• Thriller writer Eric Ambler seems to have been much on the minds of Rap Sheet contributors lately. Two entries in our “forgotten books” series have championed Ambler works: A Coffin for Dimitrios (1939) and Journey Into Fear (1940). So I couldn’t help but notice an entry in Karen Meek’s Euro Crime blog about plans to reprint some of Ambler’s best-known novels. Quoting from BookBrunch:
Simon Winder, Publishing Director at Penguin Press, has bought five “remarkable and prescient” Eric Ambler thrillers, to be republished as Penguin Modern Classics in May 2009 for Ambler’s centenary. The titles are Journey Into Fear, introduction by Norman Stone, Epitaph for a Spy, introduction by James Fenton, The Mask of Dimitrios, introduction by Mark Mazower, Cause for Alarm, introduction by John Preston, and Uncommon Danger, which is introduced by Thomas Jones.• Speaking of Meek, she’s compiling a series about Christmas crime novels--just the thing to keep you warm (and on the edge of your seat) during this chilly season.
• Which isn’t to say that we must always read with a sense of seasonal appropriateness in mind--though we often do just that, explains The Guardian’s Molly Flatt.
• If you are, indeed, of a mind to read mysteries based around this festive season of the year, Mystery Readers Journal editor Janet Rudolph has compiled her own, quite extensive rundowns of Christmas mysteries and Chanukah mysteries.
• Who knew that the late pinup girl, Bettie Page, had anything in common with Ellery Queen? Independent Crime’s Nathan Cain did.
• Now, this is a book cover that just screams out “Buy me!”
• Bookgasm finds much to praise in the fifth and latest issue of Out of the Gutter. “If nothing else ...,” writes critic Rod Lott, “it holds true to its ‘degenerate literature’ label, offering story after story that dares to go even further than you thought anyone today had the balls to do. What other magazine prints fiction with titles like ‘Just Look at What the Bitch Made You Do’?” You can read the whole review here.
• Since when did “cozies” become “senior sleuth novels”? I don’t remember receiving that memo. In any event, author Jean Henry Mead contends at the Rule of Three site that the market for novels that are “less violent, devoid of graphic sex and [in which] the language usually lacks the F-word” is growing as Baby Boomers go gray. Not surprisingly, her own first novel features an elderly sleuth.
• In creating his famous literary creation, James Bond, was author Ian Fleming inspired by the real-life story of a Serbian-born, World War II double agent by the name of Dusko Popov? The blog Permission to Kill suggests that the answer is “yes.”
• Double O Section, a blog specializing in espionage fiction, has posted a handy guide for the spy story fans on your gift list. The most unexpected suggestion: “Varese Sarabande’s recent single-disc release of Dave Grusin music from The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.”
• Author and former Rap Sheet guest blogger Jeri Westerson (Veil of Lies) has posted her own holiday gift list--this time containing only books--in her distinctive Weblog, Getting Medieval.
• After some trials and errors and short-timers, the British e-zine Shots has finally tapped Nick Stone--whose latest novel, The King of Swords, is brand-new in the States--as its latest film critic.
• While we’re on the subject of movies, Bish’s Beat, written by Los Angeles cop and novelist Paul Bishop, reminds me that the San Francisco Film Noir Festival will return to the historic Castro Theatre on January 23. “The theme of this year’s festival is Newspaper Noir, with many of the films set in the world of newspapers, or, in some cases, publishing or radio,” according to Bishop. The festival schedule runs through February 1. Tickets can be purchased here. Sigh. If only I loved in San Francisco ...
• From movies to DVD news: The complete collection of Robbie Coltrane’s dark crime series, Cracker, is due out from Acorn Media on March 10. Meanwhile, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear blogger Ivan G. Shreve Jr. has word that “Paramount/CBS DVD is apparently committed to releasing the remaining seasons (four, five and six) of Have Gun--Will Travel on DVD to fans ... they’re just not certain about when they’ll get around to doing it.” And if anybody’s stuck on what to jam into my Christmas stocking this year, this certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea.
• John’s Grill, located on Ellis Street off Union Square in San Francisco, and famously mentioned in The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (who “worked next door in the Flood Building in the 1920s”), is celebrating its 100th year in business this month. As the San Francisco Chronicle recalls,
John’s Grill has weathered at least four owners, the death of its namesake--the story is that he was struck and killed by a cable car in 1908--a 1983 fire that closed the restaurant for about nine months, and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.Anyone passing by John’s Grill, be sure to give it a big thumbs-up from The Rap Sheet.
Throughout, it has remained at the same site, unlike some of the city’s oldest restaurants. And it’s just coincidence that John Konstin--the current owner after his father, Gus, bought John’s Grill more than 30 years ago--happens to be named John.
• Reports The New York Times: “Julius Fast, who won the first Edgar Award given by the Mystery Writers of America and went on to publish popular books on body language, the Beatles and human relationships, died on Tuesday in Kingston, N.Y. He was 89.”
• Beat to a Pulp, the fiction Web site that debuted last week, is up with a second tough tale, “Hard Bite,” this one coming from an author who signs herself “Anonymous-9.”
• I often find the most unusual bits of crime-fiction history at The Bunburyist, written by Elizabeth Foxwell, managing editor of Clues: A Journal of Detection, touted as “the only U.S. scholarly journal on mystery/detective fiction.” Last week, for instance, brought this fascinating tidbit:
Her image as the scheming Brigid O’Shaughnessy in John Huston’s version of The Maltese Falcon is indelibly burned into our consciousness, but the Neglected Books blog discusses in fascinating detail Astor’s The Incredible Charlie Carewe (1960), which features a Ted Bundyesque prototype, and some of her other novels.Click here to read the full post about Astor, author.
• I’m already missing William Shatner’s goofy antics on Boston Legal, the David E. Kelly series that earlier this month ended its four-year run on ABC-TV. What I hadn’t known until this week, though, was that Shatner appeared in a previous legal drama in 1965, called For the People. (I bet he didn’t do any sleepovers on that one, though.) This information comes from Marty McKee, a copywriter and critic who writes a thoroughly entertaining blog called Johnny LaRue’s Crane Shot ... which is also where I was reminded of another offbeat legal series, called Rosetti and Ryan, starring Tony Roberts and Squire Fridell. Drat! Yet one more show to wait for in DVD release.
• Congratulations are due author and Rap Sheet poster Declan Burke, who writes that he’s working on a new book project:
The idea is for a book of essays, interviews and conversations about various aspects of Irish crime fiction, each chapter being written by an Irish crime writer. The names already confirmed include--although this may be subject to change--Colin Bateman, Gerard Brennan, Ken Bruen, Paul Charles, John Connolly, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Reed Farrel Coleman, Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes, Arlene Hunt, Gene Kerrigan, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty and Neville Thompson. Messers, sorry, Messrs McKinty and Brennan are also on board as editors. Some of the writers’ chapters have yet to be confirmed, but the proposed material that has been is, in my entirely biased opinion, seriously interesting stuff.To read more about this, click here.
Anyway, the good news is that the project has been given the green light by the Arts Council with regard to commissioning funding, which means that we can afford to pay the writers a token gesture, at least. That means we’re over the second hurdle, and there’s only about 198 left to clear.
• Have you heard about the graveside memorial service next month for Philadelphia noir writer David Goodis? Author Duane Swierczynski has the scoop in his Secret Dead Blog.
• The Nation features a wonderful retrospective on the novels of Derek Raymond, most familiar for his Factory series of (more or less) police procedurals.
• From Mike Stotter’s Shotsmag Confidential blog: “Craig Russell, author of the Jan Fabel detective series for Hutchinson, has joined Quercus for a concurrent series set in Glasgow in the 1950s. The series will star Lennox, a private detective whose clients are not always on the right side of the law. Jane Wood and Ron Beard bought UK and Canadian rights in three novels, starting with Lennox in 2009, through Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann. Wood said: ‘At Quercus we’re all fans of the Fabel novels and we couldn’t be happier that Craig Russell has joined us. The Lennox books are very different in tone and confirm Craig’s amazing range and skill as a crime writer.’”
• Dennis Lehane (A Given Day) has been signed to edit a new short-story anthology, Boston Noir, for Akashic Books. That’s quite a coup on Akashic’s part.
• According to The Writer’s Almanac, “On this day in 1913, the world’s first crossword puzzle appeared in a special Christmas issue of the New York World.”
• If you think I’m writing this item primarily so I can illustrate it with the naked Jennifer Aniston cover of GQ ... well, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. However, there is a quote in that same January 2009 issue of the magazine from author Stephen King that I thought worth repeating. Asked how he stays so productive, King explains:
I go to the same place to write almost every day. I don’t bring a cell phone. I don’t take an iPod. My mind is thrown on its own resources. I make a little deal with myself. I say, just get five pages out. Five pages, and that’s it. You’re done. Of course I’ll get to give pages and always want to write a little bit more, but without that quota, I’d have a hard time even starting. It used to be that I would work on something new in the daytime and then I would rewrite and work on something new at night, but those were the days when I drank a lot. There was a lot of liquid energy and Bolivian marching powder.• Tim Maleeny, author of the new novel Greasing the Piñata, talks with blogger Julia Buckley about Mannix, sleuth protagonist Cape Weathers, and his move into standalone crime fiction. The results can be found here.
• If you can be thankful of nothing else this year, at least be glad that yours is not among the best mugshots of 2008.
• And what the hell is Rosemary Harris talking about, when she states that nobody drinks eggnog at Christmastime anymore? I’m sucking one down even as I write this!
That’s all for now, folks. The Carnival of the Criminal Minds is moving to the southern hemisphere in a couple of weeks, where it will be hosted at Australian Kerrie Smith’s Mysteries in Paradise blog. We trust that all the elephants and tigers will make the trip safely.