Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Hasty News Break

The last couple of weeks have been so busy here at The Rap Sheet, I haven’t had a chance to put together any of my signature “Bullet Points” news briefings. I am still pretty jammed up with work, but I want to mention at least a few things of interest.

• Not everyone remembers this, but the first big-screen adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel, The Maltese Falcon, was made in 1931—10 years before the better-known version starring Humphrey Bogart as San Francisco private investigator Sam Spade. “This first adaptation,” writes Mystery*File’s Steve Lewis, “as I’ve just discovered, follows the story line of the book just about as closely as the Bogart one. In my opinion, though, while very good, if not excellent, it isn’t nearly as good as the later one, in spite of the semi-risque bits it gets away with, having been made before the Movie Code [went] into effect. (I suspect that I’m not saying anything new here.)

• Speaking of Falcon, the blog Down These Mean Streets has posted an abbreviated, but nonetheless dramatic, 1946 radio adaptation of that tale, starring Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet.

• The latest update of Kevin Burton Smith’s The Thrilling Detective Web Site is now available for your perusal. Among the subjects of its new or updated files: TV Guide’s private eye covers; Mitch Roberts, “one of the best P.I. series you never heard of”; Ray Bradbury’s Elmo Crumley novels; Brian Vaughan’s Patrick “P.I.” Immelmann comic books; and a catalogue of “Private Eyes Who Won’t Stay Dead.”

• Apparently, Larry Harnisch, the historian and retired Los Angeles Times copy editor who has been quite critical of Piu Eatwell’s latest work, Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder, has been laboring since 1997 on his own book about the 1947 slaying of Elizabeth Short, the waitress and would-be starlet best remembered as “The Black Dahlia.” He writes this week in his blog, The Daily Mirror:
To those who might ask “Is there really anything left to research after 21 years?” the answer is “absolutely.”

Since 1996, the doors have swung open on many resources that were restricted or unknown when I began. Not long ago, I received material that would have required a court order to obtain in the 1990s, or so I was told at the time. Some questions can only be answered with painstaking research and analysis at the molecular level. A few months ago, I spent the better part of a week building a spreadsheet from the FBI’s uniform crime reports from 1940 to 1949 to determine Los Angeles’ ranking among the deadliest American cities. All for one or two sentences—an amazing amount of work that will invisible to readers.
I, for one, look forward to reading Harnisch’s completed text—whenever it’s finally published.

• Phoef Sutton (Colorado Boulevard) is Nancie Clare’s latest guest on her Speaking of Mysteries podcast. Listen to that show here.

• As we near the close of 2017, there are still more “best books of the year” posts popping up around the Web. Sons of Spade blogger Jochem Vandersteen has chosen his favorite P.I. novels of the last 12 months. Benoit Lelievre names his “top 10 favorite reads of the year” in Dead End Follies. Scottsdale, Arizona’s renowned Poisoned Pen Bookstore recently asked a number of well-known crime- and mystery-fiction authors to identify the best crime novels they’ve tackled since January 2017; the results of that survey can be found here. Crime Fiction Lover singles out its “Top 10 Nordic Noir Novels of 2017.” Literary Hub offers up a rundown of the best-reviewed mystery and crime novels of the year. If you’re curious to know Crimespree editor Jon Jordan’s five preferred crime novels, click here. And David Nemeth, after declaring that “best lists are bunk,” then proceeds to list his own idiosyncratic picks in Unlawful Acts.

• And sad to say, the group blog Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room will be shutting down at the end of this month after a decade in the business. I don’t see any mention of whether the site will remain online in archive status … but I also have not heard it’s disappearing in 2018, either. Hope for the best.

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