Tuesday, March 28, 2023

PaperBack: “Manhunt”

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

Manhunt, by Donald MacKenzie (Popular Giant, 1958). Originally published in Great Britain in 1956 as Nowhere to Go, this novel focuses on “a criminal who escapes from jail and attempts to recover his stashed loot but is shunned by the criminal community and hunted by the police.” It was released a year later in the States as Manhunt. Director Seth Holt brought MacKenzie’s story to the big screen in 1958 under its original title. Cover art by Harry Schaare.

READ MORE:Author Donald MacKenzie’s Crime and Spy Thrillers, 1956–1993, Feat. the Raven Series, The Kyle Contract and a Bibliography,” by Nick Jones (Existential Ennui).

Monday, March 27, 2023

Censoring Christie

First, it was Ian Fleming’s James Bond thrillers. Now the Queen of Crime’s famous fiction is being bowdlerized in order to comport with “contemporary values.” As Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reports, “Agatha Christie novels have been rewritten for modern sensitivities ... Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries have had original passages reworked or removed in new editions published by HarperCollins.”

The paper spells out a variety of alterations made:
The author’s own narration, often through the inner monologue of Miss Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot, has been altered in many instances. Sections of dialogue uttered by often unsympathetic characters within the mysteries have also been cut.

In the 1937 Poirot novel
Death on the Nile, the character of Mrs. Allerton complains that a group of children are pestering her, saying that “they come back and stare, and stare, and their eyes are simply disgusting, and so are their noses, and I don’t believe I really like children.”

This has been stripped down in a new edition to state: “They come back and stare, and stare. And I don’t believe I really like children”.

Vocabulary has also been altered, with the term “Oriental” removed. Other descriptions have been altered in some instances, with a black servant, originally described as grinning as he understands the need to stay silent about an incident, described as neither black nor smiling but simply as “nodding”.

In a new edition of the 1964 Miss Marple novel
A Caribbean Mystery, the amateur detective’s musing that a West Indian hotel worker smiling at her has “such lovely white teeth” has been removed, with similar references to “beautiful teeth” also taken out.

The same book described a prominent female character as having “a torso of black marble such as a sculptor would have enjoyed”, a description absent from the edited version.

References to the Nubian people—an ethnic group that has lived in Egypt for millennia—have been removed from
Death on the Nile in many instances, resulting in “the Nubian boatman” becoming simply “the boatman”.

Dialogue in Christie’s 1920 debut novel
The Mysterious Affair at Styles has been altered, so where Poirot once noted that another character is “a Jew, of course”, he now makes no such comment.

In the same book, a young woman described as being “of gypsy type” is now simply “a young woman”, and other references to gypsies have been removed from the text.
The Telegraph says some of these new, expurgated HarperCollins editions of Christie’s mysteries have already been released, with more to come. The publisher apparently employed “sensitivity readers” to determine what might shock or offend other modern consumers.

All of this is patently ridiculous! Trying to sanitize or dumb down older crime and mystery novels (or any fiction, for that matter) presupposes that modern readers are stupid, that we don’t recognize how terminology and tastes have evolved over the centuries, and that we’re liable to faint or fume, or else be confused by, the presence of outdated slang and comments that would now be deemed belittling. These actions by HarperCollins suggest that it’s listening not to common book buyers, but to a segment of intolerant, over-thinking pearl-clutchers who simply can’t imagine that readers might be able to judge the material before them with discerning and critical eyes. Furthermore, stripping allusions to intolerant attitudes from older works is an attempt to rewrite history, to make people believe those attitudes never existed. And if we forget they existed, we may drop our guard against their foul revival in the future.

Older crime fiction should be read and appreciated as reflecting social tastes and mores that may sometimes be at odds with our own. There’s no need for publishers to try and protect us from our past!

Taking New Aim at “Jackal”

Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 political thriller, The Day of the Jackal, about an attempted assassination of French President Charles de Gaulle in 1962, already served as the basis for an award-winning 1973 film adaptation. Now it’s set to spawn a TV series starring English actor Eddie Redmayne (The Good Nurse, The Aeronauts).

However, this show’s faithfulness to its source material may be slight. Deadline reports that Forsyth’s intrigue-charged yarn is being “reimagined as a contemporary story set amidst the current turbulent geo-political landscape and will delve deeper into the chameleon-like ‘anti-hero’.” That sounds as if the folks behind this drama, which is destined for the NBC-TV streaming service Peacock in the States, and Sky in the UK and Europe, hope to draw viewers in based on the original Jackal’s fame, but then deliver something quite different from what fans of the book and movie might expect.

How many times have we watched these same bait-and-switch games played before? Perhaps TV and movie developers should focus on creating new characters and new stories, rather than trying to wring a few million more dollars out of reboots.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Constantine, Lakin Breathe Their Last

Although I have great respect for skilled obituarists, I don’t particularly like penning death notices myself. There’s simply too much sadness and sense of loss associated with the exercise. However, since I’m currently confined at home with my first-ever case of COVID-19 (which would probably be worse, had I not received all of the requisite vaccinations), I have ample time to mark the passing of two people much praised for their contributions to crime fiction.

The first is Carl Constantine Kosak, who’s certainly much better known to readers by his pseudonym, K.C. Constantine. Born in 1934 in the town of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania (outside Pittsburgh), he introduced to this genre popular protagonist Mario Balzic, the tough, prideful, stubborn, yet compassionate police chief of Rocksburg, an invented blue-collar town in western Pennsylvania that had been clobbered by America’s transformation from a high-wage industrial economy into a low-paying service economy bent on shipping jobs overseas. Balzic first appeared in The Rocksburg Railroad Murders (1972). Constantine followed that up with 16 additional novels, most starring Balzic, though later series installments promoted Balzic’s self-effacing protégé, Detective Sergeant Ruggiero “Rugs” Carlucci, as the lead.

Wikipedia describes this author as “much more interested in the people in his novels than the actual mystery, and his later novels become ever more philosophical, threatening to leave the mystery/detective genre behind completely.” Still, Constantine is remembered as “one of the most distinguished writers of crime fiction of the past half-century.” The Gumshoe Site explains that “The eighth novel in the ‘Rocksburg’ series, Joey’s Case (Mysterious Press, 1988), was nominated for the 1989 Edgar Award in the Best Novel category.” It was 1982’s The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes, though, that was supposedly the author’s personal favorite among his creations. What was long accepted as his last work, Saving Room for Dessert, reached print back in 2002. But the announcement came recently that Constantine had finished an 18th novel, Another Day’s Pain, which is scheduled for release in early 2024 by Mysterious Press.

Kosak/Constantine perished on March 23 at Westmoreland Hospital, an acute-care facility in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Perfectly consistent for a man who kept so much about himself private, I find no mention online of what killed down. He’s said to have been 88.

* * *

Rita Lakin, too, met her end on March 23. She was a longtime American screenwriter who turned to penning mystery fiction late in life. “Rita was a true hero for modern women,” opines Janet Rudolph in Mystery Fanfare. “She pushed boundaries early on in TV writing. Rita was an amazing, strong, inspiring, passionate, supportive, funny, talented, and generous woman.”

According to a piece in Canada’s Globe and Mail, Lakin turned to writing “after her husband died in 1961, leaving her with three young children to support, Rita Lakin found a secretarial job at Universal Studios [in Los Angeles]. When the English-lit grad realized screenwriting paid more than the steno pool, she started reading scripts and made her way into the business with a sample script for Dr. Kildare.” One of the first women TV scripters, Lakin is said to have concocted “464 [TV] episodes, eight movies of the week, and two mini-series.” She wrote for Daniel Boone, Darren McGavin’s The Outsider, Family Affair, The Mod Squad, Medical Center, and Dynasty. Lakin created the 1972-1976 ABC police drama The Rookies, as well as the 1980-1982 NBC prime-time soap opera Flamingo Road.

Lakin eventually departed L.A. for Marin County, in Northern California. There she commenced penning mystery novels starring Gladdy Gold, a septuagenarian private eye in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who regularly calls on her fellow retires for assistance in solving cases. The first entry in that nine-book series was Getting Old Is Murder (2005). In 2009, Getting Old Is a Disaster (2008) won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery Novel of the year. Lakin also wrote a 2021 romance novel titled Prince Charming, Go Home and a memoir of her Hollywood years, The Only Woman in the Room (2015).

She was a distinguished 93 years old at the time of her passing.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Revue of Reviewers: 3-24-23

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

Four Helpings of Havoc

The most interesting tidbit I came across in coverage of author John Jakes’ death, on March 11 at age 90, was the fact that he’d composed crime and mystery novels, along with his best-selling “generational family sagas of the American Revolution and the Civil War.”

A number of those works, including Gonzaga’s Woman (1953) and The Devil Has Four Faces (1958), were standalones; and some appeared under pseudonyms, such Jay Scotland (The Seventh Man, 1958) and Rachel Ann Payne (Ghostwind, 1966). But four comprised a series starring Johnny Havoc, a pint-sized gumshoe Jakes apparently modeled on actor Mickey Rooney. In The Thrilling Detective Web Site, Kevin Burton Smith offers this description of the character:
Johnny Havoc‘s main claim to fame is that he’s short. In fact, at 5’1″, he’s got to be one of the shortest eyes around. But he sure doesn’t let it get him down—he’s a tough, cocky, unlicensed P.I. (“I’m no eye. Merely an exponent of free enterprise.”) who wears Brooks Brothers suits, a pork pie hat and one giant chip on his shoulder.

But that isn’t what makes him “the private eye—with a difference.”

Nor is it the constant craving for the big score or his extremely flexible set of ethics.

No, it’s the pint-size redhead’s raging libido that truly lingers after reading one of his adventures. Johnny’s chief preoccupation in life seems to be satisfying his “one-eyed wonder worm” which, coincidentally, seems to do most of his thinking for him.

No word yet on the height of
New York editor and bookseller Otto Penzler, who reissued Jakes’ Havoc novels in the 1990s (under his Armchair Detective Press imprint), recalls them as “light, humorous paperback originals—not to be taken seriously but great fun.” I’ve never read a one of them, but as curiosities, they may be hard for me to pass up.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Coda for a Standout Sleuth

An alert to Americans yearning to see the fifth and final season of Endeavour: your wait is almost over! PBS-TV’s Masterpiece series reported today that the Inspector Morse spin-off series will return with three more 90-minute episodes, beginning on June 18.

Previewing this season’s highlights, a news bulletin says: “Shaun Evans as the young Morse and Roger Allam as his superior officer face baffling new crimes and an unsolved case from the past. With characters from former seasons popping up in a grand finale, Morse must resolve his professional and romantic future. The London Times praised the final episodes as ‘classy, poignant.’”

Those 34th, 35th, and 36th installments in young Morse’s troubled story were broadcast in Great Britain during the last couple of months. And there’s been some disagreement regarding how they conclude the his story. The Killing Times declares they left “big questions unanswered,” while The Guardian says Season 5 offered “a perfect finale to one of TV’s classic crime shows.”

You can decide for yourself when Endeavour returns as part of Masterpiece’s summer lineup.

Program! Program! Get Your Program Here!

In a news release this morning, organizers of this year’s CrimeFest—set to run from May 11 to 14 in Bristol, England—announced the event’s complete program schedule. As that communiqué explains:
Alongside 2023 featured guests—stalwarts of the genre, Mark Billingham and Elly Griffiths—around 50 panels will explore everything from crime fiction set during World War Two, to the crime genre in the digital age.

Panellists include Andrew Child, co-author [with brother Lee Child] of the Jack Reacher novels, adapted as
Reacher by Amazon Prime, author of the award-winning crime series set in India, Vaseem Khan, and Robert Thorogood, the creator behind the smash-hit BBC One series, Death in Paradise.
The planned and plentiful roundtables will include one titled “New Golden Age?: Today’s Mystery Fiction,” with The Life of Crime author Martin Edwards among its speakers; another “marking the 70th anniversary of the publication of Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel,” to feature “the first female 007 author, Kim Sherwood,” on stage; a panel called “Society: What Crime Fiction Says About Us,” with police detective-turned-author Graham Bartlett tapped as one of its members; and “Black Is the Night,” a discussion that will find Vaseem Khan, Donna Moore, and Maxim Jakubowski addressing the life and literary endeavors of author Cornell Woolrich.

More information about CrimeFest 2023 is available here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

“Three Pines” Cut Down in Its Prime

After enjoying the first, eight-episode season of Three Pines, I’m sorry to receive this news from In Reference to Murder:
“Amazon Prime Video has canceled Three Pines after just one season. Based on the novels by Louise Penny, the series starred Alfred Molina as Inspector Armand Gamache as he investigates cases beneath the idyllic surface of the Quebec village of Three Pines. The series had been left on a cliffhanger, with Gamache’s life on the line as his team tried to find him.
In addition to English actor Molina, Three Pines starred Canadian Rossif Sutherland as Sergeant Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache’s second in command, and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, a member of Alberta’s Kainai First Nation, as Sergeant Isabelle Lacoste. In Penny’s novels, Lacoste is a white Quebecois policewoman, but for this ambitious TV adaptation, she was remade as an Indigenous woman, instead—part of a plan, said The New York Times, to shine “a rare global spotlight on the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples [in Canada], a reality long underplayed, obfuscated or ignored in Canadian popular culture.” That cultural sensitivity, as well as the program’s nuanced portrayals of Indigenous characters, won widespread praise.

Despite it sometimes boasting a quirky air similar to Twin Peaks, I was quite taken with Three Pines and looked forward to seeing what could be done in Season 2. Unless another TV streamer picks the show up, the answer to that question will remain a mystery.

READ MORE:Surprise Cancellation of Three Pines,” by Bill Selnes (Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan).

Monday, March 20, 2023

Recognition Where It’s Due

While we’re on the subject of mystery-fiction awards, let me point out that half a dozen works have been shortlisted in the Crime & Thriller category of this year’s British Book Awards contest. They are:

Bamburg, by L.J. Ross (Dark Skies)
Murder Before Evensong, by Reverend Richard Coles
(Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The Bullet That Missed, by Richard Osman (Viking)
The Paris Apartment, by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins)
The Twyford Code, by Janice Hallett (Viper)
Wrong Place, Wrong Time, by Gillian McAllister (Penguin
Michael Joseph)

This is just one of 12 divisions of book and audiobook nominees vying for the 2023 British Book Awards, or “Nibbies,” all administered by The Bookseller. (There are another 17 categories of book trade prizes.) Winners are to be announced on Monday, May 15.

* * *

Martin Edwards, the UK author of last year’s The Life of Crime, reports that he has been chosen to receive the 2023 George N. Dove Award. Presented by the Popular Culture Association of the United States, that prize honors “'outstanding contributions to the serious study of mystery, detective, and crime fiction.” Edwards adds that its namesake “was a past president of the Popular Culture Association, and author of outstanding books on detective fiction.”

* * *

Finally, In Reference to Murder notes that Glencairn Crystal, which sponsors the annual McIlvanney and Bloody Scotland Debut crime writing awards, has identified “the winners of this year’s crime short story competition, which had the theme of ‘Scottish Crime,’ meaning the story must be set in Scotland. More than 100 stories were entered in the competition, each containing no more than 2,000 words. First place went to ‘Dummy Railway’ by Francis Crawford, and the runner up was ‘The Last Tram to Gorbals Cross’ by Alan Gaw. Crawford receives £1,000 and publication in the May issue of Scottish Field Magazine, while Gow receives £500. Both authors will also receive a set of six bespoke engraved Glencairn glasses.”

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Swinging with the Leftys

During a festive awards banquet held last evening as part of the Left Coast Crime convention in Tucson, Arizona, all winners of the 2023 Lefty Awards were announced, in four categories.

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel:
Bayou Book Thief, by Ellen Byron (Berkley Prime Crime)

Also nominated: Death by Bubble Tea, by Jennifer J. Chow (Berkley Prime Crime); Five Moves of Doom, by A.J. Devlin (NeWest Press); A Streetcar Named Murder, by T.G. Herren (Crooked Lane); and Scot in a Trap, by Catriona McPherson (Severn House)

Bill Gottfried Memorial Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (books set before 1970):
Anywhere You Run, by Wanda M. Morris (Morrow)

Also nominated: A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder, by Dianne Freeman (Kensington); In Place of Fear, by Catriona McPherson (Severn House); Under a Veiled Moon, by Karen Odden (Crooked Lane); The Secret in the Wall, by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press); and Framed in Fire, by Iona Whishaw (Touchwood)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel:
Shutter, by Ramona Emerson (Soho Crime)

Also nominated: Jackal, by Erin E. Adams (Bantam); Don’t Know Tough, by Eli Cranor (Soho Crime); Other People’s Secrets, by Meredith Hambrock (Crooked Lane); The Bangalore Detectives Club, by Harini Nagendra (Pegasus Crime); Devil’s Chew Toy, by Rob Osler (Crooked Lane); and The Verifiers, by Jane Pek (Vintage)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories):
Like a Sister, by Kellye Garrett (Mulholland)

Also nominated: Back to the Garden, by Laurie R. King (Bantam); Dead Drop, by James L’Etoile (Level Best); Under Lock & Skeleton Key, by Gigi Pandian (Minotaur); A World of Curiosities, by Louise Penny (Minotaur); and Secret Identity, by Alex Segura (Flatiron)

Congratulations to all of the contenders!

Friday, March 17, 2023

Applauding Edge-of-Your-Seat Fiction

The International Thriller Writers organization has released its lists of nominees for the 2023 Thriller Awards, in seven different categories.

Best Hardcover Novel:
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)
Two Nights in Lisbon, by Chris Pavone (MCD)
Sundial, by Catriona Ward (Macmillan)

Best Audiobook:
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)
Things We Do in the Dark, by Jennifer Hillier; narrated by Carla Vega (Macmillan Audio)
The Silent Woman, by Minka Kent; narrated by Christine Lakin and Kate Rudd (Blackstone)

Best First Novel:
The Resemblance, by Lauren Nossett (Flatiron)
Blood Sugar, by Sascha Rothchild (Putnam)
Dirt Creek (aka Dirt Town), by Hayley Scrivenor (Flatiron)
A Flicker in the Dark, by Stacy Willingham (Minotaur)
The Fields, by Erin Young (Flatiron)

Best Paperback Original Novel:
The Lies I Told, by Mary Burton (Montlake)
No Place to Run, by Mark Edwards (Thomas & Mercer)
Unmissing, by Minka Kent (Thomas & Mercer)
The Housemaid, by Freida McFadden (Grand Central)
Anywhere You Run, by Wanda Morris (Morrow)
The Couple Upstairs, by Holly Wainwright (Pan Macmillan)
The Patient’s Secret, by Loreth Anne White (Montlake)

Best Short Story:
“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)
“Schrödinger, Cat,” by Anna Scotti (EQMM, March/April 2022)
“Stockholm,” by Catherine Steadman (Amazon Original Stories)

Best Young Adult Novel:
Our Crooked Hearts, by Melissa Albert (Flatiron)
Sugaring Off, by Gillian French (Algonquin Young Readers)
Daughter, by Kate McLaughlin (Wednesday)
What’s Coming to Me, by Francesca Padilla (Soho Teen)
I’m the Girl, by Courtney Summers (Wednesday)

Best E-Book Original Novel:
Evasive Species, by Bill Byrnes (Self-published)
The Couple at Causeway Cottage, by Diane Jeffrey (HarperCollins)
The Seven Truths of Hannah Baxter, by Grant McKenzie
The Hollow Place, by Rick Mofina (Self-published)
Fatal Rounds, by Carrie Rubin (Self-published)

In addition, Charlaine Harris and Walter Mosley will receive 2023 ThrillerMaster Lifetime Achievement Awards, and Minotaur Books has been named as the winner of the 2023 Thriller Legend Award.

All winners are to be announced on Saturday, June 3, during ThrillerFest XVIII, to be held in New York City.

(Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

Jockeying for Glory

The bimonthly magazine Foreword Reviews recently announced its finalists for the 2022 INDIES Book of the Year Awards, honoring independent press publications in a diversity of genres.

Among those multiple divisions is Adult Mystery Fiction, which finds 11 different novels competing head to head, including Deadly Declarations, by Landis Wade (Lystra); Fifty-Four Pigs, by Philipp Schott (‎ECW Press); Line of Darkness, by Max Tomlinson (Oceanview); and The Mad, Mad Murders of Marigold Way, by Raymond Benson (Beaufort). In addition, there’s an Adult Thriller & Suspense Fiction category, which this year features 14 contenders ranging from Faye Snowden’s A Killing Rain (Flame Tree) and James R. Benn’s Bombay Monsoon (Oceanview) to Matt Coyle’s Doomed Legacy (Oceanview) and Michael J. Manz’s The Glass Tree (Endicott Street Press).

Winners in each category, as well as Editor’s Choice Prize winners and Foreword’s Independent Publisher of the Year recipient, are to be declared on Thursday, June 15.

* * *

In the news, as well, are 25 categories of nominees for the 2023 Lambda Literary Awards (also known as the “Lammys”). Vying in that contest’s LGBTQ+ Mystery bracket are:

A Death in Berlin, by David C Dawson (Park Creek)
And There He Kept Her, by Joshua Moehling (Poisoned Pen Press)
Dead Letters from Paradise, by Ann McMan (Bywater)
Dirt Creek, by Hayley Scrivenor (Flatiron)
Lavender House, by Lev A.C. Rosen (Forge)

All of this year’s victors will be announced on Friday, June 9.

(Hat tip to In Reference to Murder.)

Thursday, March 16, 2023

And Furthermore …

It happens almost every time: I publish one of my “Bullet Points” posts, only to realize soon afterward that I left out a few newsy items. So consider this an addendum to yesterday’s wrap-up.

• The Killing Times brings news today that 40-year-old Scottish actor Richard Rankin (The Crimson Field, Outlander, Trust Me) will fill the role of Detective Inspector John Rebus in a new small-screen adaptation of Ian Rankin’s novels, titled simply Rebus. The Nordic streaming service Viaplay, “recently launched in the UK,” has commissioned the forthcoming series. That streamer says Rebus will find its protagonist “at a personal crossroads after a fight with a notorious mobster in Edinburgh. He struggles with the job that is increasingly controlled by business-driven technocrats, while realising that he is living in an unhealthy relationship that he should end and that he has more or less been replaced in the role of father in his daughter’s life by his ex-wife’s new, wealthy husband. Now he must find his new position, both privately and professionally. In a world that is increasingly governed by politics and class differences, he feels that the system is becoming increasingly watered down. And if no one else follows the rules, why should he?” Viaplay will reportedly serve up the first six-episode season of Rebus in 2024.

This from Deadline: “A second season of smash John le Carré adaptation The Night Manager is in the works at Amazon Prime Video and the BBC, with Tom Hiddleston set to reprise his role as protagonist Jonathan Pine. Under the codename Steelworks, Deadline understands Season 2 will film later this year in London and South America. Although it is yet to be formally greenlit by Amazon and the BBC, we hear that it is set to receive a two-season order.”

• Meanwhile, Season 3 of the ITV crime drama Grace, starring John Simm and based on Peter James’ books about Brighton police detective Roy Grace, will debut this coming Sunday, March 19, in Britain. The stories told in these latest three episodes are drawn from James’ novels Dead Like You, Dead Man's Grip,  and Not Dead Yet.

• The streaming-TV service Peacock has announced that Tony Shalhoub will return to his role as “defective detective” Adrian Monk in a new movie scripted by Monk series creator Andy Breckman.

• During an interview with Crimespree Magazine, in which author Charles Todd talks about The Cliff’s Edge (Morrow), the 13th and last Bess Crawford mystery he composed with his mother, Caroline (who died in 2021), Todd explains that his next novel with be the 25th installment in their series starring Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge. “I am putting quality over quantity so I might not put out a book every six months,” he explains. “As soon as I get one book done, I start on the next one. I will not find another writer to work with me, because no one can automatically pick up where my mom left off. The next Ian book is with my agent, and we will see what happens from there, since my contract is up, but it will go on to some publisher. I am also writing a short story, part of an anthology, based on titles of songs of the entire album, ‘Back in Black’ by AC/DC. Each author wrote a story based on one of these songs.”

• In a Facebook post, author-screenwriter Lee Goldberg draws my attention to a March 28 non-fiction release titled Music for Prime Time: A History of American Television Themes and Scoring (Oxford University Press). Its author is Jon Burlingame, hailed as “one of the nation’s leading writers on the subject of music for films and television.” Library Journal notes in its review of this $35 book that it’s “a revised, updated, and expanded version of Burlingame’s Sound and Vision of 2000 … Burlingame comprehensively documents the themes and soundtracks that have become earworms for many TV viewers … [He] highlights theme song composers such as Nelson Riddle (Route 66), Lalo Shifrin (Mission: Impossible), Neal Hefti (Batman; The Odd Couple), Mike Post (Rockford Files; Hill Street Blues), and many talented but less heralded composers.” Goldberg enthuses: “I've been looking forward to this book for years.” Being another fan of classic film and TV themes, I’ll likely be ordering my own copy.

• Speaking of Oxford University Press, it has just published handsome new paperback editions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories through its Oxford World’s Classics imprint. For various reasons, says blogger Kate Jackson at Cross-Examining Crime, these reprints “are a great choice if you are looking to upgrade your existing cop[ies] or you are wanting to dig deeper into the canon.”

• If you’re wondering what has become of the blog Bookgasm, you’re not alone. It’s been offline since December—long enough that I was worried whether it was coming back. But according to editor Rod Lott, the dysfunction is only temporary. “Some issue with the SSL certificate,” he informed me in mid-February. Then, just yesterday—with the site still inaccessible—Lott wrote to say: “Since we last spoke, I hired a professional, who confirmed it got hacked. The site has been successfully cleaned of all the malware, as of today. Now it’s just a matter of him restoring the content, which he believes can be done.” I, for one, look forward to celebrating Bookgasm’s return—and seeing all of my links to it from The Rap Sheet operating again.

• And Republican right-wingers in the States are frothing at the mouth about the damage caused by “woke” politics. You’d think they would have come up with a solid definition of the term by now. Instead, says Salon, it’s become a “choose your own bigotry” label.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Bullet Points: Pre-Corned Beef Feast Edition

Today’s installment of crime-fiction-related news items that don’t necessarily merit their own posts, but may still be of interest.

• Mike Ripley’s latest “Getting Away with Murder” column is up at Shots, and it’s packed with his usual amalgam of substantive and sassy items. You’ll find observations about The Shadows of London, the sixth of Andrew Taylor’s 17th-century thrillers starring Cat Hakesby (née Lovett) and James Marwood; Peter Robinson’s posthumously published, 28th Alan Banks novel, Standing in the Shadows; hard-boiled British author Douglas Sanderson (Pure Sweet Hell); Blessin Adams’ forthcoming historical true-crime release, Great and Horrible News; and a crowd of other March mystery/crime premieres, including Owen Matthews’ White Fox, T.M. Logan’s The Mother, and Rebecca Rogers’ The Purgatory Poisoning.

• This year’s 70th-anniversary celebration of James Bond, the British super-spy introduced in the 1953 novel Casino Royale, includes fresh paperback editions of Ian Fleming’s famous Agent 007 yarns. As The Spy Command explains, credit for their simple but striking new look belongs to UK-based Webb & Webb Design, which previously created posters and book art for a world-traveling exhibition called Bond Bound: Ian Fleming and the Art of Cover Design. In addition to the 007 adventures, Webb & Webb has developed new fronts for Fleming’s non-fiction books, The Diamond Smugglers (1957) and Thrilling Cities (1963). They’re all set to debut on April 13.

• A rather belated “happy birthday” to Pennsylvania-born actress Barbara Feldon, who played eye-catching Agent 99 in the 1965–1970 spy sitcom Get Smart. She turned 90 years old on March 12!

• This Friday is Saint Patrick’s Day, which means the enforced wearing of green and plentiful servings of corned beef and cabbage. Mystery Fanfare suggests it might also be time to pick up a celebration-related crime or mystery novel. The blog has a wide variety of suggestions, from Kathi Daley’s Shamrock Shenanigans and Ralph M. McInerny’s Lack of the Irish to The Whites, by Harry Brandt (aka Richard Price) and Paddy Whacked, by S. Furlong-Bollinger.

Deadly Pleasures editor George Easter surveys the growing field of do-it-yourself murder yarns. “Authors are coming up with such words as ‘how to’ or ‘guide’ to describe their mysteries,” he observes. “Others use ‘art of’ or ‘unsolicited advice.’ If you are planning to knock off your significant other, my unsolicited advice to you would be to discard these before the police show up.”

Deadline brings word that David Kane, lead writer for the BBC One crime drama Shetland, will adapt Denise Mina’s Alex Morrow novels for the small screen. “Set in Glasgow, Morrow, which consists of five books, follows [Detective Sergeant] Alex Morrow, a formidable detective who can’t face talking to her husband or bear to sleep in the family home following a recent trauma. As she investigates a crime with partner Bannerman for season one titled Still Midnight, questions arise about whether their ambitious Machiavellian boss McKechnie has their backs. … Kane and Mina are exec producing Morrow, having combined on BBC drama cult hit The Field of Blood, which starred Peter Capaldi and David Morrissey and was also BAFTA Scotland nominated.”

• There’s still no announced date for the U.S. launch of Endeavour, Season 9. However, that final three-episode run of the Inspector Morse prequel series starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam concluded last weekend in Great Britain. Sad to report, The Killing Times says that it left “big questions unanswered.” The site goes on to rate all nine seasons of the show (with the 2012 pilot and Series 2 winning the most stars), and muses on whether there might be more stories from the Morse universe deserving to be told.

• At least a couple of crime-themed works are among the victors in this year’s Spur Awards competition, hosted by the Western Writers of America. Ann Parker’s The Secret in the Wall (Poisoned Pen Press) won in the Traditional Novel category, while Dead Man’s Trail, by Nate Morgan (Kensington), trotted away with Original Mass-Market Paperback Novel honors. These prizes will be bestowed during the 70th annual WWA convention to be held in Rapid City, South Dakota, from June 21 to 24. Registration information is available here.

• R.I.P., Rupert Heath, the founder and publisher of Dean Street Press, who died of a heart attack on March 6 at the tender age of 54. Both Curtis J. Evans, at The Passing Tramp, and Steve Barge, at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, have posted tributes.

• We mentioned last month that Michael Stradford, author of the 2021 book Steve Holland: The World’s Greatest Illustration Art Model, had completed another look back at Holland’s prolific appearances, this time on paperback fronts. But there wasn’t yet an Amazon link available for those wishing to purchase the new, 216-page book, Steve Holland: Paperback Hero (St. Clair). Now there is!

• Have you checked out The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page recently? We’ve added to it a number of TV opening title sequences, including those from M Squad, Bosch: Legacy, Leverage, My Friend Tony, 87th Precinct, and David Caruso’s forgotten Michael Hayes.

• And in an amusing extract from his new book, Gentleman Bandit: The True Story of Black Bart, the Old West’s Most Infamous Stagecoach Robber (Hanover Street Press), John Boessenecker recalls his stylish subject’s initial California stagecoach robbery, in 1875.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Shortlists Long on Talent

With two months to go before the start of this year’s CrimeFest (May 11-14), the organizers of that convention have announced their shortlists of contenders for awards in six different categories of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction. As a news release explains, these prizes “honour the best crime books released in 2022 in the UK.”

Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award:
A Good Day to Die, by Amen Alonge (Quercus)
Bad for Good, by Graham Bartlett (Allison & Busby)
The Maid, by Nita Prose (HarperCollins)
Ashes in the Snow, by Oriana Rammuno, translated by Katherine Gregor (HarperCollins)
Kalmann, by Joachim B. Schmidt, translated by Jamie Lee Searle (Bitter Lemon)
Dirt Town, by Hayley Scrivenor (Macmillan)
The Siege, by John Sutherland (Orion)
A Flicker in the Dark, by Stacy Willingham (HarperCollins)

eDunnit Award:
The Cliff House, by Chris Brookmyre (Abacus)
Desert Star, by Michael Connelly (Orion)
The Botanist, by M.W. Craven (Constable)
The Book of the Most Precious Substance, by Sara Gran
(Faber and Faber)
A Heart Full of Headstones, by Ian Rankin (Orion)
Nine Lives, by Peter Swanson (Faber and Faber)

H.R.F. Keating Award (for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction):
The Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie, by J.C. Bernthal and Mary Anna Evans (Bloomsbury Academic)
A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré, 1945-2020, by John le Carré, edited by Tim Cornwell (Viking)
The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators, by Martin Edwards (Collins Crime Club)
Simenon: The Man, The Books, The Films, by Barry Forshaw (Oldcastle)
Gender Roles and Political Contexts in Cold War Spy Fiction,
by Sian MacArthur (Palgrave Macmillan)
Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman, by Lucy Worsley
(Hodder & Stoughton)

Last Laugh Award (for the best humorous crime novel):
Bryant & May’s Peculiar London, by Christopher Fowler (Doubleday)
The Locked Room, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus)
Bad Actors, by Mick Herron (Baskerville)
Hope to Die, by Cara Hunter (Viking)
Mr. Campion’s Mosaic, by Mike Ripley (Severn House)
The Moose Paradox, by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda)

Best Crime Fiction Novel for Children (aged 8-12):
A Girl Called Justice: The Spy at the Window, by Elly Griffiths (Quercus Children’s Books)
Where Seagulls Dare: A Diamond Brothers Case, by Anthony
Horowitz (Walker)
The Good Turn, by Sharna Jackson (Puffin)
Spark, by M.G. Leonard (Walker)
The Ministry of Unladylike Activity, by Robin Stevens (Puffin)
Alice Éclair, Spy Extraordinaire! A Recipe for Trouble, by Sarah
Todd Taylor (Nosy Crow)

Best Crime Fiction Novel for Young Adults (aged 12-16):
Five Survive, by Holly Jackson (Electric Monkey)
Needle, by Patrice Lawrence (Barrington Stoke)
The Butterfly Assassin, by Finn Longman (Simon & Schuster Children’s)
Truth or Dare, by Sophie McKenzie (Simon & Schuster Children’s)
I Must Betray You, by Ruta Sepetys (Hodder Children’s Books)
The Notorious Scarlett and Browne, by Jonathan Stroud (Walker)

Congratulations to all of the nominees!

These prizes will be handed out during the evening of Saturday, May 13, the third day of this year’s CrimeFest. For more information and to procure tickets to that conference, click here.

Monday, March 13, 2023

PaperBack: “The Daughters of Necessity”

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

The Daughters of Necessity, by Peter S. Feibleman (Popular Library, 1960). In addition to penning the novel above, as well as The Columbus Tree (1973) and Charlie Boy (1982), the New York City-born Feibleman wrote screenplays for TV series such as Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre and Columbo, and stage plays including Tiger Tiger Burning Bright (1962) and Cakewalk (1998).

Credit for the cover art belongs to Ted CoConis. That same illustration fronted both this novel and this later one. CoConis created strikingly similar art for the 1970 paperback edition of The Lost Queen, by Norah Lofts.

Is “Devil” Just Doomed?

I was so excited to procure a copy of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, that when the hardcover edition of that non-fiction book was released in February 2003, I showed up at the door of the bookstore from which I’d ordered it 20 minutes before the place even opened. Thanks to my architect father, I was quite familiar with the grand works of Chicago designer Daniel H. Burnham, and I had long been curious to know more about the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and Burnham’s influence on that international fair. That Larson was combining all of this with the shocking tale of serial killer H.H. Holmes made The Devil in the White City a must-read for me.

There’s been talk for years about turning Larson’s yarn into a movie, either for the big screen or the boob tube, but the project seems perpetually plagued by problems. B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder reports on a new round of difficulties:
In another blow to Hulu’s series adaptation of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Todd Field has exited the project on which he was to serve as director and executive producer. News of Field’s departure from the show comes just days after it was reported that series star, Keanu Reeves, had bowed out as well. The book tells the true story of Daniel H. Burnham, a demanding but visionary architect who races to make his mark on history with the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and Dr. H.H. Holmes, America’s first modern serial killer and the man behind the notorious “Murder Castle” built in the Fair’s shadow. This is the latest chapter in the long development history of the book, which at various times has seen Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, and Martin Scorsese attached to the project.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone could do full justice to Larson’s outstanding book, but I would be the first in line again to watch some filmmaker or TV showrunner give it a shot.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

What Would Dashiell Say?

The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers has announced its shortlist of contenders for the 2022 Hammett Prize. That annual commendation is given to a book, originally published in the English language in the United States or Canada, “that best represents the conception of literary excellence in crime writing.” And the nominees are …

Copperhead Road, by Brad Smith (At Bay Press)
Gangland, by Chuck Hogan (Grand Central)
Don’t Know Tough, by Eli Cranor (Soho Crime)
Pay Dirt Road, by Samantha Jayne Allen (Minotaur)
What Happened to the Bennetts, by Lisa Scottoline (Putnam)

A winner should be determined by early this coming summer.

Previous recipients of the Hammett Prize include S.A. Cosby (Razorblade Tears), Jane Stanton Hitchcock (Bluff), Stephen Mack Jones (August Snow), David Joy (When These Mountains Burn), Lou Berney (November Road), and Lisa Sandlin (The Do-Right).

(Hat tip to The Gumshoe Site.)

Friday, March 10, 2023

Revue of Reviewers: 3-10-23

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