Wednesday, April 08, 2020

PaperBack: “Shoot a Sitting Duck”

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

Shoot a Sitting Duck, by David Alexander (Bantam, 1957). This was newspaperman Alexander’s third crime novel starring Bart Hardin, “the rambling, gambling, two-fisted editor of The Broadway Times.” Cover illustration by Gerald Powell.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Honoring Blackman

Like you, perhaps, I first heard about it from The Spy Command:
Honor Blackman, who made an impression with audiences as Pussy Galore in [the 1964 film] Goldfinger, has died at 94, The Guardian reported. She “died of natural causes unrelated to coronavirus,” the newspaper said.

Blackman’s Pussy Galore was the lead female character in the 1964 Bond film that turned the gentleman agent into a global phenomenon.

She made her mark in his very first scene. Sean Connery’s Bond sees Pussy Galore’s face after waking up from a drugged dart.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Pussy Galore,” she responds.

“I must be dreaming,” Bond says. …

The movie helped launch the 1960s spy craze, Within a year of
Goldfinger’s release there were new spy TV shows such as I Spy (relatively realistic spies), The Wild Wild West (spies in the Old West) and Get Smart (comedy spies). Other spy film series, such as Matt Helm and Derek Flint would go into production.
I followed the link from that post to an obituary in Britain’s Guardian, which reminded me that Blackman was “born in east London to a middle-class family—her father was a civil servant—[and] credited the elocution lessons she received as a birthday gift as allowing her to progress in her acting career.
After studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she had small roles in films and TV shows such as Titanic drama A Night to Remember (1958) and the Edgar Wallace vigilante series The Four Just Men (1959-60).

She secured her breakthrough when she was cast in 1962 as the leather-clad crimefighter Cathy Gale in the hit British show
The Avengers, alongside Patrick Macnee as the bowler-hatted John Steed. Blackman had to learn judo for the role, and her tough persona allied to then daring costume choices—boots and figure-hugging catsuits—ensured she quickly assumed star status. One of its unlikely results was a hit single, ‘Kinky Boots,’ recorded in 1964 with Macnee, which became a Top 10 hit in 1990.
Blackman’s three-season run on The Avengers (1962-1964) was “ultimately overshadowed by Steed’s more famous subsequent partner, Emma Peel (played to perfection by another future Bond Girl, Diana Rigg), but,” as The Double O Section observes, “Gale’s and Blackman’s place in television history cannot be overstated.
Cathy Gale was television's original badass, leather-clad female spy, paving the way not only for Mrs. Peel, but for Honey West (producer Aaron Spelling was inspired to create the show by Avengers episodes he saw in England, and reportedly first offered the role to Blackman, who turned it down), The Bionic Woman, Alias’s Sydney Bristow, and every other leading lady of espionage to throw an attacker over her shoulder, as well as non-spy heroines like Xena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Quite simply, there had never been an action-oriented female protagonist on television before Honor Blackman's groundbreaking performance. She changed the game. In part, this was due to Blackman inheriting scripts that had been originally written for another male partner for Steed (following his first season foil, Ian Hendry's Dr. David Keel), which were hastily rewritten for her, but kept the character involved in the action in a way women hadn't been previously on TV. But in a larger part, it was due to Blackman's undeniable and very physical presence: she played Cathy as a woman definitely not to be trifled with! And she learned judo for the role, impressively dispatching stuntmen twice her size on a regular basis on episodes that were at the time taped live. Her obvious talent even led to the publication of a book,
Honor Blackman's Book of Self-Defense.
Later in the day, Terence Towles Canote posted a lengthy account of Blackman’s acting career. He recalled, for instance, that she “made her television debut in 1951 in the BBC production Joseph Proctor's Money …” She went on to win recurring roles on Probation Officer and The Four Just Men, and to do guest spots on small-screen series such as The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, Suspense, The Third Man, Danger Man, and The Saint. In 1972, Blackman was cast in “Dagger of the Mind,” an unusual second-season episode of Columbo that sent Peter Falk’s Los Angeles police detective off to work with Scotland Yard in London. Canote adds that in the 1990s “she began playing Laura West in the long-running sitcom The Upper Hand.”

Blackman’s film work stretched beyond Goldfinger to include Quartet (1948), Green Grow the Rushes (1951), The Square Peg (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Fright (1971), Age of Innocence (1978), Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), and I, Anna (2012).

“The fact is that Honor Blackman was an enormous talent,” writes Canote. “What she brought to her many roles was more than beauty and elegance, but also intelligence, determination, professionalism, and, when the role called for it, even physical prowess. Much like Cathy Gale and Pussy Galore, Honor Blackman was a remarkable woman in real life, well known for her political activism. Honor Blackman wasn’t simply a talented actress, but she was also a lady through and through”—a compliment she would surely have prized.

POSTSCRIPT: I forgot to mention one other TV crime drama on which I’d seen Honor Blackman perform. She guest-starred, along with Maurice Evans, on a March 1969 episode of The Name of the Game titled “An Agent of the Plaintiff.” Watch a clip here.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Bullet Points: Bursting at the Seams Edition

(Above) A word cloud generated from this post’s text.

Today begins the historic third week of mass-seclusion here in Washington state, and I cannot say that I’m bored yet. If my work situation were more unstable, or if I lived alone, this downtime might be giving me fits. Instead, it has rewarded me with extra hours in which to write (notice how busy The Rap Sheet has been lately with posts), and some wonderfully quiet time for reading. Beyond the many DVD collections of vintage TV series I have at the ready, I’ve been sampling newer shows, among them Vienna Blood (which I found delightful), SS-GB (which I loved … until the bizarrely inconclusive final episode), Dublin Murders (which I gave up on watching halfway through, no longer interested in the redundantly troubled pair of protagonist cops), Star Trek: Picard (which got off to a rocky start but ended powerfully), and Jamestown (which stars a couple of actresses I’ve also appreciated in other productions: Sophie Rundle from Dickensian; and Niamh Walsh from The English Game).

If it hadn’t been so cold and damp in Seattle of late, I would probably have spent more time outside—maintaining the necessary social distance from my fellow humans, of course. As it is, I have managed to walk a few times around the local lake, and I’m seriously thinking (believe it or not) about doing some gardening, should predications hold true of warmer days ahead. I ought to have prepared my front and back yards better before winter clamped down, but was hampered last fall by the inconvenience of several broken bones.

For today, here are a few bits and bobs from the Web that are of likely interest to readers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

• Oh no, it’s come to this! CrimeFest organizers Adrian Muller and Donna Moore have placed at the top of their Web page a note explaining that this year’s convention—originally slated to take place from June 4 to 7 in Bristol, England—has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, CrimeFest is in need of financial assistance. “Due to contractual obligations which have already been met,” they explain, “we need to raise emergency funds for the sole purpose of ensuring the continuity of CrimeFest, and next year’s convention, and finding new ways to connect writers and readers to the crime fiction we all love. Whatever you can spare, will make a big difference. And if it is not convenient to donate directly, sharing this plea further will assist us greatly.” Click here to make a contribution via the JustGiving crowd-funding platform. The goal is to bring in £35,000. At last check, £5,470 had been raised already.

• Headliners at this year’s CrimeFest were to have been Lynda La Plante, Laura Lippman, and Robert Goddard. Let’s hope they’re all available in 2021.

• Big-selling American novelist James Patterson, who “has a long history of helping independent bookstores,” is stepping up again to support the cause. He is donating half a million bucks to help indie stores endangered by the novel coronavirus. “I can’t imagine anything more important right now, in terms of the book world, than helping indies survive,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

• Also on the disease front, Elizabeth Foxwell notes, in The Bunburyist, that a dinner ceremony during which new authors are to be inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame has now been pushed back from June 2 to September 14. Among this year’s honorees is Brooklyn-born Anna Katharine Green (1846–1935), author of The Leavenworth Case (1878) and one of America’s first detective fictionists. The delayed ceremony will apparently be attended by Rebecca Crozier, Green’s great-great granddaughter.

• As an aid to all of us folks trapped at home with our fast-declining surplusages of toilet paper and run-amok coiffures, CrimeReads senior editor (and former bookseller) Molly Odintz has begun making recommendations to individual readers of what books they might tackle next. Her first advice-packed post is here, and she promises “an ongoing series.” If you’d like to know what additions the CrimeReads staff might suggest to you, shoot an e-mail request to This undertaking follows the “Personalized Quarantine Book Recommendation” series already in progress at CrimeReads’ mother ship, Literary Hub.

• “To help us, and him, through the quarantine,” U.S. screenwriter/comic-book writer Damon Lindelof has begun composing an “exclusive, serialized” mystery story for venture capitalist Dave Pell’s blog, Next Draft. It’s titled “Something, Something, Something Murder,” and we’re told “chapters will update … periodically.”

• Oh, and John Connolly is now two chapters into posting a “Web-exclusive Charlie Parker novella,” “The Sisters Strange.”

• Most of us, when we think of Blake Edwards TV endeavors, immediately flash on Peter Gunn, his 1958-1961 private-eye drama starring Craig Stevens. A smaller percentage might recall that he also created the 1959-1960 adventure/drama Mr. Lucky. But I’m willing to wager that few people, save perhaps for those who were adults during the Kennedy administration, still remember Dante, the 1960-1961 NBC Monday-night series starring Howard Duff (the radio voice of Sam Spade) as William “Willie Dante,” an erstwhile gambler who now manages a downtown San Francisco nightclub called Dante’s Inferno. Edwards developed Dante as a recurring character—played originally by film star Dick Powell—on the 1950s CBS anthology series Four Star Playhouse. In the subsequent series Dante, says Wikipedia, Duff’s protagonist “claims to have put his past behind him,” but still keeps on his payroll longtime associates Stewart Styles (played by Alan Mowbray), serving as the club’s maître d’, and a thief-turned-bartender named Biff (Tom D’Andrea). “Every week,” wrote Michael Shonk in his 2013 Mystery*File overview of the series, “Willie would find himself caught in the middle of two or more opposing forces, usually the cops and bad guys. No one believed Willie was going straight, both the good guys and bad guys suspected him to be up to something.” What brought all of this to mind was a more recent Mystery*File post, in which editor Steve Lewis opined on the 22nd of 26 Dante episodes, “Dante in the Dark,” which guest-starred Marion Ross, the future Mrs. Cunningham on Happy Days. Sadly, that isn’t among the handful of episodes available on YouTube.

• Here’s an altogether remarkable resource for fans of vintage TV crime dramas: Uncle Earl’s Classic Movie Channel. I can’t tell you who the heck Earl is, but he has amassed a trove of old-time movies and small-screen delights. The site’s “Mystery, Detective and Crime Drama” features multiple episodes of series including 77 Sunset Strip, Burke’s Law, Checkmate, The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, Ellery Queen, The Fugitive, It Takes a Thief, Judd for the Defense, Richard Diamond, Private Eye, Switch, and Mike Connors’ short-lived Tightrope. Oh, expect to find Dante there, too.

• A newsletter received last week from the Web site Modcinema, which sells movies and made-for-TV flicks produced during the 1960s and ’70s, reminded me that U.S. television audiences were offered a Law and Order before the Law & Order we now recall best. I’m talking about the 1976 NBC pilot film adapted from former policewoman Dorothy Uhnak’s 1973 novel, Law and Order. As Lee Goldberg summarized it in Unsold Television Pilots: 1955-1989, that two-and-a-half-hour drama followed “three generations of an Irish American family of NYPD officers. The focal point of the envisioned series would be the Deputy Chief of Public Affairs [played by Darren McGavin], who is in constant conflict with his son [Art Hindle], a Vietnam veteran-turned-beat cop who opposes his father’s way of achieving law and order.” Also featured in the movie: Suzanne Pleshette, Keir Dullea, Jeanette Nolan, and Biff McGuire. It’s only too bad NBC didn’t turn this into a series. You can buy a copy of Law and Order here. At least for the nonce, it can also be enjoyed on YouTube.

• Looking for something else to watch during these low-activity times? Evan Lewis has posted the 1936 film Meet Nero Wolfe in his blog, Davy Crockett’s Almanack of Mystery, Adventure, and the Wild West. Based on Rex Stout’s 1934 novel, Fer-de-Lance, which introduced the characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, this movie stars Edward Arnold and Lionel Stander, with Rita Hayworth (then billed as Rita Cansino, and not even 20 years old yet) playing their client, Maria Maringola.

• Here’s some good news for the many fans of that 2006-2007 UK science-fiction police procedural Life on Mars and its sequel, Ashes to Ashes: The Killing Times reports that co-creator Matthew Graham is talking up “a third and final installment of the story. Graham told fans that he’s expecting all the main stars—John Simm, Phillip Glenister and Keeley Hawes among them—for the installment, and sees it as ‘four or five episodes.’” Graham commented recently on Twitter: “We would never make another Mars unless we really had something to say and could push the envelope all over again. Finally we have something.”

• I had some misgivings about Defending Jacob, William Landay’s 2012 thriller about “the extremes to which parents might go out of love for their children.” But this hew trailer for the Apple TV+ miniseries set to premiere on April 24, reminds me how successfully Landay built up the tensions that course through his plot.

• Mike Ripley serves up his usual smörgåsbord of drollery, idiosyncratic recollections, and reading recommendations in Shots’ April “Getting Away with Murder” column. Covered are subjects ranging from Golden Age mystery writer Evadne Childe and Jacobean “revenge tragedies” to Dean Street Press’ republication of classic detective stories by Christopher Bush and forthcoming works by the likes of S.A. Cosby, Lindsey Davis, Camilla Lackberg, and Mai Jia (“who may be China’s John Le Carré”). Ripley’s column finishes with a comic sign-off appropriate for our disease-ridden present: “Stay safe, Stay Home, Stay Away from Me, The Ripster.”

• Meanwhile, Maxim Jakubowski delivers his latest “To the Max” column in Crime Time. His “Book of the Month” is Joe Ide’s Hi Five, followed by thoughtful comments on Malcolm Pryce’s The Corpse in the Garden of Perfect Brightness, Margarita Montimore’s The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart, and other works with shorter titles.

• It’s rather unnerving to go back and watch some of the TV programs that were popular during the mid-20th century, and see just how strange they often were. CrimeReads’ Olivia Rutigliano recently gathered together the plot descriptions from numerous Man from U.N.C.L.E episodes, and found they could be truly “bonkers.”

• Jerry House offers this primer on Paul W. Fairman, a largely forgotten author of both science-fiction and crime-fiction tales. One section that caught my eye: “Probably his best-known work was in Ellery Queen’s A Study in Terror [1966], in which Fairman anonymously wrote the crux of the novel centering on Sherlock Holmes and Jack Ripper, while ‘Ellery Queen’ wrote the framing device.”

• “J.J.,” the blogger at The Invisible Event, has just launched “a Golden Age Detection-focused podcast called In GAD We Trust. With so many people being at home,” he says, “and with so many of us seeking solace in books, I thought I’d take the opportunity to rustle up some GAD-based discussion with my fellow bloggers and enthusiasts, and record the results for your listening pleasure.” J.J.’s first guest is Kate Jackson, from Cross-Examining Crime, who talks about female sleuths. You can listen to their conversation here.

• Incidentally, I’ve added In GAD We Trust to The Rap Sheet’s right-hand-column selection of Crime/Mystery Podcasts.

• Speaking of podcasts, the new episode of Shedunnit is “all about Agatha Christie’s work as a hospital dispenser during both world wars, and how she applied what she learned there about poisons to her detective fiction,” says host Caroline Crampton. “My guest for this one was Dr Kathryn Harkup, science communicator, Agatha Christie fan, and author of A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie.”

• An intriguing item, “borrowed” from The Millions:
At JSTOR Daily, Erin Blakemore takes a look at a small publishing trend from the 1840s and 1850s that followed female murderers and gave middle-class women a brief escape from Victorian values. Literary scholar Dawn Keetley studied the “relatively unknown literary form” extensively. “It’s a genre with conventions of its own: a beautiful white heroine who murders her man, then embarks on a crime spree, ‘indulging in everything from sexual promiscuity, drinking, gambling, and dressing as a man to counterfeiting, robbery, infanticide, and serial murder.’ Dime novels weren’t a thing yet—the stories were printed in pamphlets and sold by traveling salesmen. Keetley thinks they were mainly read by middle-class women. Since the stories masqueraded as morality plays, they were seen as appropriate for women readers.”
Mystery Readers Journal is soliciting stories having to do with Italian mysteries for its next issue. The deadline is April 20. Submission specifics are available here.

• Although No Time to Die’s release has been delayed because of the coronavirus spread, director Cary Joji Fukunaga says work on that 25th James Bond movie is done, with no further changes expected. The Spy Command quotes Fukunaga as saying, “[W]e had to put our pencils down when we finished our post-production window, which was thankfully before COVID shut everything else down.”

In this excerpt from the Slate podcast Thirst Aid Kit, Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins explore “the potent trope of Unresolved Sexual Tension” as it was exemplified by the 1985-1989 comedy-cum-private investigator drama Moonlighting.

• New York book editor Gerald Howard asks, in this piece for Bookforum: “Do you find it as obvious as I do that Don DeLillo richly deserves to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature? And right away, as in this year?” Yeah, I can get behind that, as well!

• After reading reviews of two novels by Charles Williams in the blog Narrative Drive—this one of The Concrete Flamingo (aka All the Way, 1958), and this other one of The Sailcloth Shroud (1960)—it’s clear that I should be paying way more attention to his work than I have in the past. Opines blogger Andrew Cartmel: “What a pleasure—discovering an outstanding crime novelist who looks destined to become a favourite of mine.”

The Rap Sheet’s last “Bullet Points” post included a brief mention of New York City’s famous Mysterious Bookshop confronting financial concerns amid the pandemic. Another week’s passage, however, seems to have brightened proprietor Otto Penzler’s outlook on matters somewhat. He writes in the shop’s current newsletter: “For those of you who responded to my letter last week by buying books and gift cards (and it was a surprisingly and gratifyingly large number), my heartfelt gratitude goes out to you at a magnitude that you cannot imagine. Here’s what you did: 1. My entire staff was paid in full until the end of the month; 2. Rent and all utilities are covered through the end of April; 3. Individuals from whom I bought books were paid in full; 4. February bills to major publishers were paid.” To help further, order books from The Mysterious Bookshop’s Web site, or purchase a gift card.

• Of course, it’s not solely independent bookstores in the Empire State that are suffering during our mutual hibernation period. Whichever indie you most frequently patronize (assuming there’s one left in your area at all) could surely use some of your money to keep things afloat during the short term. Buying books and especially purchasing gift cards can help. The point is, you want to make sure those retailers are still in business whenever we are able to patronize them again. We must all do our part.

Here’s a list of Washington bookstores that continue to serve customers, through various means, while this COVID-19 crisis lasts. Search out similar lists in your own city or state. Books help us thrive; we need to make sure the shops selling them thrive in addition.

• Writing in Literary Hub, Lucy Kogler contends that because bookstores serve ideas and people, they are essential businesses—no matter what lawmakers or others might say.

• OK, I couldn’t resist finding out which fictional character I supposedly best resemble. I read about the Statistical “Which Character” Personality Quiz in Literary Hub. “To play,” explains senior editor Emily Temple, “you choose where you land on a series of spectra. The result is a ranked list of the fictional characters whose personalities most align with yours. It is weirdly accurate—and after taking the quiz, you can contribute to the research behind it by ranking the personalities of characters with whom you are familiar.” Click here to take the quiz. By the way, if you’re interested, the best match for me (78 percent!) was evidently dwarf Tyrion Lannister, from Game of Thrones. As Wikipedia observes, “Tyrion is intelligent, witty, well-read, and shares his father's skill for business and political maneuvering” Not far off the mark. Except for the dwarf part.

• Killer Covers’ salute to paperback artist Mitchell Hooks has been extended for a fortnight. Catch up with all of those posts here.

• Passover, the eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the departure of Jews from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago, is slated to take place this year from April 8 to 16. Like most other recent events, Passover plans are likely to be cancelled. But you can still read mysteries with Passover connections.

• Molly Odintz makes a strong case here for why Passover is “by far the most noir of Jewish holidays.”

• New on The Thrilling Detective Web Site: Kevin Burton Smith’s catalogue of “The Best Anthologies of Original P.I. Stories.”

Cara Black is interviewed in regard to her brand-new novel, the World War II-set standalone Three Hours in Paris (Soho Crime). Concurrently, Elle Marr (The Missing Sister) provides Criminal Element with a list of her five favorite Paris-set thrillers.

• In association with the release this week of Don Winslow’s new short-story collection, Broken (Morrow), U.S. federal prosecutor Bruce K. Riordan has assembled “a list of ten Winslow crime novels that you should read now. Read in sequence,” says Riordan, “they not only chart the author’s evolving vision of crime in America but also the potential for crime fiction to tell stories that capture the intricate webs of corruption, violence and deceit at the heart of the American Dream.”

• Lyndsay Faye conjectures why so many people seem to be turning to crime and mystery novels during our present quarantining.

• Finally, let me bid farewell to singer-songwriter Bill Withers, whose music filled the soundtrack of my youth, and who performed at the presidential inaugurations of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. “The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music in the mid-1980s, died on Monday in Los Angeles,” according to the Associated Press. Two classic Withers songs are here.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Crediting Concision

The Short Mystery Fiction Society has named its finalists for the 2020 Derringer Awards, honoring “outstanding published stories.” There are four categories of contenders, with all of the tales having appeared in 2019. Sadly, the SMFS’s latest lists do not include (as they have historically done) the books, magazines, or Web sites where these estimable yarns were first made available.

Best Flash Story (up to 1,000 words):
“Lucky,” by Trey Dowell
“The Two-Body Problem,” by Josh Pachter
“2 Percent,” by Lissa Marie Redmond
“Birdbrain,” by C.J. Verburg
“The Six-Year-Old Serial Killer,” by Chris Chan

Best Short Story (1,001 to 4,000 words):
“The Kindly Dark,” by J.B. Toner
“Love, or Something Like It,” by Michael Bracken
“A Sure Thing,” by C.C. Guthrie
“On the Road with Mary Jo,” by John Floyd
“Pig Lickin’ Good,” by Debra H. Goldstein

Best Long Story (4,001 to 8,000 words):
“Miss Starr’s Good-bye,” by Leslie Budewitz
“None Shall Sleep,” by Sylvia Maultash Warsh
“Pretty Dreams,” by Peter W.J. Hayes
“See Humble and Die,” by Rick Helms
“Lucy’s Tree,” by Sandra Murphy

Best Novelette (8,001 to 20,000 words):
“Her Sister’s Secrets,” by Brendan DuBois
“The Cripplegate Apprehension,” by Rick Helms
“The Concrete Smile,” by Frank Zafiro
“The Dutchy,” by Doug Allyn
“I Called to Say You’re Dead,” by Stephen Greco

“A vote of the SMFS membership will determine the winner in each category,” explains the society’s current president, Kevin R. Tipple. Winners should be announced this coming May 1.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Friday, April 03, 2020

The Book You Have to Read:
“Not Dead Yet,” by Daniel Banko

(Editor’s note: This is the 162nd installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)

By Steven Nester
Mild-mannered Matthew Kitterman is a self-effacing businessman from Boston, whose life is turned upside down when he returns home prematurely to the “vague aroma of animal rut” and finds his wife, Lana, hosting a party of naked revelers. Shocked, he snaps a polaroid and flees. But violence ensues when one prominent guest believes Lana plans to blackmail him. Lana shoots that man dead (probably in self-defense), and the next thing Kitterman knows is that he’s been falsely accused of murder and is on the run.

It sounds like pretty standard “you’ve-got-the-wrong-man” stuff. But in 1972’s Edgar Award-nominated Not Dead Yet, author Daniel Banko subtly turns the reading experience into one of reader participation—which all mysteries and whodunits are, really, but in this book it’s different. The way information is revealed here allows readers to feel the desperation and confusion that the characters themselves feel, not just to empathize with their predicaments. Paging through Not Dead Yet, you actually experience butterflies, uneasiness, and an odd sense of detachment from safety, making this novel more of a thriller, rather than one in which a crime is expected to be solved. The clues are in front of readers just as they are in front of Kitterman, but sometimes they’re nestled so deeply into the background that one needs to read thoroughly and imaginatively to see them.

Other clues come in the form of enormous tropes—almost like standing at the foot of Mount Everest and seeing only snow—as when a landlocked sailor named Clyde, waiting to ship out, joins the chaotic and quixotic group of misfits and drifters Kitterman falls in with. With the arrival of Clyde, Kitterman’s figurative ship has come in, for later in this book Clyde proves to be Kitterman’s most able cohort. Before Clyde becomes indispensable to Kitterman’s mission, though, the Most Valuable Player Award goes to an adrift widow, Mildred Molnar.

A drinker, and a believer in Kitterman’s innocence, Mildred is a woman looking for adventure and a cause. Her sole goal upon waking up beside a blacked-out Kitterman after their first meeting is to assist in exonerating him. Mildred spent her married life tending to an alcoholic husband who worked in Hollywood, and she’s as game as they get. “I’ve always wanted to be in a movie instead of just looking at one,” she says, and Mildred gets her wish here.

There were eyewitnesses to wife Lana’s crime, of course, but in straight-laced Boston, swingers who have no problem getting it on with strangers in private wouldn’t be disposed to unveil their kinks in an open court of law. Finding that one person who can identify the killer is chore number one, if Kitterman is to obtain a get-out-of-jail-free card; so on the advice of a psychic friend of Mildred’s, the next stop is to assemble a team and re-create the crime scene, with what evidence they already have. Kitterman does have a substantial lead, and that is the dead man’s wallet, in which he finds the business card of a Boston travel agent named Mueller. On the back of the card are several phone numbers, one being that of Kitterman’s home. Mueller appears to be a panderer; does that mean the additional numbers on the card belong to that fatal night’s other witnesses?

Solving this crime sounds like a layup shot, but what would be the point of that? Many people find danger and risk exciting, though it be second-hand. The thrill and anticipation that author Banko constructs is felt and shared with his readers.

Returning to Boston, Kitterman’s group sets up headquarters in a building across the street from his apartment and begins the search for that one crucial eyewitness. Just when their best candidate literally comes into arm’s reach, however, he bolts ... and it’s back to the beginning for everyone.

Now, one more thing about Banko’s images pointing readers and characters in the right direction. Without saying too much, let me just suggest that readers would be wise to not let the slightest detail here pass without some amount of scrutiny. When Kitterman figures out why the pigeons that nest on the roof of his building circle and circle and refuse to return to roost, then the mystery is solved.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Revue of Reviewers, 3-31-20

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

Agent on the Air

Among the many books I recovered from my family home some years ago, after both of my parents had died, was a copy—almost surely bought by my architect/cartoonist father—of a 1983 paperback collection of Secret Agent X-9 action/adventure comic strips, written by detective-turned-fictionist Dashiell Hammett and drawn by Alex Raymond (the latter known better for having created Flash Gordon). Until then, I don’t believe I had ever heard of that long-ago syndicated newspaper feature. But I have since had the pleasure to read the book, and to learn a bit about the strip’s history, thanks to Kevin Burton Smith’s write-up in The Thrilling Detective Web Site:
The strip was originally conceived [in the early 1930s] by King Features to compete with Dick Tracy’s growing popularity, but somewhere along the line, they decided it wasn’t enough for the hero of this new strip to be a hardboiled private eye. He would also be a secret agent. G-Men were doing boffo box office and one of the previous year’s more popular films had been Private Detective 62, based on a series of stories that appeared in Black Mask, written by Hammett’s pal, Raoul Whitfield, about a disgraced government agent, Donald Free, who becomes a private eye.

Alas, somewhere along the line, the competing visions of Hammett and King Features came to a head. Hammett evidently wanted to write a series about a private eye (no surprise there—he had already made a name for himself as creator of Sam Spade, The Continental Op and Nick and Nora Charles). But King wanted a strip about a nameless, mysterious secret agent. …

Neither artist nor writer were happy with the results, and both were eager to quit King Features. Within a year, Hammett was gone (his contract having expired) having only scripted four continuities. Leslie Charteris, creator of The Saint, took over the scripting chores.
The original daily strip debuted on January 22, 1934. Despite Hammett washing his hands of the project (and reportedly losing a weekly fee of $500 for its modest scripting), Secret Agent X-9 carried on under a variety of other writers and artists until February 10, 1996.

I was reminded of all this recently when Evan Lewis began posting, in his blog, a four-part, gunplay-packed BBC Radio adaptation of Hammett’s early Secret Agent X-9 yarns, starring Stuart Milligan as X-9 and Connie Booth as Grace Powers. You can already listen to the first two episodes here, with the final couple yet to be posted.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Bullet Points: Housebound Edition

This was inevitable: Last Monday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee—responding to growing numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the Evergreen State—issued a stay-at-home directive that required all “non-essential businesses” here to close by Wednesday evening, and all state residents to remain inside “except for absolutely necessary activities, such as restocking essential supplies or accessing vital public services.” The order is supposed to “stay in effect for at least two weeks,” though the end date could be pushed back further, depending on the success of efforts to stem the virus’ spread. (Inslee, like most U.S. governors, rejects Donald Trump’s arbitrary suggestion that people should head back to work by Easter.)

All of this means I’m currently enjoying an unplanned vacation from work at the independent Seattle neighborhood bookshop where I have been helping out for the last year. Fortunately, I have plenty of writing to keep me busy, plus a stack of reading material for entertainment. Included in that soaring assortment are Harry Dolan’s The Good Killer, Max Allan Collins’ Do No Harm, William Boyle’s City of Margins, Peter Robinson’s Many Rivers to Cross, advance copies of Cara Black’s Three Hours in Paris and Ian McGuire’s The Abstainer, and a couple of non-fiction releases: Kate Winkler Dawson’s American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI (I loved her 2017 book, Death in the Air) and Sam Wasson’s The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood. Should I require an interlude between books, I have at the ready complete DVD collections of Dan August, Longstreet and Peter Gunn, plus an unsuccessful Raymond Burr pilot film from 1975, Mallory: Circumstantial Evidence, that I picked up from Modcinema. So I am unlikely to become bored, even if—as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warns—this quarantine lasts longer than any of us would prefer.

In a pinch, I can always surf the Web, as I did recently for new stories related to crime fiction. Below are some of my finds.

• “While most of us today are not sick,” writes CrimeReads senior editor Molly Odintz,” we are stuck at home, and perhaps now is the time to rediscover the lengthy novel.” Specifically, the lengthy crime or thriller novel. Odintz recommends 14 “long-ass books” (exceeding 500 pages) to try, among them James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential (512 pages), Hideo Yokoyama’s Six Four (576), Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (576), and John le Carré’s The Honourable Schoolboy (606). Let me propose these eight additional candidates:

By Gaslight, by Steven Price (730 pages)
The Death of the Detective, by Mark Smith (608)
Prussian Blue, by Philip Kerr (544)
The Twenty-Year Death, by Ariel S. Winter (700)
The Price of Butcher’s Meat, by Reginald Hill (528)
The Meaning of Night, by Michael Cox (720)
The Company, by Robert Littell (896)
Lamentation, by C.J. Sansom (656)

What about you? Are there excellent extended works of crime and mystery fiction that you think the rest of us should consider tackling as we wait out our mass-seclusion? Feel free to mention them in the Comments section at the end of this post.

Plans to demolish a residence in Beaconsfield, England, once owned by G.K. Chesterton, author of the Father Brown mysteries, have been “thrown out by the local council,” reports the Catholic Herald. “South Bucks District Council dismissed proposals by Octagon Developments to demolish the house, called ‘Overroads,’ … and replace it with a block of nine apartments. Planning officers concluded that the size and the scale of the proposed flats would make them ‘intrusive’ and incompatible with the character of the area. Further, they would ‘adversely impact’ upon Top Meadow, the Grade II-listed home that also once belonged to Chesterton, which directly faces Overroads.” This may not ensure the home’s survival, however. As the Herald says: “Given that Overroads is not listed [as a historical site], or otherwise protected, there is nothing to prevent Octagon from appealing against the decision or from other developers submitting alternative applications in the future.” (Hat tip to The Bunburyist.)

• To read about one couple’s pilgrimage to Overroads and other UK spots that were once significant to Chesterton, click here.

• It seems that some incorrect information about this year’s Whodunit Mystery Writing Contest, sponsored by Mystery Fest Key West, has been making the rounds. So let’s take it from the top: Even though this year’s Mystery Fest has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its annual writing competition will go on. All interested participants are instructed to “submit the first three pages (no more than 750 words) of a finished, unpublished manuscript” to by Wednesday, April 15 (not by the 31st, as previously reported). “Attach your manuscript submission as a Word document and include the title, author name, and e-mail address in the header. Judging will be ‘blind.’ Finalists will be notified by May 1 and have until May 10 to submit full, never-before-published manuscripts.” Among the rewards awaiting the author of the victorious entry are publication of his or her work by Absolutely Amazing eBooks and free registration for the next Mystery Fest Key West. Any questions should be addressed to

• Mystery Fanfare brings the sorrowful news that Kate Mattes, who once owned Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts (it was closed in 2009), passed away on Wednesday at her home in Vermont. “It was a sudden cardiac event,” says her sister Emily McAdoo, “and she had been in poor health and getting weaker all along.” The Gumshoe Site says Mattes was 73 years old. A “memorial/reflection” for Mattes is said to be in the planning stages.

R.I.P., Mark Halegua, a noted pulp-fiction collector and frequent attendee of pulp conventions. A Queens borough resident of New York City, Halegua died on March 18, at 66 years of age.

• I first visited The Mysterious Bookshop in the early 1980s, during my brief inaugural visit to New York City, and now make a point of shopping there whenever I am in Manhattan (which is never often enough). It’s a wonderful place, a palace of riches for crime-fiction lovers. I have always assumed it would be around forever, but this note from owner Otto Penzler, sent out on Monday, has me concerned:
If you don’t live in the New York area, you may not know that the governor has ordered the shutdown of all non-essential businesses. Although I regard bookstores as essential, we nonetheless closed our doors on Friday. Many of our customers showed tremendous loyalty and support in that week, for which I cannot thank you adequately. People in the city have been told to stay home, so we cannot be of service to you at this time.

Without any income, the store faces a serious existential crisis. If you have not been crushed by being laid off and are in a position to help, your continued support would be mightily welcome. Check our website and find some books that you’d like to have and order them online; it’s easy. We cannot send them until we’re allowed back in the store, but finding a big backlog of orders when we return would breathe life into the operation.

If you don’t want to choose a book right now, you can purchase a gift card, good for a future purchase.

Anything you are able to do would mean a lot to all of us. The rent here is brutal, as are such other expenses as insurance, utilities, taxes, and others too plentiful and boring to mention. They don’t stop just because we’re closed. Staff salaries—my greatest concern—will be covered, it seems, with several plans from the federal and state governments.

I admit to being a little uncomfortable asking for your help but, with the unavoidable prospect of seeing the store close forever, I am shamelessly looking to you to give us hope.
With the number of U.S. crime-fiction stores on the wane, we simply can’t afford to let a gem like The Mysterious Bookshop go out of business. So forget about Amazon; it’s already taken enough of your money. Go here, instead, to find your next memorable read.

• In a brief but heartwarming essay for Literary Hub, writer Bill Hayes remembers a rewarding walk he took last week amid the mostly shuttered retailers of Lower Manhattan, in quest of a new book.

• Do you really want to help a bookstore? Buy a gift card.

• Will virtual book events lead to virtual sales?

• I was not aware there were any crime novels set in the surprisingly-less-dangerous-than-it-used-to-be Colombian capital of Bogotá, much less excellent ones. But CrimeReads’ Paul French this week posted a survey of Bogotá-based yarns in English translation, ranging from Laura Restrepo’s Delirium (2008) and Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ Fruit of the Drunken Tree (2018) to Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s The Shape of the Ruins (2015). Is it possible our current quarantine will last long enough that I can try one or more of these?

• Another recent CrimeReads piece I enjoyed: Alix Lambert’s feature about Arnold Mesches, who served as courtroom sketch artist during some of the highest-profile trials of the last century.

• Are you missing the 1970s (presuming that you even lived through them)? Then revisit that era via these 16 notable works of crime fiction, set mostly in the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I years.

Foreword Reviews has announced the finalists for its 2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year awards. The two categories likely to be of greatest interest to Rap Sheet readers are these:

Best Mystery:
Gumshoe Rock, by Rob Leininger (Oceanview)
Moonscape, by Julie Weston (Five Star)
The Suicide Sonata, by B.V. Lawson (Crimetime Press)
A Plain Vanilla Murder, by Susan Wittig Albert (Persevero Press)
Below the Fold, by R.G. Belsky (Oceanview)
Boxing the Octopus, by Tim Maleeny (Poisoned Pen Press)
In the Clutches of the Wicked, by David Carlson (Coffeetown Press)
Survival Can Be Deadly, by Charlotte Stuart (Amphorae)
This Will Destroy You, by Pedram Navab (Spuyten Duyvil)
Treacherous Strand, by Andrea Carter (Oceanview)

Best Thriller/Suspense:
Green Valley, by Louis Greenberg (Titan)
Looking for Garbo, by Jon James Miller (Blank Slate Press)
A Cross to Kill, by Andrew Huff (Kregel)
Angel in the Fog, by T.J. Turner (Oceanview)
High Stakes, by John F Dobbyn (Oceanview)
Passport to Death, by Yigal Zur (Oceanview)
Rag and Bone, by Joe Clifford (Oceanview)
The Guilt We Carry, by Samuel W. Gailey (Oceanview)
The Nine, by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (She Writes Press)
The Unrepentant, by E.A. Aymar (Down & Out)

Per the Foreword Reviews Web site: “Winners in each genre—along with Editor’s Choice Prize winners and Foreword’s Independent Publisher of the Year—will be announced June 17, 2020.” (Hat tip to In Reference to Murder.)

• This is too bad. From the NW Book Lovers blog: “Out of an abundance of caution and concern for everyone, this year’s Seattle Independent Bookstore Day, originally scheduled for April 25, has been postponed. August 29, 2020, a Saturday, is the tentative new date.” I first took part in this joyous race on behalf of reading back in 2016 (the event’s sophomore year), and have continued to participate ever since. Although delaying IBD because of the novel coronavirus scare is regrettable, the fact is that August usually brings better weather to Seattle than April does. So maybe this is good news?

• Happy 15th birthday to the UK site Crimesquad!

• In my last “Bullet Points” wrap-up, I mentioned that the 1978 TV film No Prince for My Cinderella, starring former Brady Bunch paterfamilias Robert Reed as a psychologist-cum-detective “who specializes in finding teen runaways,” can now be purchased in DVD format from Modcinema. What I didn’t know then, but that author Lee Goldberg has since informed me, is that No Prince for My Cinderella served as the pilot for Operation: Runaway, a Quinn Martin series that debuted in April 1978. Reed evidently starred in the initial three episodes. But, says Goldberg, he “was so difficult to work with that he was fired after the first season and replaced by Alan Feinstein,” who played Steve Arizzio, “former juvenile officer, now a clinical psychologist.” With Feinstein’s entry, the show became The Runaways, and lasted 13 more episodes, ending in September 1979. For the time being, at least, you can watch No Prince for My Cinderella on YouTube. The second series main title sequence is embedded below.

• As Wikipedia explains, in 1959 Vienna-born actor Kurt Kasznar and Quebec-born performer William Shatner (the latter then 28 years old, not yet famous for his role in Star Trek) were cast as Rex Stout characters Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin in the pilot for a prospective weekly series on CBS-TV, titled simply Nero Wolfe. “The pilot episode, ‘Count the Man Down,’ … was filmed in Manhattan in March 1959,” Wikipedia says. “The half-hour program concerned the mysterious death of a scientist during a guided missile launch at Cape Canaveral.” Plans were to slot Nero Wolfe into the CBS schedule at 10 p.m. on Mondays, beginning in September 1959. That didn’t happen. Why? The show “was considered too good to be confined to half an hour,” according to one critic. So it was scrapped. Only recently did that unsold pilot appear on YouTube. It’s quite fun, and it is impossible not to wonder, while viewing it, how different Shatner’s career might’ve been, had this Nero Wolfe been a success.

Wired, a three-part British TV drama, passed me by when it was originally broadcast in 2008. However, this write-up in Mystery*File has me wanting to watch it while I’m cooped up inside. And I notice all three episodes are available on YouTube. See it while you can!

• I know Carolyn Weston as the author of Poor, Poor Ophelia, a 1972 procedural adapted as the pilot for ABC-TV’s The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977). I didn’t remember that she, along with Jan Huckins, had also penned Face of My Assassin, a 1959 novel described as being “in the tradition of In the Heat of the Night and To Kill a Mockingbird.” A new paperback edition of their book was released this week by Cutting Edge, together with this plot synopsis:
It’s 1959. Matthew Scott is a widowed, alcoholic reporter from New York who seeks personal and professional redemption when he’s sent to the Deep South to write about a town that is defying a U.S. Supreme Court decision to integrate blacks into schools. His mere presence is a catalyst that ignites long-buried racial, political, religious, and personal conflicts among the residents, both white and black, ripping the town apart. Those tensions violently explode when Scott is falsely arrested by the bigoted, tyrannical sheriff for the rape and murder of an out-spoken black schoolteacher.

This is a stunning, shockingly vivid portrait of a dark time in America’s history, a tale of intolerance, bigotry and hope that's as relevant today as it was sixty years ago.
In addition, Cutting Edge recently re-released (for e-readers) Weston’s debut novel, 1956’s Tormented, ballyhooed as “a searing novel of erotic obsession.” Clearly, my previous conception of Weston’s range as an author was markedly too limited.

In his blog, Max Allan Collins provides some useful background to Masquerade for Murder, the latest Mike Hammer novel he “co-authored” with the late Mickey Spillane.

• I don’t know where he finds the energy, but all this month Spanish blogger José Ignacio Escribano—the brains behind A Crime Is Afoot—has been posting mini-biographies (in English) of classic contributors to mystery fiction. Some of his subjects are still well recognized (Margaret Millar, Erle Stanley Gardner, Dorothy B. Hughes, Ellery Queen), while others are today far less familiar (J. Jefferson Farjeon, Francis Vivian, S.S. Van Dine, J.J. Connington, Dorothy Bowers). If you’d like to expand your knowledge of this field’s history, set aside some time to page through Escribano’s latest posts.

• Speaking of blog series, Paperback Warrior has been busily “unmasking” pseudonymous, obscure, but frequently prolific paperback authors of the 20th century in an irregular succession of posts. We’re talking about people such as “Jack Baynes” (aka Bertram Baynes Fowler), “James Marcott” (Duane Schermerhorn), and “James P. Cody” (Peter Thomas Rohrbach). Although not all of the entries in this series are properly labeled, most can be accessed here.

• Finally, do you, like so many others, have extra time on your hands lately? Why not use it to help librarians and archivists with their “digital detective work”?

Friday, March 27, 2020

A Rainy City of Dark Desires

Earlier this morning, my 14th article for CrimeReads appeared in that excellent online publication. Its topic—Seattle, Washington, as a setting for crime and thriller fiction—is one that I have been thinking about for quite a while, but tackling it required that I first read or re-read a variety of novels in my possession.

All of the ingredients necessary to make Seattle a fertile environment for tales of homicide, turmoil, and detection seem to exist in this Pacific Northwest city: a history boasting “criminality of all sorts and severities”; an ethnically, culturally, and financially diverse population; an economy powered by both modern, rising enterprises (Microsoft, Amazon, and other high-tech trailblazers) and long-established businesses (Boeing, Starbucks, Nordstrom, etc.); and of course, oft-inclement weather that lends a noirish aspect to any story’s backdrop, with local rain and cloud shadow supplying cover to malefactors.

That Seattle hasn’t yet become synonymous with crime fiction in the same way that, say, New York City, L.A., and San Francisco have certainly isn’t for wont of trying. Indeed, there have been many fine Seattle-set novels in this genre produced over the last 80 years—10 of which I highlight today in CrimeReads, by authors including Stuart Brock, Bernadette Pajer, G.M. Ford, and K.K. Beck.

* * *

While assembling my piece, I couldn’t help but think about how several famous contributors to this field of fiction once had experience with Seattle, yet failed to employ the city in their work.

In 1920, for instance, Dashiell Hammett sought hospital treatment for tuberculosis in Tacoma (just 33 miles south of Seattle), and while there stumbled across the inspiration for the famous “Flitcraft Parable” that his gumshoe Sam Spade recites in The Maltese Falcon (1930). Hammett likely found time during his weeks-long stay, or perhaps amid his previous travels up the West Coast as a Pinkerton detective, to see Seattle’s sights. But they must not have impressed him greatly, for the town didn’t star in his later stories. Raymond Chandler, too, knew this so-called Emerald City. He stayed here with friends awhile in 1932, after being dismissed from his oil company job in Los Angeles for alcoholism and absenteeism. Once again, though, Chandler’s fiction reflected no significant interest in this locale.

Alan Furst also resided in these parts for a spell, though the historical espionage yarns he’s now turning out (A Hero of France, Under Occupation) take place primarily in Europe. Likewise, British-born author Michael Dibdin made his home here from the 1990s through the mid-2000s, but wrote primarily about an Italian police commissioner named Aurelio Zen. And as far as I know, thriller author Robert Ferrigno still resides in Kirkland, a historic burg on the east side of Lake Washington, but prefers to place his mayhem-packed stories as far away from this place—and his family—as he can. The sole exception, I believe, is his 2013 novel, The Girl Who Cried Wolf.

If any or all of these writers had done more to integrate the Northwest’s largest metropolis into their storytelling, there’s no question that Seattle would be recognized more widely as an ideal milieu for crime fiction. But would their books have been better than those that already exist? It’s impossible to know.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

PaperBack: “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

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

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Dell, 15th printing, 1971). This third of Conan Doyle’s four Sherlock Holmes novels was published as a book in 1902 by George Newnes, after first being serialized in The Strand Magazine. The Dell paperback edition shown above was the one I read in high school. It remains on my bookshelves even to this day.

Cover illustrator unidentified.

Mosley’s Rack of Rewards Expands

Walter Mosley—author of the Easy Rawlins and Leonid McGill mysteries—will receive this year’s John Seigenthaler Legends Award, to be presented on April 1 during the 2020 Killer Nashville convention (provided that event is not cancelled like so many others).

A press release says this prize is named after John Seigenthaler, “a well-known editor, publisher, writer, TV personality, First Amendment champion, advocate for writers, and longtime supporter of Killer Nashville. Like its namesake, the annual Killer Nashville John Seigenthaler Legends Award is bestowed upon an individual within the publishing industry who has championed First Amendment Rights to ensure that all opinions are given a voice, has exemplified mentorship and example to authors, supporting the new voices of tomorrow, and/or has written an influential canon of work that will continue to influence authors for many years to come.”

The same alert observes that in addition to Mosley having been named, in 2016, as a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, “he has won numerous awards, including an Edgar Award for Best Novel, the Anisfield-Wolf Award, a Grammy, a PEN USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and several NAACP Image awards.”

Malice Domestic: See You Next Year

COVID-19 claims yet another victim: this year’s Malice Domestic conference, which was to have taken place from April 30 to May 3 in Bethesda, Maryland. Earlier this month, the event had been postponed, as a result of the virus pandemic. But a new note posted on the convention’s Web site reads:
After careful consideration, the Malice Domestic board has reached the decision to cancel this year’s Malice. We had hoped to be able to postpone this year’s event, but given the uncertainty we face, the most prudent decision at this time is to cancel this year’s event and focus our efforts on a spectacular Malice Domestic 33, which will be
April 29-May 2, 2021.
Details regarding this cancellation can be found here.

In Reference to Murder adds: “Despite not having an in-person event this year, the Agatha Awards will go on, with electronic voting to take place on the dates it would have during the conference. Winners will then be announced during a special live streamed event.”

Click here to see a list of 2020 Agatha Award nominees.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Leftys Come Through After All

This year’s Left Coast Crime convention (scheduled for March 12-15 in San Diego, California) may have been cancelled partway through due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic, but today still brings an announcement of the 2020 Lefty Award winners, in four categories.

Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel:
Scot & Soda, by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink)

Also nominated for this prize: Fatal Cajun Festival, by Ellen Byron (Crooked Lane); Murder from Scratch, by Leslie Karst (Crooked Lane); The Subject of Malice, by Cynthia Kuhn (Henery Press); and Drowned Under, by Wendall Thomas (Poisoned Pen Press)

Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel (for books set before 1970):
The Satapur Moonstone, by Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)

Also nominated: Murder Knocks Twice, by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur); The Pearl Dagger, by L.A. Chandlar (Kensington); A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, by Dianne Freeman (Kensington); and The Body in Griffith Park, by Jennifer Kincheloe (Seventh Street)

Lefty for Best Debut Mystery Novel:
Murderabilia, by Carl Vonderau (Midnight Ink)

Also nominated: The Ninja Daughter, by Tori Eldridge (Agora); Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim (Sarah Crichton); One Night Gone, by Tara Laskowski (Graydon House); and Three-Fifths, by John Vercher (Agora)

Lefty for Best Mystery Novel (not in other categories):
Lost Tomorrows, by Matt Coyle (Oceanview)

Also nominated: Your House Will Pay, by Steph Cha (Ecco); Borrowed Time, by Tracy Clark (Kensington); They All Fall Down, by Rachel Howzell Hall (Forge); and Heaven, My Home, by Attica Locke (Mulholland)

Victors were supposed to have been chosen by a vote of convention attendees, with the presentation of prizes to have taken place on Saturday, March 14. Instead, awards co-chair Lucinda Surber tells me that eligible voters—which means everyone who was registered for LCC as of March 1, whether they attended the convention or not—were given the chance to cast their ballots online during a seven-day period ending at midnight (PDT) on Sunday, March 22.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, who should soon receive their awards via the public mail.