Friday, July 10, 2009

Bullet Points: Friday Morning Fun

• Is it Friday already? That would explain why the crime-fiction blogosphere is chockfull again of “forgotten books” picks. Among today’s recommended novels are The Mournful Demeanor of Lieutenant Boruvka, by Josef Škvorecký; Death in Kashmir, by M.M. Kaye; Solo Hand, by Bill Moody; Clerical Error, by C.E. Vulliamy; Low Rider, by Philip Reed; A Twist of Sand, by Geoffrey Jenkins; Armed ... Dangerous, by Mike Shayne (Robert Terrall); Wolf to the Slaughter, by Ruth Rendell; Thirty Corpses Every Thursday, by Fredric Brown; and A Case of Conscience, by James Blish. For a list of all of today’s participating blogs, plus a few more book recommendations, check out Patti Abbott’s blog.

• Another fine blog to read on your daily rounds: International Crime Authors Reality Check. As Peter Rozovsky explains, this is “a cooperative effort from Christopher G. Moore, Colin Cotterill, Matt Beynon Rees, and Barbara Nadel, each of whom plans one post a week.” Moore lays out this new blog’s value in his opening post.

• We live in a world of ridiculously short memories--a fact I was reminded of while reading about Zap2it’s new poll to select the “Greatest TV Characters.” To qualify, those characters must have appeared in series that either premiered in January 2000 or later, or that at least had the majority of their runs during the ’00s. Zap2it’s surveying began earlier this week, but will continue rolling out in stages for the rest of this summer. Viewers are first being asked to choose from a list of family and worker types (Best Mom, Best Dad, Best Underling, etc.). Not until Monday, July 30, will you get to vote for Best Spy/Secret Agent. Polling in the Best Cop, Best Private Eye, and Best Forensics Expert categories will kick off on Monday, August 3. And one week later, you’ll have the chance to vote for the Best Lawyer. Of course, the idea of choosing the “Great TV Characters” only from programs that we’ve been watching for the last nine years is idiotic. This decade has seen the rise of cheap “reality shows” and the concurrent, precipitous decline of the very scripted TV series that would offer us the most memorable fictional characters. What’s more, limiting this polling to just the last 10 or even 15 years of boob-tubedom means disqualifying most of what I’d consider the “great” crime-drama characters, including Jim Rockford, Harry Orwell, Alexander Mundy, Joe Mannix, Lieutenant Columbo, and Perry Mason. However, if you choose to play along with this charade, Zap2it’s evolving poll can be found here.

• Not long ago, I put in an online order for a DVD of the 1972 made-for-TV movie The Adventures of Nick Carter, which starred Robert Conrad (formerly of The Wild Wild West) as one of the most prominent 19th-century dime-novel detectives. I barely remember seeing that flick when it debuted, and probably recalled the movie more fondly than I ought to have. What I didn’t know, until reading this piece in Television Obscurities, an excellent Web site for recovering TV addicts like me, is that Nick Carter was a pilot film for an (ultimately unsold) weekly series, one of three that ABC-TV considered running under the umbrella title The Great Detectives. The other two components of that “wheel series” were to have placed English movie star Stewart Granger in the role of Sherlock Holmes, and had former Our Miss Brooks actress Eve Arden playing Stuart Palmer’s schoolteacher turned sleuth, Hildegarde Withers. I recall watching the Holmes pilot, a rather stilted adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’ The Hound of the Baskervilles (with Bernard Fox as Dr. Watson and William Shatner as a rosy-cheeked George Stapleton), but I have no memory of ever seeing A Very Missing Person, the Arden pilot, in which she apparently went on the search for a missing heiress. Guess I’ll have to keep a closer watch on the late-night TV listings from now on. (UPDATE: My look back at A Very Missing Person, written three years after this post, can now be found here.)

A main title sequence for the old-timers.

• Not long ago, author Ed Gorman was interviewing me. Now he’s been interviewed by Cullen Gallagher on the subject of his latest novel, a serial-killer yarn called The Midnight Room. Gallagher asks Gorman about that book’s dedication, his twist on serial-killer fiction, the story’s “unique structure,” and more. It’s well worth your taking the time to read this exchange. Click here to begin.

• Meanwhile, Gorman chats up David Morrell (The Shimmer).

Robert Crais fans, take note. In his latest e-mailed newsletter, the author reports that his next novel (tentatively due out in February 2010) will be a Joe Pike book called The First Rule. His synopsis:
Frank and Cindy Meyer had the American dream--until the day a professional robbery crew invaded their home and murdered everyone inside. The only thing out of the ordinary about Frank was that--before his family, business, and oh-so-normal life--a younger Frank Meyer worked as a professional mercenary ... with a man named Joe Pike.

Pike learns of the crime when the police question him. The same crew has done other home invasions, and all the targets have been criminals with large stashes of cash or drugs. The police believe the same is true of Frank, but Pike does not, and with the help of [private eye] Elvis Cole, he sets out to clear his friend ... and punish the people who murdered him.

They won’t know what hit them.

The first rule: Don’t make Pike mad.
• A new online fiction publication called the Suspense Thriller Zine is looking for submissions to its debut edition. Details are here.

• It seems Mike Avallone wrote the only Mannix tie-in novel.

• Was 17th-century explorer Henry Hudson murdered?

• And I’m not convinced that Graham Greene would be pleased to see The Strand Magazine serializing “a long-lost, unfinished novel” he wrote at age 22. Some youthful literary endeavors are best left stuffed away in the backs of drawers. However, the Strand has decided to begin running Greene’s unfinished work in its July issue.

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