Thursday, August 08, 2019

Bullet Points: Pre-Book Lovers Day Edition

• In late July, the British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announced its shortlists of nominees for the 2019 Dagger Awards, in nine categories. Now comes news that the CWA is adding a 10th category to that set of annual prizes: the Dagger for Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year. Shotsmag Confidential says that “Publishers and specific imprints are being nominated by a representative group of leading book reviewers, booksellers, festival organizers, bloggers, literary agents and journalists,” and a shortlist of contenders for this new Dagger will be made known “later this summer.” The winners of all the 2019 Dagger Awards are supposed to be declared during a special ceremony, in London, on October 24.

• British author and critic Mike Ripley has now posted two different tributes to Marcel Berlins, the French-born lawyer and law professor who reviewed crime fiction for The Times of London for 37 years, before dying on July 31 at age 77. The first of those can be found in The Guardian, and covers all the highlights of Berlins’ long career; the second, more personal remembrance was posted in Shots.

• While we’re on the subject of passings, let me mention that Chris Sullivan, who writes the blog Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, states on his Facebook page that Barrington Pheloung—best known to Rap Sheet readers for composing the hypnotic theme for the TV series Inspector Morse and its spin-offs—died (also on July 31) from influenza. “Death from influenza at Barrington’s age,” remarks Sullivan, “normally means there was some underlying health problems.” No specific cause of death had previously been released.

• Well, I have finally done it: added a “Crime/Mystery Podcasts” subsection to The Rap Sheet’s already extensive blogroll. You will find it by scrolling down past the “General Crime Fiction” section in the right-hand column. For the time being, there are only 19 podcasts listed there—those that were recommended by readers. But I’m willing to add more, as the field grows and additional podcast discoveries are made. I hope you like this addition to the page.

• The fifth and final episode of Grantchester, Season 4, will air in the States this coming Sunday evening as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! series. (Don’t panic: the program has already been renewed for a fifth season.) I’ve watched that cozyish historical mystery drama ever since it debuted on this side of the Atlantic back in January 2015, and have enjoyed it for the most part. Enough so, in fact, that I recently picked up The Road to Grantchester (Bloomsbury), author James Runcie’s prequel novel to the show inspired by his six previous mysteries. I wrote a short review of said work for the newsletter distributed by Madison Books, a Seattle neighborhood bookshop with which I am associated, and am embedding it below:
The Road to Grantchester
By James Runcie
Now, during PBS-TV’s latest run of the British mystery series
Grantchester, is an ideal time to dive into this prequel novel, which recalls the circuitous path protagonist Sidney Chambers took from being a Cambridge classics student to becoming an Anglican vicar-cum-sleuth. As World War II consumes Europe, Chambers and his irrepressible friend Robert Kendall join the Scots Guards and are sent to the Italian front, where their ability to maintain optimism amid unrelenting carnage is sorely tested. Crucial to Chambers’ efforts is “Rev Nev” Finnie, an Episcopal chaplain with whom he engages in philosophical discussions—talks that prepare him for Kendall’s subsequent battlefield death and his own return home. Back in England, Chambers finds himself guilt-ridden for having survived, and at a loss to deal with Kendall’s coquettish younger sister, Amanda. Others expect Chambers to become a teacher or diplomat, but his search for peace leads him instead into the priesthood. There’s little crime-solving here, but author Runcie excels at evoking the climate of warfare, and his investigations of the human mind and heart will feel familiar to any Grantchester fan.
Happy 10th anniversary to The View from the Blue House!

Happy 100th birthday (belatedly) to Jerusalem-born actor Nehemiah Persoff, whose face was once ubiquitous in U.S. films and TV shows—everything from The Untouchables and The Twilight Zone to The Name of the Game, The Mod Squad, McMillan & Wife, Columbo, and even Star Trek: The Next Generation. According to Wikipedia, Persoff experienced health problems in the 1980s and “retired from acting in 1999” to devote his full time to painting. “He currently lives with his wife, Thia, in Cambria, California.

• And though this also comes late, I want to acknowledge the 75th anniversary of the release of Double Indemnity (1944), co-written by director Billy Wilder and author Raymond Chandler. “That great movie …,” explains blogger George Kelley, “ignited a series of noir movies in the post-World War II era. The screenplay was based on James M. Cain’s 1943 novel of the same name (which originally appeared as an eight-part serial in Liberty magazine, starting with the February 1936 issue). Fred MacMurray portrays an insurance salesman who fails for the Wrong Woman. Crafty Barbara Stanwyck plays a provocative housewife who wishes her husband were dead (and that she had the insurance money, too). Savvy Edward G. Robinson plays an insurance claims adjuster whose job is to investigate suspicious claims.” With a cast like that, how can a movie go wrong?

National Public Radio celebrates Double Indemnity, too.

• Can’t get enough of Steely Dan—both the classic rock band and new stories influenced by its song catalogue? Then you’re definitely in luck: Brian Thornton, the Seattle-based editor of Die Behind the Wheel: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan (Down & Out) has let it be known on Facebook that a sequel is being readied for late October publication. Also to be published by Down & Out, under the title A Beast Without a Name: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan, this second volume will feature contributions by a “Merry Band of Dan Enthusiast[s]” including Steve Brewer, Bill Cameron (writing as W.H. Cameron), Reed Farrel Coleman, Naomi Hirahara, Richie Narvaez, Kat Richardson, Peter Spiegelman, Jim Thomsen, and Thomas Hottle (writing as Jim Winter).

• Short-story writer Carol Westron considers the sport of fishing as it was portrayed in Golden Age Detective Fiction.

LaBrava is among my favorite Elmore Leonard novels (a preference shared by author-screenwriter Nora Ephron), so it was good to see Christi Daugherty revisit that 1984 yarn recently as part of Criminal Element’s series on works that, over the last 65 years, have won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. “Among the books that did not win the year LaBrava was given the Edgar,” Daugherty observes, “were John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl and Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, both of which are considered classics now. Both are books I’ve read and loved. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I came into this review with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, expecting to find LaBrava somehow inferior. How could this dingy little tale of a sociopath planning to set up a fading film star be better than those giants of twentieth-century fiction? Reading this book changed my mind.”

• Curtis Evans (Murder in the Closet) offers an excellent piece, in CrimeReads, about “The Rise and Fall and Restoration of Anna Katharine Green’s The Leavenworth Case.”

• While you’re browsing CrimeReads, don’t miss Derek Milman’s essay on “How North by Northwest Changed Cinema Forever.”

This comes from In Reference to Murder:
The cast has been set for Agatha Christie Limited’s The Pale Horse, the latest TV adaptation from Dame Agatha for the BBC. The Pale Horse centers on Mark Easterbrook (Rufus Sewell) as he tries to uncover the mystery of a list of names found in the shoe of a dead woman. His investigation leads him to the peculiar village of Much Deeping and also to The Pale Horse, the home of a trio of rumored witches. Word has it that the witches can do away with wealthy relatives by means of the dark arts, but as the mount up, Easterbrook is certain there has to be a rational explanation.
• Meanwhile, blogger Jerry House draws my attention to a 1982 adaptation of that same 1961 mystery novel by Christie, produced as part of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater series (1974-1982). As House explains, this 45-minute version “features the talents of Earl Hammond and Mandel Kramer, with Elspeth Eric and Marianne Sanders, and was introduced by Tammy Grimes. ‘The Pale Horse’ was produced and directed by Himan Brown. The script by Roy Winsor veered from Christie’s original novel. Winsor was an established radio soap-opera writer before he went on to create some of television’s most well-known soaps: Search for Tomorrow, Love of Life, and The Secret Storm. He also co-created Another Life and was the head writer for Somerset. Winsor also wrote three mystery novels and received an Edgar Award for The Corpse That Walked in 1975.” You can listen to this radio version of “The Pale Horse” either on YouTube or on the CBS Radio Mystery Theater Web site.

• Someday I hope to find time enough to listen to all 1,399 episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Like any radio or TV series, it wasn’t perfect, but I remember being mesmerized by many of those old episodes. I used to listen to them at night after going to bed, my earplug firmly planted into whichever ear wasn’t most easily seen, should my mother decide to double-check that I was actually asleep. Host E.G. Marshall (formerly of The Defenders and The Bold Ones) was an ideal—and appropriately spooky—host for most of the program’s run, and the episodes attracted a wide variety of talent, many performers having blossomed during the so-called Golden Age of Radio (the 1920s through the 1940s). Thankfully, all of those episodes are still available today—for free!—through the aforementioned CBS Radio Mystery Theater Web site. Too bad I’m no longer young enough to stay awake into the wee hours of the night, listening.

• Quinta Jurecic, the managing editor of Lawfare, suggests in The New York Times that people read the Mueller Report as a detective story. It “may turn out to be more of a film noir than anything else,” she writes. “The detective successfully uncovers the plot, only to discover that the society around him is too rotten to do anything about it. For all the missing pieces in this story, the issue is less whether it can be told and more whether anyone cares to listen.”

• Author interviews worth your time: Fresh Air host Terry Gross speaks with Laura Lippman about her impressive new Baltimore-set novel, Lady in the Lake; Hallie Ephron (Careful What You Wish For) is Nancie Clare’s latest guest on Speaking of Mysteries; John Parker chats with John Connolly (A Game of Ghosts) for Shotsmag Confidential; and MysteryPeople has a few questions for S.J. Rozan (Paper Son).

• Finally, it’s true: tomorrow is National Book Lovers Day here in the States. But really, every day is Book Lovers Day for yours truly.

1 comment:

Risto M K Raitio said...

re: Double Indemnity's 75th anniversary
Not late, i.e. after the fact, rather before... I got tired of juggling with the conflicting release dates from various sources, both from the printed word and the web, ranging from April to September via June and July, so decided to turn to the source of all noir, the FNF and Eddie Muller: they confirmed that the proper birthday for this excellent, quintessential noir is September 7. So there.