Monday, April 22, 2019

Bullet Points Mini-Edition

• Former Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany has joined the cast of HBO-TV’s forthcoming Perry Mason mini-series, which I understand will be set in 1930s Los Angeles and star Matthew Rhys (The Americans). Deadline says Maslany will play the Aimee Semple McPherson-like Sister Alice, “the leader of the Radiant Assembly of God, preaching three sermons a day (21 a week!) to a hungry congregation and a radio audience that spans the country. Entertainer, politician, God’s conduit to the City of Angels, Sister Alice wields great power when she speaks, and plans to use it in ways only she can know.”

• In other television news, two popular crime novels—Will Dean’s Dark Pines and Liv Constantine’s The Last Mrs. Parrish—are both headed toward small-screen development.

The Gumshoe Site brings news that New York author-playwright Warren Adler passed away on April 15 at age 91. Cause of death is given as “complications from liver cancer.” Jiro Kimura writes:
The former owner of [an] advertising and public-relations agency wrote his first novel, Options (Whitmore Publishing, 1974; later reprinted as Undertow; Stonehouse Press, 2001), a thriller, and kept writing novels—mostly crime novels—quite prolifically till his death. He may be most famous as the author of The War of the Roses (Grand Central, 1981) and Random Hearts (Scribner, 1984). The former was adapted into the 1989 movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, while the latter [was made] into the 1999 film starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas. He created the series character Fiona Fitzgerald, a homicide detective in Washington, D.C., who was introduced in American Quartet (Arbor House, 1982), and featured in eight other novels. The last one was Red Herring (Rosetta Books), and the 2002 TV movie, “Fiona,” was broadcast with Kellie Martin as Fiona Fitzgerald. His last novel was probably Last Call (CreateSpace, 2018).
The New York Times and Variety have further details.

• Back in February, AARP: The Magazine carried a quite moving essay by Adler, which is worth revisiting now. In it, he relates the difficulty of caring for his wife of 67 years, Sonia, who has long suffered from dementia. “I do not believe she suffers emotional distress, but I do,” Adler wrote. “Witnessing her decline is debilitating. I kept her at home with round-the-clock care until two years ago, when it became unsafe for her to stay there because she had become aggressive and would wander. Now I live alone in the home we shared, and I am trying to cope with the bruising experience of loneliness.”

• CrimeReads has posted a variety of interesting pieces lately, including Dwyer Murphy’s look at “20 Crime Novels that Probably, in Retrospect, Overestimated the Dangers of Marijuana”; Nathan Ward’s tribute to the fictional Crimeways magazine; Paul French’s survey of crime fiction set in Kingston, Jamaica (which should also have mentioned David Goodis’ The Wounded and the Slain); and Paul Abbott’s spoiler-filled encomium to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series.

• By the way, that McBain piece led me to a Web resource with which I was not previously acquainted: Hark! The 87th Precinct Podcast, dedicated to McBain’s “ground-breaking police procedural series,” and hosted by the aforementioned Paul Abbott. Hard to believe I’d never heard of this before, as it debuted in November 2016.

• Television Obscurities offers upan unusual 60-second promotional spot” for NBC-TV’s fall 1974 prime-time lineup. It features neither the names of new and returning shows, nor any footage from those programs. Instead, it showcases still photos of its series stars—familiar ones, such as Rock Hudson and Susan St. James (McMillan & Wife), Raymond Burr (Ironside), and Martin Milner (Adam-12); and that season’s newcomers, among them James Garner (The Rockford Files), Jessica Walter (Amy Prentiss), and Barry Newman (Petrocelli). In those days, NBC was the place to find interesting crime dramas.

• Wow! Here’s a CBS-TV pilot I thought I would never see again: The Jordan Chance, starring Raymond Burr, whose third small-screen series—the short-lived Kingston: Confidential—had gone off the air more than a year before this two-hour flick first aired, on December 12, 1978. As Lee Goldberg observes in Unsold Television Pilots: 1955-1989, The Jordan Chance (produced by Roy Huggins and written by Stephen J. Cannell) starred Burr as Frank Jordan, “an attorney who was once wrongly imprisoned and is now dedicated to helping others who are unjustly accused or punished for crimes they did not commit.” In addition to Burr, the film’s cast includes Ted Shackelford, Jeannie Fitzsimmons, James Canning, and Stella Stevens. At least for the nonce, that full movie is available on YouTube.

• Incidentally, don’t confuse The Jordan Chance with an earlier but equally unsuccessful pilot, 1976’s Mallory: Circumstantial Evidence. Goldberg recalls in his book that it featured a curiously curly haired Burr as Arthur Mallory, “a once-famous lawyer whose career floundered after [he was] unjustly accused of coercing a client to commit perjury. Though cleared by the Bar, his reputation is still tarnished.” Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate that particular telefilm (which also starred Robert Loggia and a pre-Star Wars Mark Hamill) anywhere online, but a clip from the picture was shown as part of this 1976 Tonight Show interview with Burr.

• The Web site Crime Fiction Lover proposes “12 South African Crime Writers to Add to Your Reading List,” among them Ekow Duker. Lauren Beukes. Imraan Coovadia, and Margie Orford. Sadly, I have not yet read works by any of those four.

• Talk about monetary inflation! The latest of B.V. Lawson’s “Media Murder for Monday” posts says that “Bumblebee director Travis Knight is set to tackle the Mark Wahlberg-starring Six Billion Dollar Man (after helmer and co-writer, Damian Szifron, stepped down in 2017). The long-awaited project stars Wahlberg as Col. Steve Austin, a downed pilot who is saved by an operation that makes him part machine. The project is a big-screen adaptation of the classic 1970s TV show that starred Lee Majors.” Remember, that earlier science-fiction program was titled The Six Million Dollar Man.

• With this being Earth Day, Janet Rudolph has updated her quite lengthy list of “Environmental/Ecological Mysteries.”

• Let’s welcome back Unlawful Acts. David Nemeth’s blog went ominously dark in mid-February, leading to speculation that he had given up the venture. However, he’s been back on the job as of last week, posting daily links to stories about crime and mystery fiction, and less frequent lists of upcoming small-press releases.

• Although it provides no real insight into Hulu-TV’s eight-episode revival of Veronica Mars—due to launch in late July—this short teaser suggests the series hasn’t lost its sassy, sarcastic edge.

• And B.D. McClay of The Hedgehog Review supplies a fine defense of thesauruses as valuable reference works for writers. “To be clear: I am not somebody who is particularly patient about English errors,” McClay explains. “I still insist that ‘begs the question’ should not ever be used in place of ‘raising the question.’ I have very little time for ill-conceived metaphors. But I don’t blame the thesaurus. I blame not thinking about what you’re saying, which you can’t reasonably expect any reference guide to prevent. At least somebody who looks up a word in a thesaurus is putting a little work in.”

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Canada Shares Its Crime-Writing Best

The Crime Writers of Canada today announced its finalists for the 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards. These annual commendations (taking their name from the pseudonym of Canada’s official hangman) are given for excellence in Canadian crime fiction and true-crime writing. Winners of this year’s prizes will be declared on Thursday, May 23 during a “gala” event in Toronto. Here are the nominees.

Best Crime Novel:
Cape Diamond, by Ron Corbett (ECW Press)
Though the Heavens Fall, by Anne Emery (ECW Press)
The Winters, by Lisa Gabriele (Doubleday Canada)
Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
The Girl in the Moss, by Loreth Anne White (Montlake Romance)

Best First Crime Novel:
Cobra Clutch, by A.J. Devlin (NeWest Press)
Operation Wormwood, by Helen C. Escott (Flanker Press)
Full Disclosure, by Beverley McLachlin (Simon & Schuster Canada)
Why Was Rachel Murdered?, by Bill Prentice (Echo Road)
Find You in the Dark, by Nathan Ripley (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Best Crime Novella (aka the Lou Allin Memorial Award):
The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife, by Melodie
Campbell (Orca)
Blue Water Hues, by Vicki Delany (Orca)
Murder Among the Pines, by John Lawrence Reynolds (Orca)

Best Crime Short Story:
“A Ship Called Pandora,” by Melodie Campbell
(Mystery Weekly Magazine)
“The Power Man,” by Therese Greenwood (from Baby It’s Cold Outside, edited by Robert Bose and Sarah L. Johnson;
Coffin Hop Press)
“Game,” by Twist Phelan (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
“Terminal City,” by Linda L. Richards (from Vancouver Noir, edited by Sam Wiebe; Akashic)
“Wonderful Life,” by Sam Wiebe (from Vancouver Noir)

Best Crime Book in French:
Un dernier baiser avant de te tuer, by Jean-Philippe Bernié
(Libre Expression)
Adolphus—Une enquête de Joseph Laflamme, by Hervé Gagnon
(Libre Expression)
Ces femmes aux yeux cernés, by André Jacques (Éditions Druide)
Deux coups de pied de trop, by Guillaume Morissette
(Guy Saint-Jean Éditeur)
Rinzen la beauté intérieure, by Johanne Seymour (Expression Noir)

Best Juvenile/Young Adult Crime Book:
Escape, by Linwood Barclay (Puffin Canada)
The House of One Thousand Eyes, by Michelle Barker (Annick Press)
Call of the Wraith, by Kevin Sands (Aladdin)
The Ruinous Sweep, by Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick Press)
The Rumrunner's Boy, by E.R. Yatscoff (TG & R)

Best Non-fiction Crime Book:
Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder, by Patrick Brode (Biblioasis)
The King of Con: How a Smooth-Talking Jersey Boy Made and Lost Billions, Baffled the FBI, Eluded the Mob, and Lived to Tell the Crooked Tale, by Thomas Giacomaro and Natasha Stoynoff (BenBella)
The Boy on the Bicycle: A Forgotten Case of Wrongful Conviction in Toronto, by Nate Hendley (Five Rivers)
Murder by Milkshake: An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer, by Eve Lazarus (Arsenal Pulp Press)
The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World, by Sarah Weinman (Knopf)

Best Unpublished Manuscript (aka the Unhanged Arthur):
Hypnotizing Lions, by Jim Bottomley
Omand’s Creek, by Don Macdonald
The Scarlet Cross, by Liv McFarlane
One for the Raven, by Heather McLeod
The Book of Answers, by Darrow Woods

In addition, the CWC will present Ontario author Vicki Delany with this year’s Derrick Murdoch Award for special achievement.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

PaperBack: “The Bowstring Murders”

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



The Bowstring Murders, by “Carter Dickson,” aka John Dickson Carr (Berkley, 1959). This is apparently the only one of Dickson’s many books to have been published originally (in 1933) as by “Carr Dickson.” Wikipedia adds that it is also “his only novel with the alcoholic detective John Gaunt.” “The Bowstring Murders,” observes the Golden Age of Detection Wiki,” is a bone of contention between fans of Carr’s writings. Some condemn the book; others … quite like it. Although certainly not one of Carr’s best, there is a great deal of detective interest to be found in this tale of walking suits of armour and strangling by bowstring in a haunted medieval castle which boasts the finest private collection of medieval arms and armour in Britain (Dorothy L Sayers says he got his facts wrong).” Cover art by Robert Maguire.

Speaking Their Piece

Earlier this month The Rap Sheet brought you the lengthy list of finalists for the 2019 Derringer Awards, sponsored by the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Now I see that writer, poetry maven, and SMFS member Gerald So has begun posting interviews with the finalists online.

At last check, 10 of the contenders—in assorted short-story categories—had submitted to So’s grilling. The winners of these prizes aren’t due to be announced until May 1. Let’s hope that gives So time to speak with many more of the authors.

Check out all of the interviews here.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Praise on Both Sides of “the Pond”

Eighteen books feature on the longlist of nominees for 2019’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award, according to Britain’s The Bookseller. They are as follows:

Snap, by Belinda Bauer (Transworld)
Our House, by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster)
Thirteen, by Steve Cavanagh (Hachette)
Wild Fire, by Ann Cleeves (Pan Macmillan)
This Is How It Ends, by Eva Dolan (Bloomsbury)
Take Me In, by Sabine Durrant (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Dark Angel, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
London Rules, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Broken Ground, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
The Quaker, by Liam McIlvanney (HarperCollins)
The Way of All Flesh, by Ambrose Parry (Canongate)
East of Hounslow, by Khurrum Rahman (HarperCollins)
Hell Bay, by Kate Rhodes (Simon & Schuster)
Salt Lane, by William Shaw (Quercus)
The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor (Penguin Random House)
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton (Bloomsbury)
Anatomy of a Scandal, by Sarah Vaughan (Simon & Schuster)
Changeling, by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda)

A shortlist of just six of these titles will be released on Sunday, May 19, with the ultimate winner to be declared during an awards ceremony on Thursday, July 18—the opening night of the 17th annual Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England.

* * *

While we’re on the subject of prizes being given for crime and mystery fiction, note that The Gumshoe Site carries news about the three winners of the 2019 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award for short stories. Congratulations to all!

First Place: “Duty, Honor, Hammett,” by Stacy Woodson (November/December 2018)
Second Place: “50,” by Josh Pachter (November/December 2018)
Third Place: “Sofee,” by David Dean (March/April 2018)

The victors in this competition were chosen by EQMM subscribers/readers.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Revue of Reviewers, 4-13-19

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








Work of Morbid Humor Victorious

Last evening brought the announcement of the 2019 Los Angeles Times Book Award winners. That event preceded the start of the latest L.A. Times Festival of Books, which is being held this weekend on the University of Southern California campus.

There were five nominees in the Mystery/Thriller category, and Oyinkan Braithwaite won with her Lagos-set debut novel, My Sister, the Serial Killer (Doubleday). The other finalists in that same category were Give Me Your Hand, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown); Green Sun, by Kent Anderson (Mulholland); November Road, by Lou Berney (Morrow); and The Perfect Nanny, by Leila Slimani (Penguin).

You will find the full list of winners here.

For Fans of Chan

Let’s welcome a new mystery fiction-oriented blog to the Web. Cleveland, Ohio, author and former U.S. Air Force postman Lou Armagno e-mailed me recently, saying that he’d launched The Postman on Holiday this past January. “It is,” he explains, ‘a place to explore all things surrounding [Honolulu] Detective Charlie Chan, his creator Earl Derr Biggers, and their connection with Hawaii, Cleveland, and mystery fiction.’ I blog once a month, with a lean towards the literary side.”

To date, he’s penned posts about such subjects as Biggers’ references in his fiction to real-life people and places, and the often witty aphorisms to be found in the Chan canon. (That latter subject, by the way, is covered in greater depth on the Chan Family Home Web site, to which Armagno also contributes.)

In addition, Armagno notes, the blog “act[s] as depository for The Charlie Chan Family Home Annual Newsletter. Our 2018 edition is 17 pages, and covers significant events during the year.”

I’ve already gone ahead and added The Postman on Holiday to the blogrolls of both The Rap Sheet and Killer Covers.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Ross Macdonald: An Ongoing Investigation

I don’t often return to a subject after an interval of 20 years, but that’s exactly what I am doing today. Back in April 1999, I assembled—for January Magazine—a diverse collection of articles focused on renowned California detective fictionist Ross Macdonald and his original Lew Archer private eye novel, The Moving Target, which was then celebrating its 50th year in print. Kevin Burton Smith, Gary Phillips, and Frederick Zackel all contributed personal essays to the project; Swedish crime-fiction enthusiast Karl-Erik Lindkvist chose his three favorite Archer stories; I wrote about my single, long-ago meeting with Macdonald (whose real name was Kenneth Millar); and I also interviewed Los Angeles-area journalist and critic Tom Nolan, author of the then freshly published work, Ross Macdonald: A Biography.

Weeks ago, I received the go-ahead from my editor at CrimeReads to write a couple more Macdonald tribute pieces, this time tied in with The Moving Target’s official 70th anniversary on April 11, 2019. One thing I planned to do was assemble a gallery of best and worst covers from the novel’s history; that piece went up online yesterday, right on schedule. In addition, I wanted to interview Nolan once more. He and I have stayed in e-mail touch over the last two decades, and I talked at length with him again (this time for Kirkus Reviews and The Rap Sheet) in 2015, the centennial year of Macdonald’s birth.

In 1999, Tom Nolan had produced only the one book about P.I. Archer’s creator. However, as I explain in this piece posted earlier today in CrimeReads, since that time he
has furthered his Macdonald scholarship by, first, collecting three of the author’s previously unpublished pieces of short fiction in Strangers in Town (2001), and then compiling, in 2007’s The Archer Files, all of the Archer short stories (plus fragments—like this one—of unfinished yarns). With Suzanne Marrs, Nolan edited Meanwhile There Are Letters (2015), which gathered together hundreds of revealing missives Macdonald exchanged with Pulitzer Prize-winning Mississippi author Eudora Welty between 1970 and 1982. And most recently, Nolan edited the Library of America’s three-volume set of Archer mysteries, 11 novels in total.
Although I initially worried that on this third go-round I wouldn’t have any more worthwhile questions to pitch Nolan’s way, as I started thinking about Macdonald and his books and all that Nolan has written about both over the last two decades, I found there was no shortage of things about which I remained curious. During the course of our e-mail exchange, we talked about the endurance of Macdonald’s legacy; the troubles he faced as a boy and as a father, and how those fed his fiction; his sometimes “quarrelsome marriage” to fellow mystery writer Margaret Millar; his mysterious middle-age suicide attempt; his most influential books, and a great deal besides.

Click here to real all about it.

Bullet Points: Rooting About Edition

• Happy birthday to The Mysterious Bookshop. New York City’s famous independent bookstore, founded by Otto Penzler and specializing in crime, mystery, and thriller fiction, will celebrate its 40th anniversary tomorrow, April 13. The latest edition of its newsletter mentions that “We’ll be celebrating this illustrious occasion with a party at the store on Tuesday, April 23rd at 6:00 p.m. This party is free and open to all! In addition to our anniversary, this party doubles as our annual Edgar Awards party (the awards are that Thursday) and many nominees will be in attendance.” Ah, if only I were spending next week in Manhattan ...

• “Acknowledging excellence in the field of tie-in writing,” the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers has broadcast the list of nominees for its 2019 Scribe Awards. There are six different categories of contestants, with lots of science fiction represented. The only group that features much crime fiction is “Original Novel – General.” Vying for that commendation are:

Colt the Outlander: Shadow of Ruin, by Quincy J. Allen
(WordFire Press)
The Executioner: Dying Art, by Michael A. Black
(Gold Eagle Executioner e-book)
Killing Town (Mike Hammer), by Mickey Spillane and
Max Allan Collins (Titan)
Narcos: The Jaguar’s Claw, by Jeff Mariotte
Tom Clancy’s Line of Sight, by Mike Madden (Putnam)

Winners will be announced during the San Diego ComicCon, July 18-21.

• Meanwhile, the Romance Writers of America has publicized its finalists for this year’s RITA Awards. Among the brackets of contenders is one titled Romantic Suspense, which features these seven works:

The Bastard’s Bargain, by Katee Robert (Piatkus)
Before We Were Strangers, by Brenda Novak (Mira)
Consumed, by J.R. Ward (Gallery)
Cut and Run, by Mary Burton (Montlake Romance)
Fearless, by Elizabeth Dyer (Independently published)
Reckless Honor, by Tonya Burrows (CreateSpace)
Relentless, by Elizabeth Dyer (Montlake Romance)

You’ll have to wait until this year’s RWA conference (July 24-27), in New York City, to find out which of these books takes the prize.

• Included among this year’s six finalists for the Man Booker International Prize is The Shape of the Ruins (Riverhead), Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s “sweeping tale of conspiracy theories, assassinations, and twisted obsessions.”

• Recipients of the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards were announced last weekend. There were nine categories of competitors, but the one of perhaps chief interest to this blog’s readers was Genre Fiction. The winner there was The Voice Inside, by Brian Freeman (Thomas & Mercer). Also nominated were Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories, by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin); Leave No Trace, by Mindy Mejia (Atria); and The Shadows We Hide, by Allen Eskens (Mulholland). Kudos to all the nominees! (Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

• Season 5 of the Amazon TV series Bosch will premiere next week—on Friday, April 19, to be exact. What will this 10-episode season have in store for our favorite Los Angeles police detective? His creator, Michael Connelly, offers clues to the Tampa Bay Times.



• How James Bond influenced the CIA.

• Organizers of 2019’s Mystery Fest Key West (June 28-30) are putting out a last call for entries to their latest Whodunit Mystery Writing Competition. “Candidates wishing to compete,” explains a news release, “are invited to submit the first three pages (maximum 750 words) of a finished, but unpublished manuscript to whodunitaward@mysteryfestkeywest.com no later than April 15. There is no fee to enter, finalists will be notified by May 1, and will have until May 10 to submit full manuscripts.”

The Gumshoe Site reports that David Fechheimer, “one of the leading private investigators in America,” died in Redwood City, California, on April 2 “from complications of open-heart surgery.” He was 76 years old. The item goes on to explain that Fechheimer “became a shamus the day after he read Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. He worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency and with Hal Lipset. He opened his own office in San Francisco in 1976, and handled cases involving many celebrities such as Kobe Bryant, Angela Davis, John Gotti, Daniel Ellisberg, Timothy McVeigh, [and] Roman Polanski to name just a few. He researched … Hammett’s life for Francis Ford Coppola when the latter was preparing to produce the [1982] movie Hammett, based on the novel of the same title by Joe Gores. He owned a tiny vineyard in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, and named his Cabernet Sauvignon Red Harvest.”

• Don Herron has more to say about Fechheimer here.

• Pulp-fiction authority Andrew Nette brings belated notice that writer Victor J. Banis, “who some have called ‘the godfather of modern popular gay fiction,’ died on February 22, after finally succumbing to cancer.” He was 81 years old and lived in West Virginia. Nette notes that “from 1966 to 1968, [Banis] wrote eight pulp-fiction titles in his [The] Man from C.A.M.P. series, an overtly queer takeoff of the television spy series [The] Man from U.N.C.L.E. The central protagonist of the successful series was the openly gay undercover agent, Jackie Holmes, who did battle with B.U.T.C.H. (Brothers United to Crush Homosexuality). The series helped establish that gay audiences were particularly hungry for stories which portrayed characters in a fun and positive light. In doing so, Banis saw himself as playing a consciously activist role.”

• One more obituary: The Spy Command says that “Noah Keen, a veteran character actor whose career ran from the late 1950s into the 2000s, died last month at 98.” Keen’s film and TV appearances were numerous, ranging from roles in Have Gun—Will Travel, Perry Mason, and Judd for the Defense to The Name of the Game, The Outsider, Mission: Impossible, Ironside, and The Sopranos.

• Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is now 50 years old!

• I’m pleased to see that two mystery/crime-related movies—the brilliantly moving They Might Be Giants (1971) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959)—made it onto Classic Film & TV Café’s list of “The Five Best George C. Scott Performances.”

• Lee Child was in the television business (under his real name, Jim Grant) for many years before he embarked on his fiction-writing career. So it’s no surprise that he should think himself capable of tackling another small-screen project. The Killing Times reports that Child had proposed to “take his Jack Reacher franchise to a streaming service.” Instead, he will be teaming with Australia-based Dancing Ledge Productions to develop Lee Child: True Crime, an anthology series that “dramatizes the stories of real-life men and women from around the world who have been driven to stand up and put their lives on the line, fighting for justice in the face of great danger.”

• The Killing Times also spreads the news that Company Pictures, the independent UK production company behind such TV favorites as Wolf Hall and Shameless, is hoping to reboot the 1972-1992 series Van der Valk, a Netherlands-set crime drama based on Nicholas Freeling’s succession of novels starring Commissaris Simon "Piet" Van der Valk. British actor Marc Warren will fill the title role.

• Being a big fan of mysteries set in the past, I was immediately attracted to Molly Odintz’s CrimeReads picks of “The Best Historical Fiction of 2019 (So Far).” I wasn’t disappointed by her choices. I’ve already read most of the 14 books mentioned—including Niklas Natt och Dag’s The Wolf and the Watchman, Abir Mukherjee’s Smoke and Ashes, and Guy Bolton’s The Syndicate—and have almost all of the remainder in my ridiculously oversized to-be-read pile. In addition to Odintz’s picks, I’d recommend the following: Blood & Sugar, by Laura Shepherd-Robinson; The Devil Aspect, by Craig Russell; The Unquiet Heart, by Kaite Welsh; and The Mathematical Bridge, by Jim Kelly.

• Another recent CrimeReads piece I enjoyed: Rebecca Rego Barry’s look back at Great Britain’s 18th-century-born Newgate Calendar (subtitled The Malefactors' Bloody Register), “which,” she explains, “collected the most notorious tales of those confined to [London’s] Newgate Prison and subsequently hanged at Tyburn. … Needless to say, The Newgate Calendar was popular with a citizenry that turned a public execution into the equivalent of the Superbowl. At the same time, literacy was increasing among the working class, and cheaper printing methods had helped to create a mass readership. Canny novelists took note of this new market and its interests, sparking an alluring but short-lived genre now referred to as ‘Newgate novels.’ These were stories set in the underworld and based, however loosely, on convicts with lurid or melodramatic biographies.”

• In Reference to Murder brings word that “The CW’s Nancy Drew pilot is giving a nod to the TV history of the iconic character by hiring Pamela Sue Martin, who played the brilliant teen sleuth in the first TV series adaptation of the Nancy Drew books from 1977-79 on ABC. Newcomer Kennedy McMann takes on the title role of the amateur detective, while Martin will play a small-town psychic who offers her talents to help Nancy investigate a murder—and ends up delivering an otherworldly clue that neither of them bargained for.”

• Finally, four author interviews worth noticing: Cara Robertson talks with MysteryPeople about her new non-fiction book, The Trial of Lizzie Borden; Lesa’s Book Critiques fires questions at Catriona McPherson (Scot & Soda); the Amazon Book Review chats with Lydia Fitzpatrick on the matter of Lights All Night Long, her novel about “a Russian exchange student [working] to exonerate the brother left behind, a drug addict who has confessed to murder”; and Paperback Warrior “unmasks” Ralph Hayes, the prolific Michigan writer who, at age 91, is still concocting men's action-adventure novels.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Targeting Archer at Readers


As I note in my latest piece for CrimeReads, today marks 70 years since the release of Ross Macdonald’s first Lew Archer private-eye novel, The Moving Target. To commemorate this anniversary, I have gathered together—and commented on—25 of the best and worst front covers that book has carried over its history. Those include the original, 1949 Alfred A. Knopf edition; two British publications that renamed Archer “Lew Arless”; Mitchell Hooks’ 1970s reworking of the series fronts; a couple of Italian giallo versions; and a Czech translation suggesting that the plot is a mash-up of the old TV shows Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and WKRP in Cincinnati.

I also offer this reminder of the tale’s multiple qualities:
All these decades later, The Moving Target still impresses with its vivid prose and carefully rendered characters, plus its plotting mix of greed, broken trust, and festering disillusionments. While it’s tougher and more cinematic than some of Macdonald’s 17 subsequent Archer novels, Target hints at what will become more obvious as the series progresses: the author’s interest in the psychological roots of criminal behavior.

The story finds L.A. private investigator Archer, a 35-year-old ex-cop with a sardonic streak (“Most of my work is divorce. I’m a jackal, you see”), being hired by the dysfunctional family of Ralph Sampson, an oil millionaire from “Santa Teresa” (a fictionalized Santa Barbara). It seems the alcoholic Sampson has vanished. His younger, paraplegic second wife figures he’s off on a bender, rather than having been kidnapped. But Albert Graves, a former district attorney and onetime Archer colleague, asks that she hire the P.I. to at least locate the man. It’s a task more easily assigned than accomplished, leading the shamus into a circle of suspects that include Sampson’s beguiling but drifting daughter, Miranda; Alan Taggert, the tycoon’s pretty-boy pilot and the elder Graves’ rival for Miranda’s affections; a sun-worshipping holy man, Claude, to whom Sampson gave a mountain retreat; as well as a downwardly mobile actress with an astrology bent, a forgotten piano player, low-IQ bruisers, and even human traffickers.
Again, click here to observe how different artists and photographers have introduced The Moving Target to readers.

“Now Old Enough to Drink Legally”

Congratulations to The Thrilling Detective Web Site, which editor Kevin Burton Smith says celebrated its 21st birthday on April 1. That site is a wonderful resource, well worth consulting whenever you have a question about private-eye fiction, old or new.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Finding the Cheery Side of Crime

Because it’s evidently not possible to have too many declarations in one week of contenders for various crime-fiction commendations (we’ve already reported on finalists for both the 2019 Thriller Awards and this year’s CrimeFest honors), the people behind Toronto, Ontario’s Bloody Words Mini-Con have released their list of five rivals for the annual Bony Blithe Award. That prize “celebrates traditional, feel-good mysteries” capable of making the judges smile.

The nominees are:

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place, by Alan Bradley
(Delacorte Press)
A Scandal in Scarlet, by Vicki Delany (Crooked Lane)
The Marmalade Murders, by Elizabeth J. Duncan (Minotaur)
Darkest Before the Dawn, by Mike Martin (Ottawa Press)
Haunted Hayride with Murder, by Auralee Wallace
(St. Martin's Paperbacks)

The winner of the Bony Blithe will be announced during the Bloody Words Mini-Con, which is scheduled to be held on Friday, May 24 (from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) at the High Park Club in Toronto. In 2018, the award went to Dying on Second, by E.C. Bell (Tyche).

Click here to watch a brief but “jolly video” highlighting the shortlist of this year’s prize nominees.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

CrimeFest Honors Coming

Organizers of this year’s CrimeFest (set for May 9-12 in Bristol, England) have announced their nominees for half a dozen prizes, all to be presented during a special dinner on Saturday, May 11.

Audible Sounds of Crime Award
(for the best unabridged crime audiobook):

Lies Sleeping, by Ben Aaronovitch; read by Kobna
Holdbrook-Smith (Orion)
Our House, by Louise Candlish; read by Deni Francis and Paul
Panting (Whole Story Audiobooks)
The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson; read by Dennis Quaid, January LaVoy, Peter Ganim, Jeremy Davidson, Mozhan Marnò, and Bill Clinton (Random House Audiobooks)
Lethal White, by “Robert Galbraith,” aka J.K. Rowling; read by Robert Glenister (Hachette Audio)
The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen;
read by Julia Whelan (Pan Macmillan)
The Outsider, by Stephen King; read by Will Patton
(Hodder & Stoughton)
Let Me Lie, by Clare Mackintosh; read by Gemma Whelan and
Clare Mackintosh (Little, Brown)
I’ll Keep You Safe, by Peter May; read by Anna Murray and
Peter Forbes (Riverrun)
In a House of Lies, by Ian Rankin; read by James MacPherson (Orion)
Anatomy of a Scandal, by Sarah Vaughan; read by Julie Teal, Luke Thompson, Esther Wane, and Sarah Feathers (Simon & Schuster
Audio UK)

eDunnit Award (“for the best crime fiction e-book first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format”):
When Trouble Sleeps, by Leye Adenle (Cassava Republic Press)
Thirteen, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
Gallows Court, by Martin Edwards (Head of Zeus)
Sunburn, by Laura Lippman (Faber and Faber)
Homegrown Hero, by Khurrum Rahman (HQ)
The Fire Court, by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins)
The Shrouded Path, by Sarah Ward (Faber and Faber)

Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel):
A Deadly Habit, by Simon Brett (Crème de la Crime)
Bryant & May–Hall of Mirrors, by Christopher Fowler (Transworld)
Auntie Poldi and the Fruits of the Lord, by Mario Giordano
(John Murray)
London Rules, by Mick Herron (John Murray)
Homegrown Hero, by Khurrum Rahman (HQ)
A Shot in the Dark, by Lynne Truss (Bloomsbury)
Palm Beach Finland, by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda)
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar, by Olga Wojtas (Contraband)

H.R.F. Keating Award (for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction):
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Art of Fiction, by Nils Clausson
(Cambridge Scholars)
Irish Crime Fiction, by Brian Cliff (Palgrave Macmillan)
Female Corpses in Crime Fiction, by Glen S. Close (Palgrave Macmillan)
Domestic Noir, by Laura Joyce and Henry Sutton (Palgrave Macmillan)
Historical Noir, by Barry Forshaw (No Exit Press)
The Big Somewhere: Essays on James Ellroy’s Noir World,
by Steven Powell (Bloomsbury)
Difficult Lives–Hitching Rides, by James Sallis (No Exit Press)

Best Crime Novel for Children (aged 8-12):
The Train to Impossible Places, by P.G. Bell (Usborne)
Murder At Twilight, by Fleur Hitchcock (Nosy Crow)
A Darkness of Dragons, by S.A. Patrick (Usborne)
The Book Case, by Dave Shelton (David Fickling)
Kat Wolfe Investigates, by Lauren St. John (Macmillan
Children’s Books)
The Last Chance Hotel, by Nicki Thornton (Chicken House)

Best Crime Novel for Young Adults (aged 12-16):
The Colour of the Sun, by David Almond (Hodder Children’s Books)
Rosie Loves Jack, by Mel Darbon (Usborne)
Little Liar, by Julia Gray (Andersen Press)
White Rabbit, Red Wolf, by Tom Pollock (Walker)
Run, Riot, by Nikesh Shukla (Hodder Children’s Books)
Dry, by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman (Walker)

Congratulations to all of the finalists!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Thrills on the Page

Via Mystery Fanfare, we now have the list of finalists vying for the 2019 Thriller Awards. These prizes are sponsored annually by the International Thriller Writers organization.

Best Hardcover Novel:
November Road, by Lou Berney (Morrow)
Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin (Ballantine)
Jar of Hearts, by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur)
Pieces of Her, by Karin Slaughter (Morrow)
The Cabin At the End of the World, Paul Tremblay (Morrow)

Best First Novel:
The Terminal List, by Jack Carr (Atria/Emily Bestler)
Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland (Ballantine)
Caged, by Ellison Cooper (Minotaur)
Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman (Ballantine)
The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor (Crown)

Best Paperback Original Novel:
The Lost Man, by Jane Harper (Pan Macmillan Australia)
The Good Samaritan, by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer)
The Naturalist, by Andrew Mayne (Thomas & Mercer)
Gone Dark, by Kirk Russell (Thomas & Mercer)
Mister Tender’s Girl, by Carter Wilson (Sourcebooks Landmark)

Best Short Story:
“The Victims’ Club,” by Jeffery Deaver (Amazon Original)
“10,432 Serial Killers (in Hell),” by Emily Devenport (Alfred
Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
)
“Window to the Soul,” by Scott Loring Sanders (Ellery Queen
Mystery Magazine
)
“Nana,” by Helen Smith (from Killer Women: Crime Club
Anthology #2
; Killer Women)
“Tough Guy Ballet,” by Duane Swierczynski (from For the Sake of the Game: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon, edited by
Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger; Pegasus)

Best Young Adult Novel:
Girl At the Grave, by Teri Bailey Black (Tor Teen)
The Lies They Tell, by Gillian French (HarperTeen)
Warcross, by Marie Lu (Penguin Young Readers)
People Like Us, by Dana Mele (Penguin Young Readers)
The Perfect Candidate, by Peter Stone (Simon & Schuster Books
for Young Readers)

Best E-book Original Novel:
Murder on the Marshes, by Clare Chase (Bookouture)
Executive Force, by Gary Grossman (Diversion)
The Reunion, by Samantha Hayes (Bookouture)
The Memory Detective, by T.S. Nichols (Alibi)
Pray for the Innocent, by Alan Orloff (Kindle Press)

Winners in each category are scheduled to be announced on July 13, during ThrillerFest XIV in New York City.

Friday, April 05, 2019

PaperBack: “Sleep, My Love”

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



Sleep, My Love, by Robert Martin (Dell, 1954). This is the second Martin novel to star Jim Bennett, a private eye working the mean streets of Cleveland, Ohio. Cover art by Griffith Foxley.

Super “Nanny”

Among the five books shortlisted for this year's Albertine Prize—intended to “introduce American readers to contemporary French literature in translation”—is The Perfect Nanny, composed by Moroccan author Leïla Slimani (and translated by Sam Taylor). Firmly in the category of suspense fiction, The Perfect Nanny’s plot is described this way by Albertine Prize organizers:
When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings, cleans and stays late without complaint. But as the couple and the nanny become more co-dependent, jealousy and resentment mount.

Building tension with every page,
The Perfect Nanny is a riveting and bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, and motherhood.
“The Albertine Prize is presented by Van Cleef & Arpels and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy ...,” explains Mystery Fanfare. “From April 4 to 30, readers all over the world will be able to vote on Albertine.com for their favorite book among the selected titles. On June 5, the winning book will be announced at Albertine Books in New York City.”

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Short in Length, Long on Talent

A couple of days after this news started leaking out into corners of the Web, the Short Mystery Fiction Society has officially announced the finalists for its 2019 Derringer Awards. These commendations, explains a news release, “recognize outstanding [short] stories published during 2018.” SMFS members will vote for their favorites in each of four categories, with the winners scheduled to be posted on May 1.

Best Flash Story (up to 1,000 words):
“The Bicycle Thief,” by James Blakey (The Norwegian American, September 21, 2018)
“Listen Up,” by Peter DiChellis (Flash Bang Mysteries, Winter 2018)
“Sonny the Wonder Beast,” by Nick Kolakowski (Out of the Gutter, September 16, 2018)
“Don’t Text and Drive,” by Robert Petyo (Flash Bang Mysteries, Spring 2018)
“A Misunderstanding,” by Travis Richardson (Out of the Gutter, May 27, 2018)

Best Short Story (1,001 to 4,000 words):
“The Belle Hope,” by Peter DiChellis (from Malice Domestic 13: Mystery Most Geographical, edited by Verena Rose, Rita Owen, and Shawn Reilly Simmons; Wildside Press)
“The Crucial Game,” by Janice Law (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, January-February 2018)
“Dying in Dokesville,” by Alan Orloff (from Malice Domestic 13: Mystery Most Geographical)
“If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Murder,” by Josh Pachter (from Malice Domestic 13: Mystery Most Geographical)
“The Cabin in the Woods,” by Sylvia Maultash Warsh (from Malice Domestic 13: Mystery Most Geographical)

Best Long Story (4,001 to 8,000 words):
“With My Eyes,” by Leslie Budewitz (Suspense Magazine, January/February 2018)
“Mercy Find Me,” by Diana Deverell (from Fiction River: Justice, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch; WMG, January 2018)
“The Case of the Missing Pot Roast,” by Barb Goffman (from Florida Happens, edited by Greg Herren; Three Rooms Press)
“Till Murder Do Us Part,” by Barb Goffman (from Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley; Wildside Press)
“The Vanishing Volume,” by Janet Raye Stevens (from Shhhh…Murder!: Cozy Crimes in Libraries, edited by Andrew MacRae; Darkhouse)

Best Novelette (8,001 to 20,000 words):
“The Adventure of the Manhunting Marshal,” by “Peter Basile,” aka Jim Doherty (from Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, Volume 11; Airship 27, March 2018)
“Three-Star Sushi,” by Barry Lancet (Down & Out: The Magazine, March 2018)
“The Cambodian Curse,” by Gigi Pandian (from The Cambodian Curse & Other Stories, by Gigi Pandian; Henery Press)
“Oil Down,” by Brian Silverman (Mystery Tribune, Winter 2018)
“I’ve Got to Get Me a Gun,” by Vincent Zandri (from The Black Car Business: Vol. 1, edited by Lawrence Kelter; Down & Out Books)

Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees!

(This post has been updated in order to add the publishing information on each finalist, compiled by SMFS member Gerald So.)

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Bullet Points: Various and Sundry Edition

• With production on the 25th James Bond film having been pushed back, and the picture’s release now delayed until April 2020, that leaves extra time for rumors to fill in where facts are so far absent. Talk that Agent 007 (again played by Daniel Craig) will be killed off in the next movie is probably bogus. But word that the still-untitled film might be shot, at least partly, in Jamaica appears to be true. The Spy Command reports that “The government of Jamaica on March 29 confirmed it’s in ‘advanced’ talks about having Bond 25 shooting on the island nation.” This wouldn’t be the first time 007 has invaded the lush land of reggae and jerk spices. Spy Command managing editor Bill Koenig writes, “Both Dr. No (1962) and Live and Let Die (1973) were filmed in Jamaica (it doubled for the fictional San Monique in the latter movie). Ian Fleming also wrote the first drafts for his 007 stories while in Jamaica during the winter.”

• Sadder Bond-related news: The Spy Command brings word that English actress/model Tania Mallet, “who had a small but key role in Goldfinger, has died at 77.” It goes on to tell that “In 1964’s Goldfinger, Mallet played Tilly Masterson, sister to Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), who had been killed by being ‘painted gold,’ causing skin suffocation. Tilly seeks to avenge her sister’s death and is tailing Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) in Switzerland. She takes a rifle shot at Goldfinger but almost hits Bond (Sean Connery).” Following that big-screen debut, Mallett (a cousin of actress Helen Mirren) resumed modeling, though she did appear as herself in several TV shows, and took an uncredited role in “The Midas Touch,” a 1978 episode of The New Avengers.

• Britain’s Piccadilly Publishing, which usually specializes in Westerns and men’s adventure yarns, will be making at least some of the numerous tales about newhound-turned-private eye Larry Kent available in e-book format—with their original “good girl” artwork. (See Curves Can Kill on the right.) Kent, if you don’t remember, began life on a 1950s Australian radio drama series (created by Ron Ingleby), then became a phenomenon in print—initially in a succession of novelettes, but ultimately in hundreds of novels, all of them with high body counts. More info is on the Piccadilly Web site.

• Criminal Element continues to roll out its posts revisiting books that, over the last 65 years, have won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Although the quality of entries is inconsistent, and some participating critics have insisted on judging works according to modern viewpoints rather than historical ones, in general, the series has offered an interesting look back at wonderful—if sometimes forgotten—criminal yarns. The latest installment, contributed by novelist Philip Margolin (The Perfect Alibi) re-examines The Quiller Memorandum (aka The Berlin Memorandum), the first book in Adam Hall’s 20-volume series starring the spy known only as Quiller. Margolin writes:
The Quiller Memorandum is in many was an experimental novel. It is narrated in a stream of consciousness style by Quiller, and the narrative is frequently exhausting as we are forced to read page after page detailing the mechanics of losing a tail and other spycraft. What saves the book is Hall’s description of the Nazi horrors that motivate Quiller to find the Nazis in hiding and bring them to justice. There are some good twists and an interesting relationship between Quiller and Inga, the mysterious femme fatale. I moved back and forth between fascination, boredom, and misbelief while reading the novel, especially the interrogation sequences.
If you’ve fallen behind in reading Criminal Element’s Edgar Awards series, you can catch up with all of the posts here.

• Philip Kerr’s Metropolis, his 14th and final Bernie Gunther novel, won’t go on sale for another week. But its welcome is already in full swing. Crime Fiction Lover has posted a handy guide to the series, all of the books—whether set in Europe, South America, or Cuba—starring Gunther, a mordantly humorous, half-Jewish, Nazi-hating Berlin homicide detective turned (sometimes reluctant) private eye. Meanwhile, the Rap Sheet’s UK correspondent, Ali Karim, has posted this video of the book’s official launch at London’s Daunt Books, well attended by publishing types and critics pleased to celebrate author Kerr, who died a year ago, at age 62. On hand, too, were Kerr’s editor, Jane Wood, and his wife, journalist-novelist Jane Thynne, who delivered a warm, revealing tribute to her late husband.

• While I remain skeptical of the whole enterprise, I’m not surprised by this news: HBO-TV has greenlighted a new “Perry Mason origin series, starring Matthew Rhys as the titular icon.” Deadline Hollywood notes that “prolific TV director, writer, and producer Tim Van Patten (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones) has been tapped to direct and executive produce” the show.

• I wish this Rockford Files diorama was widely available.

Sopranos fans, looking forward to the September 25, 2020, release of David Chase’s prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark, will be interested in a tidbit contained in B.V. Lawson’s latest “Media for Murder” column, explaining that the movie “has cast its final major lead role. Michela De Rossi, the Italian-born actress who made her debut in Boys Cry, has been set to join Alessandro Nivola, Vera Farmiga, Ray Liotta, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Michael Gandolfini, and the just-cast Leslie Odom Jr. in the ensemble drama for New Line.” A bit more information about De Rossi can be found in Entertainment CheatSheet.

• I’ve been a fan of James McClure’s novels ever since college. Beginning with 1971’s The Steam Pig, this author—who died in 2006—composed eight police procedurals set in apartheid-era South Africa, all starring a racially mixed pair of sleuths, Afrikaan Lieutenant Tromp Kramer of the Murder and Robbery Squad and his Zulu assistant, Sergeant Mickey Zondi. If you haven’t yet discovered these works, definitely check out Neil Nyren’s briefing on his fiction.

• It was nice to see the 1986-1988 TV series Crime Story receive a little love recently from New York magazine’s Vulture site. Comparing that 1960s-set Michael Mann drama with another, better-known Mann project, Miami Vice, Nathan Smith opines:
Where Miami Vice brought the police procedural into the future—flashy clothes, big tunes, heaps of style—Crime Story went back in time, and even if it’s the lesser-known of the two series, it revolutionized the genre on a molecular level, whereas Miami Vice achieved the same only on the surface. Two decades before The Sopranos and The Wire, Crime Story was one of the very first serialized prime-time dramas to ditch the procedural format and tell a season-long story. …

Crime Story unlocked the gates for shows like Wiseguy, Twin Peaks, and The X-Files, the wayward step-children of the police procedural. Its gritty realism would be carried on by the likes of Homicide: Life on the Street and NYPD Blue. But its most important contribution, the three words “to be continued … ” at the end of every single episode, influenced nearly every subsequent drama on prime time. Though Crime Story wasn’t the first series to flash those words across the screen—every show from Dallas to The Brady Bunch had done a multi-episode arc—the idea of a story that continued seemingly without end or resolution in sight, was new.
• For your amusement, from Flavorwire:Classic Songs Reimagined as Vintage Pulp Book Covers.”

• During the mid-1960s, the American TV network NBC broadcast a 26-episode animated series called The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. It starred the popular elderly, short, and extremely near-sighted character Quincy Magoo (voiced by Jim Backus of Gilligan’s Island fame), who in this show played an actor appearing in abbreviated stage productions of classic works of fiction. “The series was originally shown in prime time …,” explains Wikipedia, “therefore certain more mature elements were present. These included death threats (William Tell, Robin Hood, Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, Sherlock Holmes), children in danger (Treasure Island, Gunga Din, William Tell), insanity (Don Quixote, Moby Dick), heroic self-sacrifice (Gunga Din), religious themes (Noah’s Ark), and realistic (although mostly bloodless) violence including swordplay, shooting, clubbing, drowning, and character deaths (most episodes).” I remember watching reruns of the episodes based on Frankenstein, Cyrano de Bergerac, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Count of Monte Cristo. But I’d forgotten until this last weekend that there was a Sherlock Holmes episode, featuring Magoo as the faithful Doctor John H. Watson. (Thank you to the Man from U.N.C.L.E.—Spies & Detectives Facebook page for reminding me.) The case undertaken in that episode, writes Scott Monty in his blog I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, “is a clever little mystery that includes touches of a number of Sherlock Holmes stories, including The Sign of Four, ‘The Speckled Band,’ ‘The Musgrave Ritual,’ and ‘The Six Napoleons’ to name a few.” Providing the voice of Holmes was actor Paul Frees, who also voiced antagonist Boris Badenov on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The episode is only 23 minutes long, and at least for the nonce, can be enjoyed here.

• This year’s Mystery Fest Key West won’t take place until late June, but its publicity minions are already heralding its scheduled components. This year’s headliner will be psychological suspense master Jeffery Deaver, with special host Heather Graham. And a Whodunit Mystery Writing Competition has been organized in association with the convention. From a news release: “Sponsored by Absolutely Amazing eBooks, candidates wishing to compete are invited to submit the first three pages (maximum 750 words) of a finished, but unpublished manuscript to whodunitaward@mysteryfestkeywest.com no later than April 15, 2019. There is no fee to enter; finalists will be notified by May 1, and will have until May 10 to submit full manuscripts.” You will find more news about the 2019 Mystery Fest here.

• There’s been a lot written of late about Jack the Ripper—not bad for a guy (presumably) whose claim to infamy dates back more than 130 years. Media reports in March suggested that DNA analysis had finally identified the Ripper as being “Aaron Kosminski, a 23-year-old barber of Polish descent who lived in London at the time [1888],” but was subsequently committed to an insane asylum. Proof, it was said, could be found in seminal fluid left behind on a shawl belonging to Catherine Eddowes, the killer’s fourth recorded victim. However, doubts were soon raised as to whether Eddowes had ever owned such a scarf, and whether DNA found upon it could be trusted, given that it would’ve been “handled by countless people over the years.” In the midst of these debates, British social historian Hallie Rubenhold’s latest work of non-fiction, The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, was published in the UK (with a U.S. edition due for release next week). The Guardian greeted the book as “a landmark study [that] calls time on the misogyny that fed the Jack the Ripper myth.” Reviewer Frances Wilson writes:
Few women have had the moment of their deaths returned to more often, and with as much relish, as Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. In each case their throats were cut, and four of them had their entrails removed. Kelly, the only one of “the canonical five”, as Jack the Ripper’s known victims are called, to die in her bed, was completely mutilated. Forests have been felled in the interests of unmasking the murderer, but until now no one has bothered to discover the identity of his victims. The Five is thus an angry and important work of historical detection, calling time on the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth.

It is astonishing how little we know about these five, apart from their names. Hallie Rubenhold fleshes out their stories from the scraps that are available: coroner’s inquests (three of which are missing); “a body of edited, embellished, misheard and re-interpreted newspaper reports”; parish registers; court registers; birth, marriage and death records; rate books and the archives of the London workhouses. For accounts of poverty in London she turns to Francis Place, Henry Mayhew and Charles Booth; she gets facts and figures from Mrs Beaton. With the documentary veracity of a set of Hogarth prints, Rubenhold follows the victims’ doomed footsteps from birth to death. Except that there is no attempt to imagine each woman’s last moments, or describe the state of her body, or further the search for their killer. Instead she asks how it is that these women—all of them somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s lover—ended up alone and destitute on the streets of Whitechapel.
Happy 80th birthday, Batman!

• Speaking of Gotham’s Caped Crusader, it seems his family’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, is about to get his own 1960s spy show, appropriately titled Pennyworth. The Double O Section informs us that “In the 10-episode drama series, Alfred Pennyworth (The Imitation Game’s Jack Bannon), described by Deadline as ‘a former British SAS soldier in his 20s,’ forms a private security company ‘and goes to work with young billionaire Thomas Wayne (Fleabag’s Ben Aldridge), who’s not yet Bruce’s father, in 1960s London.’” Pennyworth is set to premiere this summer on EPIX. By the way, that Double O Section post includes a very brief trailer for the series.

• In a new piece for CrimeReads, author Stephanie Jo Harris (The Poet Recusant) contends that Victor Hugo’s 1862 masterpiece, Les Miserables, both “created a model for police procedurals” and, in the person of Inspector Javert, gave us a “standard for the unyielding, driven law enforcement officer obsessed with justice.”

• I was surprised to learn, while reading Bill Selnes’ Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan, that Margot Kinberg “has decided to cease writing her blog,” Confessions of a Mystery Novelist. Selnes notes: “For almost 10 years Margot provided a daily post. By my calculations she wrote over 3,000 posts. She highlighted at least 500 different authors!” I would have included a link here to Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, so that people less than familiar with Kinberg’s work could check out what she had accomplished. However, it seems she’s not just stopped writing her blog, but has removed it entirely from the Web. What a shame, not only because good blogs like Kinberg’s can still provide useful information to readers, even when they’re no longer being updated, but because all of the links other blogs established to hers over the last decade are now broken. I have sifted through the full run of The Rap Sheet, scouting for links to Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, and have changed most of them to connect instead with pages in the Internet archive Wayback Machine, but a handful remain inoperative. I don’t mean to criticize Kinberg for her actions; I’m sure they made sense to her at the time. However, I really wish that when bloggers stop working on their sites, they would simply leave them dormant, rather than deleting them entirely.

• Maybe, though, I’m just more sensitive to these matters than most people. I cannot imagine deliberately scrubbing The Rap Sheet from the Web. I have put far too many hours of work into writing and editing this blog to see it all disappear. Unless the world experiences electronic catastrophe, I expect The Rap Sheet to outlast me.

• Despite its impersonal salutation (“Dear Journalists”), I was intrigued recently by a letter sent my way by Bloomsbury Publishing, promoting a forthcoming biography called Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan. The author is Buchan’s granddaughter, Ursula Buchan. Bloomsbury offered this brief on her work:
John Buchan’s name is known across the world for The Thirty-Nine Steps. In the past one hundred years the classic thriller has never been out of print and has inspired numerous adaptations for film, television, radio and stage, beginning with the celebrated version by Alfred Hitchcock.

Yet there was vastly more to “J.B.” He wrote more than a hundred books—fiction and non-fiction—and a thousand articles for newspapers and magazines. He was a scholar, antiquarian, barrister, colonial administrator, journal editor, literary critic, publisher, war correspondent, director of wartime propaganda, member of parliament and imperial proconsul—given a state funeral when he died, a deeply admired and loved Governor-General of Canada.

His teenage years in Glasgow’s Gorbals, where his father was the Free Church minister, contributed to his ease with shepherds and ambassadors, fur-trappers and prime ministers. His improbable marriage to a member of the aristocratic Grosvenor family means that this account of his life contains, at its heart, an enduring love story.
Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps is due out on June 18.

• An entirely different letter informed me that Crossroad Press, a North Carolina-based digital publishing venture, last month reissued the 1967 spy novel The Man from Pansy, by Don Rico. Now, you may be shocked to learn this, but I’d never heard of such a book or its star, Pentagon agent Buzz Cardigan. Crossroad helpfully characterized it as a “Swingin’ ’60s spy spoof—think James Bond with LOTS of snark—a time capsule for genre fans and fun for any reader.” What makes the three-book series distinctive, too, is that Cardigan (as in the sweater?) is “a dedicated straight spy [who] must take on the role of a gay man to root out enemies of the U.S. who lurk in the shadows of the sexual revolution.” In addition to The Man from Pansy, Crossroad has made its sequels, The Daisy Dilemma (1967) and The Passion Flower Puzzle (1968), available to Kindle users. If any Rap Sheet followers have read these novels, and can offer their opinions I hope they’ll do so.

Here’s another series that tried to capitalize on the 1960s interest in spy fiction, this one starring Dan Walker, “a businessman and former Naval Intelligence Officer who takes periodic assignments from the CIA where he saves the world and gets laid.”

• Chris Sullivan, who writes the blog Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, has created two YouTube playlists showcasing the music featured in all three TV series based on or inspired by Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse stories. If you click here, you can listen to either the opera music or the other classical music heard in all of those shows.

• More than a few fine author interviews have sprouted up on the Web recently. Among them are conversations with Joe R. Lansdale (The Elephant of Surprise), Betty Webb (Desert Redemption), Max Allan Collins (Girl Most Likely), Jacqueline Winspear (The American Agent), Harlan Coben (Run Away), Jane Stanton Hitchcock (Bluff), Tim O’Mara (Down to the River), Edith Maxwell (Charity’s Burden), Glen Erik Hamilton (Mercy River), and Megan Collins (The Winter Sister).

Along with so many others, The Rap Sheet’s Google+ page disappeared earlier today, never to be seen again.

• And though I’m not a big reader of spooky yarns, the new anthology Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense, edited by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus), certainly has me intrigued. That’s because it includes lesser-known stories by such authors as Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, and Mark Twain right alongside “overlooked works” by horror-fiction favorites such as Edgar Allan Poe and M.R. James. Co-editors Morton and Klinger introduce their collection with this essay.