Tuesday, October 08, 2019

And I Can’t Fail to Mention …

• Criminal Element’s continuing series focusing on works that, over the last 65 years, have won the prestigious Edgar Award for Best Novel, last Friday showcased Margaret Maron’s The Bootlegger’s Daughter, which captured that prize way back in 1993. In a departure from the norm, on that same day Hector DeJean, the associate director of publicity at Minotaur Books, posted a fine essay in Criminal Element about Michael Connelly’s The Black Echo, which won the 1993 Edgar for Best First Novel and launched the fictional career of Los Angeles homicide detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. Reflecting on that novel and its many sequels, DeJean wrote:
Adjustments have been made to Bosch over the years, as the character and his city have evolved. For one thing, he no longer sports a mustache, that once-standard identifying trait of all veteran cops. His past has been filled in a little more, and on the TV series his military service has been updated to the Gulf War. Connelly has tackled such topics as the Los Angeles Riots and the police department opening up to LGBTQ officers in later books. But what may work so well about Bosch is that he basically fits the mold; he’s a close cousin of several other thick-skinned knights-errant policemen, one brought to fuller life and given a deeper relationship with his city.
• Lawrence Block is already teasing his February release, The Burglar in Short Order (Subterranean), which he describes as “a complete collection” of short-form appearances by his series thief, Bernie Rhodenbarr. He says “its fifteen chapters include four short stories, three extracts from novels, five op-ed columns, and an essay—well, some would call it a rant—about Bernie’s experiences in Hollywood.” The Amazon page for this book adds that “you’ll find every published story, article, and standalone excerpt Bernie has ever appeared in—plus two new, unpublished pieces: an introduction discussing the character’s colorful origins and an afterword in which the author, contemplating retirement, comes face to face with his own creation.”

• Congratulations to The Spy Command, which today celebrates its 11th birthday! Managing editor Bill Koenig’s espionage fiction-oriented blog debuted in 2008 as The HMSS Weblog, but was renamed in 2015, following the failure of its partner Web site, Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. It remains a superior source of news about James Bond projects as well as other crime and cloak-and-dagger works.

• As we move ever closer to New Year’s Day, 2020, these sorts of features are bound to multiply. The Killing Times recently began enumerating what it says have been “the top 20 crime dramas of the decade.” So far, it has rolled out only the first half of its choices—in two parts, here and here—but I presume the balance of that Web site’s selections will soon follow. Watch for updates here.

• The Australia-based Columbophile blog typically celebrates the legacy of Peter Falk’s long-running NBC-TV series, Columbo. But not long ago, its unnamed editor put together a list of “the 10 least-satisfying Columbo ‘gotchas’ of the ’70s.” As he explains: “A Columbo without a magnificent ‘gotcha’ is like a porcupine without quills; a snake without fangs; a cat without claws. In short, it lacks a certain clout. Granted, not every episode can have a rousing finale in the mould of ‘Suitable for Framing’ [1971] or ‘Candidate for Crime’ [1973], but the strength of the gotcha plays a big part in our overall enjoyment of the episode.” Indeed, most of the 10 episodes The Columbopile cites for their disappointing denouements are also among those I remember least well, though I am fond of one: 1973’s “Requiem for a Falling Star,” which features Anne Baxter as a fading actress and includes a cameo by eminent costume designer Edith Head.

• Two CrimeReads pieces worth investigating: Sarah Weinman recalls how, during the summer of 1947, U.S. mystery novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart narrowly escaped being murdered by her longtime chef; and Crawford Smith, the author of this year’s Jackrabbit (Sweet Weasel Words), writes here about persist rumors that John Dillinger—“America’s first celebrity criminal”—escaped being gunned down outside a Chicago theater in 1934, and how such talk has resulted in efforts to disinter Dillinger’s remains from an Indiana cemetery.

• I’ve long been a fan of Ellery Queen, the 1975-1976 series developed for NBC-TV by Richard Levinson and William Link, and starring Jim Hutton. So I was pleased to learn recently that the anonymous blogger “dfordoom” has been slowly reviewing that show’s episodes for Cult TV Lounge. He tackles three of them here, and another trio here. To read his overview of the show, click here.

• Having been a Star Trek enthusiast since childhood, I am naturally thrilled by the prospect of a new series that will bring Patrick Stewart back to the role of Jean-Luc Picard, which he created for Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). A new trailer for Star Trek: Picard, released during this month’s New York Comic Con, carries the same adventurous, hopeful spirit that has always drawn me to the Star Trek universe. And the moment in that trailer when Picard revisits his old Enterprise shipmates William Riker and Deanna Troi … well, it brought cheerful tears to my eyes. Although I resisted subscribing to the CBS All Access streaming service in order to watch Star Trek: Discovery (I instead purchased Season 1 on DVD), Star Trek: Picard—slated to debut there on January 23, 2020—may finally compel me to take that step.

• While we’re on the subject of Star Trek (and yes, I’ll get back to matters of crime fiction anon), my fellow fans should check out Trek on the Tube, the YouTube channel created by a Trekkie named Sean and covering what seems like an ever-growing assortment of Star Trek projects. Sean has set up a Patreon page, too, to solicit funds to keep his efforts on track. It seems a worthwhile cause.

• Also deserving of consideration, I think, is a solicitation from “Norman Conquest,” aka Derek Pell, who has published my work in his literary magazine, Black Scat Review. He has established an Indiegogo crowd-funding page in hopes of raising money enough to keep his enterprises afloat. This “Fund-o-Rama,” as he calls it, will continue through Halloween. Please send him treats, not tricks.

• New author interviews of note: Speaking of Mysteries host Nancie Clare fires questions at both Deborah Crombie (A Bitter Feast) and “Nicci French” (aka Nicci Gerrard and Sean French), whose latest thriller is The Lying Room; and blogger Lesa Holstine chats with Dana Ridenour about her new novel, Below the Radar.

• Finally, some essay-writing fun for students: The Bunburyist’s Elizabeth Foxwell reports that the Beacon Society, a “scion society” of that well-known Sherlock Holmes fan group, the Baker Street Irregulars, “is sponsoring an essay contest for U.S. and Canadian students in 4th to 12th grades that focuses on the Sherlock Holmes stories ‘The Adventure of the Red-Headed League,’ ‘The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,’ and ‘The Greek Interpreter.’ There are cash prizes for first to third place. The submission deadline is February 1, 2020.” Click here to find more entry details.

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