Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bullet Points: Spring at Last! Edition

• I just caught up with this piece from The Economist, titled “To Understand Britian, Read Its Spy Novels,” in which Walter Bagehot asserts that “The spy novel is the quintessential British fictional form in the same way that the Western is quintessentially American. Britain’s best spy novelists are so good precisely because they use the genre to explore what it is that makes Britain British: the obsession with secrecy, the nature of the establishment, the agonies of imperial decline, and the complicated tug of patriotism.”

• Only the other day I was remarking on my astonishment at seeing Steve Scott’s fine John D. MacDonald blog, The Trap of Solid Gold, suddenly return from what I had feared was its grave. I should note as well that Bookgasm, which disappeared completely in early December of last year, is also back with new reviews. Hurrah!

• Now for the bad news: Pornokitsch, a popular culture blog that does not really have anything to do with pornography (a poor name choice, indeed) will be shutting down at the end of this month, after a full decade of operation. As its termination draws near, however, the site seems to have become more active than ever.

This comes from In Reference to Murder:
Frequency’s Peyton List has been tapped as the female lead opposite Joseph Morgan in Fox’s untitled drama pilot based on the best-selling book Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. Laysla De Oliveira also has been cast as a series regular in the project, from 20th Century Fox TV and Miramax, which was behind the 2007 movie adaptation directed by Ben Affleck. Written by Black Sails co-creator Robert Levine and directed by Phillip Noyce, the untitled project centers on private detectives Patrick Kenzie (Joseph Morgan) and
Peyton List
Angela Gennaro (List) who, armed with their wits, their street knowledge and an undeniable chemistry, right wrongs the law can’t in the working-class Boston borough of Dorchester.
• In other small-screen casting news, Deadline Hollywood reports that “Sarah Jones (Damnation, The Path) is set as a female lead in [the] CBS drama pilot L.A. Confidential, based on James Ellroy’s classic noir novel.” It goes on to say this show will follow “three homicide detectives, a female reporter (Alana Arenas), and a Hollywood actress (Jones) whose paths intersect as the detectives pursue a sadistic serial killer among the secrets and lies of gritty, glamorous 1950s Los Angeles. Jones’s Lynn is a sharp Veronica Lake-like beauty, an aspiring Hollywood actress—and not one to compromise her principles. When she finds a best friend brutally murdered and Jack Vincennes (Walton Goggins) unexpectedly at the scene before she’s had time to call the police, Lynn knows she has something on the LAPD detective—and decides to use it to help solve the horrible crime. The role of Lynn was played by Kim Basinger in the 1997 movie L.A. Confidential, earning her an Oscar.”

• The fifth season of Endeavour, the acclaimed British crime drama and prequel to Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse tales, hasn’t even begun running in the States (at best, we can hope for a late-summer debut). But it has already been renewed for a sixth season.

• If you just can’t stand waiting around to take in the further exploits of a young Detective Sergeant Endeavour Morse (played by Shaun Evans) and his mentor, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), note that the British TV blog Killing Times contains reviews of all six episodes in Series 5. (Endeavour was broadcast in the UK earlier this year.) Just beware of inevitable spoilers! Here are the necessary links: Episode 1; Episode 2; Episode 3; Episode 4; Episode 5; and Episode 6. Those last two installments are labeled as belonging to Series 4, rather than 5, but that’s an error.

• Incidentally, it was a year ago tomorrow—on March 21, 2017—that Morse creator Colin Dexter passed away at age 86.

• Series 4 of Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall and based on/inspired by Ann Cleeves’ still-expanding series of novels, is another crime drama that hasn’t yet made it to U.S. screens. (The last of its six episodes was shown tonight in the UK.) Again, though, Killing Times has been recapping all of its episodes.

• Prior to the debut of either of those series, PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! has slated the broadcast of Unforgotten, described by Wikipedia as following “two London detectives, DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar), as they work together to solve cold cases involving historic disappearances and murders.” Janet Rudolph points out that this program is set to run on Sunday nights from April 8 through May 13. “Unforgotten,” she adds, “is a really thoughtful, well-acted and -plotted detective show, and there are two seasons that will be aired. I binged the first season and found it mesmerizing. I highly recommend it.”

• This is unfortunate—and rather weird—news. Last week, just a few months after Spinetingler Magazine debuted its first print edition in years (you can still purchase a copy here), editor and owner Jack Getze posted word that “current Fiction Editor Sandra Ruttan has resigned, effective immediately.” He went on to say,
We’ve had a serious and unsolvable disagreement about current and future issues. Since I cannot run this magazine by myself, Spinetingler will close sometime this Spring.

To those writers who have received acceptances from me, my plan is to publish your stories before we disappear. Let me know if you’d rather pull the story and resubmit elsewhere. As to the writers contacted by Sandra for an upcoming print issue, please contact me if you’d like your story to run online. There will not be another
Spinetingler print issue and you are free to resubmit elsewhere.
In a Facebook post appearing around the same time, Ruttan—who, in 2005, co-founded the magazine with K. Robert Einarson—wrote: “My vision for Spinetingler was always about finding the story I was excited to publish and putting out quality material, promoting great fiction. The direction is changing, so it’s time for me to go.”

• Just before I finished assembling this extensive edition of “Bullet Points,” I saw a note in Sandra Seamans’ My Little Corner blog, reading: “I’m not sure why, but the Spinetingler website has disappeared. I know they were closing down but they were supposed to be publishing more stories.” Seamans goes on to observe that “Spinetinger editors Sandra Ruttan and Brian Lindenmuth are starting up a new crime magazine called Toe Six Press.”

• CrimeReads, the new site from Literary Hub, has gotten off to a fairly healthy start, though there are definitely weaknesses to be worked on in the near future. Worth taking a look at there so far: senior editor Dwyer Murphy’s “25 Classic Crime Books You Can Read in an Afternoon”; Ned Beauman’s feature about conspiracy novels in the age of “fake news” and Trump; and Adrian McKinty’s “Everybody Loves to Hate a Dirty Cop: 10 Books of Corruption and Greed.”

• Kim Fay has a nice piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books about the cultural complexities Sujata Massey dealt with in writing The Widows of Malabar Hill, set in 1920s Bombay, India.

• Oh, how I wish I were in London, England! Through this coming Saturday, March 24, that city’s Lever Gallery, in Clerkenwell, is hosting “Uncovered: Illustrating the Sixties and Seventies,” a showcase of the original art from paperback covers of that era. “Artists selected for this exhibition,” explains the gallery’s Web site, “include Ian Robertson, Yorkshire born Michael Johnson, who, with his Fine Art background and distinctive style, soon became one of the most sought after illustrators of the period, and a group of Italian illustrators who worked and lived around Soho and Chelsea, including the highly influential and style-setting Renato Fratini, and other colleagues—many of whom had previously worked in the Italian film industry, such as Gianluigi Coppola, Giorgio De Gaspari, and Pino Dell’Orco.” Flashbak, a photo-obsessed Internet resource, collects a handful of the more than 40 works on display, including Fratini paintings that grace several Mickey Spillane books (The Twisted Thing, The Girl Hunters, etc.) and Johnson’s gorgeous artwork for the 1965 novel A Crowd of Voices, by Richard Lortz. Flashbak’s presentation of these pieces is so captivating, I can even forgive the site its misuse of “pulp fiction” and its misspelling of Erle Stanley Gardner’s name. To see more of the works on display (sadly, in smaller representations), click here.

• Have you been enjoying “PaperBack,” the twice-weekly feature The Rap Sheet picked up from the late Bill Crider’s blog, focused on vintage book fronts? If so, you might also wish to sample “Thrift Shop Book Covers” in Ben Boulden’s Gravetapping. As Boulden explained when he launched that series back in late December 2013, “Thrift Shop Book Covers” features “the cover art and miscellany of books I find at thrift stores and used bookshops. It is reserved for books I purchased as much for the cover art as the story or author.“

• In case you missed seeing it, Killer Covers posted the concluding entry in its Harry Bennett tribute this last Saturday. All in all, the blog showcased more than 190 of Bennett’s painted paperback covers. It also posted this lengthy interview with Bennett’s youngest son, Tom. You can scroll through the full series here.

• Fox-TV’s longest-running animated sitcom, The Simpsons, saluted George Peppard’s 1972-1974 series, Banacek, in its most recent episode, “Homer Is Where the Art Isn’t.” The show found actor-comedian Bill Hader voicing the suave and sexy Manacek, described by AV Club as a “turtleneck-sporting [insurance] investigator who’ll either clear Homer of a major art theft or send the Simpson paterfamilias to prison for a very, very long time.” For folks (like me) who harbor fond memories of Banacek and the whole 1970s NBC Mystery Movie lineup, there was special delight to be found in this ep’s opening title sequence, which was based on the original Banacek intro, complete with Billy Goldenberg’s theme. Enjoy that segment below.

• You can read more about the episode here.

• It’s not easy keeping up with crime-fiction news. Yet David Nemeth is doing a bang-up job of it in his blog, Unlawful Acts. Nemeth’s weekly “Incident Report” posts are packed with leads to reviews, features, and other stories from all over the Web. He even provides an assortment of new and forthcoming genre releases.

• New Zealand professor and author Liam McIlvanney (whose Where the Dead Men Go won the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel) has posted a thoughtful piece on his Web site addressing the newly launched Staunch Book Prize and ways to deal with violence against women in crime writing. Find his comments here.

• Television Obscurities reports that “Warner Archive’s streaming service is shutting down [after April 26]. Launched in 2013 as Warner Archive Instant, the service offered subscribers a mix of films, TV shows, and made-for-TV movies drawn from the Warner Bros. library. Some of the [vintage] TV shows available at one time or another [were] Cain’s Hundred, The Gallant Men, Man from Atlantis, Maya, Logan’s Run, Beyond Westworld, Search, The Lieutenant, Jericho, The Jimmy Stewart Show, Lucan, and Bronk.”

• British author Colin Cotterill receives some love from the Nikkei Asian Review for his novels starring Dr. Siri Paiboun, the crime-solving state coroner at the morgue in Laos’ capital, Vientiane. “Cotterill can boast of being the only Western author of a murder-mystery series set in Laos,” declares the publication, “although the expat-penned detective genre abounds in Thailand.”

• Congratulations to all of the authors—Patricia Abbott, Craig Pittman, J.D. Allen, Hilary Davidson, and Alex Seguara among them—whose work has been selected to appear in the 2018 Bouchercon anthology, awaiting publication later this year.

Carter Brown fans, listen up! Stark House’s second collection of his work, featuring three early novels, has been scheduled for publication in late May. The previous collection was published last October.

• The 2002 film Road to Perdition, based on Max Allan Collins’ 1998 graphic novel of the same name, has found a place on Taste of Cinema’s list of “The 10 Most Stylish Movies of the 21st Century.”

Esquire magazine selectsThe 25 Best True-Crime Books Every Person Should Read.” I can claim to have read about half of them.

• While we’re on the subject of lists, take a look at Craig Sisterson’s choices of a dozen New Zealand crime writers “whose books will give you an insight into this faraway place and its people.” And yes, Paul Thomas and Vanda Symon are both included.

• Elsewhere, Florida author Steph Post fingers “11 Great Authors Defining Noir in the Sunshine State.”

• Your trivia lesson for the day: The Straight Dope’s Cecil Adams addresses that immortal question, “How did the gavel end up in American courtrooms?

• Barbara Gregorich, author of the new biography Charlie Chan’s Poppa: Earl Derr Biggers, writes in Mystery Fanfare about her long-standing interest in Biggers’ honorable Honolulu sleuth.

• Good question: Why are TV detectives always so sad?

• A few author interviews worth finding on the Web: Alison Gaylin (If I Die Tonight) and Naomi Hirahara (Hiroshima Boy) are Nancie Clare’s most recent guests on the podcast Speaking of Mysteries; Robert Goddard takes questions from Crime Fiction Lover’s Catherine Turnbull about his new thriller, Panic Room; Criminal Element chats with Christi Daugherty about her first novel for adults, The Echo Killing; blogger Colman Keane talks with Margot Kinberg about Downfall; and Crimespree Magazine goes one-on-one with Christopher Rice, discussing his fresh release, Bone Music.

• Calling Fox News a “propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, a frequent Fox contributor, has chosen not to renew his contract with that network. According to the Web site BuzzFeed, Peters sent a message to colleagues saying, “Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers.” This wouldn’t usually have been fodder for a Rap Sheet item; however, you may recall that Peters, under the pseudonym Owen Parry, penned half a dozen mystery novels set during America’s Civil War and starring a detective named Abel Jones. (The first book in that series was 1999’s Faded Coat of Blue.) It’s good to see that Peters has been keeping himself busy since he stopped writing the Jones books in 2005.


Patrick Murtha said...

Also worthwhile for paperback cover fanatics, Rex Parker's Pop Sensation: http://salmongutter.blogspot.com/

samaccat said...

The full catalogue of Michael Johnson's book covers ican be viewed in here