Thursday, December 19, 2019

Bullet Points: Impeachment Edition

• With the end of 2019 now two weeks away, “best books of the year” selections are rolling out onto the Web in increasing number. CrimeReads offers several different themes. It’s “10 Best Crime Novels of 2019” listicle includes Lisa Lutz’s The Swallows, Don Winslow’s The Border, Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay, and Alan Bradley’s The Golden Tresses of the Dead. Also offered are choices for best international crime fiction, best psychological thrillers of 2019, best debut works, the year’s finest espionage fiction, best true-crime books, best traditional mysteries, and the foremost noir fiction of the last 12 months.

• Meanwhile, the British site Crime Time is up with its own “books of the year” choices. As is true also of CrimeReads’ lists, there are few unexpected picks among Crime Time’s top 10. But if you read down a bit further, into the preferences of individual contributors, there are some more interesting suggestions, among them Andrew Williams’ Witchfinder, Robert Jeffrey’s Man at the Window, Ray Celestin’s The Mobster’s Lament, and Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s Blood & Sugar (which I highlighted in my own top-five rundown).

• Abby Endler, author of the blog Crime by the Book, provides Criminal Element with a catalogue of 12 titles—one chosen from every month of 2019—that she believes deserve particular applause. Winning her approval are Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient, Alice Feeney’s I Know Who You Are, Riley Sager’s Lock Every Door, Sara Shepard’s Reputation, and eight others.

• MysteryPeople, the crime-fiction department of Austin’s famously large and commercially independent BookPeople store, is up with its “five favorite Texas crime novels of 2019.”

• The various contributors to Crime Fiction Lover are still in the process of announcing their “top five books of 2019.”

• And in its concluding episode of 2019, the Paperback Warrior podcast “revisit[s] the greatest books we read this year.” Keep in mind that the Paperback Warrior blog’s focus is on older works (predominately crime and thriller fiction), so don’t expect any overlap between its “greatest books” and those mentioned above.

• Mystery Fanfare’s Janet Rudolph reports that “with just days to go before it would have to close its doors forever, San Diego’s science fiction, fantasy, young adult, mystery, and horror bookstore Mysterious Galaxy has found a new location and new owners: Jenni Marchisotto and Matthew Berger have bought the store and will run it at its new home, 3555 Rosecrans St., Suite #107, San Diego, CA 92110. Everyone’s keeping their jobs, too. It’s a Christmas miracle.”

• Speaking of Mystery Fanfare, Rudolph has updated her extensive catalogue of Christmas-related crime fiction. There are three parts, divided according to author last names: A-E, F-L, and M-Z. She’s also added titles to her set of Hanukkah/Chanukkah mysteries, and to her inventory of Christmas short stories, novellas, and anthologies.

• Back in August, we alerted you to the start of the third annual Six-Word Mystery Contest, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. It offered prizes to writers who could condense a crime story into just half a dozen words. The victors in five categories have now been announced, but the overall winner is Jeffrey Lockwood, an author and professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming. His punchy submission:
36D, 44 magnum, 20 to life
A press release says that “forty writers from 10 states and Australia submitted 211 six-word mysteries to this year’s competition.”

• Actor Danny Aiello may be remembered best for his roles in movies such as Moonstruck (1987) and Do the Right Thing (1989), but when I heard that he died last week at age 86, my thoughts jumped immediately to his 1997-1998 CBS-TV crime drama, Dellaventura. Yes, that 13-episode series—in which he played Anthony Dellaventura, a former New York City police detective turned private eye, who “rounds up a bunch of crackerjack crime-fighters to right wrongs that are beyond the reach of the criminal justice system”—was derided variously as a knock-off of either The Equalizer or Telly Savalas’ Kojak. However, the Daily News’ Denis Hamil argued in 1997 that the Dellaventura role was “a perfect fit” for Aiello. And as you can see in this episode of the program, “Above Reproach” (the only one I could find on YouTube, with a guest appearance by Tony Franciosa), it boasted an engaging dark air leavened by moments of humor. Aiello seemed fully comfortable leading a cast that also included his son Ricky and Anne Ramsey from Mad About You. And the opening title sequence—featuring a version of Dion DiMucci’s classic “I Was Born to Cry,” and embedded below—set the show’s tone splendidly.

• While searching around for Dellaventura installments, I stumbled across this video collection of memorable clips from the 1984-1987 CBS series Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, in which star Stacy Keach catches too-brief looks (in multiple episodes) at an alluring young brunette—referred to simply as “The Face”—“who popped into frame and just as quickly popped out again, much to the chagrin of Mike Hammer, who was dying to meet her.” As the blog TV Character Nicknames reminds us, “The general public was also kept in the dark as to her identity until her credit line appeared on an episode of ABC’s Perfect Strangers. It revealed that ‘The Face’ was model-actress Donna Denton. Finally, after three years of just glimpses, Mike Hammer got to meet the mysterious woman in the spring 1987 episode entitled ‘A Face in the Dark.’” (Actually, the title was “A Face in the Night,” and it was broadcast originally on May 13, 1987). Of all the women Keach’s Hammer knew—or, in this instance, didn’t know—Denton’s persistently elusive lovely remains my favorite.

• A very sad change for Seattle: First and Pike News—formerly Read All About It—a newsstand landmark in the city’s historic Pike Place Market, is slated to close on December 31 after four decades in business. Back in the days when I covered the media business for Seattle Weekly, this corner shop was one of my most regular stops, a place where I could pick up not only U.S. magazines and newspapers, but also foreign publications. Want to learn more about that enterprise? Read all about it here and here.

• In Reference to Murder brings this film news:
Universal Pictures is developing Tapping the Source, based on the “surfer noir” novel by Kem Nunn. The story follows a man who heads to Huntington Beach [California] to look for his missing sister and for the three men who may have murdered her⁠—a search that takes him on a journey through a twisted world of crazed Vietnam vets, sadistic surfers, drug dealers, and mysterious seducers.
You can check out Rap Sheet contributor Steven Nester’s review of Nunn’s 1984 first novel by clicking here.

A note in Elizabeth Foxwell’s The Bunburyist leads us to a post on the British Film Institute’s Web site in which freelance writer Pamela Hutchinson selects “10 great whodunnit mysteries,” suspect-packed pictures “in which the audience plays sleuth.”

• The site Best Thrillers has named what it contends are “The 21 Best Legal Thrillers of the 21st Century,” including Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, Marcia Clark’s Blood Defense, Max Allan Collins’ Supreme Justice, and Lisa Cottoline’s Corrupted.

• If you’re planning to attend next year’s Bouchercon in Sacramento, California (October 15 to 18), consider registering by December 31. Until then, the cost is $200; on January 1, it will climb to $225.

• This item comes from The Killing Times:
Acclaimed screenwriter and Endeavour creator, Russell Lewis, has adapted two of international bestseller Peter James’ award-winning novels for ITV from the Roy Grace series, starring John Simm in the lead role of the tenacious detective.

Grace, the two feature-length screenplays will narrate the first two stories in the series, Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead, which introduced Brighton based Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, a hard-working police officer who has given his life to the job.,
For Criminal Element, Andrew Nette, co-editor of the new book Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counter Culture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, highlights “six pulp, crime, and popular fiction writers from the counterculture era who may have slipped your radar, but are ripe for rediscovery.” And yes, “Mike Barry” (aka science-fiction author Barry Malzberg) ranks among them.

• Lastly, yesterday added a sad but necessary event to America’s timeline: the impeachment of Donald John Trump. Sad, because the office of the U.S. president is traditionally due respect, but Trump’s corrupt and unconstitutional efforts to pressure a foreign country (Ukraine) to interfere in the 2020 presidential campaign for his personal gain, and then his going to extraordinary lengths to cover up that perfidy, brings shame upon the office. Necessary, because as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) put it, “We cannot rely on the next election as a remedy for presidential misconduct when the president threatens the very integrity of that election. He has shown us he will continue to put his selfish interests above the good of the country. We must act without delay.” I didn’t vote for Republican Trump in 2016, and I never shall; I don’t believe he’s fit, either emotionally or intellectually, to fill the position he holds. What I have learned about him over the last few years—that he’s a bigot, a misogynist, a narcissist, and a serial sex abuser; that he cheats on his wives and demands loyalty from others, but will turn on anyone when the going gets tough; that he’s a braggart and a bully, a whiner and a con man; that he’s petty and paranoia, driven by grievance and a sucker for conspiracy theories; that he’s a habitual liar—none of those characteristics commends him as a leader or a role model, or even as a man. Trump’s mendacity is particularly pernicious. It drew special attention earlier this week, when The Washington Post counted the lies he’s told over the last three years, and came up with 7,688. One of those became Politifact’s 2019 Lie of the Year: his assertion that the still-anonymous whistle-blower who first drew public attention to Trump’s Ukraine scandal was “almost completely wrong.” A more honorable, more thoughtful, and more experienced president would not be due such condemnations.

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