Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bullet Points: Adios to June Edition

• The Columbophile continues to roll out what it says—quite credibly—are “The 100 Greatest Columbo Scenes of the 1970s.” Compiling all of these videos, with commentary, must be a tremendous amount of work. Yet the project is only a week old, and already four series installments have been posted: Part 1 (100-91), Part 2 (90-81), Part 3 (80-71), and Part 4 (70-61). The most recent choices include the fabulous “gotcha” finale from Season 4’s “An Exercise in Fatality,” guest-starring Robert Conrad; the opening murder scene from “Suitable for Framing,” a Season 1 entry featuring Conrad’s Wild Wild West co-star, Ross Martin; and a demonstration of brotherly love … er, rather brotherly hate, from one of my all-time-favorite episodes, Season 3’s “Any Old Port in a Storm,” showcasing Donald Pleasence as a wine-making murderer. The Web site’s unidentified author promises that Part 5 (60-51) will appear on Sunday.

Just the sort of garb every Columbo fan needs!

• The Summer 2020 edition of Mystery Readers Journal is devoted to Italian mysteries. If you don’t already subscribe to MRJ, click here to purchase a copy of either this issue or previous editions.

• Which reminds me, I forgot to remark on the Summer 2020 edition of Mystery Scene. Blame it on the pandemic and the confusion it has caused, even in the traditionally relaxed and sumptuous Rap Sheet offices. Chief among this issue’s contents, of course, is the fine cover profile, by Oline H. Cogdill, of the intriguing Ivy Pochoda, author of the new novel These Women. But its pages also offer Michael Mallory’s retrospective on “Grand Dame Guignol” films; Lawrence Block’s “interview” with his burglar protagonist, Bernie Rhodenbarr; Joseph Goodrich’s feature on author-screenwriter Barry Gifford; Craig Sisterson’s look at Val McDermid’s storied writing career; and Ben Boulden’s introduction to four private-eye series set in small U.S. towns. To acquire your own copy of this issue, click here.

• I read Eleanor Catton’s 2013 yarn, The Luminaries, back when I was still serving as a judge for New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. Although that 830-plus-page historical mystery won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, it lost out on the Ngaio Marsh Award in 2014 to Where the Dead Men Go, by Liam McIlvanney. Ever since that time, I have wondered whether a motion picture or TV mini-series might be made from the book—and now that’s exactly what has happened. In fact, the six-part small-screen version of The Luminaries, starring Eve Hewson, Himesh Patel, and former “Bond girl” Eva Green, is currently being broadcast on BBC One in the UK, after having premiered in New Zealand last month. Here’s the official plot synopsis, from Radio Times:
The Luminaries tells an epic story of love, murder and revenge, as men and women travelled across the world to make their fortunes. It is a 19th-century tale of adventure and mystery, set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush.

The story follows defiant young adventurer Anna Wetherell, who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life. There she meets the radiant Emery Staines, an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain. As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?
You can watch a trailer for this limited series here, and The Killing Times reviews Episode 1 here. I don’t see any news yet about The Luminaries coming to the States, but I do hope it does soon.

• Back in March, right before the start of the COVID-19 worldwide lockdown, I mentioned that next year’s Bouchercon—set to take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, from August 25 to 29, 2021—was offering a discounted registration price of $175 to the first 200 people who signed up. Amazingly, the convention’s Web site says there are still 46 such discounted spots available. After they’re gone, the charge will go up to $195. Further registration information is available here.

• Optimistic that we will have reached some safety point with the pandemic before next August, I went ahead and registered for Bouchercon 2021 myself. Since I had such a great time in New Orleans at Bouchercon 2016, and since my friend and colleague Ali Karim has been tapped as the convention’s Fan Guest of Honor, I wasn’t about to miss out on another few days spent in the Big Easy. Even knowing that August can be particularly brutal, heat-wise, in the South.

• Speaking of COVID-19, I was shocked to read in Vox the results of a new Pew Research Center poll showing that even as cases of this novel coronavirus are surging again in the United States (thanks at least in part to the reopening of businesses nationwide), “40 percent of Americans now believe the worst … is in the past, up from 26 percent in early April. That number includes the majority of Republicans, 61 percent of whom said the country has already suffered the worst of the pandemic.” By comparison, says Pew, “just 23% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say that the worst is behind us when it comes to problems from the coronavirus; more than three times as many Democrats (76%) say the worst is still to come.” This is a case where politics threatens public health. Please, everyone, listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when he counsels, “Everybody should wear a mask when out in public.” All of our lives depend on everyone being careful and respectful of others in the face of this deadly infection.

• Congratulations to Kate Jackson’s exceptional blog, Cross-Examining Crime, which today celebrates its fifth anniversary!

• Given my longstanding interest in graphic design, I was saddened to hear that artist-designer Milton Glaser, who created that “I ♥ NY” logo and co-founded New York magazine (with Clay Felker), died yesteray—which also happened to be his 91st birthday.

• Author Lee Child admits to The Guardian that he doesn’t much like his protagonist creation, Jack Reacher, and that he once “thought he would have to conclude the series with the brutal killing of his main character.” The final book even had a title: Die Lonely.

• The last I heard, Showtime’s eight-part TV drama Ripley, based on Patricia Highsmith’s best-selling Tom Ripley novels, was due to begin shooting this September in Italy. Meanwhile, British author Sarah Hilary (Never Be Broken) has an essay in CrimeReads that includes this explanation of her Highsmith’s continuing popularity:
If today much of Highsmith’s writing still feels contemporary, it is because her stories are so often unresolved; neat endings elude us in 2020 much as they did in 1950. Instead, Highsmith drops us down into the psychology of her characters where we grope in the dark, squinting and squirming, and delighting in Tom Ripley’s many perversions, including murder, because she has given us the gift of falling into the story. We are lost for the time we’re reading her books, adrift from our moral moorings, from political correctness, even common decency. We may tell ourselves we have a more liberal definition of “common decency” than her contemporaries, but this hardly bears close scrutiny in the age of social media when judgement is reached so rapidly and with condemnation so hot on its heels. While it is probably a good thing Highsmith did not live to see the age of Twitter, it is fair to say she understood human psychology more keenly than many of her contemporaries.
Click here to enjoy the entirety of Hilary’s essay.

• Summer began last weekend, but only now has Janet Rudolph posted her lengthy list of summertime mysteries.

What a clever title for a hard-boiled crime yarn!

• And I can only assume that this men’s magazine title must have sold more than a few copies as well.

• Finally, Lisa Levy has undertaken a daunting mission for CrimeReads: documenting the escalating variety of crime novels that feature “Girl” in their titles. “The surprising thing,” she observes, “is that even though the word shot up in popularity post Gone Girl, it’s been in the mix for a long time”—long enough that Levy is now four entries into her series (Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV), with presumably many more installments to come.

No comments: