Thursday, October 05, 2017

Bullet Points: Phooey on Rules Edition

That’s funny, I didn’t know there were any rules to follow when crafting “link posts” such as this one. I rarely see such compilations, and can think of only two other crime-fiction Web sites that regularly carry them: B.V. Lawson’s wonderful In Reference to Murder and the publisher-backed Criminal Element. So imagine my surprise at discovering, in The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder’s “Practical Guide to Developing Your Weekly or Monthly Link Post.” Coincidentally, I already follow his first two guidelines; but I regularly break the latter pair, especially Rule No. 4: “Keep it short. No one wants to read a link post with 30 links; readers’ eyes will glaze over by the tenth link, or they will be interrupted, or they’ll simply be overwhelmed. Try to aim for links to six to ten stories.” Hah! Anyone who’s been enjoying The Rap Sheet for a while knows that my “Bullet Points” gleanings of news from the world of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction can run on for 2,000 or more words, with dozens of Web links. And from what I’ve heard, that’s just the way most readers of this blog like them.

Now on with this week’s links compendium ...

• In Reference to Murder brings news that “BBC One has given the greenlight to an eight-part crime drama, The Dublin Murders, based on Tana French’s award-winning series of mysteries. Sarah Phelps, who recently reimagined several Agatha Christie novels for the BBC, will adapt the first two books about the fictional Dublin Murder Squad, drawn from French’s In the Woods and The Likeness. Blending psychological mystery and darkness, each novel is led by a different detective or detectives from the same Dublin squad.” Sounds terrific!

• I have to admit, my interest in another motion picture featuring Ernest Tidyman’s renowned black Manhattan private eye, John Shaft, waned seriously after it was announced that the film—tentatively titled Son of Shaft, and beginning production later this fall—would be an action-comedy, rather than a straight action pic. However, Steve Aldous, the UK-based author of The World of Shaft, continues to keep track of the venture, reporting in his blog that Netflix has agreed “to fund half the [movie’s] $30m budget in exchange for international rights. The deal reportedly means Netflix will be able to stream the movie just two weeks after its release.”

• Speaking of crime-related films, Criminal Element’s Peter Foy chooses his 10 favorites from the 21st century. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2010), The Departed (2006), and Kill Bill (2003) all made the cut. Sadly, other likely suspects, such as The Killer Inside Me (2010), Hart’s War (2001), and Road to Perdition (2002), did not.

• The mail recently brought me the Fall 2017 issue of Mystery Scene magazine. Beyond its well-executed cover profile of author Attica Locke (Bluebird, Bluebird), written by Ross Macdonald biographer Tom Nolan, this mag features Mark Mallory’s rewarding examination of Mark Twain’s crime fiction; a Martin Edwards piece about the revival of Golden Age mystery novels; Craig Sisterson’s fine report on New Zealand thriller writer Paul Cleave, a three-time winner of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel; a new column by Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller, in which they eulogize the late Ed Gorman; a look at James R. Benn’s World War II mysteries (the latest of those being The Devouring); and the inevitable much more. Mystery Scene is widely available at newsstands, but can also be ordered through the magazine’s Web site.

• In other print-publication news, this is the first and only review I have seen thus far of Down & Out: The Magazine, which debuted this summer. Although it fails to comment on my “Placed in Evidence” column, it is complimentary of both Reed Farrel Coleman’s original Moe Prager story, “Breakage,” and Michael A. Black’s “punchy Ron Shade tale,” “Dress Blues.” I’m not sure when, over the next three months, the second edition of Down & Out: The Magazine will appear, but editor Rick Ollerman has already gathered together its contents.

• The Houston, Texas-born Attica Locke makes another appearance, this time in the slick cyberpages of Literary Hub, writing about “her roots, the blues, and cowboy boots.”

• I won’t be attending next week’s Bouchercon in Toronto, Ontario, but Quebec-based Rap Sheet contributor Jacques Filippi has been asked to represent this blog at those festivities, complete with his trusty camera. I hope Bouchercon-goers will offer him the same respect and assistance they would me.

• Since we’re on the subject of Bouchercon, remember that attendees of that convention will have the opportunity to select the winners of this year’s Anthony Awards. The contenders are listed here. If you haven’t read (and judged) the five nominees for Best Short Story, and would like to do so before leaving for Toronto, simply click here for links to PDF versions of those abbreviated yarns.

• Have you heard of Medium, a partial-subscription site that blends wide-ranging original content with stories picked up from elsewhere on the Web? Yeah, neither had I, until I stumbled the other day over its readers’ picks list of “350 Mysteries and Thrillers to Read in a Lifetime.” There are many obvious selections among this bunch, including Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, Ross Macdonald’s The Galton Case, and John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the list make room as well for such works as S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, Richard Hoyt’s Whoo?, Kate Ross’ Cut to the Quick, Arthur W. Upfield’s Man of Two Tribes, Alistair MacLean’s Where Eagles Dare, Michael Innes’ Hamlet, Revenge!, and Maurizio de Giovanni’s The Crocodile. There are lots of ideas there to build up your to-be-read stack.

• That reference to Alistair MacLean reminds me: Not long ago I came across, on YouTube, the much-lauded 1971 British thriller film Puppet on a Chain, based on MacLean’s Amsterdam-set novel of that same name. At least for the time being, you can watch the entire movie for yourself right here.

• And here is a better-than-average Eurospy flick, 1965’s Our Man in Jamaica. Wikipedia explains the plot this way:
Agent 001 Ken Stewart [played by American actor Larry Pennell] is sent to Jamaica to locate the missing Agent 009, who vanished [while] investigating an arms-smuggling operation. After two of Stewart’s friends are found dead of electrocution, 001’s investigation leads him to an expatriate American criminal who was sentenced to the electric chair but escaped from prison. Seeking revenge, he assembles an army of terrorists based on an island seven miles from Jamaica called Dominica. His arms smuggling is the beginning of a scheme to attack the United States with the aid of Red China and Cuba.
• Seattle Mystery Bookshop shut its doors this last weekend, after 27 years of business in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square area. But some of its employees have launched a post-store blog. It will be interesting to see how that develops. Meanwhile, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop—Hardboiled page, which focuses on covers from vintage crime novels and magazines, continues to be active on Tumblr.

• Here’s some exciting news: Tour guide/author Don Herron reports that Dashiell Hammett authority Richard Layman and Hammett’s best-known granddaughter, Julie M. Rivett, have co-edited The Big Book of the Continental Op (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard), which he says will, “for the first time ever … [gather] all the Op stories in one place.” This 752-page paperback collection is expected to reach bookstores by late November—conveniently in time for Christmas gift giving.

• In the latest edition of her newsletter, The Crime Lady, Sarah Weinman writes that “Max Haines, the dean of Canadian true-crime writing, has died. I grew up reading his columns [in the Toronto Sun], which were smart, incisive, and always worth reading.” Haines succumbed to progressive supranuclear palsy at age 86.

• The October number of Mike Ripley’s “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots includes observations on prolific author James Hadley Chase, the “rediscovery” of Golden Age novelist Christopher Bush, Minette Walters’ turn toward historical fiction, and new books by Christopher Brookmyre, Margaret Kirk, Chris Pettit, and Ben Aaronovich. Read all of Ripley’s musings here.

How’d you like your own Jim Rockford business cards?

• Oh no, Charlie’s Angels is back, this time in film form, with notoriously wooden Twilight star Kristen Stewart tipped to play one of the curvaceous crime solvers.

• Los Angeles history specialist Larry Harnisch worked for many years as a copy editor at the L.A. Times, while simultaneously producing a Web-based feature for that newspaper called The Daily Mirror. In 2011, the Times killed his blog “because of low Web traffic,” but let Harnisch continue his history-journaling as a personal project—which is exactly what he’s done, writing about photos, intriguing myths, curious characters, and ephemera from L.A.’s past. Harnisch has also made himself an expert on the January 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, aka “The Black Dahlia.” And he’s become a frequent critic of books and other reports claiming to have solved that sensational homicide. Those include documentary producer Piu Eatwell’s Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America's Greatest Unsolved Murder (Liveright), which goes on sale next week. Although he remarks in a new post, “I don’t plan to do a line-by-line debunking,” Harnisch observes that there are “two elementary blunders” on the first page of Eatwell’s preface, which suggests “that poor work is ahead.” He promises further observations on the book, “as time allows.”

• Much has been said over the decades about plot holes Raymond Chandler left in his first novel, 1939’s The Big Sleep (see here and here)—enough that some clever soul decided to redesign the 1958 Pocket Books edition of Chandler’s yarn with a title reflecting such confusion. The artwork for both this modified cover, on the left, and the original paperback, is credited to Ernest Chiriacka, aka Darcy. (Hat tip to J.R. Sanders on Facebook.)

• I don’t think I mentioned this previously, but English actress Claire Foy—perhaps best recognized of late for her starring role as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crownhas been tapped to play a much rougher role, that of abundantly tattooed Lisbeth Salander in a film adaptation of David Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Set for release in October 2018, this movie will launch Sony Pictures’ reboot of its Millennium series, which began with the 2011 American film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on Stieg Larsson’s 2007 novel of that same name.

• It sounds as if British author Anthony Horowitz is moving right along with his second James Bond novel, the as-yet-untitled follow-up to 2015’s splendid Trigger Mortis.

• Congratulations to Bill Selnes, the lawyer who blogs at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan, for producing his 1,000th post.

• With the 168th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth coming up this Saturday, October 7, Criminal Element is hosting a poll to determine that author’s most popular short story.

• Augustus Rose’s premiere crime novel, The Readymade Thief (Viking), is one of seven finalists in the running for the 2017 Chicago Review of Books Award for Fiction.

• The Web site Cinephilia & Beyond revisits the 1981 motion picture Thief, exploring “how [director] Michael Mann’s cinema debut stole the world’s attention.” Which reminds me, I really should screen that movie again sometime soon.

• Who remembers Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator, the 1951-1955 NBC Radio drama series starring William Gargan as a Manhattan private eye who, explains The Thrilling Detective Web Site, was “your man when you can’t go to the cops. Confidentiality a specialty”? Well, I certainly did not. But the classic-radio blog Down These Mean Streets recently posted this fine profile of Gargan (who also portrayed P.I. Martin Kane), and I tracked down 59 episodes of the Craig series online. That’s plenty of listening pleasure for yours truly.

• I don’t usually say much here about The Rap Sheet’s presence on social media—Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Those other pages exist primarily to promote this blog, not to substitute for it. And they all register fairly high traffic volumes, but I was surprised to see that a post noting the 60th anniversary of Have Gun—Will Travel’s debut on September 14, 1957, received much more attention than any other I’ve ever posted on Facebook. At last count, it had “reached” 9,474 people. It seems there’s a huge crossover between Rap Sheet readers and fans of that long-ago Richard Boone Western/detective series.

• Felix Francis, whose latest novel, Pulse, is out this month in the States, recalls for Shotsmag Confidential how he started taking over the family business of mystery writing even before the death, in 2010, of his famous jockey-turned-novelist father, Dick Francis.

• And here are a few crime fiction-related interviews worth your time to check out: Diane B. Saxton (Peregrine Island) and Brad Abraham (Magicians Impossible) are Nancie Clare’s latest guests on her podcast, Speaking of Mysteries; reviewer Alex Hawley presents his conversation with Craig Sisterson, the founder of New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh Awards for crime fiction, over the course of two blog posts—here and here; Sujata Massey, author of a forthcoming Bombay-set mystery, The Widows of Malabar Hill, talks with her editor, Juliet Grames, about that novel’s background; the blog Black Gates chats with Grady Hendrix about his distinctive new non-fiction work, Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction; among the guests on Episode 9 of Writer Types are Attica Locke, Frank Zafiro, Emma Viskic, and Andrew Nette; and during lawyer F. Lee Bailey’s 1967 conversation with Sean Connery, the actor who had by then portrayed James Bond in five films says he has finally tired of the role: “It’s some sort of Frankenstein,” he groused.


Bill Crider said...

Barry Craig was a weekly pleasure at my house when I was a kid. My father said he liked it because Craig got hit on the head so often.

Art Taylor said...

Ha! These are always among my favorites of your posts--so much to learn! And though I read BV Lawson's blog as well, I'd somehow missed this about the Tana French adaptations. So glad you included that—among all the great stuff here!

Sorry to miss you in Toronto--but hope to see you soon.

michael said...

As a fan of the film I read THE BIG SLEEP book with particular interest in discovering who killed the chauffeur. In the book it is clear Chandler doesn't care for explaining the plot point. He let his characters give three different answers during the recovery of the body. The cop had one, Marlowe had one, and the tow truck driver had one. It was the tow truck driver that believed it was suicide. The suicide idea always fit the best for me. The chauffeur who was there to protect his ex-wife saw what had happened to her, realizing he had failed to save her he committed suicide. There was no motive for any character to kill him and an accident lacked the drama for a fiction mystery, so to me a suicide made the most sense. I liked that the detectives were wrong but the tow truck driver got it right.

YouTube is a great place to find OTR series such as BARRIE CRAIG. You can also find his MARTIN KANE and I DEAL IN CRIME.

jvdsteen said...

Why I'm the only one who reviewed that awesome Down & Out magazine I don't know. I do know that I DID enjoy your column ;-)