Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Bullet Points: All That and More Edition

Please forgive the recent paucity of fresh posts on this page, but I’ve been busy finishing up a couple of large projects over the last two weeks, one of which I was particularly pleased to have tackled. (More about that soon.) Having now put both of those endeavors behind me, I can return to my collection of crime fiction-related links around the Web. Here are a few of the things I’ve turned up lately.

• The site reports that Willem Dafoe has been tapped to co-star, opposite Edward Norton, in Motherless Brooklyn, a forthcoming big-screen adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel of that same name. Norton has apparently written the script already, and will be one of the picture’s producers. For anyone who hasn’t read Lethem’s Brooklyn-set yarn, here’s Wikipedia’s plot synopsis: “Lethem’s protagonist, Lionel Essrog, has Tourette syndrome, a disorder marked by involuntary tics. Essrog works, along with Tony, Danny and Gilbert, who call themselves the Minna Men, for Frank Minna—a small-time neighborhood owner of a ‘seedy and makeshift’ detective agency—who is stabbed to death.” Motherless Brooklyn won both the 1999 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and the 2000 Gold Dagger from the British Crime Writers’ Association.

• Series 5 of Endeavour began showing last weekend in Great Britain. In the first of six new episodes (two more than previous seasons offered), “It’s 1st April 1968, and Morse [played by Shaun Evans] is now a Detective Sergeant and lodging with [DS Jim] Strange [Sean Rigby], though his position in the reorganised nick is hardly secure,” explains the UK TV blog Killing Times. “He’s investigating a handbag snatching, but there’s more skullduggery going on, including the auction of a Faberge egg, that old cliché of caper movies, and a shooting in a taxi. … Joan Thursday (Sarah Vickers) is back in town, her dalliance in exotic Leamington evidently having come to a sticky end, but there seems no prospect of her resuming any relationship with Morse, or indeed her dad, Fred [Roger Allam].” The blog Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour provides further hints at what to expect from this excellent program in the weeks to come, and in a separate post, says that Endeavour showrunner Russell Lewis is planning some sort of on-screen tribute to Colin Dexter, who created Inspector Morse and passed away last year. Watch the Season 5 video trailer below.

• I have not so far come across any reliable news as to when Endeavour Series 5 will reach American television screens, but if history can be our guide, it should begin broadcasting as part of PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! lineup in late summer of this year.

• In the wake of sexual-misconduct allegations leveled against Kevin Spacey, who played its pitiless central character, politician Frank Underwood, the Netflix drama series House of Cards has made some casting changes. According to The New York Times, Spacey is out, while Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear will join returning star Robin Wright for the show’s sixth and final season. Shooting of House of Cards’ concluding episodes commenced in late January.

From In Reference to Murder:
More than a decade after the release of the feature film adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s best-selling novel, Gone Baby Gone, Fox has ordered a pilot for a TV series adapting the story of working-class Boston detectives investigating a young girl’s kidnapping. Written by Black Sails creator Robert Levine, the pilot will be a one-hour drama following private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, who are “armed with their wits, their street knowledge and an undeniable chemistry” as they attempt to tackle cases that the law can’t in the working-class Boston borough of Dorchester. Levine and Lehane are both set to executive produce the pilot, which is aiming for Fox’s 2018-2019 TV season.
• The same source brings word that CBS-TV has greenlighted a small-screen version of L.A. Confidential, “a new take on the James Ellroy detective novel that inspired the Oscar-winning 1997 film.” As we reported last September, author Jordan Harper (She Rides Shotgun) will be responsible for writing the pilot’s script.

This comes from “The first full-length trailer for the second season of Jessica Jones has the hard-drinking superpowered detective taking on an incredibly personal case: her own, delving into the car accident that killed her, and the shadowy people who brought her back to life. The powers, it turns out, were a side effect.” Jessica Jones will return to Netflix on Thursday, March 8.

• OK, just one more bit of movie news: Cinelou Films has grabbed up the cinematic rights to Jar of Hearts, a thriller novel set for release by Minotaur Books in June, and written by Jennifer Hillier, a quondam Seattleite now residing in Toronto, Canada. Amazon’s brief on the plot line of Hillier’s tale says, “This is [the] story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years.” I have not yet received a copy of Hillier’s book, but it sounds promising.

Tampa Bay Times journalist Craig Pittman, who last year wrote about Elmore Leonard’s LaBrava for The Rap Sheet, has a fun piece in Slate speculating that the parents on television’s The Brady Bunch “murdered each other’s spouses and married each other. And that’s the way they all became the Brady Bunch.”

Are we really seeing an Arab detective-fiction renaissance?

• Editor Janet Rudolph has let it be known that the latest edition of Mystery Readers Journal—the second in a row to focus on “Big City Cops”—is now available for purchase, either in a hard-copy version or as a downloadable PDF. If you missed the previous magazine, you can order it and other back issues by clicking here.

• A belated happy birthday to Ida Lupino. As Terence Towles Canote observed in his blog, this last Sunday, Febrary 4, marked the 100th year since Lupino’s delivery in London, England. “It seems likely that most people know Ida Lupino only as a beautiful and talented actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood,” Canote writes. “Classic movie buffs know otherwise. We know that she was not only a talented actress, but a talented director as well. Over the years she directed several films and several hours worth of television. As only the second woman to join the Directors Guild of America (Dorothy Arzner was the first), Ida Lupino was a true pioneer.” She died in 1995, aged 77.

• And happy 20th anniversary to the James Bond-obsessed site MI6. Looking back over its history, the editors write: “The future of the 007 franchise was more certain 20 years ago than it [is] today, although nobody knew back then what would be in store with [Pierce] Brosnan’s unceremoniously leaving the franchise, MGM’s bankruptcy and repeated financial troubles, Daniel Craig’s controversial casting, and the ‘new normal’ of longer breaks between films. Whatever lies in store as we approach the fifth—and probably final—Daniel Craig outing, MI6 will be here to cover it.”

• The entertainment Web site lists 10 things it expects from the coming, 25th 007 flick—“essential signifiers that James Bond, in all its glory, has truly returned.”

The Gumshoe Site reports the sad news that Kansas-born, Southern California-reared author Gaylord Dold “died after complications from the flu and was found on January 29 at his mother’s home in Fort Scott, Kansas.” The blog goes on to explain:
The former lawyer wrote the Mitch Roberts private eye series starting with Hot Summer, Cold Murder (Avon, 1987). Modeled on Robert Mitchum, Dold’s favorite actor, Roberts gumshoes around in 1950s Wichita, Kansas, Dold’s hometown, in the first six paperback original books … then he turns international in A Penny for the Old Guy (St. Martin’s, 1991) and three following hardcover novels, sleuthing around Europe till Samedi’s Knapsack (Minotaur, 2001). He also wrote standalone crime novels (such as The Last Man in Berlin; Sourcebooks, 2003; retitled Storm 33; Kindle, 2014), a memoir (Jack’s Boy; Kindle, 2014), two travel guides ([including] The Rough Guide to the Bahamas; Rough Guides, 2007), [and] two Jack Kilgore novels ([including] The Nickel Jolt, Premier Digital, 2013; Kilgore being ex-Marine Intelligence agent). He was 70.
To learn more, check out Dold’s Web site.

In Mystery*File, Francis M. Nevins notes the passing, this last October, of Donald A. Yates, an authority on Spanish and Latin American literature (he helped, for instance, to bring the works of Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges to U.S. audiences). Yates translated crime stories for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and edited Latin Blood (1972), “an anthology of mystery tales from Central and South America, which includes three stories by Borges.” In addition, Yates was a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast and a fan of locked-room mysteries, and he penned “several detective short stories” of his own over the years. He was 87 years old when he died at his home in Deer Park, California.

MysteryPeople chooses three new novels its editors think deserve your attention in February: The Gate Keeper, by Charles Todd (Morrow); Help I Am Being Held Prisoner, by Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime); and Cut You Down, by Sam Wiebe (Quercus). To those, I would add the five books I most look forward to reading this month: Mephisto Waltz, by Frank Tallis (Pegasus); Down the River Unto the Sea, by Walter Mosley (Mulholland); Force of Nature, by Jane Harper (Flatiron); Chicago, by David Mamet (Custom House); Green Sun, by Kent Anderson (Mulholland); and Sunburn, by Laura Lippman (Morrow). No doubt about it—this is a bang-up time for crime fiction.

• No sooner had I finally listened to all of Nancie Clare’s Speaking of Mysteries podcasts, than three new episodes appeared. Her latest author interviewees: Karen Cleveland (Need to Know), Jody Gehrman (Watch Me), and Adam Walker Phillips (The Perpetual Summer).

• Elsewhere, Alafair Burke talks with BOLO Books about her new novel, The Wife; Robert Crais (The Wanted) and Mark Pryor (Dominic) chat with MysteryPeople; Crimespree Magazine addresses questions to Nick Petrie (Light It Up), Dennis Palumbo (Head Wounds), and Steph Post (Walk in the Fire); Tod Goldberg (Gangster Nation) goes one-on-one with the Los Angeles Review Books; L.A. cop-turned-author Paul Bishop recalls his work as an expert interrogator; and Gravetapping’s Ben Boulden asks John Hegenberger about his latest novel, The Pandora Block, and his two series characters.

• Another thing I haven’t been keeping up with: Crime Friction, the rookie podcast hosted by Jay Stringer and the delightful Chantelle Aimée Osman. Episode 4 is just out, featuring Gary Phillips talking about Culprits: The Heist Was Just the Beginning (Polis), a new serial anthology he co-edited with Richard J. Brewer.

• It’s been a while now since we had an update on Bill Crider’s health, supplied by family members through his Facebook page. As you will remember, the 76-year-old Alvin, Texas, author-blogger, suffering from prostate cancer, is undergoing hospice care. The last I remember reading, Bill was weak but resting peacefully. Meanwhile, his three beloved cats—rescued from a drainage ditch near his home in 2016, and known ever since as the VBKs (Very Bad Kittens)—have gone to live with his goddaughter, Liz Romig Hatlestad, at her home in the central Texas town of Brownwood. They also now have their own Facebook fan page! And to commemorate Bill’s writing career, fellow blogger Evan Lewis has been posting photos of Bill and Judy Crider from their appearances at multiple Bouchercons over the years.

• Speaking of the honorable Mr. Crider, Spinetingler Magazine’s Brian Lindenmuth recently launched a new blog, Palomino Mugging, that he calls “a spiritual successor to Bill Crider’s blog, Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine. Bill’s blog was like a personalized RSS feed of interesting things, interspersed with reviews and other writings. That’s the approach I plan to take.” There isn’t much new crime-fiction content on Lindenmuth’s site yet; most of the posts so far appear to have been picked up from Lindenmuth’s older Web offerings. But as a longtime reader of Crider’s blog, I look forward to seeing how successfully Lindenmuth’s efforts will measure up.

• I have often thought how wonderful it would be to spend more time in Great Britain, which seems to be regularly rife with crime-fiction events. Just look at this list, put together by the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), of writing festivals and workshops being offered “across the pond” over the next couple of months.

• Also from the CWA comes a reminder that its annual Margery Allingham Short Story Competition is accepting submissions from both published and unpublished wordsmiths. The deadline is midnight on February 28. The CWA explains that “There’s a limit of 3,500 words and a fairly open brief—your mystery story needs to fit Margery Allingham’s definition of a mystery: ‘The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuge. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.’ It costs £12 to enter and the winner walks away with £500, a selection of Margery Allingham books and two passes for international crime writing convention CrimeFest in 2019.” This year’s winner will be announced during CrimeFest 2018 (May 17-20).

• An Indian media site called Scroll carries Jai Arjun Singh’s intriguing account of baffling disappearances (of people, footprints, weapons, cars, etc.) in need of investigating in classic mystery fiction.

• Prolific crime-novelist John Lutz recalls for the SleuthSayers blog how and why he created Thomas Laker, the secret agent hero of a brand-new series being introduced this month with The Honorable Traitors (Pinnacle). Compounding my interest in that post is Jan Grape’s introduction, in which she says she first met Lutz at the Baltimore Bouchercon convention in 2008. As it happens, that was also the only time I remember encountering the author. It was during a late evening, and I’d gone down to the convention hotel bar for a nightcap and some conversation. After receiving my drink, I looked across the well-lit, too-shiny room and saw Lutz and his wife, Barbara, seated at a small round table in the far corner. They were chatting amiably, not inviting company. But, being fairly new to the conventioneering game and—after years spent as a reporter—comfortable with approaching strangers (even famous ones), I sidled over to their table, apologized for the interruption, and then went into an overlong appreciation of Lutz’s Fred Carver private-eye series. The author seemed very humble in the face of my adulation, but let a small smile ride his lips the whole time. After I was done prattling, he thanked me for reading his novels, and I retreated to my own table. The Lutzes left soon afterward. In retrospect, it was a small moment, but it reminded me of how much I appreciated Lutz’s work. Within the next six months, I had re-read most of the Carver yarns. It just goes to show what impact meeting an author can have on a true fan.

• For the ninth year in a row, government information librarian/author Robert Lopresti has chosen his favorite crime-fiction short stories of the year, this time for 2017. “The big winners,” Lopresti explains, “were Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, tied with five stories each. Akashic Press and Mystery Weekly Magazine each scored two. … Six of the stories are funny (says me); four have fantasy elements. Only one is a historical. I think one could be described as fair play.” You will find his 18 top choices in the blog SleuthSayers.

• Late last month brought word that author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless was launching the Staunch Book Prize, to be given to the best thriller novel “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped, or murdered.” She explains on her competition’s Web site that “As violence against women in fiction reaches a ridiculous high, the Staunch Book Prize invites thriller writers to keep us on the edge of our seats without resorting to the same old clichés—particularly female characters who are sexually assaulted (however ‘necessary to the plot’), or done away with (however ingeniously).” Lawless’ contest, which offers £2,000 in prize money, will be open to “stories across the thriller genre—crime, psychological, comedy, and mysteries—and to traditionally published, self-published, and not-yet-published works.” Submissions will be accepted from February 22 through July 15, with an announcement of the winning entry scheduled for November 25, “coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.” While many readers have cheered Lawless’ move, there have been objections—including from Britain’s Sophie Hannah, who wrote in The Guardian:
The prize clearly has good intentions, and wishes to take an important stand against violence towards women. The problem is that it’s not the violence that’s on the receiving end of that stand; it’s writers and readers.

Brutality is not the same thing as writing about brutality. After suffering a trauma, some people find it consoling and empowering to read, or write, about fictional characters who have survived similar experiences. If we can’t stop human beings from viciously harming one another, we need to be able to write stories in which that harm is subjected to psychological and moral scrutiny, and punished. On some occasions, perhaps the fictional perpetrator will go unpunished, if the author is writing about the failure of the legal system to deliver justice. There is no life-changing experience that we should be discouraged from writing and reading about.

The Staunch prize could instead have been created to honour the novel that most powerfully or sensitively tackles the problem of violence against women and girls. Reading the eligibility criteria, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the prize actively sets out to discourage crime fiction, even of the highest quality, that tackles violence against women head-on.
• Nominees for this year’s RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards have been proclaimed in a range of categories. Click here to see the mystery fiction and romantic suspense works vying for honors. Winners will be named during a May 27 ceremony in Reno, Nevada.

• It’s time to suit up again for SleuthFest, which is set to be held in Boca Raton, Florida, from March 1 to 4. Mystery Fanfare shares the details on special guests, registration, and more.

• I, for one, have never seen “The Deep End,” a 1964 episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre that Elizabeth Foxwell features in The Bunburyist. She says the show, which finds Clu Gulager starring in a private dick role, was “likely” adapted from John D. MacDonald’s 1963 standalone novel, The Drowner.

• George C. Chesbro devotees, please take note. A decade after his death in 2008, Open Road Media has made available e-book versions of 23 of that author’s mystery and private-eye novels. They include most of his books headlined by dwarf criminologist/gumshoe Robert Frederickson, aka “Mongo the Magnificent.”

• Congratulations are owed to a couple of new columnists at different publications: Craig Sisterson, who has launched Crimespree Magazine’s new “Māwake Crime Review,” “featuring some great crime writers and crime novels from beyond the borders of North America and Europe”; and Dean Jobb, the author of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s new “Stranger Than Fiction” column, about true-crime books.

• The aforementioned Mr. Sisterson has also created a Facebook page for Rotorua Noir, which he says is “New Zealand’s first-ever crime-writing festival,” and is set to take place in the North Island city of Rotorua from January 27 to 27, 2019. “We have already secured a great venue, and four amazing international Guests of Honour, who will be joining an array of crime writers on a terrific programme of writer workshops, author panels, and other cool events.”

• Although this critique of Sarah Trott’s non-fiction work, War Noir: Raymond Chandler and the Hard-Boiled Detective as Veteran in American Fiction (University Press of Mississippi), could have benefited from more careful proofreading, it leads me to believe I would enjoy the book. Trott’s thesis is that Chandler’s service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I influenced “his prose style and can chiefly be identified in his most famous character, private investigator [Philip] Marlowe; namely in the way he thinks, talks and acts.” It’s just a shame Trott’s volume is so expensive, $65, making most readers think twice before purchasing.

• We are still a week away from Valentine’s Day, but Mystery Fanfare has reposted its extensive list of Valentine’s Day mysteries, only a handful of which I can honestly claim to have read.

• And here’s a series I never thought I would see again: The Lazarus Man, a 1996 TNT-TV Western/mystery that starred Robert Urich (Spenser: For Hire) as an amnesiac who escaped a premature grave in Texas in the mid-1860s, then wandered about the West trying to figure out who he was and why he was plagued by recollections of being attacked by a man in a derby hat. The show was actually renewed for a second season, but was subsequently cancelled after news broke that Urich had been diagnosed with the rare cancer synovial cell sarcoma. (He would die in 2002.) Twenty episodes were shown, but two never unaired. Now, the Web site TV Shows on DVD informs me that The Lazarus Man—The Complete Series will be released on February 13 by the Warner Archive Collection. That site says the DVD set will comprise five discs, but is vague on whether it will contain those never-broadcast last two eps. The Turner Classic Movies site, though, says all 22 episodes will be included in the set. Amazon lists the retail price of The Lazarus Man—The Complete Series as $47.99.

1 comment:

Gram said...

I knew the title The Mephisto Waltz sounded familiar, there was a book by that name by Fred Mustard Stewart years ago. Also happy to see someone bringing back Mongo the Magnificent..loved him!