• Yesterday, April 2, marked the 14th birthday of Bookslut, the book review/author interview site founded in 2002 by Austin, Texas, resident Jessa Crispin. Unfortunately, there won’t be a 15th anniversary celebration. The publication just debuted its May 2016 issue and made clear that this will be the final installment of Bookslut. I only hope the site remains online as an archive, because there’s been a lot of excellent stuff in there over the years, well worth revisiting. Oh, and if you happen to be in New York City, note that a good-bye cocktail-and-conversation event will be held this coming Friday, May 6, at the Melville House Bookstore (46 John St., Brooklyn) for readers who’d like to give Bookslut editors a fond send-off.
• Adios, too, to ThugLit, the short-fiction publication—created and edited by Todd Robinson—that was launched as a free Webzine back in 2007, disappeared in 2010, and in 2012 was re-launched in e-book form. Contributor Jedidiah Ayres serves up a fond remembrance of his association with ThugLit in his blog, Hardboiled Wonderland.
• Back on the subject of birthdays … Today would have been Mary Astor’s 100th, had she not already died back in 1987, at age 81. Born Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke in Illinois, she debuted in a 1921 film called Sentimental Tommy, but apparently her small part was ultimately trimmed from the picture. As Astor, she had much better success starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon (1941). It’s that movie in which she is now best remembered (and from which the clip below comes), though she was also featured in Red Dust (1932), The Hurricane and The Prisoner of Zenda (both from 1937), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), A Kiss Before Dying (1956, based on Ira Levin’s novel of the same name), and Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), which apparently marked her final screen appearance.
• A brief look back at Bogart’s film career.
• This seems unlikely, but according to In Reference to Murder, it’s true: “Office alum[nus] John Krasinski has been cast as the next Jack Ryan in the TV series project based on Tom Clancy’s popular CIA hero, coming to Amazon via Paramount TV. While there is no official green light yet, the move is seen as a way to help secure a series order.”
• Check out Killer Covers’ quite beautiful, and certainly diverse, gallery of vintage paperback fronts featuring brass beds.
• An Agatha Christie graphic novel? That’s right, next week brings the release of Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie. It’s written by Anne Martinetti and Guillaume Lebeau, illustrated by Alexandre Franc, and published by British imprint SelfMadeHero. As the blog Past Offences explains, “the 128-page book uses ... Christie’s infamous  disappearance as a way into her life story.”
• You can tell that summer’s on its way, because both Cross-Examining Crime and Ah, My Sweet Mystery Blog (a new discovery for me) have stories up about novels to take along on your next warm-weather vacation.
• Lovely Swedish actress Alicia Vikander was such a delight in last year’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. film, that I was dearly hoping for a sequel. That’s unlikely to happen, according to The Spy Command, but at least Vikander won’t be without work. Moviefone reports that the 27-year-old “has just landed the plum role of Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot,” replacing Angelina Jolie.
• David Hofstede pays tribute to Get Smart’s ludicrous Cone of Silence in his blog, Comfort TV. “Introduced in the first episode of Get Smart, the Cone of Silence would inspire some of the biggest laughs on what many would argue is still the funniest television series ever created,” he observes.
• If you’re a regular Rap Sheet reader, you know I’m a confirmed fan of the 1972-1974 NBC whodunit Banacek. You can also assume that I gave a small but discernible gasp at learning (only this afternoon!) that a new book about that stylish George Peppard series has been published by BearManor Media. Titled “There’s An Old Polish Proverb That Says, ‘BANACEK’”: A Behind-the-Scenes History and Episode Guide to the 1972-1974 NBC Mystery Movie Series, it was composed by TV historian Jonathan Etter, who also wrote the book Quinn Martin, Producer. Frankly, I can’t order this book fast enough!
• Another work to anticipate: People (like yours truly) who enjoyed Walter Satterthwait’s Miss Lizzie, a 1989 novel that found alleged Massachusetts murderess Lizzie Borden helping pubescent Amanda Burton to solve a 1921 ax slaying, will be interested to know that Satterthwait has penned a sequel. Titled New York Nocturne: The Return of Miss Lizzie and set in 1925 Manhattan, it reunites the now 16-year-old Amanda with Borden in a case involving the hatchet murder of Amanda’s uncle. Publishers Weekly opines that “The novel’s assured and witty voice holds its disparate elements together, and Satterthwait deftly captures the verve of the Prohibition era as well as its unsavory edges.” New York Nocture is due out from Mysterious Press/Open Road in early June.
• How did readers come by their image of Florida “salvage consultant”/investigator Travis McGee? Steve Scott answers that question in The Trap of Solid Gold:
Once John D. MacDonald made the decision to create the series character Travis McGee, he wrote three versions of the first novel before coming up with a person he could “live with.” He sent the book off to his editor at Fawcett Gold Medal, Knox Burger, with the request to hold off publishing it until he could come up with some additional adventures, and once he had three done the go-ahead was given to begin publishing. Then began the editorial preparations for publication, including cover art.• Meanwhile, Dennis Lehane delivers this tribute to John D. MacDonald, which is part of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s evolving “John D. and Me” series being published in anticipation of the July 24 centennial of MacDonald’s birth.
In what seems like an unusual move, Burger chose to have the early covers illustrated by two different artists: one for the main cover and one for an inset of a portrait of McGee himself. Why this was done is anybody’s guess at this point, although I’m sure there is evidence among the MacDonald papers at the University of Florida. Perhaps a clue can be found in the particular artists Burger chose to do these covers, Ron Lesser and, for the likeness of McGee, John McDermott.
Both had done work for Gold Medal up to that point in late 1963, but McDermott was responsible for doing the covers of another crime series, Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm. Beginning with the sixth entry in the series, The Ambushers, published in 1963, McDermott took over the cover duties and began adding an inset depiction of Helm. When Fawcett began reprinting earlier titles they had McDermott create new illustrations along with his version of Helm. This was right around the time that MacDonald was submitting his manuscripts of the McGee novels, and I guess Burger thought it a good idea to have McDermott do the same for McGee. Why he chose Lesser to do the covers proper—always a beautiful girl in some unusual pose—and not McDermott is not known. Perhaps he didn’t want the two series to become confused in the minds of his customers.
• In Paste Monthly, Kenneth Lowe looks at Hollywood’s fascination with Dashiell Hammett’s crime and detective fiction.
• If you missed President Barack Obama’s uproarious performance at last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, you can still catch it in Slate. Remarks Daniel Politi: “The best part … came at the end. ‘I would like to close on these two words: Obama out,’ the president said before literally dropping the mic.”
• This trailer for Penny Dreadful, the Showtime TV horror drama starring Eva Green and Timothy Dalton, is so compelling that I might actually have to give that show (the third season of which debuted on May 1) another chance. I watched the first few episodes of Penny Dreadful, but it seemed too dark even for me.
• More here about the original “penny dreadfuls.”
• I may have heard this story before, or maybe not, but evidently South African-born British actor Basil Rathbone resented his over-identification with Sherlock Holmes, the character he played in 14 feature films during the 1930s and ’40s. “‘I was … deeply concerned with the problem of being “typed,” more completely “typed” than any other classic actor has ever been or ever will be again,’ he wrote in his autobiography,” according to Bright Lights Film Journal.
• And that might well be the most awkward way possible of introducing this piece from Tipping My Fedora, in which Sergio Angelini recalls that “For many [1944’s The Scarlet Claw] is the best of the Holmes and Watson films made by Universal.”
• Listen up, all you Star Trek fans: Keith DeCandido is currently in the midst of a Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch over at Tor.com. He’s just finished commenting on Season 2—which included three of my favorite episodes, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” “A Piece of the Action,” and the back-door pilot, “Assignment: Earth”—and is now moving on to Season 3. Catch up with all of his posts here.
• Last but not least, The Raymond Chandler Website is back! Its founder-editor, Robert F. Moss, who wrote Raymond Chandler: A Literary Reference (as well as an essay for The Rap Sheet about Chandler’s fondness for gimlets), noted in his blog how the site had “disappeared from the Internet for a while when we lost the server on which it was being hosted. Now we’ve finally gotten the site back up and live … [though] we are still in the process of shaking out the broken links and doing a general bit of dusting and polishing …”