Monday, April 02, 2018

Worthy of Appraisal

• Mystery Fanfare brings the unhappy news that Aunt Agatha’s Mystery Bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan—which won the 2014 Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America for “outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing”—will shut its doors for good this coming August, after 26 years in business. Owners Robin and Jamie Agnew say they’ve scheduled a closing event for Sunday, August 26, with guest author William Kent Krueger, “and we hope you’ll join us for a final gather round the communal mysterious hearth.”

• If you were too busy yesterday with chocolate bunnies and secreted Easter eggs to have noticed that the Thrilling Detective Web Site celebrated its 20th anniversary, there’s plenty of time now to check out editor Kevin Burton Smith’s commemorative additions to the site.

The latest “Getting Away with Murder,” Mike Ripley’s monthly column for Shots, contains notes about Philip Kerr’s recent and untimely demise, Stella Duffy’s success in completing a previously unfinished last novel by Ngaio Marsh, and new fiction releases from the likes of Lindsey Davis, Peter Morfoot, and Andrew Taylor.

• Speaking of Philip Kerr, CrimeReads has posted a rather excellent piece by associate editor Molly Odintz remarking on the literary impact and lasting value of Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series.

• I see the third issue of Down & Out: The Magazine is now available in print and e-book versions. Its contents include new short fiction by Barry Lancet, Art Taylor, Patricia Abbott, and Peter Sellers; “a discussion and a story by one of the hard-boiled school’s originators, Raoul Whitfield”; and the latest edition of my “Placed in Evidence” column, focused on the private-eye novels of Stanley Ellin.

• Congratulations to Spanish writer José Ignacio Escribano on the ninth birthday of his blog, A Crime Is Afoot.

• The Web site Inside Hook was not familiar to me until this afternoon. Yet it contains an intriguing interview with Jim Heimann about Los Angeles’ “seedy underbelly.” L.A. native Heimann, of course, is the author of Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir (Taschen America), a volume filled with photographs of places that have “provided inspiration for journalists, pulp fiction scribes, and filmland script writers in their creation of the noir genre.” (Hat tip to Elizabeth Foxwell’s blog, The Bunburyist.)

• And while this isn’t about crime fiction, it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. Today marks 50 years since the big-screen debut of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the landmark science-fiction adventure written by motion-picture director Stanley Kubrick and noted SF author Arthur C. Clarke (whose 1951 short story “The Sentinel” helped inspire the movie). 2001 premiered on April 2, 1968, at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C., and then opened to wider U.S. distribution the next day. One of the most beautiful and memorable aspects of that film was its musical score, employing a variety of classical works, among them Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” which served as the main title theme. (Click here to relive the drama of that opening number.) What people forget, especially half a century on, is that Kubrick had commissioned Hollywood composer Alex North to create an original soundtrack for his film. But as Wikipedia notes, Kubrick decided during his post-production work to toss that score “in favor of the now-familiar classical pieces he had earlier chosen as ‘guide pieces’ for the soundtrack.” Wikipedia adds that “North did not know of the abandonment of the score until after he saw the film’s premiere screening.” One can’t help wondering whether 2001: A Space Odyssey might be remembered differently had Kubrick stuck with North’s musical score, the beginning of which—including an alternative main title theme—can be heard here. Additional selections from North’s 2001 score can be sampled here. UPDATE: You can read more about this movie’s 50th anniversary by clicking here.

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