Monday, April 09, 2018

Mentioned in Passing

• The folks behind the Spybrary podcast (“for fans of spy books and spy movies”) are looking for help in creating a Spybrary Shelf of Fame. Fans of the genre are invited to choose from dozens of pre-Cold War, Cold War-era, and post-Cold War tales, written variously by John le Carré, John Buchan, Eric Ambler, Len Deighton, W. Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Ian Fleming, Peter O’Donnell, Charles McCarry, Ted Allbeury, Graham Green, Jason Matthews, Alan Furst, and others. Polling is scheduled to remain open through Friday, April 20. Click here to make your preferences known.

• Note, too, that Spybrary host Shane Whaley has produced a “field report” from the inaugural Spy Con in Atlanta, Georgia.

• The Audio Publishers Association has announced the finalists for its 2018 Audie Awards. There are 26 categories of prizes, including two of likely interest to Rap Sheet fans. Among the Mystery and Thriller/Suspense contenders are David Lagercrantz’s The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, Ann Cleeves’ Telling Tales, John le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies, and B.A. Paris’ The Breakdown. Click here to see all of the rivals in those divisions. Winners will be declared on May 31.

Here’s a curious tidbit of history, plucked from the Web site Books Tell You Why: “Centuries before Ian Fleming would write James Bond into existence, another man signed letters with ‘007.’ That man, John Dee, was a mathematician, astronomer, and (some say) magician. He was also a trusted member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court. Some historians say that Dee was a spy for Elizabeth, thus making him an even more fitting inspiration for Ian Fleming’s hero.”

• William Henley Knoles (1926-1972) “was the greatest unknown writer of our time,” books historian Lynn Monroe asserts here. Under the pseudonym Clyde Allison, California writer Knoles produced an abundance of “spy-fi smut” novels during the 1960s and ’70s, many of them starring Trevor Anderson, Agent 0008. “The idea here, of course, is a sleaze riff on James Bond, or possibly even a riff on the many imitators of Bond,” explains Pulp International. “The dominant literary motif is satire, but as a wise man once said, just because it’s satirical doesn’t mean it’s smart or good.” Pulp International recently showcased the 20 installments from Knoles’ Agent 0008 series, the titles of which (Nautipuss, For Your Sighs Only, The Sex-Ray, etc.) do more than hint at their suggestive contents.

• More info on Knoles can be found in Killer Covers.

• BookRiot calls pulpish paperbacksthe clickbait of the ’50s,” explaining: “The standard cover used a realistic illustration and combined a shocking title, a scantily clad woman, and an intriguing front-cover blurb. These covers were the main selling point for a title. … One of the defining features of clickbait is also present in pulp novels: you don’t always get what you were promised.”

• CrimeReads looks back at how, during the mid-20th century, fresh editions of crime/detective novels that actually predated the era’s taste in salacious book fronts were given “ridiculously sexified covers … that were far racier than the actual book.”

• And Crime Fiction Lover picks “10 of the best pulp crime books.”

• In case you were wondering, Electric Lit’s Janet Frishberg reassures us, “it’s okay to give up on mediocre books.” Once “a compulsive book finisher,” she writes that two realizations helped her get over that behavior. “One, I realized literally NO ONE cares if I give up on a book except me. … Two, I realized that I’m going to die.”

New York magazine’s pop-culture Web site, Vulture, looks behind the scenes at “how 50 famous female characters were described in their screenplays.” Contributors Kyle Buchanan and Jordan Crucchiola explain that “Not every screenwriter takes the time to pen such a vivid character introduction—some include few details other than an estimated age or a few quick adjectives, preferring instead to let their dialogue do the talking—but many of our most famous screen women were originally created in those carefully composed sentences that few besides the actress, her writer, and their crew were lucky enough to read.” Below, for instance, is how Nora Charles was imagined for the 1934 film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man:
NORA CHARLES, Nick’s wife, is coming through. She is a woman of about twenty-six … a tremendously vital person, interested in everybody and everything, in contrast to Nick’s apparent indifference to anything except when he is going to get his next drink. There is a warm understanding relationship between them. They are really crazy about each other, but undemonstrative and humorous in their companionship. They are tolerant, easy-going, taking drink for drink, and battling their way together with a dry humor.
• Elizabeth Foxwell draws attention to this interview with Laura Thompson, author of the biography Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life, conducted by From the Bookshelf’s Gary Shapiro. Foxwell mentions that “Thompson calls Christie’s six novels under the pseudonym Mary Westamacott ‘gold,’ singling out Absent in the Spring (1944); calls Christie’s Five Little Pigs (1943) her best novel; and addresses Christie’s 11-day disappearance in 1926.” Listen here.

• While were on the subject of author interrogations, here are four more you really ought to check out: Speaking of Mysteries’ Nancie Clare talks with Sebastian Rotella about the third novel in his Valentine Pescadore series, Rip Crew; Dirty Books blogger Tom Leins quizzes Andrew Nette about his recently re-released novel, Gunshine State, which Nette calls “a very Australian take on the classic ‘heist gone wrong’ story”; for Unlawful Acts, David Nemeth goes one on one with L.A. Sykes about the latter’s “strong and savage book,” The Hard Cold Shoulder; and BookPage’s Cat Acree fires a few questions at Max Allan Collins, who edited The Last Stand, a pairing of two previously unpublished (and very different) works by Mickey Spillane.

• I read the first three novels in R.N. Morris’ Detective Inspector Silas Quinn series, set in Britain in the lead-up to World War I, so I was intrigued to hear that he has a new Quinn novel out in Britain, The Red Hand of Fury. That book is due out in the States in June.

• Finally, Sarah Weinman has a nice piece in CrimeReads recalling Howard Haycraft as mystery fiction’s “first great historian.”

1 comment:

Gram said...

I'm with Janet Frishberg ! I have so many books I want to read that I now have no time for those that do not appeal.