Monday, September 21, 2009

Of Sidekicks, Serial Novels, and Stupid Sentences

• In his blog, Crime Stories & Weird Tales, author and sometime Rap Sheet contributor Rafe McGregor has written the first installment of what appears likely to be an excellent analysis of the life and career of Dr. John H. Watson. He begins:
Dr. John H. Watson is almost as famous as the man to whom he played second fiddle. Almost, but not quite. Sherlock Holmes deservedly holds centre stage as the world’s first consulting detective, a prodigy who honed mind and body into a near perfect crime-fighting weapon. But what of his ‘Boswell’? Watson is not merely a biographer, a hollow vessel through which we come to know Holmes. Far from it, he is an intriguing protagonist in his own right; a remarkable individual with an impressive and often hidden array of talents and achievements. In Holmes we see both the brilliance and the shortcomings of a genius who has devoted his life to excellence in a single field. In Watson we find a man with whom we can identify, a man for all seasons who has been a doctor, a soldier, a companion, a husband, a detective, and a bestselling author. He is a man who not only epitomises the virtues of Victorian England, but also those of our own age.

But the real Dr. John H. Watson is as elusive as he is fascinating.
You can read the full piece here. I don’t know how many parts there will be to this mini-series, but I’m looking forward to reading them all. For more on Watson, click here.

• Congratulations to my fellow Spinetingler Award winner, Peter Rozovsky, on the third birthday of his excellent blog,
Detectives Beyond Borders

• Peter Falk, the actor known best for starring in the 1970s NBC-TV mystery series Columbo, turns 82 years old today. Sadly, as Tony Figueroa notes in his blog, Child of Television, “In May 2009, it was reported that Falk is suffering from dementia, and he no longer remembers his role in Columbo. In June 2009, a conservatorship was placed on him by a California court.”

• As Dan Brown’s latest thriller, The Lost Symbol, sets out to conquer the publishing world, Britain’s Daily Telegraph compiles a list of the 20 worst sentences from Brown’s novels. Does this man not have a competent editor? And where might one apply for that plum job? (Hat tip to Market My Novel.)

• “Love-hungry spacemen come to seize our women.” An example of hilariously bad film-making.

• Much better movie choices here and here.

• U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe. No wonder he tried his hand at writing a mystery story of his own.

• There was lots of good coverage of last week’s Agatha Christie Festival (some of the most prolific postings appeared here and here; and there’s more here). But one of the more interesting contributions came from novelist Val McDermid. Writing in The Guardian, she compared her own novel-composition practices to Christie’s: “Until now, I thought I was alone in the chaos of my process. I imagined all my fellow writers with neat box files and alphabetised notes, databases maintained with military precision. But now I know there’s precedent--and what a precedent.”

• Also in The Guardian, Christie expert John Curran picks the top 10 novels by “the world’s most popular thriller writer.”

• Alexander McCall Smith, online serial novelist.

• Did you know that Ian Fleming’s third James Bond novel, Moonraker (1955), was “based on real-life events”?

• Morons with microphones: here and here.

Victor Gischler submits his new novel, Vampire a Go-Go, to Marshal Zeringue’s popular Page 69 Test. The results are here.

• Wow, talk about dogged dedication. As National Public Radio reports, the U.S. Marshals Service is still “actively pursuing” three inmates who escaped from San Francisco Bay’s notorious Alcatraz Prison more than 47 years ago.

• A toast to the Thin Man pictures at Booze Movies.

• And with her second Crispin Guest novel, Serpent in the Thorns, set to debut in bookstores next week, author Jeri Westerson is making the guest-blogging rounds. In BookBitchBlog, she comments on medieval hygiene practices. For Jungle Red Writers, she looks back at the history of crime-fiction sidekicks, and at InkSpot, Westerson talks about the thrilling days of knights.


Dave Lewis said...

Must agree about Rafe McGregor's Watson article. An exceptional piece.

Randy Johnson said...

Is there such a thing as a good sentence in a Dan Brown novel?

Jared said...

And at Type M For Murder, Westerson is talking about CSI: Medieval.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Many thanks!
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Anonymous said...

The trouble with the Christie lit of her 10 best nvels is #9 ENDLESS NIGHT. It has the exact same plot as DEATH ON THE NILE and one of Christie's Miss Marple short stories.