Monday, February 20, 2017

Bullet Points: Presidents’ Day Edition

Sorry for the recent paucity of posts on this page, but my free time lately has been devoted in large part to a major reorganization of my books. When I undertook this task, I imagined it would demand less time and effort than it has—moving volumes around my house, cleaning all of the shelves, integrating works previously stored in boxes into the existing arrangement of titles, and culling out books that I’ve decided need to be in someone else’s collection. I’m now about 95 percent of the way through this project, with a few more days still to go. But I decided to take today off and write, instead. Which brings me to these crime-fiction-related subjects worth sharing …

• As has been reported elsewhere, Swedish writer and reformed criminal-turned-criminal rehabilitation authority Börge Hellström has passed away from cancer at age 59. With journalist Anders Roslund, Hellström penned more than half a dozen thrillers, among them The Beast (2005), Cell 8 (2011), Three Seconds (2010), and the upcoming UK release, Three Minutes (Riverrun). In 2010, Rap Sheet contributor Ali Karim conducted an excellent interview with Roslund and Hellström. You’ll find Part I of their exchange here, and Part II here.

Yours truly at Bouchercon 2010 in San Francisco, flanked by best-selling Swedish novelists Börge Hellström, on the left, and Anders Roslund. (Photo © Ali Karim)

• Justine Browne, daughter of Ned Kelly Award-winning Australian crime novelist Marshall Browne, e-mailed me recently with the news that prior to her father’s demise in 2014, he’d completed work on a fourth installment in his much-lauded series starring false-legged Inspector Anders of the Rome police force. “I have worked with his editor and most recent publisher to have it published in Australia in December 2016,” Justine explained. Titled Inspector Anders and the Prague Dossier, this latest novel is currently available only Down Under, from Australian Scholarly Publishing. Justine adds, though, that “I am very much hoping to work on getting it published in the U.S. and UK in the future.” Browne’s previous Anders novels were The Wooden Leg of Inspector Anders (1999), Inspector Anders and the Ship of Fools (2002), and Inspector Anders and the Blood Vendetta (2007).

• An obituary of Richard Schickel, the former Time magazine film critic who passed away this last weekend at age 84, contains his brilliant response to “an article in The New York Times whose author had written, ‘Some publishers and literary bloggers’ view the shrinkage of book reviewing in many of the nation’s leading newspapers ‘as an inevitable transition toward a new, more democratic literary landscape where anyone can comment on books.’” Schickel opined:
Let me put this bluntly, in language even a busy blogger can understand: Criticism—and its humble cousin, reviewing—is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object). It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author’s (or filmmaker’s or painter’s) entire body of work, among other qualities.
I’m thinking of taping that quote above my computer screen.

• A couple of podcasts that are worth your attention: The second episode of Writer Types features interviews with authors Joe R. Lansdale, Reed Farrel Coleman, and Jess Lourey, as well as short fiction from Erik Arneson; while in the 17th episode of Two Writers and Microphone, oft-playful hosts Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste talk with Adrian McKinty and guest reviewer Kate Moloney.

• I was an enthusiastic watcher of made-for-TV movies during the 1970s and ’80s, so am pleased to see the Crime Film and TV Café hosting its “first annual Movie of the Week Blogathon.” (Can something be considered “annual,” though, if it has only appeared once?) Included among the teleflicks under consideration are Gidget Grows Up (1969), Death Takes a Holiday (1971), Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973), and Strange Homecoming (1974).

• Speaking of TV films, Peter Hanson’s Every ’70s Movie blog pays tribute to That Certain Summer, a 1972 production starring Hal Holbrook, Hope Lange, and Martin Sheen that’s considered to be “the first made-for-TV movie to present homosexual characters as dignified protagonists.” It was written by Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link, the latter of whom told me during a 2010 interview that he’s quite proud to have found a spot for that controversial picture on ABC-TV during the illiberal Nixon era. “I still look back and say, that’s incredible,” Link said.

• Every ’70s Movie also reviews Cannon, the 1971 pilot film for William Conrad’s long-running CBS-TV series in which he played overweight Los Angeles gumshoe Frank Cannon. “Particularly because this pilot has such a fine supporting cast of versatile character actors, it’s unsurprising the movie connected well enough with audiences to trigger a series,” Hanson remarks. “But, still, the sheer laziness of the whole enterprise—this [detective]’s different, see, because he’s fat! There’s a reason they used to call TV a vast wasteland.”

• Did you know that there was only one color episode shot of the original Perry Mason television series? Titled “The Case of the Twice Told Twist,” it aired originally on February 27, 1966. Blogger Rick29 observes that while the color photography “doesn't add anything to Perry Mason, it’s still fun for the show’s fans to learn, for example, that the familiar courtroom walls are gray.”

The New York Times notes that in the frightening age of Donald Trump, bookstores have become meeting places and coordinating centers for the political opposition. Explains Julie Boseman:
Political organizing is perhaps a natural extension of what bookstores have done for centuries: foster discussion, provide access to history and literature, host writers and intellectuals.

“All bookstores are mission-driven to some degree—their mission is to inspire and inform, and educate if possible,” said Elaine Katzenberger, publisher and executive director of City Lights in San Francisco, a store with a long history of left-wing activism.

“When Trump was elected, everyone was just walking around saying: ‘What do I do. What do we do?’” she added. “One of the places you might find some answers is in books, in histories, in current events, even poetry.”
• While we’re on the subject of political resistance, it should be noticed out that Ben H. Winters, author of Underground Airlines and World of Trouble, has contributed to Slate’s “Trump Story Project,” which “imagine[s] the dystopian future of Trump’s America.” Winters’ predictably grim-edged tale is titled “Fifth Avenue.”

• The Spy Command, which just a few days ago remarked on “long-term issues confronting the [James Bond film] franchise” (including financial problems for its longtime home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), now picks up on rumors that the 25th Bond picture “may film in Dubrovnik, Croatia.”

• Oh, and the same site highlights calculations that “Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond is now second-longest,” following Roger Moore’s time playing Ian Fleming’s protagonist in the film series. Those judgments, explains Spy guy Bill Koenig, are “based on the date each Bond actor was announced publicly.” Until recently, Pierce Brosnan (GoldenEye) had held the No. 2 spot. Sean Connery, the first big-screen 007, has now fallen to fourth place in this assessment.

• B.V. Lawson recently mentioned that ABC-TV’s “magician FBI drama pilot Deception has found its lead in Jack Cutmore-Scott, who takes on the role of superstar magician Cameron Black. When his career is ruined by scandal, Black has only one place to turn to practice his art of deception, illusion, and influence—the FBI.” Let’s see if Cutmore-Scott can be any more successful with the prestidigitator-turned-investigator concept than Bill Bixby was with his own undervalued, 1973-1974 drama, The Magician.

Also from Lawson’s In Reference to Murder:
Finland-U.S.-based Snapper Films has unveiled a new TV series, Sherlock North. It’s based on a Conan Doyle short story where Sherlock Holmes travels to Scandinavia after faking his own death and is on the run from nemesis Professor Moriarty. Under a false identity—an explorer named Sigerson—Holmes settles in dark and cold Lapland, in northern Finland, sparking a culture clash between the upper-class, fast-talking and eccentric Brit and the down-to-earth Nordic characters.
One hundred and thirty years after his first print appearance (in A Study in Scarlet), it seems Arthur Conan Doyle’s “consulting detective” still hasn’t lost his appeal.

So how did Sherlock Holmes get his moniker?

• Check out these three interviews: MysteryPeople talks with K.J. Howe about her debut novel, The Freedom Broker; S.W. Lauden quizzes Steph Post, author of the intriguing new Lightwood; and Crime Fiction Lover interrogates Chris Ould, whose second Detective Jan Reyna novel, Killing Bay, is finally reaching British bookshops.

• You knew Playboy’s no-nudes policy couldn’t last, right?

• And The Bookseller says that “Swedish publisher Norstedts has revealed the title for the fifth installment in the Millennium series created by Stieg Larsson as The Man Who Hunted/Chased His Shadow (Mannen Som Sökte Sin Sugga).” Like 2015’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web, this new Lisbeth Salander/Mikael Blomkvist thriller will be composed by Swedish writer David Lagercrantz. There’s no word yet on the plot of this novel—which will be published by the UK’s MacLehose Press in September under a less-unwieldy English title—but Lagercrantz says “the idea for the fifth book struck him on a family holiday.” Does that mean we’re in for The Girl in the Bloody Bikini or The Girl with an Umbrella in Her Drink? One’s mind reels at the possibilities …

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