Friday, June 30, 2017

Chasing the Macavitys

Mystery Readers International today announced its contenders for the 2017 Macavity Awards, in five categories. Nominations for these annual prizes are made by MRI members, “friends of MRI,” and subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal. The winners are set to be declared on Thursday, October 12, during the opening ceremonies at Bouchercon in Toronto, Ontario. And the contestants are ...

Best Novel:
You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown)
Dark Fissures, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview)
Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (Grand Central)
Real Tigers, by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman (Morrow)
A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Best First Novel:
The Widow, by Fiona Barton (NAL)
Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry (Penguin)
Dodgers, by Bill Beverly (No Exit Press)
IQ, by Joe Ide (Mulholland)
Design for Dying, by Renee Patrick (Forge)

Best Short Story:
• “Autumn at the Automat,” by Lawrence Block (from In Sunlight or in Shadow, edited by Lawrence Block; Pegasus)
• “Blank Shot,” by Craig Faustus Buck (from Black Coffee, edited by Andrew MacRae; Darkhouse)
• “Survivor’s Guilt,” by Greg Herren (from Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016, edited by Greg Herren; Down & Out)
• “Ghosts of Bunker Hill,” by Paul D. Marks (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], December 2016)
• “The Crawl Space,” by Joyce Carol Oates (EQMM, September-October 2016)
• “Parallel Play,” by Art Taylor (from Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley; Wildside Press)

Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel:
A Death Along the River Fleet, by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur)
Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye (Putnam)
Delivering the Truth, by Edith Maxwell (Midnight Ink)
The Reek of Red Herrings, by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur)
What Gold Buys, by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press)
Heart of Stone, by James W. Ziskin (Seventh Street)

Best Non-fiction:
Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot: How to Write Gripping Stories that Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats, by Jane K. Cleland (Writer’s Digest)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin (Liveright)
Sara Paretsky: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction, by Margaret Kinsman (McFarland)
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula, by David J. Skal (Liveright)
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer, by Kate Summerscale (Penguin)

Mystery Readers International organizer Janet Rudolph explained in a blog post earlier today that Macavity recipients are selected through an online vote. “If you’re a member of MRI or a subscriber to [Mystery Readers Journal] or a friend of MRI,” she said, “you will receive a ballot on August 1, so get reading.”

Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Relishing Classic Crime’s New Vogue

(Editor’s note: The Rap Sheet is pleased to once again feature the work of Martin Edwards, an award-winning British novelist and the still newly installed chair of the Crime Writers’ Association. Stopping here early in a blog tour he’s put together to promote his latest non-fiction work, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, Edwards remarks below on how his once-unhip fascination with vintage mystery tales has finally paid off. The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books will be published in the UK on July 7 by the British Library, and in the United States on August 1 by Poisoned Pen Press.)

My crime novels are set, with one exception, in the present day, but I’ve been fascinated by classic detective fiction ever since I first came across Agatha Christie when I was just short of my ninth birthday. I borrowed my grandmother’s copy of The Murder at the Vicarage, and was hooked. As a fan, and also as a would-be writer, for even at that tender age, I dreamed of telling stories, stories of the type that I enjoyed. I especially liked detective shows on the television (one of my schoolbooks as a 6-year old contains a couple of sentences enthusing about “The Chrome Coffin,” apparently an episode of 77 Sunset Strip, which was running on British TV at the time).

It took me a long time to publish my first detective novel, but even longer to find a suitable outlet for my passion for Golden Age mysteries. That first book, All the Lonely People (1991), introduced the down-at-heel Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin, and my aim was to write a series which combined a realistic urban backdrop and contemporary characters with plots that had much of the trickiness I associated with Christie and her peers. Not just “least likely person” culprits, but other tropes such as “dying message clues,” “impossible crimes,” and so on. The reviews were fine, and I was shortlisted every now and then for awards. The snag was that none of the kind reviewers noticed the Golden Age elements. Classic crime was really out of fashion.

When, more than a decade ago, I started writing a non-fiction book about the Golden Age, my then agent, a great supporter of my work, was dubious. She thought I shouldn’t allow myself to be distracted from my novels. But I kept on working at the manuscript, and after she retired, I persuaded the guy who took over the agency that there might be some potential in what would become The Golden Age of Murder (2015). What I didn’t expect was an Edgar Award, an Agatha, a Macavity, and very good sales as well as lovely reviews from all around the world. For pretty much the first time in my life, my tastes coincided with what was suddenly fashionable all over again.

I’m still, first and foremost, very much a novelist, but I felt there was much more to say about classic crime. Thankfully, the British Library agreed, and as a result I’ve composed The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. This is a companion to the British Library’s series of Crime Classics, but it’s rather more than that. The aim is to explore the ways in which the genre developed over the first half of the last century.

(Left) Author Martin Edwards

Of course, the focus is on British books, but I’ve also squeezed in a sampling of American titles (as well as some from elsewhere in the world) to give the story an international context. It’s not an academic work, but an attempt to entertain as well as inform. And I hope that even the most widely read connoisseur will come across unfamiliar titles that seem well worth exploring. Reading or solving a mystery entails a voyage of discovery. And anyone who reads The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books will find that it takes them on a journey with plenty of unexpected ports of call.

* * *

My thanks to Jeff Pierce for hosting this guest post in The Rap Sheet. Over the next few days, I’ll be traveling elsewhere around the blogosphere, talking about different aspects of this new book, and of classic crime. Here’s a list of all the stops on my blog tour:

Wednesday, June 28: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Thursday, June 29: The Rap Sheet
Friday, June 30: Pretty Sinister Books
Saturday, July 1: Confessions of a Mystery Novelist (interview)
Sunday, July 2: Euro Crime
Monday, July 3: Tipping My Fedora
Tuesday, July 4: Desperate Reader
Wednesday, July 5: Clothes in Books
Thursday, July 6: Emma’s Bookish Corner
Friday, July 7: Random Jottings

When Temps and Tempers Boil

With summer having firmly arrived in the United States (Seattle has already recorded a 90-degree day this month!), it was to be expected that crime-fiction critics would commence trotting out their selections of what people ought to be reading over the next three months.

The Rap Sheet offered up its own long list of titles for perusal. But those were all new works, most of them still on the horizon. By contrast, Janet Rudolph’s rundown of summer mysteries features older books, all of which have a distinct seasonal connection. And Otto Penzler’s choices, for Literary Hub, of five crime and mystery yarns to be enjoyed on a beach blanket or sun-scorched deck are split between recent books (such as Lee Child’s No Middle Name) and genre classics (on the order of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley).

Should you be in the mood, as well, to gander longingly at a beautiful assortment of vintage paperback crime-fiction fronts linked to summer, click over to this extensive gallery in my Killer Covers blog. Artists represented include Barye Phillips, Robert Bonfils, Robert McGinnis, Paul Rader, Mitchell Hooks, Charles Copeland, J. Oval, George Ziel, Harry Barton, and Charles Binger.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Revue of Reviewers, 6-28-17

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Chat’s Out of the Bag

I am always attracted to interviews with crime, mystery, and thriller novelists. And lately there seems to have been a particular profusion of those popping up around the Web. Here are just a few I forgot to mention in my latest “Bullet Points” wrap-up.

For Criminal Element, John Valeri talks with William Shaw, author of the brand-new standalone The Birdwatcher. The Strand Magazine blog delivers two—count ’em, two—writers for the price of one, as espionage-fictionist Olen Steinhauer quizzes Mark Mills about Where Dead Men Meet, which Steinhauer calls “a thrilling ride through Europe on the cusp of World War II.” The Irish Times fires off a series of questions to Anthony Quinn, whose fourth Inspector Celcius Daly mystery, The Trespasser, was released in paperback this month in the UK (but won’t be out in the States till November). S.W. Lauden grills James W. Ziskin about his fifth Ellie Stone mystery, Cast the First Stone. And Crimespree Magazine gets the lowdown from the pseudonymous Chevy Stevens on Never Let You Go.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bullet Points: Taxing Tuesday Edition

• We’re still nine months away from the centennial of Mickey Spillane’s birth (March 9, 2018). But his friend and fellow crime-fictionist, Max Allan Collins—who’s spent the last decade, ever since Spillane succumbed in 2006, editing and finishing work he left behind—is already looking at ways to celebrate this occasion. It seems he’s been holding back some of Spillane’s most interesting unpublished material, with the intention of releasing it in association with what would’ve been The Mick’s 100th birthday. As he explains in his blog, these hidden riches include an adventure yarn titled The Last Stand and another book, Killing Town. Collins says the latter “represents Mickey’s first go at doing Mike Hammer, probably circa 1945 … predating I, the Jury. I will tell more of the story behind it later, but it’s a novel that takes place in an industrial town in upstate New York with Mike Hammer running a dangerous errand for an army buddy. It could not be more typically vintage Spillane in tone and approach.”

• Sink your fangs into this! With a premiere date for Season 5 of Sherlock so far uncertain (and probably not to be expected anytime soon), that program’s creative team of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are turning to another Victorian-era work of fiction for inspiration: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Variety says, “Work on the new series has yet to begin in earnest, as Gatiss and Moffat are currently working on solo projects. But talks are already underway with the BBC—which enjoyed huge success with Sherlock—on broadcast rights in the UK. Dracula will adopt the same format as Sherlock, with a miniseries run of feature-length episodes.”

• Among the best elements of Mystery Scene’s Summer 2017 issue are: Jake Hinkson’s profile of film-noir authority Eddie Muller; Craig Sisterson’s study of Michael Connelly’s new protagonist, Renée Ballard (The Late Show); Tom Nolan’s look at the socially relevant work of Denise Mina; and Kevin Burton Smith’s feature on gumshoe yarns bearing locked-room mystery components.

• During the Western Writers of America Conference, held last week in Kansas City, Missouri, it was announced that Carol Potenza’s as-yet-unpublished Hearts of the Missing has won the 2017 Tony Hillerman Prize for best first mystery novel. As part of her award, Potenza—presently an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at New Mexico State University—will receive a publishing contract from Minotaur Books, which has already slated Hearts of the Missing for a fall 2018 release. Previous Hillerman Prize beneficiaries include John Fortunato (Dark Reservations), C.B. McKenzie (Bad Country), and Andrew Hunt (City of Saints).

• Author Ilene Schneider (that’s Rabbi Ilene Schneider to you) has captured the 2017 David Award for her novel Yom Killer (Aakenbaaken & Kent). Named in memory of David G. Sasher Sr., this commendation is given out annually by organizers of the Deadly Ink conference, which took place this last June 16 to 18 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Also nominated for the David Award were: Blonde Ice, by R.G. Belsky (Atria); Written Off, by E. J. Copperman (Crooked Lane); Death of a Toy Soldier, by Barbara Early (Crooked Lane); and Seconds to Live, by Melinda Leigh (Montlake Romance).

• There will be more to read here later this week about Martin Edwards’ The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, as The Rap Sheet takes part in a blog tour for that new volume of non-fiction. Meanwhile, though, Cross-Examining Crime offers this review of the work, which includes a list of lesser-known yarns Edwards cites by way of examining “100 books which have something to say about the journey crime fiction took in the first half of the 20th century.”

• In my previous “Bullet Points” post, I cited two publications producing selections of the “Best Books of 2017 … So Far.” Now comes another such rundown, this one from Mystery Tribune. Among its 20 picks: Lisa Gardner’s Right Behind You, Philip Kerr’s Prussian Blue, Peter Heller’s Celine, J.P. Delaney’s The Girl Before, Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, and Malin Persson Giolito’s Quicksand.

• How did I forget to mention that there’s finally a trailer for The Alienist, TNT’s psychological thriller series based on Caleb Carr’s 1994 novel of that same name? No firm launch date for the program is yet available (“late 2017” remains the best guess), but the International Movie Database (IMDb) entry suggests there will be 10 episodes. And we know that this drama, set in New York City in 1896 and focusing on the pursuit of a serial killer targeting “boy whores,” will star Daniel Brühl as pioneering psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, Luke Evans as crime reporter John Moore, Dakota Fanning as “intrepid police secretary Sara Howard,” and Brian Geraghty as Theodore Roosevelt, then New York’s police commissioner. We await further info.

• If you’ve wondered what became of former Who’s the Boss? star Tony Danza, then this item from In Reference to Murder is for you:
Tony Danza is returning to television in the Netflix dramedy The Good Cop for ten one-hour episodes. Danza will play a disgraced former NYPD officer who never followed the rules and lives with his son—who is currently a detective for the NYPD and the complete opposite personality type from this father. Andy Breckman, who created Monk, will be the showrunner and executive producer for the series, and Randy Zisk, who worked on Bones, will direct the first episode.
• Shades of 007: What was the real “Operation Goldfinger”?

• It’s good to see Leslie Gilbert Elman back on the Grantchester beat for Criminal Element. Last week she reviewed that show’s third-season (and much out of season) Christmas special, and yesterday she posted her critique of Episode 2, which I thought was a rather unusual but especially compelling entry in this British historical mystery series. I’m also pleased to see that screenwriter Daisy Coulam has been able to reunite small-town vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) with his longtime love, Amanda Hopkins (née Kendall, played by Morven Christie), while also making it seem impossible that their relationship can endure. Of these turns, and more, Elman asks: “Should Sidney be worried? Yep, it seems Sidney should be worried.”

• Following up on the recent death, at age 88, of Batman star Adam West, Elizabeth Foxwell tracks down a partial episode of The Detectives, the 1959-1962 TV crime drama in which West played Sergeant Steve Nelson opposite Robert Taylor. Watch it here.

• R.I.P., Bill Dana, former Get Smart hotel house dick.

• Also gone: Michael Nyqvist, the Swedish actor who played investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the original succession of movies based on Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. He passed away on June 27 at just 56 years of age.

• Rap Sheet reader Patrick Balester shot me a message not long ago, asking whether I’d ever come across a syndicated 1957-1958 TV crime drama called Decoy, which the New Jersey Web site recently noted was “the first TV series with a female cop as its protagonist,” “the first series to be shot on location in New York City,” and “one of the earliest cop dramas to delve into social issues, rather than cavalierly divide the world into good and bad people.” Yes, in fact, I have heard of Decoy—aka Decoy Police Woman—a half-hour black-and-white production that starred Beverly Garland (perhaps better known today for her roles on My Three Sons and Scarecrow & Mrs. King). As Wikipedia explains, she played Casey Jones, “a female police officer who is often assigned to work undercover (hence becoming the ‘decoy’ of the title). The cast changed each week with Garland the only main continuing character, although there were several recurring characters, mostly her commanding officer and immediate colleagues. The series was inspired by Jack Webb’s Dragnet … [It] used a similar format to that series, with Jones portrayed as a serious, by-the-book, yet sympathetic cop with no personal life outside of her job. In the episode ‘The Sound of Tears,’ she reveals that the man she loved was a police officer who was shot and killed by the man he was sent to apprehend.” At least four Decoy episodes can be found on YouTube, and a low-cost DVD set containing all 39 episodes is available here.

• While we’re on the subject of mostly forgotten small-screen productions … Just the other day I happened across this short opening segment from the 1983 teleflick Travis McGee, featuring Sam Elliott in the title role, with Gene Evans, Katharine Ross, Vera Miles, Barry Corbin, and Richard Farnsworth helping to fill out the cast. This unsuccessful ABC-TV pilot film had still more talent behind it, with a script by Stirling Silliphant (Route 66, Longstreet, Marlowe) and George Eckstein (The Fugitive, The Name of the Game, Cool Million, Banacek) in the producer’s chair. It’s story was adapted from John D. MacDonald’s 1978 novel, The Empty Copper Sea. However, those components didn’t add up to a satisfying whole. The Thrilling Detective Web Site grouses that “Somnolent Magnum, P.I./Marlboro Man-lookalike Sam Elliot wasn’t even a half-good choice to play McGee, even if he could wake up,” and it questions the choice to move MacDonald’s story from Florida to California. At the time of is original broadcast, Washington Post critic Tom Shales opined that Travis McGee “brings the detective hero created by John D. MacDonald to life, but just barely. It really brings him to more of a catatonic state.” Nonetheless, I’d be interested to watch this pilot. And apparently, I can, so long as I fork over $19.95 to Roberts Hard to Find Videos, an online retailer currently selling Travis McGee in DVD format.

• And one more YouTube find: Twelve out of 13 episodes of the 2002, Michael Mann-produced CBS-TV series Robbery Homicide Division. The show has been described as “an intense, no-nonsense look at the present-day Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery Homicide Division. Lt. Sam Cole [played by Tom Sizemore] is the driven chief detective of a squad that is dedicated to solving some of the worst crimes the city has to offer.” I remember Robbery Homicide Division as being quite good. Now’s my chance to screen it again.

• Nancie Clare’s two most recent guests on her Speaking of Mysteries podcast are well worth your listening to: Don Winslow, author of The Force, about camaraderie and corruption in the New York Police Department; and Martin Walker, whose latest Bruno, Chief of Police mystery, The Templars’ Last Secret, was released earlier this month.

• Speaking of Winslow, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week that “for the second time in three years, … [he] has taken out a full-page ad in a national newspaper criticizing the government’s war on drugs, an issue that has formed the backbone of several of his bestselling books. The Julian resident’s newest salvo is in Sunday’s New York Times, framed as a series of posts on Twitter from Winslow to President Donald Trump, who uses the social media platform often to air his thoughts.” I can’t find an online image of that advertisement, but I assume its text is similar to this essay, titled “Trump’s Catastrophic Drug Policy,” which was posted on Winslow’s Web site the same day, June 25. It reads, in part:
The president wants to return to a bygone era of mass incarceration and a full-blown War on Drugs that significantly contributed to the current American prison population of 2.2 million, the largest in the world. Apparently, that isn’t enough for the “law and order” president and his accomplice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump and Sessions think the War on Drugs has been a very good thing. They are either woefully or willfully ignorant of the facts. …

We know that rehabilitation programs and treatment are vastly more effective at reducing drug use than imprisonment. In fact, our jails and prisons are rife with illegal drugs, and those who go in as addicts usually come out as addicts. If mass incarceration worked, wouldn’t our drug problem now be better instead of worse?

But rather than make a real effort to address the drug problem at its roots—at a time when more Americans die from opiate overdose than from car accidents—Trump and Sessions hand us fantasies such as the border wall, which will do absolutely nothing to slow the flow of drugs, and facile, intellectually lazy, “lock `em up” sound bites that make for good politics but horrible policy.
• Are rumors of a Downton Abbey movie true? Yes!

• Crime Fiction Lover chooses half a dozen British-Asian crime novelists “to watch,” among them Abir Mukherjee (A Rising Man), Rosie Claverton (Terror 404), and Amer Anwar (Western Fringes).

A recent profile in her own newspaper cast critic Marilyn Stasio—who has been penning The New York Times Book Review’s crime-fiction column since 1988—as “a kind of mystery herself, removed from the book events, parties and online debates that bind so many crime and mystery fanatics together. She would rather be reading, surrounded by her fortifications of novels.” Sounds good to me!

• In a piece for Britain’s Telegraph, John Banville (aka Benjamin Black) insists the best crime and mystery fiction is the urban sort. “The city is God’s gift to the crime writer,” he writes. “Yes, there is just as much scope, if not more, for blood-letting, skulduggery and devilment in the countryside as there is in town. However, the urban wilderness lends itself with particular aptness to noir fiction, whether it be Maigret’s Paris, Philip Marlowe’s Bay City, a lightly fictionalized version of Santa Monica, or Dostoevsky’s St. Petersburg.”

• contributor Nicholas Rixon looks back at how Raymond Chandler’s 1939 first novel, The Big Sleep, marked a sea change for detective fiction. “Nearly six decades after his death,” remarks Rixon, “Chandler’s novel remains exactly what the man intended it to be: hard-boiled detective fiction that doesn’t just walk tenderly across the tightrope between literariness and pulp. It hops and summersaults with wild abandon to the other side.”

• And finally, 37 years after its debut, Crime Fiction Lover revisits Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith’s “wonderfully textured, vivid look behind the Iron Curtain,” which it goes on to call “a tense, atmospheric and memorable crime story with an outstanding detective character—Arkady Renko.”

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Arrested Development

After hitting it big with its 1960s-set police drama, Endeavour, a prequel to the long-running Inspector Morse, British broadcaster ITV decided to try mining the history of yet another familiar small-screen sleuth, London Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, who was played so memorably by Helen Mirren throughout the 1991-2006 procedural series Prime Suspect. The resulting program, titled Prime Suspect: Tennison and starring 20-something actress Stefanie Martini, is scheduled to begin a three-episode run tonight as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! lineup, beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Wikipedia summarizes this series—“which is set primarily in Hackney”—by saying that it “portrays a young Jane Tennison … as she begins her career as a WPC [Woman Police Constable] with the Metropolitan Police Service in 1973. The series is set at a time when women were beginning to be gradually integrated into the police force. In a workplace dominated by chauvinistic male police officers, Tennison assists in the investigation of the murder of a young prostitute. Tennison has to deal with sexism, as well as difficulties in her home life as her family disapprove of her career choice.”

The story is based on Tennison, a 2015 novel by Lynda La Plante, who created the original Prime Suspect. Unfortunately, ITV’s hope that La Plante would also script its prequel drama fell through as a result of “creative differences” between the author and the television producers. That unhappy twist might now be portrayed as a forewarning of further troubles. While Prime Suspect: Tennison (called Prime Suspect 1973 in the UK) has won plaudits from some critics for its portrayal of “the dingy 1970s London milieu” and for dutifully sourcing the woes (rage, loneliness, hard drinking) that will bedevil Tennison as she rises through the ranks, others have been far less generous. When it was broadcast this last spring in Great Britain, The Guardian knocked this drama’s sometimes clunky dialogue and its cast of characters, which it called “mere ciphers compared with their counterparts” in Mirren’s Prime Suspect. More recently, The New York Times denounced replacement screenwriter Glen Laker’s decision to make “Tennison’s crime-solving instincts … consistently infallible” and “the script’s narrow focus on prequelizing. It doesn’t have any ideas beyond establishing the endemic sexism Tennison will still be facing 20 years on, and connecting dots to her later alcoholism (in three different scenes) and bad decisions about sex.” Meanwhile, Salon’s Melanie McFarland disparaged this program’s emphasis on the criminal case at hand rather than Tennison’s character. “Because of this,” she wrote, “little is illuminated about Jane Tennison’s early years, effectively negating its value as a prequel.”

Even in the face of such carping, ITV insists in a statement that it is “grateful to Lynda La Plante for allowing us to adapt her brilliant book Tennison, and we were very happy with how Prime Suspect 1973 performed and the audience reaction to the series.” Yet the network announced last month that it would deny the show a second season. The existing episodes—six as shown in the UK, but three 90-minute installments in the U.S.—are all that viewers will be able to enjoy. People who want to learn more about Jane Tennison’s early years will have to search out La Plante’s novels. Since 2015’s Tennison, she has composed two sequels: Hidden Killers (2016) and Good Friday (to be released this August in the UK by Zaffre).

Prime Suspect: Tennison will continue as part of Masterpiece Mystery! through the next two Sundays, July 2 and 9, following fresh installments of Grantchester. Watch a video trailer for the series here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Book You Have to Read:
“Beverly Gray in the Orient,” by Clair Blank

(Editor’s note: This is the 148th entry in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books. Today’s contribution comes from mystery and suspense author Carmen Amato, who writes the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco [and optioned for television]; Pacific Reaper—released in April—is the newest book in that series. Emilia Cruz is the first female detective on the Acapulco police force, confronting Mexico’s drug cartels and legendary government corruption. Amato, originally from New York, pens books that draw on her experience living in Mexico and Central America, as well as her various travels around the globe. Learn more by visiting her Web site or following her on Twitter @CarmenConnects.)

It’s 1937.

She’s an investigative reporter for the New York Tribune.

She lives in New York City with her three best friends.

She has “a knack of attracting adventure and a flair for solving mysteries.”

Her name is Beverly Gray, and every girl wants to be her.

Including me.

Over the course of 26 novels published between 1934 and 1955, girls from all over the United States thrilled to Beverly Gray’s adventures, first as a freshman at Vernon College (a thinly disguised Bryn Mawr) and then as an intrepid reporter, novelist, and playwright. Written by Clair Blank, the pen name of Pennsylvania native Clarissa Mabel Blank Moyer (1915-1965), the Beverly Gray series galloped across the globe as Beverly and friends clashed with villains, exposed imposters, escaped kidnappings, and inherited cursed castles and haunted ranches.

In Beverly Gray in the Orient (1937), the dark-haired and indomitable Beverly cruises her way through danger in India and China. Blank grouped novels within her series, making Orient the seventh book in the sequence but also the second of three set aboard the yacht Susabella. Beverly and her roommates Lenora, Shirley, and Lois—all Vernon alumni and members of the Alpha Delta sorority—are guests of yacht owner Roger Garrett. Three male friends and Roger’s aunt Miss Ernwood, their chaperone, complete the travel group.

The Susabella first visited England in the preceding, 1936 novel, Beverly Gray on a World Cruise, in which another of our heroine’s touring companions, Jim Stanton, found half of a treasure map. A bogus bit of European royalty, Count Alexis, proved he would do anything to get his hands on it. A mystery man named Black Barney had possession of the map’s other half.

Now, as the Susabella continues her voyage, Blank delivers another dose of her signature blend of dreamy descriptions, realistic dialogue, and campy drama. First, Beverly chases off stowaway Count Alexis with a jar of cold cream. He escapes. The yacht arrives in India. In Bombay, Beverly meets up with Larry Owens, a “government agent” boasting “reckless blue eyes and [an] engaging grin.”

Wanting to experience all that India has to offer, Beverly and friends take a river boat ride. In an authentic and terrifying scene, the craft sinks. Beverly is plunged into a watery vortex of panicked people and thrashing cattle. She survives, only to then be chased through the jungle by a tiger. Luckily, she finds a famous American explorer’s camp and is reunited with her friends aboard the Susabella.

Count Alexis then abducts Beverly and Jim as they buy souvenirs. But in another stroke of luck, the Count’s driver recognizes Beverly from a previous encounter in New York. Rescued again!

The Susabella proceeds to Hong Kong and Canton, China. Pirates attack and hijack Beverly and Shirley. The two women are thrown into a Chinese junk and taken to a pirate camp. Who is the leader of these pirates? Why, the elusive Black Barney.

Sporting a convincing disguise, agent Larry Owens has infiltrated the gang. For the next 40 pages, Beverly and Shirley spy on their captors and in the course of it discover that Count Alexis and Black Barney are in cahoots. After Beverly surreptitiously traces Black Barney’s half of the treasure map, Larry steals the Chinese junk and delivers the girls back to the waiting Susabella.

(Left) Author Carmen Amato.

The big showdown with Count Alexis and Black Barney occurs in Shanghai. In a pitch-black cellar under a famous restaurant, Beverly teams this time with Roger Garrett, and the villains are finally arrested.

Now in possession of the full treasure map, the gang votes to go after the concealed riches. Larry comes aboard the Susabella, bringing a guide named Shanghai Pete. The yacht sets sail for Fiji and the next novel in the series.

Beverly Gray in the Orient is completely improbable and shows little regard for geographic accuracy, yet it is surprisingly well-written, with engaging characters and romantic descriptions. Author Blank lends emotional heft to places most of her readers will never see. As one example, here is her description of Beverly visiting India’s 17th-century Taj Mahal at night: “She stood bareheaded in the moonlight and feasted her eyes on the white marble of the tomb … Probably next year she would again be in New York working. But the Taj Mahal would remain peacefully at rest beneath the indigo sky, changeless as the flow of years.”

Beverly’s “voice” is engaging, full of hopes and dreams. Her heartstrings sing, for instance, when she receives a copy of her newly published novel and “held something of her own creation, something that would endure, something she had molded from nothing at all.” Blank, who published the first four books in this series while still in high school, likely drew on her own feelings for that line.

Friends are vitally important to Beverly and every reader could imagine herself a member of the tight circle; joking with Lenora, drawing with the quiet Lois, or dreaming of success on the stage with Shirley. Lenora is the most well-developed character besides Beverly in Beverly Gray in the Orient, with a saucy attitude and peppery banter that is genuinely funny. She trades jibes with soul mate Terry Cartwright, a Brit given lines such as “Rot,” and “Oh, I say!” In the 1940s, midway through the series, Blank’s only nod to World War II will be Terry in uniform and his friends worrying for his safety.

Romance is always a series subplot. Like Lenora and Terry, eventually all the characters are paired off. Indeed, Beverly Gray in the Orient establishes the romantic tension between Beverly, Larry Owens, and Jim Stanton that will unspool over the next few books. When Jim declares his love for Beverly she walks “on moonbeams,” but is unsure if she feels the same about him. She’ll ultimately choose Larry, who in a few books will morph from footloose secret agent to Long Island-based aeronautical engineer.

In addition to the Beverly Gray series, Clair Blank produced the three-volume Adventure Girls series and one adult novel, Lover Come Back (1940). All featured characters closely resembling Beverly.

Blank never enjoyed Beverly’s free-spirited adventures, but instead lived her entire life in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She attended secretarial school and worked for a pipeline company. During World War II, she served in the American Women’s Voluntary Services. In 1943 she married George Elmer Moyer, an Allentown welder, and reared two sons.

I was a teen when I first encountered Beverly Gray in a used bookstore. Over the years, I’ve found all but one of the 26 novels, many crumbly and brown with age. Never reprinted, the series faded into obscurity after the last installment, Beverly Gray's Surprise, was published in 1955 by Clover Books. Previous publishers were the W.L. Burt Company and Grosset and Dunlap. The latter found greater success with the Nancy Drew series.

Deep down I know that Beverly inspired me to be a writer. Like her, I went to college, had some thrilling adventures around the world, and fell in love with a man named Larry.

And possibly inherited her “flair for solving mysteries.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Revue of Reviewers, 6-20-17

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

Up with Scottish Crime

In advance of this year’s Bloody Scotland conference (to be held in Stirling, Scotland, from September 8 to 10), its organizers have announced their longlist of nominees for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize. Formerly known as the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award, this coveted annual accolade was renamed last year in honor of the late author William McIlvanney. The contenders are:

None But the Dead, by Lin Anderson (Macmillan)
Want You Gone, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
Cold Earth, by Ann Cleeves (Macmillan)
Perfect Remains, by Helen Fields (HarperCollins)
Out of Bounds, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
Cross Purpose, by Claire MacLeary (Contraband)
The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (Random House)
Games People Play, by Owen Mullen (Bloodhound)
Rather Be the Devil, by Ian Rankin (Orion)
Murderabilia, by Craig Robertson (Simon & Schuster)
The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid, by Craig Russell (Quercus)
How to Kill Friends and Implicate People, by Jay Stringer
(Thomas & Mercer)

Opening night festivities at Bloody Scotland, on September 8, will include the presentation of the 2017 McIlvanney Prize. That commendation comes with a £1,000 cash reward, plus nationwide promotion at Waterstones book retailers.

Previous recipients of this award for “excellence in Scottish crime writing” are Chris Brookmyre (Black Widow), Craig Russell (The Ghosts of Altona), Peter May (Entry Island), Malcolm Mackay (How a Gunman Says Goodbye), and Charles Cumming (A Foreign Country).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hannah Takes the Dagger

British probation officer-turned-author Mari Hannah, perhaps best known for her Kate Daniels series of police procedurals, has won the 2017 Dagger in the Library. The prize is sponsored by the Crime Writers’ Association and celebrates “a body of work by a crime writer that users of libraries particularly admire.”

“To receive the Dagger in the Library is an honour so early in my career,” Hannah says in a statement posted on her Web site. “It means so much because, in the early stages, it was librarians and readers who voted me onto the longlist. I grew up in a home that had few books. Libraries were very important to me. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank librarians and their amazing staff for all the support they have given me.” Hannah received her Dagger during a reception at the British Library this last Saturday, June 17.

The longlist of this year’s Dagger in the Library nominees,
announced in early May, also featured Andrew Taylor, C.J. Sansom, James Oswald, Kate Ellis, and Tana French.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Latest Lammys Lineup

Whoops! We apparently missed spotting the announcement last week of which books and authors had won the 2016 Lambda Literary Awards—aka the Lammys—in 24 categories. The Lammys honor “excellence in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender books.”

You can find all of the prize recipients listed here. But as far as Rap Sheet readers go, there are two categories that might be of greatest interest: Speakers of the Dead, by J. Aaron Sanders (Plume), picked up the prize for Best Gay Mystery, while Pathogen, by Jessica L. Webb (Bold Strokes), walked away with the commendation for Best Lesbian Mystery. Click here to find all the nominees in both of those fields.

(Hat tip to Omnivoracious.)

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Quaint Community’s Star Turn

Editor’s note: In anticipation of the third season debut of Grantchester—to be broadcast on PBS-TV’s Masterpiece this coming Sunday, June 18—a British public relations and marketing company called Quite Great! sent The Rap Sheet a rather charming, seven-minute video excursion through the real Cambridgeshire village used as the backdrop for that 1950s-set ITV series based on James Runcie’s books. The video, embedded above, is hosted by UK pop-rock singer Corinna Jane. It came with the following short write-up:

This month brings the start of the latest series of the popular crime drama Grantchester. But what do we really know about the more than 900-year-old village that has become the stomping ground of a “crime-fighting” vicar, played by James Norton, and a war veteran turned police detective, brought to small-screen life by Robson Green?

Well, Grantchester lies just a mile outside the university city of Cambridge, in eastern England, and plays host to a number of famous pastimes that contribute to its quintessential Englishness. These include a Boxing Day barrel race that brings all the local pubs together for a tradition dating back to the 1960s (and ends in a hog roast!).

The village has been home to such noteworthy wordsmiths as Rupert Brooke, Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf and Jeffrey Archer, and it’s said to boast the world’s highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners.

To further accentuate its charm, Grantchester is home to some of the county’s most distinguished sites, which have become central to the television show’s story lines. For instance, The Orchard—tea rooms where Cambridge students were first served their traditional afternoon warmers in 1897—became a central hub for the program’s writers, as they would ride bicycles to that spot from Cambridge train station.

The most romanticized and sought-after local spot, spreading itself across the marshlands of the village, is the Meadows. In the show you will often see Reverend Sidney Chambers peddling past it along the banks of the River Cam, which when the sun shines is a hotbed for punts, picnics, and swimmers. Over the decades the Meadows has not only drawn the eyes of numerous photographers, but has also inspired poetry and musical works (the latter of which include Pink Floyd’s 1969 song, appropriately titled “Grantchester Meadows.”)

However, the village’s most famous attraction may be the Church of St. Mary and St. Andrew. That imposing High Street structure, part of which dates from the 14th century, features heavily in the series and does a fairly good job of summing up Grantchester as a village happy to embrace the present, but still blissfully pinned to its past.

* * *

The new, third season of Grantchester comprises seven hour-long episodes, which will run under the Masterpiece banner through Sunday, July 30. Episode information and previews can be found here. Grantchester begins at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

All in the Family

Just in time for Father’s Day this coming Sunday, blogger Janet Rudolph brings back her list of crime and mystery novels featuring “Father’s Day, Fathers & Sons, [and] Fathers & Daughters.”

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bullet Points: Back in the Game Edition

Sorry for the hiatus, but my computer required a major system upgrade … and I needed a few days without the responsibilities of news gathering. So I wasn’t pushing my technology folks overmuch to get the job done. But now that things seem to be back to normal, let me highlight a few crime fiction-related developments.

• I was still offline when blogger Evan Lewis posted the 18th and concluding chapter of the 1946 comic-book adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. So I couldn’t draw attention to it until now. If you missed any part of that comic, you can enjoy “the whole shebang” right here. Thanks, Even, for this rare treat.

• Here’s something I didn’t know: Famous stage, screen, and radio actor John Barrymore (aka the “greatest living American tragedian”) was originally slated to play San Francisco private detective Sam Spade in the first, 1931 motion-picture adaptation of The Maltese Falcon. Blogger Steven Thompson says Warner Bros. “purchased the then recent Dashiell Hammett story as a vehicle for Barrymore.” Apparently, though, negotiations fell apart when it was announced that former child star Bebe Daniels, one of Warner’s contract players, had been signed as the female lead, and that hers “was actually a bigger part” than the screenplay gave Spade. Barrymore’s retreat from the project left room for Ricardo Cortez to step into his gumshoes, instead.

• If you haven’t watched it already, click here to find the first official trailer promoting this year’s movie adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 whodunit Murder on the Orient Express. Starring a bizarrely mustachioed Kenneth Branagh as brilliant Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, and also featuring fine performers such as Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Derek Jacobi, the film is set to debut in theaters nationwide this coming November 10.

• By the way, which poster do you prefer? The one on the left, touting the 1974 Orient Express (with art by Richard Amsel), or the one displayed on the right, from Branagh’s forthcoming version? Click on either image for an enlargement.

• In Publishers Weekly, Elizabeth Foxwell interviews Joan Hess, who completed the last Amelia Peabody historical mystery left behind when her fellow author, Elizabeth Peters (otherwise known as Barbara Mertz), died in 2013. Hess says her biggest challenge in composing The Painted Queen—which is due out from Morrow in July—“was attempting to capture the subtlety of the somewhat stilted language of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Contractions—how I missed them!”

From B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder:
The Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense is named for Daphne du Maurier, the author of Rebecca, a suspense novel with romantic and gothic overtones and a precursor to today’s romantic suspense. Presented annually by the RWA [Romance Writers of America] Kiss of Death organization, this year’s Daphne finalists were named in the category of Mainstream Mystery/Suspense and various Romantic Suspense categories. Finalists in the Mainstream Mystery/Suspense category include Notorious by Carey Baldwin; Death Among the Doilies (A Cora Crafts Mystery) by Mollie Cox Bryan; Elegy in Scarlet by B.V. Lawson; Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan; and In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White. For all the finalists (including those both unpublished and published divisions), follow this link.
• On the heels of The Rap Sheet publishing its much longer rundown of summer crime, mystery, and thriller releases, the podcast Writer Types is out with a new episode focusing in part on what works fans of this genre should sample over the next three sunnier months. (If you think you’re too busy to listen to the episode, a list of the recommendations can be found here.) Beyond that part of the show, co-host S.W. Lauden explains, “We’ve also got great interviews with Meg Gardiner (Unsub), John Rector (The Ridge), Jordan Harper (She Rides Shotgun), and Thomas Pluck (Bad Boy Boogie). All that plus a short story by Angel [Luis] Colón.” Listen here.

• What might the 2015 James Bond film Spectre have been like had Roger Moore starred in it, rather than Daniel Craig? It certainly couldn’t have been any more wearisome than the version that reached theaters, and as this what-if trailer in Spy Vibe suggests, it might have provided “a cool juxtaposition between the visceral action and danger of the Craig era and Moore’s undeniable charisma and charm on the screen.” Sadly, we can only imagine the whole of Moore’s Spectre.

Another tribute to the late Roger Moore. (More here.)

• Lit Reactor is out with its list of “The Best Books of 2017 … So Far.” It includes a quartet of crime/thriller novels. Strangely, several of my own early favorites—Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, Philip Kerr’s Prussian Blue, Don Winslow’s The Force, and Oscar de Muriel’s Fever of the Blood—don’t show up on that roster, but there’s still time for the Lit Reactor folk to come to their senses.

• Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s choices of “37 Books We’ve Loved So Far in 2017” mentions just three crime/mystery novels: The Long Drop, by Denise Mina; Not a Sound, by Heather Gudenkauf; and Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane (which—surprisingly for a Lehane work—I haven’t yet felt compelled to finish).

• Although the cover of its premiere issue could hardly be less intriguing than it is, I’m very pleased to see Maryland publisher Wildside Press introduce Black Cat Mystery Magazine. Scheduled to debut in September, BCMM (not to be confused with the classic, 1895-1922 American literary journal, The Black Cat) will reportedly “focus on contemporary and traditional mysteries, as well as thrillers and suspense stories.” Among the writers contributing to Issue No. 1 are Art Taylor, Meg Opperman, John Floyd, and Barb Goffman. Order a copy here. Hopes are to make BCMM a quarterly publication.

From blogger-editor Janet Rudolph:
David Schmid, Ph.D. received the 2017 George N. Dove Award for Contributions to the Study of Mystery and Crime Fiction. David Schmid, associate professor in the Department of English at the University at Buffalo (State University of New York), was selected to receive the 2017 Dove Award. The honor is bestowed for outstanding contributions to the serious study of mystery, detective, and crime fiction by the Mystery and Detective Fiction Area of the Popular Culture Association. The award is named for George N. Dove, one of the area’s early members, a past president of the Popular Culture Association, and author of outstanding presentations, articles, and books on detective fiction, especially the police procedural.
• In Criminal Element, Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai offers some history behind this week’s release of Donald E. Westlake’s long-missing but quite rewarding thriller, Forever and a Death.

• Speaking of previously “lost” fiction … “A collection of short stories by Ruth Rendell, unearthed in the archive of a U.S. detective magazine, are to be published for the first time in the UK this autumn,” reports The Guardian. “The stories were found in magazines—[mostly in] back issues of … Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine—and date as far back at the 1970s. They will be published under the title A Spot of Folly.” Rendell passed away in the spring of 2015, aged 85.

“Hopalong Cassidy—Detective?”

• I still own two manual typewriters, and am loath to give them up, thinking they might be fun to use again someday. I didn’t know I’m not alone in my nostalgia for such vintage machines. “In the age of smartphones, social media and hacking fears,” reports the Associated Press, “vintage typewriters that once gathered dust in attics and basements are attracting a new generation of fans across the U.S.”

• “On the 129th anniversary of [Raymond] Chandler’s birth, seven writers have gathered to declare how Chandler influenced their own work and continues to shape the landscape of modern crime fiction.” You’ll find their opinions here.

• After years spent as a magazine and newspaper editor, I know how popular lists are with readers. Therefore, I’m not surprised to have seen a bunch of such opinionated inventories pop up online lately. The Strand Magazine Web site seems particularly fond of such tallies, offering: “Five Prescient Political Thrillers,” “Top 10 Mystery or Crime Novels Set in the Country,” “Top 10 Crime Novels Set in London,” and “Top Nine Books with ‘Girl’ in the Title.” Since 2017 marks the centennial of America’s involvement in World War I, Criminal Element weighs in with “Nine Murder Mysteries Set During Wartime.” BookRiot shares its picks of “Five Japanese Crime Writers that Should Be on Your Radar,” and Please Kill Me’s collection of “Ten Great New York City Novels” features (naturally) Dashiell Hammett’s 1933 Nick and Nora Charles mystery, The Thin Man.

• For something a bit different, Mystery Fanfare points us toward Culture Trip’s rundown of “50 Unique Independent Bookstores You Need to Visit in Every U.S. State.” Although the wording of that headline implies we’ll learn about 50 such retailers in each state of the Union, the story actually offers just one store suggestion per state. I’ve stopped by many of these shops, but not nearly all of them.

• Did you know there is a book-length sequel to the 1992 comedy film My Cousin Vinny? Titled Back to Brooklyn, and written by New York City-area resident Lawrence Kelter, it was released last month by Down & Out Books. Oh, and it’s described on Amazon as the first sequel to that persistently entertaining movie.

• I’m always impressed by bloggers who can hang in there for the long haul, when the urge to discontinue an enterprise like this—which brings few obvious rewards and can consume so many hours of one’s life—threatens to overwhelm. Despite reports you may have heard, the business of blogging is not for the faint of heart. Therefore, let’s give a hearty round of applause to Terence Towles Canote, whose pop-culture blog, A Shroud of Thoughts, recently celebrated its 13th anniversary. That’s two more years than The Rap Sheet has been in existence.

• For most of last week, the big Batman news had to do with that fictional crime-fighter’s decision—as spelled out in the latest issue of the DC Universe Rebirth: Batman comic-book series—to finally propose marriage to Catwoman (aka Selina Kyle). Then, however, came word that Adam West, the man who’d brought both the Caped Crusader and his alter ego, “millionaire playboy” Bruce Wayne, to brave if campy life in the 1966-1968 ABC-TV series Batman, had died of leukemia at age 88. According to an obituary in The Hollywood Reporter, West once said, “You can’t play Batman in a serious, square-jawed, straight-ahead way without giving the audience the sense that there’s something behind that mask waiting to get out, that he’s a little crazed, he’s strange.” He added that he’d played Batman “for laughs, but in order to do [that], one had to never think it was funny. You just had to pull on that cowl and believe that no one would recognize you.” Trouble is, everybody came to recognize Adam West for his Batman portrayal. As a consequence, the Walla Walla, Washington-born farm boy turned actor—who’d appeared on such boob-tube dramas as 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Maverick, Perry Mason, and The Detectives before scoring the Batman gig—“never quite got out of Batman’s long shadow, both for better and for worse,” writes National Public Radio’s Colin Dwyer. Yes, West later guest-starred on programs as varied as Emergency!, Laverne & Shirley, Murder, She Wrote, Diagnosis: Murder, and The Big Bang Theory; he won a regular part on the 1986 sitcom The Last Precinct and starred in Conan O’Brien’s unsuccessful 1991 TV pilot, Lookwell (which he later referenced as “my favorite” pilot); yet as The Atlantic remembers, it was only after the actor “embraced” his Batman typecasting that he could again find happiness—and consistent employment. “West returned to voice his iconic character in such cartoons as The New Adventures of Batman, Legends of the Superheroes, SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, and The Simpsons,” observes The Hollywood Reporter, “and Warner Bros.’ long-awaited DVD release of ABC’s Batman in 2014 brought him back into the Bat Signal’s spotlight.” (He also did regular voice-overs on the animated series Family Guy.) West’s demise follows that of Yvonne Craig, the onetime dancer who played Batgirl on Batman during its final season; she passed away in 2015 as a result of breast cancer, aged 78. Still around, though, is the second half of West’s Dynamic Duo: Burt Ward, who donned tights and a ridiculously paltry black mask as Robin, “the Boy Wonder,” on the show. He’ll turn 72 come July 6 of this year. Read more about Adam West’s life and career here, here, and here.

This is the coolest Adam West tribute imaginable! (FOLLOW-UP: Film footage from the event can be found here and here.)

• While we’re honoring the lately departed, let us not forget Boulder, Colorado, author Marlys Millhiser, who succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease on April 20, just short of her 80th birthday. As Mystery Fanfare notes, the Iowa-born former high school teacher penned “sixteen mysteries and horror novels. She served as a regional vice president of the Mystery Writers of America and is best known for her novel The Mirror (1978) and for the Charlie Greene Mysteries” (the most recent of those being 2002’s The Rampant Reaper).

• Rest in peace, Glenne Headly. As Variety reports, the Connecticut-born actress—“known for starring alongside Warren Beatty in 1990’s Dick Tracy as Tess Trueheart,” and for earning an Emmy nomination for her role in the 1989 TV miniseries Lonesome Dove—died in Santa Monica, California, on June 8 as a result of complications from a pulmonary embolism. She was only 62 years of age.

• Finally, I mentioned in my last “Bullet Points” post that veteran sportswriter-novelist Frank Deford was retiring after 37 years of doing commentary for NPR’s Morning Edition. Just two weeks later, on May 28, the 78-year-old died at his home in Key West, Florida. In honor of his journalism career, Sports Illustrated—the periodical to which he’d contributed so much of his writing over the decades—posted online one of Deford’s most memorable pieces, “The Boxer and the Blonde,” which ran originally in SI’s June 17, 1985, issue.

Kiwi Competitors

Via a New Zealand news and culture Web site called The Spinoff, we now have the longlist of nominees for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. The site explains that “Two of the ten longlisted books are by the same prolific author, Finn Bell. None of the past winners are in the running this year. In fact, of the 19 different authors who’ve been finalists in the first few years, only one—Ben Sanders—is a 2017 contender.” Here’s the full lineup:

Dead Lemons, by Finn Bell (e-book)
Pancake Money, by Finn Bell (e-book)
Spare Me the Truth, by C.J. Carver (Bonnie Zaffre)
Red Herring, by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
The Revelations of Carey Ravine, by Debra Daley (Quercus)
The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton, by Katherine Hayton (Katherine Hayton)
Presumed Guilty, by Mark McGinn (Merlot)
Marshall’s Law, by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
A Straits Settlement, by Brian Stoddart (Crime Wave Press)
The Last Time We Spoke, by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)

The Spinoff post provides brief plot descriptions of each book. It adds that “The longlist is currently being considered by a panel of seven crime-fiction experts from five countries. The finalists will be announced in August, along with the finalists for the best first novel and best true-crime categories. The winners will be announced at a WORD Christchurch event in October.”

Congratulations to all of this year’s contestants!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Recess Time

Due to the need for a computer system overhaul and upgrade, The Rap Sheet will be offline for the next several days. I hope to be up and running again soon. Thanks as always for your support.