Friday, September 25, 2015

Bullet Points: Friday Sweep-Up Edition

• Earlier this month, Agatha Christie’s estate declared the results of an online survey that asked readers to choose their favorite works from among the English mystery writer’s oeuvre. The top vote-getter, it turned out, was And Then There Were None (1939). That didn’t settle the matter, however. Other critics subsequently listed their own top Christie whodunits, all by way of celebrating the author’s 125th birthday on September 15. Now, blogger-editor Curtis J. Evans (Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961) has sifted through 31 “best of” compilations to see which novels won the majority of endorsements. Again--as you can see here--And Then There Were None walks away with the top honors, while the second and third spots belong to Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, respectively. The runners-up are here.

• When I read in The New York Times that best-selling author Jackie Collins had died of breast cancer at age 77, I figured the news was well outside my reportorial bailiwick. The Gumshoe Site reminds me, though, that in addition to producing “sex-filled, escapist, utterly unpretentious” works such as The Bitch and Hollywood Wives, Collins “wrote a number of crime novels, including Lovehead (Allen, 1974; retitled The Love Killers, Warner 1975), and [the] Santangelo (Crime) Family series, which started with Chances (Warner, 1981). Her last novel was The Santangelos (St. Martin’s, 2015).”

• Not every Rap Sheet reader is also a Facebook user, I’m sure. But for those of you who are, and would like to see what the office of author James Lee Burke (House of the Rising Sun) offers, click here for thoroughly delightful tour of his writing space, during which he “talks about a few of his favorite things in the office.”

• I confess, I haven’t yet begun watching the new, fourth season of the Western-detective series Longmire on Netflix, which began streaming on September 10. However, Edward A. Grainger (aka David Cranmer) has almost finished reviewing all of its 10 episodes for Criminal Element. Click here to read his fine critiques.

• It’s hard to believe that NBC-TV’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) is currently in its 17th year of broadcasting. I was never a fan, having found the program too consistently grim for my tastes. But blogger “Ben” at Dead End Follies has recently begun exploring the show’s numerous seasons, and he has a few interesting things to say about it at this particular link.

• Oh, to spend October in Britain’s capital … Double O Section reports that “Lucky Londoners will be able to enjoy the event of a lifetime next month when Dame Diana Rigg herself does an on-stage Q&A following a screening of the classic Avengers episode ‘The House That Jack Built.’ It’s one of a pair of absolute classic Emma Peel episodes screening on October 25 at BFI Southbank.”

• Holy obscure holidays! Saturday is Batman Day.

• Meanwhile, Keith DeCandido at has announced that “Starting next Friday, I will be doing The Bat-Rewatch! I’ll be looking back at the Batman TV series developed by William Dozier for ABC, and which ran from 1966 to 1968. Between seasons one and two, we’ll also take a gander at the Batman feature film that was released in the summer of 1966.” Follow DeCandido’s series here.

L.A. Weekly celebrates TV shows, especially Michael Connelly’s Bosch, that make good use of their Los Angeles settings.

• Did you know that American composer Henry Mancini’s famous theme for the 1958-1961 private-eye TV series Peter Gunn has lyrics? Yeah, neither did I--and in fact, they were added after the show’s demise. You can listen to jazz songstress Sarah Vaughn belt out those lyrics below, and follow along with a printed version here.

• When I finished watching the very dramatic third season of Ripper Street earlier this year, I presumed that that historical crime series was over and done. The concluding episode of Season 3 certainly suggested as much. But I must have missed the news, reported in The Guardian, that “Amazon Prime … has recommissioned the Victorian detective drama for a fourth and fifth season.” Hurrah!

• English singer-songwriter Sam Smith’s title song for the forthcoming, 24th James Bond flick, Spectre, was released this morning. And despite former Bond actor Roger Moore declaring that it’s “very haunting and wonderfully orchestrated,” other critical opinions are mixed, at best. Read more here and here.

• Otto Penzler, editor and proprietor of New York City’s Mysterious Bookshop, submits his list of the “5 Most Underappreciated Crime Writers.” I certainly agree with him about Daniel Woodrell.

• This may be the most ludicrous idea yet for turning a once-popular TV series into a big-screen picture. From In Reference to Murder: “NBC has put in development a new take on the 1979 ABC mystery Hart to Hart, which starred Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as a husband-and-wife sleuthing duo. The reboot hails from producer Carol Mendelsohn and Sony TV and will center on a gay couple. The new Hart to Hart is described as ‘a modern and sexy retelling of the classic series that focuses on by-the-book attorney Jonathan Hart and free-spirited investigator Dan Hartman, who must balance the two sides of their life: action-packed crime-solving in the midst of newly found domesticity.’” Why in the hell can’t Hollywood seem to come up with fresh movie-making concepts anymore?

• The captivating Amanda Seyfried has landed a supposedly pivotal but still under-wraps role in Showtime TV’s on-again, off-again, then on-again limited series revival of Twin Peaks. TV Line reports that “Seyfried will appear in multiple episodes, making it her biggest TV gig since Big Love ended in 2011.” Showtime plans to introduce its new Twin Peaks sometime next year.

• Artist Charles McVicar’s name came up in a Killer Covers post I wrote back in June having to do with his painting for the front of The Search for Tabatha Carr (1964). I’m reminded of him once more, thanks to the excellent TV history Web site Television Obscurities, which this week has been rolling out write-ups about small-screen publicity posters from 37 years ago. “To promote its Fall 1978 line-up,” the site explains, “ABC commissioned a series of seven posters--one for each night of the week--depicting characters from its new and returning shows.” McVicar appears to have executed the artwork for all six of the posters showcased thus far: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Check Television Obscurities tomorrow for the final entry in this set. UPDATE: ABC-TV’s Saturday publicity poster can now be found at this link.

• If you’ve never seen the 1972 NBC-TV pilot The Judge and Jake Wyler, starring Bette Davis as a hypochondriac former jurist who employs an ex-con (played by Doug McClure) as her investigative partner, you can now watch it on YouTube, in seven parts. Click here to find Part I as well as links to the succeeding installments. And if you didn’t know this already, The Judge and Jake Wyler was produced by Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link.

• Crime Fiction Lover continues it’s “Classics in September” series with this look back at Australian “Queen of Crime” June Wright. Catch up with all the “Classics in September” posts here.

• In the pages of The New Yorker, Michelle Dean recalls “The Secrets of Vera Caspary, the Woman Who Wrote Laura.”

• The blog Longreads provides this reprint of David Lehman’s excellent essay, “The Radical Pessimism of Dashiell Hammett,” which appeared originally in The American Scholar.

• Interviews worth finding: Attica Locke talks with fellow novelist Alafair Burke for The Life Sentence; Scottish writer Paul Johnston (who I also chatted with recently) goes one-on-one with Sandra Dick of the Edinburgh News in an exchange during which Johnston says, “I witter about plagues of boils and the odd book”; basketball star-turned-fictionist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar supplies some background to his brand-new novel, Mycroft Holmes; again for The Life Sentence, editor Lisa Levy quizzes David Lagercrantz about his fourth entry in Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander series, The Girl in the Spider’s Web; Warren Ellis answers some questions about his new James Bond comic book; and recent National Medal of Arts recipient Stephen King asks Lee Child about his 20th Jack Reacher thriller, Make Me.

• The BBC’s Radio 4 gears up for Halloween.

• Congratulations to Jason Pinter, the editor and publisher of Polis Books, who has been named by Publishers Weekly as one of its inaugural Star Watch honorees, a commendation that “recognizes young publishing professionals who have distinguished themselves as future leaders of the industry.”

• Finally, if you haven’t been keeping up with my Killer Covers blog, note that in just the last week I have posted there a collection of classic school-related paperbacks, a “Two-fer Tuesday” entry focusing on tales about black attire, a significant update and expansion of my 2010 gallery of novel fronts by Ernest Chiriacka, aka Darcy, and today’s post about the eye-catching 1949 edition of Bitter Ending.


The Spy Command said...

The lyrics to the Peter Gunn theme were written for the 1967 theatrical film Gunn. Veteran songwriters Ray Evans and Jay Livingstone collaborated with Mancini to turn it into a song. It played during the end titles.

michael said...

The Hart To Hart idea makes me laugh. Remember a few years back when Remington Steele was going to be a thirty minute sitcom?

Look, TV this year had over 400 original scripted series. That was from thousands of proposed ideas. So it is no surprise that there are attempts at remakes, especially when the studios would like to make some money off an old idea.

Besides Hart To Hart was far from an original idea itself. Yes, they could do a amateur detective couple show with a gay couple, but would we be talking about it now before it is anything but an idea for a pilot script? Add the name Hart To Hart and we will all give it five minutes just to see how bad they screwed it up. In a world with so much TV getting the audience to sample the show is a major key to success.