Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bullet Points: Starts and Finishes Edition

• There are five nominees for this year’s Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Mystery/Thriller category:

-- The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney (Morrow)
-- The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press)
-- Bull Mountain, by Brian Panowich (Putnam)
-- The Whites, by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt (Henry Holt)
-- The Cartel, by Don Winslow (Knopf)

The fact that all of these contenders are of the distinctly male persuasion has irritated critic Sarah Weinman, who remarked on her Facebook page that “it is the only one of the 10 categories that does not include a woman … [and] it is entirely unrepresentative of the genre as it stands now …” She added: “[I]t is part of the larger systemic problem of men, for reasons that always strike me as baffling and incomprehensible, shying away from reading books by women, and valuing novels by men as somehow ‘worthier,’ when of course that is patently untrue.” Click here to see the full rundown of Times Book Prize contestants. The winners will be declared during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Saturday, April 9.

• Already announced is the recipient of this year’s Innovator’s Award, which will also be presented during the Festival: it’s thriller mega-seller James Patterson.

• This weekend will fill Phoenix, Arizona, with crime and mystery readers, as the 2016 Left Coast Crime convention opens there tomorrow and runs through Sunday morning. If you’d like to attend that event but still haven’t registered, you can do so here.

The death last Friday of 89-year-old Harper Lee, best known for having written the 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, was pretty much a shock, even though her health was known to be fragile. However, it also goaded Criminal Element’s Adam Wagner to compose this piece in which he makes the case that Lee “could have very well become an author of crime fiction.” Learn more about Lee’s “reclusive” life here.

• Close on the heels of Lee’s passing was the death of Umberto Eco, the Italian author-philosopher probably best known by Rap Sheet readers for having penned the 1980 historical whodunit The Name of the Rose. Now comes word, via The Bookseller, that the Italian release date for Eco’s “final book”—a collection of magazine essays titled Pape Satan Aleppe: Chronicles of a Liquid Society—has been moved up from May to this coming Friday, February 26. No word yet on when an English translation of this collection might become available.

• As a boy, I loved this movie! It was the first and only film I recall going to see at a drive-in theater with my parents and brother.

• I missed spotting this news item earlier: California author J. Sydney Jones has let it be known through his blog that last year’s The Third Place, his sixth historical Viennese Mystery (due out in paperback this coming June), will be “the final volume in the series. It feels a bit odd saying good-bye to that world,” writes Jones, “and to those characters who have become so real for me, and I hope, for you, as well.” He notes, however, that “I am still publishing other standalone titles,” including a suspenser called The Edit, which he promises will be published by Mysterious Press later this year.

• Gee, I thought I was conversant in all the various subgenres of crime and thriller fiction, but the label “cli-fi,” short for “climate fiction,” caught me off-guard. It came my way in relation to a May 2016 release called Cold Blood, Hot Sea (Torrey House Press), by marine ecologist Charlene D’Avanzo. An e-mail pitch says this novel “pits ocean scientists over big energy corporations in a thrilling addition to the new wave of cli-fi hitting the shelves.”

• This sounds like a fitting tribute: “[Britain’s] National Literacy Trust (NLT) and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) have launched an award in memory of Ruth Rendell for champions of literacy,” reports The Bookseller. “The prize is for an author or writer who has worked towards raising literacy levels in the UK, either through their writing and books or through their advocacy and championing of the cause of literacy. Schools, charities, libraries, booksellers and individuals can nominate candidates via the NLT website by the 31st May.”

• Classic Mysteries’ Les Blatt brings the “terrible news” that Boulder, Colorado-based independent publisher Rue Morgue Press “has gone out of business.” Adds Blatt: “Tom Schantz and his late wife, Enid, were pioneers in republishing some of the great—and often little-known—classic authors and their works, long before many of today’s smaller presses got into the business. RMP was responsible for republishing several of the finest John Dickson Carr mysteries, but they also specialized in other first-rate, if often obscure, mysteries. RMP introduced me to Dorothy Bowers, Glyn Carr, Clyde B. Clason, Gladys Mitchell, Craig Rice, Kelley Roos, Margaret Scherf and many more authors of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and beyond. Each book had a brief, literate and entertaining introduction written by Tom and Enid which provided information about the author and his/her works. The Rue Morgue Press books remain centerpieces of my classic mystery collection. I’ll miss them.” Me, too.

• Beneath the Stains of Time writer TomCat explains that Rue Morgue’s “output was severely cut back after Enid Schantz passed away [in 2011] and completely stopped a year or two ago. Now the entire website has disappeared.” Meanwhile, the anonymous blogger at The Invisible Event delivers this “open love letter” to the publisher.

• And this sad news comes from In Reference to Murder:
Five Star is dropping its mystery line to focus on the Western and Frontier Fiction lines. Since 2000, the imprint has published exclusively first-edition books, many of which went on to earn starred reviews, Edgar Award and Anthony Award nominations, and land on bestseller lists. Apparently, Five Star will be honoring its already-signed contracts for books in the pipeline.
• Having enjoyed the first (2014) series of Happy Valley, the award-winning British TV crime drama starring Sarah Lancashire, I was pleased to see Criminal Element mention that Series 2, which is already being shown in the UK, will become available on Netflix in the States on March 16. Wikipedia says there are six episodes to come. That officially ranks as the happiest news so far today.

• Series 3 of Endeavour, the ITV period drama inspired by Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, hasn’t even had an American showing yet, but a fourth series has already been commissioned.

• I was surprised to see the 2014 “stoner crime comedy” Inherent Vice on CinemaNerdz’s list of the “20 Best Detective Movies of All Time,” but the rest of them—especially the top five—were predictable.

• Two DVD releases to anticipate: May 24 will bring the debut of Lou Grant: The Complete First Season, finally introducing what I hope will be a whole new crowd of future fans to that frequently excellent 1977-1982 newspaper drama, starring Ed Asner as city editor of the fictional Los Angeles Tribune; and The Untouchables: The Compete Series is slated to go on sale May 10.

Would you sign up for this ocean voyage?

• And don’t forget that voting is still open to anyone who would like to nominate authors for the British Crime Writers’ Association’s 2016 Dagger in the Library award. This commendation will be given “not for an individual book but for an author’s entire body of work.” Polls close on March 1, so get your ballots in now!

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