Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Midweek Mixed Bag

• Sad news from The New York Times: “Andrea Camilleri, who took a late-career stab at writing a mystery novel and came up with the Inspector [Salvo] Montalbano detective series, which became wildly successful in Italy and was the basis for a popular television series, died on Wednesday morning in a hospital in Rome. He was 93.” (This comes a month after the author experienced cardiac arrest.) The International Crime Fiction Research Group calls Camilleri “one of the most influential authors of crime fiction in Europe. With his novels widely translated and adapted across the continent, he has come to represent the quintessential European Author.” Mark Lawson, in The Guardian, recalls that Camilleri “considered it his duty to speak out against the dark politics by which his country was often seduced, regularly appearing as a pundit on Italian TV shows where he was torrentially opinionated, intelligent and witty. Camilleri became so recognisable that, unusually for a novelist, he was impersonated by satirists and comedians.” Lawson adds: “There will be at least one more novel. In our [2012] interview, he told me that—as Agatha Christie did with Hercule Poirot in Curtain—he had deposited with his publisher Riccardino, a final novel in which Montalbano is ‘finished off’ that was to only be published posthumously.”

• Our condolences go out, too, to the family of Seattle resident and writer Andi Schecter, who passed away earlier this week at age 66 as a result of glioblastoma. Editor-blogger Janet Rudolph observes: “Andi was a powerful force in both the mystery and science fiction communities,” who had chaired both a Bouchercon convention (in Seattle in 1994) and two different Left Coast Crime gatherings (in 1997 and 2007). January Magazine editor Linda L. Richards, for whom she wrote several book reviews over the years, offers this remembrance. (Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

• Florida journalist Craig Pittman has an excellent new piece in CrimeReads, which looks back at the 1984-1990 NBC-TV series Miami Vice and how changed the future of the city in which it was shot.

• Late fall, I mentioned here that screenwriter Todd Alcott had assembled a gallery of “digital mash-ups” combining vintage paperback covers with classic songs by David Bowie, Elvis Costello, and others. What I failed to notice was that the Web site on which those covers appeared, Open Culture, later posted a second set of reimagined covers, based on Bob Dylan songs such as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Check those out here.

• In May, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine contributor Kevin Mims examined author Herman Wouk’s contributions to the legal-thriller genre. Now, Mims has posted a remembrance of Arkansas author Douglas C. Jones and how he created the “alternate history trial novel.” To learn more about Jones’ career, see this entry I wrote about him for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.

• Bouchercon 2019 is still more than three months away (October 31-November 3, in Dallas, Texas), but word is already out that Jenn and Don Longmuir will receive the 2019 David Thompson Memorial Special Service Award during that convention. “The Longmuirs have been fixtures in the crime fiction community for more than a quarter-century,” reads a news release carried by Mystery Fanfare. “The couple owns and runs Scene of the Crime Books in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, and they have been book room organizers, book sellers and attendees at mystery conventions across North America. Don also served on the Bouchercon Board for five years.” The David Thompson Award, named in honor of a Texas bookstore owner and crime-fiction publisher who died in 2010, will be presented to the Longmuirs during Bouchercon 2019’s opening ceremonies, on Thursday, October 31.

This comes from In Reference to Murder:
There’s a call for papers for “The Absurdity of Racism: an International Chester Himes Conference” to be held June 4-5, 2020, at the American University of Paris. As the organizers note, “always controversial, combative and daring, Himes carved a niche for himself in the worlds of crime fiction and protest literature while negotiating the ‘quality of hurt’ of his black American and European expatriate worlds.”

Abstracts of 250 words, accompanied by a very brief bio, should be sent by October 15.
• You knew something like this was inevitable, right? “In a competitive situation,” reports Deadline, “Amazon has landed the rights to develop a script-to-series drama based on the Jack Reacher character from Lee Child’s bestselling book series, from Scorpion creator Nick Santora. The project will be a co-production of Amazon Studios, Skydance Television and Paramount Television.”

• The Killing Times says Luther creator “Neil Cross, has had a new drama commissioned by ITV. Because the Night is described as a ‘chilling and suspenseful four-part story of murder—and perhaps ghosts—which exposes the quiet terror of a man trying to escape his past.’ The series is inspired by the novel Burial, also written by Cross.”

• And Episode 2 of Paperback Warrior’s new podcast recalls “the origins of the paperback book in 1939. Our feature is the widely successful publisher Fawcett Gold Medal, a cornerstone of crime-noir in the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s. We also look at Black Wings Has My Angel, by Lewis Elliott Chaze, and the debut ‘MacMorgan’ novel by Randy Wayne White.” Listen here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sisters Act

To my knowledge, there’s no agreed-upon limit as to how many works can appear on a “shortlist” of nominees for book awards. But to judge by its press materials, Sisters in Crime Australia is feeling a tad guilty about putting 25 titles into the running for its 19th Davitt Awards, honoring crime books by Australian women. “[W]ith 127 books in contention,” says Davitt judges “wrangler” Jacqui Horwood, “the six judges were overwhelmed with so much outstanding writing to choose from. Many authors are serial offenders.”

I won’t list all of this year’s award rivals (there are five categories), but here are the nine works vying for the Adult Crime prize:

This I Would Kill For, by Anne Buist (Text)
Second Sight, by Aoife Clifford (Simon & Schuster)
Redemption Point, by Candice Fox (Penguin Random House)
Mine, by Susi Fox (Penguin Random House)
The Lost Man, by Jane Harper (Pan MacMillan Australia)
Wintering, by Krissy Kneen (Text)
The Killing of Louisa, by Janet Lee (University of Queensland Press)
The Rúin, by Dervla McTiernan (HarperCollins Australia)
Live and Let Fry, by Sue Williams (Text)

Click here to find the full inventory of 2019 Davitt Award nominees.

Winners will be declared during a “gala dinner” on Saturday, August 31, at South Melbourne’s Rising Sun Hotel.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Thrilled to Beat You

Sadly, the closest I got to this year’s ThrillerFest in New York City (July 9-13) was viewing the many photos from there that author Lee Goldberg posted on his Facebook page. But at least I can fill you in on who won the 2019 Thriller Awards, given out during a celebratory banquet last evening. (Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

Best Hardcover Novel: Jar of Hearts, by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur)

Also nominated: November Road, by Lou Berney (Morrow); Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin (Ballantine); Pieces of Her, by Karin Slaughter (Morrow); and The Cabin At the End of the World, Paul Tremblay (Morrow)

Best First Novel:
The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor (Crown)

Also nominated: The Terminal List, by Jack Carr (Atria/Emily Bestler); Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland (Ballantine); Caged, by Ellison Cooper (Minotaur); and Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman (Ballantine)

Best Paperback Original Novel:
The Lost Man, by Jane Harper (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Also nominated: The Good Samaritan, by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer); The Naturalist, by Andrew Mayne (Thomas & Mercer); Gone Dark, by Kirk Russell (Thomas & Mercer); and Mister Tender’s Girl, by Carter Wilson (Sourcebooks Landmark)

Best Short Story:
“Nana,” by Helen Smith (from Killer Women: Crime Club
Anthology #2
; Killer Women)

Also nominated: “The Victims’ Club,” by Jeffery Deaver (Amazon Original); “10,432 Serial Killers (in Hell),” by Emily Devenport (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine); “Window to the Soul,” by Scott Loring Sanders (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine); and “Tough Guy Ballet,” by Duane Swierczynski (from For the Sake of the Game: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger; Pegasus)

Best Young Adult Novel:
Girl At the Grave, by Teri Bailey Black (Tor Teen)

Also nominated: The Lies They Tell, by Gillian French (HarperTeen); Warcross, by Marie Lu (Penguin Young Readers); People Like Us, by Dana Mele (Penguin Young Readers); and The Perfect Candidate, by Peter Stone (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Best E-book Original Novel:
Pray for the Innocent, by Alan Orloff (Kindle Press)

Also nominated: Murder on the Marshes, by Clare Chase (Bookouture); Executive Force, by Gary Grossman (Diversion); The Reunion, by Samantha Hayes (Bookouture); and The Memory Detective, by T.S. Nichols (Alibi)

ThrillerMaster Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient:
John Sandford

Silver Bullet Award Recipient: Harlan Coben

Thriller Legend Award Recipient: Margaret Marbury

ThrillerFan Award Recipient: Bookseller “Mystery Mike” Bursaw

Congratulations to the victors and other contenders alike!

READ MORE:From the Front Lines of ThrillerFest 2019,” by Joe Brosnan (Criminal Element).

French Confections

Today is Bastille Day (aka French National Day), commemorating the July 14, 1789, public storming of Paris’ Bastille Saint-Antoine, a fortress-prison that was seen as symbolizing King Louis XVI’s increasingly oppressive and oblivious monarchy. Consider this a perfect occasion to revisit the large collection of beautiful French book fronts I put together four years ago for my other blog, Killer Covers.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Bullet Points: Lots o’ Links Edition

• In The Rap Sheet’s last news wrap-up, I noted that Season 4 of Grantchester will premiere in the States this coming Sunday night, July 14, as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! lineup. Now comes word, courtesy of The Killing Times, that ITV, the British network behind that cozyish historical crime series, has renewed Grantchester for yet another year. “The show’s fifth season,” says The Killing Times, “is set in 1957, the year Prime Minister Harold Macmillan told the British people that they had ‘never had it so good.’ For many of the residents of Grantchester, it really will feel like they’re in a delightful new Eden, but for all the talk of paradise on earth and faith-in-action, Geordie Keating (Robson Green) knows that trouble is never far away.”

• American film director Brian De Palma (Carrie, Scarface, The Untouchables, The Black Dahlia, etc.) will release his first novel—to be published by Hard Case Crime—in March 2020, according to Entertainment Weekly. Titled Are Snakes Necessary?, and co-authored with Susan Lehman, the book is said to be a “‘a blistering political satire’ that doubles as a female revenge thriller.” Hard Case provides this plot brief:
When the beautiful young videographer offered to join his campaign, Senator Lee Rogers should’ve known better. But saying no would have taken a stronger man than Rogers, with his ailing wife and his robust libido. Enter Barton Brock, the senator’s fixer. He’s already gotten rid of one troublesome young woman—how hard could this new one turn out to be? Pursued from Washington, D.C., to the streets of Paris, 18-year-old Fanny Cours knows her reputation and budding career are on the line. But what she doesn’t realize is that her life might be as well …
EW quotes Hard Case editor Charles Ardai as calling Are Snakes Necessary? “not just a great crime story, it’s a sharp, ruthless look at the state of affairs—both political and extramarital—in our turbulent modern era.” That certainly sounds promising.

Margery Allingham’s renown lives on, thanks i part to a decision regarding the future of an annual short-story competition named after her. This note comes from Shotsmag Confidential: “The Margery Allingham Society has agreed with the [British] Crime Writers’ Association that the popular short mystery competition will run for at least another five years, until 2024. The Society, set up to honour and promote the writings of the great Golden Age author whose well-known hero is Albert Campion, works with the CWA to operate and fund the writing competition that opens for entries in the autumn on the CWA’s website and closes every February.” It was only this last May that the winner of the 2019 Margery Allingham Short Story Competition was announced: Ray Bazowski, for “A Perfect Murderer.”

• Blogger, genre historian, and author Curtis Evans seems more than moderately thrilled by news that Freeman Wills Crofts’ Golden Age mysteries starring Inspector French are the inspiration for a forthcoming TV series. “I have read the script of what is to be the first episode,” Evans explains in The Passing Tramp, “based on a Crofts novel which I write about extensively in my 2012 book about Crofts, John Street, and JJ Connington, and I am excited about the whole thing. Crofts readers will be able to tell just from this article that there are changes being made for the adaptation, changes which will be forthrightly aired here, but I think fans of the book will be pleased, as well as mystery fans more generally.” In a follow-up to that original post, Evans interviews Brendan Foley, the program’s writer.

• With Donald Trump’s outrageous and dangerous “nationwide immigration enforcement operation … targeting migrant families” apparently taking place this weekend—his latest ploy to gin up support among his radical base, no matter the damage it does to families as well as America’s reputation—it seems an appropriate time to point readers toward Oline H. Cogdill’s list of “mysteries that include immigrants in their solid plots.” Included among her choices are works by Ragnar Jónasson, Denise Hamilton, and Dennis Lehane.

• And while we’re on the subject of lists, check out Mystery Tribune’s picks of the “Top 10 Great Brazilian Crime Fiction Books.” Several of those works were composed by two authors well represented on my own bookshelves: Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza and Leighton Gage.

• Oh, and author John Galligan offers this CrimeReads piece identifying “8 Novels You Won’t Find in the Crime Section,” but that nonetheless belong there, given their subject matter. Yes, Jim Harrison’s Brown Dog (2013) is among them.

HBO has chosen September 9 as the date on which its gritty George Pelecanos/David Simon-created drama series, The Deuce, will return for its third and final season. As Deadline explains, the show “chronicles the establishment of the porn industry in the decidedly pre-Disney Times Square of the early 1970s through legalization, the rise of HIV, the cocaine epidemic and the big business of the mid-1980s, with the changing real estate market about to bring the deadly party to a close.” James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal star.

• A premiere date has been set, too, for Stumptown, the ABC-TV detective series I wrote about not long ago. Based on graphic novels by Greg Rucka, this hour-long show stars Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, Friends from College) as Dex Parios, “a sharp-witted army veteran who becomes a private investigator in Portland, Oregon.” ABC will premiere Stumptown on September 25, at 10 p.m.

• Way to kick a dead man while he’s down! In its newest installment of a series revisiting Edgar Allan Poe Award winners from the past, Thomas Wickersham recalls The Rheingold Route, Arthur Maling’s 1979 “espionage novel without spies.” Wickersham remarks: “It is a pity when a book’s place in history is to languish all but forgotten besides its title on a list of awards. It is sadder still to revisit such a book and find that its place in obscurity is earned.” Maybe, though, as Wickersham himself suggests, The Rheingold Route “was a book of its time.” Back in ’79, Kirkus Reviews was much more generous to the novel, calling it “tautly plotted, distinctively populated, convincingly romantic—perfect material for a Hitchcock film or an all-in-one-sitting late-night read.” Author Maling passed away in 2013.

• The Staunch Prize, launched last year to salute thriller novels “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped, or murdered,” has been criticized recently by authors objecting to organizers’ insinuations that their fiction may bias rape juries and trials. In the UK’s Guardian, prize-winning author Sarah Hilary (Never Be Broken) calls the Staunch Prize “not a prize so much as a gagging order,” and she goes on to say: “Violence against women takes many forms, perhaps the most insidious of which is censorship. We’re discouraged from going to the police in case we’re not believed, taught to expect resistance to our version of events, silenced by shame or fear. This prize reinforces all those negative messages, and ignores the very real good that crime fiction can do by reflecting the violent reality of many women’s lives.” Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s Kaite Walsh (The Unquiet Heart), who was herself raped as a younger woman, opines: “I can’t write about a world without rape because I don’t live in one. I won’t sanitise my writing in service of some fictional, feminist utopia. And while I indulge in fictional universes that let me escape, write the world the way I wish it was, my work lies in marrying my imagination with the ugly truth, challenging myself to explore the friction in the places where they collide. I wanted to write someone whose story didn’t end with rape, or even begin with it—but included it as just another bump in the road that has to be dealt with, worked through and lived with.”

• I wouldn’t normally bother with the right-wing “news” site Breitbart. But Gigi Garner, daughter of the late actor James Garner, recommended this Independence Day Breitbart tribute to her father, which touts his 1974-1980 NBC-TV series The Rockford Files as “the most American television show ever made.” Contributor John Nolte lays out a variety of reasons why he believes Garner’s private eye, Jim Rockford, was “TV’s great American,” including:
He’s a gentleman and chivalrous to the ladies—a real Neanderthal who opens car doors, lights cigarettes, steps into harm’s way to protect them, and yet still treats them as equals.

He’s a reluctant hero who keeps his virtues to a minimum “because they’re easier to keep track of.” In other words, he’s not a pompous virtue-signaler. …

Above all, Jim Rockford is first, last, and always his own man. His independence, his unwillingness to conform to anyone’s idea of how he should live his life, work his profession, or bow to authority is as American as it gets. He doesn’t tell anyone else how to live their life, and as long as you don’t cross that busybody line with him, there won’t be a problem.
Nolte goes out of his way to suggest that Rockford was one of those government-hating “real Americans” Sarah Palin was always spouting off about. I wonder if he realizes Garner was a self-described “‘bleeding-heart liberal,’ one of those card-carrying Democrats that Rush Limbaugh thinks is a communist. And I’m proud of it.”

• OK, a show of hands: Who remembers actor George Kennedy’s 1975-1976 CBS-TV series, The Blue Knight, based on Joseph Wambaugh’s 1973 novel of the same name? I just noticed that five of that program’s two-dozen episodes are available on YouTube. It’s best to watch them now, before they’re scrubbed from the site.

Registration is already open for readers and writers hoping to attend the 2012 Left Coast Crime convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Guests of Honor that year will be novelists Mick Herron and Catriona McPherson. Don’t forget about LCC 2020, either, which is scheduled to be held in San Diego, California.

• In advance of the Veronica Mars TV revival series, which begins airing on July 26 on Hulu, the Web site Vox chooses the best and worst episodes from among the show’s original, 2004-2007 run; the 2014 film based on the program also joins the ranking. When you’re done reading through all of those, look back at Cameron Hughes’ 2008 piece about Veronica Mars, posted in The Rap Sheet.

• Finally, a belated (and posthumous) “happy birthday” to composer Earle Hagan, who “would have turned 100 years old on July 9,” as Variety notes. Among his many contributions to popular culture, Hagan gave us the themes for The Andy Griffith Show, I Spy, The Mod Squad, and The New Perry Mason.

Deadly’s David Race

This year’s Deadly Ink Mystery Conference is scheduled for August 2-4 in Parsippany, New Jersey. Among the highlights of that convention will be the presentation of the 2019 David Award, named in honor of early Deadly Ink supporter David G. Sasher. Here are the nominees:

Yesterday’s News, by R.G. Belsky (Oceanview)
Died in the Wool, by Peggy Ehrhart (Kensington)
The Consultant, by Tj O’Connor (Oceanview)
Misty Treasure, by Linda Rawlins (Riverbench)
Second Story Man, by Charles Salzberg (Down & Out)
Feral Attraction, by Eileen Watkins (Kensington)

Just one mystery here: Deadly Ink’s Web site says this commendation will be given to “the best mystery published in 2018.” Yet according to Amazon, Salzberg’s novel came out in November 2017. Maybe the eligibility period isn’t quite as rigid as it seems.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Strand Touts Stand-Outs

During a glitzy cocktail party last evening, The Strand Magazine announced the winners of its 2019 Strand Critics Awards.

Best Mystery Novel: Tie—Transcription, by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown), and Sunburn, by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins)

Also nominated: Lullaby Road, by James Anderson (Crown); November Road, by Lou Berney (Morrow); Dark Sacred Night, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown); and The Witch Elm, by Tana French (Viking)

Best Debut Mystery Novel: The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor (Crown)

Also nominated: Dodging and Burning, by John Copenhaver (Pegasus); The Other Side of Everything, by Lauren Doyle Owens (Touchstone); The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton (Sourcebooks Landmark); and Beautiful Bad, by Annie Ward (Park Row)

In addition, the Strand presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to two prominent authors: Heather Graham and Donna Leon. And it gave Dominique Raccah, the publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, its Publisher of the Year Award.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

PaperBack: “Wiretap!”

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

Wiretap!, by Charles Einstein (Dell First Edition, 1955).
Cover illustration by Robert Schulz.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Worthy of Notice

Having just finished work on another piece for CrimeReads, I have time to highlight a few genre-related stories I’ve seen lately.

• There’s big news from U.S. publisher Soho Crime. In a press release, it declares it’ll release a brand-new novel by James Sallis this coming October: Sarah Jane, about “a good cop with a complicated past,” whose “life takes an unexpected turn when she is named the de facto sheriff of a rural town, investigating the mysterious disappearance of the sheriff whose shoes she’s filling—and the even more mysterious realities of the life he was hiding from his own colleagues and closest friends.” No less exciting is word that, beginning this fall, Soho will reissue Sallis’ six novels starring Lew Griffin, a sometime private eye in New Orleans with a particular interest in locating lost children. The first of those short books, The Long-Legged Fly (1992), should reach stores in mid-September, with the last, Ghost of a Flea, going on sale in early December.

• London’s Goldsboro Books has announced its 2019 longlist of nominees for the Glass Bell Award, given “annually to an outstanding work of contemporary fiction, rewarding quality storytelling in any genre.” The dozen contenders include several plucked from the crime/mystery shelf: Our House, by Louise Candlish; Memo from Turner, by Tim Willocks; The Puppet Show, by M.W. Craven; The Poison Bed, by Elizabeth Fremantle; Snap, by Belinda Bauer; and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Shelf Awareness says, “The shortlist, judged by Goldsboro Books founder and managing director David Headley and his team, will be announced on August 1, and the winner named September 16.”

This comes from the Los Angeles Times:
Publisher Harper Collins will release a novel by filmmaker Michael Mann featuring the characters from his iconic 1995 film “Heat” next year, the director revealed on Twitter.

The novel, which has been in the works for years, is being co-written with Reed Farrel Coleman, the crime author best known for his series of novels featuring Moe Prager, an ex-police officer turned private eye.

“Heat,” written and directed by Mann, gained critical acclaim upon its release and remains one of the best-known films of the 1990s. The movie follows a Los Angeles police detective, played by Al Pacino, on the trail of a crew of robbers led by a longtime thief, played by Robert De Niro.
The Times goes on to explain that “Mann first indicated his interest in writing a novel inspired by ‘Heat’ in 2016, when Harper Collins announced that the director would be getting his own imprint with the publisher. Deadline reported that the planned novel would be a prequel, covering ‘the formative years of homicide detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), McCauley’s accomplice Nate (Jon Voight), and other characters ...’” No title or release date has yet been set for Mann’s novel.

• In Reference to Murder reports that “The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association has scheduled a July 21 walking tour of areas in South Berkeley, California, that are associated with mystery/sci fi author, editor, and critic Anthony Boucher (aka William Anthony Parker White). The walk will be guided by Randal Brandt, a librarian who curates the California Detective Fiction Collection at the University of Southern California at Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. The tour will also cover sites associated with Boucher’s fellow mystery writer Mary Collins, the California Writer’s Club, pioneering film critic Pauline Kael, and others.” If only I lived in the Bay Area …

• I have to admire Tom Simon’s ambition. Not only does he write the excellent Paperback Warrior blog, focused on 1950s-1990s soft-cover novels, but this week he launched a companion podcast. In the premiere episode, he and a colleague “discuss the goldmine of paperback treasure, the famed Chamblin’s Book Mine in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as two novels—Sins of the Fathers, by Lawrence Block, and Penetrator #14, by Chet Cunningham.” When I finally get around to adding a list of podcasts to The Rap Sheet’s already lengthy blogroll, I’ll definitely have to include this new one.

• With Season 4 of Grantchester set to debut this coming Sunday night, July 14, as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! lineup, The Killing Times has posted a list of what it contends are “the most dangerous villages in British crime drama.” Grantchester, of course, makes the cut, as do Kembleford (Father Brown), Carsley (Agatha Raisin), and St. Mary Mead (Miss Marple).

• By the way, if you’ve forgotten, this season of Grantchester will be star James Norton’s last. His “charismatic, jazz-loving clergyman Sidney Chambers” will be eased out during the coming half-dozen episodes to make way for the Reverend Will Davenport, played by Tom Brittney. Click here to watch the official series trailer.

• Speaking of Masterpiece Mystery!, I was sorry to bid adieu last Sunday to Series 6 of Endeavour, the Inspector Morse prequel starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam. This season comprised only four episodes—two fewer than last year. And as Chris Sullivan points out in his excellent Morse Universe blog, scenes were either eliminated or truncated in the U.S. broadcasts of those latest eps. Here are the links to Sullivan’s posts featuring the material cut from individual Season 6 installments of the series: “Pylon” (see here and here), “Apollo,” “Confection,” and “Degüello.” I have to say, “Degüello” would have been even more satisfying than it already was had the scene Sullivan embeds last in his post—showing Fred Thursday and Reginald Bright talking about how they met their wives—remained intact.

• Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review blog chooses what it claims are the five “best mysteries and thrillers of 2019 so far.” Interestingly, I’ve read only one of them. So far.

• I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with people impressed by their own collections of electronic books on one device or another. But the Microsoft Store’s recent decision to close its books department—in the process “disappearing every single e-book from every one of its customers” —should cause them to consider the transient nature of such libraries. NPR has more on the story.

• Finally, keep in mind that Dead Good, the British crime-fiction Web site, is still asking for assistance in choosing the winners of its 2019 Reader Awards. Click here to take part in this competition. Polls will remain open through Wednesday, July 17, with winners set to be announced on Friday, July 19, at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A “Force” to be Reckoned With

Don Winslow’s The Force—one of my favorite novels of 2017—has won this year’s Falcon Award, presented by Japan’s Maltese Falcon Society to a superior work of hard-boiled crime fiction. It’s far from Winslow’s first such victory; as The Gumshoe Site explains, this “is his fifth Falcon Award following [those given for] Missing: New York (no English version), The Winter of Frankie Machine, The Power of the Dog, and A Cool Breeze on the Underground.”

Other previous Falcon recipients include Robert Crais (The Promise), Dennis Lehane (Live by Night), S.J. Rozan (Winter and Night), and Stephen Greenleaf (Book Case).

Friday, July 05, 2019

Revue of Reviewers, 7-5-19

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

“Happy” Days Are (Almost) Here Again

Just as I was about to finally give up on the British TV crime drama Happy Valley ever returning for its promised third season, here comes some welcome news from The Killing Times:
It’s been a slow-moving saga, and it still might be, but screenwriter Sally Wainwright has now confirmed that series three of Happy Valley has now been greenlit.

Series two of the internationally acclaimed crime drama aired in the UK three years ago and speculation has taken place ever since as to when a third series might emerge.
There’s one major roadblock to the show’s return, though. As Wainwright tells Television Business International, “scripts will only get going once she has completed the already-commissioned second series of [the] HBO/BBC One co-production Gentleman Jack, which recently wrapped its first series to stellar ratings.” Gentleman Jack is a historical drama, also created by Wainwright, which premiered this last spring in both the United States and Great Britain.

I’ll keep my eyes open for updates to this reporting.

What, Me Mad?

I couldn’t help but be saddened by yesterday’s news: “Mad magazine, the once-subversive humor publication that helped redefine American satire and influenced a half-century of comedians and comic artists, will soon disappear from the newsstand,” The Washington Post explained. As I have mentioned previously on this page, Mad was a prominent feature of my boyhood—without a doubt my father’s favorite periodical. But after almost 67 years in print, its “newsstand circulation will come to an end after the August issue,” according to HuffPost, which notes, however, that “subscribers and comic shops will continue to receive Mad, but starting in the fall those issues will feature old material repackaged with new covers.”

Some of my best memories of Mad revolve around its frequent sendups of prominent American small-screen crime dramas. The Thrilling Detective Web Site provides a lengthy list of those parodies, everything from “Honey Waste” (spoofing Honey West), “Cannonball” (Cannon), and “Churlie’s Angles” (Charlie’s Angels) to “Simple & Simple” (Simon & Simon) and of course, “The Tranquilizer” (The Equalizer). I managed to track down a few examples online, among them “The Crockford Files” (The Rockford Files), “The Man from A.U.N.T.I.E.” (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), “Clodumbo” (Columbo), and a mocking 1975 twist on Jack Nicholson’s noirish detective flick, Chinatown—or “Chinaclown,” as Mad lampooned it.

The Post’s report goes on to mention that
Mad magazine hit a peak of more than 2 million subscribers in the early ’70s, when it memorably satirized shifting social mores and cultural attitudes. Emblematic of that era—when Mad flexed the most pop-culture muscle as a powerhouse of topical irreverence—was a Watergate-era sendup of President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew in a “big con” spoof of the hit Oscar-winning movie The Sting.

But commercial pressures had changed since the ’90s. To try to survive in more recent years, as circulation dwindled precipitously, the magazine owned by Warner Bros.' DC division shifted to a quarterly publishing schedule and moved its offices from New York to the Los Angeles area. Now, the
Mad brand will mostly endure by simply recirculating its classic vintage material, living on through the appeal of what it once was.
Good-bye, Mad. It’s been fun—actually, it’s been hilarious.

READ MORE:Mad Magazine’s Demise Is Part of the Ending of a World,” by David Von Drehle (The Washington Post); “Mad Magazine, an Appreciation,” by Bill Koenig (The Spy Command); “Jumping on ‘Gunn,’” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).

Friday, June 28, 2019

PaperBack: “Dead Weight”

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

Dead Weight, by Frank Kane (Dell, 1953). This was Kane’s fifth novel to feature New York City private eye Johnny Liddell.
Cover illustration by William George.

Sunshine and Serial Murders

The Rap Sheet has already put together an inventory of more than 400 new books that should hold the attention of crime-fiction readers over the next three, warmer months. But now comes Janet Rudolph, updating for Mystery Fanfare her more general list of crime, mystery, and thriller novels set during summertime—everything from Neil Albert’s A Tangled June and Benjamin Black’s A Death in Summer to Camilla Crespi’s The Trouble with a Hot Summer and Anne George’s Murder Makes Waves. You will find all of her selections here.

READ MORE:The Invention of the ‘Beach Read,’” by Katy Waldman (The New Yorker).

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Selecting Scotland’s Best

This morning brings with it the release, from organizers of this year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival (September 20-22), of the lists of books and authors nominated for two 2019 McIlvanney Prizes. There are 13 works vying for the main McIlvanney Prize; two of those same books—by Claire Askew and M.R. Mackenzie—are also among the five shortlisted for the inaugural Debut Prize.

McIlvanney Prize Longlist:
All the Hidden Truths, by Claire Askew (Hodder)
No Man’s Land, by Neil Broadfoot (Little, Brown)
Fallen Angel, by Chris Brookmyre (Little, Brown)
Breakers, by Doug Johnstone (Orenda)
All That’s Dead, by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins)
In the Silence, by M.R. Mackenzie (Bloodhound)
Broken Ground, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown)
A Breath on Dying Embers, by Denzil Meyrick (Polygon)
Conviction, by Denise Mina (Vintage)
The Way of All Flesh, by “Ambrose Parry” (Canongate), aka Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman
In a House of Lies, by Ian Rankin (Orion)
A Treachery of Spies, by Manda Scott (Transworld)
Thunder Bay, by Douglas Skelton (Polygon)

McIlvanney Debut Prize Shortlist:
All the Hidden Truths, by Claire Askew (Hodder)
From the Shadows, by G.R. Halliday (Vintage)
Black Camp 21, by Bill Jones (Polygon)
In the Silence, by M.R. Mackenzie (Bloodhound)
The Peat Dead, by Allan Martin (Thunderpoint)

A shortlist of contenders for the McIlvanney Prize is supposed to be revealed in early September. The winners of both awards will be announced on Friday, September 20, during an opening reception at the Bloody Scotland convention in Stirling.

These annual commendations, recognizing “excellence in Scottish crime writing,” are named in honor of William McIlvanney, author of the novel Laidlaw. Previous recipients of the McIlvanney Prize—formerly the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award—are Liam McIlvanney (for The Quaker in 2018), Denise Mina (for The Long Drop in 2017), Chris Brookmyre (for Black Widow in 2016), Craig Russell (for The Ghosts of Altona in 2015), Peter May (for Entry Island in 2014), Malcolm Mackay (for How a Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013), and Charles Cumming (for A Foreign Country in 2012).

(Hat tip to Promoting Crime Fiction by Lizzie Hayes.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Of Surveys, Series, and Circus Clowns

• After having solicited numerous nominations online for its annual Dead Good Reader Awards, the British crime-fiction Web site Dead Good is now asking people to vote for their favorites in six categories, everything from The Nosy Parker Award for Best Amateur Detective and The Jury’s Out Award for Most Gripping Courtroom Drama to The Cat and Mouse Award for Most Elusive Villain. Included among the candidates this year are The Taking of Annie Thorne, by C.J. Tudor; Thirteen, by Steve Cavanagh; The Passengers, by John Marrs; and Beautiful Liars, by Isabel Ashdown. Click here to take part in this competition. Polls will remain open through Wednesday, July 17, with winners set to be announced on Friday, July 19, at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England.

• If five seasons of Bosch haven’t already satisfied your craving for Michael Connelly television adaptations, then here’s good news: Deadline reports that CBS-TV “has given a series production commitment to The Lincoln Lawyer.” David E. Kelly, creator of The Practice and Ally McBeal, will apparently write the show and serve as one of its three executive producers, along with Connelly and Ross Fineman (Goliath). As with the 2011 big-screen picture based on Connelly’s novel of the same name, CBS’ The Lincoln Lawyer “centers on Mickey Haller, an iconoclastic idealist, who runs his law practice out of the back of his Lincoln Town Car, as he takes on cases big and small across the expansive city of Los Angeles.” There’s no word yet on who’ll play Haller in the series.

• Believe it or not, there’s still no official news yet regarding which books and authors are finalists for the 2019 Nero Award, to be given out by The Wolfe Pack, a New York City-based Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin fan organization. In mid-June, Mystery Fanfare blogger Janet Rudolph posted a partial list of contendersThe Fallen Architect, by Charles Belfoure, and The Man Who Couldn’t Miss, by David Handler—based solely on Web chatter. However, that’s everything either she or I know so far. I have e-mailed Nero Award chair Stephannie Culbertson in search of information, but have heard nothing back. Last year’s Nero recipient was August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones.

CrimeReads has released an inventory of what its editors believe are “the best books of the year (so far).” Among those 25 picks are Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy, Don Winslow’s The Border, Niklas Natt och Dag’s The Wolf and the Watchman, Lyndsay Faye’s The Paragon Hotel, Philip Kerr’s Metropolis, and Ausma Zehanat Khan’s A Deadly Divide. Several of CrimeReads’ choices also appeared on my own my own list of early 2019 crime-fiction preferences.

Crime-fiction expert and Financial Times contributor Barry Forshaw selects four novels he thinks every reader of crime and mystery fiction should investigate this summer.

• Tim Mason, author The Darwin Affair, recalls Charles Dickens’ great interest in London’s mid-19th-century police force, which helped give rise to what was “perhaps his greatest novel,” Bleak House (1853). In turn, it was Bleak House that inspired Mason’s excellent new historical mystery, The Darwin Affair, which stars Scotland Yard detective Charles Frederick Field, the often impulsive flesh-and-blood model for Dickens’ famous Inspector Bucket.

• In a two-part post for his blog, Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan (see here and here), attorney Bill Selnes reassess the controversial involvement of New York City prosecutor-turned-novelist Linda Fairstein in the notorious Central Park Five case. It was her role in that pursuit of charges against five alleged teenage rapists (beginning in 1990) that has led of late to the Mystery Writers of America withdrawing her nomination as one of its Grand Masters, and to her publisher booting Fairstein from its stable.

• For Mystery Scene magazine, Ben Boulden surveys the long, colorful history of mysteries set around circuses and carnivals.

• New Zealand actress-singer Lucy Lawless, best known for her ass-kicking role in Xena: Warrior Princess (1995–2001), is returning to television—at least in Australia. According to The Killing Times, she will play Alexa Crowe, “a brilliant, charismatic and ever-so-slightly scruffy ex-homicide detective,” in My Life Is Murder, a 10-part crime drama scheduled to debut Down Under within the next several weeks. Let’s hope this show eventually makes it to the States.

• And who remembers the 1985 made-for-TV movie Izzy and Moe, featuring Jackie Gleason and Art Carney (formerly co-stars of The Honeymooners) as a pair of Prohibition-era federal cops, their characters based on highly successful, real-life liquor-law enforcers? At least for the nonce, that 92-minute film is available on YouTube in 10 parts. Watch it now, before it disappears!

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Story Behind the Story: “They Tell Me You Are Cunning,” by David Hagerty

(Editor’s note: This is the 84th entry in The Rap Sheet’s “Story Behind the Story” series. Today’s contribution comes from Northern California author David Hagerty, whose new novel, They Tell Me You Are Cunning, is being released by Evolved Publishing. Inspired by the false convictions of 10 men on Illinois’ death row, Cunning is the subject of the essay below. It’s the fourth entry in Hagertys Duncan Cochrane mystery series, “which chronicles crime and dirty politics in Chicago during his childhood.” The previous installment in that series was 2018’s They Tell Me Your Were Brutal.)

I hung out in jail for seven years.

True, they let me out every night (I was a teacher there, not an inmate), but I still met a lot of convicts.

One in particular struck me, an older guy I’ll call Harry. Harry was probably in his 50s then, though he looked older, with gray hair and a small build. He came off as the most demure, polite person I knew. When he talked to you, he lowered his eyes and dipped his head submissively.

I couldn’t figure what Harry would have done to land in jail, let alone maximum security, where I met him, but I heard that he had an impressive rap sheet going back decades. His cellie once told me that Harry had a Mr. Hyde side that only came out when he drank. Must have, because in the months I worked with him, I only met Dr. Jekyll.

I don’t mean to sound naïve. I also met plenty of guys who needed to be incarcerated, guys whose thinking was so thoroughly criminal that I’d have to tear them down to the foundation and rebuild from there. Guys like Gary Mack, who made his living pimping and boasted about it; or a youngster whose entire family worked in the drug trade. Not everyone could be redeemed.

But I also met a number of guys who didn’t need to be locked up for life, who showed potential beyond hustling and profiling. Some were young and foolish, others had started out on the wrong path and couldn’t find their way back, and a few were possibly innocent.

The cliché about prisoners is that they all claim to be innocent, which I never found to be true. Talk to them long enough and guys will tell you what they did, only they’ll claim it’s not their fault. Their women, their partners, their need to feed the family (my favorite convict trope) pushed them to it.

There was even a vocabulary to their victim complex:

“Catching a case” meant you got arrested on a new charge, but it was phrased in the way most of us refer to catching a cold.

“Getting violated” meant your parole officer arrested you for a violation, but it was usually voiced to imply you’re being railroaded.

Almost daily I heard some version of the following: “My public ‘pretender’ is doing me, trying to get me to plead out to this case. That man wants to give me 10 years. I told him I’m not taking that deal. There’s people up in here killed a body got less time than that.” Yet, this is not what you see on television or in the movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love Orange Is the New Black and Oz. Even Prison Break is a great distraction. But they’re not real. Jail is not that exciting. As I’ve heard said about warfare, it’s 1 percent terror and 99 percent tedium. On television and in most novels, what are emphasized are the fights, the rapes, the schemes, but to me what stuck out was the routine. Your time is divided into tasks: feeding, yard time, linen exchange. Once a week the library shows up to deliver new books, but aside from that, there wasn’t a lot to occupy the mind.

Which is where I came in. I taught inmates to read, write, and calculate better. In most jails and prisons, the majority of inmates couldn’t pass the eighth grade. Not that this alone explains their criminality, but it certainly makes it tough for them to get a job, or even a driver’s license. Truth is, I didn’t care whether or not those prisoners were guilty, only that they preferred my classes to reruns of Jerry Springer.

Which brings me back to Harry. In truth, I don’t know if Harry was innocent in the legal sense. Given his record, I doubt it. But in the biblical sense, Harry was an innocent, a poor, illiterate, homeless soul. So I used him as a model for a character in my latest book, They Tell Me You Are Cunning, the fourth in my Duncan Cochrane mystery series, which is being released this month.

Supporters of the death penalty will tell you that no one has ever been proven innocent after their execution. That may be true, but it’s more true to say that many have been exonerated prior to their executions, especially in my native state of Illinois. There, 13 men were freed from death row after being wrongly convicted. At one point, Illinois had released more men than it executed. That ultimately convinced Governor Pat Quinn to abolish capital punishment in 2011.

(Right) Author David Hagerty

In my books, I also drew inspiration from a couple of true crimes in my hometown. I grew up in Chicago during the 1970s and ’80s, an era of pervasive criminal mischief and political corruption. Those of you who lived through that era will recall John Wayne Gacy, who raped and murdered at least 33 teenaged boys (then buried him under and around his house), and the Tylenol poisonings, which left five people dead in 1982 as a result of cyanide having been injected into their pain medications. You may not recall some of the local criminal dramas, such as when Chicago’s then mayor, Jane Byrne, moved into the city’s most infamous housing project, Cabrini Green, in response to a series of sniper attacks there.

Among these more obscure tales was a police scandal involving Commander Jon Burge, who tortured suspects using electrocution and beatings. His favorite interrogation technique was “bagging,” where he covered the suspect’s head with a typewriter bag until he passed out. Burge lived on a 40-foot boat called The Vigilante and ran a gang of detectives variously known as The A-Team and Midnight Crew. Eventually, he landed in prison too, but not for abusing detainees, since the statute of limitations had run out. Instead, he was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Following that came the Innocence Project, an investigative journalism program at Northwestern University that freed 10 condemned inmates and contributed to Governor George Ryan’s decision, in 2000, to put a moratorium on the death penalty. Four of the men pardoned by the governor had confessed under questioning by Burge. Now, true to form for Illinois, Ryan also landed in prison for selling commercial driver’s licenses to unqualified truckers, but no one has claimed a connection between his forgiveness for killers and his own misdeeds.

When I decided to adapt those two stories into a single novel, I needed a way to tie in my leading man, Duncan Cochrane, a law-and-order governor who (much like Ryan) left office in disgrace. I wanted to give him a reason to care, a personal connection to the crime.

I found it in my character Harry, a down-and-out alcoholic who’s convicted of killing an elderly couple during a routine robbery. Advocates claim that Harry, who was arrested and sentenced during Duncan’s term of office, is the victim of police abuse.

Reluctantly, Duncan starts to investigate, and he finds a case as shaky as his own reputation. His only option is to re-enter the body politic and urge others to atone for his mistakes. Along the way, he runs afoul of several other Chicago luminaries, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, reporters working for Rupert Murdoch, and a host of politicians and cops who do not want to hear from their deposed boss.

Like all of the books in my series, They Tell Me You Are Cunning mixes true crimes with dirty politics, Chicago style. Even decades removed from Prohibition and Al Capone, the Second City retains its criminal character.

READ MORE:Shout Out: David Hagerty, Novelist from the North Shore,” by Daniel I. Dorfman (Chicago Tribune).

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Digging the Art of “Chinatown”

It was 45 years ago today—on June 20, 1974—that French-Polish film director Roman Polanski’s now renowned period detective film, Chinatown, was first released by Paramount Pictures. I didn’t see it until years later, however, when, as a member of my college’s movie-selection committee, I helped bring Chinatown to campus for a two-night showing on a big theater screen. As a result of that effort, I wound up with a copy of the original promotional poster shown above, which is now prominently displayed in my office.

The painting for that placard—which the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) says is “arguably the greatest movie poster of all-time”—is credited to Pennsylvania-born artist Jim Pearsall. His image of Chinatown stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, both of them at risk of being upstaged by a lazy drift of cigarette smoke, was reportedly inspired by a famous 1890s advertisement for JOB cigarette rolling papers, created by Czech graphic artist Alphonse Mucha.

While Pearsall’s Chinatown poster is unquestionably the best remembered, there have been alternative notices created over the last four decades, several recalling a painful-to-watch nose-cutting scene in the flick. I’m embedding a dozen of the most memorable examples below, including the one at the very bottom—a European version created by prolific American artist Richard Amsel.

READ MORE:The Most Iconic Nose Injuries in the History of (Crime) Film,” by Dwyer Murphy (CrimeReads); “The Big Town” (Pulp International).

A Mystery Lover’s Mishmash

• B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder alerts us to the winners of this year’s Foreword Indies Book Awards, presented by Foreword Magazine and “honor[ing] the very best of indie publishing” for 2018. Here’s the quartet of recipients in the Mystery category:

— Gold: One for the Rock, by Kevin Major (Breakwater)
— Silver: A Gentleman’s Murder, by Christopher Huang (Inkshares)
— Bronze: Burning Ridge, by Margaret Mizushima (Crooked Lane)
— Honorable Mention: Uncivil Liberties, by Bernie Lambek (Rootstock)

There were also prizes given out in the Thriller & Suspense category, but you should click through to Lawson’s blog to find them.

• A couple of months ago I remarked on the coming Epix cable-TV drama series Pennyworth, which will star Jack Bannon as Alfred Pennyworth, better known as the faithful butler to Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. Set in 1960s London, this 10-episode spy series finds Pennyworth as “a former British SAS soldier in his 20s,” working in a private security consultant capacity for youthful American billionaire Thomas Wayne, destined to become Bruce’s father. Back then, I could point you only to a 17-second trailer for the show, but now the blog Double O Section features a more satisfying two-minute version. Pennyworth is scheduled to premiere on July 28.

• Sometime Rap Sheet contributor Mark Coggins (whose seventh August Riordan detective novel, The Dead Beat Scroll, is due out from Down & Out this fall) attended a recent bookstore event in honor of James Ellroy. He came away from it with this memorable story.

• I’ve already mentioned on this page 11 of my favorite new reads from the first half of this year. But now comes Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review with its own selections, including Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient, which it applauds as “a debut that just might be the thriller of 2019.”

• Wow! They sure don’t build towers like this anymore.

• Finally, Crime Fiction Lover identifies10 Crime Shows That Time Forgot”—most of which I would contend aren’t forgotten at all, at least not by those of us with long memories. Mentioned among the bunch are McMillan & Wife (1971-1977), McCloud (1970-1977), and the BBC’s Lord Peter Wimsey (1972-1975).