Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bullet Points: Debt Ceiling Debacle Edition

• Nathanael Booth of the blog More Man than Philosopher just taught me something I didn’t know before: a 1989 episode of Murder, She Wrote, “The Grand Old Lady,” incorporated a previously unproduced script from the 1970s Jim Hutton series Ellery Queen. (Both Murder, She Wrote and Ellery Queen were of course created by Richard Levinson and William Link, who also gave us Columbo and Mannix.) “While watching it,” Booth writes, “I couldn’t help wishing that the script had been produced for the original [Ellery Queen] series run, since in many ways it’s the best episode of the lot. I don’t mean that in terms of the final reveal--which is half-hearted, at best--but in terms of complexity; nowhere else do we find a variation on the dying clue this sophisticated. And, beyond that, we’re treated to not simply one, but two false solutions. It’s a lovely piece of work.” Booth knows whereof he speaks: For months now, he’s been writing an episode-by-episode critique of Ellery Queen that’s well worth your checking out.

• Deadly Ink, the annual crime-fiction event scheduled to take place early next month in Parsippany, New Jersey, has been cancelled.

• Britain’s Independent has selected what its editors say are the “10 best spy novels” ever written. See if you agree with the choices.

• In the blog Criminal Element, Victoria Janssen celebrates Remington Steele, the 1982-1987 TV detective drama starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan. “Today,” Janssen writes, “it’s a real experience to re-watch the series and recognize so many of the guest stars: Dorothy Lamour, Sharon Stone, Delta Burke, Geena Davis. Not to mention everyone’s 1980s wardrobe and hair ... but the stories, and the central romantic relationship, still hold up.” In addition to Zimbalist’s captivating presence, one of my favorite elements of Remington Steele was its opening title sequence (a version of which is embedded above), with theme music by the great Henry Mancini.

• Part XXVII of “Black Lens,” the Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman story rolling out in the Mulholland Books blog, was posted earlier today.

• This week also brings the release of Irish author Declan Burke’s Absolute Zero Cool, described as a postmodern take on the crime thriller. His publisher, Liberties Press (which also gave us Burke’s other recent book, Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century), describes this new novel’s plot thusly:
Adrift in the half-life limbo of an unpublished novel, hospital porter Billy needs to up the stakes. Euthanasia simply isn’t shocking anymore; would blowing up his hospital be enough to see Billy published, or be damned? What follows is a gripping tale that subverts the crime genre’s grand tradition of liberal sadism, a novel that both excites and disturbs in equal measure.
A number of noteworthy authors have nice things to say about the book, and Burke supplies some background to his story here. Although Absolute Zero Cool is currently out of stock at Amazon UK, Liberties Press should be able to satisfy purchasers.

R.I.P., G.D. Spradlin. A former lawyer and oil producer, the Oklahoma-born Spradlin served as his state’s director of the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign in 1960 before re-creating himself as an actor later in that decade. He went on to appear in Apocalypse Now and The Godfather: Part II, but was also a familiar presence in TV shows such as I Spy, Mannix, The Outsider, It Takes a Thief, Search, City of Angels, and Columbo. Spradlin was 90 years old.

• Also gone: Blaize Clement, who penned the Dixie Hemingway Cat Sitter Mysteries, including this year’s Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons.

• Last week I picked up on Seattle newspaper allegations that true-crime writer Ann Rule had been “sloppy” with her storytelling. But there was more to that story than I--or the paper’s editors--realized. Read the follow-ups here and here. (Hat tip to Craig Pittman.)

• The husband-and-wife authors who write historical mysteries as “Michael Gregorio” are holding a small contest to give away one signed and dated, pre-publication UK edition of their latest Hanno Stiffeniis mystery, Unholy Awakening, which is due out in paperback next month. Enter by August 1. Further contest rules are available here.

• “Can a vegetarian be tough? Strong? How about kick-ass?” muses Criminal Element’s Neliza Drew. Just ask Joe Pike, the ex-cop turned sidekick in Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole novels.

• I’m afraid I don’t recall the 1963-1967 TV series The Fugitive well enough to choose its five best episodes. But, apparently, Rick29 at the Classic Film and TV Café has a superior memory. Click here to see his top picks, and don’t miss the alternative suggestions made by TV authority Ivan G. Shreve Jr. in the Comments section.

• When next you’re in New York City, you might want to check out former detective Ike Ilkiw’s Manhattan Murder and Mystery Tour.

• Aaron Elkins, the Edgar Award-winning author of the Gideon Oliver series as well as the new thriller, The Worst Thing, is the subject of Jeff Rutherford’s latest Reading and Writing Podcast. Listen here.

• Who won this year’s Scribe Awards, “honoring excellence in media tie-in writing”? Click here to discover the answer.

• If you haven’t already read the free online version of Jim Winter’s novel, Road Rules, you had better do so quickly: the Web site offering that version will disappear by Labor Day, after which an e-book version will go on sale for 99 cents.

• Congratulations to Max Allan Collins for sealing a deal with British publisher Titan to complete three more of Mickey Spillane’s unfinished Mike Hammer novel manuscripts: Lady Go, Die!, Complex 90, and King of the Weeds (all of which Collins talked about during this interview with The Rap Sheet). Kudos are also due Collins for selling his 2007 historical thriller, Black Hats (published under the byline “Patrick Culhane”), to Hollywood. Omnimystery News reports that Harrison Ford will star as an older but still tough Wyatt Earp in the big-screen version.

• By the way, if you didn’t catch Collins’ reports from last weekend’s Comic-Con convention in San Diego, you can still read them here.

• Speaking of convention coverage, click here, here, and here for Ayo Onatade’s reports from the recent Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England. Author Michael Malone has posted his own observations about that event here.

• Australian Kerrie Smith is looking for bloggers who’d like to participate in a celebration of Agatha Christie’s on September 15.

• I have been very much enjoying novelist Ronald Tierney’s series of posts about San Francisco’s independent bookstores--and I suspect you will, as well. It would be terrific if other bloggers could conduct such surveys of their own hometown bookshops.

• Another great series worth reading: The pseudonymous Guy Savage’s analyses, in His Futile Projections, of author Jim Thompson’s oft-underappreciated crime works.

A previously unrecognized crime novel by Ed Lacy, better known as the author of the private-eye novel Room to Swing (1957)?

• Tipping My Fedora picks the top 10 surprise villains in films.

• As someone who’s susceptible to television nostalgia, I’ve been enjoying Lee Goldberg’s growing collection of fall TV promos. The one I remember best, and that can still get me singing along, is this example of the breed. I wish I could still get excited about each fall’s new small-screen offerings. Sigh ...

• J. Sydney Jones interviews Les Roberts, author of the Milan Jacovich series of Cleveland-set gumshoe novels, the latest installment of which is The Cleveland Creep, released this last May.

• Other interviews to check out sometime: For Mean Streets, Paul D. Brazill talks with Ray Banks; David Schow chats up Duane Swierczynski (whose latest novel, Fun & Games, also gets a bit of good press in photographer Mark V. Krajnak’s blog); Allan Guthrie goes mano-a-mano with Paul Bishop; South African fictionist Roger Smith converses with Daniel Musiitwa at; and screenwriter-author Heywood Gould interviews himself in the blog Sea Minor.

• Ever heard of spy novelist Thomas Cauldron?

• Finally, this is for Robert van Gulik fans. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, a film that proved very popular during the latest Tribeca Film Festival, is expected to be released in the United States this fall, “likely straight to DVD for most of us, but previously it’s only been available in foreign standards and lamentable, execrable bootlegs,” writes Clare Toohey.

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