is desperate to become a mother.” (In real life, Strahovski is expecting her first child in September of this year.)

Happy birthday, Sarah … I mean Yvonne!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

“The Case of the Sun Bather’s Diary”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

The Case of the Sun Bather’s Diary, by Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket, 1962). This is the 47th book in Gardner’s best-selling series starring Los Angeles defense attorney Perry Mason. Cover illustration by Robert McGinnis.

Recalling Green and Gryce

As far as I can tell, the results of Meldrum’s research have not yet been published in book form. But I look forward to reading her biography whenever it debuts. From In Reference to Murder:
The Vermont Historical Society will present Claire Meldrum with the Weston A. Cate Fellowship award for her research project Anna Katharine Green: A Biography. Meldrum’s book is a biography about nineteenth century American detective fiction author Anna Katharine Green, a seminal figure in American crime fiction, whose books helped give shape to the genre during its formative decades.
Drawing on her research, Meldrum already published an article titled “Dressing Up: Social Climbing, Criminality and Fashion in Anna Katharine Green’s Behind Closed Doors” in the Spring 2018 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection. Behind Closed Doors (1888) was one of a dozen novels Green wrote about detective Ebenezer Gryce, introduced in her best-remembered book, The Leavenworth Case (1878).

Well Worth Remembering

This has already been a big week for the birthdays of crime-fiction authors: Raymond Chandler’s was on Monday, John D. MacDonald’s was on Tuesday. And now let us celebrate what would have been Bill Crider’s 77th birthday. As blogger George Kelley reminds us, Crider took his first breaths on July 28, 1941, in the little town of Mexia, Texas. Sadly, Crider—best known for penning a series about Sheriff Dan Rhodes—passed away in February of this year from prostate cancer.

Many Rap Sheet readers knew Crider well. He was pretty universally thought of within the community of crime fictionists as a funny, generous, honest, and warm-hearted guy. It’s always distressing to see somebody of that caliber disappear from the world, but especially so at a time when avarice, hate, and mendacity seem in the ascendancy. I’m not religious, but if Bill’s spirit is indeed still around someplace, I hope he’s continuing to spread good will liberally.

And I look forward to the publication, next February, of the 26th and last Rhodes novel, That Old Scoundrel Death (Minotaur).

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Revue of Reviewers, 7-26-18

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

The Improbable Afterlife of Philip Marlowe

In connection with both the release last week of The Annotated Big Sleep (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) and this week’s debut of Lawrence Osborne’s Philip Marlowe novel, Only to Sleep (Hogarth), the Web site CrimeReads has been making the most of Raymond Chandler and his famous fictional private eye. All of the pieces are worth checking out if, like me, you’re a Chandler fan.

The World of Raymond Chandler and The Big Sleep” is an adaptation of the introduction to The Annotated Big Sleep, by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson, and Anthony Dean Rizzuto. In “How to Write Like Chandler Without Becoming a Cliché,” Hill offers some “tips for aspiring crime writers enthralled by the [crime-fiction] classics.” And if you’re curious to see how The Big Sleep has been artistically presented by publishers around the world since its initial appearance in 1939, take a scroll through this gallery of 25 mostly paperback book covers.

Since this week brought the 130th anniversary of Chandler’s birth (he took his first breaths in Chicago on July 23, 1888), CrimeReads continues it celebration with a piece I contributed, titled “The Many Faces of Philip Marlowe.” It’s an examination of eight books, all published since Chandler’s demise back in 1959, that feature Marlowe or the author himself, but—like Osborne’s Only to Sleep—were penned by wordsmiths other than Chandler. It was great fun visiting or revisiting those works in order to write about them.

READ MORE:The Big Seep,” by Megan Abbott (Slate); “Marlowe Never Sleeps,” by Clay and Susan Griffith (; “Sleep Covers Worth Waking Up For,” by J. Kingston Pierce (Killer Covers); “The Man Who Would Be Marlowe,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dagger Rivals Make the Cut

Laura Lippman, Joseph Finder, Gin Phillips, and Arnaldur Indridason are among the losers in today’s announcement, by the British Crime Writers’ Association, of shortlisted titles for the 2018 Dagger Awards. All of those prominent writers had works longlisted for these prizes (see here), but—surprisingly—not one of them appears among the finalists. These books and writers remain in the running:

CWA Gold Dagger:
The Liar, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
London Rules, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane (Little, Brown)
Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail)
A Necessary Evil, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Pushkin Vertigo)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:
London Rules, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
If I Die Before I Wake, by Emily Koch (Harvill Secker)
Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail)
An Act of Silence, by Colette McBeth (Wildfire)
The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor (Michael Joseph)
The Force, by Don Winslow (HarperFiction)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger:
Gravesend, by William Boyle (No Exit Press)
IQ, by Joe Ide (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Girl in Snow, by Danya Kukafka (Picador)
Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love (Point Blank)
East of Hounslow, by Khurrum Rahman (HQ)
Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Pushkin Vertigo)

CWA International Dagger:
Zen and the Art of Murder, by Oliver Bottini,
translated by Jamie Bulloch (MacLehose Press)
Three Days and a Life, by Pierre Lemaitre,
translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)
After the Fire, by Henning Mankell,
translated by Marlaine Delargy (Harvill Secker)
The Frozen Woman, by Jon Michelet,
translated by Don Bartlett (No Exit Press)
Offering to the Storm, by Dolores Redondo,
translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garzía (HarperCollins)
The Accordionist, by Fred Vargas,
translated by Sian Reynolds (Harvill Secker)

CWA Historical Dagger:
A Necessary Evil, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
Fire, by L.C. Tyler (Constable)
Lightning Men, by Thomas Mullen (Little, Brown)
Money in the Morgue, by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy (HarperCollins)
Nine Lessons, by Nicola Upson (Faber and Faber)
Nucleus, by Rory Clements (Zaffre)

CWA Short Story Dagger:
“The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle,” by Chris Brookmyre (from Bloody Scotland; Historic Environment Scotland)
“Second Son,” by Lee Child (from No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories, by Lee Child; Bantam Press)
“Smoking Kills,” by Erin Kelly (from Killer Women: Crime Club Anthology #2: The Body, edited by Susan Opie; Killer Women)
“Nemo Me Impune Lacessit,” by Denise Mina (from Bloody Scotland)
“Accounting for Murder,” by Christine Poulson (from Mystery Tour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories, edited by Martin Edwards; Orenda)

CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction:
Black Dahlia, Red Rose, by Piu Eatwell (Coronet)
Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann (Simon & Schuster)
Blood on the Page, by Thomas Harding (Heinemann)
The Fact of a Body, by Alexandria Mariano-Lesnevich (Macmillan)
A False Report, by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong (Hutchinson)
Rex v. Edith Thompson, by Laura Thompson (Head of Zeus)

CWA Dagger in the Library:
(Selected by nominations from libraries)
Martin Edwards
Nicci French
Simon Kernick
Edward Marston
Peter May
Rebecca Tope

CWA Debut Dagger (for unpublished writers):
The Eternal Life of Ezra Ben Simeon, by Bill Crotty
The Last Googling of Beth Bailly, by Luke Melia
Riverine Blood, by Joseph James
Original Sins, by Linda McLaughlin
Trust Me, I’m Dead, by Sherryl Clark

Winners are to be announced during the CWA Dagger Awards dinner in London on Thursday, October 25.

(Hat tip to Ali Karim and Mystery Fanfare.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

High Times in Harrogate

(Left to right) Stav Sherez, the winner of the 2018 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award for his book The Intrusions, teams with Rap Sheet correspondent Ali Karim to welcome conventioneers to the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate.

Anybody who subscribes to Ali Karim’s Facebook page knows that, when he’s attending a crime-fiction festival—either in the States or Great Britain—he’s a fiend for photography. I’ve rarely seen anyone but a professional shooter take so many pictures during an event, with so many of them being a bit off kilter. (There must be some stylistic intent there, I just haven’t figured it out. Or maybe the slanted view results from Ali packing along too much medicinal gin.)

Naturally, The Rap Sheet’s chief UK correspondent was on hand for the recent Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, held from July 19 to 22 in Harrogate, England. The photos he snapped there include candids of authors and agents, along with shots of awards events, publisher parties, trivia quiz competitions, books he collected during the convention, and of course, photos of him clowning it up with his usual companions, Shots editor Mike Stotter and American copy editor/blogger Peter Rozovsky.

I won’t attempt to compile here all of the images Ali posted on Facebook: I don’t think I can write that many captions! But below, you will find more than a dozen that suggest the diversity and delights enjoyed by participants at this year’s Harrogate festival.

American authors Laura Lippman and Greg Hurwitz.

Good and appropriate advice from a lineup of Harrogate International Festivals team members, including—just to the right of the “A”—chief executive Sharon Canavar.

Daily Mirror books critic Deirdre O'Brien takes a moment with one of the authors on her radar, Steve Mosby (You Can Run).

Even a bit of rain couldn’t spoil the high spirits of this event.

When the lurid meets the literary: Ali Karim with South African-born British poet and literary agent Isobel Dixon.

Now here’s an intimidating bunch: authors Martyn Waites, Steve Cavanaugh, Luca Veste, and Stuart Neville.

Jon Coates, deputy news editor of the Sunday Express, chats with thriller writer Simon Kernick (The Hanged Man).

A little beer, a little camaraderie—what’s not to like? Will Dean (Dark Pines), Ruth Ware (The Death of Mrs. Westaway), and Abir Mukherjee (A Necessary Evil, Smoke and Ashes).

Wherever wordsmiths gathered, Ali’s camera was soon to follow. Here we see novelists Lloyd Otis (Dead Lands), Linwood Barclay (A Noise Downstairs), and Alafair Burke (The Wife), together with bloggers Craig Sisterson (Crime Watch) and Peter Rozovsky (Detectives Beyond Borders).

Ali was more than moderately enthusiastic about meeting American Joseph Kanon (Defectors) at this year’s festival. As he wrote on Facebook, “Joe Kanon is a helluva bloke, apart from being an extraordinary writer—truly liberal and currently horrified and embarrassed by the Trump regime. [We spent] a memorable afternoon with his anecdotes—just wonderful.” The photo shows (left to right) Jon Coates, Ali, Mike Stotter, and Kanon himself.

Ali’s caption for this shot: “Lee Child [center] discusses the exit strategy with his security team of Mike Stotter and Ali Karim.”

Vengeance in Mind author Daphne Wright (aka N.J. Cooper) with Nigerian writer Leye Adenle (When Trouble Sleeps).

Stotter catches up with Mick Herron, the winner of CrimeFest’s 2018 Last Laugh Award for Spook Street.

Shari Lapena, a former lawyer and English teacher, introduces Ali to her brand-new thriller, An Unwanted Guest.

Smile pretty for the camera, folks! Mark Billingham (The Killing Habit) with Kimberley “K.J.” Howe (Skyjack).

(All photos in this post copyright © Ali Karim 2018.)

READ MORE:Harrogate 2018—a Little Bit Different,” by Catherine Turnbull (Crime Fiction Lover).

Learning from Travis McGee’s “Father”

This week initially brought us, on Monday, the 130th anniversary of Raymond Chandler’s birth. Now, today, the CrimeReads Web site is celebrating what would have been John D. MacDonald’s 102nd birthday with a collection of the author’s memorable quotes about life, the arts of writing and storytelling, maturity, and a great deal more. Here, for instance, is what the author said he’d like as his epitaph:

“He hung around quite a while, entertained the folk, and was stopped quick and clean when the right time came.”

Sadly, that’s not what it actually says on MacDonald’s gravestone. Scroll down to the bottom of the linked page to see for yourself.

READ MORE:MacDonald’s Century,” by J. Kingston Pierce
(Killer Covers).

Tobisman Labors in Lee’s Shadow

We’ve received news today that California appellate attorney C.E. Tobisman has won the 2018 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction with her novel Proof (Thomas & Mercer). That commendation is sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal.

Also nominated for this honor were Exposed, by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin’s Press), and Testimony, by Scott Turow (Grand Central).

According to a press release, “Tobisman is the eighth winner of the prize, and will be honored with a signed special edition of To Kill a Mockingbird at the 2018 prize ceremony at the Library of Congress, in conjunction with the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.,” on Saturday, September 1.

* * *

Meanwhile, British author Belinda Bauer’s latest crime novel, Snap (Atlantic Monthly Press), has made it onto the longlist of contenders for this year’s Man Booker Prize. Her dozen rivals for a place on the coming shortlist (to be announced on September 20) include Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje, The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner, and The Overstory, by Richard Powers.

Monday, July 23, 2018

PaperBack: “Hot Winds of Summer”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

Hot Winds of Summer, by John H. Secondari (Popular Giant,
1957). This novel by an American author and TV producer was originally published in 1955 as Spinner of the Dream. Cover illustration by Mitchell Hooks.

“Are You Mr. Marlowe, the Detective?”

Continuing our Raymond Chandler birthday theme, I’ve embedded below what is described as a clip from the pilot for Philip Marlowe, a 1959-1960 ABC-TV series about which I have written before. According to Mystery*File, this pilot—with Philip Carey in the title role—was completed in February 1958, though the series didn’t debut until the fall of ’59. What’s more, it’s not clear whether this pilot was ever broadcast; the first known, half-hour episode of Philip Marlowe, “The Ugly Duckling,” is completely different, and can be watched here.

READ MORE:The Reading Life: Happy Birthday to Me—and Raymond Chandler,” by Carolyn Kellogg (Los Angeles Times); “In Honor of Raymond Chandler’s Birthday: Chandler-Inspired Recipes,” by Colleen Collins (The Zen Man).

“A Grisly Skill”

To help celebrate today’s 130th anniversary of Raymond Chandler’s birth in Chicago, the Literary Hub-associated site Book Marks has posted what it says are the initial reviews of Chandler’s seven novels starring Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe. Here, for instance, is a critique of Farewell, My Lovely, penned for The New York Times by Isaac Anderson, and published on November 17, 1940:
This is a tough one: superlatively tough, alcoholic, and, for all its wisecracks, ugly rather than humorous. Like many ‘swift-moving’ tales, it is sometimes confusing in its rapid succession of incidents which may or may not have an integral connection with the plot. And the actual mystery is not important. It isn’t so difficult to guess what had become of the beautiful cabaret singer Velma. The identity of the unpleasing Lindsay Marriott’s slayer has no pressing interest. The murder casually committed by that elemental giant Moose Malloy is only an episode to start the story going. No, the appeal of Farewell, My Lovely is in its toughness, which is extremely well done.

Jeanne Florian may know something or nothing about Velma, but Philip Marlowe’s questioning of that gin-soaked old woman makes as sordid a bet as you’re likely to be looking for. Beautiful Mrs. Grayle has a real place in the story, but it’s the sense of evil all about her that gives you goose-flesh. And Amthor the ‘psychic consultant’ and Sonderberg the ‘dope doctor’ are lesser figures in a novel in which no detail is left undescribed.

But the story’s ever-present theme is police corruption, seen in a murky variety. And several kinds of dreadfulness are handled with a grisly skill.
You can read all seven of the reviews here.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Falling for Philip

I’ve watched the 1946 Humphrey Bogart film version of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep on more than a few occasions. But until recently, I’d only ever seen the 1978 remake starring Robert Mitchum one time, shortly after its U.S. big-screen debut. I had enjoyed Mitchum’s appearance as private eye Philip Marlowe in 1975’s Farewell, My Lovely, but my memory of his work in The Big Sleep—with the story’s location moved, for some godforsaken reason, to Britain—was considerably less rosy. A second watching failed to improve my opinion of the flick much, though I think Mitchum did an OK job, and Candy Clark’s portrayal of nymphomaniac daughter Carmen Sternwood (unnecessarily renamed Camilla in the ’78 version), was positively disturbing—which was of course exactly her intent.

With tomorrow bringing what would have been author Chandler’s 130th birthday, I decided one small way to honor his memory and to acknowledge my long-overdue second viewing of Mitchum’s The Big Sleep was to compare here one of my favorite scenes from both flicks. Notice in the first, Bogart clip that Chandler’s line about Marlowe being tall had to be modified to fit Bogie’s 5-foot-8 stature. Mitchum’s 6-foot-1 height better matched the original description.

WATCH MORE:Marlowe Goes to the Movies,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Dead Goods Aplenty

From what I can tell by keeping track of various Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival—being held this weekend in Harrogate, England—is providing ample delights for its lucky participants. The event has also brought an announcement of which books and authors have won the 2018 Dead Good Reader Awards in half a dozen distinctive categories.

The Holmes and Watson Award for Best Detective Duo:
Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson, created by Elly Griffiths

Also nominated: Arthur Bryant and John May, created by
Christopher Fowler; Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, created by Tess Gerritsen; Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson, created by Elly Griffiths; Marnie Rome and Noah Jake, created by Sarah Hilary; Rosie Strange and Sam Stone, created by Syd Moore; and Gino Rolseth and Leo Magozzi, created by P.J. Tracy

The Whodunnit Award for the Book That Keeps You Guessing:
Let Me Lie, by Clare Mackintosh

Also nominated: I Am Watching You, by Teresa Driscoll; The Lucky Ones, by Mark Edwards; Skin Deep, by Liz Nugent; The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton; and The Lying Game,
by Ruth Ware

The Cabot Cove Award for Best Small-Town Mystery:
The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor

Also nominated: A Murder to Die For, by Stevyn Colgan; Dark Pines, by Will Dean; The Devil’s Claw, by Lara Dearman; Hell in a Handbasket, by Denise Grover Swank; and The Dry, by Jane Harper

The Wringer Award for the Character Who’s Been Put Through It All: Jack Reacher, created by Lee Child

Also nominated: Frieda Klein, created by Nicci French; Lottie Parker, created by Patricia Gibney; Ruth Galloway, created by Elly Griffiths; Michael Devlin, created by Tony Kent; and David Raker, created by
Tim Weaver

The House of Horrors Award for Most Dysfunctional Family:
Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell

Also nominated: Little Sister, by Isabel Ashdown; Blood Sisters, by Jane Corry; Good Me, Bad Me, by Ali Land; Let Me Lie, by Clare Mackintosh; and The Good Samaritan, by John Marrs

The Dead Good Recommends Award for Most Recommended Book:
The Dark Angel, by Elly Griffiths

Also nominated: I Am Watching You, by Teresa Driscoll; Killer Intent, by Tony Kent; Anything You Do Say, by Gillian McAllister; The Fear, by C.L. Taylor; and The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware

These commendations are sponsored annually by the British crime-fiction books site Dead Good.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Sherez Win Makes for a “Happy Day”

From the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which opened earlier today in Harrogate, England, comes the news that Stav Sherez has won the 2018 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award for his book The Intrusions (Faber and Faber).

The Guardian explains that The Intrusions, Sherez’s third installment in a series featuring detectives Jack Carrigan and Geneva Miller, “begins when a young woman arrives at their west London police station, saying that her friend has been abducted from the seedy Bayswater hostel where they both live. Soon the investigators discover that someone has been using remote-access technology to gain control both of the women’s laptops and their lives.”

The newspaper goes on to say that judging chair Lee Child calls Sherez’s 2017 novel a “brilliant and organic blend of ancient terror and suspense, with modern issues as its core.” He remarks further: “Sherez is well known for the sheer quality of his prose, and outdid himself here. … He has moved the genre forward with this one—a happy day for crime fiction.”

Also nominated for this year’s Old Peculier honor were the novels Spook Street, by Mick Herron (John Murray); The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (Harvill Secker); A Rising Man, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker); Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner (The Borough Press); and Insidious Intent, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown).

During the same event at which Sherez received his prizes—£3,000 in cash, along with a handmade, engraved oak beer cask—American author John Grisham was declared this year’s winner of the Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction award. Previous recipients of that same commendation include Lee Child, Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, and P.D. James.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tracking Down Manhunt

In its day (1953-1967), Manhunt magazine was highly regarded by  the crime-fiction community, and drew contributions from most of its era’s best-remembered authors. My guess, though, is that Rap Sheet readers have probably never had the chance to page through even one of the 114 issues released. So I was pleased today to find, in the Pulp Covers blog, the front of the January 1953 premiere edition of Manhunt, along with information about how to download the entire, 150-page magazine. That issue features the opening installment of a Mickey Spillane serial, along with other yarns by Kenneth Millar (aka Ross Macdonald), Frank Kane, Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), Richard S. Prather, and William irish (aka Cornell Woolrich).

In order to open the file (which is apparently condensed in CDisplay Archived Comic Book format), I had to download onto my computer something called a CBR Reader, described as “a free comic book format reader program.” It took only a few seconds, and left me ready to check out all of Manhunt, Issue #1. Great fun!

Next in Line for the “Neddies”?

I discovered this news overnight, but didn’t have time to post it then. And this morning, I’m in rather a rush to complete an assignment, so do not have the time necessary to look up all of the publishers responsible for the books listed (as I would normally do).

Anyway, here are the longlists of contenders for the 2018 Ned Kelly Awards, sponsored by the Australian Crime Writers Association. Winners will be announced during a special ceremony held during the Melbourne Writers Festival, August 24-September 2.

Best Crime:
Marlborough Man, by Alan Carter
Under the Cold Bright Lights, by Garry Disher
Redemption Point, by Candice Fox
The Lone Child, by Anna George
Crossing the Lines, by Sulari Gentill
Class Act, by Ged Gillmore
Pachyderm, by Hugh McGinlay
Big Red Rock, by David Owen
The Secrets She Keeps, by Michael Robotham
The Student, by Iain Ryan
Clear to the Horizon, by Dave Warner

Best First Crime:
The Dark Lake, by Sarah Bailey
Wimmera, by Mark Brandi
The Girl in Keller’s Way, by Megan Goldin
All Our Secrets, by Jennifer Lane
The Echo of Others, by S.D. Rowell
See What I Have Done, by Sarah Schmidt
She Be Damned, by M.J. Tija

Best True Crime:
The Contractor, by Mark Abernethy
Unmaking a Murder: The Mysterious Death of Anna Jane Cheney, by Graham Archer
The Suitcase Baby, by Tanya Bretherton
Whitely on Trial, by Gabriella Coslovich
Last King of the Cross, by John Ibrahim
The Last Escape, by John Killick
The Fatalist, by Campbell McConachie
Once a Copper: The Life and Times of Brian “The Skull” Murphy,
by Vikki Petraitis

As interesting as these lists are, it’s surprising to see which books were submitted for consideration, but didn’t make the cut.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)