Monday, June 16, 2014

Bullet Points: Post-Father’s Day Edition

Sorry things have been a bit quiet on this page over the last week, but I just returned home from a most gratifying visit with my best friend, Byron, who lives in Minneapolis. We managed during our time together to take in a baseball game at Target Field (the Twins lost again, as they always do when I’m in the bleachers), attend an amazing Elvis Costello concert (he played solo, and delivered five energetic encores!), wander through a fine display of Edward Hopper sketches at the Walker Art Museum, enjoy an outdoor evening band concert (featuring Byron’s oboe-playing wife, Karyl), spend hours reading in his sunny backyard, eat our way through several restaurants with curbside seating as well as a couple of exceptional ice-cream shops, and stick to a schedule of walking briskly around the local lakes, which reduced the guilt that might otherwise have been a consequence of our overconsumption. There were certainly more activities we could’ve added to our itinerary, had I spent longer in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. But we made some good memories during the days we had together. And for the record, let me say I didn’t miss being in front of a computer, cell phone, or iPad, when I did not have to be. A week of “unplugged” relaxation was greatly appreciated.

Now, though, it’s time to hop back on the crime-fiction beat. Here are some recent discoveries and newsy items you might have missed.

• As he gears up for the fifth annual Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel competition, judging convener Craig Sisterson recalls in his blog, Crime Watch, how he discovered the delights of New Zealand crime, mystery, and thriller fiction. By the way, this year’s Ngaio Marsh prize will be presented during the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival, August 27-31, so we should hear which books and authors have made the shortlist by some time in early August.

• Heads up! “On June 18th,” writes the unnamed blogger at Down These Mean Streets, “Ellery Queen will celebrate the 75th anniversary of his debut as a radio detective. To celebrate, I’ll feature more of his radio adventures and I’ll be giving away a complete series DVD set of his 1975 television series!” Contest specifics are here.

• I was not familiar with the Web site Thriller Books Journal until it selected The Rap Sheet as a crime-fiction blog “worth investigating.” You’ll find its previous picks here, here, and here.

• After Peter Gunn concluded its three-year run in 1961, Craig Stevens was recruited by Britain’s ITV to star in Man of the World, a 20-episode, 1962-1963 series in which he played globetrotting photojournalist Michael Strait, whose travels often led him to investigate crimes and assorted other odd doings. Before today, I might have seen one or two installments of that Stevens drama. But I just stumbled across more than a dozen of them on the YouTube channel maintained by “Zardon4,” the same person who uploaded a bunch of Name of the Game eps earlier this year. You’ll find “Masquerade in Spain,” described as the pilot for Man of the World here. And click here to watch other, black-and-white episodes.

• I swear, no matter how many giant stacks of pulpish novels I succeed in reading during my life, there will always be more. The latest author I’d never heard of before: Australian James Holledge, perhaps best remembered for penning Notorious Women (1962).

• Surely, I have seen this set of gun-barrel opening sequences from the James Bond films before. But they’re still great nostalgic fun.

• Over the last couple of years, UK-based Titan Books has slowly but surely been bringing all of Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm espionage novels back into print. (You can order them here.) Now, audio book producer Blackstone is preparing to release audio versions of the first five Helm adventures, starting with 1960’s Death of a Citizen. Collecting these audio books should be fun, but it won’t be cheap: each will set you back $49. Further details are available here.

• Happy 10th anniversary to the film/TV blog A Shroud of Thoughts! Recalling its birth in 2004, writer Terence Towles Canote remarks, “At the time I had no idea that A Shroud of Thoughts would last so long. At the same time I had no idea that in some ways the blog would become my life’s work. I have actually been writing A Shroud of Thoughts longer than I have held most jobs!” I know just how he feels …

This is top-notch artwork for a 1974 Spanish condensation of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, published by Reader’s Digest.

• Boston-area author Linda Barnes (author of the Carlotta Carlyle series and The Perfect Ghost) is the guest on the 162nd episode of Jeff Rutherford’s Reading & Writing podcast. Listen here.

• Since I’m not a Showtime subscriber, I haven’t had a chance to follow the new horror-fiction TV series Penny Dreadful, but the trailers certainly make it appear intriguing. Showtime evidently likes it too, for it has already ordered a second season of episodes.

• Lauren Miller’s new science-fiction thriller, Free to Fall (HarperTeen), somehow slipped right past my usually finely tuned radar. Crimespree Magazine’s Elise Cooper, though, took advantage of its publication to ask the author a few questions about her characters and the increasing role of technology in our lives.

• And I can only shake my head at this missed opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, I was in Minneapolis last week, with plenty of free hours on my hands. It’s too bad I didn’t know then about The Red Box, Joseph Goodrich’s theatrical adaptation of Rex Stout’s 1937 Nero Wolfe mystery of that same name. The play had its world premiere at the Park Square Theatre in neighboring St. Paul during the time I was in that area, and it’s scheduled to run through July 30. The St. Paul Pioneer Press delivered plenty of compliments to the show in its recent review, calling it “an ideal summer entertainment,” and Park Square offers a short video trailer for the production here. Had I been prepared, I could’ve seen the show myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t read about it until my return to the Pacific Northwest. Sigh ...

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