Monday, August 10, 2015

Covering the Beat

• With director Guy Ritchie’s new big-screen picture, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., set to hit U.S. theaters this coming Friday, The Spy Command points us to this Los Angeles Times piece recalling the origins of the 1964-1968 NBC-TV series on which that movie is based. “The story,” writes managing editor Bill Koenig, “looks at a number of angles, including how 007 author Ian Fleming was involved in the first few months of the show’s development.”

• The San Francisco Chronicle provides its own retrospective on U.N.C.L.E., which includes this bit of trivia: “At the peak of U.N.C.L.E.’s popularity, star Robert Vaughn (as American Napoleon Solo) says he and co-star David McCallum (as Russian Illya Kuryakin) received up to 70,000 fan letters a month. The Beatles reportedly asked to meet Vaughn when they came to America in 1966.”

• Let’s not forget the upcoming 50th anniversary of another iconic TV series, Get Smart, which was first broadcast on NBC on September 18, 1965. Edward A. Grainger (aka David Cranmer) offers this Criminal Element piece about Get Smart’s opening episode, “Mr. Big,” noting: “You don’t have to look far to see the show’s lasting influence in shows like Archer featuring another secret agent bumbling through the cloak and dagger world, wreaking havoc. But Get Smart made us laugh at the pretentious first and, at fifty, remains a shrewd satire.”

• Happy fourth birthday to the UK blog Crime Fiction Lover.

• Speaking of CFL, it reports that there’s a campaign underway to give author-screenwriter Raymond Chandler a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame: “Screenwriters Bill Boyle and Aaron Lerner are both huge Chandler fans and have launched the campaign--the aim is to raise over $50,000 in order to purchase the star. After all, without works like The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, and The Long Goodbye--all of which were made into films--an entire genre of Hollywood movies might never have been made. And ask yourself, why should the Rug Rats, Big Bird, Lassie, Bob Hope’s wife, and the Victoria’s Secret models have stars, and not our man Raymond?” You can be part of the campaign to give Chandler his star by donating here. It appears the fundraising will continue through the end of August.

• The Rap Sheet won a mention in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review, thanks to UK correspondent Ali Karim’s 2010 interview with C.J. Box. Box has a new standalone suspense novel, Badlands (Minotaur), out on bookstore shelves.

• There’s more about Box in the Crimespree Magazine blog.

• According to SpyVibe, “Shortly before his death [in 1971, jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong] contributed a poignant vocal performance to the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Written by John Barry and Hal David, the tune served as an emotional anchor for Bond's budding love affair in the movie.” Click here to enjoy Armstrong’s performance.

• In 2003, Lawrence O’Donnell Jr.--who'd been a writer and producer on The West Wing (and who has since transformed himself into the host of an MSNBC news show bearing his name)--launched another politics-oriented NBC-TV series titled Mister Sterling, about an idealistic young U.S. senator, Bill Sterling, played by Josh Brolin. The premise was that Sterling had won the seat by appointment, after its previous occupant perished, and he was expected to get up to speed with some help from his more experienced Washington, D.C., staff as well as his father, a savvy former governor of California (played wonderfully by James Whitmore). Mister Sterling lasted only 10 episodes, and there’s been no subsequent DVD release. However, those episodes have suddenly appeared on YouTube.

• “The recent death of Patrick Macnee had me and anyone else who has watched TV in the last fifty years thinking about The Avengers [1961-1969],” wrote Michael Shonk in Mystery*File a couple of weeks back. “Most fans of the series, especially Americans, are familiar with Emma Peel and the later seasons of The Avengers, but not the early seasons. I have always been curious on what happened before Diana Rigg arrived.” To settle his own interest, as well as ours, Shonk put together a two-part feature about the early days of The Avengers. Part I looks back at the show’s beginnings as “a hard-boiled thriller with a dark sense of humor,” starring Ian Hendry as Dr. David Keel and Macnee in a supporting role as spy John Steed. Part II celebrates the debut of Honor Blackman as curvaceous Mrs. Catherine Gale, “an intelligent widow, a scholar, and someone who had survived living in adventurous Africa. She would prove to be a type of female hero TV audiences had rarely seen before.” Shonk offers links to full episodes of the program to illustrate its evolution as a viewer favorite.

• Nancie Clare interviews Martin Walker for her podcast series, Speaking of Mysteries. Walker, as you undoubtedly know, is the Scottish-born author of the Bruno, Chief of Police mysteries, the newest of which is The Patriarch (Knopf).

• Other interviews worth checking out: Wallace Stroby (The Devil’s Share) talks with Pulp Curry; David Mark (Taking Pity) is interrogated in The Life Sentence; Craig Faustus Buck (Go Down Hard) has an interesting chat with S.W. Lauden; BOLO Books quizzes Paul Cleave about his new standalone novel, Trust No One; Korean-American crime novelist Steph Cha (Dead Soon Enough) fields queries from the Los Angeles Review of Books; and Sara Paretsky (Brush Back) answers questions about her life and writing in The Guardian.

• Finally, Craig Sisterson--judging convenor of the annual Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel competition--speaks with Radio New Zealand about “the state of New Zealand crime writing, the finalists for the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award …, what makes good crime, and much more. Nordic noir and authors including Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Camilla Lackberg, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, and others also got a mention or two.”

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