Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Grab Bag of References

I’m overdue to compile one of my mammoth “Bullet Points” posts, but that will have to wait until I have more free time. For now, here’s a smattering of crime-fiction links worth your attention.

• With the brand-new fourth season of Bosch set to debut on the Amazon TV streaming service come Friday, April 13, Criminal Element is asking all readers to vote for their favorite novel in Michael Connelly’s long-running Harry Bosch series.

• Have you been watching TNT-TV’s The Alienist, based on Caleb Carr’s 1994 historical thriller of that same name? If so, you will probably be interested in The Bowery Boys’ photograph-filled look back at what New York City was really like in 1896.

I reported last September on plans to create a TV series inspired by James Ellroy’s 1990 crime novel, L.A. Confidential, and the 1997 film already produced from Ellroy’s tale. Now, Deadline Hollywood brings word that the producers of that prospective CBS drama have recruited Walton Goggins (late of Justified and Vice Principals) to fill a lead role. “Goggins will play one of [three principal homicide] detectives, Jack Vincennes,” according to Deadline. “All swagger and flash with a movie-star smile, Jack knows how the system works and uses it to his best advantage, including some corrupt shakedowns on the side. The role was played by Kevin Spacey in the movie that premiered at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival and went to on score nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and two wins.”

• Also from Deadline Hollywood comes news that “Mel Gibson, Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne, and Mike Medavoy are teaming on Dancing Bear, an adaptation of the hard-boiled crime novel by the late James Crumley that is in the early stages at USA Network though Universal Cable Productions.” The site explains that “Crumley’s novel is set in Montana and centers on part-time detective Milo Milodragovitch, who becomes entangled with a cast of unsavory characters in a web of criminal conspiracies, blackmail, land grabs, grizzly bears, guns, and drugs. Said Gibson, ‘It’s basically Chinatown set in a 7-11 in Montana in the ’70s with a whole lot of cocaine.’” Now, I have great respect for Towne, and I remember enjoying Crumley’s Dancing Bear, though it’s been years since I read that book. But the involvement in this project of Gibson—whose anti-Semitic and homophobic views have been well documented—leaves me unsettled. I know it’s probably healthy for people to separate the obnoxious behavior of some Hollywood celebs from their artistic contributions, and respect them for the latter. Gibson’s ugly side, though, is so very pronounced, I don’t know if I can do that—as much as I might like to see gumshoe Milodragovitch brought to small-screen life.

• Since I just wrote about the 50th anniversary of Peter Falk’s first televised appearance as Lieutenant Columbo, my attention was easily caught by this item about a brand-new cookbook titled Cooking with Columbo: Suppers with the Shambling Sleuth. The Columbophile explains that it was penned by “London-based Columbo super-fan Jenny Hammerton,” host of the Silver Screen Suppers blog, who “plundered her extensive archives of more than 7,000 movie star recipes to come up with meal suggestions to match every Columbo episode! Featuring favorite recipes from the likes of Peter Falk, Vincent Price, Johnny Cash, Robert Conrad, Trish Van Devere, Dick Van Dyke, and Janet Leigh, there’s inspiration enough to create sensational dinners for one right through to opulent banquets and house parties—including enough chili variations to keep purists happy (although no squirrel chili recipe makes the cut).” It was established early in Columbo’s run that the Los Angeles cop was a chili lover.

• In the wake of last Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—during which 17 people were killed and others injured, allegedly by a crazed teenage gunman wielding an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle—more than one person has brought up the concern that a generation of America’s youth will now associate the name “Marjory Stoneman Douglas” with senseless brutality … instead of with the pioneering environmentalist, journalist, and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner who gave her name to that school. Oh yes, and the original Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998) also happened to be an early contributor to Black Mask magazine. Among Douglas’ papers, currently archived at the University of Miami, is a 1924 Black Mask yarn titled “White Midnight,” which has been described as “a novella about sunken treasures in the West Indies.”

• Speaking of that Florida student massacre, A. Brad Schwartz—the co-author, with Max Allan Collins, of a forthcoming non-fiction book titled Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago (Morrow)—points out in this New York Times op-ed piece, that it took place exactly 89 years after the Windy City’s notorious St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Schwartz adds that said butchery, which claimed just seven victims, led to profound changes both in Chicago’s political foundations and in the nation’s response to increasing gun violence of the time. “We should be ashamed,” he concludes, “that the killing of criminals 90 years ago could help spur such change, while the repeated slaughter of children prompts little more than ‘thoughts and prayers’ from lawmakers today. The story of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre shows how public outrage can create meaningful reform when the political and economic costs of inaction outweigh the inertia preserving the status quo.”

As mentioned previously, funeral services for the late mystery novelist Bill Crider took place this last Monday afternoon in his hometown of Alvin, Texas. I haven’t heard a great deal about the event, but one attendee did recall, on Facebook, that it was a “lovely memorial service …, complete with mentions by each speaker of those precious not-so-little-anymore VBKs” (aka Crider’s three Very Bad Kittens, who now have their very own Facebook fan page).

• Meanwhile, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine editor Janet Hutchings wrote a very nice remembrance of Bill Crider in her blog. And Robert S. Napier, a longtime friend of Crider’s, shares in his own blog the contents of the final e-mail message he received from that 76-year-old Lone Star State author, which contained this lament:
I can’t believe what’s happened to this country, which was the greatest in the world at one time. I don’t think that’s true now, and I really resent it that I’m going to die in a country that’s going downhill so fast. I don’t know how many years I have left, but even it’s ten or fifteen, I can’t see us recovering. I try not to think too much about it for fear of falling into despair.
• OK, you can consider me jealous: On behalf of New York magazine’s pop-culture Web site, Vulture, Sarah Weinman recently interviewed playwright-author David Mamet, whose fourth novel, the 1920s-set crime story Chicago, is due out next week from Custom House. During their exchange, Mamet more or less characterizes his drive as an artist this way: “I’m basically nuts. I sit by myself every day, most days, eight hours in this little room. It feels like either a torment or an adventure. The only way I can still the torment or appreciate the adventure is to write it down.”

• Finally, The Secret Agent Lair reviews M, Dynamite Entertainment’s latest James Bond comic-book spin-off, this one starring 007’s superior and the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (aka MI6). “M is very much a decent spy thriller that does not involve nor even feature the character of James Bond, anywhere,” the blog opines. “Starring in a title of his own, M proves that he is a very worthy spymaster who can think on his feet and outsmart the opponent using the skills of a master strategist he acquired over the years, isn’t afraid to apply his use of variable types of combat on his enemies, and holds [up] his own rather well without the need of any agent or a bodyguard in his disposal, which is why it makes the character worthy of the spin-off he was given.” The Secret Agent Lair goes on to say that “M is supposed to be collected in a [hardcover volume] of one-shots entitled James Bond: Case Files Vol. 1, which also includes Moneypenny as well as titles starring Bond: Service and Solstice.” That omnibus is due out in mid-July.

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