Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bullet Points: Harper Lee Week Edition

My life can be lonely at times, but it certainly wasn’t last week, when my best friend, Byron Rice, flew in to Seattle to join me for some mutual entertainment and a week away from my quotidian responsibilities. Byron and I met in college (oh, so long ago) and have remained close ever since, winging our ways back and forth across the country in alternating years to catch up on what’s new, swap funny stories, share fine cigars and malted beverages, and generally delight in each other’s company. With some people, you become locked into a time warp; no matter how long you’ve know them, you never quite understand how they have matured, and you talk about the same things over and over again. That’s not the case with Byron. Both of us have changed greatly since college, and we recognize and respect that evolution; yet we still haven’t lost the ability to talk and laugh outrageously and have quirky adventures together, just as we have always done. (Hell, he even helped me paint my front and back porches during last week’s visit. That’s a friend for you!) It’s too bad Byron lives way out in Minnesota, and I’m settled here in the Pacific Northwest. But at least we can see each other on a regular basis. Good memories fill the space between those encounters.

So anyway, after my week playing hooky from work, I’m now reinstalled at Rap Sheet headquarters to collect sundry bits of crime-fiction news and info, such as those that follow.

• If I’m not mistaken, the last trailer for this summer’s Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie was released on June 11 and ran just under three minutes long. However, a new preview--embedded above--was showcased at last week’s San Diego Comic-Con. Although we have seen some scattered clips from the trailer before, its length (more than five minutes!) offers several new hints at the picture’s delights.

• Another preview worth watching, this one from the upcoming, Victorian era-set Christmas episode of BBC’s Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and a broadly mustachioed Martin Freeman.

• ThrillerFest X took place last week in New York City. Because I wasn’t on hand for the festivities (as I suspect most of you were not), I must depend on Criminal Element contributor Thomas Pluck for reports from the scene. He penned two posts (here and here) about the convention’s “pre-game” CraftFest component, during which he says “thriller masters such as David Morrell, and agents like Donald Maass (also an author), host[ed] panels on the craft [of fiction writing].” And here you’ll find Pluck’s notes from Day One of the main event, which included a public interview with author Greg Iles.

• Speaking of Criminal Element, it has finally posted the winning entry in its latest short-story contest, “The M.O.” Titled “The Cocoon,” the tale was written by Louis Rakovich.

• Neda Semnani’s excellent Life Sentence piece about Chester Himes reminds me that I really must get back to reading his work.

• The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW) announced the winners of its 2015 Scribe Awards on Friday, July 10, during San Diego Comic-Con. Included among those victors were Max Collins and Mickey Spillane (for their Mike Hammer short-story collaboration, “It’s in the Book”), Christa Faust (for her original speculative novel, Fringe: Sins of the Father, and Andrew Kaplan (who won Best Original Novel honors for Homeland: Saul’s Game).

• Meanwhile, Collins talks here about his long friendship with the late Mr. Spillane and his work on “It’s in the Book.”

• There’s still more prize-related news: The Shirley Jackson Awards, named for the author of The Haunting of Hill House, and honoring “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror and the dark fantastic,” were handed out during Readercon (July 9-12) in Burlington, Massachusetts. Todd Mason has the rundown of winners in his blog, Sweet Freedom.

• And SCIBA, also known as the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, has broadcast its shortlists of contenders for the 2015 SCIBA Book Awards. In the running for this year’s T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award are:

-- Marry, Kiss, Kill, by Anne Flett-Giordano (Prospect Park)
-- The Replacements, by David Putnam (Oceanview)
-- The Cartel, by Don Winslow (Knopf)

Winners in all the categories will be announced on October 24.

• As a way to commemorate what would have been novelist Agatha Christie’s 125th birthday (on September 15, 2015), organizers of the Bloody Scotland convention are holding a special short-story competition. Writers are invited to submit “up to 3,000 words of unpublished work,” written in English and “inspired by Christie and her writing.” The deadline for submissions is this coming July 27. More details about the contest can be found here.

• I was very sorry to hear that Welsh-born actor Roger Rees--who picked up Olivier and Tony awards for his performance in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, but was probably better known in the States for playing an English tycoon on Cheers--perished on Friday from stomach cancer. He was 71 years old. No matter his many other roles (in The Return of Sam McCloud, M.A.N.T.I.S., Law & Order, Elementary, etc.), my personal favorite was his recurring portrayal, on The West Wing, of delightfully arrogant British Ambassador Lord John Marbury. You can enjoy clips of that work here.

• The blog Almost Holmes recalls Rees’ ties to Sherlock Holmes.

• Good-bye as well to Omar Sharif. The Egypt-born, Golden Globe Award-winning actor, best known for his roles in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Funny Girl (1968), died on July 10 at age 83. In addition to those other big-screen flicks I mentioned, Sharif appeared in the 1969 Western Mackenna’s Gold, the 1974 thriller Juggernaut, and The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976).

The Wall Street Journal’s Brenda Cronin has posted a complimentary assessment of Meanwhile There Are Letters, the abundant collection of correspondence between American authors Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald (aka Kenneth Millar), edited by Suzanne Marrs and Tom Nolan (the latter of whom was also behind the recent omnibus, Ross Macdonald: Four Novels of the 1950s). An excerpt from Meanwhile can be found here.

• Anthony Horowitz’s James Bond continuation novel, Trigger Mortis, will reach bookstores in early September. Two months after that, you can expect to see the release of License Expired, an unauthorized, 400-page “anthology of collected stories from various Canadian authors, based on Ian Fleming’s fourteen published Bond novels …” So far, it appears that License Expired will be available only in Canada.

• Wallace Stroby talks with Stephen Campbell of the Crime Fiction FM podcast about his new, fourth Crissa Stone novel, The Devil’s Share.

• Did you know that UK author Jay Stringer (Ways to Die in Glasgow) also does a podcast series in which he interviews crime and mystery writers? Yeah, neither did I until today, but you can find the latest episode here.

• A fresh interview with Stringer himself is here.

• Crime Fiction Lover looks at five films noir that it says are better than the books on which they were based. “Chuck Palahniuk famously said he preferred David Fincher’s Fight Club movie over his own book,” writes Zachary Colbert. “But reading calls on us to use our imaginations and subsequently put ourselves into the story to a greater extent than watching a movie, therefore consumers often become more attached to books than movies. Yet, as deftly and as sharply as some novelists write, sometimes there’s nothing more incisive than the image of a smoking gun in grainy black and white.”

• And what’s “The Noir-est of All Film Noir Flicks”?

• Seattle-based online retail giant, which originally promoted itself as “Earth’s biggest bookstore” and sold its first book in July 1995, is all set to celebrate its 20th anniversary this week. But Salon has put together “5 Reasons to Wish Amazon an Unhappy Birthday,” topped by this important one:
The most direct and tangible effect of Amazon’s arrival in the bookselling market has been to shutter actual brick-and-mortar bookstores that allow people to browse through books, connect with the literary zealots who work there, and see authors read. If you have a favorite indie--Powell’s or the Tattered Cover or Politics and Prose or Carmichael’s or The Regulator or Skylight--you know how valuable these places are.

And there are about half as many indies as there were when Amazon arrived, from about 4,000 to about 2,000, according to George Packer’s virtuoso
New Yorker essay, “Cheap Words.” In this time the U.S. population has added more than 60 million people. And the number of indies has plummeted.
• By the way, here is how Amazon looked in its early days.

• I love this quote about Erle Stanley Gardner’s best-selling Perry Mason yarns, taken from a vintage review in Mystery*File: “[T]he stories he tells--I can’t resist ’em. They’re low on action and high in idea content. The plot and red herrings are simply mind-dazzling--if only you could sort them out!” Oh, how true …

Andrew Kaplan’s choice thrillers, “and what makes them great.”

• Stacia Kissick Jones checks out Spenser: For Hire, Season Two.

• I hope the wait is worth it. This report comes from the entertainment Web site Consequence of Sound: “The road to Showtime’s Twin Peaks is long and winding and … murky. First David Lynch signed on. Then he signed off. Then he signed back on. Then they doubled the episode count from nine to 18. Now, it appears the highly anticipated third season of the series won’t arrive until 2017. Well, at least if co-creator Mark Frost is to be trusted.”

• Last but certainly not least, this is destined to be Harper Lee Week, as her second novel, a To Kill a Mockingbird sequel titled Go Set a Watchman, is finally brought to market after a more than half-century delay. It’s official publication date is Tuesday, and I already have a copy on order. Meanwhile, The Guardian previews the book’s first chapter, National Public Radio examines “How Harper Lee Went from Wannabe Writer to the Jane Austen of Alabama,” and The New York Times has this early review.

No comments: