Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Carnival of the Criminal Minds, No. 2

Strangely, when author and librarian Barbara Fister first asked me if The Rap Sheet would like to participate in a rotating blog carnival for crime-fiction sites, the first image that sprang to mind wasn’t of Ferris wheels or roller coasters or rambunctious children covered in cotton candy, but of Tillie (seen at right), a “fun face” painted in the 1950s on the side of the Palace Amusements building, an indoor amusement park in Asbury Park, New Jersey. (Although that structure no longer exists--it was demolished in 2004--the mural was removed for incorporation into a future building on the site.) Tillie was a tribute, of sorts, to George Cornelius Tilyou, the founder of Coney Island’s famous Steeplechase Park (1897-1964). He employed a similar grinning mug as the symbol of his trends-setting entertainment venue, which was renowned both for its half-mile mechanized horse race and, later, for its parachute jump, a fortunate transplant from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Showman Tilyou conceived of his park as a place where everyone--young and old, male and female, wealthy and otherwise underprivileged--could find curiosities and distractions of varying degrees. A smörgasbord of delights. That’s not unlike what this Carnival of the Criminal Minds is designed to provide. So, while introducing our second entry in the series (Karen Chisholm hosted the previous carnival post at her Australian and New Zealand Crime Fiction Web site), let me also introduce our mascot for the installments that will appear in The Rap Sheet: Tillie.

Come one, come all. The show is about to begin.

• John Kenyon is an Iowa business writer who keeps up a pretty active blog, Things I’d Rather Be Doing, that deals alternately with crime fiction and music. Yesterday, he posted one of his “Monday Morning Interviews” with Richard Lange, author of the recent short-story collection Dead Boys. Lange seems to me like one of those writers, similar to Daniel Woodrell, who is arguably but not definitely a crime novelist. Yet the blurbs on Dead Boys come from such genre heavyweights as Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos. During his exchange with Kenyon, Lange talks about his challenging cast of characters (“sensitive men trying to cope with the chaos that surrounds and permeates them”), the open-ended nature of his tales (“One of my intentions with these stories was to see how little actual plot I could get away with”), and his fondness for Los Angeles as a setting. You can read the whole interview here.

• Following up on his recent sexiest crime writer poll, Daniel Hatadi, an Australian author and creator of the social networking site Crimespace, is now surveying his readership on the subject of favorite crime-fiction subgenres. “It’s not exactly scientific,” Hatadi concedes, “but don’t fret too much over your answer. Rather than racking your brains over your all-time favorite, I’d like it if y’all went for the subgenre you’re enjoying the most right now ...” Make your choice known on Crimespace’s front page. At last check, suspense fiction was in the lead, with 24 percent of the vote, followed by police procedurals (17 percent) and hard-boiled fiction (14 percent).

• As we noted earlier this month, something of a rivalry has broken out between Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, over which deserves custody of 19th-century novelist Edgar Allan Poe. Bill Crider, the Texas author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and a diligent blogger, points me to a fresh piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer that recounts how this sudden feud came about and polls readers on whether they think Poe really ought to be exhumed from his Charm City grave and moved north to Philly.

• Over its year-and-a-half existence, I’ve become a regular reader of Bruce Grossman’s column, “Bullets, Broads, Blackmail & Bombs,” at Bookgasm. In order to compose that weekly feature, he has to read through some of the best and worst of mid-20th-century crime and thriller fiction, looking for novels he can fit around themes. This week’s column tackles a trio of works--The Ambushers, The Menacers, and The Interlopers--by the late Donald Hamilton. All star his classic government operative and assassin, Matt Helm, who Grossman calls “a much cooler character” than James Bond. “As much as Bond was a cold thug, Helm was even more brutal in his treatment ...” That’s apparently a selling point from Grossman’s perspective.

• While we’re on the subject of older titles, check out Finnish writer Juri Nummelin’s recent look back at the literary labors of Frank Castle, the author of an obscure paperback, The Sowers of the Doom (or Tuhon kylväjät, in Finnish) that Nummelin says is an one of “several examples of American paperbacks having been published only in Europe or even only in Scandinavia” during the 1950s and ’60s. (Update: A bit more information about Castle is now available at Steve Lewis’ Mystery*File blog.)

• Karen Meek does a pretty amazing job at Euro Crime of keeping up with new books, author events, and awards pertaining to European mystery/thriller writers. Her associated Euro Crime blog reports this week that Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death has won the Best Historical Crime Novel 2007 award at the Gothenburgh Book Fair, and that the BBC’s Radio 4 is broadcasting a dramatization of Stef Penney’s Costa Book Award-winning novel, The Tenderness of Wolves. That series began on Monday and will continue through Friday, October 26. Even if you’re not in the UK, you can hear the series here. Individual episodes are available on the Web for seven days after broadcast.

• Somehow I missed the news that John’s Grill, a historic eatery on San Francisco’s Ellis Street, which for years had showcased “a signed reproduction of the Maltese Falcon--one used for publicity stills for the movie,” had found a replacement bird. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week, the original, which was stolen by unidentified thieves last February, never found its way back home, despite a $25,000 reward. So, says the paper, “restaurateur John Konstin commissioned the sculptors at the nearby Academy of Art San Francisco to make him a new one.”

• Novelist-blogger Mark Coggins was the one who finally tipped me off about that handsome new Falcon. Also in Coggins’ blog, called Riordan’s Desk, after the protagonist in his novels (the latest being Runoff, due out next month), he provides links to a multi-part audio interview he did with Dashiell Hammett expert and author Joe Gores. Part I of their exchange can be accessed here, while Part II is available here. I haven’t been able to listen to the whole interview yet, but Coggins provides a table of contents for each installment. I’m only hoping that at some point he asked Gores about the Maltese Falcon prequel he is supposed to be writing.

• The Rap Sheet was fortunate last April to have British writer Roger “R.N.” Morris, author of A Gentle Axe, as a guest blogger. He has since continued as a very infrequent contributor. Now, the pseudonymous Crimeficreader, from It’s a Crime! (or a Mystery ...), brings the welcome news that Morris has a sequel to Axe, called A Vengeful Longing, due out in the United Kingdom come February 2008. Like its predecessor, Longing will feature St. Petersburg investigator Porfiry Petrovich (from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment) as its protagonist. Summing up the plot, Crimeficreader writes that “It concerns death by poison, for more than one victim--a nasty way to die and a difficult one to investigate.” Read more of her report here.

• In case you happened to miss it (as I did), Heartsick author Chelsea Cain blogged all last week for the Portland, Oregon-based Powell’s Books site. It must’ve been quite an experience; as she noted in her inaugural post, “I am writing this from my sick bed, which is the fulfillment of a childhood dream of mine.”

• Over at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, the ever-vigilant Sarah Weinman picks up on news about Henning Mankell (Kennedy’s Brain) using his author’s spoils to help African residents:
Swedish crime fiction writer Henning Mankell has donated 15 million kronor ($2.3 million) for the construction of homes for orphaned children in Mozambique.

The author of the popular [Kurt] Wallander series of crime novels has long divided his time between Stockholm and Maputo. He said he viewed it as a privilege to divert some of his wealth to a new SOS Children’s Village in his second home.

“What the hell should I do with all this money?” he wondered in a statement.
If only everyone with deep pockets was so generous ...

• News for lovers of TV series on DVD: Season two of the 1967-1975 Raymond Burr police procedural series Ironside is due in stores this week, along with the complete series of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, by Aaron Sorkin. (OK, so the latter wasn’t actually a crime show; it still appealed to intelligent viewers, a group among whom we all belong, right?) And though fans of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968) must wait until November 27 to pick up the handsomely packagedm briefcase-full of that series’ collected episodes, distributor Time-Life is already releasing a few short clips from the show, just to get potential buyers salivating. You can watch those clips--and see the finished case for this 41-disc set--here.

• B.V. Lawson of In Reference to Murder introduces us to “a literary version of Netflix called Book Swim. For a monthly fee,” she explains, “they’ll send you books to read, which you send back at your leisure.” While Lawson writes that “This sounds like a godsend for readers, ... especially shut-ins and busy families,” she raises the specter of Book Swim potentially hurting already declining book sales, but then reassures authors and booksellers that, well, maybe the threat isn’t so dire. “After all, there are still an estimated 117,378 libraries in the U.S. alone, and their existence hasn’t caused a decline in the publishing world. Authors can also take heart that if a Book Swim renter likes a book, they can go ahead and buy it for keeps.” Read more here.

• Novelist Richard Helms, who also edits The Back Alley, reports via e-mail that he “should have the second issue up within a couple of weeks. ... I had expected to have the second issue done by the first of October, but there were so many submissions that it took a while to make decisions.” Meanwhile, a bit of good news for his contributors: “[W]e have raised our pay-per-story to $25 to comply with [the Mystery Writers of America’s] requirements for Qualified Publisher. We were turned down this year for inclusion, since the ’zine was new, but they did suggest that we apply again next year. To the best of my knowledge, we are the only webzine devoted to hard-boiled and noir shorts that currently pays the MWA minimum.”

• Tardiness seems to run in the Webzine family. Our friend Kevin Burton Smith from The Thrilling Detective Web Site admits that he, too, has “hit a speed bump.” He explains in his blog that “The new issue, what I’d optimistically thought would be a late summer/early fall/back-to-school issue, is now a month and a half late.”

• During its brief, six-month existence, the Irish-fiction-centric blog Crime Always Pays, steered by novelist Declan Burke (The Big O), has done a bang-up job of publicizing authors from the Auld Sod. Just over the last couple of days, hat blog has banged the drum for Ingrid Black (The Judas Heart), delivered a complimentary critique of Andrew Nugent’s Second Burial, and proposed a list of 20 Irish crime novels deserving of more attention in the country’s largest daily newspaper, the Irish Independent. American readers who are less than familiar with the genre offerings spilling forth from Ireland’s wordsmiths would do well to check periodically to see what new reading riches Burke has unearthed.

• Speaking of fiction from beyond the familiar shores of England and the United States, Glenn Harper of the International Noir Fiction blog investigates a trio of books written by the late Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán and featuring his middle-aged gastronome series detective, Pepe Carvalho. Harper’s critique can be found here.

• Paperback publisher Hard Case Crime recently told its newsletter subscribers about the company’s latest acquisition: No House Limit, by Steve Fisher. “No House Limit is a story of Las Vegas,” the newsletter explains, “where a man’s future can turn on a roll of the dice. It’s by the legendary pulp author of I Wake Up Screaming, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay of Destination Tokyo and also wrote the scripts for films such as Raymond Chandler’s Lady in the Lake, Humphrey Bogart’s Dead Reckoning and Tokyo Joe, and the last film in the Thin Man series. Fisher was a real talent and this particular book is tense, suspenseful, heartbreaking, and full of local color that only a Vegas insider would know. (In a touching afterword, Fisher’s son reveals how his father came by his intimate knowledge of the Strip.)”

• There are two months yet to go before the 85th anniversary of Dashiell Hammett’s landmark first appearance in Black Mask magazine. (His story “The Road Home,” published under the nom de plume Peter Collinson, was featured in the mag’s December 1922 issue.) But already, Hammett enthusiasts are coming forth with trivia related to the creator of Sam Spade and the Continental Op. At Ed Gorman’s blog, Fred Blosser notes comparisons between crude Izzard (mentioned in Hammett’s 1924 short story, “Nightmare Town”) and the Virginia town of Hopewell, to which Hammett likened it. Read more here.

By the way, if anyone out there has a good-quality, good-sized electronic image of the cover from the December 1922 edition of Black Mask that they’re willing to share, please drop me a line here.

• And finally, from J.D. Rhoades, blogger and the author most recently of Safe and Sound, comes what may well be the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah present for crime writers and readers. Sorry, no hints. Click here to find out more.

That concludes our three-ring acts for now. I’ll see what other surprises I can round up the next time this Carnival of Criminal Minds becomes my responsibility. In the meantime, the next stop for the carnival will be Julia Buckley’s blog, Mysterious Musings. If all goes as planned, she should be raising her tents and getting the thrill rides ready for presentation at the start of November.

For fun, Fister has mapped out where the bloggers participating in this carnival rotation are located. The results are here.


Wallace Stroby said...

Where Palace Amusements once stood is now a complex of high-priced condos, but the Tillie face (there were two) that was removed from the building (after much campaigning by preservationists) now resides, ironically, in a storage yard at the city's sewage treatment plant.


Karen (Euro Crime) said...

Thank you for the glowing mention. Just one small correction - Maxine runs Petrona rather than its a crime, and is not crimeficreader.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, as always Jeff, for the kind mention. That is quite a round up, including lots of stuff I missed the first time around. Looks like I'll be busy today catching up.

Barbara said...

The first thing I thought of when I saw Tillie was - wouldn't it be nice to have him as president instead of Alfred E. Newman?

Too sad that he's holed up instead at a waste treatment plant.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Whoops! Thank you Karen for pointing out that I had conflated Crimeficreader and Maxine Clarke, from Petrona. I have now fixed that error. But it reminds me that I don't know the true identity of Ms. Crimeficreader. Can anyone out there enlighten me as to her real name?

Mark Coggins said...


The last epsiode of Joe's interview is up and he does talk about the forthcoming prequel to THE MALTESE FALCON. It's called SPADE & ARCHER and Knopf is shooting for release around the middle of next year. He gives some good details about the plot in the recording.



Anonymous said...

I (Petrona) was very puzzled to read Karen/Euro Crime's comment, and re-read the post several times. Now I have seen that the post was corrected, so I missed the earlier conflation of me and CrimeFicReader, who seems very good at keeping even the top mystery addicts guessing.
Euro Crime and It's a Crime! (CrimeFicReader's blog) are two of my favourite blogs, certainly, and I'm glad you've highlighted International Noir Fiction here. Glenn does not post that frequently, but when he does, he is an excellent read, and I've discovered one or two authors through his blog that have become favourites of mine.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Thanks for the shout out, although you might want to use http instead of htp to prefix the link to Crimespace.


J. Kingston Pierce said...

Huh. I wonder how that happened. Thanks, Daniel, for letting me know about the URL typo. It's fixed now.

-- Jeff