Saturday, September 30, 2023

A Mélange of Minor Mentions

In the absence of major crime-fiction news, I again offer you some items of interest that don’t require lengthy consideration.

A trailer has finally dropped for the er, unusual forthcoming spy film Argylle, directed by Matthew Vaughn (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The King’s Men) and starring Henry Cavill and Bryce Dallas Howard. The Spy Command’s Bill Koenig describes the plot this way: “Novelist Elly Conway [Howard] has created the wildly successful Argylle spy novel series. … But Conway now is the target of real spies. The reason? What the author writes has a way of turning out to happen.” According to Wikipedia, “Argylle is scheduled to be released in the United States on February 2, 2024, by Universal Pictures theatrically, and on Apple TV+ at an undetermined date.”

• Speaking of The Spy Command, the recent passing of Man From U.N.C.L.E. co-star David McCallum has led that blog to compile a list of “surviving stars of the 1960s spy craze.” I cringe at the thought that this might be inviting further deaths (“Aha,” says the Grim Reaper, “I didn’t realize they were still alive!”). On the other hand, I am pleased to see that so many familiar figures from my early TV years are still with us, including Mission: Impossible’s Barbara Bain, It Takes a Thief’s Robert Wagner, and The Avengers’ Linda Thorson.

• Many years ago, I added The Westlake Review to this page’s extensive blogroll. Managed by Christopher Lyons (aka Fred Fitch), it focused on the much-admired work of Donald E. Westlake. Postings there have dropped off of late, because as Lyons explains, “I ran out of books to review.” However he wrote this morning to tell me of “a new obsession, and even for me, an odd one.” I thought his note might interest other Rap Sheet readers, as well. Lyons writes:
I very unexpectedly got into the [2023 TV] show Gotham Knights, which only ran for thirteen episodes on the CW network, and was unceremoniously canceled, on a very disheartening cliffhanger. It was yet another show set in Gotham City where Batman doesn’t exist, because the rights for Batman are expensive (and if we’re being honest, he’s been done to death, in more ways than one).

Many dismissed it on this score alone, and the writing was all over the place (they were on a very tight budget), but I found all kinds of interesting themes in there, and some very compelling characters, most of whom never got much love in the comics or anywhere else. I just couldn’t accept the ending, and started writing my own. A chapter at a time. This is the result so far.

Gotham Knights wasn’t about superheroes (these days, it’s hard to find anything that isn’t). It was about detectives, young people with many different skill sets pooling their knowledge and abilities to solve mysteries (a fair bit of romance as well—not entirely heterosexual in nature, since technically only two of the six main characters are straight and ‘cisgender’—I suppose I'll get used to that word eventually). My focus is heavily on Duela Dent, first introduced in the 70’s, as The Joker’s Daughter. Called herself Harlequin at one point, and yes, it’s pretty obvious she was one of the major influences on Harley Quinn. But she never really took form in the comics. She did on the show.

This is all inspired by Batman, but not following in his footsteps, because it’s a very lonely path, and this story is about making a family out of seemingly mismatching parts. Anyway, I’ve been at it almost two months now, the readership is growing, and so I’m going to humbly request you help me grow it a bit more.

Obviously this is fanfiction—pastiche, if you want to get fancy about it. So are all those off-brand Sherlock Holmes novels people keep putting out, and many a detective whose creator is long gone has managed to keep gumshoeing around, all the same. The difference is, I don’t have the rights to the characters—or all the song lyrics I keep sticking in there. I’m not making any money here, nor will I, ever. I’m just doing it for love. I feel like it’s fair use, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever have a large enough readership for those who do have the rights to care. They don’t care enough about these characters to give them a fair shot. I do.
I have gone ahead and added Lyons’ new Not Offended to the blogroll under “Short Fiction.” Let’s see what its future holds.

• This Zoom presentation by The Book Club of California, slated for Monday, October 30, sounds most intriguing. From Mystery Fanfare: “The Poison Book Project investigates potentially toxic pigments used in the manufacture of Victorian-era bookcloth. Lead scientist Dr. Rosie Grayburn will situate the use of English bookcloth colored with highly poisonous emerald green pigment and other toxic pigments within a broader historical context; recommend safe handling and storage practices for emerald green bookbindings; and report on the Poison Book Project’s most recent findings.” Register here.

• The Killing Times’ Paul Hirons uses the occasion of actor Michael Gambon’s demise earlier this week, at age 82, to revisit what he calls “one of my favourite TV shows ever,” The Singing Detective, on which Gambon starred as private eye Philip E. Marlow in the mid-1980s.

• Fans of the UK TV series The Persuaders!, starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, should be pleased to learn that historian Jaz Wiseman has a new book out about that 1971-1972 adventure-comedy.

• And I was finally able to watch Kenneth Branaugh’s A Haunting in Venice at a nearby theater. I agree with the blogger known as The Puzzle Doctor, who remarks that this film—loosely adapted from Agatha Christie’s 1969 Hercule Poirot novel, Hallowe’en Party—is “beautifully shot,” with “an effective creepiness throughout the whole thing.” It’s certainly my favorite of Branaugh’s now three Poirot pictures. If you’re looking for something to get you in the mood for next month’s Halloween, this just might be the ticket.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Brushing Up on the Latest News

• Several months ago we mentioned that British actress Lucy Boynton had been signed to play Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom (back in 1955), in a four-part ITV-TV drama simply titled Ruth. The Killing Times now brings word that Toby Jones, Laurie Davidson, Mark Stanley, Juliet Stevenson, and others have been added to the cast. Still no news about a broadcast date, though.

• We finally have a new date for the previously delayed, fourth-season premiere of HBO-TV’s uneven anthology series, True Detective. This latest story, subtitled Night Country, will be set in Alaska and star Jodie Foster. The Killing Times says we should expect its U.S. run to begin on Sunday, January 14, on HBO, and adds that it will be simulcast in the UK at 2 a.m. on Monday, January 15.

• Hulu-TV will commence streaming remastered episodes of Moonlighting on Tuesday, October 10. As Mystery Fanfare recalls, that 1985-1989 comedy-detective series starred Cybill Shepherd as ex-fashion model Maddie Hayes, who, after going bankrupt, “finds that one of her few remaining assets is ownership of the Blue Moon Detective Agency” in Los Angeles. “[S]he’s tempted to liquidate it until she meets the quirky employees”—among them Bruce Willis’ David Addison Jr.—“and gets involved in their even quirkier cases.”

From the British online newspaper The Independent:
First edition copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles and Agatha Christie’s The Thirteen Problems, which once belonged to late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, set two world auction records on Thursday (28 September).

The musician’s extensive collection of first edition books went under the hammer at British auction house Christie’s as part of a specialised sale, which saw F Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed novel
The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925, receive the highest bid, at £226,800. ...

Elsewhere, a first edition of Sherlock Holmes tale
The Hound of the Baskervilles sold for £214,200, which set a new world auction record for a printed book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This surpasses the previous record $201,600 (£165,279) for The Sign of Four, which was sold in 2022.
Forward discovers that, even at “97-and-a half,” Oscar-winning actress and director Lee Grant is “just as feisty as ever.”

• And this book does not belong on the crime- or mystery-fiction shelves, but still I must note that Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s debut novel, When We Were Birds, “a mythic love story set in Trinidad and Tobago” and published by Hamish Hamilton, has won the 2023 Glass Bell Award, again sponsored by London-based Goldsboro Books. There was one crime novel among this year’s longlisted contenders—the Edgar-winning Notes on an Execution, by Danya Kukafka (Phoenix)—but along with 10 others, all released in 2022, it did not capture the prize.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

PaperBack: “Silver Doll”

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

Silver Doll, by “Blair Treynor,” aka Selina Abraham Treynor (1888-1967). Cover illustration by Stanley Borack.

READ MORE:Taking the Fifth: Widow’s Pique,” by J. Kingston
Pierce (Killer Covers).

Still in Thrall to Spenser

I’d forgotten about this anniversary, but freelancer L. Wayne Hicks reminds us in CrimeReads that 2023 marks the 50th year since Boston writer Robert B. Parker introduced his now-famous private-eye protagonist, Spenser, in The Goldwulf Manuscript (1973). Hicks’ piece recalls the Spenser series’ history, critical reactions to it, television adaptations of the stories, and the other authors who have kept Parker’s characters alive since his death in 2010.

He concludes with a theory advanced by Mike Lupica—a Parker pal whose own first Spenser continuation novel, Broken Trust, is due out in November—as to “why Spenser has lasted so long”:
The characters, the humor, the back-and-forth interplay between Spenser and Hawk are part of the reason. “I think it was Raymond Chandler who said when things slow down, you have somebody come to the door with a gun. We all know how to do that. But Bob’s dialogue and Bob’s sense of humor and on top of all that his literate approach to all of this is what has made it work for half a century.”

Parker’s legacy is rooted in the characters he created. He lived long enough to see his books on the best-seller lists. Unfortunately, his death meant he never had the chance to meet his grandson. His name? Spenser, of course.
Click here to read the entirety of Hicks’ CrimeReads essay.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

McCallum Finally Says “U.N.C.L.E.”

This is sad. It was only a week ago that the Scottish-born performer was celebrating his 90th birthday. From the Associated Press:
Actor David McCallum, who became a teen heartthrob in the hit series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in the 1960s and was the eccentric medical examiner in the popular “NCIS” 40 years later, has died. ... McCallum died Monday of natural causes surrounded by family at New York Presbyterian Hospital ...
The blog Spy Vibe goes on to note that “McCallum grew up between Scotland and London, where his father became a prominent figure in the London Philharmonic Orchestra (he played on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!). Young David studied the oboe and, later in his career, recorded a number of albums for Capitol Records as an arranger interpreting hits of the mid-to-late Sixties.” Wikipedia recalls that, after he served a stint in the British Army, McCallum “attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art …, where Joan Collins was a classmate. ... He began his acting career doing boy voices for BBC Radio in 1947 and taking bit parts in British films from the late 1950s.”

McCallum went on to appear in the movies Hell Drivers (with Sean Connery and Patrick McGoohan), A Night to Remember (1958, playing a radio operative on the ill-fated RMS Titanic), The Great Escape (1963), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). In 1964, he began co-starring with Robert Vaughn in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., an NBC-TV series hoping to capitalize on growing public interest in spy fiction—a craze kicked off in large part by the recent success of Connery’s James Bond films. (In fact, Bond creator Ian Fleming contributed ideas to the program’s initial conception.)

The Spy Command writes of McCallum’s U.N.C.L.E. role:
Illya Kuryakin, a Russian agent who worked for the multi-national U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) was envisioned as a secondary character for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The show originally was titled Solo, after Napoleon Solo, played by Robert Vaughn.

Still, even in the earliest days of the project, the makers of the show apparently felt they had something more. …

Starting with the third episode, “The Quadripartite Affair,” Illya began to get more attention. Writer Alan Caillou, a British spy during World War II, provided scripts that hinted at an intriguing character. That combined with McCallum’s acting, caught the attention of audiences.

Something else helped. Robert Vaughn began studying for a Ph.D. Starring in a television series is time-consuming. David McCallum’s rising popularity meant someone else could shoulder some of the responsibility for carrying the show. Before the end of the first season, Solo and Illya were a duo.
Despite early mixed revises, and concern in those Cold War years about Kuryakin being a Russian espionage agent, U.N.C.L.E. eventually attracted a wide audience, and turned McCallum’s intelligent, enigmatic character—who sported a Beatles-style blond haircut—into a sex symbol among teenage girls. “Kuryakin became so popular,” says The Spy Command’s Bill Koenig, that “he appeared in ads marketing U.S. Savings Bonds. For American audiences, Illya may have been a Soviet, but he was our Soviet.”

After The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was cancelled in early 1968—halfway through its fourth season (and with 105 episodes already in the can)—McCallum returned to the boob tube in shows such as Colditz (1972-1974), the science-fiction series Sapphire & Steel (1979-1982), and The Invisible Man (1975-1976, which also featured former Peter Gunn headliner Craig Stevens). He guested as well on programs ranging from The A-Team and McCloud to Murder, She Wrote, Father Dowling Mysteries, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Not until 2003 did McCallum win another small-screen role worthy of his talents, playing an erudite pathologist for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, on CBS-TV’s military police series, NCIS.

Variety’s obituary mentions that, in addition to his work on-screen and on four Capitol Records albums, McCallum wrote an oft-humorous crime novel titled Once a Crooked Man (2016). As his son Peter said in a statement, David McCallum was “a true Renaissance man.”

READ MORE:David McCallum, Heartthrob Spy of ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,’ Dies at 90,” by Leslie Kaufman (The New York Times); “Close Channel D: The Late, Great David McCallum,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts).

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Revue of Reviewers: 9-23-23

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

I don’t typically post two “Revue of Reviewers” collections in such close succession, but the abundance of books coming out right now—in anticipation of holiday gift-buying season—is overwhelming.

“Truth” Be Told

Just over a month ago, we brought you news about five books shortlisted for the 2023 Lindisfarne Prize for Crime Fiction, which celebrates “outstanding crime and thriller storytelling of those who are from, or whose work celebrates, the North East of England.” Now we have word that Penrith, Cumbria, resident Karys Frank has won the Lindisfarne for her story Stone Cold Truth.

The Web site of author LJ Ross, who founded this annual literary honor, explains that “Stone Cold Truth follows the story of a daughter who flees her mother’s suffocating love, only to run into her mother’s net from which she can’t escape. Karys says the story came about by magnifying characteristics she found in herself both as a daughter and mother and hoped it would resonate with others. The judges praised Karys for her ‘clever storytelling’, ‘fantastic character development’ and ‘terrific writing’ in her ‘fresh, new and different’ submission exploring the relationship of a narcissistic mother and daughter.”

“As the winner of the prize,” reports the blog In Reference to Murder, “Karys will receive a £2,500 cash prize to support the development of her work, alongside funding for membership of the Society of Authors (SoA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).”

A Rather Rushed Judgment

The mystery-genre history blog Ontos features a wonderful, but wildly premature article announcing the decline and fall of the fictional sleuth—in 1905! Originally published in an English magazine called The Academy, it was later reprinted in Howard Haycroft’s The Art of the Mystery Story (1946). That anonymously penned piece opines:
The detective in literature is hardly more than fifty years old, but already he is passing into decay. He has enjoyed extraordinary popularity, and may even claim to be the only person equally loved by statesmen and by errand boys. His old achievements enthrall as ever. But he makes no new conquests. ... From henceforth he retires to limbo with the dodo and the District Railway’s lines. He carries with him the regret of a civilised world.
You will find the entire piece here.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Bullet Points: Feelings of Fall Edition

• We still have a month to go before the U.S. release of director Martin Scorcese’s western crime drama, Killers of the Flower Moon. So for now, we’ll just have to be happy watching the trailer for that picture, featured below. Based on David Grann’s widely acclaimed non-fiction book of the same title, the story—set in the early 1920s—focuses on a succession of bewildering murders of dozens of wealthy members of the Osage tribe in northeastern Oklahoma, following the discovery of large oil deposits under their land. The U.S. Bureau of Investigation (predecessor of today’s FBI) was called in to investigate. Headlining this likely cinematic blockbuster are Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, and Brendan Fraser. Killers of the Flower Moon is set to debut in U.S. theaters on October 20.

• Kenneth Branaugh’s A Haunting in Venice opened in U.S. theaters last week. I haven’t yet gotten around to seeing that big-screener, which is based on Agatha Christie’s 1969 Hercule Poirot novel, Hallowe’en Party, and stars Branaugh as the brainy Belgian sleuth. But based on Olivia Rutigliano’s assessment in CrimeReads, it sounds as if I might enjoy this one more than I did Branaugh’s previous Poirot picture, the scandal-plagued Death on the Nile. Rutigliano calls Haunting “a vibrant tapestry of drama and feeling, fueled by magnetic performances, splendid effects, and some of the best camerawork, lighting, and art direction of the year.” She concludes: “But the grandest, greatest thing about A Haunting in Venice is that it feels firmly tied to its location. Venice is Branagh’s idea, not Christie’s, but it works beautifully with the themes in the script. The camera lingers lovingly on the decaying walls and splintering wood and chipping paints of the once-opulent Venice, a spooky, creamy mysterious relic, itself. With all of this, Branagh has engineered one of the most effusive, hypnotic films I’ve seen all year ...”

• Using A Haunting in Venice as its springboard, the A.V. Club site selects its favorite Christie movie adaptations, including 1963’s Murder at the Gallop, 2022’s Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (a favorite of mine, too), and 1957’s Witness for the Prosecution. Those 15 write-ups are presented in slideshow fashion; click the “Start Slideshow” link within the artwork at the top of the page to get started.

• For his part, author Martin Edwards has little nice to say about director Peter Collinson’s suspense-deficient, 1974 version of Christie’s renowned And Then There Were None.

• Meanwhile, UK author Cara Hunter (Murder in the Family) muses on the continuing literary appeal of Dame Agatha’s “closed circle crime” narrative trope, which Hunter describes thusly: “A group of apparently random people gathered in some more or less artificial isolation—a train, an island, a ship, a country house—whereupon everything starts to go horribly wrong and they realise, with growing horror, that one among their number is a killer.” As examples of such yarns, she cites Christie’s Evil Under the Sun (1941), as well as eight other books, one of them a work of non-fiction.

• Rounding out today’s Christie-related coverage are two posts playing off the fun new book Agatha Whiskey: 50 Cocktails to Celebrate the Bestselling Novelist of All Time, by Colleen Mullaney (Skyhorse). Both Dave Bradley, in Crime Fiction Lover, and Doreen Sheridan, in Criminal Element, decided to mix up and judge some of this book’s libations for themselves. Nice work, if you can get it …

• The Literary Salon reports that Dennis Lehane’s latest standalone thriller, Small Mercies (published in France as Le Silence), is one of eight novels longlisted for this year's Grand prix de littérature américaine—“a prize for the best American novel translated into French.” The winner is to be announced on November 6.

• As 2023 winds into its fourth and final quarter, Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine editor George Easter is seeing more agreement among his cadre of book critics as to which of this year’s releases will wind up on the mag’s “best of the year” list. He observes that the following 16 novels now appear on multiple lists:

All the Sinners Bleed, by S. A. Cosby
My Father’s House, by Joseph O’connor
Resurrection Walk, by Michael Connelly
Going Zero, by Anthony Mccarten
Everybody Knows, by Jordan Harper
Small Mercies, by Dennis Lehane
The River We Remember, by William Kent Krueger
Expectant, by Vonda Symon
Lying Beside You, by Michael Robotham
The Detective Up Late, by Adrian McKinty
The Secret Hours, by Mick Herron
Independence Square, by Martin Cruz Smith
Moscow Exile, by John Lawton
Drowning, T.J. Newman
Ozark Dogs, by Eli Cranor
Assassin Eighteen, by John Brownlow

• Sadly, editor Gerald So has discontinued regular updates of his “crime poetry weekly,” The Five-Two, due to an inadequacy of submissions. Its September 4 poem, “‘Something Fishy’ by J.H. Johns, about the recent arrest of a suspect in the Gilgo Beach murders,” was the last published entry, he says. So, a teacher, book reviewer, contributing editor to The Thrilling Detective We Site, and co-founder of The Lineup: Poems on Crime, launched the Five-Two in 2011, bringing readers new crime-related verse each week—52 entries per year. But in 2022, So recalls, “Elon Musk chaotically took over Twitter, upending an important news outlet for the site, and Blogger’s post editor became unreliable in the wee hours, the time I usually worked on the site.” In the future, So says, the blog will be given over to “sporadically” publicizing news about Five-Two alumni.

• I very much enjoyed British crime novelist David Hewson’s complex, four-book series about “Pieter Vos, a rather eccentric detective living a bohemian life in a canalboat” in Amsterdam, and have been disappointed at the utter lack of fresh entries since Sleep Baby Sleep came out in 2017. Hewson, though, is at least celebrating the fact that the original novels are “now back in my hands and available as revised e-book and print editions exclusively on Amazon worldwide. Plus there’s an omnibus e-book edition of all four titles too.”

• Happy 90th birthday this week to David McCallum, the Scottish-born actor who co-starred with Robert Vaughn in the trendsetting 1960s spy-fi series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

• Here’s a delightful CrimeReads piece about the history of true-crime storytelling. “Long before Stitcher, Netflix, and TikTok, stories of young women being killed were shared through folksongs that were often inspired by real events—just like Lifetime movies,” writes Janet Beard, author of The Ballad of Laurel Springs. “Murder ballads are folksongs that tell the story of a violent crime, usually the murder of a young woman, most often by a lover. These songs were popular throughout the United States in the nineteenth century, though they have become particularly associated with southern Appalachia, where they are an essential part of the region’s musical traditions. Earlier versions of many of the popular Appalachian murder ballads, such as ‘Pretty Polly’ or ‘Silver Dagger,’ can be traced back hundreds of years to England and Scotland, though in their heyday, plenty of homegrown American ballads, like ‘The Banks of the Ohio’ or ‘Tom Dooley,’ made their way around the country, telling the stories of real-life murders in a time before people could tune into Dateline to hear them.”

• R.I.P., James Hayman, author of the McCabe & Savage police procedural mysteries. Mystery Fanfare notes he died on June 15 “after a six month battle with glioblastoma.”

• Following the great time I had at Bouchercon in San Diego earlier this month, I’m giving serious thought to attending the next Left Coast Crime convention, scheduled to be held in Bellevue, Washington, from April 11 to 14, 2024. Getting there each morning would require only a short drive (much longer during rush hour) across Lake Washington from my home in Seattle. But what’s stopping me so far is the registration price: $329, compared with Bouchercon’s $230. Fortunately, I need not commit myself at this stage, though to take advantage of that $329 fee, I must register by December 31; after that the price will shoot up to $349. It’s been years since my last time at LCC—is participation always this pricey?

A welcome Banacek retrospective in T-Magazine.

Campaigns by narrow-minded right-wingers to censor books are an insult to the intelligence of readers. Nonetheless, they are relentless. From National Public Radio:
There were nearly 700 attempts to ban library books in the first eight months of 2023, according to data released Tuesday by the American Library Association. From Jan. 1 to Aug 31, the attempts sought to challenge or censor 1,915 titles, a 20% increase compared to the same months in 2022, the organization said. Last year saw the most challenges since the ALA began tracking book censorship more than two decades ago. But the real numbers may even be higher. The ALA collects data on book bans through library professionals and news reports, and therefore, its numbers may not encompass all attempts to ban or censor certain books.
Ideology-driven reading restraints in American schools are an especially pernicious problem, denying students the right to learn the complete breadth and truth of their history, and to possibly expand their perspectives on the world. Again from NPR: “School book bans and restrictions in the U.S. rose 33% in the last school year, according to a new report from the free speech group PEN America, continuing what it calls a worrisome effort aimed at the ‘suppression of stories and ideas.’ Florida had more bans than any other state.”

• And Bookgasm is finally back—sort of. The blog disappeared suddenly last December, the victim of a belligerent hacking. Since then, editor Rod Lott says he’s “fought a constant battle between my URL registrant, site host and site security provider, all pointing fingers at one another, some promising multiple times it would be up within 24 hours.” While a stripped-down version of Bookgasm’s front page is visible at its former location, Lott notes that “The old reviews aren’t accessible at the moment. The good news: They’re not gone; I can click into them on the back end and all the content is there.” Now he just has to figure out how to make everything work right again. “I’m not highly skilled at this thing,” he acknowledges, “nor do I have the allotted free time to devote [to it that] I did when I started this site two decades ago! Bear with me as I get this thing rebuilt.”

Monday, September 18, 2023

What I’ll Do for Free Merch

Generally, I abhor having photographs taken of myself. But at Bouchercon in San Diego earlier this month, I promised Kevin Burton Smith, the creator and editor of The Thrilling Detective Web Site, that I would pose for a shot and post it here in exchange for him giving me one of the T-shirts he brought with him to that convention commemorating his site’s 25 years in business.

Thanks, Kevin. And here’s to your page’s next quarter-century!

Kimble’s Stumbling First Steps

I try to keep a watch out for crime-fiction-related anniversaries, but I missed a big one yesterday. As Terence Towles Canote wrote in A Shroud of Thoughts, “It was sixty years ago that the running began. On September 17, 1963, the classic show The Fugitive debuted on ABC. The show starred David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, who had been wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder. While he was being shipped to death row, the train carrying him derailed and he managed to escape. Dr. Kimble then went on the run, all the while searching for the one-armed man who had really killed his wife. Pursuing him was Stafford Police Lt. Phillip Gerard, an officer dedicated to the enforcement of the law.”

Over the years, I have read occasional articles about The Fugitive. But I don’t remember learning how difficult it was for creator Roy Huggins to get that hour-long crime drama on the air. Again from Canote:
While Roy Huggins thought the had a great idea in The Fugitive, he initially had trouble interesting anyone in the concept. He showed it to fellow writer Howard Browne, with whom he had worked on such shows as Cheyenne and Maverick. Much to Roy Huggins’s surprise, Howard Browne thought it was a terrible idea for a show. Undeterred, Roy Huggins showed it to his agent … who had nearly the same reaction that Howard Browne had. After he had taken the position at 20th Century Fox, Peter Levathes, then in charge of 20th Century Fox’s television division, asked Roy Huggins for any ideas he had for television shows. He told him his idea for The Fugitive. In the biography Roy Huggins: [Creator of] Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, and The Rockford Files by Paul Green, Roy Huggins said, “When I finished he sat in stricken silence, staring at me as if I had just turned rancid before his very eyes.”

It was while Roy Huggins was still at 20th Century Fox that he received a call from Burt Nodella, who was the executive in charge of development at the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The two had become friends when Roy Huggins was still at Warner Bros., whose shows were aired by the network. Burt Nodella asked Roy Huggins to pitch some idea for TV shows for ABC. He then found himself in a Beverly Hills Hotel suite pitching the idea for
The Fugitive to eight ABC executives. The ABC executive[s] sat in silence after Roy Huggins finished his presentation, then let him know that they thought it was a bad idea. Fortunately, Leonard Goldenson, the head [and founding president] of ABC, was also present at the meeting. The various executives turned to him to see what he had to say. Mr. Goldenson loved the idea, stating, “You know, Roy, that is the best f***ing idea I have heard for a television series in my life. When do you want to go to work?”
There’s much more to Canote’s post. Enjoy it all here.

Friday, September 15, 2023

McSorley, Foster Saluted in Stirling

Among this evening’s events at the annual Bloody Scotland international crime-writing festival in Stirling, Scotland, were the announcements of two much-anticipated award winners. First off, the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year was given to Glasgow’s Callum McSorley for Squeaky Clean (Pushkin).

Previously shortlisted for that very same commendation were The Second Murderer, by Denise Mina (Vintage); Cast a Cold Eye, by Robbie Morrison (Macmillan); and The Devil’s Playground, by Craig Russell (Little, Brown).

In addition, Edinburgh journalist Kate Foster’s The Maiden (Mantle) received this year’s Bloody Scotland Debut Prize.

Vying as well for this 2023 honor were Unsolved, by Heather Critchlow (Canelo); The Things We Do to Our Friends, by Heather Darwent (Penguin); Squeaky Clean, by Callum McSorley (Pushkin); and The Unforgiven Dead, by Fulton Ross (Inkshares).

The Bookseller reports that “The finalists for both prizes led the torchlit procession from Stirling Castle through the historic old town [tonight] …, accompanied by the pipes and drums of the Stirling and District Schools Pipe Band.” Sounds like fun!

READ MORE:Bloody Scotland 2023 – McIlvanney Prize Winners Revealed,” by Jen Lucas (Jen Med’s Book Reviews).

Revue of Reviewers: 9-15-23

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