Friday, June 20, 2014

Bullet Points: Obsessive Tube-Head Edition

• Almost five years ago, I wrote a short tribute on this page to Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), the 1969-1970 British TV crime series about two private-eye partners--one living, the other dead but still quite helpful in the way of investigating. At the time, it had been many years since I’d actually watched the program (which aired in the States as My Partner the Ghost). Earlier this week, however, I came across most of the 27 episodes of Randall and Hopkirk on YouTube. The opening segment from Episode 1, “My Late Lamented Friend and Partner”--first broadcast on September 21, 1969--can be found below. The full episode, in three parts, can be viewed by clicking here.

• Speaking of old crime and mystery series, are you familiar with Tightrope!, the 1959-1960 CBS drama in which Mike Connors (later of Mannix) played “Nick,” a police undercover agent assigned to infiltrate criminal gangs? Although it proved quite popular with viewers, the show was derided by loudmouthed prudes for “excessive violence” and doomed by a sponsor’s unwillingness to move the show to a more advantageous time slot. As far as I know, there isn’t a DVD collection of Tightrope!, but a YouTube channel called Media Mix has gathered together 30 of the original 37 episodes. The viewing quality is inconsistent, but it’s still good to see Connors (then going by the name “Michael Connors”) in his first series-leading role.

• In a post earlier this month I mentioned that a two-day extravaganza, “The Golden Anniversary Affair,” will be mounted in Los Angeles on September 26 and 27, commemorating half a century since the 1964 debut of NBC’s spy drama, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. A Facebook page promoting this event has long been available, but an associated Web site was just launched this week, giving information about tours, seminars, and celebs who will be on hand to greet attendees. It looks as if a number of details still need to be worked out, but there are probably enough specifics available on this “Affair” to convince veteran U.N.C.L.E. fans that they want to be part of it. Don’t wait too long to decide; attendance is limited to 100 guests, all of whom must be “invited” and pony up $135 for the privilege.

• Something called The Christian Post (which I’ve learned is an evangelical newspaper) brings words that the HBO-TV drama True Detective, which premiered in January of this year, may enjoy only a limited run. Series creator Nic Pizzolatto told an interviewer during Canada’s recent Banff World Media Festival that while he’s happy with the show’s success, he cannot maintain for long the pace of writing an anthology series on his own: “I can’t imagine I would do this more than three years. I mean, I’d like to have a regular TV show. We’ll have some fixed sets, regular actors and I could bring in people to help and I don’t have to be there every second. It’d be great.”

• Meanwhile, FX-TV’s Fargo, the darkly comedic crime drama based on the Coen Brothers’ 1996 film of the same name, has already run its 10-episode first-season course--and I have yet to watch even one installment. (Yeah, it’s been a crazy spring.) But after reading yesterday’s series recap post by Paul Levine, author of the Solomon vs. Lord legal thrillers, I think I need to wade into that program.

• Joe Brosnan has more to say about Fargo in Criminal Element.

• Most readers have probably forgotten Carolyn Weston (1921-2001), but she was the author of three novels featuring a pair of Santa Monica, California, police detectives, Sergeant Al Krug and Detective Casey Kellog. The first of those, 1972’s Poor, Poor Ophelia, inspired the 1972-1977 ABC-TV drama The Streets of San Francisco. Now comes word that Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman, the writers behind Brash Books, a new crime-fiction imprint, have acquired Weston’s police procedurals, and plan to republish Poor, Poor Ophelia in 2015. What’s more, Goldberg tells me in an e-mail note, “we own [the three books] outright. So we are planning to continue the series with new novels. We’re in talks with an established female crime writer now about it. We haven’t decided whether to keep them in the ’70s in Santa Monica, or move the setting to San Francisco … or make a big leap and bring them to present-day San Francisco. It’s not as strange as it sounds. [Ed McBain’s] 87th Precinct books spanned decades, but the characters didn’t age. Same goes for Nero Wolfe. So moving our characters to present day, without aging them, has some precedent.”

E.G. Marshall, star of The Defenders and The Bold Ones, would’ve celebrated his 100th birthday this week. He died in 1998.

• From the lighter side of TV crime comes Police Squad!, the short-lived, 1982 ABC-TV comedy starring Leslie Nielsen. A mere half-dozen episodes of that show were produced before it was cancelled, yet Police Squad! spawned the entertaining Naked Gun film series. The show was given a DVD release in 2006. However, I see it’s also available on YouTube, in case you would like to revisit Sergeant Frank Drebin’s earliest cases, without paying for the privilege.

• And one last television-related item: The Killing, the show that refused to die (its concluding, fourth season is finally set to start on Netflix in August), has now given birth to an original novel by Karen Dionne, The Killing: Uncommon Denominator (Titan). Criminal Element offers “an exclusive excerpt.”

• OK, I lied--one more: Joel Kinnaman, who plays Detective Stephen Holder on The Killing, recently stopped by the Los Angeles Times “for a live Web chat and was happy to report that, yes, restrictions will be loosened for the series’ final six episodes.” Read more here.

• If you’re on the lookout for classic Jim Thompson paperback covers and film posters, begin your searching here.

• Among the underrated detective/mystery films chosen by Jeff Flugel in his new post for the blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks (an allusion to 1983’s The King of Comedy) is P.J., George Peppard’s 1968 (pre-Banacek) big-screen private-eye flick. Flugel writes that P.J. finds Peppard “doing what he does best--being smug, cool and a hit with the ladies--and is peppered (ha ha!) with a lot of action and surprisingly bloody violence.” My own, more extensive remarks on P.J. are here.

• I’m sorry to hear that publisher Angry Robot Books is dropping its crime-fiction imprint, Exhibit A--especially since I was among the people who applied to become that line’s editor (one of several promising positions I sought, but was denied, in the not-distant past). In a statement covering this news, the company said, “We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have--due mainly to market saturation--unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches … We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.” Among the authors recruited by Exhibit A were Daniel O’Shea (Penance), Karen Sandler (Clean Burn), Bartholomew Daniels (A Death Owed God), and Terry Irving (Courier). I hope they all find new publishers soon.

• Blogger Erin Mitchell shares her own thoughts about Exhibit A’s demise in a post for the blog Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Room.

• One falls, another rises: The Washington Post’s Ron Charles reports on plans by Paul Oliver, the director of marketing and publicity for Soho Press, to open a new publishing company, Syndicate Books, which “will focus on out-of-print mysteries and crime fiction.” Its first release, due in September, will be Get Carter, the 1970 novel by British author Ted Lewis that was later turned into a cult film of the same name starring Michael Caine. Charles adds that “Syndicate plans to publish all nine of Lewis’s novels--the result of ‘a couple of years’ of negotiation with the Ted Lewis estate.”

• I had many good things to say about C.J. Sansom’s Dominion, when that alternative-history spy novel was first published in the UK in 2012 (it has since enjoyed a U.S. release as well). Now Shlomo Schwartzberg shares his own thoughts on that book, as well as another similar what-if work, in the blog Critics At Large.

• Megan Abbott’s new novel, The Fever (Little, Brown), wins some important good press in The Atlantic.

• And this could prove interesting. Publishers Weekly reports that “Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke have signed up to collaborate on a new novel, which will revisit characters and plot lines introduced in Clark’s bestselling I’ve Got You Under My Skin. The collaboration, The Cinderella Murder, is slated for a November 2014 publication and marks the first time Clark has written with an outside author.”


Ed Gorman said...

"Tightrope" had the distinction of also being a pulp magazine (1959-1960) based on the TV show. Don Westlake and Ed Hoch contributed stories. The mag lasted only an issue or two as I recall.

Paul Levine said...

Many thanks for the kind mention of my blog post on "Fargo." Along with "True Detective," it's been quite a season for cop shows (a term that doesn't really do them justice).

Lee Goldberg said...

Thanks for the mention of our Carolyn Weston books... and our continuation of her series. We'll be re-issuing POOR POOR OPHELIA in February, SUSANNAH SCREAMING in May, and ROUSE THE DEMON in July. We hope to have the new novels out in early 2016.

Randal Brandt said...

Great news about the Carolyn Weston novels. Those books are fantastic and it will be wonderful to have them back in print. And I can't wait to see what direction the new series takes.