Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bullet Points: Not a Word About Justin Bieber

• Max Allan Collins, whose works of fiction--including his 1987 novel The Dark City--have occasionally featured the legendary Prohibition agent, Eliot Ness--rises to that historic figure’s defense after complaints were voiced in reaction to the suggestion that Washington, D.C.’s new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives headquarters be named in honor of the “Untouchables” leader. In a piece appearing in The Huffington Post, Collins wrote this week that “It’s regrettable, if entirely predictable, that some have seized upon the senators’ proposal to attack Ness's reputation--notably author Jonathan Eig, who in the Chicago Sun-Times dismisses Ness’s accomplishments as ‘baloney.’ Much the same could be said of Mr. Eig’s spottily researched book Get Capone (2010), whose major claims, particularly about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, are difficult for any student of Chicago crime to take seriously.”

• It appears that Les Blatt’s excellent series of “Classic Mysteries” podcasts has had to find a new host, after six years with its previous one. You can now locate links to the weekly installments here. Blatt is a most congenial master of ceremonies, and his brief podcasts provide a great deal of background on the genre. For a taste of what he’s offering, listen here to his review of Erle Stanley Gardner’s first Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933); or click here to hear his critique of The Dishonest Murderer (1949), one of Richard and Frances Lockridge’s Mr. and Mrs. North whodunits.

• Speaking of listening pleasures, here is a link to the January 24, 1944, Lux Radio Theater adaptation of Casablanca, featuring the voices of Alan Ladd as Rick Blaine, Hedy Lamarr as Ilsa Lund, and John Loder as Victor Laszlo. The broadcast lasts one hour.

• I’m very pleased to note that I have been to about half of the places BuzzFeed lists as the “12 Historic Bars Every Book Nerd Needs to Visit,” including Madrid’s Cerveceria Alemana (once a frequent hangout for Ernest Hemingway) and the Carousel Bar at New Orleans’ Hotel Monteleone (where William Faulkner and Truman Capote often relaxed). I shall happily try to visit them all in the future.

• What’s so new about “chick noir,” the subgenre of psychological thrillers aimed largely at female readers and offering “no happy ending, no wedding dress or pram, just plot twists and tortured souls”? Maybe nothing, says The Guardian’s Charlotte Jones, whose look back at Victorian “sensation fiction” finds that “the darker side of matrimony” has long been worthy of literary exploration.

• The five-day, fifth-anniversary celebration I mounted this last week for my book-art-oriented blog, Killer Covers, has now concluded. You can see all of the paperback fronts I highlighted here.

• UK author Ann Cleeves names her “Top 10 Crime Novels in Translation,” which--in a remarkable change--focuses on works other than those coming from Scandinavia.

• Among the nominees for this year’s Minnesota Book Awards are four works of mystery fiction, though they have all been slotted into the General Fiction category:

-- The Book of Killowen, by Erin Hart (Scribner)
-- The Cold Nowhere, by Brian Freeman (Quercus)
-- Tamarack County, by William Kent Krueger (Atria)
-- Wolves, by Cary J. Griffith (Adventure Publications)

Winners in all categories will be announced during the Book Awards gala on April 5, to be held at the Saint Paul Union Depot.

• Crime Time Preview’s Robin Jarossi continues his look back at “50 crime shows that blow us away,” this time turning his attention to the lighthearted 1985-1989 series Moonlighting. Jarossi has previously championed both Brotherhood and Copper.

• Meanwhile, Brightest Young Things offers its “immersive guide” to “TV Murder Mysteries to Binge-Watch Right Now.” Helen Mirren’s Prime Suspect, Idris Elba’s Luther, and Michael Kitchen’s Foyle’s War all survived the cut, as did the mini-series Broadchurch and Vexed (the latter of which I’ve never watched).

• Whew! We dodged a bullet on that one. NBC-TV “has quietly abandoned its plans to reboot Murder, She Wrote with Octavia Spencer,” reports A.V. Club. “The network refused to say that the concept was entirely dead, blithely ignoring the obvious like the residents of a quaint coastal town whose boats can barely break past their harbors for all the floating corpses. Instead, it simply suggested it might someday ‘try approaching it in a different way, possibly with a new concept’--such as one where they don’t call it Murder, She Wrote, and Angela Lansbury doesn’t have to suddenly ‘solve’ the slayings of a bunch of people she happens to know.” More here.

• Hard-boiled novelist Mickey Spillane died back in 2006, but only now is his widow, Jane, coming out with a volume that recalls the 23 years she spent with Mike Hammer’s creator. “Each chapter of the book,” says the Coastal Carolina University Web site, “is paired with photographs of Spillane memorabilia and items around the Spillane household, including the writer’s most signature and prized possessions.” My Life with Mickey is scheduled for publication on February 5, but you can already “pre-order” a copy from Coastal Carolina University’s The Athenaeum Press.

• South Carolina’s State newspaper adds that “there is talk of establishing a museum to house a trove of Mickey [Spillane] memorabilia, including letters, movie mementos, photographs and tapes.” And maybe his Miller Lite commercials as well?

• Note that the deadline to apply for this year’s Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship for Mystery Writing (“to nurture talent in mystery writing--in fiction, non-fiction, playwriting, and screenwriting”) is coming right up, on Friday, February 28.

• Kate Rosenfeld has identified, for The Barnes & Noble Blog, 5 Jack the Ripper-Inspired Romps” you might enjoy reading, including Lynsday Faye’s Dust and Shadow and Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper. Had she doubled the length of her list, Rosenfeld surely would’ve also mentioned Ellery Queen’s A Study in Terror, Edward B. Hanna’s The Whitechapel Horrors, and Alex Scarrow’s The Candle Man (the last being one of my favorite crime novels of 2012).

• Just a reminder: The Wolfe Pack, the New York City-based Nero Wolfe fan group, is soliciting entries to its eighth annual Black Orchid Novella Award competition. As a Pack news release explains, “Entries must be 15,000 to 20,000 words in length, and must be postmarked by May 31, 2014. The winner will be announced at The Wolfe Pack’s Annual Black Orchid Banquet in New York City, December 6, 2014.” You can find more details about how to enter your work here.

• Anyone who has watched Basil Rathbone’s old Sherlock Holmes films knows that the performer preferred headgear other than a deerstalker hat for Holmes. The blog I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere recalls some of those stylish chapeaux here.

• Elizabeth Foxwell observes that “Ray Betzner has started a new blog on author-collector Vincent Starrett, a key figure in the Baker Street Irregulars and Sherlockian scholarship.” I’ve now added Betzner’s Studies in Scarlet to The Rap Sheet’s blogroll.

From The New York Times: “Sherlock Holmes isn’t the only pipe-smoking classic detective getting a 21st-century reboot. Inspector Jules Maigret, the stolid Parisian gumshoe created by the Belgian writer Georges Simenon, is about to get his own brand makeover, thanks to a joint effort by Penguin Books and Penguin UK to release all 75 Maigret novels in new English versions by leading literary translators.” Uh-oh, I’ll have to clear a bookshelf ...

• Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice number among Publishers Weekly’s picks of the 11 most anticipated book-to-film adaptations of 2014.

• Louise Penny is one of 90 new appointees to the distinguished Order of Canada. Fellow novelist Douglas Coupland joins her in receiving that particular honor.

• Lee Goldberg and William Radkin’s succession of Dead Man action/adventure/horror novels has been given new life as a six-part Kindle series. More nightmares to come.

• Belated happy anniversary wishes go out to Jen’s Book Thoughts. Jen Forbus’ blog turned six years old on Sunday, January 12.

• Keep an eye out for this: “Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gambon, Sofie Gråbøl, and Jessica Raine are set to join Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci in Fortitude, a new Sky Atlantic series charting a mysterious death in the Arctic Circle,” reports RadioTimes. The 12-part series, debuting later this year, “will be filmed in the UK and Iceland [and] will be set in Fortitude, ‘one of the safest towns on earth,’ where until now there has never been a violent crime. Tucci and Game of Thrones actor Richard Dormer will play the town's sheriff and a detective who are trying to make sense of a mysterious murder.”

• I really should get around to finding and reading Elliott Chaze’s 1953 noir classic, Black Wings Has My Angel, one of these days.

• Janet Potter and Nick Moran of The Millions imagine how some classic book titles might have been seriously altered, had their authors sought to “snag as many [Internet] clicks as possible by pandering to as many whims and obsessions as possible.”

• The mystery of a forgotten mystery writer: A. Fielding.

• Ever since the ups and downs and ups of The Killing, AMC-TV’s adaptation of the popular Danish show Forbrydelsen, I’ve been extremely leery of European programs being turned into U.S. series. So don’t expect me to be too excited about the A&E serial-killer drama Those Who Kill, which is based on another Danish drama and debuts on Monday, March 3. Watch a trailer here.

• Neatorama shares a few fun facts about the 1966-1968 ABC-TV series Batman, concluding with this one: “Because of his great success as Batman, Adam West was offered the role of James Bond in the 1969 movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. West declined, saying the role should be played by a British actor. Ironically, George Lazenby, an Australian, got the role.”

• And as you’ve probably heard, the family of George Stinney Jr., an African American from South Carolina who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1944, and became the youngest person--at 14 years of age--to be executed in the United States during the 20th century, is endeavoring to clear his name. David Stout, a former New York Times reporter and author of the Edgar Award-winning novel Carolina Skeletons (1988), based on that case, has put together several posts for the Mysterious Press Web site revisiting the Stinney conviction and his own relationship to the story. You’ll find them here.

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