Meanwhile, let me pass along a passel of news items that should be of some interest to crime-fiction readers.
• With the centennial of author John D. MacDonald’s birth coming up in July (on July 24, to be exact) Florida’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper has initiated a series of remembrances it calls “John D. and Me.” Installment number one came from writer John Jakes, while Stephen King provided the initial follow-up. Other contributors have been Tim Dorsey, Jeffery Deaver, Don Bruns, and Heather Graham. Unless things go awry, you should be able to keep up with the series entries here.
• And if that isn’t enough …: Robert Fulford from Canada’s National Post looks at how MacDonald invented the subgenre of Florida crime fiction, and how it has grown and evolved since his death in 1986.
• This should be especially welcome news for fans of Erle Stanley Gardner’s clever, sometimes comical Bertha Cool and Donald Lam detective series, which he wrote under the pseudonym A.A. Fair. In December 2016, Hard Case Crime will publish an unexpected and forgotten 30th installment of that series, titled The Knife Slipped. “Lost for more than 75 years,” HCC explains on its Web site, “The Knife Slipped was meant to be the second book in the series but got shelved when Gardner’s publisher objected to (among other things) Bertha Cool’s tendency to ‘talk tough, swear, smoke cigarettes, and try to gyp people.’ But this tale of adultery and corruption, of double-crosses and triple identities—however shocking for 1939—shines today as a glorious present from the past, a return to the heyday of private eyes and shady dames, of powerful criminals, crooked cops, blazing dialogue, and delicious plot twists.” Oh, and the cover of this novel was painted by the legendary Robert McGinnis. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Knife Slipped!
• From In Reference to Murder: “Sherlock fans may be disappointed to hear that the fourth season of the show probably won’t air until sometime in 2017, according to PBS president Paula Kerger. Although the show will begin production early this year, the busy schedules of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman add up to a delay in Sherlock’s timeline.” Well, darn it all!
• Oh no, say it isn’t so: The much-maligned 1990 ABC-TV series Cop Rock, a “musical police drama” co-created by Steven Bochco (of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue), is finally due out in DVD format. Television Obscurities reports that the full series will be released by Shout! Factory this coming May 17. “The 3-disc set will include the 11 episodes plus new interviews with creator Steven Bochco, co-star Anne Bobby, and others,” the blog explains. “Shout! calls the release a ‘cause for both celebration and a long-overdue reappraisal of a series that has been called one of the most unusual programs of all time.’” Unusual isn’t the same thing as saying it was good.
• Editor Janet Rudolph will focus the next edition of her magazine, Mystery Readers Journal, on New York mysteries, and she’s now in the market for reviews (50-250 words), articles (250-1,000 words), and Author! Author! essays (500-1,500 words) to fill out the contents. If you’d like to make a submission, contact Rudolph at email@example.com. The deadline for copy is February 20.
• Alcatraz Island in 1880, long before that hump in San Francisco Bay hosted one of America’s most notorious penitentiaries.
• To celebrate the half-century anniversary of their small-screen debut in 1966, The Monkees—“the greatest fake band ever assembled for a madcap TV show”—will release a new album, titled Good Times!, and engage in “a lengthy North American tour kicking off May 18 in Fort Myers, Florida,” reports Mashable.
• The Booksteve Channel has early publicity clips for The Monkees.
• The Thrill Begins, a blog presented under the auspices of the International Thriller Writers, spent all of this last week interviewing crime and mystery fiction critics, sometimes with humorous results. The reviewers being grilled were Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders, Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books, Katrina Niidas Holm of the late, great Life Sentence, Carole Barrowman from Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Benoit Lievre of Dead End Follies.
• I was very sorry to hear about the passing, at age 73, of fiction anthologist and cinema historian Jon Tuska, who wrote—among many other works—1978’s The Detective in Hollywood: The Movie Careers of the Great Fictional Private Eyes and Their Creators, which I have long considered a must-have resource book. According to his obituary, Tuska breathed his last on Monday, January 18, “after a brief battle with cancer.” That note goes on to explain:
He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1966. He was a renaissance man, known worldwide for his expertise on Western films and fiction. He wrote or edited over 30 books, consulted on television projects, taught and lectured, and between 1983 and 1991, he was associated with Oregon Public Broadcasting as the host of several classical music programs. In 1991, with his wife, Vicki Piekarski, he founded Golden West Literary Agency, which represented many of the authors of classic Western fiction.A list of Tuska’s books can be found here.
I was fortunate to meet and interview Tuska in the early 1980s for a Portland, Oregon-based arts magazine called Stepping Out, and I’m sure I still have that particular issue someplace in my files, though I can’t seem to lay my hands on it right now. If and when I do locate that edition, though, I shall certainly post my interview with Tuska on this page. (Hat tip to Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.)
• The first part of David F. Walker’s new John Shaft comic-book series, Imitation of Life, is due out this week, and though I don’t see a print edition available yet, Amazon has the Kindle version for sale here. Steve Aldous, author of The World of Shaft, offers a sampling of the interior art here. He has also posted the covers from Part II and Part III of this story, along with this link to a new interview with Walker in Bleeding Cool.
• This is rather unexpected. It turns out that the book “Britons are most likely to have lied about reading” is … Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. I’d have expected it to be Leo Tolstoy’s mammoth War and Peace, or Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or maybe even David Foster Wallace’s self-indulgent but nonetheless oft-lauded Infinite Jest. But no. Britain’s Telegraph lists 20 works of fiction (more than that, if you count the Harry Potter series installments separately) that residents of Great Britain claim to have read, when in fact they have not. Of those, I’m pleased to say I have actually, truly digested all but a couple (including Fifty Shades of Gray—no thanks), and that while I haven’t read Alice’s Adventures myself, my mother did read it to me as a small boy.
• I, for one, would be interested to know how this list compares with an equivalent study of American reading accomplishments.
• Crime Watch blogger Craig Sisterson writes on Facebook that New Zealand novelist Paul Cleave—whose Five Minutes Alone won the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel—“has reportedly been made an Honorary Literary Fellow in the New Zealand Society of Authors Waitangi Day Honours (for those outside New Zealand, Waitangi Day is New Zealand's national day). Very well deserved, and great to see Paul get some recognition among the local literary world.”
• Author Max Allan Collins has recently been writing quite a bit in his blog about his repeatedly delayed heart surgery (fingers crossed for Collins’ swift recovery—whenever the procedure is done!), but in last week’s post he added this good news:
[M]y complete novel version of Road to Perdition the movie is due to be published along with reprints of Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise. You may recall that my Perdition novelization was reduced to a pale shadow of itself back in the day—a 40,000-word condensation of the 70,000-word novel is what was foisted upon the public (it even made the New York Times best-seller list). As a great man once said, “Pfui.” But we appear to be on the verge of vindication.• From Crimespree Magazine comes news that “The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library [have] announced the nominees for the 28th annual Minnesota Book Awards.” The category of Genre Fiction contains four novels: The Devereaux Decision, by Steve McEllistrem (Calumet Editions); The Grave Soul, by Ellen Hart (Minotaur); He’s Either Dead or in St. Paul, by D.B. Moon (Three Waters); and Season of Fear, by Brian Freeman (Quercus). The winner in this and seven additional categories will be declared on April 16.
In addition, new editions of Black Hats and Red Sky in Morning are in the works, to be published under my own name for the first time (R.I.P., Patrick Culhane).
All five of these books will be published by Brash Books, which is in part the brainchild of my buddy Lee Goldberg.
• It seems that distinguished essayist and poet T.S. Eliot was a fan of Golden Age detective stories, at one point describing Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone (1868) as “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels.”
• Critic Mike Ripley’s “Getting Away with Murder” column for February contains observations on the annual Hodder and John Murray Crime Party, a new edition of James Crumley’s 1978 classic yarn, The Last Good Kiss (due out in April from UK publisher Black Swan), new releases by Robert Crais, Susan Moody, and others, and a Golden Age of Crime Weekend event scheduled as part of the Essex Book Festival (March 1-31). Read all of Ripley’s piece on the Shots Web site.
• No surprise here: Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel, The Long Goodbye, is Benjamin Black’s favorite outing for Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe. “Chandler never wrote with such passionate conviction as he does in this long and darkly tormented work,” opines Black, the alter-ego behind which Irish author John Banville produces his own works of crime fiction—including The Black-Eyed Blonde (2014), a sort-of-sequel to The Long Goobye. “In the figure of the best-selling but self-hating author Roger Wade, we glimpse an exaggerated version of Chandler himself, who throughout his writing life chafed under the label of ‘mere’ thriller-writer.” You’ll find all of Black/Banville’s thoughts on this matter in The Independent.
• Here’s something I didn’t know before: Allen Dulles, the first civilian director of America’s Central Intelligence Agency, was a friend of Ian Fleming and a follower of his James Bond spy adventures.
• Nancie Clare is back with another year of novelist interviews for the Speaking of Mysteries podcast, beginning 2016 with Joe R. Lansdale, author of the new Hap and Leonard tale, Honky Tonk Samurai. Her other recent respondents include Denise Mina (Blood Salt Water), Joe Clifford (Lamentation), and Robert Crais (The Promise).
• S.W. Lauden talks with Rob Hart, author of the brand-new Portland-based Ash McKenna novel, City of Rose.
• You might recognize Joseph Goodrich as the editor of Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 (2012), but he’s also a playwright. And his adaptation of Queen’s 1942 novel, Calamity Town, had its “world premiere” in Calgary, Alberta, at the end of last month. The Calgary Herald called it “an example of economical and polished crime fiction that is as theatrical as it is intriguing.” Goodrich tells me that he’s already “been commissioned to do a second Nero Wolfe play for Park Square Theater in St. Paul [Minnesota]. It goes up in June/July of 2017.”
• I never cease to be amazed by the lengths some businesses—both respectable and dubious—will go to in order to obtain free advertising. Among the worst abusers are folks who fake comments on blogs such as this one (comments often rife with typos or so mangled that it’s obvious they come from non-English speaking countries), and incorporate into them their Web site URLs. An example was this response to a piece I wrote about this year’s Agatha Award nominees: “I want to thank you for the superb post!! I surely liked every bit of it. I’ve bookmarked your internet site so I can take a appear at the latest articles you post later on.” At the end was a link to a “commode chair manufacturer.” Needless to say, I deleted that comment.