Saturday, October 19, 2019

Revue of Reviewers, 10-19-19

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

Just Trying to Keep Up

Variety brings word that “PBS Masterpiece has boarded the remake of classic European detective series Van der Valk and will co-produce and air the show in the U.S. Masterpiece’s Rebecca Eaton will exec produce the project. It is the latest in a healthy line of U.K.-originated drama that Masterpiece has boarded since becoming the U.S. home for British-made hits such as Downton Abbey.” Production of this new Amsterdam-set series is said to be underway, with no firm release date as yet. The original Van der Valk, starring Barry Foster and based on a succession of novels by Nicholas Freeling, was broadcast (on and off) between 1972 and 1992. (Hat tip to Lee Goldberg.)

• Meanwhile, Mystery Fanfare reports that Lara Prescott’s debut novel, The Secrets We Kept, along with Adrian McKinty’s acclaimed The Chain are slated for Hollywood film adaptation.

• And Mystery Tribune says Swedish writer Camilla Läckberg (The Girl in the Woods) “has turned her attention into creating a new TV series titled Hammarvik, which can be characterized as a Nordic version of Desperate Housewives with a serial killer on the loose.”

• Not long after the posting of my latest CrimeReads piece, “Detecting During Disasters”—about mystery and detective novels set amid real-life catastrophes, including San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake and city-destroying fire—I received a note from Randal S. Brandt, a librarian with the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. He told me of an article he’d written for a 2006 edition of the Bancroft’s newsletter, about novels featuring that trembler—everything from Sara Dean’s Travers: A Story of the San Francisco Earthquake (1908) and Shaken Down (1925), by Alice MacGowan and Perry Newberry, to Mignon G. Eberhart’s Casa Madrone (1980) and Dianne Day’s Fire and Fog (1996). Titled “The Big Shake,” Brandt’s feature is accessible in this PDF; simply scroll down to page 10.

• I’d never heard mystery-maker Ngaio Marsh speak—until now.

• Houston-born novelist Attica Locke has won the 2019 Texas Writer Award. Sponsored by the Texas Book Festival, this prize is given out annually to authors who have “significantly contributed to the state’s literary landscape.” Locke is, of course, known for penning such books as Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) and its new sequel, Heaven, My Home. She will be presented with her award during an October 26 ceremony in Texas’ state capitol in Austin. (Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

• I’ll be sorry to miss this presentation. “If you’re going to Bouchercon [in Dallas, October 31-November 3],” writes B.V. Lawson in In Reference to Murder, “you won’t want to miss The Ghost Town Mortuary, a radio play by Anthony Boucher, performed by members of Mystery Writers of America NorCal, Friday, November 1, 11 a.m., at the Landmark Ballroom in the Hyatt Regency. Authors scheduled to participate include Laurie R. King, David Corbett, Kelli Stanley, Reece Hirsch, Randal S. Brandt, Dale Berry, Gigi Pandian, James L’Etoile, and Terry Shames.”

• Looking for a Christmas present for yours truly? This set of 20 Rockford Files trading cards would be a fun choice.

• England’s Daily Telegraph newspaper carries a story—reproduced by Chris Sullivan in his blog—about how actor Laurence Fox, late of Inspector Lewis and currently appearing in Victoria, has found solace in his music, after a divorce and the death of his best friend.

• Comfort TV blogger David Hofstede continues his series of posts about two-part television episodes—good and definitely not so good—with write-ups that mention several crime dramas, such as The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Fugitive, and Charlie’s Angels.

• It’s always good to be reminded of ABC-TV’s classic gumshoe series, Peter Gunn, and its “jazz chanteuse,” played by Lola Albright.

• Finally, if you could use some financial assistance to attend next year’s Left Coast Crime convention in San Diego, California (March 12-15), you may be in luck. The LCC National Committee has drummed up funds for five scholarships to the event, plus expense money. More information and application procedures are available here.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

PaperBack: “Murder in the Family”

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

Murder in the Family, by Marc Brandel (Avon, 1985). According to a note in this lighthearted paperback novel about theft, homicide, and incest, Avon was planning to publish what looks to have been a sequel, titled Detectives in the Family. But apparently, no such book was ever brought to market. Brandel (born Marcus Beresford) may be better remembered as one of the original authors of the Three Investigators juvenile detective series.

Cover illustrator unidentified.

Could There Be a Snake Theme Here?

This news comes from B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder:
Serpent’s Tail senior commissioning editor, Miranda Jewess, will launch a new crime imprint, Viper, at a launch party in London on November 7th. The 20 titles planned for its inaugural year include the very first title, the “haunting police procedural” A Famished Heart by Irish author Nicola White (due February 2020). Others in the pipeline include The Plague Letters by NPR senior editor Vikki Valentine, writing under her pen name V.L. Valentine, and David Jackson’s standalone thriller, The Resident. Jewess, the former acquisitions and managing editor at Titan Books, joined the company as senior commissioning editor for Serpent’s Tail Crime in February to commission titles across the crime, thriller, and suspense genres.
Serpent’s Tail is a British publisher (founded in 1986) that also markets its books in the United States.

Where Investigation Meets Ruination

My 12th and latest piece for CrimeReads was posted earlier this morning. It’s a survey of crime and detective novels set amid real-life catastrophes—both natural and man-made. As I explain:
Disasters are already rampant in human history, and thanks to escalating terrorism, recurrent mass shootings, and myriad threats posed by global warming—wildfires, rising sea levels, extreme weather, pandemics, etc.—the world seems unlikely to become safer or more secure at any time soon. This may actually be good news for storytellers, including those working the crime and thriller side of the tracks, who can continue to capitalize on reader attraction to nightmarish events.

Most of the large-scale hardships this genre serves up are dramatic fabrications, or are rooted only partially in reality. Yet a number of books … have combined bona fide historical tragedies with invented misdeeds and mysteries, the disasters often complicating the detection.
Among the history-making calamities featured in the dozen books under review are the 14th century’s Black Plague, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and Hurricane Katrina. Click here to read the full piece.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

From Star to Slump to Second Act

Five days after the death of American television and film actor Robert Forster, I still think one of his best obituaries was also one of the first to appear: Chris Koseluk’s piece in The Hollywood Reporter.

Koseluk began by noting that Forster, aged 78, perished at his Los Angeles home as a result of brain cancer; that he had “made his film debut opposite Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor in John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), then sparkled as an ethically challenged cameraman in Haskell Wexler’s ultra-realistic Medium Cool (1969)”; and that following starring roles on TV (in NBC’s Banyon and ABC’s Nakia), Forster’s career had slumped to the point of his taking “supporting roles in such low-budget efforts as [1993’s] Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence.” Finally, Koseluk recalled the story of Forster’s “heartwarming comeback”:
“I went 21 months without a job. I had four kids, I took any job I could get,” Forster told the Chicago Tribune in 2018, raising and then lowering his hand to indicate his fortunes. “My career went like this for five years and then like that for 27. Every time it reached a lower level I thought I could tolerate, it dropped some more, and then some more. Near the end I had no agent, no manager, no lawyer, no nothing. I was taking whatever fell through the cracks.”

A fan of Forster since he was a kid, [movie director/screenwriter Quentin] Tarantino had brought the actor in to audition for the part of aging gangster Joe Cabot in 1992’s
Reservoir Dogs, but he had his heart set on casting Lawrence Tierney. Tarantino never forgot Forster, however, and as he was crafting the screenplay for Jackie Brown (1997)—an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel, Rum Punch—he wrote Max Cherry with him in mind.

“Years had gone by and I ran into him in a coffee shop. By then my career was really, really dead,” Forster recalled in a 2018 interview with Fandor. “And we blah-blah’d for a few minutes, and then six months later he showed up at the same coffee shop with a script in his hands and handed it to me.

“When I read it I could hardly believe that he had me in mind for Max Cherry, except that nothing else made any sense. So when I asked him about it, he said, ‘Yes, it’s Max Cherry that I wrote for you.’ That's when I said to him, ‘I'm sure they’re not going to let you hire me.’ He said, ‘I hire anybody I want.’ “And that’s when I realized I was going to get another shot at a career.”
Of course, that led to Forster receiving an Oscar nomination for his work on Jackie Brown. He went on to appear in the motion pictures Psycho (1998), Mulholland Drive (2001), and The Descendants (2011). Forster also had a regular role as Carla Gugino’s ex-cop father on the underrated small-screen drama Karen Sisco (2003-2004), featured in the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, and in the 2017 revival of Twin Peaks he played Sheriff Frank Truman, the brother of Michael Ontkean’s lawman character from the original show.

(Right) TV Guide’s 1972 Fall Preview write-up on Banyon. Click to enlarge.

My earliest and perhaps fondest memory of Forster, though, comes from Banyon (1972-1973). Introduced by a 1971 pilot film, which co-starred Darren McGavin (and which I liked much more than did Mystery*File’s Michael Shonk), that Friday-night series found Forster as Miles C. Banyon, a rough-and-tumble private investigator in 1930s Los Angeles. The character had an office in downtown L.A.’s landmark Bradbury Building, a regular girlfriend—nightclub singer Abby Graham (played by Julie Gregg)—and a police contact/antagonist, Lieutenant Pete McNeil (portrayed by McGavin in the pilot, but by Richard Jaeckel in the weekly drama). I tend to think of Banyon as having been inspired by Jack Nicholson’s 1974 film, Chinatown (much like Wayne Rogers’ 1976 NBC show, City of Angels), but in fact that NBC series debuted two years before Chinatown, so was—as Max Allan Collins writes—“a pioneering period private eye show.” Some years ago, I managed to locate a DVD copy of the Banyon pilot online, but am still hoping to see a DVD release of all 15 episodes someday soon. If you’d like to revisit the opening title sequence from Banyon, click here; the very different credits from the Banyon pilot can be enjoyed here.

While The Hollywood Reporter’s recap of Forster’s diverse career may be the best one to date, let me also point you toward Marty McKee’s interview with the actor, which appears in the blog Johnny LaRue’s Crane Shot. It features a nice, if too-short section about Banyon. Worth looking up, too, are obituaries in The New York Times and Slate. Another fine remembrance, in The Washington Post, includes this memorable bit of background information:
Robert Wallace Foster Jr. was born in Rochester, N.Y., on July 13, 1941. (He later added an “r” to Foster after learning another actor shared his name.) His father was a Ringling Bros. elephant trainer who became an executive at a baking supply company; his mother was a homemaker.

They divorced when Mr. Forster was 8, and his mother later killed herself after Mr. Forster received his draft notice in 1966. In part, he told the
New York Times, “she was hysterical about the thought of my going to Vietnam.” Mr. Forster received a deferment, partly through medical statements describing the “devastating psychological effects” of his mother’s death.

Mr. Forster studied history and psychology at the University of Rochester, where he was mulling a career as a lawyer, when he spotted a young woman in a black leather raincoat. “As I was trying to think of what to say, I followed her into an auditorium,” he recalled in a Rochester alumni magazine interview.

Students were auditioning for a production of “Bye Bye Birdie”; the woman, June Provenzano, was a crew member. Mr. Forster landed a role in the chorus and fell in love with both acting and Provenzano, whom he married in 1966. They later divorced.
Rest in peace, Mr. Forster. You deserve it.

READ MORE:Pilot Programs,” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).

Of Moonshine, Mobsters, and Moralists

Happy belated birthday to The Untouchables! That weekly ABC-TV crime drama, starring Robert Stack as renowned federal Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, debuted 60 years ago yesterday. Terence Towles Canote offers a fine tribute in his blog, A Shroud of Thoughts.

A Most Wanted Raconteur

David Cornwell, the spy-fictionist better known as John le Carré, has long struck me as an ideal interviewee: philosophical, self-aware, and often surprisingly candid. For instance, his conversation with Fresh Air radio host Terry Gross back in 2017, at the time his last book, A Legacy of Spies, was being released, still ranks among my favorite episodes of that National Public Radio program.

Much more recently, le Carré spoke with fellow writer John Banville (aka Benjamin Black) for an article in The Guardian that covers his “toxic” childhood, his entry into the murky realm of espionage, and of course, his soon-forthcoming 25th—and possibly final—novel, a standalone titled Agent Running in the Field (Viking). As current British and American politics figure into that book’s plot, it’s hardly surprising to find the subject coming up in his exchange with Banville:
[Le Carré’s] attitude to Brexit is pungently expressed in the new novel. “It is my considered opinion,” one of the characters declares to [the book’s protagonist, a 47-year-old British intelligence operative named] Nat, “that for Britain and Europe, and for liberal democracy across the entire world as a whole, Britain’s departure from the European Union in the time of Donald Trump, and Britain’s consequent unqualified dependence on the United States in an era when the US is heading straight down the road to institutional racism and neo-fascism, is an unmitigated clusterfuck bar none.”

You can’t say plainer than that, even if you have made yourself safe by putting the speech into the mouth of one of your invented creatures. Le Carré says squarely of
Agent Running in the Field that “to me it’s quite an angry book.” But certainly it is more, and happily less, than a political rant.

“I didn’t want it to be a Brexit novel. I wanted it to be readable and comic. I wanted people to get a good laugh out of it. But if one has the impertinence to propose a message, then the book’s message is that our concept of patriotism and nationalism—our concept of where to place our loyalties, collectively and individually—is now utterly mysterious. I think Brexit is totally irrational, that it’s evidence of dismal statesmanship on our part, and lousy diplomatic performances. Things that were wrong with Europe could be changed from inside Europe.”

He pauses, then goes on, less in anger than in sadness. “I think my own ties to England were hugely loosened over the last few years. And it’s a kind of liberation, if a sad kind.”
You can read the entire interview here.

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Capital Beginning

(Above) Robert Harris signs copies of The Second Sleep.

By Ali Karim
It was a brave decision by thriller writer Adam Hamdy (Pendulum, Aftershock) and his partner, literary agent and bookseller David Headley, to inaugurate a new annual convention showcasing the crime/thriller genre in the British capital: Capital Crime, which took place from September 26 to 28.

For one thing, there’s already a good deal of competition from more well-established events. Those include CrimeFest (Bristol, England), the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (Harrogate), and Bloody Scotland (Stirling, Scotland), as well as smaller, regional conferences such as the St. Hilda’s College Crime Fiction Weekend (Oxford), Bute Noir (Rothesay), the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, the NOIRELAND International Crime Fiction Festival (Belfast, Ireland), Morecambe & Vice, Deal Noir, and Newcastle Noir.

Secondly, mounting a book festival/convention is no task for the timid. I know from my long association with America’s annual Bouchercon (which included my work as programming chair for 2015’s conference in Raleigh, North Carolina) just how much courage, stamina, and resolve it takes to put together such an event. As one U.S. colleague characterized the management of such a diversified affair, “It’s like herding cats.”

(Left) David Headley
and Adam Hamdy

Of course, Hamdy and Headley enjoyed several advantages. For one, their event was to be hosted in the nation’s capital, the center for British publishing, so they had an expansive local pool of talent from which to draw. They had also assembled a strong management team, with professional event organizer Lizzie Curle being backed up by a solid squad of volunteers. Finally, the pair gained good sponsorship agreements, an excellent venue—the Grand Connaught Rooms in London’s West End—and a veritable who’s who of speakers and attendees. Mention should also be made of activity behind the scenes by London’s Midas PR Agency and Tribe PR, supported by Covent Garden-based Goldsboro Books, which set up a bookstore adjacent to the festival’s signing tables.

The key to success in this venture would be to deliver exciting, informative panel discussions capable of attracting a wide range of crime- and thriller-fiction readers. Well, I am glad to say that the two-day array of such panels exceeded the expectations of even the most battle-hardened genre fans. Those panels ran on two parallel tracks, filling both the Grand Connaught’s Grand Room (which seats approximately 700 people) and the Edinburgh Suite (with space for maybe 400 more). The panel events hit all of the subgenres, from espionage, legal, Nordic/Scandinavian, and forensics to true crime, social commentary, Golden Age, contemporary, weird/fantasy crossovers, and historicals. In addition, the schedule offered sessions on the craft of fiction writing (for both the page and screen), a quiz, and a showing of director Steve McQueen’s 2018 heist film, Widows, based on a 1983 UK TV series of that same name.

There were plenty of big-name authors taking part, among them Ian Rankin, Robert Harris, Martina Cole, David Baldacci, Peter James, Lynda La Plante, Charles Cumming, Don Winslow, Kate Atkinson, last year’s Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Gold Dagger award winner, Steve Cavanagh, and 2019 CWA Diamond Dagger recipient Robert Goddard. Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books, one of this year’s nominees for the CWA Dagger for Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year, hosted a lively and most amusing session called “Chilled to the Bone,” focusing on Scandi Noir, with authors Ragnar Jónasson, Will Dean, Antti Tuomainen, and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. John Connolly’s career retrospective proved to be as entertaining as it was insightful, while legal professional (and Shotsmag Confidential blogger) Ayo Onatade talked about making the shift from practicing law to crime writing with attorneys Tony Kent, Imran Mahmood, Harriet Tyce, and the aforementioned Steve Cavanagh.

Kate Atkinson with her latest novel, Big Sky.

Keynote events, such as K.J. Howe’s interview with David Baldacci, my own back-and-forth with Martina Cole (during which we considered London’s appeal as a backdrop for crime novels and thrillers), and former Brighton chief superintendent Graham Bartlett’s grilling of Mark Billingham were all well-attended. The deliberate international scope of these proceedings was emphasized by an excellent showcased conversation between Scotsman Ian Rankin and California wordsmith Don Winslow. During a panel talk led by L.C. “Len” Tyler, Sophie Hannah, Ruth Ware, Christopher Fowler, and John Curran discussed the enduring importance of Agatha Christie. And Daily Telegraph books critic Jake Kerridge managed to persuade prominent novelists Robert Harris and Kate Atkinson to deliver short readings from their works as he interviewed them.

Worthy of applause, too, were a session that found Adam Handy and novelist Anthony Horowitz (The Sentence Is Death, Forever and a Day) discussing the genesis of story ideas and how one goes about wrestling them onto blank pages; and a Friday talk on the matter of modern technology’s impact on espionage thrillers, featuring Dame Stella Rimington, Charles Cumming, and Frank Gardner.

To mark its Saturday evening closing, this inaugural Capital Crime convention scheduled the presentation of its 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards, in nine categories. The winners are here.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to take part in this three-day London affair, I hope the photographs embedded above and below will provide you with at least some idea of its diversity and delights.

Adam Hamdy welcomes attendees to Capital Crime, while David Headley announces the winner of the inaugural New Voices Award: Ashley Harrison, for her book, The Dysconnect.

It was little surprise that Capital Crime attracted many London journalists and broadcasters, among them Jon Coates of the Sunday Express, shown above chatting with Martina Cole.

British author Peter James almost disappears behind stacked copies of his newest work, The Secret of Cold Hill, the “spine-tingling follow-up” to 2015’s The House on Cold Hill.

British spy-fictionist Charles Cumming (The Moroccan Girl) spends a few minutes with Kimberley “K.J.” Howe, author (Skyjack) and executive director of ThrillerFest.

Goldsboro Books set up a well-stocked bookstore not far from this festival’s signing tables for authors.

Gold Dagger award winner Steve Cavanagh strikes a pose with Ayo Onatade, a contributor to Shots and the head of judicial support to the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

On Friday afternoon, BBC reporter Chi Chi Izundu conducted an onstage interview with writing heavyweights Ian Rankin and Don Winslow, covering the subject “The Human Cost of Crime.”

Authors on the Air Radio host Pam Stack (center) interviews UK critic-author Barry Forshaw (Historical Noir, Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide) and The Rap Sheet’s chief British correspondent, Ali Karim. You can listen to their very fun exchange here.

Publisher Pan Macmillan provided complimentary coffee to convention participants throughout the weekend. “This treat should not be underestimated,” enthuses Ali Karim, “as the quality of coffee was excellent, and the flasks were kept re-filled.” He goes on to say, “this beverage … was indeed truly life-affirming,” and a fine lead-in to glasses of gin ordered up as day turned to evening.

Speaking of caffeinated refreshments, here we see UK crime novelist Sarah Hilary (Never Be Broken) sharing a cup of said stuff with Vicki Mellor, the publishing director of Pan Macmillan’s commercial fiction team.

“Top-ranking barrister”-turned-novelist Tony Kent (Killer Intent) manages to spend at least some time on London’s streets with fellow author Alex North (The Whisper Man).

I am pleased to report that the same team behind this year’s conference will be responsible for its second presentation, in 2020. I look forward to heading back to the Big Smoke to see whether that sophomore Capital Crime can surpass this year’s event.

(Photographs © 2019 Ali Karim)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Small-Screen Standouts

The Killing Times, a British Web site focused on TV crime and mystery series, has finally finished naming its “Top 20 Crime Dramas of the Decade.” You can read through all of the editors’ reasoning for those choices in four posts: here (20-16), here (15-11), here (10-6), and here (5-1). But if all you want is to see the top-20 list, well, here you go:

1. The Bridge
2. The Killing
3. Trapped
4. Top Boy
5. Unforgotten
6. Mindhunter
7. The Deuce
8. Fargo
9. Happy Valley
10. Line of Duty
11. True Detective
12. Broadchurch
13. The Night Of
14. Peaky Blinders
15. American Crime Story
16. Hannibal
17. Sherlock
18. Ripper Street
19. Hinterland
20. Luther

So, what do you think about The Killing Times’ picks? Please feel free to add your thoughts—positive or not—at the end of this post.

Broken Bones Update

I don’t generally write about my personal life in this blog, but since I have had a few readers ask recently about my climb back to health, I thought an update just might be in order.

As I mentioned in mid-September, a fall down the back stairs of my house left me with five broken ribs in my back and a broken elbow. Since then, I’ve been taking a shrinking number of pain pills. I anticipate weaning myself off of all but the occasional ibuprofen by next week, and dispense with those by the end of this month.

While I still experience low-level pain in my back when I sleep, or when I extricate myself from my car, the greatest residual affect of my accident is felt in my left wrist. That continues to hurt whenever I bend it much, or when I place significant weight against it. (Luckily, I don’t have any problem typing or holding a book.) My expectation is that I’ll have to begin physical therapy on my wrist soon. I have undergone such treatment on the same arm before, and it was successful. So I hope to realize a full recovery before the year is out.

Thanks again to everyone for your well wishes.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Feats of Daring Drew

Tonight will bring the premiere, on America’s CW-TV network, of Nancy Drew. This marks the third time small-screen content producers have turned for inspiration to that fictional amateur detective—created in 1930 as a female alternative to the popular Hardy Boys—and the first time since rival CBS-TV rejected a pilot that starred Sarah Shahi as a “Nancy Drew reimagined as a thirty-something NYPD detective.”

I haven’t been invited to preview the inaugural episode of this new hour-long series; however, the teasers and trailers released online suggest it might be worth watching—sort of a blend of Veronica Mars with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Commending it, as well, is the cast, which includes Kennedy McMann as an 18-year-old Nancy, Scott Wolf (Everwood) as her attorney father, Carson Drew, and even Pamela Sue Martin (who played Nancy in the 1977-1979 series The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries) winning a role in the pilot episode. A New York Times piece published this last weekend seemed cautiously optimistic about the venture:
This new “Nancy Drew” raises the heroine’s age to 18 and offers some psychological depth. Her mother has recently died, her relationship with her father is troubled, and she is stuck in Horseshoe Bay, Me.—not the Midwestern River Heights of the books—while she waits to reapply to college. A sleuth since girlhood, she has sworn off investigating. “I don’t go searching in the dark anymore,” she says in voice-over. That resolve lasts about 10 minutes. Oh, and in this world, ghosts are real.

[Showrunner Melinda] Hsu knows that this version (the ghosts, the sex, the teen angst, the effortlessly diverse cast) may surprise some Nancy devotees. “But the way that we chose to do it is a way that is inclusive and updated and modern and relevant and accessible to audiences,” she said.

If you look past the updates, you can still see the outline of the classic heroine. “What’s left behind is a girl who cannot accept that the truth not be told, like she cannot sleep at night, unless the mystery is solved,” said [executive producer Noga] Landau, speaking by telephone. (She apologized for the bad reception: “I’m walking down a weird hidden staircase,” she said, which seemed very on brand.)
All of this just made me want to revisit the Nancy Drew of old, if only for a few moments. I was never a reader of the Carolyn Keene series (or even a Hardy Boys fan), but as every Rap Sheet reader knows, I enjoy digging into the history of mystery fiction. So I rounded up—and have embedded, below—the trailers for a quartet of mostly forgotten Nancy Drew “B-films” from the late 1930s, produced by Warner Bros. and starring Bonita Granville as the “danger-chasing” teenage sleuth: Nancy Drew, Detective (1938); Nancy Drew, Reporter (1939); Nancy Drew, Trouble Shooter (1939); and Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939). Before you sit down to sample The CW’s new Drew, travel backwards 80 years to watch how Hollywood once imagined this young protagonist later described (by novelist Bobbie Ann Mason) as “cool as Mata Hari and as sweet as Betty Crocker.”

If you’re interested in seeing more, a DVD boxed set of Bonita Granville’s four Nancy Drew pictures can be easily obtained.

And just for fun, click here to watch the opening from “The Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom,” an unusual, October 1977 episode of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. It features not only Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy as the Hardys, but also a young Pamela Sue Martin in her Nancy Drew role. The episode’s plot finds the attendees at a detectives convention in Los Angeles disappearing during a Hollywood film studio tour. Dennis Weaver and J.D. Cannon, from McCloud, both make cameo appearances, as does Jaclyn Smith, who in ’77 had just begun her run on Charlie’s Angels.

READ MORE:A Cultural History of Nancy Drew,” by Olivia Rutigliano (CrimeReads); “Nancy Drew Is Not Who You Remember,” by Molly Young (Vulture); “CW Does Wrong by Batwoman and Nancy Drew,” by Hank Stuever (The Washington Post); “Nancy Drew and the Attempted Banishment,” by Taraya Galloway (Fishwrap).

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

And I Can’t Fail to Mention …

• Criminal Element’s continuing series focusing on works that, over the last 65 years, have won the prestigious Edgar Award for Best Novel, last Friday showcased Margaret Maron’s The Bootlegger’s Daughter, which captured that prize way back in 1993. In a departure from the norm, on that same day Hector DeJean, the associate director of publicity at Minotaur Books, posted a fine essay in Criminal Element about Michael Connelly’s The Black Echo, which won the 1993 Edgar for Best First Novel and launched the fictional career of Los Angeles homicide detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. Reflecting on that novel and its many sequels, DeJean wrote:
Adjustments have been made to Bosch over the years, as the character and his city have evolved. For one thing, he no longer sports a mustache, that once-standard identifying trait of all veteran cops. His past has been filled in a little more, and on the TV series his military service has been updated to the Gulf War. Connelly has tackled such topics as the Los Angeles Riots and the police department opening up to LGBTQ officers in later books. But what may work so well about Bosch is that he basically fits the mold; he’s a close cousin of several other thick-skinned knights-errant policemen, one brought to fuller life and given a deeper relationship with his city.
• Lawrence Block is already teasing his February release, The Burglar in Short Order (Subterranean), which he describes as “a complete collection” of short-form appearances by his series thief, Bernie Rhodenbarr. He says “its fifteen chapters include four short stories, three extracts from novels, five op-ed columns, and an essay—well, some would call it a rant—about Bernie’s experiences in Hollywood.” The Amazon page for this book adds that “you’ll find every published story, article, and standalone excerpt Bernie has ever appeared in—plus two new, unpublished pieces: an introduction discussing the character’s colorful origins and an afterword in which the author, contemplating retirement, comes face to face with his own creation.”

• Congratulations to The Spy Command, which today celebrates its 11th birthday! Managing editor Bill Koenig’s espionage fiction-oriented blog debuted in 2008 as The HMSS Weblog, but was renamed in 2015, following the failure of its partner Web site, Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. It remains a superior source of news about James Bond projects as well as other crime and cloak-and-dagger works.

• As we move ever closer to New Year’s Day, 2020, these sorts of features are bound to multiply. The Killing Times recently began enumerating what it says have been “the top 20 crime dramas of the decade.” So far, it has rolled out only the first half of its choices—in two parts, here and here—but I presume the balance of that Web site’s selections will soon follow. Watch for updates here.

• The Australia-based Columbophile blog typically celebrates the legacy of Peter Falk’s long-running NBC-TV series, Columbo. But not long ago, its unnamed editor put together a list of “the 10 least-satisfying Columbo ‘gotchas’ of the ’70s.” As he explains: “A Columbo without a magnificent ‘gotcha’ is like a porcupine without quills; a snake without fangs; a cat without claws. In short, it lacks a certain clout. Granted, not every episode can have a rousing finale in the mould of ‘Suitable for Framing’ [1971] or ‘Candidate for Crime’ [1973], but the strength of the gotcha plays a big part in our overall enjoyment of the episode.” Indeed, most of the 10 episodes The Columbopile cites for their disappointing denouements are also among those I remember least well, though I am fond of one: 1973’s “Requiem for a Falling Star,” which features Anne Baxter as a fading actress and includes a cameo by eminent costume designer Edith Head.

• Two CrimeReads pieces worth investigating: Sarah Weinman recalls how, during the summer of 1947, U.S. mystery novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart narrowly escaped being murdered by her longtime chef; and Crawford Smith, the author of this year’s Jackrabbit (Sweet Weasel Words), writes here about persist rumors that John Dillinger—“America’s first celebrity criminal”—escaped being gunned down outside a Chicago theater in 1934, and how such talk has resulted in efforts to disinter Dillinger’s remains from an Indiana cemetery.

• I’ve long been a fan of Ellery Queen, the 1975-1976 series developed for NBC-TV by Richard Levinson and William Link, and starring Jim Hutton. So I was pleased to learn recently that the anonymous blogger “dfordoom” has been slowly reviewing that show’s episodes for Cult TV Lounge. He tackles three of them here, and another trio here. To read his overview of the show, click here.

• Having been a Star Trek enthusiast since childhood, I am naturally thrilled by the prospect of a new series that will bring Patrick Stewart back to the role of Jean-Luc Picard, which he created for Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). A new trailer for Star Trek: Picard, released during this month’s New York Comic Con, carries the same adventurous, hopeful spirit that has always drawn me to the Star Trek universe. And the moment in that trailer when Picard revisits his old Enterprise shipmates William Riker and Deanna Troi … well, it brought cheerful tears to my eyes. Although I resisted subscribing to the CBS All Access streaming service in order to watch Star Trek: Discovery (I instead purchased Season 1 on DVD), Star Trek: Picard—slated to debut there on January 23, 2020—may finally compel me to take that step.

• While we’re on the subject of Star Trek (and yes, I’ll get back to matters of crime fiction anon), my fellow fans should check out Trek on the Tube, the YouTube channel created by a Trekkie named Sean and covering what seems like an ever-growing assortment of Star Trek projects. Sean has set up a Patreon page, too, to solicit funds to keep his efforts on track. It seems a worthwhile cause.

• Also deserving of consideration, I think, is a solicitation from “Norman Conquest,” aka Derek Pell, who has published my work in his literary magazine, Black Scat Review. He has established an Indiegogo crowd-funding page in hopes of raising money enough to keep his enterprises afloat. This “Fund-o-Rama,” as he calls it, will continue through Halloween. Please send him treats, not tricks.

• New author interviews of note: Speaking of Mysteries host Nancie Clare fires questions at both Deborah Crombie (A Bitter Feast) and “Nicci French” (aka Nicci Gerrard and Sean French), whose latest thriller is The Lying Room; and blogger Lesa Holstine chats with Dana Ridenour about her new novel, Below the Radar.

• Finally, some essay-writing fun for students: The Bunburyist’s Elizabeth Foxwell reports that the Beacon Society, a “scion society” of that well-known Sherlock Holmes fan group, the Baker Street Irregulars, “is sponsoring an essay contest for U.S. and Canadian students in 4th to 12th grades that focuses on the Sherlock Holmes stories ‘The Adventure of the Red-Headed League,’ ‘The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,’ and ‘The Greek Interpreter.’ There are cash prizes for first to third place. The submission deadline is February 1, 2020.” Click here to find more entry details.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Bullet Points: All Over the Place Edition

• Here’s a mystery for you: Earlier this year—following TNT-TV’s late-2018 broadcast of a mini-series based on The Alienist, Caleb Carr’s 1994 historical crime thriller—Mulholland Books announced that it would publish two brand-new Carr tales starring psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler. The first of those, to be titled The Alienist at Armageddon, was supposed to take place in 1915 and find Kreizler and his cohort, New York Times reporter John Moore, probing a series of deadly explosions on the eve of World War I. Mulholland proclaimed the book would be released on September 1, 2019. Well, that date has obviously come and gone, and there’s no Armageddon. In fact, Mulholland has scrubbed a page devoted to the novel from its Web site. The Amazon sales site claims an e-book version of Armageddon will appear in September 2022—three years away!—but even that could change, and it makes no mention of a print edition. Is this a case of an author blowing past his deadline? Or has the decision been made to hold off on Armageddon’s release until after TNT broadcasts its Alienist sequel, The Angel of Darkness (based on Carr’s 1997 work of the same name)? And what does this all mean for the promised fourth book in the Kreizler series, a prequel titled The Strange Case of Miss Sara X? I wish I had the answers, but only time will tell.

Mystery Scene magazine’s latest issue (Fall 2019) leads with a fine profile of Ruth Ware, the British author of The Turn of the Key. Elsewhere in its pages can be found Michael Mallory’s look back at fictional detective Captain Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond, a fixture of fiction between the two world wars; Oline H. Cogdill’s assessment of half a dozen recently introduced “writers to watch,” among them Rachel Howell Hall and Stephen Mack Jones; a piece by Craig Sisterson on translated crime and mystery fiction; and a remembrance of the encounter between author Stuart Palmer (the creator of amateur sleuth Hildegarde Withers) and Groucho Marx on a 1954 episode of You Bet Your Life.

• Let’s hope this comes to pass: Anthony Horowitz, who has already penned two remarkable James Bond novels—Trigger Mortis (2015) and Forever and a Day (2018)— tells the Radio Times that he’s “in discussions” to write a third 007 yarn.
“I would certainly consider it,” he said. “I don’t know when [it’ll happen], because I’m pretty busy at the moment.

“I’ve got a sequel to [the 2016 book]
Magpie Murders I’ve just finished, literally last week, and I’ve got two more Hawthorne novels [featuring private investigator Daniel Hawthorne] to write, another Alex Rider … but if I can, and if the estate—the Ian Fleming family—and the publishers are happy for me to do it, then I’m certainly game.

“I would love to. I think there’s one more in me at least.”
• BBC One has confirmed that it will begin airing the psychological thriller Dublin Murders, based on Tana French’s best-selling succession of haunting modern-day mysteries, on Monday, October 14. The second of that program’s initial eight episodes will be shown the next evening. Dublin Murders is still slated to premiere in the States on Sunday, November 10, courtesy of the premium channel Starz.

• In honor of Graham Greene’s birth, 115 years ago this week, CrimeReads managing editor Dwyer Murphy has compiled 10 of that author’s most memorable opening paragraphs. Let me recommend, especially, his excerpt from The Third Man (1949).

• I’m very sorry to hear about the death last week of Wayne Fitzgerald, “the main title designer who set the tone and atmosphere for hundreds of films, from Auntie Mame and Pillow Talk to The Godfather: Part II and Total Recall,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. He passed away on September 30 “on South Whidbey Island in Washington after a brief illness.” Fitzgerald was 89 years old. Over the last few years, I have sought to contract Fitzgerald through several avenues, hoping to talk with him about his TV work, but I was never successful. Now he’s forever beyond my reach. As the Web site The Art of the Title recalls, the Los Angeles-born designer put in 17 years at Pacific Title & Art Studio, creating the opening sequences for such films as The Music Man and My Fair Lady, and for small-screen shows including Maverick and Mr. Ed, before starting his own design firm in 1967. Among his numerous other credits were the main titles for television programs on the order of The Bold Ones, Sarge, Switch, Tucker’s Witch, Quincy, M.E. and Matlock, and for movies ranging from Chinatown (1974) and Farewell, My Lovely (1975) to The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), The Electric Horseman (1979), and Terms of Endearment (1983). I’m embedding four of my favorite Fitzgerald title designs below, in this order: the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie (with theme music by Henry Mancini), It Takes a Thief (theme by Dave Grusin), Night Gallery (music by Gil Mellé), and the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde (theme by Charles Strouse). The Hollywood Reporter observes that Fitzgerald picked up three Emmy Awards for his introductions. (Hat tip to The Spy Command.)

• Terence Towles Canote has his own Wayne Fitzgerald obituary, in his blog A Shroud of Thoughts. It includes this tidbit: “While his contemporaries were often known for a specific style, Mr. Fitzgerald's titles could vary stylistically. If there is one thing that his titles had in common, it is that in many ways they were movies in and of themselves. His titles were closely-knit, but never cluttered, and in many cases told stories all their own. It was his talent at montage, at creating what were essentially ‘mini-movies’ with his titles, that allowed him to be so prolific. In being able to create titles that were works of art in and of themselves, Wayne Fitzgerald guaranteed he would always be in demand.”

• Whoops! In my post earlier this week about the recipients of prizes presented during London’s inaugural Capital Crime festival, I failed to mention that Ashley Harrison had been named as the winner of the New Voices Award for her book, The Dysconnect. Victoria Goldman and Patti Buff were identified as runners-up for that same commendation.

• This item comes from In Reference to Murder:
Rebus is set to return to TV screens after over a decade away. The detective drama starred Ken Stott in the role of DI John Rebus for three seasons when John Hannah quit the role after the first series. Rebus creator, Scottish author Ian Rankin, has confirmed its long-awaited comeback and that new episodes are on the way with Gregory Burke penning the scripts. It’s said the new episode could have a Nordic Noir-style, while Rankin (who has penned 22 books featuring Rebus) will have a much bigger say in how the series is run.

No broadcast date has been set yet, and there is no word on whether the show would return to ITV.
• That same blog notes that today marks 30 years since the founding of Scottsdale, Arizona’s now landmark Poisoned Pen Bookstore. “To celebrate,” it explains, “owner Barbara Peters and her staff will host a cake and champagne party featuring author Joe Hill (NOS4A2) in conversation with attorney and editor, Leslie Klinger. Other guests include John Sandford, author of the Prey series; James Rollins, author of the Sigma Force series; and Anne Perry, author of the Thomas Pitt and William Monk series.” Congratulations are certainly in order!

• The latest Paperback Warrior podcast focuses on Max Allan Collins’ series of novels starring the hit man known as Quarry, as well as Appointment in Iran, the 23rd action-packed Butcher novel by “Stuart Jason” (aka James Dockery). Listen here.

• Meanwhile, Stark House Press and its still-new short-story compilation, The Best of Manhunt, are the subject of The BookPeople Podcast’s latest episode. Numbering among the guests on that particular show are author Joe R. Landsdale and Rick Ollerman, editor of Down & Out: The Magazine. Listen here.

• I didn’t know until now that The Killing Times also produces a podcast. The most recent episode features Margrét Örnólfsdóttir, who wrote Sagafilm’s four-part TV adaptation of Icelandic author Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson’s best-selling novel, The Flatey Enigma (Flateyjargáta). More about the series—which showed in Britain in September—can be found here and here.

So that’s where Nero Wolfe’s New York brownstone was!

• Mystery Writers of America has planned a weeklong celebration of crime and mystery fiction, to take place at various locations in California from October 19 through 26. Mystery Fanfare offers the list of events, all of which will be free and open to the public.

• Only one novel from our favorite genre appears on Literary Hub’s list of “The 10 Best Debut Novels of the Decade”: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 work, The Sympathizer, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author.

• Worrisome news, from The New York Times: “Wherever authoritarian regimes are growing in strength, from Brazil, to Hungary, to the Philippines, literature that expresses any kind of political opposition is under a unique, renewed threat. Books that challenge normative values, especially those with L.G.B.T. themes, have been hit especially hard. History textbooks crafted by independent scholars are being replaced with those produced by the state at a disturbing rate. In Russia, a new even stricter set of censorship laws was announced in March to punish those expressing ‘clear disrespect’ for the state (i.e. effectively Putin himself).” Along these lines, I wouldn’t be surprised at this point to hear Donald Trump call for censoring authors who disagree with his increasingly unhinged and authoritarian behavior. No doubt, he will declare that they, too, are committing “treason.”

• Finally, a few author interviews worth finding: Lori Rader-Day talks with Ann Cleeves (The Long Call) for the Chicago Review of Books; Barry Eisler submits to questions from Omnivoracious’ Chris Schluep about his new, third Livia Lone book, All the Devils; and Swedish novelist-journalist David Lagercrantz fields queries about his third and final Lisbeth Salander adventure, The Girl Who Lived Twice, for the aforementioned BookPeople Podcast.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

PaperBack: “Anatomy of a Murder”

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

Anatomy of a Murder, by “Robert Traver,” aka John D. Voelker (Dell, 1959). Cover illustration by Robert McGinnis; movie poster on the back cover by Saul Bass.

Lethem Takes the Parker

Jonathan Lethem’s The Feral Detective (Ecco) has vaulted past two strong competitors to win the 2019 T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award, presented by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. Also vying for that honor were The Good Detective, by John McMahon (Putnam), and The Border, by Don Winslow (Morrow).

The Parker Award was only one of eight SCIBA commendations announced during the association’s annual trade show, held September 27-28 in San Gabriel, California.

(Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

Monday, September 30, 2019

Toasts of London

I must have missed the memo about all of this. I didn’t realize that any prizes were scheduled to be given out during this weekend’s inaugural Capital Crime festival in London. But apparently there were: the 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards. Mystery Fanfare reports the winners, in nine categories.

Best Mystery: In A House of Lies, by Ian Rankin

Also nominated: Cruel Acts, by Jane Casey; The Sentence Is
, by Anthony Horowitz; The Island, by Ragnar Jónasson; and Metropolis, by Philip Kerr

Best Thriller: London Rules, by Mick Herron

Also nominated: Twisted, by Steve Cavanagh; Out of the Dark, by
Gregg Hurwitz; A Treachery of Spies, by Manda Scott; and Changeling, by Matt Wesolowski

Best Debut: My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Also nominated: The Rumour, by Lesley Kara; Blood & Sugar, by
Laura Shepherd-Robinson; Blood Orange, by Harriet Tyce; and To the Lions, by Holly Watt

Best E-book: Sleep, by C.L. Taylor

Also nominated: Brothers in Blood, by Amer Anwar; Last of the Magpies, by Mark Edwards; The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides; and Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty

Best Audiobook: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton, read by Jot Davies

Also nominated: Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith, read by Robert Glenister; The Sentence Is Death, by Anthony Horowitz, read by Rory Kinnear; Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman, read by Catherine Steadman; and Blood Orange, by Harriet Tyce,
read by Julie Teal

Best Independent Voice: Red Snow, by Will Dean

Also nominated: Little, by Edward Carey; Good Samaritans, by Will Carver; What Was Lost, by Jean Levy; and Changeling,
by Matt Wesolowski

Best Crime Novel: In a House of Lies, by Ian Rankin

Also nominated: Our House, by Louise Candlish; The Mobster’s Lament, by Ray Celestin; The Puppet Show, by M.W. Craven; and Stone Mothers, by Erin Kelly

Best Feature Film: BlacKkKlansman

Also nominated: American Animals, John Wick 3, The Sisters
, and Widows

Best TV Show: Killing Eve

Also nominated: Bodyguard, Bosch, Line of Duty, and You

Congratulations to all of this year’s contenders!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Revue of Reviewers, 9-29-19

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