Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Bullet Points: Media Medley Edition

• Argentina-born pianist and composer Lalo Schifrin, who has scored such films as Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, and Dirty Harry, and created the theme music for TV productions including Mission: Impossible, Petrocelli, and Mannix, was honored this last weekend with a Governors Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In addition to the 86-year-old Schifrin, two other recognizable Hollywood figures received Governors Awards: 93-year-old actress Cicely Tyson and Marvin Levy, a longtime public relations exec who was once a member of the AMPAS board of governors. You can watch Schifrin accept his award on YouTube.

• The Classic Film and TV Café calls producer-writer Stirling Silliphant “the poet laureate of 1960s television” in this tribute looking back at his scripts for the 1960-1964 CBS series Route 66. “Silliphant, who co-created the series with producer Herbert B. Leonard, wrote an incredible 73 of the 116 episodes over the show’s four-year run,” observes the blogger known as Rick29. “In terms of entertainment value, the plots were consistently above-average, but it’s Silliphant's dialogue that gave Route 66 its unique voice. As David Mamet would do later, Silliphant embellished his characters with dialogue that would never pass for natural—but which conveyed a singular poetry all its own.” In addition to Route 66, Silliphant (shown on the left) is remembered for his work on the TV programs Naked City and Longstreet, and his screenplays for such pictures as In the Heat of the Night (1967) and Marlowe (1969), which starred James Garner as Raymond Chandler’s justly famous Los Angeles private eye, Philip Marlowe.

• While we’re on the subject of bygone boob-tube shows, check out Michael Shonk’s new Mystery*File post about Gavilan, a 1982-1983 NBC series that featured Robert Urich (later of Spenser: For Hire fame) as a former intelligence operative who has gone to work for an oceanographic research organization called the Dewitt Institute, but keeps trying to help people—especially attractive young females—in trouble. Shonk opines:
The series had its good moments, but it also had many of the flaws of 1980s television. The plots were better than average but had to really stretch to connect to the Institute. In “By the Sword” the brilliant beautiful woman was a scientist working on a project to study the krill as a food source, but the plot was about an ancient samurai sword she stole from the Yakuza to regain her family honor.

The stories were entertaining but mindless, predictable and too willing to sacrifice story and character for a joke or twist. In “By the Sword,” the female scientist is trained in the martial arts and had done something her entire family had not done in over a hundred years, got her family’s ancient honored Japanese sword back from the Yakuza. So in the final confrontation for the sword it is Gavilan—as she watched—who sword fights to the death for the sword and her family honor. Of course, Gavilan out duels the unbeatable Master Samurai.
Shonk’s piece includes two episodes of Gavilan found on YouTube. A few of my own thoughts on this show can be found here.

• NBC-TV has reportedly made a script commitment for The Bone Collector, a series based both on Jeffery Deaver’s 1997 psychological thriller of the same name and on the 1990 Denzel Washington movie already adapted from that novel. According to Deadline Hollywood, NBC’s project “hails from writers V.J. Boyd and Mark Bianculli (S.W.A.T.), Universal Television and Sony Pictures Television … Written by Boyd and Bianculli, The Bone Collector follows Lincoln Rhyme, a retired genius forensic criminologist left paralyzed after an accident on the job. When a harrowing case brings him back to the force, Rhyme partners up with an ambitious young detective, Amelia Sachs, to take down some of the most dangerous criminals in the U.S.” There’s no information yet on who might star in this series, but plenty of speculation on what it could draw from Deaver’s 14 existing Rhyme novels, the latest of which is 2017’s The Cutting Edge.

The Killing Times says that America’s Audience Network has renewed the Stephen King-inspired, David E. Kelley-developed crime drama, Mr. Mercedes, for a third season.

• I’m not surprised by news that Netflix’s Tony Danza/Josh Groban “dramedy,” The Good Cop, hasn’t been picked up for a second season. While I really wanted to like the series—in part because its creator-showrunner was Monk mastermind Andy Breckman—it came off as way too cute too much of the time, with an excess of thin plots and ridiculous turns. I did, however, like Danza’s portrayal of a disgraced ex-New York City policeman as part con man, part reluctant troubleshooter; and dancer-actress Monica Barbaro consistently brightened up the screen playing Grogan’s ballsier partner, Cora Vasquez. I’ve only seen half of the 10 episodes of The Good Cop, but their performances will keep me watching through to the end.

• I’d heard about this before, and was convinced that I’d mentioned it here, but evidently I was wrong. Anyway, Mystery Tribune notes that Christopher Huang’s debut novel, A Gentleman’s Murder—which featured in my recent CrimeReads piece about nine post-World War I mysteries—has been optioned for TV adaptation.

• Deadline Hollywood brings word that Tom Shepherd, who scripted Robert Downey Jr.’s forthcoming The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, has been signed to pen Matt Helm, based on Donald Hamilton’s long-running series of spy thrillers. Bradley Cooper will star in this Paramount project, with George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci all serving as executive producers.

• Continuing The Rap Sheet’s series on “copycat covers,” book fronts that employ artwork previously displayed on other titles, we offer—above—the façades of Blow Out the Candles and Say Goodbye (Lamplighter Suspense), Linda S. Glaz’s 2017 novel, and 2016’s Stealing People (Europa Editions), the third entry in Robert Wilson’s series starring kidnap consultant Charlie Boxer.

• A new book suggests that Arthur Conan Doyle based the character of Professor James Moriarty, sleuth Sherlock Holmes’ principal nemesis, on a brilliant 19th-century professor of mathematics named George Boole. “A thorough comparison between Conan Doyle’s fictional Moriarty and the real Boole,” writes The Irish Times, “reveals numerous persuasive similarities. Both characters held chairs at small provincial universities; both won appointments on the basis of outstanding early work; both had interests in astronomy; the two were of similar appearance—an illustration of Moriarty in Conan Doyle’s work bears a striking resemblance to a photograph of Boole and may well have been based on it. The major discrepancy between Boole and Moriarty is that Boole was a man of high morals and excellent character, a social reformer, religious thinker and family man.” While Moriarty … well, as Conan Doyle put it in The Valley of Fear, he was “the greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every devilry …”

• Murder & Mayhem picks11 must-read mysteries set in Los Angeles,” and I’m relieved to discover that I’ve read all but one: Dorothy B. Hughes’ The Expendable Man (1963).

• To his excellent John D. MacDonald blog, The Trap of Solid Gold, Steve Scott has recently added two worth-reading vintage profiles of Travis McGee’s creator—one from Florida’s Tampa Bay Times, dated April 26, 1981; and the other from a 1978 edition of the Canadian news magazine Maclean’s (you’ll find that second piece here).

• Authors are generally quite reticent to reveal which books they prefer among those they have written, so it’s interesting to see Max Allan Collins identify his two favorite entries in his rapidly expanding series about the hit man known as Quarry.

• Which reminds me, I wasn’t aware before reading this piece in The Guardian, that Agatha Christie’s 1967 novel, Endless Night, was her favorite. Sam Jordison says more about that standalone here.

• A weekend spent organizing my late in-laws' long-forgotten boxes of books turned up some surprising and welcome literary gems.

• I am, of course, an enthusiastic follower of the Web site Pulp Covers, with its ever-growing abundance of classic book and magazine fronts. And one of the reasons for my interest is that the site’s unidentified editor frequently posts links to full issues of periodicals such as Dime Mystery Magazine, Detective Book Magazine, Manhunt, and New Detective. Those issues are easily downloaded and can be wonderfully entertaining.

• So much has already been said about the demise, late last week, of 87-year-old novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, that I fear I have nothing to add. Obituaries in The New York Times and in the British Guardian covered the highlights of his career: his scripting of movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, Maverick, and Paul Newman’s Harper; his penning of novels that included Marathon Man, The Princess Bride, and Magic; and his late-life success with a memoir titled Adventures in the Screen Trade. CrimeReads adds to those encomia a collection of notable Goldman quotes. My own first experience with Goldman was way back in high school, when I was introduced to Magic … which put me off of ventriloquist’s dummies for the remainder of my mortal life. I’ve often watched Goldman’s motion pictures, with Harper—based on Ross Macdonald’s 1949 private-eye novel, The Moving Target—and Butch Cassidy being my favorites. I never met the man, but the power and precision of his prose, and the pleasure I’ve derived from listening to his dialogue and reading his stories made me care about him nonetheless. Really, a storyteller could hope for nothing better than that.

The Gumshoe Site reminds us that William Goldman’s first mystery novel was No Way to Treat a Lady. In another blog, Tipping My Fedora, Sergio Angelini recalls that that book was “originally published in 1964 under the pseudonym ‘Harry Longbaugh,’ the real name of the outlaw ‘The Sundance Kid.’ Written in just 10 days, this brief novel is 160 pages long and broken down into 53 chapters and is an exciting, blackly comic work reminiscent of the best of the Ed McBain thrillers of the time.” Adam Groves of The Bedlam Files adds that No Way to Treat a Lady “lacks the slickness and polish of [Goldman’s] later novels, with much slapdash prose and an uncertain grasp of tone (it’s difficult to discern if all the comedic elements were meant to be funny). Yet the wit, verve and imagination that characterize Goldman’s best work are very much evident in this suspenseful and macabre novel that predates everything from Dexter to Natural Born Killers in its furiously inventive account of the fortunes of a mass murderer.” Concludes Groves: “I say it’s one of William Goldman’s finest books.”

• By the way, No Way to Treat a Lady was made into a 1968 film starring Rod Steiger, Lee Remick, and George Segal. As I’ve never read Goldman’s original book, or seen the movie, I guess I have some serious catching up to do.

• Want to learn more about classic New Zealand mystery writer Ngaio Marsh? CrimeReads’ Neil Nyren provides a bit of background as well as recommendations of four works from her oeuvre.

• Here’s something I didn’t know before: Wisconsin-born, Japanese-American crime novelist Milton K Ozaki (1913-1989)—who often wrote under the moniker Robert O Saber—was not only “a newspaperman, an artist, and the operator of a beauty parlor” (per Bill Crider), but also something of a con man, according to Paperback Warrior.

• In The Spy Command, Bill Koenig traces the complicated roots of the 1964-1968 NBC-TV spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and its connections to James Bond creator Ian Fleming. This is a continuing series, but you can find Part I here, with Part II here.

The New York Times’ Alexandra Alter recently caught up with Megan Abbott, whose commitments both as an author and as the executive producer of a TV pilot film based on her 2012 novel, Dare Me, must leave her little time for relaxation.

• Leo W. Banks has claimed another prize for his 2017 debut novel, Double Wide. His publisher’s Web site says Banks “just received the 2018 Best Mystery Novel award from the New Mexico Book Co-op, announced at a gala awards banquet in Albuquerque on November 16th. Along with this latest honor, Double Wide also has received two Western Writers of America 2018 Spur Awards and [the] Best Crime Novel of the Year Award by True West magazine.”

• Finally, I’ve spent several years now trying to procure copies of the four episodes made of Faraday and Company, a 1973-1974 detective series that starred Dan Dailey and James Naughton, and was part of the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie line-up. Then, just today, I happened across a Web site called DVD Planet Store, which offers the full run of Faraday for $16. The trouble is, after reading negative online reviews of this Pakistan-based enterprise, I fear I might never receive the DVDs I sought to purchase. Has anybody else tried to buy from DVD Planet Store? What were your experiences with it?


Kevin R. Tipple said...

We were not surpised THE GOOD COP was not picked up either. They tried too hard to be cute and clever. We did think that it got better as the season wore on. We being my adult son, Scott, and I.

Naomi Johnson said...

Ditto on The Good Cop. Danza gave wonderful performances, he is the only reason to watch the show.

I'm a Goldman fan from way, way back. I tried to read everything of his once I had read The Temple of Gold. No Way To Treat a Lady is by no means his finest book, but it's a quick (albeit forgettable) read.

Mike Gray said...

Never read Goldman's original novel, but the movie, with Steiger chewing up every bit of scenery in sight, is worth at least one viewing. Segal, as a police detective, is way too slow on the uptake, and Remick hasn't much to do except look beautiful. She was in the Broadway production of WAIT UNTIL DARK playing another lady in great peril, but for some reason Audrey Hepburn got the movie part; maybe NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY was a consolation prize.