Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bullet Points: Finally, a Mother’s Day Edition

• Author Harper Lee passed away more than a year ago, but the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction lives on. As Mystery Fanfare notes, this commendation—“established in 2011 by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird”—“is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.” Chosen from among 25 entries, the three finalists are:

Gone Again, by James Grippando (Harper)
The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore (Random House)
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine)

A panel of four judges has been tasked with choosing the ultimate winner, though the results of an online public poll are also to be weighed in the final decision. You can vote for your favorite among the three books above by clicking here; voting will remain open until Friday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. CT. (At last check, Grippando’s Gone Again was leading this reader survey.) I don’t see a specific date on which the award is to be presented, but a press release says it will be handed out at the University of Alabama School of Law “for the first time. The winner will be announced prior to the ceremony and will receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee.”

• Although I don’t know how she keeps up the energy to do this, B.V. Lawson produces an excellent and consistent weekly wrap-up of crime-fiction-related news in her blog, In Reference to Murder. On occasion, I feel the need to poach interesting things from those columns, such as these two successive items:
Dr. Mary Brown, writing for The Scotsman, made the case for neglected author John Buchan, only known today because of his First World War adventure story, The Thirty-Nine Steps, and his great character, Major-General Sir Richard Hannay. However, Edinburgh-based publisher ­Polygon recently announced plans for a new installment, with Dundee-born author Robert J. ­Harris
penning the continuation novel
The Thirty-One Kings, [due for release this coming October], the first new Hannay book for more than 80 years. If successful, a series featuring Major-General Hannay could follow.

While we’re on the subject of continuation novels, New Zealand author Stella Duffy talked about the tricky art of completing an abandoned Ngaio Marsh mystery novel [the 1940s Roderick Alleyn tale
Money in the Morgue].
• Mike Ripley’s May edition of his Shots column, “Getting Away with Murder,” includes remarks about a wide variety of intriguing subjects: Lee Child’s collection of Jack Reacher short stories, No Middle Name (set to go on sale this week); the TV series based on Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor tales; new works by James Runcie, Tony Park, Dennis Lehane, and Steve Cavanagh; a posthumous James Bond-inspired novel by Donald E. Westlake, and much more. Read all about it here.

• With a sixth Mission: Impossible film currently in production (and due for wide release in July 2018), The Spy Command’s Bill Koenig posts a short retrospective on the man “without whom none of it would be impossible, M:I creator Bruce Geller.” He writes: “Geller died almost four decades ago in a crash of a twin-engine aircraft. It was a sudden end for someone who had brought two popular series to the air (M:I and Mannix) that ran a combined 15 years on CBS. [Geller] was a renaissance man capable of writing, producing, directing and song writing.” Click here to learn more about Geller.

• The Verge reports that California writer Andy Weir, who made it big with his debut science-fiction novel, The Martian (adapted as a 2015 movie of the same name), is coming out in November of this year with a second book—a crime thriller set on Earth’s moon, titled Artemis (Crown). That lunar environment has backdropped previous works of mystery and mayhem (think Anthony O’Neill’s The Dark Side, for instance, or Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s The Retrieval Artist). However, The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says Weir is “hoping for blockbuster success” with Artemis, which he says focuses on “a young woman named Jasmine Bashara (known as Jazz), who lives in the Moon’s only city, Artemis. If you’re not wealthy, living there isn’t easy, and she gets by as a smuggler. When she comes across the chance to commit the perfect crime, she steps into a bigger struggle for control of the city.” Film rights to Artemis have already been purchased.

• Also from The Verge comes this: BBC-TV is planning “a three-part series based on H.G. Wells’ [1898] novel, The War of the Worlds:
The show is scheduled to go into production next spring, and it appears that, unlike most modern adaptations, it will be set in the Victorian era. The series will be written by screenwriter Peter Hartness, who adapted Susanna Clarke’s Victorian-era fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for the network, as well as a handful of Doctor Who episodes. The North-West Evening Mail has some additional details, quoting Mammoth Studios Managing Director of Productions Damien Timmer as saying that while the film has been adapted many times, “no one has ever attempted to follow Wells and locate the story in Dorking at the turn of the last century.” The project was first announced in 2015, and today’s confirmation of production comes only months after the book entered the public domain.
• Even 43,000 years ago, humans were murdering each other.

• Congratulations to blogger Les Blatt, who observes that his Classic Mysteries podcast “has reached a milestone of sorts. This week’s audio review of John Rhode’s Body Unidentified is podcast 520 in the series. I have been doing a weekly podcast review every week, and this one is number 520—the number of weeks in ten years.” Wow! The last couple of years’ worth of excellent episodes can be enjoyed here.

• I was saddened to hear earlier this month that 78-year-old American sportswriter and novelist Frank Deford has decided to retire from his gig as a commentator for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition program after 37 years on the job. The Associated Press reported on May 3 that “Deford gave his 1,656th and final commentary on NPR’s Morning Edition Wednesday, ending a run of what he calls ‘little homilies’ that began in 1980. He thanked NPR for allowing him to choose his topics and allowing him ‘to treat sports seriously, as another branch on the tree of culture.’” Although I am no sports fan, I have enjoyed listening to Deford’s gravelly voiced reflections for many years. If my memory can be relied upon, I started noticing them around the time he became the editor-in-chief of a short-lived (but fondly remembered) tabloid paper called The National. Their topics were always sports-related, though they tended often to incorporate larger themes about life and modern society. You can catch up with Deford’s closing report and many of his previous ones here.

• I don’t think anything will make me attractive again (if I ever was), but according to eHarmony UK, being a reader should do the trick—“especially if you’re a man. The popular online dating site notes that men who listed reading as one of their interests received 19% more messages, while women readers received a 3% bump in communication,” explains the BookBub blog, adding: “Regardless of what you read, eHarmony reports that bibliophiles are considered to be more intellectually curious than non-readers and have an easier time building open and trusting relationships.”

Why do we love the smell of old books?

• In a piece for The Guardian, Mark Lawson follows up this page’s recent post about former President Bill Clinton throwing in with James Patterson to compose a political thriller novel called The President Is Missing, noting that “special relationships between politicians and political novelists” have been quite common on both sides of the Atlantic. “So,” he explains, “Clinton, in co-authoring fiction, is making official a long informal arrangement. Politicians co-operate partly because they tend to be keen thriller-readers—perhaps an adrenaline-raising genre suits the temperament of those who seek power—but also because they can reveal details and incidents in the knowledge that they will be untraceably disguised, and which could not be confided to journalists or the ghost-writers of their memoirs. In this respect, Clinton might run the risk that every scene in The President Is Missing will be assumed to have happened to him.”

• Ben Terrall, the youngest child of crime novelist Robert Terrall, aka Robert Kyle (1914-2009), has penned a review for January Magazine of three recent books that show the darker, more diabolical side of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

• I’m always wary of pointing readers toward videos that suddenly show up on YouTube, because that Web site has the annoying habit of removing content whenever a film or TV company complains about copyright infringement—even when what has been posted is small and insignificant. But I would be doing Rap Sheet readers a serious disservice if I didn’t mention that the 1998 HBO-TV film Poodle Springs—based on the 1989 novel of that name, begun by Raymond Chandler and finished by Robert B. Parker—is now waiting for your attention on YouTube. I’ve heard mixed reviews of this production starring James Caan as Los Angeles gumshoe Philip Marlowe, but since I have never had a chance to see it before, it’s a sure bet I’ll be watching soon!

• Speaking of YouTube, I’ve recently made a few additions to The Rap Sheet’s page on that popular video site. Look for the main title sequences to the Scottish crime drama Shetland, William Conrad’s classic Cannon, the short-lived Burt Reynolds series Hawk, and Stephen J. Cannell’s oddball Broken Badges from 1990-1991. There are many more here.

• Nancie Clare’s latest guest on Speaking of Mysteries is Avery Duff, whose first novel, Beach Lawyer, “explores the dark side of sunny Santa Monica,” California. Get an earful of their conversation here.

• The program for the Deadly Ink conference, set to take place in Rockaway, New Jersey, during the weekend of June 16-18, has been announced. Those festivities will include a presentation of the 2017 David Award to one of five nominees.

• If you’ve hesitated to start watching Season 3 of the Amazon TV series Bosch, based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling police procedurals and starring Titus Welliver, then perhaps you need some incentive from this piece in Criminal Intent, which contends that “Bosch has transformed television mystery.” English professor Andy Adams goes on to argue: “For the first time, viewers can experience the closest approximation to a mystery novel as is possible on screen. The pacing, development of the characters, complexity of the plot, simultaneous themes, and detailed touches make Bosch the template for 21st-century mystery television.” Season 3 debuted in April and comprises 10 episodes. The show has already been renewed.

• Standards of U.S. presidential behavior have seriously slumped under Trump. The New York Times offers this “handy reference list” of new standards for Republicans to consult “should they ever feel tempted to insist on different standards for another president.”

• Melissa McCarthy does do a fabulous Sean Spicer!

• With the cult series Twin Peaks set to return to television next weekend, following a quarter-century absence, the timing of Michael Parks’ demise at age 77 could hardly have been more unfortunately timed. Parks—who starred in the 1969-1970 NBC-TV adventure drama Then Came Bronson before taking guest roles on series from Get Christie Love! and Ellery Queen to Fantasy Island and The Colbys—enjoyed a career revival when he was cast in the original Twin Peaks, playing a murderous French-Canadian drug-runner by the name of Jean Renault. In the decades since, recalls Deadline Hollywood, Parks “would appear in [director Quentin] Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill films, Django Unchained, the Tarantino/[Robert] Rodriguez [picture] Grindhouse, Kevin Smith’s Red State and Tusk, and Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, among others.” Blogger Toby O’Brien’s offers video clips of Parks’ work in Inner Toob.

• Capitalizing on Twin Peaks’ return, Seattle Met magazine has assembled this daytrip plan for fans who want to get a first-hand look at the area around tiny North Bend, Washington, which served as a setting for David Lynch’s original series.

• And I can’t argue with this assessment, from the Classic Film and TV Café, of the 1969 private-eye film Marlowe: “At first blush, James Garner may not seem like the ideal Philip Marlowe. But in screenwriter Stirling Silliphant’s update of [Raymond] Chandler’s The Little Sister (1949), Garner channels his dry wit into an enjoyable, effective performance. It’s just a shame that the producers selected one of the lesser Marlowe novels for their movie.”

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