Friday, November 16, 2018

Quick Hits Parade

• Three months after Burt Reynolds’ death, at age 82, Visual Entertainment Inc. will release a complete DVD set of episodes from his 1970-1971 ABC-TV series, Dan August, the Quinn Martin production in which he portrayed a police lieutenant investigating homicides in the fictional Southern California town of Santa Luisa. That hour-long drama also starred Norman Fell, Ned Romero, Richard Anderson, and Ena Hartman. The Spy Command says VEI’s release of Dan August, on December 7, will include not only the 26 weekly episodes, but also the pilot film, House on Greenapple Road, which starred Christopher George as August. (George later bowed out of the Dan August series in order to star in another short-lived show, The Immortal.) The familiar theme music from Dan August was composed by Dave Grussin.

• This isn’t too surprising, but is welcome news: Bosch, the Amazon Prime TV series based on Michael Connelly’s long-running series of Harry Bosch police procedurals, and starring Titus Welliver, has already been renewed for a sixth season, even though Season 5 has not yet debuted—and likely won’t before the spring of 2019.

• Art Taylor has fine new review of Leslie S. Klinger’s annotated Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s in Washington Independent Review of Books. He calls that 1,152-page collection of five novels—all of them (by Dashiell Hammett, Ellery Queen, and others) quite pivotal in the development of early 20th-century mystery and detective fiction—“a treasure of information and a joy to study or simply read. By gathering these texts together and diving into them with insight and research, ... Klinger brings them to today’s readers in an accessible, enlightening, and entertaining way.”

• In business news … from In Reference to Murder:
Prometheus Books, which is nearing its 50th anniversary, has decided to refocus on nonfiction titles and sold its two genre imprints to Start Publishing. One of those, the crime fiction imprint Seventh Street Books, currently has a backlist of about ninety titles including award-winning books by Allen Eskens, Adrian McKinty, Lori Rader-Day, and Terry Shames. Start Publishing began has an exclusively digital publisher but has expanded to include print editions as well. Start will publish both print and digital editions of the newly acquired Seventh Street titles.
• Quercus Books imprint MacLehose Press has revealed the unarguably eye-catching cover of David Lagercrantz’s The Girl Who Lived Twice, his third and latest entry in the Millennium/Lisbeth Salander series created by Stieg Larsson. The Amazon UK site mentions that The Girl Who Lived Twice (which follows Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes and Eye for and Eye) won’t be available to British readers until August 2019. There’s still no word on when the novel will reach Salander’s U.S. fans.

Strand Magazine editor Andrew F. Gulli presents a list of what he thinks are the “top 20 novels of 2018” here. His choices are mostly, but not all, crime novels. And mostly, but not all, contemporary stories. How many of them wind up vying for The Strand’s 2018 Critics Awards is something we’ll have to wait until next spring to find out.

• And if you don’t know this already:Douglas Rain, voice of the computer HAL 9000 in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, died on [November 11]. He was 90 years old,” reports the blog Paleofuture. “Born in Canada, Rain started on the stage and was known in both the Canadian and British theater communities for his roles in William Shakespeare’s classics like Othello and Twelfth Night. But Rain is best known in the sci-fi community as the voice of HAL—a cold, monotone voice that immediately evokes fear in anyone who hears it.”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Inkslingers Turned Investigators



This CrimeReads piece has sure been a long time in coming. Way back in April, I dropped the following note onto my Facebook page:
I’m trying to develop a list of mystery/crime/thriller novels that feature journalists and reporters (especially newspaper reporters) as the protagonists/crime solvers. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
That request elicited dozens of responses. So many, in fact, that I resolved to confine myself to writing only about books offering newspaper reporter protagonists. I also had a variety of other assignments standing in the way of my compiling novels along this theme, including last week’s dive into post-World War I mysteries. And in the meantime, other CrimeReads contributors brought forth related stories, including J.G. Heatherton’s selection of novels featuring investigative reporters, and Steven Cooper’s essay about “why investigative reporters become mystery writers.” All of this accounts for the rather lengthy lag time between the birth of my “brilliant” idea and my actually composing the piece I had in mind.

Only this morning has my work, “A Brief History of Reporters in Crime Fiction,” finally been posted in CrimeReads. It features 10 crime and mystery novels starring print journalists, together with one that imagines a newspaper photographer in the sleuthing role. My picks were published as far back as 1939 and as recently as September. Among the authors represented are Martin Edwards, William P. McGivern, Julia Dahl, Les Whitten, and Pete Hamill. Although I settled on reading and then writing about 11 books, and mentioning 19 others at the end of the piece, I culled those from a much longer list of options available. In addition to the suggestions received on Facebook, two online sources helped me get a handle on the scope of the field: The Thrilling Detective Web Site and Stop, You’re Killing Me! With all of this assistance, I tallied up books I hoped to write about, but later had to cut my choices way back in order to finish my research before the year 2030. So many books had to go unexamined—for now, at least:

David Mamet’s Chicago (2018)
Liam McIlvanney’s Where the Dead Men
Go
(2013)
Val McDermid’s Report for Murder (1987)
Marc Olden’s Kill the Reporter (1978)
Lawrence Meyer’s False Front (1979)
Simon Wood’s Paying the Piper (2007)
Jim Kelly’s The Water Clock (2003)
Steven Brewer’s End Run (2000)
Allen Eskens’ The Shadows We Hide (2018)
James Howard’s Die on Easy Street (1957)
Sarah Ruttan’s Suspicious Circumstances (2007)
Rick Mofina’s If Angels Fall (2000)
Mary Daheim’s The Alpine Advocate (1992)
Vince Kohler’s Rainy North Woods (1990)
Jason Pinter’s Stolen (2008)
Mark Arsenault’s Spiked (2003)
Warren Adler’s The Henderson Equation (1976)
Robert Olen Butler’s Paris in the Dark (2018)
Martyn Waites’ Mary’s Prayer (1997)
Mark Sanderson’s Snow Hill (2010)
Thomas Enger’s Cursed (2017)

A full study of this subject would probably be book-length. But I am pleased with what I was able to accomplish in a much shorter space, for CrimeReads. Click here to read the full article.

READ MORE:The Disappearing Newsroom,” by Wallace Stroby (CrimeReads).

Posting Predilections

With bookseller Amazon having already weighed in with what its editors believe have been the best crime novels published during 2018, it’s now The Washington Post’s turn. Three Post reviewers have revealed their 10 favorite mysteries and thrillers:

Dark Sacred Night, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware (Gallery/Scout Press)
The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday)
The Fox, by Frederick Forsyth (Putnam)
Give Me Your Hand, by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown)
The Infinite Blacktop, by Sara Gran (Atria)
Our House, by Louise Candlish (Berkley)
The Reckoning, by John Grisham (Doubleday)
Sunburn, by Laura Lippman (Morrow)
The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn (Morrow)

Read the short write-ups about each of these novels here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Revue of Reviewers, 11-14-18

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











Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Reading Suggestions, Anyone?

As you might expect, I receive hundreds of online messages each day. They’re everything from complimentary missives about The Rap Sheet and publisher offers of forthcoming books, to questionable dating invitations sent by Russian or Asian women and ridiculous blackmail memos (one recent example threatened to tell my friends I was visiting porn sites, unless I forked over $500—I didn’t pay).

But last week, I opened this pleasantly challenging e-mail note from a Rap Sheet reader identifying himself as Ross Wallace:
As a longtime reader of your blog—albeit one whose actual exposure to private-eye fiction is mostly limited to the works of the great James Sallis—I recently stumbled upon a mystery I felt I couldn’t solve alone. Which is where (I hope) you come in.

I realize it might pain you to read this—not to mention puzzle you, given that I’ve outed myself as a fan of The Rap Sheet—but I’m not much into detective fiction, police procedurals, cozy mysteries, legal thrillers, whodunits, or just about any other crime-fiction subgenre you can think of.

What I am a fan of is pulpy, hard-boiled, non-detective-centric fiction. You know, the kind of stuff the Hard Case Crime imprint was created to highlight.

Now, to get to the “mystery” (at long last): Having plowed through just about every non-P.I.-focused crime book I could lay my hands on from Hard Case and by the likes of Jim Thompson, Richard Stark, George V. Higgins, Elmore Leonard, Edward Bunker, Lawrence Block, Max Allan Collins, Dave Zeltserman, Wallace Stroby, Charlie Stella, Scott Phillips, Garry Disher, and Jason Starr, along with selected works by, to name a few, Duane Swierczynski, Allan Guthrie, and Ray Banks … I suddenly find myself (after a period of many years—I don’t read THAT fast) in the awkward position of not knowing which way to turn next to satisfy my regularly recurring jones for “bad-guy crime novels,” as I call them.

As noted above, The Rap Sheet has long been a valuable resource, but as I’m sure you’d acknowledge (proudly), your blog casts a pretty wide net. This can make it a bit tough for someone like me, with a comparatively narrow focus, to sort through all the … bad metaphor alert! … many thousands of bottles in the supermarket spice aisle in order to find exactly the seasoning I want.

Yes, I’ve tried turning to the General Crime Fiction section and the Author Web Sites/Blogs link on The Rap Sheet homepage but, frankly, my eyes glaze over at the mere thought of sifting through all those sites (as worthy as they might be).

Any chance you could help me, well, cut to the chase (god knows, given the unwieldiness of this e-mail, I could use all the help I could get on that front) and recommend a site that specializes in exactly the type of crime fiction I’m describing?

Or maybe you’d consider inaugurating a series on your own site—in a similar vein to PaperBack—dedicated to spotlighting books with criminal anti-hero protagonists?

I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one of your blog’s readers who takes much greater (perverse?) pleasure in strolling around in the gum-soled shoes of hit men, heisters, safecrackers, second-story men, getaway drivers, and gangsters than in those of oh-so-upright beat cops, crusading journos, and private eyes. Err … can I?

You’re a patient and tolerant man if you’ve actually read all the way to here in this painfully long-winded e-mail.

Thanks ahead of time for any help you can offer. And, again, the blog is a winner. Keep on doing what you do.
Hmm. Our friend Wallace already lists most of the “bad-guy crime novels” I might have recommended, though he doesn’t mention Loren D. Estleman’s Peter Macklin series or Steve Hamilton’s Nick Mason novels. He might also enjoy Erle Stanley Gardner’s tales of Ed Jenkins, “The Phantom Crook,” who, to quote from The Thrilling Detective Web Site, works “both sides of the law, pitting cops against crooks, and all in the name of his personal gain.” There have been at least three collections of Gardner’s Jenkins yarns, including The Blonde in Lower Six, published by Carroll & Graf in 1990.

As to the matter of blogs or Web sites with a particular bent toward this breed of crime fiction, I would suggest that Wallace check on Paperback Warrior and the ingloriously named Glorious Trash. Neither is exactly what Wallace has in mind, but both should offer him some new options for his reading pile.

Can anybody else propose other books or online resources?

A Matter of Choice

Today kicks off the third and final round of voting to select the winners of Goodreads’ 2018 Choice Awards. There are 20 groupings of contenders. Just 10 novels remain in the Mystery & Thriller category:

The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
(St. Martin’s Press)
The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware (Gallery/Scout Press)
Sometimes I Lie, by Alice Feeney (Flatiron)
The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
(Little, Brown)
The Witch Elm, by Tana French (Viking)
The Outsider, by Stephen King (Scribner)
Lethal White, by “Robert Galbraith,” aka J.K. Rowling (Mulholland)
Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell (Atria)
Force of Nature, by Jane Harper (Flatiron)
The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn (Morrow)

Click here to let your preference be known. You have until Monday, November 26, to vote. Winners in all of the categories will be announced on Wednesday, December 5.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

PaperBack: “Die on Easy Street”

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



Die on Easy Street, by James Howard (Popular Library/Eagle, 1957). Cover illustration by Raymond Johnson.

When I last wrote about author Howard, in relation to his 1955 novel, Murder Takes a Wife, I noted that I’d had scant success finding background information on the author (who also published as  “James A. Howard” and under the pseudonym Laine Fisher). Today, though, while searching the Internet, I came across a news service clipping that appeared in the February 26, 1956, edition of a Lima, Ohio, newspaper called The Lima News. It reads as follows:
James Howard, a University of California at Los Angeles graduate student, has a “novel” way of working his way through college. He writes them—novels, that is.

Howard, while working toward a Ph.D. in psychology, has found time to write four mystery novels, of which the first two have sold more than 625,000 copies. The third is in press, and he recently completed the fourth which he hopes will sell equally as well.

Howard sold his first story to [a] pulp magazine named “Black Mask” when he was in high school. He later became a reporter on the Peoria, Illinois, “Star.”

Howard, who has been a magnetic crane operator, a college professor, taxi driver, professional baseball player, night club entertainer, radio advertising salesman and a pilot during World War II, says that there is some connection between his study of psychology and his renewed success as a writer.

The young graduate declared:

“I took up writing again as a sort of self-administrated psychotherapy. At the time I was serving a psychological internship at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital. After listening to other people’s troubles all day, I would come home at night all tensed up. I began writing to work off the steam.”

In general, Howard’s work follows the cult of violence established by Mickey Spillane. Howard’s novels center around a character named Steve Ashe, an itinerant newspaper man. However, he points out that his Ashe has never been as brutal as Spillane’s Mike Hammer.

Howard holds a membership card in the Mystery Writers of America Assn. He was tapped for this honor after publication of his first book.

Howard says that he is like Steve Ashe. “I’m inclined to be a bit itinerant myself.”
According to Pulp International, Howard’s first Steve Ashe novel was I Like It Tough (1955). However, that may be wrong, for as the same blog mentions in a later post, Howard had produced a previous entry in the series, 1954’s I’ll Get You Yet. The third Ashe book appears to be Blow Out My Torch (1956), with Die on Easy Street as the fourth.

It’s frustrating that I cannot find a list anywhere—not in my many crime-fiction reference books or online—of Howard’s novels in the order of their publication. But I did come across an interesting item in the 1956-1957 Register of University of California students, mentioning that a psychology student named James Arch Howard, from Fostoria, Ohio, was writing his doctoral thesis on “Violence in mystery fiction as an outlet for the aggressive tendencies of the authors.” Could this have been the same guy? My investigation continues …

In Defense of Peace

Ceremonies were held today in Paris to observe Armistice Day. Led by French President Emmanuel Macron—whose speech made clear to world leaders (this time including Donald Trump, who evidently mustered the strength he lacked yesterday to brave a little rain) that they “must find new ways to build peace together in the face of dangerous, rising populism and ‘selfish’ nationalism”—the event specifically commemorated 100 years since the end of World War I.

In the United States, November 11 is Veterans Day, an annual holiday designed to honor everybody who has served with the American military (not just those who died in combat—they’re specifically recognized on Memorial Day in May). Janet Rudolph has taken advantage of this occasion to post, in Mystery Fanfare, a rundown of general war-related mysteries, plus links to lists elsewhere of crime novels set around World War I or those that at least feature protagonists who are military vets. Click here to find her piece.

READ MORE:Why the First World War Lasted So Long,” by Alexander Lanoszka and Michael A. Hunzeker (The Washington Post); “In Photos Unpublished for 100 Years, the Joy of War’s End on Armistice Day,” by Alexis Clark (The New York Times); “The End of War: New York Newspapers Celebrate Armistice Day and the End of World War I” (The Bowery Boys); “On This World War I Anniversary, Let’s Not Celebrate Woodrow Wilson,” by Michael Beschloss (The Washington Post).

Friday, November 09, 2018

Battling Crime in the Wake of War



As my maternal grandfather told me when I was a boy, he was only 14 or 15 years old and living in Canada when World War I broke out in Europe in 1914. Yet he had several older brothers who quickly volunteered to join the British Army, and my grandfather wanted to go with them. So he lied about his age, and was sent to the front lines in France. Amazingly, he didn’t die, though he did have some scares (one of them involving a rat that sneaked up on his trench from no-man’s-land one night, and that he almost shot, thinking it was a German soldier). And he was seriously injured by a bomb blast that left shrapnel in one of his legs. The field medics wanted to amputate that limb and send him home, but my grandfather told them he’d rather die than lose his leg. For the rest of his long life, he suffered with the pain of metal bits working their way out of his flesh.

Eventually, he did return to Canada—as did all of his brothers. I seem to remember him saying that their German-born mother cried for days, after her sons were safely home. Though I could be wrong about that. Sadly, my grandfather is no longer around to set me straight.

I thought of my grandfather often as I wrote my piece about post-World War I mysteries, which appears today in CrimeReads—just two days before the centennial, on Sunday, November 11, of that war’s conclusion. He was an enthusiastic reader; in fact, it was partly the prevalence of books in his home that led me to become a book lover. (My mother was an equal influence on me in that regard.) Whether he would have appreciated any of the novels featured in my piece, I can’t say. Perhaps not, for in one way or another, their stories all focus on loss—the loss of friends, the loss of one’s moral or mental bearings, the loss of confidence that the world remains a safe place.

I, of course, came to these crime and mystery novels without my grandfather’s baggage—and was glad of the opportunity to dive into the tales about which I write today. My focus is on nine crime, mystery, and spy novels that take place shortly after the end of the fighting in Europe. Works by Robert Goddard, Alex Beer, Charles Todd, and Christopher Huang are among those under consideration. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a start for readers interested in how fictional detectives—and others—were affected by those four years of fighting, and how their lives and careers changed afterward.

Again, click here to find my post-World War I mystery picks.

READ MORE:Words of War: History and Mystery Meet in Battlefield Trenches,” by J. Kingston Pierce (Kirkus Reviews); “Interview with WWI Historical Novelists,” by Elise Cooper (Crimespree Magazine); “At War with the War,” by Xavier Lechard (At the Villa Rose); “Raymond Chandler on the Western Front, 1918,” by Bethany Reynard (First World War Centenary).

A Bookseller’s Read on “Bests”

With Thanksgiving creeping up right up, and with people starting to think about what Christmas presents they might buy for the big readers in their life, Amazon today announces its editors’ picks of the best books of 2018. Their top three choices can be found here. But click here to see their top Mysteries and Thrillers selections.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Bullet Points: Post-Midterm Elections Edition

OK, that’s done. After putting the finishing touches on two different CrimeReads pieces—one of which should be posted tomorrow morning—I can finally return to my regular duties at The Rap Sheet. Let’s start off with a wrap-up of recent news.

• We’ve been talking for some while about the Staunch Book Prize, a brand-new commendation—proposed earlier in the year by author-screenwriter Bridget Lawless—to honor the best thriller novel “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped, or murdered.” It wasn’t until this month, however, that a shortlist of nominees for the first such award was announced:

The Appraisal, by Anna Porter (ECW Press)
East of Hounslow, by Khurrum Rahman (HQ)
If I Die Tonight, by A.L. Gaylin (PRH)
On the Java Ridge, by Jock Serong (Text)
The Kennedy Moment, by Peter Adamson (Myriad Editions)
Cops and Queens, by Joyce Thompson (seeking publisher)

The Bookseller explains that a winner of the premiere Staunch Book Prize will be declared during a special ceremony “at Sony Pictures in central London on 26th November.” Stay tuned.

• The “social cataloguing” Web site GoodReads has launched the voting process for its 2018 Choice Awards competition, and we’re already into the semifinal round of selecting winners (which will run through this coming Sunday, November 11). Among the contenders in the Best Mystery and Thriller category are Sujata Massey’s The Widows of Malabar Hill, Stuart Turton’s The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Tana French’s The Witch Elm, Joe Ide’s Wrecked, and Robert Galbraith’s Lethal White. Click here to cast a ballot. The final round of voting will begin on November 13, with winners in all 20 categories to be announced on December 5.

• Deadline Hollywood reports that Stephen King’s 2013 Hard Case Crime novel, Joyland, will be adapted as a TV series. The site reminds us that “Joyland tells the story of Devin, a college student who takes a summer job at an amusement park in a North Carolina tourist town, confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the way both will change his life forever.” Chris Peña (Jane the Virgin) and Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M.) will pen the script.

• Holliday Grainger, the British actress I so enjoyed watching in the 2013 teleflick Bonnie & Clyde (you can see the trailer here) and the more recent BBC-TV crime series Strike, is preparing to star, with Callum Turner, in a BBC surveillance thriller titled The Capture. The Killing Times offers just a modicum of plot information:
When proud British soldier Shaun Emery’s (Turner) conviction for a murder in Afghanistan is successfully overturned due to flawed video evidence, he begins to plan for his life as a free man with his six-year-old daughter. However, when damning CCTV footage emerges from an incident in London, it isn’t long before Shaun finds himself fighting for his freedom once more, only with lies, betrayal and corruption spreading further than he ever could have imagined.

With DI Rachel Carey (Grainger) drafted in to investigate in what could be a career-defining case, she must discover if there is more to the shocking evidence than first meets the eye. Rachel will soon learn that the truth is merely a matter of perspective—before deciding what hers is.
• Meanwhile, here’s a short new trailer promoting the third season of True Detective. This latest iteration of Nicolas Pizzolatto’s crime anthology series is scheduled to debut in the States on January 13 of next year, with Mahershala Ali starring as Wayne Hays, “an Arkansas state police detective who can’t stop thinking about the two children who went missing 30 years before.”

• And January Magazine notes that HBO-TV has given the go-ahead for a film sequel to the fine 2004-2006 Western series, Deadwood. Viewers are told to expect that movie’s premiere next spring.

• Among the items in B.V. Lawson’s latest “Media Murder for Monday” post for In Reference to Murder is news about turning Howard Michael Gould’s 2018 debut novel, Last Looks, into a big-screen picture:
Mel Gibson is teaming up with Charlie Hunnam and Eiza Gonzalez for Waldo, the action-packed thriller from Brit filmmaker Tim Kirkby, best known for directing episodes of Veep. The film … follows the brilliant but disgraced former LAPD detective Charlie Waldo (Hunnam), currently living the life of a minimalist in the woods. His quiet life comes to a startling halt when he is roped back into working as a private eye to investigate the murder of an eccentric TV star’s wife.
• I was sorry to hear that prolific Illinois-born actor Ken Swofford died on November 1, at age 85. The Hollywood Reporter’s obituary mentions that in addition to his role as “stubborn vice principal Quentin Morloch … on the TV adaptation of Fame,” “the red-headed Swofford … portrayed the reporter Frank Flannigan on the admired but short-lived 1975-76 NBC series Ellery Queen, starring Jim Hutton, and he recurred as Lt. Catalano on several episodes of another sleuthing series, Angela Lansbury’s Murder, She Wrote.” Swofford’s other small-screen credits included roles on Surfiside 6, Columbo, Petrocelli, The Rockford Files, The Fall Guy, Remington Steele, and Diagnosis: Murder. He also played a major in the 1991 film Thelma & Louise. A clip of his performance in Ellery Queen can be enjoyed here.

• Wouldn’t you know it? Shortly after I assembled my revised (and unapologetically biased) rundown of the 95 best English-language crime-fiction blogs and Web sites, another worthy candidate came to my attention: Paperback Warrior. Trading in reviews of hard-boiled crime, mystery, men’s adventure, espionage, and western fiction, Paperback Warrior was launched during the summer of 2013 (which means I really should have discovered it sooner). Its author doesn’t sign his/her reviews, but clearly shares my taste for vintage paperbacks. The main blog and its associated Facebook page are well worth exploring when you have some free time.

• Emily Temple is one of my favorite Literary Hub writers, and she recently put together quite wonderful “list-icles” of books that defined every single decade of 1900s, as well as the first two decades of our present century. Crime, mystery, and thriller novels don’t show up often in the mix, but a couple—Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) and Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1930)—receive paragraph write-ups, with others (such as Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, and Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal) at least being name-checked in their respective decennia of publication.

• Lee Goldberg, who literally wrote the book on unsold small-screen pilot film projects, points me toward a 10-minute YouTube collection of scenes from Egan, a 1973 pilot commissioned by ABC-TV and starring prolific American actor Eugene Roche. As Golberg relates in Unsold Television Pilots: 1955-1989, that teleflick—produced by Thomas L. Miller and Edward K. Milkis (who also gave us Barry Newman’s Petrocelli)—was “based on the true exploits of NYPD detective Eddie Egan, whose adventures were dramatized in the Oscar-winning movie The French Connection.” The YouTube clips—embedded below—are rather blurry, but they show the authority-allergic Egan (a master of disguise) leaving Manhattan to become a police detective in Los Angeles. The scenes feature plenty of action and a great theme by Lalo Schifrin. Too bad that ABC didn’t pick up Egan as a series.



• Speaking of YouTube delights, the site’s TV Archive page recently posted complete episodes of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. That short-lived 1996 CBS-TV spy series starred Scott Bakula and Maria Bello as covert operatives who posed as a married couple and worked for a super-secret private security agency known only as “The Factory.” I remember the series fondly, even though it lasted a mere 13 episodes—all of which can be watched, for the time being, by clicking here.

• I also recall watching the 1983 NBC-TV series Casablanca, which gave former Starsky & Hutch co-star David Soul the unenviable task of playing World War II-era Morocco nightclub owner Rick Blaine, the role Humphrey Bogart had filled in the 1941 film of the same name. But I wasn’t even born yet when Charles McGraw featured in a 1955-1956 spin-off of Casablanca, which Roy Huggins produced, and that Mystery*File contributor Michael Shonk calls “a better than average TV noir drama for the early days of television.” Shonk includes a full episode of the show in this post.

Happy 10th birthday to the blog Pulp International!

• Halloween has passed, but you should still look over CrimeReads’ “25 Most Terrifyingly Beautiful Edgar Allan Poe Illustrations.”

• For anyone wishing to get better acquainted with Edgar Award-winning author Ross Thomas, Neil Nyren provides this handy guide to his novels about “con men, spies, politicians, and double crossers.”

• The Killing Times chooses15 essential spy TV series,” including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alias, Callan, and The Sandbaggers.

• Crime Fiction Lover selects what it says are the seven best crime-fiction debuts of 2018. I’ve read a couple of those books already, but have still more reading to do before the year runs its course.

• For Criminal Element, author Tom Wood (Kill for Me) weighs in on “The Top 7 Cinematic Assassins,” a rogues gallery that embraces Nikita from La Femme Nikita, Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men, and Martin Blank from Grosse Pointe Blank.

• Another list: Kirkus Reviews picks nine thrilling page-turners.

• And I like Erica Wright’s picks of “9 Mysteries That Challenge Our Expectations of Crime Fighters.” Wright, by the way, wrote recently on this page about Charlotte Armstrong’s A Dram of Poison (1956).

On the heels of news that the release of Kenneth Branagh’s second Hercule Poirot movie, Death on the Nile, has been delayed until 2020, BookRiot has compiled a “definitive ranking of Agatha Christie movies.” I’m surprised at how many of the 25 I haven’t yet seen.

• Authors interviews and profiles seem to have popped up everywhere you turn on the Internet lately. The writers being questioned include Jonathan Lethem (The Feral Detective), Timothy Hallinan (Nighttown), Tana French (The Witch Elm), Leye Adenle (When Trouble Sleeps), Henry Porter (Firefly), Jon Land (Manuscript for Murder), Libby Fischer Hellmann (High Crimes), Martin Limón (The Line), and Tom Leins (Repetition Kills You!).

• If you wait long enough, every good idea can be used again. That’s certainly the case with a 1958 interview James Bond creator Ian Fleming conducted with Raymond Chandler, who’s of course best known for giving us private eye Philip Marlowe. I wrote about their conversation way back in 2007, but it was only this month that CrimeReads revisited their discussion, which covers “what the two authors thought of one another’s work, as well as how they believed the murder of [mobster] Albert Anastasia was carried out.”

• While we’re on the subject of Fleming, note that British author Anthony Horowitz—whose second Agent 007 novel, Forever and a Day, was released this week in the States—has composed a piece for Criminal Element about James Bond’s influence on him as both a reader and a writer. You’ll find that post here.

• In his blog, Studies in Starrett, Ray Betzner traces the early 20th-century revival of interest in Sherlock Holmes. Betzner proclaims this the opening installment in a multipart report. Watch for the follow-up. POSTSCRIPT: I believe this is the first sequel post.

• Really, do we need a Jonny Quest movie?

• Wow, Toe Six Press debuted just this last April, but editor Sandra Ruttan is already out with her 17th issue, “Living My Best Life.”

• Lynne Truss remarks here on her experience with—and the history of—Britain’s Detection Club. For more about that club, see Martin Edwards’ 2015 non-fiction book, The Golden Age of Murder.

In a post for In Reference to Murder, Jay A. Gertzman, professor emeritus of English at Mansfield University, tells about writing and researching his new book, Pulp According to David Goodis.

• Finally, while the results of this week’s U.S. midterm elections brought hope to many citizens who want Congress to finally reassert its vital oversight function and curb the more corrupt, anti-democratic antics of the country’s scandal-ridden prez, there were also cases across the country of voter suppression. How timely it was, then, that Curtis Evans should have written earlier this week about The Election Booth Murder, by Milton M. Propper, a 1935 novel having to do with Philadelphia’s “corrupt machine politics” and “the shooting murder of a reform political candidate on Election Day …”

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

PaperBack: “A World the Color of Salt”

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



A World the Color of Salt, by Noreen Ayres (Avon, 1994). Written by an Edgar Award finalist, this was the first of three novels starring Samantha “Smokey” Brandon, an ex-Las Vegas stripper and forensic pathologist in Orange County, California, the other two being Carcass Trade (1994) and The Juan Doe Murders (2000). The last of those was reissued by Brash Books in 2014. Cover art by Jerry LoFaro, whose original illustration can be seen here.

(A big hat tip to Gravetapping.)

Rising to the Top

I haven’t even started to winnow down my list of favorite mystery/thriller reads for 2018, yet Publishers Weekly is already out with its top 12 choices. They include Derek B. Miller’s American by Day (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Elsa Hart’s City of Ink (Minotaur), George Pelecanos’ The Man Who Came Uptown (Mulholland), and Sujata Massey’s The Widows of Malabar Hill (Soho Crime).

See all dozen PW picks here.

Fighting Irish

Finalists have been selected in 16 categories for the 2018 An Post Irish Book Awards. The half-dozen novels contending for Irish Independent Crime Fiction Book of the Year honors are as follows:

A House of Ghosts, by W.C. Ryan (Zaffre)
One Click, by Andrea Mara (Poolbeg Press)
Skin Deep, by Liz Nugent (Penguin)
The Confession, by Jo Spain (Quercus)
The Ruin, by Dervla McTiernan (Sphere)
Thirteen, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)

As In Reference to Murder explains, “The public are now being asked to cast their votes online for the best books of the year on the Irish Book Awards website—voting runs until Friday, November 23rd.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Martians Have Landed!


Front page of the New York Daily News, October 31, 1938.

It was 80 years ago tonight, on October 30, 1938, that actor Orson Welles “vaulted into stardom by narrating”—for The Mercury Theatre on the Air—“his famous radio presentation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds,” recalls the blog Pulp International. “In adapting the [1898] novel, which concerns an invasion by malevolent Martians bent on the total destruction of humanity, Welles decided to use fictional news bulletins to describe the action. These were presented without commercial breaks, leaving listeners to decide whether the familiar-sounding news flashes were truthful. Since a radio show had never used the news flash for dramatic purposes, many people were confused. The public reaction was described at the time as a panic ...”

The Writer’s Almanac supplies some more background:
It has been estimated that of the 6 million people who heard the original broadcast, more than 1.5 million believed it to be true and more than a million others were genuinely terrified, and contemporary accounts tell of police stations swamped with calls. Within a month there were more than 12,000 newspaper articles on the broadcast and its impact, and as far away as Germany, Adolf Hitler is said to have cited it as “evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy.” Many listeners sued the network for mental anguish, claims that were all denied save one for a pair of size-nine black shoes, by a man from Massachusetts who complained he’d had to spend what he’d saved for new shoes to escape the invading Martians. Welles insisted that that claim be reimbursed.

Welles and the
Mercury Theatre were censured, but the broadcast secured Welles an instant, notorious fame. In 1988, Grover’s Mills, New Jersey, celebrated its hour of fame by installing a Martian Landing Site monument near Grover’s Mill Pond, not far from the remains of a water tower shot to pieces by its frightened residents 50 years before.



So give yourself a little pre-Halloween scare by listening to that dramatic old broadcast, embedded above. The Mercury Theatre on the Air Web site also offers it and other episodes for free downloading here. To watch Welles talk about the fallout from his radio program, click here. And if you’d like to learn still more about that controversial show, grab a copy of A. Brad Schwartz’s Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News (2015).

POSTSCRIPT: You will find a selection of book fronts from H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds by clicking over to Killer Covers.

READ MORE:The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic,” by Jefferson Pooley and Michael Socolow (Slate); “The 70th Anniversary of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts).

Monday, October 29, 2018

Revue of Reviewers, 10-29-18

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







Thursday, October 25, 2018

Night of the Daggers

The British crime-fiction community was out in force (not to mention in both tuxes and evening gowns) for tonight’s presentation, in London, of the 2018 Dagger Awards. This ceremony was organized, as always, by the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), with the ever-versatile Barry Forshaw taking on master of ceremonies duty.

Thanks to Rap Sheet correspondent Ali Karim (actually, thanks to his Facebook page), we can now bring you all of the winners.

CWA Gold Dagger:
The Liar, by Steve Cavanagh (Orion)

Also nominated: London Rules, by Mick Herron (John Murray); Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane (Little, Brown); Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail); A Necessary Evil, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker); and Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Pushkin Vertigo)

CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger:
Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail)

Also nominated: London Rules, by Mick Herron (John Murray); If I Die Before I Wake, by Emily Koch (Harvill Secker); An Act of Silence, by Colette McBeth (Wildfire); The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor (Michael Joseph); and The Force, by Don Winslow (HarperFiction)

CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger:
Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love (Point Blank)

Also nominated: Gravesend, by William Boyle (No Exit Press); IQ, by Joe Ide (Weidenfeld & Nicolson); Girl in Snow, by Danya Kukafka (Picador); East of Hounslow, by Khurrum Rahman (HQ); and Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic (Pushkin Vertigo)


Diamond Dagger Award recipient Michael Connelly, with Shots editor Mike Stotter. (Photo © Ali Karim 2018.)

CWA International Dagger: After the Fire, by Henning Mankell, translated by Marlaine Delargy (Harvill Secker)

Also nominated: Zen and the Art of Murder, by Oliver Bottini, translated by Jamie Bulloch (MacLehose Press); Three Days and a Life, by Pierre Lemaitre, translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press); The Frozen Woman, by Jon Michelet, translated by Don Bartlett (No Exit Press); Offering to the Storm, by Dolores Redondo, translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garzía (HarperCollins); and The Accordionist, by Fred Vargas, translated by Sian Reynolds (Harvill Secker)

CWA Historical Dagger:
Nucleus, by Rory Clements (Zaffre)

Also nominated: A Necessary Evil, by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker); Fire, by L.C. Tyler (Constable); Lightning Men, by Thomas Mullen (Little, Brown); Money in the Morgue, by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy (HarperCollins); and Nine Lessons, by Nicola Upson (Faber and Faber)

CWA Short Story Dagger:
“Nemo Me Impune Lacessit,” by Denise Mina (from Bloody Scotland; Historic Environment Scotland)

Also nominated: “The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle,” by Chris Brookmyre (from Bloody Scotland); “Second Son,” by Lee Child (from No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories, by Lee Child; Bantam Press); “Smoking Kills,” by Erin Kelly (from Killer Women: Crime Club Anthology #2: The Body, edited by Susan Opie; Killer Women); and “Accounting for Murder,” by Christine Poulson (from Mystery Tour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories, edited by Martin Edwards; Orenda)

CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction:
Blood on the Page, by Thomas Harding (Heinemann)

Also nominated: Black Dahlia, Red Rose, by Piu Eatwell (Coronet); Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann (Simon & Schuster); The Fact of a Body, by Alexandria Mariano-Lesnevich (Macmillan); A False Report, by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong (Hutchinson); and Rex v. Edith Thompson, by Laura Thompson (Head of Zeus)

CWA Dagger in the Library: Martin Edwards
(Selected by nominations from libraries)

Also nominated: Nicci French; Simon Kernick; Edward Marston; Peter May; and Rebecca Tope

CWA Debut Dagger (for unpublished writers):
The Eternal Life of Ezra Ben Simeon, by Bill Crotty

Also nominated: The Last Googling of Beth Bailly, by Luke Melia; Riverine Blood, by Joseph James; Original Sins, by Linda McLaughlin; and Trust Me, I’m Dead, by Sherryl Clark

In addition, American author Michael Connelly was presented with the CWA’s 2018 Diamond Dagger Award for “sustained excellence” in the crime fiction-writing field. And Red Herring Awards (“for outstanding work in support of the CWA”) were given to Ali Karim, Ayo Onatade, David Stuart Davies, and Mike Stotter.

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s prizes, as well as to all of the other honored nominees.

Something’s Gotta Give

I’m sorry that things have been so quiet on the blog this week, but in addition to my usual responsibilities, I am also working on two challenging pieces for CrimeReads. So, while I shall try to hop on any significant news to come, this lighter schedule will probably persist through next week. I appreciate your patience.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Back to “Blue”

I first heard about this project from The Killing Times. But now In Reference to Murder brings confirmation that a sequel to the 1993-2005 TV cop drama NYPD Blue is currently in the works:
Another classic series is coming back to television without rebooting its entire universe—in fact, it’s killing off a major character. NYPD Blue is getting a revival, but the premise revolves around the death of original series protagonist [Sergeant] Andy Sipowicz (played by Dennis Franz). The new show would be based on Theo Sipowicz, who followed in his father’s footsteps and pursued law enforcement. His goal is to earn his shield as a detective and investigate crime out of his dad’s old 15th precinct, including using his NYPD resources to investigate his dad’s murder.
Sadly, original series co-creator Steven Bochco won’t be around to help with this revival. He died earlier this year at age 74.

Kakonis Ends His Roll

Staring the work week off with an obituary is never pleasant, but it’s necessary today. As author-publisher Lee Goldberg reports:
I’ve just learned the sad news that author Tom Kakonis has passed away. I first met Tom at the 1994 Bouchercon in Seattle. I was a big fan of his work and was delighted when he invited me to sit and chat with him … and I was thrilled when he later blurbed my book My Gun Has Bullets. It meant a lot to me that a writer I admired as much as Tom would endorse my work.

Two decades later, when author Joel Goldman and I launched Brash Books, I called Tom about publishing his out-of-print backlist. Not only did he say yes, but he surprised me by offering us an unpublished manuscript that had been sitting in his drawer for years. His dark-comic thriller
Treasure Coast was the first original novel that we released, so as long as Brash Books is in business, he will be an integral part of who we are as publishers, what we stand for, and what we aspire to achieve.

Tom was a great writer who didn’t get the recognition or wide readership that he deserved. I wish I’d been able to change that. Do yourself a favor and read
Michigan Roll, his first and most acclaimed novel. I guarantee you’ll be hooked by this man’s talent and humor. He was a hell of a storyteller.
There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of biographical information on the Web about Thomas E. Kakonis (who also published as “Adam Barrow”), but this is his Amazon background blurb:
Tom Kakonis was born in California, squarely at the onset of the Depression, the offspring of a nomadic Greek immigrant and a South Dakota farm girl of Anglo-Saxon descent gone west on the single great adventure of her life. He has worked variously as a railroad section laborer, lifeguard, pool hall and beach idler, army officer, technical writer, and professor at several colleges in the Midwest. He published six crime novels before retiring for over a decade, then resumed fiction writing with the novel Treasure Coast. Currently he makes his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
An interview with Kakonis, published at the time Treasure Coast originally saw print, can be found here. And a “Behind the Story” piece on that novel is available here.

FOLLOW-UP: The Gumshoe Site notes that Kakonis, a retired college professor, died in Michigan on August 31.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The “White” Stuff

I hesitate to admit this, but between my various writing responsibilities of late and the fact that I have been nursing a deep chest cold for the last week, I’d quite forgotten that a new adaptation of Wilkie CollinsThe Woman in White will debut tomorrow night (Sunday) on PBS-TV at 10 p.m. EST/9 CST. This five-part mystery series, shown originally on BBC One in Great Britain last spring, is set to run on Sunday nights through November 18.

Thankfully, Criminal Element’s Joe Bendel did not experience a memory lapse similar to my own. He previews the show’s plot in a post published this morning:
Anne Catherick is the “Woman in White.” She is sickly and as pale as her preferred wardrobe. Catherick is also very much afraid she will be forcibly returned to the Bedlam-like asylum she has just escaped from. Fortunately, dashing painter and art teacher Walter Hartright helps her elude her pursuers. Subsequently, he is struck by her resemblance to one of his new students, Laura Fairlie.

Of course, Hartright falls for the pretty Fairlie rather than her plainer but more resourceful and independent half-sister, Marian Halcombe. Unfortunately, Fairlie was promised in marriage by her father to the financially strapped Sir Percival Glyde, Baronet, who is determined to complete the wedding bargain so he can take control of the orphaned heiress’s fortune (a princely twenty-thousand pounds).

This is where the skullduggery really comes into play. It quickly becomes apparent Glyde does not have her best interests at heart. He also has good reason to permanently silence the fugitive Catherick, because she and her estranged mother are the only ones who know his scandalous secret. Not even Glyde’s sinister co-conspirator, Count Fosco, knows what the cash-poor Baronet is so desperate to keep hidden, but the Sicilian exile has his own shadowy history to worry about.
The story is quite a bit more complicated than that, as I recall, even though it’s been decades since I last read Collins’ 1859 “sensation novel” on which this small-screen production is based. There’s plenty of legal intrigue and suspense—enough so, that even someone like me, who has watched previous televised versions (one from 1966, the other from 1997) will want to tune in for this new adaptation.

Click here to watch the trailer for The Woman in White.

POSTSCRIPT: At least for the time being, the two-hour, 1997 TV version of The Woman in White can be watched on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Unearthing Villainies of Yore

If my memory is correct, I was initially drawn to historical crime fiction when I was still a boy, back in the 1970s. It was then that a trio of small- and large-screen entertainments—the 1972-1973 NBC-TV private-eye series Banyon, the 1974 motion-picture Chinatown, and the 1976 NBC series City of Angels—charmed me with their gauzy but gritty portrayals of 1930s Los Angeles and made me curious to learn more about urban crime from earlier times. As I matured and turned more toward books to satisfy my hunger for crime fiction, my interests expanded, taking in not only hard-edged yarns set in the early 20th century, such as Philip Kerr’s March Violets (1989) and Max Allan CollinsTrue Detective (1983), but also Victorian-era whodunits on the order of Peter Lovesey’s Waxwork (1978) and the Sergeant Verity series by “Francis Selwyn” (aka Donald Thomas). My discovery of books by Umberto Eco, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Caleb Carr, Susanna Gregory, Charles Todd, Edward Marston, Rennie Airth, J. Sydney Jones, and Walter Mosley soon followed.

For a mystery lover and part-time historian like me, novels of murder and other misdeeds rooted in vivid yesteryears represented a pretty ideal reading combination.

British critic-author Barry Forshaw came to the historical mystery genre via a rather different route than mine, but wound up equally enamored of its accomplishments and potential. A longtime editor of Crime Time (both in its original magazine days and its current electronic incarnation), and former vice chair of the British Crime Writers’ Association, Forshaw has penned a variety of authoritative directories to crime, mystery, and thriller fiction over the years. Among those are British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia (2008), Death in a Cold Climate (2012), and last year’s American Noir, the fourth in a series of compact guides to criminous tales from around the world (following Nordic Noir [2013], Euro Noir [2014], and Brit Noir [2016].) His latest book, Historical Noir (Oldcastle/Pocket Essentials)—released last month in the States—is the fifth and probably final installment in that “Noir” series.

Historical Noir’s contents roll out chronologically, beginning with novels set in the Ancient World and continuing through the 1970s. As time moves forward, Forshaw focuses increasingly on the history of Great Britain, though there are ample mentions of works taking place elsewhere—in 1830s Istanbul, 19th-century New York City, 1920s Shanghai, pre-World War II Munich, 1940s Italy, and Soviet Russia. (A preview of Historical Noir’s range is found in this piece the author contributed to the blog Crime Fiction Lover.) Like Forshaw’s previous installments in the “Noir” series, this book is made up primarily of brief profiles of authors and the works for which they’re best recognized. In cases where a writer explores different epochs in different books, that’s noted. Additionally, Forshaw dashes into his mix crime-fiction films and TV shows, as well as abbreviated interviews with writers prominent in the genre (among them Candace Robb, L.C. Tyler, Matthew Pearl, Robert Ryan, Barbara Nadel, and Andrew Taylor).

This paperback isn’t a comprehensive guide to historical mystery fiction. At just over 200 pages long, it’s a volume to be leafed through at leisure and enjoyed, especially by folks who can claim minimal familiarity with the genre but are curious to learn more. Even knowledgeable readers, however, may find themselves surprised by Forshaw’s insights into the spectrum of historical mysteries currently available and the ways in which this genre has evolved.

I recently took the opportunity to ask Barry Forshaw, via e-mail, a number of questions related to Historical Noir, including about his personal experience with this mystery-fiction field, how he selected the authors about whom he writes in the book, and the growing number of “celebrity sleuths” appearing in crime fiction nowadays. The Q&A below has been edited a bit to enhance its readability.

J. Kingston Pierce: Have you long been a devotee of historical mysteries, or is this just an area in which you’ve dabbled for the purposes of writing a book? If the former is true, do you remember which book(s) got you hooked on this genre?

Barry Forshaw: Well, I’m no more a devotee of historical mysteries than any other genre, though—of course—I like them. I’m sure you’ll agree that enthusiasts such as you and I, Jeff, regard the whole crime/thriller genre as a broad church, and allow our enthusiasms to spread far and wide. As to which book might be said to have hooked me on the genre, that’s easy: Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, in William Weaver’s superb [1983 English] translation. Not only does it conjure an entire, richly drawn medieval world with tremendous vividness, it’s a book of ideas, hotly debated. I can understand, though, why so many people find it daunting—it’s not an easy read. And along with the Brother Cadfael novels of Ellis Peters, it inaugurated the “historical crime” genre as a specific, identifiable field—even though there had been many examples, not so named, beforehand. Bookshops now began to sport “Historical Crime” sections (“Historical Mysteries” in the U.S.) as a category description.

JKP: Oh yes, a couple of those previous examples of historical crime fiction that come to mind would be Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time (1951) and Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle (1978). But again, as you say, they didn’t carry the label.

(Left) Barry Forshaw

BF: The situation was rather similar to translated crime fiction. When I read the novels of Georges Simenon as a boy, I did not perceive them as “translated crime”—that became a specific genre more recently. The newspapers I’ve written for over the years would just ask me to cover individual authors from various countries (Britain, the U.S., France, Sweden, et al.) and eras; now the literary editors say, “What's new in the translated or historical crime field?” I think bookshops were a factor in the labeling process—they like to have specific sections to which they can point their customers. And there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

JKP: So what’s your definition of “historical noir”? I ask this, because many of the authors mentioned in your new book don’t write stories that I’d consider especially dark. Did you call it Historical Noir simply to fit it in with the rest of your series?

BF: Your second sentence hits it on the nail. The fact that my series is called American Noir, Brit Noir, Nordic Noir, Euro Noir, and now Historical Noir is basically a marketing ploy by my publisher. I usually point out in the books that as a series title, “Noir” can simply be taken to mean “Crime”—there are a lot of authors in all the books that by no stretch of the imagination inhabit the dark world that noir implies. Alexander McCall Smith, for instance, told me he was taken aback at being featured in Brit Noir as he “couldn’t be less ‘Noir’!”

JKP: How much has the field of historical mysteries grown over the years? Do you have any metrics—or an educated guesses—as to what percentage of new crime, mystery, and thriller novels are now being published annually with historical settings?

BF: Metrics and figures are most definitely not my thing, so I’ll pass on the figures side of the question. But certainly the market share has grown in the UK because of the prize-winning success of such writers as C.J. Sansom and Andrew Taylor. There are also currently some formidable female talents ensuring that the genre is buoyant, including M.J. Carter, Antonia Hodgson, Kate Griffin, and S.J. Parris—all of whom I’m asked to do historical noir panels with. We have Anglo-Asian writers such as the prize-winning Abir Mukherjee with his Raj-set series—and there are American writers equally skilled in the genre, as you know.

JKP: Is it your sense that Americans and Brits are equally interested in historical mysteries, or is this genre more popular in one country than the other?

BF: Americans have had a long interest in the genre—possibly even longer than British readers. That’s only appropriate as (speaking more generally) it was an American who created most of the tropes of the crime-fiction genre—the great Edgar Allan Poe (who was an unhappy schoolboy in my part of London—I was at the unveiling of a bust of him over a restaurant on the site of his school).

JKP: But since U.S. history is short when compared with the history of Great Britain or many other countries, Americans interested in mysteries rooted in the long-ago past wind up reading stories that take place in your part of the world, so often penned by Brits.

BF: Yes, we have historical mysteries set in Roman Britain and the Tudor era. In fact, when I was a judge on the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger Award panel, barely a week passed without a Tudor mystery popping through my letterbox. And certain useful historical figures began to appear again and again—such as the Elizabethan spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. It got very confusing, let me tell you—what was his function in Novel X or Novel Y? Is he good guy or a bad guy in this novel? …

The Tudor era was rich in possibilities—such a sprawling, colorful canvas for an author to draw on with the possibility of larger-than-life historical figures having walk-ons. And the Roman era has produced two splendid series: Lindsey Davis’ Falco books in the UK, and Steven Saylor’s Gordianus the Finder series in the U.S.

JKP: You’ve profiled a great many authors in this book. Yet there are numerous others missing, among them J. Robert Janes, Terence Faherty, Max Allan Collins, Kelli Stanley, Andrew Bergman, Martin Holmén, Kate Ross, Gaylord Dold, Loren D. Estleman, Andrew Hunt, Kris Nelscott, Bruce Alexander, Ed Gorman, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Francis Selwyn, Louis Bayard, Robert J. Randisi, Alex Grecian, Bill Pronzini, David Downing, Tasha Alexander, Robert Wilson, Michael Kurland, and … well, that’s quite enough. How did you go about deciding who to include and who to leave out?

BF: Space, as you will understand, was a key consideration, and I’ve also been frequently told that my books are used as shopping lists, so I tried to ensure that the majority of the authors I discussed were available. Many of the authors you mention—despite their skills—are not readily available (at least in the UK).

JKP: And how frustrating is it for someone, like me, to come along now that the book is in print and list all of the people you didn’t mention? I bet I’m not the first to do so.

BF: I always flinch in advance from people saying—as you just did—“Why didn’t you include X or Y?” My pleas about space considerations generally fall on deaf ears. Also people relish pointing out omissions—hell, I'm as guilty as anyone else. Even J. Kingston Pierce!

JKP: On the other hand, I did make some author discoveries by leafing through Historical Noir. For instance, I hadn’t previously been familiar with the works of Armand Cabasson, Sara Conway, Pablo de Santis, or A.C. Koning. Did you, too, become acquainted with some new names while assembling this work?

BF: As well as writing for such UK newspapers as the Financial Times and The Guardian, I’m asked to chair a lot of events for places such as the Institut Français and the Italian Cultural Institute—getting to meet writers such as Armand Cabasson and Pierre Lemaitre, and asking them questions on stage (in English, not my woeful French) was a useful entree into the world of such books. And the novels of new authors are sent to me by the bushel—it’s a bloody hard job keeping up. But, usefully, there’s a freemasonry of the London crime critics—we swap notes at our meals on new discoveries.

JKP: You call C.J. Sansom, creator of the Matthew Shardlake series, “the gold standard for historical crime fiction.” In what respects are his novels exemplars of this field? And which other historical mystery writers do you think rank at least near him in stature?

BF: Many authors have vaunting ambition, but their ambition is not actually matched by their reach. In C.J. Sansom’s case, it most unquestionably is. His books sport a Dickensian richness of character and an evocative sense of place. As to the second part of your question, while I could name several maladroit contemporary crime writers (though I’ll be charitable and avoid doing so), the level of achievement in historical mysteries field is generally high—I can't remember when I last read a really bad book in the field. Although in my days as a judge for the Historical Dagger Award, there were certainly several novels that both I and my fellow judges agreed were damned lucky to be published.

JKP: Who else, in your opinion, are consistently dependable or creative historical mystery writers—either living or not?

BF: Apart from the names listed above, there are wonderfully entertaining writers such as Ray Celestin, Lyndsay Faye, Alan Furst, and the late Philip Kerr’s highly accomplished Bernie Gunther series. And your country’s Dennis Lehane has contributed mightily to the genre. Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor is a key novel in the field. Current talents of note? The excellent Imogen Robertson, William Ryan, William Shaw—oh, and the first Arkady Renko books by Martin Cruz Smith.

JKP: While other subgenres of crime and thriller fiction continue to be relatively male-dominated, such as hard-boiled detective fiction and spy fiction, the field of historical mysteries seems better balanced between male and female authors. How is this genre richer as a result of women contributing to it?

BF: It is a field in which women excel. One British writer in particular (who I mentioned before), Imogen Robertson [Theft of Life, etc.] is a constant delight, as the whole of history is her playground—and one of the pleasures of her books is not knowing which era and settings she will choose next. I’m not sure one can identify a specific male or female ethos in the field—for instance, I mentioned above Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor, whose takes on ancient Rome have much in common.

JKP: A number of historical mysteries in recent years have cast as their protagonists “celebrity sleuths,” real people—such as Humphrey Bogart, Mark Twain, Isaac Newton, Bram Stoker, Eleanor Roosevelt, and even Groucho Marx—who demonstrate unexpected crime-solving skills, at least in fiction. How do you feel about this trend?

BF: You want the unvarnished truth? I have a real problem with this subgenre. Giles Brandreth, for instance, has Oscar Wilde solving mysteries. How did he have time when holding London spellbound with his plays—or his visits to the capital’s fleshpots that did him such damage? If we are to accept them as sleuths, the day-job for celebrities always gets in the way. Bram Stoker, for instance, was not just writing Dracula—he was working flat out in the theater. Which is why I have a distinct preference for fictitious historical sleuths.

JKP: Your previous books in the “Noir” series have devoted separate sections to films/TV series and, in American Noir, to author interviews. Yet you mixed all those components together in Historical Noir. Why the formatting change? And are you intending to carry on this blending of components in future series entries?

BF: Just to keep things fresh for myself. There’s nothing worse for a writer than to settle into rigid routine—I’m sure you know what I mean. One must ring the changes.

JKP: This leads to the question: What do you have planned for your next installment in this wonderful series of “Noir” guides?

BF: I’m often asked this question, but I think that the five books I’ve done so far cover pretty well all I wanted say about their various fields. What can I do next? Future Noir? Finding the crime elements in Philip K. Dick?

JKP: As you’ve told me, you are currently working on a non-fiction book called Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide. What will that publication encompass? What are your intentions with it? And how will it differ from your various other guides to this genre we all love so much? When might this next book finally reach bookshops?

BF: Everything! Every country. Every era, from Chandler and Christie through to James Lee Burke and Sara Paretsky. Every genre, every language, film, TV—making sure I don’t repeat elements from my earlier books. It’s to be published (if I finish it—and I will) sometime in 2019.

JKP: Beyond your labors on the Pocket Essentials guides and penning other books, what else are you up to nowadays? I know you write a monthly review column for The Guardian, continue to have some hand in the Crime Time Web site, and threaten to become ubiquitous at UK crime-fiction festivals. But what else occupies you?

BF: Apart from the newspapers I write for (along with broadcasting duties), I’m kept busy by the number of chairing author events I’m asked to do here and abroad. I particularly enjoy doing them—and my favorite part is when I know I’ve asked the right questions and then just sit back so the author can provide a witty or intelligent response. I also emcee the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards dinners, the Oscars of the British crime-fiction field. Oh, and I provide to-camera extras for various Blu-rays—not just crime, although that is my main field (I’m also an enthusiast for horror and arthouse movies). It’s useful when doing the latter if I can remember my meetings with authors or directors—Eddie Bunker, for instance, when I was working on the extras for Steve Buscemi’s Animal Factory, or Roger Corman for The St. Valentine's DayMassacre. And as a very young journo, I once met Alfred Hitchcock!

JKP: I know little about your personal life. Where did you grow up, and where were you educated? Do you live in London or elsewhere?

BF: Originally from the city of the Beatles, Liverpool; moved to London at 20. It was the only place to be if you wanted to work in journalism (that was my perception, at least). I still love London but have vague thoughts of moving somewhere bucolic—but that will probably never happen. I’m addicted to the buzz of great cities: London, New York, Paris. Although I don’t get to New York as often as I used to—I worked for the American publisher Abrams, and one of the best parts of that job was the visits to the Big Apple. I always visited the cavernous Strand bookshop—a wonderland!

JKP: Finally, what’s this I hear about your having once been an illustrator? How did that come about, and what did it entail? Do you still keep your hand in the art world?

BF: I was a UK comics illustrator for eight years—I even treasure a letter from Stan Lee, sort of offering me a job when I was 20—but only if I moved to America. I was ready to do so at the time, but didn’t—I often think of the direction my life would have taken if I'd said yes. As for keeping my hand in with illustration—sadly, I fear I’ve lost my mojo in that regard. Any creative instincts I might have are now thankfully slaked by the writing!