Saturday, January 27, 2007

Casing the Neighborhood

• Bill Crider, spirited blogger and Edgar Award-nominated author of the new Sheriff Dan Rhodes novel, Murder Among the OWLS, will be the guest this coming Monday, January 29, on Elizabeth Foxwell’s It’s a Mystery, a weekly production of WEBR radio in Fairfax, Virginia. The show is set to be Webcast at 11 a.m. ET. Click here to listen. (If you miss hearing the show live, you should be able to catch the audio clip later at Foxwell’s It’s a Mystery Web site.) In coming weeks, Foxwell will welcome to her studio Deanna Raybourn (Silent in the Grave), Deborah Crombie (Water Like a Stone), and Steve Hockensmith (On the Wrong Track).

• In a two-fer for the week, Lance Carter interviews both Irish writer Ken Bruen (American Skin, Slide) and Sean Doolittle (The Cleanup) at his Murder & Mystery Books 101 blog.

• Meanwhile, the British Webzine Shots offers up Ian Rankin (who’s likely to be all over the news this year, and not just because the anticipated “final case” for Inspector John Rebus is due out in October) and Carol Anne Davis (Couples Who Kill).

• It seems like I’ve been writing a lot about television’s Lieutenant Columbo lately. But now Steve Lewis, of Mystery*File fame, has posted an excellent chronology of Columbo’s evolution from The Chevy Mystery Show, an NBC anthology series, to stage play, and back to television as one of the rotating NBC Mystery Movie series. In a separate post, Lewis recalls the novels generated by Columbo, one of which I recognize from own collection: Alfred Lawrence’s simply titled Columbo (1972). To see more of the covers from those various novels and novelizations, click here.

• At his Book/Daddy blog, critic Jerome Weeks delivers a thoughtful reassessment of historical spy novelist Alan Furst (The Foreign Correspondent, 2006):
Initially, his writing felt strained, a patently movie-ish attempt to evoke atmosphere, not create it but borrow it, remind us of it from other places. ...

But Furst calmed down, gained confidence, his writing became smoky yet lean. And he began using dry, throwaway humor. In the midst of all the suspense and violence, it lends a cosmopolitan feel that aids immensely in making his typical main character appealing. These are sadly experienced men, often expatriates with conflicted loyalties or they’re émigrés from smaller countries, the perennial losers in the big European wars. They’re men who are reluctant to fight but know they must--they’re not natural warriors or raging idealists, then, but men who would frankly be much happier eating good food and staying in bed with a lover. Even the military or espionage operations they get involved in are not the grand affairs like
Overlord or Barbarossa. They’re more the nuts-and-bolts clandestine effort: smuggling weapons or people or information, sabotaging the enemy’s oil shipments, trying to sway a political situation one way or the other. Yet, we learn, everything counts. Rather than an easy nostalgia for some time of supposed moral clarity, his novels give us a feel for the murk of warfare and espionage, and it’s often the murk that is as dangerous as any enemy.

All of this leads to that very Furstian effect: His novels are at once sardonically anti-heroic and quietly heroic, exotic yet matter-of-fact, elegant and earthy. I can’t get enough of them.
Read all of Weeks’ Furst commentary here.

• The late actor Jerry Orbach, who played Detective Lennie Briscoe in the original Law & Order series, recently had one of his living wishes come true: The corneas of his eyes were donated to help two other men with sight problems.

I noted recently that Dave Zeltserman, editor of the Webzine Hardluck Stories, is soliciting noir fiction for an upcoming “Truthiness Issue,” a tribute to Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert, who popularized the term “truthiness.” In his editor’s note regarding that edition, Zeltserman admits that he’s hoping to be noticed by the Comedy Central folks, and have them publicize his site to the “millions of viewers of the Colbert Report.” Well, it seems he got his wish. The blog Comedy Central Insider quotes Zeltserman’s pitch at length, adding: “There are a million stories in the Naked City. Make sure your submission gets to Hardluck’s big boss before the August 1 deadline.”

• And from a strictly male (and, therefore, undoubtedly sexist) perspective, this is bad news.

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