Monday, February 18, 2019

“Always Closer Than Close to Trouble”

Since author Len Deighton is on our mind today, thanks to this being his 90th birthday, we thought it might be fun to post the theatrical trailer for the 1965 big-screen adaptation of his debut novel, The IPCRESS File (1962). Michael Caine stars in that film as Harry Palmer, “a British Army sergeant with a criminal past, now working for a Ministry of Defence organization,” to quote from Wikipedia.

READ MORE:The Sincerest Form of … What?” by J. Kingston Pierce (Killer Covers).

Deighton, Samson, and Fitting In

British espionage novelist Len Deighton (The IPCRESS File, Funeral in Berlin, SS-GB) turns 90 years old today. To help celebrate, Rob Mallows of The Deighton Dossier has collected a wide variety of remarks from the author’s fans addressing one particular question: What do Len Deighton’s books mean to you as a reader?

Among the comments is this one from Simon Hamid, described only as being somewhere in America, who makes clear that reading fiction can help people feel more comfortable in the world:
The first time I read Len Deighton’ s work I was a young student in graduate school, struggling to fit in. Being brought up across cultures and countries always made me a little unsure of myself, mainly because it seemed others were unsure of me. Or at least it seemed that way!

Reading about Bernard Samson’s life, his struggles and insecurities, and issues with acceptance, made me feel that I was not alone in feeling estranged. I loved the way the character made himself into a sort of working-class hero in his own mind. It allowed Bernie Samson to deal with the intrigues of the office, and also to feel a sense of purpose, as he could communicate across all social classes. He had a unique emotional understanding of people, if not of himself.

In the end, Len Deighton’s portrayal of Samson made me feel understood and more comfortable in my own skin. It finally seemed like there was a writer who could understand the isolation that comes from trying to fit in everywhere, and still remain selfishly unique. When I first became immersed in the initial Samson Trilogy … [
Berlin Game, Mexico Set, and London Match], I would often come across issues in real life and ask myself, “How would Bernie handle this?”

Thanks, Len! Your books have given me entertainment, but also consolation and contentment! Your writing made me realise, through fiction, that I was not alone in trying to live among different cultures, and that I could make my own space.
Click here to read more praise for Deighton’s work.

READ MORE:Happy Birthday, Len Deighton,” by Ayo Onatade (Shotsmag Confidential).

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Manning Up

While there are scads of books worth your paying attention to in 2019, two of the potentially most interesting are due out this coming summer. The first of those is Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre (PM Press), a couple of Australian writers who also gave us 2017’s Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980. Amazon says Sticking It to the Man “tracks the changing politics and culture of the period and how it was reflected in pulp and popular fiction in the U.S., UK, and Australia.
Featuring 400 full-color covers, the book includes in-depth author interviews, illustrated biographies, articles, and reviews from more than 30 popular culture critics and scholars. Works by street-level hustlers turned best-selling black writers Iceberg Slim, Nathan Heard and Donald Goines, crime heavyweights Chester Himes, Ernest Tidyman and Brian Garfield, Yippies Anita Hoffman and Ed Sanders, and best-selling authors such as Alice Walker, Patricia Nell Warren and Rita Mae-Brown, plus a myriad of lesser-known novelists ripe for rediscovery, are explored, celebrated, and analyzed.
Among the contributors to this 336-page volume are Gary Phillips, Woody Haut, Steve Aldous, and yours truly (though I am misidentified on Amazon as “J. Kingston Smith”—Nette assures me that my byline is correct in the finished book). My article in Sticking It to the Man is a significant expansion of a piece I wrote for Killer Covers about songwriter-composer Joseph Perkins Greene, who published half a dozen novels starring Richard Abraham Spade, a particularly seductive troubleshooter nicknamed Superspade. As I explain, Greene’s Spade—introduced in Death of a Blue-Eyed Soul Brother (1970)—“briefly rivaled Ernest Tidyman’s better-known fictional private eye, John Shaft, as the baddest, blackest, and most beautiful crime solver of the 1970s.”

Sticking It to the Man is due out on August 1.

The other work I’m most looking forward to getting my hands on this summer is The Best of Manhunt, edited by Jeff Vorzimmer (Stark House Press). Again from Amazon comes this description:
First appearing on newsstands in late 1952, Manhunt was the acknowledged successor to Black Mask, which had ceased publication the year before, as the venue for high-quality crime fiction. By April of 1956 it was being billed as the World’s Best-Selling Crime-Fiction Magazine. On its pages, over its 14-year run, appeared a veritable Who s Who of the world s greatest mystery writers including: Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane, Richard Deming, Jonathan Craig, Hal Ellison, Robert Turner, Jack Ritchie, Frank Kane, Craig Rice, Fletcher Flora, Talmage Powell, Richard S. Prather, David Alexander, Harold Q. Masur, Gil Brewer, Helen Nielsen, Erskine Caldwell, Henry Slesar, David Goodis, Lawrence Block, John D. MacDonald, Clark Howard, Fredric Brown, Donald E. Westlake, Harlan Ellison, Harry Whittington and Steve Frazee. The Best of Manhunt includes 39 of the original stories …
None other than Lawrence Block himself penned the foreword to The Best of Manhunt (which should not be confused with this much earlier book); Barry N. Malzberg concocted an afterword. Vorzimmer’s introduction to “the tortured history of the magazine” was just posted in the Mystery*File blog, and its sure to draw some attention to the 392-page book in advance of its July 29 release.

Passion and Persistence Pay Off

I had only vaguely noticed recently that The Thrill Begins, a Web publication associated with the International Thriller Writers organization, had launched a series it calls “The Advocates.” The idea, I gather, is for crime and mystery writers to celebrate people who support and inspire the larger genre community.

The first person to be cheered in this new series was blogger and small-press supporter David Nemeth. And then today, university English professor and author Art Taylor devoted his tribute to editor-blogger Janet Rudolph … and me. Yes, that’s right: I woke up to some pretty hearty applause from Taylor, who I know from running into him occasionally at Bouchercons. He remarks, in part:
Janet’s blog, Mystery Fanfare, and J. Kingston Pierce’s blog, The Rap Sheet, each have their own flavor. Janet’s is the go-to spot for lists of holiday mysteries (Happy Valentine’s Day! Find your books here!) and she’s always quick to post a clever cartoon. But both Janet and Jeff stay on top of major mystery news, and Jeff’s “bullet points” editions of The Rap Sheet are must-reads for their encyclopedic coverage of all corners of the mystery world, culling fascinating bits from other blogs—and his blogroll is one of the most extensive I’ve ever seen. This past weekend’s round-up covered television (Columbo, Endeavour, and the new series Gone, based on a Chelsea Cain novel), film (adaptations of Agatha Christie and Stephen King), music (the soundtrack from the short-lived ’70s series Archer), announcements of forthcoming books (Kate Atkinson, Ann Cleeves, James Ellroy), a flurry of author interviews (too many to list), news from the publishing world (the fresh imprints Scarlet and Agora), and much more—including, not incidentally, an announcement about the latest issue of Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Readers Journal.

The Rap Sheet features a couple of ongoing series speaking directly to the theme here: 158 installments so far of “The Book You Have to Read,” with today’s authors and readers revisiting forgotten titles, and 82 entries so far in “The Story Behind the Story,” with writers offering glimpses at the inspirations and artistic processes behind their own works. Several times a year, Jeff offers comprehensive lists of forthcoming titles in both the U.S. and the U.K., focusing on both the major publishing houses and the small presses. Together, these initiatives offer shout-outs to mysteries past, present, and future.

The Rap Sheet has been a passion project of Jeff’s for nearly 13 years now, but his work isn’t confined to the blog. He’s also a long-time editor at January Magazine; he runs a second blog, Killer Covers, focused on classic cover designs; he covered mysteries and thrillers for six years for Kirkus; and he’s now contributing long-form essays to CrimeReads, too.
(Again, the full piece can be read here.)

Although I don’t usually like to toot my own horn, or have others blow fanfares on my behalf, I’m very heartened by Taylor’s comments. The nature of my work is, on the whole, solitary, and outside of occasional cheers from editors to whom I submit my essays and interviews, I rarely hear from “satisfied customers” who read The Rap Sheet, Killer Covers, and the stories I’ve placed elsewhere. But a little validation of my efforts now and then helps to keep my enthusiasm up for the writing I have come to love so much. Thank you, Art. And congratulations as well to Janet Rudolph.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Griffin Gone

The Real Book Spy’s Twitter page alerts us to the news that William E. Butterworth III—better known as military thriller writer “W.E.B. Griffin”—has died at age 89, following a lengthy battle with cancer. An obituary on his Facebook page recalls:
While his body of work includes more than 250 books published under more than a dozen pseudonyms, he is best known as W.E.B. Griffin, the #1 best-selling author of nearly 60 epic novels in seven series, all of which have made The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and other best-seller lists. More than fifty million of the books are in print in more than ten languages, including Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and Hungarian.

Mr. Butterworth’s first novel,
Comfort Me with Love, was published in 1959. The delivery-and-acceptance check from the publisher paid the hospital bill for the birth of his first son, who two decades ago began editing the Griffin best-sellers and then became co-author of them.
More biographical information is available here. A memorial service honoring his life and career is expected to held next month at Saint Francis at the Point Anglican Church in Point Clear, Alabama.”

Revue of Reviewers, 2-13-19

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

Down & Out Still Up and Running

Over the last few weeks, I have received several notes asking me about the future of Down & Out: The Magazine. That handsome, perfect-bound quarterly debuted in August 2017, and the most recent issue—Volume 1, Issue 4—came out in August 2018. Had the publication adhered to its previous schedule, the fifth edition should have appeared in December of last year. But it didn’t, which concerned both readers and the mag’s contributors (including yours truly).

So what gives? I sent a message yesterday to editor Rick Ollerman, asking for an update on the publication’s future. Here’s his reply:
Down & Out: The Magazine has fallen into a delay along with the health of its editor. Work on Volume 2, Issue 1 is significantly completed, but a form of pneumonia has taken its toll on the human element. We’re off schedule due to illness, a serious one, but nothing more nefarious than that. The magazine is more alive than its editor, but we hope that situation will begin to stabilize itself some point soon.
Eric Campbell, the publisher of Down & Out Books, tells me that an e-mail message was distributed to the magazine’s subscribers “about 30 days ago,” alerting them to the next issue’s delay, but no broader announcement was made. Until now.

I’m pleased to hear that the delay in releasing this periodical’s next edition doesn’t portend anything serious. I have very much enjoyed Down & Out: The Magazine and my association with it (I write a regular non-fiction column, most recently about Jack the Ripper novels). Let’s all wish for Ollerman’s imminent recovery.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tuesday Ragbag

• It seemed almost inevitable that The President Is Missing, a 2018 thriller by former president Bill Clinton and bestselling scribe James Patterson, would become a Hollywood property. And sure enough, In Reference to Murder now reports that “Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie and Anthony Peckham have boarded … the [Showtime] drama series adaptation of the novel.” As Deadline Hollywood explains, the story centers on “a powerless and politically aimless Vice President [who] unexpectedly becomes President halfway into his administration’s first term, despite his every wish to the contrary. He walks right into a secret, world-threatening crisis, both inside and outside the White House. Attacked by both friends and enemies alike, with scandal and conspiracy swirling around him, he is confronted with a terrible choice: keep his head down, toe the party line and survive, or act on his stubborn, late-developing conscience and take a stand.” See what I mean about the yarn being Hollywood bait?

The President Is Missing is just one of many “political suspense novels featuring current presidents, future presidents, or their wives as the victims, perpetrators, or solvers of crimes,” as I explained in one of my first pieces for CrimeReads last year.

• With just a few days left before Valentine’s Day, Mystery Fanfare has updated its extensive roster of “sweetheart sleuths.”

Finally, PBS-TV’s Masterpiece series has announced that the British TV mystery drama Endeavour, starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam, will return for its four-episode sixth season in the States on June 16. Meanwhile, the show (inspired by Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels) is already being broadcast in the UK, and The Killing Times has a review of episode one that reveals where the characters find themselves working as the story charges forward.

• In addition, The Killing Times offers this review of episode one in the fifth season of Shetland. That BBC One crime drama, which stars Douglas Henshall and is based on a succession of novels by Ann Cleeves, returned to UK TV sets this evening.

• It was a year ago today, on the evening of February 12, 2018, that Texas novelist and blogger Bill Crider passed away after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. He was 76 years old.

• More recently, actor Joseph Sirola—who I remember best from his regular appearances on Bill Bixby’s The Magician as Dominick, an employee at Los Angeles’ Magic Castle nightclub—died in New York City at age 89. The Spy Command reminds us that Sirola “played villains in second-, third- and fourth-season episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “portrayed U.S. spymaster Jonathan Kaye in five episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O series.” According to his IMDb filmography, Sirola’s half-century-long career also included roles on Perry Mason, The Green Hornet, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Mannix, The Rockford Files, and NYPD Blue. Sirola played the family patriarch on a 1975 NBC-TV comedy called The Montefuscos, and Jack Scalia’s father on the 1989-1990 CBS private eye series Wolf.

• Ex-policeman David Swinson talks with MysteryPeople about Trigger, his third novel starring Frank Marr, “a private detective who is also a drug addict.” And Lauren Wilkinson, author of the new novel American Spy, submits to an interview by Electric Literature.

• Lee Goldberg recalls in CrimeReads how he discovered Ralph Dennis’ underappreciated Hardman series of Atlanta-set private-eye yarns, and how he has brought them back into print for a new audience through his independent publishing company, Brash Books. “The new editions,” writes Goldberg, “all 12 of which will be out before the end of 2019, also include deeply personal, and often very moving, ‘afterword’ essays by some of Ralph’s oldest friends and former students, giving readers a unique perspective on the man and a deeper appreciation of his work. There are also essays by some novelists who love the Hardman books and are almost as addicted to them as I am. I say ‘almost’ because I can safely say none of those writers has it quite as bad as me … or would have gone to the lengths I have to feed it. First, I became a publisher and now I’ve become Ralph Dennis, at least as far as his literary life is concerned.”

• Literary Hub’s Emily Temple cites10 Specialty Bookshops That Are Definitely Worth a Visit.” I’m surprised to realize that I have patronized half of them. My life seems somehow more complete now …

• And it looks as if plans to turn Erik Larson’s 2003 non-fiction book, The Devil in the White City, into a small-screen series have found new life, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese signing on to produce the Hulu-TV project. As Variety notes, “DiCaprio acquired the rights [to the novel] nearly a decade ago with plans to adapt it as a film in which he would star,” but the picture never came together, and DiCaprio’s option lapsed. “The Devil in the White City is yet another pricey, long-delayed adaptation to be rescued from development hell,” says the Los Angeles Times. “A series adaptation of The Alienist, also produced by Paramount Television, finally made it to TNT last year, 24 years after the novel was first published.”

Sunday, February 10, 2019

PaperBack: “The Coyote Connection”

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

The Coyote Connection, by Bill Crider and Jack Davis writing under the “house name” Nick Carter (Ace Charter, 1981). Cover illustration by George Gross, whose art also appeared on several other Nick Carter adventures, including this one.

I launched The Rap Sheet’s “PaperBack” series one year ago today. Actually, I adopted it from Bill Crider’s long-running blog, where it had been a popular feature since at least the fall of 2010. At the time of its debut here, Crider—the 76-year-old author of a humor-tinged mystery series starring Sheriff Dan Rhodes—had recently gone into hospice care at his home in Alvin, Texas, for what he described as a “very aggressive” form of prostate cancer. When introducing the “PaperBack” series to The Rap Sheet, I wrote that I intended it to be “my small way of extending his legacy.” I had no idea Crider would pass away just two days later, on February 12, 2018.

In The Rap Sheet’s first “PaperBack” entry, I confided, “I don’t know how long this project will continue, and I will not be posting these façades on a daily basis (as Crider did), but I’ve given myself a full year to experiment with this idea.” Well, those 12 months have now run their course, and my experience with continuing the series has been nothing short of delightful. I haven’t received as many responses to my work as Crider won (likely because I have nowhere near as many friends and fans as he could claim), but it’s given me joy to know that a bit of Bill lives on here.

(Left) A 1982 French edition of The Coyote Connection, published by Presses de la Cité, with cover art by Loris.

Today’s series entry focuses on The Coyote Connection, a contribution Crider made to the 261-book-strong Nick Carter-Killmaster line. His only contribution, it should be mentioned. As the author once explained in an interview with The Eerie Digest,
I wrote that one in collaboration with a man named Jack Davis … He was working with Allied Van Lines, and he’d noticed that a lot of the employees were reading books in the Nick Carter series. He told me he thought we could write one. He described the series as “James Bond for truck drivers.” It sounded like fun, so we gave it a try. Much to my surprise, it was accepted, and the editor really liked it. Unfortunately, the editor left the publishing house, and that ended our Nick Carter career.
It wasn’t more than two or three years after The Coyote Connection was released, that Crider produced the first of his Sheriff Rhodes novels, Too Late to Die (1986), and sold it to editor Ruth Cavin, who was then with Walker Books. His 25th and final tale in the series, That Old Scoundrel Death, is due out from Minotaur on February 19.

As I embark on the second year of “PaperBack” posts, let me promise you many more beautiful and intriguing works to come.

But of course, you expected no less.

And Harry Palmer Sends His Regards

Len Deighton, the British author of such acclaimed espionage novels as The IPCRESS File (1962), Funeral in Berlin (1964), and SS-GB (1978), will celebrate his 90th birthday on February 18.

In advance of that occasion, Rob Mallows of The Deighton Dossier has started posting his own thoughts, as well as those of other fans, on what Deighton’s impact has been on readers. He’s launched a special Twitter Moment page, “which captures the regular tweets that have been going up containing snippets from some of his best-known books and reader responses to them …” And, come the 19th, he’ll post a larger tribute on the main Deighton Dossier Web site.

Will We See More of Morse?

As the ITV prequel show Endeavour begins its four-episode, Series 6 run in Britain tonight, blogger Chris Sullivan picks up the text of a new story from The Oxford Times. It quotes Shaun Evans, who plays Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse on the show, saying:
“ITV has asked us to do another series, but they only
asked us on Friday.

“I think it’s important for us to get together and have
a chat about it, just to see what the story is, see where the story goes.

“By the end of this [season], I move into the flat that
Morse ends up living in [in the original 1987-2000 show,
Inspector Morse]. By the end of it I certainly put down roots, so I wonder what that means?”
Sullivan notes that “ITV bosses have yet to confirm the seventh series will go ahead.” Still, Evans’ remarks certainly suggest that the prospects of more episodes are favorable.

READ MORE:Endeavour Series 6 Episode 1 Review: A New Era Begins,” by Gem Wheeler (Den of Geek); “Endeavour: S6Ep1, “Pylon.” Review + Locations, Literary References, Music, Etc. Spoilers,” by Chris Sullivan (Morse, Lewis and Endeavour).

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Bullet Points: Hunkered Down Edition

It’s been more than a couple of months since I’ve taken on the task of  compiling crime-fiction news bits that don’t necessarily merit posts of their own ... which means I have a lot of information to impart. Fortunately, Seattle is heavily socked in with snow today, so I have little interest in spending much time outside in the cold. Better to snug in with a cup of coffee and my computer keyboard. Let us begin ...

• Lisbeth Salander fans, take note: BookRiot reports that “An unseen investigation by Stieg Larsson, the late journalist and author of the Millennium Trilogy, has come to light and will be revealed in a new true-crime book. Larsson was a leading expert on antidemocratic, right-wing, extremist organizations.” The site goes on to synopsize the plot of the new book, which is due out from AmazonCrossing in October:
On February 28, 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot dead in Stockholm. The crime is still unsolved today. It’s now known that Larsson began his own investigation into the assassination—continuing the search until his own death. In 2014, journalist and documentary filmmaker, Jan Stocklassa gained access to the 20 boxes of Larsson’s research into the case.
To quote from an associated press release:
In The Man Who Played with Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin, Stocklassa reveals new facts about the case and reveals the hitherto unknown research of the best-selling author in a fascinating true crime story. For the first time in many years, the police in Sweden have taken active measures to investigate a new suspect in the murder case and are pursuing leads based on the research revealed in Stocklassa’s book.
• What matters most is making money, right? The New Yorker reported recently that Dan Mallory, the book editor turned author who—as “A.J. Finn”—penned last year’s best-selling The Woman in the Window, has made a variety of false assertions regarding his health, his education, and his career achievements. Mallory has since sought to excuse his actions, but his deceptions have left many folks in the publishing industry wary of the author. In The Washington Post, critic Ron Charles wrote: “If James Frey taught us anything with his infamous memoir, it’s that autobiographical claims can collapse into a million little pieces of exaggeration and deception. Mallory’s situation is different, though, if more bizarre. How do we reconsider a work of fiction—or any work of art—when confronted with troubling information about its creator?” Despite all of this controversy, Mallory’s publisher, HarperCollins, says it is holding firm on plans to bring out his sophomore novel in January 2020—a San Francisco-set yarn The New Yorker describes as “a story of revenge … involving a female thriller writer and an interviewer who learns of a dark past.”

Julie Adams, an Iowa-born actress who co-starred opposite an amphibious “Gill man” in the 1954 movie The Creature from the Black Lagoon before going on to a long and prolific TV career, passed away in Los Angeles on February 3 at age 92. Among her many television roles were appearances on Hawaiian Eye, Perry Mason, Darren McGavin’s The Outsider, Ironside, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Ellery Queen, Mannix, Cagney & Lacey, Murder, She Wrote, and Diagnosis: Murder. An interesting tidbit: Adams’ fleeting first marriage was to Leonard B. Stern, a screenwriter and producer responsible for such memorable series as Get Smart, McMillan & Wife, and The Snoop Sisters.

Via Shotsmag Confidential comes news that Karin Slaughter’s 2018 novel, Pieces of Her, will become an eight-episode Netflix series directed—at least initially—by Lesli Linka Glatter. “The story,” explains the blog (quoting from a press release), “follows as an adrift young woman’s conception of her mother is forever changed after a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall together suddenly explodes into violence. As figures from her mother’s past start to resurface, she is forced to go on the run and on that journey, begins to piece together the truth of her mother’s previous identity and uncovers secrets of her childhood.”

• With Series 6 of Endeavour scheduled to debut in Great Britain tomorrow, February 10, ITV Magazine—a consumer periodical just launched last month by the show’s principal broadcasting network—has published a rather satisfying article about what viewers can expect from Endeavour’s latest four episodes. Chris Sullivan has posted scans of that piece in his blog, Morse, Lewis and Endeavour. Meanwhile, he has embedded a new morning TV show interview with a bushy-bearded Roger Allam, who plays Detective Chief Inspector Fred Thursday on the program opposite Shaun Evans, starring as Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse.

From B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder:
USA Network has picked up to series its drama pilot Dare Me, based on Megan Abbott’s 2012 novel of the same name. Set in the world of competitive high school cheerleading, it follows the fraught relationship between two best friends (Herizen Guardiola and Mario Kelly) after a new coach (Willa Fitzgerald) arrives to bring their team to prominence. While the girls’ friendship is put to the test, their young lives are changed forever when a shocking crime rocks their quiet suburban world.
• Lawson also reports that “ABC has ordered the drama pilot Stumptown, inspired by the graphic novels published by Oni Press. It follows Dex Parios, a strong, assertive, and unapologetically sharp-witted Army veteran working as a P.I. in Portland, Oregon. With a complicated personal history and only herself to rely on, she solves other people’s messes with a blind eye toward her own.”

• As an unflagging fan of Lou Grant, the 1977-1982 CBS-TV series starring Ed Asner as the sometimes crusty city editor of a fictional Southern California daily newspaper called the Los Angeles Tribune, I was pleased to discover at least the vast majority of that show’s episodes are available for free on YouTube. The picture quality is sometimes less than ideal, but until I drop the dough for Shout! Factory’s DVD releases of all five seasons, it’s probably the best I can expect. If you want to learn more about this drama series—which was a spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show—check out The Canonical Lou Grant Episode Guide. And I’ve added the main title sequences from the first three seasons of Lou Grant to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page.

• Speaking of vintage shows, The Spy Command alerts me to the fact that La-La Land Records will soon release “Jerry Goldsmith[‘s] music to a mostly forgotten 1975 TV show, Archer.” Wikipedia explains that this is “a limited-edition soundtrack containing the one episode … Goldsmith scored (paired with a re-issue of the score to the film Warning Shot, from newly discovered better elements).” If you, too, have difficulties remembering Archer, let me point out that it was a short-lived NBC mid-season replacement series starred Brian Keith (Family Affair) as L.A. private investigator Lew Archer, the character so masterfully developed over three decades by Ross Macdonald. Keith’ show wasn’t awful, without ever being really good; I much preferred Peter Graves’ portrayal of the same protagonist in an unsuccessful 1974 TV pilot based on one of Macdonald’s later yarns, The Underground Man. And though, as one TV critic observed, Keith was mustered up “weary cynicism” enough to play Archer, he did not seem to respect the source material. In fact, Keith even had visions of moving the series’ setting from the City of Angels to Honolulu! Regardless, I’d like to get my hands on the six episodes of Archer that were originally broadcast, if only for nostalgic reasons. I might even be willing to purchase La-La Land’s presumably high-quality cut of Goldsmith’s Archer theme, if only because the version I have—and which is featured in The Spy Command’s post—is terrible.

(Above) J. Kingston Pierce and Chelsea Cain enjoy a bit of fun at Bouchercon 2011, high above St. Louis’ Gateway Arch.

• I have many fond memories of attending Bouchercon 2011, which took place in St. Louis, Missouri. But one of the few captured on film was my meeting with Portland, Oregon, author Chelsea Cain, who turned out to be personable, downright funny, and nowhere near as dark-spirited a woman as her fiction might suggest. So I was pleased to read that her 2014 novel, One Kick, has been adapted as a 12-part TV series titled Gone, scheduled for broadcast on WGN America, beginning on 9 p.m. ET/PT on Wednesday, February 27. Deadline Hollywood sums up the plot this way: “Gone follows the story of Kit ‘Kick’ Lannigan ([played by] Leven Rambin), survivor of a highly publicized child-abduction case, and 20-year veteran Frank Novak ([Chris]Noth), the FBI agent who rescued her. Years later, he recruits her to join a special task force dedicated to solving abductions and missing-persons cases. Paired with former Army intelligence officer John Bishop (Danny Pino), Lannigan uses her intuitive wit and martial arts skills to solve cases and bring victims home.”

• Yet another Agatha Christie yarn appears due for big-screen treatment, with a possible 2020 release date. The Killing Times reports that UK screenwriter Sarah Phelps (The A.B.C. Murders, Murder by Innocence, And Then There Were None) “has signed up to adapt Christie’s [1961] stand-alone novel, The Pale Horse.”

• Also to be filmed: Stephen King’s Mile 81.

• Ann Cleeves closed out her nine-volume Shetland Islands/Jimmy Perez series with last year’s Wild Fire. Fear not, though, for EuroCrime says she’s “turning her hand to a new series set in Devon.” The first of those new books, introducing Detective Matthew Venn, will be The Long Call, due out from Minotaur in September.

• Two other far-off releases to watch for: Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky (Little, Brown), her fifth novel starring Cambridge private eye Jackson Brodie, is scheduled for publication on both sides of the Atlanticin June; and Anne Perry will inaugurate a brand-new, pre-World War II series, starring “intrepid photographer” Elena Standish, with the September release Death in Focus (Ballantine).

• Before we leave Ann Cleeves too far behind, a reminder should be issued that Series 5 of Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, will debut in the UK on BBC One next Tuesday, February 12. There’s no word yet n when those six new episodes will become available to Netflix users in the States.

• Among the digital audio series CrimeReads contributing editor Emily Stein showcases on her list of the “8 True-Crime Podcasts to Listen to in 2019” is The Murder Book, which premiered on January 28, and which Stein says “is the first podcast produced by bestselling crime novelist Michael Connelly.” She continues:
In Season 1, “The Tell Tale Bullet,” Connelly returns to his roots as a crime beat reporter to investigate a real, 30-year-old cold case of a fatal carjacking in Hollywood, and of a murderer who walked free. Connelly promises that every season of Murder Book will end with a crime solved; to get there, he employs a wide array of sources, including court recordings, wiretaps, and interviews with witnesses and detectives.

Complete with hardboiled narration and a jazzy soundtrack,
Murder Book is the perfect podcast both for fans of true crime, and fans of classic noir. It also takes a serious look at the limitations and flaws of our criminal justice system, which leaves the listener with the unavoidable impression that in the past three decades, far too little has changed.
Listen to Connelly’s episodes on the Murder Book Web site or via Apple Podcasts. Full transcripts of each installment are also available on the Web site. New episodes drop every Monday for 10 or 12 weeks.

• One podcast that isn’t mentioned in Stein’s wrap-up is We Never Solved Anything. No, I’d never heard of it either, until its hosts e-mailed me an invitation to listen. As they explain, “It is a funny podcast where we explore a new unsolved mystery theme each week such as serial killers, spontaneous human combustion, and medical mystery stories.” Find the 11 existing episode here.

• Literary Hub’s Emily Temple chooses10 Contemporary ‘Dickensian’ Novels,” including Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (2013), Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith (2002), and Peter Carey’s The True History of the Kelly Gang (2001).

• “A great teacher is a gift. A great line editor is a miracle,” declares Nick Ripatrazone, a staff writer for The Millions.

• The Winter 2018/2019 edition of Mystery Readers Journal—built around the theme “Mystery in the American South—“is available now as a PDF and will shortly be available in hardcopy …,” writes editor Janet Rudolph. “We had so many articles, author essays, and reviews, that we had to split this themed issue into two.” A list of contents for this new issue, plus info on buying a copy, can be found here.

• I periodically like to revisit episodes from the classic NBC Mystery Movie series Columbo. Knowing whodunit, and sometimes remembering exactly how the rumpled Los Angeles police lieutenant pins the blame, doesn’t spoil the re-watching one iota. Not long ago I came across this piece The Columbophile, revealing which four among the almost 70 episodes of that show were star Peter Falk’s favorites. “It might come as a surprise to fans,” writes the blog’s anonymous editor, “that pivotal episodes ‘Etude in Black’ and ‘Murder by the Book’ don’t feature here—particularly ‘Etude,’ which starred Falk’s BFF John Cassavetes. Instead, all of Falk’s personal favourites come from Seasons 3 or 5, when the show was more firmly established. Notably, three of the four are from Season 5 alone. What does this tell us? Well for one thing it suggests that Falk was at his happiest in the crumpled raincoat once he had a couple of full seasons under his belt.”

• As we prepare for the June release of James Ellroy’s This Storm (Knopf)—book two in his “Second L.A. Quartet” (following 2014’s Perfidia)—Steve Powell, a British student of that author’s work, feels compelled to ask, “is James Ellroy losing his touch?” Writing in his blog, The Venetian Vase, Powell continues: “I’ve decided to broach the subject as the critical response to Ellroy’s last novel Perfidia was mixed, as were the reviews for his novel before that Blood’s a Rover. … I’ve sensed a certain weariness about Ellroy’s recent efforts when I talk with fans of the author. … So Ellroy cannot expect his new novel, This Storm, to be met with universal acclaim as critical opinion has started to shift. In fact, the opposite may be the case. Ellroy may have to win back some critics who are getting cynical about the author’s once unassailable reputation.”

• What a terrific couple of short-story titles, from classic crime-fiction magazines found here and here. On top of that, both of these publications feature cover art by the great Norman Saunders.

• Mystery Tribune chooses the “45 Best Cozy Mystery Novels.”

• New York bookshop proprietor and anthologist Otto Penzler continues to count down what he contends are the “Greatest Crime Films of All-Time.” Most recently he has considered The Ipcress File (1965), The Kennel Murder Case (1933), and The Glass Key (1942). Keep track of this developing series here.

• While we’re on the subject of Penzler, it should be mentioned that he will be partnering with Pegasus Books to launch Scarlet, an imprint “specializing in psychological suspense aimed at female readers.” Publishers Weekly explains: “The new venture has [tapped] Luisa Smith, longtime buying director at Book Passage, a Corte Madera, Ca., bookstore, to be Scarlet editor-in-chief. Nat Sobel, founder of the Nat Sobel Associates literary agency, will act as a consultant to the imprint. Scarlet will launch in winter 2020 with six to eight titles. The Scarlet list will be distributed by W.W. Norton, which also distributes the titles of its parent companies, Penzler Publishing and Pegasus Books.” Although there’s been some grumbling about the name Scarlet being applied to a literary line intended to promote women’s fiction and female authors (shades of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter!), and Penzler’s heated objections to the Mystery Writers of America’s decision to deny Linda Fairstein a Grand Master Award due to her involvement in a 1990 New York City rape-case prosecution left some authors questioning his compassion toward women, I look forward to seeing what Scarlet can contribute to the already rich field of psychological suspense novels.

• A similarly promising venture comes from Polis Books, which has announced the creation of Agora, an imprint designed to “focus on diverse voices, putting out between six and ten books per year.” Chantelle Aimée Osman will serve as the editor of this line, which plans to begin releasing books in the fall of 2019. Read more here.

• I’m not a big social-media user, but over the years I have established a Rap Sheet presence on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Google+. Now it appears that last page is set to vanish forever. I was recently given this warning:
In December 2018, we announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations. We want to thank you for being part of Google+ and provide next steps, including how to download your photos and other content.

On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

The process of deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts, Google+ Pages, and Album Archive will take a few months, and content may remain through this time. For example, users may still see parts of their Google+ account via activity log and some consumer Google+ content may remain visible to G Suite users until consumer Google+ is deleted.
I don’t remember when I signed up for Google+, but I know I only did so because fellow blogger Bill Crider already had. Thankfully, my contributions to The Rap Sheet’s page there have been minimal. I’ll keep updating it for as long as possible, but if you notice that the Google+ link available from the right-hand column of this blog disappears in the next couple of months, you’ll know why.

• In its latest look back at Edgar Award winners of the past, Criminal Element revisits one of my favorite private-eye novels of the past: 1958’s The Eighth Circle, by Stanley Ellin. Sadly, critic Joe Brosnan is too rigid in applying our modern social and sexual sensibilities to a work that was penned more than six decades ago.

• TV fandom is no crazier today than it’s always been. According to this 1959 newspaper report, overenthusiastic followers of the 1958-1964 ABC private-eye series 77 Sunset Strip flocked to the Los Angeles site that stood in for the agency’s offices.

• Finally, here are a few author interviews worth checking out: Jane Harper talks with The New York Times about her new Australia-set crime novel, The Lost Man; Christobel Kent chats with CrimeReads about What We Did; Speaking of Mysteries host Nancie Clare goes one-on-one with H.B. Lyle (The Red Ribbon), Val McDermid (Broken Ground), and James Rollins (Crucible); Ronald H. Balson answers questions from Crimespree Magazine’s Elise Cooper about The Girl from Berlin; and Laura K. Benedict discusses The Stranger Inside with Criminal Element’s John Valeri.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Angry Perhaps, but Definitely Accomplished

I’m sorry to hear that British actor Albert Finney died yesterday at age 82. Variety says he had been battling kidney cancer, though the proximate cause of his demise was a chest infection.

Finney—sometimes referred to as “Hollywood’s original ‘angry young man’”—“had a long career, beginning in the 1950s and concluding with 2012’s Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film,” recalls The Spy Command. “He was nominated five times for an Oscar, including for his performances in 1963’s Tom Jones and 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express.” In the latter of those motion pictures, Finney starred—quite brilliantly, I thought—as Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot. (Variety mentions that author Christie “reportedly thought Finney’s the best portrayal of her detective hero.”) Among Finney’s other best-known crime-drama roles, he starred as a psychopathic killer in the 1964 movie Night Must Fall, as a wannabe P.I. in 1971’s Gumshoe, and as Irish mobster and political sachem Leo O’Bannon in the 1990 Coen Brothers picture, Miller's Crossing.

Britain’s Daily Mirror notes that Finney declined the honor of a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000, saying, “I think the ‘Sir’ thing slightly perpetuates one of our diseases in England, which is snobbery.”

READ MORE:The Late Great Albert Finney,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts).

Violence and Valentines

With Valentine’s Day coming right up (next Thursday, February 14—don’t dare forget!), Mystery Fanfare has updated its lengthy inventory of mystery and crime novels (plus a number of short stories) that incorporate this annual celebration of romance in their plots.

Popular Pages Out of the Past

Readers wishing to expand their familiarity with older crime, mystery, and thriller fiction would do well to check out Crime Thriller Hound’s “Book of the Years” listings. It doesn’t appear that this Web site’s choices have been made strictly according to numbers of award wins, but rather by some more idiosyncratic methodology, which has nonetheless produced valuable results. Especially interesting are the year-by-year selections for the 19th century (a few of which—like Emile Gaboriau’s In Deadly Peril [1873]—were new to me), though other readers may be drawn, instead, to works published from 1900 to 1949, from 1950 to 1999, or from 2000 to 2018.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

The Story Behind the Story:
“Borderland,” by Peter Eichstaedt

(Editor’s note: This is the 82nd entry in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series. Today’s essay comes from Peter Eichstaedt, now a Colorado-based author and veteran journalist who has reported from locations worldwide, including Afghanistan, Albania, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus. He attended the University of the Americas in Mexico City and lived and labored as a journalist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for more than 20 years. He worked most recently as the Afghanistan Country Director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Kabul. Enemy of the People, a sequel to his first novel, Borderland [2017], is due out this coming spring from WildBlue Press.)

About two years ago, I opened the sort of e-mail message writers dream of receiving—an acceptance letter for a novel I’d toiled over for years.

The letter was from WildBlue Press, an independent publisher based in my hometown of Denver, Colorado. A small, aggressive outfit focused on true crime, along with a selection of mysteries and thrillers, WildBlue agreed to publish my thriller, Borderland.

When I received my 10 complementary author copies of that paperbound novel, with its western-themed cover complete with shadowy organ pipe cactus, I realized I had achieved a lifelong dream to publish a novel.

I’ve spent my career as a journalist; I wrote my first story for the local country weekly newspaper at age 16. No surprise, then, that my fiction draws heavily from reality, and that was certainly the case with Borderland.

* * *

A little history is in order.

Not long after the publication in 1994 of my first non-fiction book—If You Poison Us (Red Crane), which revealed the devastation caused by unbridled uranium mining on Navajo lands—I grabbed a gig consulting for a land developer on the U.S.-Mexico border, just west of El Paso, Texas.

The project included housing, business and industrial sites, warehouses, and a port of entry. As I looked from the construction plans to the nearby border—nothing but a barbed-wire fence shimmering in searing heat—I was stunned.

The site would make an ideal setting for a drug-running thriller!

Rather than buckle down and write that novel, however, I accepted a Fulbright scholarship to teach journalism in Eastern Europe. So began more than 10 years of work and travel in some of the most far-flung and remote regions of the world, and my efforts to complete a string of books about largely unknown tragedies in those places.

(Right) Author Peter Eichstaedt

Following a year spent in Uganda, for instance, I wrote First Kill Your Family (Lawrence Hill, 2009), detailing the horrors of cult militia leader Joseph Kony and his army of child soldiers. In Somalia, I researched and wrote Pirate State(Lawrence Hill, 2001), about the chaos and terror caused by modern-day pirates. I went deep into the Democratic Republic of the Congo to research the illegal mining of minerals essential to the computer-chip industry, which led me to compose Consuming the Congo (Lawrence Hill, 2011). And after putting in a year in Afghanistan in 2004, I returned there in 2012 to research and put together a book about the people there, and how nearly three decades of war had shaped the realities of their lives. My labors resulted in Above the Din of War (Lawrence Hill, 2013).

Finally, having put in a full decade overseas, I returned to the United States and to familiar territory … just as drug running and related violence on the U.S.-Mexico border peaked. Months of travel and research culminated in The Dangerous Divide (Chicago Review Press).

During my time spent on the U.S.-Mexico border, I found myself still haunted by the fictional story I had conceived before heading off to Europe. Now, though, I had more material to use in my plot, thanks to the research I’d done for my non-fiction books. And I had confidence enough to write what would become Borderland.

But as I sat down to do the work, I found myself staring at the blank screen of my laptop.

I needed a main character, so I drew on what I knew best: journalism. My protagonist became Kyle Dawson, a world-wise war correspondent who’d never lost his small-town roots on America’s southern border.

The borderland developer became Dawson’s estranged father. What would Dawson investigate? A murder, of course, and that became the killing of his father. It gave Dawson conflicting emotions and motivations, personal and professional.

Dawson needed local ties. Those could be most interesting if he was of mixed ethnicity, Anglo/Hispanic, and bilingual so he could move back and forth across the border, from one world into another. So while Dawson’s father was the dead gringo developer, his mother would be Mexican and living in Juarez—long separated and divorced from his late father. To layer her character, I made the mother part Indian, from the central highlands of Mexico.

Love interest? What could be better than a former high school sweetheart? When Dawson returns to El Paso, he finds Anita, who’s now a news-media star and ace reporter for the city’s top TV station. Both of them are unattached, and when they go out to dinner on their first date in decades, they witness the assassination of Mexico’s top drug lord, nicknamed “El Guapo,” which means “the handsome one.”

* * *

For my second novel, Napa Noir—released by WildBlue Press in May of 2018—I drew again on my journalistic juices.

My brother lived for many years in San Francisco, and we share an appreciation of wine. Between my global travels, I routinely visited him in the City by the Bay, and we’d travel to wine country, taking in several Napa and Sonoma wineries each time, with liberal samplings of their products.

One day I read a story online about a winery owner who’d shot and killed his biggest investor, and subsequently died during a shootout with local police who rushed to the scene. To my mind, owning a vineyard in the Bay Area would be heavenly. What, I asked myself, would drive someone to shoot and kill a financial backer, then engage the local constabulary in a gunfight?

Like all good journalists, I suspected a story behind the story. And that’s how I structured Napa Noir. I started with the murder, and again using a journalist as my main character—this time Dante Rath, an investigative reporter turned wine editor—I revealed the why behind the double murder.

As I did my research, I learned a lot about wine and grape harvesting, and I came across a fermenting controversy over grapevine pesticides. It was perfect for my story.

So, why use journalists as main characters in my crime fiction? I love private investigators, always have. I cut my teeth reading Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. But after a couple of decades in the reporting business, I realized journalists do much the same work as private investigators. Only they don’t carry guns. Was that a problem? Nope. Rather it was and remains a challenge, one that I’ve solved by giving one of my main characters friends who carry guns.

Game on.

“I’m an Equal Opportunity Ass-Whooper”

Earlier this week, Steve Aldous—an authority on Ernest Tidyman’s detective John Shaft tales—mentioned in his blog that New Line Cinema “has published an advance poster … for the latest Shaft movie, due to be released on 14 June.” The Spy Command follows up today with a trailer for that picture, which makes clear that this new iteration of Shaft, starring Jesse Usher and Samuel L. Jackson, will be as comedic as it is action-oriented.

READ MORE:Shaft Trailer—First Impressions,” by Steve Aldous.

Let’s Hear It for Audiobooks

I must somehow have missed seeing the announcement that the Audio Publishers Association had announced its list of audiobook finalists for the 2019 Audie Awards. Fortunately, In Reference to Murder picked up the story. There are 24 categories of prizes, but two of those can be assumed to have the greatest interest to Rap Sheet readers.

Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling);
narrated by Robert Glenister (Hachette Audio)
The Mystery of Three Quarters, by Sophie Hannah;
narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt (HarperAudio)
The Punishment She Deserves, by Elizabeth George;
narrated by Simon Vance (Penguin Random House Audio)
The Tuscan Child, by Rhys Bowen;
narrated by Jonathan Keeble and Katy Sobey (Audible Studios)
Wild Fire, by Ann Cleeves; narrated by Kenny Blyth (Macmillan Audi)

Crimson Lake, by Candice Fox;
narrated by Euan Morton (Macmillan Audio)
The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware;
narrated by Imogen Church (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Macbeth, by Jo Nesbø;
narrated by Euan Morton (Penguin Random House Audio)
The Outsider, by Stephen King;
narrated by Will Patton (Simon & Schuster Audio)
The Terminal List, by Jack Carr;
narrated by Ray Porter (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Their Lost Daughters, by Joy Ellis;
narrated by Richard Armitage (Audible Studios)

The winners of this year’s commendations will be declared during a ceremony in New York City on March 4, with Queer Eye fashion authority Tan France playing host.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

PaperBack: “The Best from Manhunt”

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

The Best from Manhunt, selected by Scott and Sidney Meredith (Permabooks, 1958). The contents page can be found here.
Cover illustration by Ernest “Darcy” Chiriacka.

Pig Out

I had no idea there were so many Chinese New Year-related mysteries available. With the latest Year of the Pig kicking off today, Mystery Fanfare’s Janet Rudolph offers a list of mystery novels and short stories closely linked to the start of the new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. Beyond those selections, she has compiled a longer rundown of other crime-fiction works set in China and Taiwan.

READ MORE:Crime and the City: Chinatowns,” by Paul French (CrimeReads).

Appreciating the “Queen of Spy Writers”

Mike Ripley’s new February edition of “Getting Away with Murder,” posted in Shots, has a variety of interesting items, including remarks about Brian Garfield’s passing and Douglas Lindsay’s new series, starring “Scottish police detective—and ex-MI6 agent—Ben Westphall.” But it was this note that most piqued my curiosity:
Although I have appeared on several, I am still not too sure what a ‘podcast’ is. I was, however, persuaded to ‘tune in’ (if that’s the right terminology) to the latest podcast on the Spybrary network—and I say ‘network’ in the sense of a dedicated and highly efficient, if not secret, ring of fans of spy fiction.

I was particularly interested in the latest broadcast by Spybrary for two reasons; firstly because the subject was Helen MacInnes, and secondly because I had been asked to contribute a few words on the author once described as ‘the Queen of spy writers.’ (Not having the required technological expertise to participate live, I sent my contribution by carrier pigeon and, of course, in code.)

The result can be heard at and it will hopefully provoke younger readers into trying the works of an author seriously in danger of being forgotten but who, in her day, was compared to Eric Ambler and Graham Greene.
I, too, have been rather negligent about exploring MacInnes’ yarns. But Shane Whaley’s excellent 50-minute podcast (don’t worry, the time goes quickly) has got me searching through my boxes of vintage paperbacks for copies of her work.