Friday, April 10, 2020

Bullet Points: Making the Best of It Edition

• London’s Goldsboro Books has announced its longlist of a dozen contenders for the 2020 Glass Bell Award, a prize meant to celebrate “the best storytelling across contemporary fiction.” About half of the books—identified below with asterisks—are obviously or at least arguably drawn from the crime/mystery side.

Imaginary Friend, by Stephen Chbosky (Orion)
Darkdawn, by Jay Kristoff (HarperVoyager)
The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker)
The Lost Ones, by Anita Frank (HQ)
My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic)*
The Farm, by Joanne Ramos (Bloomsbury)
Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton)
The Second Sleep, by Robert Harris (Cornerstone)*
Blood & Sugar, by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Mantle)*
Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Cornerstone)
Nothing Important Happened Today, by Will Carver (Orenda)*
The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides (Orion Books)*

A shortlist of six Glass Bell finalists is expected to be released on May 11, with the winner to be named on July 2.

• In advance of Bosch’s return to Amazon Prime next Friday, April 17, Crime Fiction Lover briefly recaps the last five seasons of that Michael Connelly-supervised police-procedural series.

• This apparently coincidental cover similarity (see above) is sure to create confusion when it comes to ordering books. In the Dark, by Loreth Anne White, was released last December by Montlake Romance. Somewhere in the Dark, by R.J. Jacobs, is set to debut in August, from Crooked Lane. (Hat tip to Linda L. Richards.)

• It had to happen: ThrillerFest XV, which had been arranged for July 7-11 in New York City, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An e-mail notice from executive director Kimberley Howe says, “We will be providing full refunds to everyone, and you will receive those funds in approximately two weeks, as soon as Cvent (our registration provider) can process our request.” But all is not lost. “To help you avoid ThrillerFest withdrawal,” says Howe, “we will be offering, in July, a virtual conference that you can enjoy from the safety of your own home. This event will include PitchFest, ConsultFest, Master Class, the Debut Author Breakfast, the Thriller Awards Presentation, and other special ThrillerFest presentations. Current registrants will have first dibs to register for these events before others are welcomed to join in the fun (if there’s still space). Details and your chance to sign up will follow soon.”

• As he explains it, about three weeks ago Scottish novelist Peter May (The Blackhouse, A Silent Death) was asked by someone on Twitter whether he had any interest in composing a story set against today’s novel coronavirus scare. At which point May realized, “I had already done just that.” It seems that about a decade and a half ago, at a time when he despaired of his career future, May penned Lockdown, a thriller that imagined a global pandemic of bird flu. Unfortunately, the book was rejected by publishers as “unrealistic” and “unimaginable in present-day London.” May’s outlook on publishing was soon after buoyed by the release (originally in France) of The Blackhouse, and he shelved Lockdown, not expecting it ever to reach readers. Until now. With the novel coronavirus making grim news worldwide, British publisher Quercus is rushing Lockdown into print. It will go on sale in the UK on April 30; its U.S. premiere will be August 18.

• A different book with the same title is coming from publisher Polis in mid-June. Edited by Nick Kolakowski and Steve Weddle, Lockdown: Stories of Terror, Crime, and Hope During a Pandemic is an anthology of short stories that LitReactor says take place “against the background of a nationalized lockdown in response to a (fictional) virus, which mutates rapidly as it jumps from person to person. Cities are under martial law. The skies are clear as all planes are grounded. Some people panic, while some go to heroic lengths to save those they love—and others use the chaos as an opportunity to engage in purest evil. From New York City to the Mexican border, from the Deep South to the misty shores of Seattle, their characters are fighting for survival against incredible odds.” Proceeds from the sale of this collection are supposed to go to BINC, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, a non-profit enterprise “that assists booksellers in need.”

• Which brings us to this good news: The U.S. branch of Sisters in Crime has accelerated its support program for bookstores. The organization usually awards $500 every month to a deserving shop “to use for promotion, marketing, or hosting book-signing events.” But, it has announced, “in response to the current pandemic, we will be drawing the winners for the rest of 2020—nine winners—on April 16, 2020. We want to get these prizes out while the need is great. The deadline for entry is April 15. All other entry criteria remain the same.” Entry details are available here.

• Meanwhile, author Laurie R. King is holding an unusual auction. The person who contributes the most money will win the opportunity to name a character in King’s 2021 novel (to be set in Transylvania in 1925). Proceeds from this auction go to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County, California, which King says “is stepping up [during the current pandemic] with drive-by food giveaways serving hundreds of families at a time—families whose breadwinners pick our fruit, clean our rooms, pack our home deliveries, care for our sick.” You have until Wednesday, April 15, to make an auction bid and become eligible for these naming rights. If you simply want to donate to the food bank, you can do so at that same link.

• In case you’re feeling too happy of late, Zach Vasquez suggests you read “The 12 Darkest Endings in the History of Noir Fiction.”

Easter mysteries to relish over the coming holiday.

• Need some film fun this weekend? Empire of Deception author Dean Jobb picks “10 of the Greatest Con Artist Movies of All Time.”

• Actor James Drury, who died this last Monday at age 85, may be best-remembered for starring in the 1962-1971 NBC-TV western series The Virginian. (Not bad for somebody who was actually born in New York City—nowhere in spitting distance of America’s frontier reaches.) However, he also played Captain Spike Ryerson in the short-lived 1974 ABC drama Firehouse, featured in three episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger, and guest-starred on everything from Bourbon Street Beat, Michael Shayne, and Perry Mason to It Takes a Thief, Ironside, and The Fall Guy. Drury’s lengthy catalogue of credits is here.

• This item comes from In Reference to Murder:
A beloved TV character is coming back: NBC gave a 13-episode series order to a new crime drama series starring Christopher Meloni, reprising his Law & Order: SVU role as Elliot Stabler. The SVU spinoff drama will revolve around the NYPD organized crime unit led by Stabler. Like Law & Order: SVU, headlined by Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson, the new drama is set in New York, allowing for potential seamless crossovers with SVU and for Benson-Stabler reunions.
• I’m very sorry to hear that Mort Drucker, the Brooklyn-born cartoonist and caricaturist whose work became so familiar over his five decades of contributing to Mad magazine, died on Wednesday at 91 years of age. Drucker, who “specialized in parodies of movies and television shows” (including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Perry Mason, Magnum, P.I., and the James Bond flicks), was one of my father’s favorite artists, along with Jack Davis and politics lampooner Pat Oliphant, so there were always a lot of Mads around my boyhood home. “Mr. Drucker’s facility was best expressed in multi-caricature crowd scenes,” opines J. Hoberman in The New York Times. “His parody of the 1986 Woody Allen film, Hannah and Her Sisters, opened with a panel depicting a Thanksgiving dinner that, in addition to most of the movie’s ensemble cast, included caricatures of Mr. Allen’s first wife, Louise Lasser; the film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel; Mayor Ed Koch of New York; and Mad’s mascot, Alfred E. Neuman. His drawing for a 1970 Time magazine cover, ‘Battle for the Senate,’ now in the National Portrait Gallery, featured a pileup of 15 individually characterized political figures, including President Richard M. Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. Mad’s takeoff on the MGM retrospective feature That’s Entertainment, published in 1975, required Mr. Drucker to caricature more than two dozen stars.” (Drucker applied the same aesthetic to his poster art for the 1971 Mafia comedy film, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.) Let’s give the final word here to Saturday Evening Post art critic David Apatoff, who recalls in his blog: “Drucker was such a humble, gentle soul, I could never quite figure out where he found the drive and ambition to create his hundreds of beautiful stories, decade after decade. The opposite of competitive, he was as generous and open-minded an artist as I’ve ever known. Yet he maintained the excruciatingly high standards to stay up late night after night crafting marvelous drawings, working out likenesses for his caricatures and populating his pictures with details and humor that reflected his abundance of spirit.”

• Scott D. Parker’s obituary of Drucker, in Diversions of the Groovy Kind, features the cartoonist’s parody of the 1972 disaster pic The Poseidon Adventure, retitled “The Poopsidedown Adventure.”

• For its part, Spy Write recalls Drucker’s satirical twist on the 1966 picture The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

• There’s a new crime-fiction podcast worth sampling: Tartan Noir. As the program’s Web site explains, this hour-long offering will spotlight Scottish crime-fiction writing, and will be hosted “by author and broadcaster Theresa Talbot, who’s joined each week by a special guest (fellow authors, journalists or celebrity fans).” Val McDermid lent her voice and knowledge to the first episode, while on the second, Talbot spoke with Liam McIlvanney.

• Here’s one other podcast recommendation, courtesy of Dave Knadler. In his blog, Dave’s Fiction Warehouse, he extols the “lovely, measured tones” of Phoebe Judge’s voice as she reads classic mysteries. Judge has hosted the podcast Criminal for several years; but since the onset of today’s pandemic, she’s also been reading—chapter by chapter—such famous works as The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie, and The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle. You can listen in at Phoebe Reads a Mystery. Let’s hope Judge continues these readings past the time when all of us can resume something approaching our normal lives.

• Way back in 2008, author Mark Coggins contributed a multi-part series to The Rap Sheet about The New Black Mask magazine, a short-lived 1980s revival of the publication that had helped launch the careers of so many well-known crime-fictionists. In Coggins’ assessment of the final, 1987 edition of NBM, he talked about John D. MacDonald, who was that issue’s feature focus and who was interviewed briefly in its pages. What wasn’t included with his article, however, was the full text of Macdonald’s “brusque” exchange with co-editor Richard Layman. But now, Tennessee banker-turned-writer Steve Scott has posted that interview in his MacDonald-oriented blog, The Trap of Solid Gold, for all of us to appreciate.

• Ace Atkins’ next (ninth) novel starring one-named Boston P.I. Spenser will be Robert B. Parker’s Someone to Watch Over Me, scheduled for release (from Putnam) in November.

• Illinois writer Thomas McNulty is behind the book-review blog Dispatches from the Last Outlaw, but it turns out he also has a YouTube channel, McNulty’s Book Corral, on which he talks about reading matters. Some of the episodes have focused on westerns and science fiction, but here he enthuses over Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels (and Max Allan Collins’ continuation of that series). And here he focuses on “man-bait paperbacks,” soap-operaish works with romantic themes and “saucy” covers, marketed toward male readers. McNulty must have an outstanding collection of vintage softcovers.

Elmore Leonard seems to be a popular subject this week, as Craig Pittman celebrates that author’s strong Florida connections in CrimeReads, and Don Winslow writes in Deadline about how he “almost made a movie with Elmore Leonard.”

• Winslow also talks with Thomas Pluck, for Criminal Element, about his fresh-off-the-vine short-story collection, Broken.

• Two more worthy exchanges: Nancie Clare’s chat with Cara Black (Three Hours in Paris) for her podcast, Speaking of Mysteries; and the delightful Hilary Davidson’s conversation with Frank Zafiro about her sixth novel, Don’t Look Down, for Wrong Place, Write Crime.

• If you haven’t been reading the Māwake Crime Review, a Crimespree Magazine feature that regularly showcases “great crime writers and crime novels from beyond the borders of North America and Europe,” you should start. In the latest installment, New Zealand critic-blogger Craig Sisterson turns his gaze upon Japanese contributions to this genre. Part of the column is devoted to an interview with Soji Shimada, author of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders and Murder in the Crooked House.

• I have heard several times over the years that film, TV, and stage performer Tony Franciosa—who starred in The Name of the Game, Search, and Matt Helm—was not popular among some of the people with whom he worked. Author and screenwriter Lee Goldberg recently shared this anecdote on Facebook, confirming such talk:
Tony Franciosa was reportedly a very difficult actor to work with. During the production of Matt Helm, he punched a director. Things got so bad, that Franciosa was written out of the 13th and final episode of the show. The producers must have loathed him because, in that final episode, they covered Franciosa’s face in the main titles with credits! Below are the credits as they appear in the first 12 episodes … and how they appeared in the final one. I’m amazed they got away with it!

• By the way, Goldberg has good news concerning a complete, five-disc French DVD set of Matt Helm episodes. In a March 20 “Bullet Points” post, he cautioned that the discs (with their English soundtrack, but French subtitles) “are unplayable on U.S. DVD players … unless you have a multi-standard DVD player (which I do) or software that allows you to watch it on your computer’s DVD drive.” However, he wrote me earlier this week to say that, in fact, those Matt Helm discs (which he must have ordered for himself) “will play on any DVD player … The picture and sound are great.”

• Columbus, Ohio, isn’t often thought of as a hotbed of fiction, when it’s even thought of at all. However, in his introduction to the new anthology Columbus Noir (Akashic), Andrew Welsh-Huggins—an editor and reporter for the Associated Press, and an occasional contributor to The Rap Sheet—points out why the 14th largest city in the United States offers all of the ingredients necessary to make it “ripe for the attention of crime fiction writers.” Read it all here.

• Terry Zobek takes a deep dive into all the corners of Lawrence Block’s writing career in his new release, A Trawl Among the Shelves: Lawrence Block Bibliography, 1958-2020.

• Spanish blogger José Ignacio Escribano continues to post intriguing mini-biographies of mystery writers in A Crime Is Afoot. Recent subjects include the well-remembered Leo Bruce, Julian Symons, and Anthony Boucher as well as less tip-of-the-tongue talents such as Anthony Wynne, A.E.W. Mason, and Ronald A. Knox.

• With April being National Poetry Month, Gerald So has organized a 30-day celebration of crime-related verse in The Five-Two.

• And a couple of weeks back, CrimeReads posted a critic’s list of 14 “long-ass books”—all crime, mystery, and thriller novels, of course—that might help us while away these mass-isolation times. Now Literary Hub’s Emily Temple takes that same idea and expands upon it, delivering an inventory of what she says are “The 50 Best Contemporary Novels Over 500 Pages.” I’m pleased to see that her choices include Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke, Don DeLillo’s Underworld, and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (a novel I chose as one of the 20th century’s best works). Several of her picks overlap those in CrimeReads (among them Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries), but she also promotes two other crime-oriented tales: Ian Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost and Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games.

1 comment:

Mark Coggins said...

Wow, Jeff, good memory. I completely forgot what Lyman said about the interview!