Sunday, June 24, 2007

Running the Circuit

• “[H]e may be one of the best L.A. mystery writers you’ve never heard of,” Los Angeles Times staffer Josh Getlin writes of John Shannon,” whose latest novel is The Dark Streets. What makes Shannon’s crime fiction stand out, Getlin says, is it’s courageous plumbing of L.A.’s cross-cultural undercurrents:
Imagine a noir thriller where a cynical cop turns to a private eye and says: “Jake, it’s Koreatown.” Picture a Southern California mystery series where the hero chases intrigue not in Hollywood but in Glendale, in the Armenian community; in Orange County, among the Vietnamese; among satanic cults in Bakersfield; and surfers in Palos Verdes.

In John Shannon’s literary world, the neo-noir thriller is more than a lazy weekend read. He charges into Los Angeles neighborhoods where few mystery writers venture, shining a light on the city’s sprawling, multicultural enclaves. And unlike many of his brethren, he has a political chip on his shoulder, telling taut, fast-paced stories about underdogs and big shots through the eyes of an aging, disillusioned ’60s lefty.
Will Getlin’s story incite more readers to find Shannon’s work? Let’s hope so. Read all of that story here.

• Far less in need of the publicity, but still worth reading more about, is 64-year-old Martin Cruz Smith, who converses with The Wall Street Journal about the disappointing films made from his books, the birth of Moscow cop Arkady Renko, and his latest Renko novel, Stalin’s Ghost. You’ll find that exchange here.

• One other interview worth reading: At Murderati, Mike MacLean quizzes Hard Case Crime honcho Charles Ardai, author (under the pseudonym “Richard Aleas”) of the July novel Songs of Innocence, about his move from the dot-com world to book publishing, what he likes about pulp fiction, and why he’d like to have Philip Roth write a suspenser for Hard Case. (Hey, we’d like to see that too!) The best thing about interviewing Ardai, though? It gives you a chance to feature lots of Hard Case’s sexy book jackets. You’ll find those and much more here.

• Other than the fourth season of Foyle’s War (the second episode of which airs tonight on PBS), I was expecting this summer to offer nothing--zero, zilch--in the way of interesting new TV series for fans of crime and espionage fiction. But I’m starting to think that USA Network’s Burn Notice, starring Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar, just might be worth taking in. Debuting this coming Thursday, June 28, at 10 p.m. EST/PST, it features Donovan (Touching Evil) as a spy who is suddenly left out in the cold by his usual intelligence contacts--no explanation forthcoming--and takes up freelance investigating while he tries to figure out what happened. British actress Anwar, who stole my breath away in 1992’s Scent of a Woman, appears as an ex-IRA op and Donovan’s former girlfriend, while Sharon Gless (formerly of Cagney & Lacey) plays the “burned” agent’s neurotic mother, who is only too happy to have her son back in Miami for a spell. Bruce Campbell (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Jack of All Trades) has a role here, as well, playing “a washed-out military intelligence contact who’s being used by the feds to keep tabs” on Donovan’s character, according to press materials. The preview (found here) suggests this series will have action, humor, and plenty of young lovelies in tight bathing suits--and what more can you really ask for, anyway? “What really sparks ‘Burn Notice,” says Variety in a review, “is Donovan’s Rockford-like mix of comedy, action and roguish charm, augmented by a dry narration through which he delivers a kind of ‘how-to’ guide to spying--explaining his preference for fighting in bathrooms, for example, because they have ‘lots of hard surfaces’ into which one can slam an opponent; it’s easier on the knuckles.” The only trouble with all of this? Burn Notice is set to show this summer in competition with the final episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which I have no intention of missing. Thank goodness for TiVO and videotape machines.

• Peter Abrahams submits his new novel, Nerve Damage, to Marshal Zeringue’s Page 69 Test. “Not fair,” complains Abrahams. “In Nerve Damage, page 69 leads off Chapter 9, and is therefore shorter than a normal page.” Read the rest here.

• Continuing its picks of this summer’s best reads, Salon posts short reviews of Three Bags Full, by Leonie Swann; Mr. Dixon Disappears, by Ian Sansom; Up in Honey’s Room, by Elmore Leonard; and Body of Lies, by David Ignatius.

• Writing in The Guardian, Sara Paretsky analyzes the employment of loners in crime fiction--both as detectives (in which case it can be good to be an intuitive, “self-sufficient hard guy”) and as wealthy malefactors (who “have retreated into their own isolation, a place where they try to use money and power as a shield between themselves and the rest of the world”). While she opines that the world could use a few loner heroes, in place of the “reckless cowboys who are galloping across the world’s range today,” Paretsky concedes that her own fictional sleuth, V.I. Warshawski, “couldn’t survive with so much loneliness.” Her full Guardian essay can be found here.

• “[T]he great lost [James] Bond movie”? “Bond aficionados have always vaguely known about [Warhead],” writes Brian Pendreigh in The Scotsman. “But only now has it become apparent just how close it came to being filmed in 1977. And the full extent of [Sean] Connery’s involvement--not just as the star, but also as producer and in the unfamiliar role of scriptwriter--is only now clear.” You’ll find the details here.

• Prolific Sydney, Australia, detective novelist Peter Corris talks with ABC Radio National’s Ramona Koval about his characters, his writing pattern (two hours a day with a word processor and a glass of wine), and his conformity to Ross Macdonald’s convention about past disorders surfacing in the present. In addition, he reads from his 31st (see why I call him “prolific”?) Cliff Hardy novel, Access Denied. Listen to their conversation here.

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