Monday, October 23, 2017

Bullet Points: Revivals and Retreads Edition

• It has now been just over 12 years since crime-fictionist Dennis Lynds died. I was reminded of this by a note in Mystery*File from his widow, thriller writer Gayle Lynds, who explains that her husband’s best-remembered protagonist, one-armed New York City gumshoe Dan Fortune, has recently been resurrected in print. She writes: “The entire 17-book series of private eye novels”—which Lynds published under his pseudonym Michael Collins—“are available again, for the first time in Kindle and trade paperback. We hope a new generation of readers will discover Dan, and that longtime fans will enjoy re-reading the classic tales.” Click here to find Amazon’s list of these reprinted works, from Act of Fear (1967) to Cassandra in Red (1993).

• Coincidentally, TracyK recently reviewed The Nightrunners—a Fortune yarn originally released in 1978—in her blog Bitter Tea and Mystery. She applauded the fact that it contains “twists and turns I did not anticipate” and that “there is less action and gun play, and more emphasis on brains and persistence” than she’d expected.

• A little behind schedule, but welcome nonetheless. The last I heard, Spinetingler Magazine was planning to release “its first [print] issue in years” sometime this month. Today, however, a news release reached my e-mailbox, saying that Down & Out Books expects to publish the Fall 2017 edition of Spinetingler in November. Its contents will include “original stories by Tracy Falenwolfe, Karen Montin, Jennifer Soosar, B.V. Lawson, Nick Kolakowski, David Rachels, and more. There are author snapshots of Con Lehane, Rusty Barnes, Mindy Tarquini, and others. Book features and reviews fill out the magazine’s pages.” There’s no word yet on ordering this new issue.

• In June, I drew your attention to the first trailer for The Alienist, TNT-TV’s historical mini-series based on Caleb Carr’s 1994 psychological thriller of that same name. ScreenRant has now posted a second trailer (which is also embedded below), and finally shares a date for the debut of that program: Monday, January 22, 2018. It also suggests that there will be eight episodes, rather than the previously mentioned 10, all written by True Detective director Cary Fukunaga and starring Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning as “19th-century investigators on the trail of a serial killer.” Hmm. With three months to go until this mini-series begins airing, I might actually find free time enough to re-read Carr’s book.

• A British blog called The Killing Times brings word that Bron Studios, a Canadian production company, plans to build a new TV series around Louise Rick, the Copenhagen detective inspector who features in more than half a dozen novels from Danish writer Sara Blædel. “Deadline reports that the first Louise Rick story, The Forgotten Girls, will serve [as] the basis for Season One,” but Bron “has optioned the whole series,” according to The Killing Times.

Variety carries the unexpected news that actor John Turturro (The Night Of) has been signed to play 14th-century Franciscan friar-cum-sleuth William of Baskerville in a “high-end TV adaptation” of Umberto Eco’s 1980 mystery novel, The Name of the Rose. The eight-episode English-language production will be produced by Italy’s Matteo Levi and Carlo Degli Esposti, and is set to start shooting in January at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios. In addition to the hangdog-faced Turturro, this mini-series will feature English performer Rupert Everett as the monk’s antagonist, Italian inquisitor Bernard Gui. An excellent 1986 film interpretation of Eco’s debut novel starred Sean Connery and F. Murray Abraham, and it’s hard to imagine that an extended remake is really needed. But of course, nobody asked me …

• … Just as no one solicited my opinion on whether the world requires a new version of Tom Selleck’s 1980-1988 private-eye TV series, Magnum, P.I. It seems screenwriters Peter Lenkov and Eric Guggenheim—the guys behind the disappointing current Hawaii Five-0 reboot and the latest version of MacGyver—think we need Magnum back, and have convinced CBS (the series’ original home network) to at least bankroll a pilot. The Hollywood Reporter describes the prospective series as an update of Selleck’s show.
It follows Thomas Magnum …, a decorated ex-Navy SEAL (also like the original) who, upon returning home from Afghanistan, repurposes his military skills to become a private investigator. With help from fellow vets Theodore “T.C.” Calvin and Orville “Rick” Wright, as well as that of disavowed former MI6 agent Juliet Higgins, Magnum takes on the cases no one else will, helping those who have no one else to turn to. Action, adventure and comedy aside, Magnum P.I. will also explore a brotherhood forged by the trauma of combat, what it means to return home an ex-soldier, and a commitment to continuing to serve while in the private sector.
This is the third time I remembering hearing that a Magnum comeback was on the drawing boards. The first was back in 2006, when Ben Affleck was set to star. Then, just last year, news broke that actress Eva Longoria had pitched a sequel that would have refocused the crime drama on “Magnum’s daughter, Lily ‘Tommy’ Magnum, who returns to Hawaii to take up the mantle of her father’s P.I. firm.” Neither of those efforts resulted in an actual show. Maybe we’ll be just as lucky this time around. Has Hollywood considered that not every once-popular series needs to be remade?

• Oh, and as In Reference to Murder relates,
A “Nancy Drew” TV series is once again in the works, with NBC developing a new series based on the iconic novel series after CBS attempted such a project last season. The new series still hails from writers and executive producers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater and executive producer Dan Jinks, who developed the CBS version, but the new series follows the author of the most famous female teen-detective book series who is thrust into a real-life murder mystery. In need of help, she turns to her two best friends from childhood, who were the inspiration for all those books, and the women who have a real axe to grind about the way their supposed best friend chose to portray them all those years ago. This will be a completely different version than the original at CBS. That project would have focused on Drew, now an adult who works as a detective for the NYPD. Sarah Shahi, who starred in the CBS drama Person of Interest since its second season, starred in the pilot as Drew but isn't currently attached to the NBC version.
• Barry Forshaw alerts us that, with this month’s release of Modesty Blaise: The Killing Game, Titan Books has completed its “all-inclusive run of Peter O’Donnell’s imperishable [British] comic strip Modesty Blaise (drawn by a variety of artists, including the great Jim Holdaway who inaugurated the strip and Enric Badia Romero, who concluded it).” Click here to find all of the preceding titles in this series.

• I’ve added several vintage TV openings to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page, including those from Shotgun Slade, Johnny Bago (which features theme music by Jimmy Buffett), and Jack Palance’s Bronk.

• Florida’s Tampa Bay Times recently carried an interesting feature about how smoothly and satisfyingly author Michael Connelly has transferred his original series protagonist, Harry Bosch, from the page to the TV screen, in Amazon’s Bosch.

• Bookseller-turned-writer/editor Maxim Jakubowski has returned to CrimeTime as a monthly columnist, penning “To the Max.

• Fans of author Ted Lewis (Get Carter, GBH, etc.) should be interested to learn of a new volume, Nick Triplow’s Getting Carter: Ted Lewis and the Birth of Brit Noir, being brought out by No Exit Press. Crime Fiction Lover opines that “meticulous and thorough detective work is at the heart of this compelling and detailed biography of Ted Lewis, the Humberside author of nine novels, who was a huge influence on Brit Noir and remains so for leading names in crime fiction today.” Sadly, Triplow’s work is currently available only in Britain, but a U.S. release (from Oldcastle Books) is slated for May 2018.

• Three author interviews worth your time: Thomas Mullen talks with MysteryPeople about Lightning Men, his exceptional sequel to last year’s Darktown; Speaking of Mysteries host Nancie Clare chats with Joe Ide about Righteous, the second installment in his Isiah Quintabe series; and Geoffrey Girard fields a few queries from Mystery Tribune about his “contemporary gothic ghost story,” Mary Rose.

• And Peter Rozovsky, the Philadelphia editor, essayist, and photographer with whom I have frequently associated at Bouchercons over the last decade, takes questions from S.W. Lauden.

• With Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express set to reach theaters in November, Crime Fiction Lover has posted a photo tour of the author’s native Devon, England.

• Wow, this blog’s Facebook page seems to be experiencing a remarkable run of attention lately. In early October, I was impressed when a post there about the 60th anniversary of Have Gun—Will Travel “reached” more than 9,000 people. I thought that was some kind of record, but more recently, a post leading to The Rap Sheet’s coverage of the 2017 Anthony Award winners jetted right past that high bar, “reaching” 15,246 people. With 694 followers, the blog’s Facebook presence seems to be justifying my efforts to keep it lively.

• Feeding the grand debate over which of Raymond Chandler’s handful of novels qualifies as his “best,” Tablet magazine columnist Alexander Aciman delivers an outstanding appraisal of 1953’s The Long Goodbye. He writes, in part:
If Raymond Chandler’s earlier novels were detective stories that just so happened to be good, The Long Goodbye is a full reversal; it is a great novel that just so happens to be a detective story. It should be no different than saying Moby-Dick is a great novel that happens to be about whalers, or that Ulysses is a great novel that happens to take place in Dublin. But by describing it as detective fiction, we can obscure the fact for more than 60 years that it was one of the greatest novels ever written in America. There is hardly a novel more human, more heartbreaking, strung together with prose as boozily and as meticulously exacting as The Long Goodbye’s.
• I’ve lived in four U.S. states during my lifetime—Oregon, Michigan, Colorado, and Washington—and have gotten around to reading only one of the books Travel & Leisure magazine editors say best represent those places: Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson, set in the Seattle area. In my defense, I did see the Jack Nicholson movie version of Stephen King’s The Shining (which ostensibly takes place in Colorado), and have read many other works on T&L’s list.

For fans of “impossible crime” yarns.

Here’s an excellent review of two new books that explore the fight against World War II-era Nazism in Los Angeles, California, and specifically in its glitziest quarter, Hollywood.

This, too, sounds like a book I should have. In its write-up on Sinclair MacKay’s new non-fiction work, The Mile End Murder: The Case Conan Doyle Couldn't Solve (Aurum Press), Amazon explains: “In 1860, a 70-year-old widow turned landlady named Mary Emsley was found dead in her own home, killed by a blow to the back of her head. What followed was a murder case that gripped the nation, a veritable locked-room mystery which baffled even legendary Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle. With an abundance of suspects, from disgruntled stepchildren concerned about their inheritance and a spurned admirer repeatedly rejected by the widow, to a trusted employee, former police officer and spy, the case led to a public trial dominated by surprise revelations and shock witnesses, before culminating with one of the final public executions at Newgate.”

Your chance to get better acquainted with Frederic Brown: “‘Murder Draws a Crowd’ and ‘Death in the Dark’ by Fredric Brown (Haffner Press, $50 each) are the first two volumes in a well-designed, excellent new series edited by Steve Haffner, collecting all of Brown’s mystery fiction. … If you’ve never read anything by Fredric Brown, (1906-1972) you’re in for a real treat—he’s one of the genre’s most respected authors, long overdue for increased attention.”

• Who’d have thought that reading in bed could be dangerous? Many people once harbored such fears, according to The Atlantic:
Writings from the 18th and 19th centuries frequently dramatize the potentially horrifying consequences of reading in bed. Hannah Robertson’s 1791 memoir, Tale of Truth as well as of Sorrow, offers one example. It is a dramatic story of downward mobility, hinging on the unfortunate bedtime activities of a Norwegian visitor, who falls asleep with a book: “The curtains took fire, and [with] the flames communicating with other parts of the furniture and buildings, a great share of our possessions were consumed.”

Even the famous and the dead could be censured for engaging in the practice. In 1778, a posthumous biography chastised the late Samuel Johnson for his bad bedside reading habits, characterizing the British writer as an insolent child. A biography of Jonathan Swift alleged that the satirist and cleric nearly burned down the Castle of Dublin—and tried to conceal the incident with a bribe.
(Hat tip to January Magazine.)

• The Web’s latest plethora of Halloween-linked stories is just getting started. A site called Thrillist features this piece focusing on “the creepiest urban legend in every state.” BuzzFeed looks to Google Maps to find “the 31 most haunted places in America.” Mental Floss examines “the origins of 25 monsters, ghosts, and spooky things.” And adding a comical coda to these selections, Neatorama presents “The Story of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”

• Los Angeles’ 1947 “Black Dahlia murder is among that city’s most unsettling unsolved crimes. So it can only be with a chill that anyone would dress up as victim Elizabeth Short for Halloween.

• I usually think of H.G. Wells as a science-fiction writer (The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, etc.). But he also produced a great deal of non-fiction, and evidently experimented as well with “criminous misadventures,” as Ontos recalls here.

• The Bookseller brings the sad news that Britain’s “campaign group Voices for the Library is to disband due to the pressures of the workload on its members. The group, which counts Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and author Julia Donaldson among its supporters, was created in 2010 to speak out and fight against the ‘assault’ on public libraries caused by deep cuts to the sector. In a statement posted on the Voices for the Library website, the group said: ‘Unfortunately, we ourselves are volunteers running an organisation in our spare time. We are unhappy to say that we can no longer undertake the work required to be a voice for public libraries. It is with great sorrow that we have decided that it’s time to close the doors on Voices for the Library. The irony of this is not lost on us.’”

• Finally, these are dark days, indeed, for “alternative newsweeklies.” The Village Voice, historically one of the strongest and most influential such newspapers, discontinued its print publication in September (though it’s still available online), and L.A. Weekly is currently experiencing a transition limbo likely to result in employee layoffs and a refocusing on its digital presence. Meanwhile, it appears that 41-year-old Seattle Weekly—which I was proud to work for during the late 1980s—will soon become unrecognizable. The Seattle news Web site Crosscut says that for budgetary reasons South Publishing, which has owned the tabloid-size paper since 2013, will restructure Seattle Weekly as a far less creative or challenging “community news weekly.” The paper’s staff will be slashed to just three employees (down from dozens of people who worked there when I did), and they will have no independent offices, but will be left to share editorial space and production facilities with Sound Publishing’s 16 other local small-time papers. This is tragic news, so far as I am concerned. I started out with “alt-weeklies” after college, working first for Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon, and eventually (after regrettable detours to a monthly magazine in Detroit and a daily broadsheet in Boulder, Colorado) wound up on the staff at Seattle Weekly, which was then known simply as The Weekly. That publication has had its ups and downs since David Brewster founded it in 1976, but it’s also produced a hell of a lot of solid, incisive reporting on politics, civic growth, the arts, local history, and much more. As with other alt-weeklies, Seattle Weekly suffered greatly with the rise of Internet advertising; however, I assumed it would ultimately find a way to make up for lost ad dollars and rebuild its journalistic stature. I guess I was wrong.

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