Before we move too deep into this bright new year, I just want to take a moment to recognize a few of the people--all of them somehow important in creating or contributing to contemporary crime fiction--whom we lost to the Grim Reaper in 2012.
Jacques Barzun, 104, a French-born American historian and literary critic who, among his other accomplishments, co-authored (with Wendell Hertig Taylor) a “magisterial critique of crime fiction,” 1971’s A Catalogue of Crime. In 1996 the Mystery Writers of America gave Barzun its Ellery Queen Award, which honors “writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.”
Ray Bradbury, 91, who was most justly renowned for penning
science-fiction classics on the order of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, but who dabbled as well in the mystery-storytelling field, producing Death Is a Lonely Business (1985), A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990), and Let’s All Kill Constance (2002).
Maxine Clarke, 58, an editor of the British scientific journal Nature, an expert on Scandinavian crime fiction, and the author of the excellent blog Petrona. She died after what’s been described as a “lengthy” battle with cancer.
David, 91, a music writer who “contributed lyrics to songs in three James Bond movies” and became especially famous for his collaborations with Burt Bacharach. Among his best-recognized works is “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” which figured into the 1969 film Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Henry Denker, 99, an American lawyer, playwright, and novelist who composed more than 30 novels in a variety of genres, including the legal thrillers Outrage (1982) and Labyrinth (1994).
Phyllis Diller, 95, the wild-haired American comedienne who, according to TheGumshoe Site, not only “wrote four best-selling funny books, including Housekeeping Hints and The Joys of Aging and How to Avoid Them,” but also “8 short stories for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, whose [June] 1990
issue featured her on its cover.”
James D. Doss, 73, a former electrical engineer in New Mexico, who produced 17 mysteries
(most recently, The Old Gray Wolf) featuring Colorado rancher and sometime tribal investigator Charlie Moon.
Robert Dozier, 81, a film and television writer whose numerous credits included episodes
of Have Gun--Will Travel, Dan August, Batman, Harry O, and The Devlin Connection.
Charles Durning, 89, a prolific, New York-born actor who appeared in such movies as Breakheart Pass (based on Alistair MacLean’s novel of the same name), True Confessions, The Rosary Murders, V.I. Warshawski, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? In addition, Durning was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his appearance in a 1998 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street titled “Finnegan’s Wake.”
Biff Elliot, 89, the first actor to portray New York gumshoe Mike Hammer in the movies, specifically in 1953’s I, the Jury.
James Farentino, 73, who played lawyer Neil Darrell for three years (1968-1972) on The Bold Ones before taking the lead as
spy-turned-private eye Jefferson Keyes in Cool Million (1972), a short-lived component of the original NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie. Farentino later starred in the much-hyped high-tech helicopter drama Blue Thunder, a spinoff from Roy Scheider’s 1983 film of the same name.
Sally Fellowes, 77, an enthusiastic mystery-fiction reader and reviewer, retired history teacher and coordinator of the Mayhem in the Midlands
Norman Felton, 99, a British-born writer-director who produced a number of early television series, including Dr. Kildare, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and the latter’s less-successful spinoff series, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. starring Stefanie Powers.
Charles E. Fritch, 85, an author of science-fiction and mystery yarns, and the onetime editor (1979-1985) of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. William F. Nolan posted a fine tribute to Fritch here.
Ben Gazzara, 81, who starred with Chuck Connors in a short-lived 1960s ABC-TV series called Arrest and Trial, before starring in the NBC drama Run for Your Life, playing a
lawyer who’s informed that he has no more than 18 more months to live, and so
embarks on a cross-country journey, trying to make the most of whatever time he
has remaining. Gazzara also directed two episodes of the NBC Mystery Movie series Columbo in the mid-’70s.
Dorothy Gilman, 88, creator of the long-running Mrs. (Emily) Pollifax mystery series. In 2010, Gilman received the
Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award.
William F. “Bill” Granger, 70, a veteran Chicago newspaper reporter and columnist who, in his spare time, composed political thrillers such as The November Man (1979), Hemingway’s Notebook (1985), and Burning the Apostle (1993).
Andy Griffith, 86, best known for starring in two very different small-screen series, a half-hour sitcom called The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) and the legal drama Matlock (1986–1995). Griffith said at least once that Ben Matlock was his favorite role. (Some of his less-well-recalled roles are highlighted here.)
Larry Hagman, 81, an American actor who’s undoubtedly best recognized for his starring roles in the TV series I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas, but who also appeared in myriad boob-tube crime dramas over the years, from The Name of the Game and Ellery Queen to McMillan & Wife and Barnaby Jones.
Marvin Hamlisch, 68, the American composer--winner of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards, as well as a Pulitzer Prize--fondly remembered for giving us the music for motion pictures such as The Sting, The Way We Were, and Sophie’s Choice. Hamlisch also co-wrote (with Carole Bayer Sager) the song “Nobody Does
It Better” for the 1977 James Bond flick, The Spy Who Loved Me, and he created the theme music for TV series such as Needles and Pins and Doc Elliot. Hamlisch also left us with the haunting, hum-able theme for the 1974 teleflick The
Underground Man, which was the pilot for a series starring Peter Graves
as Ross Macdonald’s fictional P.I., Lew Archer.
Reginald Hill, 75, an English crime writer who created the Yorkshire-based detective team of Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe in 1970’s A Clubbable Woman, and then continued exploring those characters’ lives and cases in more than 20 more books penned over the next four decades. The novels inspired a successful BBC-TV series (1996-2007). Hill picked up the Crime Writers Association’s Golden Dagger in 1990 for Bones and Silence, and scored the CWA’s Diamond Dagger for his body of work in 1995.
Kaufman, 82, a once-prominent corporate finance attorney who, in
1996, founded San Mateo, California’s “M” Is for Mystery ... and More bookstore.
Under his management, that Third Avenue shop became a regular stop for touring
authors and a popular resource for Silicon Valley crime-fiction fans. But
Kaufman retired in late 2011, and “M” Is for Mystery was sold; it reopened in 2012 as Otter Books. The Mystery Writers of America gave Kaufman a Raven Award last year for outstanding achievement in the mystery-fiction field outside the realm of creative writing. The San Francisco
Chronicle reported his cause of death as complications of kidney disease.
Jack Klugman, 90, who played Dr. R. Quincy in the classic NBC-TV crime drama Quincy, M.E., and before that, co-starred with Tony Randall in the sitcom The Odd Couple. Employing his celebrity to good advantage, Klugman also “played an instrumental role in passing critical health-care legislation, the Orphan Drug Act,
through Congress in the early 1980s,” recalled The Washington Post.
Lawrence (aka Lorrain “Margaret” Keilstrup), 66, who composed three midwife
Hannah Trevor historical novels, starting with Hearts and Bones in 1996.
Judi McCoy, 62, author of the Dog Walker Mystery
series and assorted other novels. A newspaper obituary explains that this Virginia resident’s 2010 novel, Death in Show, won the Romantic Times Most Humorous Mystery award.
George Murdock, 81, a Kansas-born actor with an enviably extensive résumé of television credits, including appearances on Banyon, Ironside, The Magician, McCloud, Harry O, Police Story, and The
Rockford Files. In addition, Murdock had recurring roles as Lieutenant Ben
Scanlon on Barney Miller and as a harried insurance company executive on Banacek.
Cliff Osmond, 75, an American character actor whose big ugly mug will be recognizable, even if his name isn’t. As Terence Towles Canote recalls in his blog, A Shroud of Thoughts, Osmond “appeared in such films as Sweet Sugar (1972), Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), The Front Page (1974), Sharks’ Treasure (1975), The North Avenue Irregulars (1979), The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979), and Hangar 81 (1980).” Osmond also did guest shots on 77 Sunset Strip, It Takes a Thief, The Mod Squad, Kojak, McMillan & Wife, Matt Houston, and other small-screen crime dramas.
Charles “Skip” Pitts, 65, a Memphis soul and blues guitarist. As the Los Angeles Times recounts, Pitts “helped create the distinctive sound of Isaac Hayes’ ‘Theme from Shaft.’ ... Pitts’ riff was angry and bristling with menace, capturing a dangerous vibe that transcended the screen and translated to the streets of a tense nation.” (To learn more about the novel and film Shaft, click here.)
Jerome Ross, 101, a screenwriter whose credits included episodes of The Untouchables, The Defenders, Arrest and
Trial, Mission: Impossible, Mannix, and Young Maverick.
Jeff Sherratt, 70, a Southern California businessman who wrote four works of mystery fiction featuring Los Angeles cop-turned-defense attorney Jimmy O’Brien,
including last year’s Detour to Murder.
Donald J. Sobol, 87, an American author of children’s books who was best known for writing the Encyclopedia Brown mystery series.
Paul Sussman, 44, an English author and archaeologist who, according to The
Gumshoe Site, wrote his “first novel, The Lost Army of Cabyses (Transworld, 2002), featuring Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police in Egypt, in 2002, and Khalifa returns in The Last Secret of the Temple (Transworld, 2005). The third novel was a one-off (or standalone in [the] U.S.), The Hidden
Oasis (Bantam Press, 2009). His last one is a Khalifa novel, TheLabyrinth of Osiris, to be out in July  from Bantam Press.”
Gore Vidal, 86, who in addition to composing such unforgettable works of historical fiction as Burr (1973) and Lincoln (1984), also concocted a trio of mystery novels in the 1950s under the pseudonym Edgar Box (Death Before Bedtime, Death in the Fifth Position, and Death Likes It Hot). On top of his being an author, Vidal was known as a spirited raconteur and as a sharp observer of contemporary society.
Robert Wade, 92, who with his high-school friend, Bill Miller, produced dozens of crime and mystery novels under the joint pseudonym Wade
Miller, including half a dozen featuring San Diego, California, private eye
Max Thursday. In
1988, the Private Eye Writers of America gave Wade The Eye, its lifetime
Nicol Williamson, 75, who I remember best for his role as a cocaine-addled Sherlock Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a 1976 film adapted from Nicholas Meyer’s 1974 novel of that same name.
William Windom, 88, an actor I first recall seeing in the 1969-1970 NBC sitcom My World and Welcome to It. (He won an Emmy Award for that role.) Windom had previously played a prosecutor in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). He went on to deliver a powerful performance as the captain of a destroyed starship in the 1967 Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine,” and later guest-starred in installments of Columbo, The Streets of San Francisco, Banacek, and other series. He had a regular role as Dr. Seth Hazlitt on Murder, She Wrote.
Margaret Yorke, 88, an English crime novelist who penned more than 40 books, five of them starring her Oxford Don sleuth, Dr. Patrick Grant. Yorke once chaired Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), and she won the CWA’s Cartier Diamond Dagger Award in 1999.
So, who have I forgotten in this year-end accounting? Please feel free to suggest additions in the Comments section of this post.