Thursday, August 31, 2017

Remembering the “Forgottens”

When, in April 2008, Detroit short-story author (and now novelist) Patricia “Patti” Abbott launched what would soon become a Web-wide Friday tribute to “forgotten books,” it seemed like an excellent idea with a limited shelf life. Certainly, I thought, this weekly delivery of posts about what Abbott called “books we love but might have forgotten over the years” would soon run its course, as bloggers and other literary pundits sought fresh challenges, convinced they’d done enough already to highlight works deserving of renewed attention. But I must have been projecting, believing my own tendency as a freelance journalist (one sadly divorced from the collective energies of an office environment) to lose interest in even worthwhile efforts over time would be shared broadly. I had not expected that nine years later, the Friday forgotten books venture would still be going strong, with a few writers—including Bill Crider, Martin Edwards, B.V. Lawson, and James Reasoner—ponying up fresh posts with astounding regularity.

The Rap Sheet’s contributions to Abbott’s series began quite early on, with indefatigable British correspondent Ali Karim writing on May 2, 2008, about H.F. Saint’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man. After that, our “Books You Have to Read” posts accumulated quickly, with each week’s guest reviewer asked to pass the baton off to another person he or she thought could further enliven the mix. Some weeks even brought more than one new nomination to the lineup, so enthusiastically did crime novelists and critics take to the task. Within a little over two years, The Rap Sheet had touted 100 unjustly neglected books.

At that stage, I decided to slow things down to a saner pace. The result being, though, that it’s taken seven years for this blog to amass another 49 “Books You Have to Read” posts. And tomorrow The Rap Sheet will finally publish its 150th such piece—a look back at William Murray’s 1967 “sin and surf and sand” novel, The Sweet Ride.

Glancing over the list below of our “forgotten books” endorsements, I am pleased by their diversity. Only a handful of authors—Eric Ambler, Ellery Queen, William Campbell Gault, Bernard Wolfe, David Markson, Derek Raymond, Newton Thornburg, Jim Thompson, and John D. MacDonald—have had more than one example of their work considered. I’d like to see more writers of color featured, but at least there are many women included on the roster. Also needed are additional non-American wordsmiths, and more tales that combine crime fiction with other genres, such as science fiction. If all this sounds as if I am planning to continue The Rap Sheet’s “Books You Have to Read” series, that’s because I am. There are still other works I would like to remark upon, and I know Steven Nester—who has become a frequent contributor—has further ideas up his own sleeve. With any luck, some of the reviewers and authors reading this post will drop me an e-mail note, suggesting vintage yarns they’d like to write about, too.

Following each book title and author name here, I’ve identified (in parentheses) the person who commented on the work.

The Sweet Ride, by William Murray (Steven Nester)
Dog Soldiers, by Robert Stone (Steven Nester)
Beverly Gray in the Orient, by Clair Blank (Carmen Amato)
Durango Street, by Frank Bonham (Steven Nester)
The Origin of Evil, by Ellery Queen (Vince Keenan)
Angels, by Denis Johnson (Steven Nester)
Desert Town, by Ramona Stewart (Steven Nester)
Junky, by William S. Burroughs (Steven Nester)
A Dandy in Aspic, by Derek Marlow (Jim Napier)
Persuader, by Lee Child (Diane Capri)
Dreamland, by Newton Thornburg (Steven Nester)
Sidewalk Caesar, by Donald Honig (Steven Nester)
The Hunter, by Richard Stark
(Terrence P. McCauley)
Epitaph for a Tramp,
by David Markson (Steven Nester)
The Fear Makers,
by Darwin L. Teilhet (Steven Nester)
The Black and the Red,
by Elliot Paul (Steven Nester)
The Late Risers,
by Bernard Wolfe (Steven Nester)
Epitaph for a Dead Beat,
by David Markson (Steven Nester)
The Red Carnelian, by Phyllis A. Whitney (Erica Obey)
Siam, by Lily Tuck (Jame DiBiasio)
The Name of the Game Is Death, by Dan J. Marlowe (Jed Power)
They Don’t Dance Much, by James Ross (Steven Nester)
In Deep, by Bernard Wolfe (Steven Nester)
Yardie, by Victor Headley (Michael G. Jacob)
The Unquiet Night, by Patricia Carlon (Patrick Balester)
Carambola, by David Dodge (Randal S. Brandt)
A Rage in Harlem, by Chester Himes (Ayo Onatade)
Life’s Work, by Jonathan Valin (Linda Barnes)
Tapping the Source, by Kem Nunn (Steven Nester)
Bimini Run, by E. Howard Hunt (Steven Nester)
True Confessions, by John Gregory Dunne (Steven Nester)
Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game, by William Kennedy (Steven Nester)
Cut Numbers, by Nick Tosches (Steven Nester)
Shaft Among the Jews, by Ernest Tidyman (Steve Aldous)
The Egyptian Cross Mystery, by Ellery Queen (Tony Hays)
The Labyrinth Makers, by Anthony Price (Jim Napier)
The Dead Lie Still, by William L. Stuart (J.F. Norris)
The Man with a Load of Mischief, by Martha Grimes (Dana Cameron)
New Hope for the Dead, by Charles Willeford (Kevin McCarthy)
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, by P.D. James
(Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
Money, Money, Money, by Ed McBain (Richard L. Pangburn)
Street of the Lost, by David Goodis (Michael Lipkin)
Doctor Frigo, by Eric Ambler (James Thompson)
Rose, by Martin Cruz Smith (Ann Parker)
A Gypsy Good Time, by Gustav Hasford (Dan Fleming)
Breakheart Pass, by Alistair MacLean (J. Kingston Pierce)
Up at the Villa, by W. Somerset Maugham (Sam Millar)
The Prone Gunman, by Jean-Patrick Manchette (R.J. Ellory)
The Other Girl, by Theodora Keogh (Steven Powell)
Diva, by Delacorta (Ronald Tierney)
The Iron Gates, by Margaret Millar (Patti Abbott)
Tony and Susan, by Austin Wright (Maxim Jakubowski)
The Song Dog, by James McClure (Stanley Trollip)
Caleb Williams, by William Godwin (Andrew Taylor)
Drink to Yesterday, by Manning Coles (Irene Fleming)
Thumbprint, by Friedrich Glauser (Patrick Lennon)
The Black Path of Fear, by Cornell Woolrich (Thomas Kaufman)
Blanche on the Lam, by Barbara Neely (Naomi Hirahara)
The Zimmerman Telegram, by Barbara Tuchman (J. Sydney Jones)
Murder Fantastical, by Patricia Moyes (Jim Napier)
Death of a Peer, by Ngaio Marsh (Les Blatt)
Shoot, by Douglas Fairbairn (Mike Dennis)
Train, by Pete Dexter (David Thayer)
The Great Zapruder Film Hoax,
by James H. Fetzer (Michael Atkinson)
The Adventures of Max Latin,
by Norbert Davis (Ed Lin)
Swag, by Elmore Leonard (Mike Dennis)
Build My Gallows High, by Geoffrey Homes (Thomas Kaufman)
Light of Day, by Eric Ambler
(Leighton Gage)
Alley Kat Blues, by Karen Kijewski
(Karen E. Olson)
The Most Dangerous Game, by Gavin Lyall (Calum MacLeod)
The Saint-Fiacre Affair, by Georges Simenon (Matt Beynon Rees)
The Body on the Bench, by Dorothy B. Hughes (Jeri Westerson)
The Drowner, by John D. MacDonald (Ace Atkins)
Dead Man Upright, by Derek Raymond (Ray Banks)
I Was Dora Suarez, by Derek Raymond (Cathi Unsworth)
How the Dead Live, by Derek Raymond (Russel D. McLean)
The Devil’s Home on Leave, by Derek Raymond (John Harvey)
He Died with His Eyes Open, by Derek Raymond (Tony Black)
The Staked Goat, by Jeremiah Healy (Libby Fischer Hellmann)
Nightmare Alley, by William Linday Gresham (Kelli Stanley)
The First Deadly Sin, by Lawrence Sanders (L.J. Sellers)
The Dolly Dolly Spy, by Adam Diment (Tom Cain)
Freak, by Michael Collins (Russell Atwood)
Who Killed Palomino Molero?, by Mario Vargas Llosa
(Marshall Browne)
The Cracked Earth, by John Shannon (Dick Adler)
The Last One Left, by John D. MacDonald (Bill Cameron)
Room to Swing, by Ed Lacy (Art Taylor)
Someone Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, by Nan and Ivan Lyons (Jeffrey Cohen)
Solomon’s Vineyard, by Jonathan Latimer (Mike Ripley)
Modesty Blaise, by Peter O’Donnell (Vicki Delany)
Modus Operandi, by Robin W. Winks (Stephen Miller)
The Eighth Circle, by Stanley Ellin (J. Kingston Pierce)
The Woman Chaser, by Charles Willeford (Kathryn Miller Haines)
The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins (William Landay)
GBH, by Ted Lewis (Ray Banks)
The Criminal, by Jim Thompson (Nate Flexer)
Trent’s Last Case, by E.C. Bentley (Stefanie Pintoff)
The Depths of the Forest, by Eugenio Fuentes (Ann Cleeves)
Putting the Boot In, by Dan Kavanagh (Michael Walters)
Switch, by William Bayer (Col Bury)
Sympathy for the Devil, by Kent Anderson (John Shannon)
The Quiet Strangers, by John Buxton Hilton (Stephen Booth)
Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman, by E.W. Hornung (Chris Ewan)
No Orchids for Miss Blandish, by James Hadley Chase (James R. Benn)
War Against the Mafia,
by Don Pendleton (Matt Hilton)
Daddy Cool,
by Donald Goines (Gary Phillips)
Edith’s Diary,
by Patricia Highsmith (Jason Starr)
Night of the Panther,
by E.C. Ayres (J. Kingston Pierce)
Death of a Unicorn,
by Peter Dickinson (Keith Raffel)
The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton (Anthony Rainone)
The Bigger They Come, by A.A. Fair (J. Kingston Pierce)
Death of a Citizen, by Donald Hamilton (Rob Kantner)
The Double Take, by Roy Huggins (J. Kingston Pierce)
The Overseer, by Jonathan Rabb (Simon Wood)
A Coffin for Dimitrios, by Eric Ambler (Ali Karim)
The Scarf, by Robert Bloch (John Peyton Cooke)
The Ebony Tower, by John Fowles (Michael G. Jacob)
The Grifters, by Jim Thompson (Chris Knopf)
A Clubbable Woman, by Reginald Hill (Simon Wood)
The Bloody Bokhara, by William Campbell Gault (David Fulmer)
Journey into Fear, by Eric Ambler (Charles Cumming)
Despair, by Vladimir Nabokov (Robert Eversz)
Marathon Man, by William Goldman (Linwood Barclay)
Mayhem, by J. Robert Janes (Cara Black)
The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov (Jane Finnis)
The 12:30 from Croydon, by Freeman Wills Crofts
(Dolores Gordon-Smith)
The Golden Crucible, by Jean Stubbs (Amy Myers)
Rilke on Black, by Ken Bruen (Tony Black)
The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey (Judith Cutler)
Nine Times Nine, by Anthony Boucher (Jeffrey Marks)
The Three Coffins, by John Dickson Carr (Edward Marston)
Some Must Watch, by Ethel Lina White (Mary Reed)
The Golden Gate Murders, by Peter King (Anthony Flacco)
The Big Bow Mystery, by Israel Zangwill (Will Thomas)
Coffin’s Got the Dead Guy on the Inside, by Keith Snyder
(Timothy Hallinan)
The Twisted Thing, by Mickey Spillane (Max Allan Collins)
The Falling Man, by Mark Sadler (Robert J. Randisi)
Don’t Cry for Me, by William Campbell Gault (Ed Gorman)
No Human Involved, by Barbara Seranella (Louise Ure)
Watcher in the Shadows, by Geoffrey Household (Mike Ripley)
Cutter and Bone, by Newton Thornburg (Kirk Russell)
Funeral in Berlin, by Len Deighton (Tony Broadbent)
God’s Pocket, by Pete Dexter (David Corbett)
Chinaman’s Chance, by Ross Thomas (Tim Maleeny)
I Am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier (Steve Hockensmith)
The Honest Dealer, by Frank Gruber (Dick Lochte)
When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes, by Lawrence Block (Dick Adler)
The January Corpse, by Neil Albert (Kevin Burton Smith)
The Lunatic Fringe, by William L. DeAndrea (J. Kingston Pierce)
Memoirs of an Invisible Man, by H.F. Saint (Ali Karim)

READ MORE:Kirkus Reviews’ ‘Rediscovered Reads’ Series,”
by J. Kingston Pierce.

“Endeavour” Gets Hopping

Due to other obligations, I was late in watching this last Sunday’s installment of Endeavour, the Masterpiece Mystery! prequel to the classic Inspector Morse. And then, because so many plot threads from that Season 4 episode, “Canticle,” were tied up in the show’s concluding minutes, I sat through it all twice, to figure out where and how the clues had been dropped. Leslie Gilbert Elman does her usual bang-up job of recapping the story for Criminal Element. (Also check out her post about last week’s episode.) But one thing she failed to remark upon was the program’s outstanding title sequence.

Set in the 1960s, Endeavour—starring Shaun Lewis and Roger Allam—has incorporated that era’s changing culture in a variety of ways. Music has often figured into the atmospherics, but never so much as at the start of “Canticle.” That opening sets the tone beautifully with a bouncy TV song-and-dance number that seemed snatched straight from the early ’60s, but wasn’t. I had to search the Web for more information about the song “Make Believe.” Turns out, its lyrics were written by Endeavour “deviser”/writer Russell Lewis, with music by Matthew Slater. Performing the piece against a backdrop of young women spinning multi-hued umbrellas is lovely British singer/songwriter Sharlette Henry. Because I enjoyed that presentation so much, I am embedding a version below that I found on Vimeo, minus the scene cuts from the episode’s introduction.

I thought we could all use a melodious boost late on a Thursday.

READ MORE:Endeavour 4.03: ‘Lazaretto’ Episode Review” and “Endeavour 4.04: ‘Harvest’ Episode Review,” by Leslie Gilbert Elman (Criminal Element).

Mediation, Moonlighting, and Murder

With the United States preparing to celebrate Labor Day this coming Monday, it’s time to revisit blogger Janet Rudolph’s extensive list of labor union mysteries. I can’t say I have read all of her selections, but at least a few have made their way into my hands over time, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear, Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest, Sara Paretsky’s Indemnity Only, Con Lehane’s Death at the Old Hotel, Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day, and Gordon DeMarco’s October Heat. Fortunately, Labor Day rolls around annually, so I’ll not be short of reminders to tackle the remaining works.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

In Seattle, Use It or Lose It

There’s still no word on the future of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, a 27-year fixture in Seattle’s downtown historic district. It was announced in early August that the store, which has been struggling financially for a while, was for sale. Since then, the stock has been reduced, and employees have ceased accepting used books in exchange for credit. Additionally, patrons were told they must redeem any outstanding credit slips and gift certificates by the end of this month—which just happens to be tomorrow, August 31.

Because folks get busy and tend to forget deadlines like that, I figured a friendly reminder in The Rap Sheet wouldn’t hurt one bit.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Revue of Reviewers, 8-29-17

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

Now the Race Really Heats Up

With only a couple of weeks still to go before the start of this year’s Bloody Scotland conference (to be held in Stirling, Scotland, from September 8 to 10), organizers have shared their list of finalists for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize. Formerly known as the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award, this coveted accolade was renamed last year in honor of the late author William McIlvanney. On the shortlist are:

Out of Bounds, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
The Long Drop, by Denise Mina (Random House)
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)

Agreeing on these five contestants must have been quite a challenge for the judges, as it meant eliminating works by such genre celebrities as Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, and Chris Brookmyre, all of which appeared among the longlisted titles.

The winner is to be announced during opening-night festivities at Bloody Scotland, on September 8. It comes with a £1,000 cash reward, plus nationwide promotion at Waterstones book retailers.

Right This Way to the Exhibits

With a new academic year now starting up in the United States, this seems like an ideal time to revisit Killer Covers’ gallery of more than 80 school-related book fronts—including a couple of new ones I just added to that mix. You’ll find them all right here.

While we’re on the subject of such artistic collections … As you know, last Friday I added to this page a post showcasing 106 covers “on which women bare or prepare to bare their assets to men (and occasionally other women), either voluntarily or not, and with varying responses.” That provoked one reader to ask what other themed compilations might be found in the archives of this site.

Some of the galleries listed below (in order of publication) are larger than others, but I hope they never cease to entertain:

Suburban Sleaze (May 12, 2009)
Summertime Sex and Scandals
(June 18, 2009)
Peeping Tom Covers (October 4, 2009)
Horizontal Paperback Fronts
(October 31, 2009)
Covers Starring Women’s (and Sometimes Men’s) Legs (March 7, 2020)
A Treasury of Blondes (June 12, 2010)
Books with “Kiss” in Their Title (February 14, 2012)
Deadly Beds (April 19, 2014)
Nymphs and Nymphos Aplenty (May 19, 2014)
Bodies in Bathtubs (May 11, 2015)
Wantons on the Loose (June 8, 2015)
French Fronts for Bastille Day (July 14, 2015)
Vixens! Yes, Vixens! (December 23, 2015)
Brass Beds (May 3, 2016)
Red-Headed Sinners (May 12, 2016)
Swamp Treats (January 25, 2017)
Books with “Business” in Their Title (June 21, 2017)

In a perfect world, I would put together many more of these colorful collections for my Killer Covers blog. I have no shortage of ideas, believe me, but not enough spare time to do the work. I guess we’ll just all have to be patient, and wait.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Tennessee Treats

During this last weekend’s annual Killer Nashville conference, a wide variety of commendations were handed out. A complete account of those prizes can be found here, but below are listed a few that I thought would be of greatest interest to Rap Sheet readers.

Silver Falchion Best Fiction Adult Mystery:
Fighting for Anna, by Pamela Fagan Hutchins (SkipJack)

Also nominated: Amaretto Amber, by Traci Andrighetti; The Heavens May Fall, by Allen Eskens; Love You Dead, by Peter James; Coyote, by Kelly Oliver; Grace, by Howard Owen; Exit, by Twist Phelan; Dead Secrets, by L.A. Toth; and A Brilliant Death, by Robin Yocum

Silver Falchion Best Fiction Adult Thriller:
Clawback, by J.A. Jance (Touchstone)

Also nominated: Blonde Ice, by R.G. Belsky; Blood Trails, by Diane Capri; Ash and Cinders, by Rodd Clark; The 7th Canon, by Robert Dugoni; Assassin’s Silence, by Ward Larsen; Child of the State, by Catherine Lea; Blood Wedding, by Pierre LeMaitre; The Last Second Chance, by Jim Nesbitt; and Brain Trust, by Lynn Sholes

Silver Falchion Best Fiction Adult Suspense:
Waking Up in Medellin, by Kathryn Lane (Pen-L)

Also nominated: Skin of Tattoos, by Christina Hoag; Prime Cut, by Ray Peden; and The Body Next Door, by Gay Yellen

Silver Falchion Best Fiction Adult Anthology/Collection:
Eight Mystery Writers You Should Be Reading Now, by Michael Guillebeau (Madison Press)

Also nominated: In Sunlight or In Shadow, edited by Lawrence Block; Iceslinger, by John Hegenberger; Echoes of Sherlock Holmes, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger; What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi; and The Marianated Nottingham and Other Abuses of the Language, by Charley Pearson

In addition, Max Allan Collins was given the John Seigenthaler Legends Award; Richard Helms received this year’s Magnolia Award, the highest honor presented by the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA), conferred in recognition of service to the organization; Beth Terrell (Jaden Terrell) was presented with the 2017 SEMWA Silver Quill Award; and Kierstin Marquet picked up the C. Auguste Dupin Detective Award.

Congratulations to all of the winners and other nominees!

READ MORE:Report from Killer Nashville,” by Max Allan Collins.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Hailing the Women Writers of Oz

Earlier this evening, at an event held in Thornby, Victoria, a suburb of Melbourne, Sisters in Crime Australia announced the winners of its 2017 Davitt Awards, celebrating “the best crime books by Australian women.” Adelaide-based blogger Bernadette Bean has posted the full results in Fair Dinkum Crime, but the big headline is which book walked away with this year’s Best Adult Novel award.

Answer: The Dry, by Jane Harper.

Competing as well for that commendation were Dead in the Water, by Tania Chandler; Ghost Girls, by Cath Ferla; Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil, by Melina Marchetta; and Goodwood, by Holly Throsby.

The Dry also received the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award, which Bean explains “is voted for by paid-up members of Sisters in Crime Australia …, and any crime book by an Australian woman released during the publication year is eligible for voting.”

Again, you will find the complete rundown of Davitt winners—fiction and non-fiction—by clickety-clacking here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

This Should Turn a Few Heads

What may be the biggest themed paperback gallery I’ve ever posted went up today in my Killer Coves blog. It offers 106 book fronts “on which women bare or prepare to bare their assets to men (and occasionally other women), either voluntarily or not, and with varying responses.” You can enjoy the whole set here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

And … There Goes the Sun

The “Great American Eclipse” as seen from Salem, Oregon, on August 21, 2017. (Photo © 2017 by Karyl Freese Rice)

Over this last weekend, my wife’s family and I traveled from Seattle, Washington, down to the adjacent state of Oregon, where we planned to watch the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017. After staying over in Portland, we all rose very early on the morning of Monday, August 21 (I think the first text message I received on my cell phone from one of our party came in a 4:10 a.m.!), and began wheeling still further south to the tiny but historic Polk County town of Dallas, Oregon, which lay in the “path of totality” (where we would be able to see the full progression of the eclipse, rather than just part of it). Dallas is right outside Salem, the capital of Oregon, and to drive there from Portland usually takes about an hour. On Monday morning, however, as we chugged along Interstate 5 with what were reportedly hundreds of thousands of other people wanting to experience this same astronomical event from the vicinity of Salem, the trip took us more than twice that long.

Every eclipse-goer seemed to have a slightly different destination in mind. For our part, we congregated on blankets and fold-out chairs in Dallas’ charming City Park, unpacked bags of snacks (because most of us hadn’t found any other breakfast along the way), and then waited for Earth’s moon to slide slowly in front of the sun, blocking it completely for a notably short period.

The last time a total eclipse was viewable from America’s Pacific Northwest was back in February 1979, and I remember watching that one from a college football stadium in Portland, using a handmade pinhole projector. On this latest occasion, though, I came prepared with NASA-certified solar viewing glasses, which like every prospective eclipse watcher (save perhaps for Donald Trump), I understood were necessary to protect my eyes from retinal damage.

My wife’s family and I (on the far right) ham it up in our eclipse glasses, preparing for the fiery festivities to commence.

As the eclipse began, shortly after 9 a.m., our environs grew noticeably colder, the birds in the trees quieted, and through our glasses we could see the edge of the moon seeming to take larger and larger bites from the sun’s fiery disc. The day moved with extraordinary swiftness from morning to twilight to darkness, the crescent of old Sol becoming thinner and thinner.

At around a quarter past 10, when the moon finally covered the sun, save for a bright surrounding corona, cheers broke out all over the park, and we could safely remove our darkening eyewear to appreciate the eclipse through its two-minute duration. We had taken a very long excursion to this spot to see a very short phenomenon—and it was entirely worth it! After all, the Pacific Northwest won’t be in the path of another total solar eclipse until the year 2169.

READ MORE:A Total Solar Eclipse Leaves a Nation in Awe,” by
Henry Fountain (The New York Times); “More—and Less—Than a Raisin in the Sun,” by Andrew Kahn (Slate); “5 Winners and 3 Losers from the Total Solar Eclipse,” by Eliza Barclay (Vox); “Solar Eclipse Fiction,” by Janet Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare).

Legends and Liberties

Later this week, during Tennessee’s Killer Nashville conference (August 24-27), prolific Iowa crime/thriller novelist Max Allan Collins will be presented with the John Seigenthaler Legends Award, which the conference’s Web site says is “bestowed upon an individual within the publishing industry who, like its namesake, has devoted his or her life to championing First Amendment Rights, advocating for social change, equality, and fairness, or otherwise defending issues of freedom.” The annual Legends Award has previously gone to authors Robert J. Randisi, Robert K. Tanenbaum, and Donald Bain.

“The Show That Dares to Expose Crime
As It Really Is—Very Unpleasant”

I don’t remember ever watching Danger Theatre, a 1993 FOX-TV anthology series—hosted by The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s Robert Vaughn—that lasted a mere seven episodes. But according to Wikipedia, its half-hour installments featured two separate stories, “each a spoof of a familiar action/anthology format. The style of the comedy was somewhat similar to that of films like Airplane! and TV shows like Police Squad!” What brings this forgotten program to mind is my discovery, on YouTube, of Danger Theatre’s first two installments, which you can see here and here.

UPDATE: Click here to find the additional five episodes.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bullet Points: Pre-Solar Eclipse Edition

• Things are definitely shaping up for this year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival, set to take place in Stirling, Scotland, from September 8 to 10. We already welcomed the longlist of nominees for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize, and pored over the general convention program. Now comes the list of “exciting new authors” in the genre who’ve been asked to participate in Bloody Scotland’s “Crime in the Spotlight” presentations, meaning they’ll act sort of like warm-up bands for better-known wordsmiths. Shotsmag Confidential observes that “Two years ago Graeme Macrae Burnet appeared ‘in the spotlight’ immediately before Ian Rankin, one year later he was shortlisted for the Man Booker. It’s a great opportunity to perform in front of a vast audience of potential fans.”

• It’s regrettable news, indeed, that an upcoming movie featuring Ernest Tidyman’s renowned black Manhattan private eye, John Shaft, “is going to be definitely not straight action. We’re going action-comedy or comedy-action, I’m not exactly sure which one comes first,” explains this big-screen reboot’s director, Tim Story. As Steve Aldous, UK author of The World of Shaft, grumbles in his blog: “I hold no confidence [this production] will add anything positive to the Shaft legacy.”

• On the other hand, a trailer for The Deuce—the David Simon/George Pelecanos-created drama scheduled to premiere on HBO-TV come Sunday, September 10—looks fabulous! As Criminal Element explains, the eight-episode first season of this series “explores the rise of the porn culture in New York during the 1970s and ’80s, as a cultural revolution in American sexuality met a change in the legal definitions of obscenity to create the billion-dollar industry it is today.” James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in the show, but also noteworthy is that novelists Richard Price, Megan Abbott, and Lisa Lutz have all taken a hand in writing for the program.

• Was recent hand-wringing in the press over whether Daniel Craig would return to star in the as-yet-unnamed 25th James Bond film unwarranted? Had Craig pledged himself to the project long ago? The Spy Command sifts through the evidence.

R.I.P., Blanche Blackwell, described by The Washington Post as “a member of one of Jamaica’s richest families but … best known as the mistress and muse of Ian Fleming, the rakish author who was the creator of James Bond.” She died on August 8 at age 104.

In an interview with BBC Radio, Ian Fleming's actress niece, Lucy Fleming, remarks on how the on-screen 007s have evolved over time “to reflect the generation they are made in.” Today, she says, “you need a tougher, more ruthless Bond than we did in 1960s.”

• And The Book Bond brings news that Vintage Classics is readying yet another fresh series of covers for Fleming’s spy novels.

• In the wake of last week’s announcement of finalists for Australia’s 2017 Ned Kelly Awards, the Australian Crime Writers Association—in partnership with the crime-fiction Web site Kill Your Darlings—has broadcast its shortlist of contenders for this year’s S.D. Harvey Short Story Competition, honoring the late Sydney journalist/TV producer Sandra Harvey. The nominees are:

— “Rules to Live By,” by Louise Bassett
— “The Ridge,” by Katherine Kovacic
— “The Enthusiastic Amateur,” by Melanie Myers
— “Shafted,” by Roni O’Brien
— “Flesh,” by Stephen Samuel
— “How to Cease Being a Man Killer,” by Roger Vickery

A winner as well as a runner-up will be declared on September 1 during the annual Ned Kelly Awards Presentation in Melbourne, Victoria.

• This item comes from In Reference to Murder:
The Malice Domestic conference announced that Brenda Blethyn will be the Poirot Award Honoree for the 2017 conference. Ms. Blethyn is an Academy Award- and Emmy-nominated, Golden Globe-winning actress who stars as DCI Vera Stanhope in the series Vera, based on the books by Ann Cleeves. She joins the already-announced lineup that includes Guest of Honor Louise Penny; Toastmaster Catriona McPherson; Lifetime Achievement Award winner Nancy Pickard; Amelia Award winner David Suchet; and Fan Guest of Honor Janet Blizard.
• Only after posting my list of favorite crime-fiction blogs last week did it occur to me that I had neglected to mention Sarah Weinman’s The Crime Lady. Of course, that’s not a blog or a Web site, but is instead a once-or-twice-a-month newsletter, and I wasn’t focused on such things when compiling my recommendations. Nonetheless, The Crime Lady deserves reader attention. The New York-based Weinman, who for a long time wrote the excellent blog Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, and subsequently edited Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & ’50s, addresses crime and mystery fiction in her newsletter, as well as true-crime subjects, and always brings insight to her writing. You will find an archive of The Crime Lady here, and you can subscribe to it by clicking here.

• Speaking of Weinman’s bulletins, the last edition featured an interview with Mattias Boström, the Swedish author of From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon (Mysterious Press). She describes his new book as a “narrative history paced like a suspense novel, and packed full of information about [Arthur] Conan Doyle, the early wild success of Holmes & Watson, and the century-plus since of how the characters were transformed in books, film, television, radio, podcasts, and fanfic.”

• Other recent author interviews worth your time: Augustus Rose talks with the Chicago Review of Books about his new novel, The Readymade Thief; Rose is also interviewed for the Speaking of Mysteries podcast by Nancie Clare, whose other latest program guest was Rachel Howzell Hall (City of Saviors); Mystery Playground chats with Karin Slaughter about The Good Daughter; Boston native Adam Abramowitz is quizzed by both DigBoston and Jewish Boston about his debut thriller, Bosstown; and MysteryPeople engages in conversation with Traci Lambrecht about Nothing Stays Buried, the last Monkeewrench gang yarn she co-wrote—under the pseudonym P.J. Tracy—with her mother, P.J. Lambrecht, who passed away late last year.

• Whodunit writer Bonnie “B.K.” Stevens died “suddenly” on August 14, according to The Gumshoe Site. It goes on to explain:
The former college professor had the old dream of becoming a fiction writer and started writing mystery short stories. The fourth story, “True Detective,” introducing Lt. Walt Johnson and Sgt. Gordon Bolt, was sold and printed in the June 1988 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (AHMM). She contributed a number of short stories mostly for AHMM and sometimes for Woman’s World, featuring Johnson & Bolt, female private eye Iphigenia Woodhouse, and temp secretary/amateur sleuth Leah Abrams. She published both her first novel, Interpretation of Murder (Black Opal Books), featuring sign language interpreter Jane Ciardi, and her second one, Fighting Chance (Poisoned Pen Press), a martial arts mystery for teens, in 2015. Her recent novella, “The Last Blue Glass” (AHMM, April 2016) has been nominated for Agatha and Anthony Awards.
Mystery Fanfare’s obituary of Stevens includes her husband’s painful Facebook announcement that “the greatest wife, friend, and companion a man could have” collapsed at the Suffolk, Virginia, Mystery Writers’ Festival “and never recovered.” Our sympathies go out to all of Stevens’ family.

• Art Taylor offers up his own fine remembrance of B.K. Stevens, in SleuthSayers. “Both professionally and personally,” he concludes, “Bonnie Stevens was one of my dearest friends, and her death is sudden and sharply felt—a loss to all of us in the mystery community. I will miss her in so very many ways.”

• Also gone is Brooklyn-born actor Joseph Bologna, who The New York Times said “looked like the quintessential tough guy but couldn’t seem to resist writing and playing sensitive male characters who longed for love and commitment in films like ‘Lovers and Other Strangers’ and ‘Made for Each Other.’” Over the course of his career, Bologna appeared as well on TV series such as L.A. Law, Burke’s Law, Marshall Law (do you detect a pattern here?), Everwood, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He died on August 13 at 82 years of age.

• Now, that’s incredible! The underappreciated 1973-1974 NBC-TV drama The Magician—which I initially wrote about in The Rap Sheet 11 years ago—is finally set to receive a complete video release, according to TV Shows on DVD. The on-sale date is supposed to be next Friday, August 25. I don’t yet find it available on Amazon, but Toronto-based home video distribution company VEI has made the show available for “preorder.” As TV Shows on DVD recalls, this series starred “Bill Bixby … as master stage magician Tony Blake [originally Anthony Dorian], a playboy philanthropist who uses his talents as an illusionist to solve crimes and help others in need. After being falsely imprisoned, Blake escapes and uses his unjust imprisonment as a motivator to seek justice for others.” Only 21 hour-long weekly episodes of The Magician were made, along with a 90-minute pilot, and the show underwent serious mid-season adjustments, during which Blake lost his private Boeing 720 jet and relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Still, I enjoyed Bixby’s series enough that several years ago I tracked down and bought bootleg copies of all the episodes. Should I now add the official DVD release to my collection of vintage TV shows? Click here to watch the pilot’s opening title sequence.

• “American movies changed 50 years ago, when two seemingly unassailable outlaws met a parade of bullets and became the ultimate antiheroes.” So writes Matthew Jacobs in The Huffington Post, noting it was on August 13, 1967, that the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway film Bonnie and Clyde opened in theaters. The violent, sexy yarn director Arthur Penn wove had only a scant relationship to the real story of small-time Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. But as Jacobs asserts, it has become a “hip and bold” classic.

• Thanks to the podcast Serial, literary true crime/memoir hybrids are currently on the rise, according to Slate’s Laura Miller.

• I like to think of myself as being quite well read in the field of classic mystery novels, but this lengthy list from BuzzFeed reminds me that I still have more work to do.

• Mystery Tribune reports that television’s “Hallmark Channel is looking for original mystery and suspense manuscripts.” It goes on to note that “The channel is particularly interested in romances and mysteries that also celebrate friendship, family, and/or community ties.” Then it delivers this cause for head shaking: “All stories must have happy endings.” Yeah, that’s the Hallmark Channel for you.

• Philip Kerr’s The Other Side of Silence, his 11th historical thriller starring Berlin ex-cop Bernie Gunther, was originally released in hardcover in 2016. But the paperback edition came out this year—much to critic Jim Napier’s delight, as he explains in January Magazine.

• Bill Crider submits his new Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery, Dead, to Begin With (Minotaur), to Marshal Zerigue’s infamous Page 69 Test.

• Most book trailers are pretty lame, in my opinion. But this one, promoting Australian Sarah Schmidt’s creepy new literary look back at the 1892 Lizzie Borden homicides, See What I Have Done (Atlantic Monthly Press), is positively haunting.

For the Strand Magazine blog, Jason Pinter—the publisher of Polis Books and the author most recently of a well-received political thriller titled The Castle (Armina Press)—names half a dozen other works in that same subgenre that he thinks we should all read. And yes, David Baldacci’s Absolute Power is included.

• Finally, there’s still no word yet on whether Grantchester, the 1950s-set British mystery TV series that concluded its Season 3 run on Masterpiece Mystery! last month, will return with a fourth set of episodes. A blog called Telly Visions (yeah, I hadn’t heard of it before either) quotes author James Runcie (not “Ruchie”) as saying the problem lies primarily with star James Norton, “who has ‘gotten too popular.’ Speaking to The Sun, he complained that since Norton’s turn on [the BBC One crime drama] Happy Valley, the actor is now a ‘hot property.’” So we continue to wait on tenterhooks for updates.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Revue of Reviewers, 8-15-17

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

Technical Difficulties

Ever since its launching in 2006, The Rap Sheet has offered readers the opportunity to subscribe to our posts via a Google-owned Web feed management provider called FeedBurner. All one need do is provide his or her e-mail address in a “Subscribe to The Rap Sheet” box located near the top of the right-hand column on this page. Hundreds of readers have taken advantage of this convenient service, receiving our new articles via daily e-mail messages, and I have rarely (maybe never?) heard complaints about it.

However, yesterday a Rap Sheet follower named Deb wrote me saying: “You should tell people who receive your newsletter and who are utterly frustrated by the format which fails to combine comments with the photos, to go to the blog where all is together!”

She was complaining specifically about the e-mail subscription presentation of a longish post headlined “Harking Back to Harrogate,” in which British correspondent Ali Karim recounted events late last month at England’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. It seems the text came through just fine, but the many photographs gathered at the end of the original post were not always clearly associated with their captions in the e-mailed transmission. This is a problem having to do with differences in formatting—especially column width—between the Web edition of The Rap Sheet and the FeedBurner version. And sadly, it’s something I haven’t the power to fix. (FeedBurner doesn’t allow individual bloggers to specify e-mail column dimensions.) I can only repeat Deb’s suggestion: On those rare occasions when a Rap Sheet post does not come through clearly in a subscription e-mail note, please click on the article’s headline to reach the Web display of that material, instead.

As always, I thank you for your support and understanding.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Expanding Appreciation for Kiwi Crime

There’s plenty of new blood (appropriately) to be found among the finalists for New Zealand’s 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards. As awards convenor Craig Sisterson explains, “None of our previous winners were in the running. In fact, 18 of the 19 different Kiwi authors who’ve been finalists for our awards in the past were missing.” This prize competition, which Sisterson founded in 2010, is meant to “recognize the best in New Zealand crime writing”—fiction and now, for the first time, non-fiction as well.

Sisterson says the shortlist of this year’s contenders was drawn from among 54 submissions (the longlist of Best Novel rivals to be found here). “Entries in our fiction categories were up 50 percent,” he explains, “and the quality and variety has been really outstanding. New Zealand readers love crime, and our local authors are offering plenty of world-class writing, both traditional detective tales and books stretching the borders.”

Without further ado, here are the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award contenders:

Best Crime Novel:
Pancake Money, by Finn Bell (e-book)
Spare Me the Truth, by C.J. Carver (Zaffre)
Red Herring, by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
Marshall’s Law, by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
The Last Time We Spoke, by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)

Best First Novel:
Dead Lemons, by Finn Bell (e-book)
Red Herring, by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
The Ice Shroud, by Gordon Ell (Bush Press)
The Student Body, by Simon Wyatt (Mary Egan)
Days Are Like Grass, by Sue Younger (Eunoia)

Best Non-Fiction:
In Dark Places, by Michael Bennett (Paul Little)
The Scene of the Crime, by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins)
Double-Edged Sword, by Simonne Butler with Andra Jenkin
(Mary Egan)
The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie, by David Hastings (AUP)
Blockbuster!, by Lucy Sussex (Text)

The winners in each category will be declared during a special WORD Christchurch event in New Zealand, to be held on October 28.

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Harking Back to Harrogate

(Left to right) Authors Robert Goddard and Simon Kernick.

By Ali Karim
Although the North Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate has much else to commend it—such as exquisite public gardens, elegant historical architecture, and its renowned Bettys Café Tea Rooms—crime-fiction fans may recognize it best as the place where top-selling mystery writer Agatha Christie was finally located, following her 11-day disappearance in 1926. (Whether the author had intended her escapade to be a publicity stunt, or part of a scheme to save her collapsing marriage remains unclear.) So it wasn’t surprising that her former publisher, HarperCollins, should have mounted a first-ever display of correspondence between Christie and HarperCollins chairman Billy Collins at the town’s Old Swan Hotel late last month.

The Old Swan was the ideal venue, of course, for it was at that distinguished retreat—formerly known as the Swan Hydropathic Hotel—where sleuth Hercule Poirot’s creator lived for 10 days as “Mrs. Teresa Neele,” before being recognized and returned to her former life. And the fact that the exhibition of Christie’s letters, as well as “candid photographs,” took place from July 20 to 23 was no coincidence, either; that was when this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival was held in Harrogate. The Christie display was predictably popular with convention participants.

2017 marked the Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s 15th year, and drew an international assortment of genre celebs. People such as Kathy Reichs, Dennis Lehane, and Joseph Finder from America; and from the European mainland, writers of the caliber of Swedish fictionist Arne Dahl (aka Jan Arnald), Germany’s Melanie Raabe (The Trap), and my favorite Dutch publishers, Chris Herschdorfer and Steven Maat of AmboAnthos, who attend this Harrogate event annually. The programming for the festival was adroitly managed by British novelist Elly Griffiths (aka Domenica de Rosa), who interspersed emerging talents among the stars—much to the satisfaction of Val McDermid, who likes to champion up-and-coming writers during what has become a regular “New Blood” presentation. (It’s her way of acknowledging the help she herself received from established wordsmiths early in her career.)

Things got rolling fast at last month’s festival. An opening-night gala party included the announcement that Scottish fictionist Chris Brookmyre had won the Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award for Black Widow (Little, Brown). He was later quoted as saying: “I’m really quite taken aback. I’ve been shortlisted three times before for this award, always the bridesmaid, today I get to walk up the aisle. A book is not just the work of the author behind it. I’d like to thank my editor, Ed Wood, for his caliber and daring that made a good book greater. I’m mainly just very proud.”

That same evening, it was a particular delight to watch as festival director Sharon Canavar and Simon Theakston, the executive director of Theakston Brewery and this event’s principal sponsor, bestowed upon London-based literary agent Jane Gregory a commendation for Special Services to the Festival. Gregory was instrumental, back in 2003, in helping to set up this ongoing and wonderful event. Honored along with Gregory was Lee Child, who collected the festival’s Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.

So that was Thursday night. Friday brought a second volley of accolades: the 2017 Dead Good Reader Awards. Featured among the recipients of those were Michael Connelly (whose The Wrong Side of Goodbye was honored with the Case Closed Award for Best Police Procedural), C.L. Taylor (winner of the Hidden Depths Award for Most Unreliable Narrator for The Escape), and Hollie Overton’s Baby Doll (which picked up the creatively titled Cat Amongst the Pigeons Award for Most Exceptional Debut).

Cheering on prize winners is a familiar exercise at mystery-fiction celebrations such as this one. So, too, are opportunities—both calculated and serendipitous—to meet and catch up with wordsmiths, critics, and other questionable characters who might otherwise be hiding in their day jobs. Retailer W.H. Smith capitalized on this gathering by setting up an expansive book room in a tent, and publishers scheduled special receptions throughout the weekend, hoping to curry favor with authors and reviewers alike. It was especially nice to see Laurence Howell, the content director for audiobook retailer Audible, as he and his team were promoting their annual Sounds of Crime Award (given out during CrimeFest).

British writers Luca Veste, Mark Billingham, and Chris Brookmyre, the last of whom walked away with this year’s Old Peculier
Crime Novel of the Year award.

Saturday evening brought a different brand of enjoyment in the form of the annual Theakston Crime Writing Quiz. I’ve often participated in this challenge, and did so again this time around, teamed with UK broadcaster Mark Lawson and a squad we dubbed “The Journos.” Other members of that group were Mike Stotter, my longtime friend and colleague from Shots; author Joseph Finder; The Guardian’s associate media editor, John Dugdale; and Jon Coates of the Daily Express. As the competition grew heated, we looked to have the win firmly in hand … only to be pipped at the post, losing by one point to Jane Gregory’s team, “The Velociraptors,” which boasted a roster rounded out by Jake Kerridge of The Daily Telegraph, and authors Danuta Kean, Natasha Cooper, Sarah Hilary, and Mick Herron. As quiz masters Val McDermid and Mark Billingham presented the winners with their trophy, I shot video footage of the moment, which you can watch here.

Later, Lawson and I recapped our inconsistent history with this trivia contest. As team captains, we’ve both notched up victories in the past; but last year our gang had also to be content with second place. Lawson joked about my ability to choke in the home stretch. “Karim,” he said, “you were great until about halfway, and then you talked gibberish. Next year you are banned from swigging all that gin.” At which point the rest of our team roared with laughter!

In the interests of brevity (and because the aforementioned gin has left my recollections of Harrogate a tad hazy), I shall end my report here and move on to additional photographs taken during last month’s gathering. This annual event is always enjoyable, and worth your time if you wish to take part someday. Information about the 2018 Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival can be found here. I urge you to book early, as these get-togethers tend to fill up fast.

Scottish fictionist Ian Rankin ... in disguise, of course.

Young German journalist-turned-author Melanie Raabe.

Dennis Lehane signs copies of his novels, with help from Zoë Hood, the deputy publicity director with Little, Brown UK.

Thriller writer Kathy Reichs with Shots editor Mike Stotter.

Jane Gregory makes off with her Special Services award.

Transatlantic best-sellers Joseph Finder and Arne Dahl.

UK mystery authorities Ann Cleeves and Martin Edwards.

ThrillerFest executive director and author Kimberley “K.J.” Howe (The Freedom Broker) with fellow American Karen Dionne
(The Marsh King’s Daughter).

Mike Stotter goes head to head (sort of) with Simon Toyne.

Smile for the camera!: Zoë Sharp and Lee Child.

Sneaking up on a couple of Neils—Broadfoot and White.

Festival programmer Elly Griffiths.

They missed it by that much: Theakston Crime Writing Quiz second-place finishers John Coates, Ali Karim, Mike Stotter, Joseph Finder, Mark Lawson, and John Dugdale lick their wounded pride …

… While the trivia quiz winners—Natasha Cooper, Mick Herron, Danuta Kean, Jake Kerridge, Jane Gregory, and Sarah Hilary—are unhesitant in showing off their trophy.

Noted Dutch publishers Chris Herschdorfer and Steven Maat.

And what do you know, there’s Mike Stotter again, this time palling it up with mystery-fiction promoter/blogger Lizzie Hayes and Dea Parkin, secretary of the British Crime Writers’ Association.

(Photographs © Ali Karim, 2017)