Saturday, January 10, 2015
James Garner reading in The Rockford Files.
There have been several recent posts on this page wrapping things up for 2014. We’ve looked back at our favorite new crime novels from last year as well as the best book covers. Now comes the necessary but not so cheery record of deaths over the last 12 months. We lost a great number of folks who were important in crime-fiction circles during 2014 (though not nearly so many as went to their graves in 2013). We know this list isn’t exhaustive, but please let us know in the Comments section at the end of this post if we forgot anyone of prominence.
Harold Adams, 91, the author of 17 novels featuring Carl Wilcox, an itinerant sign painter and “happenstance private eye” who operated in the small South Dakota town of Corden during the Great Depression. That Shamus Award-winning series began with Murder (1981) and concluded with Lead, So I Can Follow (1999). Adams also penned two novels (1987’s When Rich Men Die and 2003’s The Fourth of July Wake) about a wise-ass contemporary TV news anchor, Kyle Champion, who winds up taking on P.I. work himself. The “kind, intelligent, and very nice” Adams breathed his last on April 4.
Bill Adler, 84, who--according to Jiro Kimura of The Gumshoe Site--“‘conceptualized’ contest mystery novels including Who Killed the Robins Family? (Morrow, 1983) and its sequel, The Revenge of the Robins Family (Morrow, 1984; both written by Thomas Chastain); The Agent (Doubleday, 1986; written by David R. Slavitt); and Murder on the Internet (Morrow, 1999; written by Bruce Cassiday). He also conceptualized two mystery anthologies: Murder in Manhattan (Morrow, 1986) with stories by NY writer[s], and Murder in Los Angeles (Morrow, 1987) with stories by L.A. writers.” Adler passed away on February 28 as a consequence of abdominal cancer.
Lou Allin, 69, a Canadian mystery writer (Twilight Is Not Good for Maidens) died on July 10, following a lengthy bout with pancreatic cancer. More about her life and career can be found here and here.
Lauren Bacall, 89, “the actress whose provocative glamour elevated her to stardom in Hollywood’s golden age and whose lasting mystique put her on a plateau in American culture that few stars reach,” according to this obituary in The New York Times. Born Betty Joan Perske in The Bronx, New York, back in 1924, Bacall was just a sultry 19-year-old when she first encountered 44-year-old Humphrey Bogart on the set of the motion-picture To Have and Have Not (1944). The two married the next year and went on to make four famous crime movies together, the last being 1948’s Key Largo. Her film career waned after Bogart’s death in 1957, but she appeared sporadically on the big and small screens into the early 21st century. Her later movie credits included roles in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Shootist (1976), The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), and The Forger (2012). She also appeared in a classic two-part episode of The Rockford Files (“Lions, Tigers, Monkeys, and Dogs,” 1979) and a 2006 episode of The Sopranos (“Luxury Lounge”). A self-described liberal Democrat (“[B]eing a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be,” she once told TV interviewer Larry King. “You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind.”), Lauren Bacall died of a “massive stroke” on August 12 at her home in New York City’s famous Dakota Apartments.
(Right) Bacall and Bogart, 1944
Juanita Bartlett, 86, an American TV screenwriter-producer who worked with James Garner on Nichols, The Rockford Files, and the 1978 TV pilot The New Maverick. Her credits also included contributions to The Greatest American Hero, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Alias Smith and Jones, and The Magician. Bartlett was brought in to “fix” Spenser: For Hire during its second season (sadly, its least appealing one). She died on February 25, just three days short of her 87th birthday.
Alexandra Bastedo, 67, a British screen star and activist who was probably best known for playing sexy secret agent Sharron Macready in the 1968-1969 espionage/science-fiction adventure series The Champions. “Of course, Alexandra Bastedo was more than an actress,” Terence Towles Canote wrote in A Shroud of Thoughts. “Through the [Alexandra Bastedo Champions (ABC) Animal Sanctuary] and other activities over the years she saved hundreds of abandoned animals. She was also active in several other animal-rights organizations. The first thing anyone might have noticed about Alexandra Bastedo may have been her beauty, but she was so much more than that.” Cancer took her Bastedo’s life on January 12.
Eric Bercovici, 80, a writer and producer for U.S. television. Over the years he wrote for small-screen crime dramas such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Hawaii Five-O, Assignment: Vienna, Police Story, and McClain’s Law (the last of which he also created). In addition, Bercovici penned the screenplays for the 1977 ABC miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors and the 1988 NBC miniseries adaptation of James Clavell’s novel Noble House. With Clavell he shared a 1980 Emmy Award for scripting the miniseries Shōgun. He died on February 9 at his home in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Thomas Berger, 89, an Ohio-born novelist perhaps best remembered for publishing the 1964 Western picaresque Little Big Man and its 1999 sequel, The Return of Little Big Man. However, Berger also gave readers 1977’s pot-boilerish detective novel, Who Is Teddy Villanova?, which one Goodreads reviewer described as “at once a farce, a parody, and [a] loving exercise in genre fiction.” There’s more on Teddy Villanova here. Berger died on July 13.
Marshall Browne, 78, an ex-banker and the Ned Kelly Award-winning Australian author of such crime novels as The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders (1999), Inspector Anders and the Ship of Fools (2001), and Rendezvous at Kamakura Inn (2006). He died of cancer on February 14. You’ll find The Rap Sheet’s obituary of Browne here.
Warren Clarke, 67, an English actor best known for his portrayal of the blunt, politically incorrect, and ever-grumpy Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel in the 1996-2007 BBC One series Dalziel and Pascoe. An obituary on the BBC News site says Clarke died on November 12 “after a short illness.”
(Left) Warren Clarke
Judy Crider, 71, who for 49 years was married to Bill Crider, Texas author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes novels, the Professor Sally Good and Carl Burns mysteries, and an assortment of other works in the crime fiction, horror, and Western genres. Her obituary in Texas’ Alvin Sun-Advertiser explains that “Judy was a full partner in Bill’s writing career. She was the first reader and editor of every book and story he wrote and was the business manager for the entire enterprise. She was his co-author on several stories, and one of them won the Anthony Award for Best Short Story in 2002.” Not long after Judy’s demise (from cancer) on November 27, Bill Crider wrote in his blog: “From the day we married, I more or less ceased to exist as an individual. There was no more Bill Crider. There was BillandJudy. It’s been that way ever since. My sister said today that she was worried about me because Judy and I had never been separated for more than a couple of days in all our years together. I’ll be okay, though, I think. It’s still BillandJudy as far as I’m concerned. She may have left the world, but she’ll never leave me.”
Dorothy Salisbury Davis, 98, an author who, explained the Los Angeles Times, produced “tautly spun novels and short stories that portrayed women as strong, complex characters instead of the more usual helpless damsels and femmes fatale …” The paper added that “Davis wrote 20 novels and dozens of stories during a five-decade career that brought six Edgar Award nominations from the Mystery Writers of America. She was an early member of the group, which included Ellery Queen and Georges Simenon, and served as president in 1956. She was named a grand master of the society in 1985 for lifetime achievement.” The New York Times recalled that Davis “wrote mainly standalone novels [such as 1951’s successful A Gentle Murderer] and stories, but developed a few stock characters. One, Julie Hayes, was a wacky young lady who set up a fortunetelling shop in Times Square as a way to reinvent her life. In reviewing the first of the four “Julie’ books, A Death in the Life (1976), in The Times, Anatole Broyard wrote, ‘Mrs. Davis is one of that disappearing breed of novelists who still believes in likable women.’” The author had spent several years in failing health before passing away at a New York senior residence facility on August 3.
James Garner (born James Scott Bumgarner), 86, an actor whose friendly, whimsical style attracted millions of followers to his TV series, including Maverick (1957-1962) and The Rockford Files (1974-1980), and his many films over the years, among them The Great Escape (1963), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Grand Prix (1966), Hour of the Gun (1967), Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969), Marlowe (1969), Support Your Local Gunfighter! (1971), Skin Game (1971), Victor Victoria (1982), Murphy’s Romance (1985), Sunset (1988), Twilight (1998), and … well, this list could go on and on. Garner was nominated for upwards of a dozen Emmy Awards during his more than 60-year career, and in 1977 he won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series as a result of his work on The Rockford Files. For his contributions to the entertainment industry, the Oklahoma-born Garner was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6927 Hollywood Boulevard), and in 2005 he received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, Garner was approached by party leaders in California in 2010 to run for that state’s governorship, but declined the opportunity. Of all the celebrity deaths last year, Garner’s certainly hit me the hardest, as I’d been a fan of his acting ever since I was boy. I’d even had the privilege of interviewing him, via e-mail, back in 2011, following the publication of his memoir, The Garner Files. He perished on July 19, reportedly as a result of acute myocardial infarction. My thoughts on his passing, as well as numerous links to Garner tributes online, can be found here. Additional links are here.
Curt Gentry, 83, a Colorado-born writer best remembered for having worked with Vincent Bugliosi on the 1974 non-fiction book Helter Skelter, about the Charles Manson murders. Gentry’s 1967 book, Frame-up: The Incredible Case of Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, was nominated for an Edgar Award, but it’s actually for another of his works, 1964’s The Madams of San Francisco, that I remember him best. A paperback copy of Madams sits prominently on my office shelves even now--one of the first books that made me curious about the seedier side of history around California’s Golden Gate. Lung cancer took Gentry’s life on July 10, in (of course) San Francisco.
Jeremiah Healy, 66, author of the Boston-based John Francis Cuddy private-eye series. Born in New Jersey, he was a graduate of Rutgers College and Harvard Law School, and had been a military police lieutenant, a trial attorney, and later a professor at the New England School of Law. He’d served as the chair for the Shamus Awards, president of the Private Eye Writers of America, and president of the International Association of Crime Writers. In addition to his acclaimed Cuddy books, Healy produced--under the pseudonym “Terry Devane”--novels about Boston lawyer Mairead O’Clare. He had evidently suffered for many years from depression, and he took his own life on August 14 in Pompano Beach, Florida. My only interview with him appeared in January Magazine back in 2000. The Boston Globe’s obituary of Healy can be found here, while more information about his passing is available in this Rap Sheet post.
Edward Herrmann, 71, a versatile but very recognizable (by either face or voice) character actor, born in Wshington, D.C. Although he may now be most familiar for his role as patriarch Richard Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, Herrmann’s résumé also includes appearances on St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life on the Street, Crossing Jordan, The Practice, Law & Order, and The Good Wife. Additionally, he portrayed Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the late-1970s made-for-TV-movie Eleanor and Franklin and its sequel, Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years, and put in a superior performance as newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst in The Cat’s Meow (2001). Herrmann succumbed to brain cancer on New Year’s Eve.
Geoffrey Holder, 84, a Trinidadian-American actor, singer, dancer, and choreographer whose portrayal of Baron Samedi--a particularly sinister villain in the 1973 James Bond flick, Live and Let Die--and his appearances in a series of 7-Up commercials (watch here) brought him worldwide recognition. The BBC News site has more on his career.
P.D. James (aka Lady James of Holland Park), 91, “the [English] grande dame of mystery, and a link with the golden age of detective writing that flourished between the wars,” according to The Guardian’s obituary. Phyllis Dorothy James didn’t begin penning fiction until she was in her 40s, but she went on from there to produce the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries (beginning with 1962’s Cover Her Face), a couple of novels starring private detective Cordelia Gray (including An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, 1972), and standalones such as her 2011 Jane Austen tribute, Death Comes to Pemberley. The British Crime Writers’ Association gave her three Macallan Silver Daggers for Fiction as well as its 1987 Cartier Diamond Dagger award for lifetime achievement. James was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1983. She died at her home in Oxford, England, on November 27. Read more here.
Richard Kiel, 74, a 7-foot-1 Detroit-born actor who featured in such theatrical releases as The Longest Yard (1974), Force 10 from Navarone (1978), and Happy Gilmore (1996). Kiel was also a regular on the 1975-1976 ABC-TV Western/crime series Barbary Coast, but may have made his most lasting impression playing Jaws, an imposing criminal henchman with steel-capped teeth, in two James Bond films, 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and 1979’s Moonraker. (The blog James Bond Memes offers more commentary on Jaws here.) Kiel died on September 10, just short of his 75th birthday.
(Left) Richard Kiel as Jaws
Glen A. Larson, 77, was an Emmy Award-nominated American producer and screenwriter who brought to television a number of memorable hits during the 1970s and ’80s, among them Magnum, P.I., Quincy, M.E., The Fugitive, Alias Smith and Jones, McCloud, The Six Million Dollar Man, Switch, Knight Rider, Night Man, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and The Fall Guy. He also served as executive producer of the 1968-1970 Robert Wagner spy series It Takes a Thief. A lengthy accounting of Larson’s TV credits is here. He died on November 14.
Audrey Long, 92, an actress who appeared in such motion pictures as Tall in the Saddle (1944) and Born to Kill (1947). No matter her other accomplishments, however, this Orlando, Florida, native may always be remembered best for having wed UK novelist Leslie Charteris--creator of the Saint series starring Simon Templer--on April 26, 1952. The couple remained married until his demise in 1993. Long reportedly died on September 19 in Surrey, England, “after a long illness.”
Roy Peter Martin, 83, who--as “James Melville”--composed more than a dozen novels featuring Japanese police Superintendent Otani (beginning with 1979’s The Wages of Zen). As well, in the late 1980s this native Londoner stepped in to continue a cozy crime series starring retired art teacher Emily D. Seeton, after that series’ creator, Heron Carvic, went to her grave in 1980; Martin ultimately contributed three Miss Seeton novels under the nom de plume “Hampton Charles.” Martin “was intelligent, amusing and genial company, and he also wrote very well,” fellow author Martin Edwards recalled in this post. “The Otani books were crisp and entertaining and made excellent use of his knowledge of Japan and the Japanese way of life. He was also a reviewer, and I was one of many younger writers who benefited from his generosity and his willingness to cover books that were not necessarily destined to be best-sellers. I shall remember him fondly.” Martin passed away on March 23. Click here to read his obituary in The Guardian, composed by his sons.
Martin Meyers, 79, who with his wife, Annette, wrote the historical “Dutchman” mysteries under the joint pseudonym “Maan Meyers.” Meyers died in New York City on May 14.
James Shigeta, 85, a Hawaii-born actor-singer of Japanese descent who, according to Wikipedia, “first came on screen in the U.S., in 1959, as Detective Joe Kojaku in The Crimson Kimono, a detective story that featured an interracial romantic triangle between Kojaku, his partner Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (played by Glenn Corbett), and Christine Downes (portrayed by Victoria Shaw). Shigeta’s character was somewhat groundbreaking for the 1950s, an Asian detective played by an Asian actor with regular speech patterns, rather than a non-Asian made up to pass as Asian who speaks in broken English.” Shigata went on to star on the big screen in Flower Drum Song (1961) and Lost Horizon (1973), but was more frequently spotted doing guest spots on TV series such as Perry Mason, It Takes a Thief, Matt Helm, Magnum, P.I., and Murder, She Wrote. He died in his sleep on July 28.
Seymour Shubin, 93, the Philadelphia-born author of such novels as Anyone’s My Name (1953), The Captain (a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, published in 1982), and Witness to Myself (released in 2006 by Hard Case Crime). He perished on November 2 “of complications from an earlier fall.”
Mary Stewart, 97, an English writer credited with bringing renown to the field of romantic mystery fiction. “Mary Stewart was arguably one of the most influential suspense novelists of the mid-20th century …,” opines author Julia Buckley. “All of the staples of romantic suspense can be found in Stewart’s suspense novels: beautiful settings, adventurous heroines, and a brooding mystery. Stewart, however, takes those basic elements and embellishes them enough to create a new genre: the literary romantic suspense novel. By marrying history and setting, she allows her reader to feel both intelligent and invested in place.” An obit at Tor.com, by science fiction/fantasy writer Jo Walton, emphasizes the importance of Stewart’s four Arthurian novels, beginning with The Crystal Cave (1970). Stewart died on May 9.
Leslie Thomas, 83, a Wales-born author who first enjoyed fame after the publication of his 1966 comic novel, The Virgin Soldiers. My own experience with Thomas’ fiction began courtesy of the 1976 Dell paperback release of Dangerous Davies: The Last Detective. As The Gumshoe Site recalled, that novel “was turned into the 1981 TV movie of the same name starring Bernard Cribbins as the CID officer in the London borough of Willesden, with Thomas and director Val Guest co-writing the script. Also, The Last Detective became [a] TV series starring Peter Davison, with 17 episodes broadcast from 2003 [to] 2007.” The New York Times explains that Thomas “died on May 6 at his home near Salisbury, England.”
James Thompson, 49, the author of four novels starring Finnish homicide inspector Kari Vaara (including 2012’s Helsinki Blood). Although he was born in eastern Kentucky in 1964, Thompson moved to Finland in 1998, where he earned his Master's degree in English philology and became a full-time writer. Prior to that, he’d worked as a “bartender, bouncer, construction worker, photographer, rare coin dealer, soldier, and wrestling announcer.” His U.S. publisher, Putnam, noted after his passing that Thompson’s debut novel, Snow Angels (2010), was nominated for the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Strand Magazine Critics award and was selected as a Booklist Best Crime Novel Debut of the Year.” He wrote about his fiction-writing endeavors in this piece for the blog Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White. Thompson died on August 2.
Aimée Thurlo, 62, who penned novels in the mystery, romance, and young adult categories, often with her husband, David. The FantasticFiction Web site explains that the Thurlos had “three ongoing mystery series: the Sister Agatha series, starring a cloistered nun, the Lee Nez series, featuring a Navajo vampire who teams up with a female FBI agent to fight crimes that have elements of the supernatural, and their flagship series, the critically acclaimed Ella Clah novels. Several Ella Clah novels, including Tracking Bear, Red Mesa, and Shooting Chant, have received starred reviews from Booklist.” This obituary says Thurlo succumbed on February 28 “after a brief struggle with cancer and related complications.”
Stanford Whitmore, 88, a Chicago-reared screenwriter who, wrote Stephen Bowie in The Classic TV Blog, “was best known as the author of ‘Fear in a Desert City,’ the pilot for The Fugitive, which was based on a premise written by the unavailable Roy Huggins. Whitmore contributed three other excellent first-season scripts to The Fugitive, including the crucial flashback episode ‘The Girl from Little Egypt,’ which filled in the back story of the murder and the trial that sent Richard Kimble to the death house. Other significant Whitmore credits include the teleplay for The Hanged Man (based on the 1947 film Ride the Pink Horse), the first made-for-television movie, and a shared credit (with William Link and Richard Levinson) on the pilot telefilm for the long-running McCloud.” Whitmore’s contributions ran also to episodes of Johnny Staccato, The Wild Wild West, Ironside, Sarge, and Night Gallery. He died on May 8.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr., 95, the Golden Globe-winning American actor who played L.A. private eye Stuart Bailey on the 1958-1964 ABC-TV series 77 Sunset Strip and straight-laced Inspector Lewis Erskine on the 1965-1974 crime drama The F.B.I. Zimbalist (the father of Remington Steele star Stephanie Zimbalist) also did what I thought was a fine turn as Sergeant Harry Hansen in the 1975 teleflick Who Is the Black Dahlia? He died May 2 from “natural causes” at his ranch in Solvang, California. The Rap Sheet’s obit of Zimbalist is here.
READ MORE: “In Memoriam,” by Maltese Condor (Read Me Deadly).