Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Second Helpings

You might have presumed that yesterday’s huge “Bullet Points” post exhausted my current stock of links to crime-fiction news and information of interest. But you would be wrong.

• There are certain historical crimes that are of perpetual interest to me. One of those is the 1906 Madison Square Garden murder of Stanford White. I have more than a couple of books about that scandalous Manhattan homicide, which found Pittsburgh railroad heir Harry K. Thaw shooting the prominent but randy architect thrice in full public view, ostensibly because he had raped Thaw’s wife—actress and artist’s model Evelyn Nesbit—back when she was a teenager. Another book about White’s slaying and the twisted legal case that ensued from it, Simon Baatz’s The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (Mulholland), was recently released, and provoked a Web site called The Crime Report to interview the author. That intriguing exchange is here.

• Let us turn now from historical misdeeds to Victorian-era mystery fiction, in order that I may direct you to Laura Purcell’s survey of gaslight Gothic tales and imaginary 19th-century sleuths.

• The Westlake Review presents a missive written, in 1941, by American film censor Joseph I. Breen to Warner Bros. Studios chief Jack L. Warner. It informs the latter of all the reasons why John Huston’s script for a big-screen adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart, was not appropriate for audience viewing. Clearly (and thank goodness!), director Huston decided to ignore Breen’s prissy complaints.

In a pretty snappy piece for Criminal Element, author Thomas Pluck (Bad Boy Boogie) offers a variety of reasons why folks should be watching the Sundance-TV series Hap and Leonard, the third season of which premiered on March 7. It begins:
Because it’s Joe Fucking Lansdale.

That really should be the end of this article. If you don’t know the work of Joe R. Lansdale,
Hap & Leonard is a wonderful introduction to his most popular books. If you already enjoy his work, watching the series on Sundance is like reading the books for the first time again. They capture the tone and spirit perfectly and bring the characters to life, right down to Hap’s hippie soul and Leonard’s irascible, rugged individualism (and Nilla wafers). Which is quite a feat because, while Joe is a champion storyteller, his voice is a large part of what makes his work so enjoyable. Like Robert Parker, Walter Mosley, and Laura Lippman, he can write about something mundane and make it as gripping as a thriller, because he writes with a voice that we follow like the little bouncing red ball over song lyrics, if you’re old enough to remember those.
• Although it’s been part of this page’s blogroll for awhile, only recently—and in association with my writing about the 50th anniversary of Lieutenant Columbo’s first TV appearance—did I rediscover The Columbophile. Naturally, I have been investigating that site ever since. Three posts to share from my browsing: this one about an evidently “official Columbo YouTube channel”; this list of the unnamed site manager’s 10 favorite Columbo episodes (to which I would definitely add 1973’s “Any Old Port in a Storm,” guest-starring Donald Pleasence and Julie Harris); and this recent piece addressing the matter of Columbo’s first name (a subject I’ve also tackled). I look forward to seeing what The Columbophile can come up with next.

• Here’s a book I missed when it was released last summer: I Watched Them Eat Me Alive: Killer Creatures in Men’s Adventure Magazines, edited by Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle (New Texture). Thankfully, Frank Campbell—the guy behind a blog carrying the rather ponderous name Frank the Movie Watcher, Book Lover, Pop Culture Fan—finally brought it to my attention in a new, quite complimentary post. “All in all,” Campbell opines, “I Watched Them Eat Me Alive just goes to prove the old adage about explosives coming in small packages. This one brings the dynamite in two fists along with a testosterone fuse of sweaty, desperate thrills as men battle killer animals to the death. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better than this.” Folks who follow Deis’ Men’s Pulp Mags should probably look up this slim, digest-size volume.

• I must confess that, despite my growth of interest in the book following Kelli Stanley’s promotion of it in The Rap Sheet, I still haven’t gotten around to reading William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel, Nightmare Alley. But it’s jumped back on my radar, thanks to Andrew Nette recapping its virtues in CrimeReads. “Gresham’s book,” Nette enthuses, “is a masterful story about the art of the grift and the best fictional depiction of the carny (slang for the traveling carnival employee). But most of all, it is a stone-cold classic piece of low-life noir fiction, dark, visceral, surprisingly sex-drenched for its time, and utterly devoid of redemption.”

The latest issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection is out.

• Three more author interviews worth your time: Walter Mosley chats with BookPage about Down the River Unto the Sea, which introduces private eye Joe King Oliver; Lee Goldberg discusses True Fiction with Speaking of Mysteries host Nancie Clare; and J. Todd Scott answers questions from The Real Book Spy about High White Sun, the sequel to his 2016 border-crimes thriller, The Far Empty.

• Finally, when I wrote back in 2010 about Gavilan, Robert Urich’s 1982-1983 NBC-TV crime-cum-espionage series, I never thought I would have another opportunity to watch that show. However, I recently stumbled across three of Gavilan’s 10 episodes on YouTube—here, here, and here. The picture quality isn’t anything to write home about, but the sheer improbability of seeing Urich’s Magnum, P.I. knockoff makes up for such deficiencies.

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