Friday, May 03, 2019

Bullet Points: Pre-Cinco de Mayo Edition

Sorry for the recent paucity of posts on this page, and for failing to respond in anything like a timely fashion to e-mail messages, but I’ve been quite busy over the last couple of weeks, helping to open a new independent bookshop in Seattle’s Madison Park neighborhood. I hope that my schedule will settle down soon. In the meantime, though, let me take this opportunity to highlight an assortment of crime fiction-related stories appearing elsewhere on the Web.

• I don’t customarily publish news releases, but this item from the organizers of Bouchercon 2019—which is to be held in Dallas, Texas, from October 31 to November 33—seems worth passing along:
We are concentrating on the history of our first fifty years. If you have and are willing to donate historical programs, bags, buttons, pictures, Anthony Awards, mementos, or other articles for display, please contact Carol Puckett, Bouchercon 2019 Chair and a member of the Bouchercon National History Committee at Note that we are hoping to include some of these articles in an archive that we are planning to establish to continue to honor the history of Bouchercon.
• Among the recipients of this year’s Best of Illinois History Awards, presented late last week by the Illinois State Historical Society, was the non-fiction book Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago, by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz (Morrow, 2018). The ISHS credits that book with providing “a new look at an old story. An engaging, well-researched, and informative dual biography of Al Capone and Eliot Ness that may be the best book of this genre to come along in this century. Collins and Schwartz tell a story all Illinoisans know in fragments but few know in its entirety. It is the story of the coming of age of Capone when the most disrespected law of the land—Prohibition—is enacted, told in tandem with the story of Ness, an introspective, timid lawman with a passion for justice. For those who grew up with the Hollywood myths of gangster films, and The Untouchables TV series, this will be the book you remember ...”

• While we’re on the subject of author accolades, yesterday brought word of which books and writers have been nominated for the 2018 Shirley Jackson Awards, honoring “exceptional work in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and dark fantasy.” There are six categories of contenders, so I’m not going to list them all. But here are the rivals for this year’s Best Novel commendation:

Everything Under, by Daisy Johnson (Jonathan Cape)
In the Night Wood, by Dale Bailey (John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Little Eve, by Catriona Ward (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Social Creature, by Tara Isabella Burton (Double Day/Raven)
We Sold Our Souls, by Grady Hendrix (Quirk)

Winners of these awards (for books published in 2018) will be declared on Sunday, July 14, during Readercon 30, set to take place in Quincy, Massachusetts, July 11-14.

• Finally, among the half-dozen shortlisted nominees for this year’s Pushkin House Russian Book Prize is a non-fiction release likely to have drawn the attention of Rap Sheet readers: Ben Macintyre’s dramatic Cold War-era tale, The Spy and the Traitor (Viking).

• It’s hard to believe it is time again for the annual running of the Kentucky Derby. In association with that, Mystery Fanfare’s Janet Rudolph has updated her list of Derby-related mystery fiction.

• How’s this for a bit of irony? People magazine reports that the next role for actress Felicity Huffman, recently implicated in the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal, will find her playing a prosecutor. She’ll portray Manhattan assistant district attorney (and later author) Linda Fairstein in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, a Netflix production that People says will focus on the notorious 1989 Central Park Five scandal. (It was the legacy of that brutal rape case, you may recall, which led to the Mystery Writers of America withdrawing Fairstein’s Grand Master Award earlier this year.)

• Comfort TV’s David Hofstede has chosen what he declares are “The 100 Most Memorable Songs Introduced by Classic TV.” There aren’t many crime fiction-related tunes listed, but he does include a “melancholy country ballad” from Charlie’s Angels titled “Trippin’ To the Mornin’” as well as the theme from Moonlighting. Part I of Hofsede’s list can be found here, while Part II is here.

• St. Louis’ Riverfront Times reports on a project by Winnipeg, Canada-based filmmaker Guy Maddin to re-interpret Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 psychological thriller, Vertigo, “not through dialogue or specific actions but through purely visual associations. Drawing heavily on ’70s crime shows, including The Streets of San Francisco and McMillan & Wife, Maddin creates connections to Vertigo by reusing a particular camera angle, a detail in the set decoration or even just the rhythm of an edited sequence. Nearly every aspect of the film—the watered-down colors and sledgehammer editing of TV drama and the sudden, unexpected appearances (and just as sudden disappearances) of Karl Malden, Claude Akins, Meg Ryan and dozens of other familiar faces—flaunts its discontinuity and challenges the viewer to find meaning in the clutter. Yet somehow the themes and spirit of Vertigo creep through, almost eerily.” Until this week, I had never heard of Maddin’s hour-long film, titled The Green Fog, but it apparently debuted at the San Francisco International Film Festival back in 2017. I can only hope to see it sometime. A brief trailer is embedded below.

• In his latest “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots, Mike Ripley writes about a trio of new novels produced by journalists (including Tom Bradby’s Secret Service), Cuban writer Leonardo Padura’s new Mario Conde story (Grab a Snake by the Tail), a highly irregular book-promotion item (“One has to wonder what sort of idiot promotes his novel by sending out review copies accompanied by a real knife …”), the pending debut of a previously undiscovered Desmond Bagley yarn, and a great deal more.

• And since we’re at the start of a new month, let me remind everyone to take a peek at The Rap Sheet’s wrap-up of fresh spring books, which includes more than 115 tales coming out—on both sides of the Atlantic—between now and June 1.

For The Writer, thriller scribes Paul Doiron and Lee Child ponder how best to develop “realistic female characters that offer way more than sex appeal.” While this may have seemed like a good idea to Writer editors, the piece has been met with a considerable derogatory blowback. Critic Sarah Weinman complained that it was “presented as if they are saving thrillers from needless chest-thumping,” while others suggested—not unreasonably—that if the magazine wanted to know how to create strong women characters, perhaps it should have asked female authors instead of male ones.

I already mentioned here the demise, on April 15, of 91-year-old New York author-playwright Warren Adler (The War of the Roses, American Quartet). But now comes blogger-critic Michael Carlson with his own obituary of Adler, prepared for Britain’s Guardian.

• I didn’t know, until reading this piece in Shotsmag Confidential, that Swedish writer David Lagercrantz’s third addition to Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series, The Girl Who Lived Twice (due out in August), will also be his last.

• Although I’m not a big podcast follower, I do enjoy the Today I Found Out series, available on YouTube. This last Monday’s installment, for instance, found fast-yakking host Simon Whistler introducing the curious to “10 Detectives More Interesting than Sherlock Holmes,” among his picks being “cowboy detective” Charles Siringo and female Pinkerton operative Kate Warne.

• A trio of CrimeReads stories I have enjoyed recently: Craig Pittman’s profile of Donald J. Sobol, the creator of that literary “‘Sherlock in sneakers,’ boy detective Leroy ‘Encyclopedia’ Brown”; Lisa Levy’s examination of “the hipster mystery, or hipstery”; and Curtis Evans’ look back at poet, essayist, and literary critic T.S. Eliot, “the man who rescued Wilkie Collins from obscurity.”

• And I owe a hearty toast to Dwyer Murphy, the managing editor of CrimeReads, who chose my recent piece about the covers of Ross Macdonald’s The Moving Target as one of the site’s “favorite stories of April.” He writes: “It’s hard to think of a crime author who influenced the aesthetic of modern detective fiction more than Ross Macdonald, so it seems appropriate to undertake a visual history on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Lew Archer’s first appearance, in The Moving Target. J. Kingston Pierce, expert on all things crime, but especially crime fiction covers, takes on the project in this fantastic survey of Macdonald’s first Archer novel, offering up an engaging mixture of history and critique as he tells the story of one of the century’s most important crime novels, cover-by-cover.”

• The Nick Carter & Carter Brown Blog is currently in the midst of posting a selection of Robert McGinnis paperback covers. Because it can. Because they’re that good.

• The Stiletto Gumshoe applauds the paperback cover artistry of “Cecil Calvert Beall (1892-1970), better known as C.C. Beall.” Among the familiar examples of Beall’s work is his “darkly gorgeous painting” for the 1950 edition of Bruno Fischer’s House of Flesh.”

• Vulture argues that even at age 60 (it was first released in April 1959), Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate remains timely.

• Last month I noted, in my Killer Covers blog, that Britain’s Piccadilly Publishing was reissuing the vintage series of Larry Kent novels in e-book form. It began with just five titles from among the hundreds originally published. But this week, Piccadilly co-founder David Whitehead (aka Ben Bridges) announced on Facebook that an additional five (Go-Go for Broke, Call for a Corpse, Crimson Lady, Terror Below, and The Weirdos) have been scheduled for release by the end of May, all with their original cover art. What’s more, Whitehead says he hopes that paperback versions of these tales will soon become available as well.

• Lee Goldberg has compiled the list of musical numbers he listened to while composing his latest novel, Killer Thriller. These same TV and movie themes could be used as a soundtrack to accompany your reading of that book. But if you’re like me, you might find it difficult to concentrate on the page while listening to, say, Richard Markowitz’s galloping theme for The Wild Wild West.

• I don’t think I had ever before seen a list of which Sherlock Holmes stories were Arthur Conan Doyle’s favorites, but here’s one.

This trailer for the film Anna, “Luc Besson's latest neo-Eurospy spectacle,” slated to premiere on June 21, has me wanting to view the picture in its action-packed entirety.

• In response to a question about the future of his Ethan Gage historical adventure series, 67-year-old Washington newspaperman-turned-author William Dietrich explained recently on Facebook:
I’m flattered to periodically get inquiries about the next Ethan Gage novel, but I need to update my status (in 2019) to explain that no more books in that series are currently planned.

That wasn’t my original intention. I’d hoped to continue the series through the entire period [of] the Napoleonic Wars, but HarperCollins made a business decision to stop its support because of gradually eroding sales. I followed up with one self-published Ethan,
The Trojan Icon, which readers enjoyed. However, I found self-publishing of this and two other books (the young adult novel The Murder of Adam and Eve and the non-fiction Napoleon's Rules) limiting because of the difficulty of getting publicity or shelf display.

So, as I entered my late 60s, I decided to retire! This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing—I have several projects that might become completed books someday—but I’m not “working” at being an author as I once was. While my 22 books are well short of the hundreds some authors have turned out (Issac Asimov comes to mind), it’s about 22 more than I expected back when I was starting. The journey has been thrilling.

I still hope to someday have screen adaptations of some of my works, and continue to ponder the peripatetic Ethan Gage. I never say never.

But I’m also enjoying more time in a lovely corner of the world (the San Juan Islands of Washington state) and time to read, write, and travel—especially after a couple health scares. I’m delighted that fans are still reading and I hope new readers will keep discovering Ethan and the other adventures I’ve so enjoyed writing. Happy exploring!
• In a rather wonderful piece for Criminal Element, Susanna Calkins revisits Chicago’s peculiar “Canary Murder” case of 1929.

From Elizabeth Foxwell’s The Bunburyist: “The Detroit News reported that a lawsuit regarding the sale of Elmore Leonard’s papers to the University of South Carolina had been settled. Christine Leonard, Leonard’s ex-wife, had sued alleging that Leonard’s company, trust, and son had sold the archive in secret (stating that a stipulation in the divorce decree entitled her to a share of the proceeds).”

• Last but not least, since I mentioned Cinco de Mayo in this post’s headline, it’s only right and proper that I should point you to a catalogue of mysteries related to Sunday’s holiday.


BVLawson said...

Congratulations on helping to help a new indie bookstore, Jeff! We need many, many more bookstores in this world, and all the hardworking folks owning and operating these gems deserve a medal!

Kathy D. said...

Very good to open a new independent bookstore.

On the point about The Writer and how to improve portrayals of women in mysteries. The solution is, as many people said, is to have more women writers.

Women readers with a discerning eye can figure out if a man or woman wrote a thriller or mystery within 25 pages, depending on how women characters are portrayed.

Women authors write fully developed women characters without stereotypes and detailed descriptions of women's physiques, clothing, hair, free of sex appeal, smart, capable, brave, and not dependent on male approval.

Even the excellent writer, Michael Connelly, whose portrayal of women cops is somewhat balanced, still uses stereotypical scenes in his first Renee Ballard book.

But to give example of women writers' portrayal of fully developed women characters, look at Helene Turston's Irene Huss, Donna Leon's Paola Falier, Elettra Zorzi, a computer genius, Claudia Griffoni, Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski, a fierce, intelligent, brave detective, Marcia Mueller's Sharon McCone, Val McDermid's Karen Pirie, Denise Mina's Alex Morrow and so many more.

That is the solution on the stereotyping of women characters in mysteries. But male writers should look at women characters as women really are, fully develoed people who work hard, have families, are smart, are organizers, and have many skills.