Thursday, February 25, 2021

Bullet Points: Wonders Never Cease Edition

• This coming Monday, March 1, will bring—from The Bagley Brief Web site—the release of Writer: An Enquiry into a Novelist, Philip Eastwood’s “painstaking reconstruction” of a previously unpublished memoir by English adventure-thriller writer Desmond Bagley (1923-1983). In advance of that, Shotsmag Confidential has posted the foreword to Eastwood’s work, written by Mike Ripley (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and establishing Bagley’s stature as one of the Big Three among contributors to the”Golden Age of the British thriller,” the other two being Hammond Innes and Alistair MacLean.

• Can it really be true, at last? According to Deadline,
Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, a character created by author Walter Mosley, is getting another shot on television after Amblin Television signed up to develop a series.

The production company has closed a deal to adapt Mosley’s stories—Rawlins has appeared in 15 novels and short stories—with
The Americans and Amazing Stories director Sylvain White on board to direct the pilot episode and exec produce.

The series, based on the gritty detective novels, will center around Easy, a Black WWII Army veteran turned hard-boiled private eye. The show will be set in 1950’s Los Angeles and will honor the great traditions of storytelling in the detective genre, while also exploring the racial inequalities and social injustice experienced by Black people and other people of color.
Deadline observes that this “is the latest attempt to get Rawlins on to the small screen—[screenwriter-producer] John Wells attempted an Easy Rawlins series at NBC back in 2011 and USA Network also attempted a version seven years before that. The character of Easy Rawlins also previously appeared on screen in the 1995 film Devil in a Blue Dress, which starred Denzel Washington.”

• Back in December I mentioned that the often humorous British crime drama McDonald & Dodds, featuring Tala Gouveia and Jason Watkins as mismatched cops in modern-day Bath, England, would soon return with a second season. Radio Times now brings word that the first of three new two-hour-long McDonald & Dodds episodes will show in the UK on Sunday, February 28, beginning at 8 p.m. Guest stars this season include Rupert Graves, Doctor Who’s Natalie Gumede, and Saira Choudhry. Radio Times provides cursory synopses of each installment’s storyline. It also frets that “these three episodes could be McDonald & Dodds’ last, since DCI McDonald [Gouveia] firmly stated in the previous series that she would only stay in Bath for two years tops.” But hey, we’re dealing here with a work of pure fiction, and if this ITV program continues to pull in audiences, can we not expect someone in charge to contrive a semi-logical excuse for extending its storyline?

• Shortly in advance of the coronavirus pandemic shutting down movie and television production a year ago, British TV channel BBC One announced that it had greenlighted two additional seasons—Series 6 and 7—of the Scottish crime drama Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall. But only now, says The Killing Times, is work on those fresh episodes finally resuming. Beginning in April, it explains, back-to-back series of the show (six episodes apiece) will commence shooting on the subarctic archipelago that gives this prize-winning drama its name. “Both series will be written and created by David Kane (Stonemouth, The Field of Blood), who originated the first series of Shetland and has written on every series since. The islands’ local newspaper, The Shetland Times, reported that producer Louise Say promised ‘absolutely riveting’ and ‘hard-hitting’ storylines.”

• This will likely be worth watching. B.V. Lawson tells us that “Benedict Cumberbatch will star in a limited series update of the classic thriller, The 39 Steps, inspired by John Buchan’s novel, which was turned into the 1935 film classic by Alfred Hitchcock. The TV project of The 39 Steps is being described as ‘a provocative, action-packed conspiracy thriller series that updates the classic novel for our times. An ordinary man, Richard Hannay, becomes an unwitting pawn in a vast, global conspiracy to reset the world order.’”

• Even before TV writer and producer William Link’s death in December, I had been trying to catch up with the proliferation of small-screen movies he developed with his writing partner of 43 years, Richard Levinson. I’ve found a variety of them on YouTube, and bought DVDs of some others online. However, I was in the dark about their 1986 mystery Vanishing Act, until Mystery*File reminded me of its existence. As Steve Lewis relates, it finds “Harry Kenyon (Mike Farrell) … on his honeymoon in the Rocky Mountains after a whirlwind romance in Las Vegas with a woman named Christine Prescott. But their wedded bliss is soon interrupted and Harry reports her disappearance to Lieutenant Rudameyer (Elliott Gould), a New Yorker more interested in eating a corned beef sandwich specially imported from a delicatessen on West 87th Street. It seems to be a fuss over nothing as Christine (Margot Kidder) is quickly found--only Harry doesn’t recognize her and refuses to believe she’s his wife!” At least for the present moment, you can watch that full picture here.

Shoot! We almost got to watch a Wild Wild West reboot.

• Thirty-nine-year-old Morven Christie (formerly of Grantchester) has quit her role as a detective sergeant family liaison officer on The Bay, making way for actress Marsha Thomason to lead the cast in Series 3 of that British crime drama. Understandably, Christie’s sudden departure has fomented speculation about why she gave up that plum part. The Killing Times thinks it may have a clue.

• Holmes and Watson—villains? That’s just one of the twists in a new, eight-episode horror series debuting on March 26. Writes Olivia Rutigliano: “The Baker Street Irregulars, Sherlock Holmes’s organization of motley street urchins, are going to get their own Netflix series. It’s a dark show, full of supernatural mysteries, but the paranormal activity is not the only modification to the Sherlockian world you know and love. The program, titled The Irregulars, posits that the group is manipulated into solving dangerous supernatural crimes by Dr. Watson (who is evil)—feats for which his sketchy business partner Sherlock Holmes gets all the renown.”

• In Reference to Murder reports that among the among the 25 categories of finalists for this year’s Audie Awards, announced this week by the Audio Publishers Association, are two of potentially special interest to Rap Sheet readers: Mystery and Thriller/Suspense. Below are the five Mystery contenders:
A Bad Day for Sunshine, by Darynda Jones, narrated by Lorelei King (Macmillan Audio)
Confessions on the 7:45, by Lisa Unger, narrated by Vivienne Leheny (HarperAudio)
Fair Warning, by Michael Connelly, narrated by Peter Giles and Zach Villa (Hachette Audio)
The Guest List, by Lucy Foley, narrated by Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Sarah Ovens, Rich Keeble, Aoife McMahon, and Jot Davies (HarperAudio)
Trouble Is What I Do, by Walter Mosley, narrated by Dion Graham (Hachette Audio)
The full list of 2021 Audie nominees is here. Winners are to be announced during a virtual “gala” on March 22. The festivities are set to start at 9 p.m. EST, and can be streamed live at this link.

• Blogger Evan Lewis has generously taken the time to dig up, from the deep recesses of the Web, as many publicity materials as he could find related to the 1946 Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film, The Big Sleep. Look for them in two separate posts, here and here.

• Left Coast Crime already rescheduled its 2021 convention for 2022, due to the worldwide spread of COVID-19. And now Malice Domestic is doing the same. “After careful consideration,” its board of directors declared in a news release, “we have decided to postpone Malice 32/33 to 2022. … Instead of a live event in 2021, we are excited to announce More Than Malice, a virtual (online) festival. More Than Malice will be held on July 14-17, 2021, and will feature special guests, unique panels, and the Agatha Awards. We will have much more exciting information for you in the coming days and weeks.” Everyone who’s currently registered for Malice 2021 should receive an Agatha Award nomination form soon. Keep up with developments by following the Malice Twitter page.

• In CrimeReads, editor Dwyer Murphy ponders that immortal question, Why was Raymond Chandler so venomous in attacking Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 psychological thriller, Strangers on a Train?

How did Victorian homes “go from celebrated to creepy?”

• Excellent news! UK author Martin Edwards spent his weeks in pandemic lockdown researching and penning a third Rachel Savernake/Jacob Flint historical mystery (following Gallows Court and Mortmain Hall). He writes in his blog that it should be published “early next year,” with a fourth installment to follow in 2023.

• Only days ago I recommended that readers check out—with warranted dispatch—the complete, one-season run of NBC-TV’s City of Angels on YouTube. Now comes Steve Aldous with a short review of that show’s three-part first episode, “The November Plan.” He remarks: “The promise on show here would occasionally surface over the series’ next ten episodes before it was cancelled due to low ratings just as it was building a head of steam.”

Why the Titanic’s 1912 sinking still makes for a good story.

• And it’s true: Director Tim Burton is set to shoot a live-action, young-adult series for Netflix about Wednesday Addams, the wonderfully creepy little girl familiar from small- and big-screen versions of The Addams Family. Variety describes Wednesday as “a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy. She attempts to master her emerging psychic ability, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, and solve the supernatural mystery that embroiled her parents 25 years ago—all while navigating her new and very tangled relationships at Nevermore.” Tor.com says there is “no official word on the casting yet, but given how sadly awful the last Addams film was (the animated one from 2019, not the gems we got in the ’90s), this might be a slight improvement?”

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Gone Is the “Gracious” Maron

Today brings this announcement: “It is with great sadness that the family of mystery writer Margaret Brown Maron announces her death on February 23, 2021, from complications due to stroke.” Maron was best known for penning two crime-fiction series: one starring Judge Deborah Knott, an attorney and the daughter of a notorious North Carolina bootlegger; the other built around Lieutenant Sigrid Harald, a homicide detective with the New York City Police Department.

The author was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, back in 1938. She attended colleges in her home state as well as in New York, “yet managed not to graduate from any of them,” as the aforementioned obituary explains; wed a U.S. naval officer in the late 1950s; lived in Italy and Brooklyn for years, the latter of which being where she composed her first short story, published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 1968; and moved with her family back to North Carolina in 1972. Maron went on to write some 30 novels and dozens more short stories. Her work was recognized for its realistic portrayals of working women, its sympathetic depictions of family relationships, and of course, its wide-ranging tours of her beloved Tar Heel State. As Maron told the North Carolina Star-News—with a chuckle—during the fall of 2002, “I did have one reader in Wisconsin who wrote that he was never going to buy one of my books again, since it was clear I was in the pay of the North Carolina tourism department.”

For her storytelling efforts, Maron was gifted with Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. In 2013, she and fellow writer Ken Follett were named as Grand Masters by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). She was among the founders and earliest presidents of the Sisters in Crime organization, and in 2005 she took on duties as president of the MWA. Her first Knott novel, 1992’s Bootlegger’s Daughter, numbers among the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s “100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century.”

(Above) Margaret Maron, in front, with fellow author Sarah R. Shaber at Bouchercon 2015. (Photo © 2015 by Ali Karim.)

I had only a single opportunity to meet Margaret Maron, during the 2015 Bouchercon convention, held in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was altogether charming and unpretentious and damnably hard not to like at first encounter. But others were much better acquainted with her, both personally and professionally. For instance, her longtime friend Kaye Wilkinson Barley writes in her blog, Meanderings and Musings, that “Margaret Maron was loved, admired, and respected in the mystery community, and she will never be forgotten. She was always accessible, always ready to reach out to new writers and always happy to meet her readers. And always humble. And always, always gracious.” Barley includes in her post links to several pieces—“about everything from her mother's cookbook to over-sexed pine trees”—that Maron contributed to Meanderings and Musings over the years.

Meanwhile, in a piece for Shotsmag Confidential, Mike Ripley recalls meeting Maron for the first time during the 1990 Bouchercon held in London, England. “I arranged a private tour of the House of Commons for her and she gave me a T-shirt,” he says, “which I still have, to induct me as an associate Sister in Crime—an honour I think only Robert Barnard and I held at the time. It was the start of a friendship which was to span more than thirty years.”

Mystery Fanfare’s Janet Rudolph remembers Maron, at conventions, as “always so friendly, including [with] people in her panels and chats in the lobby, bar, or book room. When she finally made it to one of my Literary Salons here on the West Coast, she not only gave a great talk, but she identified a special spider that was spinning a web ‘behind my garden gate.’ Who knew she was an expert on arachnia? Margaret was a woman of many talents and interests. She was smart, witty, funny, compassionate, and generous to others. … Margaret was a literary treasure and one of the nicest people I've ever known. I will miss her.”

We offer our condolences to Maron’s family as this difficult time.

(Hat tip to Lesa Holstine.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Dagger Comes for Cole

UK crime writer Martina Cole has been announced as the winner of the 2021 Diamond Dagger, a coveted commendation presented by the Crime Writers’ Association. A press release explains:
The long-reigning Queen of Crime Drama is a publishing powerhouse. Martina has written 25 novels, all published by Headline, seventeen of which reached No.1 and her books have collectively spent over 4 years in the bestseller charts. Total sales stand at over 17 million copies, making her Britain’s bestselling female crime writer and with The Faithless [2011] she became the first British female adult audience novelist to break the £50 million sales mark since Nielsen Bookscan records began. Her books have been translated into 31 languages and adapted for multiple stage plays and television series.
That release includes a quote from the author herself: “It means so much to me to be receiving this prestigious award from my peers at the CWA. I can’t believe it’s nearly thirty years since Dangerous Lady was published—some people dismissed me as an Essex girl and a one-book wonder—but as one of my favourite songs goes: ‘I’m still here’!”

The Diamond Dagger is given out annually to fictionists “whose crime-writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to crime fiction writing.” Previous recipients include P.D. James, John le Carré, Sara Paretsky, Peter Lovesey, Andrew Taylor, Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, and last year’s honoree, Martin Edwards.

Cole will receive her commendation during a special Dagger Awards ceremony to take place in October.

From Fan to Fictionist

Three years after her husband, former president Bill Clinton, published his own debut political thrillerThe President Is Missing, co-authored with James Patterson—Hillary Rodham Clinton, the onetime U.S. secretary of state and ex-presidential candidate, is teaming up with mystery writer Louise Penny on her own novel, State of Terror, to be published jointly by Simon & Schuster and St. Martin’s Press.

Book Riot provides a brief synopsis of the plot:
State of Terror takes place just after a four-year presidential term that pulled America away from the world stage. A novice Secretary of State is appointed by her political rival, and shortly after, the country is rocked by multiple terrorist attacks. The Secretary must put together a team capable of finding the source of the attacks while also preventing the American government from crumbling.

Clinton’s political experience influences several aspects of the new novel. After losing to former President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, Clinton was appointed by Obama to serve as Secretary of State for four years.

The novel is also influenced by the Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy tactics.
Hillary Clinton and Penny, author of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series (All the Devils Are Here), have apparently known each other for years. And the Clinton family has vacationed in Quebec, Canada’s Eastern Township as Penny’s guests. “Writing a thriller with Louise is a dream come true,” Clinton enthused in a statement. “I’ve relished every one of her books and their characters as well as her friendship. Now we’re joining our experiences to explore the complex world of high-stakes diplomacy and treachery.”

The New York Times quotes Penny as saying she “could not say yes fast enough,” when the idea came up of their writing a novel together. “Before we started, we talked about her time as Secretary of State. What was her worst nightmare? State of Terror is the answer.”

Their political thriller should arrive in bookshops by October 12.

By the way, a second novel by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, The President’s Daughter, is scheduled for release this coming June.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

PaperBack: “Speak No Evil”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.



Speak No Evil, by Mignon G. Eberhart (Dell, 1952). Cover illustration by Walter Brooks. This was a late entry in publisher Dell’s famous “mapback” series of softcover editions.

READ MORE:Mignon G. Eberhart: Death and the Maiden,” by Diana Killian (Girl Detective).

Gearing Up for the Leftys

We’re still almost two months away from presentations of the 2021 Lefty Awards, sponsored by the Left Coast Crime Convention. Although this year’s convention itself has been “rescheduled for 2022,” Lefty winners for 2021 are to be announced online on April 10.

In the meantime, convention organizers have arranged—for next Saturday, February 27—a succession of virtual panel discussions intended to build up interest in those Lefty contenders. Janet Rudolph explains in Mystery Fanfare that those presentations will begin with a 15-minute introduction at 8:30 a.m. PT/11:30 ET. That will be followed by hour-long discussions of nominees for the Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, the Lefty Award for Best Novel, the Lefty Award for Best Historical Novel, and the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Novel. Lists of the contenders in each of those categories can be found here.

Registration for these Zoom events is free, but registration is required. Go here to fill out the paperwork.

Artful Dodge

Just a quick reminder to all David Dodge enthusiasts: Tomorrow, February 21, will bring librarian Randal S. Brandt’s online address to the Seattle-based Book Club of Washington, recounting the colorful back story of Dodge’s 1952 novel, To Catch a Thief. This event, beginning at 2 p.m., will be free and open to the public. However, you should click here to register in advance.

Friday, February 19, 2021

See Them While You Can

• I’m always leery of directing readers to videos on YouTube, as offerings there tend to be yanked capriciously. But this is too good to miss. Someone employing the handle “Maljardin” has posted the full, 13-episode run of NBC-TV’s City of Angels, a Depression-era private eye drama starring Wayne Rogers. Although some episodes weren’t as well-plotted or as tightly edited as others, this 1976 midseason replacement series—created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell of Rockford Files fame—remains eminently watchable, a Chinatown-inspired program that delivers plenty of suspense, eccentric characters, and 1930s atmosphere. No less than Max Allan Collins has called City of Angels “the best private eye series ever.” If I didn’t already own bootlegged copies of these eps, I would be viewing them all today. Click here to find Maljardin’s full selection of videos.

• OK, since I am already going out on one shaky limb by recommending those YouTube features, why not highlight another? Michael Hayes was a 1997-1998 CBS-TV series starring ex-NYPD Blue hotshot David Caruso as “an Irish Catholic ex-New York City police officer appointed acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.” It was developed by Paul Haggis, before he went off and scripted a couple of films starring some character named James Bond (Casino Royale and Quantum of Silence). The pseudonymous “Panama Mike” has posted the premiere episode of Michael Hayes, originally broadcast on September 15, 1997.

• Finally, if you have never seen the 1994 HBO-TV adaptation of Robert Harris’ what-if novel, Fatherland, starring Rutger Hauer and Miranda Richardson, then tune in here. Just don’t blame me if, between my writing this and your trying to find the video, it disappears without so much as a hint of explanation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Story Behind the Story: “Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery,” by G.P. Gottlieb

(Editor’s note: This is the 87th entry in The Rap Sheet’s Story Behind the Story” series. Today’s essay comes from Chicago resident G.P. “Galit” Gottlieb, who says she “has worked as a musician, a teacher, and an administrator,” but is “happiest when writing recipe-laced murder mysteries,” such as her brand-new novel, Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery (D. X. Varos). Gottlieb has long been a kitchen experimenter, and notes that she created her “delicious vegan cookies and cakes in direct opposition to what she learned in courses at Chicago’s French Pastry School.” She hosts New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network. The mother of three grown children, Gottlieb lives with her husband in a Windy City high-rise that’s more than a bit similar to the building portrayed in her mystery series. Smothered is the second of her tales starring Alene Baron, who owns Whipped and Sipped, a Chicago neighborhood café offering healthy food and drinks. It was preceded by Battered, which came out in 2019. Gottlieb says a third book in this series “will center on a murder that occurs during the city of Chicago’s lockdown in May 2020.”)

I only discovered cozy and culinary mysteries after being diagnosed with cancer. Until then, I’d enjoyed an occasional Agatha Christie or Rex Stout novel about fictional crimes committed long ago, but I couldn’t stomach anything involving violence against women, harm to children, or the sadistic infliction of pain on innocent victims. Suspenseful mysteries of that sort led to several nights of lying awake in bed, rehashing terrifying scenes. Even though the villain was usually caught in the end, I was still roiled by the suffering. That never happens in the world of cozy mysteries, in which we do not hear about the splattering of blood, the victim’s agony, or the warped perversions of the evildoer. Instead, if the cozy mystery is in the subset of “culinary,” we get to hear about the delicious treats everyone, except for the murder victim, is eating.

I love reading literary or historical fiction, biographies, and science, and consumed one or two books a week until I started treatment. After my first round of chemotherapy, already bald and weakened, someone gifted me a couple of Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary mysteries. Lying on the couch, I devoured the charming but suspenseful tales about Goldy, who baked complex, butter-rich concoctions for her wealthy clients while solving murders in a pretend, Aspen-like ski town. The food mentioned in Davidson’s books didn’t appeal to me, either because I don’t eat meat or because chemotherapy made everything taste metallic, even in my thoughts. Despite that, the stories brought me back to Colorado, where my children were born, where I met my husband, where I was awed whenever I lifted my eyes to the mountains. And real murders rarely happened at high altitude.

One day, my mother brought over a few Donna Leon novels, and I was transported to Venice, to the sumptuous three-course lunches Inspector Brunetti and his family enjoyed each day, prepared by his wife, who’d stopped to pick up fresh ingredients on her walk home from her full-time academic position at the nearby university. In real life, I could barely eat, but as I recuperated, I consumed large quantities of fictional pasta.

After my final chemotherapy, I needed to recover before surgery, and that’s when I discovered Martin Walker. I spent a few months in the south of France with the marvelous Bruno, Chief of Police, who always knows the correct wine pairing for whatever meal he’s tucking into. I also stopped in Sicily for a few books and followed Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano as he devoured every meal while solving one crime after another. Then an old friend introduced me to Dr. Frank Tallis, a clinical psychologist whose protagonist, Dr. Max Lieberman, solves crimes in turn-of-the-century Vienna, with help from a colleague, the young Dr. Sigmund Freud, and Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt, a fine baritone with whom Max performs classical duets, always followed by a trip to one of the many nearby cafés to devour sumptuous Viennese pastries.

It took months to recover from surgery, but I spent that time in Tasha Alexander’s Tsarist Russia, following beautiful Lady Emily as she charmed all of Europe’s royalty, and in Victorian England, reading Jennifer Ashley. I’m still trying to perfect a vegan version of the seedcake her protagonist, Kat Holloway, enjoys every afternoon with a cup of fragrant tea. Kat, with a nod to Agatha Christie’s Inspector Poirot, inspired me to graduate from grocery-store teabags to heavenly jasmine teas or herbal tisanes. When I wasn’t reading, I lay on the couch sipping tea and watching the entire Inspector Poirot series on cable television. I also briefly visited New Orleans with Jacklyn Brady, and A Sheet Cake Named Desire is still one of my favorite culinary mystery titles.

(Right) Author G.P. Gottlieb

I spent my six weeks of radiation in early 20th-century New York, reading Rex Stout, who’d been the first author I’d encountered to include enticing descriptions of food in his mysteries. It was delightful to be immersed in the world of the portly Nero Wolfe, who consumes elegant gourmet meals, alone in his fabulous New York City brownstone.

When the cancer was eradicated and I knew that I had a good chance of living many more years, I decided to finally write my dream novel. I planned to write a cozy culinary mystery, the kind I adore, without violence, gratuitous sex, or gross descriptions of blood. And it would include recipes of the kind of food I both needed to eat and liked. The pastry chef would be vegan, so she would never use eggs or butter in her confections, and the café would be the kind of place I wish we had in my neighborhood.

Although I’m a conservatory-trained musician with no formal writing background, I’d written a heap of stories and even a couple of long, blabby manuscripts that got tossed when we last moved. Years before, I’d taken an online writing course with three other students, one of whom continuously proselytized in her stories. I dislike when people try to force their beliefs down my throat, and after having to listen to three stories about bad people who saw the light, I felt like it was time to fight back. My next three submissions involved dishonest, greedy, and otherwise amoral characters who live long, happy lives devoid of theology. Writing was more fun than I’d expected—turns out I really love telling stories.

My first culinary mystery was loosely based on a cryptic news item about a man who is discovered stabbed to death in a neighbor’s apartment. I filled in the hours before the body is found and described the scene from the viewpoint of the person who finds him. But I realized that I needed help, started googling writing teachers and editors, and found S.L. Wisenberg by reading a moving editorial she’d written in the Chicago Tribune. It was about how she’d opted against a bilateral mastectomy, and as soon as she’d conquered breast cancer, had developed blood cancer. Not only did she teach writing at the University of Chicago, she lived nearby. We met at a coffee shop and hit it off. Soon after, she began editing my first chapter. I wrote and rewrote that chapter repeatedly for the first six weeks, and she never gave up on me. After Battered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery was published in 2019, the Tribune published my letter thanking the paper for having printed Sandi’s life-changing editorial.

I call her my teacher in addition to editor, because I learned what needed to be said and what could be left unsaid. Sandi taught me how to get inside a character instead of just describing external characteristics or actions. She helped me create the framework through which my fictional Whipped and Sipped Café could spring to life. She encouraged my portrayal of the protagonist’s building and neighborhood as the small, friendly town I feel it to be in real life. That’s important in a cozy mystery—characters cannot wade around in a sea of unknown faces. They need to say hello to the colorful locals, greet the postman, clink beer mugs with a neighbor. When you read a Whipped and Sipped Mystery, I want you to feel like you’re in Chicago, staying in a Lake Shore Drive high-rise across from Lake Michigan, overlooking one of the harbors. Just like the way I felt I was visiting Colorado, Italy, France, and turn-of-the-century Vienna, Russia, and England, all from my bed.

I loved my imagined travels across the globe during my illness, and indulging metaphorically in rich food and wine, but now that I’m a cancer survivor, I’m supposed to eat healthfully for the rest of my life. So, over the years of writing and rewriting, I took pastry- and bread=baking courses, and created healthful recipes for entrees, dips, and desserts. Friends and family tested them, including my pastry chef niece who showed me how I needed to describe the ingredients with great specificity. The recipes I include in my books are dairy-free, mostly vegan, and more healthful than is usual for a culinary mystery.

I don’t wish cancer on anyone, but if you’ve lost your appetite and you’re facing some recovery time on a couch, or you’re stuck at home during a pandemic, I recommend a little pretend murder, preferably with a side of peach pie. And you’re always welcome at the Whipped and Sipped Café.

Monday, February 15, 2021

“CSI” Returns to Its Roots

Twenty-one years after the then-ground-breaking forensics crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation debuted on CBS-TV, that same network plans a sequel. Writes Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva:
Paula Newsome, Matt Lauria and Mel Rodriguez have been cast as leads in CSI: Vegas, which is nearing a formal straight-to-series order at CBS, I have learned.

I hear William Petersen and Jorja Fox are finalizing their deals to star in
CSI: Vegas, ... reprising their roles as Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle, respectively. While billed as an event series, I hear CSI: Vegas, from writer Jason Tracey (Elementary), CBS Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer TV, could become an ongoing series running for multiple seasons.

With
CSI: Vegas, the most-watched drama series of the 21st century, CSI, opens a new chapter in Las Vegas, the city where it all began. Facing an existential threat that could bring down the Crime Lab, a brilliant team of forensic investigators must welcome back old friends and deploy new techniques to preserve and serve justice in Sin City.
Andreeva adds that “the original idea was for the event series to debut in October 2020, marking the 20th anniversary of the mothership series’ premiere. That plan was thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic-related production shutdown.”

The original CSI premiered in October 2000, and went off the air in 2015, after spawning three sequels: CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, and CSI: Cyber. The last of those was also the final installment of the CSI TV franchise to disappear from the boob tube, in March 2016.

(Hat tip to In Reference to Murder.)

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!



By Love Betrayed, by Evelyn Cornell (Pyramid, 1965).
Cover art by Hector Garrido.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Snowy Saturday Smatterings

• It was three years ago yesterday, on February 12, 2018, that prolific Texas mystery novelist Bill Crider died, brought down by prostate cancer at age 76. But only this week did Down & Out Books release a volume of short stories in tribute to that Anthony Award-winning creator of Sheriff Dan Rhodes. Titled Bullets and Other Hurting Things, and edited by Rick Ollerman, it features 20 original short yarns, all penned by Crider’s friends and fans. As the publisher explains, “William Kent Krueger (Ordinary Grace, the Cork O’Connor series) brings us a story of romance and grift. Bill Pronzini (the Nameless Detective and Carpenter & Quincannon series) offers a taut episode of a midnight raid. Joe R. Lansdale (The Bottoms, the Hap and Leonard series) tells a tale of two hit men working through their differences. James Sallis (Drive, the Lew Griffin series) shows us how a deadly figure once helped out a man called Bill. Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse and Midnight, Texas series) reminds us to be careful of what we wish for. Sara Paretsky (the V.I. Warshawski series) shows how truly deadly a terrible storm can be.” James Reasoner, who describes Crider as “one of my best friends for more than 40 years,” says, “The story I wrote for this anthology is a sequel to ‘Comingor,’ the first story ever published under my name, and my second published story overall, 43 years ago. It’s set in the same part of Texas as Bill’s Dan Rhodes novels, in the next county to the east, in fact. I also think it’s one of the best stories I’ve written.” Angela Crider Neary, the late author’s daughter and a fictionist in her own right, supplies this volume’s introduction.

• Yesterday, February 12, brought us Chinese New Year, marking the start of this latest Year of the Ox. (The last Ox year was 2009.) By way of celebrating, Mystery Fanfare brings us this short list of “mysteries that take place during Chinese New Year.” Included are The Shanghai Moon, by S.J. Rozan, and Kelli Stanley’s City of Dragons, both of which I have enjoyed, without recalling their spring festival links.

• In Reference to Murder notes that submissions to the McIlvanney Prize/Scottish Crime Book of the Year contest are now open, “with a deadline of Friday, April 9. The winner of Crime Book of the Year will receive £1,000, while the winner [of] the Debut of the Year will receive £500. Entries come from full-length novels first published in the United Kingdom between August 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021. When considering the entries the judges will take into account quality of writing, originality of plot and potential durability in the crime genre.”

• I’m a sucker for posts about vintage paperback covers, so George Easter’s new collection—at the Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine site—of dusty softcovers bearing “great titles” drew me immediately. My favorite of his bunch: Don Von Elsner’s Don’t Just Stand There, Do Someone (1962). Von Elsner (1909-1997) was, in fact, known for his clever titles. Among his series of novels starring lawyer David Danning, for instance, are Those Who Prey Together Slay Together (1961), Just Not Making Mayhem Like They Used To (1961), Pour a Swindle Through a Loophole (1964), and A Bullet for Your Dreams (1968).

• In Too Much Horror, Will Errickson brings the sad news that artist Rowena Morrill, known for her science-fiction and fantasy illustrations, has “died at age 76 after a long illness.” (She passed away on February 11.) Not surprisingly, given his blog’s name, Errickson’s post showcases various Morrill horror-fiction fronts, including “her stunning debut, 1978’s Jove paperback original Isobel,” by Jane Parkhurst.

• And was Body Heat, director Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 neo-noir picture, really “the greatest erotic thriller ever made”? Literary Hub’s Dan Sheehan certainly thinks so.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Weinman Gets with the Times

Congratulations to books critic and author Sarah Weinman, who is replacing Marilyn Stasio as The New York Times Book Review’s crime-fiction columnist. Weinman’s debut column will appear in this coming Sunday’s paper, but is already available online.

Stasio has been writing her fortnightly column ever since 1988. Although she’s now relinquishing the reins, a news release from the daily explains that she’ll “continue to contribute reviews to the Times on crime, true crime and other related subjects.” This new arrangement should open up Stasio’s leisure reading schedule to at least some degree; in a brief 2009 profile for the newspaper, she said she was in the habit of consuming “maybe 150” mystery and thriller novels annually. She has also critiqued theater for Variety.

Weinman is the author of The Real Lolita: A Lost Girl, An Unthinkable Crime, and a Scandalous Masterpiece (2018) and the editor of last year’s Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit & Obsession. She’s been a periodic contributor to CrimeReads, and more of her non-fiction work has featured in publications such as Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, and of course, the Times. In addition, she once penned crime-fiction reviews for January Magazine, another Webzine with which I have long been associated. (Pieces of hers that I was pleased to edit include this review of William Landay’s Mission Flats, and this piece about Greece-set puzzlers.)

As the Times’ resident judge of current crime fiction, Weinman succeeds not only Stasio, but a pantheon of previous Times critics, as well: “Newgate Callendar” (aka Harold C. Schonberg), Allen Hubin, and Anthony Boucher, who originated the paper’s “Criminals At Large” column. Her new duties are likely to limit her future participation at Bouchercon and other conventions, and can be expected to force some change in her composition of The Crime Lady, a newsletter she has been e-mailing out for the last several years.

All of us here wish Sarah the best in her latest adventure!

Revue of Reviewers, 2-12-21

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.















Thursday, February 11, 2021

“Unforgotten” Makes Its Return

After COVID-19 forced a months-long hiatus in its shooting, Season 4 of Unforgotten, the popular British cold-case crime drama starring Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar, is finally scheduled to begin its six-part run on ITV in the UK beginning on Monday, February 22.

So what can we expect from these new episodes? Radio Times reports that Season 4 it will compel London Detective Chief Inspector Cassie Stuart (Walker) and her partner, Detective Inspector Sunny Khan (Bhaskar), to “once again face a historic murder case and unearth long-buried secrets in pursuit of justice, with Cassie additionally grappling with personal problems at home. At the start of the season we’ll see Cassie’s petition to leave the force early and receive her full pension effectively denied. With her father’s increasingly apparent health issues at the forefront of her mind, a bitter Cassie returns to her old stomping grounds, supported by Sunny.”

According to The Killing Times, the mystery plot this season concerns “the discovery of a dismembered body in a scrap metal yard, which the [police] team believe has been stored in a domestic freezer for 30 years. A unique Millwall Football Club tattoo leads to the victim being identified as [Millwall supporter] Matthew Walsh, a young man in his mid-twenties who went missing in March 1990.”

There’s no word yet on when these new episodes of Unforgotten will reach the States, as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece series. But if history’s any guide, it could be as early as this coming summer.

Romance Is in the Air

Still stuck on what to give “that certain someone” this Valentine’s Day? Consider purchasing a crime/mystery novel with a Valentine’s connection. Janet Rudolph recently updated her list of such holiday reads. She’s also collected a crowd of “sweetheart sleuths.”

A modicum more of fun comes from Kate Jackson, at Cross-Examining Crime, who provides “10(ish) pieces of romantic ‘advice’ based on some of the covers from the Dell imprint …”

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Bullet Points: From All Corners Edition


(Above) J. Robert Janes signs his books at Bouchercon 2014.

• Canadian novelist J. Robert Janes has long ranked among my favorite historical crime-fictionists. His 16-volume, World War II-set series starring Jean-Louis St-Cyr, a chief inspector with the French Sûreté, and his unlikely investigative partner, Detektiv Inspektor Hermann Kohler of the Nazi Gestapo, began with 1992’s Mayhem (aka Mirage) and continued through 2015’s Clandestine. Naturally, I have devoured the whole lot, plus Jones standalones such as The Hunting Ground (2013) and The Sleeper (2015). I had the delightful opportunity a decade ago to interview Janes for Kirkus Reviews and The Rap Sheet, and I finally met him at the 2014 Bouchercon convention in Long Beach, California. Back then, he said he was busy composing more novels, and in fact his old Web site proclaimed that a 17th St-Cyr/Kohler novel, Timeweaver, “now awaits a final read. The 18th St-Cyr and Kohler may well conclude the series, but that remains to be seen.” So whatever happened to those promised installments? I recently e-mailed Janes—who lives near Toronto, Ontario, and will turn 86 years old on May 23—to see how he’s doing. His response:
At my age now I’m lucky to be able to manage 18 blocks with my push chair. There are fortunately two little book kiosks en route, so I am able to get a few books now and then, and that kind of keeps me going. As to writing anything more, that’s really hard work and I’m totally retired, and reading the work of others finally, after all these years! You see, when I was writing I didn’t read other fiction because one can pick things up so easily and not even know they’ve done so. Therefore, I was just being careful. As for anybody at my age, my medical conditions are a real damper to doing a lot, and I’m very content just to go for my walks, read fiction books by others, and settle down with a cup of tea.
Janes’ wife of 64 years, Gracia, subsequently sent me an e-mail message, explaining that her husband’s health is fragile, that he suffers from “cancer and congenital heart failure.” She added, “He has retired knowing that he has published 34 books in four different genres (i.e., geology texts for elementary through university levels, children’s fiction, thrillers, and the 16-book St Cyr and Kohler series, and three other co-published books). All the words he has ever written are housed in over 140 boxes in the McMaster University Archives,” in Hamilton, Ontario. As to the existence of that 17th St-Cyr/Kohler novel? Well, Gracia says, “Timeweaver presents a puzzle”—and perhaps one that her husband cannot help solve. “Bob has a reluctance to talk about his books,” she confides, “as it saddens him that he is no longer able to write,” after more than three decades spent behind a keyboard, pounding out stories. She suggests the manuscript may be in the McMaster archives, “but not catalogued yet.” She continues to look. I’ll provide any updates Gracia shoots my way.

• Whenever a writer publishes a list purporting to name the “best” of anything, he or she becomes an immediate target of criticism. So it’s no surprise that this recent selection of “the 30 greatest literary detectives of all time,” by ShortList’s Marc Chacksfield, has attracted detractors. Among the sleuths included in Chacksfield’s tally: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Philip Marlowe, Inspector Morse, Lew Archer, and Father Brown. Single-appearance players such as William of Baskerville (from Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose), Inspector Bucket (from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House), and Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen (the star of Peter Høeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow) also scored spots on the list, which has predictably stirred questions about why figures such as Ellery Queen, Lord Peter Wimsey, Miss Maud Silver, and—for goodness sakes!—Nero Wolfe didn’t make the cut.

• The Sisters in Crime organization has launched its new Pride Award for Emerging LGBTQIA+ Crime Writers. As Oline H. Cogdill explains in the Mystery Scene blog, “A $2,000 grant will be awarded to an up-and-coming writer who identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. … Candidates must apply by March 15, 2021. The winner will be announced in April, 2021.” Registration information is available here.

• With the 80th anniversary of the release of director John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon coming in October 2021, David Walsh, arts editor of the World Socialist Web Site, has posted this excellent assessment of the movie’s history and importance, its messages, and how its development fit into Huston’s filmmaking evolution.

The Guardian’s Guy Lodge takes advantage of 2021 being the 100th anniversary of author Patricia Highsmith’s birth by highlighting the best film adaptations of her work. He reminds us, too, that “A glossy new Ben Affleck-starring film of her novel Deep Water, the first film from Adrian Lyne in 19 years, is scheduled for August, while a TV version of Ripley, starring Andrew Scott as her most adaptable character, is in the pipeline.”

• Like so many other literary festivals, Granite Noir is moving online this year. According to Shotsmag Confidential, Aberdeen, Scotland’s fifth annual celebration of homegrown and international crime writing will be streamed on the Aberdeen Performing Arts site from Friday, February 19, through Sunday the 21st. Ian Rankin, Camilla Läckberg, Stuart MacBride, Peter May, Jo Nesbø, Attica Locke, and David Baldacci are among the writers scheduled to participate. Click here to find a PDF containing the full roster of events.

• Then on Saturday, March 20, Hull Noir will return as a day-long festival based in the English port city of Kingston upon Hull. This year’s guests includes Mark Billingham, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, “Alex North” (aka Steve Mosby), and Hull-born Ian McGuire. The event will recognize, as well, this year’s “50th anniversary of the British crime [film] classic, Get Carter—adapted from Ted Lewis’s seminal crime novel Jack’s Return Home. For Lewis, who studied at Hull Art School in the late 1950s and whose novels reference the city and its hinterland, the towns on the south bank of the Humber, and the bleak Lincolnshire coast, 2021 is also the 50th anniversary of his novel Plender, this year’s festival read.” As Shotsmag Confidential notes, “There’ll be no charge for tickets, which will be available from Sunday 21 February along with the full festival lineup. Follow the Hull Noir Facebook and Twitter (@hullnoir) for all the most up to date information.”

• Here’s something I didn’t know: James Hong is a phenomenally prolific American actor, born to Hong Kongese parents, whose performance credits include roles in everything from Richard Diamond, Private Eye and Hawaii Five-O to Kung Fu, The Rockford Files, Switch, and the 1974 film Chinatown. He is also, according to blogger Lou Armagno, “the last living actor to portray a son (or daughter) of the fictional detective [Charlie Chan] in either a television series or film.” Hong was cast as “Number One Son” Barry Chan in the 1957-1958 TV drama The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, starring J. Carrol Naish. Hong will welcome his 92nd birthday this coming February 22nd.

• After applauding Robert McGinnis’ 93rd birthday two years ago in this longish piece for CrimeReads, I somehow managed to forget the artist’s 95th birthday this last Thursday, February 3. Fortunately, Deuce Richardson stepped up with a proper tribute in the DMR Books blog. After acknowledging McGinnis as “a national treasure,” Richardson reminds us that “He’s painted iconic characters ranging from James Bond to Barbarella to Captain America. He’s done covers for authors such as Rafael Sabatini, Neil Gaiman, John Jakes, Gardner F. Fox, Donald Westlake and Ian Fleming … and he’s still at it.” The DMR piece comes with a dozen beautiful examples of McGinnis’ work.



• By the way, whilst prowling around the Web early last week, I stumbled across a fake book front for Twilight Gal, created in imitation of one of McGinnis’ most famous covers, from the 1960 Dell paperback edition of Kill Now, Pay Later, by Robert Kyle. The artist here identifies him- or herself only as “astoralexander,” but explains that Twilight Gal re-imagines the video game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess “as a hard-boiled crime novel.” Both McGinnis’ cover and astroalexander’s respectful knock-off are above.

• My wife and I are currently in the midst of watching the first five episodes of Netflix’s French mystery thriller, Lupin. So I was interested to read, in B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder, that the show “is returning to Netflix for its second half of season one this summer. The series has become a surprising hit for the streamer, with 70M households projected to watch since its launch on January 8, making it easily Netflix’s biggest French original. The project is a contemporary adaptation of the novels penned by French writer Maurice Leblanc and stars Omar Sy as Assane Diop, who uses the world-famous gentleman thief and master of disguise, Arsène Lupin, as his inspiration as he tries to get revenge on those responsible for his father’s death.”

• While we’re on the subject of Netflix, let me point you to this piece in The Killing Times, containing the first trailer for Behind Her Eyes, a six-part TV adaptation of Sarah Pinborough’s 2017 novel of that same name. The KT’s Paul Hirons says this program “stars Eve Hewson, Simona Brown, Tom Bateman and Robert Aramayo, and tells the story of a single mother, whose world is thrown off kilter when she begins an affair with her new boss David and matters take an even stranger turn when she’s drawn into an unlikely friendship with his wife Adele. What starts as an unconventional love triangle soon becomes a dark, psychological tale of suspense and twisted revelations, as Louise finds herself caught in a dangerous web of secrets where nothing and no-one is what they seem.” Behind Her Eyes drops on February 17.

• Another promising trailer is that of Bloodlands, a BBC One mini-series starring “James Nesbitt as a Northern Irish detective on the hunt for a serial killer known as Goliath ...,” explains Radio Times. “In the 40-second trailer we meet detective Tom Brannick (Nesbitt) as he picks up a 20-year-old investigation into [the] ‘possible assassin’ they called Goliath and reveals to his team that the killer at large murdered his wife.” There doesn’t appear to be a set premiere date yet for Bloodlands; Radio Times says to expect it “later in the year.”

• John Porter reports in The Verge that delays in releasing No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film (currently slated to reach theaters on October 8) are “causing problems for its marketing deals, with advertisers concerned that the film may end up featuring outdated product placements.” He says “the movie could face reshoots to hide its outdated products, and … some scenes may be ‘carefully edited.’”

• So that’s what happened to Steve Hamilton. The last book published under his sole moniker, An Honorable Assassin (his third Nick Mason thriller), saw print in 2019. But next month, he will return as the co-author, with Janet Evanovich, of The Bounty, book seven in a series about FBI agent Kate O’Hare and con man Nicholas Fox, originally co-written with Lee Goldberg. The Real Book Spy tells more.

• Max Allan Collins revealed in a recent interview by Publishers Weekly that, with 2022 marking the 75th anniversary of private eye Mike Hammer’s debut, in I, the Jury, “I’ll be doing a biography of [Spillane] with James Traylor for Otto Penzler at Mysterious Press.” It was just two years ago that Collins commemorated the author’s 100th birthday with a blitz of special publications.

• After having picked up Jeff Vorzimmer’s The Best of Manhunt (2019) and last year’s The Best of Manhunt 2, you can bet I’m looking forward to the March 26 release of The Manhunt Companion, also from Stark House Press and co-edited by Peter Enfantino. In his blog Rough Edges, James Reasoner writes: “This book contains a history of the magazine, indexes of authors and stories that Manhunt published, plus reviews of every story from every issue. I’m not sure anything like this has ever been attempted before, let alone pulled off in such great style.” Click here to learn more about Manhunt (1952-1967).

Washington Post book critic Ron Charles includes this smile-inducing tidbit in his latest newsletter:
After two weeks in office, Vice President Kamala Harris has already improved the economy of some yearbook owners. Used and rare bookseller AbeBooks reports that a set of three Howard University yearbooks—1984, 1985 and 1986—recently sold for $1,500. Those volumes include pictures of Harris, who graduated from the historically black university in D.C. in 1986. A photo of Howard’s Economics Society shows sophomore Harris with her fellow students and sponsor Joseph Houchins, who was once a member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Federal Council of Negro Affairs.
• George Easter, the editor of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, has posted two pieces recently that are of likely interest to Rap Sheet readers. The first collects 39 vintage paperback fronts, each of which features one or more things we don’t see around much anymore. The challenge is to identify each of those anachronisms. The answers are all available at the post’s end.

In this second piece, Easter showcases a splendid variety of “girl with a gun”-themed covers—one of which featured in Killer Covers’ not-long-ago-concluded 12th-anniversary celebration.

• Did you know that you can watch the entire run of Columbia Pictures’ 1943 Batman serial on YouTube? The 15 installments, starring Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, and J. Carrol Naish, begin here with a chapter titled “The Electric Brain.”

Gothic-style lettering makes a comeback amid our modern plague.

Mystery & Suspense finally gets around to reviewing The Devil and the Dark Water, by British wordsmith Stuart Turton—one of my favorite mysteries of 2020—and pronounces it “clever and fun. Addictively page-turning. And so very, very entertaining.”

• I don’t relish penning obituaries, yet it seems I must do so regularly. Hal Holbrook, for instance, cannot leave this world without fit acclamation. The Ohio-born theater, film, and TV performer died on January 23 at age 95. Although many younger people know him—if only vaguely—as the guy who won a Tony Award for his stage portrayal of Mark Twain, Holbrook began his movie career in 1966, being cast in Sidney Lumet's The Group. He went on to portray then-unidentified Watergate scandal source “Deep Throatin All the President’s Men (1976) and appeared in other movies such as Wall Street (1987), The Firm (1993), and Lincoln (2012). On the small screen, Holbrook won parts in the series Coronet Blue, The F.B.I., The Name of the Game, Designing Women (featuring his wife, Dixie Carter), Evening Shade, and The West Wing, and in teleflicks on the order That Certain Summer (1972, written by Richard Levinson and William Link) and Pueblo (1973). He starred in The Senator, a much-lauded but sadly short-lived and sometimes-controversial, 1970-1971 NBC “wheel series” drama—part of the Bold Ones rotation—playing Hays Stowe, a progressive and highly principled member of the U.S. Senate. Holbrook later led the cast of three Perry Mason TV movies (following Raymond Burr’s death in 1993), filling the boots of William “Wild Bill” McKenzie, a hotshot attorney and Utah rancher. One of my fondest memories of this actor had him playing a solely vocal part, his craggy voice narrating the 1997 Ken Burns TV documentary, Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery. The New York Times says Holbrook died at his home in Beverly Hills, California; he was buried at a cemetery in Tennessee, alongside Dixie Carter, who met her own end a decade ago, in 2010.

• Last August, I mentioned on this page that Paul Green, a self-described “biographer specializing in film and television history,” had let it be known he was entering hospice care. The author of books about Roy Huggins, Pete Duel, Jeffrey Hunter, and others, Green told me in an e-mail message, “I suffer from stage 4 prostate cancer that has spread to my bones. I have been under treatment for three years.” Now Ed Robertson, host of the radio talk show TV Confidential, brings the sad news that Green passed away on Sunday, January 17, at age 65. “He was a gifted artist, a skilled biographer, and a good friend,” Robertson wrote on Facebook. “Paul and I last spoke about two months ago, at which time he informed me of his prognosis. He was in good spirits, all things considered, and we had a nice visit. It is hard for me to pick a favorite among his books. We met because of his biography of Pete Duel, did a couple of programs about his book on The Virginian, and had memorable conversations about his biographies of Jennifer Jones, Jeffrey Hunter, and Roy Huggins. He brought all of those figures to life and gave us each an understanding of who they were as people. Rest in peace, Paul … and thank you.”

• Finally, we must say good-bye to television producer and screenwriter Cy Chermak, who apparently perished from natural causes on January 29 in Hawaii. Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, in 1929 as Seymour Albert Chermak, he went on to develop scripts for Beverly Garland’s Decoy, Cheyenne, the 1977 TV movie Murder at the World Series, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Additionally, he produced such shows as Ironside, Amy Prentiss, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Barbary Coast, and CHiPS. Chermak was 91.

• Speaking of obits, I tried to do justice to 81-year-old author John Lutz, who breathed his last on January 9. But his friend Francis M. Nevins does a far superior job of recounting Lutz’s illustrious career in this new Mystery*File piece. He also offers this poignant closing:
The last time I saw [Lutz] was in March 2020, shortly before COVID-19 dominated the world. He said nothing, needed a walker to get around, had lost a lot of weight, but he could still function. That soon changed. He deteriorated over the rest of last year and died a little more than a week into this one.

The only other writers with whom I had such a close and rich relationship were Fred Dannay and Ed Hoch, both of them now long dead. Is it any wonder that as the years pass I feel empty and alone more and more often?
• You may not be aware of this, but frequent Rap Sheet contributor also hosts Poets of the Tabloid Murder, a mystery-fiction author interview show heard on the Public Radio Exchange (PRX). That show was off the air for awhile, but it returned to production last August. Since then, Nester has interviewed such authors as J. Todd Scott (Lost River), T. Jefferson Parker (Then She Vanished), S..A. Cosby (Blacktop Wasteland), and most recently, Nick Petrie (The Breaker). I’ve added a link to the index of Nester’s broadcasts to the “Crime/Mystery Podcasts” list in this blog’s right-hand column.

• Promoting his new spy novel, The Mercenary—not to be confused this “orgy of death” Cold War thriller—Paul Vidich submits to an interview with Mystery Tribune, and contributes a piece to CrimeReads about the role imposters play in our literary tradition.

• Four other CrimeReads posts to read: Vince Keenan’s look back at the never-produced Orson Welles picture The Smiler with a Knife, based on a novel by Nicholas Blake and casting Lucille Ball as its female lead; an interview with David Brawn, the publishing director for the Collins Crime Club, which recently reissued The Conjure-Man Dies, a 1932 work described as “the first detective novel by an African-American author”; Michael Kaufman’s analysis of where police procedurals stand in the age of Black Lives Matter and the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump-backing domestic terrorists; and editor in chief Dwyer Murphy’s eulogy for John D. MacDonald’s Point Crisp home in Sarasota, Florida, razed to make room for the sort of “enormous mansions that JDM railed against.”

• And we’ve heard much about small-business closings over these trying last 12 months. However, the British Web site inews.co.uk reports that independent bookshops in the UK have “managed not only to withstand the myriad difficulties thrown at them by the COVID-19 pandemic … but actually increased their numbers.”

(J. Robert Janes photo © 2014 by Ali Karim.)