• This last weekend’s mail brought me a copy of Black Scat Review, the quite handsome, “irregularly” published magazine, which includes in its latest, “Lit Noir” issue an essay I wrote about my fascination with vintage crime and detective novels. It includes remarks on works by Erle Stanley Gardner, Ellery Queen, Ed Lacy, O.G. Benson, Talmage Powell, and others. Also among the contents of this edition are contributions by Kelli Stanley, Michael Hemmingson, Susan Siegrist, Tom Larsen, and others. You can snag a copy for yourself here.
• A year ago, I installed the opening from Return of the Saint on The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page. (You can find that here.) But I don’t remember ever watching that 1978-1979 British TV series, which brought new vigor to Leslie Charteris’ do-gooder series character, Simon Templar, portrayed in this case by Ian Ogilvy rather than Roger Moore (who’d starred in the 1962-1969 ITC series, The Saint). Apparently, it was no easy thing to bring Templar back to the small-screen, as the blog Cult TV Lounge explains:
The idea of reviving The Saint had been around almost from the time that production ceased on the original series. A major problem was of course casting. The problem was not just that Roger Moore was so completely identified as Simon Templar, it was also that Moore had very much defined the character. Any new actor stepping into the role was going to have to be to some extent in the same style, otherwise the new series would simply be another generic action series rather than an authentic Saint series. Ian Ogilvy proved to be the best possible choice. He even slightly resembled Roger Moore and he had no difficulty adapting to the role. Perhaps he does not have quite as much charisma as Roger Moore but he does fit the character as defined in the later Saint stories pretty well.Cult TV Lounge is a recent discovery of mine, and I’ve been quite enjoying it. In addition to that Saint post, check out this one about Stefanie Powers’ 1966-1967 NBC series, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
• British critic/wit Mike Ripley is out a wee bit early with his July installment of “Getting Away with Murder,” his column for Shots. Among the topics being considered this time: London’s recent “More Bloody Foreigners” event; the return to print of “two of spy fiction’s hard men--David Callan and John Craig”; and new works by C.J. Sansom, Dominique Manotti, James Ellroy, Deon Meyer, Stella Rimington, David Downing, and “Sam Alexander.”
• A quick reminder: The Wolfe Pack, the New York-based Nero Wolfe/Rex Stout fan group, is soliciting entries to its ninth 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, 2015. The winner will be announced at The Wolfe Pack’s Annual Black Orchid Banquet in New York City, December 5, 2015.” More details about entering your work are here.
• The New York Times’ Dan Saltzstein takes a spin through San Francisco’s noir side, led by Hammett tour guide Don Herron.
• Who remembers Silk Stalkings?
• Salon’s Julia Cooke isn’t impressed by American television’s growing contingent of female spies, the lot of them trying to balance work and family. As she remarks,
Sex appeal, instincts, singularity of mission: the necessary traits of a female spy on TV. And another characteristic unites these shows: They are male-generated worlds populated by women conceived of by men.• Friend of The Rap Sheet Michael G. Jacob, who with his wife, Daniella De Gregorio, penned five novels about early 19th-century Prussian magistrate-cum-sleuth Hanno Stiffeniis (including 2009’s A Visible Darkness), wrote recently to say that he’s hard at work on a fresh project: “Well, we have just sold the first one in a brand-new series, Cry Wolf. Severn House Crime will publish it in England in November and on March 1, 2015, in the States. We are planning to do at least three of them. We’re halfway through number two at the moment (entitled Marzio Dies), having a lot of fun. The central theme is the Calabrian mafia--the ’Ndrangheta--and its rapid spread throughout Italy, bringing violence and corruption to sleepy places like the town in Umbria where we live, and totally devastating the lives of anyone who gets involved with them.” I look forward to seeing Cry Wolf and its sequels in my local bookshop.
The male-drawn women of TV spyland seem to point toward a singular, blunt perspective on the debates dominating American feminism today. No, they say, you can’t have “it all.” Yes, they say, you will be forever swapping hats, though by occasionally dipping into the “simpler” pleasures of domestic life, you may find relief. Yes, you will be expected to be beautiful. These characters are television clichés, but they are also feminine clichés, bundled together and then pulled apart piece by piece: they can’t be controlled or entirely understood, they are electroshock-therapy-crazy, dangerously seductive, a collection of body parts to be ogled.
• John “J.F.” Norris has posted, in his blog Pretty Sinister Books, a fine assessment of A Sad Song Singing (1963), one of my favorite Thomas B. Dewey novels starring his Chicago private eye, Mac.
• That’s a shame. Eighty-one-year-old actor Robert Vaughn, who starred in the 1964-1968 NBC-TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., “told fans during an appearance at the Dean Martin Expo in New York that he was never approached about doing a cameo” in director Guy Ritchie’s forthcoming Man from U.N.C.L.E. feature film. The HMSS Weblog notes that when Vaughn was asked what sort of cameo appearance he’d have liked to do, he joked, “I would have wanted to be the guy pressing the clothes.”
• Crimespree Magazine’s Jeremy Lynch reports that Stuart Neville’s 2013 thriller, Ratlines, is being developed as a TV program by Ireland-based Ripple World Pictures and Los Angeles-based KGB Films. “Neville will not just handle writing duties, but will also act as an executive producer for the proposed series,” Lynch adds.
• Meanwhile, happy 10th anniversary to Crimespree!
• Which are the 10 episodes that show Peter Falk’s Columbo to be “the most iconic TV detective of all time”? A.V. Club’s Gwen Ihnat’s picks include the pilot, Prescription: Murder, “Étude In Black” (starring John Cassavetes), “A Friend in Need” (starring Richard Kiley), “Try and Catch Me” (starring Ruth Gordon), and “Butterfly in Shades of Grey” (the second episode featuring William Shatner). Sadly, one of my personal favorites, “Negative Reaction” (which featured Dick Van Dyke as a murderous photographer), didn’t make the cut.
• And though 1950’s The Drowning Pool isn’t one of my favorites among Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer P.I. novels, I’m pleased to see it win favorable notice in blogger NancyO’s The Crime Segments.
• Did the often bizarre, 1990-1991 ABC-TV series Twin Peaks really prepare the stage for what some critics call our present “golden age” of television? That’s the case contends that “Many of the defining aspects of Twin Peaks can seem clichéd today: Its narrative intricacy, its darkness, its reliance on antiheroes. But that’s just because we are by now so used to the show’s sensibility in our televised diet. What set this show apart has so thoroughly been assimilated that talking about it is like pointing to the sky and calling it blue. But this engaging, surreal and occasionally frustrating, 30-episode series about the hunt for a prom queen’s killer was ahead of its time. Many of today’s modern classics owe it a debt audiences might not be aware of.”
• If you haven’t noticed yet, Kevin Burton Smith has refreshed his Thrilling Detective Web Site with new stories by Frederick Zackel (looking back at the 1974 film Chinatown), Thomas Pluck (doing his own reassessment of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye), Ben Solomon (reminding us of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation), and others. Click here to find Smith’s comments on this latest update.
• This September conference looks like great fun!
• The Cult TV Blog is busy now, looking back fondly at Danger Man (aka Secret Agent), the 1960-1962 UK series featuring Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake.
• By the way, if you haven’t seen the opening title sequence from that show in a while, it’s one of the latest additions to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page. You can see it here.
• Megan Abbott dreamcasts the film to be made someday from her new novel, The Fever (Little, Brown). “I never think of specific people while writing a book,” she remarks in My Book, the Movie. “It would feel too specific, maybe limiting. But, as a movie-lover since childhood, once the book is complete, I often imagine the possibilities. And so I find myself doing that with The Fever.”
• In today’s Guardian, Melanie (aka M.J.) McGrath, author of The Boy in the Snow and the forthcoming The Bone Seeker, muses on why it is that women enjoy reading rater explicit crime fiction. “For women required in youth to be decorous and in maturity to be invisible,” she writes, “crime fiction gives us permission to touch on our own indecorous feelings of rage, aggression and vengefulness, sentiments we’re encouraged to pack away somewhere, along with the big underwear and the tampons, where they won’t offend.”
• Nineteen things you may not know about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from The Daily Telegraph. No. 3: “He wasn’t knighted for his fiction. In 1902, the writer was knighted by King Edward VII. He was also appointed a Deputy-Lieutenant of Surrey. However, he wasn’t knighted for having created Sherlock Holmes. He was made a knight for his work on a non-fiction pamphlet regarding the Boer War.”
• A fine review of Philip Kerr’s Prayer.
• In a new interview with Neal Thompson of Amazon, Alan Furst talks about his work on Midnight in Europe (Random House), his 13th historical spy thriller.
• Finally, organizers of PulpFest 2014 have announced their latest set of eight nominees for the Munsey Award, “annually presented to a deserving individual who has given of himself or herself for the betterment of the pulp [fiction] community …” In addition, one person--convention “grunt work” expert J. Barry Traylor--has been put forward as a possible recipient of the Rusty Hevelin Service Award, “designed to recognize those individuals within the pulp community who have worked long and hard for the pulp community with little thought for individual recognition.” Winners will be presented on Saturday, August 9, during PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio.