Saturday, June 03, 2023

Action! Suspense! Danger! Prizes!

This evening’s concluding banquet at ThrillerFest XVIII in New York City brought an announcement of which books and authors have won the 2023 Thriller Awards, in seven categories.

Best Hardcover Novel: Sundial, by Catriona Ward (Macmillan)

Also nominated: The Violence, by Delilah S. Dawson (Del Rey); Things We Do in the Dark, by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur); The Fervor, by Alma Katsu (Putnam); The Children on the Hill, by Jennifer McMahon (Simon & Schuster); and Two Nights in Lisbon, by Chris Pavone (MCD)

Best Audiobook: Things We Do in the Dark, by Jennifer Hillier; narrated by Carla Vega (Macmillan Audio)

Also nominated: Young Rich Widows, by Kimberly Belle, Fargo Layne, Cate Holahan, and Vanessa Lillie; narrated by Dina Pearlman, Karissa Vacker, Helen Laser, and Ariel Blake (Audible); The Lies I Tell, by Julie Clark; narrated by Anna Caputo and Amanda Dolan (Audible); The Photo Thief, by J.L. Delozier; narrated by Rachel L. Jacobs and Jeffrey Kafer (CamCat); and The Silent Woman, by Minka Kent; narrated by Christine Lakin and Kate Rudd (Blackstone)

Best First Novel: The Resemblance, by Lauren Nossett (Flatiron)

Also nominated: Blood Sugar, by Sascha Rothchild (Putnam); Dirt Creek (aka Dirt Town), by Hayley Scrivenor (Flatiron); A Flicker in the Dark, by Stacy Willingham (Minotaur); and The Fields, by Erin Young (Flatiron)

Best Paperback Original Novel: The Housemaid, by Freida
McFadden (Grand Central)

Also nominated: The Lies I Told, by Mary Burton (Montlake); No Place to Run, by Mark Edwards (Thomas & Mercer); Unmissing, by Minka Kent (Thomas & Mercer); Anywhere You Run, by Wanda Morris (Morrow); The Couple Upstairs, by Holly Wainwright (Pan Macmillan); and The Patient’s Secret, by Loreth Anne White (Montlake)

Best Short Story: “Stockholm,” by Catherine Steadman
(Amazon Original Stories)

Also nominated: “Russian for Beginners,” by Dominique Bibeau (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine [EQMM], March/April 2022); “The Gift,” by Barb Goffman (from Land of 10,000 Thrills, edited by Greg Herren; Down & Out); “Publish or Perish,” by Smita Harish Jain (EQMM, September/October 2022); “33 Clues Into the Disappearance of My Sister,” by Joyce Carol Oates (EQMM, March/April 2022); and “Schrödinger, Cat,” by Anna Scotti (EQMM, March/April 2022)

Best Young Adult Novel: Daughter, by Kate McLaughlin (Wednesday)

Also nominated: Our Crooked Hearts, by Melissa Albert (Flatiron); Sugaring Off, by Gillian French (Algonquin Young Readers); What’s Coming to Me, by Francesca Padilla (Soho Teen); and I’m the Girl, by Courtney Summers (Wednesday)

Best E-Book Original Novel: The Couple at Causeway Cottage, by Diane Jeffrey (HarperCollins)

Also nominated: Evasive Species, by Bill Byrnes (Self-published); The Seven Truths of Hannah Baxter, by Grant McKenzie (Self-published); The Hollow Place, by Rick Mofina (Self-published); and Fatal Rounds, by Carrie Rubin (Self-published)

Congratulations to all of this year’s prize contenders!

In addition, Charlaine Harris and Walter Mosley were presented with 2023 ThrillerMaster Lifetime Achievement Awards. Michael Connelly was given the annual Silver Bullet Award. And Minotaur Books was named as the winner of the 2023 Thriller Legend Award.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Friday, June 02, 2023

Block from the Beginning

Consider this an early birthday present to Lawrence Block, the prolific New York crime fictionist and Mystery Writers of America Grand Master who will turn an amazing 85 years old on June 24. Robert Deis, an expert on the art of vintage men’s adventure magazines, and Wyatt Doyle, the self-proclaimed “ringmaster” at publisher New Texture—who together produce the Men's Adventure Library line—recently released two editions of their latest entry in that series: The Naked and the Deadly: Lawrence Block in Men's Adventure Magazines.

Block started his writing career in the 1950s, when he was an editorial associate with the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, charged with reading and generally rejecting paid submissions by folks angling for entry into the publishing world. He got his feet wet by penning fiction and very lightly researched non-fiction (mostly under pseudonyms such as Sheldon Lord) to be placed in male-oriented periodicals on the order of Real Men, All Man, and For Men Only, earning “a cent a word, sometimes a cent and a half,” as he explains in this book’s introduction. Many of those stories, he recalls, “I wrote of my own initiative,” but other times “an editor would call the office with an assignment. He needed 2,500 words to fill a hole in an issue [of a magazine] that was about to go to press, say, or he had a terrific idea and needed someone to write it up. A shipwreck, or a disaster, or a Very Bad Man—generally something it would never occur to me to write, but more often than not an occasion to which I was prepared to rise.”

(Left) The expanded, full-color hardcover edition of The Naked and the Deadly, with bonus content. (Right) The slimmed-down, black-and-white paperback version, which the editors say honors “Block’s many successes in that format.”

The softcover edition The Naked and the Deadly contains a dozen dusty Block tales, printed in men’s adventure magazines (MAMs) between 1958 and 1968. “Some of the stories included,” says the blog Paperback Warrior, “will be familiar to long-time Blockheads. ‘Great Istanbul Land Grab’ and ‘Bring on the Girls’ are extracts from existing Block novels”—The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep and The Scoreless Thai, respectively—“starring his sleepless adventurer Evan Tanner. There are also three novellas starring his private detective Ed London previously reprinted in Block’s [2008] collection, One Night Stands and Lost Weekends.” Paperback Warrior questions the fact that the initial story on offer here, “Queen of the Clipper Ships,” is included, given that the author asserts he didn’t compose it. But editor Doyle tells me “Clipper Ships” has been previously credited to Block, thanks to its original “Sheldon Lord” byline, and was used at the author’s request:
When [Block] told us the story wasn't his, naturally we said we’d take it out. But he said nope, he wanted it in. So we proposed it as a special bonus for the deluxe hardcover alone, but he insisted it be included in all editions. And then of course in his intro, he says, I didn’t write it, but since it’s been attributed to me all this time, it’s mine now. This kind of playfulness has been a component of nearly every conversation with LB while working on the book, so we like that this bit of it carried over into the book for readers to share in. And of course almost all of the supplementary info in the expanded hardcover’s editorial comments illustrates where various bits and bobs were borrowed, swiped, repurposed, and reused, in the grand MAM tradition.

Though the decision to Include “Clipper Ships” was Block’s, in the end it’s become one more way the book endeavors to immerse the reader in the MAM experience.
As regards that aforereferenced hardcover version of this collection, it features an additional 60 pages of material, including magazine covers and interior spreads; context regarding the oft-salacious slant of MAMs; Block’s history of employing noms de plume; and “an entire 8,000-word story exclusive to the hardcover edition.” Said bonus yarn, “Erotic Life of the ‘Fly Me’ Stewardesses,” is an excerpt from Sex and the Stewardess (1972), “one of far too many purportedly factual books I wrote as John Warren Wells,” Block remarks. Yes, the hardcover edition is priced at $39.95—a full $23 more than the paperback—but it’s handsome and well worth the extra expense.

By the way, if you are a real Lawrence Block enthusiast, there are 200 copies available of a signed and numbered edition of the expanded hardcover. Pick up one of those here while supplies last.

I can only agree with Paperback Warrior’s assessment that “overall, this collection from a mystery grandmaster is an easy recommendation. If you’re on the fence, take the plunge.”

SEE MORE: Paperback Parade editor Gary Lovisi examines The Naked and the Deadly in this YouTube video.

Egg All Over My Face

So I was wrong when I confidently declared, this last November, that British author and clinical psychologist Frank Tallis would debut an eighth entry in his wonderful Max Liebermann historical mystery series. In fact, that forthcoming book, now due out in March 2024 and titled Mortal Secrets (which echoes the name of Tallis’ first Lieberman novel, 2005’s Mortal Mischief), is to be a non-fiction work about Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, famous as the father of psychoanalysis. Here’s Amazon’s synopsis:
Mortal Secrets is a book constructed from intersecting stories. The story of a man (Freud), the story of a movement (psychoanalysis), the story of a city (Vienna) and the story of that city’s most colourful characters. Mortal Secrets is an introduction to psychoanalysis built around Freud’s biography and given cultural context by discussion of the revolutionary art, philosophy, and science of Vienna around 1900. It is both human and epic in scale, insofar as Vienna’s story of glamour and profligate brilliance was played out in coffee houses as well as battlefields. Most important of all, Mortal Secrets is an account of how we came to be who we are and why we live the way we do. It is the story of how Freud excavated and laid open the machinery of your mind. This is an entirely fresh approach to Freud. Existing biographies are largely slow-moving and most introductions to psychoanalysis lack depth. An intelligent book about Freud and psychoanalysis, written in an accessible and narrative style for the interested layperson, would be a unique reading experience. There has never been a book that both contextualises Freud in his time while offering a scientific evaluation of his ideas for our time.
It seems the wait for Lieberman’s next outing continues.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

A Fast Five

• Vaseem Khan, award-winning author of both the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels and the Malabar House series, has been elected as the new chair of the British Crime Writers’ Association. He succeeds editor, writer, and critic Maxim Jakubowski in that post. As The Guardian notes, Khan is “the first person of colour to take the role in the organisation’s 70-year history.” It adds that “Jakubowski will formally hand over the Creasey Bell—named in honour of the CWA founder [John Creasey]—to Khan at the annual Dagger awards on 6 July. The bell has been passed on from chair to chair for 70 years.”

• The 69th and latest edition of Strand Magazine contains a previously unpublished short story by James M. Cain (1892-1977). Titled “Blackmail,” and for decades cached at the Library of Congress, it “tells of a blind Korean War veteran known as Johnsie; Pat, the former comrade who now employs him; and Myra, a woman from the past with some hard-boiled ideas about money, and love …,” according to the Associated Press. “The themes in ‘Blackmail’ of betrayal, violence, rough sexuality—and blackmail—echo such Cain classics as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.” The Strand remarks: “In just over 3,000 words, Cain offers up all the noir elements we’ve come to expect from him, complete with gritty dialogue and a cunning antagonist, but puts in an unexpected twist that turns the tale on its head, offering a surprisingly nuanced take on these supposedly hard characters.” Order a copy of the issue here.

• We must say farewell to George Maharis, the American actor/singer perhaps best remembered for playing peripatetic Buz Murdock in the first three seasons of the television series Route 66. He died on May 24 at 94 years of age. In the decades following Route 66, Maharis appeared in films such as The Satan Bug (1965) and The Desperadoes (1969); starred as a San Francisco private eye in the 1969 ABC-TV pilot The Monk (written by Blake Edwards); and—alongside Ralph Bellamy and Yvette Mimieux—headlined the 1970-1971 ABC crime drama The Most Deadly Game. He also found roles on shows such as Cade’s County, Mission: Impossible, Police Story, Shaft, McMillan & Wife, Ellery Queen, Switch, and Murder, She Wrote. Something I didn’t know until reading The New York Times’ obituary of this performer: Maharis was gay, and was arrested twice during the less-enlightened 1960s and ’70s for “cruising in men’s bathrooms.”

• Although I will be attending the 2023 Bouchercon in San Diego (August 30-September 3), the price of this banquet is a wee bit steep for my budget. According to a message from convention organizers, “The Wolfe Pack is planning a dinner in a local restaurant near the event, Friday, September 1, at 6:30 p.m. Over the course of the evening, celebrate Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories by singing pastiches; completing hilarious quizzes about the opus; and toasting Mr. Stout, Mr. Wolfe, Archie, Fritz, and ‘Other.’ Very limited seating, so register now. $175 per person.” Click here for more information.

• And this is an unlikely employment opportunity. “M16 spooks are looking for James Bond-loving cabbies to drive cars, minibuses and lorries for the secret service,” reports Britain’s Daily Mail. “The intelligence service is searching for chauffeurs to drive around the capital for £33,029 a year.” The paper goes on to explain: “The day-to-day job will be varied, with drivers picking up staff members in varying authority as well as passengers.” It adds that “experience of driving large vans, minibuses or lorries is vital for you to be successful in this role.” What sensitive materials might those oversized vehicles be transporting? Get your application in now to find out!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Revue of Reviewers: 5-30-23

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

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Crowding Up Against the Deadline

Efforts by Iowa novelist Max Allan Collins to raise the money necessary to turn his A Christmas Carol-like detective short story, “Blue Christmas” (published in a 2001 collection), into a movie seem to be going well. With less than two days left to raise $5,000 through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, he’s already brought in … $5,750!

Contributions are still being accepted here. As an incentive, if you pony up $25 to $500, Collins says you can write him at to request copies of his older books to add to your collection. Click here to learn more about that offer.

Meanwhile, the author is hoping to score matching funds for this endeavor from the Produce Iowa-State Office of Film and Media’s Greenlight Grants program, which is designed to “support entrepreneurial projects that can accelerate business and careers in film.” Collins acknowledges, however, that there’s no guarantee he will succeed in this second venture, given the caliber of rival proposals. If Produce Iowa turns him down, he says he’ll mount a live production of Blue Christmas, which will be recorded.

More news on this matter to come.

A Little Homicide for Your Holiday?

Memorial Day, which will be celebrated tomorrow in the United States, doesn’t seem to have inspired a great number of crime and mystery novels—unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. However, Janet Rudolph does suggest a few available options here, including a Trixie Belden “girl detective” novel for young readers titled The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire (1984).

READ MORE:Barbecue Mysteries: Memorial Day,” by Janet Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare).

Friday, May 26, 2023

Closing the Book on Dunning

John Dunning, who became quite popular in the 1990s and early 2000s for his multiple mystery novels starring Cliff Janeway, a Denver bookseller and former policeman, passed away on May 23 at age 81. The Denver Gazette reports that Dunning had “suffered from dementia caused by a brain tumor, which led to a ‘long dying,’”

Born in Brooklyn. New York, on January 9, 1942, Dunning moved with his parents to South Carolina at age 3. After dropping out of high school and then serving briefly with the U.S. Army, he relocated again in his early 20s, this time to the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado. He labored there for several years as a stable hand at a horse-racing track (a background he later drew upon to pen at least two novels), before scoring a city-side reporting position with The Denver Post. (The Gazette says he was known to “run through the newsroom on assignment with his shirt hanging out.”) In 1970, Dunning finally left the newspaper in order to try his hand at penning novels, the first of which—a detective yarn titled The Holland Suggestions—saw print in 1975. He went on to release several more novels, plus a non-fiction work, Tune in Yesterday: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, 1925–1976 (1976), before he quit writing for a while in 1984, very frustrated with the process of getting his books published. Instead, Dunning and his wife, Helen, opened a second-hand and rare books business in east Denver called the Old Algonquin Bookstore. He also launched a Sunday morning program on the now long-gone AM station KNUS 710, during which he played old radio shows. “No one knew where he got his collection of unique recordings,” the Gazette recalls. “But every weekend, he would lug in his boxes of reel-to-reel tapes, thread them on a machine and let them run.”

Wikipedia says it was “the urging of fellow authors” that eventually convinced John Dunning to give fiction-writing a second shot. In 1992 he introduced Cliff Janeway in Booked to Die, which found his protagonist leaving the Denver police force amid spurious brutality charges, then opening a shop called Twice Told Books, while at the same time he investigated the murder of a book scout. Kirkus Reviews called Booked to Die “a lively, seductive primer on how to open a bookstore, spot a first edition, warehouse it, price it, and enjoy it for its own sake.” The novel went on to win the Nero Award and Dilys Award, and was nominated for an Anthony Award.

Over the next 14 years, Dunning produced four additional Janeway yarns, plus a standalone historical novel, Two O’Clock Eastern Wartime. This new commitment to fiction left him too busy to operate a commercial enterprise, so in June 1994 he closed the Old Algonquin Bookstore, but continued to peddle stock on the Internet.

In 2006, Dunning was found to be suffering from a brain tumor. Although it was partially removed, “ongoing problems” prevented him from producing more novels and apparently opened the gates to cognitive decline. A sad turn for someone once so full of imagination.

READ MORE:John Dunning, R.I.P.,” by George Easter (Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine); “R.I.P.—A World-Class Bookman” (Seattle Mystery Bookshop).

Paretsky’s Literary Activism Saluted

Chicago author Sara Paretsky, creator of the best-selling V.I. Warshawski private-eye series, has been chosen to receive the 2023 David Thompson Special Service Award. Named in honor of Texas bookseller-publisher David Thompson, who died in 2010, this commendation is presented annually by Bouchercon’s board of directors in recognition of “extraordinary efforts to develop and promote the mystery and crime fiction field.”

A news release says that Paretsky is being honored for her “phenomenal” contributions “as a founder of Sisters In Crime; as a leader in helping to lay the publishing groundwork for women authors of mystery and crime fiction; and as an ongoing literacy activist …”

She’ll be presented with her award during the General Members Meeting at this year’s Bouchercon, which is to be held in San Diego, California, from August 30 to September 3.

Previous winners of this special service accolade include The Rap Sheet’s own British correspondent, Ali Karim, Bouchercon participants Bill and Toby Gottfried, editor and bookseller Otto Penzler, Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine editor George Easter, reviewer and blogger Lesa Holstine, and editor-blogger Janet Rudolph.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Captivating Canadian Criminalities

Earlier today, the Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) announced the winners of its 2023 Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. (Yeah, I understand there’s a lot of repetition in that sentence.) There were 10 categories of contestants.

Best Crime Novel:
Going to Beautiful, by Anthony Bidulka (Stonehouse)

Also nominated: Take Your Breath Away, by Linwood Barclay (HarperCollins Canada); An Unthinkable Thing, by Nicole Lundrigan (Viking Canada); Please Join Us, by Catherine McKenzie (Simon & Schuster Canada); and Daughters of the Occupation, by Shelly Sanders (HarperCollins Canada)

Best Crime First Novel:
Citizens of Light, by Sam Shelstad (TouchWood Editions)

Also nominated: The Pale Horse, by T. Lawrence Davis (Friesen Press); Killer Time, by Bill Edwards (Friesen Press); The Damned Lovely, by Adam Frost (Down & Out); and The Man from Mittlewerk, by M.Z. Urlocker (Inkshares)

The Howard Engel Award for Best Crime Novel Set in Canada: A Snake in the Raspberry Patch, by Joanne Jackson (Stonehouse)

Also nominated: Five Moves of Doom, by A.J. Devlin (NeWest Press); Blood Atonement, by S.M. Freedman (Dundurn Press); Cold Snap, by Maureen Jennings (Cormorant); and The Foulest Things, by Amy Tector (Keylight)

The Whodunit Award for Best Traditional Mystery: Deep House, by Thomas King (HarperCollins Canada)

Also nominated: Knight in the Museum, by Alice Bienia (Cairn Press); Fenian Street, by Anne Emery (ECW Press); Death Plans a Perfect Trip, by Mary Jane Maffini (Beyond the Page); and Framed in Fire, by Iona Whishaw (Touchwood Edition)

Best Crime Novella: “The Man Who Went Down Under,” by Alexis Stefanovich-Thomson (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July 2022)

Also nominated: “Amdur’s Ghost,” by M.H. Callway (from In the Spirit of 13; Carrick); Dangerous to Know: A Grifter’s Song, Vol. 28, by Hilary Davidson (Down & Out); Dead End Track, by Julie Hiner (Julie Hiner); and The Emir’s Falcon, by Matt Hughes (Shadowpaw Press Premiere)

Best Crime Short Story: “The Girl Who Was Only Three Quarters Dead,” by Craig H. Bowlsby (Mystery Magazine, April 2022)

Also nominated: “Must Love Dogs—or You’re Gone, by M.H. Callway (from Gone, edited by Stephen J. Golds; Red Dog Press); “To Catch a Kumiho,” by Blair Keetch (from In the Spirit of 13; Carrick); “The Natural Order of Things, by Sylvia Maultash Warsh (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, May/June 2022); and “Swan Song,” by Donalee Moulton (from Cold Canadian Crime, edited by Talia Morgan; Crime Writers of Canada)

Best French Crime Book (Fiction and Non-fiction): Monsieur Hämmerli, by Richard Ste-Marie (Éditions Alire)

Also nominated: Le Mouroir des anges, by Geneviève Blouin (Éditions Alire); Chaîne de glace, by Isabelle Lafortune (Éditions XYZ); Le dernier manège, by Guillaume Morrissette (Guy Saint-Jean); and Modus operandi, by Suzan Payne (Éditions Perce-Neige)

Best Juvenile or YA Crime Book (Fiction and Non-fiction): Heartbreak Homes, by Jo Treggiari (Nimbus)

Also nominated: Lark Steals the Show, by Natasha Deen (Orca); Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Seaside Corpse, by Marthe Jocelyn (Tundra); Wrong Side of the Court, by H.N. Khan (Penguin Teen); and Butt Sandwich & Tree, by Wesley King (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

The Brass Knuckles Award for Best Non-fiction Crime Book: The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation, by Rosemary Sullivan (HarperCollins Canada)

Also nominated: How to Solve a Cold Case: And Everything Else You Wanted to Know About Catching Killers, by Michael Arntfield (HarperCollins Canada); The Castleton Massacre: Survivors’ Stories of the Killins Femicide, by Sharon Anne Cook and Margaret Carson (Dundurn Press); Lost in the Valley of Death: A Story of Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas, by Harley Rustad (Knopf Canada); and Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment and the Courts to Set Him Free, by Sarah Weinman (Knopf Canada)

The Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript:
Snowed, by Mary Keenan

Also nominated: No Safe House, by Jan Garnett; Two Knots, by Joanne Kormylo; The Broken Detective, by Joel Nedecky; and The Peaks, by Michael Pennock

In addition, Jack Batten, “an acclaimed freelancer and award-winning author of dozens of fiction and non-fiction books for adults and young people,” received this year’s Derrick Murdoch Award. A press release explains that the Murdoch “is issued every two years to recognize a member of Crime Writers of Canada who has made significant contributions to the crime/mystery/thriller genre.”

Previous winners of these literary commendations (formerly known as the Arthur Ellis Awards) can be found here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Lessons in Lesser

It has actually happened! The beautiful, long-promised book, The Art of Ron Lesser Volume 1: Deadly Dames and Sexy Sirens, has finally been published. It should be explained here that I had a modest hand in making this possible, as a healthy chunk of the material contained in said work draws from my Killer Covers series about Lesser and his six decades of artistic accomplishment. Therefore, I may be more enthusiastic about this release than the typical reader.

Most of the credit for this 145-page tribute belongs to Bob Deis, an expert in the art of vintage men’s adventure magazines (and the editor of a blog on that very subject), and Bill Cunningham, the head of Pulp 2.0 Press, who, with Deis, now publishes Men’s Adventure Quarterly magazine. Deis contacted me last fall, asking whether I would be willing to let my lengthy 2018 interview with Ron Lesser be reused (and slightly re-edited) in a print release, and I quickly agreed. Since then, I’ve been sent various proofs from the volume, which is not only elegant but eye-catching as hell, thanks both to Cunningham’s design expertise and Lesser’s distinctive talents.

Early responses to this book have been altogether flattering. Leif Peng, author of The Art of the REAL Tom Sawyer and creator of the Today’s Inspiration Group on Facebook, wrote:
The Art of Ron Lesser Volume 1 isn’t just a beautifully designed collection of Lesser’s exceptional artwork, we also learn about his career—and the mid-20th-century illustration business in general—as described by artist himself. For fans of popular culture, genre fiction, and lovers of the best in illustration art of the period, this book is a must-have!
Meanwhile, Australian novelist and pop culture critic Andrew Nette (who also edited my contribution to 2019’s Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980) had this to say:
Messrs. Deis, Cunningham and Pierce have cemented themselves as among the foremost fan scholars of pulp. They have put together a book that not only beautifically showcases some of Lesser's stunning artwork. It executes a deep dive into the mechanics of his work and the economic and cultural forces that influenced it, over a range of mediums—paperbacks, magazines and film posters. It also sheds much needed light on the people who were vital to the lurid appeal of pulp paperback cover art but who have for the most part been erased from its history, the cover models.

This is not only a must-have for fans of mid-century pulp artwork, but an essential resource for those interested in changing visual and illustration styles more generally.
And author Max Allan Collins’ remarks were laudatory enough to earn them a spot on the book’s rear cover:
This astonishing book—perhaps the best ever assembled about a key artist of paperback book covers—is a mind-boggling feast for the eyes. What surprised me most was how many books I have purchased over the last fifty years, how many movies I have attended, that were due to Ron Lesser luring me in. Nothing ‘lesser’ about Ron—he is one of the handful of masters, right next to [Robert] McGinnis and [Robert] Maguire.
While the focus of this first volume of Lesser’s work explores his creative turnout between 1959 and 1979, Deis and Cunningham promise that future sequels “will cover different periods and aspects of the artist and his artwork.” I’m very pleased to have been a part of this production, and am planning more coverage of its print appearance in my Killer Covers blog. Stay tuned.

Ripley Readies His Departure

How did I miss this news? British crime fiction critic and raconteur Mike Ripley is preparing to retire from penning his “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots this coming August. That month’s submission will be his 200th.

The news was actually stuffed in at the close of Ripley’s April edition of GAWM, so perhaps I was not the only person to glance by it. As he states in his May column, others were more attentive:
The announcement of my impending retirement in August produced a slew of responses from readers. They ranged from the disbelieving—‘I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to’ (Jake Kerridge); ‘You’re having a laugh!’ (Peter Buckman); ‘Tell me it isn’t so!’ (Antoni Deighton)—to the downright threatening: ‘You are absolutely not allowed to retire’ (Vaseem Khan); ‘Retire? You mustn’t and I say it with more force then many. I know where you live. Just saying’ (David Brierley).

Sadly not one single message was accompanied by a cheque, postal order or Bitcoin promissory note and I understand that the ‘Bribe the Ripster’ page has been taken down from the GoFundMe site for legal reasons.
According to Shots’ Web site, Ripley began writing “Getting Away with Murder” for the online version of that publication back in June 2006. Many of the early columns seem to not be available any longer for study, but the majority can be accessed here.

I’ve always enjoyed Ripley’s convivial and oft-comic surveys of the current mystery-fiction scene. His May column is typical, including his remarks of CrimeFest 2023, the centenary of author Desmond Bagley, publisher Penguin’s revival of its green-cover editions, and new or forthcoming novels by John Lawton, Alan Parks, Taylor Adams, and the ever-mysterious Icelandic fictionist Stella Blómkvist.

It will be sad to lose Ripley’s voice from Shots, but his reasoning behind this retirement seems sound. “I am not getting any younger and I have an awful lot of books stacked up which I want to, rather than feel I have to, read. I have been reviewing crime fiction for 34 years now, making some good friends and discovering many fine writers along the way, but [am] surely due for some time off for good behaviour …” Thank you, Mike, for all the insights and entertainment you’ve brought us over the decades!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

PaperBack: “Joy Ride”

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

Joy Ride, by Inge Carnelle (Bee-Line, 1967). This was the second spy-sleaze novel to star Jane Blond, a rather kooky agent with B.U.S.T. (Bureau of Underground Spying and Treachery), whose code name was 40-27-40—“easy for everyone to remember, because that is also her dimensions,” recalls the Web site Spy Guys and Gals. “She is an agent who is willing to give her all for each mission. And give it again and again. And then look for more chances to give it. The woman likes giving. She also likes having it given to her, assuming she can remember to disconnect her booby-trapped underwear …”

Cover illustration by Robert Maguire.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Suddenly Seventeen

I’m not the first person to mention that today would have been the 164th birthday of Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 22, 1859. (Unfortunately, the author died in 1930.) But it’s another birthday, as well, that of the humble blog through which you’re currently scrolling.

Although it doesn’t seem as if so much time has passed, The Rap Sheet debuted on this date in 2006—a full 17 years ago!

All in all, I am pretty satisfied with how The Rap Sheet has grown and evolved. It has so far racked up just under 8.4 million pageviews, and boasts almost 8,600 posts. There are several editorial projects I have in mind for the near future, and at least one overall design modification I hope to tackle before 2023 is over.

At the same time, I’ve experienced a few frustrations in this undertaking, most recently the Blogger online publishing system’s seemingly random—and new, in my experience—practice of unpublishing a post here and there (claiming erroneously that its content “has violated our Malware and Viruses policy”), and then subsequently republishing it without adequate explanation of its acts or my having done a darn thing. My other chief annoyance is the need to update links as Web sites either go out of business or change the entirety of their post addresses. For instance, I continue to replace links to pages on The Thrilling Detective Web Site, following its disruptive server switch in 2021; and with the fine blog Bookgasm still offline after six months, I’ve been slowly but surely substituting links to archived copies of its stories and reviews as they appear on the wonderful Wayback Machine. (As editor Rod Lott informed me several months ago, this mess is the result of belligerent hacking.)

Despite abundant evidence that everything on the Internet is transient, and that readers will forgive that impermanence, I want The Rap Sheet to be as up-to-date as possible—even in its older material.

So as another blog birthday comes and goes, let me finish by thanking The Rap Sheet’s abundant readers. Without you and your encouragement, I’d have long since terminated this endeavor. I didn’t know in 2006 that I would still be writing about crime fiction—the books, the authors who produce them, the artists who develop their covers, and the movies and TV shows made from them—almost 20 years later. But here I am, damn proud to have made my small contribution to the genre and its future.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Revue of Reviewers: 5-19-23

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