Friday, November 10, 2017

A Quick Excursion Around the Web

• Damn! I hate being the bearer of this news:
John Hillerman, the actor who made a career out of playing snooty types, including Tom Selleck’s fastidious estate caretaker Jonathan Quayle Higgins III on Magnum, P.I., died Thursday. He was 84.

Hillerman, who received four Emmy nominations in consecutive years for portraying Higgins and won in 1987, died at his home in Houston, family spokeswoman Lori De Waal told the Associated Press. She said the cause of death had not been determined.

His Higgins character was a natural extension of a part he played on the [1975-1976] TV detective show
Ellery Queen: Simon Brimmer, a radio personality and affected gent who fancied himself a savvy sleuth. Ironically, Hillerman, who often played condescending characters with more than a touch of the Tory Brit—the Mayfair accent—was a Texan from a tiny railroad town, the son of a gas station owner.
Hillerman’s face became familiar during an acting career that found him appearing frequently on television, not only on the aforementioned pair of programs, but also in The F.B.I., Mannix, The Betty White Show, Hawaii Five-O, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, Lou Grant, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Valerie, and Murder, She Wrote. My earliest recollection of seeing him was in the 1975 picture Lucky Lady, but he also had roles in such films as The Last Picture Show, Blazing Saddles, Paper Moon, and Chinatown.

• Another notable passing: The Hollywood Reporter brings word that German actress Karin Dor, “who played the red-haired villainess Helga Brandt in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice,” died this last Monday, November 6, at a nursing home in Munich. She was 79. The Spy Command observes that Dor’s shapely turn as Brandt, “a SPECTRE assassin who is executed by [Ernst Stavro] Blofeld when she fails to kill Sean Connery’s James Bond,” was not her only “brush with the spy genre.” Her most famous role in an espionage flick, it says, “was probably [in] 1969’s Topaz, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She plays Juanita de Cordoba, who is involved in spying in early 1960s Cuba.” Viewers might recall spotting Dor, as well, in episodes of the American TV series It Takes a Thief, Ironside, and The F.B.I.

• By contrast, here’s an excellent bit of news, via EuroCrime: “Quercus has signed three novels by Philip Kerr, continuing his historical noir series featuring Detective Bernie Gunther.” Meanwhile, Kerr’s 13th and latest Gunther novel, Greeks Bearing Gifts, is due out in the States from Putnam come April of next year.

The Hollywood Reporter brings word that The Little Drummer Girl (1983) will be the next John le Carré spy novel to be adapted for television. The Reporter elaborates:
After taking home the Emmy for The Night Manager, AMC has green-lighted its next John le Carré miniseries: The Little Drummer Girl.

Florence Pugh (
Lady Macbeth) will star in the six-parter based on le Carré‘s best-seller. Park Chan-wook (Old Boy) will make his small-screen debut and direct the series, which is a co-production between the Ink Factory, BBC One, and AMC. Production will begin in January, with Endeavor Content/IMG selling global rights to the series.

Set in the late 1970s,
Drummer Girl is an espionage and international intrigue drama of love and betrayal. Set against the background of rising tensions in the Middle East, the mini revolves around Charlie (Pugh), a young actress who prepares for her ultimate role in the “theater of the real.”
Shane Whaley’s Spybrary blog has a bit more on this film deal. And if there’s something tickling at the back of your brain, suggesting that this isn’t the first time Drummer Girl has been filmed … well, give yourself a gold star. George Roy Hill directed a 1984 big-screen version of le Carré’s Europe-trotting thriller, starring Diane Keaton. That earlier picture won mixed reviews; we’ll have to wait and see whether AMC’s interpretation can spark more enthusiasm.

• Since we’re on the subject of remakes, let me just remind everyone that Kenneth Branagh’s latest take on Agatha Christie’s 1934 whodunit, Murder on the Orient Express, is scheduled to open in theaters today. Critics are already offering opinions—good and not so good—on the production, while Smithsonian magazine has put together an intriguing “true history of the Orient Express.”

• If you’d rather stay in than launch out to a moviehouse, you can watch the 2010 TV adaptation of Orient Express, made as part of the long-running series Agatha Christie’s Poirot (with David Suchet in the starring role), by clicking here. Sadly, the even better 1974 film version, featuring Albert Finney, doesn’t appear to be available online. However, you can at least enjoy its trailer here.

• Stockholm novelist Leif G.W. Persson’s latest mystery, The Dying Detective, is the basis for a new Swedish TV series debuting on January 3. “Rolf Lassgård takes the lead role in the SVT adaptation,” explains The Killing Times, and the show “tells the story of retired Chief of the National Crime Police and Swedish Security Service, Lars Martin Johansson, who has just suffered a stroke. Johansson is paying the price for a life of excess—be it stress, good food, or fine wines. He has dangerously high blood pressure and his heart could fail at any moment. In the hospital, a chance encounter with a neurologist who confides an important piece of information about the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl 25 years earlier piques [Johansson’s interest] and engages his unparalleled police instincts. However, the period for prosecution expired only weeks earlier and that isn’t the only limitation. Lars Martin Johansson is determined to solve the atrocious crime—from his deathbed.” There’s no word yet on whether The Dying Detective will be picked up by UK or U.S. broadcasters.

• Author Martin Edwards, who also happens to be chair of the UK Crime Writers’ Association and an editor of the British Library’s excellent Classic Crime line of books, clues us in on some of the works being readied for reissue as part of that series next year. They include “a new anthology of classic railway mysteries, called Blood on the Tracks,” and “two books from … E.C.R. LoracBats in the Belfry [1937] and Fire in the Thatch [1946].” I am impressed with Edwards’ work on the British Library series, one that I have not yet plumbed to its fullest. More free reading time needed, please!

• In a previous crime-fiction news wrap-up, I mentioned that Southern California writer Tom Nolan, who edited the Library of America omnibus Ross Macdonald: Four Later Novels: Black Money/The Instant Enemy/The Goodbye Look/The Underground Man, had posted essays about three of those Lew Archer detective stories on LOA’s Web site. More recently, he added a fourth essay to the mix, this one examining Macdonald’s 1971 Archer yarn, The Underground Man—one of my favorite entries in the series, and “a runaway bestseller,” thanks in part, Nolan says, to a most laudatory New York Times Book Review critique, penned by author Eudora Welty (who’d become a friend of Macdonald). “If William Goldman’s review of The Goodbye Look [1969] had provoked a sales earthquake for Macdonald,” explains Nolan, “Welty’s of The Underground Man caused a tsunami.” It’s only too bad that Macdonald went on to produce just two more Archer novels, Sleeping Beauty (1973) and The Blue Hammer (1976), before Alzheimer’s disease ended his fiction writing and he died in 1983.

Really, does no one read the Hardy Boys books anymore?

• Gerald So is in the process of rounding up folks to help him celebrate National Poetry Month, coming up again in April 2018. In his role as editor of the “crime poetry weekly” The Five-Two, he’s planning a month-long blog tour, inviting participants to comment on their favorite works from his site or elsewhere, interview Five-Two contributors, or “post your own poetry or fiction in response to a Five-Two poem.” He’ll be happy to link to contributions popping up around the blogosphere, or “if you don’t have a blog, e-mail me your entry and you’ll be my guest here [at The Five-Two ].”

This is an interesting story about “how the world of private investigation has changed,” presented earlier this week on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered program: “NPR’s Robert Siegel speaks with journalist Ronen Bergman, who is … a contributing writer for The New York Times and the national security senior correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth, about the new world of private investigation firms such as Black Cube, that are employed by law firms representing people such as [Hollywood film mogul] Harvey Weinstein. It was revealed that Weinstein used big-time private investigators to find disparaging information about his accusers as well as prevent publication of stories about himself.”

• Tomorrow is Veterans Day in the States—and just in time, Mystery Fanfare highlights crime-fiction works tied to that holiday.

• Finally, here are three interviews worth investigating: Megan Abbott talks with the Los Angeles Review of Books about her efforts both as a novelist and as a screenwriter; Speaking of Mysteries host Nancie Clare chats with H.B. Lyle about his new historical novel, The Irregular; and Felix Francis fields questions from Mystery Tribune about his latest horse racing-related thriller, Pulse.

1 comment:

The Spy Command said...

Re: Ross Macdonald/Lew Archer....I still have this. In 1979, there was a hardback omnibus of three Archer novels. It had a forward by Macdonald. I remember one line in particular. It went something like, "Fiction is autobiography, even when it is not intending to be." (Sorry, I don't have it with me here so I can't quote it precisely.) Anyway, I don't know if that forward was Macdonald's last published work, but I suspect it has to be among the last.