Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bullet Points: Discoveries and Losses Edition

• The next few days will bring plenty of welcome excitement to the American crime-fiction community. Tonight we can expect to hear which books and fortunate authors have won the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, presented by the Mystery Writers of America (the list of nominees is here). And then, as Les Blatt reminds me, tomorrow begins this year’s Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland, during which the latest batch of Agatha Awards is to be handed ’round (click here to be reminded of the contenders). I’ll post the winners in both contests as soon as I receive the results.

• In Reference to Murder reports that “Harper Lee’s biographer, Charles J Shields, believes he’s found a new, previously unknown Harper Lee text, a feature article written for the March 1960 issue of the Grapevine, a magazine for FBI professionals. The article focused on the gruesome [1959] murders of Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon, at their farmhouse in Kansas, the subject of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Lee accompanied Capote, her childhood friend, on his assignment for The New Yorker, reporting on how the community was reacting to the brutal murders.”

• This Sunday, May 1, will bring the sixth and last episode of Grantchester, Season 2, a PBS-TV Masterpiece offering based on James Runcie’s Grantchester Mysteries. (A third season has already been ordered. You will find recaps of the second-season eps here.) Beginning on Sunday, May 8, Masterpiece will begin hosting the final, three-episode run of Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander. Omnimystery News has a brief synopsis of the show; a preview clip is below.


• Here’s something I haven’t seen in, oh, four decades, and might not have spotted even now had it not been for a tip from author-publisher Lee Goldberg. As you may know or perhaps remember, from the fall of 1975 through most of 1978, Robert Wagner and Eddie Albert starred in a CBS-TV detective drama titled Switch. They portrayed Los Angeles private-eye partners, Wagner’s Peterson T. Ryan being an erstwhile con man, while Albert played retired bunco cop Frank McBride. A few years ago, I managed to purchase a bootleg copy of the Season 1 episodes of Switch (the show’s best year, from what I recall), but the guy who sold it to me didn’t also have available the series’ 90-minute pilot film, Las Vegas Roundabout (originally shown on March 21, 1975). Ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for that pilot—and thanks to Goldberg, I finally found it! Click here to watch the movie for yourself. It co-stars Sharon Gless, Charlie Callas, Charles Durning, Jaclyn Smith, and Ken Swofford.

• In addition to carrying early reviews of Shaft: Imitation of Life, Part 3, the latest graphic-novel collaboration between by David F. Walker and artist Dietrich Smith, Steve Aldous—author of The World of Shaft—has posted in his blog Dynamite Entertainment’s Robert Hack-painted cover for the paperback reprint of Ernest Tidyman’s original, 1970 novel, Shaft, due out in August.

• Vince Keenan has a splendid piece in his blog about screenwriter and novelist Roy Huggins (1914-2002), who’s best known for creating TV series such as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Rockford Files, but who also scripted the 1949 noir film Too Late for Tears.

• Critic-anthologist Sarah Weinman notes, in the latest edition of her newsletter, The Crime Lady, that
Masako Togawa, icon of Japanese cabaret and of crime fiction, died earlier this week in her mid-80s (I’ve seen reports of her being 83 and 85). Her work was woefully under-translated into English; just four of dozens of novels, and a single short story that [Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine] published in the late 1970s. My own favorites are The Master Key and Lady Killer, dark, psycho-sexual examinations of femaleness and oppression that were weird and prescient, and both fit well within American and UK domestic suspense and also blasted right past. I also wish I could have seen the TV show she starred in and produced, Playgirl, which essentially predicted Charlie’s Angels but without the overseeing male specter; it was all badass women. It’s sad to think Togawa’s death might spur some enterprising publisher to translate and issue her work in a proper manner, but if that’s what it takes, then somebody do that. (Also see Jiro Kimura’s short obit and reminiscence.)
My favorite cover of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.

• Congratulations to Linda Boa and her crime fiction-oriented blog Crimeworm, which today turns two years old.

• Let’s also hear a hearty round of applause for Patricia Abbott’s weekly “forgotten books” series, which celebrated its eighth anniversary a few days ago. The Rap Sheet’s many contributions to that series can be enjoyed here.

• I noted earlier this month that Ian Fleming’s onetime literary agent, Peter Janson-Smith, had passed away at age 93. But now author Raymond Benson, who revived Fleming’s James Bond series long after the creator’s death, offers up a short tribute in CinemaRetro.

• Since I recently interviewed Con Lehane, author of the April series opener Murder at the 42nd Street Library, I was very interested to read his summation of that particular New York City library’s abundant “wonders,” posted in Criminal Element.

• Yeah, yeah, it’s only the end of April. But Bill Ott, who reviews crime, mystery, and thriller fiction for the American Library Association’s Booklist, has already selected what he says are the best crime novels of 2016 (as reviewed in Booklist from May 1, 2015, through April 15, 2016). Included among his picks: Don Winslow’s The Cartel, Bill Beverly’s Dodgers, Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele, and Lori Rader-Day’s Pretty Little Things. In addition, Ott chooses—at the same link—a number of standout crime-fiction debuts, among them Nicholas Seeley’s Cambodia Noir, L. S. Hilton’s Maestra, and Scott Frank’s Shaker. This is certainly a thoughtful rundown of recent genre releases, but I think I’ll wait until December to assemble my own subjective tally of the years “bests.” (Hat tip to Randal S. Brandt)

• Registration is now open for NoirCon 2016, which is set to take place in Philadelphia, October 26-30. If you wish to attend but haven’t yet registered, you can do so either online or via snail-mail.

• R.I.P., James Bond film director Guy Hamilton.

• Republican former House Speaker John Boehner’s recent remarks about underdog GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz being “Lucifer in the flesh … I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” inevitably reminded me of a post I composed last November for my Killer Covers blog.

• Alex Segura, author of the recent Miami-set novel, Down the Darkest Street, has put together a list, for Mental Floss, of his eight favorite Florida crime-fiction characters.

Here’s a perfect gift for fans of historical true crime.

• While we’re on the subject of weird history, consider this tale from The Lineup about a husband who had so much trouble being parted from his deceased wife, that he eventually moved right into her mausoleum at Brooklyn, New York’s Evergreen Cemetery.

• Wow, the roster of guest performers scheduled to appear in the coming Twin Peaks revival (set to air on Showtime at some as-yet-undecided date in 2017) has grown immensely.

• Meanwhile, the first trailer is available for the film adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train (which was one of my favorite crime novels of 2015). The action has apparently been moved from London to New York City, but the trailer suggests that most of Hawkins’ original intent has been maintained on screen. This film, which is due for release in early October, stars Emily Blunt as Rachel Watson, “a heavy-drinker who develops an obsession with a couple she regularly sees while on her commute to work,” explains The Guardian. “After the woman disappears, Rachel becomes entangled in the investigation.” Watch the trailer for yourself here.

From Mystery Fanfare:Dean Street Press announces the first 10 Patricia Wentworth novel reissues will be out on May 2. This is part of a major project to republish all 33 of her non-Miss Silver mysteries, some of which haven’t been in print or available for many decades. The remaining 23 will be published in a further two batches in June and July. The first 10 include the four Benbow Smith mysteries, featuring the eminence grise Benbow Smith, and his loquacious parrot Ananias. The first batch also includes Silence in Court from 1945, which is an exceptional courtroom mystery.”

• Although he wasn’t technically invited to contribute to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s “John D. and Me” series of posts, all celebrating the coming July 24 centennial of John D. MacDonald’s birth, educator-turned-novelist Bill Crider decided to post his own remembrance of MacDonald’s influence on his reading and writing life.

• The next time I read a new work described as a “fiction novel,” I’m going to haul my sorry ass out to some secluded spot and scream at the top of my lungs. Pay attention, people! Think before you write!

• Tipping My Fedora blogger Sergio Angelini decided to poll his readers on the subject of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films from each decade of the director’s career. He wound up with 11 selections, including Blackmail (1929), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Birds (1963), Psycho (1960), and Rear Window (1954). You’ll have to click here to see which production won the most votes.

• Jordan Foster, formerly an editor at The Life Sentence, chooses 10 of her favorite police-procedural writers for Library Journal. I’m pleased to see both John Ball (author of the Virgil Tibbs novels) and Elizabeth Linington (aka Dell Shannon, creator of the Lieutenant Luis Mendoza series) make the cut.

•  A few interviews worth checking out: Laura Lippman talks with Baltimore magazine about her brand-new standalone thriller, Wilde Lake; Dan Fesperman gives Speaking of Mystery’s Nancie Clare the lowdown on his new historical mystery, The Letter Writer; Allison Brennan talks with Crimespree’s Elise Cooper about her psychologically intense new tale, Poisonous; and Chet Williamson addresses questions from Crime Fiction Lover about Robert Bloch’s Psycho: Sanitarium, his follow-up to Bloch’s 1959 novel.

• And it’s quite pleasing to see another reader fall for the multiple delights of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series (The Other Side of Silence). “I think there are three elements that make the books so fascinating,” David Edgerley Gates writes in SleuthSayers. “The first is historical irony. In more than one novel, actually, the story’s framed with a look back, from the later 1940s or the early 1950s. Secondly, there’s a constant sense of threat, the Nazi regime [being] a bunch of backstabbers ... One dangerous patron is Reinhard Heydrich, a chilly bastard who meets an appropriate end. And thirdly, Bernie is really trying to be a moral person, against all odds. You go along to get along, to simply survive, in a nest of vipers, and hope it doesn’t rub off on you. After seeing the Special Action Groups at work in Russia, and himself participating, Bernie is sickened by the whole enterprise. He suspects, too, that the handwriting’s on the wall.”

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

What a lot of work you've done. Thanks for the mention and thanks for sharing so much of FFB with me!