Thursday, November 02, 2017

Bullet Points: Day of the Dead Edition

• As Connecticut’s Harford Courant tells it, “The Mark Twain American Voice in Literature award will be given to author Bill Beverly for his novel Dodgers later this month. The Mark Twain House & Museum announced the award, which comes with $25,000, on Wednesday evening. It is presented to an author whose book, published in the previous year, best embodies an ‘American voice’ such as Twain’s in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the museum said in a statement.” Beverly’s writing of Dodgers previously brought him the 2016 Gold Dagger award from Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association.

• How would you like to do your writing on Mickey Spillane’s old typewriter? Mystery Fanfare reports that the circa-1930 Royal Manual machine on which Mike Hammer’s creator may have labored “during his early days as a comic-book writer” will be among the items Heritage Auctions puts up for bids in New York City on March 7, 2018.

• The new German TV series Babylon Berlin, based on a pair (soon to be a trio) of 1920s-set crime novels by Volker Kutscher and featuring a Berlin police inspector named Gereon Rath, has been winning plenty of favorable press since it debuted in Germany on October 13. Kate Connolly of The Guardian writes: “A lavish 16-part TV series set between the two world wars is being tipped as the first big-budget German production that could become a global TV blockbuster. Babylon Berlin, a period drama set in the Weimar Republic replete with crime, corruption, sex and decadence, cost €38m (£33m) to make and is the most expensive TV series filmed in Germany. Critics are predicting it will compete with the likes of Breaking Bad, House of Cards and Downton Abbey.” The Killing Times shorthands the show’s plot thusly: “Set against the social and political upheaval of Germany in 1929—with a failing economy and a rise of right-wing extremists, some may even find timely parallels to events today—nothing is what it seems as the case spirals and Gereon’s life is changed forever.” An English-subtitled version of Babylon Berlin is scheduled to premiere in the UK on November 5 (courtesy of Sky Atlantic), and Netflix has purchased U.S. broadcast rights (though it hasn’t also announced when Americans might be able to watch it). Sky’s trailer for the program is embedded below; a German trailer can be enjoyed here.

For more information, check out the Babylon Berlin Web site.

• “SundanceTV has partnered with Emmy-winning producer and director Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost),” states Criminal Element, “to bring you Cold Blooded, a two-part documentary detailing the murder case that [Truman] Capote made famous [in his 1966 book, In Cold Blood]. The documentary will ‘recount the Clutter murders in detail, using previously unpublished documents, in addition to first-hand accounts from the Clutters’ living relatives’ to provide new insight into this groundbreaking case. Part One premieres on SundanceTV on Saturday, November 18, at 9 p.m. ET.”

• Congratulations to author Duane Swierczynski (Canary, Revolver), whose series pilot adaptation of Dan Simmons’ 2000 novel, Darwin’s Blade—co-written with Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious)—has been sold to NBC-TV. The plot, says Deadline Hollywood, “centers on Darwin ‘Dar’ Minor, a brilliant yet arrogant accident-reconstruction specialist who consults police on the bizarre cases no one else can solve.” Swierczynski is set to co-executive produce the show, as well.

• It had been so long since I last heard anything about director Martin Scorsese’s plans to collaborate with actor Leonard DiCaprio on a big-screen adaptation of Erik Larson’s 2003 non-fiction book, The Devil in the White City, that I’d nearly lost hope of the project’s viability. However, Scorsese told the Toronto Sun late last year that “there is a script being worked on” (purportedly by Hunger Games writer Billy Ray), and on Halloween, the BookBub Blog brought us up to date (as much as possible) on where things stand with that picture. Unfortunately, there’s still no estimate of when this sixth Scorsese-DiCaprio venture might be released.

• I wasn’t a fan of the original S.W.A.T. (see it’s opening title sequence here), so there’s scant chance of my being interested in the revival of that 1975-1976 crime drama. However, the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Lloyd insists the new show, debuting tonight on CBS, isn’t without its attractions. “Essentially a militarized police procedural, or perhaps a domesticated military drama,” he explains, S.W.A.T. offers “sexy hardware and specialized jargon,” plus “plenty of action to distract you.” Lloyd says that “With its characters at once thin and broad; its L.A. backdrop; and its mix of existential philosophizing, social commentary and corny representations of hot-button issues, S.W.A.T. also recalls and has some of the appeal of Jack Webb’s classic Dragnet, but with a more progressive outlook and a sprinkling of sex scenes.” Watch a trailer for the series here.

• This, though, does sound worth watching. From Slate:
Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale premiered in late April with sickening timing. Donald Trump’s presidency hung over Margaret Atwood’s novel, set in a dystopic, misogynist, theocratic near future, making it feel less like fiction than a terrifying prophecy. This Friday, Netflix debuts Alias Grace, another Atwood adaptation that is dreadfully apropos. The 1996 novel is historical fiction, based on an 1843 true crime, in which 16-year-old Grace Marks, an Irish immigrant to Canada, was convicted of murdering her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his pregnant housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. But Harvey Weinstein, our pussy-grabbing president, and their ilk loom over Alias Grace; indeed, they seem as though they could be characters in Alias Grace, where men misuse women as if it were their right.
• The November edition of Mike Ripley’s “Getting Away with Murder” column for Shots features notes about everything from Lee Child’s latest novel and plans to erect (in north Oxford, England) a statue honoring the late Colin Dexter to the phenomenally prolific James Swallow, the persistently underappreciated works of James Hadley Chase, and new or forthcoming books by Laura Wilson, Håkan Nesser, and Malcolm Mackay. It’s all here.

• Janet Rudolph lets us know that the latest edition of her quarterly magazine, Mystery Readers Journal, is now available. The issue’s theme is Big City Cops, and the contents include this essay by Rennie Airth (The Death of Kings) about the difficulties he faced in shaping his historical British detectives.

Happy 11th “blogiversary” to Double O Section!

• Speaking of anniversaries, Kevin Burton Smith writes in his blog: “It was 20 years ago today that I uploaded a tentative few pages of what became The Thrilling Detective Web Site, for a pal to see. That pal, Peter Walker, seemed to like it, so I invited a few more friends on Rara-Avis, the old hard-boiled list serv, to check it out. Encouraged by their response, I scrambled to make it more presentable, and I officially released the site to the big bad world on April 1, 1998, trying (and inevitably failing) to keep up with the ever-expanding world of private-eye fiction—past, present, and future.” Smith’s frequently updated site is now an essential resource for folks, like me, who wish to learn more about the last century’s worth of American crime fiction. Good for you, Kevin, for achieving this milestone!

• It seems that Roy Price, the chief of Amazon’s video division and the grandson of legendary TV producer-writer Roy Huggins (77 Sunset Strip, The Fugitive, The Rockford Files, etc.), recently found himself ensnared in the web of sexual-harassment scandals that have also claimed Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein, producer-director Brett Ratner, screenwriter James Toback, celebrity chef John Besh, TV star Jeremy Piven, journalists Michael Oreskes and Mark Halperin, amateur politician Donald Trump, and so many other high-profile American men. As The New York Times revealed, the 50-year-old Price, “who was in charge of Amazon’s efforts to create original movies and television shows,” resigned from Amazon Studios—which he’d helped launch in 2012—“just days after a producer publicly accused him of sexual harassment.” The Washington Post said the move followed accusations from Isa Dick Hackett, an executive producer of Amazon’s popular The Man in the High Castle and the daughter of Philip K. Dick (whose 1962 novel of that same name inspired the series), that Price “made unwanted sexual remarks” and repeatedly propositioned her in 2015. As if all of that weren’t bad enough, Wikipedia explains that in the wake of Hackett’s allegations, “Price’s fiancée, Lila Feinberg, announced that she was calling off their wedding. Her dress was reportedly designed by Georgina Chapman, the wife of Harvey Weinstein …”

(Left) Ex-Amazon executive Roy Price

• Actor Kevin Spacey faces his own charges of inappropriate sexual behavior. According to The Huffington Post, the TV streaming service Netflix “has suspended production on the sixth and final season of House of Cards”—in which Spacey plays Machiavellian and murderous politician Frank Underwood—amid allegations dating back to 1986. It was in that year, says fellow performer Anthony Rapp (now appearing in Star Trek: Discovery), that Spacey made “unwanted sexual advances” on him during a party. At the time, Rapp was 14 years old, while Spacey was in his late 20s. Deadline notes that Spacey has “issued a statement on social media saying he ‘did not remember the encounter’ but added he was ‘horrified’ by what Rapp described. … The Oscar-winning Spacey also used the occasion to announce publicly that chose now to ‘to live as a gay man,’ a move that drew harsh rebukes swiftly online and otherwise.” There’s no telling how this controversy will shake out, but at least for now, the 13-episode sixth season of House of Cards is being readied for broadcast on Netflix in mid-2018.

• Ontario author Linwood Barclay talks with Criminal Element about his new novel, Parting Shot, “a standalone thriller that revisits both the backdrop of Promise Falls”—where his recent trilogy (Broken Promise, Far From True, and The Twenty-Three) was set—and that trilogy’s protagonist, private investigator Cal Weaver. Meanwhile, the movie Never Saw It Coming, based on Barclay’s “dark comic thriller” of the same name and shot from a screenplay by the author, will premiere on December 1 at the Whistler Film Festival in British Columbia.

• Nancie Clare’s latest guest on her Speaking of Mysteries podcast is Clea Simon, talking about her new novel, World Enough, which finds “former music journalist Tara Winton revisit[ing] her mid-1980s beat—Boston’s punk rock club scene—in the wake of the apparently accidental death of one of the scene’s prominent musicians.”

• And in The Thrill Begins, Joe Clifford chats with Danny Gardner, whose distinctive, 1950s-set debut novel, A Negro and an Ofay (Down & Out), reached stores this last spring.

• One of the novels I’ve looked forward to picking up this season is Chris Brookmyre’s science fiction/mystery crossover, Places in the Darkness, which is due out early next week from publisher Orbit. So I was pleased to see this interview with the author in Crime Fiction Lover, which includes his description of the book’s plot line:
It is a thriller in the tradition of the great Shane Black movies like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: a story about two mismatched investigators forced to work together, though unlike in Shane’s scripts, my
protagonists are both women. The whole thing takes place aboard the Ciudad de Cielo, a space station where 300,000 people live and work developing what would be the Earth’s first interstellar craft. It is a place where ambitious scientists and engineers go to work on cutting-edge technology, but also where many people go to escape the things that went wrong in their lives back on Earth. The city’s private police force, the Seguridad, boasts that there has never been a murder aboard (though they do have a liberal interpretation of what constitutes an accidental death), but that changes when a dismembered body is found floating in zero-gravity.
R.I.P., Donald Bain, described by The New York Times as “the pseudonymous author of the Murder, She Wrote novels, Margaret Truman’s ‘Capital Crimes’ mysteries and Coffee, Tea or Me? (1967), the supposed memoir of two saucy airline stewardesses.” A onetime airline publicist himself, Bain evidently died from congestive heart failure on Saturday, October 21, in White Plains, New York. Beyond the previously mentioned books, The Gumshoe Site notes that Bain “authored, under the house-name J.D. Hardin, a number of soft-pornographic Western action [novels] featuring Doc Weatherbee, a Pinkerton op, and ghosted Sado Cop (Playboy, 1976) for Nick Vasile, a former undercover cop. A few of his other pseudonyms are Donna Bain, Mike Lundy, Stephanie Blake, and Pamela South. He finally wrote his own mystery thriller, Lights Out! (Severn House), in 2014. His forthcoming books are Allied in Danger, a Capital Crimes novel (Forge, 2018), and A Date with Murder, a Murder She Wrote novel (co-written with Jon Land; Berkley, 2018).” Wikipedia says Bain penned “over 115 books in his 40-year career.” Click here to read John Valeri’s fond “personal remembrance” of Bain in Criminal Element.

• Gone, as well, is Jack Bannon, who’s probably best known for the five seasons he spent playing a dapper assistant newspaper city editor, Art Donovan, on the Emmy Award-winning CBS-TV drama Lou Grant (1977-1982). He passed away on October 22 at 77 years of age. The Hollywood Reporter explains that “Bannon's parents were actors. His mother, Bea Benaderet, received two Emmy nominations for her work on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, portrayed Kate Bradley on Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, and was the voice of Betty Rubble on [the cartoon series] The Flintstones. His father, Jim Bannon, played the cowboy Red Ryder in four 1940s movies.” Jack Bannon’s acting credits include appearances on The Felony Squad, Judd for the Defense, Mannix, The Rockford Files, Remington Steele, Moonlighting, and the 1987 teleflick Perry Mason: The Case of the Sinister Spirit. The Hollywood Reporter adds that Bannon died in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he had “lived … with his wife, actress Ellen Travolta—the older sister of John Travolta—since 1995.”

• Finally, since today marks the end of 2017’s Dia de los Muetros (or Day of the Dead) festival, be sure to check out Mystery Fanfare’s list of crime and mystery novels associated with this occasion.

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