Saturday, May 02, 2015

Bullet Points: Indie Bookstore Day Edition

What a busy week it has been, between my posting a two-part interview with distinguished Ross Macdonald biographer Tom Nolan (see here and here), Wednesday’s Edgar Awards presentation, news about this year’s two Spotted Owl Award winners, and my work on a couple of interesting Killer Covers entries (here and here). I’m hoping to reward myself with a quiet Saturday in my backyard, just appreciating all the new planting I’ve had to do recently. But I must first mention a few pertinent news bits.

• Yes, today is Independent Bookstore Day in the United States. That means everyone who reads this post, and has such a shop within walking or driving distance, should immediately go there and invest in some promising reading material. (Sadly, not everyone has easy access to such businesses, though I have two such stores nearby--one that sells only new books, the other dispensing only used ones.) As somebody who worked, part-time, in an indie bookstore for many years, I can tell you how important it is that everybody supports these enterprises. can be a very convenient way to buy many things, but it’s also a neighborhood killer, wiping out independent small businesses of all sorts, and thereby depleting the character and vitality of urban residential districts. Big stores such as Barnes & Noble are less predatory, but they’re usually located in shopping malls, and again do nothing to support neighborhoods. If we want any independent businesses, including bookstores, to thrive, we have to shop there ourselves. Have I made that point clear enough yet?

• Jeremiah Healy ended his own life last August at age 66, leaving behind--among other things--more than a dozen novels featuring Boston private eye John Francis Cuddy. Now the organizers of Mystery Writers Key West Fest have announced the creation of the Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award, aka “The Jerry,” which will salute “the author’s legacy as a beloved and influential mentor credited with helping and advising many aspiring writers. Candidates wishing to compete for the Jeremiah Healy Mystery Writing Award are invited to submit the first three pages of a finished, unpublished manuscript no later than June 30, 2015. Finalists will be notified August 1, and will have until August 10 to submit full manuscripts.” All entries should be e-mailed to as Word attachments. Healy’s fiancée, mystery novelist Sandra Balzo, will serve as the head of the judging committee for this prize. The winner of the inaugural Jerry will be named during this year’s second annual Mystery Writers Key West Fest, to be held from August 14 to 16 in Key West, Florida.

• The Jerry isn’t the only new prize being readied for crime and mystery authors. Blogger Crime Thriller Girl says, “The fabulous team behind Dead Good Books have created six new crime-writing awards which will be presented in Harrogate this July at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.” My favorite among those commendations: The Reichenbach Falls Award for Most Epic Ending.

• Incidentally, the Dead Good folks need readers to nominate their most beloved authors and books for these prizes. Do so here.

• What is the world’s favorite Agatha Christie novel? That’s a challenging question, given that she penned 66 book-length detective or mystery tales over the course of a career that spanned more than five decades. Yet Christie’s estate is holding an online public vote to select just one “favorite” from among a shortlist of 25 options, including Murder on the Orient Express, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, And Then There Were None, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and The Secret Adversary. Go here to cast your ballot. The winner will be declared in September, which also marks the 125th anniversary of Christie’s birth in Devonshire, England.

• Following last month’s crowning of the first winner in its regular short-story contest called “The M.O.” (S.W. Lauden’s “Fix Me” took the honors), the blog Criminal Element has announced the theme for its second such contest: “Wishful Thinking.” Editors explain that “The theme can be interpreted widely, in whatever style, tone, subgenre, targeted age range, and/or era the writer chooses.” Submissions of 1,000 to 1,500 words will be accepted from Friday, May 15, through Friday, May 29, with a shortlist of leading contenders to be broadcast on June 12. Click here for further instructions on how to enter.

• In the wake of his recently aborted retirement, British critic Mike Ripley is back with yet another installment of “Getting Away with Murder,” his monthly Shots column. The contents this time include: news that Ripley is “devoting [himself] to a study of thrillers written in the 1930s, to see how they dealt with the rise of fascism and how they portrayed Nazi Germany in the pre-war years”; word that Derek Marlowe’s 1966 spy thriller, A Dandy in Aspic, is back in print after almost four decades; the coming release (at least in the UK) of another collection of James Mitchell’s short stories featuring “reluctant professional killer” David Callan; and fresh works by Adrian Magson, Minette Walters, Don Winslow, and Louise Welsh.

• In an interview with Lisa Levy, editor of the new crime-fiction Web site, The Life Sentence, Hard Case Crime honcho Charles Ardai talks about bringing Thieves Fall Out, Gore Vidal’s 1953 thriller, back into print. He also answers Levy’s question about whether there’s “anyone’s lost manuscript you dream of publishing.”
Yes--the one I haven’t found yet! I’m always on the hunt for the next great discovery. There are a few I’ve found but haven’t been able to publish: Alan Furst’s first novel [Your Day in the Barrel, 1976], which was nominated for the Edgar Award, but is not the sort of thing he’s writing these days, so he doesn’t want it brought back into print; one of Martin Cruz Smith’s early pseudonymous novels. But the next truly big discovery is always just over the horizon, waiting to be unearthed. I never tire of the search. Hell, when [J.D.] Salinger died, I called his agent and asked, “Were any of those books in the vault crime novels, by any chance?”
• Congratulations to UK author Stephen Booth, whose first Ben Cooper-Diane Fry police procedural, Black Dog, was released to readers 15 years ago this week.

• As Jake Hinkson notes, “May 6th, 2015, will mark the 100th birthday of the late Orson Welles.” To commemorate this occasion, Hinkson is writing a series of posts for Criminal Element about actor-director Welles’ “greatest cinematic accomplishments.” He started with “the ill-fated The Other Side of the Wind,” moved on to Citizen Kane, and has now added The Stranger to his film analyses. More to come.

• Really, do we need a Roots remake?

• Michael Shonk revisits Mrs. Columbo (1979) for Mystery*File. “Perhaps the most infamous TV mystery series ever made,” he opines, “was Mrs. Columbo. The story behind Mrs. Columbo and Kate Loves a Mystery is an epic farce of clueless decisions, confusion among the involved, and the ineptness of a troubled TV network that could not stop shooting itself in the foot.” Thankfully, most of us have forgotten about this series, which Columbo co-creator William Link calls a “one-year disaster,” and star Kate Mulgrew went on to restore her reputation with Star Trek: Voyager.

• Now, this is interesting news. “Author Megan Abbott is developing an MTV series based on her book The Fever,” reports Entertainment Weekly, “working with Sarah Jessica Parker’s Pretty Matches Productions, and producer Karen Rosenfelt (who worked on The Book Thief, The Devil Wears Prada, and Twilight). Abbott will also write the pilot episode.” Congratulations, Megan!

• Isn’t this jumping the gun a bit? It’s only May, but already Crime Fiction Lover has picked “the five best crime comics of 2015.”

Behind the scenes at the James Bond auditions, 1967.

• The British Crime Writers’ Association has announced its longlist of as-yet-unpublished contenders for the 2015 Debut Dagger Award:

-- Kate Evans, The Art of the Imperfect
-- Nigel Robbins, The Pure Drop
-- Kate Simants, Lock Me In
-- Mirandi Riwoe, The Mystery of Heloise Chancey
-- Chris Blackford, Nick Off
-- Mark Furness, Five Blind Eyes
-- Greg Keen, Last of the Soho Legends
-- Jill Sawyer, The Ice Coffin
-- Winnie M. Lee, Dark Chapter
-- Samantha Bacchus, Portrayal
-- Colleen Tully Steel, Darke House

A shortlist should come on May 15, with the winner to be named on May 30 during the CWA Dagger Awards dinner.

• The sophomore season of True Detective won’t debut until June 21, but that popular cable-TV crime drama is already receiving plenty of publicity. Here’s a rather surprising tidbit from The Wall Street Journal: “One of the biggest reasons fans went crazy for HBO’s True Detective last year was the thrill of hunting down obscure cultural Easter eggs tucked into the show, from Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘flat circle’ to the evil Yellow King. Don’t expect a similar experience this time around, though. There won’t be any references or homages in the series’ second season, according to an emphatic statement from creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto.”

• I wasn’t in the right mood when I tried to read Susanna Clarke’s 2004 alternative history novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, so it was far from the most satisfying experience. But this first trailer for BBC-TV’s seven-part adaptation of the novel--set to air this month in Britain, and “this summer” (no specific dates yet) in the States--makes me think I’d be happier watching the story on screen.

• Jim Napier concludes his review, in January Magazine, of Philip Kerr’s new, 10th Bernie Gunther historical thriller with these promising words: “The Lady from Zagreb is, hands down, the best thing I’ve read for many months--if not longer.”

• If I owned a smart phone (my Star Trek-inspired flip phone being about as dumb but faultless as they come), I’d certainly consider buying one of these bookish cases for it.

• Here’s a forgotten writer for you: Ianthe Jerrold.

• I mentioned in my short post last spring about Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer (a film based oh-so-loosely on Edward Woodward’s 1980s TV series of the same name) that a sequel was already being discussed. The blog Double O Section now confirms that such a picture is in the works. “While Sony announced the sequel at [late April’s] Cinemacon,” writes Matthew Bradford, “little else is known at this time, including a release date, additional cast involvement, or whether Antoine Fuqua will return to direct.” Fuqua, of course, was behind the camera for Equalizer No. 1.

• And did you know that May 2 is World Naked Gardening Day? My neighbors will be relieved to learn I don’t honor this tradition.

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