Thursday, April 17, 2014

Barry Good Choices, Indeed

There are a number of excellent works among the nominees for this year’s Barry Awards, including Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night (one of my personal favorites from 2013), Thomas H. Cook’s Sandrine’s Case, Stuart Neville’s Ratlines, and Charles McCarry’s The Shanghai Factor. These commendations are organized by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine and will be given out during this coming November’s Bouchercon in Long Beach, California. Below is the complete roster of Barry contenders.

Best Novel:
A Conspiracy of Faith, by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton)
A Tap on the Window, by Linwood Barclay (New American Library)
Sandrine’s Case, by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press)
Suspect, by Robert Crais (Putnam)
Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave, by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur)

Best First Novel:
Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent (Little, Brown)
Japantown, by Barry Lancet (Simon & Schuster)
The Bookman’s Tale, by Charlie Lovett (Viking)
Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman (Minotaur)
Cover of Snow, by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine
Norwegian by Night, by Derek B. Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Best Paperback Original:
Joe Victim, by Paul Cleave (Atria)
Disciple of Las Vegas, by Ian Hamilton (Picador)
The Rage, by Gene Kerrigan (Europa Editions)
I Hear the Sirens in the Street, by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street)
Fear in the Sunlight, by Nicola Upson (Harper)
Fixing to Die, by Elaine Viets (Signet)

Best Thriller:
Dead Lions, by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs (Knopf)
Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews (Scribner)
The Shanghai Factor, by Charles McCarry (Mysterious Press)
Ratlines, by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)
The Doll, by Taylor Stevens (Crown)

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

(Hat tip to Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Damage Claims

Because it’s likely you have not yet come across my latest Mysteries & Thrillers column on the Kirkus Reviews Web site, let me now direct your attention to it. My subject this time out is Hilary Davidson’s brand-new thriller, Blood Always Tells. Although I mention a few minor criticisms of the book, I found it interesting in intent and generally successful in execution. As I remark at one point, “People accustomed to easing slowly into a story will probably want to get a firm grip on their socks before cracking open Blood Always Tells.”

Click here to find the full review.

READ MORE:Q&A with Hilary Davidson” (MysteryPeople).

“I Did Not Kill My Wife”

The film version of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel, Gone Girl, won’t debut in U.S. theaters till early October of this year. But a trailer for the picture is available now in The Dissolve.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bullet Points: Passover Edition

• Here’s a book I very much look forward to adding to my library: The Art of Robert E. McGinnis. Slated for release by publisher Titan in October, and put together by McGinnis and co-author Art Scott, it will trace the career of this Ohio-born artist “best known for his book cover and movie poster work”--someone whose illustrations I have frequently highlighted in my Killer Covers blog. I can’t tell, by reading the brief Amazon write-up, whether this is an expansion of a 2001 book McGinnis and Scott put together, or a wholly new volume; I hope it’s the latter. By the way, the cover art decorating this Titan book appeared originally on the 1960 novel Kill Now, Pay Later, by Robert Kyle.

• I was sorry to hear that Minnesota businessman-turned-novelist Harold Adams died on April 4 at 91 years of age. He was the author of 17 novels featuring Carl Wilcox, an itinerant sign painter and “happenstance private eye” who operated in the small South Dakota town of Corden during the Great Depression. That Shamus Award-winning series began with Murder (1981) and concluded with Lead, So I Can Follow (1999). Adams also penned two novels (1987’s When Rich Men Die and 2003’s The Fourth of July Wake) about a wise-ass contemporary TV news anchor, Kyle Champion, who winds up taking on P.I. work himself. “I consider Harold Adams to be one of the major voices of his generation of crime fiction writers,” Ed Gorman wrote in the Minnesota mystery anthology Writes of Spring (2012). “His unique voice, his strong sense of story and structure, and his rich, wry depictions of the Depression-era Midwest have stayed with me long after the works of flashier writers have faded. There’s music in his books, a melancholy prairie song that you carry with you for life … I consider him to be a master.” Learn more about Adams here.

• Good-bye, as well, to a couple of other famous figures: Peter Matthiessen, whose National Book Award-winning works The Snow Leopard (1978) and Shadow Country (2008) sit prominently on the bookcase just in front of my office desk; and Mickey Rooney, the child actor who grew up to wed the lovely Ava Gardner, appear in such films as Drive a Crooked Road (1953), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and The Black Stallion (1979), and headlined the 1982 TV series One of the Boys. Matthiessen was 86 when he passed away on April 5; Rooney succumbed a day later, at age 93.

• The 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards won’t be given out until May 1. (Here are the contenders.) But publisher Open Road Integrated Media is already endeavoring to build up excitement with this infographic, which looks back at the breakdown between male and female winners, the occupations of the protagonists in those books, the two U.S. presidents who’ve been given Edgars, and much more.

• Speaking of Open Road, one of its digital marketing associates, Emma Pulitzer, asked me to pass along word that the publisher is “looking for someone to join our mystery team in marketing. … The job is called ‘Digital Marketing Manager – Fiction,’ although it’s specifically for mysteries.” Learn more here.

• I’ve previously featured, on this page, the trailer for Frank Sinatra’s 1967 detective film, Tony Rome. But I have to confess, that I have never taken the time to read Marvin Albert’s novels featuring Rome, the Miami police detective turned gumshoe who lives on a boat called The Straight Pass. In fact, I was only reminded of the protagonist because William Patrick Maynard wrote about him last week in the blog Black Gate. As he explains: “The first book in the series, Miami Mayhem (1960), plays like an update of Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1939), with its exposure of the dirty secrets wealthy families can afford to hide most of the time. The second title, Lady in Cement (1961), sees Tony stumble into the middle of a sordid mob connection after discovering the corpse of a nude woman in a block of cement while snorkeling in the deep blue sea. The third and final book, My Kind of Game (1962), sees Tony on a mission of revenge when the surrogate father figure who mentored him in the private eye business is worked over while investigating big crime in a small town.” If anyone out there has read the Rome novels, let us all know what you thought of them in the Comments section below.

• In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Chris Walsh revisits the largely forgotten TV movie The Execution of Private Slovik, which starred Martin Sheen, was written by Columbo creators William Link and Richard Levinson, was based on a tragic episode from World War II, and aired 40 years ago last month. Walsh’s piece is here.

• Belated congratulations to Reed Farrel Coleman, who has been tapped to compose four new novels in Robert B. Parker’s series about small-town Massachusetts police chief Jesse Stone. Commenting on this assignment in his blog, Coleman said, “Jesse Stone is a character with enormous appeal for me. I’d written an essay about Jesse entitled ‘Go East, Young Man: Robert B. Parker, Jesse Stone, and Spenser’ for the book In Pursuit of Spenser, edited by Otto Penzler. In doing the research for the essay, I found a rare and magical thing that only master writers like Mr. Parker could create: the perfectly flawed hero. Easy for writers to create heroes. Easy for writers to create characters with flaws. Not so easy to do both. But Robert B. Parker was an alchemist who turned simple concepts into enduring characters.” Coleman’s first Stone book, Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, is due for release in September by Putnam.

• Laura Lippman (After I’m Gone) picks her 10 favorite books about missing persons for Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Her most unexpected choice may be Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

Dashiell Hammett--Sherlockian parodist?

Darkness, Darkness, John Harvey’s 12th and last Detective Charlie Resnick novel, isn’t due out until September. In the meantime, though, UK readers can appreciate--this month!--an e-book short-story prequel to that release, Going Down Slow. Harvey offers background to the brief tale in his own blog.

• Editor Steven Powell, who wrote on this page two years ago about Theodora Keogh’s forgotten 1962 novel, The Other Girl, notes in The Venetian Vase that “Pharos Editions, a Seattle-based press, has just reissued Keogh’s novels The Tattooed Heart (1953) and My Name Is Rose (1956) in a single volume featuring an introduction by Lidia Yuknavitch. Apparently, this is the first time these novels have been reissued since the 1970s, although Olympia Press did reissue Keogh’s other novels between 2002 and 2007.” Go to the Pharos Editions Web site for more information.

• Speaking of forgotten thingsLongstreet!

• Double O Section has the trailer for A Most Wanted Man, a forthcoming film adapted from John le Carré’s 2008 novel of the same name, and featuring “one of the final lead performances from the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman.” Watch it here.

• And the Pierce Brosnan espionage film November Man (based on the late Bill Granger’s 1987 novel, There Are No Spies) has finally, at long last, been given a U.S. release date of August 27.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rowling Adds Another Prize to Her Shelf

And the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for a mystery or thriller novel goes to … Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling for The Cuckoo’s Calling (Mulholland), the first private-eye novel she’s penned under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Cuckoo’s beat out four rivals in that same category: Hour of the Red God, by Richard Crompton (Sarah Crichton); Sycamore Row, by John Grisham (Doubleday); The Rage, by Gene Kerrigan (Europa Editions); and The Collini Case, by Ferdinand von Schirach (Viking). The announcement was made tonight to help kick off the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Mystery/Thriller, of course, was just one of the 10 categories of prizes this year. You can see all of the winners and runners-up here.

READ MORE:L.A. Times Festival of Books Pre-Party,” by Jeri Westerson (Getting Medieval).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ellis Leaves Us Hanging

You’ll have to wait until Thursday, April 24, to see the complete list of authors and novels shortlisted--in seven categories--for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Awards. But the Crime Writers of Canada has announced the longlist for one of those categories, Best Novel. They are:

Walls of a Mind, by John Brooke (Signature Editions)
The Wolves of St. Peter’s, by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk (HarperCollins Canada)
The Devil’s Making, by Sean Haldane (Stone Flower Press)
Presto Variations, by Lee Lamothe (Dundurn Press)
The Rainy Day Killer, by Michael McCann (Plaid Raccoon Press)
Stranglehold, by Robert Rotenberg (Simon & Schuster Canada)
Miss Montreal, by Howard Shrier (Vintage Canada)
The Guilty, by Sean Slater (Simon & Schuster UK)
An Inquiry into Love and Death, by Simone St. James (Penguin)
The Drowned Man, by David Whellams (ECW Press)

These 10 titles were culled from a collection of more than 70 books entered for consideration in the Best Novel category. You will find the complete list of titles, plus the rundown of contenders in this year’s half-dozen other Arthur Ellis Award categories, here.

Winners of the 2014 awards will be announced during an event in Toronto, Ontario, scheduled for Thursday, June 5.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Let’s Hear It for All of the Contenders

Nowadays, there are so many genre-fiction awards nominations made during the first half of every year, it’s difficult to keep up. This morning brings an announcement of candidates, in six categories, for the 2014 Thriller Awards. Those commendations are given out by the International Thriller Writers organization.

Best Hardcover Novel:
Her Last Breath, by Linda Castillo (Minotaur)
Never Go Back, by Lee Child (Delacorte Press)
Touch and Go, by Lisa Gardner (Dutton)
Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King (Scribner)
Criminal Enterprise, by Owen Laukkanen (Putnam)
White Fire, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central)
The Demonologist, by Andrew Pyper (Simon & Schuster)

Best First Novel:
Montana, by Gwen Florio (Permanent Press)
Resolve, by J.J. Hensley (Permanent Press)
Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman (Minotaur)
Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews (Scribner)
The Edge of Normal, by Carla Norton (Minotaur)
Out of Range, by Hank Steinberg (Morrow)
The Intercept, by Dick Wolf (Harper)

Best Paperback Original Novel:
Cold Snap, by Allison Brennan (Minotaur)
Buried, by Kendra Elliot (Montlake)
His Majesty’s Hope, by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam)
The One I Left Behind, by Jennifer McMahon (Morrow)
Snow White Must Die, by Nele Neuhaus (Minotaur)
Deadly Harvest, by Michael Stanley (Harper)

Best Short Story:
“Baggage of Eternal Night,” by Eric Guignard (JournalStone)
“Waco 1982,” by Laura Lippman (from The Mystery Writers of America Presents: The Mystery Box, edited by Brad Meltzer;
Grand Central)
“The Gallows Bird,” by Kevin Mims (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], July 2013)
“Footprints in the Water,” by Twist Phelan (EQMM, July 2013)
“Doloroso,” by Stephen Vessels (EQMM, November 2013)

Best Young Adult Novel:
The Rules for Disappearing, by Ashley Elston (Disney-Hyperion)
Scorched, by Mari Mancusi (Sourcebooks Fire)
Escape from Eden, by Elisa Nader (Merit Press)
All Our Yesterdays, by Cristin Terrill (Disney-Hyperion)
Boy Nobody, by Allen Zadoff (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Best E-Book Original Novel:
The World Beneath, by Rebecca Cantrell (Rebecca Cantrell)
The Burning Time, by J.G. Faherty (JournalStone)
Terminus, by Joshua Graham (Redhaven)
No Dawn for Men, by James Lepore and Carlos Davis
(The Story Plant)
Out of Exile, by Luke Preston (Momentum)

The names of this year’s ITW Thriller Awards will be declared on July 12 during ThrillerFest IX in New York City.

* * *

Meanwhile, author-blogger Lee Goldberg brought word yesterday of which books and writers are in the running for the 2014 Scribe Awards, “recognizing excellence in the field of media tie-in writing ... books based on movies, TV shows and games.” There are six categories, but two that might be of greatest interest to Rap Sheet readers:

Best Adaptation (Novelization):
Man of Steel, by Greg Cox (Titan)
47 Ronin, by Joan D. Vinge (Tor)
Pacific Rim, by Alex Irvine (Titan)

Best General Original:
The Executioner: Sleeping Dragons, by Michael A. Black (Gold Eagle)
Murder She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder, by Donald Bain (NAL)
Leverage: The Bestseller Job, by Greg Cox (Berkley)
Leverage: The Zoo Job, by Keith R. A. DeCandido (Berkley)
Mr. Monk Helps Himself, by Hy Conrad (NAL)

Again, the full list of this year’s Scribe Award competitors is here.

It Sounds Like an Occasion for Cake

Rockford Files fan Jim Suva reminds me that today is actor James Garner’s birthday. The legendary star not only of The Rockford Files, but also of Maverick, Nichols, Support Your Local Gunfighter, and so many other TV shows and films turns 86 years old today. I was fortunate enough to interview Garner, via e-mail, in 2011, and I count that as one of my life’s high points. Happy birthday, Jim!

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Book You Have to Read:
“The Red Carnelian,” by Phyllis A. Whitney

(Editor’s note: This is the 132nd entry in our ongoing series about great but forgotten books. Today’s tribute comes from New Yorker Erica Obey, the author most recently of a mystery novel titled Back to the Garden [Five Star]. She teaches courses on mystery fiction and Arthurian romance at Fordham University.)

My clergyman father--whose taste in books ranged from Helen MacInnes to Teilhard de Chardin--had one house rule when I was growing up: I was allowed to choose anything that I had the patience to read from his bookshelves. Admittedly, this led to some cryptic interpretive episodes involving As I Lay Dying and The Scarlet Letter. But in spite of a childhood acquaintance with everything from Ian Fleming to page 29 of The Godfather, only one thing ever really felt like forbidden fruit: the Gothic romances of Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and especially Phyllis A. Whitney.

Born in 1903, Whitney’s life spanned the entire 20th century (she died in 2008), and her career nearly did as well. She began to write hundreds of stories for what she described as “pulp magazines” in 1925, and published her first children’s book, A Place for Ann in 1941. Two years later, in 1943, she published Red Is for Murder (later retitled The Red Carnelian) the book that set her on the path to becoming the “Queen of American Gothic Romance.”

It was a term Whitney herself disliked--and correctly so. Technically, the Gothic romance was an 18th- and 19th-century genre, whose terrorized heroines fled through a century’s worth of dismal ruins, midnight fires, mysterious warnings, and both literal and figurative skeletons in the closet, straight from Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho into the waiting arms of Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre. Long derided as comprising “silly novels by scribbling ladies,” the genre began to be taken seriously by feminist critics in the 1970s and ’80s. Arguably, the most important interpretation of the Gothic romance was Claire Kahane’s contention that the heroine’s exploration of the closed rooms and haunted corridors of a mysterious mansion was a metaphorical exploration of the secrets of her own childhood home--along with the more complex issues of mother/daughter relationships and the anxiety of female authorship.

The Red Carnelian was published only five years after Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, which many would call the last true Gothic novel. However, although it is clear that Whitney forged her career from the tricks of the Gothic romance’s trade, it also is quite clear that she is doing something very different, very modern and very American. In The Red Carnelian, Linell Wynn, who writes copy for Cunningham’s Department Store, stumbles across the dead body of Michael Montgomery, her ex-fiancé, in a display window--on the same day that he has returned from his honeymoon with another woman. Linell is the main suspect, but there is no shortage of others, for Montgomery had a knack of making everyone around him unhappy--including his new bride. That plot alone establishes the factors that made Whitney so popular: an independent heroine with an interesting career, a setting that is at least as interesting as the heroine, a mystery, and a romance. What makes it particularly American is Whitney’s choosing a department store for her setting, thereby moving the traditional Gothic’s discussion of desire and illusion from the closed world of the house and family into the larger world of the American success story.

Whitney’s emphasis on Linell’s professional abilities is also what makes it hard to define The Red Carnelian as a romance. Unlike her contemporaries Holt and Stewart, Whitney always insists on maintaining a balance between the mystery and the romance in her books. Indeed, The Red Carnelian’s hero, Bill Thorne, who is as gruff and practical as his name suggests, spends a great deal of time off stage, allowing Linell to solve the mystery on her own. This is not simply a demonstration of Whitney’s commitment to creating an independent heroine. It also demonstrates Whitney’s characteristic determination to balance the demands of the head and the heart in her novels. Traditional Gothic novels have always been about the heart, giving voice to such forbidden female desires as Jane Eyre’s “rebellion, hunger, and rage”--and I’m sure this is what made them feel so much more dangerous to me as a child than James Bond ever seemed. But while Whitney is not in the least afraid of exploring the psychologically charged issues of both familial and romantic love, particularly in The Red Carnelian’s denouement, her books always force her heroines to understand these desires as well.

In other words, the head matters as much in Whitney’s work as the heart--and Linell is particularly suited to using her head, because she is a writer. Significantly, she is not a creative writer; instead, she is a copywriter who observes and describes, rather than imagines. It is this objective aspect of her character that allowed her to see through Montgomery’s seductive exterior even before the novel begins. It also makes her clear-eyed enough to deconstruct the multiple false narratives the other characters tell, in order to discover the solution to the crime. However, after having solved the crime, Linell conspires with Sylvester Hering, the store detective, to create a false narrative of her own--and Whitney makes her reader complicit in that decision from the novel’s very first page. (Without, of course, giving away the ending.)

As someone who teaches a college-level course on mystery fiction, I can’t help but read such a concern with narration, truth, and falsity in the grimly post-modernist terms of Lacan’s and Derrida’s disappearing referent--especially given the book’s change in title from Red Is for Murder to The Red Carnelian. Granted, the change was probably made to bring the title in line with more well-known Whitney titles such as The Golden Unicorn or The Turquoise Mask. But Red Is for Murder is an allegorizing, interpretative move, suggesting a clear representational relationship between the text and its meanings. The Red Carnelian, in contrast, is a MacGuffin--a meaningless object of desire, like the suitcase in the post-modern masterpiece Pulp Fiction, whose only purpose is to trigger the characters’ narratives.

Whitney, I’m sure, would have no truck with such nonsense--and speaking as a recovering academic, I can only applaud her. However, such theoretical analysis is a good reminder not to underestimate the complexity of Whitney’s work--and to admire her straightforward handling of the complicated questions she addresses. For, when asked to describe her own writing, Whitney simply said that it was about arriving at “understanding between people.” Those words go straight to the careful balance between the head and the heart that gives Whitney’s work its enduring appeal. The reader’s head is satisfied by understanding the mystery--and Whitney’s awareness of the slippery nature of stories and words. But the heart is satisfied by the romance, along with the fact that any understanding arrived at in one of Whitney’s books is always “between people”: whether they are an innocent young girl and a dark, dangerous man; a mother and a daughter; or a conspiracy among Linell, Hering, and Whitney herself to allow kindness to temper justice in the mystery’s solution.

Desperation Play

Our compadres at January Magazine took note earlier this week of a new trailer promoting the big-screen drama The Drop, which is scheduled for release this coming September. Based on a screenplay by Dennis Lehane (Live by Night), this picture stars James Gandolfini, who died last June. As January notes, “The source material is a Lehane short story called ‘Animal Rescue,’ which first appeared in Boston Noir ...” You can read more and see the trailer here.

Stanza Up and Be Counted

April is National Poetry Month here in the States. In association with that, Gerald So, editor of The 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly, has put together a 30-day-long celebration during which bloggers will comment on poems--either those that have been featured on So’s site, or original work found elsewhere. Things kicked off this last Tuesday with B.V. Lawson’s “Poems from the Dark Side” and will continue today with a contribution from Deborah Lacy at Mystery Playground.

You can find a full schedule of postings here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Another Helping of Click Bait

• Kevin Burton Smith has posted a new update of The Thrilling Detective Web Site, his long-running and incredibly useful resource. Included among the new offerings: a look back at Timothy Webster, Pinkerton detective and Civil War spy; a lost interview with Dashiell Hammett, from 1929; and a survey of gay detective fiction. Smith provides a full rundown of his site’s new offerings here.

• I’m very much enjoying “One Minute History,” California author Jeri Westerson’s new blog series, each installment being “a brief paragraph or two about something in British history to whet your appetite.” Her latest entry is about London Bridge, but you should be able to access all of her write-ups here.

• Good news for Michael Connelly’s TV project, from Crimespree: “Amazon has ordered a ten-episode first season of Bosch. The series features Michael Connelly’s LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch and stars Titus Welliver, Annie Wersching and Jamie Hector. The season will draw from three novels: The Concrete Blonde, City of Bones and Echo Park.”

So that’s where the term “OK” originated.

• Paul Bishop has a good piece up about John Wayne’s late-life cop movies, 1974’s McQ (which I also wrote about here) and 1975’s Brannigan. Note, though, that Bishop isn’t gushing over these projects; he’d have preferred that Wayne stick with making Westerns--but that wasn’t an option at the time, since such productions were being “eclipsed off the big screen and the choice was to change genres or stop working. Bishop continues: “After his turns as a tough cop, Wayne would only make two more films--Rooster Cogburn and The Shootist. It would have been nice if the sports jackets, fast cars, and very large handguns of McQ and Brannigan could have been exchanged for ten-gallon hats, fast horses, and Winchesters. The plots could have stayed the same, and both the viewers and Wayne would have been much happier with him up to his butt in horse manure.”

• Who knew that Robin, the Boy Wonder, uttered so many exclamations during the run of that 1960s action-TV series, Batman?

• The subhead over Diane Shipley’s piece in The Guardian about author Patricia Highsmith should catch some attention: “Film adaptations mean she’s not unknown, but her tense and unsettling thrillers deserve a much wider readership.” More here.

• And I don’t recall ever watching the 1969-1970 British small-screen series Department S, about “Interpol [agents] tasked with solving sensitive and difficult cases.” But pseudonymous Aussie blogger DforDoom clearly doesn’t suffer from that same gap in his education. Check out his tribute to the show in Cult TV Lounge.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tall Order for Shorts

Because every news item is rather suspect today, let me begin here by saying that this is not an April Fool’s joke: The Short Mystery Fiction Society did indeed announce today the winners of its 2014 Derringer Awards as determined by a vote of SMFS members. They are:

Best Flash Story (Up to 1,000 words): “Luck Is What You Make,” by Stephen D. Rogers (Crime Factory, May 2013)

Also nominated: Final Statement,” by Robert Bailey (The Flash Fiction Offensive, July 18, 2013); “Not My Day,” by Stephen Buehler (from Last Exit to Murder, edited by Darrell James, Linda O. Johnston, and Tammy Kaehler; Down & Out Books); “The Needle and the Spoon,” by Allan Leverone (Shotgun Honey, November 15, 2013); and Terry Tenderloin and the Pig Thief,” by John Weagly (Shotgun Honey, June 21, 2013)

Best Short Story (1,001-4,000 words): “The Present,” by Robert Lopresti (The Strand Magazine, February-May 2013)

Also nominated: “Pretty Little Things,” by Chris F. Holm (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July 2013); “The Sweetheart Scamster,” by Rosemary McCracken (from Thirteen: An Anthology of Crime Stories, edited by M.H. Callway, Donna Carrick, and Joan O’Callaghan; Carrick); The Little Outlaw,” by Mike Miner (Plan B Magazine,
August 9, 2013); and “The Cemetery Man,” by Bill Pronzini (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July 2013)

Best Long Story (4,001-8,000 words): “Give Me a Dollar,” by Ray Daniel (from Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold, edited by Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, Barbara Ross, and Leslie Wheeler; Level Best Books)

Also nominated: “Myrna,” by John Bubar (from Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold); “Bloody Signorina,” by Joseph D’Agnese (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine [AHMM], September 2013); “Dance Man,” by Andrew Jetarski (from Last Exit to Murder); and “A Dangerous Life" by Adam Purple (from Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold)

Best Novelette (8,001-20,000 words): “The Goddaughter’s Revenge,” by Melodie Campbell (Orca Rapid Reads, October 2013)

Also nominated: “The Serpent Beneath the Flower,” by Jack Bates (Mind Wings Audio, April 2013); “For Love’s Sake,” by O’Neil De Noux (AHMM, July/August 2013); “The Antiquary’s Wife,” by William Burton McCormick (AHMM, March 2013); and “Last Night in Cannes,” by James L. Ross (AHMM, November 2013)

In addition, the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement went to Ed Gorman.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Rip Teasers

Delivered with his customary verve and wit, UK critic-author Mike Ripley’s latest “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots includes notes about: unexpectedly sexy tales from Jack Higgins; the Italian police drama Inspector De Luca, coming soon to British TV sets; largely forgotten crime novelist Mavis Doriel Hay; the employment of “public houses” around London as handy interviewing locales; and new releases from John Connolly, Declan Burke, Nikki French, Olivier Truc, and Marco Malvaldi, plus a preview of Alan Furst’s soon-forthcoming novel, Midnight in Europe. Partake of all that and more here.

Rough Rider on the Case

Hard as this might be to believe, when I set out to compose a column for Kirkus Reviews about the many appearances of Theodore Roosevelt in mystery and thriller fiction, I believed it would be a simple, straightforward venture. I didn’t know that I would spend most of last weekend on the task! Fortunately, I can say I’m pretty well satisfied with the results.

The piece focuses initially on Louis Bayard’s new historical thriller, Roosevelt’s Beast. It then recalls some older works (by William L. DeAndrea, Caleb Carr, and others) in which “TR”--the onetime rancher, ex-police commissioner, former governor and president, and persistent naturalist/author/adventurer--has appeared. You’ll find my full Kirkus column here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bullet Points: PWG, TV, and DVDs Edition

Wow, it seems like forever since I’ve found time to compose a crime-fiction news wrap-up post, but it’s actually only been a little more than two weeks. During that period, I’ve accumulated myriad items of interest, but I’ll offer just a few of them here.

• Today may or many not be the birthday of Sherlock Holmes’ investigative associate and chronicler, Dr. John H. Watson--depending on which sources you believe. I wrote about this in a post for The Rap Sheet years ago, which you can still enjoy here.

• UK critic-author Mike Ripley talks with Duncan Torrens, for Shots, about the work that went into releasing Mr. Campion’s Farewell (Severn House), a novel featuring Margery Allingham’s gentleman sleuth, Albert Campion. As Les Blatt notes in his blog, Classic Mysteries, Farewell is “a continuation of a book begun by Allingham’s husband, Pip Youngman Carter, after his wife’s death. Carter died after writing only a few chapters, and the manuscript was never finished or published. Now, Mike Ripley has completed it, and I believe it has just been published by Severn House in the UK. It’s scheduled to be released in the U.S. on July 1st.” You will find Shots’ conversation with the honorable Mr. Ripley here.

• I’m sorry to learn, from Janet Rudolph’s Mystery Fanfare, that Book ’Em Mysteries in Pasadena, California, will close on April 30 after 24 years in business. Co-owner Barry Martin is quoted as saying, “You reach a point in your life when you feel you’ve accomplished something. We are heartened by our customers who have supported us over the years. Many are more than customers. They’re friends.”

• Oh, no, not again! After going dormant for some months, it looks as if the Webzine Plots With Guns is closing down--but not until after the release of “one last, big issue.” It seems that creator Anthony Neil Smith had a heart attack and was in the hospital for a while, and as he explained on Facebook, “Sean O’Keefe, Erik Lundy, and Gonzalo Baeza, the current editorial staff and braintrust, have also decided it’s time to move on.” Before the band breaks up, though, they’re soliciting contributions to a blockbuster final issue. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, April 10. You may recall that PWG already tried to sign off once, at the end of 2004, with its editors complaining that “we’re tired.” But it was reborn at the start of 2008, and has been turning out fine editions ever since. Let’s hope this latest termination effort is as unsuccessful as the previous one, and that we haven’t heard the last of PWG. Meanwhile, I’ll let you know when the current editors’ close-out issue is posted.

Lee Child answers some readers’ questions.

R.I.P., Lorenzo Semple Jr. The screenwriter who developed the 1960s live-action TV series Batman died on March 28 at age 91. Coincidentally, that was only two days before the 75th anniversary of Batman’s debut as a crime-fighting comic-book hero.

• MysteryPeople chats with Steven Saylor about his recently released historical mystery, Raiders of the Nile.

• It’s official! The complete DVD collection of the 1975-1976 ABC-TV series Barbary Coast--about which I wrote here not long ago--is scheduled for release on June 3. Barbary Coast, you may recall, was a not great, but interesting Western-cum-crime drama starring William Shatner and Doug McClure. I’ve already placed an order for the set. I hope the show measures up to my memories of it.

• Meanwhile, I have no recollection of this 1970 legal drama.

Mystery Scene’s Oline Cogdill bids farewell to two small-screen series, one of which--Psych--ended its eight-year run (really, that long?) last week, while the other--Justified--has a final, sixth season still to come. “The two shows,” writes Cogdill, “could not be more different--one a comic-drama mystery, the other a hard-charging, often violent series--yet each was/is completely satisfying in its own way with realistic characters who drew you in to their exploits, good plots and, especially in Justified’s case, crisp dialogue.”

• And I don’t think my local public-TV station has scheduled broadcasts of Father Brown, the BBC series starring Mark Williams. Which would be worse, if not for the fact that Criminal Element blogger Leslie Gilbert Elman thinks that program “has little in common with its source material” and shouldn’t be held “to any standard of historical accuracy.” Read her full overview of Father Brown here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A “Rockford” Anniversary

Fan and blogger Jim Suva reminds us that today marks 40 years since the debut, on March 27, 1974, of the pilot film that launched The Rockford Files. Also known by the title “Backlash of the Hunter,” that 90-minute NBC teleflick found perennially broke ex-con private eye Jim Rockford (James Garner) being approached by a young bikini-shop proprietor (played so delightfully by Lindsey Wagner), who is convinced her wino father was murdered, rather than having committed suicide. She wants Rockford to prove it.

The Rockford pilot ranks as one of my all-time favorites of the breed, and it spawned what I believe is the best gumshoe series ever broadcast on the American small screen. If you haven’t seen the film before, or would enjoy watching it again, you’ll find it here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Triple Treat


News reported here recently that the pilot film for the 1972-1973 ABC-TV crime/adventure drama The Delphi Bureau has been released by Warner Archive dredged up from my memory the “wheel series” of which Delphi was merely one element. So I went looking through YouTube, and discovered the 1972 Fall Preview video--posted above--which introduced Delphi and its two other alternating shows, all of which were broadcast under the umbrella title The Men.

For those who aren’t old enough to remember, The Delphi Bureau featured Laurence Luckinbill as Glenn Garth Gregory, a handsome guy with a photographic memory who’s employed by an indistinctly defined U.S. government agency that does obscure “research” work for the president. “Its actual role was counter-espionage,” recalls Wikipedia, “and its main operative was Gregory, whose liaison with the group’s unnamed superiors was Sybil Van Lowreen (Anne Jeffreys), a Washington, D.C., society hostess. (Celeste Holm had played Sybil Van Lowreen in the series’ pilot film.)” Unfortunately, only seven episodes of Delphi were shot before The Men was cancelled.

In NBC Mystery Movie fashion, Delphi had rotated in a 9-10 p.m. Thursday (later Saturday) slot with a couple of other programs that should have been more successful than they were. The first of those was Jigsaw, which found familiar character actor James Wainwright playing Lieutenant Frank Dain, a determined but kindhearted plainclothes detective with the California State Police Missing Persons Bureau, whose cases took him all over the Golden State. Although this Universal Studios production was created by Robert E. Thompson, a screenwriter with heavy-duty experience in the field of small-screen dramas (his credits included scripts for Have Gun, Will Travel, Mission: Impossible, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Name of the Game), Jigsaw--not to be confused with Jack Warden’s 1976 NBC crime drama, Jigsaw John--did not fare well with viewers. Ted Fitzgerald recalls on The Thrilling Detective Web Site that
After six episodes were produced, the studio or the network brought in Roy Huggins to punch things up. Huggins began by jettisoning the cop format. The vehicle for the change was Howard Browne’s oft-filmed [1954] novel Thin Air (which would later be the basis of episodes of The Rockford Files and Simon & Simon, among others) in which a man is suspected of murder after his lady friend walks into a restaurant and vanishes into … you guessed it. Stephen [J.] Cannell wrote the script [for that episode, “Kiss the Dream Goodbye”], which ended with Dain clearing his name and getting his private ticket. Huggins plotted the next episode, then the network ran the final unaired cop episode and the show vanished. My memory of the series in general and the P.I. episodes in particular was that it was well-done and played straight; no Rockford-style humor. Huggins and Cannell undoubtedly would have done a good job with a low-key lone-wolf character and the missing-persons hook, but ABC gave them Toma to do instead. And, of course, a year later NBC provided them the Rockford opportunity. In the larger scheme of things, as promising as the still-born Jigsaw might have been, The Rockford Files was, to say the least, the better path for Huggins and Cannell to follow.
The last and perhaps best-remembered segment of The Men was Assignment: Vienna, about which I’ve written on this page before. It starred ex-Wild Wild West lead Robert Conrad as Jake Webster, “an American expatriate in Vienna who was the operator of Jake’s Bar & Grill, an American-style establishment near the scenic heart of the [Austrian capital] city,” Wikipedia explains. “In fact, the business was a cover for Jake’s actual reason for being in Vienna. He was involved in tracking down various spies and international criminals at the behest of U.S. intelligence, which apparently held something against him which, if disclosed, would have resulted in his being deported from Austria and apparently then incarcerated in the United States. Jake’s liaison with U.S. intelligence was a Major Caldwell (Charles Cioffi).”

Assignment: Vienna--which followed a 1972 pilot film, Assignment: Munich, featuring Roy Scheider in the Webster role--seemed to offer considerable promise. As I remarked in my previous post about that show: “It had the talented pair of Eric Bercovici and Jerry Ludwig (who’d worked previously on episodes of Mission: Impossible) as its creators and executive producers. It had a terrific, intrigue-filled theme by jazz pianist and composer Dave Grusin (who had composed the theme music for Burt Reynolds’ Dan August and Robert Wagner’s It Takes a Thief, among others).” And in Conrad it boasted a bankable star, a pretty boy who nonetheless carried a tough demeanor suggesting he’d taken a few punches in his time and knew how to throw more of his own. (In fact, Conrad had been a pop and rock singer before he embarked on an acting career.) Furthermore, this final spoke of the Men wheel was shot in European “locations of intrigue and adventure,” giving it a freshness that other programs filmed around New York City or Los Angeles lacked. Yet, once more, Assignment: Vienna was yanked from the TV schedule after only eight episodes.

Warner Archive’s DVD release of The Dephi Bureau pilot gives me hope that it will follow up with a complete packaging of the series. And maybe that will incite the sale of both Assignment: Vienna and Jigsaw in the same format. I’d love to see them all once more--complete with the Isaac Hayes theme that originally introduced The Men.

* * *

The video clip embedded at the top of this post comes from a longer ABC Fall Preview--the first of two parts--found here. An episode-by-episode index of The Men is here.

Quercus Finds a Partner

Following on the news, reported on this page in January, that London-based book publisher Quercus was up for sale, comes word today that fellow UK publishing house Hodder & Stoughton (an imprint of Hachette) has offered to purchase Quercus for “around £12.6 million.” You’ll find more about that deal here.

(Hat tip to Ali Karim.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

“Grace” Note

When I wrote yesterday about books and authors picking up awards during this last weekend’s Left Coast Crime convention in Monterey, I neglected to add that Minnesota author William Kent Krueger won the 2014 Dilys Award for his novel Ordinary Grace (Atria). The Dilys, as you are undoubtedly aware, is given annually by the The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) “to the mystery titles of the year which the member booksellers have most enjoyed selling.”

The other half-dozen nominees for the 2014 Dilys Award were: Seven for a Secret, by Lyndsay Faye (Amy Einhorn/Putnam); The Black Country, by Alex Grecian (Putnam); Spider Woman’s Daughter, by Anne Hillerman (Harper); Pagan Spring, by G.M. Malliet (Minotaur); and The Land of Dreams, by Vidar Sundstol; translated by Tiina Nunnally (University of Minnesota Press).

Bravo to all of these books and their writers.

READ MORE:Left Coast Crime 2014: Calamari Crime” and “Left Coast Crime: More Photos!,” by Janet Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare); “Left Coast Crime (A Little Tardy),” by Jen Forbus (Jen’s Book Thoughts).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Left Coast, Right Choices

Last night, during the 24th annual Left Coast Crime convention, held in beautiful Monterey, California, the winners in four categories of awards were announced. They are:

The Lefty (best humorous mystery novel):
The Good Cop, by Brad Parks (Minotaur)

Also nominated: The Hen of the Baskervilles, by Donna Andrews (Minotaur); The Fame Thief, by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime); The Last Word, by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster); and Dying for a Daiquiri, by Cindy Sample (Cindy Sample Books)

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award (for best historical mystery novel covering events before 1960):
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur)

Also nominated: Heirs and Graces, by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime); His Majesty’s Hope, by Susan Elia MacNeal (Bantam); Murder as a Fine Art, by David Morrell (Mulholland); Covenant with Hell, by Priscilla Royal (Poisoned Pen Press); and Leaving Everything Most Loved, by Jacqueline Winspear (HarperCollins)

The Squid (best mystery set within the United States):
Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)

Also nominated: W Is for Wasted, by Sue Grafton (Putnam/Marian Wood); Purgatory Key, by Darrell James (Midnight Ink); The Wrong Girl, by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge); and A Killing at Cotton Hill, by Terry Shames (Seventh Street)

The Calamari (best mystery set anywhere else in the world):
How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Also nominated: Murder Below Montparnasse, by Cara Black (Soho Crime); Hour of the Rat, by Lisa Brackmann (Soho Crime); As She Left It, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink); and Mykonos After Midnight, by Jeffrey Siger (Poisoned Pen Press)

Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Catching the Critics’ Eyes

Later this week we should hear which books and authors have won a variety of annual awards at the Left Coast Crime convention, being held in Monterey, California, beginning tomorrow. But meanwhile, The Strand Magazine has announced the nominees for its 2013 Critics Awards for Best Mystery Novel and Best First Mystery Novel.

Best Novel:
The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland)
Solo, by William Boyd (Harper)
Sandrine’s Case, by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press)
A Serpent’s Tooth, by Craig Johnson (Viking)
Ratlines, by Stuart Neville (Soho Press)
The Double, by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown)

Best First Novel:
Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly (Grove Press)
Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs (Knopf)
A Killing at Cotton Hill, by Terry Shames (Seventh Street)
Walking Into the Ocean, by David Whellams (ECW Press)
Norwegian by Night, by Derek Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In addition, authors Peter Lovesey and R.L. Stine have been named as the latest recipients of The Strand’s Lifetime Achievement Award “for excellence in crime and thriller writing.”

All of these commendations will be handed out during an invitation-only cocktail party to be held in New York City on July 9.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dancing with the Czars

This month marks the beginning of my fourth year as the lead crime-fiction blogger for Kirkus Reviews. It’s been a pretty fun ride so far, and though there have been some frustrations along the way (including the recent redesign, which--illogically--shrinks the main book cover image at the top of each page, making it smaller than those that follow), this gig has given me opportunities to speak with authors I might not otherwise have contacted and explore corners of the genre about which I’d previously known little.

My Kirkus column today looks at “eight tales of historical intrigue and high-stakes espionage” set in Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade neighboring Ukraine and occupy the Crimean peninsula, followed by this weekend’s bogus vote by Crimean residents to join Russia, have thrown a spotlight on Russia, just when it seemed to be disappearing again from the news, following the end of the winter Olympic Games in Sochi. What better time to recall fine Russia-backdropped works by R.N. Morris, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Boris Akunin, Richard Hoyt, and others?

You’ll find my latest Kirkus contribution here.

READ MORE:Vladimir Putin’s Many Faces, in Fiction,” by John Dugdale (The Guardian).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sleuth and Consequences

You may have been too busy in other endeavors to notice, but over the last couple of days the Web has been filled with tributes to classic film and television gumshoes. Hosted by Movies, Silently, the 2014 “Sleuthaton” offers many pieces that should be of interest to Rap Sheet readers. Subjects range from Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes and the Miss Marple mysteries with Margaret Rutherford to Johnny Staccato and the Joel and Garda Sloane “Fast” mysteries. A complete lineup of links can be found here.

Get Your Irish On!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! I hope there’s some green article of clothing you are wearing today, even if it’s only a couple of worn socks. And don’t be afraid to partake of traditional corned beef and cabbage for at least one meal before the sun sets again (I know I shall be doing that myself). Another way to celebrate this occasion might be to pick up a mystery novel related to St. Patrick’s Day. Janet Rudolph has assembled a list of them here. Meanwhile, Irish author Declan Burke catalogues interesting Irish crime novels, “aka ‘Emerald Noir’,” about which he has blogged since the start of 2014.

READ MORE:Everything You Know About St. Patrick’s Day Is Wrong,” by Christine Dalton (The Huffington Post); “Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Some Irish Crime Fiction,” by Patrick Balester (Picks by Pat); “Five Great Irish Crime Fiction Authors” (MysteryPeople).

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pulp by the Dozen

A couple of weeks back, we alerted you to the start of online voting for this year’s New Pulp Awards. The cutoff for ballots being received was March 12, and the actual commendations won’t be handed out until Sunday, March 23, during MidSouth Con in Memphis, Tennessee. However, the 12 winners have already been announced. They are:

2014 New Pulp Best Novel:
Slow Burn, by Terrence McCauley (Noir Nation)

2014 New Pulp Best Collection/Anthology Award:
Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie, by Charie D. La Marr
(Chupa Cabra House)

2014 New Pulp Best Short Story Award:
“A Bullet’s All It Takes,” by Terrence McCauley (from The Kennedy Curse, edited by Bill Olver; Exter Press)

2014 New Pulp Best Novella Award:
The Scarlet Jaguar, by Win Scott Eckert (Meteor House)

2014 New Pulp Best Cover Art Award:
The Scarlet Jaguar, by Win Scott Eckert; cover art by Mark Sparacio (Meteor House)

2014 New Pulp Best Interior Art Award:
The Adventures of Gravedigger, Volume One, by Will Meugniot
(Pro Se Productions)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp-Related Comic:
Doc Savage (Dynamite Entertainment)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Magazine:
Pro Se Presents (Pro Se Productions)

2014 New Pulp Best Pulp Revival:
The Avenger (Moonstone Books)

2014 New Pulp Best New Character Award:
Gravedigger, from The Adventures of Gravedigger, Volume One,
by Barry Reese

2014 New Pulp Best Author Award:
Terrence McCauley

2014 New Pulp Best New Author Award:
Ralph L. Angelo Jr.

Congratulations to all of the winners! If you’d like to see a full list of the contenders for this year’s prizes, click here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bullet Points: Downbeat Thursday Edition

• Although it was broadcast for less than a full year, Darren McGavin’s 1974-1975 TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, is still broadly--and fondly--remembered. In 2012, Peter Enfantino and John Scoleri put together a terrific blog devoted to the show, It Couldn’t Happen Here. And now the Cult TV Lounge revisits that modern horror drama, calling it “a great deal of fun.
The good episodes outnumber the bad ones by a healthy margin and McGavin is delightful.”

• Amazon Studios has commissioned four original TV series to stream through its Amazon Prime service, one of which is Bosch, a police procedural based on Michael Connelly’s Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch novels and starring Titus Welliver. There’s more information about the four programs here, and specifically on Bosch here. A clip from the pilot is on the right. But I don’t see any word on when this series might debut.

• What do Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and World War I all have in common? This piece in The Atlantic reveals all.

• For anyone planning to attend this year’s CrimeFest in May, note that the program schedule has now been posted. Someday I hope to make it over to Bristol, England, to attend one of these conventions.

• Wow, I used to own all of the Major Matt Mason figures and their space gear, as well. I wonder what my mother did with that stuff …

• Have you been following the posts in Criminal Element, by author Jake Hinkson (Saint Homicide), that look back at the 1990-1991 TV drama Twin Peaks? Hinkson reintroduces the show, and then leaps quickly to the first episode. His reassessments of the second and third eps have followed. You can keep track of them all here.

• Really? A sequel to the 2005 neo-noir film Sin City? Crimespree Magazine offers a trailer for this new picture, which it says opens in theater on August 22.

• Another unnecessary remake. From New York magazine: “According to The Hollywood Reporter, our generation’s Chevy Chase, Jason Sudeikis, is in talks to take on the reporter role Chase made famous in the upcoming film Fletch Won, featuring the character I.M. Fletcher from the Gregory Mcdonald mystery series. Fletch Won will apparently be based on an original story, but Mcdonald did write twelve Fletch books in total, meaning Sudeikis could have his very own James Bond or Indiana Jones if he plays his cards right.” First off, Mcdonald penned 11 Fletch novels, one of which was in fact titled Fletch Won (1985). So is New York’s write-up wrong, or are this film’s supporters using the title, but telling a different story?

• I really must read Solomon’s Vineyard someday.

• For the first time, says author Robert J. Randisi, all three of his private eye Nick Delvecchio novels--No Exit From Brooklyn (1987), The Dead of Brooklyn (1992), and The End of Brooklyn (2011)--will be available in print at the same time.

• The Nick Carter & Carter Brown Blog is focusing on crime, mystery, and thriller fiction book covers this month, all of which contain the word “murder.” (Thankfully, that word is ubiquitous among crime novels, publishers being convinced that readers need such easy cue terms if they’re to recognize new entries in the field.) This “Murder in March Madness” celebration began with The Murders in the Rue Morgue, by Edgar Allan Poe, and has gone from there. You should be able to see all the book fronts at this link.

• Singer Debbie Harry--paperback cover model?

• Crime Fiction Lover’s rundown of “The 20 Best [TV] Crime Shows of All Time” doesn’t feature The Rockford Files, which it of course should, but at least it includes Columbo, Foyle’s War, and the British version of Life on Mars. In addition to The Wire.

• Congratulations to Tipping My Fedora for its first 400,000 visits.

• Finally, a new survey has found that “half the books stockpiled on shelves in British homes remain unread” and that “many people hoard books which they become emotionally attached to.” The Daily Telegraph adds that “the average home has 138 books.” First off, I must shake my head at the idea that there are a mere 138 books in most homes; mine probably contains 5,000. Far fewer than half of those remain unread, but I’ll confess to having a couple of hundred waiting for me to be in the right mood to pick them up and begin digesting their wonders. I don’t at all consider having myriad books in a home hoarding. Bookshelves, even of the jam-packed variety, bring elegance and life to any room. I’ve always been suspicious of people who don’t have books around. What the hell do they do with their spare time, watch Modern Family? I have almost all of the books I’ve read since I attended high school. Books were my friends long before I had many acquaintances of the human variety, and they remind me of the intellectual and imaginative variety I have enjoyed over these many years. Am I emotionally attached to them? Damn straight! And I am proud of the fact. As anyone should be.

How’s This for Forgotten TV?

I never thought I’d see this happen: RLJ Entertainment is planning to release a DVD set of Barbary Coast, the long-unavailable 1975-1976 ABC-TV series starring William Shatner as a disguise-obsessed government agent working to fight crime in 19th-century San Francisco. The series also starred Doug McClure as his reluctant, saloon-owning partner. TV Shows on DVD says this four-disc set will go on sale June 3, priced at $59.99, and offers this précis of the show:
Golden Globe winner William Shatner (Star Trek, Boston Legal) is Jeff Cable, an undercover agent patrolling the wild streets of 1880s San Francisco. Filled with casinos and saloons, this bustling slice of post-Gold Rush California runs on corruption, greed, and violence. And it’s Agent Cable’s job to crack down on the numerous criminals who have made a home there. Even top public officials can’t be trusted, so Cable weaves elaborate ruses to uncover the Barbary Coast’s many plots.

He also relies on the slick but beleaguered Cash Conover (Doug McClure,
The Virginian), proprietor of the Golden Gate Casino. Conover reluctantly puts his business and well-being on the line for Cable time and again. The charismatic pair often find the cards stacked against them, but that doesnt stop them from having a rollicking good time as they police a town mired in vigilante justice. Also starring Richard Kiel (The Spy Who Loved Me), this Emmy-nominated series is a playful take on traditional Westerns with a terrific cast.
TV Shows on DVD doesn’t specifically address the matter, but this forthcoming set may well contain the 1975 Barbary Coast pilot film, which was written by Douglas Heyes and starred Dennis Cole as a more laconic Cash. How else would this be a 14-episode offering? There were only 13 hour-long episodes shot, following the success of that pilot.

Meanwhile, Warner Archive has just released a DVD of the 1972 pilot for The Delphi Bureau, starring Laurence Luckinbill as Glenn Garth Gregory, a government agent possessed of a handy photographic memory. In the pilot, explains IMDb, Gregory “is assigned to solve the disappearance of an entire fleet of old Air Force planes.” Only eight episodes of the subsequent ABC series were produced, all shown as part of a Thursday night “wheel series” titled The Men. (The other two “spokes” of that wheel were Robert Conrad’s Assignment: Vienna and James Wainwright’s Jigsaw.)

A few years back, Mystery*File’s Michael Shonk reviewed the Delphi Bureau pilot, which was subtitled “The Merchant of Death Assignment” (even though almost all of the series’ later episodes ended in “Project,” not “Assignment”); you can read his remarks here. The new DVD is priced at $18.95 and can be purchased here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Story Behind the Story:
“Providence Rag,” by Bruce DeSilva

(Editor’s note: Below you will find the 48th entry in our “Story Behind the Story” series. It was sent our way by Bruce DeSilva, who put in four decades as a journalist, working as an editor and national writer at The Hartford Courant and as an investigative reporter for The Providence Journal. More recently, he’s served as a writing coach for The Associated Press. His first novel, 2010’s Rogue Island introduced Liam Mulligan, a Rhode Island newspaper veteran, who reappeared in 2012’s Cliff Walk. DeSilva’s latest Mulligan outing, Providence Rag--about which he writes here--is being released this week by Forge.)

I’ve certainly never thought of myself as delicate, but novels, movies, and TV shows about serial killers often make me squirm. It’s been that way ever since my real-life brush with one.

Not that I was ever in any danger. The killer in question was already behind bars before I spent several weeks of my life researching and writing a magazine story about him. It was the kind of article journalists call a hell of a good story, but my god, it was an ugly one.

The killer’s weapon of choice was butcher knives, and he used them to stab his victims over and over again, long after he knew they were gone. The dead included two sweet little girls. As a father, I couldn’t help but imagine their terror, and it sickened me. I know this sounds melodramatic, but sometimes, in my dreams, I can still hear them scream.

So two decades later, when I retired from a 40-year-long journalism career to write crime novels, I was sure I would never write one about a serial killer. I didn’t want to get that close to pure evil again.

Yet, those long-ago murders never stopped working on my subconscious, the place where novels are born.

For several years, I resisted the impulse to fictionalize the story. I told myself we’ve already got all the make-believe serial killers we need. Ever since Thomas Harris upped the ante with Hannibal Lecter, novelists and screenwriters have been tripping all over themselves trying to make each new psychotic butcher more twisted than the last. We’ve been treated to Jigsaw (who cuts his victims into puzzle pieces), The Grave Digger (who buries them alive in automobiles), Red John (who paints smiley faces on walls with human blood), Floyd Feylin Ferrell (who serves investigators chili made from his victims’ flesh) … I could go on, but I trust I’ve made my point.

When the compulsion to fictionalize the real-life case became too great to resist, I knew I would have to write a different kind of serial-killer book, one in which the focus would be on something other than brutal murder and criminal detection.

The result is Providence Rag, the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for a dying newspaper in Providence, Rhode Island. The murders are committed and the killer is imprisoned in the first 75 pages. The rest of the book is dedicated to exploring an impossible moral dilemma: What are decent people supposed to do when a legal loophole requires that an unrepentant serial killer be released--and when the only way to keep him locked up is to fabricate new charges against him?

Convicted murderer Craig Price, aka “the Warwick Slasher”

The real criminal who inspired the novel is Craig Price, the most notorious murderer in Rhode Island history. He slaughtered two women and two children before he was old enough to drive. Just 13 years old when he began killing, and 15 when he was caught, he was the youngest serial killer in U.S. history. But that’s not the interesting part.

When Price was arrested in 1989, the state’s antiquated juvenile justice statutes had not been updated for decades, and when they were written, no one had ever imagined a child like him. So the law required that all juveniles, regardless of their crimes, be released and given a fresh start at age 21.

The state legislature promptly rewrote the law so this wouldn’t happen again, but in America, you can’t change the rules retroactively. So the authorities were faced with the chilling prospect of releasing Price after he’d served only six years for his crimes. Robert K. Ressler, one of the first FBI profilers, and the man credited with coining the term “serial killer,” was horrified. If Price gets out, he told me, “you’ll be piling up the bodies.”

But Price did not get out. Today, 25 years later, he remains behind bars, convicted of a series of assaults and offenses he supposedly committed while in prison. I have long suspected that some of these charges were fabricated, but at the very least it is obvious that Price has been absurdly over-sentenced. For example, the state gave him additional prison time for breaking a rule against swearing at correctional officers. Prisoners do that all the time, of course, but Price was the first to have his sentence extended for it. Later, he was given 30 years for contempt because he declined to submit to a court-ordered psychiatric examination.

Have the authorities abused their power to prevent Price’s release? Quite possibly. Should he ever be set free and given the chance to prey on the innocent again? I don’t think so. The ethical dilemma the case poses fascinates me. No matter which side you come down on, you are condoning something that is reprehensible. I wrote the novel to explore the implications of all this.

In real life, this conundrum hasn’t caused any soul-searching in Rhode Island--at least not publicly. Everyone seems content to let Price rot in prison. And who can blame them?

(Right) Author Bruce DeSilva

But a novel is fiction, after all, and Providence Rag is in no way intended to accurately depict real events. In the book, the ethical issue at the heart of the story haunts Mulligan and his colleagues at the Providence Dispatch.

Some people argue that authorities who are faking charges against the killer are perverting the criminal justice system. And if they are allowed to get away with it, what’s to stop them from framing someone else? Besides, it’s the journalist’s mission to report the truth.

Others argue that if the Dispatch breaks the story and the killer is released, he’s bound to kill again. And when that happens, the newspaper will have blood on its hands.

The dilemma eventually embroils Mulligan, his fellow reporters, his editors, and the entire state in a heated confrontation over where justice lies.

READ MORE:Writer Interviews--Bruce DeSilva,” by Kristi Belcamino; “Bruce DeSilva,” by Gerald Bartell (Kirkus Reviews).